Summer is Coming

It’s Friday morning. Early.

Not long ago, at this time of day, the sun would still be sleeping and my house would be quiet and dark. Not any more. The sun rises before me these days. And somehow that changes the energy of my day. My morning writing time feels more rushed, as though any minute a little one will wander downstairs all sleepy and grouchy at having to get ready for school. In truth, I have almost an hour before I should expect any significant interruptions.

But I am still distracted.

After today, there will be only two more weeks of school left and then the energy of our whole household will change. Everyone (except me) will sleep in a little later and wake up knowing there is absolutely nothing they need to get ready for. My DH, also a full-time student, finished his last final exam of the semester on Tuesday. Very soon his days will be spent out in the back yard, keeping an eye on the kids, and soaking up the summer sunshine and blue skies. Oh, and potty training our youngest. It won’t be much longer until we are diaper free!

My routine, however, remains the same. Get up early. Write. Go to work. Come home. Try to enjoy as much of the nice weather as possible. Still, it feels different. Hibernation season is over up here in the Northwoods. Late spring (because early spring is still just to cold) and summer are for getting out and about, seeing friends, going to concerts in the park, taking long walks with the kids and short jaunts to West Side Tasty Treat for ice cream after dinner. Summer is for late nights by the campfire or movie nights on the big projection screen my DH made for outside.

A bit more difficult to remember is that it’s also a time for writing.

I am about a third of the way into the first draft of book three in a series scheduled to release next year. I am so excited about this series and with the first two books already turned in to my editor, this last one will carry me through the summer and fall. The heroine in this third book is a feisty little thing who demands adventure and simply will not allow me to leave her dawdling for any length of time, which is a good thing with all these summer distractions.

Which reminds me…I had better get back to her before I hear little feet padding down the stairs.

Here’s to the long days of summer.

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Movie night in the back yard.

Beautiful Dreamer

Several years ago when I decided it was time to make a serious go of this writing thing, one of my first tasks was to create time designated for this purpose. At the time, my oldest was just a toddler and I was expecting my second child. For a while I would try to sneak in an hour or so of writing in the early evening after I got home from work and before dinner. But this time of day was when I most wanted to reconnect with my family. Besides, my creativity was strongest first thing in the morning. So, my husband, wonderful man that he is, agreed to take on the morning parenting tasks on his own. This entails getting the kids up, dressed, fed, ready and out the door to school/daycare, giving me a couple hours to write before I have to get myself off to work.

This has been our daily pattern now for probably five years or so. I go into my office when the house is still dark and quiet. I do not have to close the door (most days) and I love it when each of my kids come to me for a morning hug and kiss before they go about getting ready for their day. Though my oldest daughter is starting to get away from that habit, my son still stumbles in with his eyes sleepy and his hugs warm and of course, there is my youngest… the little giggling monster who runs in to show me her dolly and lifts her arms to be pulled into my lap for a long squeeze before daddy gets her dressed.

Some days it is difficult to stay at the computer while the kids are starting their day. I try hard not to get drawn in by the drama of homework that isn’t done yet, socks that don’t fit right, missing gloves, or the dreaded cry “we’re out of cereal!” And no matter how much their daddy does for them every morning, there are some things they just have to come to mommy for. The interruptions are expected and I have learned how to shift my focus from my work to the kids then back again without too much disruption to the writing flow. But then there are days when the words are stuck in a jerky pattern and I can’t seem to get my thoughts to flow. On those days, I might have to close (and sometimes lock) my office door.

Every day I do this. Every day. Weekends too. I set my alarm and get up before everyone else to sit at my computer. Of course there are occasional exceptions that require I leave my little room and assist with the morning rituals. And it is always difficult around the holidays for some reason. But every day it is my intention to get up and get to work while the kids are corralled by their dad.  And sometimes, I feel a mother’s guilt for insisting to my family that my writing time is important…for giving my kids that morning kiss and hug and then gently shooing them from the room. I do my best to balance this out by being as fully present and available as possible in the evening hours when we all congregate back at home after work and school, but some days, it is still hard.

I hope that by committing to this practice of writing and staying the course I am demonstrating something valuable to my children. It has long been my dream to be an author, but it was not until I put in the necessary work and dedication that the dream started to come to fruition. This is what I hope my kids are learning as they find me at my computer every morning…that it is very often not enough to simply want something. If it is important to you…if it is your dream…you have to make it happen. You have to put in the time, the commitment, the effort and the occasional heartache to reach your goals. And if you do, no matter how lofty it may be, any dream is attainable. Anything at all is possible if you believe you are capable of making it happen.

My oldest daughter, a nine-year-old who is practically obsessed with animals of all kinds, has decided she would like to be a veterinarian when she grows up. A few weeks ago, she asked me what she could do now to start working toward this goal.

I don’t know if her inspiration to put forth this effort has anything at all to do with being a witness to my determination in making my dream come true. But I do know we are now volunteering at our local Humane Society so she can begin to learn what it takes to care for so many animals. If it gets her that much closer to achieving her own beautiful dreams, than it is well worth it.

 

The Dreaded Wall

GAH! It happened again.

Just when I get right into the thick of my work in progress, somewhere in the second half, I walk smack into a wall. It is plastered with copious notes on characters and story lines, dozens of loose plot threads, and all of my great intentions. The wall is not so high that I can’t see over it, but it is long and wide and daunting.

This is the point in my writing process when all the doubt crowds in. I am faced with everything I had set out to accomplish in my WIP. Staring back at me, stretched along the unsightly wall, is all the evidence of what I have not yet managed to pull off. I stop and look over my shoulder at what is already written. There are some great images, a good introduction to the hero/heroine relationship, but also some obvious holes, leaps in plot, and missing scenes. Then I stretch up on my toes and look over the wall at everything that still must be put down on paper. All the elements that will need to come together to allow for the groundwork to grow into something complete and satisfying.

Anxiety wants to take over. I seriously doubt I can do it.

There is still so much to do… not only in finishing the first draft, but is going back over the entire WIP to check for the disastrous potholes.

  • do my H/h have clear GOALS, MOTIVATION and CONFLICT?
  • is the conflict logical? does it follow with what we know about the characters and life in general?
  • is the plot logical? does it make sense that these people are doing what they are doing when they are doing it?
  • is the plot filled with cliches and eye-rolling coincidences?
  • are the characters relate-able? do you know enough about them?  or too much? do they belong together?
  • is my research complete? do I have my historical facts right?
  • am I getting all the subtleties in there? the tiny bits of information that are clear to me, but don’t need to be front and center for the reader?
  • is the romance sexy, interesting, emotional enough?
  • and how the hell do I tie down all these loose threads?

There comes a point in every WIP when these questions, or others very similar, stump me. They make me want to sit down right where I stand and complain about not being good enough and the work being too hard. But I know, because I have to know, that I can get past this. So I throw my leg over that wall and hoist myself up until I drop down on the other side. And I keep writing.

I may carry pictures of that wall with me as I go on, to remind me of what work needs to be done and what questions still exist in the story. I make notes of things I can change: a scene or bit of dialogue I can add, a slightly different timeline I can try to see if it fits all the elements better, another way to show the hero’s motivation or internal conflict.  And when I finally get to the end of that first draft, I go back to the beginning and work on all of the glaring inconsistencies and problems that were up on that wall. And I hope, hope, hope that by the end of that second draft, most of those problem are fixed. If they are not, there is always that third draft, or the fourth, or fifth…

Because that wall doesn’t come down on its own. I have to take it down.

Time to roll up my sleeves and put my hard hat on.

I love Edits!

I love Edits!  Does that make me a little crazy?

Maybe, but it’s true.

Whether finally finishing that first draft and going back to page one for the initial round of serious revisions, or going through the manuscript for the umpteenth time to tweak just a bit more. Whichever round of revisions I am in, I love that sense of knowing that every change, great or minuscule, makes my manuscript Better. Stronger. Faster.

I love having to answer those hard questions … Does this scene really add to the plot line? Would this character actually say this? How can this paragraph be tightened up? Do I need a comma or a semi-colon here? I love finding the perfect word to replace what had previously been said in three.  And don’t get me started on dialogue. That wonderful ability to go back and actually say what you wish you had said the first time … Priceless!

Of course, that isn’t to say I don’t feel the frightful weight of panic in those moments before digging in. A little voice in my head starts to whisper that it will be too tough. That no matter what I do, I won’t be able to improve what I’ve already worked so hard to create. But the only sure-fire way to shut that wimping voice up is to just Get To It!

* sigh *

I love Edits.