Reflections and Projections

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Then

2012 was going to be my big year. It began with much hope and ambition. I was in the process of fine tuning the young adult novel I had written all while perfecting my query letter as the search for a literary agent took over my evenings. Short stories were cranked out and sent off in the hope of finding a new home. I had a goal to read 80 books. To top it all off, I planned to relocate back to my home state of Maine. I had a plan and my dreams were becoming a reality. Things were happening.

Now

2013 literally began with me giving birth to my precious son. I’ve embarked on the road of single motherhood with the biggest gift life could ever give me. My young adult novel is still in some folder on my laptop. What’s a query letter? An agent? For that matter, what’s a short story? According to Goodreads, I only read 26 books last year. And Maine, yeah, that had to jump to the back burner.

My days are spent keeping up with feeding, changing, playing with, and reading to my son; newborn laundry; feeding myself; paperwork; and squeezing in a shower. Soon I’ll be returning to work fulltime and I’ll be juggling all of the above along with a 40+ hour work week.

In a nutshell…life is good!

Reflections

Just when you think you have things all planned out, life throws a surprise in your direction. This isn’t to say that planning and goal setting should just fall by the wayside. Absolutely not. I don’t know about you, but I need an idea of where I’m heading. Sure, I embrace each moment and breath that life gives me and try not to take anything for granted.

But what can I say? I’m driven. There’s stuff I want to accomplish while I’m on this earth. There are things I want to see. And now, more than ever, there are things that I want my son to see and experience.

Yes, my route has changed. The map in front of me looks very different from the map I had back in January 2012, but the destination is the same. And now I have a little boy in whom I can instill a love of life and learning.

Projections

This year my plan is to embrace what life gives me while keeping an eye on where I want to be. And, hey, I’m not doing too bad. It’s February 18 and I’m already writing again (while the washing machine chugs in the background and my son naps). Oh, and Goodreads, I’m shooting for 80 books again.

Like I said…life is good!

Synopsis Time

I Need to Write a What?

I have spent the past two months really polishing my novel. I gave it out to some first readers back in October, got the copies back, and I’ve been super busy trying to fix the numerous typos and glitches with whose hair is blonde and who is a brunette. That’s now done, and I feel that my book is as good as I can get it at this point. 

I’ve been working on query letters, gathering information about agents I want to contact, and getting super excited about the next steps. That was until I read on many submission guidelines that the agents want a, brace yourself, book synposis. <swallow large lump in throat>

Flashbacks to High School

Okay, seriously it really does make sense. When I stopped to think about it, duh!, of course agents want a synopsis. They’re busy people, too! Maybe some don’t want to invest the time to read my manuscript, assuming my query letter piques their interest, unless they have a good feeling about my story. How am I going to give them that warm feeling? With my awesome book synopsis, of course!

With all of that being said, I still had major flashbacks to high school when I had to write book reports. Granted, the synopsis an agent wants isn’t exactly like a high school book report, but it sure felt that way at first. I should be more excited about it, though, since it is my story I’m writing about. But, no. Hearing the news about having to write this made me feel overwhelmed, and for a moment I considered avoiding the agents who asked for a synopsis. 

Silly! I can’t do that. I had to face the music … I mean synopsis.

What’s This Synopsis Thing All About Anyway?

What exactly should be included in a synopsis? Beats me. So, I did what all inquiring minds do … I googled the topic. There are a lot of opinions out there. Some say keep it short and simple. No, included every major detail. Make it exciting. Stick to the facts. One page. One page for every 25 pages of text in your book. Single spaced. Double spaced. Last name and title on the right header. Last name and title on the left header. And on and on and on …

I finally had to just go with my gut, what seemed to make sense, and trust the few reputable websites I had researched.

My Synopsis

I sat down the other day and actually wrote my synopsis. Condensing my story down to a few mere paragraphs did make me wonder if I even needed the other 300-something pages. It just seemed so bare bones. If I could tell the story in four pages then that’s probably what I should have done in the first place. 

Since I wrote my rough draft (4 pages), I’ve been working to whittle it down further to really just focus on the major plot points and characters. This is hard. In fact, it’s very hard. It all seems so important to me. 

Many fuzzy brain hours later …

Well, I reached my goal to have both a longer and a single paged synopsis on hand so I’m prepared for what could be requested of me. Hallelujah! There was much rejoicing after I managed the one paged synopsis. I feel like I can conquer anything now. 

Journaling

I love Journals

It’s as simple as that. I’ve been thinking about journals a lot over the past week. Mainly this is because a new year has begun, and I wanted to start it off right with a new journal. And then I decided to blog about journals because, well, why not. So, I dug around and I think I’ve found all of my journals (at least, the ones that I’ve kept). 

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There are 13 journals in that stack (I’ll save you the trouble of counting). I had to use a propped up tissue box to keep the stack from sliding. So, there it is. Thirteen records of various moments in my life. I admit, I have destroyed, um, I mean surreptitiously gotten rid of a few. The journals in this stack go all the way back to my high school days. Yikes, is right! 

During this journal reflection period, I spent some time flipping through the many pages. Some of the entries are funny, some are sad. Simply put, they’re about life. The ups and the downs. There are entries about my high school and college boyfriends, paragraphs about family trips taken, ticket stubs, pictures, notes from friends, and on and on. Apparently, I’ve been an intermittent collector over the years. 

Case in point …

CIMG2936An ant. I remember this was part of a lesson by one of my favorite teachers during my church going days in high school. The actual lesson, and it’s point, vanished from memory years ago, though. But clearly it was important to me at the time, and that’s why I taped the ant inside of my journal. 

Another example …

CIMG2930A McDonald’s flyer in Croatian! How awesome is that? At least, I thought it was at the time. I lived in Croatia for about a year many moons ago. I found this ad tucked in between the pages that recorded my experiences over seas. I see McDonald’s ads in English nearly every week, but apparently they only rock if they’re in Croatian. 

And one more …

CIMG2937My Peachtree Road Race number. Hell, I’m not even a runner, so this was huge for me. Not only did I complete it in 2006, but I did it another year, too. When I see this number, I cringe. I was in excruciating pain the day after the race. 

My favorite journal of all time (drum roll) …

CIMG2938The Kraft Journal by M. Roger Press. The spiral makes it so easy to lay the book open and write for hours. The lines are small so I can fit a lot of text on a page, which makes the journal last a really long time. I don’t care for small journals that I can fill in a month or two. These journals have gotten the most use out of any that I own. The one on the bottom was filled to the last page, it took two years, and now the back cover doesn’t want to stay on. That’s a good sign. That journal has been through a lot. 

A New Year

2012 has begun and it’s time to start a new journal.  

I’m doing something new this year. I’ll continue to add small things to the inside pages, but now I’m going to add stuff to the cover. See, I got a bit crafty for Christmas this year when I discovered Modge Podge. That stuff is amazing!!! I now want to make a collage out of everything. But I can’t. That would be weird. So, instead I’m going to make a collage out of my journal cover (the Kraft Journal would be perfect for this). As the year progress, I’m going to add small, memorable things to the cover–things that are specific for 2012, treasures I’ve come across, interesting notes, pictures of things that I love … you get the point. 

I bought a plain black journal for the new year, but now I’m not really feeling it. I really wanted another Kraft Journal by M. Roger Press, but I can’t find them anywhere. I used to buy them at Borders (RIP) or Barnes and Noble. B&N carries the sketch books, but I haven’t found the actual journal. I think it’s time to head over to their website to see if I can order some (yes, some). 

How about you?

Do you journal? What are your favorite journals?

Leveling the Playing Field

True Love

There isn’t much that I love more than stopping in my tracks when I notice a new book from a favorite author. When we touch, sparks fly. I flap the pages in the book, letting the gentle wind brush my face as I inhale the new book scent.

I love books.

I love beautiful covers that capture my interest. I love reading the endorsements from other authors or publications saying, “Read this book!” Of course they pull me in. And of course, I do read the book.

Reflection

I recently stopped to think about this love that I have of books. I finished two books on my Kindle in the recent past: one by a well established author and one by a lesser known author. I read the description of the books on Amazon, clicked “Buy Now”, and then dove right into the story when it arrived on my screen. 

I didn’t turn the e-ink screen pages back so I could see the colorful cover art (it wouldn’t be there anyway). I didn’t read any of the endorsements or praise for the book. Nor did I read the forward by the author. 

It wasn’t until after I finished these books that I realized the journey I shared with them and how it differed from other books I’ve enjoyed over the years. I was in it for the story. 

Story and Leveling the Playing Field

It’s always about the story. Or, it should be. It shouldn’t matter how fancy, colorful, or highly praised a book is on its cover. What matters is the story that lies on the printed page. That’s what holds the reader’s attention and that’s what keeps the reader turning page after page. 

I think e-readers have seriously leveled the playing field. When most of us download a new ebook, it opens directly to page one, where the story begins. Most of us don’t flip to the cover because we know it doesn’t really matter–it’s just gonna be a black and white screen. Boring. Instead, we go right for the story. That’s why we bought the book in the first place. 

Everyone and their dog seems to be publishing books these days. They make it look so easy. Within seconds I can have a book from Stephen King or Shirley Jackson on my Kindle as well as a book from my neighbor. But once that book arrives, they pretty much all look the same (except for a few with serious formatting issues). It’s that sameness that levels the playing field. 

When I’m reading a DTB book and I notice I’m getting a little lost, it only takes me a second to flip back to the cover and remind myself of what drew me to the book in the first place. I can’t do that with a book on my Kindle because it’s not worth the effort for a black and white image. When I get bored reading a DTB, I can flip to the blurb on the back and remind myself that other people liked this book so I should, too. Can’t do that with my Kindle.

Bottom line, it’s the story that keeps people going. E-readers have upped the ante. Stories have to be even better than what’s been acceptable in the past if writers want people to continue to read their work. With so many choices, and such cheap prices, if writers don’t grab readers right away they will move on to the next book in line on their e-reader. 

Fire

My Kindle Fire arrived not too long ago and is my new best friend. The Fire has added the color element in a nice way. It’s also faster for me to travel throughout my book. But, my bottom line hasn’t changed. The story is what keeps me swiping my finger across the screen to turn the page. 

Story. Period. 

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year when writers everywhere are hunched over their keyboard typing away, cranking out 1,667 words a day, to meet the deadline of writing the first draft of a novel by the end of November. 50,000 words in order to “win”. 

I decided months ago that I was gonna go for it this year. What do I have to lose? I even knew the project I wanted to work on. I got the idea while walking my dog one day when I was smacked in the face with this overwhelming image that I had to put on paper. I rushed inside and took notes on what I saw so that I wouldn’t forget it. At the time, I was knee-deep in revising the-novel-that-now-has-a-title. I couldn’t let go of the current project, but I didn’t want to let go of the idea stomping around in my head keeping me up at night. The writer’s curse I suppose. It’s a good thing … most days. 

So, I saved the notes and kept my project tucked away in a little drawer in my head. I promised it, and myself, that we would meet again real soon. 

MeNoWri

The two weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo should have been spent getting my head in focus and thinking more about that idea resting in the drawer. Instead, I was working on report cards and having parent-teacher conferences. Each night I was exhausted and my brain was numb. No thinking or planning for me. 

The first week of November was restless, I had an observation at work, and yesterday I got rear-ended by a teenager. I had my whole afternoon free and ready to be spent writing to make a serious attempt to catch up. Instead, I was frazzled, had a headache, and kept hearing the boom from when he hit me. 

Life Happens

Such is life … stuff happens. We can plan for the next few hours, but who knows what they’ll actually bring. Work creeps in, we have sleepless nights, and we have car accidents that seriously interrupt our writing. 

I’m going to keep moving forward though. I set a goal to take this challenge and I’m not giving up just yet. 

My idea is out of the drawer and I’m breathing some life into it. I sat this morning (with a sore neck and headache) and managed to get out over 2,000 words. Not much, but the day isn’t over. Truthfully, 1,667 words a day isn’t enough. Most say to shoot for at least 2,000 words a day to ensure that you’re on track because you never know when life hits. Don’t forget Thanksgiving; not sure how much writing will get done that day. We’ll see. 

Less than 48,000 words to go …

 

I love you, Twitter … Let me count the ways

Early Memories

One of my earliest favorite authors was Beverly Cleary, and I read everything she wrote before I turned eight years old. Seriously. I remember our school librarian (yes, they were called librarians back then) let us write a letter to our favorite author. She researched the addresses and provided everything we needed (including stamps) and we were off. I, of course, picked Ms. Cleary. I never got a reply; I don’t even know if she got my letter. Despite this, I took great pride in being able to personally connect with an author. We connect with authors all the time when we embark on their journey and revel in the world they have created for us … that goes without saying. But to be able to thank an author and express sincere appreciation for what they have given us is priceless. 

Times Have Changed

I’m sure it’s possible to hand write a personal letter to one’s favorite author. I haven’t done this since I was a little kid in Maine, but I’m sure it can be done. But why would I do this when I have social media? 

One of the reasons I joined Twitter was so that I could connect to other writers. At the time, I meant writers more like me (unpublished, finally getting serious, newbies). I suppose I just didn’t realize how easily Twitter connects us to people (and on such a personal level). I can check Twitter and see what my favorite authors are up to (and most of them update frequently if not obsessively). Not only that, I have the capability to affect their world, albeit small, as they have mine by communicating with them with comments, replies, articles, etc. Wow!

 Not too long ago I Tweeted R.L. Stine. I remember diving into his books about the time that I finished off Beverly Cleary’s books. I had found my true interest … fear. I remember that I read everything by Stine that I could get my hands on. 

What prompted the thank you? Before I Tweeted him, I finished an interview in the latest Writer’s Digest that was about him. While reading about his writing and books, I thought back to my experience with his words and the affect that he had on me and my love of fear. Instead of hand writing a letter, I was able to share my message, all 140 characters but still, via Twitter. After I sent it, I didn’t have to wonder if he got it because I know he did. He may or may not reply, but that’s okay. I expressed my thank you and it was so easy to do. 

Words of Wisdom

Another reason I love Twitter is the daily advice I get from the writers I follow. They don’t direct this advice toward me, nor do they even label it advice. They are simply sharing tidbits from their life that end up having a huge effect on me. 

For example, several months ago I was having a crappy writing day. I logged onto Twitter and saw this Tweet from Judy Blume: “Only problem with reading a really good book when you’re trying to write one – it leaves you sure you should burn your pathetic attempt.”

Okay, probably doesn’t sound like advice, and maybe advice is the wrong word for this particular Tweet; however, I think you still get my point. These writers, no matter how famous, are still people. They still have to go through the same, at times, mundane tasks. They still have to spend lengthy amounts of time shuffling through words, picking out the gems, and chucking the junk just to unearth a great story. 

Just reading that Judy Blume doubted her work for a moment totally put things in perspective for me. Okay, I guess that’s the word I wanted earlier. I love the perspective that Twitter gives me. 

And Advice

I gotta go back to advice, though. I do get great words of advice and writing quotes from Writer’s Relief as well as some of the publishing houses. 

Here’s a quote I Retweeted last week: 

 

~“When I thought I couldn’t go on, I forced myself to keep going. My success is based on persistence, not luck.” – Estee Lauder

 

Back to R.L. Stine

Seriously though, if you had asked me when I was ten years old if I would ever be “following” R.L. Stine and would I ever “Tweet” him to say thank you, I would have looked at you like, well, you were a creature from one of his books. What a funny time we live in these days. 

I need to go check Twitter now and see what’s going on …

Killing a Small Tree

The Time Has Come

As I type this, my printer is buzzing away churning out page after page of my draft. Between the buzzes I hear small sighs of relief as I’ve finally given my printer something to do. It’s been working overtime since Friday night, but that’s okay. It’s for a good reason. 

I feel pretty good about the state of my novel, and the time has come to open the door to a select few readers. I knew this day was coming, and I also knew that it would be an expensive day. I’ve spent too much time calculating the cost of printing copies at a copy center versus doing it at home. I finally settled on just printing at home because, believe it or not, it’s cheaper than having it done at a copy center. That shocked me, too!

The downside, I have to sit at home because it takes about an hour to print one copy. I have to be nearby in case my printer yells out to me, “Out of paper!” (my paper tray holds less than 100 sheets) Suffice it to say, I’ve gotten a lot of small projects done this weekend since I’ve been homebound and not clicking away on my keyboard.

Anxiety and Excitement

My body bounces back and forth between feeling anxious and excited about finally having people read my work. This is a huge project for me. Clearly it’s also important to me, and I think I have something of worth otherwise I’d just keep it to myself. 

I have a good mix of first readers for my novel. I have two male readers, three YAs, and two adult females. I gave away a copy to my first reader yesterday and it felt very strange. That ping pong match between anxiety and excitement was very much alive at first and then excitement took over–I’m really doing this!

Trees and Forests

I’ve spent the last few months looing so closely at the trees, every detail, that it’s time to really step back and look at the forest. I got some time to do that when I picked up my manuscript, cleaned off two years worth of dust, and then reread it. Since then I’ve been hunched over looking at pine needles. It’s been difficult to step back and look at the big picture no matter how hard I try. 

Are there gaps in the story? Did I somehow inadvertently drop a character? Do events line up? Some pieces were intentionally left ambiguous because the story isn’t over.

I’m looking forward to hearing the feedback.

What now?

Now I want to work on some short story writing. I want to focus my mind on something completely different and much shorter. I have some stories that I started over the past few months that got dropped because of the novel. I’ve also had ideas pop into my head, and I want to give them some attention. The first story I’m going to revisit involves cockroaches … lots and lots of cockroaches. 

Buzz!

My printer is out of paper …