Monthly Archives: November 2010

Some time tomorrow or the next day, I will have--touch wood--completed my first novel.  Novella, technically, since it will be about 50,000 words long.  I probably shouldn't be counting my chickens.  If I come back to this entry later with my goals unfulfilled, it will depress me.  Then I'll quietly delete it, and hope no one notices.

The chicken counting isn't about the novel itself.  I'm pretty darned confident at this point that I will finish.  That confidence is due, in no small part, to NaNoWriMo.  The challenge and the structure helped me develop a solid writing habit over the last few weeks.

That habit is where the chickens come in.  They are clucking at my ability to keep the ball rolling.  Okay, time to drop the chicken thing.

My plan, after I finish, is this: one massive edit.  It needs it.  Right now my book has more internal contradictions than transsexual tea-partier.  This is because I knew I had to go back and put in characters and change things, and I didn't have time to go back, but I kept on writing as if I had done so.  In order to avoid questions like: "Wait, who the heck is Monica, and where did that hallway come from?", I have to do a lot of fill-in.  In fact, my backfilling will probably give the book at least another 10k, if not more.  This is good, and will certainly take me a few weeks.  I'd like to quickly pay special attention to the first two chapters, in hopes of entering this,  but if it doesn't happen, that's okay, too.  So, one big edit.  If I think it's ready, I'll give it to my favorite copy editor, the Spousal Unit, along with a brand new red pen.  He'll need every drop of ink.  I may or may not apply his edit immediately, as I want to step away from the story for a week or so.

Here's the hard part.  While I'm away from the story, getting it out of my head so I can come back fresh for more editing, I want to take advantage of the wonderful writing habit from NaNo, and keep writing. I have the NaNo novel, a ghost story, I started a few years ago. I'd like to pull that out and see if I can make it work and finish it.  Then, while that's stewing for an edit, I'll go back to my current novel.  Then, back to editing the ghost story.  Then, a whole new story. And so on, back and forth between writing new material and editing, ad infinitum.

I am unremittingly terrible at creating habits.  I can't even sleep with regularity.  But I have really enjoyed this process.  I've especially enjoyed the hard days, forcing out those 1667 words when the muse was sitting in the corner, flipping me off.  I shall have to find some other visual motivator, as I love NaNo's little stats chart, cheering me on, but that, I hope, can be managed.  Maybe my daily word goal from now on will be 1667, in honor of NaNo.

So please, oh gods of writing, I shall sacrifice a dozen V.C. Andrews on the pyre, if only you will help me keep this lovely habit.  Okay, I'd do that just for fun.

I'm hoping, here.  I'm hopeful.  Mostly, I'm willing to work.

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As I put aside a horrible book after getting halfway through tonight, I realized that such books are encouraging: if that piece of crap can get published, surely I have a chance?  And I do have a chance.  I write well.  I'm not going to play falsely modest.  My fiction is quite readable.  The only problem with it is that it is rarely finished.  I don't mean polished, I mean finished.  I lack the gene for sustained effort.  I certainly have a fear of failure as big as the Ritz.

So, for the second time, I am trying NaNoWriMo.  I'm having a damned good time, I'm enjoying my characters and their antics, and I'm well ahead on word count.  I think I may even finish, though I don't want to jinx myself by saying for sure.  On jinxing, I learned an important lesson in 07: as soon as I share my work, I stop.  So this year, not even the Spousal Unit is getting a peek.  He knows the basic story, and we spent several hours making the science less cringe-worthy, but he hasn't even gotten to read the first chapter.  It's working well.

As the process goes along, I have what I am sure are typical fantasies: editing my work, sending it to agents, getting a contract, getting published.  It's nice at first, but then I tremble.  I have found, over the years, that being a published writer is like having children: the more I hear from people who have done it, the less appealing it becomes.  I don't just freak out over deadlines.  I don't talk about my little problems a lot, but I am a delicate snowflake.  I'm retired because I couldn't hack the simple day-to-day of facing people and pressure.  Make of that what you will; I'm simply grateful the SU has a good job and an understanding disposition.  So.  Traditional publishing is probably right out, unless I want to go back to a life without sharp things in the house.

Luckily, there are new options.  Amazing, fantastic, wonderful new options.  The one that stars in my current fantasies is self-publishing straight to Kindle.  I have no illusions of riches; I know better.  I do have illusions keeping my rights, publishing at my own pace without pressure from editors and publishers, bringing in a few dollars, and finally, keeping my sanity.

Since my retirement, I've struggled with a sense of uselessness.  I am crippled in ways frustrating and basic. The SU continually supports me, and reminds me that my losing ticket in the genetic lottery is hardly my fault.  He's right, and certainly his love makes it easier to cope, but I still want to be useful.  I want to make things that bring in a tiny bit of vegetarian bacon.  Or veg sausage, as that's actually much tastier.  I want to regain the power I once had as a self-sufficient woman.  If you've ever been completely dependent upon another person, you probably know how terrifying it is.  I require fruits of my own hands.

Which brings me to NaNo.  I did not set out this year with the idea of publishing.  I didn't expect to start out at all--I just caved to peer pressure.  So many people I knew were beginning their novels on the first and talking about it within twitter-shot, I was becoming envious.  So I sat down, right on November 1, and just started writing.  I was delighted to see the ideas come, and watch the characters develop voices, but most surprising was the sense that I was doing something useful.  I realized that, if I could finish, if I could edit, if I could sell, there might be something in this besides satisfaction.  Those are a lot of ifs, and I'm trying to take things one day at a time, but the feeling is nice.

I am cautiously optimistic.