In the kitchen there are too many dirty dishes. In the car there is a bag full of empty coffee cups and a new girl asking about astrology. The wind follows me around as a reminder. I went to throw something in the river, but I ruined the moment on my own accord. I changed directions, then found my way by moonlight. I put up a happy front. I juxtapose my emotions. I say, be brave, when talking to my heart. She’s the decision maker. I’m along for the ride. I don’t even try to backseat drive. If I was paranoid that would be a good excuse to go home. If I was cold/hot/hungry. But instead I scribble notes about secrets. When do I get to reveal myself? When does the seventh skin drop? I look at my calendar for answers. I want a crystal ball and a time machine. Frame a picture of you. Keep that picture of us somewhere deep inside. Pretend not to be disappointed. Notice the lack of fireflies. The dress that hangs from a wire. The shoes that have lost their owner. That’s how I feel. A message flashes on repeat. Even the dogwalkers have gone home.
For 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.
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.
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.
In the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, she recommends the exercise of listing the reasons why you write. If ever you are feeling stuck with your writing, it is helpful to simply start with that question and see what answers you come up with.
I did this exercise myself a few months ago in one of my journals and then promptly forgot about it. Coming across it the other day, I thought it was pretty funny and wanted to share it with you all.
Why I Write:
I write because I’m hopeful
And I want to put myself through the wringer.
Because a desk job is just too painful.
So I can feel good about myself and others will too.
So I can feel bad about myself.
Because there has never been anything else.
Because of the feeling of pulling a story out of thin air
And turning it real.
Because of my friends who inspire me into creation.
Because it’s fun to make fun of people.
So I can create my own heroes.
To get through my own demons.
Because I still want my mother fucking yacht.
I would love to hear other writers’ responses to this prompt! Feel free to create your own list and leave it in the comments.
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!
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.
Today marks the beginning of an important step in the work on my novel. I have gotten to a place where all the writing I have that is being used in the manuscript is in order. The chapters are laid out. Now, I am embarking on a final round of intense edits.
I have decided to give myself one week to work on five chapters. This way, I should get through the entire manuscript in two months. July 15th, here I come!
As I go through each chapter, I will perform basic grammatical edits. On a sentence level, I will work on pairing down, in an attempt to make my language as concise as possible.
I will perform additional research which is needed to fill in details. On the top of my search list are: Los Angeles, professional women’s boxing, district attorneys, Naples and the Neapolitan Mafia. Feel free to fill in the blanks.
I would like to purchase a tape recorder, so that I can read each chapter out loud and listen back to it. Listening to the words, instead of just reading them, is essential in developing a natural rhythm and cadence.
Today is a starting point. The idea is to put in four hours a day. It’s about to get very real.
Any tips from writers out there on their favorite editing practices?
Suggestions, personal practices and advice are always welcomed and encouraged.