2009 Knocked Me Off My Feet, Can’t Wait for 2010

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve! I’m excited because tomorrow is the day I *might* finish the first draft of my novel (maybe), or I might come *very* close, and I still feel good about where I’m at, even if I’m a little behind schedule. And, even better, since we abstained from celebrating Christmas this year, I am giving E some New Year’s presents tomorrow, and I love giving people I love presents! I’m looking forward to 2010, the start of a whole new decade, and I’m hoping for another ten years together with E (at least!).

Tomorrow is the end of the year, one of the biggest years of my life. In 2009, I stopped ghostwriting for good in order to focus on my own fiction, my first novel came out, I got an incredible agent, I got a new book deal at a dream publisher, I did my first book signing (and my second), I connected with some incredibly inspiring writers, my novel got reviewed and I didn’t die from it, I put my writing first and made a big career leap, I got into what I’ve heard is one of the best artist colonies in the country, I lost 10 pounds (though I think I’ve just gained it back), and I fell more in love with my other half, which I didn’t even know was possible. There was bad, too, but I’m not dwelling. I’m grateful for every single thing that was given to me in 2009, and be assured I will be working hard to make the most of every opportunity.

As for 2010, I do have quite a few resolutions. One of which I publicly said on Verla’s, which is: to go into a bookstore unannounced and offer to sign stock, something I tried to do more than a few times and then lost courage and walked out without introducing myself—even though I’d promised some important people I’d do it. I tried, honestly. I don’t know why it scares me so much.

So… precisely because it scares me so much, I am going to make myself do it in 2010. I want 2010 to be the year I challenge myself and force myself out of my comfort zone, in the hopes of becoming a stronger writer and author and person because of it. (If you work at a New York City bookstore and want me to come face my fear there, e-mail me: nova [at] novaren.com!)

Signing stock in a bookstore is just one resolution of many. I’ll keep the others to myself. Happy New Year, everyone!

The Novel Isn’t Done Yet

Can’t talk, the first draft of the novel isn’t done yet. All I need is it written to the end so I can print it out and do surgery. I said it would be ready December 1; failed. I said it would be ready December 16; failed. I know it’s a holiday for some, but I’m sorry if I’m not festive, I’m not done yet.

My discovery of the letters I wrote to myself in the year 2000 is having great impact on me as I write the end of the novel. It’s like finding a time capsule—forgetting you buried it and then stumbling over it. My big plans for life are in there: some met, some dropped, some still to come.

Finishing the first draft of this novel before the end of the Aughts is all I ask.

Can’t explain why it feels so important, no time; the novel isn’t done yet.

Does anyone else have a MAJOR LIFE GOAL to achieve by this end of this decade?

End of a Decade and Some Time Travel

People, we just went through a whole DECADE. Well, we’re about to. A new decade is less than two weeks away.

I am THRILLED to tell you that I found some “diary” entries saved from an old computer from the year 2000. In the year 2000, I was still an MFA student at Columbia here in the fine city of New York and I was in the throes of writing the infamous 500-page-long master’s thesis that I would abandon after five years and which I regret horribly. (After which I would write another novel I would come to regret.) This decade was the DECADE OF NOVELS I WISH I NEVER BOTHERED WRITING! Oh, except for the two at the tail end that I’m pleased with.

Back in 2000, I did not have a blog. Did blogs exist? Instead, I wrote letters to myself.

I’m going to show you snippets of some letters I wrote to myself at the head of the decade, when I really and truly thought something was about to HAPPEN for me if only I worked hard and kept trying—though, as you’ll see, most of what I did was whine and procrastinate. I was so impatient back then. And little did I know it would take ALMOST TEN YEARS to get this started. Imagine if I’d known how long! Why am I laughing?

Do you ever want to go back in time and smack yourself? Here goes.

(The usual disclaimer: Names have been abbreviated and switched around to protect the innocent. Cuts have been made to remove slanderous gossip about literary figures and publishing professionals.)

Continue reading

Can I Do It?

I’m at that stage. The one where you’re all up in your own face, shoving yourself against walls to get the truth out, shouting, Think you can do it? Really? Really, can you do it? SHOW ME.

Or maybe I am the only writer who shoves herself up against walls as some kind of masochistic motivational ritual.

Anyway, can I do it?

Can I really?

I went to bed assured and determined—my Twitter relapse last night only worked to harden my resolve. But I woke up scared.

Then I remembered this surprise boost of confidence I got this week when I heard an important someone saying something amazing about me and I thought, He thinks I can do it. And I thought, E thinks I can do it. And my mom thinks I can do it. And my baby sister, who is a great inspiration for the novel, thinks I can do it. And do you think I can do it, do you?

January 4 is mere days away. Back to it.

First Draft Rewards

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, here and elsewhere, things I’m upset about or stressed over that I won’t go into, but I’m trying so hard to keep the troubles at bay while I finish up this manuscript—which will magically transform itself into a completed first draft by end of this year (if not a couple days into 2010; I refuse to be disappointed in myself if that happens).

E says I get a present when I complete the first draft, but not before, since it would only be a distraction.

I’ve already given myself this, but it’s not supposed to ship till January 5, so don’t worry it won’t distract me:

Some Girls Are
"Some Girls Are" by Courtney Summers: you know you want it.

(I want you all to know that I have read an earlier form of Some Girls Are by the astounding Courtney Summers and it’s so searing and fearless I love it so much and I must own my own copy. When it arrives, I plan to read it again.)

It’s gotten starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, but I’m giving it my own star because I said so. Go pre-order it right now.

But I think E will get me a first-draft-completion present too—he’s seen how hard I’ve been working. He knows I want this:

Too Much Happiness
"Too Much Happiness" by Alice Munro: must read this.

Is there ever a point in life when you can read too many Alice Munro stories? I would say no. I used to want to write like her. I now only want to write like myself, but I will continue to read her engrossing stories as I did before because my addiction to short stories abounds, and she’s a master.

I also want this (maybe these, maybe some others):

Because it’s winter and I didn’t get boots last year (because they were all HIDEOUS; yes, fashion industry, your boots were HIDEOUS) and even though it’s possible to avoid most snowbanks in the city by leaping the curbs, my feet did get cold and I think I just need something practical. (Apologies to my baby sister; I refuse to get those ugly stumpy boots everyone says are so warm and comfortable… HIDEOUS.)

But mostly, as a reward for finishing my first draft, I want this:

I want the significant people in my life to like my first draft. Honestly, leave me bootless and bookless all winter and I’ll be OK, just so long as someone was pleased by what I’ve written.

I’m a childish, insecure, fragile writer, what can I say? Please, please like me.

What would be the best first-draft-completion present ever? Give me ideas and I’ll tell E. Please, nothing expensive, so that knocks out Hawaii. Also, please don’t try to convince me to get Uggs. I would wear garbage bags over my sneakers before putting those monstrosities on my feet. I will not be swayed.

What I Resolved for 2009 and How It Didn’t Come True

I find this amusing. Here’s what I wrote on December 31, 2008, revealing what my “resolutions” would be for the year 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!

So, looking back on the year 2009, the book did come out, it got reviewed, it got read, some people did like it, so… success? I think it went well.

But it’s especially amusing when I said that in 2009 “my goal is not to get an agent.” I now see how the universe works. I get it. So when you outright say that you are NOT trying to do something, only then does the universe decide you are allowed to have it.


Also, many other enormous things happened to me in 2009, and I was absolutely not expecting any of them. (Except the bad things; I await bad news with cookies, that’s how I am.) But the good? Never in a million years. So maybe another way the universe works is to surprise you when you are absolutely least expecting it and didn’t even know to ask?

Hm. Like I said, tricky.

I’m going to have to think really long and hard about the things I don’t want for 2010, that’s for sure!

Oh, and that little goal from last year saying I will finish my new novel in 2009? Curious about that one? We’re down to the wire, we’re racing ahead, we may die trying… but, yeah, I think there’s a good chance that might actually be met! If you’re flexible on what you’d call “finish,” that is.

Did anyone else’s resolutions come true—or not come true—from 2009?

Delivery, Please

Times like these, when I am determined to stay glued to the laptop until I finish this chapter, and the free pretzels and M&Ms at the writing spot have lost their luster, and it’s cold out, and the chair is comfortable and I don’t want to get out of it, and I have so much work left to do on the end of the book that I wake up some mornings and think it’s impossible and everyone knows it’s impossible and they’re all out there laughing at me, and it’s almost four o’clock, and I didn’t bring anything to eat with me today, I think about how it would be really cool if there were a special delivery/motivational service for writers—you wouldn’t have to stop writing to call them. You could just email in your order, and they’d swing by and sit beside your desk and feed you bites of food while you typed. And when you were done, they’d wipe the crumbs off your face, massage your stiff neck, and then slip away quietly. They’d leave a note beside your laptop: YOUR SCENE IS BRILLIANT, YOU ARE WONDERFUL, I LOVE EVERY WORD YOU’VE WRITTEN TODAY. And, when you weren’t looking, you’d find they’ve answered all your outstanding emails for you and left a nice, refreshing mint on your keyboard.

If such a service existed, I would like someone to tell me my chapter is shaping up okay today. And, also, I’d like a cheese and tomato sandwich. Thank you.