Writing Doldrums

I’m in the doldrums.

I’ve polished my manuscript until parts seemed to be wearing through and it began to feel like I was rearranging furniture. Now it’s safely languishing in my agent’s TBR pile. Even as it’s tempting to go back in there and fiddle, I’m staying out of that world. Jem and Liz and Jake and Fish and Coach are safe from my meddling fingers.

My other novel-in-progress is marinating. Marinating is what I call the time between edits. It’s very hard to be objective and see your story clearly unless you leave it lie for at least a few weeks between edits. Otherwise, it’s like trying find anything on a map on your phone—you’re too close to see anything in perspective. Which means I have to leave Kat and Dylan and Pilgrim and Gwen alone to work their problems out, at least for a little while.

So, no fiction. Which isn’t easy for me.

Instead, I’m working on guest blog posts for my upcoming blog tour for Practicing Normal (which comes out June 6!!) and mostly coming up blank. Plus, I’m putting way too much time into blog posts for my dog blog. And still my writing energies are stopped up.

I’ve become so desperate I’m thinking of trying my hand at a short story (again). I’ve never written a decent short story.  Every short story I’ve ever attempted either turned into a novel or landed in my ‘crap I wrote’ folder to languish for all eternity. But you never know, maybe this time I’ll figure out the genre. Either that, or I’ll have a good start on my next novel.

Writing is not a job for the unmotivated. There is no boss telling me what to do, although, true confession, I kinda wish I had a boss telling me what to do. If I had a boss and a specific job description, then I’d know when I was finished a job (plus I might have benefits and overtime and paid vacation). Instead, writing work is endless, spiraling into the land of all-the-ways-to-waste-productive-time-productively. Blogging, for instance. Writing this post is not required of me. And yet, here I am, musing on nothing much. Wasting time, really, but productively because if nothing else I’m honing my craft.

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And that’s just it. If you’re gonna be a writer, ya gotta write.

Every day.

Even if it’s just a journal entry or an email to a friend. Slap those words down, one after the other. Do that long enough and eventually you hit on a few good combinations.

That said, I’m gonna head out to the wilds and do some short story wrangling. (Can you tell my short story will involve horses? And maybe cowboys. Hmmm….) I’m toying with pasting the beginnings of that story right here on the blog, if for no other reason than to hold myself accountable. So watch for installment number one next week.

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What are you writing? Anything good? Well, I hope at least your writing is humming.

Have a great Thursday and thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my stories and blogs, please visit CaraWrites.com. If you’d like to catch up on all my adventures, subscribe to my (occasional) newsletter.

Writer or Brain Surgeon – YOU decide

Most of us writers are professional whiners. We know how to complain with colorful, compelling alliteration and perfect grammar.

And, truly, we have so much to complain about—low pay, minimal recognition for ridiculous amounts of work, a swamped market, the Big 5 monopoly that rigs the system and controls the best-seller lists. And then there’s the social media grind, endless platform building, the odds, the hours of harvesting the dregs of your heart, only to be dismissed because that genre’s not selling. Thankless work, really.

And whose skin doesn’t crawl when they hear the phrase, “Anybody can get published nowadays.” I read a well-written complaint recently wherein a professional writer said something to the effect of – Continue reading “Writer or Brain Surgeon – YOU decide”

Nature Vs Nurture: Am I a Story Genius?

I buckled down and got serious about my assigned reading this week, plowing through three chapters of Story Genius. The picking apart of the story writing process prickled my nerves a bit. I’ve never been good at following directions and details bore me to tears, but I pledged to read this book so I powered on.

I found myself, nodding, duh, duh, duh at some points and at other times I underlined sections like I did in American History class, thinking, “This is the part that will be on the test.”

And then I went for a run and thought about it. I don’t have time to read to be reading. My shelves are creaking with books I’m dying to read. So, what is the point here? Why am I forcing myself to read craft books? Can’t I just write? Continue reading “Nature Vs Nurture: Am I a Story Genius?”

Avoidance Techniques from a Master (Week 4 of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)

Reading multiple writing books at once has my head spinning. This past week, while distracted by my BIG NEWS, I had a hard time making myself sit down and follow my reading plan for becoming a better writer. I do my assigned reading in the evening, but each night I found a reason not to read. Instead, I spent a lot of time with my foster puppies…..

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And I caught up on The Crown and sorted my Netflix que and finished reading Dogged Pursuit by Robert Rodi (hilarious) 6480008 and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (exquisite). 15705011Next, instead of doing my assigned reading Continue reading “Avoidance Techniques from a Master (Week 4 of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)”

Guess What?!!

I’m interrupting this regularly scheduled post, to give you an exciting update (at least for me):

Unbeknownst to most of you, I’ve been agent-less for the last year, having parted ways with my previous agent who was a really delightful person, but who just wasn’t a great fit for me for a multitude of reasons that would be unfair to air here.

That said, Continue reading “Guess What?!!”

May the Power of Literature Change Your Life (Week Two of my Be-a-Better-Writer Reading Program)

Okay, I’ve changed my mind.

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This is a picture of my cat Hermoine, because she changes her mind frequently and never apologizes about it (she also sits shamelessly on the heater vent and hogs all the heat in the kitchen). Please do not take note of the filthy floor, focus on the cat.

 

 

Story Genius and Lisa Cron are pretty genius.

After sharing my disdain last week, I take it all back. Digging deeper into this book, I’m finding nugget after nugget of gold.

Maybe I was a bit sensitive after her comments about pantsers (those of us who write by the seat of our pants as opposed to careful outlining). I’ve decided that Lisa Cron actually does have room for pantsers in her heart. At least my kind of pantsing.

She’s not shoving an outline down my throat (at least at this point), but she does want me to know exactly what it is my protagonist wants and what is keeping her from it. The intersection of those points is what she terms the ‘third rail.’

While I may have no idea what’s going to happen in any story I start, I do know my protagonist inside and out and am very certain of what she wants. I even know the first obstacle which will throw her into a tailspin and start my story. After that, though, all bets are off, but inevitably obstacle after obstacle will present itself.

In my novel Girls’ Weekend there were three protagonists (although Cron has helped me see that there is actually an ‘alpha protagonist’) and I knew what those women wanted (even though not all of them did) and what stood in their way. In reality, looking back, that could have been three books. A nice little series. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

So, yeah, enjoying Story Genius.

The other books are also inspiring me, even Donald Maass. Here’s a line I’ve been ruminating on from Fire in Fiction:

“Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone.”

I’ve gone back and begun looking at each chapter and studied my opening and closing lines. It’s one way to be certain my story is bringing the reader along purposefully. He also talks about being certain there’s a purpose in every scene, not just artfully rendered sentences. I’m a serious proponent of that direction, and I chuckled at his line about the purpose not having to be obvious. There’s no need to “squat atop it like an elephant on an egg.” Totally going to steal that line at some point.

And then this from Fierce on the Page:

“This is the power of the written word. As we take in a story that affects us, we meet ourselves more deeply.”

Yes. That’s exactly it.

Natalie Goldberg echoes this sentiment:

“A responsibility of literature is to make people awake, present, alive.”

Doing all this reading about craft and purpose and style and function some days makes my head spin a bit and makes me feel like not only do I not know what I’m doing, but maybe I should apply for a job at the new Burger King that just opened in town. But Jordan Rosenfeld was there to catch me when she wrote:

“Trust your gut about what resonates and what does not. Know that you’ll know what to cut and what to keep…..You will find the alive passages, and you can even choose to build on them. Those are the words you are meant to write; similarly, the life that flows is the one you’re meant to live.”

I think she might have more faith in me that I have in myself, but I’ll borrow it for now.

May the power of literature change your life this week.


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Week One of my Be-A-Better-Writer Reading Plan

I’m one week into my Be-A-Better-Writer reading plan and I already feel like a better writer. I’m learning a few things and I feel intentional, which is my favorite kind of feeling.

Plus, I really like coloring my notes with my gel pen set. I underline and star and copy thoughts into my notebook and then go back and circle and underline even more in color. Plus, some pages of my journal have little coloring breaks—

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Reading six writing books each day is a bit like having six teachers hanging out in my office with me. I like some more than others. I find myself looking forward to opening some (Writing Down the Bones, The Art of Memoir), forcing myself to read others because I know it’s good for me (Fire in Fiction, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence), and having mixed emotions about the other two because while they captivate me with their engaging style, every now and again they irritate me (Story Genius, Fierce on the Page).

Some of the writers feel like old friends I’d love to meet for a beer and commiserate with about the sad state of the publishing industry. Others feel more like the teacher I had in third grade who was really pretty and let us watch Electric Company during class, but also scared the shit out of me and rendered me mute with her wicked brilliance and condescending confidence.

Story Genius is probably pushing me the most. It’s making me question the framework of the story I wrote this fall.

Fire in Fiction is making me examine the characters in that story. Although Fire in Fiction is also the book I’m least inclined to open if I’m sleepy or unmotivated. Maass uses TONS of examples from books I haven’t read which is frustrating because my sad little brain is overwhelmed with sorting out the story he’s quoting instead of the point he’s making. It’s exhausting. Add to that my feeling of inadequacy because I haven’t read so many of his examples. If I was a real writer, I would have read them, right?

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is Continue reading “Week One of my Be-A-Better-Writer Reading Plan”