Sunday, April 28, 2013

Writing update

I have not kept to my writing schedule. I missed my first deadline -- that of finishing up draft III -- by one day. Since then, I haven't accomplished any more goals, aside from the milestone that was printing the entire thing out (using an entire ink cartridge) so I could edit it without my computer. (My laptop is stationary, so I can't type anywhere but at my desk.) I also bought myself a very nice red pen.

I am disappointed at not making more progress, but I've realized that doing quality work is more important to me than passing deadlines. Perhaps this is a direct result of skipping NaNoWriMo this last year. But I think it's good in that the novel itself has become more important to me than finishing. I just happen to be in a place where meeting other deadlines has to take precedence, or schoolwork, theater, and other projects won't happen. And so, to do well, I have to wait.

Still, the important thing is moving forward. I do need to pick up my pen and start drenching my pages in blood, erm, ink. I need to push at it. Right now, I have no idea when I'm going to finish. And I want to finish. I want to have accomplished something, I want to be happy with the biggest writing project I've ever taken on. And I want, if possible, to have it published.

It has a long way to go. I can't rush it if it's going to have a chance at succeeding. But I do need to work on it.

For now, theater and homework have quieted down. Time to dive back in.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stuff I've learned

One of the things I love most is learning. Love of learning is why, largely, I decided to go to a private liberal arts college when I don't need a degree for what I want to do. Write novels? You really need to go to school for that?

No... and yes. Writers need to learn things. And writers need to be able to apply what they learn.

I've been surprised at what I've discovered, and lots of those discoveries happen outside of a classroom. Some of them are little things, skills or facts that have surprised me:
  • The most efficient path between buildings when in a hurry.
  • How to store things in my memory short-term just for quizzes and tests. (This disturbs me. I never used to have to do this.)
  • How to eat a full meal in three minutes.
  • How to make macaroni and cheese anytime in the dining commons. (Stop waiting in line for it, people. The ingredients are at your fingertips.)
  • How to make conversation with random strangers.
  • Pocketknives actually are very useful. (I'll admit, I had one originally because I thought it was cool.)
  • If, as a writer, you go anywhere without a pen, you will regret it.
Some of them are bigger, more along the lines of guiding principles. Some of them should be obvious, but typically, they've been no less surprising:
  • There are a whole lot of people smarter than you.
  •  Ask questions. It's how you keep up when things are difficult, and people will surprise you with how kind they are.
  • Any plans you make to better your schedule will be waylaid by something else.
  • There is no end to opportunity. The hardest part is taking hold of it.
  • Don't take it for granted that things will fall together.
  • Sometimes, you have to relax intentionally.
  • Little sleep isn't the end of the world.
  • Everything feels better when your room is clean.
  • People are both more wonderful and less perfect than you think.
 Learning is the easy thing, especially where I am. The hard part is learning to apply what you've learned.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


After weeks of late nights and little sleep, things get to be normal for a while. I was in a play that had its final performance last night. I had fun and was happy with how it turned out, and, bonus, it didn't actually kill me. (Sort of. I died in the play twice.)

For the last two weeks, I'd been averaging about five hours of sleep or less per night, largely because of rehearsals. This meant homework often got to pushed to 1:30 or 2 in the morning, and then I would wake up at seven and go to class. I understand some people have it worse, but for me, it was plenty bad enough.

One night last week, I went to bed past three, skipped my 8 a.m. for the first time so I could get some sleep, and woke up at 8:15 to write a paper for my 9 o'clock Bible class. It was about the argument of 1 Peter. I wrote that the main point was comfort in suffering -- Christ suffered, so sufferers are following in his footsteps. We should rejoice; greater things lie ahead of us.

As my Bible professor had us start discussing 1 Peter, I had an epiphany. What I had written about actually applied to my situation. No, I wasn't being persecuted, but surely Jesus had been tired and stressed out in his ministry on the earth. I could choose to rejoice, just as Peter was urging his readers. This idea pleased my overtaxed brain, and I was happy. I even wrote it down as a little life lesson. It was like a devotional, perfect, applicable, a real-life example.

Then my professor showed us a clip from a movie about Peter's inverted crucifixion, and also one about Christian children being fed to dogs in the Roman arena.

Yes, we can choose to rejoice in suffering. But for some people, it's a lot harder than others. I should have rejoiced because my sufferings were small. For others, having joy means defying every circumstance of their lives, because the only joy they have is in Christ.

I learned two lessons in class that day. One was indeed about comfort in sufferings. The other was this: don't take yourself too seriously.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Time to get back to writing

One thing I'm really scared of is becoming one of those people who call themselves writers but aren't. They think about their stories. They read, sometimes. They have ideas they just know are fantastic. And then they don't write them. They spend their time drinking coffee and imagining themselves writing. Believe me, there are a lot of people like this. It's easy to slip into becoming one of them.

The last several weeks -- minus the coffee part -- this has been me. I've been busy, I've been exhausted. I've been making excuses. But I've realized that the semester isn't going to clear up at any point. I've got three performance weekends, a tech weekend, and lots of daily runthroughs in the next month for theater. I have a low but steady stream of homework. I have other projects and assignments. It is time to work around these things instead of just struggling against them.

My new goal is to have my novel in a form I would like to show an agent or an editor by the end of this semester. I have a little over a month. This is doable. Now I'm going to put my general plan here on the Internet so I feel like I'm being held accountable. (Any of you readers, feel free to heckle me about my progress as necessary.)

1 - Finish the final two chapters. I have a Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning I can spend on it this week. So, this part needs to be done by this Saturday, the 13th.

2 - Readthrough/compile a list of things to fix -- I've been working on this already. A readthrough will help me focus and assess the lists I already have. My deadline for this is Tuesday the 16th.

3 - Go over feedback. During January, two of my writing friends read the first ten chapters and made suggestions. Receiving such detailed feedback on my personal writing for the first time was a terrifying experience, and I was glad that I picked the right people to do it. They made lots of great observations that let me see both the good and bad parts of the story. I need to look at those suggestions and consider their implications in detail. (Those two friends who gave me feedback, I would be delighted to provide you with any baked good you wish.) Deadline: Thursday, the 18th.

4 - Develop an action plan. This already is one, but once I've decided what exactly I need to change/edit, I'll be able to establish smaller writing goals. As it is, I'd like the action plan to be ready Saturday, the 20th.

5 - Carry it out and get more feedback. My current plan for this is to give the sections I feel need the most help to writers and friends and ask for feedback. If people are interested in seeing the book as a whole and have the time to make edits, I'll be happy to give it. This process of reading and sharing I hope to have finished by Saturday, April 11th. The semester ends on the 17th. I have a week of extra cushioning.

Some of this isn't very specific, but I need to dive back into the story to see what it really needs. I'll probably have to make minor adjustments to the schedule, but the goal will remain the end of the semester unless I develop a serious illness and/or die.

How will this go? I have no idea. Is this process going to work? We'll see. If, through experience or otherwise, you have any ideas on how to improve my editing plan, please let me know. If you know me and are interested in providing feedback, I'll keep you in mind. To those willing to offer help, and those who've already helped me, thank you. My novel means a lot to me, and I'm grateful to all who believe I can finish it.

Now... time to finish it.