Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Progress

The characters for my two novels in progress have been left at home lately with nothing to do. This writer has been sidetracked with various small projects so I'm not really writing, I'm thinking about what I'm going to write, and somehow that isn't really the same thing. November is National Novel Writing Month, and I've decided to NOT participate this year. Not that I don't think it's useful, or fun, or a sadistic form of writer-torture, but I have two novels that I need to finish, and if I start one more, then I'll have three.

I do have a story though. I could do a little bit on it. 65,000 words isn't that many. Right?

I've discovered my writing block to be at the revision end of a completed work. My son is on my case because I intend to kill his favorite character in my Middle Grade novel. He doesn't get, nor does he care, that it will move the protagonist to a discovery she wouldn't have made if her best friend was there to keep her safe. He begs me, "Please don't kill Honey!" and I respond, "but I HAVE too." The grocery store was the last place this came up and I didn't edit myself until I saw the sideways glances and Jake's sudden realization that people were looking at us. End of exchange.

I am perfectly capable of making my own writing decisions and suffering the consequences if necessary. That usually is only a monetary drain on otherwise hopeful earning streams, but not as unexpected in our current economy. I'm years away from finding an agent, so perhaps the ability to get a well-written book out there will not be the leviathan task it now seems from this side of the fence.

I went to the Central Coast Writer's Conference at Cuesta College last month and had a few very helpful, very interesting classes. Dr. Clark from Cal Poly did a great poetry intensive that inspired a few of my latest works. Charlotte Cook was from a publishing house and read the first three pages of the brave souls who brought their blood and sweat and ink to her hand. For better, a "this is nice," to a worse, "don't do that," we all saw in quick succession that an agent or editor will give us about three minutes of their time. Rarely more, but at least a few.

It reminded me of me buying houses. I've bought so many that I see the outside presentation, walk through the flow of the rooms, get the gist of the timbre of the structure and make my decision. Some detail work is done later of course, but the decision to go onward can be made rather quickly. Charlotte does this with writing. I keep that in my head when I'm constructing the beginnings of things now.

My very most favorite presenter was Melissa Pritchard. She is a professor at Arizona State University and has written novels and short stories. I hadn't read her work before sitting in her class, but I instantly like her manner, her style, the way she spoke softly but so that all could hear, and really interacted with the class. Style. She has class and style. I love it. Some of the things she said in the workshop made intense divots in my illusion of having a great system for working full (and now also part) time and still being able to write. And her writing is . . . stellar. I truly love it. Her detail and story progression seems familiar, like something I've read before, but not boring. It's something I want to read over and over. My idea of literary fiction.

Not that I would have to do everything she did - you could say some of the things were quirky - but her point of shaking up the picnic blanket of your life so you could see what tumbled back to earth and where it landed - to see your own world differently - clicked into the space in my brain that had been patiently waiting for it all these years.

Now to make time to put those "out of the box" mental escapades to work for my girls Cassidy and Margaret. I had no concept of how very large a novel was when I started. Two sitting on my desk almost make me want to turn around and go get a nice hot cup of coffee and sit on the couch watching QVC. There is a system for revision - it is still overwhelming. So, I've let myself off the hook for a deadline.

I think I will have them both ready to shop out in December 2012 - just in time for the end of the world. That suits my pessimist side, but having a goal of two whole years to finish two whole novels makes the optimist sing.

Work will have to be wedged in there somewhere, along with the two men in my life, but they are pretty easy going and if there is food in the house, they don't venture far.

It will truly be a life accomplishment, a bucket list check, to complete and revise and refine and publish the novels. I really like the heroines and the stories. Hope readers will like them too.

Jo Taylor


  1. I am still laughing from the grocery store experience. Oh wow. So cute! I am glad you at least have plans to finish the book(s), but I also know a few writers who use Nano to FINISH such books....(You could do this!) :) Well, I won't push the issue, but I believe in you and love you and am so glad you are still writing this Blog!


  2. Oh Laura, you are such a smart girl. Maybe I will do that - use the timeframe to work on them. Hee hee! No one will know.

    Love you right back! Thanks for the kind and encouraging words.


  3. Thanks for mentioning me and my work in your blog. You're right. It's a quick reaction editors and agents have to works submitted. Otherwise we would die under the sheer weight of requests for our attention as well as our agreement that the work is ready for publication.

    I hope that's what came across to you because I'm a writer too. I know from my experience that, when I decide to submit a piece, my interest is grabbing hold of the attention of that reading agent or editor and not letting them know anything more than the piece is polished and ready to go.

    BTW, as the writers who work with me know, NICE is an A+ in my lingo.

    Good blog also. Read it from start to finish. And I think there are other ways to "kill" a character rather than making them dead. But that's your dilemma, not mine. And you got me thinking!

  4. Hi Charlotte!

    Wow - thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the blog.

    Yes, I had that "aha" moment when I was watching you read. The ease with which you knew good from not so good was enlightening. The ones you said "this is nice" to, and found the author in the crowd to acknowledge them, you smiled and explained what was good about it. Just as importantly, you pointed out what NOT to do. I love that. Clear guidance in a time when many things about publishing are not clear.

    I am a new writer, but the business is also changing. Being able to watch you work showed me how it was done. I know what I'm working towards now. Thank you.