Archive | Fiction

When To Call a Book Done

office 1I started the new job last week, on Tuesday. In case you haven’t been following along, my new position is with a civil engineering company. I’m doing technical writing, and working 80% full time, so I have Mondays off (which so far is awesome). You can see the office needs a little decorating (I already asked them to move all those filing cabinets), but the simple fact that they got the accent right on the name plate made me feel very welcome.

It looks like I’m going to be doing a lot of work relating to the drought. The company I work for does a lot of water storage and management projects, and now, with the passing of the water bond last November, there is a lot of work coming down the pipeline (so to speak). It feels like a sweet spot for me, where my interests and abilities have come together in a way that actually gets me paid.

Then there’s the work I’m not getting paid for (yet). I’m still working on finishing a draft of the first novel, “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones.” It’s getting close. This might be the week. The thing I’m struggling with now is when to call it done. I have a lot of writer friends, as you might imagine. Some say make it as good as you possibly can before you send out query letters, which makes sense to me, but others say that no matter how done you think it is, your agent/editor/publisher will have edits they want you to make, so you should make it good, and then go ahead and start sending it out.

Of course, those writer friends have friends who are agents, which gives them a foot in the door. They have agents who will read their work and pass on to their friends. But, if I’m an agent, and some friend of mine says “hey read this” I’m not going to get very far if I don’t love it, so it still seems like, as the author, you would want your work to be great.

I heard an agent at a panel discussion once describe her thought process. She said that she starts manuscripts in her office, and if something grabs her attention she will take it home and read it in bed. She said something to the effect of, “as a writer, you have to make me want to take your work to bed.” Because isn’t that what the end readers are ultimately looking for too? When I’m reading a good book, I can’t wait to crawl into bed with it each night.

That’s what I’m hoping to create: something that people can’t wait to pick up. It’s getting close. I’m working to print a copy for Daniel (always my first reader on anything) this weekend. I’m also considering hiring a professional editor, some objective professional to give me their opinion. But then again, I might have a few more friends read it first, and my writing group. They’ve already read it twice, but hopefully they’ll read it again. It has changed quite a bit in this last revision.

I’ll let you know next week if I’m successful in finishing the draft.

Continue Reading

Life As a Full-Time Fiction Writer

Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. I’m not a full-time fiction writer. Yet. But I still have one more week until I start my new position as a full-time technical writer, and for these two short weeks between jobs, I am happily pretending that I am a professional novelist.

I get up at 5am and do my usual hour and half of writing to start the day, then take the kids to school, come home, get some exercise, take care of some emails, eat something, then write for 3 hours or so before running some errands and picking the kids up from school. There are some variations, depending on the errands that need running, but all in, it’s an awesome life. And it’s all mine for one more week.

Don’t get me wrong, I am actually super excited to start the new job. It’s a perfect match for my skills. I even get my own office, which I’ve never had. I like the people, and they’re doing really interesting work with water management in California, but still…

Still, the dream remains to be a full-time fiction writer.

The novel is coming along well. I made some good progress last week. I don’t think I will be able to finish it this week, but it’s not that far off. I am going to give it all my attention until I get to the point that I can hand it over to Daniel for a read. Then I’ll be back to working on Novel #2. I’m not sure how to refer to Novel #2 here. I have a working title, but it’s not good. I’ll just stick with Novel #2 for now.

So that’s what I’m doing this week. Just loving the life of a writer, for a little bit longer.

Continue Reading

Two Weeks

glendale stationFriday was my last day of work. As I have been working remotely all this time, I had to make my way down to Orange County to return all my company-owned gear: laptop, cell phone, back-up drive, various cords, company credit card, etc. And since it was Friday, and traffic is horrendous heading north into LA on Friday afternoons, I took the train. It was kind of awesome.

Daniel dropped me at the Glendale station, which is a surprisingly lovely little piece of antiquity in the heart of Los Angeles, and instead of cursing my way through four hours of traffic to make the 100 mile trip to Orange and back, I sat back, relaxed, and started re-reading the latest draft of my novel (before I launch into rewrites during my two weeks off).

And that leads me to this week, the first of two weeks where I am unemployed, but don’t have to be looking for work. It’s a first for me. I love it. And, of course, I have totally overbooked myself. I have a whole list of things I hope to get done with this time, from finally finishing a family photo album, to taking the Pilot in for an oil change, but the most important item on the list is to work on the novel.

I’m about half way through reading my most recent draft. The beginning is good. I’m happy with it, but around page 70 it slows. That, I know, is largely due to the fact that I have rewritten and reorganized the middle of the book so many times that the whole middle section is almost like an outline, but at least now everything is in the right place. I hope.

I have struggled so long with this novel. The only real up-side to those struggles is that I have learned an enormous amount about how to actually write a novel. Never again will I just dive in. I have wasted literally hundreds of pages writing down the wrong path. Thus the fifty page outline for the new project. I never thought much of outlines, but I was wrong.

So I hope to finish reading the draft tomorrow. I might have been able to do it today, but I’m taking the afternoon to go to the spa. In addition to celebrating a new chapter in my life, I am rewarding myself for hitting the writing goal I set 4 weeks ago – six mornings a week, 500 words a morning, for four weeks.

Once I finish reading it, I’ll jump into edits. I don’t know how far I can take it in two weeks, but time will tell.

Continue Reading

Wrapping Things Up

full moon
This should prove to be an interesting week.

My company (for five more days) takes today off, so I don’t have to work, making my last week with the company a short one, and frankly, I’m totally fine with that. I’m working to transfer all my files to a new (to me) computer, so that I can return this lap top to my employer, along with my backup drive and my phone. So there’s a lot of logistics to deal with.

But not today. Usually, when the kids have a day off, we’ll do something fun as a family, but Daniel has to work, so we went ahead and signed the kids up for a gymnastics camp. It’s the first time they’ve ever done anything like this together. Due to the 3.5 years between them, he usually isn’t old enough for things she wants to do, so it’s kind of an exciting milestone. Even more exciting (for me) is that I convinced Daniel to take the morning off and lay around in bed with me. It was awesome. Just like when we were first dating. We even watched a movie and ate popcorn in bed (among other things I won’t be discussing here).

I plan to spend the rest of the day working on my fiction. The challenge I set for myself a few weeks ago (to get up every morning, six mornings a week, for four weeks) is going really well. I haven’t missed a day. This is the final week. The coolest part is, when I set that goal, I had no idea I would be accepting a new job, and that the end of this week would also mark the end of my work with my current employer. So assuming I can keep it up for another 5 days – I get my reward next Monday. I’m going to a spa near our house because it’s lovely, and has a sauna and nice spaces to lay around. I will get a massage, but I’m also going to lounge for a bit on either side of the massage, really embrace that fact that I hit my goal, and have a little time to spare for a change.

Writing 500 words a morning, even during all the chaos that has been going on, has been really good for me. The new project is up to about 13,000 words. However, starting next week, I’m going back to the other novel for a bit. While I have two weeks between jobs, I really want to make some progress and see if I can’t get a new draft ready for a read. So it’s back to “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones.” I’m a little daunted to get back to it, but I also see these coming two weeks as a great opportunity to pretend I’m a full-time fiction writer. Not on retreat, not carving out some time, but actually writing for three or four hours a day, working around all the other things that still have to get done.

I suspect I’m going to love it.

Continue Reading

A New Look for My Blog

So long MojaveLovely readers, it’s been too long.

About a year ago, I posted that I was feeling overwhelmed and that something had to go, to make space for my top two loves (family and fiction) as well as work (boo).

Since that last post, I’ve found myself writing blog posts in my head. Very clever little things, believe me, you would have loved them, but the point is not all the wonderful blog posts I never wrote. The point is that I was missing my blog.

So I am very pleased to announce, here in this post, that it’s BACK!

Yeah!

I have redesigned it, as you can see. No more desert images. I still love the desert, but I am working on a new project, one more broadly based in California, and I wanted a design that wasn’t as locked into a theme.

And as for what I’ve been writing, it’s been an interesting year. I spent the first six months of 2014 outlining a new project. I’m very excited about it. It’s about parenthood, and love, and what it means to grow older. It took me six months to outline it because I did three rounds. At this point the outline is over 50 pages long, but then, in June, I had to set it aside and come back to Tallulah Jones.

I just couldn’t stand that I had abandoned my first novel, so close to the finish line. Taking six months away from it allowed some much needed breathing room, and I’m so I’m back to it again. It is getting close, but wasn’t quite as close as I thought. I am giving it my full attention (that is to say, this is what I’m working on from 5:00 to 6:30 every morning), but I’m getting sick of it again and I find I’m just itching to dive into writing the new project.

As a compromise, I am taking the next couple of weeks to continue working on it, but as of January 1, I am setting it aside again to start drafting the new novel.

I’m finding that I rather like having two larger projects in the works. It feels like I have options.

So that’s that haps. It’s good to be back.

Continue Reading

Pages Are Flying

I’ve hit a groove with my early morning writing. My alarm goes off at 5am, it takes me about 10 minutes to get upstairs and make coffee (I move really slowly that early in the morning), and then I write one full page in my journal, which takes about 15 minutes, and then I write for an hour. At 6:30 I head down to get the kids up and in the shower – time to start the day.

Since writing about my blog’s fourth birthday, and reflecting on how I used to write so much more (in basic volume), I’ve tried treating my fiction like I treat the writing I do at my job. I get up when I say I will and just know I have to hit 500 words in an hour. Instead of laboring over the parts I know need polishing, I skim ahead to the section where I actually need new prose and just start writing.

It’s been kind of amazing. 500 words a day, and I’ve been doing it 6 days a week for three weeks now – yes, I’m even getting my lazy butt out of bed on Saturdays. That’s 3,ooo words a week for the math-challenged. At this rate I can absolutely finish this draft before the end of the year. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done, and that fact alone is enough to keep me motivated to get out of bed before the sun comes up.

The pages are flying and it is so very satisfying.

Continue Reading

Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 

Laguna

Continue Reading

Happy Birthday to my Blog!

My blog turned 4 this last weekend.

four candles

It’s been four years since I first hit “Publish” back on my modest little MobileMe site (remember MobileMe? No? Neither does anyone else). Since then I’ve written 274 posts – just over a post a week. I also earned my masters degree, had a baby, finished a few short stories, wrote a travel book, did some actual traveling, took a full time job and well, lived life. A lot has happened.

Looking back, my first post was about trying to hit a deadline. I was writing the first draft of my novel to turn in as the thesis project for my masters. I wrote 45 pages in three days!

Whaaa?

These days I write about 200 words a week. Granted, I only manage to squeeze in a few hours of writing over the course of seven days, but still. Did I suffer a serious blow to the head or something?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The 45 pages I wrote in that crazy long weekend were not good. But are the two hundreds words that I spend a week on now-a-days THAT much better?

I think I need to lighten up a bit. I so over think every word I write lately that it’s becoming paralyzing.

Actually, that’s not true. At work I pour words out all day long. I have to. I have deadlines. And come to think of it, I wrote those 45 pages on a deadline too. So maybe what I need to do is set deadlines for myself. Just bust out some words because that’s what I’m sitting there to do. At work I don’t second guess every word. I write them, then I review them to make sure they say what I meant them to say, edit a little as needed and move on. My fiction-writing self needs to take a hint from my corporate writing self.

So resolution for my fifth blog year: just keep writing and stop over-thinking.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Continue Reading

Updates on Ambitious Goals

I’ve opted for yoga, talk therapy, and wine. It’s nice to know I have the prescription if I need it, but I really think it’s jumping the gun a bit. (If my posts start to get too dour, please tell me, and I’ll revisit the idea of medication.)

While I’m updating, I feel compelled to admit that 1) I have not been writing every day like I swore I would and 2) I have not hit my 1000 words a week goal (since the second week).

I did however have one week recently where I managed to get up early EVERY DAY, which I’ve never actually done before. Usually I wuss out on Friday, if not Thursday too. But I still didn’t hit my word count goal. I needed to take some time to work out the plotting of my story, and I’ve been dabbling with a new idea, so some mornings I just write in my journal to see where that takes me. I’m pretty sure it’s the next novel, but I’m also trying to not over-think it just yet. I already have one project I’m over-thinking. This new one is just a story I’m interested in. I play with ideas, do research on Google. It’s a shiny new toy.

I’ve reached a strange place with the novel where I’ve been working on the story for so long that I’m actually growing less attached. This draft is bringing some radical changes to the storyline. The whole tone of the story is shifting. It’s better, but it’s definitely different. At least, I’m hoping it’s better. I’ve decided to just keep writing, which sometimes feels good, like I’m hiking up a hill and will eventually get there, and sometimes feels futile, like I’m walking in circles.

Anyhow, that’s all the news from this end.

 

Continue Reading

Time I Could Have Spent Writing

I’m applying for a writer residency program. It’s one of those magical opportunities you hear about as a writer – two weeks in a private cabin, all meals prepared for you, totally free of cost. I mean really. Who gets to do that kind of thing?

Hopefully me.

Of course, to be accepted I have to apply. As these sorts of things go, the application isn’t too extensive. Four essay responses to questions (limited to 1200 characters each), some basic personal info and a writing sample. No biggie. But still, I have spent way too much time finding the perfect sample and trying to write awesome responses.

If I get in, every second is totally worth it. If I don’t, I’ve wasted hours that I could have spent writing.

This is why I almost never apply to these sorts of things. But a friend of mine (an alumna of the program) encouraged me to do it and it does sound incredible. And I guess a residency would look pretty sweet on the old resume (not that anyone is looking at my resume these days).

Anyhow, it’s due this Wednesday. Notifications go out in December, so once I hit “submit” I will just do my best to put it out of my mind.

Fingers crossed.

Continue Reading