Archive | Fiction

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Separation of Truth and Fact

On Sunday I was super lucky to attend an event hosted by my former thesis advisor Gina Nahai. It seems that back in July when the book Zealot was released, Gina and her husband, in support of the Los Angeles Review of Books, hosted an event to celebrate its release, but the author, Reza Aslan, was obliged to rush home and help his wife with a sick toddler before he really got a chance to say much about his work.

So this was their do-over event. Gina had already planned to have an alum event on the same day, so she just invited all of us (her former students) to attend. It was awesome.

This guy is one of the most well-spoken, thoughtful, and interesting authors I’ve had the pleasure of hearing speak.

The afternoon began with a discussion of this Fox interview wherein Lauren Green asks why he felt he was qualified to write a book about Jesus (as he is Muslim), and he lobs a response so far over her head intellectually that she is forced to simply continue reading from her teleprompter like and idiot. (It’s a fun 9 minutes if you can spare them).

Anyhow, back to Sunday’s event. Once we got past the Fox thing, someone asked a question that sparked a discussion of truth versus fact. He explained that up until about 200 years ago, it was truth that mattered. People told stories to impart truth, and that, more often than not, fact had little to do with it.

This is why so much of the bible contradicts itself. He made the point that the four gospels of the new testament were chosen from about 20. They were chosen because they were believed to be the most truthful.

Now we look at the bible, with our microscopes and carbon dating, and we look for fact. The way Aslan described it, the question of fact would have baffled the theologians of old. It makes sense really. Without all the scientific resources we have these days, the thing that would be the most important would be the truth, not the fact.

And actually, one could argue, that the same holds true today.

The literary world is always bickering over how much fact there is in any best selling memoir. But isn’t it the truth that matters most?

When we gather around the campfire and tell stories about our grandparents, or other lost loves, the details may get exaggerated, the facts may be distorted, but  the truth is passed on through generations. Did Uncle Art have five girlfriends at any given time? or fifteen? The truth is, he was a bit of a scoundrel, and we loved him for it.

Now, don’t quote me as saying fact doesn’t matter in non-fiction. I’m just saying, I love the idea of separating truth from fact. The words even sound like they mean different things. Truth, with it’s soft, soothing taper. Fact all hard and concrete.

Personally, I chose truth. But then again, I write fiction.

 

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Digital Notecards

When it comes to tools for writers, there’s a fine line between increased productivity and total waste of time. There are all kinds of programs that exist to help us map ideas, structure outlines, even format our manuscripts for publication, but assuming you have a finite amount of time to spend on your writing (and who doesn’t) you have to be careful that you don’t let these tools suck you in and keep you from actually writing.

For that reason, I actually use very few tools, but I have recently discovered one that is totally worth the time. It’s an iPad app called Index Cards.

I’m a big fan of using index cards to organize (and reorganize) my story. I even use different color cards so I can see at a glance where my flashbacks are or when certain characters dominate a scene. I find them wonderfully useful, but they are not very transportable. That’s why I’m loving the Index Cards app.

It took me about 20 minutes to enter all my cards, and now I have them with me where ever I go. If I have an idea for a scene, I can add it in immediately. It even lets you color code them. I also love that if I’m writing somewhere like a coffee shop, I don’t have to bring my giant stack of cards with me. I carry my iPad with me everywhere anyhow (it’s a mini and it fits in my purse so perfectly), so I always have my story map on hand.

I know a lot of you out there are writers too, so I thought I’d share.

What apps/tools do you use in your writing? Or are you above such inane distractions?

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Two Steps Forward

RWL retreatI’m happy to report that the first ever Rock Lake Writers retreat was a success. Despite having to relocate it at the last minute, the place we found was totally adequate (nothing fancy, but the beds were comfortable and there were plenty of spots to sit and work – there’s a photo of it on the right there). I didn’t get a whole lot writing done on Friday afternoon, but Saturday and Sunday were both solid, nine-hour days. That’s more writing than I usually do in a month.

’m happy to report that the first ever Rock Lake Writers retreat was a success. Despite having to relocate it at the last minute, the place we found was totally adequate (nothing fancy, but the beds were comfortable and there was plenty of spots to sit and work – there’s a photo of it on the right there). I didn’t get a whole lot writing done on Friday afternoon, but Saturday and Sunday were both solid, nine-hour days. That’s more writing than I usually do in a month.

I really needed a chunk of time to sit with my story. I had some big decisions to make. In fact, I spent most of Saturday moving flashcards around on the carpet, writing in my journal to see how certain story lines would play out if I moved them, and trying to decide what I’m doing.

I will say that it’s a little frustrating to feel like I’m still figuring out my story after all this time. But here’s the most telling result for me; late Sunday afternoon I took another stab at my synopsis and it actually went well. I’ve never been able to write a synopsis for my novel, because it always sounded kind of episodic, and certain plot points sounded like weird jumps when put into summary format.

Well this time, when I sat down to draft the synopsis, it actually started to sound like one cohesive story, with interesting (but not totally random) plot turns, and logically motivate characters. I take this as a very good sign.

Not quite good enough though, to keep from feeling discouraged. Because I basically trashed fifty pages of my story, and if you follow my blog, you know my story was already so short that it barely qualified as a novel.

So damn it, I’m on the right path, but to get there I had to take a serious step backward.

Many times this weekend I thought maybe I’ll just put this one in a drawer, write the next novel and then circle back – make this my second novel. The next novel will be outlined and plotted and planned to hell and back before I start, I’ll tell you what. This has been (and continues to be) a seriously painful process.

And now it’s back to work. I mean day-job work.

But if I can write 1,000 words a week I could be done with the draft by the end of the year. That seems like a reasonable goal.

You gotta have goals, I say.

 

 

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Writing Retreat = Saved

Right after I clicked “publish” on my last post, the winds in Southern California changed and a raging wildfire turned to head directly toward the little cabin in Idyllwild where my writing group had planned to have our mini-writing retreat this weekend.

Now, I know that complaining about a canceled writing retreat when people are losing their homes is probably a little selfish, but forgive me – I was really, really looking forward to this. It was supposed to be this nice, simple thing I could look forward to after weeks of craziness.

As soon as we got the news we scrambled online to see if we could find a last minute vacation rental. Even my guy got in on the hunt (isn’t he the best?). There were plenty of mansions available (and man, some day, we’re doing our retreat in the 30,000 square foot Spanish-style estate with the tennis courts and pool), but not so many options within the budget of four not-quite-yet-famous writers.

We ended up renting a small cabin in Sugarloaf. It’s a no frills two-bedroom, but it’s up in the woods, quite, and hopefully far enough away from the fire that we won’t be breathing the smoke all weekend.

I’ll take it.

In fact, I’m heading up as soon as I finish this post. My hope is to stake my claim to a secluded corner (if I can find one) to lay out all my index cards. I’m considering reorganizing the story a bit. In fact, I’ve been losing sleep over it. I really don’t want to spend 10 years on this project, so I don’t want to write any more without knowing where I’m going, but I’m having trouble figuring that out.

Here’s hoping that two and a half days of solid work gets me over the hump.

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