Day 307 – A snippet from my second book

Day three hundred seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

In the midst of writing my second book, I’m having a good time. The first draft of my first book is resting. I need more distance from it to be able to do a proper re-write. So it rests, and I write. As I fling myself into the throes of a second book, I have found a completely different voice. It has been fun to explore.

I decided it’s time to share a bit. I gave the first beta-read of this snippet to my seven year-old son. That may be the smartest thing I have done in a while. Well, you be the judge:

I was a young girl once. I remember it. Well, parts of it anyway. I remember the sky was a brighter blue than it ever looks to me now, even on its most beautiful days. I remember the grass smelled so sweet in the summer, my best friend Bea and I came up with the idea of the sweet grass lollipop. We loved that smell so much we just knew it would be the most delicious lollipop we’d ever have. Like too many childhood dreams, it never came to be. But it was sure fun to talk about. I remember climbing trees and skinning my jeans on the rough bark, making my mama so mad I thought she’d tan my hide to purple. She didn’t. She sewed patches on my jeans instead.

I remember playing ball with the boys and running just as fast as them, hitting the ball just as hard. My mama yelled from the front porch, “be careful!” and “don’t get so filthy!” None of the other moms ever yelled those things at the boys.

I remember being sprawled out on the front yard, looking up at the clouds, dreaming about all the things I could do someday. You know, someday when I was a grown-up. I could be an astronaut, or a chef, or own a candy store – the first ever to sell sweet grass lollipops, of course. My mama told me I could be a teacher or a nurse someday. My daddy agreed. “Those are fine choices,” he’d say. “Fine choices for girls.”

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Day 304 – The chase of the writer

Day three hundred four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

The art of writing is a wily beast. Inasmuch as it can be simple, it can be extraordinarily difficult. The art of writing is always a step ahead of the writer. You see, writers are chasers. We chase our imaginations, we chase words to bring color to our stories, and we chase the notion that we can artfully depict our stories to share a little piece of our minds, to leave something behind of ourselves that will prove that we existed once. That we were something special because we had something to say worth reading. But no matter how much we chase, we never reach the level we hold as our standard in our minds.

Wily, elusive, seductively ambivalent. The art of writing is all of these things, which is why writers are chasers. We may eventually capture our imaginations and generate the story we wish to tell, but for a time we hold it sheltered deep within ourselves like hyper-protective, helicopter parents. During that time we live with it pinging around the corners of our minds in sheer madness until we are ready to put it down on paper. As we write we try to blossom the story into what we envisioned, and we hope what is left on the page truly reflects what we enjoyed (lived) in our minds. We do all of this knowing full well that it will always fall short. Always.

I love the way Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner and And the Mountains Echoed) describes it in an interview with Joe Fassler:

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen—it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

Writers experience this every day, in every piece of writing, and sometimes even in every sentence we write. Madness? Maybe. Art? Definitely.

So, we chase. It’s what we do.

Day 294 – At least I’ll always have my imagination

Day two hundred ninety-four of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I waited all day. I waited over fourteen hours, actually. For over fourteen hours, off and on, I thought about writing. Distracted, busy, obligated to fulfill a long list of responsibilities, I had to wait. I was eager to sit down and write today, which is pretty much the norm for me. But it was another Monday I had to go to work when all I wanted to do was stay home and write.

Hour after hour, I couldn’t take my mind away. When I could – when I wasn’t absorbed in one of my legal matters or taking care of my kids or doing yard work with my husband – or maybe even when I was doing those things, I was thinking about writing. Earlier today I described it on Twitter like this:

If I can’t be writing, at least I can allow my mind to tumble freely through the halls of the story.
And that is what it feels like. It’s like my mind is tumbling around ideas, words, story line and characters, with no particular sense factored in. That’s my imagination, like a load of dirty laundry in a front-loading machine; it’s a busy mess in there. So, then what? What does one do with all of those active thoughts about a story? One writes.
I wrote down some of my tumbling thoughts tonight before they vanished. Now, they reside in my outline. Boom.

Day 290 – How do we know?

Day two-hundred ninety of my 365 Day Writing Project.

How do we know that we are doing something worthwhile and that it isn’t all for naught? How do we know that we are writing something that will interest others and will bring them enjoyment in life? How do we know that our time building a dream isn’t time wasted? Or even worse, are we just chasing that dream? How do we know? Well, here is a dingle berry of an answer: we don’t.

Doubt is as much our friend as it is our foe. Doubt can infest our minds to the point of paralysis of motivation. It can choke our creativity and stifle our drive to succeed. In my opinion, doubt is worse than fear, because fear is born out of doubt which is a fear of the unknown. It’s an ugly thing. But on the flip side, doubt helps us self-govern and self-regulate. It causes us to keep ourselves in check, to not let our egos take over. Doubt forces us to subscribe to an “all or nothing” philosophy. We either give our all to crush that doubt to rubble, or we get too scared to crush anything. Yes, we can fail and crash in a pile of flaming turd, but just think: we can soar and reach the stars.

As a writer, doubt be damned…I keep thinking about those stars.

Day 287 – With an outline comes ease and efficiency

Day two hundred eighty-seven of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m on the cusp of delving into the meat and potatoes of my new book. Writing it, that is. In light of this timing, I decided to outline the story from beginning to end so I can more readily proceed. When I wrote my last book (which is still in first draft form and hopefully will evolve more later), I prepared an outline very early on. It was a helpful tool throughout the writing process even though I deviated from it multiple times. It helped me stay on track and get my story down on paper. That’s half the battle, right?

Now I have about half of the outline finished, which means I have about half of the first draft done. Okay, not really. What I have is a lot of work ahead of me. With an outline prepared, the work will be easier and much more efficient. Ease and efficiency. I like the sound of that. A LOT.

Writers like to make writing sound easy. After doing a good deal of writing over the last 287 days, I know for certain that it isn’t. It’s hard. So here is a no-brainer for myself and any other writer out there looking to make their process better: Prepare an outline for your book. And eat chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate.

Day 283 – Rock steady

Day two hundred eighty-three of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I’m not setting any records, that’s for sure. But I am writing every day again. Even if only a hundred words in a day, I’m writing.

Accountability is key. I don’t care what my goals are: as long as I’m giving it a go each day, I’m succeeding. I hold myself accountable to make sure I make an effort every day. Nine times out of ten, it works. If I can’t write for myself and keep on top of things by my own volition, I’ll never do any better for a publisher in the future.

My plan is to keep it steady. No big expectations, no unreasonable goals. And definitely, DEFINITELY, no excuses.

Day 281 – Build momentum first, then ride the wave

Day two hundred eighty-one of my 365 Day Writing Project.

I made time to write again today. I’m so glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Only two days in a row after some weeks of intermittent writing and I’m already succumbing to obsessive-compulsive writer moments. For instance, I was in the shower this morning thinking about a long dialogue between two of the characters of my new book. I was so immersed in my own imagination, I forgot to hurry in the shower to get ready for work. Before I knew it, my slow-poke son was standing outside the bathroom telling ME to get a move on. But I couldn’t leave the story be. In fact, I continued to think about it the rest of the day until I could write about it.

Truthfully, I’m still thinking about it. This is the kind of motivation I need. It might be obsessive or even a little crazy, but if it builds the momentum I so desperately need to get back on track to write every day, I’m all for it.

Day 280 – Know what you need to do, and do it

Day two hundred eighty of my 365 Day Writing Project.

It has been too long since I last posted. As you might have surmised, I have not been writing every day. I have let myself get overrun by other time-suckers and responsibilities. Lately my life has been far more busy than it should be, mostly due to my day job. But that is no excuse. I let it take over. I let it cross boundaries I set two hundred and eighty days ago. I set those boundaries so I could find time to write every day and make it a daily routine. Like brushing my teeth.

I got brilliant at it, actually. It’s time to get that brilliance back. I know what I need to do, and I know how to do it: find time to write and write every day. I have fiddled with writing a little here and a little there over the last two weeks, so luckily, my writing mindset is still present. I just need to get back to setting those boundaries to make sure I have time to write every day. Like I did tonight and will do again tomorrow.