Reeling, Writhing, and Fainting in Coils

Here’s the trick: I need to find time for both reading and writing. I am not currently getting either done.

Will has finished some revisions on his novel. I’ve been trying to read them for TWO WEEKS and am only about 50 pages in. I could (in theory) get through it quickly if I were just reading, but I’m taking notes as I go because I don’t see any point in being his first reader if I am not helpful. Because a manuscript is such a large thing, I can’t read in any of my usual spots (tub, toilet, comfy chair), so I have to reserve quiet time in the bedroom. This is why it’s taking two weeks–it has actually been two weeks since I last looked at it. Horrible.

I also have a stack of books I want to read, including Freefall. I am SO FAR BEHIND in my reading! I keep sneaking newer books to the front of the line, which is oddly not doing anything to make the pile smaller. (Hint: if you want me to read your book, your chances improve if 1. I know you, and 2. You put my name in it. I am cheap, but also easy.)

And then there is writing, my constant bugbear, my bête noire. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) Lately I have had so many ideas. SO MANY. But when do I work on them? Never, that’s when. I do have down time–I’d be a pretty crappy liar if I tried to tell you otherwise–but it is never distraction-free and I am lousy at focusing.

I did decide something recently that has opened up a WHOLE NEW WORLD for me: if I want to write young adult and middle grade stories, but I don’t feel that I have novels in me, then by gum (BY GUM!) I am going to write young adult and middle grade short stories. As far as I can tell, there is no market whatsoever for them, but I don’t give a damn. I am going to write them anyway. If I can ever find the goddamn time.

In other news, I think I need a writer’s group but I kind of hate most other writers. Crap.

Art: writer

I keep harping on this writing thing, moaning and fretting about how much of it I am not doing. This morning, though, Will and I rode the Vespa to the Silver Spoon Diner in West Hollywood and chatted for about an hour about an idea we’ve been working on for a few days.

And I feel like a writer again.

(Yes, I missed posting yesterday. Oh well.)

Links for writers

Hey! Do you write?

Give yourself permission. This is some lovely advice from editor Molly O’Neill, written as part of a virtual writing conference.

Complete your draft! This contest looks like fun. The only novel I am even considering writing is currently 7k words with a goal of 21k, so I won’t be entering. But YOU should.

Want to write like a bestselling novelist? My husband figured out the formula. You can be as “good” as Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyer! And then you can shoot yourself!

Once Upon A Time

Hey, remember when I called myself a writer? I don’t.

The other day I got an email out of the blue from an old friend who was briefly my editor when I wrote for Creature Corner. Last time we talked, Will and I were shopping DOGS OF WAR. And oh my, a lot has changed since then. Like how we stopped writing screenplays. And we don’t write together lately (we did put together a comic book pitch a few months ago, but it didn’t go anywhere). And Will is writing novels. And I don’t write at all unless you count my column or this blog.

Not writing feels like this huge part of my identity has just been rubbed out.

Compounding the problem is the feeling of utter aloneness I’ve had lately. Friends have asked me to do non-playdate things with them exactly twice all year. Tim took me to a concert for my birthday, and Morgan took me to dinner when she was in town after Comic Con. And frankly, I don’t get asked on many kid dates either–but when people do ask me to do things, it’s in my capacity as a mom.

Everyone urges mothers to not lose their identity. But no one ever mentioned that my identity might be taken away. I feel that I am only thought of as a parent by most of the people I interact with. Will pointed out that most of the people I know now didn’t know me before. Which is depressing as all hell because that means they didn’t know me when I was skinny. Yes, that is incredibly shallow of me. No, I am–sadly–not really joking.

(Incidentally, I immediately emailed a friend who is also a mother and asked her out for a no-kids cocktail. It was wonderful.)

So I got this email from Dave, who knew me when I was skinny and not a mother and still writing. And he asked what I’m up to. And I told him, and he was shocked. Mostly by the fact that I write knitting patterns. And I’m not in any way ashamed of that–I seriously love designing–but it’s such a wholly different identity than the one I had just four or five years ago, and I’m not sure how it happened.

I like what I’m doing now, but I don’t like not writing. I know this is just an extension of the whole not having enough time thing. You know, that thing.

But I need to find time.

How do I do that? Other than putting the kids in school/care, which I won’t do.

Bus Rider

My friend Yojo recently wrote this:

I’ve got four documents open in Scrivener. Each is less than a month old, and not one of them is more than 700 words long. One is just an outline, and if you look closely you’ll find it’s actually a recipe for baba ganoush with some plot-related notes surrounding it.

I don’t actually know what Scrivener is, but I have a teensy bit of experience with that scattered, non-finished sort of writing. JUST A TEENSY BIT. And I don’t even have a baba ganoush recipe.

Last week I rode the bus to and from work at the yarn shop. It’s about a 15-20 minute ride, and I brought a book. You guys, I read a book. A whole book. I told Will this morning that going to work felt like vacation.

Look, I love being a mom. I really, really love it. But I am a little burned out.

Last summer, in a burst of pregnancy-induced creativity, I wrote about 7,000 words of a middle grade novel. It isn’t very good–in fact, it stinks–but if I sat down and finished it I could maybe try to fix it.

Since Grace’s birth, I’ve written scenes for two short stories, trying to find the necessary voice.

I’ve also managed to write two knitting patterns as well as notes on two others (seriously, they just need to be sized out and edited).

That is ALL the creative outlet I’ve found time for. I don’t read, I don’t write. I update my blog a couple times a week, if that, and I write my column (which I get paid for), and that’s it.

I swear I’m not trying to do everything. I’ll try that when the kids are bigger. I’ve even managed, thanks in part to my amazing sister’s help with the children, to enjoy every minute (or, you know, a lot of them) of Grace’s infancy. And now, as she gains some independence, I find myself longing for a little of my own. For a break from the hours I’ve spent every day lately trying to help her get to sleep (growth spurts SUCK). To read another book.

Maybe I just need somewhere to take the bus a few times a week.

This might sound crazy, but…

You all know that I suffer from Teh Pregnancy Brain. It is absent-mindedness to the nth degree. It is annoying and frustrating and endlessly amusing. But I’ve realized over the last few days that despite this flakiness I also seem to be smarter and sharper during pregnancy (when I am not busy forgetting what I was doing). Hear me out.

When I was pregnant with Sam I held an editing job, wrote for LA Metblogs, kept my own blog, wrote reviews for Creature Corner, did a few freelance reviews, and held a Contributing Editor post at Noneuclidean Cafe. (Edited to add that I also wrote script coverage. Good grief I was busy.) After his birth I gradually stopped doing all of those things except writing this blog. (Some of them I stopped of my own volition and some not, but that is hardly the point.) For the last three years I have felt, at times, quite foggy and uncertain of my own identity. While I have made a great deal of progress as a co-writer with Will, the screenplays we’ve written have not gone anywhere and my enthusiasm has waned. Mostly I have been focused on being a mom, and that is not such a bad thing.

This morning I used “demarcate” in a sentence. In conversation. Less than an hour after I woke up. Correctly. And I did not think anything of it until Will remarked on it.

I’ve spent most of this week working on a short story that I wrote somewhere between eight and ten years ago. I have not looked at it since, and as far as I can remember only Will read it back then. It’s a good story and I think it could be a really good story. Will read it again and he thinks so too. So I’ve been editing the hell out of it. At the same time, I am looking at possible markets for it and for a piece of flash fiction I found that I have no memory of writing. (A very small part of me is afraid it could be someone else’s and I am stealing it, but that is so very unlikely and the story is so very me that I am ignoring my worries.) I’m also still working on my middle grade novel, though I’ve taken a writing break from it this week to work on the other stories.

This is more than I’ve done for myself in ages, and I am doing it with more clarity than I’ve felt in as long as I can remember. I look back at the writing I did when I was pregnant the last time and I think it was quite good, but I don’t remember it viscerally.

Here’s what I want to know: is breastfeeding brain actually worse than pregnancy brain, or was I just so focused on being Sam’s mom that I lost myself a little and a new pregnancy has brought me back into focus?

62 days

Two months ago today I started writing a middle grade novel. At the time I was in such total denial about the possibility that I even might be doing such a thing that I did not even mention it to Will until days later when he asked what I was doing. And after that I still denied it until Nova tricked me into admitting that I might maybe be writing.

In those two months I have written 33 pages, which is about 7500 words. This is about one-quarter of a novel. (A tween novel; novels for adults are longer.) On the one hand, that is not a lot to show for two whole months; on the other, it is A QUARTER OF A NOVEL, which is much, much more than I have ever written before.

Unlike everything else I have ever written before, I am not editing as I go. Oh, I’ll fuss over an individual sentence, even obsess over a particular word, and I have gone back to add more in a few places, but overall this is a rough draft. (Though there are, I am delighted to say, a few places where I really love what I’ve put on the page.) I am also not outlining, which is something I never did back when I wrote short stories but have done religiously since we began writing screenplays. I suspect that the outline may have killed my attempt last year to write a chick lit novel, though that could have died just because it was terrible. We may never know.

So, no outline, no editing, and so far, no feedback. Well, almost no feedback. I showed the first chapter to Will because I needed to know if it was worth continuing (he thought so); I showed a passage I was having trouble with to my sister, but that hardly even counts since I didn’t show it to her for feedback so much as to complain about it. I am starting to contemplate the idea of showing it to someone, but I have a few hesitations:

  1. Who to show it to?
  2. It is a rough draft; what if I show it to someone and they have a problem with something that would most likely be fixed when I go back over it but because it bothers them I get derailed and don’t finish?
  3. While I have set all of the groundwork at this point, not a lot has happened yet; I think it is enough to keep a reader interested, but it seems like it might be wise to actually have the rest written before I find out (and if I need to move some action up then, I can). On the other hand, maybe that is something I should know now.

So if my writer friends could maybe pipe up and tell me when they show their pages to other people, and who those other people are (e.g. critique partners, agents, moms), and maybe why (to both), that would be very helpful. Because I don’t exactly need to be told what to do, but I do need to see what other people do so I can see if something feels right for me.

Today’s writing progress

I changed the word “in” to “on.”

Not only does this not affect the word count, not to mention the story or anything else of real import, it does not even change the character count.

And now I am going to turn on the air conditioning and go read a book. Because 1) I am clearly not suited to writing them, and 2) I feel crummy. AGAIN.

Things I’m Not Sure How To Google

So apparently despite my best efforts not to, I am writing this story. I hit 5000 words last night and while I know several people who can knock out that many words in a day (assholes), that is a lot for me, especially considering that my goal is 25,000-30,000 words total.

The thing is that it’s hard to write a contemporary novel about someone much younger than me (my main character is 11 years old) because the times, they have changed. Some things, like kids having cell phones, I think will be easy to work with. If weird because IN MY DAY WE USED PAYPHONES. AND WE LIKED IT. But there are other things, little details that probably shouldn’t matter so much, that are totally tripping me up.

Such as: what is the Scholastic book fair like now? I remember reading something about how it is all video games and tie-in products and very few actual books. Of course, the Scholastic website makes it look like it is all books! Educational books! And what is the actual fair like? Never mind what it’s like now, I don’t even remember if 20 years ago we pre-ordered our books or if we just circled what we liked in the catalog and then bought them day-of. No clue!

And what about the Internet? I can deal with it for the most part the way I’m dealing with cell phones, but I am clueless what an 11-year-old would even do online. It’s a little old for Webkinz and Club Penguin, I think, but that depends on the kid, but anyway I am not going to advertise any of those sites in my story. Do kids that age use Facebook? Have blogs? I NEED TO KNOW.

And here’s one that should not be tripping me up so badly but totally is: television. Where I lived when I was 11, we could not get cable. Our house was on a mountain and there was no signal. (We also could not get the newspaper delivered, but that did not stop them from trying to get us to subscribe.) Now that everything has gone digital, can you get cable anywhere? Oh, and what about internet? Would my MC, who also lives on a mountain, be stuck with dial-up or is that going to seem unbelievable to contemporary readers?

Most things are, I think, pretty universal to the pre-teen experience, even if they are calling it tween now. These details don’t really matter. Except that they do because I need to understand her world, and these are the things that have come up.

Your purple prose just gives you away

Here’s a confession: I do not believe I am a writer.

It’s all because of that saying, “writers write.” The fact is that most days I do not write. Ergo, I am not a writer.

I have, however, written 3000 words since Wednesday. Which I know makes it sound like I am a writer. But I’m not! Unwriters write too. Or something.