5 Minutes Until the Miracle

October 15, 2007 at 9:35 am | Posted in editing, Jessica, procrastination, self-editing, writer's block, writing | 3 Comments

Self-editing. That’s the topic for us Purple Hearts this week.

“For a writer, the ability to look at a sentence and see what’s superfluous, what can be altered, revised, expanded, and, especially, cut, is essential. It’s satisfying to see that sentence shrink, snap into place, and ultimately emerge in a more polished form: clear, economical, sharp.”

In one of those serendipitous moments, this week I started reading the book, Reading Like a Writer, by the aptly named Francine Prose . The prose above comes from page 2 of that book and has come in handy, not only to help shore up my week’s post but to also provide a much-needed refresher to my perspective on self-editing.

I have approached editing, revision, and rewriting as essential but abject pains in the writing process. But because I get so weighed down in the stress of this part of the process, I often lose sight of the point of the exercise – to make a rough draft better, or a good book great.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with how to do just that. I have been so frustrated with this process that I have started to question how much longer I want to do this. It’s a painful admission.

But then someone posts some words-for-witers-to-live-by to one of my writing loops and one entry in particular steals my attention: You are closest to making it when you are closest to quitting.

It’s like being a member of the mob for me – just when you try to get out, they do something to Suck. You. Back. In. Argh!

I was watching the Today Show one morning last week and a segment featured a family whose mother’s priceless heirlooms got lost on a trip to the hospital and dumped in the trash. To make a long story short, the family persuaded the trash company to dump the hospital’s compacted waste at a separate site at the landfill so they could search the enormous amount of trash. A compassionate custodian from the hospital joined in to help in the search for this needle-in-a-haystack.

Throughout the arduous process, the custodian encouraged the family by repeating his belief that you cannot quit five minutes before the miracle. After six hours of digging, the family was ready to admit that they were never going to find their mother’s lost jewelry. The custodian ripped open just one more bag . . . and located the heirlooms.

He refused to quit five minutes before the miracle.

Self-editing is the figurative enormous amount of trash I have to overcome. But if I refuse to quit five minutes before the miracle, then perhaps I, too, will be able to sort through the detritus and find the buried treasure in my manuscript.

And besides, Joey-Bag-of-Doughnuts can be very persuasive.

I hope your week is full of miracles and serendipitous moments!

-Jessica

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Fall = Foliage, Frost & Football

September 10, 2007 at 10:20 am | Posted in Jessica, motivation, procrastination, writing | Leave a comment

This week, we Purple Hearts are going to think about the coming change in season. My friends who are moms look forward to this time of year because they can claim some more writing time while their little ones head back to school. But for me, fall is my least productive time of year. I am a big fan of summer so, yes, the colder mornings, first frosts, and start of shorter days all contribute to a bit of funk . . . but the biggest culprit to my slowed progress is my addiction to college football.

What does this interruption have to do with writing (other than posing some serious obstacles to productivity)?

In the words of Knut Rockne:
“Football is a game played with arms, legs and shoulders but mostly from the neck up.”

To a certain extent there is a physical aspect to being a writer. Sitting, hunched over the keyboard, punching out scenes and settings and dialogue and GMC, running through our own paces each day, all require a certain amount of physical fitness and balanced nutrition in order to play our positions. But largely, writing is a game played from the neck up and each time we hit our respective playing fields, we can best perform if we come equipped and ready to play.

Getting ready to start writing a new book is as grueling a pre-season for me as training camp in ninety-degree weather. (Well, maybe not as physically intense – I’ve attended training camp in Dallas in July and it’s purely brutal as a spectator, so I can’t imagine suiting up in pads and running drills and battling dehydration while clashing with behemoths on the other side of the line of scrimmage.) But the respective paces mirror one another in terms of discipline, practice, and the need to execute in order to ‘make the team’.

The prospect requires a game plan.

Whether it’s plotting or outlining your book, finding where you fit in the market, identifying appropriate agents, targeting certain publishing houses, establishing your author brand, or networking your way to the right connections for you, the writing is about the writing . . . and then some.

As Myretta mentioned in her blog post last week, writing is very much a solitary endeavor and, while we may surround ourselves with chosen teammates, we are ultimately our own coaches, communications personnel, scouts, quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, guards, safeties, defensive ends, and special teams. It’s up to us – our prep, our strategy, and our execution – whether we win or lose.

So shake out those arms, roll those shoulders, and stretch those legs. Exercise those writing muscles and get ready to write! Oh, and if Georgia loses to Alabama in their SEC match-up on September 22, I will never hear the end of it!

-Jessica

The Grand Gesture

July 18, 2007 at 9:52 am | Posted in Bria, hero, life, procrastination, romance, writing | 4 Comments

It could be the fact that I’ve been editing and writing until ungodly hours for the last week and a half, it could be knowing I’ll be unemployed in 9 days, it could be the darn PMS. But I really think it was the story.

So I’ve been procrastinating.

Last night I wrote/edited nothing (per Meg Heartlette who told me I obviously needed a 24 hour reprieve). Instead I chatted with (distracted) a fellow Romance Diva for a good hour keeping her from her writing (but she’s just so fun to chat with!)

This morning, ignoring the fact that I needed to write about heroes, I started browsing blogs, looking to see what people back from RWA Nationals had to say.

Elizabeth Boyle is so under-rated. I’ve seen some reviews of her work that I feel are just off. If she writes a book, I read it. Enough said. So, when I was stalling and saw a link to her blog – of course I had to head over. And there it was. Right there on the left-hand side bar of her website: “My Favorite Hero.”

Wasn’t I supposed to be writing about heroes this week? ‘Click’

<>Often, romance readers get swept up and don’t believe love and romance happen in the real world. I don’t expect the grand gesture in my life – they don’t happen, men don’t understand the concept. Right? Wrong – and Miss Boyle’s husband had me swooning. That started me thinking about what real-life grand gestures look like and the first one I saw. I grew up in small town America where the cows outnumbered the people, one main road ran through the center and stoplights and street lights didn’t exist. The big event of the week was the parent’s softball game where the kids were given free run of the town green.

This particular summer I was ten-years-old, when ten was still considered young, 15 pounds underweight and all freckles and elbows. It was my turn to watch the pastor’s two-year-old daughter and she cuddled in my lap as I watched the other kids run around in circles as if they were getting somewhere.

As they all disappeared to the other side of the bandstand, ‘The Boy’ came over to sit with me and told me how boring it was being my week to baby-sit. Even then his blue eyes were to die for. Across Rt. 58, where the woods drifted down a hill to the bogs, were the most beautiful crab-apple blossoms peeping through the rushing cars.

“You can smell them when the wind turns.” It was an off handed comment to fill the silence.

The next thing I knew, The Boy was dodging cut-thru traffic to the far side of the road. On his way back, the blaring horns made the baby reach up to cover her ears as he waved a fist full of blossoms at the cars as they screeched to a halt.

Climbing back up the green’s hill with a loopy smile on his face, he threw himself down beside us. Handing the girl almost all the flowers, he announced he’d rescued them from the tree for the little princess.

And then, taking the last blossom and pushing it behind my ear, he whispered there, “But I saved the prettiest one for her babysitter.”

Years later that Boy must be deadly.

I’d loved to hear about your grand gesture – and I’d love for you to read Miss Boyles, it made my heart skip: http://www.elizabethboyle.com/meet.htm

And after you’ve done that, Go Write!

-bria

Procrastination as an Art Form

July 11, 2007 at 9:08 am | Posted in inspiration, procrastination, writing | Leave a comment

Often, we procrastinate in sneaky ways.  Allow me to explain. 

Who hasn’t said these words at some point: “It isn’t really procrastination because. . .” 

Here are some of my favorite ways to enable my own it-isn’t-really-procrastination procrastination: 

Reading. I love to read. Love Love Love Love Love – ok, you get the idea.  I’ll read just about anything.  Things I’m not even enjoying I’ll finish (I’m trying not to do that unless it’s something I can learn from and am just fighting against it.)  But reading makes me a better writer. Right? 

Playing with my resources. You’ll notice if you go under the ‘Bria’ tab, there’s a link to my resources page.  Each week I post one more place I do some learning or get some ideas. This week’s resource has been instrumental in my self-editing attempts: Stephanie Bond’s ‘Writer’s Page’ has great articles, including her ‘Self Editing Checklist Series’ – definitely check it out – there’s an article tied to every “checkbox” to help you look at them in the right way:

http://www.stephaniebond.com/writers’_articles.htm  

Romance Diva’s is a fabulous website with fun people, great topics and useful information.  Unfortunately, because it’s a writer’s forum, I can convince myself that I’m working on my craft. For example, they have a fun game where someone gives you an absurd prompt and you, quick like a bunny, have to write a scene with your hero & heroine around it (check out my first one here – look at me being brave posting this silliness). When the fun has gone on long enough, I drift over to the chat area where I (thankfully) get my butt kicked in a 20 minute challenge and start my writing moving.

 http://www.romancedivas.com/    
If you aren’t a member, look into it this week.  They’re doing a special free, online ‘I’m not going to RWA Nationals’ conference.

While these procrastinations are helpful, and a girl’s gotta learn somehow, sometimes, as a writer, you need to know when to turn off the resources and turn on the writing.   

So, as usual, Go Write. 

-bria

Blogging is NOT Procrastinating

July 9, 2007 at 9:33 am | Posted in inspiration, Jessica, procrastination, writer's block, writing | Leave a comment

I started writing because I actually liked to do it. In my newbie naivete, it was fun, it was challenging, and it was something I could control. Somewhat. But now I am at that point in the learning curve where writing is actual work. Hard Work. (Yes, it deserves a capital W.) And after putting in my forty hours or more at my day job each week, there are times when I really don’t want to come home from work only to work some more, and anything – and I mean just about anything – is way more appealing than wrestling with that amorphous, sticky blob that I, at times, affectionately refer to as my work-in-progress.  (And can I just marvel at how working moms manage it?!)

 Why tear my hair out when procrastination is so much easier?!  

And I am aided in the temptation to procrastinate by my ever-present ‘friends’ – the enablers otherwise known as the pesky perfectionist, the evil internal editor, and the constant critic.

How do I procrastinate thus? I could truly count the ways. But in the interest of brevity, I will own up to just one: I can best justify my ‘not writing’ time when I am reading. And the justification is strongest when those books are on the business, motivation, and craft of writing. In my defense, a number of these books have helped me a great deal. However, I also know that writing is something that one learns by doing, and reading about it and hoping that I’ll get published is a far cry from logging the hours and emitting the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get there.

In the book, Starting From Scratch, best-selling author Rita Mae Brown said it in a way that was both diagnostic and medicinal for me:

Never hope more than you write.

I admit – I am a great hoper. Without hope I cannot dream so I know that, for me, hope is an important part of my every day. But it helps to remember that I strive to be equal parts writer and reaching that pinnacle that I want to reach takes work. When I attended my first RWA-National conference, I looked around at the two thousand or so writers also in attendance and it really hit home for me that for every minute I’m not writing there are thousands of other writers who are.

So . . . I will acquiesce that procrastination has its place, but there are few things that can derail hopes and dreams as quickly or thoroughly. My challenge to myself and to you is this: the next time the siren call of email – or a blog – sings to you or the all-day marathon of last season’s Miami Ink or America’s Next Top Model or Top Chef temtps to glue you to your television (don’t ask), remember what your hopes are and ask yourself – have you logged the writing time today to get you there?

-Jessica

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