Ten Steps to Cure Distraction and Gain Pages

Step one: Early Sunday morning. Wake up exactly when alarm cries out; do not, repeat DO NOT go back to bed. Head straight to the shower, do not pass go, do not check email, Facebook, Twitter, message boards, anything. So far as you know, the internet does not exist.

Step two: While showering, soothe anxious thoughts by berating self for even having them. A worry comes, shoot it down. Obsessions, buried. Wonderings, flattened. Everything, down the drain. Step out of the shower. You are clean now.

Step three:
Find a way to listen to music without being connected to the internet, which means you will have to let go of your love for Pandora and blip.fm. Create a new playlist for your novel in iTunes with songs called “Break My Body” and “Hanging High” and “Hello to the Floor” and “I’ll Walk You Out” and “Good Night Bad Morning” and “Youth Decay” and “Werewolf” and “Runaway” and “Skeletons” and “Trouble.” Set it on shuffle so it can loop forever.

Step four: Comb hair, tie it back. Skip makeup. Grab closest items of clothing: shirt left over from high school, jeans with belt already looped through, wrinkled shirt overtop it all because who cares anyway. Find two matching shoes.

Step five: Pack laptop without going online first to check email, Facebook, Twitter, message boards, anything. The internet still does not exist. If someone wants to reach you today, they can call. Oh, wait, you barely ever answer your phone. OK, if someone wants to reach you today, guess what?, they can’t reach you.

Step six:
Step out into the street. You’ve made it this far.

Step seven: Clear your mind as you walk toward writing spot. Let the people you pass wash over you. The two skeezy guys leaning on the mailbox. The man peeing on the park bench. The boy reading the book. The three punks sleeping on the grass, so peaceful. The three guitarists holding three silent guitars. The girl with the dog. The old woman practicing tai chi. And you, among them, invisible, walking by.

Step eight:
Iced mocha to go. The large.

Step nine:
Arrive at writing spot, first person of the morning. Find a desk in a dark corner. Clear mind of everything that hurts. The doubts, push them away. Wake laptop up from sleep, but don’t turn wifi on. Pretend there is no internet here. Pretend you are in the mountains of New Hampshire if you want to. Pretend anything. Just don’t you dare turn Airport on.

Step ten: When struggles come—the anxiety, the pressure, the knowledge of Monday approaching, of family trip next weekend, of things to do, of more things to do, of You Can’t Do This, What Made You Think You Could Ever Do This?—drop to the floor beneath your desk. Lie out on your back on the carpet and picture it: your scene. Get it square in your mind. Hold it steady, for as long as it takes. Then open your eyes. Sit up. Get back on the chair. Pop in earbuds. Hit play in iTunes. Then—hands out, fingers reaching—touch the keys. And wait for it…

Any moment now, let’s hope, you should start writing.

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Back Together Again

It’s official. I still like the novel I’m writing; she still sets my heart flying. Reading back the first four chapters after all this time is like I walked out of the room and wouldn’t look at her for a month, but now that we’re back together she’s as pretty to me as she was before. She’s better than I remembered in some places; no way I’d step away from her again. Admittedly, she has a few flaws—the month apart made me see them clearly—but I have faith they can be smoothed over. She wants me to, she told me. So I’m sticking with her. She’s mine, I’m hers, till the end and then some.

What a huge relief, huh?

Me, My Distractions and My Doubts and My Lack of Knitting Ability and My Neglected Chapter 5

You may have noticed some silence here. I have not yet taken up a hobby to occupy myself offline; for example, I still don’t know how to knit myself a hat and I will probably never know how to knit myself a hat, and I hope I don’t regret that later, when it’s cold out and I’m in dire need of a hat. Instead, life has gotten in the way of this blog and everything else. There have been some distractions, and not the fun kind, and there has been some recovering, the slow kind, and a big event of epic proportions this past week that has now passed and I am still here, still standing. E and I are still together, don’t worry. But clear away the dust and what’s left? The new novel. I have to write it!

No, really.

I have to write it.

That’s not to say I don’t want to. Because it’s all I want to do; everything else I’m supposed to be doing is keeping me from it and, no, I’m not too bitter about that or anything.

A joke last night was that it’s like The Neverending Story. There are C and R, my narrator and her sister, down at the party waiting for me to pick them back up. They’re yelling up at me because I’ve totally left them stranded. Aren’t I listening? Their story just stops if I don’t keep writing it.

I’ve been working on the new chapter, Chapter 5, and I know exactly what happens in Chapter 5, where we head off to and where we land. I see Chapter 5 in bright flashes, and I was into it and then I lost my stride with what was going on this week, but that’s over now, I can move past it now, so why won’t Chapter 5 have me back?

Yesterday, I decided I had to reread the first four chapters, the ones everyone else read, to try to see in them what other people did. I haven’t looked at them since mid-June.

It took hours to get the courage to open the document. Then, once open, I stared at the first page for some time. It looked strange at first, alien. I’d changed my contact information to my agent’s contact information since writing it, so it looked so official. Almost intimidating.

I read the first sentence. You have no idea how long it took me to get that first sentence. (Oh, maybe you do.) And who knows if the first sentence will stay the first sentence as I keep writing, or especially after revisions, surely it’ll change, but for now, okay, I still liked my first sentence. My first paragraph. Oh good, I still liked the entire first page.

I kept reading. As I did, I made tweaks here and there (editing myself is an addiction), but just a word or two. Mostly, I was reading and hearing C’s voice in my head and connecting to it once again.

And then I remembered the great editorial conversations I’ve had with my editor, her confidence in this manuscript, in me, the details of what she said, how it resonated, and it got me excited again, raring to go.

Besides, this is just a first draft, I’m telling myself, don’t worry so much. Don’t start doubting again.

All I need right now are pages. Just might need to lock myself in a seedy hotel I’m afraid to leave or an isolated cabin without internet access for a month to get them. If I disappear off the grid, you know why. Anyone want to join me? Added bonus if you know how to knit us hats.

Win a Copy of DANI NOIR!

Sometimes there are these incredible, supportive people you run into in the world who believe in you and your book and just want to support you for no other reason than the fact that maybe they’re just really awesome? I swear they exist and the talented YA author Courtney Summers is one of those people! She is holding a contest on her blog where you have two chances to win a pre-ordered copy of DANI NOIR! Seriously, I warned you of her awesomeness!

Her idea for the contest is brilliant… and inspired by none other than the fabulous Rita Hayworth. Enter HERE!

Thank you, Courtney! Guess what I’m going to say? You. Are. Awesome.

Welcome to Firstdraftland

Guess where I am. I’m down here where anything seems possible. Where the words flow—you hope—and the pages multiply—please—and you’re so deep into writing this novel you couldn’t stop if someone dragged you away by the hair, which would hurt, sure, but you’d lose a few hairs over it, it’s your novel.

It’s fun down here. Look at all the colors. The soundtrack is yours to select and I’ve got the same song on repeat and no one can stop me! Down here, it never rains unless you want it to and then you get drenched. We have sparklers. We have rainbows. We have ponies. We have all the time in the world (not really, but we pretend). You can be hella genius in your own mind down here because no one’s read what you’ve written yet. You can be the next Maureen Johnson or the next Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Or you can just be yourself, because down here that’s enough. Down here, you’re someone. You matter. You make perfect sense. Your run-on sentences are to-die-for, darling. Down here, you can say anything you want and go anywhere you want and no one’s going to yell at you to put on some shoes.

Down here, this novel is the best thing you’ve written ever. It is good. It is good. It is good. Keep telling yourself that, it works. Down here, you truly believe that just maybe it’s actually sorta good.

Go with it. The doubts and self-loathing and people calling you names and pelting you with tomatoes will come later.

Down here, everyone still loves you. The dozen red roses and the breakfast in bed and all the rest. Really, it’s so nice down here why would anyone ever want to leave?

So here I am, writing my first draft. I want to write to the end of the book by December so I can have fun line-editing and revising myself into oblivion. (A whole other level of existence I’m looking forward to reaching.)

I know some of you are down here with me. First drafts by the end of 2009. I have at least 40,000 words left to write. Who else?