what’s up in january twenty sixteen

Lucy asked this week if she was adopted. I may have laughed out loud.

This month in my life I am up to the following:

Writing – still working on the rewrite of my first draft. I’m about halfway through, and I’ve just worked through a seriously aggravating section. I have a new beta reader, bringing my team up to three. I feel pretty good about it. I’ve also started an unrelated secret writing project, and I’ll talk more about that later. Also, blogging! I’m going to try again. But don’t expect anything less than sporadic posts, as usual.

Parenting – it’s tough right now, not gonna lie. After six and a half years of this gig, I’m getting antsy to move on. But of course I’m a mom forever, so it’s not like applying for a new position. It’s just the diapers and snowsuits and tantrums and throwing  food stage that I’ve done three times and I’m getting fed up with. Probably related: I don’t have babysitter day this year. I’m going to bring that back, and hopefully it will restore my parenting joy. I love my kids to pieces and they’re absolutely the best; I’m just not the  best at day-in-day-out parenting. It’s taken me a long time to start admitting that. I’m still committed to my course, so I need to find ways to make it work so I don’t go postal and end up on the news.

Knitting – Happier things, hooray! I knit daily for Lent last year and I’ve pretty much never stopped. I don’t think I took two days off knitting in a row last year. I’ve currently got socks, a cabled cardigan, and a lightweight sweater on the needles. Stay tuned for a master post of everything I knit last year! I’m on a yarn diet for now, because my queue is massive and I have all the yarn I need for it. Of course, as soon as I said that, I bought two skeins from someone else’s destash, but it goes against all my principles to pass up $5 skeins of quality sock yarn.

Working out – I almost gave up running in the fall. I took a break when my knee started yelling, and then it was harrrrrd work to claw my way back. But I’ve started from scratch three times in five years, and I am NOT giving it up now. Running keeps the voices in my head to a dull roar. I’m trying to bring yoga back in with a 30-day challenge, after doing a bunch of research on how I felt about the yoga-as-cultural-appropriation debate. This article, and also this one, helped a lot. Unravelling issues of cultural appropriation are complex, but crucial. Also, I finally got a new yoga mat that isn’t shredding and is extra long, and that helps too. It’s ridiculous how many things are impacted when you’re a woman over six feet tall – yoga mats and running tights are but two of the issues.

Reading – I read twenty-eight books in 2015 and I think that’s pretty awesome. Also, it doesn’t include books read out loud to Lucy. Thus far (I know), my 2016 favourites have been Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’m not exactly cutting edge, but I don’t care. Also, when I finished both of those, well past my bedtime, I had that beautiful terrible feeling of not knowing what to do with myself. That’s the marker of a good book. I hope with all my heart that I can evoke that feeling in my eventual mass market readers.

So there it is. My current interests and goings on. My goal for 2016 is to be honest with myself about who I am and what I can do, what I need and what is needed of me. I’d rather be perfectly self-sacrificing or perfectly selfish, but neither are right, or healthy. I think that if I can burrow right into honesty, 2016 will be a good year for my whole family.

on current events

Fear is a cornered animal, no longer docile, lashing out to protect itself

Suddenly the attacker drops a bomb on it to stop the aggression.

But the fear doesn’t evaporate.

It splashes, staining the heart and soul of everyone in the blast zone.

And the stain won’t come out.

It’s a virus spreading fear far and wide.

So the fear lashes out again, and the bombs keep exploding.

The fear spreads.

We have often let fear take the lead, make the choices, drop the bombs.

The repercussions ripple down the generations.

Maybe this time we could try something different.

phase 2 complete

(I’m referring to my novel.)

A month ago I finished the first draft, then left my computer at home while we went on our summer vacation to my sister’s wedding and my parent’s house over the course of two weeks. The idea was that I could take a break from thinking about it so that when I came back to edit it, the text would felt sort of fresh.

Mostly I was just freaked right out.

It’s one thing to write a bunch of words on a topic, and yes, I realize that sort of sounds like a humblebrag, but for me it was only moderately difficult to write 78 000 words about a girl who gets sucked into a fantasy world and cannot even deal. Trying to pound those words into something I am willing to flog to any agent or publisher I can find, with the intention that the notoriously rude general public can and should read them, is something else entirely.

Today I finished reading through the manuscript and scribbling all over it. This is a “read-through.” Now I need to go back to the text in Scrivener and apply all the notes I took, like “THIS CHAPTER IS TERRIBLE” and about five hundred places where I wrote “awkward, fix” in the margin. That was quickly shortened to AWK. There are actually a handful of pages where I didn’t mark anything at all, so I consider that a sign that it’s not a total disaster.

I think this next part is the scariest for me. Writing is sometimes difficult, but generally fun. The read through was fun, once I got into it. Trying to sort out how to solve all the plot holes and AWKs and details is going to be really hard and not much fun at all, or so it looks from this side. But we’ll see. After this stage I’m going to pass it off to some beta readers for feedback, which is exciting to me, so I will keep it in my sights.

And for the record I slashed at least 30 instances of “seemed” and 50 instances of “suddenly” and “really” each.

thoughts on editing, volume 1

Volume is a misnomer. This probably won’t be very long.

I’ve started editing my manuscript, and it is difficult. It’s not because I’m unwilling to be ruthless, because I am a slash-and-burn-no-idea-or-word-or-chapter-too-precious type of editor. I’m not damaging my baby or anything. The task is so daunting, though, that I’m tying myself up in knots over it. I didn’t realize just how crappy the thing was while I was writing it. I’m a 7 on the enneagram, which means that novelty is a huge motivator for me, and there is no novelty in the editing process. I wrote all this already and now I have to go back over it, and refine it, and can I not just start writing a new book now?

But I have a couple of observations about the process so far. There’s a nifty little feature in Scrivener, the writing program I use, that lists all the words you’ve used by frequency, so you can go through the list and find the overused words like really and actually, then delete them almost every time you come across them. I really use really too much.

The other one was first made clear to me via the handy list, but also cropped up in the process of rereading: I fell victim to the sloppy writing habit of giving my protagonist ESP. “She had a vague sense of foreboding that something really bad was going to happen.” “She sensed that he was on her side, despite his really scary appearance.” “It seemed as though he was trying to communicate something.” NO. Gross. The word in my list that clued me in was “seemed.” Like really and actually, there aren’t a lot of places where something seems a certain way but it could in fact be written that it IS a certain way, or at the very least, someone talked about it that way, or thought about it. It’s a part of the showing-vs-telling thing that Creative Writing 101 students are beaten over the head with and have very little idea how to put into practice. My practical advice, from having edited four chapters of my most terrible novel to date, is to not worry about it at first and write an opening paragraph/chapter/section (depending on the overall length of the thing you’re writing) and then go back, salvage the one sentence that basically sums it all up, and nuke the rest. Your writing will not suffer. The parts that go on and on about her tortured experience with peers in high school that lead her to believe she was SPESHUL and DIFFERENT and MADE FOR ANOTHER WORLD (ahem, self) don’t advance the plot, are not interesting to read, and can be gleaned from the one sentence and the supporting dialogue and action that follows.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe writing a novel or two is going to lead me to become an editor or agent or publisher.

That’s the bulk of my observations on the editing process, four days into it. Stay tuned for more! Maybe blogging about it will help me stay motivated. I can only hope.

i wrote a novel

I spent the summer pouring my writing energy into my novel. I set myself a goal of a thousand words per day, every day, and it paid off. I had a handful of unproductive days and a slightly larger handful of amazing days that doubled or even tripled my goal, and in three months, I wrote just under eighty thousand words and wrapped up the plot. So I did it! I wrote a whole novel!

IMG_9832

Now I have to edit it.

I couldn’t even remember how I had edited my papers for uni, so I googled “how to edit a novel.” I clicked on the first three links that looked useful, and received three sets of advice.

  1. This is a twelve-step process and it takes a year. Read your manuscript through eight times. Send it to groups of beta readers between each read-through. Be thorough. This process should take a year; why would you want it to take any less time?
  2. This is a two-week process. Print it off, scribble all over it, transcribe your changes, send it off. Overediting is the bane of writers’ existence. Why would you take any more time?
  3. Edit your novel in four steps, one of which I have already missed the boat on. Use four different approaches.

Option three was written by an editor, rather than by an author, and I like it best, even though I’ve kind of messed it up already. Sort of. What I’m doing is this: 

That’s my fancy trying-to-look-artistic shot, when in reality I scrapped all the colours and I’m just scribbling all over the pages with one pen, and taking confusing notes in my notebook that I won’t understand later. After reading all the editing assvice, I remembered that I used to always print off my essays to edit them because editing on a computer screen was a terrible brain disaster. So I’m starting there. I’d like to have it in pretty good shape by Christmas, which might be a bit on the quick side, but I do not think that setting a deadline one year from now is going to be in any way motivating for me. I wrote the whole manuscript in three months. The editing should take at least that long, but any more and I will be so bored I will burn it all. I already have a couple of new ideas doing their percolating thing, and I don’t want them to be stuck in limbo for too long.

Even if this book does not make it to the NYT Bestseller list, or even through the gauntlet of a mainstream publisher, I am proud of what I accomplished this summer. I wrote a novel. My two current book-doulas think it’s rough but has a good foundation, and even if it isn’t published, I did it, and now I know I can do it, and I am not ready to give up.

I’m a writer! I wrote a book!