Posts Tagged ‘writer’s loft’

More drafts, more workshops

Friday, August 18th, 2017

from the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival. There's metaphor in here somewhere.

Summer is tilting to a close, winding down into the cooler days with a spike of heat. It’s been nuts, juggling kids and writing and marketing and family and the world as it currently stands and all manner of things but still, here we are, hanging on by our claws.

I finished Draft #3.5 y’all. Somehow. <a cacophony of horns>

It’s been three years — two years really, adjusted for baby-having — of working on this Novel about ghosts and identity and prejudice and grief and steampunk-iness and birds. The story itself saw its very first incarnation (the first half of a short story) way way back in 2009. It was a little over 3 pages, single-spaced, and just shy of 2000 words.

Draft #3.5 is 95,736 words, aka 307 manuscript pages.

For those keeping track at home, word counts for the drafts, as compiled:

Draft #3.5: 95, 736; 307 pages (~8 months)
Draft #2.5: 92, 038 words; 295 pages (~5 months)
Draft #1: 96, 089; 327 pages (~ 1 year)

I’ve been working on the third draft since January. So roughly eight months — six adjusted for child sick-time and extended vacations. I haven’t been tracking my revisions with this draft you guys because they have been so extensive. I hacked up Part I and rearranged so much that even I forgot the changes I made when I went back to do my ½ draft this past month. I literally had folders labeled “Rearranging” for each Part so I could move scenes out of order without losing them. I hit two major snags — Chapters 13/14 and Chapters 23/24 — that stalled me for weeks each time.  I feel like I’ve taken this draft as far as I can go.

So what now? It’s with beta (gamma?) readers again.

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More readers? When do I get to read it??

Patience, young padwan, and thank you for your vote of confidence. It’s on my ten year plan to be published before I’m 40, so there’s that?

The truth is it needs more eyes but right now it needs a finite number of eyes and the right kind. What I mean to say is I’ve identified several of the problem areas and potential problem areas. I need other writers to look at the manuscript and help me work through those sections. Those who can give me constructive, actionable feedback. I want you to read it —I do!— I can’t wait for that glorious day. But for now I’m still keeping it close because I want it to be as perfect as I can make it when you do get to read it. I want it to flow and make sense and sear you right down to the inner chambers of your heart.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned during this draft?

This will sound silly, but I changed my chapter length. In the last draft, my chapters were usually around 5000 words, give or take a thousand. I cut that down so now they’re more like 3000 on average. That isn’t to say I cut words. Au contraire. Instead I changed where my chapters ended to increase momentum. So now I have more, shorter chapters. I heard a podcast about chapter length on Writing Excuses and it changed my whole outlook. I think it’s made the book stronger, even as it made some transitions much more difficult.

So what’s next?

I’ll be reading some books and some other folks’ manuscripts over the next month. But mostly I am turning my attention to my nascent marketing business huzzah!

I am hosting TWO marketing events this September:

Bookseller Panel FlyerBehind the Bookshelves: A Panel on Building Relationships with Bookstores

Sept. 10, 2 – 4pm, The Writer’s Loft
I’m moderating an awesome group of bookstore folks —managers, booksellers, connected authors— and we’re going to talk about how stores can be community hubs and advocates for writers at all stages. Join us! It’s (pretty much) free!
Class Spotlight Marketing WorkshopBuild Your Own Event: A Marketing Workshop
Sept. 16, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm, Grub Street Inc.

Yup, I’m teaching my building events seminar again but this time at the illustrious, Boston-based, non-profit creative writing center Grub Street Inc. They have a lot of famous instructors y’all. Steve Almond even teaches sometimes. Anyway, I want to make a good impression so if you’ve been wanting to get a crash course in events/marketing, PLEASE SIGN UP. Or if not, SIGN YOUR FRIENDS UP. Nothing makes a good impression like a full roster.

But what about the writing?

I need a little break. Maybe I’ll writing some poetry. Or revise an old short story. There’s a time travel one that’s been kicking me for a rewrite.

But really, prove to me you wrote something. C’mon.

Well, alright, if you insist. From Chapter 8:

Instead, she leans forward so her hair hangs down on either side of her face and she begins to braid it, cleanly and methodically. The braid is tight and small, right next to her face. “Here,” she says, tilting her head towards me, her dark, straight hair caressing my arm, soft as feathers. “Help me.” I want to ask my questions but I don’t. Instead I take a handful of her hair and clumsily separate it into three strands. She is already onto her second braid.

“Where I’m from, mourners wear their hair braided for a year. New braids, every day. Right after a death, you fill your hair with braids, as many as you can make. Members of a family or community will help each other. By the year’s end, you have one braid. Down the back or to the side or tight against the skull. Some people wear their hair that way for the rest of their lives. Others go back to living.” She gently shakes the bottom of the braid she has just finished, tugging on one of the strands and the whole thing unravels. She begins it again.

“Am I allowed to mourn myself?” she asks “How many braids is that?”

“I don’t know.” I try to focus on the braid, distract myself from the soft feeling of my fingers tangled in her hair. But I’m no good at braids; it’s messy, hairs straying all over the place, uneven. No mourning braids in Eidolon; we have the Order of Days and rituals that are supposed to help. Corna would say following the old ways connects us with the Living and the Dead, the wheel and the Valley. Tearing our sleeves, marking our bodies. But it is never finished is it? Just a never-ending circle of deeply etched grief. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way. What am I missing? When you can visit your dead face-to-face, what reason is there to grieve? I know a hundred reasons but I still don’t know how to speak them.

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Spring Revision

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

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There is something uplifting about the early spring: crisp air and hot sun or the neon green of new grass against the grey of cooler rainy days. When I was a kid, our neighbors forsythia would burst into canary yellow blooms and in it’s shade was a small patch of vinca, a spring flowering ground cover. I loved those little purple flowers so much. I would pick a few and put them in a glass of water, then present them to my father with a sandwich for his lunch.

I knew when we moved into this house that vinca grew all over our property because there was still a flower lingering here and there, but it’s another thing all together to see our home blanketed in it. It feels right and special. I miss the gardens we’d begun at our old home – lightly neglected herbs and perennial flowers that bloomed throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Some fragrant, some colorful. But the vinca and forsythia and azaleas are enough for now. I traipsed around the yard with my oldest child this weekend, searching out these early blooming flowers, discovering the plantings around our new home. We started up the grill and I even broke out my iced tea press so you know I’m committed to this fresh, fine weather.

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Spring should be the season to review feedback — see where the revisions you’ve made have born fruit, as it were — but here I am still revising: planting the bulbs late, moving things around, hoping nothing sprouts stunted. This winter/early spring has been mostly snow and sick days. I should just give in to the fact that nothing of significance ever gets written in February in my home. But the sunshine and above freezing temperatures, the pastels and yellows and greens of April are warming me up. So! Writerly updates!

  1. I wrote a short story! And I submitted it to an anthology! And it got rejected! But that’s okay! It was about a boy and first contact with an alien shaped like a tiny pink pony and it was really fun to write and totally one hundred percent different from my novel which was a much-needed change of pace.
    1. I thought writing short stories after writing a novel would be a piece of cake. I was wrong.
    2. I really want the next big project I work on to be funny.
  2. I taught another event building workshop in March. In fact, I’m making a bit of a side business of helping authors plan and market book events. Because apparently I need more to do.
    1. When I couldn’t think of how to fix my novel, I made a website for my event coaching business. I  am now taking select clients.
    2. I have another workshop scheduled in June. You should come!
  3. I’m now doing a monthly marketing blog post for the Writer’s Loft blog, Loftings.
  4. I’ve been plugging away at revisions but it’s slow. I hit a big snag with The Month of February and then working through a really thorny chapter that had me stumped. Plus planning for my workshop. But! It goes!
  5. I read some books in January and February (highlights included Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and the first few Company books by Kage Baker) but nothing much since. I’m currently enjoying the compilation of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto because I love J.C. and because I can read it in little pieces before bed.

I am almost through revising Part 2 of 3 so that is a good feeling. I need to go back and continue to comb through the rough, messy parts. I was so hoping this draft would be wrapped up in another month or so but it may need longer. And then reading. And probably one more draft (not sure how deep of one, hard to say).

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I have days when I swear I am not smart enough for this, that I have nothing original to say. I have days when things slot together like an elaborate line of tumblers, unlocking something deep inside the story so I can see a bit of light shining through from the end, from the place this story could be.

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Event Workshop by Yours Truly

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Photo credit: Pam Vaughan

Photo credit: Pam Vaughan

I’m excited to share that The Writer’s Loft in Sherborn, MA has invited me back to present at their lovely writing center. Last time I talked about how authors can market themselves to independent bookstores. This time I’ll be leading a Build-Your-Own-Event workshop. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Okay, I can: I am VERY excited. When I worked at the bookstore, I would get calls all the time from debut authors on our event schedule who were nervous because now that they/their publicist had booked them an event, what were they supposed to do? Was anyone going to come? How could they prepare? So I can’t wait to help writers and illustrators at all stages in their careers learn to be both practical and creative with their events. And to send them on their way with a concrete plan. Come join us on October 1st at 2pm!

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Hope you can be there or help spread the word. If you’re interested in this workshop but can’t attend, reach out or leave a note in the comments and we can work something out in the meantime. Or if there’s enough demand, maybe the Loft will invite me back!

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Wild Summer Days

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

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My summer has been a wild one and I’ve been having trouble getting my feet under me. It has literally involved a birth, a death, visiting family, unpredictable illnesses, and the slow climb back to health. Despite how much I enjoy the summer months and hot weather, I’ve spent most of my time indoors. I haven’t done much writing this summer (I hadn’t planned to) with the exception of a poem for my sister. I’ve managed to read half a dozen books, including Max Gladstone’s Two Serpent’s Rise and Angélica Gorodischer’s Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire that Never Was (as translated by Ursula Le Guin). My garden is a wild place full of bolted lettuces, overgrown rhubarb, weeds, and herbs run rampant. My preschooler is the only one who’s been harvesting anything: handfuls of fresh mint and sage that she eats on the back steps. I have drunk gallons of iced tea and am not ashamed in the least.

I’m a new parent for the second time. There’s a fullness and an emptiness to the early days of parenting. The days are long and full of needs – hunger, discomfort, boredom, exhaustion – but it feels impossible to meet them all, for yourself or your child. There is so much to do coupled with vast swaths of time just… waiting: for the baby to wake up or fall asleep or finish eating. You need space and you need support. This time around I pressed down my misplaced pride and accepted as much help as possible with an open heart. I’m grateful for all the extra hands and frozen dinners and chances to nap. I’m grateful that the pieces of our life that have slowly been taken apart this summer are finally coming together again in a new shape.

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Now I look down the long lane of the autumn months and the spice of anticipation is mixed with the dread of not knowing how to get back into the rhythm of the work. I’ll be meeting with my beta readers at the beginning of September to get feedback on The Ghost Story project and then will tackle Draft 3. I’ll be teaching a workshop on author events at the Writer’s Loft in October. I want to reconnect with the world of books and writers. I want to write book reviews and blog posts. But after a summer that has fluctuated so wildly between overwhelming and tedious and with an autumn where I’ve committed to caring for my newborn along side my third draft, I feel as if I’m starting from scratch. How can I ensure we’re all getting enough sleep and sunshine and creative time?

It comes down to re-aligning expectations. Taking care of a baby while trying to edit a novel is going to change the way I need to structure my days, both as a writer and a parent. I won’t have the luxury of dawdling on social media or watching TV during naps – I’ll need to be working. If I want to have this project polished enough to submit to agents by the end of the spring, I’ll need to find the time to write — and if I can’t find the time, I’ll need to make it. And I’ll also need to forgive myself over and over again for missteps as I rediscover balance.

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