Thursday, April 29, 2010

Peace and Quiet...NOT

Every day that goes by it's becoming more and more clear that I am seriously struggling to find some way to write while being a stay at home mom.

Take this morning for example. I find that I can write better in the morning (which is opposite of how I used to be). So I check my email, get the boy settled in with Mickey Mouse and breakfast, and for about a half hour I have time to start writing. It takes half of that for the words to start flowing, then I manage to bang out a couple of sentences. Then toddler jumps on me. Concentration shattered. He goes away, I start writing again, then he decides that all his DVDs are toys and starts playing a strange toddler version of shuffleboard-meets-frisbee with them. Concentration shattered as I clean them up and then try to clean up the rest of the room. More emails to be answered. I try to de-stress by looking at writing related blogs after my angry tirade because toddler throws all the newly cleaned up toys on the floor... Thankfully, toddler starts playing nicely by himself again, so I look at my story... and then he wants a snack. I get the snack, and he wants me to play matchbox cars. The phone rings... and so on, and so on...

Now I'm mentally frazzled, and the last thing I want to do is write. By the time nap-time rolls around in the afternoon, I'm exhausted. Same thing in the evenings. At night the words don't come, even if I have BIC (butt in chair) with manuscript open. I'm too stressed and worn out. Nighttime is better for doing artwork or jewelry, not left brain word type stuff, where my hands seem to move on their own, with little interference from an over-tired mind.

This will all change when he goes to school, I know this. The problem is I'm putting way too much pressure on myself to keep up with my writing buddies/peers. Maybe I'm not supposed to take my writing to the next level right now. And maybe that's OK.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Less progress

I'm one pooped puppy. I'm going to sit here with my document open and stare at it and surf and stare and try to muster my writing brain cells for one more charge tonight, but it's not looking good, folks. Those poor neurons are badly outnumbered by the combined might of exhaustion and resistance.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

some progress

Okay, so today I'm feeling less befuddled and blocked, and there is some slight progress, possibly because of my riff-writing last night. For those of you who are interested in such things, here's the newest version of that snippet I posted before, from the very beginning of Chapter Two. It's still far from perfect, but I think it's rounded out just enough now for me to MOVE ON. Which I better hurry up and do, because I need to turn this sucker in on Friday to my writing group.

No matter how hard or fast Mist scrubbed, the mountain of dirty pots kept growing taller. They covered the entire length of the nearby worktable in a stinking soiled heap of jumbled bronze saucepans, iron skillets, and three legged cauldrons. The truly big ones, the black vats roomy enough to bathe in, were haphazardly stacked nearby, left for Saru and Eno, the two burly kitchen boys.

An hour’s worth of scrubbing, and I haven’t even made a dent. The thought exhausted her. With a miserable sigh she eyed the biggest vat, half tempted to climb inside and curl up like one of the kitchen cats in the cool dark interior. She wouldn’t mind the grime because she already stank of grease. The rancid smell clung to her hair and wafted up from the damp spots on her linen shift.

But she squashed the thought. Someone would miss her and the few, stolen moments of rest wouldn’t be worth the punishment she’d get. Maybe though, she could sneak a tiny break. One just long enough to work out the kink in her back, that spot that felt like someone had rammed a carving knife between her shoulder blades. After a quick glance to make sure no one was watching, she pushed away from the stone wash basin and, hands on her hips, she stretched out her aching back.

“Mist! Back to work,” one of the undercooks snapped.

Without even looking to see who’d issued the order, Mist grabbed the nearest pot and dunked it into the basin. She knew better than to complain on a banquet day. She wasn’t alone in her misery; today every single slave in Master Doro’s kitchens worked at a feverish pace and tempers ran high. Using a stiff bristled brush, she furiously worked at the remains of a creamy mushroom sauce that had hardened into black cement. Four more hours before she got a break, a bite of bread, and a moments rest, and then the clean up would begin. She’d be lucky to see her sleeping mat before midnight. The sauce refused to come clean so Mist tossed a handful of soap pellets into the water and churned it up into a bubbly froth. The harsh soap, which she helped make a fortnight ago from potash and tallow, stung her skin. Her hands would be chapped and cracked before the day was done.

Gods, how she hated banquet days—up since dawn running coal, scouring pots and mostly trying to keep out of trouble. Somehow though, trouble kept finding her.

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder and roughly spun her around.

And now I'm off to change a diaper. Because diapers take precedence over writing, even when you are on a deadline.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Free Writing

Daily Word Goal: 500 words
Today's Total: 622

God, I tired. I forced myself to do some free writing on this scene I've been agonizing over after everyone went to bed. Covered a lot of old ground, but sparked a couple new ideas to deepen stuff, and help me visualize, so, no real progress at all, but at least I wrote SOMETHING tonight.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Resistance 1, Karyn 0

Okay, between trips to the zoo, the store, beading, drawing and the regular weekend stuff, I got no writing done. Nada.

Tomorrow my son turns three, so I'm not expecting much writing to happen then either. And my deadline looms! This month's submission to my critique group is Friday.

Gotta find the time to get cracking!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Nope, not fun

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner recently asked her blog readers, Is Writing Fun?

She quoted Nicholas Sparks, who, in a recent article, says, "Nope, not fun." (Okay, so he was a bit more eloquent than that.)

I too suffer from "love-to-create-stories-but-hate-to-write-them-itis." But once upon a time I used to muddle through anyway. And when the words were really flowing, I did actually find myself enjoying it. Until my editor brain took a look at the garbage that just spewed forth and, well, you can guess what happened next.

I think the problem is, because it's creative, I expect writing to be fun, or relaxing. For example, when I'm working on a painting, jewelry, or an illustration, I'm almost in this trance like state for much of it, this zen spot in my brain where I lose track of time, and I'm just DOING. Not to say it's mindless. The little art critic that lives inside my head is just as snarky and evil as the little evil editor dude I got.

But it's more right brain stuff. It comes from the same place that my stories do when I picture them in my head.

Writing is a bit more of a left brain activitiy for me. Imposing words on top of pictures. It's more difficult for me. The words don't come easy.

I'm going to try and adopt Spark's mindset, that, like him, when I sit down with my laptop I'm "going to work."

Enough of this hippie-dippie, free-art-loving mindset! I'm going to channel my inner Republican (wait, do I have one of those?)! No more Ms. Nice Gal. I've got a job to do, damn it.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Picture Book Idea

Daily Word Goal: 500 words
Today's Total: TBA

While fixing lunch today, out of nowhere came this idea for a new picture book. While eating, I wrote out the plot, and it's tentatively titled "The Peculiar Princess" which is a) not very original and b) probably been used before. But I need a working title, so there it is.

I'm not sure what's up with my whole Princess theme, except that my first love has always been fairy tales, which is probably why I love the fantasy genre so much. So I'm going to roll with it.

And no, Lula's writer comrades, I will resist the urge to rhyme. Resist I say!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rejections are GOOD

Daily Word Goal: 500 words
Today's Total: Unknown so far.

Well I was surprised this morning with an agent rejection in my in box. I'm actually happy to see it. Okay, well, not totally happy. I would rather it was a big fat yes! But I'd given up on hearing anything from the rest of my outstanding submissions on this particular project, and I like the closure.

But it IS a positive. It reminds me that despite my recent wailing and angst-ing to the contrary about my novel in progress, I HAVE finished something. I've sent it out there. I'm actively working on my writing career. I'm not a loser who can't make her daily writing goals.


I can't wait to get my critique on this piece at the writers conference so I can tweak the story and send another wave of queries out. :D


Monday, April 19, 2010

Move Along. Move Along.

Thanks for the comments on my last posted excerpt. Now that I've posted that bit of writing, and the world didn't implode from the sheer horror of it all, I think I've let go of some of the angst I was experiencing.

Now I just need to find some quiet time to work on the rest of the chapter. For example, hard to write when you have the Imagination Movers singing and are listening to your preschooler interact with a two foot high robotic Elmo, who keeps falling down, sneezing, dancing to kids techno-disco and getting tickled.

...and now I just diverted my son who tried to put said robo-Elmo on my laptop to keep me from typing.

I could switch gears and work on my newest picture book in progress about a good night kiss. It's easier to concentrate on short pieces like that with the boy around. Or maybe it's just that the kid madness is more conducive to the kid story.

No daily word accounting up top yet. Hopefully there will be some by the end of the day.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Excerpt Chapter Two

So, maybe if I put this down publicly, I won't be so annoyed by it anymore. This is the opening of Chapter Two that I hate and that has stymied me all these weeks. I'm throwing it out here so that I stop being precious about it and MOVE ON with the darn chapter. I need to turn it into Lula's Bunch on the 29th after all. No more messing around! I can flesh it out and fix it in revisions, yes?

Chapter Two

Jeet Doro's Kitchens

No matter how hard or fast Mist scrubbed, the giant, greasy pile of pots kept growing taller.

She glared miserably at the dishes. An hour’s worth of scrubbing and she hadn’t even made a dent in the mountain of pots, iron skillets and three legged cauldrons that covered the length of the nearby worktable in a sprawling stinking heap. The truly big ones, the ones roomy enough to bathe in, were haphazardly stacked nearby, left for the kitchen boys.

She snuck a look to make sure no one was watching, then pushed away from the stone wash basin. She just needed a moment to stretch out the kink in her back, that spot that felt like someone was ramming a carving knife between her shoulder blades.

“Mist! Back to work,” one of the under cooks snapped.

Mist stifled a groan, grabbed the nearest pot and dunked it into the basin. She knew better than to complain on a banquet day. Using a stiff bristled brush , she worked at the remains of a mushroom sauce, which had hardened into black cement. Four more hours before she got a break, a bite of bread and a moment’s rest, and then the clean up would begin. She’d be lucky to see her sleeping mat before midnight. The sauce refused to come clean, so Mist tossed a handful of soap pellets into the water and churned it to a bubbly froth. The harsh soap, made from potash and tallow, stung her skin. Her hands would be chapped and cracked before the day was done.

Gods, how she hated banquet days—up since dawn, running coal, scouring pots, and mostly trying to keep out of trouble. Somehow though, trouble kept finding her.

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder and roughly spun her around.

Okay, off to try and be less precious about the next bit.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

On a deadline

Daily Word Goal: 500 words
Today's Total: 0

My writing group took a month off to have a state of the union this month, and one of the topics we discussed was the frequency of our critique meetings. We decided to go to a three week schedule instead of four during the summer months, and I'm very excited about it. I work best when I have an external deadline, and this will hopefully force me to crank up my work volume. Our next submission is due on the 29th, so tomorrow I need to carve out some writing time.

On the writing side, while you'll notice my word count is still nil, I've been trying to figure out what is keeping me from getting this next chapter out. I realize that I hate it. Even though I tightened up the conflict, it's boring, boring, boring. Last night I realized that I need to re-think it. Perhaps really engage a minor character who will be a mini villain through the book. Why not pump up her involvement from the very beginning? I'm need to sit down and free think some scenarios between the two characters and see what comes up.

If this was the theater, and I was a director, I could do a bunch of improv work with my actors to figure this out. So virtual improv here I come.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Home again.

Daily Word Goal: 500
Today's Total : 0

Well, the trip to Ohio to see my husband's family was good, but even though I opened my lap top a few times, I only managed to helplessly pick at what I'd already written. So, no significant writing happened over the weekend. My time since has been taken up with taxes, which I've finished tonight, thank GOD.

During the 4.5 hour car ride home, I read Patricia Brigg's latest Mercy book, "Silver Borne" on my Kindle. For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was really ticked off by a Deus ex machina of a happily ever after for one of the supporting characters that was WAY too quickly done. It's times like that I wish I was an editor for a successful series. I'd be all like,
"Ooh, great idea, but let's just hint at it. Save the actual HEA for your next short story or subplot in the next book."
I mean, come on, we'd all rush out to buy it and see what happens next. And it won't feel so forced and cheesy.

Oh well. I'm just a hobbyist over here, and have no right to judge.

And thanks to Hadley who fed my friend Widget the Hamster while I was away. :D


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Away for the Weekend

We're hitting the road this weekend to visit family, so I'll be sans internet. But not laptop! Hopefully with other eyes helping to watch Billy, I'll get some writing/work done.

So, in the style of Ryan Seacrest:

"Blog out!"


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Picture Book Pitch WIP

Daily Word Goal: 500
Today's Total: 314

Look! Look! (*Points upward*) I made some words! I probably will make a few more words than this, but I'm both writing forward and editing some stuff already on the page and it will be hard to count what's new, what's been cut, what's old for the rest of today's writing. So we'll average the new stuff so far to 300-ish and call it progress. :D

In more progress-type news, I've been working on a pitch.

A pitch (or log line) is a one sentence description of your book that you're supposed to have memorized and ready to go in case you meet your dream agent in the elevator for example (hence the phrase 'elevator pitch'), or to use when you're attending a formal pitch session at a writers conference. Because I'm going to a conference in a few weeks, I've been advised by wiser souls than myself to have my own pitch polished and ready to go on the off chance that someone asks me for it. And, hey, practice never hurt anyone, right?

Boiling down your book into a one line sentence is just as hard as it sounds, for me anyway. And I was only working with a picture book here! I can't imagine how challenging it would be to get a huge novel with tons of characters and subplots all elegantly boiled down to a tiny pitch.

So here's my current work-in-progress pitch for Too Many Pants:

When Princess Grace buys too many pants and causes a national crisis, it takes the King, his ministers and a pant avalanche to convince her that she just might have more pants than she needs.

So what do you think, writer friends? Are you intrigued? Confused? All feedback is most enthusiastically welcome. :D And now, I must be off to try and squeeze a few more words out of my poor brain before the toddler wakes up and dinner has to be cooked.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

SCBWI-MI Conference

Daily Word Goal: 500
Today's Total: 0

I'm so excited! I just finished up my conference registration and sent it in the mail today.

This is the first conference I've ever been to, and other members of my critique group are going as well, so I won't be all alone and paralyzed with fear. Strength in numbers, yes?

And the very best, most exciting part of all? I got word that my picture book manuscript made it through the critique lottery and I have a tentative critique all lined up with a children's book editor.

I can't wait to get it ripped to shreds and see just what I'm doing wrong. I'm being serious about that. I have a fairly good idea about what works and what doesn't in novels, but picture books? I'm a total novice in that art form.

The bad news: No writing today. I did jot down a scene idea that came to me first thing this morning. Most of the day was taken up with excursions with my husband and son to antique malls to look for beads (my new obsession). I spent the day either doing family stuff or tearing beaded necklaces apart and tinkering with my beading stuff.

Tomorrow: Easter. We have no plans, so hopefully I'll be productive.