Writing Life

I’m always interested to read on blogs and in interviews about other writer’s writing processes.  I’m always a little wide-eyed at the people who bang out 2,000+ words a day.  I tend to go by the two pages rule.  Two pages is my minimum.  I don’t get to write every day.  But when I do, I try and go by the two page minimum.  Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes, sometimes 2 hours.  But I try not to get up and move on with my day until that’s accomplished.

I think it was Stephen King in his terrific book called On Writing who emphasized the importance of sitting in the damn chair.  As in, you’re never going to do any writing if you’re thinking about writing, or planning on writing….or blogging about writing for that matter.

I am a living lab.

I am a pregnant science teacher.  Seven and a half months pregnant to be exact and I’m studying the human body with my 7th graders.  Lately I’ve been referring to myself as the example a lot.  This definitely gets their interest but I can tell they’re simultaneously horrified.  I do tend to gesture to my mid-section when explaining, for example, how the baby and I could have a different blood type or that being pregnant can increase your blood pressure or respiratory rate.

I can see the fear in their eyes.  Please don’t let her say uterus, they’re thinking.

Oh god and whatever you do, please don’t let her say vuh, vuh, they can’t even think it.

And I wouldn’t.  I don’t teach the reproductive system.  Still I enjoy watching them squirm at the possibility.

First Drafts; Listening to my gut

I really learned a lot from writing and revising my first YA novel.  Therefore I’m trying really hard not to make the same mistakes I made before…yeah, I want to make new mistakes.  Well mistakes are inevitable but I am trying to avoid too many of the same pitfalls.

One of these pitfalls has to do with listening to your gut.  My new WIP has a first person teenage boy as the narrator.  When I started writing I heard his voice very clearly and brightly in the present tense.  This seemed like a weird way to write, but when I reread what I wrote, it worked.  When I stepped away from the project and came back to it I started writing in the past tense.  But when I did a side by side comparison I found that the writing in the present tense was definitely stronger.  So I’ve continued with that, trying to avoid the voice in my head that says “You can’t write a novel in the present tense.  It’s too weird.”

Last night I made the mistake of googling “writing in the present tense” and reading all these people’s comments about how weird it is and what a turn off to the reader.  The one who stuck in my mind was the woman who compared reading something written in the present tense to being continually tapped on the head with a teaspoon.  Ugh.  I don’t want that.

I’m sticking with it for now and hoping I don’t regret the decision later.  Gut, you better be right! 🙂

First Draft Map

This is a map of the first draft of my new writing project.  It’s a realistic fiction story with a first person male narrator.  I’m really excited about it.  I’ve written various chunks of it over the course of the last 9 months, with large lapses of time in between due to revision on other writing projects.  I decided I needed a way to keep track of what parts were written and what parts were just in my head.

Here is my very low-tech solution.  Each pink sticky has a brief synopsis of what happens in that chapter.  In the bottom left hand corner of the sticky is a series of initials that tells me which file I can find it in on my computer (due to serious computer failures, I have files all over the place in various word formats).  I also put whether the chapter is in past or present tense.  I went back and forth a little bit on this initially and now I need to correct it so it’s all the same.  Each orange sticky is an idea I have for a future chapter or a place that the story needs to go, even if I’m not sure how it’s going to get there.

I really should call it my “no excuses” map.  As in, I can no longer put off writing because I need to make the map.  And now that I’ve blogged about it….

Reflections on 2009…better late than never.

2009 was an incredible year of writing for me.  Even though it makes me feel a little weird and self-conscious, I think it’s important to reflect on what I accomplished before 2010 really gets rolling.

I finished a first draft of my first YA novel

I queried and successfully acquired a literary agent

I revised my YA novel, not once, not twice, but really and truly about five times.  It needed it.  And in the process I was reminded of what a sucker I am for my own first drafts….always have been

I helped start and became part of a group of YA writers who live in Maine

I read a lot of great books and blogs; some writing related, some not

I started my second YA novel and have written about a third of the first draft

Finally, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer, about the publishing business and most importantly the patience required for all aspects of a fulfilling writing life.