Monday, February 24, 2014

Writing and Life Update

I didn't do a writing update last week, so this week, I’m posting two weeks’ worth of writing/life updates ... and doing it via a (limited capacity) modem. We've been without our regular internet service now four four days ... while the owner of the internet provider is in McCall, Idaho ... probably skiing. It will be nice when he returns and fixes it, so we can have reliable, 24/7 internet again!

Hubby was out of town to Portland and then to Sacramento for a total of eight days over the past two weeks. During that time, I did what most wives do, I suspect—I kept no hours, and had no regular mealtimes! Routines? Wiped off the slate.

I stayed up waaaay past midnight. Got up at the crack of dawn. Was up for two or more hours each day before finally getting around to making my breakfast. Ate lunch and dinner when the spirit moved me. Ate simpler meals, although even when he’s home, I am by no means a gourmet cook. I bought a roasted chicken, which served me well for lunch and dinner for two full days. 

Projects: During his absence, I worked on, or completed, numerous writing-related tasks that’d been on a back burner for months. They’d been on a mental to-do list, and got checked off a mental to-do list. I didn’t complete everything—that would probably take a month or more—but I was happy to make some progress in that realm. 

As to writing, when I was reaching the halfway point of my first revision, I realized I didn’t have a super-solid handle on where my lead characters were emotionally. External plot-wise? No problem. I write simple plots. Internal plot-wise?—Well, I decided I needed to go back to the beginning and do a second revision. The second revision helped to further deepen the story, as well as give me the necessary grounding I needed.

Words were replaced, but there was no net gain or loss in word count. After the way I was ripping words out in some places and adding them in, in others, that came as a surprise to me. In most scenes, the revisions were fairly subtle, more like editing than true revision. The image below shows, on the left, the first revision of a particular scene, and on the right, the second (current) revision. (I love doing this in Scrivener, because I can do a true, side-by-side comparison. 

I've now begun to tackle the first revision of the second half of the first draft. (That was a mouthful!)

Other activities:

Babysitting: When both of my kids needed a babysitter on Saturday, I volunteered to take all five grandkids to a movie. Hubby thought I was nuts. I asked him if he wanted to help. He said no, and urged me to make some changes.

But heck, I'm a former children's librarian. I'm used to wielding 40-60-sometimes even 100 running and screaming kids at Summer Reading programs inside the library, and sometimes to great peril. (Anytime it involved glitter, glue, or paint, look out!--If it was paint, I always took it outdoors.)

I figured I could handle my own five grandkids from four to twelve years old, and I did just fine, thank-you very much. My oldest granddaughter was a great help, especially since the theater was packed out, kids running around everywhere, and not a single extra seat. We went to Jamms afterwards and spent a hefty $27.00 on frozen yogurt, but the kids were thrilled for the treat. (My daughter seldom lets her kids have sugar or gluten.)

Reading:  Still working on Wheat Belly from time-to-time. Most of the rest of my reading was in chipping away at those 299 blog posts I'd saved to Pocket, printed, and tucked into a thick three-ring binder. Still a lot to read there ...

How was your week, reading, writing, or otherwise?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What's your Writing Routine? Here's Mine ... and Weekly Update

For all of us, I suspect that our writing routines change as our lives change. I am finally, fully in a place where I can spend as much (or as little) time on my writing as the mood strikes me, and that is a very good place to be! We're still having winter here, as evidenced by the picture below. That's how farmers shovel the snow off their driveway, LOL.

Those eleven years when I worked 25 miles from home, I disliked days like these. It meant hubby needed to plow me out of the driveway, and then, frequently, plow the county road we live on, the half-mile distance to the highway. Frequently, the highway would be a mess as well. Sometimes, conditions were so bad, I had to call in and say I couldn't get to work--which meant I had to use a day, or days, of my oh-so-precious and very limited annual leave. Bummers. (Get out the hankies and violins.) Again, LOL.

Now, I get up in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast, spend up to an hour reading blogs while tending to personal hygiene and getting dressed. Then I head to the basement to write. The basement is usually chilly, as we don't heat it unless we're spending time in it. So I fire up the pellet stove and pull out a packet of Little Hotties Hand Warmers, shake them and tuck them into the pockets of my flannel. Even when the basement's warm, cold air still seeps through the leaky double doors near my treadmill, so it feels good to tuck my hands in my pockets from time-to-time and warm my fingers while pondering my story. In all, it's still much, much warmer than my office when I worked in a Carnegie Library built of cinder blocks in 1906.  
I set my treadmill to 1.0-1.5, and away I go. That's very slow--slow enough to write at my computer. If I were jogging and not writing, I would set it from 3.5-4.5, spending most of my time at 3.8-4.2, and jog for up to an hour. 

My treadmill desk is the best thing that's happened to my winter writing routine. Last winter, my first winter as someone who was pursuing writing as a job, I never once went down to the cold, cold basement. Instead, I sat for long hours, sitting while writing, and getting no other exercise, and paid a price. 

I didn't know then that I was/am a diabetic, and I need to exercise almost daily to help keep my body from becoming more and more insulin resistant. For the uninformed, insulin resistance is bad news. 

I work for a minimum of 90 minutes, and sometimes up to three hours at the treadmill desk before moving on to something else. By that time, my brain is exhausted from the intense concentration required to write. It's time to be kind to my brain and give it a rest.   

When it's time to move on, I generally move around the corner and into my scrapbooking room, where I spend 30 minutes to an hour before going upstairs to fix lunch. It's an excellent mental break, and much-needed creative one. ('Funny, but writing feels far too mental for me for it to "feel" creative, although of course it is.)

I never feel more alive, as the saying goes, than when I am scrapbooking. In other words, I am never more present than when I am pondering a layout, its colors and patterns, its journaling and so on. Maybe the creative difference between writing and scrapbooking is that with scrapbooking, I can literally put my fingers on, and visually see (rather than mentally seeing) the story that is being created on the page.

As to why I am more present while scrapbooking, as opposed to writing--can't answer that question now. I need to think about it.

If the day's business allows it (frequently there are errands to run, other tasks to tend to), I try to spend another hour or two at my writing in the afternoon. That writing is done in my office on the third floor, sitting at my desk.

In the spring, my routine will probably change. I'm so looking forward to being able to jog outdoors again, which might eliminate the writing/walking at the treadmill. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

In other news, I discovered I didn't do quite so badly, after all, in the contest that I thought I had bungled. As a finalist, I had been given a one-week opportunity to revise and resubmit before it was sent on to an agent and an editor.

I made changes suggested by judges and then resubmitted it. Unfortunately, in my haste to make the changes, I discovered when I re-read it later that it was riddled with typos and other problems. I have no doubt that it counted against me greatly, however I still managed to tie for third place, I discovered a few days ago.

There is so much to be learned about your entry, and your personal writing behaviors, by entering contests. I highly recommend it. 

The editor who read it was David Long, from Bethany House. The agent was Laura Bradford, of Bradford Literary. The scores they gave me weren't as bad as I had expected, but neither asked to see more. Laura Bradford gave me a very good tip, which I am working on now. She liked the story, the set-up, the characters, and wanted to know where the story would go next, but said I need to work on my voice to make it more distinctive.

On looking over what I wrote, I couldn't agree more, and am working on that now. My details tend to be vague; I'm making them more specific. As they say, God is in the details.

So that's my writing routine, and some news about my writing journey.


What I've been reading: 

Journey of Hope by Debbie Kaufman is a historical romance and somewhat of an African Queen story, but with an inspirational twist. It's wonderful!

Wheat Belly by William Davis came out in 2011, but I'm only now getting around to reading it. Downloaded it to my Kindle yesterday after seeing when I was in Costco that it's in its 38th printing! Holy moly. I've read several other books that deal with the popular topic, the most prominent one being Grain Brain, which came out a couple years after Wheat Belly. I don't know if wheat is terrible for everyone, as the authors of books on this topic contend, but it is definitely bad for people with gluten intolerance and diabetes--I know that for a fact, as hubby and I are gluten intolerant (him) and diabetic (me). When he eats wheat, he gets leg pains and headaches. For diabetics, all carbohydrates result in an increase in blood sugar, but wheat apparently raises it even more than simple table sugar. Ugly.

Awareness by Anthony deMello is a book on mysticism by deceased Jesuit Anthony deMello. Someone on a blog post that I was reading recommended deMello, so decided to download a couple of his books to my IPad. I've always had an interest in mysticism, however almost everything I've read so far of deMello's book, and I am 75% finished, breaks no new ground for me. The book was published a couple of decades ago. I think a lot of its ideas have become relatively mainstream--or at least, mainstream for people who are interested in the subject. Other good authors on the subject are Eckhart Tolle and Alan Watts, both of whom I enjoyed, and learned more from, than deMello.

My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren is a contemporary inspirational romance with dual love stories. The characters are all deeply physically or emotionally scarred. Life isn't easy for them, and I am definitely rooting for love, and trust in God, to help heal their wounds.

What does your writing routine look like? How was your week, reading, writing or otherwise? What books are you reading? Anything noteworthy?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Weekly Writing Update

I'm feeling good today because I've put a bunch of things behind me. Finally, the path is clear to get back to my writing.

It's been TWO weeks since I've worked on revisions.

So, what the heck have I been doing? Two things took up a lot of time last week. Several other things took up less time, but still kept me away from the book.

1. I entered The Perfect Wife in a couple more RWA contests. Again, each contest wanted a different entry length, different header requirements, and so on. One wanted a single-page synopsis.

It requires some jiggering to end a contest entry on a hook each time, especially when each one asks for different page/word counts. Ditto for synopses. I now have synopses for this manuscript in lengths that vary from 500-1500 words.

It's time-consuming, but also a very good practice, IMO, to be able to manipulate your manuscript and/or synopsis like that. I'm always reading that a writer needs to be flexible, and that a manuscript should be as malleable as clay.

There is yet another huge contest that I want to enter, ACFW's Genesis Contest. It requires, of all things, a high resolution image of the entrant. I don't have any professional photos of me. The rules don't define high-resolution. If it needs to be bigger than a typical web image, then I'm okay. I got out my IPad and took a selfie. I'll take my chances on it being good enough. I *think* they require this because, if you are a finalist in this contest, it's a really, really big deal. A lot of publicity goes out in various venues about the finalists. Most will have professional photos taken, with themselves all glammed up. If I should happen to have the (remote) honor of being a finalist, maybe they'll allow me to send a different image.

2. The other biggie this past week was that I taught my Creative Writing course for the Community Colleges of Spokane's Act Two program. It was so much fun! We ended up with eleven participants, which was almost too many, given the activities I had planned, but it went very well anyway. We didn't get to all of the exercises, but I gave them a handout of everything that I covered, and had planned to cover. They can finish the exercises at home. When it was over, they broke into spontaneous applause. That was very cool. 

We all also might get a critique group out of it. That's on my agenda this week. 

3. Other things I did last week
Next Writing Project: Speaking of writer flexibility and books that need to be as malleable as clay, I decided to take my YA novel and cast the characters ahead in time by nine years, and spent a day working on that possibility. I want to rework that story into something that might sell as a Harlequin Heartwarming, which is a line in which its editors have said they're looking for new authors in 2014.  
It will require an almost total rewrite, of course. But I know the story so very well, it wouldn't be like starting from zero. The side I take on the overall theme will shift once again. It's been interesting for me to watch how my feelings have snaked like a river from one side of the issue to the other, through all the incarnations this story has experienced. 
Scrapbooking: This might actually be more important to me than any of my other projects, ever. When I am very old, I want to be able to look at my whole life, year-by-year, through the physical scrapbooks I've made. I'll probably have a room full of them by then, and that's perfectly okay. To do that, I need to keep up with it. I've hardly scratched the surface of this project. But if I do two layouts each week, that should at least keep me up-to-date with the current year and, hopefully, making progress, or completing, at least one other year. 
Besides, I get grumpy when there is so much on my plate that there isn't time to scrapboook. Scrapbooking is my form of therapy. 
WordPress:  A year ago, I downloaded three freebie e-books on how to set up a WordPress website, but hadn't found the time to read them. (Strategically, there was no need, but the need is drawing closer.) I took the next step last week by printing each one up, which was a painstaking process, given that I had to clip each page, and then drop it into a Word file. It took an afternoon. I suppose I should've just forked out the $ to get a physical copy of a book, but anyway, those three books are now tucked away in those notebooks, below. All that information is ready for me to read when the time is right.   

How was your week, reading, writing, or otherwise? 

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