Saturday, March 31, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
While reading Chang-rae Lee's interview - author of the novels Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft, - something caught my attention.
In his advice to writers, he said, "...be kind of stubborn about your writing and ...be very critical of it. I know immediately if the younger and beginnings writers I meet are not good writers because they tend to like their stuff. Most every professional writer I know is very critical of their material, even after it's published, even after it has won prizes, because they're constantly looking for other possibilities to push their form." (p. 6)
Are you critical of your writing? I most certainly am. In fact, while reading through my first ten chapters tonight, I kept thinking, this isn't good enough. It's just not good enough. But I've thought that about a lot of my stuff that's been published and people apparently like it (so far!).
So here's an interesting question. If you absolutely love what you've written - does that mean it's not any good?
For me, when I complete something, I usually have a feeling of general satisfaction. There may be certain parts of the piece that I absolutely love, but I generally do not absolutely love the entire piece. Does that make sense? I remain critical of it, knowing that I could have done this, or said it this way or that. But at some point, you just have to stop editing.
What about you? How do you view Lee's comment? Do you believe it is possible to completely love a piece you've written and for that piece to be good? Or do you strongly disagree with Lee and think that such an attitude is self-defeating?
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
Saturday and Sunday, I edited. And edited. And edited some more. I almost felt like I was chained to the desk on Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect. Slight breeze, gorgeous temperatures, and sun! It was hard for me to stay at my computer - especially since I couldn't use my laptop. But darn it, I was determined to get this done.
Unfortunately, this one chapter took me both days to do. It was a pivotal moment for my characters and thus, it had to be exactly perfect - or, as perfect as I can get it. I think I slaved over each and every word. I deleted a lot, then started again. I'm still not happy with how I ended the chapter and I think I'll work on that a bit more before declaring it a done deal.
It's funny how the writing process works. In writing the novel, we're supposed to ignore our inner editor, to not worry over whether or not what we write is crap - after all, we can fix crap, right?
Well, when it comes time to fixing that crap, it's hard. I told my husband today that the scene I was working on was extremely difficult. All the elements had to fall together in these few pages - emotions, characterization, pacing, etc. And if they didn't, the reader wouldn't be satisfied. But until I'm satisfied - i.e., I'm feeling what my character's feeling and holding my breath while I read it - it's not done.
But, even though it is hard when it comes to editing, I love it. This is the time when I can play, where I can tinker and make it exactly how I want it (but not tinker too long, or else I run the risk of over-editing!).
In fact, this whole writing process is hard. Very hard. If you want to get it right, you have to do your work, put in your time, study the craft, write, write, write, then write some more. It's not easy. It's nerve-wracking. It takes away time from your family and friends. It gives you back aches. It makes you drink loads of Diet Pepsi and eat dark chocolate (funny - I now prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate). But oh, the rewards! I wrote a piece tonight for this scene that I thought was so good, I couldn't believe I'd done it. And you know what I did? I emailed it to myself - just that little scene - just in case something happened to my file. How bizarre is that? I also used to stuff my hard copy of my first novel in my freezer - that was before my Mom bought me a fireproof safe - to make sure it survived any calamities.
If you're a writer, celebrate! Embrace your calling! Yeah - it's a strange, difficult, wonderful, awesome job. But really - would you have it any other way?
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Remember the last part of my novel that a few friends of mine felt was "tacked on"? Last night I figured out how to fix it. And it works perfectly.
Sigh of pure, utter bliss.
Hubby also was in charge of the children last night, allowing me to work on my edits. More bliss.
Today is a rainy, cloudy, and cool day. Perfect for staying at home and writing, but unfortunately, there's that new toy sitting in my driveway that requires payments, so the day job has to come first.
Have a great Wednesday!
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I've felt a twinge of guilt over not writing, but just a twinge. Why? Because I can feel the joy and anticipation start to build inside me. I can't wait to get back to the novel. I can't wait to dive into my characters' lives again. Instead of feeling a bit of reluctance to get back to work, I am excited - and I attribute that excitement to me taking a break.
In my opinion, we all need to step back from the computer or the notebook once in awhile and "recharge" ourselves. If we don't, our writing goes stale and we can get burned out. Even a few days can make a lot of difference sometimes.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Since hubby works at a car dealership, we were able to get a good deal on this '07 Jeep Liberty. I love it. I love driving it around. In fact, I wanted to go to the grocery store just as an excuse to drive! It fits me perfectly.
I've never had a brand new vehicle before - we're doing a lease with this and I really like that option right now. Hubby was determined to get me into a safer, more reliable vehicle and this is what he came up with. And even though I was a little in awe of what he picked out for me, he said, "You deserve it, hon." Awwww, what a guy!
I watched Flags of Our Fathers on Friday night. It was different than I expected. It follows the lives of three soldiers who were part of the flag raising at Iwo Jima. During the war, the government pulled them back to the States to do a war bond tour since the country was in dire need of money to finance the war. It flashes back and forth to the Battle of Iwo Jima and the war bond tour. Touted as the "Heroes of Iwo Jima" during this tour, these three soldiers knew the true heroes were the ones who lost their lives on that volcanic island. What director Clint Eastwood accomplished, quite briliantly, with this movie is to show the vast difference between the homefront and the battlefield - average Americans didn't have a clue as to what it was really like overseas. And it was difficult for soldiers to return home and try to adapt to society once more. The 1940s classic, The Best Years of Our Lives, also portrays the cifficulties of servicemen coming home from war.
On Saturday night, I watched A Good Year and it was like (I would say a fine wine, but really, I am no wine expert - actually can't stand the stuff, so I'll use a chocolate analogy instead) a piece of rich, dark chocolate - luxurious, decadent, and just plain delicious. It sort of meandered along. It wasn't an action-packed movie, but rather just a nice stroll through Provence, France, and the lives of Max and his memories of Uncle Henry. Russell Crowe is an absolute delight - of course, I've always been a huge fan of his, but he is rather endearing and loveable in this film. The scenery is gorgeous and even though the story may be a bit cliche, it doesn't matter. You'll want to watch it to the end.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Thanks for all your advice about my manuscript conundrum. I've decided that the "tacked on" section is imperative to the story and thus, I will be making revisions throughout the rest of the manuscript that will lead my readers to want to read the end. I'm anxious to get to it!
Last night hubby rented me two movies I've been very eager to see - Clint Eastwood's WWII movie, Flags of Our Fathers and Russell Crowe's new on A Good Year.
So on tap for this weekend: revisions and movies. And since we're supposed to be having great weather, I plan on taking the dog for lots of walks, too!
Have a happy Friday and a terrific weekend!
(Edited to add: Just read a great article on writers trusting your readers over at The Master's Artist by J. Mark Bertrand. Read it if you get the chance!)
Thursday, March 08, 2007
The end of the story (a WW2 novel) takes place after the hero and heroine get married. Since he is a German POW and she is an American, he goes back to Germany, and she follows. I wanted to show him finding his parents, since he had no idea if they were dead or alive, and also show the relationship between the hero and his father since his father was an ardent supporter of the Fatherland. I also wanted my heroine to find her "purpose" in life - this is an inspirational novel and God's purpose for our lives is one of the major themes - and that purpose is helping the people of Germany recover.
Now here's my problem. I love, love, LOVE this part of the book. I love showing the dynamics of how this woman deals with living in a country whose soldiers killed her first husband at Normandy; I love showing the relationship between the hero and his father and how his father reacts to his son's American wife; I love showing how the two deal with their growing faith in this broken country.
My two friends commented that this section felt "too rushed", anticlimatic, that it looked like I needed to up the word count, so I wrote more. But that's not it at all. In fact, I was worried I would go quite a bit over my 100K goal. Maybe I wrapped things up too quickly.
So what to do? I really feel this section is necessary and to be honest, they read my first draft and I've made some major changes in the story since then - weaved together some imperative plot lines and emotional entanglements, etc.
I guess this is what the editing stage is for.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
One thing I like about this painting is that this lady looks committed to whatever it is she's writing.
And even though it's not the most direct correlation to what I want to talk about - commitment - it works.
If you're struggling on the road to publication, I want you to ask yourself a question: are you committed to your writing?
It's a hard question for some. It was a hard question for me for many years. Why?
Because while I was in love with the idea of writing, while I devoured writing books and talked about writing on message boards, etc., and read lots and lots of "finding time to write" articles, I wasn't really writing a whole lot. Oh, I churned out a novel and edited and reedited it over the course of (gulp) five years. I wrote a few short stories that got published. But it wasn't a nose-to-the-grindstone, Larry the Cable guy "get 'er done" type commitment. It was half-hearted. It was "I'll write... when I have time...when I have the energy...when the kids are all in bed...when I feel like it...when I earn the graduate degree in a few months...when I get a fulltime job."
Sound familiar? Sure it does. We've all had those thoughts at one time or another. But have they gotten in the way of "getting it done?" Now, if "getting it done" is finishing a novel or short story and putting it away in your desk drawer while you start another one, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you're a writer, you write. It doesn't necessarily mean that you get published or even want to get published. The process of writing may be enough for you and I completely understand - there is a magic to writing that is hard to describe.
But... for all those writers out there whose ultimate goal is to be published, you have to have a commitment to the writing, to "getting it done."
Two years ago, before I started my current job, I was stuck. I was working on a novel, the same novel that I'd been working on for years - ever since the birth of my child - and I had revised it over and over again. I refused to let it go until it was perfect. Well, after several rounds of sending it off to the agents - of requests for fulls, requests for revisions, it ultimately got rejected. And thanks largely to the butt-kicking of my dear friend Rene, I put it away and worked to finish my next novel.
But there was something different this time. I completed that novel in a year. Compared to the last novel, it was like writing with lightning. What was it that made this time different?
I finally committed to "getting it done." I didn't want to endlessly polish one manuscript forever and ever, I didn't want to just write and put my stuff in a drawer - I wanted to be published. I still want to be published. That is my ultimate goal. And that decision, the decision to commit, changed my writing life.
I don't make excuses any more. I don't endlessly patrol the internet for articles on how to beat procrastination and writer's block (even though those are both completely valid topics that I have experienced numerous times), I don't belong to message boards where I find myself involved in flame wars instead of writing, and I cut out the stuff in my life that took away from my writing.
Will I ever be published in novel-length fiction? I am confident of it. And my confidence has only grown in the past two years.
I made the commitment and it takes a lot of hard work and tough love on myself to keep that commitment. But it's what I want. It's what I've wanted ever since I was a sixth-grader typing madly on my mother's manual typewriter on lined notebook paper. Will it all be flowers and chocolate once I'm published? I'm pretty sure it won't. But I still want it. And that's why I've made the commitment to it.
What about you?