Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Stay at Home" Mom - Yeah, Right

Ever since my husband started his new job I have been super focused on being, for the first time ever, a stay-at-home-mom who is not working or going to school. It's very different from anything I've done before. It requires an incredible amount of discipline so that I don't end up like this:

But I don't have a job! I could do whatever I want! I could read all day, or look at Pinterest, or watch movies, or Netflix!

Except, I can't, because it turns out there's a lot of other stuff that needs to be done. Fixing breakfast, lunch, and supper for four people. Washing dishes and doing a ton of laundry. Cleaning the house. Taking the kids to school. Picking them up from school. Taking them to the library to play on the computers (and check out a ton of books too, of course), or to the beach to watch the boats and look for seals, or to the park to play tennis (not real tennis, just attempting to hit the ball to each other over the net), or Frisbee. These are things I do pretty much every day. Oh, and I started volunteering at the kids' school library for five hours a week or so. Shelf reading and dusting books to my heart's content.

Doing all this stuff has been a lot of fun and kept me very busy, but I've also been reading lots of information on how to be a freelance writer. I've been reading so much stuff that I've hardly had time to write, and that's actually getting really old. There are still several resources to get through, but I've decided maybe I'll spend a little less time cleaning the house so that I can spend more time stringing words into sentences and paragraphs. After all, I do have my priorities. Ah, words! I have missed you!

While I haven't been reading fiction quite as much as I was, I'm still getting through four or five books a month. The last three I particularly enjoyed: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Harvest by Jim Crace, and The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman.  The first is a vampire book, but it's a well-written YA vampire book that you should definitely read if you like YA or vampires. If you're thinking that vampires are over, please put that thought on hold and just read this one more because it is way better than most of the ones you already read. Harvest is on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, and it was dark and creepy in a subtle way. The language and tone are powerful, and I pictured Walter Thirsk as Mr. Bates, which made me love him as a character more than I was supposed to, I think. The Gravity of Birds is a literary novel that has three main characters. You know how sometimes, when the author switches from one character to another, it takes a couple of pages to get into the new character after each switch? This wasn't like that. Each one was relevant and interesting and moved the plot forward. I gave this one five stars because I was enthralled by the story and couldn't read fast enough, and then there were twists! Right at the end! Oh, my stars! I'm a na├»ve reader and try not to think ahead or figure out the story, but I think this one may surprise even the most astute reader. So go read it!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing, Reading, and Signing

The writing continues. Still slowly. Sometimes I let my worries about the pacing of the novel slow down my progress. Am I lingering too long in this scene? Have I rushed through stuff that should have been important? The thing to remember is that the first draft just needs to be finished. No worries until second draft. For now, just get it all out.

This past weekend I had an opportunity to do a book signing at Poulsbo Book Stop! Poulsbo Book Stop is an adorable used book store run by a former librarian. I was part of a group of authors published by Books To Go Now. My romance novel isn't out yet, of course, but I was able to take a few copies of my first book, Modest Aspirations, which is a collection of my short stories and Gerald Locklin's poetry. And which is now available for sale on the "local author" shelf at Poulsbo Book Stop.

On a nonfiction note, I'm thinking about doing some freelance writing. Obviously my fiction writing isn't going to be bringing in the dollars by the hundreds, so even though I love it and it makes me feel alive, I think I may start using my words in a different way. Writing nonfiction is fun, too, and any time I'm using my keyboard to think I get a charge. So far this idea is just in the baby stages, but I have a good feeling about it!

This week I read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. If you've never read one by her, this isn't the one I would recommend as your first. The Poisonwood Bible is still my favorite. And if you recently read Prodigal Summer, I would wait a while. They have similar themes - the environment, poverty, farming... Both books have engaging characters, and I liked them both. Just, not so closely together. This one is a fictional account of the Monarch butterflies relocating and changing the path of a family living below the poverty level. Every so often I felt like I was reading Nickel & Dimed (Barbara Ehrenreich) again, which is another thing that tends to happen when I read Barbara Kingsolver. I love that she brings up themes dear to my heart, but occasionally I wonder if she comes on a little strong. But still! It's a great book, and I do recommend it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Reading and Writing

I wrote an average of 800 words per day this past week. Progress. Slow progress, but it keeps moving forward, which means we will eventually reach the end! 

No one has kissed anyone yet, or made any big revelations, or blown anything up (although there was a mysterious shock that left two people jittery). But people have moved, they've made moves, and they've been pushy. People aren't being dishonest, but they aren't being forthright, either. Things aren't as bad as they could be, but no one is really satisfied, and everyone realizes this situation isn't permanent...

Meanwhile, I read a book this week that BLEW MY MIND! I only picked it up because my friend Leia said that she was "having ALL of the feelings." The reason I might never have picked it up is the title. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. By Ben Fountain. It sounds like a YA sports book for boys, doesn't it? Something along the lines of the movie Hoosiers, or Rudy, both of which I love, of course, but once you've experienced a couple, do you really need anymore? 

But that isn't what this book is about. Oh, no. It's a stream of consciousness book about a boy (19 years old) who has been in Iraq, and done a courageous deed that was caught on camera. So he and his buddies are home for two weeks on a "victory tour" to boost the war effort. They are at the end of the two weeks at the beginning of the book, headed to Dallas Stadium to watch the Thanksgiving Day game between the Cowboys and the Bears, and they are to have some kind of role in the halftime show, although they don't really know what, yet. 

That's the setup. But the delivery is a gut-wrenching, mind-blowing experience of emotional trauma as we live in Billy's head for a few hours. My life will never be the same. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Novel Update

28 days ago I started writing my new novel. Since then, it hasn't grown longer nearly as much as I'd hoped, but it has grown in depth. If I had kept to my original (rather fanciful, I have to say now) schedule, I would have 56,000 words. That was definitely a crazy goal.

But I have managed to work on it every day.

And I do have 58 pages, which equals nearly 20,000 words. I may have 20,000 words by the end of the day, actually. That means I'm halfway through the first third of the story! If the outline holds true. Things change, though, so we'll see.

I also meant to post on this blog more frequently, but I was kind of ashamed to admit how much more slowly the writing is going than I'd planned. Still, I feel like I've hit my stride. My characters are clear in my head and hopefully on the page, my outline has gotten more filled out and solid, and the plot is moving right along. I've never planned out a novel so carefully, and I think it will show in the finished product.

I've attended a few writing workshops and presentations this last three months, and I've been reading writing blogs. I also bought an ebook called Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction by William Bernhardt, which I recommend if you are thinking you need help with story structure. The book is full of things I already knew, but with ways to actually apply the knowledge.

Know what holds me back on my word count the most? Reading fiction. If I stopped spending so much time reading, I think I could have finished the whole rough draft already. Am I going to stop? No. Right now I'm reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, and in my opinion, it's living up to every good thing anyone has said about it so far. I hate putting it down. But maybe I can cut back a little and add that time to the writing time. Especially if I use the hour or two before everyone else gets up to write instead of using that time to read.

That's what I'll do. At least for one week. If it significantly increases my word count (and doesn't significantly diminish my happiness), I'll make it my new routine.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Not so fast!

I haven't heard from my editor yet on my romance that will be coming out soon, so I've been plugging away this week on my next one. It hasn't been going quite as quickly as I'd planned.

Here's the deal. Originally I thought I could write 2,000 words a day. I've discovered that 2,000 words a day might be more difficult than I imagined. During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - November) I always manage to churn out 1,667 words a day, so I figured this would be no problem. It's just, um, hang on, let me get my calculator out...333 words more. And I always did NaNo while I was working full time. One year I did it with a newborn. So why would I have trouble now, when the only other thing on my agenda is housework and playing games with my 4-year-old? And exercising. And walking down to the water. And taking my daughter to school and picking her up and going to the library and reading and doing laundry and eating dinner and cleaning the kitchen and all of a sudden it's 8 o'clock and I need to get the kids baths and get them to bed. What?

The result is that I've written 7,529 words so far since Sunday, instead of 12,000 words. If tonight and tomorrow I can bang out 2,471 words, then I can end the week with 10k, which is 4k lower than my goal. But maybe more reasonable. Because writing a book is hard work, you guys. Even when you have the whole thing planned out.

On a more positive note, today I jogged 3.06 miles in 29:38! Best time yet!

Also, I have to admit that one of the reasons I'm having a hard time getting into my book this week is that I'm reading The 5th Wave. IT'S AMAZING! You should all read it! I'll write a review once I finish it and have time to process all the action.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Killer Hook!

I went to a writing class today at the library on how to write a "Killer Hook." I knew I needed to go to this because I've already been told TOO MUCH BACKSTORY! in the first part of my novel (which is coming out soon, you guys!).

A lot of the stuff I'd heard before, but apparently skipped when it came to my own work. What got me was when the ladies leading the class said, "You guys want to read us what you have?" I had already decided I would cut the whole first chapter, because I knew it was backstory and could easily be worked into the second and eighth chapters in little tiny chewable pieces instead of this big hulking mass of boring. But while they were talking about famous hooks, and giving us examples, I had hastily been morphing the beginning of my second chapter into my new hook. When they offered to hear what we had, I read that. AND THEY THOUGHT I SHOULD CUT THE FIRST THREE PARAGRAPHS! I was devastated. I even argued, which I thought I knew better than to ever do. Because when someone gives you advice on your writing you should always consider it, even if at first you think it's dumb. Chances are there's something to it, even if you don't use all of it. I thought I knew that. But there I was thinking "No, please! It's good like this!"

They went on to the next person, and I thought about it, and then sure enough, they were right. Darn it. So I cut some more. And I'll probably cut some more when the editor calls me and tells me what I need to do to get my book ready to be published (because I have a book coming out soon!).

And now, at least until the editor calls me and tells me what else I need to do to book one (which may or may not have a title now), I must get to work on book number two so my fans will have something new to read in January.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I have an ebook coming out soon!

Books To Go Now is publishing my romance novel! There are still a few details to iron out, but it should be coming very soon. Stay tuned for more information!