Category: Writer’s Desk

all about writing, words, fiction, writing projects

You’re not a Writer if You’re not Writing

I have finished reading the first 12 chapters.  I have taken so many notes and I’m almost done writing a new (more detailed) outline.  I was planning to continue on from where I was, chapter 13, because in my mind I have an obligation to finish the entire first draft before moving on to the the second draft.

And then I realized that that’s just my OCD* talking.  Going through things by the numbers, doing things the way they’re SUPPOSED to be done (in order!)… this OCD glitch is so much easier to deal with than dermatillomania.  It only took about three days of pushing aside my instincts which said “You have fixed so many holes in your story and rewriting the first 12 chapters at this point will significantly change how the characters interact and what happens from 13 on… just start the second draft already!”

I listen to myself.  I am still working on the revised more detailed outline but I’ll be done with that with about another hour of work.  Then I will begin the second draft of Cricket and Grey.  I’m really excited!

It’s been one year since I came up with the idea for this series.  I came up with it right near the end of writing Jane Doe.  Writing Jane Doe was such a heavy, intense, emotional, upheaving, and exhausting experience that it forced me to look at what kind of writer I want to be professionally.  I was just telling someone yesterday that I believe that all writers have that Pulitzer quality earth shattering book in them that needs to get written, hopefully will get printed, and needs to be read… but that’s not the book that pays the bills (unless it makes its way into Oprah’s hands, and of course if it literally wins the Pulitzer it might pay a few bills).

I will finish Jane Doe eventually.  I HAVE to.  It’s important to me personally.  But after months of intense writing that literally turned my spirit inside out (and ended up helping to heal some very old yet unbelievably still raw internal scars) I took a little break and was reading some of my favorite Mary Stewart suspense novels to cleanse my palate and let the fresh air into my head.  That’s when I had the revelation that I want to be a career writer.  I want to write books that entertain, that are intelligently written yet not big heavy Faulknerian epics that make you want to kill yourself by page 112.

So this time last year I came up with the initial idea for Cricket and Grey.  By late December 09 I began writing it.  I haven’t been steady at it until late spring.

My goal is to have my second draft completely finished by the new year.  After I reach that goal I intend to work out a few chapters to the high polish point so I can start sending proposals to publishers.

This year I have achieved complete clarity about the life I want to live, what my most important goals are, what I will achieve.  Not what I HOPE to achieve.  It feels damn good.  I don’t say anymore “I hope I get this book published” or “if I get Cricket and Grey published”, I say “When I get this book published…”  Because I will.  Fact.  It’s still possible I will publish it myself (not the disrespected endeavor that used to be) but ideally I’m going to convince someone else to do it for me.

I hear so many people talking about what they want, what they wish their lives were like, and then there are all the things that are in their way.  They can’t be so selfish as to take the time to write or paint or invent or whatever… because their family has to come first.  Or maybe they can’t do what they really want because they have to pay the bills and work all week and have no time to follow dreams and selfish pursuits.

The truth is that there will always be sacrifices.  You either decide to make them or you will remain immobile and as far from reaching your goals as you were last year, and the year before…  Oh my god!  What kind of mother would put her art before her family?!

The serious kind, that’s what kind.  Sorry if that offends.  As it surely will.  I care very much how well I take care of my family but I married an artist who knows that no matter what connections you make in life, you are an artist first because if you are an artist it isn’t what you do it’s WHO YOU ARE.  We purposely had only one child (for many reasons) but among them was the fact that we are an artist and a writer above all other roles on earth and children require a lot of time.  We have only so much time.  We must give a lot of it to the development of our art.

What was I doing when my son napped?  I wasn’t cleaning the house (always very apparent to anyone stopping by) I was writing.  Writing.  What did I do when I put him to bed at night and in between his predictable nightly wakings?  I was writing.  Back then I didn’t have to work for anyone else to pay the bills and so I was able to do other things as well.  But the point is that my housekeeping sucks because no matter how small a window of “free” time I have I fill it with writing.

Once I finally cracked the fiction code and needed to concentrate on that last summer I sent my boys away from me at every possible moment so that I could work at it.  They gave me the space.  They gave me the time.  My kid needs me but he also knows that not writing isn’t an option and the truth is that he thinks it’s cool that his mom is writing books.  I sacrificed my family’s comfort for writing.

So what I have to say is that if you don’t have the balls to put your writing first then you will never get anywhere with it.  Maybe some people have to wait to get serious until they’re children are grown and flown.  That’s fine.  But it isn’t that you had no choice.  It’s just that you didn’t choose the writing.

I’m forty years old and have been writing seriously my whole life.  I am finally clear about what I’m doing, what I want to achieve (specifically) with my work, I know where I want to be and I know essentially how to get there.  So everything takes a back seat now.  My comfort (lack of sleep when necessary to crank out the next thousand words when I’m on a roll and it’s 3am) and my house is a serious mess of cobwebs and dust-bunnies and my garden is rife with weeds and ragged grass and overgrown roses.

But it’s okay with me.  I can clean the rest of my life up once I have published my book and people are buying and reading it and my job is to write new ones.

This won’t wait.

I’m a better mother and wife for being firm and clear about my goals and my son is seeing that if you want something bad enough, if you want to change your life and make it the life you really want, then you have to work your ass off and everything else will suffer until you get there.  When he was tiny and needed my undivided attention he got it.  I wrote in every other little second he didn’t need me.  If I had been as clear then as I am now perhaps I would have found a different way of doing things.  But the point is that my kid, being the only kid, got my 100% undivided through the first 5 years of his life.  No daycare, no babysitters (only because we couldn’t find or afford any), just his parents’ complete attention.  That’s a pretty sweet start if you ask me and is way more than I got.

I am lucky to have such a supportive husband and son.  I’m lucky they’re as intense and crazy as I am.  I’m lucky that they think it’s super cool that I am a book writer.

Today they’re going to go ride their bicycles on Grand Island where there’s some walk/ride tour going on.  This is how they’re going to give me hours of uninterrupted writing time because they know I’m working my ass off to get back into gear on the book.

I already have a good life.

The pursuit of great things is always selfish initially but when greatness is achieved it’s nearly always for the benefit of so many people outside yourself.  I’m not writing this book for my own amusement.  I’m writing it because I want you to pick it up after a long day and be drawn into a world that’s interesting and reflective of the truths you know but with a little more magic; I have so much in my head to share outside of it.  Finding the  magic road to get it from my head to yours is the longest, driest, hardest, and toughest one to walk.

I’m not doing it for self aggrandizement.  I never was.  When I was typing out soap operas when I was ten I wasn’t doing it because I thought maybe someday it would make me really important.  I was doing it- I was going to say I was doing it to be a conduit of entertainment for others but I think writing back then was a lot more primal for me- I think I was actually doing it because the sound of the typewriter keys was mesmerizing and writing was the only time I felt lit up and not anxious and depressed.

If you’re a writer (and you know it if you are, you will not have to ask yourself) then you need to be in constant practice.  So do it.

Incidentally, if you would like to start getting to know the main character of Cricket and Grey you can read her journal here:  Cricket and Grey It’s so new and fresh I haven’t got it on a feed yet.  Cricket’s Journal is going to be my inspiration board as I continue on with the writing.  I took a bunch of pictures of the roads and scenery around Yamhill County to inspire me since this is where the book takes place.  So I will be uploading those and so if you’re curious about Cricket and the setting for the book, please check it out!

It’s time now to get a fresh cup of coffee and finish my new outline.  Onward!

*This is great link to information on OCD.  My husband, my son, and I all have OCD.  It’s difficult to gauge a person’s OCD serverity because often the person with OCD doesn’t report all the symptoms they experience and as this article suggests (I know this to be true) people with OCD tend to be very good at hiding their obsessive behaviors from others.  I myself was guilty of this the first time I got diagnosed.  I didn’t tell my phsychologist about the dermatillomania because I was ashamed and also didn’t know it had immense significance in my diagnosis (or that there was a name for it).   Anyway, I just wanted to point out that this is a particularly well written article about OCD if you are curious about it.

Rereading the First 12 Chapters

I’ve written 79, 175 words of my novel Cricket and Grey.  In August I got gastroenteritis and kept writing.  Then I reread what I wrote while I was sick and realized that  being sick makes me write drivel.   I had to trash over 5,000 words of what I can only say was a wishful scene between my two main characters which, if  allowed to remain, would effectively end the whole book.  Because there’d be nothing left to say.

Then I had to get ready for my trip to New York.  I thought I’d do some writing while there.  You know: writer holes up in a seedy hotel and writes, drinks booze, doesn’t shave for days, and maybe there’s some naked typing in there somewhere?  Didn’t happen.  It turns out I can’t write in New York because I can’t shut the noise and the energy out enough to hear my own thoughts.  The best I could do was write notes and save up bits for later.

When I came back I had to work long hours for my job, I was jet lagged, my family missed me and needed me, I was so damn tired from my vacation that I had to rest.  I couldn’t dive back into the book yet.

The problem is that today, as I sit at my desk poised to submerge myself back into the story, I’m feeling drifty.  I’m scared I won’t be able to pick the last thread up.  What if it’s all a pile of crap anyway?  The task right now is to reread the previous 12 chapters but I’m scared to do it.  I’ll want to start rewriting it all today.  But I’ve promised myself not to do any rewriting until I’ve actually finished writing the whole first draft.

I’m going to sit back and read it.  I have to do it.  Then I was thinking I might write a couple random scenes that are floating in my head, little character vignettes, little nothings that don’t even have to find a place in the actual novel if they’re trash, but just a little scene to bring me back into the thick of the story where I lived constantly in June and July.

Part of being a professional writer is being able to step away from a project when you need to and come back to it without a bunch of artistic freak-outs.  This is part of the job.

Onward then.