Friday, February 27, 2009

Buckling down and facing the revision monster...

Okay. Enough already.

I've dithered and dathered. I've picked and pecked. I've gone around and beside and over and under. But I haven't truly dived INSIDE THE BOOK. I can no longer avoid it. I must revise.

My fabulous friend and CP Stephanie has promised me that she'll reach her own writing goal this weekend. She is pumped. I must rise to the challenge. I will do at least fifty pages of serious revision. I will write at least one new scene. I will no longer dabble.

Sigh. I'm scared.

Which is a good sign actually. Most of the good things in my life have come about when I've been absolutely terrified of doing something. It's my internal signal that I have to break through a barrier. That I will be better for doing whatever it is that is making me nervous and, eventually, being relieved I did. Revisions aren't fun but I know from experience that I never regret doing them. So what's stopping me?

Worry about making things worse. Not being able to fix the problem.

So what's making me do it anyway?

Knowing the problem won't go away by itself. The possibility that I just might find the solution if I keep at it long enough. The possibility that I might just make what was once just a really cool idea tangible and complex and entertaining. That one day the book might be read.

And that, alone, is why I face the dreaded revision monster. I'll let you know if I slay the beast or have only given it a flesh wound.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Early Bird or Night Owl?

I always thought I was a night owl. One of those late night prowlers who could stay up, quite happily, until one, two, even three in the morning reading, watching TV, doing assignments, surfing the net and WRITING. Oh, those heady early days when I finally discovered my passion. I was writing every day, seven days a week, compulsively, addictively, from ten at night when the kids were in bed until at least one in the morning, if not later. I'd get up at seven, bleary-eyed as usual, get the kids out the door, hopefully dress myself appropriately so the day job wouldn't think I was out boozing the night before. I'd even write a little more on the subway ride into work and on the way back. The words gushed out of me like water from a cracked fire hydrant. This went on for years. I called it my obsessive love phase.

But then the kids grew older and busier and so did our lives. I couldn't seem to manage to stay up past 11 most nights and the ones where I did, it was to do laundry or veg in front of the TV because I'd been doing kitchen, homework, and chauffeur duties for four hours after I'd come home from work. I'd snatch my writing time in increments of twenty minutes here or, if I was lucky, an hour's skating lesson there. And there was always those wonderful half-hour subway rides. But even though I found I wasn't pouring the words out in the quantity I'd been used to, I noticed the quality was improving. I could tell when something was right or wrong pretty quickly. I learned to work quite efficiently in those snippets of time. And I learned to tune out the world pretty easily even if I was sitting beside some nattering nimrod on the bus chatting to her girlfriend on the cellphone about her latest disappointing date. Obsessive love was turning into practical reality pretty fast.

What I learned is that no matter what kind of internal clock your body is tuned into, when you have a passion - when it's something you HAVE to do - you'll find a time to do it in. I don't write any better or any worse if I'm writing from 10 pm to 1 am or from 5:30 am to 7:30 am (okay - maybe THAT's a little early for me). And I don't kick myself if I don't write every day. I've learned that to nurture your passion you can't be obsessive about it. There are other things that you need in your life. Like sleep. Sleep is my lover competing for my limited time right now. But my steadfast, true, long-lasting love? It's always there, waiting for me, faithful that I'll come back to it. Always.

So, what about you? Early bird or night owl? Or is it what I've become now - a bird pecking at her food whenever she finds it before it's snatched it away?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pre-Oscar Anticipation and Predictions

I look forward to the Oscars every year with the same anticipation my husband does for the Superbowl. I've been a faithful fan of the loooong and, I admit it, many times lame award show since I was a little girl. I love seeing the men in tuxes and women in beautiful evening gowns. I love the over-the-top acceptance speeches and the silly musical numbers. I love the embarrassing moments and the sweet ones (like when Louise Fletcher did her acceptance speech in American Sign Language so her deaf parents could know what she was saying). Maybe it's because I thought I wanted to be an actress one day and it was such a fantasy-like setting.

Well, the Oscars are tomorrow and for the first time both my girls are old enough to stay up for the whole show with me. I've even seen 3 of the nominated Best Picture Movies (that is a minor miracle considering the last few years the only movies I've seen in the theatre were the Best Animated nominees). We're going to cozy up with munchies and blankets and critique hairdo's and dresses and groan over embarrassing moments. And love every minute of it ... ahh. I love pointless TV watching sometimes.

So, here are my predictions - even though I haven't seen all the nominees in all the pictures.
Best Pic - Slumdog Millionaire - not because I think it's a brilliant picture although it was entertaining. It's just got that feel good, everybody's pulling for it vibe.
Best Actor - Sean Penn in Milk - he's one of the few major movie stars that makes me forget he's a movie star. He BECAME Harvey Milk. Fabulous performance.
Best Actress - Kate Winslet - just because the Academy is probably tired of giving Meryl Streep Oscars (although she was amazing in Doubt - another major movie star who can disappear into her roles)
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger. Enough has been said about his performance. He deserves it. Absolutely. I'll be interested to see who accepts for him.
Best Supporting Actress - Honestly, I have no idea. Probably Marisa Tomei but I haven't seen the Wrestler yet but I like the snippets I've seen of her.

And all the others? Whatever. I just hope there's some funny speeches once in a while - I don't want to fall asleep before the end of the show. Staying up past midnight is a big deal for me. I'll be bagged for work the next day but this is a tradition. One I'm pleased my daughters will be participating in. They can poke their old mom in the side once in a while to make sure she stays awake...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On Patience

Webster's defines being patient as "steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity". It also says patience is not being "hasty or impetuous".

Now I'm definitely not hasty or impetuous. In fact, I may be accused on occasion of being too cautious. But for someone to ever call me patient - well, not likely. In fact, patience is a virtue that I never believed I could master. I even made it a New Year's goal for myself. And yet, after reading that definition, I'm now wondering if I've actually been practicing what I've been striving for all along. At least when it comes to my writing.

I've been writing for six years. I've worked and waited, gotten excited about possibilities, endured crushing disappointments, and somehow have kept on writing. Steadily. Patiently. I've kept writing. And while I've achieved some important personal goals and milestones along the way, for sure, I've definitely been the tortoise and not the hare in the grand race for publication. I've seen many others cross that finish line before me and cheered their success and I've told myself that one day I'll cross that finish line too. Maybe not in great fanfare or with thousands cheering me on but I'll cross it. In my own way and in my own time. With patience.

Wow. Maybe I really am patient. Huh. Who knew?

Now, if I could just manage to remember that when my kids forget to clean the kitchen for the thousandth time ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing, Family and Guilt

I am a constantly guilt-filled person.

This not-so-admirable quality of my personality comes to life particularly when it comes to my family. This past weekend was Family Day weekend here in Ontario. A time when people take time out of their busy lives and focus on family. A provincial holiday was created just to show how important that aspect of our lives is - and should be - in this crazy work-obsessed world we live in. It was also the weekend when my local RWA writing chapter meets. Once a month meetings that I don't get to attend very often usually because of family commitments (read: hockey games!). For once, there wasn't a hockey game. So, I made the mistake of suggesting to hubby that I might like to go to this meeting on Saturday afternoon. He gives me this disappointed look and says, "I thought you'd decided that we were going to spend the day together?" Factor in as well that it was Valentine's Day. Well, needless to say, I did not go to the writer's group meeting. Hubby insisted, go, go. NO way. The guilt I would feel while sitting in a room full of writer's talking about craft and sharing stories only other writers can understand would be so much I wouldn't enjoy the meeting.

So, instead, I spent the day with hubby and various children doing various errands. Nothing big. Nothing momentous. The weekend was spent taking walks, watching movies, doing laundry, having family dinners. Nothing too out of the ordinary. But inside the ordinary were some special moments. Walking along our neighbourhood creek on a sunny, crisp winter afternoon watching the kids skip rocks and the dog stick his nose in crystal clear water. Watching my son laugh in delight at how fast his new remote controlled car went on a free-from-snow asphalt drive. Listening to my daughters tease and natter with each other and not fight for once. Normal, family life moments. And I was glad I spent it with them.

But I still feel guilty that I didn't write. Didn't tackle the looming, massive revisions I have to do to make this latest wip sellable. It made me wonder whether I was using the family as a way to procrastinate on doing a difficult task? And THAT thought made me feel even guiltier. I definitely don't want to think that I'm using my family as an avoidance technique. I'd like to think I really do want to spend time with them and they should be placed ahead of everything else in my life. And yet ... if I want to be a writer I know I have to carve out time for writing. So ... how do I do that and not feel guilty for doing that? Maybe this is this one of those universally unanswerable questions. But if there is an answer out there, I'd really love to hear it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ooooh ... SHINY

My eldest daughter and I have this little inside joke that whenever she loses her focus and moves on to some other interest or activity leaving her old one behind I say "Oooooh ... shiny". We both laugh and know it's codeword for distraction. She was born in the year of the monkey and sometimes she absolutely epitomizes the attention span of that cute little hyperactive creature. Just dangle something pretty and shiny in front of her and her attention is easily diverted. And even though I'm a Tiger born personality I have to say I'm doing my own version of "Ooooh ... shiny" these days. I'm being distracted by two things in particular.

First distraction is this blog which I never thought I would do. So many options and fonts and colours and links to add! Oooh, haven't done pictures yet. Must add those soon. And what about blogs I follow? Shall I link those and let's check to see whose visited shall we? Did Stephanie leave a comment? Squeeee! Yes she did. Helloooo there! Sooo much distraction...

The second thing the bright new, shiny idea that popped into my head yesterday. Such a fun idea! Has anybody thought of it? Must google with some key words to see. Oh! and what if I throw this twist in? That would be so fantastic. And what if I do a male protagonist first person view point? Yipes. I've never done that. Could I pull it off? Let's just outline a little bit of what the plot might be, shall we? And who the characters are, names, situations... oooh... sooo SHINY.

And my poor, battered, worked over, worked on, worked up first draft is left dangling - forgotten. Lonely and left behind like some discarded doll I've gotten tired of playing with. I feel so bad for it! I force myself to return to it, knowing that it needs my attention. That I MUST FOCUS and finish it up. Until it too is as SHINY as the bright, new idea that popped into my head when I least expected it.

Let's hope the new idea will turn out to be as faithful a companion as the old one has been.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On being finished...

I wrote 'The End' today on my latest wip - a YA paranormal tenatively titled 'Unbelieveable' (it may still be retitled to 'Craving').

I gotta say, it feels good. Really good. But why is typing those two words so satisfying when I know it's not really the end? I still have to revise. I know for sure I have two new scenes that need to be added to flesh out the story more. I know I'll be re-reading and angsting over repetitious words and inadequate descriptions and and and... the list goes on.

And yet ...

I've written a novel.

I've done it before and I know I'll do it again but the fact that I've braved my doubt demons and my uncertainty about whether this is the story that will sell feels like an accomplishment to me. I didn't quit.

And yet ...

I'm still not satisfied. Does it have enough of a hook? Does it tell the story I want it to tell? Is the main character sympathetic enough without being a wimp? Is she too strong? Is the story too implausible? Are the motivations true?

One could go crazy.

And yet ...

I finished a book.

And that, over and above everything else, does mean something. I've created something out of nothing. It's still all mine without anyone having seen too much of it so it hasn't been knocked around by anyone else's doubts and criticisms. In a way, even with all its faults, this book is a pure thing. And I love it. Because it is mine.

No wonder the analogy of books being like your children is such a cliche. Because that's exactly what it is like.

I celebrate this small, wonderful achievement knowing that no matter what happens, whether it grows up and flys away from me to be a success or stays with me forever, known only to me and my close writer friends, I will always love it. No matter what its faults.

And, like a good parent, I know that at some point I will have to stop messing around with it and let it be what it is - faults and all. Because, while mine, it is its own being. And nothing is, or ever can be, perfect.

Friday, February 6, 2009

So I'm late to the party but at least I showed up...

Okay, in real life I hate being late. HATE it. I even have my watch set for five minutes ahead of the real time so I've always got a cushion in my life. So then why has it taken me so long to join the blogosphere - especially since I'm a writer? Because I'm one of those introvert extrovert people. Part of me loves yakking and meeting people but there's always a part of me that shys away from putting myself 'out there' too. Hence the totally appropriate title of my blog. I have to force myself out of the wordwork.

Part of me knows it's necessary - especially if I want to be a published writer one day. Out there is where you have to be. But that's also why I love being a writer. You can hide behind the words and worlds that you create. Those are the stories that you've invented and no one can really be sure how much is you and how much is that wacky imagination taking over. But no one can really know you. Well, I'm always telling my kids to get out there and try things - don't shy away. How will you ever know if you like something unless you try it? And that's what I told myself six years ago:

How will I ever know if I can get a book published unless I try to do it?

And I'm still trying. I've written some novels I'm really proud of. I have an agent who's trying to sell a couple of them now. I've worked hard, am still working hard, to learn and grow and write better. And I will always keep trying because, honestly, that's the only thing I can do.

So, I'm here. I'm trying the blogger thing. I'm not sure if I'll have much to say and if I do, whether I'll say it well enough. But I'm trying. That's all a human being can do...

Nice to be here.