writing

So I've Gone A Little Crazy

CrazyFace.jpeg

Keeping the crazy in……

If you talk to my kids or my husband they will say I’m always crazy. So how much more could I be?

They aren’t wrong but this type of crazy is exclusive to my writing life.

After not doing too much of anything related to writing for about a year, I’ve suddenly been on fire. If you poke around my website you will see a new page - Freelance Services. I’ve decided that I would like to get a writing business off the ground. I have written a handful of blog posts for businesses but its via Verblio aka BlogMutt which is a content mill blog site. I don’t love it. At. All. But it is a way for me to get the business going. I’m working on a Letter of Introduction and generating a list of contacts. My goal is to send the mailing out in January 2019.

In addition, I wrote an essay that I am almost ready to begin the querying process for and am working on a feature article that I hope to find a home for in the next month or two. Yes, I wrote them first instead of pitching the idea first but hey, I’M WRITING. :)

Around the same time a writer’s group I’ve belonged to for three years, Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) surveyed their members in our state to see if there was any interest in getting together. There was and since someone needs to own making it happen I, along with two others, stepped up to organize this. Our initial meet & greet will happen sometime January 2019.

Due to the above, I connected with a writer who lives about 20 minutes from me! And she connected me with a local writer’s group!

I can not begin to tell you how freaking happy these two things make me. I have been searching for so long to find fellow writers. I’m like the desperate kid on the playground who just wants to be included in the game.

And then tonight, I applied to be a mentee in a mentorship program being offered for the first time by WFWA. Because at the end of the day what I really want to be is an accomplished writer. Creating stories that people get lost in.

Hiatus and Horses

I could start this blog by writing something corny. Like "I'm baaacckkk...." or "Hi, it's me again." But I won't be that cliche.

Instead I will say that if you read my blog then you know that nine months ago, which was the last time I posted, I shared that my husband and I decided to relocate our family. That, I am happy to say, has happened and all the planning and hard work panned out well. We have been in South Carolina for six months; in our new home for three. Now we are all on a learning curve, adjusting to the new geography and ways of life. So far so good. 

As we began the process of relocating and all that goes with it, I realized that I had to make a decision about my fledging writing ambitions. I could press on, revising my NF draft, seeking freelance work, continuing to work on the other pieces of writing I had in process. Juggling this against moving my family 800 miles, against keeping the kids' lives as normal as I can and in general just living life.

Or I could hit the pause button. Because I know myself. I know that for every day and week that went by and I did not get to any writing, I would beat the crap out of myself. Who the heck needs that? Not me. So I consciously gave myself permission to not only stop writing but also to not feel bad about it. I am only one person and my priority was to ensure our relocation was successful and my kids were okay during the process. 

This blog post is the first step to re-starting my writing life. The hiatus has officially come to an end.

The horse reference? Well that is both figurative -  "I'm back in the saddle" as far as writing goes - and literal!

That's me taking a horseback ride on the beach thanks to my parents, a Christmas present to our family. One of the perks where I live now! 

That's me taking a horseback ride on the beach thanks to my parents, a Christmas present to our family. One of the perks where I live now! 

Power, responsibility and my manuscript

Ah...the doldrums of January. After the sparkling, frantic days of November and December, January is downright dull. How do I add a bit of excitement to this month? By reading the developmental editing analysis from my writing coach, of course. 

It took me five days to work up the nerve to read the eight pages of feedback. So on a dreary cold day, I gave my four-year-old a tablet to watch Youtube videos of jets and diggers, poured a glass of Reisling and got comfortable on the couch. 

It wasn't too bad. The first thought I had after I read it was "Whew, she didn't pan my writing." This was immediately followed by the thought "There is way more editing work than I want to do." 

I took a few days to think about what I wanted to do. I realized I had three choices: keep the structure and complete the suggested edits; change the structure of the manuscript and complete only the edits that pertained to that; and quit.

While mulling my options it suddenly hit me. I have total control over the direction that my manuscript could take. Now I know that sounds like a crazy thing to say because duh, I wrote it. It is my creation. But I didn't really 'get' the power that came with that control. I am master of its destiny. 

Of course, the flip side of this control and power is that if I used it incorrectly, if I made a bad decision regarding the direction of my manuscript, I was sending it down the wrong path. Whoa. I am a novice writer. I am feeling my way along this process. How can I make this decision? What criteria do I use? 

What I ultimately used to guide my decision was my own interest in completing the work. If I choose to keep it as is I dreaded doing the revision. Like I had zippo interest in continuing on. It was overwhelming and would take out the joy I found in writing. However, if I choose to strip out a certain element and then work the revision, I was excited about that challenge. Also, I had made such an investment, with my time and financially, that I really didn't want to shelve this project. 

I emailed my coach with my thoughts on her analysis (which was spot on and easy to understand) and told her what I was considering doing. She encouraged me to pursue that direction. So that is what I've been working on, how I'm filling the long middle days of winter. 

I also asked my coach for any last words of advice before I dived back in. She said, "Writing is only the first step; rewriting is where you discover your story." (These are words from her late mentor Arnold Madison.)

 

What's going on this year

It's been awhile since I've written anything about how my writing is going. The good news is it is going.....just not exactly the direction I thought it would when I decided to go for it 18 months ago. 

First, last fall I took a three night workshop on how to break into writing for magazines and other publications aka freelance writing. The author who taught the class is someone who has fingers in many different writing pies and a list of articles as well as a few books to her credit. And she is a great speaker - I could have listened to her talk about writing for many more nights. I signed up for this workshop because I've had an idea for an article brewing in my head for months. The article is based on an experience I had several years ago and I just have a strong feeling like I should 'speak' about it. I'm very glad I took the classes because I definitely would have approached writing in this area all wrong. Fast forward to this past weekend. I just sent my first query letter out. It took me three months to research what publications may be interested in my idea, line up my expert, and draft and revise my letter many times. Now I sit and wait; this publication keeps queries for six months. I'm opting to only query one publication at a time since I'm more comfortable dipping my toe as opposed to just jumping into the deep end. But I do have other publications lined up in case the response is "No thank you." 

On the last night of this workshop, the speaker quickly mentioned a new emerging area in writing that she herself had just taken a class on - content writing. Loosely, it is writing content for websites, helping them better populate their pages with information. She suggested that this might be something for us to consider down the road, after better establishing our freelance writing careers. I immediately thought of a local organization where I know the director very well and whose website needed a lot of revamping. I hemmed and hawed about approaching her for two reasons. One, I wasn't sure how, if at all, this fit in my vision of myself as a writer. Would I get sucked into doing this kind of writing and not have time to do the writing I want to do? Two, I was wary because she has wanted me to come work with her for a few years now. We've had conversations about it but each time I ultimately declined the position. I was pretty confident that, based on this history, if I reached out to her to offer my services in this way she'd gladly take me up on the help. Ultimately, I decided to not pass up this opportunity since I have no idea if another one would be pretty much handed to me and reached out to her. She said yes and asked me if I could help edit some documentation too. 

So here we are: one query letter pending and my first freelance content writing and editing gig. I'm feeling very excited and nervous!    😟

 

Little Signs

I give up. I quit. I can not do this.

I was so motivated when I last posted. We were on vacation, far less responsibility then if I was home, and I felt like I could sit down and kick out some serious wordage. Nope. That lasted two days and then I got distracted (but I did write 2,763 words). You know, doing fun stuff, exploring the area, shopping. I came home very well rested but disappointed in myself. I certainly didn't establish new BEHAVIORS. And once we got home I didn't make the writing a priority. So after berating myself night after night over not making time for this I decided I'd just let it go. Perhaps it is not the right time for me to try and shove it into my schedule. I am smack dab in the middle of raising a family and my husband runs a company which takes up gobs of his time. Something has to give. God knows I have enough other junk to feel guilty about without heaping this onto the pile. I admit once I made this decision I felt a lot better. I suddenly felt I had some space….odd isn't it since my perception was that my lack of writing was due to a space issue! But I was also mad at myself for giving up. That's not like me. That's not the example I want to set for my kids. 

But a funny thing happened. I got what I view as signs that I should not give up. First it was the trickling in of people deciding to follow me on Twitter. Not those bots either. Real people who write. It really made my day when that happened. The second sign was a link that Alice Hoffman (one of my all time favorite authors) posted on her Facebook page. It was to an interview done by the Boston Globe where four authors talked about their writing careers in relation to motherhood.  (http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/04/21/writers-who-are-also-mothers/cR5vtbbIuFlsjuVh3zWXHI/story.html). It validated that it is indeed hard to do! I'm not missing something in this process. 

And then the biggest sign. Back in January I had volunteered to be a blog contributor to the Book Blog, a blog hosted on the digital edition of our area's largest daily newspaper. The managing editor emailed me back and said he'd like me to come on board. But then I heard nothing. For months. Out of the blue, last week he emailed me again, said the Book Blog was ready to get running again and asked if I was still interested in being a contributor. I told him I was in! So I've been busy writing my first post. Then I hopped over to here and started writing this post. The renewed enthusiasm I have for sitting my keister in the chair and writing has been huge. Like I haven't felt guilty that I haven't done anything else today except write two blog posts and run two loads of laundry. What is even more reassuring is that once I started writing each post the words just came and I was in a happy place :) Here is the link to my first post:

http://blog.timesunion.com/books/hi-my-name-is-lynn-and-im-a-book-addict/2481/

Maybe I can do this. Maybe I'm not a quitter. Maybe what I need to quit is the self imposed deadline I have in my head and just let it happen as it will. 

The Process of Becoming a Writer, Step 2

I spend a lot of time researching but not for a novel I want to write. Nope, I spend much time reading about the career called writing. I talked about this in my very first post. As time has gone on I find that what I seek information on isn't necessarily about how to get published but rather the actual practice of writing. 

I'm six months into making a conscious effort to become a writer. I have found that I really struggle to actually get any writing done. This produces a great deal of panic or guilt, depending on the day. I complain to very few people about this because A. I haven't shared with very many people that I'm trying to make a career change and B. to those that I have, I'm embarrassed. Because, really, how hard is it to sit down and type? One person in particular, who has had the 'privilege' of hearing me complain, has suggested that I look at my behaviors. When he first said this I immediately balked. My lack of writing had nothing to do with my behaviors. It has everything to do with the demands on my time and I rattled off the names of my three kids, my husband and 'the house.' I may have even thrown the dog's name in there. But his observation stayed with me.

I started to read more blogs and articles that talked about writing practices, the best/worst writing advice, how they made the transition from X career to writing, how they juggle competing demands. I felt very relieved to see that many have the same struggles and fears that I do. But what really got me to think about looking at my behaviors was how dedicated writers made the time to write. That's what sets them apart from me and when the proverbial light bulb went off over my head. It IS my behaviors. It is me not taking the 10 minutes here, sneaking 20 minutes there. It is me putting the 'if I can't have at least an hour of solid writing time I'm not going to do it' wall. It's allowing what I call "Writer's ADHD" rule when I do sit down to write: re-reading what I've written, re-writing, looking things up on the fly, checking in on the author/writing websites I have bookmarked, starting a new novel for the latest idea I had that morning in the shower. 

So this week is Spring Break for my kids. We made plans back in the middle of frigid February to get the heck out of NY for this week. We rented a house right on the ocean…it's beautiful and very restful (and warm!!). I brought my lap top and told myself that I was going to write 1,000 words a day while we were here. Of all the story ideas I have started, there is one in particular that is jumping up and down, arms waving, saying "Pick me!" And I've done it. It helps (a lot) that I don't have all the responsibilities I do if I was home. But when my husband offers to take the youngest to the beach I let him. When said child is crying I don't run to intercede. I let my husband or his sisters handle it. My daughters entertain themselves. Dinners are quick and easy. I am looking at websites as I drink coffee in the morning. I am not trying to write the story perfectly the first time around. I'm just letting it out as it comes to me.

I want to be able to say that I'm a dedicated writer. I recognize it is easy to start these new behaviors in this less demanding environment. The trick will be if I can practice them when I get back to the (hopefully warmer) real world. 

Who Is Writing In My House

I've been struggling to find a topic to write about. Part of this is because I'm trying to keep this blog focused on writing related topics. Since I haven't been doing very much writing I don't have anything worthwhile to say.

While I have been sitting and staring at the computer screen, my younger daughter has discovered Wattpad. In her words "best app ever" as she is doing most of her writing on her phone. She has been busy writing stories, reading other users' writing and developing a network of readers and writers. Clearly I need to take some pointers from her. And for English class she has been working on writing a realistic fiction novel complete with artwork, author and dedication pages. I guess it is no surprise that she has been talking about being an author. Her enthusiasm is pretty impressive and it's hard to kick her off the electronics knowing that she is using them to pursue our mutual interest. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit to envying her greatly the night she sat at MY computer complaining that she was on page 17 and couldn't figure out how to end the story…she was only suppose to have 15 pages!

My older daughter also likes to write. Two summers ago she spent much time on another website, Quotev, writing a love story for Peter Pan and a reverse telling of Beauty and the Beast. She told me recently that she has started writing out there again and is more into creating short stories. She likes short stories because she can finish them more quickly (time being a highly valued commodity when you are a teenager). She is in her last 20 weeks of high school and her English class this semester is one she self selected - Creative Writing. I haven't heard any complaining (yet) and she has talked to her teacher about using some of the material she has already wrote on Quotev as a springboard for her assignments. I'm crossing my fingers that this is a positive experience and she learns a thing or two. 

I guess if I treated my own writing like a homework assignment that was going to be graded I would accomplish more!?