Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Whip it Good

I’m writing on this blog to 1) brush up on my writing skills 2) procrastinate and 3) force myself to get motivated. My sis (who will be my first and perhaps only reader of my 1st novel attempt) has been pestering me for the finished product. But my 65,000ish words are far from a finished product. I need to first, and foremost, WRITE THE DAMN ENDING, which is the hardest part. I also need to go through and eliminate all the redundancies and contradictions and stuff that says “need a better word for this.”

But instead, I re-read my favorite parts, sprucing up the spelling and punctuation, tweaking a word or two here and there, chuckling at how awesome and clever I am. Then I skim over all the kind of iffy parts, make a few revisions. Then I accidentally read one of the really, really, bad parts, and do stuff like gag audibly, or slam the laptop shut and literally run away.

I then read some real, published book, and use it to berate my book. “Book, why can’t you be more like (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice)? That book is interesting, has vivid descriptions, entertaining details, and a plot with an ending. Why do you have to be so lazy and boring? When are you going to make something of yourself?”

Oh Book, I know you’re not really to blame. You just lack discipline. Me too.

So in an effort to be more disciplined, I’m trying to write every day, even if I just end up writing a blog post. I started writing this post a week ago, so as you can see, it’s been slow.

But good news. Today, I wrote 1,200 words of my WIP (that’s work in progress--don't I sound all smart with my new-found writer jargon?) I also made a decision to tone down an aspect of the story that I have never been thrilled about writing anyway. And I felt a little hope that I can whip this WIP into something I wouldn’t be ashamed to let people read.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Write Now

Why am I writing a blog? Well, because I am a “writer”. Right. I guess that all depends on how you define the word “am”. It’s been 20ish years since I decided that was my career goal. A few less since I pursued my goal on a daily basis with college journalism classes, writing for the college paper and writing radio commercials. Things which convinced me that “doing what you love” for a job, was a sure-fire way to make you hate what you love. (By the way, that’s also my biggest fear about being a stay-at-home mom.)

About a year ago I met a lovely lady who was starting a writing group (check out her blog I thought, “Now is a great time to get back into writing.” Not really, actually I thought, “hey, she lives in my neighborhood and she’s a mom. Maybe our kids can have playdates.” I realized I was way out of my depth, when she talked excitedly about the book she wrote for “NaNoWriMo” as if everyone knew what this “rhino” creature was.

“NaNoWriMo” turned out to be “National Novel Writing Month”, an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. A couple of the other women who attended that initial group meeting came back the next month enthusiastically stating their intention to “do it.” Me? I thought, that’s nuts. But I did our writing exercises, and that crazy NaNoWriMo thing kept charging around my head. Because the thing was, I actually had a story in my head again.

I’ve always had a story in my head, since I was five years old. Back then, the story was that I got the red ruby slippers. With a matching headband and barrettes. And a purple room, with a purple telephone and a fluffy purple rug. And the kid with the cowboy hat was my friend. Don’t worry, the plots have improved since then, although color coordination did play a major role for way too long. Mostly it was an escape mechanism, but I figured I could turn it into a real success, if only I’d develop the skill for getting the stories out of my head, onto paper for others to enjoy.

But the years went on and although I always had time to think of these stories, I never seemed to have the dedication to writing them. As I grew older, busier, less in need of escape, the stories came more slowly. Then something happened to turn them off altogether (long pause for dramatic effect).

I had a baby.

This sweet, fussy, crying, demanding little girl suddenly became the thing that occupied every spare brain cell I had. And even some of the non-spare essential brain cells, like the ones that allow you to place dirty dishes in the dishwasher rather than in the refrigerator. After a while, Crying Little Girl and I worked out a compromise. I would devote 50% of my brain to her, and that would leave 50% for normal human function. This plan was working great for 2 years, and then along came sweet, cuddly, hungry little boy. Now I wanted to give him 50% of my brain. And how could I give Little Girl anything less? Which left nothing. One month of zombie life later, enter plan B. 25% brain to Little Girl, 25% to Little Boy. 25% for functioning. 25% to guilt over not being able to give 150%. Zero, Zip, Zilch to creative daydreaming.

Eventually, the Little’s demands eased up a bit. I chucked the guilt on the compost pile. In place of guilt, a story was creeping in. Nothing too deep—just a combination of a dream and an actor I had a minor crush on. Said actor’s career seemed to be going nowhere, and in frustration at the lack of good film material, I decided to give him a leading role in my NEW STORY.

Long story short, I decided to make this short story long, and turn it into a NaNoWriMo attempt with no greater goal than to say I did it. And since I’m very goal-directed when I actually have a goal, I did do it. I wrote the required number of words, of my novel, in the month of November.

Best of all, I loved it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cottage Cheese

One of the things I love about “Up North” in Michigan is the view of a Great Lake glimpsed from the highway between all the trees and little cottages. As a child I loved those cute cottages, painted pink or blue or green, with their little porches, lawn ornaments and decorative mailboxes, and of course the “cottage sign” with clever wordplay of family names, like ‘Sand Castle’ or ‘The Footes’ on a foot shaped sign.

In my mind these cottages were for the rich people. My family vacations took us to the state parks, in the tent, or better yet, the van. No luxurious pop-up campers for us. Since then, I’ve actually been inside a few cottages, and rethought my notion of wealth. But I love these itty bitty houses, with a kitchen where you can cook and clean while standing in one spot and bedrooms that sleep five with four on bunk beds, one on a cot, and nowhere to walk. The walls and fireplace mantle festooned with years of souvenirs, beach combings and yard sale finds, in every style from country to coastal, and every era from the 60’s on.

Recently though, the trend has been to demolish these little cottages, and build new behemoths in their place with picture windows as large as the original house’s foundation and grandiose architectural details like turrets, towers, and pillars. Goodbye cute, adios charming. Welcome home, pretentious.

Not trying to fault the owners. Perhaps like my husband’s family, the house now belongs to several generations of families and they’ve outgrown the space. Or they’re simply trying to maximize the value of their property. And some of the homes are lovely and tasteful. Well ok, maybe only one or two. But somehow, that strip of land between the highway and the lake, with trees taller than its width, just doesn’t blend with lovely and tasteful. Something about those scraggly pines and random tree growth needs those shabby, tacky, wacky, cottage cheesy houses.

I do have to admit that A/C would be nice. I’m outside on the deck at our itsy bitsy natural-air cottage. It’s much cooler out here, so I’m writing at a laptop computer and being anti-social. (Not really, everyone else is just watching random TV, and while they may be missing the witty sarcastic comments I frequently direct at the inhabitants of the screen, it’s also possible they’re not.) I don’t want to go back inside with the heat—I doubt I could sleep in that stifling bedroom at this hour with the amateur fireworks that use loudness to compensate for what they lack in size. Especially with the beam of the neighbor’s lawn lighthouse flashing in the window every seven seconds. But I’m about to surrender, because the glow of my computer screen is drawing in flocks of winged insects and I keep thinking I’ve made typos, when really it’s mosquitoes. So, goodnight little buggies. Go check out that lighthouse.