Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Finally! It's summertime (for me, at least)

June was a hectic month--jury duty, summer school. It just wasn't every relaxing or summery. Actually, I didn't even get out on the boat, which totally signifies summer to me. However, today was my last official day for summer school (a work day--I didn't get much work done!) and that means that I'm free!!

July is an open book. Oh, it's filling up a little bit with a trip to the beach with friends, trivia on Wednesdays, and tentative plans with friends. But, overall, there's no work that I'm required to do. No meetings, no classes, no planning (okay, that'll probably change, given that it almost always does but I'm just ignoring that fact right now). I'm excited.

My To-Do list is sort of long but not as bad as years past. The major to-do is to finish my WIP (work in progress, for all you non-writerly types). And I think I can do it. I'm about half-way done, I have a good plot for the rest of the story, and I'm still really enjoying writing it.

I even took the boat out today. It was really rough out there on the lake by the time I got the boat out of the cove so Dog and I bounced along through the chop, getting sprayed. It was wonderful. It was summer. Sigh.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Plotter or Pantser?

Do you prefer to have everything organized, in order, all your ducks in a row? You might be a plotter. Do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants, taking it as it comes? You're probably a pantser. Me? I'm a half-and-half. If I think about it, that makes perfect sense. I am a Libra, after all: The scales and balance rule my life.

When I first started my book, I plotted the whole thing out. I had my characters, I knew where I wanted to story to go, and I was ready to write. However, once I started writing, my characters got difficult, the plot grew legs and things changed. My original plot is still there, tenuously connected to the current plot, but it's ever-evolving.

So, now I'm about 1/3 of the way though my story and I'm re-plotting. My original bad guy isn't so bad anymore, he's just slimy (typical politician). My new bad guy is pulling strings in the background and hasn't really been part of the plot at all yet. I think I'll have to go back and add her into the start a little bit more, especially because I hate those books that surprise you with the bad guy as someone who's been a flat character and hasn't really been in the plot at all.

For all you first time authors out there, this blog post is funny! Check it out: 50 Reasons No One Wants To Publish Your First Novel

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP-a sad June

It's been a crazy month. So many people that I know, both well and not-so-well, have passed away this June.

My grandfather, who was in his 80s, had just shattered some bones, and was fighting his umteenth bouth of pneumonia, passed this week. I wasn't able to attend the funeral (it was up in the great white North & I'm here in SC and working) but my family traveled up there. We'd been expecting it for a while and, while I wasn't on the best of terms with him, I was very sad to hear of it.

Also, my friend lost his mother to cancer, which was a shocker. All of a sudden, she was sick, then sicker and, all of a sudden, she was gone. It was terrible.

And, in the entertainment world, there was David Eddings, David Carridine, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson. Wow. Just wow.

I'm terrible when it comes to death. Some people are so gracious and helpful to the family but I never know what to say or what to do. I just try to be there but I feel so awkward and in the way. I'm a social misfit, especially when it comes to someone close passing away. Sigh.

A moment for all those who have gone before us.

Just reminds you how precious life is and how quickly it can all just go away.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gimmie a Break

Everybody needs a break sometimes. Yesterday, after summer school, I took a much-needed break. I read a book, I took a nap, I took a walk with friend and our three dogs, I had some yummy daiquiri ice from Baskin Robbins (YUM! sweet. sour. refreshing!). Then I went to bed early. It was great!

I still had a hard time getting out of bed this morning and five hours of summer school felt like 50 but I did get some writing/editing done while the kiddies were busy reading and writing--all the stuff they didn't do during the school year, stuff that landed them in summer school with me.

So, when I came home at 2 this afternoon, I was totally ready to write. I even posted on Twitter my writing goal of 2,000 words today. But I was distracted--my grandfather passed away and my mother's all in a tizzy about my aunt (super-long story. It'd probably make a great Jodi Picoult book.), our governor's gone and gotten himself some hot little South American babe --and disappeared into the jungles out Argentina with her (!), and I hadn't read Twitter since yesterday. All these lovely distractions.

Now it's 5:15, I've written this blog and worked a little bit on my WIP but nowhere near what I want. My friend just texted me that I "have" to come to trivia tonight. What's a girl to do?

Well, I'll tell you what. NO to trivia, YES to a drink and some writing. I WILL make my 2,000 words tonight because I AM DETERMINED! Yep, that's right. I want to write. This next scene that's been a-brewing inside my head for the past couple of days is ready to come out and I'm not going to do anything to stop it, except pause every once in a while to stretch my fingers so I don't get a cramp.

Yeah, buddy! WRITE ON! :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Growing Up Too Fast

When you're sixteen, adulthood can't come fast enough. And we really try to be "adult", at least by whatever definition we have of "adult" running around in our hormonal little brains at that time. But luckily for most of us, we're forced to slow down, not given the burden of all the responsibilities that adults must shoulder, and allowed to still be "kids" (though, of course, we don't think of ourselves as kids at the time).

But I was deeply disturbed and saddened by Bravo's new reality show "NYC Prep". It follows a group of 15 and 16-year-olds who attend chi-chi prep schools in New York. These kids dress like adults, talk (somewhat) like adults, and spend money like adults (although, of course, it's their parents' money). They dine out at fancy restaurants, have fake IDs so they can party in clubs and drink (um, if you were a bouncer, wouldn't you think you could tell these baby-faced kids weren't 21? Seems obvious to me!), and shop at the fanciest boutiques. Now, that sounds like fun for an adult, something that you look forward to as you get older. What will they have to look forward to?

There was one group of kids who went to a fashion show during Fashion Week and one of the girls, who hadn't been part of the group for very long, got super-excited when she saw Amanda Bynes. She didn't run up to her or jump around, she just squealed a little, clapped her hands, and said, "That was Amanda Bynes!" a couple of times. This girl, Taylor, is just 15, Amanda Bynes is (I think) 17 and a pretty big actress, esp. to most teenagers, so it seems normal that she was excited. Except that no one else in the group approved. One of the bitchy guys even said, "Let's pretend that we're too good for all this and just ignore everyone. That way, we'll be the coolest group here. No more jumping around or calling out celebrity names." Then he put on his sunglasses. Inside. Where the lights were dim. And didn't take them off the rest of the day.

Good god. I would have like to slapped that kid upside his overstyled head! Him with his fitted suit and stupid purple tie. Dude, you're only 16! Why are you already so jaded? Can't you let this girl, who you claim to like, have a good time?

And then I got sad. It's terrible that these kids grow up so fast. Their parents aren't around much of the time and they seem to be raising themselves. That's hard but the demand for perfection and to be adults is just heartbreaking. I felt bad for each and every one of them. After all, they're already living the high life, already are such adults. What do they have to look forward to when they grow up?

I will not be watching that show again. It makes me too sad. :(

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday night's alright for writing!

Back on track, finally. This week has been spent rewriting the first 20k of my novel, which was a little disheartening at first... I mean, I had plan, a skeleton outline, characters in mind and it kind of changed. Now, at least, I understand what published authors mean when they talk about their characters getting a mind of their own! (I kind of thought those authors were a little off their rockers when I'd read interviews with them and they spoke of their characters doing what "they" wanted in the author's book. I mean, really? It's a two-dimensional character, for god's sake.)

Anyway, the father disappeared, the mother gained power, my girl got a little more otherworldly (though she's still just a teen at heart)--it's cool but has been difficult going back and rewriting stuff.

As much as I wanted just to power through, finish the novel and then go back to rewrite, I just couldn't. I think it's my anal-retentive, control-freak self coming through. In my mind, as I was writing, all I could think about was what was wrong with the beginning. So, I'm fixing it.

My goal for today is to FINISH the rewrites and maybe get another 2k in. It's probably a perfect day for it because it's going to be 100 here in South Carolina. Super-hot! (or as out new tagline for Columbia reads, "Famously Hot"--is it good to be famous for being hot? Like Hell is famous for being hot? I think not.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why, Oh Why!?!

I so can't get motivated to write at the moment. Which is really bad because I have my world built, I have my plot written, I have my characters, I'm all set. But I think, just because work was so crazy and I haven't had a break (no days off for three years in a row is more than enough, thank you very much), I'm brain dead. The sad thing is that I really want to write but sitting in front of the TV and checking Twitter seems oh so much better than writing.

The sad thing is that I have some CP/Beta Readers all lined up to read my work and help me out (and I'll do the same for them--it'd be totally cool if we could all help each other out and even get published!). But I'm just so not there.

Maybe I need to set a deadline for myself. How fast can I get through the rest of my first draft? When do I want to be done with rewrites and revisions? That could work. I do really like lists and this could totally get me back on track. I start summer school on Friday and have that until the end of June (how is it so close to the end of the month already!) but it ends at 1:30 and I have the rest of the day to run errands and then write.

Good lord. It's really just pitiful how much I'm procrastinating about something that I really want to do! Holy cow!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Tweet, Tweet!" said the Tweeps

I'll admit it, I use Twitter. I'm a Tweep who tweets. So far, I have more people following me than I do postings (right now it's something like 115 posts to 120 followers; kind of silly and I'm treating it like a game) and I follow nearly 260 people. It's great and I can easily get lost looking back and reading the various Tweets of the day that I've missed (it's not something I follow at work--can you imagine? "Ms. Brebner, I have a question!" "Yeah, yeah, you've got to wait just a moment while I tweet!"). But when having a discussion about what social applications people use on the Internet (most of my friends just use Facebook) and I tell people I use Twitter, I get a lot of blank looks.

Why use Twitter? How do you use Twitter? Well, if you're like me and you have a subject that you're passionate about (books, reading & writing), you can follow people who also have the same passion and want to talk about it (in 140 characters or less, of course).

So now for the commercial: we get that people don’t get Twitter, but we also see it as one of the best tools publishing people — authors, agents, editors, marketers, booksellers, technical people, and everyone else — have going. If you’re plugged in to the right people on Twitter, every day is, as Jennifer Tribe of Highspot, Inc noted, like attending a master class.

And it's so true. It is like a class, filled with links to great posts/websites/blogs, success stories, failures, and little tidbits that make me want to keep reading. On Twitter, I've learned so much from people I've never even met. I've learned that many authors use a kitchen timer to keep on track, that they have specific word counts they try to get through each day, how to write a query letter, what not to do with a manuscript or when trying to find an agent, and a thousand other little tricks that I would never have known or even considered if I weren't an active member of Twitter. It also helps me stay a little more accountable re. my writing because I feel like I have people following me who are interested in my progress (okay, they probably aren't but, hey, whatever works to get the word count, right?)

Now, there are some people out there who just like to gather followers. It's a competition to see how many people they can get to follow them and they brag about these numbers like it means something. They even get pretty pissed off if you don't "follow back" (that's clicking on the "follow" button when someone decides to follow you). And there are others who post just to let everyone know how fabulous they are, how much better than you they are, and to look down their noses at those who are beneath them (metaphorically speaking). There's actually a website devoted to posting the most ridiculous tweets of the day; it's pretty damn funny.

But that's not how I use it. I started out following some of my favorite authors. Then I checked out who those authors were following and found some more authors and some agents. Then I looked at both their followers and who they followed and found publishers, agents, published authors, and newbie authors. Now, the people I follow are a cross-section of the publishing industry: authors, agents, publishers, librarians, teachers (as well as a couple runners, beer lovers, and friends from "real" life thrown in for good measure).

So, if you're looking for a reason to try Twitter, pick something you're interested in, find others who share that passion, and start a conversation. You might learn something. I know I did!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Too little time!

While I might be out of school for the summer, my June is absolutely booked. And it shows no signs of letting up. Not that I'm complaining--it's great that my brother and his fiancee are down visiting, that I'm hosting a family party tomorrow, that I'm teaching summer school, that I just finished up a full week of jury duty, a kazillion errands and appointments I put off during the school year, phew!

Yeah, I do love summer but it doesn't really start for me until July. July is empty at the moment except for a week at the beach (that would be Litchfield, not Myrtle Beach, btw--much more private and quiet, not a mini-Vegas).

What that means is that I have totally let my writing slip. Grr! Before life intruded, I was so focused, so into my writing, I was getting about 2000-3000 words a day! It was fantastic! And then came testing and deadlines at work, and the absolute, mind-numbing exhaustion of trying to keep 100 students focused on school when they think it's all over (but they keep coming. Dude, if you're just going to be a pain in my arse, stay home! Haha--yeah, right.)

But that's totally my fault. I allowed myself to become distracted and unfocused. So, I say, "Self, you cannot just veg on the couch! You need to get back to your book. Don't be distracted by all the shiney plot changes your little mind is devising; just get the story written. After it's written, that's when you can rewrite bits, change the characters up, add more details. AFTER! First, you must finish the story."

"Okay," I reply. "Yes, boss. I'm on it. Consider it done." New deadline to finish first draft: end of June. Yep, that's it. It's on the calendar. Now, get to it! Finish that story! (I think my muse is a drill sgt.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To court, to court

This week has been my first jury duty experience and, man, what an experience. It feels like such a waste of my time. I know that it's not, that I'm there for a purpose but when you're just sitting in a room waiting for your number to be called and the lady to mispronounce your name then get pissed at you if you don't immediately respond with a "Here!", it's an eternity. I've taken to calling it "In-School Suspension for Adults". You're stuck in a room with 300 other people, you can't leave unless you tell the crabby lady exactly where you're going and when you're coming back...anyway, it just sucks. So, after putting up with it for two days, today, I was really crabby. I think I'm finally getting over it, several hours later.

Tomorrow will be my first real day off and I'm grateful for it. I'll be able to clean my house, get my life together and get organized for our party on Saturday. That is, after I sleep until I can't sleep anymore. I'm so looking forward to it.

Then, hopefully, I'll be able to write. I'm itching to get my ideas down, to write for a couple of hours and move my plot forward. I haven't been able to do it with all the other stuff that's been going on in my life. Don't you hate it when life intrudes with art?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

At a crossroads

I'm about halfway through my story and I'm at a crossroads. First of all, this is my first experience with worldbuilding and I don't think that I was thorough enough. I'm kind of stuttering along in some places. But that's pretty easily remedied when rewriting/revising.

What I'm really having difficulty with is that my main character's best friend want to be the main character. She's aggressively pushing her way into the forefront of the story. Her romance with another character, her discovery of a past she didn't know about, her fun attitude, they're all starting to dominate the story. So, what do I do?

Should I just stop where I am and revise what I've already written? Or do I plow on through and finish the book? I'm really debating this because it is, after all, my first book. I really want to finish it. I'd love to have it publishable but I just want to be able to tell myself that I've FINISHED a book.

Because of this internal debate, I've committed one of the worst writing mistakes imaginable--I've stopped writing. Grr. As much as I like this secondary character, I really think that I'm just going to plow on through and get the story told. I can always go back and make it third person omniscient with both of the girls' viewpoints present. Plus, I have to go back anyway and make my girl more of a loner, with just her friend in her life, need to make her a little more scary, a lot more otherworldly.

Okay, so decision made. Tomorrow, after jury duty, I'll get my arse a-moving on finishing the story. Thank god it's summer vacation (of course, I'm super-booked & busy June--July's when I really have time off to think, breathe & recharge from it all).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I will survive...

As much as I enjoy the whole school year, the last month totally does me in. It's filled with whining, two weeks of state testing, bad behavior, exams, more whining, and a state of total exhaustion. Today was only a half-day but four hours with the same group of kids is enough to do anyone in. Teaching and learning until the last moment? I'd like to see how many of the members of our DO have tried to teach students these last couple days of school. Geeze!

Anyhoo, I supplement my hours of torment with plans for the summer. Writing is a big one. Actually, if I could squirrel myself away in a little bungalow next to a body of water and just write for the next two months, I'd be a happy girl. No pressures, no problems. Of course, what I'd probably really do is read a kazillion books, drink lovely slushy drinks (I only really get a deep craving for those when I'm next to water & it's really hot)...nah, I'd write.