LaShawn’s Project Status Update (or working on my 5th final draft…)

So right around yesterday as I recoved from a full day of hanging out at the Circle M farm by cooking roast chicken and cheesy rutabega, a thought occurred to me as I looked out and to my shock saw tiny flakes of snow flying by the window:

Oh crap. November’s coming up isn’t it? That means I gotta spend the whole month focusing on Willow!

Ever since I learned about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, I’ve been using the month of November not so much as a month to put my butt in a chair and crank out a 50,000 word novel, but to focus on the novel I already had, Weeping of the Willows. The first year I did it, I cranked out 50,000 words worth of new material for my book. Ironically, a good deal of that material got stripped out in the first reading, but I still think it did me some good.

Last year, I don’t think I participated. Things were crazy for me that month, what with the possibility of selling our house and moving to Madison and all. It’s a miracle I got any writing done at all during that time.

So here it is, a year later. At the moment, I’m still reading through the first draft of Willow. It’s been slow going, partially because I do it at night, when I’m more likely to be tired and ready to blow it off. Partially because I’ve been focusing on my short story She’s All Light. Yes, yes, I know. A few weeks ago, I said that I was working on my final draft and once it was done, I would send it to Writers of the Future. No ifs, ands, or buts. I was done with it.

But then something happened.  As I worked on the final draft, one of the supporting characters, which in previous drafts had been pretty sublime and quiet, did something so unexpected and bizarre, I actually stopped working and backed away from the laptop. It still gives me chills thinking about it; I don’t want to say that it was violent thing she did, but in the framework of the scene, what she did was something that made me–and the other characters–jump. And just like that, it came out of the blue. As I was working on the final draft.

Well, of course, when a character does something that gives you chills, that changes the whole nature of their persona in the story. There’s repucussions. You want to know why the character did it. You want to know how that one single act impacts the story from that point on. And I knew that I couldn’t call it a final draft anymore, because the story had changed. Which means that I need to do some more work on it.

Luckily, we had a writer’s group meeting, so I brought my “final” draft in. Turns out that I don’t have to rewrite the whole story from scratch, which is a great relief. However, the group confirmed what I felt after finishing the ‘final’ draft–the sections I had to change were so strong on their own, it made some other scenes unnecessary. So basically, I need to do some cutting.

Which is fine. My word count for this story had been pretty high, roughly around 12,000 words. Cutting out some scenes will trim it nicely. The hard part will be structuring the story after those cuts. I’ll have to take a couple of weeks to think on how the best way to do that…

And now you see my dilemma? For me to do this, I’ll have to either put aside working on Willow, which is something I don’t want to do, or I’ll just have to continue doing what I’m doing now, which is spend the afternoon working on the story, and the evening working on Willow.

Then again, it’s not like my writing schedule is set in stone. I can be flexible. The WOTF deadline is not until January 1. I don’t necessarily have to wait until November to focus on Willow. I can start doing that…well…today…

So how does this look: this week, I’ll focus exclusively on Willow in both my afternoon and evening writing sessions. Then, next week, start working on the She’s All Light cuts during the evening session. It means I’ll be putting more of my energies on working on Willow still, but in switching the two, it will help me focus on something new at night. At least, that’s the theory. Then, when the story is done and finally out the door, go back to doing Willow twice a day until I’m done with the readthrough. My goal is to start working on actual revisons at the beginning of 2009. (Oh, and what fun that will be…)

I’ve realized that this means that I will have spent the whole of 2008 working on two things: She’s All Light and Willow. Doesn’t make for a productive year, does it? Well, I don’t feel terribly bad. Actually, I have written other stories for fun, and there are several that I want to focus on when I get the chance (I may actually focus on one after I get SAL out the door–it’s a flash, so it should take up much time). But in light of all that’s happened this year, I’m just grateful that I have the chance to write at all.

So thank you for being with me as I sort all this out. All of this will pay off, I promise you when both of these stories get published. Don’t know when, mind you, but I can tell you it will happen.

Status update on Willow

My desk is clean. The whole house is clean. The boy is currently watching Diego. I got some free time on my hands. I could work on a new blog post (all right, I’m writing it now, yes. I know that. But there’s a reason for all this. Bear with me, okay?). But I could also work on some short stories. Since so many got published within the last month, I need to get some new works out there. I could work on some essays–I got some ideas in mind to try to get into Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Or…

I can quit dilly-dallying and start editing Willow.

On the “I should be Writing” podcast a few weeks ago, Mur Lafferty talks about pre-writing writing. It’s doing work on your book like outlining or character sheets, but not actual writing. However, it’s just as important, because it lays the groundwork for your book. Without it, you’re lost, or at least constantly changing your world without any set guidelines. I feel like I haven’t been working on Willow at all, just fiddling around with the storylines. But although it didn’t feel like work, it was very needed work.

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing out all the storylines, both major and supporting, of Willow by character. It felt somewhat convoluted, as I did each plotline according to each character, and in some cases, there was a lot of repetition. But I wanted to see how the storyline looked from each character’s point of view. In some cases, what one character did made me change the storyline of another character. Doing it this way, I was able to see the big picture of the book. It also made me realize that I’ll have to rewrite many, many chapters.

Ah, the fun of being a writer.

As of last Friday, all the storyline plots are done. I still need to organize them in a way that’s easy to read (I’m going to have lots of fun with my Storylines software this week), but I think that I’m done cementing the storyline to how I want it. Which means that, sooner rather than later, it’s time to dive back into the pages of Willow.

I suppose this post can qualify for psyching myself up for it. Although I’ve looked at my book while I worked on the outlines, I haven’t ‘touched’ it per se. Now that the actual plotline groundwork is laid, it’s time to look at the book and figure out how to clean it up to how I want it. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that. I know it will involve a whole lot of notes–it will also involve going through each chapter and figuring out what stays and what goes. I may even need to write new chapters. And which word processor should I do this all in? What I’m using now, RoughDraft, was nice for the first draft, but this will be an extensive rehauling. Should I utilize my Word 2007 for it? Should I look for another writing program? yWriter, for instance? Any writers out there with any ideas?

Hmm…don’t know yet. But I do know this–if I’m going to edit Willow, then now’s the time to do it while my schedule is free. So this is my accountability statement: that starting next Monday, March 17, 2008 I will start my major editing of Willow.

Hey, that’s St. Patrick’s Day! A Day of Green for a Willow book. That’s a nice sign, don’t you think?

Snip, snip here. Snip, snip, there. Trimming the branches of “Willow”

I think I’m going to have to take my Willow Synopsis down.

Last week marked the first edits of Willow…well, if you don’t count the reworking of the first fifteen chapters when I got back into writing it. I officially started my editing by whacking out a supporting character’s plotline. I also started an outline of the main plot and not only saw places that I could easily cut and/or rearrange, but I found a very decent spot where I comfortably end the book.

Granted, that also means that the remaining arc of the story will have to be its own book. Which means that this will definitely not be a trilogy. More of a four book series, which is what I expected. When I first saw my massive word count, I knew there was a good chance that I would have split Willow in two. The question was how to do it so that the first book had an ending that didn’t feel forced or incomplete.

All in all, I have trimmed Willow to a word count of 260,000 words. Much, much better. It’s so much easier to handle. Granted, I’m still working on outlining, so I won’t know what will be in Willow for several weeks, but this gives me a good idea on where I’m heading. In other words, I’m putting away the chainsaw and taking out the hedgeclippers so I can trim Willow to a nice, pretty shape.

Daniel wants breakfast now. Guess that trimming will have to wait until later.

 

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October Scheduling (or time to get down to business…eventually…)

October already, huh?

It amazes me how time simultaneously crawls and speeds. When Kaleidotrope sent me the acceptance note for my story “Click” back in April, I didn’t think I could wait until October for it to be published. And now, here it is, October 1, and it feels a little weird.

It’s not just a new story for me that makes this month eventful. This month was also my start point to start editing Willow again. I’ve been letting it sit on the back burner for just about 2-1/2 months now. I already know what my first step is going to be…and it’s cool that I’m itching to jump into it. But I can’t do that. Not yet.

My schedule, which I had perfected at the beginning of September, has been thrown off a bit. A couple of glitches have occurred–and I stress glitches. They aren’t major crises or anything like that–that has me scrambling to repair them. One of them is the fact that I’m taking more time than I thought with an article I’m writing. I thought I would be done with it in two weeks, tops, but it’s now stretching into a month. Luckily, I’m in the last stages of it, so I’m hoping to be done with it by Friday at the latest. But in doing this article, I had to put other projects on hold. It’s not terribly bad–it’s a good reason why I had blocked off August through September as a time to keep my writing light and easy–but this has ballooned into quite a project. I’ll be glad when it’s over.

Another glitch is that this weekend, October 5-7, is the Midwest Literary Festival taking place in Aurora, IL. There’s going to be a lot of authors there, as well as some wonderful looking workshops. I’ve attended it for two years now…but I won’t be there this year due to a conflict in schedule. I don’t feel bad about missing it–after attending the Midwest Writing Workshop in July, I’m pretty good as far as conferences go for the year. Besides, I think I will get a whole lot more out of the festival next year, when I plan to have Willow ready to pitch to agents. So all of you going to the festival this year, have lots of fun for me, and let me know how it goes.

I’m not going to completely turn my back on networking, though. When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go to the festival, I decided to try something new and go to an online conference. The Muse Online Writer’s Conference boasts that it’s the only conference of it’s kind, with most of its workshops being down in chat rooms. Registrations are closed right now, but you can go to see what kind of workshops they have. I’ve only participated in a chatroom a couple of weeks ago (I’m not really the type of person who does chatrooms) so this will be a new thing for me. The conference goes from October 8 through 14, which I think is timely because then I can just dive into Willow on the 15th.

So, basically, October is shaping up to be quite a busy month. Stay tuned as I attempt to juggle the days and keep my sanity intact.

You Just Finished Writing a Novel. Now what?

It feels weird.

When I sit at my computer at night, I automatically start to move the mouse towards the Willow folder I keep in my toolbar. Then I remember, oh yeah. I finished the book. Then I think, wait a second. I don’t have to write anymore at night. How come I’m not downstairs watching TV or something?

Habits are hard to break. Good and bad. I had thought that after last week, I would take a couple of weeks from writing altogether. Sort of a mini-vacation of sorts. I saw myself sitting on the futon, sipping mojitos and catching up on all the sitcoms I haven’t seen in months. Or maybe actually finishing that Final Fantasy game that’s been on my laptop…and other computers…for many, many years. Or maybe going for long walks with my hubby with Daniel bounding in front of us in his light-up Buzz Lightyear sandals (nice to wear at night, when the flashing lights resemble fireflies who got into too much red Merlot…)

Instead, here I am, sitting down. Writing.

Oh, don’t think I haven’t done any lollygagging. Yesterday, I watched Napoleon Dynamite–an actual DVD, after dinner. Ooooo! And today, during Daniel’s naptime, which is my normal time to write, I decided to take one too instead of writing. Aaaaaaahhh! And this Friday, I plan to take my kid to the zoo. All day! Indrawn Gasp!

On the flip side, however, I edited a short story and started the submission process. I also did an inaugural post for the Writer’s Block, which I have joined as a new writer. (If you wish to read that post, you can see it here.) I’m also seriously thinking about revamping the blog a bit, making it look more nicer, adding some sweet new features. And let’s not forget working on some new stories. I gotta get my published stories list nice and padded.

Hmmm…I didn’t think I’d be so busy after Willow, but that’s okay. One of the great things about writing is that you can go at your own pace. Now that I’m done with Willow, the plan is to let it simmer for a bit on the back burner, percolate if you will, for about several weeks. I plan to pick it back up again in September and start the first edits. I already know what I’m going to do for those edits, and I feel like I’m chomping at the bit. Part of me wants to dive right in and start those edits now.

But there’s good in letting something rest for a bit. It will help my creativity far more if I put some distance between the book and me. Thus, when I return to it in September, my mind will be fresh and ready to tackle the job. Plus, I need to enjoy this leisurely pace I have now, the freedom to choose when to write and when to not. The urges to write show what I am, fundamentally, is a writer, and that won’t stop even if I don’t write for a day or two (or in the worse case scenario, seven years). The times when I don’t feel that urge show that I’m enjoying the life God gave me, whether if its folding laundry or yelling at the boy for using my lotion as fingerpaint on the carpet.

Uhh…wait…

I’m enjoying the life that God gave me, whether if its going outside to look at my growing tomato plants or my boy giggling as he hides beneath the blanket on my bed, or actually stretching out on the futon and doing absolutely nothing.

Yeah, that’s better.

And oh yes. Vote for Pedro. Bunny Style!

First Draft of Weeping of the Willows: DONE

It is done. Finished. Kaput. At least, for book one, that is.

I have finally finished my first book, ever. Clocking in at 462257 words. Zounds. That’s a lot of writing.

I had to look in my files to find the earliest dated draft of this book. February 9, 1994 was when I started writing this book seriously, just to see how much I could put down. I worked on it until…I think 1997, then stopped writing period for seven years. I started working on it again in late 2004, so let’s see, that meant I spent roughly six years working on this baby, eliminating the non-writing years.

Wow. No wonder I feel so tired. If you excuse me, I’m going to go to bed. Very, very early.

One more chapter left

I am already past the 444,000 word limit.

Laundry is sitting in baskets all on bedroom floor.

The boy…has not bathed…for a week. 

Brain…is…about…to…explode…

Must…finish…freaking…huge…novel…

Quick Update on Willow

One major scene down. Two more to go.

Last week, I did 3 chapters. Pretty long ones, too, considering all that happened in them. I don’t know if I can do that this week; my MIL is back, but she heads to the Philippines on Thursday. Hmmm…maybe I can find some creative ways for her to spend lots of time with her grandson…

Writing last week’s chapters were like being on a roller coaster. I knew what was going to happen in my head, but I almost dreaded sitting down and writing because I knew it was going to be emotionally exhausting. Action scenes are fast-paced, but I don’t want to rush through them. Everything needs to be paced accordingly.

Well, I started writing, and I just couldn’t stop. I wound up finishing that major scene at 3am in the morning. It felt like I had picked up a sword and thrust it through several bad guys myself, but man, was I pleased.

Gonna try to get the second major scene done this week. It’s not a fight scene, but it’s most crucial to the story. I’ll let you know when I’m done with it.

Time is Ticking Away (or how not to deal with a self-imposed deadline)

Critics and naysayers may say that NaNoWriMo is silly. That it’s not what real writers do when they sit down to write a book. That sitting down and hashing out a bunch of nonsense words doesn’t automatically make you a writer–there’s also planning and plot and structure to consider, etc. and so forth.

However, having gone through it my own way, there is something to be said about NaNoWriMo that I really, really like. The deadline thing really works. There’s something about joining with thousands of other writers in proclaiming “I will write x amount of words everyday so that I will have, if not a completed novel, then at least 50,000 words worth of a novel. And I plan to do it all by the end of November.”

When I did NaNoWriMo last year, there were times when I thought it was a piece of cake. Other times, I had to force the words to come, hating what I wrote, but at the same time remembering, this is just a first draft. It can be edited for comprehension later. I know there’s a lot of controversy on picking November, a holiday month, for focusing exclusively on writing, but for me, it worked fine enough. We weren’t traveling for Thanksgiving, and I didn’t have to do much as far as cooking went. I had plenty of time to focus on Willow, and when I crossed that 50,000 word barrier a couple of days before the end of November, I was pretty darn proud of myself.

So here it is in the middle of June already. I am roughly ten chapters away from ending Willow. That’s how it was at the beginning of June, too. I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. So far these past couple of weeks, I’ve only completed two chapters, roughly a chapter per week. Weren’t I doing at least three chapters a week in November? What happened to that focus that was with me then? Why does it feel like I’m crawling at a snail’s pace towards the end?

Hmmm…I think there’s a variety of reasons. First of all, I didn’t have relatives staying at our house back then. As my hubby’s folks prepare to go to the Philippines, there’s a lot of stuff they need to do, and in helping and spending time with them, my writing production has fallen a little low, which is fine. I can write anytime, but the next time we see my hubby’s folks, it will be around Christmas. It’s good to spend as much time with them as we can. It’s nice that technology has evolved so that instead of getting an occasional letter from them, we can now call using the Internet. But there’s something about being around in person that makes things fun. So I’ve been putting the priority on spending time with them.

Second reason I’m not writing is potty training. ‘Nuff said.

Third reason is more psychological. After I wrote the above sentences about feeling like I’m going nowhere, I actually dug up the post I did on the NaNoWriMo wrapup. Seems that my memory is a lot more candy-covered than reality. I thought I had written at least ten chapters in November. Turns out, I wrote only eight, which is about two chapters per week. Granted, my word count was a lot higher than what I’m doing now–back then, I wrote about 2000 words a day. So far, I’ve been averaging about 1100 words. But I’m still averaging about two chapters per week, so that’s a lot better than I thought I was doing.

I also think I’m writing slower because I’m getting to the climax of the book where everything will hit the proverbial fan. On the one hand, I’m very impatient to get to the words, ‘the end’, but I just can’t do that. I want to know what happens to my characters, and that means working and putting in place what will lead to the final battle. They can’t just magically zoop themselves to the battle. Things need to happen first, important things. It’s the wiping of the hands and the drink of wine after a nice, simple meal before you dig into the dessert.

I want to skip straight to the ending, but there’s one more scene I need to do before I do. And I just got to be patient. And I need to be realistic. There’s a good chance that this won’t be done by the end of June, not with all the other stuff going on at my house. I shouldn’t have been so eager–

No. Gonna nip that thought right in the bud. I’m a writer. I better be excited that I’m approaching the end of my first book. Eagerness is good. It helps stoke me up when I sit down at my keyboard (brand new wireless, I may add, courtesy of my hubby). And for all that’s going on in my house, the fact that I’m still getting work done should make me proud. I just set my deadline just a little too soon in my eagerness.

The end is going to come. It takes a word at a time. This week will be a good chance to catch up on writing. Next week, things will be pretty busy again as we send my hubby’s mother off to join her husband in the mission field. Then there’ll be fourth of July, and then…

Well…I can revise the goal for ending Willow to the end of that month, before I go to the Midwest Writers Workshop. It will be a nice goal to work towards. Notice I say goal and not deadline. “Deadline” sounds like doom–if I don’t make the deadline, thunderclouds will form over our house, the earth will crack, sheep will start walking on their hinds legs and berating us humans for eating their children…

I like ‘goal’. It sounds much nicer.

When it rains, it pours…right on my head…

The month of May has been FUN for us.

In-law visits, a new roof being put in, Daniel’s birthday, Mother’s Day. Things have been pretty busy around here. So much so that I realized that I may need to curtail my writing activities. I didn’t feel completely bad about it. I knew I wanted to take a little time off from the blog, and as I mentioned in a lot of April posts, my writing for Willow had slowed. My characters had just arrived in what’s considered a plains area, so I figured they do a lot of wandering about. Nothing to get excited about. So I planned that I would work on Willow for shorter periods of time and not worry so much about it. Call it writer’s block, call it burnout, call it whatever you will. I was willing to give Willow a bit of a rest while I enjoyed time with the in-laws (and for all you cynics, yes, I do love my in-laws, thank you very much).

But then, I started the chapter off, and one of my characters realized that he was falling in love with someone. Something that wasn’t supposed to happen until the next book.

Wha…?

And then, before I realized it, my characters had been captured, and the love of his life carted off, and a little old lady who wasn’t supposed to show up until the next chapter chose to make her appearance right there instead.

Wait–

And suddenly, I found myself writing an action scene. A powerful, spine tingling action scene, which included running, fleeing, and magic poofing everywhere, and without warning, my characters, who had been in a pleasant lull at the beginning of the chapter, were now scrambling to escape with their lives, and my main character suddenly becomes a man on me when he decides, no, he’s going to get the love of his life first…

And then I had to stop writing because it’s time to go out for dinner…

It’s actually funny in a way. What is it about writing that it stalls when you have plenty of free time to do it, like when I was up in Michigan, but when I can only writing for 15 minute periods a day, all the ideas come flying, and my fingers are itching to come to the keyboard so I can get it out before I lose it? What is up with that?

No, I shouldn’t question it. I should take advantage of it. I am nearing the end of the book, after all. In fact, now that my confidence has been restored, I’m considering dedicating June to just focusing on Willow, like what I did for NaNoWriMo in November. If I could finish this book in June, I will be incredibly happy. So let’s set a date for that. Think I can complete the book in June? I sure am gonna try.

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