My First Novel · writing

Just Write

So I mentioned the writer’s conference I attended in my previous post. First of all, I learned soooooooo much! I fan girled hard in every single workshop I took. There were published writers EVERYWHERE. There were workshops on how to overcome your writing barriers, how to be more mindful in your writing, how to write a poem, increase your online presence, and how to watch movies to improve your writing. My absolute favorite workshops were presented by a lovely lady who I want to snatch up as a mentor. She works in publishing and let us know what we could do as beginning writers to improve our chances of getting picked by a publisher. The first workshop with her had me changing some of the other workshops I had intended to go to because I learned so much in her class about how to write emotion in fiction. It was phenomenal. The presenter also participated in the panel about how to increase your online presence, and then two more workshops about writing tension in your dialogue, and last but not least, how to snap pictures with your writing. I took so many notes those two days (and mostly in her classes) my right hand ached. It was exhilarating and I felt challenged. And yet, this is the first time I have been able to write anything all week.

 

I became paralyzed by being surrounded by so many people who have been taking their writing so much more seriously, for so much longer than I have been. I have sat down several times and just stared at my screen. Even with the tips from another presenter talking about how to get out of that “sitting and staring at your screen” thing. I have just felt scared. Like, what if I don’t tighten my lines enough and I become too wordy. Because people, I like words. I use them…a lot… and the whole experience made me rethink some of my ideas for my book; in a positive way. The changes I want to make are exciting. But here is the thing, that self doubt thing. There is that voice in the back of my head that tells me it is not going to be good enough. Or it won’t reach anyone, or touch anyone. Self doubt is rough guys. Logically, I know many writers suffer from this kind of block. And didn’t I just learn a whole bunch of tools to help me combat this? As a matter of fact, I took 3 workshops on this very idea.

 

So today, I decided to work through it. Or write through it, rather. One of the challenges to keep writing was to “just do it,” in fact the presenter said specifically “just shut up and write.” So… you’re welcome? The great thing about recounting my experience with the conference is it is actually stimulating the ideas I had generated while I was there, but was too tired to really explore and write down when I got home. I even went up the canyon on Sunday and felt reenergized and ready to try writing, yet I didn’t do it. I just stared at the computer or told myself I was too tired to be creative. Which eventually led to feelings of complete inadequacy. Because, how can I be a writer if I can’t make myself spit something out onto the page? So I decided to shut up and write. I put on a Vivaldi playlist from Spotify (where I discovered some amazing opera) and I turned off the TV. And then I set some goals.

 

  1. At work we are asked to set personal goals as well as business related goals. My personal goal is to complete an outline for NaNoWriMo. I have attempted it many times and I have never achieved the much desired 50,000 word count. So, in preparation for my meeting on November 16th I have decided my personal goal is to write my novel’s outline and to make sure I have half of the words written by then as well (25,000 words). This freaks me out to no end! But I am so excited to try it this year. Not only do I have my writing group to help support my efforts, now you all know it, and my colleagues at work know it; so I have high hopes I will get it accomplished.
  2. One author during the panel about increasing your online presence mentioned not pushing so hard on your online presence until you have something actually published. Don’t be frightened readers, I will continue to work on the blog because it is fun! But I am definitely going to start focusing on Grace a bit more.
  3. One presenter suggested setting a minimum word goal. Another suggested setting at least a 1000 word goal per day. So when I figure out which one works best for me I will let you know. I am not going to tell you which writer was the most successful one in this scenario. I don’t want the pressure, and I am relatively certain one’s success has to do with how long they have respectively been writing.

Are you planning on trying out NaNoWriMo this year!?!? If you are you can look for me on their site. My username is mandahggnkiss !! 

What goals are you making to improve your writing?

My First Novel

More from Grace

The next day. Grace rested on the sizzling wet cement. The towel she had put on the ground was bunched up into a pillow under her neck. The sprinkler on the lawn kept the ground under her body wet and cool. Her short wet brown hair stuck to her cheek as she inhaled deeply, drinking in the smell of the mixture of warm cement and the grass her grandpa had cut earlier that morning; before the sun had time to start smothering the crispness the night before had left behind. Grace had to keep her eyes clenched shut in order to keep the sun from blinding her. She was downwind just enough that she could feel the light spray from the sprinkler. 
Soon enough, she was pulled out of the mire of her thoughts by the slam of the screen door and the Cody screeching happily as he ran out to stand over Grace. Feeling his little shadow blocking the sun from her eyes, she left them closed, “Yes Cody?” At just that moment she felt his little finger poke her cheek, “Gwacie come eat,” he giggled and poked her two more times. Grace’s eyes flew open.
“Ah c’mon Cody, that hurts,” she muttered as she swatted lightly at his tiny hand. She took his little hand in hers and pretended to bite him. “Mmmmmm you tasty,” she said in a growly monster voice, “nom nom nom.” Cody squealed in delight and ran away towards the house, giggling and screaming something nonsensical. She heard Grandma open the screen door and holler, “C’mon Grace,” as she pulled herself up off of the ground and dried herself off a little better. 


When she was mostly dried she walked quickly to the front door. She could smell that Grandma had fried up some bacon and immediately surmised that BLT’s were most likely on the menu; Grace’s favorite! As she entered the house, she took the steps two at a time and raced into the kitchen. Grandma was slathering mayo onto the toasted bread and Grace’s stomach growled. Grandma must have heard it too, because she immediately said, “Now Grace, you know you are not going to sit on my chairs in a damp swimming suit. Go change and it’ll be ready to eat when you get back.” She didn’t have to ask Grace twice, not when there was bacon involved. The little imp darted into the bathroom and hurried into her dry clothes. Just as she was tugging her shirt over her ears she heard the telephone ring. Grace glanced in the mirror and tried to smooth her wet drying hair out of her face, encouraging it with all her might to just lay flat. After about 5 seconds she lost interest and saw her unsuspecting Grandma pick up the phone while she scooped Cody up who was trying to sneak out of the kitchen and down the stairs again. She hadn’t strapped him into his high chair yet and he was sneaky. 
“Hello?” Gran said. Her face fell and her old, soft, brown eyes flashed in anger. She put the receiver on her chest and handed Cody to Grace, “Buckle him in would ya?” Turning the corner from the kitchen into the hallway to try and hide her phone conversation from the kids. Grace’s heart started pounding a little. There were only a few things that made grandma’s eyes flash, and Lily’s daughter was one of them. 

My First Novel

Grace Excerpt 2

Just then Grandpa came booming in from the garage hollering, “ Now, where are my favorite grandchildren!?” Cody and Grace both ran over to their grandpa and he picked both of them up. He smothered them with the best scratchy beard kisses known to man. Grace immediately took Grandpa’s dirty old ball cap and put it on her head. She grinned happily at him.  It was too big for her and it smelled like the garage, sweat, and his aftershave, but she didn’t care. Cody wiggled to get down and Grace hung tightly with her arms wrapped around his neck. “How’s my Gracie?” he whispered. She shrugged her shoulders and he gave her a big squeeze. She was happy to be there. It was peaceful at grandma and grandpas. But there was usually a small ache in her heart at the beginning of all of her stays with them.

My First Novel

Grace

Yesterday I was brainstorming about topics for the blog. I have a list of ideas, but none of them were grabbing me. So I asked some friends what I should write about. One friend asked me to talk about something so personal and so exciting and at first  I couldn’t decide if I wanted to share! My dear friend asked me to tell you about a novel I have been thinking about in my head for probably the last ten years. There…I said it. Publicly and on the interwebs where everyone can read it. Am I scared? YES! Why? Let me tell you.

 

There have always been stories teeming around in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was in junior high, my friend and I were planning a collaborative piece about cloning; thank you Michael Chrichton and Jurassic Park for the inspiration. We spent countless hours doing research. The internet wasn’t in full swing yet, so we could only use the resources in the library. It was going to be so legit! However, it never passed the initial research phase and the ideas are somewhere hidden in the deep recesses of one of my many journals. Which honestly, is probably for the best. I don’t think my calling is as a science fiction writer.

 

Several other ideas have popped in my head. I have countless halves of first chapters written. My journals are filled with stories that never even had a chance to spring forth into life. So I have been pondering why I haven’t finished any. (Not finishing things is kind of the story of my life). There is really only one answer. To put it simply: fear, thrown in  with a tad bit of laziness, and a complete inability to believe I have anything of value to say. I am sure this fear is more than relatable; not just to writers, but any artist or person with an idea swirling in their brain. I mean seriously, what if I tell EVERYONE my idea to write a novel;  like on a blog post where everyone with internet access can witness not only my big promises, but possibly, my huge failures? Then again, why NOT? After all I am only human. Isn’t my blog titled A Fairy Tale in Progress? Progress people, which means I might fail. But the beauty about failure, is there is always an opportunity to pick ourselves up and try again.

 

So here I sit writing at 6am (as per previous mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t do mornings). The night before I first started this blog, I joined a writing group and attended my first chapter meeting. The assignment was to write something  for critiquing to share with the rest of the group. I felt simultaneously thrilled, scared, stumped, and challenged. I thought and thought about what I might want to share. Finally I decided I needed to introduce the world to Grace. (My heart literally skipped a beat just now and I held my breath while I wrote that sentence).

 

Grace is 9. There are several different plots running through my head about which direction I want to take her plot. Here is what I know about her: childhood has been a struggle for her. Her parents are non existent, or if they do exist, they suck.  And by suck, I mean really suck. But whatever her story, she ends up happy, loving herself, and conquering all the bad stuff. She has been my heroine for years and I think it’s time I set her free and tell her story.

 

Some of you readers who know me might be going, “hmmmm this sounds familiar.” And it is! I am going to draw from my own experience. Grace and I have always been different you see. She was happy in the end, and for so long I haven’t been. I think that was part of the block as well. How could I tell the world her story, when I didn’t know how to get to the happy part of life on my own, in the real world? They say to write what you know. Well for the longest time, I have not known what it truly means to have a happy ever after of my own. But folks, I feel like I am getting the hang of it. I just wanted Grace to be happy, and I think I finally know how she will become fulfilled and content. And it is most definitely because I think I have the answer. Well, most of the answer, as there is always room to grow.

 

So here I am, just a girl sitting in front of a computer at 6am (thank you Notting Hill), hoping against all hopes that I can keep this momentum of positivity in my life going. I am terrified that the other shoe is going to drop, that it will fall so hard onto the proverbial ground that I will be standing here with nothing but a bunch broken promises and half written chapters for the rest of my life. When you suffer from depression, the shoe usually does drop. And I am so happy, and I hate that I know it is going to hit me again. Because that is part of my life. Depression will always be a part of my story. However, the older I get the more I develop the tools to pull myself up. I have learned to give myself more patience and more love. I feel like for the first time ever, I believe what all the people who have ever loved me have been telling me my whole life. So I am going to do this. I am committing. Grace is going to get her story and I am so thrilled.

 

***************************************************

Feel free to comment if you think you’d like me to post excerpts of her story as I move along in the process. Her first chapter is scheduled to be written tonight, because tonight is when I have to submit my piece for the writing group, and I am a procrastinator. Thanks for taking time to read this! And thank you love (you know who you are) for encouraging me to write about it.