In order to really tell this story, I have reflected back to various points along the way in this writing/blogging journey.
Fall 2010: As I gaze through the slats in the blinds of my office, the drizzling, gray day reminds me of the months that lie ahead. While winter has not yet arrived, its precursor is certainly here. Today is like a bleak terrain that lies somewhere between autumn and winter; a day that discourages outdoor activities, but invites the “curl up and read” moments, or even time spent on computers creating blog posts or WIPs.
First, of course, there was my regular Sunday blog post, followed by visits to other blogs. This is my regular morning ritual. Then came the Sunday newspapers, but nothing really grabbed my attention.
Next, I worked off and on at my NaNoWriMo project, (National Novel Writing Month) and ended today’s session with 51,374 words—and since the goal was 50,000 words by November 30, this means that this task (or challenge) is now complete.
But I will continue plugging away, as I am not yet finished with the novel. Not the novel I have envisioned, at any rate. I have loose ends to tie up and characters to deal with….and more words to write.
And so it continues. The daily life of a writer/blogger.
Up before dawn, coffee on; the computer is humming away. What kind of life is this, you may ask? The early rising was an ingrained habit from my days in the social work trenches. When you retire from something like that, you don’t necessarily stop waking at 5:00 a.m.
Before I started blogging or participating in writing challenges, I still couldn’t sleep late. But my days were much less exciting and not nearly as satisfying.
Nowadays, typical moments in my daily life include continued writing and blogging, but I am ready to join still another challenge. At this point, I have finished the NaNoWriMo challenge, but have chosen to continue working on this WIP for the next challenge called ROW 80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days, begun in Jan. 2011).
Meanwhile, a bit about my blogging obsession.
I started blogging in April 2008, but didn’t really connect to it until a year later, at which point, I added a “few” more. Yes, I had discovered Word Press (our lovely Dames site is here on WP), and reveled in the possibilities. I must admit that I went a bit mad for awhile, adding blogs until at one point, I had twenty. I have downsized to ten by merging some.
Despite the obsession, I have learned a lot about how a community works in this blogging world. It feels like a support system of “real” connections, and it certainly encourages a lot of writing. Some writers enjoy “flash fiction” in between working on their novels; I love blogging. So now for more tidbits about my days.
Sometime in January: Today has started out as one of those days when I have that restless feeling. Not so unusual, really, but today’s episode in My Life on the Edge feels a bit surreal.
For one thing, I had a series of dreams last night that were crazier than usual. The characters, the plots, the crazy-making stuff—all of it heralded from that inner place where my fiction usually resides.
Maybe it’s because I’m doing this writing challenge (ROW 80), in which I’m recreating my daily writing habit.
Or perhaps it’s because, in the process of creating my current WIP, my characters have led me into a dark place and I’m wondering how to extricate them—and myself.
Do you ever dream something that turns into a creation? Or do your dreams lead you and your characters on strange and circuitous paths?
Earlier, my restless energy was carrying me around the blogosphere, clicking on links to find out what other bloggers were doing and saying. But then I was done. Now what?
When that happens, I sometimes come back here to one of my blogs and do something to stir up my creativity—like change blog headers or themes, or write crazy posts.
Just to distract myself and procrastinate, I might watch a movie. Or I might read another book, since every week I try to read three or four. I love reviewing them on Amazon, Goodreads, and on one of my blogs.
Then there’s the writing challenge I mentioned earlier. It is one that allows for a lot of flexibility in our goals. And we make up our own, of course.
Let’s talk about that first. I decided for the first round of this challenge that I would start with 30 minutes a day. What I did (at first) was a quick pass-through read and proofing. On the first day, I spent 30 minutes, as vowed. But on each subsequent day, I have exceeded my time: 60 minutes, 60 minutes, 60 minutes, and 45 minutes respectively.
When I reached 55,270 words, I thought that I should start planning how to move toward the finish line (of the draft).
Finishing is sometimes difficult. First, I don’t want to say good-bye to the characters, so I’m tempted to keep going. But I’ve learned that doing so could be the kiss of death for those very characters. Readers could lose interest, start yawning, and even toss the book aside—unfinished!
The first WIP I’ve undertaken for this challenge is not a romance novel, even though there are some “romantic moments,” so I’m not shooting for a “happily-ever-after” ending. But, like my other books, I do want us to leave the characters feeling hopeful; perhaps feeling satisfied that they’ve learned something on their journey and that they’ll start making…well, better choices.
Or not. My character in Interior Designs was kind of a bad-ass in Embrace the Whirlwind. Most readers hated her, or at the very least, found her vacuous and manipulative.
In this current story, I’m hoping to dig deep into this character—actually, my goal is to have HER dig deep—until she discovers some core truths and starts making some changes. Or at least I hope that she’ll arrive at a place of coming to terms with who she is.
She has a great BFF, Maeve, with whom she has shared many moments over the years. She realizes, in her exploration, that one of her mistakes in the final two years of her marriage was closing herself off from her support system. Keeping her secrets.
Now she is trying to improve and share more of herself.
So I’m off to explore and come to terms with my need to finish this draft and start seriously editing it!
Maybe I’ll have a Mimosa first….
April 2011: On another day a few months later, I’m in Round Two of the ROW 80 Challenge. I’ve finished the first draft of Interior Designs, done some basic edits, and now I’ve sent it off to the first of my Beta readers.
So what to do? What to do? Well, there’s that other WIP that still needs SO much work…I started it for a challenge at the beginning of 2010. Defining Moments is kind of a cautionary tale for those obsessive-compulsive types (me, perhaps?), warning against the dangers of getting lost in the blogosphere.
Our main character, Jillian, has a breakdown after she totally isolates herself and stays on the web far too long and too often, neglecting everything in her life…like eating, sleeping, and bill-paying.
How she got there, as well as her journey back…those are her defining moments.
Like I mentioned, I had finished 254 pages or so before doing NaNoWriMo, and had to set it aside. Not only because it felt like a mess, but because the new challenge needed a totally new novel, from a beginning to a total of 50,000 words (in one month!).
Setting aside a WIP can be good for the process, I’ve learned.
When I returned to DM a couple of weeks ago, I had decided to rewrite everything from a different POV. I believed that the novel needed a first person narrative from Jillian to bring the reader into the heart of her story.
But the work felt tedious in the beginning. Rewrites are a bear, sometimes, and I kept choosing other activities, like blogging, instead of working on the WIP.
But then, after a period of procrastination, followed by a tepid showing of writing progress, I suddenly was drawn in by the characters and their plight in Defining Moments and have resumed my habit of working daily.
Something new, yet old, for me.
Something old, since my work on my first five (now published) novels had me going at it daily until noon everyday. Almost as if someone stood nearby, cracking the whip. Oh, yes, that someone would have been my Creative Spark. My Muse, if you will.
And it stood me in good stead. But after the other books came out, I began spending a lot of time on the web, creating and maintaining my website, my blogs, and connecting to that community out there.
The fascination of it all sparked something inside that led to DM. That story is all about a writer (and former English teacher), who, in her retirement, began to create her novels. And to connect on the web. And then she loses herself.
The idea that this kind of obsession could turn unhealthy has spurred me on in this story. And now, finally, I can say that I have rewritten, edited, and tweaked DM enough that I can send it off to the first Beta reader.
Balancing the writing life with blogging and networking takes a lot of juggling; sometimes the choices lead down useless pathways. But then something will happen; a spark will ignite me and I will find whatever that something is that keeps me writing, with no end in sight.
And so far, I haven’t found anything more exciting or packed with more unexpected moments. Those invigorating kinds of moments that I never found in any of my other incarnations so far.
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