Last week, on Tuesday I think, I crawled into bed next to my guy as he pulled out the large stack of paper that is my manuscript and began reading.
“I’m cool,” I thought. “I can handle this.” I will not read over his shoulder. I will not obsess over what part he’s reading, and how he seems to be responding. I will not.
Except that I did. I was way too distracted to continue read The Marriage Plot, and so I curled up, convinced that I could sleep.
Sssccccratch. The sound of his pen against the page as he circled something sounded like lightning cracking. Then he chuckled. And the sound ranked right up there with the first time I heard my baby girl laugh. Magic.
I managed to not roll over and peek at what he was reading every time one of these sounds floated across the bed to me, but I’ll be honest – I didn’t sleep a wink until he put it aside and turned the light off.
Taking feedback has never been my strong suit. I think it’s one of the hardest parts of the writing process. It’s also one of the most vital. For me, it’s a process of gathering my strength, over and over again, to listen to the feedback I get with an open mind. To date, I’ve given my manuscript to 10 people – my writer’s group and my family (and only a few of them at that).
So far I’ve gotten notes from one of the ten – Daniel finished it Friday and we talked through the draft yesterday. My hope is to get notes from the other nine by the end of June and start in on the next draft in July. With any luck, I might actually finish the book by the end of the year. That would be so great.
It was actually very encouraging to hear Daniel’s notes. As a filmmaker, he works with story all day every day. He had a bunch of very constructive feedback. I realized I was bracing to hear that I’m a long way from done. Instead he totally loved it. The notes were along the lines of “this section slows down a little because the motivation drops away – just up it a little, keep the pressure on.” In fact, he’s been raving all weekend about how much he loved it.
Now, I know the fact that my husband loves my novel may not count for much in the literary world (even if he is a creative professional), but to me, it counts for a whole awful lot. It’s very encouraging.
Can’t wait to hear what the other nine have to say.
Last week I took a few days to lock myself in a hotel room and finish this draft of my novel. It was, in short, perfect.
I drove out Tuesday afternoon, and was actually a little frustrated at how the whole adventure started out: I was stuck in traffic for hours, got a flat tire, and the google map I printed was completely off. However, within thirty minutes of arriving I had loaded all my snacks into the fridge, hung the “do not disturb” sign, changed into my sweats, and was hard at work.
When I woke up on Wednesday I made a pot of coffee and set immediately to work, toiled away for 12 hours, took a dip in the hotel pool, and called it a day. Same for Thursday. Friday morning I woke up with the “a-ha” moment I’d been waiting for and before check out at 11am I was able to make the changes I realized were needed.
When I got home I formated the manuscript, and ta-da, the draft is done!
Technically, it’s my third draft, but the first draft was so bad that I hardly even count it. By the end of the second draft I felt I was on the right track. I’m hoping that this draft is actually getting close.
I’m giving it to my writing group Thursday, and few other folks. My goal is to integrate all their thoughts for a finished draft by the end of the year. Then I’m going to ask a lot more people to read it, and eventually it will go off to the agent. Whoo hooo. Or whoo at least. I’m getting closer.
It’s been such a good year for my writing so far. Dare I push my luck?
A professor once told me that while you’re waiting on feedback on the draft of a novel, the very best thing you can do is start your next one. This serves a few purposes. 1. You keep writing. 2. If you get feedback that says you’re further from done than you thought, you already have another project in the works – you can put the first project aside for a while and come back to it when you’re ready. 3. Any agent is going to want to know what’s next. 4. It keeps you busy so don’t pester your readers.
So I’m trying to decide which project to start on next. I think it’s a memoir, but I might write it as fiction. Why bog down a good story with the truth, I say.
In any case – onward and upward.
If you follow along you know I’ve been planning to take a few days for a personal writing retreat. I’m so close to finishing this draft of my novel. I want to lock myself in a hotel room with a about thirty cans of Starbucks espresso shots and a dozen or so Trader Joe’s hummus wraps and just write until it’s done.
At first it was going to be this week. But then I got busy with work and started talking over the details with Daniel and we decided it would be better if I did it the last weekend of the month (make Memorial Day a 4 day weekend and go then). But then yesterday we got to talking again and it seems like I had it right the first time. My sister-in-law is getting married the weekend after memorial day weekend, and there may be fun happenings leading up to that. Also, we have friends in town for memorial day weekend, and I’d like to see them.
So I did some calling this morning. I talked to my favorite, most wonderful client to see if there were any big projects starting up this week (there aren’t). I called Staci at Affordable Honda and found out the civic should be drivable by the end of today. I don’t have any appointments or meetings. In fact, this week, from tomorrow through Friday, is looking like the perfect time to disappear for a bit. The only trick is the hotel reservation. The place I’m staying doesn’t take calls until 3pm, so I don’t know yet if they have room for me this week. I hope they do, but really, if they don’t I might just book a room at any old Motel 6. It really doesn’t matter where I’m at. My only hope was to be in the desert, since that’s where my story is set. Also, it needs to be cheap.
So I won’t know for a few hours exactly where I’ll be, but it’s looking like this is it. Yeah! And then the panic sets in. Holy shit. You mean I actually have to finish my novel? Yes, that’s the whole point – set aside time to get through this final stretch. It is as scary as it is exciting. I’m pretty sure I know what needs to be done. I’ve been plugging away at it, a few hours a week, for months – years even.
So I guess I just need to not psych myself out. Just go and revel in the freedom to write, write, write. No schedule to keep. No laundry that needs doing. No meals to prepare. Just me and my hummus wraps. And cookies. Lots of cookie.
I’ll write a blog post when I get home Friday to let y’all know how it goes. Wish me luck.
In 2010, a woman named Sage Cohen published a book titled “The Productive Writer.” I blogged about it a bit at the time, but what I couldn’t have foreseen was how I would continue to reference the book. It’s a really good practical guide for trying to squeeze as much writing as you can into your life. And for those of us who are working at making words our livelihood as well as our passion, the book helps to set goals, find clients and not make yourself crazy with it all. I highly recommend it.
But that’s not actually the reason I’m blogging about it. I was re-reading chapter 8 (Tapping Your Source) last night. In it Sage talks about finding your inspiration, and how important it is for writers to not lock themselves away in a room. You have to listen to other writers talk about their craft, you have to build a community.
The further I get in my writing career, the more that rings true for me. I have a writing group, but as awesome as they are (and they are amazing), I need more. I not only need inspiration and feedback on my fiction, I also need a network so that I can continue to find work as a professional. I need to meet more magazine editors, agents, potential clients. I also need writer friends who have similar schedules and can sneak off to a movie in the middle of the day.
I love working on my own, in my pajamas, with no one around to bug me with inane questions about how to make the copier work, but I am also a social person. I need to build my community of writers if for no other reason except that I get lonely sometimes.
To quote Sage Cohen: “Having friends to learn with and from, who are intimately engaged with the unique opportunities and challenges of the writing life, is something that I wish for every writer.”
So I’m starting today. I’m having coffee with an alum from Scripps College (where I got my BA). I’m really looking forward to it. I’m also going to send an email to a couple other writer friends. Wouldn’t it be great to have at least one date a week with a creative cohort? If you happen to be one of those lovely creative types I’ve met over the years – drop a line, we’ll get a cup of coffee one of these days.
In March I blogged about needing to focus
Since then I’ve been working on the novel and my business. Both are going very well. My favorite client has been sending all kinds of work my way, and I’m nearing the end of a draft on the novel. Life is pretty simple. I sit down at my desk in the morning and check in on the work that clients need done. Some time shortly after lunch I switch to the novel and spend an hour or so on it. Then, from about 3 on, I do whatever needs attention most. If there’s no more paid work that needs to be done, I write query letters, pay bills or even read a little. It’s awesome.
It’s true, I could use one more client like my favorite client – I’m not quite where I want to be as far as yearly earnings go, but considering I only started this business last January, I’m feeling pretty good about it. And that’s not something I would have said in March.
So my little experiment in focus is going swimmingly.
At the end of this month I’m taking it to the extreme. I’ve booked a hotel room in Mojave for four days and I’m going to lock myself in it and finish this draft of my novel. I’m close, I know I am, and writing just an hour or so a day feels painfully slow. I’m hoping when I emerge at the end of this long weekend I will have a version of my story that I’m finally ready to let people (other than my writing group) read.