Finding your place

A friend of mine is unhappy in her career and she plans to go back to school and change her direction. The problem is, she hasn’t figured out what it is she wants to do now, and she said something that struck me. She said “I always thought I’d find what I wanted to do and I’d just know.”

This sort of bowled me over.

I thought about how it’s true that we are told as children that we’ll know. We’ll decide what we want to be when we grow up and we’ll just do it and then we’ll be happy. Well, that’s sort of silly, really. When you’re a kid the world is full of teachers and doctors and firefighters and all kinds of good, obvious things. No kid has ever said “I want to be a claims adjustor when I grow up,” but there are still a lot of claims adjustors. Sometimes you just end up somewhere, and maybe you love it and maybe you hate it, but you probably didn’t plan it.

Second I realized that I always knew. I’ve always been a storyteller. As I told someone in the comments on an earlier post (here), I’ve always wanted to write, for as long as I knew what it was, probably before then. It’s what I always wanted. Yet here I am, no longer in “My salad days, / When I was green in judgment,” finally pursuing that dream. I ended up somewhere else, even though I knew what I wanted. I had to ask myself why.

Why is a big question. Why did I let my dream go and only write intermittently for most of my adult life and then only for my own pleasure? Well, there was my mother when I was young for starters. My mother was a wonderful woman, but she was a single mother with little financial help. She worked hard, far too hard, and she took wonderful care of me. However, she always worried about my making money. When I was fifteen or so, she suggested I become an insurance underwriter. How many people would come up with that dream for their teenaged daughter? Well, it sounded profitable and stable and so it was a good idea. Writing, on the the other hand, was poorly paying and unstable, somehow suspect and certainly not a decent way to make a living… maybe even smacking of laziness. Now, these things are quite true (except the laziness–writing is hard work!) and I don’t blame my mother for worrying. But it scared me. It scared me enough that I never truly considered writing as a primary career. It was always something I was going to do on the side while I had some other, sensible career.

Still, that’s not what happened either. I didn’t write. I kept my hand in with a few short stories just for myself now and again, but I didn’t write, not really, and I never did anything with any of it. What was the reason for that?

I contemplated, it’s true, going into my college’s creative writing program, but I found out they required a sample of my writing for me to be considered. Between being a genre writer (fantasy, mystery, historical fiction and some splashes of horror and sci fi) and a crippling fear of rejection, I didn’t apply. Those things stayed with me. Genre fiction is still viewed as suspect by the writing world, and indeed the world at large, and that makes it hard to find a support network. Writers groups don’t want you. Your friends might understand, but very few other people get it. Only the most specialized of publications want you. It’s tough. Then there’s that self-doubt and fear of rejection. Ooh, that’s a vicious little bugbear to escape. Eventually I did, but it plagues me still occasionally.

Top it all off with the fact that I went to school in a subject I loved and could convince myself was my true calling. Before I knew it, writing was gone. Then I ended up in a career not remotely related to my college major, but writing, for awhile, didn’t come back.

I’m better now. I’ve recovered (mostly) from self doubt and I know what I want. I will get my work out to the world by hook or by crook. It’s good. It deserves to be seen by eyes other than my own, to spark imaginations other than my own.

Wish me luck!

I’m back!

Okay, so Nano kicked my butt and I’ve not kept up here and I took a little break from all writing for a fortnight. Words hurt there for a little while.

I beat it in the end though and came in with 50,031 words, but it was skin of teeth time at the old home front. The book just got away from me for awhile and I felt like I was wandering in circles looking for it. But I found it in the end and it’s where it should be—for half(ish) of a first draft. I’ll re-work the first half after the holidays and then write the second half. It’ll be a sort of draft 1.5.

I’ve been looking at apps for writers, both for computer and for mobile devices (read iPhone in my case). I’ve found some interesting things, but I wonder if it would be useful for me to learn a new application—something that claims to have more functionality for novel writing than a word processor—or if I will become bogged down in features and not just write… Who can say until I try?

I’ve looked at ScrivenerStoryist and StoryMill so far. Scrivener has both Mac and Windows versions. As far as I can tell, StoryMill and Storyist are Mac only, though Storyist has an iPad version. I won’t get to them right away (write away?) but I’ll get to them soon and I’ll let everyone know what I think!

Has anyone used any of these apps or have another they swear by? Tell me about it in the comments.


Good News and Bad News

Well, Nano started yesterday and so far so good. The book provisionally called Witchwood Tree (that’s got to change, but I’ve got to call it something for now), has so far fulfilled its Nano requirements. It has more than 1667 as of this morning. By evening I hope it will have 3334. I’m excited about the book and glad to be working on it.

On the other side of the cheerful scale, I’ve received another rejection, bringing the count up to three of thirteen. Ten to go.

Nanowrimo tips

Well, we’re almost there. Halloween and then National Novel Writing Month. With that and the weather cooling down and Thanksgiving coming… Well, it’s no wonder this is my favorite time of the year! To heck with winter holidays, giving me overindulgence in candy, turkey and writing!

So in celebration of the most wonderful time of the year, I’ve got a few Nano tips. I’ve succeeded at Nano almost every time I’ve done it (exception: one year when I was very ill) and so that of course makes me qualified to give tips. (No it doesn’t. I made that up, but I’m giving tips anyway.)

1) It really depends on what sort of writer you are, but for me Nano works best when you have a solid starting point, and a solid ending point and perhaps two or three salient points you must touch upon along the way. Hold onto these for dear life. You need them. They are your life preservers in a stormy sea. Everything else: let it go where it wants. Let it flow.

2) Despite what I told you in #1, only hold onto those points if they aren’t ruining everything. Let them go if they no longer work for you. If your story is sinking because your life preserver turned out to be made of lead, let it sink and swim back up. Look for the next one. Or craft a new one from the flotsam and jetsam that rose as your wrote. (Am I beating this metaphor to death?)

3) Don’t be afraid to use too many words. Describe things. Allow your characters to have ponderous inner dialogues, or indeed, ponderous external dialogues. You may well edit this stuff out later (after November, please. See #4), but it clarifies the story, the setting and/or the characters to you. It helps you work things out you may not have considered before. Your readers may not need it eventually, but you probably need it now.

4) Whatever you do, don’t edit. Really. Don’t edit. Don’t even reread except to remind yourself where you were when you return to writing after a break. You have permission to fix the occasional typo you might run across but, otherwise, leave that clunky sentence, ignore that nonsensical soliloquy, pretend that bit about the fluffy bunny is perfect. Keep going. Nano is like being chased by hounds. If you stop, you won’t start up again. (Oh, now that’s a much worse metaphor. In honor of Nano, I’m leaving it.)

5) This one is sort of part of #4 and sort of not. Don’t pre-edit. Don’t sit and search for just the right word. “What is it when you add things, but you’re English or something? What is that phrase?” Doesn’t matter. This is Nano. Use “add” now and remember “tot up” in December when you’re at leisure to do so. “Do I want my heroine’s dress to be chartreuse, lime or mint?” Pick one and keep moving. Allow her clothes to represent her specific mood later when you have time. (Is chartreuse happier than lime?) Just keep moving. Remember those hounds. Or, if we want to get back to the ocean metaphor, you’re like a shark. If you don’t keep swimming, you’ll drown.

6) Have fun. No, really. Have fun. Take it only as seriously as necessary. Yes, you want a story when you’re done. Yes, you hope it leads to something wonderful. However, if you’re not having fun, if you’re not enjoying the mad race to the finish line, it’s not worth it. Let it wash over you like a wave and swim for the joy of swimming. Love the baying of the hounds. (Wait, I was swimming. Have the hounds started swimming now too? Are these metaphors strained at last to the breaking point?) Nano is, at least in part, a self-indulgence. That’s why it comes but once a year and (in my opinion) why it’s right after Halloween and still whizzing for Thanksgiving. It’s a feast. (Hold on; are we eating in the ocean now? Am I a shark again? Is there dog food for the hounds?) Enjoy it.

Queries Out!

Well, that’s 13 queries sent. Good thing I’m not superstitious! The earliest I can expect to hear from anyone is 2 weeks, the longest 3 months (at least from those who posted a time at all). I don’t think I can keep my fingers crossed for 3 whole months!

Anyone I haven’t heard from within 3 months, I’ll have to assume it’s a rejection. It has become fairly common in the industry to use non-response as a rejection. In a way, I like it better than a rejection letter. Rejection letters are tough to read, even though they’re usually form letters.

Ah well, the long wait begins. Time to keep myself distracted by planning my Nano novel.

Synopsis is done.

At least, I think it is. Ideally the synopsis would be fewer than 1000 words. Sadly, I simply could not manage it. I whittled it down to 1600 words or so, and then thought I needed everything that was left. I had to cover all salient points, clarify my MC’s emotional responses, mention all important characters and try to evoke my writing style too! All that and it needs to stay interesting. Well, I think I did it, but I grabbed 600 extra words. We’ll see.