Your mind is free. (Writing updates!)

When I finished my novel in early July, I found myself thinking, what now?

I’m still not doing anything with the novel… yet. Soon, though.

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As for updates on the “what now?” – After two years of writing this first novel, I’m accustomed to working on and off 24/7. It feels natural. I didn’t feel imprisoned within that cycle of self-imposed deadlines; I don’t want to leave.

For a brief moment in early July, I entertained the notion of finding some sort of paying part-time, work-from-home situation. It was a sensible idea, but… I’m going to keep writing. Sometimes, the sensible idea is to do what doesn’t make sense to others. (All of the time, in fact, as long as it makes sense to you.)

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I’m writing poetry. The poems I’m writing at the moment are coming out a little dark and disquieted, not so much in terms of content, but more in terms of mood. It’s not the happiest place, but it’s not a terrible place, either. The strange poems I’m writing right now are some of my favorites of all that I’ve written. I’m going with the mood, because that’s how it works, writing poems.

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I’d had what I thought was a solid idea for my next novel, but these new poems give me pause for thought. A couple of characters have emerged from them. What if I were to take these characters and their worlds and create a prose narrative around them?

Or I could just continue writing the poems in this unexpected series, letting a story unfold, poem as medium. I’d write the poems and work on my new novel at the same time.

Or I could continue the series of poems and also continue preliminary work on the new novel idea I’d already had.

Or I could merge the two, weaving their narratives together. That would be interesting.

I’m intrigued by all of these possibilities.

 

This bird landed on the ledge of our kitchen window. He’s a big guy, about 12″ tall, and we see him around a lot. (21 August 2018)

 

 

 

Jack Reacher! Finally getting my annual Lee Child fix. (Also, a limerick by a guest poet.)

File this under “Writing Updates Postscript.”

I mentioned on Tuesday that I’m digging into the submission work phase now that I’m happy with my manuscript. I forgot to mention what else I’m doing: I’m catching up on terribly overdue reading, starting, of course, with the new Jack Reacher (The Midnight Line, 2017). My Lee Child fix, at last!!!

I’ve only just begun, but a page has been dog-eared, so my copy’s been authenticated.

 

Lee Child’s 2017 Reacher (more than six months later)

 

My tower of books To Read is ten tomes high, so I’m not going to be wanting for reading material anytime soon. Lee Child comes first. OH Stephen King has a new novel out… make that pile eleven tomes high. And I just remembered that I’d ordered two others from Amazon the other day. Thirteen. Thirteen unread books, guys, all over the literary spectrum.

I’ve said that books and t-shirts are the bane of my minimalism efforts, and I wasn’t kidding.

Speaking of minimalism, I’m still planning a huge second sweep through the house. I have to wait until after I send 50+ queries, though, so that’ll be sometime in September.

So much to do. It’s fabulous. My list is jam-packed with household stuff, but I’m also looking forward to writing a new poem or two, and planning my next big writing project.

Speaking of poems, for those of you who joke that my poems are “15 levels above” yours, keep reading. One such joker has submitted to me a limerick with which he took creative license to bend the rules of limerick just to lampoon Yours Truly. I’m honored. His limerick is one part complimentary, one part inside joke, and one part smart-ass, which sums him up perfectly. He is an expert at playful lampooning (basically defining ‘limerick’).

I had to share it. If you “only understand poems that have the word ‘Nantucket’ in them,” then Ron’s got you.

Background: I texted him on Thursday last week to say that I wasn’t going to Body Pump because I was “indisposed” (e.g. tunnel-visioning my way through my final manuscript read-through). Here’s his text reply:

There once was a poet from Nantucket,

her talent was no drop in the bucket,

she’s indisposed but the shine on the rose,

“Though there is body pump today I’ll just duck it.”

Hahaha!! I love this. I should donate $5.00 to charity each time someone texts me an original limerick; that might get me a collection of guest poets (yes, Ron, you’re a poet now) to feature here. Limericks are cool. They’re underrated. They’re the class clowns of poetry, and we need them.

That’s all I’ve got for now… June Favorites coming your way next week Tuesday!

There’s a method to my madness. (Writing updates!)

I come bearing something other than June Favorites today, I’m afraid! I hope to be able to put that list together for Thursday… next week Tuesday, at the latest.

It’s taken me two years to get to this particular writing update: I’ve wrapped it up.

I finished the novel yesterday. I’m happy with it, so it’s done. It’s so done, I had the printed manuscript spiral-bound, because hell if I’m going to deal with putting hundreds of pieces of paper back together in the right order in the event of mishap.

I ended up with 38 chapters and 455 pages, 461 if you include the section break and other such non-text pages.

 

Printed (double-sided) and spiral-bound. (02 July 2018)

 

(I’m not planning to mail this behemoth hard-copy anywhere, by the way. This is just for my own purposes.)

How long it took: Out of curiosity, I went through my past agendas and files and found that Day 1 of the actual writing was July 7, 2016. It took just about two years (minus five days) to complete. I quit my job on March 18 and from there spent three months and one week in prep-mode, so in total, it took 2 years and 3.5 months.

How it went down: It turned out that Draft One was actually Draft Zero. It was that rough, in my opinion. By the end of my first run-through, I’d realized that I’d been working on a first draft, not a second draft.

Of course, I then went back and did a second run-through (“third draft”). And in the last week, I ran through it again, quickly, a third time over the rough draft, just to place chapter breaks where they needed to be (things got pushed around during the editing/re-writing/cleaning-up).

In my scan-through of the text that last time I still caught a couple of minor editing errors (two, exactly) and a few inconsistencies. That last round was really a polishing round, and I’m so glad that I took the time to do it.

Inconsistencies were a big concern throughout, mainly technical details such as capitalizing certain terms when used the same way throughout the work.

Take-away: The “find” function has been invaluable. Have I said that before? Probably.

After two years of hammering away at this thing, it feels strange to not have to work on the writing part of it!

What’s next: From now, I’m focusing on writing an abstract, cover letters, etc. as I prepare to release it out into the wilds. Maybe someone will want it, right?

Once it’s out there and I’m in wait-mode, I’m going to start prep for my next project.

This first-novel endeavor has been a priceless learning process. Thanks to you all again for hanging with me on this journey.

Quantifiable. (Writing updates!)

Have I mentioned that I’m finding this second-draft business to be incredibly satisfying? Just thought I’d state that again, because it can’t be overstated.

This is my 4th writing update since starting work on Round 2. Make that the 6th update, if you want to count my two “office updates” posts, the latest of which was really all about my plants.

I’m still feeling good about my non-deadline deadline. I’m still enjoying polishing, re-writing, and deleting, cutting any gratuitous scenes (there’s been at least one) and any fluff (to which I lovingly refer as “sentimental bullshit”) that doesn’t serve any purpose. Just as importantly, I’m finding and fixing inconsistencies. The “replace all” option in “find” has been invaluable.

Here’s a quick look at the quantifiable changes I’ve made to the manuscript since completing the rough draft at the end of November:

Word-count: I’ve written 1,888 more words. Current word-count: 86,478 (up from 84,590)

Page-count: I have 29 more pages. Current page-count: 427 (up from 398)

To note: Many of the additional pages came not from writing more words, but from restructuring existing text. I’ve broken up paragraphs, moved lines, created new section breaks, etc. That sort of thing pushes down everything that follows, adding to the page-count.

My increased word-count is mostly the result of polishing through deep edits and re-writes, fleshing out original text in some places as well as adding to areas that needed more. I haven’t changed the story at all.

Current status: I’m on page 299 as of today. As it stands, I have 128 pages to go. It’s inevitable that the word/page-count will look different when it’s all said and done, though!

Commemorative pic: I’ll have you know that I spent the earlier part of this afternoon trying and failing to take a selfie with Nenette, as she’s my near-constant companion here in my office. At this point, she’s reached ninja-level abilities to escape having her picture taken. My plants can’t escape, though. I ended up taking this selfie with Barclay, my first office plant. [insert heart emoji here]

 

(April 2018 Writing Updates from Crazy Plant Lady)

 

And that would conclude this writing update! I hope you’re all having a great week so far.

First-novel problems: stabbing in the dark. (Writing updates!)

Callaghan said that I look like a teenage boy in this pic, and I guess I can see it. I’m ragged and bare-faced, and my hair is a casualty of my indecision dragging itself out. (I can’t decide what I want to say when I go to get my hair cut, so I just haven’t gone to get it cut.) Then, of course, I filtered the image to make it look even more terrible, because why not. This is the opposite of the way you normally see me. This is my grungy Gen-X writer’s self-portrait.

 

The joy of having a bluetooth selfie stick/tripod: I can glance up at the camera and capture myself looking the way I’m feeling, good or bad.

 

Second draft progress: It’s been wild… wild, but going well. I’m past the half-way point. I’ve been mostly nonplussed. Some chapters I’ve encountered have been so rough, they were like mere templates. Others were already so polished, I glided over them. Some I’d thought were good, then found them to be problematic, and conversely, I’ve come across chapters I’d loathed, then loved upon second reading. The whole thing has been a crap-shoot.

Bottom line, I’m a better writer now than when I started, so deep edits and re-writes have been in order. Have I said all of this before? Writing this first novel has amounted to on-the-job training, self-motivated, self-taught, and hesitant. I leaped out of my comfort zone with this prose project, but I kept one foot in. Poetry. My comfort zone is poetry.

I’m happy with my progress, I’d say, even while knowing that the result will never be “perfect” in my eyes. Is it ever, for anyone? I’d bet that no writer feels that their work is perfect. At the core of it all, I love what I’m doing, and I’m grateful for that.

 

Crazy plant lady. (Office updates!)

Welcome back to my office! My plant family has grown since my last update. I love that the only color in my writing space is alive.

Plants give me life from the inside out, fueling me from the inside and providing a lovely source of creative energy from the outside. My desk still sits at an angle toward the center of the room, facing the window, and I’ve now surrounded myself with plants.

I’ve moved most of these guys around since my December office update. Some of the plants have been re-potted. One of them has departed this world, sadly, and two of them are new. Let’s look around!

Behind me and slightly to my right (on the wall to the left of the door): Icarus.

 

Icarus (re-potted since my December update)

 

Behind me on the left side: Hercules and Angel (on the corner stand re-purposed from the patio). These two are my newest. I discovered Hercules on a dusty shelf at Walmart, all by himself, alone and bedraggled. He’s doing so well now!

Angel sits beneath, on the second shelf. I picked him up from the florist’s section at Fry’s. He’s also doing well, though he’s quite fragile. He’s an aluminum plant.

(The color of the walls in here – in the whole house – is so strange and sensitive to light and camera angle. The wall can look like two different colors even in the same pic!)

 

(from top) Hercules and Angel

 

Here’s a close-up of Hercules… I’m so pleased with how he’s thrived in the short time he’s been here! I’m going to re-pot both Hercules and Angel in the next few weeks. They’re strong enough for it now.

 

Hercules

 

Moving along, slightly behind me and to my left (and to the left of the printer): Jerome.

 

Jerome, my second.

 

To the left of my desk, to the right of my printer: Holder. I’m glad to say that he’s doing well. Linden, his partner, did not make it, I’m afraid. RIP Linden.

 

Holder (re-potted since my December update)

 

Just in front of my desk and to the left: Robbie. We migrated him to my office from the living room. Within 24 hours of moving him in here, he spread out, opened up, and turned a lighter, brighter shade of green. Plants love the strong daylight in this room! There’s no direct sunlight in here, so all of these guys are low-light/indirect sunlight plants.

I pulled this small table out of the closet so Robbie could sit in the middle of the room, rather than against a wall. It’s perfect for him.

 

Robbie

 

A better look at Robbie (as I see him from my desk):

 

Robbie

 

My view sometimes includes Nenette sleeping on the futon behind Robbie.

 

Nenette napping on the futon.

 

Finally, Barclay, my first, sits further out in front of my desk and to the right, same place he’s been… I did have to purchase this stand for him, though, as he needed a greater height. His tendrils had grown to where they were coiling on the floor. I found this cheap little metal stand at Ross.

 

Barclay, two angles

 

Here we are, full circle… and a full circle, it is. I don’t think I’m imagining the cooler note I feel in the air here, or the scent, loamy and damp and fresh. I haven’t burned candles in here since I started cultivating this little oasis in my desert office.

I’ll post an actual writing update next week. Office, part two!

Novel progress: 2nd draft. (Writing updates!)

It’s been over a month since my last writing update post!

Work on the second draft of my novel continues, and I’m having to remind myself every day to be patient with this process. This part is truly fun and exciting, as I’ve said before. I want to enjoy it without stressing over the passage of time. It’s a weird clash: Hurry up. But enjoy it. Hurry up. But enjoy it. Hurry up….

Do you know that feeling? When your own impatience threatens your fun?

Earnest intentions to discipline myself have led to naught. Bizarre and unexpected things keep happening. Last week Sunday, I concocted an ambitious plan to start out the week’s writing, but the very next day, my plan was literally derailed by a tortoise. You can’t plan for these things. I couldn’t have seen the tortoise train coming, because it came out of nowhere.

(That would be a story for another time.)

Neither could I make this stuff up if I tried. Mark Twain’s words come to mind: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

That being said, there’s also an element of difficulty to this second-draft business, which balances out the fun element. It’s an old difficulty that carried over from the first draft to the second. I’m not complaining. We can’t have too much fun, now, can we?

Challenges are good. Moreover, challenges are necessary.

 

Favorite light: early-morning daylight. Beverage of choice: water.

 

Overall, work on the second draft is going well… just not as quickly as I’d hoped. I have to be patient with myself. The work will be done when I love it.