2 Month Marathon–Updates!

ImageFor those of you who have been following my journey to complete my novel by the end of the year, you know that these two months have long since expired. Still, the sentiment lingers: a full-fledged effort to complete this project once and for all. Because, as the age-old adage goes, it’s one thing to start a novel and another to finish.

I want to be part of the latter.

And, each day I get a bit closer! Some updates:

1. I have finalized Parts I and II. This is the bulk of the novel, and it feels good to have a draft that I feel confident and happy with. Part III, the short and final culmination, is nearing completion as well. A few more edits and a few final touches to the “big finale” and it will be finished as well. Than I can say I have a complete manuscript!

2.  I have found several readers who are kind and generous enough to read the manuscript. I have already received some helpful comments, and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow from the input of others. It is important at this stage of the game to make sure to keep focused and not get hurt from constructive criticism. I remind myself constantly, that this information can make me a stronger writer, and always find ways to make the negative into a positive.

3. Yesterday I started the daunting task of writing a query letter. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea behind a query, it is simply this: condensing the entire, complex, multi-faceted world of your novel into a few short paragraphs, while keeping it interesting, dynamic and conveying your unique voice. Whew. Needless to say, it’s an intimidating task, but I am trying to learn as much as I can by reading successful queries online.

4. I look forward, in the next month, to attending several conferences in the area that focus on publishing options. The timing is perfect, and I lam excited to learn more and make contacts. In one such conference, I will get a chance to have a face to face meeting with an agent, who I will be matched with based on the genre of my novel. This is both exciting and terrifying, but I am hopeful that, at the very least, it will be a great learning experience.

As I close in on the last few months of the year, it feels like every moment counts.

Happy Writing!

Fish in the Sea

When telling people that I am an aspiring writer, I can’t count how many times I have gotten the response, “Isn’t it lonely?”

We are all familiar with the image of the solitary artist: locked up in a cluttered studio, wandering city streets, or scribbling away in a dark bar.  And while I have my moments of solitude, I truly believe that I wouldn’t be on the path that I’m on without the support of my fellow writers. 

I have had many wonderful opportunities to share my work. I’ve previously mentioned the writing groups I am in and how beneficial they are. In particular, I have been feeling very fortunate to be a part of Main Street Writers’ Thursday night group. I have been writing with the people in this group since March. Each week I use the time to write a scene from my work-in-progress. 

By now, the people in this group have gotten to know the characters and, while they haven’t gotten their information in a linear trajectory, they are able to piece together the main plot points. Their perspective has been incredibly beneficial as I continue to piece together the rest of my manuscript. Seeing them able to make inferences about personality traits and speculations about the plot has been encouraging. It gives me confidence that, one day, my readers will be able to connect the dots in the same way. 

In addition, I continue to participate in open mics throughout the Pioneer Valley. In the last two weeks, I have read at Wendell Spoken Word and Straw Dog Writers Guild in Northampton, MA. 

While the experience of reading my work in front of an audience is always nerve-racking, I find the benefits to be limitless. I am always surprised and encouraged by the response I get out of audience. Whether it is tense focus or casual laughter, when I get the intended reaction, it feels like I am on the right track

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the open mics is the feedback I get following a reading. I have had several people approach me afterwards not only to comment on my writing, but also to implore me to keep writing. 

“What happens? Do they ever find her?”

“Don’t stop writing, you’re on to something!”

“You’re going to do great things, I can tell.” 

I’m human, and just like anyone, these ego-strokes feel great. But more than that, it’s a wonderful to get hints that I am following the right path. Because, at the end of the day, when it’s just you and your computer, sometimes self-doubt comes creeping in. When you feel like one lonely fish in a big, wide, literary sea, our goals and aspirations feel intimidating, if not completely hopeless and far-fetched in the darkest moments. 

But when I connect with my peers, it helps me to realize I’m not alone but am really a part of beautiful, colorful, diverse school of fish, I  mean, writers (pardon the corny metaphor). Each one wonderfully unique in what they have to offer.

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For anyone out there struggling with their writing, I encourage you to find ways to connect! Join writing groups, go listen to other people reading if you don’t have the courage or material to read yourself. Visit the library. Visit a coffee shop. Open yourself up to these connections, and I can bet you will be feeling much less lonely in no time. 

As always, Happy Writing, Reading, Sharing, Connecting.

2 Month Marathon- Over Time

Well, August 1st has come and gone and, alas, I don’t have my finished manuscript. 

One would think I should be upset. Disappointed in failing to meet the deadline I’d set for myself. Critical: I should have been working harder, faster, longer. 

The funny thing is, I’m not mad at all. In fact, the progress I’ve been making in the last few weeks has been thrilling. 

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Part II of the novel is gelling in leaps and bounds. I have focused on transforming a lot of the summary into scenes. I am filling in important information gaps. The protagonist, and other important character’s development is coming across strongly. 

Part III, the final and shortest part of the book, up until now has had several looming question marks. However, through recent conversations, I have a few new ideas that I am very excited about incorporating. 

Perhaps the best part about NOT meeting my deadline: I am still excited and passionate about this project that I have been working on for just over a year. If I had pushed myself beyond reason, I probably would have burned out. Maybe I wouldn’t want look at my manuscript anymore, let alone continue to work on it. 

By taking my time, I am happy to say, I am still very much in love with this book-to-be and look forward to my continued progress. 

Happy Writing, at your own pace. 

 

More Than Paper

It has been nearly a month since my last post. No excuses. My emotions in these weeks have run the gambit from frustrated to elated. For a while, I seemed eager to distract myself from my writing with any interesting and fun activity that presented itself. 

In the depths of one of my more worried moments, I turned to my Writing Sage, as I have come to think of her. I told her I felt lost, directionless. Having given up so much to pursue writing, I felt like I had not only lost the path, but I had lost the spark. 

My Writing Sage just turned to me and smiled. We were sitting on the couch. We had had more than a few glasses of wine. She said to me, writing is so much more than what comes out on the page. It’s more than what we write down on paper; a major part of the creative process is internal. 

New experiences, laughing, swimming, being with friends, working, sweating, crying. All of these things do not produce writing in and of themselves, but I do strongly believe that they facilitate good writing and good stories. 

That night, my Writing Sage helped me understand than even when I am not producing as much writing as I would like, I am still growing in ways that will one day be reflected on paper. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that all experiences help shape who we are as people and as writers. 

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2 Month Marathon-Summer Procrastination

I’m not sure about all of you, but as soon as the weather turns nice, I am suddenly uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve being in the sun. This is good for my tan, not good for my writing.

Things I did today instead of writing:

-Mowed the lawn

-Filled the potholes in my driveway

-Sunbathed

-Hung out laundry on the clothes line

And then I wrote, for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, I am falling behind on my goal to finish my manuscript in two months. I’ve stretched it until the beginning of August, giving myself a few extra weeks, and still, it will be tight.

I haven’t been sticking to the four-hours-a-day policy that I was so enthusiastic and diligent with the first few weeks. I’m procrastinating. I even procrastinated on writing this post.

Healthy body, healthy mind. I’m hoping that by occupying my time with activities that make me happy, it will somehow positively influence my writing.

Anybody up for the lake?

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2 Month Marathon- Day 20-The Word Whisperer

My readers will know that I am in the midst of a big push to finish my manuscript by the end of July. At the start of each week, I begin edits on the next five chapters of the novel, in the hopes that at the end of the summer I will have a finished product.

I have hit a few bumps along the road. Last week was very busy for me, work-wise. In addition, I was helping my parents get ready for a cross-country trek. I wasn’t able to get my four hours-a-day in. I started to panic. 

Instead of driving myself crazy trying to jam the writing into my already packed schedule, I made myself a deal. Take the rest of the week off. Start fresh on Monday.

Yesterday, over a lovely dinner on the porch with my dear friend and fellow writer, I confessed my recent anxieties over my manuscript. It’s not good enough, it will never get published, I’ll feel like a massive failure in front of everyone I know.

My wise friend said several things last night which helped calm my fears.

1. It’s not only about the destination. The journey of writing a novel has been so valuable in itself. Even if I don’t end up with a manuscript that is deemed publishable, I have learned lessons in persistence and the pursuit of a passion, which are invaluable.

2. Don’t push it. Working on any creative endeavor is so different than most other kinds of work. Even in the editing/revision stage that I am currently in, I need to give myself and the novel, time to breath.

3. Be kind to the novel. Whisper to it, my friend told me. Ask what it needs to grow, to succeed. Listen. Be aware of the novel as an entity separate of yourself. 

4. Visualize success. As with so many things in life, the simple act of visualizing an outcome can help manifest it. Picture the cover, my friend told me. See the pages, each word, your name on the cover. Let that image guide you.

I want to thank my friend for giving me such great advice, and I felt it was my own responsibility to pass this along to other writers out there.

Whether you are struggling, or the words are pouring out, or you haven’t written in months. I hope that this advice can help you achieve your goals. 

As always, Happy Writing and Happy Whispering!

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Using Voice as a Tool

Olympus VN-7100- This is the recorder I bought and I highly recommend it.

Olympus VN-7100-
This is the recorder I bought and I highly recommend it.

As an aspiring writer, most of my life takes place on a computer screen. I see my words, how they look on a page. But hearing them spoken aloud is a whole different experience.

Last week I purchased a digital voice recorder as a part of my two-month marathon to finish my manuscript.

I have been reading each chapter into the voice recorder. I have a paper copy of the chapter in front of me as I read. Then, I go back and listen to the recording and make edits on the paper.

I have found the voice recorder helpful for finding awkward wording, repetitive phrasing, excessive adjectives/adverbs and generally unnecessary fluff words.

Sometimes it takes more than just seeing the words on the computer screen to be able to evaluate my own writing. Especially when it is a piece that I have been working on for almost a year!

Here are a few before and after sentences to show how the voice recorder has helped my writing:

Before: The DJ was dwarfed by the expanse of her loft. The cavernous ceilings were lined with large industrial piping; blank white walls shrunk her further.

After: Blank walls and cavernous ceilings lined with industrial piping dwarfed her.

Before: She wrote up the contracts and then sat behind a desk by the front door and interviewed long lines of eager candidates.

After: After writing the contracts, she sat behind a desk near the entrance and interviewed candidates.

Before: She was dressed in normal street clothes, but Crazy Woodsum could tell that her body underneath was salacious.

After: Her body under street clothes was salacious.

Several writers had recommended using a voice recorder as I go through revisions. Now, I feel like it is my duty to spread along this piece of advice to other aspiring writers out there.

Happy Recording!