2013—A Year In Writing

2013 had been a wonderful year for my writing. When the year started I hadn’t written or edited in years. Due to a contest, I dusted off my manuscript and started a process that would have me doing heavy edits, cutting, and revising. The end result being one step away from publication! I could not be happier with the end results.

In the meantime I turned my attention to the sequel for Lila’s Choice. At the beginning of 2013 this sequel was halfway through its first draft. With newfound energy and passion I completed the draft, as well as several rounds of edits.

When that got to be tiresome, and my creative self itched for new characters to play with, I started writing a new novel, my first contemporary romance. In a month I had a completed first draft. Over the next few months I edited and revised and I am currently just one or two edits away from a finished product. I am beyond excited for this new novel and have high hopes for what its future holds.

I have also started a sequel to the contemporary romance, and am almost finished with draft one. After taking so long on Lila’s Choice I am so thrilled to be able to keep putting my creativity toward new novels.

More importantly I have connected with other writers, and readers. I belong to a writing community. I have learned so much and grown so much as a writer.

I can’t wait to see what I can do in 2014. Regardless of any other accomplishments, I will publish early 2014. My original goal was to publish in 2013 but life doesn’t always work out as planned. The final component is finalizing my cover design. If any bloggers or reviewers are interested in a copy for honest reviews drop me a line, I would love to hear from you!

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The Horror of Summing up your Novel in a Sentence

“So you write? What is your story about?”

I can type out over 100,00 words to a novel, develop a complicated plot, flesh out my characters, etc. I love to talk about my work. But ask me what my plot is and I panic.

Deer in headlights, panic.

I mumble a few incoherent sentences while my brain screams at me “think about your plot!” and I try and sound intelligent. I fail. Sometimes I try and think first about my shortest pitches.

I still sound like an illiterate hack.

The reason being: we writers are great at drawing things out. I loved essays in school. I still remember fondly that A I got in college on a book where I read only the first and last chapter. Give me a blank piece of paper and I could bluff my way into something intelligent.

Ask me to sum up my 97,000 word novel in a few sentences and I am stumped. It’s impossible. Because as the author I know all the little twists and turns in the book, all the quirks that make it special. To sum it up in a sentence is equivalent to asking me why I love my son. It can’t be done.

Unless I say: because he’s mine. But that tells you nothing about his personality.

Besides people in real life asking for short blurbs on what a book is about, this is something that happens as an author markets their book. Twitter has become a great place for authors to reach out to agents. There are pitch contests where you sum up your work in 150 characters or less, including a hashtag and genre.

It’s brutal. 97,000 words boiled down to 150 characters. And you need to make it interesting. Cue instant sweating and shaking hands.

This is where the writing community is great. Writers and agents plan the pitch parties. They post places for authors to post their pitches. Authors come and critique each other’s works. We hold hands and sing kumbaya… Well, maybe not the last part.

Perspective is key. I have written two 150 word pitches for two of my novels. Sadly I still can’t remember them to sprout off to someone in real life.

“Umm, so, yeah, it’s a story, about… (stalling while I think) a woman who’s friend visits and, ummm, uncovers some hidden feelings.”

Well, that sucks, you interested? Thought not.

The Best Advice on Starting to Write

The best advice I can think of for someone who wants to write: Just Write. Come up with your story, your own characters, your own rules. Don’t write with an audience in mind, or even a goal. Write for yourself.

That’s how I started. I couldn’t find the type of book I wanted to read. So I decided to write it myself. I took time figuring out who my characters were and what my plot was. And I wrote.

My writing didn’t turn into a polished and completed work until I let outside influences in, but my voice was created. I wrote without reading, something that most will argue against. In those early stages I know my craft would have been heavily influenced. Instead I influenced myself.

Those original words on the page were for me. Sure, I had hoped to publish. But I wasn’t paying attention to what my novel needed in order to be published. I was setting out to do something I perceived as different, the type of novel I wanted to read but struggled to find. I was setting out to develop my art as a writer.

In the past year I have read and researched and ultimately hacked up my novel. Adverbs, clichés, the entire first section of my book, several heavy plot points. All were blindfolded and met with the firing squad.

The story, that’s still mine. The story survived, as has most of the words on the page. I continue writing now and have noticed that even though I may try emulating something I have read and liked, the words are still mine.

I have learned so much about my writing by comparing my original words to what others have written, and what rules and assumptions are in place for how novels should be. These rules are cumbersome and can wear and tear on a writer. They are not first draft rules.

First drafts are fun and free spirited. They are plot centered. Adverbs can run and play and frolic in the rolling cursor. Clichés can dance naked. Fragments can be plentiful. The plot is what comes out, the words start to come together, the craft begins to form. Editing is the bitch, editing can work things out. But without a solid draft, allowed to flow free, editing doesn’t have the right tools to play with.

So if you’ve always wanted to write. Open up a document or pick up a pen and paper. And write. For yourself. Have an idea what your end goal might be and keep that in the back of your mind. Let your craft come forth. Worry about the rest later.

Unexpected Gains Admist Self Doubt

The closer to I get to publication the stronger the urge to run in any other direction becomes. I wonder if my novel is good enough. I second guess any changes to my manuscript after my editor has finished. I hem and haw. I bug my poor husband, for the millionth time, about trivial little details.

But then I take a step back and read some of the words on the page. This no longer looks like some crap I attempted to throw into a storyline. This looks like any other book I would find at the store. Professional.

Let’s take a moment to exclaim: Holy crap I wrote something that looks somewhat professional!

More than that, I’m doing this. I’m publishing. I’m not getting in my own way. And the end result is looking pretty snazzy. I am an author and for the first time I’m truly feeling it. Not as “aspiring” but “succeeding.”

In small ways I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m doing.

I’m gaining confidence. Of course it’s immediately contradicting by an urge to hide under a rock somewhere. We all need to take our own baby steps.

Two Holidays – One Child

My family celebrates two holidays this time of year. Chanukah and Christmas. My husband and I always loved blending the two holidays together, hanging the stockings near the menorah, putting dreidels on the tree.

Then we had a child.

From our early days as a couple, back when we were just teenagers, we had long discussions of how we would handle the holidays when we had kids. Four years ago we put that plan into action.

From the time our son was just weeks old we separated Chanukah and Christmas. Our open living room/dining room area turned into half Chanukah, half Christmas. I lit the candles and said the prayers. My husband decorated the tree. I read Chanukah books to our son, my husband read Christmas books. We talked about the holidays as “Mommy’s Holiday” and “Daddy’s Holiday.”

This year my son is four years old. As we started to decorate we talked with him about the items and the holidays. He knew what the items were and, more importantly, which holiday they belonged to. I knelt before him and had the following conversation.

Me: What does Mommy celebrate?
Son: Chanukah!
Me: What does Daddy celebrate?
Son: Christmas!
Me: What do you celebrate?
Son: Grandma!

In his defense his Grandmother does have a birthday around this time of year.

We talked with him about the holidays and asked him if he wanted to decorate the two holidays together or separate. He opted for together. So, for the first time in four years our home is a mix of Chanukah and Christmas. My son has had some periods of confusion, but he gets it.

I am still lighting the menorah. I still have not read a Christmas book to my son, and my husband has not read a Chanukah book. My son knows he celebrates two holidays.

My heart is full with pride. Sure, he’s four and most excited about the presents. But he gets it. And that is going to be my favorite gift this holiday season.