Thursday, December 6, 2012

Writing and Motivation

I've always been somewhat of a neat freak, but toddler twins are doing their best to disabuse me of this habit. And they are being largely successful.

See this? That's my kitchen floor after lunch yesterday. The photo doesn't do justice to the scope of the mess Thing 1 and Thing 2 created. There were noodles covering about a five foot radius (I am not exaggerating). It took me 45 minutes to clean up. The best part? I had just mopped less than 24 hours before. My clean floor was a disaster once again.

They're in that phase where they refuse to let me feed them but they don't quite get all the food in their mouths when they do it themselves. They can't use utensils yet (though they try). Thing 1 also has this quirk where he picks up a bite and throws it on the floor, picks up another and eats it, then picks up a third and throws it on the floor. He picks and chooses what bites to actually consume. He'll also spit out whatever he's eating and throw that on the floor if something more appealing is presented to him. The result is a giant mess.

It's hard to find the motivation to clean when I know it's just going to look like a train wreck minute mere hours after all my hard work. Sometimes--like yesterday--I wonder, "Why do I even bother?"

I think writing is a lot like this. It's hard to be motivated to write when I feel like the first draft will just be a train wreck. Sometimes, I feel like the twins. I want to write. I have the desire to write. But sometimes I doubt my ability to write. I frequently feel like I'm feeding myself by hand and making a huge mess on the floor because I don't quite know how to use the proper tools yet. And that kills my motivation. I don't want to spend hours doing something that's just going to end up in the trash. I don't want to waste my time if I'm not good enough.

The comparisons don't end there. New ideas pop up, and therefore they become more enticing. Like my son, I want to spit out what I'm working on in favor of something else. That leaves my hard drive riddled with half-finished projects.

While writing, I also have a problem with thinking, "Will this scene even be in the book in three months?" It's hard to turn off your inner editor while writing the first draft. And it's hard to write knowing things will end up getting cut. Editing feels a lot like picking and choosing which bites the reader will devour, and tossing the rest on the floor.

NaNoWriMo is over, but my novel isn't. I really want to make one last great push and finish the first draft of Wishing on Baby Dust by the end of the year. The problem isn't time; I can make time. It's motivation. Right now, writing feels a lot like work. I'm at a hard place in the book, where all the characters are hurting. I'm exhausted from NaNo. I would rather sit around and watch TV. I'm tired. Those excuses aren't working for you? No problem; I've got more.

But ultimately, all those excuses don't matter, because none of them serve my end goal: to publish this novel. So how do you overcome problems of motivation? My kids aren't old enough to understand bribery yet, but if they were you can bet I'd use it. I think it works for adults just as well as children.

So bribe yourself. Find ways to motivate yourself. Maybe denying yourself something until you've met your goal--like that new book you've been dying to read--works for you. Maybe rewording yourself works--you can read one chapter of that new book for every chapter you write. Maybe it's something else entirely. Find what works for you, and use it to boost your motivation and increase your productivity.

Me? I'm more into the rewards than punishments. When I finish this novel, my hubby is going to take me on a date, sans kids, and I am going to order whatever I want off the menu. :)


Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Endeavor

So I'm starting a new endeavor. And I'm kind of scared about it.

I'm starting a new blog. One specifically about infertility, in conjunction with my infertility novel (which I've titled Wishing on Baby Dust...what do you think?). It's scary, because infertility is so personal. It's hard to talk about, especially when just anyone can drop in and read your deepest thoughts. But I think it's something I should do.

So, if you are feeling generous, stop by my new blog. And if you're feeling really generous, become a follower. Maybe even leave a comment.

Wishing on Baby Dust is coming along very well. I've gotten to the "hard" part of the book, the part where things aren't going great for my characters. It's hard to write. But it will be totally worth it. My goal is to have the first draft complete by the end of the month. I am going to the LDStoryMakers conference in May, and I am really hoping to have a completely finished novel, all pretty and ready to start sending out on submissions, by then.

November was awesome, and I can tell December is going to be a great month too!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 20

I did it. I conquered NaNoWriMo. Tonight's word count for the month: 50,534. And I did it all in 20 days.

I seriously am so happy right now I could squeal. I figured that I'd finish NaNo, because nothing bothers me more than a goal I didn't meet. But in 20 days? Wow. Just wow.

My personal goal for the month is 60k...totally attainable. But I'm going to allow myself to take a few days off to relax with my family. My husband's out of school for a few days and has no homework pressing to be completed, which means we finally get a few days to act like a real family. You know, one of those families where the Daddy is home at nights to tuck the kiddies into bed and where we can go do fun things like grocery shopping together and such. I'm pretty excited.

50k. 20 days. Wow. I'd like to thank my husband for watching the boys in his spare minutes so I could write like the wind, and the twins for taking naps long enough for me to pound out a few thousand words before they wake up.

All I can say is, I don't think I've never felt this proud of myself before. NaNoWriMo? Totally AWESOME. Total success.

I think I'm totally addicted. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo, Day 13

Since we're nearly half way into the month, I figured it was time that I give an update on NaNoWriMo. Things are going really well. I passed 35k this morning...yippee! It feels great to be ahead of schedule, since the next few weeks are going to be a little nuts.

I think GBI is going pretty well. I feel like I'm narrating and telling a lot instead of showing, but I know that the important thing is to get the first draft out, and then I can work on cleaning things up and making them shine. I am pretty excited because ywriter has been working FABULOUSLY for me. Each day I sit down, read the synopsis of what the scene is supposed to hold, and then get to work. It makes writing so much easier, and I don't think I'll ever write another way again. It was a lot more work on the front end, but I think it'll save me a lot of work when all is said and done. I feel like the plot is solid and (hopefully) there will just be cosmetic-type fixes in the revision process. I really want to get this book ready to submit before May.

I'm about 40% of the way through this first draft. That might be a problem I need to address in revisions. Currently, the book first draft will probably be somewhere around 125k words. That's a little bit long, but I don't know where I could possibly trim down information and still keep the story moving along.

It's Day 13 of NaNo, and so far it has been a huge success for me. I have LOVED being so dedicated to my craft and making writing a priority in my life. It's been great to get this first draft out so quickly. Now if I can just manage 802 words a day for the rest of the month, I should be a NaNo winner.

 Seems doable, don't you think? How's everyone else doing so far?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo, Day 1

Today marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo. October is over, I have Halloween candy stashed in my candy bin, and now it is time to start writing! I used to think that November was like the worst month ever to do NaNo, but now, with my Halloween candy stash (er, I mean my kids' stash) I am starting to see the wisdom in picking November for NaNo.

For me, it's off to a good start. It's nearly noon, and already I've written 3,734 words today, folded two loads of laundry, and got Thing 1 and Thing 2 to take a nap. I have a final load of laundry in the wash (I should probably go put that in the dryer) and will hopefully get another 1,000-2,000 words written today. I do have 6 pages left to critique before meeting with my critique group tonight. But hubby is working late, which means after I get home I have a couple of hours to write before he gets here.

I've tried NaNoWriMo a couple of times before without success. But I've never actually registered for it (I didn't even know that was a thing until this year). I've never spent copious amounts of time prepping for NaNo (like I did this year). I've never come up with a plan. This year, my plan is to write 3k a day, 5 days a week. So taking off weekends and Thanksgiving, that gives me 21 days to write, which means I'll hit 63k by the end of the month. That gives me a 13k buffer if something goes wrong. (I do have a bridal shower I'm in charge of on Saturday that I should probably do some things for, after all. And I have that policy in which I force myself to complete all Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, because I totally hate shopping in holiday crowds.)

I can do this. I WILL conquer NaNo. I can't wait to see what this month brings!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

NaNoWriMo, or In Which I Lose My Mind

I'm taking the plunge, people. I am all signed up, and am officially a NaNoWriMo participant this year. You can add me as a buddy if you'd like--my name is Lindzee on the site.

I think I'm a little bit insane to do NaNo. As if having toddler twins don't keep me busy enough, I also have a husband who is gone 14-15 hours a day because he is going to school full time while also working full time. So with the tiny terrors and absent husband, I thought to myself, "Life isn't crazy enough." So I joined three--yes, three--critique groups. That means I critique about 300 pages a month. And have to submit my own work 4 times a month.

And now I'm doing NaNo. I somehow think I will be able to write 50k in 30 days and still come out alive on the other side. I've always taken on way more than I can handle, so why should I change things up now? I'm sure other people have busier, crazier, more hectic lives than mine, but frankly, it's a miracle I find time to shower AND put on makeup most days.

I have been a pantster writer in the past, and it has never ended well for me. The LDStoryMakers conference last May totally converted me to outlining. So in May, for the first time ever, I sat down and did an outline from start to finish of a novel. That novel was the Hostage Heart, and I thought my outline was the bomb diggity.

It was not. As I got into the story, I realized my outline wasn't nearly as thorough as I thought it was, and consequently I'm going to have some pretty big edits to do on that draft before it's submittable.

So I decided I would try outlining again for The Good, the Bad, and the Infertile, and this time try to do it right. That's the book I'm going to write for NaNo. I knew, if I was going to make NaNo a success, I would need a very solid outline so I didn't waste time being "stuck" when I should be writing. Enter ywriter, pretty much my favorite free writing program ever. It's an outlining program that has saved my bacon. Yesterday I finished my scene-by-scene outline for GBI. It took me 3 weeks to do the outline, and the book currently will be 50 chapters long. I literally know what will happen on every page of this ms, and I've only written 3 chapters.

This morning, while the twins were (supposed to be) napping, I sat down to go over the outline and tighten it up a bit. I have 5 days left until November, and I want this outline to be solid. I got to chapter 4 (the chapter I've been stuck in the middle of writing for months now) and realized as I was reading the outline I was bored. And then I realized, if I'm not excited to write the scene, then no way is someone going to be excited to read it.

So I'm back to outlining. The whole outline doesn't suck--there are many, many scenes I cannot wait to write--but anything I'm not excited about has got to go or be changed in some way. Because writing is supposed to be fun, and if I'm not having a good time, why am I doing it?

5 days. I have 5 days to make this outline shine, then 30 days to pound out 50,000 words. I have such high hopes for this story. It's so close to my heart, and I just want to do it justice.

I cannot wait.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why I Write

Sometimes it's hard to put into words why I love writing, but the Novel Doctor did an awesome job of it today. He said it so much better than I ever could. He wrote a great blog post here on what writing is all about, and why it's awesome. Go check it out! Certainly motivated me to keep writing. :)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

First Draft Finished!

I just finished the first draft of The Hostage Heart! I literally could scream, I'm so excited.

Yeah. I'm seriously thrilled.

And, because I'm very organized and stats-based like this, here are the final stats for the first draft of HH. I'm sure I missed something somewhere along the way, but it's pretty accurate. I did this mainly for my own amusement and so I could give myself a pat on the back when I finished. I'm big into the sense of accomplishment these days.

Date began: May 5, 2012
Date completed: October 6, 2012 (almost exactly 5 months, how cool is that?)
hours spent pre-writing: 11 hours, 15 minutes
hours spent writing: 37 hours, 11 minutes
word count: 107,847
page count: 415
average WPM: 48
hours spent editing: 26 hours, 25 minutes
total pages edited: 431 (keep in mind some chapters I edited like a hundred times)

So, in case anyone out there was wondering, that's what it takes to write a first draft. Sometimes, when I think about the fact that it took me five months to write for 37 hours, that's kind of awful. But other times I think, "I wrote a first draft in five months. Awesome!"

I'm sticking with the awesome.

It's a messy first draft. Right now, the ending is pretty atrocious. But that's what rewrites are for. That's why we edit. I might be a messy first drafter, but I'm a pretty good editor.

For now, I'm setting HH aside and working on GBI (The Good, the Bad, and the Infertile, until I can come up with a better title). I'm going to outline a little more on that one, do some good planning, and then write the first draft as quickly as my fingers will move. I'll come back to HH in a few months, when I have fresh eyes, and start looking at some serious edits of the projects.

For now, I'm going to reward myself with a few episodes of Modern Family and some cuddling with the hubby. I guess I should go tell him I finished HH. He'll be so excited!

Happy weekend, everyone! It's been a good one for me.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Progress Report

I haven't updated in almost a month! Your probably think it's because I haven't made any progress, right?


I haven't made great progress. Life has been a little nuts lately, what with the twins turning one and everything. (Birthdays are a big deal in my family. A REALLY big deal. And it takes a lot of effort to pull off big deal birthday celebrations. And then a long time to recover.)

But I've made progress and improvements. I've done some great edits on my women's fiction. I decided to switch it over form 3rd person to 1st. I had 39 pages written and though it'd take an hour to make the switch. Boy, was I wrong! Try like a week. Turns out switching povs is a lot harder than you'd think. Thank heaven I made the switch only 10k in instead of 80k. Now if only I can make 1st person work so I don't have to switch it back. I'm banning myself from doing anything else on this book until I finish the first draft of The Hostage Heart. 

I've also been working a lot on critiques for my critique groups lately. My online group does their submissions the first of every month. Since I am OCD, I have to get them done almost as soon as they hit my inbox or I can't relax. It's fun to read other people's work though so I don't mind. :)

I've also been making good progress on The Hostage Heart. Not as much as I would like to, but I am still pretty confident I'll be able to finish the first draft this month. It stands at 93,500 words right now! It's amazing to look at the bottom of the screen, see there are 356 typed pages, and realize I did that. Being a writer is so awesome.

I think life is back to normal right now, so hopefully I can get back on track with my writing goals. I am going to end this year with a bang!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekly Progress Report, Or How I Overcame Writer's Block

Notice how I haven't done a progress report for awhile? That's because there hasn't been any progress to note.

Oh sure. I've pretended to be working on The Hostage Heart. I re-read all 75k and made a detailed chapter outline. (Hopefully that will help with the I-can't-remember-if-I-already-wrote-this-scene problem I was having.) I pretended to think about what was going to happen next while secretly thinking about the twins' first birthday party instead. I even hopped on iWriteNetwork with the intentions of doing actual word counts when sprinting, but mostly just critiqued for my writer's group or re-read my own stuff.

I have heard other authors say they get to that I-hate-my-manuscript point on every project. I have been there myself a time or two. But I forgot what that point feels like. For about 6 weeks, I have literally wanted to light my manuscript on fire and cackle in glee as I watch it burn.

But no more. I have once again overcome writer's block, and The Hostage Heart is back on track.

Every writer has a different method of what helps them overcome writer's block. Some work on a different project for awhile. Others read a good novel or go to a movie. There are many cures as there are published--and unpublished--books, but for me, there is only one thing that cures my writer's block.

Writing. Who knew?

No matter how many movies I watch, books I read, purses I buy, my writer's block will not go away until I actually sit my butt in that chair, glue my finger's to the keyboard, and write. I have found that every single time I feel writer's block approaching, if I just force myself to crank out my 2k a day the problem resolves itself quickly. But this time I just stopped writing for awhile. I outlined, critiqued, worked on my super-secret Christmas project for hubby. But I didn't write.

I credit my friends at iWriteNetwork for helping me overcome this latest block. I was complaining about not knowing what to write, and one of them dared me to start the chapter with the sentence, "And then a cat landed on her head." Writing prompts, incidentally, are a great cure for writer's block. They involve actual writing. So I took the sentence and ran with it.

The cat fell on his head, not hers. And it happened a page into the chapter. And it will probably get cut out later.

But it helped get the story going again. It got me back in the flow, and 1000 words later I knew what I needed to do to save this WIP. I had killed a character. And suddenly, all because he died, I am racing to the finish line of this manuscript.

I no longer feel like lighting this book on fire. Instead, I want to skip church (I won't) and spend those 3 hours cranking out words instead of wrestling babies (because I never actually hear church these days. I'm too busy chasing cute kids). 6 weeks of agony came down to 30 minutes of just forcing myself to power through and write. Oh, and someone's death. And a feral cat with a penchant for hissing.

I hit some big benchmarks this week. I passed up 300 pages and 80,000 words in The Hostage Heart. And it feels amazing. And so, here is my report for the week.

days spent writing: 3
word count: 4591
time spent writing: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
WPM: 35

My WPM has decreased a little, but I am confident that it will pick back up soon enough. I'm going back to 10k a week now. I estimate I probably have another 40k or so before The Hostage Heart's first draft is complete, and so I'm hoping to have it finished in another 4-6 weeks. My critique group and I set quarterly goals and I said I wanted to have the first draft done by the end of this quarter, which is the end of September. So I think it's totally a doable goal. Next time I feel writer's block approaching, I will keep writing and not let it bog me down.

What have you found helps overcome writer's block?


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fear of Failure

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, "You can be anything you want to be." I would say, "When I grow up I want to be a [insert unlikely career here]," and my mom said, "If you work hard, you can make it happen."

By about second grade I had narrowed in on what I was going to be when I grew up. It was a couple of things actually, but I had decided I would be, 1) a wife, 2) a mother, 3) a teacher, and 4) a writer. Most kids change their minds a million times between second grade and college graduation, but not me. Aside from a brief stint in which I decided I hated teaching, I never wavered. I am one of those people who makes up her mind and then sticks to it. I never even changed my major in college.

I became a wife at 18, a teacher at 19, and a mother at 21. But what about writer? I've had a goal of becoming published by 25 since I was about 13. Now that I'm closing in on 23, this is seeming like an impossible goal. In my mind, I now say things like, "Maybe I'll have an agent by 25," or, "Maybe I'll have a contract by 25." Published by 25 is quickly seeming impossible. On my more pessimistic days, I think, "Maybe I'll have a manuscript finished and ready to query by 25." Those are usually the days when I have not even been able to fold laundry because of the twins. The days when it's 4 pm, the bed isn't made, the sink is piled high with dishes, the twins are cranky, and I'm wondering if I'm going to manage to get out of my pajamas before hubby gets home from work and/or school.

Sometimes, on really bad days like today, I wonder if I'm even a writer. If I even have the right to be a writer. Because what right do I have to spend my precious free time writing when I have so many other things I should and could be doing?

I have a confession: I haven't seriously worked on The Hostage Heart in almost a month. Yes, I know I have claimed to be "editing." But I finally realized the other day: I'm not editing. I'm avoiding. Avoiding finishing. Avoiding trying. Avoiding failure.

Because I am scared I will fail. It feels weird to admit it. I've always been a fairly confident person, and until my husband and I struggled with infertility I had never encountered a problem I couldn't fix just by sheer will power and hard work.

Writing is kind of like infertility in some ways, now that I think about it. I am putting my heart out there on the line, and it's all up to someone else whether or not my dreams come true. Oh sure, I know I can self-publish. Indie is a great way to go for lots of writers. But not for me. I need someone else to validate my worth as a writer. I need that publisher's stamp of approval.

And that's scary. Because what if I'm wasting all this time writing when I should be making awesome gourmet meals and keeping my house spotlessly clean? I could be canning or hand making baby clothes or something. What if I fail? What if I'm really not any good at this whole writing thing? What if I just plain suck?

I'm being dramatic. I know I'm being dramatic. I do that a lot; I have earned the title of Drama Queen through hard work and dedication. But still. What if...?

It's true; faith and fear cannot coexist. And my fear of failure has paralyzed my writing and made it impossible for me to press forward. I need to sit back, take a deep breath, and have a little faith in myself. I need to give myself some credit.

My personal motto is, "I can do hard things." And I can. I have done hard things, time and time again. This is another hard thing I can do--overcome my fear of failing and actually write something worth publishing. I can do it. I will do it.

August is going to be a more productive writing month than July. It has to be.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Critique Groups and Editing

I feel like, after a five year hiatus from writing, I'm re-learning the craft all over again. I also feel like I am a much different writer than I used to be. Five years doesn't seem like a lot, but when it's the difference between 17 and 22 it's significant. A lot has happened in my life the past five years, and it's changed my writing quite a bit.

One thing I'm learning is I'm a messy first drafter. I try not to be, but I make lots of mistakes the first go around. I forget to add setting, use lots of overused gestures (my characters tend to smile and shrug and sigh a lot initially), and in The Hostage Heart I have a hard time keeping the tone. I'm trying to walk that delicate balance between Old World styles of speech while still being modern, and it's difficult.

Editing always overwhelms me because of the messiness of my first draft. I am guilty of starting to edit a finished WIP, deciding the whole thing is complete rubbish, and throwing the entire thing in the proverbial trash bin and starting over from scratch.

And then I joined my two critique groups. And I've learned something unexpected. Critique groups are incredibly helpful when it comes to editing.

I'm about two-thirds of the way complete with The Hostage Heart first draft (but seventh version of the story), and it's the WIP I've been taking to my critique groups. Before submitting, I go through and polish those chapters as much as I can. Then, when I get my critique back, I go through and make all the changes I feel are necessary, and polish polish polish some more. The result? I'm biting off my WIP in easily digestible chunks. I have noticed myself feeling much less overwhelmed this time around (although there are still days I want to light my manuscript on fire).

Who would have thought critique groups would help me feel less overwhelmed? Not only are they fun (critique group is tonight by the excited!!! Thursday nights are my favorite) and not only are they helpful, they also are incredibly encouraging.

I've never had a group of writer friends before. Ever. I've had writer acquaintances that I've been friendly with, but they always felt more like mentors than peers (maybe it was because I was just a teenager at the time and they were all successful and published and stuff). Never have I had peers that I feel like I can talk with as opposed to talk to. And it's incredibly helpful and incredibly relieving. I'm a lone wolf in my family and circle of personal friends. No one I associate with on a daily basis even likes to read, much less write. The value of critique groups is amazing. Not only does it help me improve my craft, but it gives me people to talk to about writing as well.

What are your opinions on critique groups? Are they valuable to you or not?


Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekly Progress Report

I really need to figure out something else to post on this blog. The truth is, though, I just don't have the time or energy to figure something else out at the moment.

I didn't actually do a word count last week, but I got LOTS of editing done, so overall I feel it was a good week.

pages edited: 139
time spent editing: 500 minutes (8 hours 20 minutes)
days spent editing: 6

I am REALLY tired today for some reason, and my babies are being difficult so here's to hoping I manage to get something done today...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weekly Progress Report

Well last week was a bust. Between two cranky, teething babies, the 4th of July holiday, and being gone for half the week to a family reunion, not to mention getting my hubby's present ready for our anniversary (four years today, thanks for asking), I didn't do a lot of writing. 0 words, actually. I did however edit 22 pages in 2 hours, so the week wasn't a complete loss. I will do better this week!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekly Progress Report

It was a slow week. I am feeling a bit stuck right now, which makes me avoid writing (unfortunately). However, I am pushing through. I spent a lot of time thinking, re-reading, and trying to figure out where to go from here, so my totals look atrocious...

words written: 3,239 on The Hostage Heart 
time spent writing: 60 minutes (1 hour)
days spent writing: 2
WPM: 54

pages edited: 27
time spent editing: 180 minutes (3 hours)
days spent editing: 4
EPH (edits per hour): 9 pages

So I didn't do a ton of writing, but I did make progress. I have to keep reminding myself writing success and productivity is not measured solely in word counts. That's a hard switch for me to make, but I'm trying.

I'm going to participate in Tristi's Challenges this month. I'm so excited! I have two goals: 1) to finish the first draft of The Hostage Heart (I estimate that is probably about 30k of writing but I'm not sure) and 2) to spend 5 hours a week on writing. I add this last goal because I think with editing I might not always write 10k a week, and I still want to give myself a measurable goal I can meet. I know that doesn't sound like much, but nap time is slowly decreasing and I am struggling more and more to find time to write. My boy are so active now that it is impossible to do anything when they are awake because they require eyes on them constantly! It's fun though, and I'm loving it. I'm excited for July! It's my anniversary month, my favorite holiday (the 4th of July) is this month, I get to go to a family reunion this month, and overall July is just awesome.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekly Progress Report

The week goes by way too quickly. Here's my stats...

words written: 8,647 on The Hostage Heart, 3,309 on my infertility WIP, for a total of 11,956
time spent writing: 236 minutes (3 hours 56 minutes)
days spent writing: 4
WPM: 51

Woot woot! It was actually a pretty productive week, and my WPM has increased as well. Can't wait to see what this coming week brings!

Anyone else want to report their stats?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekly Progress Report

For some reason I had a hard time finding my groove this week, so my totals aren't what I would like them to be. I did start my new infertility WIP which is exciting! And The Hostage Heart is going really well too.

  • words written: 2,845 on The Hostage Heart and 7,118 on the infertility WIP for 9,963 total. SO CLOSE to my weekly goal!!! I should've written another sentence or two just so I could make it but I got caught up in editing. 
  • time spent writing: 213 minutes (3 hours 33 minutes)
  • time spent pre-writing: 90 minutes
  • time spent editing: 3 hours
  • WPM: 47

Since I presented at critique group this week I spent a lot of time working on revisions of the first chapter of The Hostage Heart. I'm still working on those revisions 3 hours later, but I am loving where this is going. I have a feeling good things are coming...

So how did everyone else do this week?

Critique Group

On Thursday we had our first meeting of a brand-new critique group. My old critique group dissolved awhile back after about a year and a half of slowly dying, and me and one of the members from that group have been trying to get something put together ever since.

Thursday was the much-anticipated (for me, at least) meeting, and I think it went really well. I volunteered myself for the first critique, and I was so happy with the results. These ladies know what they are talking about, and they were able to point out problem areas in my chapter that I could no longer see. It is always scary when you get in a new critique group. My fear is always that they will be too nice and it will be a waste of time because I won't get any constructive feedback. I am happy to say that is not the case with my new group. I got lots of feedback, all of it excellent.

I've been working hard on revising the first chapter since Thursday, and I am really excited about where it is going. I feel like the world building I've been doing combined with the critiques from my online group as well as this new one have given me some great ideas on how to make the story better. The characterization is much more solid in my mind and that makes writing SO much easier.

With these critiques in mind, I am anxious to get back to actually adding to the word count on this WIP. I think the end of the first draft is in sight, and it's so exciting! I haven't finished the first draft of a WIP in 5 or 6 years. Awesome.

What always is the most nerve-wracking for you when joining a new critique group?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In Which I Start Another WIP

When I was into writing before--you know, pre- five year break--I had a backbone of steel when it came to accepting critiques. You literally could say anything to me in a critique, and as long as it was constructive I would eat it up. I LOVED critiques. I lived for them. When most writers were crying to see the red ink dripped from the pages of their manuscript, I was doing a happy dance (not really; I don't dance) because I knew my WIP was going to get better.

I've softened a bit. Critiques are harder for me to take now, although I still love to get them. I'm not easily offended, and I love nothing more than an honest critique partner who will tell it like it is. But I don't rejoice in the suggestions quite as much as I used to. Maybe it's because I feel like my brain isn't as sharp as it once was (turns out my mom was right, children really do cause brain damage). Maybe it's because I don't have as much time and so every suggestion feels like a mountain I have to climb. Maybe it's because I feel so out of sorts, I'm not really sure how to go about fixing things. Maybe I just need to make my skin a little thicker. I used to be a pro, but I'm out of practice.

At any rate, I got an AWESOME critique back from my online critique group on The Hostage Heart the other day. She pointed out some continuity issues that are quite glaring now that I think about it. I took a few days to consider what she was saying, and realized the issues were there because I didn't have a clear idea of  the world in which the story takes place. So I've been doing some world building over the past few days, and it's going great! I've already got some great ideas on how to improve things. But I can't just not write, so in the meantime I've started the first draft of my infertility novel. It is hard to write and emotional and makes me dread the coming year. Now that the boys are approaching their first birthday, we'll soon be back in the middle of all that infertility crap. I'm not looking forward to it. But I am loving writing this book, and now more than ever I feel it needs to be written.

Which brings me to a question...anybody have any title suggestions for this infertility WIP? All the ones I've come up with personally are lame, and the few suggestions I've had are awesome but just don't seem quite to fit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Segment - Weekly Progress Report

I've decided to start something new. Every week, I am going to post my progress from the previous week on my WIPs. It's a way for me to keep myself accountable. Maybe I'll continue to press forward with my writing each week if I know on Sunday I'll have to tell the whole internet about it. :)

words written: 12,453, all on The Hostage Heart 
time spent writing: 262 minutes (4 hours and 22 minutes)
time spent pre-writing: 4 hours on my infertility novel
days spent writing: 6

That works out to about 2,851 words an hour, or 47 wmp. (I'm pretty sure I did my math correctly there, but no promises.)

Not too bad. This is my best week to date, in fact. I've been charting my progress for 5 full weeks now, and I find it tremendously helpful. I've been managing 10.5k-12.5k a week. For someone who hasn't written in 5 years and has two babies, I think that's pretty good. One thing I've learned is to be proud of the progress I've made, no matter how small. If I'm not, I just give up.

I've been doing lots of sprints over at iWriteNetwork lately. I absolutely love it. I've always been somewhat of a social recluse, and it's great to be able to "talk" to others who share my love of writing and feel part of the writing community. However, when sprinting and reporting back my word count, I always get comments along the lines of, "Wow, that's fast!" I had no idea I was writing "fast" until people started making comments to that effect. Let us hope that "fast" does not equate "awful."

So here's how I write "fast." First of all, on a REALLY good day I type 135 wpm when copying things (usually it's more around 90 wpm on an average day though). When writing, I am much slower. I write between 35-45 wpm. Here's how I do it:

1) I use Write or Die. I generally try to write 2k in 40 minutes on gentle mode. Sometimes I don't quite make it--it usually makes more like 45 minutes to get my word count it--but it's something to aim for, and it pushes me. I LOVE the desktop version because it has progress bars at the top letting me know how I'm doing. For goal-oriented, type A personalities like myself, this is invaluable. Well worth the $10.

2) When I am writing, I am writing. I don't get online. I don't answer my phone. I don't do anything but check on the twins if they start fussing in their sleep. If I have no idea what to write, I write anyway because the red flashing screen stresses me out. And guess what? After a line or two of writing crap, I know where to go and am back on track. I find the longer I write, the faster I go and the better things flow.

3) I try to plan ahead an idea of what I will be writing so I know where the story is supposed to go. I don't do a detailed plan, but I do have a general idea of things.

And that's pretty much all I do. I'm still figuring things out, but so far this is working great for me.

I just read this article here a few days ago too. It's all about increasing your word count. Rachel Aaron says things way better than me, and she is actually published and successful so her words hold more weight than mine. Go check it out! Try a few of her tips and see if it boosts your word count. I'm slowly pushing myself and trying to boost mine.

So how did everyone else do with their writing goals this past week?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Write What You Want to Write

My current WIP, The Hostage Heart, is a story very near and dear to my heart. I have been working on it for 7 years and am currently on my 7th version of the story (I thought it was 5th, but I just checked and it's 7th). When I say "version" I mean each story is drastically different than the others. But this time, I think I finally got it right. And I say that because I outlined this time around.

I'm currently 54k in and having a blast pounding out this first draft. However, as I've been writing, I've also been wondering--what genre is this WIP? Clearly, it is first and foremost a romance, because without the love story the plot would not really exist. But what kind of a love story is it?

The Hostage Heart is set in a fictitious land, reminiscent of medieval Europe. It has that royal, almost fairy tale-like feel to it. However, there is no magic. No fairies, elves, or dragons. No fantasy elements of any kind. There are also no sci-fi or dystopian elements either.

I took the question of "what the heck is this genre?" to the awesome people at iWriteNetwork. The general consensus seems to be that this WIP doesn't have a clear genre. Many of the authors suggested I add an element to make it clearly fit into another genre. Maybe a dragon. Or put it on another planet. Or have it 100 years in the future and make it dystopian. They were all really good suggestions that would make for an interesting story.

I seriously considered this for a few days. Maybe I should add fairy tale elements and go with that. Maybe I should just add a dragon or two and make it fantasy. Make it could work to have it 100 years in the future or on another planet. But then I realized something. I could add any of those elements to this WIP and it would have a clear genre.

But it wouldn't be the book I wanted to write.

And really, if I'm not having fun writing it, the others definitely aren't going to have fun reading it. And what would be the point?

So I'm plugging along, continuing to write the WIP in the undefined genre. And after I'm done with the first draft, I'll step back and see if I should add some other elements to clearly define it. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. But for today, I'm keeping it as is.

One day, I'm going to find an agent that wants to sell the books that I want to write.  And that is going to be an awesome day. I'm going to hold out for that agent, and not start writing books just because a particular agent wants to sell something of that nature. Writing is a passion, one I hope to eventually make money at. But that's not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because it makes me happy. Because the days where I pound out my 2k are better than the days that I don't. Because I enjoy it.

I don't know if this WIP can even sell written as it currently is (after I polish it up and make it pretty, I mean). If I end up getting a zillion and one rejections all saying it isn't marketable without adding some other element, then I'll seriously consider doing just that. But for now, I'm not going to stress. I'm not going to worry. I'm just going to write, and love every second I am doing it. Because I am writing something that I love.

What do you love to write?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

When Nap Time Changes

My twins are teething. The only thing worse than one miserable, cranky baby is two.

I don't know if it's the teeth or a phase or what, but nap time has changed. For a solid month there, I could plan on the boys going down 3 hours after they woke up, usually around 10 am, for 2 hours. That meant from 10 am - 12 pm, I had writing time. I also could plan on them taking another 45 minute to an hour long nap at 3 pm or so. Those three hours of sleeping babies were my sanctuary. I would write for an hour, then clean, fold laundry, and in all other ways try to make my house presentable.

Those three hours have disappeared. Vanished. Poof. Now I have two babies that refuse to go to sleep, that are crying to be held, and that basically are overtaking every second of my time. It's been a challenge to find time to eat let alone write the past few days. To top it all off, I have a pounding headache that is going on a week now thanks to my teeny sinuses and this awesome Utah allergy season.

I have managed to still get my writing done each day, but the quality of it isn't like I want it to be. Now, for example, the babies are finally down for a nap. I've already got my 2k done for the day and I really should be doing some research for my women's fiction novel that's coming up next. But I can't think. I can't focus. I can't write and I definitely can't research. All I want to do is veg. What I really want to do is sleep, but I have this overwhelming fear that the second I lie down for a nap they will wake up. And so here I am.

I keep reminding myself there is a time and a season, and it's okay to have days like this. I have tried to cuddle and hold and comfort the boys and not worry about everything else that I should be getting done. Spending time with them is what's important.

But it's really hard for a type-A person like myself to be okay with going yet another day without finding time to pull out the vacuum.

H cut his first tooth a few days ago without any fuss at all. Tooth #2 is causing him discomfort though, and J has been absolutely miserable cutting tooth #1. His gums are swollen and he gnaws on everything (except what I want him to gnaw on, like his teether or a wet rag). I hope they get feeling better soon for all of our sake's. Two screaming babies and one mommy can drive a person insane.

I hope it's just a phase, and once they are feeling better they go back to their regularly scheduled naps. I realize they won't sleep 3 hours a day for forever, but at this point in time, nap time is really more for mommy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

JumpStart WriMo

So I decided to participate in Julie Coulter Bellon's JumpStart WriMo. I guess it's technically NaNoWriMo who does a NaNoWriMo for June (since supposedly this is a better time for teacher's to write than November...don't you mean a better time for practically the entire world?).

Well, I'm not planning on writing an entire novel in a month. But I am planning on working on some things. My goal for June is to finish The Hostage Heart, which means I will be writing approximately 40k. Currently my word count is 47,943 words. Considering I started writing on May 8, I am pretty darn proud of myself. Right now I'm at a weird place in the novel, where I'm not sure what's going to happen next or what I'll be writing tomorrow. But I keep writing my 2k a day, and it's about word 300 I always know where to go next. I'm sure I'll have lots of cuts to make once I start polishing this baby, but I have something on paper which means I have something I can edit. And that's more than I've had for 5 years now.

I also want to finish outlining my new infertility WIP by the end of June so I can jump into that while I let The Hostage Heart sit for awhile before I begin editing. I have 3 of 6 character sketches done so far, and the hero's journey outlined for one of the three couples. So I feel like I'm making good progress there as well. I am plunging into the researching side of that WIP and it's daunting, depressing, and very informative. It's giving me great ideas on what to write. Don't worry, though...I'm hoping to put a humorous slant on infertility. We'll see how it goes.

Anyone else out there participating in JumpStart WriMo? What are your goals?


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some Things I've Learned About Writing

It has been 4 weeks since the writer's conference, and I've got to say, I feel better than I have in years. For the first time since high school--maybe even junior high--I feel like a writer. I am a writer.

Here's some things I've learned about writing in the last 4 weeks or so.

1. You can write in 5-minute increments. With multiple interruptions.

2. The best way through writer's block is to write. If you keep writing, eventually things will start coming together and happening.

3. Writing has to be a priority in your life, or it's not going to happen.

4. You need confidence in yourself...the confidence to tell others "I am a writer" and to value your writing time and find it important enough to guard.

5. A word goal is key to success.

6. Stick with your word goal NO MATTER WHAT.

7. Pick a specific time of day you want to write and try to stick with it.

8. Outlining first helps. A lot.

9. The internet is a distraction while writing, not research.

10. It's okay to leave blanks that you will go back and fill in later.

11. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time.

12. It's okay to turn off your inner editor.

13. Time really is made, not found.

14. You can cut a lot of unnecessary crap out of your day if you just try.

15. As long as my kids are happy, my scriptures are read, and everyone is full, everything else can wait until my word goal is met.

My personal word goal is 2,000 words a day, and 10,000 words a week. Write or Die has been key in helping me meet those goals. I have gotten faster, and it now takes me about 40 minutes to write my 2k words. I write during my twins' morning nap, somewhere between 10 am - 1 pm. During my writing time I don't look at texts, answer the phone, or get online. In 22 days I have written just over 40k words. And I've gotta say, I'm proud of myself. If I, a mother of 9 month old twins, can find time to write, I think anyone can. Because two crawling babies pretty much define the word "busy."

Write now I'm smack in the middle of my WIP. This is the part of the book where traditionally I give up and stop writing. I feel somewhat bored with the project at the minute. Writing my 2k words a day has been painful this week. I'm not sure what needs to happen to get to the climax and how to keep everything interesting. But I still write my 2k words, every day, whether I want to or not. Last night that meant writing at 9 pm at night, when my brain was mush and my writing even worse. But that's what editing's for. Today I feel like I'm on the brink of a breakthrough. Things will get better soon, and I will finish this WIP. Not just the first draft. Not just a first edit. I will finish it, query it. Maybe even get it published.

It feels great to do something for myself every day. Those 40 minutes are all mine, free of distractions. For 40 minutes every day, I get to lose myself in a world I've created. Laundry does not invade, cleaning does not interrupt. (Okay, sometimes a whimpering baby does, but usually not.) And I think that those 40 minutes make me a better mom. Because when the boys wake up from their nap, I am ready to play. I am ready to focus on them. Because I've already focused on me and filled that need I have.

Writing is more than just a desire I have. It's a need. It's something I have to do. And for the first time in a long time, I'm doing it.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Project...I could really use some help!

The Hostage Heart continues to come along fantastically. I hit 100 pages a few days ago and I'm almost at 30,000 words so I am feeling great about that project! Another month and I'll be done with the first draft for sure.

Which has made me start thinking about my next project. I like to let a first draft sit for a time before starting in on the editing, and I want to start my next WIP while The Hostage Heart is in its waiting period.

So I have an idea and I've decided to run with it. I think most people are aware that I am infertile. "But Lindzee," you say, "you have twins!" I know. I love them, but their miraculous conception and birth doesn't mean I'm not still infertile.

And you know what? Infertility sucks. A lot. And one of the hardest things about it is feeling so alone.

So I've decided to write a women's fiction novel about infertility. The thing is, I need some help with the research end of things. I want this book to be a good representation of infertility, and therefore I want to have opinions and perceptions other than my own in this work. So here's my call to any and all infertiles! If you ever have or currently are struggling with infertility and wouldn't mind sharing your story with me, I would LOVE to talk to you. I have a questionnaire I want my fellow infertiles to fill out to aid me in this story. So if you are willing to share,  please either leave me your email address so I can get in contact with you, or email me at lindzeeDOTarmstrong AT yahoo DOT com. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Write or Die = Freaking Awesome

So after a day or so of trying the free Write or Die web app, I broke down and bought the desktop version. Best $10 I ever spent. I cannot believe how much this tool motivates me and keeps me on task! I have used this tool for 6 days so far, and have written 12,000 words in a little under 6 hours total writing timing. For those of you keeping track, that's about 2,000 words a day in 1 hour.

That might not seem like a lot to some, but for me, that's huge. It's something I don't think I ever would have been able to accomplish without this app. Those 12,000 words are about 11,500 more than I wrote the entirety of last year.

I am a very goal-oriented person, and so I think my favorite part of this app is the progress bar at the top of the screen that tells me how fast I'm typing in comparison to how much time I have left on the clock. It helps me know when to pick up the pace, and when I'm doing really well. This app has also helped me squash my inner editor. I don't edit when I write anymore because that flashing red screen gives me severe anxiety. Instead as I type, I keep reminding myself, "I can edit crap to sound good later but I can't do anything if I don't have something written down." As an interesting side-note, back in my hay-day of typing speed, I averaged 135 wpm. Now when I am transcribing something, I am a little bit slower, but I still can do about 90 wpm. My average speed while writing? 40 wpm.

Apparently it takes more effort to think and type than to just type. Who knew?

So here's my plug for Write or Die...GO BUY IT!!! Or at least check out the free web app and see how you like it. You can find it here: Best $10 you'll ever spend, promise. Geez, Dr. Wicked should be paying me for this endorsement or something.

But really, all I can do is thank him for helping me to finally write again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

WWW: Writer's Worst Weapon

Every writer has an arsenal of tools in their writing belt, so to speak, which help them make their WIP great. One of the greatest tools a writer has at their disposal is the world wide web. It's great for researching, and the answers to almost all of life's questions are just a mouse click away.

The internet is possibly one of the worst things a writer can have access to. Writers are notorious procrastinators, and I myself am guilty of this sin more often than not. And what better way to procrastinate than by web surfing?

Sometimes I am a little slow on the uptake. At the writer's conference this past weekend, I had to manual connect to the internet. I didn't really want the distraction of the web while in the classes, and I realized something. I could eliminate the distraction by simply not connecting to the internet. This is possibly the first time in my life I realized it is possible to be on the computer without being online.

I told you I am a little slow. I attribute this to my children.

This realization--that you don't have to be online--has drastically changed my productivity. Now, when I get on my laptop to work on my WIP, I either disconnect the internet or pretend it's disconnected. I forbid myself from accessing the internet for anything, even a writing-related question. It's pretty much awesome.

I also learned about a writing app called Write or Die this weekend by Dr. Wicked. I am seriously considering buying it, because some writers whose opinions I value very highly swear by it. Time is something I don't have a ton of (who does, really?) and so anything to boost my productivity is worth a shot.


Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 LDStorymakers Conference

Just came off an amazing weekend! As always, the LDStorymakers Conference delivered, and delivered well.

This year when it came to classes, I focused a lot on plotting, time management, and sparking creativity. Those are the areas I feel like I struggle most with at the moment, and honestly, the presenters were answers to my prayers. For awhile now I've been feeling I'm more like a poser than a real writer, but some of the things I heard this weekend reminded me that's not true.

What it comes down to is this: cutting things. I'm a very type-A personality, and fairly OCD at times. I'm a control freak. And ultimately, in order to be able to find time to write, I need to let some things go. Not the important things. Not cooking dinner or playing with my kids or spending time with my husband. But time-wasters, like TV, internet, etc. I guess I also need to learn to be okay with a level of messiness. While it's acceptable to pick up J and H's toys at the end of the day, it is not necessary I pick them up every single time they switch rooms or interests.

I remember there was a time I would rather be curled up with a book or hunkered down at the computer than anything else. This isn't necessarily the case now. At the end of the day (or the middle of the day...or eight o'clock in the morning sometimes) I am so exhausted that the thought of actually using my brain is painful. My solution? Lets just say I've become a fan of multiple reality TV shows in the months since morning sickness first arrived. While I was pregnant, it was all I could do without feeling the need to pray to the Porcelain God. Since the boys arrived, it's been more a matter of sanity.

But the last few months things have slowly changed. Now I am more apt to pick up a book when the boys are down for the night, and I watch substantially less television (I attribute this to no longer being tied to my nursing pillow approximately 10 hours a day (no that number is not an exaggeration)). I am determined to find that path to my goals and set foot on it once again. It's been awhile since I've worked towards any writing goals, and I'm ready for that to change.

I've been wanting things to change for awhile now, but wasn't exactly sure how to go about it. Now, thanks to the conference, I finally know.

By next year's conference I'm actually going to have my WIP completed and ready to query. That will give me a goal to shoot for. 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time Management

I think the greatest challenge for me as a writer is making time to write. Because there is no such thing as finding time, especially when you are a mom. There are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I need to or want to or should, and there never will be again. Writing is a matter of prioritizing and time management.

For the first time in my adult life, I've found my "golden" hour in which I can get some writing done. That time is somewhere between 8-11 at night.

I am a very type-A personality. I cannot relax for the evening until my house is straightened up and put back together from the hectic day, so to speak. After dinner I put away the twins' toys, tidy up the kitchen, start the dishwasher full of bottles, and the start the boys' bedtime routine. Once they're down I fold the unending piles of laundry, get ready for bed (if I haven't already...don't stop by my house after about 7 pm unless you want to see me without makeup and in my jammies) and then reveal in the peace and quiet that is my home. With my husband doing homework in the other room, I finally have thirty minutes to an hour in which I can sit down and write.

It hasn't been too long that I've been trying out this new writing time, but so far it's working great and I am loving it. My WIP is coming along nicely. After working on an outline for almost a year and still feeling like something fundamental was missing, I decided to just start the darn book and see what happens. I had contemplated working on another WIP while trying to get the outline on The Hostage Heart more concrete, but no other story calls my name as strongly at the moment as this one. So I just started writing. Surprisingly things are going well, and just a few chapters into it the story is already taking me somewhere the outline never did. I love that feeling of sitting down to write and discovering things about the story you didn't know at the beginning of your writing session. I love it when characters appear out of thin air and demand a place in the novel. I love it when scenes materialize, situations make themselves apparent, and road blocks to the story goal unexpectedly appear. I had largely forgotten the way it feels to be a writer, to just reveal in the craft, and I am loving rediscovering that joy.

The Storymakers conference is in a few short weeks, and for the first time since 2007 I will actually be in the trenches of a novel. It's embarrassing to admit, but it has been almost five years since I've really written. I've done a lot in those five years--graduated high school, got married, graduated college, moved three times, struggled with infertility, had three jobs, created two human beings. But writing isn't on the list. For the first time in 5 years, at this conference I will be moving towards my publishing goals instead of standing still. Maybe this year, I'll feel like I belong at the conference.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Where Novels Are Created...

Have I mentioned I have two of the most adorable baby boys in the entire universe? They're almost 6 months old now. They have stolen my heart, and my time.

The fact is, most days I'd rather play with them than work on my manuscript. I waited what felt like a really long time to have these babies, and I want to enjoy every second of the miracle that is their lives.

Another fact: having babies makes your brain stop working. If I thought college was a drain on my creativity, then sleep deprivation makes me think I'm being creative when in fact I am not. I cannot tell you how many times I've figured out some minute detail of The Hostage Heart and told my husband, "It's brilliant, I tell you!" only to manage 4 or 5 hours of straight sleep that night and wake up realizing the idea was lame. My mom always warned me that parenthood causes brain damage. Now I know how true that statement is.

I don't have a lot of free time. Most of the day I am caught up in playing, feed, changing, and bathing babies. When they finally go down for a nap, I run around like mad trying to do piles of laundry, unload the dishwasher, and generally make my house look passably presentable.

But The Hostage Heart is always tickling the back of my mind. And I have found a place that no one can bother me, and my creativity can run free.

The shower.

Most days I'm lucky if I hop into the shower by 11 or so. But when I get in the shower, the babies are usually 1) sleeping or 2) being entertained by someone else. And so I am completely free to think, plan, and scheme. In the shower I have defined characters, slowly developed the plot, and worked out kinks in the planning. Although I am still in the "outlining" stage of this novel (when is this stage going to end so I can get to the fun part?) it's in the shower that my book is really being written. Without any words yet, obviously.

My showers are starting to be pretty lengthy affairs.

I've sort of been derailed lately, writing wise. The boys decided about two months back they no longer felt like sleeping through the night. That was fun. We've been trying to sleep-train them ever since. Those plans were derailed about a week and a half ago by RSV, so for about 9 days or so I've been holding crying babies all day (and a few times all night as well). But they're starting to overcome RSV, and I've got a road-trip to Oklahoma coming up in a few weeks. I have a feeling I'll be able to accomplish quite a bit on this manuscript during those 40 hours of driving.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Naming Characters

I feel like one of the aspects of writing that is most challenging for me is naming characters. Sound simple, right?

Wrong. A name seem to define the character. It dictates how that character behaves, acts, reacts, talks, thinks, and feels. Shakespeare was clearly trying to be ironic or cheeky or something when he said the whole "what's in a name?" thing.

I've been working on character sketches for The Hostage Heart, my WIP, for a few months now. I finally finished the heroine's, and now I'm working on the hero's. I know, I know...I should've had these sketches finished months ago. But doing anything with 5-month-old twin boys around is difficult. As it turns out, character sketches are kind of difficult when you have no idea what to name your characters.

I think my hero has had about 5 different names through various versions of this story. My heroine is on name two. Important secondary characters have all gone through at least a few name changes. I finally have a name for my heroine that fits her just right, but nothing seems quite right for the hero. I just can't find a fit. And until I find a fit, I feel lie I can't move forward with the plot.

I'm doing as much of the character sketch as I can without the name. I'm hoping, if I really solidify his personality in my mind, the name will just come to me.

Here's to hoping.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Plot Problem Solved

You know when you've been stewing for days--nay, weeks, months!--over a particular problem? And you have racked your brain, and you just simply cannot figure out how to get around this plot problem, but you can't move forward o the project until it's solved?

Totally hate that. But when you're talking to yourself in the shower, and suddenly you solve that plot problem? Priceless.

To Outline, or Not to Outline?

I have always been a hyper-organized person. At times, I have been accused of being OCD. I cannot function in a messy space, and clutter drives me bonkers. I like things perpendicular, alphabetized, and filed in chronological order.

So it's really ironic that I've never in my life outlined a manuscript.

Last May I went to the LDStoryMakers conference, and was totally sold on the benefits of outlining. I have started and never finished many a novel in the past because 100 pages in I realized I have some insurmountable plot problem that I could've avoided if I just outlined the darn novel.

I have a novel that I'm currently working on. I've been working on the darn thing off and on since about the 8th grade (so that's, what, 8 or 9 years now?). I have various drafts of the novel, all focusing on very different ideas and ending at around page 100. But this time, things are going to be different.

For the past month or two I have been outlining the novel. I have been working on character sketches and subplots and setting. I am determined that this time around, things are going to be different. And I will not start penning The Hostage Heart until I am sure just exactly what point A is, what point B is, and how I'm going to get from A to B.

Maybe I will try out outlining and find I completely hate it. Maybe it will stifle my creative energy and make me loathe working on the manuscript. But maybe, just maybe, I will absolutely love it, and finally be able to finish this manuscript after 9 years of trying.

New Year's Resolutions, Writing Style

I have been writing novel-length manuscripts since I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. My first novel I creatively titled "Stephanie's story." It was about It was a cheesy romance-turned-conversion story that highlighted all my greatest hopes in dreams. In the end, the love interest couple became insanely wealthy and had 14 kids. (I was an only child at the time and insanely jealous of large families.) It was an admirable attempt for a 9 year old.

Over the next 6 or 7 years my attempts grew better and better, and then stopped entirely as my education overtook my life. After graduation, infertility issues consumed my every thought and writing was just too hard. I also felt as though I was creatively dead, and that becoming a college graduate at age 20 had come at the cost of my ability to create stories.

While I was pregnant with my twin boys, I was so nauseous and miserable I couldn't even read, much less write. And during the first few months of their life, I was elbow-deep in dirty diapers and barely able to keep up with the demands of nursing two babies. But slowly, I started to feel something I hadn't really felt in a long time--a desire to write. It was as though becoming a mom jump-started my brain, and for the first time in years I started feeling creative again.

I have felt like a writer for a long time. But now that I am a mom, I feel as though I owe it my children to chase after my dreams and show them that you can achieve anything you want to if you try hard enough.

My boys are 4 months old now, and being their mom is the best thing to ever happen to me. I am their primary care giver, and the only one who can feed them (and they are still nursing every 3 hours like clockwork). Some days I barely have time to eat, let alone write, and most days it's still a miracle if I'm showered and dressed by noon. My house is a disaster and every time I sit down to do something, one of my boys starts crying. But here is my resolution for this year: to write for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. It sounds pretty simple, but there are days when it seems entirely unachievable.

But I don't care. I am going to write this year, and start feeling like a writer again. I've resolved to do this in the past, but this year I've got a plan, and I'm going to follow through. I purposefully made my goal simple so that maybe--just maybe--I can achieve it.

I am making no promises to myself on word count, page numbers, or quality of my writing. It's enough for now to just write. So I will write 3 times a week, and I am willing to sacrifice almost anything (excluding my children's and husband's needs) to do it. If my house is a little big messy, oh well. If I don't always manage to put on makeup, who cares? In 10 years I won't remember those things. But I will remember following my dreams. And hopefully so will my family.