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Writing Through The Pain

Some days just suck. It’s part of life, whether you write or not. For me, today was one of those days. I had pain coming at me from every direction.

There was the physical pain. I’ve been in physical therapy for a few months from the muscle weakness that results from 2 c-sections then hauling around a pair of kids. This was exacerbated by somehow injuring my back yesterday doing the ever-dangerous task of…napping. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a new mattress. This new back pain is fairly staggering. Breathtaking at times. Painkillers didn’t take even a bite out of it. The heating pad makes it tolerable. Icy Hot just makes it tingle and hurt. So, I dealt with this. And, in true writer form, part of my brain is registering “so this is what pain this bad feels like.”

There were all levels of emotional pain. In the form of parenting. MissA, my 3 year old, threw what I’ve referred to as the Epic Tantrum. It started because I wouldn’t let her put on her swimming suit and get in her kiddie pool. Because it was 55 degrees out. The crying and screaming and thrashing went on for over an hour until she finally passed out on her bedroom floor. She woke up and picked up right where she left off, until my wonderful husband finally got her to pass out again and put her to bed.

There was the pain of getting my first real rejection on my book. And by “real” I mean a rejection of the book itself and not just the query. I’ll be waxing philosophical on rejection in an upcoming post.

There was the pain that often comes with my job, meeting a patient who is far too young to be as sick as he is. And has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And finding out that another patient has died from that same disease. Add to that the news that Roger Ebert died today, also from cancer. Twitter and Facebook were full of 2 sentiments – RIP to a good man, and Fuck Cancer.

And there was the pain, or at least frustration of being 3,000 words behind on my April writing goals. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is essentially NaNo in April. I set my goal at 30k, which means 1000 words/day. And I started out with exactly 0 words on the first 3 days.

So, with all this pain, from all different angles, it would have been easy to let myself slide for a 4th day, make excuses about how today was just too hard, too busy, too painful. And write no words. Again. But life is always going to happen. 3 year olds will always have tantrums, cancer will always take my patients. And rejection will always, always be part of being a writer. But that’s what I am. A writer. I have been on some level since I was 7. And if I want to continue to be, if I want to continue to be serious about writing, then there’s no choice. I have to write through the pain. There’s no magic potion that makes it go away. You have to find a way that works for you, so you can compartmentalize your brain and your life. Turn the rest off and climb into the world of your story. Maybe this is easy for you. Maybe you need to do meditation first, or read from a favorite book. Maybe music helps you get in the right mindset. Maybe you just need to reward yourself with something like this (oh yeah, my husband and I earned these).

Bad Day Cookie Sundaes

Whatever it is, find it. Waiting for the right mood and the right mindset and the right circumstances and the right day will leave you waiting forever.

I’m an optimist, but also a realist. There will always be plenty of pain coming at you to make excuses for why you can’t get those words down today. But they’re mostly that. Excuses. Do you want to make excuses? Or do you want to write a book?

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Killing Your Darlings aka Revisions

As the saying goes, writing is rewriting. Or, to put it less delicately, I will quote Chuck Wendig. “Writing is when we make the words. Editing is when we make the words not shitty.” And, as an aside, if you are a writer and want to learn from someone who doesn’t pull any punches and has a lot of good, insightful things to say about writing as a craft and a business, check out Wendig’s blog. Although if you’re in any way offended by vulgarity, don’t. Here’s his post on editing. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/08/how-chuck-wendig-edits-a-novel/

Anyway, I digress. The first draft is fun. Ideas flow. Plots twist. Characters grow. Other characters die (at least in my books). Relationships form. Relationships die. Mysteries are investigated and solved. Justice is served and the main characters fall in love (again, this is in my books). And, if you’re like me, you let the words fly all over the page. I don’t try to edit much during the first draft. I live by the motto of BICHOK. No, not some new slang term. Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard. I work in sprints of 20-30 minutes (often on my break at work) and just write. Which gets me a messy first draft when I’m done.

So revision is necessary. Among many new writers, there’s a misconception that revision means finding typos or incorrectly used their/there/they’re. And of course that’s important. I think of revisions at coming in 4 levels. Macro, middle, micro and polish. Things like grammar and spelling and typos are polish. They’re the last thing.

Macro is the 1st thing, to me. Because if you don’t have the big picture working, the rest become unimportant. Macro is looking at whether the character grows sufficiently and logically. And are the main characters (for a romance, there are always 2 main characters, although each book usually belongs more to 1 of them) interesting people a reader will want to hang out with? Are actions well-motivated? Are plot events logical or contrived? Do plot events make sense or are there gaping holes? Does the conflict and tension build over the course of the book?

Middle is looking at each chapter and each scene. Does each scene work to support that main plot? Does each scene work as a mini-story with all the elements necessary to a scene? Is there enough conflict?

Micro is looking at word choices and sentences. Can I get rid of an adverb and instead use a stronger verb? Can I get rid of most of the 1000+ uses of “just” in the manuscript (“Just” is, by far, my favorite of the throw-away words)? This is the time to read the work aloud to find awkward phrases.

Then, comes the polish, the phase far too many writers think is the only part of revisions. This is the typo, font size pass.

And then it’s done. Or as done as any writer actually considers their work. Which is never.

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Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I was tagged in this blog hop by Heather Marie (who writes YA supernatural horror-yay creepy stuff!) and it seemed like the perfect way to kick off my blog. So, here’s all you could ever want to know about my next big thing.

What is the working title of your book?

Wicked Stepmother

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Oh boy. This could get me in a little trouble if my family ever reads this. I have a…contentious relationship with my stepmom. It’s better now that I’m an adult, but there were many years when we didn’t get along at all. One day, when I was having some issues with her, I was talking to a writer friend and said, “She better be careful or one of these days I’m going to kill her off in one of my books.” It’s a common joke among writers. But, having a suspense-oriented imagination, the idea started percolating. Amanda (the heroine) came to me pretty much fully formed. I was in the middle of revising another book, but this book was so powerful I set the other aside and started writing this one.

I will say, after getting the idea from my own stepmom, I made a lot of changes to the family and especially Karen, the stepmom. My own stepmom and I have our issues, but she is nowhere near the monster I made Karen.

What genre does your book fall under?

Romantic suspense.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m really not sure. Matt Damon can always play one of my heroes, but he’s not quite how I picture Greg (the hero). I picture Elisabeth Shue as Amanda, although since Amanda’s 33, the age doesn’t quite match if there were an actual movie. Which is ever so likely.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

When the latest homicide victim is her wicked stepmother, Amanda must work with fellow-detective Greg to catch a killer bent on destroying her reputation and possibly ending her life.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don’t have an agent, so that’s my goal. But I’m not ready to go the self-pub route yet. I want to try my hand at traditional first.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

There were 4+ years between when I wrote the first words to the last. But in between I went through a phase where I lost enthusiasm – my stepmom and I drastically improved our relationship, so I lost some of my inspiration – and I also had two kids. Pregnancy completely zapped me of any creative abilities. If I patch together the times I was seriously working on it, it was probably about 6 months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I have no idea. I know books I’d like it to be compared to. But, honestly, I’ve never read one quite like this, which is part of the reason I wrote it; it’s the same, but different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My Wednesday night BN girls have been my biggest inspiration. We meet each week and use positive peer pressure in the form of 20 minute writing sprints. And we celebrate each other’s successes, support each other’s setbacks and kick each other’s butts.

My other inspiration is my kids. After my son was born, I decided I needed to get back to writing. And be serious about it instead of dabbling. How can I raise my kids to follow their passions if I’m not following my own.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I hope the wicked stepmother hook garners interest. It’s also set in Milwaukee, which isn’t a very utilized location. So if you’re tired of the same old NCY, LA settings, it’s got that. And there are some very vivid secondary characters who will get their own happily ever afters in future books.