Writing Resolutions 2009

I was going to make a list. You know, do it up right. Use bullet points. Set target dates. I was going to set out viable, approachable writing goals for myself. No goals like “sign with a literary agent,” because I have absolutely no control over whether I can get myself an agent in 2009 and I don’t want to measure myself by outside forces; I have no power over what someone else will or will not love. So my goal is not to get an agent. I have a book coming out in September 2009, but my goals will not include aspiring to any kind of Amazon ranking, or selling enough copies to earn out my advance, or getting stars on reviews, or getting reviews at all, or even having some readers like it (though, believe me, I really really really really really am sitting here hoping some readers will like it). Again, all that: outside forces, relying on others, out of my control. My writing resolution is simply something I can make myself do before the year is over:

I will finish my new novel in 2009.

That’s it.

Happy New Year!

Hey, You. Wanna Write a Book?

Here I am, reading over my book, working on finishing it and turning it in even though, in my secret heart of hearts, I could be easily convinced to keep going with it, a draft as long as my arm if you’d let me.

Once this is done, I’ll be working on a new novel. That one is not under contract. No one in the world is waiting to see it. And there’s no guarantee anything will come of it once I’m done (as I’ve learned, with others, the hard way). I’m still planning on writing it though. I’m going to work on that one with just as much dedication—if not more—than the one I am about to finish revising today.

Listen, I hear things a lot like, wow, you’ve written a book, I wish I could do that. Then I say why don’t you, and the excuses come.

Is it hard? Yes. Does it take a lot of time? Oh my yes. Is it easier to give up and do something—anything—else? Yes, yes, yes.

But if you really want to do it before you die the only person stopping you is you. I know—I’ve stopped myself many times. I’ve had to go to work. I’ve had to do that one last freelance project. I’ve had to sleep in. I’ve had to go out. I’ve had to watch bad TV. Fact is, if you don’t end up doing it, then I guess you didn’t really want it that badly. That’s okay. Don’t feel too guilty about it. I’d like to find a way to move to California, but I probably won’t and I’m sure my friends are tired of me talking about it. It’s not like my life will be meaningless if I don’t make it to California. I’ll be fine. Really.

Then again, if you find yourself talking about writing a book year after year after year, maybe you’re cheating yourself out of something good. It’s not like anyone else really cares if you write your book or not—only you do. The big questions: Do you have a story to tell? Do you have the talent to make it good? If your heart says yes to both, give it a go. If your heart says yes to only the first one, please be nice to your ghostwriter. If your heart says that what you really want to be is a race-car driver, give that a go. Do what you’ve always wanted. Try it now, while you still can. This is my current life’s philosophy so if you know me in real life and don’t see me until 2010 you’ll know why.

Starting next week I’ll be back in first-draft land. You know, the place where you keep walking for weeks and still the mountain doesn’t get any closer. The place where you spill crap out onto the page and hope no one’s looking. You have to spend a lot of time there. It’s tiring. It’s annoying. You look out at that faraway mountain and it sure seems intimidating. Impossible to reach. Scary even. But I want to do it, so I’m throwing out my pile of excuses and wading in.

Who’s with me?

“You deserve better.”

Above is advice an old friend got months ago that propelled him to change his life.

Last night, he stood me up in the bar. Took my face in his hands. Said he will now say it to me:

“You deserve better.”

Another friend was basically telling me the same thing earlier the same day—had ideas, plans, fixes, visions for the future. He’s a magician, literally.

“You deserve better.”

Do I? Do you?

Do Books Ever End?

By that, I mean when you’re writing them.

I am almost done with my revision. Right on time—I’m sending the revised manuscript to my editor Monday morning before I go to day job. What I’m doing now is reading over everything I’ve done, adding in an edit here an edit there, changing a word here, a word there. Polishing. Looking for stray typos—yes, there are always typos. But mostly just reading.

Only thing is, I can see how this process could be endless. I can totally see how‚ if I didn’t have someone waiting for it, I could keep on revising for years. I could write new scenes. I could change things said, things that happened. It could be a never-ending series of variations on a single story, all the many countless ways this could have played out had I taken a different turn, made a different choice, revealed a new thing.

Wow. When does a book feel finished?

Ever?

This is why I will have to invent a deadline when I start writing my next novel—which, so you know, I will be focusing on wholeheartedly at the very start of 2009. I need to be sure I stop. Or else that book will never get written.

Still At It

Still going strong with the revision! Up early, out in the cold, but my favorite café wasn’t open when they said they would be (yes, again), so I walked instead to my weekend writing spot, shivering with cold by the time I reached its doors. While on the elevator, holding a fast-food coffee, I thought, Is it really worth it? Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a warm bed right now?

But now I am in here—first writer of the morning—and it’s quiet, and the wind pounds the glass in the windows, and the radiators sizzle and hiss, and I have a new dark corner where I’m sitting now—it feels pretty nice to have these moments.

I wanted to finish the revision yesterday—before friends came to town, before the holiday. But I wasn’t able to. So I’ll be working, as usual, every day until this gets done.

In other news, I just this morning found out that Go Ask Alice was suspected to be a fake diary. How could I not have known, I read that book in junior high at least twelve times!

Speaking of junior high, some crazy person posted the entire junior high yearbook to Facebook. I took one look at my class photo—shuddered—and realized that the main character I’m writing is way cooler than I was back then. In fact, she wouldn’t have been friends with me. My character is the girl I aspired to be at age 13. Isn’t that sort of sweet?

Back to work (revision), then to work (work).

Isn’t It Nice When You’re Too Busy to Wallow in Rejection?

Forgot to mention my latest rejection: no on a short story. I’ve just been so busy that it hit me—stung for a few minutes—but no whiplash and I went on my way. Busy with my revision. Busy at home, no time for housecleaning and so stressed about it. Busy at work, basically killed myself to get something out on Friday and wonder why I work so hard. Oh now I remember: Distraction.

Tired too. Very tired.

The latest rejection said they like my writing, but the story wasn’t the right one. Pretty standard. But the latest rejection is also a big deal because it’s the last rejection from my latest round of submissions. That means I have no more stories out in the world. I have been rejected down to the ground and there’s nothing left.

Of course, I can send that story out on another round. I could revise it. I could also tweak the story I workshopped this summer and send that out. And I have a whole new story I haven’t submitted anywhere yet.

But…

I am getting less and less interested in sending out short stories for publication. With the book possibilities so much closer, more attainable, in this new genre, and the rewards so much higher (yes, I am talking paychecks), how does it make sense to focus so much time on getting my story in a literary journal—when it takes close to a year for an answer, and that answer is usually no, and even if the answer is yes no one really reads it?

That’s right, because I love short stories.

I love stories so much I’d keep on writing them even if no one was reading.

That’s what I tell myself. But in the world where I try to be practical and think of having a future career as a real writer… I have to write novels.

Writing a litfic story—rewriting a story—takes me months. For twenty pages. It took me months to write a novel. For young adults—188 pages. Make sense of that one and I’ll buy you candy.

I think the story submissions will have to wait till I’m done revising. They actually may have to wait until after I complete my next novel. At least I know I can’t be rejected until the New Year—it would be physically impossible for them to reject a story they don’t even have!

I hope.

Anyway, I will be rejection-free for at least a few weeks. Happy Holidays to me. :)

Trouble

Yesterday morning my usual attempt at stumbling up in the early-dark to be a writer turned into me lolling about on the couch with a splitting headache (moaning softly to myself till the pills kicked in). Clearly I would have to give up on writing, so I slept till I had to get up for work. But the headache had a good hold on my skull, vicious as ever, and I ended up taking the day off. For nothing. I basically got up intermittently to take pills and sleep. It was a waste of a day and I am now even more behind than I was before at work, and now also off my rhythm with the revising.

Reason for headache… stress?

I slept so much yesterday that I could barely sleep last night. I kept waking up. I kept lying on my back staring at the dark ceiling telling myself not to have another ceiling nightmare (long story) and telling myself to go to sleep and telling myself if I slept I could write tomorrow and all that, and at some point I must have slept because I do remember the alarm going off at crazy-o’clock and fumbling down out of the loft to turn it off.

The clock radio was playing Led Zeppelin. Which reminds me of my childhood.

Either way, I am here at the café revising. I took a big table so I can spread out my edited pages and if anyone thinks that’s unfair they can suck it!

Gotta revise the mood before work today.

So hey, I do not understand, I really just do not understand, how other writers are able to do this. Write, work, have lives—this. How, tell me, how? I am so tired. I can barely function by eight o’clock at night.

Recently the thought came to me at how easy it would be not to do this. When something’s all up in your face in front of you—your day job, which pays your bills—you pay attention and do that first. It’s only practical. And you put off doing everything else till later, which becomes next week, next month, next year. That’s how writers don’t end up writing because they have to live first.

I could just live, you know. My days would be busied up with all that—and I’d have time and energy to clean the apartment for guests next week, answer emails, write notes on the awesome pages a writer sent me for feedback, organize bills, redecorate, read novels, paint my nails, do, I dunno, stuff. I’d have time for STUFF.

But something’s keeping me from doing that. I just wish I could stop whinging about it all the time.

I would also like to announce that my right leg is asleep for the second time this morning, which is how my brain felt yesterday after the headache, so I guess that’s what some might call progress.

If

If I don’t answer your email

Or return your phone call

If I don’t want to go anywhere

Or have a conversation

Or say hi

If my door is closed

If my light is off

My hoodie up

It’s because I’m just trying to stay afloat over here. Working hard, need to focus. Job: everything in the world was due December 15. (Note past tense.) Home: family coming to city for Christmas, a holiday I did not feel like celebrating this year, which means major apartment cleaning needed. Writing: revision in progress—if only I could be doing only that. Fear: Collectors calling. Also: I have been walking around in a pair of shoes that don’t really fit. Body: tired. Mind: trying to stay alert.

Up early to revise, stopped at student center for quick coffee, owned by Starbucks chain, to find this advice artistically rendered on wall:

Speak softly
People will listen

Take your time
The world will wait

To that I say bullshit. The world goes on without you in it—happily. Take your time? You look up five years later and have nothing to show for yourself. Talk soft? People talk over you or walk away.

Starbucks advice early in the morning makes me mutter to myself on the street.

Signing off.

Writing staccato here because all the good stuff—rhythm, simile, tone, pitch, construction—saved for revision. Which is going really well. So at least there’s that.

I Have No Idea What Day It Is I’m Just Revising

Working my way through. I’d like to take a breather on all things life while I focus on this but I can’t do that can I no one would understand would they so here goes another week at half capacity and I hope no one asks me for anything this week maybe better not to talk to me actually because I just need to keep my head somewhere else and all my skills at punctuation and avoiding run-on sentences will be saved for the revision so that’s why I haven’t typed a period here yet.

In the meantime my other half is redesigning my writing website and it looks so great! Not up yet, but I’m excited!

Last night, after a big day of revising, the movie Chicago was on and I was glued to the TV. I was reminded of how I had a dream to be something else before I decided to be a writer. That’s right—I wanted to dance on Broadway. I didn’t have the talent though. But how cute is that?

On chapter 10. Going back in.