The Novel: Which Critiques (Don’t) Matter

I now have a complete manuscript of my debut novel, a contemporary young adult story. Complete, of course, means that I still have another full edit to do over the summer…and then probably another one after I start to query in the fall. My first task is to incorporate the remaining comments I have from the Lighthouse critique group I’ve been going to since October. This group has been invaluable in pointing out legitimate plot holes, helping me understand reader reactions, and getting me unstuck when I couldn’t seem to move forward. I never would have finished without my peers and especially without the facilitator. In addition, some of us branched off into our own writing group, which helps me continue to find motivation through dedicated writing time and having people to bounce ideas off whose opinions I value and who know my story.  Continue reading →

Turning 40: Why I Write

At three days away from turning 40 years old, I haven’t been published, and yet I continue to write and call myself a writer. I’m not published because I haven’t ever submitted anywhere or queried an agent. Sure, I’d like to be published some day, but that’s never really been the point for me. The effort required to submit to agents and magazines and to market my work seems like it would sap all the fun out of writing. For me, the point is the process itself. I write because I have to. I have to explore ideas on paper and play with words and get creative. I’ve loved the written word since I was very, very little. Even though writing is an intrinsic part of me and a huge piece of my identity, it hasn’t always come easy. I took a nearly two-decade hiatus from creative writing, something I regret now even though I know I can only look forward. I did this exercise—a history of me as a writer in ten chapters—as part of a class I took and thought this would be a great time to share it on my blog.  Continue reading →

The Novel: To Query or Not to Query

As this entry posts to my blog, I am wrapping up my third year at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers retreat. This is a wonderful annual event held at a Franciscan Retreat Center in Colorado Springs. The center is in the perfect location, easily accessible from Boulder but far enough that I really do feel like I am getting away. The mountains are all around, making a quick hike or trail run easy to fit in between stints of writing in one of the quiet, cozy nooks of the residence hall. It is remarkably inexpensive but the rooms are so comfortable and they feed us three delicious meals a day.

Continue reading →

The Novel: Half A Novel And Proud of It

I’m back from an intense month of novel writing.

How did I do on the distraction front?

  • I only logged in to Facebook three times, and each time was for a specific purpose, such as updating my notification settings to stop getting text messages from Facebook about photos my friends were posting. They were trying hard to lure me back in after I was off the site for a few weeks, but I resisted. It actually wasn’t that hard to stay off Facebook…until the last few days. Then I started fiending. I’m so embarrassed to admit that.
  • I was on Twitter about every four days, scrolling aimlessly. This is more than usual, so clearly I was using it as a substitute for Facebook. However, with Twitter, I tend to scroll through my feed for 5-10 minutes, get bored, and shut it down. With Facebook, I can waste hours clicking on links, looking at groups, looking at friends’ profiles, etc. Twitter is a good substitute, for sure.
  • I scrolled through my blog reading list about once a week. I started writing this post on November 25. But as soon as I started writing it, I wanted to (and did) start working on other posts as well. And I started working on a short story. I basically didn’t touch my novel the whole last week of November. But it felt great to be writing something different.
  • I deleted one of my dating profiles and mostly used the other dating apps only to respond to people who messaged me. I wasted my own time actively scrolling through profiles once a week, so briefly each time. I went out on four dates.
  • I cancelled my Netflix account. This wasn’t in the plan, but I realized that I hadn’t used it in almost two months, so why bother keeping it? It has often been a distraction in the past. The temptation to binge can be strong.

Continue reading →

NaNoWriMo

Today is November 1st and that means National Novel Writing Month. I signed up two years ago and didn’t get very far, but this year, I’m all in. I went to two Boulder region kick off parties, I have eleven write-ins on my calendar, and for the past eight weeks, I’ve started attending the Friday 500 and my biweekly Saturday writers group again. Plus, I’m simultaneously signed up for a novel workshop, which started two weeks ago, so I have to submit pages for that for critique. I am firmly in writing mode and have no excuses to not have a draft completed on November 30.

NaNoWriMo Continue reading →

Kill Your Illogical Darlings

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings. – Arthur Quiller-Couch

If you’ve taken a few writing classes, you’ve undoubtedly heard this piece of advice. I heard it many, many times, but didn’t really grasp its application until I started seriously working on novels and short stories a few years ago. I have since learned it well and have files and files of bits of writing that I am super proud of, and yet, for one reason or another, are fatally flawed and won’t ever make it into a finished piece.  Continue reading →

The Novel: DOA at DIA

The novel is no more. If the possible reason that first comes to your mind is that my co-author is no more either, you are correct. I ended my relationship with Ironman a little while back and with it, the collaboration on our novel. When we first starting seeing each other casually last May, I thought we would always be friends and able to collaborate on projects even if we ended our romance. But the bizarre way he admittedly led me on for months, knowing that he no longer felt the way I felt about him, and then the way he instantaneously turned into a callous and cruel person without a single indication that anything was wrong even as we were making future plans together that very morning, now makes that impossible. Continue reading →

The Novel: The Real Writing…Doesn’t Begin

This was not a very productive month. We only wrote about 3,000 words total.

Ironman was working full force on a side project and I, well, I have no excuse. I was in a massive slump from the time I got back from Spain until my birthday. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t work on my short stories or on this novel, or even do any journaling. I barely even read anything. I’ve been wasting time on the internet and mindless shows on Netflix and tossing and turning all night with self-loathing over said time-wasting. Continue reading →

The Novel: Tough Topics

Progress continues, full steam ahead! We have written 31 total scenes now, and we started doing some compilation and review work. I’ve also been doing some more research and thinking in general about this book.

Our book deals with some heavy themes, so I’ve been reading some of the most popular YA books from 2017 to get a feel for how certain topics are being handled. I haven’t read YA in such a long time. Honestly, I can’t say that I remember reading YA when I was in the target age. I seemed to skip from Anne of Green Gables and Trixie Belden when I was in middle school right to Stephen King and other very adult books in high school.  Continue reading →

The Novel: 16 Drafted Scenes

It has been one month since I posted about the New Year’s resolution that happened to me, so it seems to be a good time for a status update. Posting about the novel and talking to people about it helps keep me accountable and working on it, though my co-author is also doing a really good job of that too. If it were up to me, I probably would have quit already. That’s not to say I’m not enjoying writing this book, because I very much am. I believe the story line is engaging and relevant to teens, and I know we have the writing chops. I just have a strong history of failure at keeping myself working on any of my projects.

So far, we’ve written 16 scenes. By written, I mean we only have a very rough first draft, but we’ve got the basic conflict and tension in each scene, and know what purpose each serves in driving the plot forward. Some of the details of these scenes will undoubtedly change, but it feels good to have this amount of work laid out. We have 20 more scenes planned out, with copious notes and ideas for each, ready to be written as soon as we have the time. We spent hours each day on our Big Bend trip talking through plot points we were stuck on and characters we didn’t know that well. We had planned to write actual scenes during that time, but stepping away from the writing for a bit to talk out the story, to get inside our characters heads and be them for a little while, was extremely useful in terms of moving us forward. Continue reading →