Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Goals: Week Two

I am not in a writer's group presently. I am on a sabbatical. But in order to keep me on track, I will post my weekly goals, among other things, throughout the summer...

Week Two
  1. Continue to research for my new YA political sci-fi. Research, specifically what would be needed to over-throw the government - or for the government to completely change before "The People" knew what was happening. Reading: A 5,000 Year Leap - a non-fiction book on all that needed to be put in-place in order to create democracy, the formation of America, and what happened as a result.
  2. Continue to read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale--a sci-fi--to see how setting and time is created without being intrusive to the story.
  3. Read latest draft of OW - amended summer goals - finish this latest draft by Sept/Oct so I am ready to begin writing pages for YA political sci-fi.
  4. Be sure to file latest story idea that came to me yesterday while researching. It will be another sci-fi but possibly adult!!!! Yikes!!

On another note; Life Lessons Learned While Living Life...

Last week, I was kind of forced into quiting my part-time job. I have just had the WORST luck in getting a job lately that suits me. Here's what I learned as a result of this experience:

  1. Never work in a place where you enjoy being the customer. If you should lose that job, you will also lose the chance to be their customer.
  2. Never confide in someone younger than you, especially, someone younger who is related to a boss.
  3. Never lose sight of the big picture; this job was supposed to be just--a job while I pursue my writing career. I lost sight of that and became wrapped up in this part-time job and allowed it to blind me with ambition and consume me.
  4. Never become blinded by ambition. It is good to be ambitious but try to reign yourself in if you are forgetting the basics... where you truly are on this path and what you truly deserve as a result.
  5. And last but not least, never become desperate because it really is true, desperate people DO do desperate things. It is hard not to feel desperate when you are in a desperate situation. How to avoid that I am still working out but I think it has something to do with celebrating and focusing on the areas of success in your life and often times that revolves around the people who love you and whom you love back.

Cheers Everyone and Happy Writing!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Goals 2010

Every summer I do something completely different with my novel writer's group. Usually for the summer we stop meeting in person to do critiques and instead we do Summer Writing Buddies. But before I explain what that is, first let me just say this:

I decided to step back from my Writer's Group. This was no easy decision but one I have been contemplating for about a year. I've found that being critiqued while writing, for me, is just not beneficial. While I believe writer's groups are well-intentioned and can be very useful, I also think there is a time and place for them. If you have three finished manuscripts under your belt, then you might be ready for a critique group. But if you are still in the throws of a first draft, it's time to pull away from critiques and just write.

Being that I am beginning a brand new novel, I decided not to write this one "by committee" and instead become very solitary and write my novel. However, with that said, summer is usually the time that I research a new project and write a solid outline so when my kids return to school in the fall I am all set to roll up my sleeves and get down to business. With that said, even though I am on sabbatical from my group and will not open pages up for critiques, I will do Summer Writing Buddies and here's how it works...

Anyone can form an online group like this. All you need is like-minded people who are decisive, creative-thinkers, and dependable. I think it's best to actually do this via the phone and not via computers but that is not always feasible so I will give you the online version. If you know someone the phone will work with then switch Virtual Meeting with Phone Meeting.

The first step to Writing Buddies is a plan. You each decide if you will "meet" weekly or monthly. Then you email each other your FULL summer goal list before your prescribed day to e-meet. For the first meeting you each take some of your goals that you think you can meet in the first week (or month if you decide on monthly meetings). When listening to the other writers' goals, see if you have any additional suggestions they might want to add to their week's list. It can't be just anything. It has to match the goals they've already set for themselves. For example, if someone says, I have to beef up my dialogue. You might suggest that they hang out at the nearest Apple Store on a Friday night and write down dialogue they hear from a gaggle of teens. Now, just because you suggested this as a goal doesn't mean that writer has to take your suggestion.

The next week that you e-meet for your Virtual Meeting (VM), you speak more specifically if you met your goals, why or why not, and what you learned from that week, as well as set new goals for the new week. After the VM you then email each other your new list of goals and then the whole process repeats throughout the summer months.

Summer Buddies DO NOT critique one another. They simply listen to goals, offer additional goals if helpful, and help identify patterns of behavior that might be counterproductive to meeting those goals. For example, one summer I was having trouble writing because my kids were home for the summer. It was that summer that I discovered headphones. They not only blocked out the noise but for some reason I focused more intently when they were on even if no one was home.

If you are just beginning a new draft or novel, give Writing Buddies a try. Here are my summer goals and then how I broke them down for this week only:

My Summer Goals:

  • I will read and research America's history as well as a few other countries' to see what really needs to be in place in order to have a break down in the government.
  • I will talk to historians in local colleges or online
  • I will NOT focus on pages. That is NOT my goal this summer. That is my goal for the fall. The summer goal is really to think, read, percolate, read some more, take notes, brainstorm, dream, meditate to meet my characters, etc. I will NOT allow myself to rush this process or allow myself to be swayed. Stick to my process, honor it, and believe it's possible - I can write and complete a novel in a year.
  • I will watch shows, movies, etc read about what experts say the future looks like as far as technology, environmentally, "governmentally," etc.
  • I will re-read From Where We Dream and use that process to brainstorm this story before I do ANY WRITING of it at all. This is actually my second priority. Reading and research is number one. I need to fill my brain with the stuff this story will be based upon and THEN brainstorm.
  • After I've brainstormed every possible scene, I will put them in an order that makes sense to me and from that I will generate my outline.
  • If, and only if, I meet all of the above goals, I will then write very rough, very short chapters for a first draft writing in the fall. These chapters can be as short as; Ch 11 S. kisses A. - and that will be OK. I will know there will be time in the fall to really flesh out the chapters.
My Mission Statement for Writing Buddies 2010 What I hope to get from my Writing Buddy partnership is to gain perspective into my patterns that might be working against my goals. I hope it will keep me on track with my goals, cheer me on when I need it, and shed positive light. I hope that we will be open and honest with one another in a loving and supportive way. I hope I will be able to do all the same for her and help her reach all of her goals in a positive, supportive way.

My Writing Buddy and I had our first phone meeting this morning. From that meeting, here are my goals for this week:
  • Get title of history book from my father and begin reading it this week. Take copious notes.
  • Get title of sci-fi book from Cathy and start reading it this week. Take copious notes.
  • Watch the Minority Report. Pay close attention to how the movie presents this dystopic America and why the viewers accept it without question.

And that's how Summer Writing Buddies goes. If you're interested, start a group of your own. All you really need is one other person. It's very helpful to tell someone your goals. It keeps you honest and on track.

Happy Writing!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writer's Groups

As you may all know I am the founder of a writer's group. We've been in formation for about 4 years. While I love my group I've been struggling with the following thought: do writer's groups work for novelists who are still in the writing process of an new or incomplete novel? When you submit for critiques before your MS is completed, are you then essentially writing by committee?

I know what I think about this notions, but I thought we could open up maybe an interesting topic for discussion here.

What do you think? Do writer's groups work for novelists who are not done writing their MS? Let's share...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Good Ol' Emotional Journal is Back...

Ahhh, nothing like a new job and feeling that everything's going to work out to help me reclaim my life and what better way than to begin my Emotional Journal again.

If you are unaware of what my Emotional Journal is, allow me to share... As writers, we often think we know exactly what each emotion feels like, but when we write about it, it often becomes cliche or starchy-stiff.

One thing I do to combat this is to keep an Emotional Journal. Anytime I feel intense emotion, I journal about it. I note where I feel that emotion in my body, what my reaction was, if I said anything, or reacted in any way. This way, the next time I have to write about that emotion, I can SHOW how my character is feeling instead of TELLING about it.

Here is my entry this week for FEAR

Situation: Driving at night on rural rt. 523 with my girls. I wanted to see if my lights were working because I recently hit a deer and a passing car was flickering their lights at me. To me, this usually signals to slow down because a police car is lying in wait to catch someone speeding. Seeing that there weren't any cop cars around, I wondered if perhaps my light was out on the side that I hit the deer. I meant to only turn my flood lights off but instead I turned off my headlights and floodlights so that we were tooling down the road in pitch blackness. This particular part of rt. 523 is usually deer-infested and as I just said, I recently hit one so the fear was immediate.

What I felt: I felt the fear in the very souls of my feet. They tingled and felt as if they visibly arched upward as if they were being sucked up from some vacuum inside my body.

Daughter #2 said she felt her fear in her shoulders on her back… it tensed up tight and without realizing it, her hands gripped what ever they could.

Daughter #1 said she felt spiky tingles on the back of her neck.

Then we started talking about how fear feels differently for different reasons, like waking up from a nightmare in the dead of night when the house is quiet and still and you feel you are the only person awake and scared in the whole world. The loneliness and fear feel differently than it did on the black, country, deer-infested road.

For me, when I wake up in the middle of the night, fear, like an electric current, crawls up my back. I feel better if someone holds me with my back against their front—spooning me. I feel almost an acute awareness that I am not alone even though I feel so lonely at those times. I feel someone is watching me that I cannot see. The old “Boogie Man” in the closet or under the bed creeps right back as if I were 9 years old again. But this kind of fear is definitely a prickling sensation that starts at the base of my back and rolls all the way up, up my back, up my neck, and even to the top of my head. It comes in waves and just keeps rolling like that.

What are the different ways you feel fear?

On another note, tomorrow I leave for the NJ SCBWI conference! I am psyched!!!! I am meeting with agent Jill Corcoran from the Herman Agency and I am psyched about that too.

Jill was one of the agents on our panel last year and I really wanted to meet with her then. She seems like a very nice, easy-going person and I can't wait to hear her constructive criticism on my newest novel, a YA sci-fi.

Wish me luck!



“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous