6.30.2012

My 90 Day Novel and Me

5 comments:
For the first time in a (longish) while, I'm writing.  Really, really writing. 

I can come up with all sorts of excuses-- valid, truthful excuses--whenI'm not accomplishing any writing.  When I'm not into my story, I can sit for three hours and accomplish nada. I'm distracted by kids, the person walking their dog outside, the food in the pantry, my dog in the other room, wondering what time it is, twitter, my empty inbox, wondering if anyone else posted comments on "my agent's" querytracker page, etc. You get the idea.

However, last night I got turned onto a new idea (for an old ms).  Today, I was able to walk by, stop at my computer and type a word here, and a sentence there, and I realized that when I want to, when I really, really want to, I can write any time anywhere.  Today, I was able to write a paragraph in seconds (practically) and ignore everything else going on around me.  There, I said it.  The awful truth.  I'm coming clean.

Excuses are rubbish. (Mine are, anyway.)  

I can tune out everyone else, and I can tune out my own excuses.

My 90 Day Novel and I haven't been getting on so very well.  I believe I'm 20 days in with 8 days to show for it.  I think my idea has potential.  I've been reading Cassandre Clare's Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince and she's gotten me all hyped up and excited and ready to write the images that come to mind for my (underwater, deep sea) setting.  So, I get to my laptop, flex my fingers and check my homework for the day...and check my email, and check twitter...and check my email, and get kids snacks and water, and check email, and type an email to erica, type and email to kari,....write for ten minutes on the homework for the day...and OH, it's time to feed the baby.  Writing time for the day = over.  I grumble that nursing takes all my time.  The kids don't let me write.  My house is a mess.  I'm too busy. I'll never get a third novel written.  Grumble.  Grumble.  Bah humbug.

Then, I realized WOC was coming up and got all depressed that I don't have a novel ready for it.    Nothing to query.  Boo hoo. 

And I decided I'm ready to rewrite my second novel.  The one I sent 20-30 queries out for, got two requests for, but really didn't have enough of a plot to write a decent query for.  So, using the structure questions from the 90 Day Novel, I'm ready to add in and rearrange the plot elements that were lacking from it.  I'm so reinvigorated and ready to run with it!

It's so much fun to be into a novel and to want to write instead of doing the dozens of other (Internet) activities my laptop has to offer.  You know, because then I actually write and put words and sentences and paragraphs on pages of paper!  It's not just me wanting to write every time I'm not and imagining what I'll write when I "can find the time".  I actually WRITE when I have a few minutes to plop down to.

SO.  HAVE YOU HAD ANY SUCCESS WITH A COMPLETE PLOT AND CHARACTER ARC OVERHAUL?

I'm about to....

6.28.2012

Is there a 12-step program for this?

8 comments:
Ever since the last day of school, one or the other (or both) of my kids have had summer school. My former-fifth grader because he signs up for the fun stuff and my former-kindergartner because he needs extra help with reading and writing plus they're both in baseball/t-ball. I'm their wake-up calling, breakfast-making, clothes-get-readying, lunch-making, chauffering mother who must be available to transport a child at any given moment.

I should look like this:


Instead, I do a lot of waiting around in my house. Which makes me look like this:


I hardly ever watch TV. I make fun of my husband, who watches just about anything, including weird '50s shows about the wild west and any cheesy sci-fi show he finds. But now, now, I have become a Mommy Zombie. And instead of brains, I feed on this for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week:


Did you know Grey's is on the Lifetime Network every week day from 12:00-3:00 (central time)? And that I only watched the first season of Greys, but in the past 4 weeks, I'm up to season 7, episode 8? No, I haven't watched every episode of every season, that would be an unhealthy addic. . .

Wait? Do they have a 12-step program for this? I just might need one. Because tomorrow's the last day of summer school for my little guy and I'm not sure I can quit this cold-turkey. And I already have that Brewers baseball addiction that keeps me more or less glued to the TV a few hours a day all spring/summer sesason.

But does Christina go back to medicine? Do Meredith and Derek have a baby (okay, I actually know the answer to this one, but I can't remember why I know it)? What happens to Callie and Arizona?

Seriously, people, I need to know. Or kick the habit. Or. . .I can't think of a 3rd option. Wish me luck!

How about you? Any closet fetishes? Come clean in the comments!

6.26.2012

Tuesday Progress Notes

6 comments:
So, I (erica) just went to our friend Nicole's blog and realized we haven't posted a Tuesday progress report in a long, long time!


WS4U is a group on Facebook that both of us belong to. Most of the members have author-type FB pages, including Christy at times. I post funny things about my kids instead. BUT in the WS4U group, we all share writing advice, questions, contests, etc. and I enjoy going there almost every day even when I don't have time to do any blog hopping (apparently, because I'm FBing. sigh)

Anyway, recently I posted about the great "Erica's becoming a plotter" experiment. I'm very pleased to say it's working!! I'm on exercise 65, which means I've fleshed out my characters, written many subplot ideas, and have a 200-word pitch and a 1,200-word synopsis. Yay!! All of this, IhopeIhopeIhope will lead to a quick first draft. I mean 3rd draft, since this is a rewrite, but hey, it's PROGRESS!!

Christy is taking a couple of vacation days this week and I'll be gone for awhile next week. How about you? Any vacation plans? Mine involve going here SUPER BIG YAY!!!:



6.22.2012

I'm not asleep, are you?

4 comments:
Have you ever noticed it's when you need the most sleep that you can't?  Usually, in the week(s) before school starts in the fall, when my mind needs to be fresh and my body rested and ready for the new year, sleep eludes me completely.  My brain won't stop going over my endless to-do list.  Maybe if I wrote it all down, rather than keep a running tab on my head's laptop with a turbo-powered battery, I'd be able to power down at night. I'll keep that in mind for this upcoming August.

Tomorrow, I'll be at the hospital with my mom waiting through the hour(s) my dad is in surgery.  And then hours more that he'll be in recovery.  I'll also slip away for a bit to attend a funeral.  I know I'll need to be rested and mentally strong for tomorrow.  But here I am, writing a blog post about how I can't lay (lie?) in my bed any longer thinking while sleep settles on everyone else in the household and skips over me.

My dad had hip replacement surgery a few months ago.  It didn't heal the way he'd expected, and instead got infected.  Tomorrow, they'll open it back up and flush out the infection and he'll start recuperating all over again.  He's a gardener and a walker.  He used to be a runner, but since the arthritis in his hip became unbearably painful, he slowed to walk four miles per day, rather than jogging his daily six.  It's been a rough couple of months for a man who likes to stay moving and independent.  It's been hard for him to watch as my uncles take turns tilling his garden and as I plant the bean seeds and my mom and sons hoe the weeds.

I'm up praying and thinking and my stomach is in sickly knots, knowing he's worried and dreading tomorrow.

And then my brain hops around to all sorts of other thoughts.  Cleaning my house.  Worrying about working full-time and leaving my baby.  Writing.  How I thought I'd have so much time to write this summer, and haven't managed much at all.   Wondering if that one brilliant novel will ever come to me and pour out of my fingertips, on to my laptop, like water from a faucet.  Now, if water really were to cascade over the keys of my computer, I suppose that would be horrendously ill-fated for my novel, since I can't imagine writing it long-hand.

***
My son just came into the room to tell me about his nightmare about Goo Monsters at the beach and how we ended up with the wrong dog.  The Goo Monsters were shooting at dogs and making them disappear.  The monsters were turning themselves into dogs and could walk through walls and stuff.  I'm not sure what else he mumbled, but I'm assuming we ended up taking a Goo Monster Dog home instead of our Toby.  So, I'm off to cuddle my six-year-old, to rid his dreamy head of goo and monsters.  Hopefully he will share some of his sleep with me.

Nighty night!



6.20.2012

Just Do It Already!

5 comments:
I, erica, have been the laziest of all lazy people lately. This is the time of year I should be getting stuff done, not laying around, but here I lay. I should be taking notes and plotting and writing and meeting goals, but here I lay. I should be losing that 8 pounds I want to lose, but here I lay.

Okay, I should probably mention that I do laundry and sweep the floor and make meals. Also, drive children around. Sometimes I even brush my hair before I do these things.

my apologies to the pastor's wife, who may have seen me with hair like this yesterday.
only longer. and less adorable.

I also read 2 books over the weekend. One was awful. Oh, so very awful. I got the premise of it (a YA paranormal romance), but certain facts you were asked to believe were so very unbelievable, all I could do was shake my head and thing "wth?" and hope it would get better. Then the misspellings started. Oh, so very many misspellings - she created an entire species of creatures and then 3/4 of the book in, changed the spelling. Two characters also received new spellings. And the sheer number of homonyms was staggering. Spell check is not an editor, lady and it wasn't self-published, yikes, writer beware of tiny publishers!! But yes, I finished it. The other book I read was really good - I've been thinking abour writing my MG boy book in 3rd person, so this book was a bit of research. The ending got a little, well, implausible, but I enjoyed it enough to finish it in one day. Here's that one:

Dust

I think it's the school year sticking with me. I took on more responsibilities this year by teaching both Head Start and Early Childhood Special Ed - with brand-new assistants (God love them, but I would've given anything for a good, veteran TA last year). One of my families involved the district (and me) in a legal issue that meant hours and hours and hours of meetings and documentation and more meetings. One of my students has multiple diagnoses and she's about to turn 5 and hasn't said her first word yet and it breaks my heart each and every day that I haven't been able to achieve that one goal for her (she also has a physical disability that limits her ability to use sign language, although she has used a few).

I have both of those students again next year. Possibly with new TAs and did I mention I'm also taking student teachers again? And that a neighboring school district only has one HS/ECSE student in their entire district, so they contracted with my director to purchase my services for 4 hours a week (plus an hour of travel)?  Essentially, in the past 2 years I've managed to become 3 different teachers. Another WTH moment. I know I can do it, I just have to be really careful with my time.

Or maybe it's just that I turn 37 next week. That's kind-of a bummer, too. I like to pretend I'm 25 and it keeps getting harder and harder. ;)

Hence, I lay here. Thinking about what I've done. What I will do. And, hopefully soon, what my characters will do next. I owe that to them. (and christy. I sort-of stalled on our co-write, but I'll do it soon, I swear!) Tomorrow well, today I'm shipping both my kids out for a couple of hours. Now if I can just find something to keep my husband busy. And motivation. Must. Find. Motivation.

Any tips?

6.18.2012

Phew.

10 comments:
If you follow our tweets or are friends with me on Facebook, then my post today is old news for you, well, except maybe the details that didn't fit into the small update spaces on the other social medias!

For the past two weeks, I struggled with making a difficult decision.  I was fortunate to have had the decision to make, for sure, but it created knots in my stomach just the same.

I taught elementary education in the public school system of Wisconsin for twelve years.  Recently, I posted about how I had to box up my room again this year, and that I've had to box up many times over the years, due to being the least senior teacher in my buildings and being the one who had to switch grades, classrooms and buildings.  In fact, in twelve years I've boxed up eight times.  In the building I'm in now I've been in four rooms during my seven years there.

I was being moved to another building, switching from second to fifth grade for next year.  I was very excited about the teachers I was going to be working with, and I'd been excited to go back to fifth grade for the past four years.

Except, the thought of another temporary classroom was unsettling.  I knew in my heart I wouldn't want to unpack those boxes again.  I knew I'd feel temporary, and I wouldn't give my all next year.  I knew it was time for a change so that I could find a home, a classroom I could call mine, and a grade level I could feel confidant about teaching.  I wanted to want to give 150% to my career again.

An opening came available in my sons' Catholic school, and the principal told me about it, an invitation to apply.  I did.  She offered the position to me.  The difficult part of the decision was that I'd be making pretty much the same salary working full-time as I made part-time the past three years.  The other hard part was that I'd be full-time and I would be losing the  afternoons with my kids, 4 and 6 mos.  However, I'd be my six year old's first grade teacher, and I'd be able to bring my four year old to and from school Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

So then I needed to see if my kids' babysitter would go from part-time to full-time, since for the past year she got a job working in a daycare in the afternoons.  She'd had three other families contact her for care, so I thought there was  a pretty good chance she'd do it.

I was supposed to let the principal know my decision Wednesday.  My sitter said she'd let me know Thursday.  At that time, I was still going round and round about whether or not I would feel guilt-free enough to be full-time (I'd come to term with the money thing).  Then my babysitter emailed me letting me know she wanted to work at the daycare full time. She quit me entirely.

I felt sick for the night, too sick to give the principal an answer.  My husband said I'd definitely need to turn the position down.  News that made me cry.  News that, an hour later, made me feel relieved.  I'd stay part-time.  I wouldn't have to resign or get letters of recommendation.  I knew what was expected of me.  Everything would stay the same.  Safe.

Because change is scary.

An hour after that, my husband told me to take the new job.  (He was as wishy-washy as me!)  He said we needed to find a sitter anyways.

So after a merry-go-round of thinking (again and again) for an hour on Friday morning, I called (my new) principal and told her YES.  I took the full-time first grade position.

My son was thrilled.  I'd be his teacher!

After I turned in my letter of resignation, and let my (former) principal and co-workers know, so was I.

As for the sitter, I think we may have that worked out too, but I'll save that for another post!

6.13.2012

Progress!

8 comments:
A few weeks ago, Christy shared that she's been studying up on - and now doing - the 90-day-novel. I decided to try a different approach and

*gasp*

try plotting for my terribly stuck MG shost story, CH (I originally titled it Coyote Hotel but it won't stay that, so I just call it CH now) so that I can *pause to cry a little* start it totally over.

First, I bought and skimmed through this book:

The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story


Now I'm going through it a second time and doing all of the exercises. If you're not familiar with the book, there's a lot of exercises. A LOT. And you don't start writing an actual draft until you've finished something like 100 of them. I'm on day 4 (well, by the time you read this, day 6, but I'll be out of town for a couple days and probably won't write much - Mall of America, here we come) and I'm on #35, which gives me 12 handwritten pages of notes and a 1,000 word short synopsis that actually may have gotten me unstuck!!

Now, CH wasn't just stuck a little. It was stuck a whole heck of a lot. There were too many characters, too many plot lines, too many. . .of everything. And I let it go on too long, believing the mantra of "just keep writing" would work. It so didn't.


21,669 words thrown away. Then 12,710 of a new version, gone bye-bye. This is the part where I grieved over my lost book-that-never-was-even-though-it-was-a-great-idea-and-had-a-great-main-character and started with a couple of new ideas.

Thank, Amy Deardon, for giving me my book back. I will not fail this time, I just will not! I recommend this book/process for anyone who is dead stuck. I'm not sure I could do it with a new idea, but I'll let you know when I get done with this one. I'm not writing right now, but I am *gasp* plotting. And that's exactly what CH needed.

How about you guys? Can you just power through and make it work? Or have any other great resources? Leave them in the comments! 


6.11.2012

never surrender

7 comments:
possession.  have you read it?  i LOVED, LOVED this dystopian novel by elana johnson.

i must say, she is an amazing author, one to be looked up to and revered.

possession had it all...an imaginative and unexpected setting, a strong protagonist, a mysterious antagonist, hot love interests, twists and turns, vivid descriptions...and best of all, it created that internal ache when i turned the final page, the one that lets you know how much you lived the story because it's like a part of you dies when it's over and now you have to go on living without it, like the book literally stole your breath away and locked it inside its pages.  except, thankfully, i knew there'd be another book.  i only had to cross off many days on my calendar pages...

it was a long, painful wait.

but the day has finally arrived!  surrender, possession's companion novel, was released on june 5. !!!!! that's right.  so, today, many fans of elana johnson and her cast of characters from possession are blogfesting about a time they never surrendered...in honor of the release of her second high-class, first-rate novel.

buy it.

buy it.


was there a linky for this blogfest?  i'm unsure, but we here at erica and christy are participating anyways, because how could we not pass the word on about elana and her stories?

a time i never surrendered...

huh.

many are sharing completely hopeful and inspirational stories.

i don't have one of those.

thankfully, so far in life, i've been very blessed and fortunate and lucky that i've not had to overcome any wretched, horrific moments.

the one thing i can say to you is....i never gave up on finding...

the right guy.

oh, man.  did i go on lots of dates. 

i had a serious boyfriend in high school.  another my first two years of college and one other one my last two years of college.  (so, yeah, for me at that time, serious meant spending two years with a guy, getting to know their families and sharing mine...and crying uncontrollably for three months (or years) after they broke my heart.)

after graduating from college, i moved back to my hometown, rented an apartment, got my first teaching job and waited for that hot guy that was supposed to live in my apartment building.  well, guess what?  he didn't.  he didn't live on my street or in my neighborhood, shop at my grocery store, go to the bars i went to, teach in my school....where was that boy?  my love life so didn't work out like it did in my day dreams!

so then i resorted to...the set ups.  and a few blind dates.

teachers set me up with their brother-in-law's cousin's neighbor.

my aunts set me up with their friend's godsons and their son's hockey coaches.

my mom set me up with her co-worker's son.

my friend set me up with her boyfriend's friend.

my friends set me up with their friends.

people got mad at me when i wasn't into the people they set me up with.  apparently i was too picky.

well, let me tell you.

the hockey coach took me for a bite to eat and then to watch a movie at his apartment..where his tongue like attacked me.  helloo...i hardly knew the guy for more than an hour.  so, no.

the co-worker's son, well, now this is mean, but he waddled. my mom said he looked like some hot country star...can't think of which one at the moment...and after he picked me up that night, i was like...mom? mom?  what?!?  and he offered to take me to mcdonald's for breakfast some time.  erm, no.

some of the other guys were very nice, but there was no spark.  i believed in spark.  people were frustrated that i believed in spark.  they thought i should just like someone already and not be waiting to be swept off my feet cuz in reality, they said, this just does not happen and i should like a nice guy already.

my friend's friend.  well, he was a firefighter.  i didn't think he was as dreamy as i'd heard, but he was fun.  we had fun for four months. 

then, i was ready to give up.

i was ready to call ex-boyfriend number 3 and cry my eyes out to him and beg him to come back even though he was so not good for me or my life.

i almost did.

then, fall came. i went in to set up and organize my classroom.

and the district's computer guy walked in.

we chatted.

later that afternoon, i called  my mom and told her that this cute guy worked in my district.

a few days later he asked me out to dinner.

a few months later we decided we should probably plan our wedding.

we bought an old house.  we adopted a puppy.  we went to hawaii for our honeymoon.

and now, 9 years later, we built a house and have three amazing, beautiful, smart, witty and loving sons.

see, people?

spark.

i waited, i didn't surrender to what people thought i should do.

i knew what was right for me.

and, boy, oh boy, are my kids glad.



6.10.2012

so, erica just reminded me...

5 comments:
erica reminded me via an email conversation that we write a blog.

so, here i am.

right this very second my five month old is screaming his lungs out.  for the past six weeks he does this.  it used to be only during the middle of the night hours.  now it's all. the. time.

for the first four months of his life, he was THE best sleeping baby.  happy all day.  he got fussy and wanted, yes WANTED, to go to bed at 7 PM and then he slept, i'm not kdding you, until 6 AM.

it was miraculous.

but now.  now it all changed.

just after he turned four months old, when he'd wake up to eat in the middle of the night, i thought he was going through a growth spurt.  so for two weeks, i fed him whenever he wanted, feeling all happy about the growth spurt, knowing he'd go back to his normal, wonderful sleepy schedule soon.  so very, very soon.

that day never came.

it's not a growth spurt anymore.  it's a bad, bad habit.

and except for the wanting to eat your face part, i'm feeling very much like a zombie.

i've never been into zombie books, and really don't understand the hype, but i am beginning to think i could rock one. i'd totally get the pov spot on.

so, between the constant screaming (because the way to break the habit is to let them scream it out, right????  right?????) and the other two kids who don't eat meals but want snacks constantly, and the dog who is hot and parched needing water every half an hour (like, he's emptied his bowl three times a day for the past two days), and this very difficult decision i need to make by wednesday that has my tummy in knots and my brain on a tilt-a-whirl (another story), writing has been nearly impossible.

90 day novel.  today is day 5.  i'm on day 4.  i'm not sure how successful my days have been so far, but they're not total washes....

more on my difficult decision and my 90 day novel progress in a day or so.

hope you are doing well, writing and otherwise!

* i should add that there is nothing wrong with my beautiful little boy other than he is a normal fussy baby right now.  i thank God for the blessing of him and his health.  i may feel like complaining once in a while, but i never forget how blessed i am, and how truly happy i am, hungry, thirsty, whiny household and all!


6.04.2012

Mondays are Meaningless. . .

8 comments:
. . . and so are these random facts about erica.

1. The school year is over, so Mondays mean nothing to me anymore. Well, today anyway, because. . .
2. I signed my kids up for something like 8,000 summer events that I have to drive them to, including five of my ten Mondays "off".

3. My garden is finally in, almost 2 months after I bought everything for it. Jeesh.

4. I went to see Dark Shadows at the theater last week. My husband had no desire to see it, but took me just to be nice, and *sigh* it wasn't that great. He also rented This Means War and I really liked it despite the somewhat-cheesy ending. So from now on it's likely he'll be picking all the movies. #pleasedontletthemallinvolvesuperheroes

5. Writing books seems to be easier for me if I start with a major plot idea rather than a character idea, as evidenced by the ms graveyard that is my hard drive. Putting "become a plotter" on my to-do list.

6. Last week I (besides the 2 movies on Monday and garden planting on Sunday): celebrated my nephew's graduation, finished progress reports, taught 3 morning special ed classes, finished progress reports AGAIN because something went jiggy with the ones I had done (yes, jiggy is my technical term), cried a little, went to my son's baseball game and 3-on-3 basketball tournament, celebrated my other son's birthday, took both kids horseback riding, celebrated my son's birthday with my in-laws, completed end-of-year paperwork/reports for Head Start, wrote 2 IEPs, cleaned my house (which was no small task, believe you me), had my parents visit for 3 days, took my kids to a carnival, and went out with friends Saturday night for the first time in months. I did not blog.

7. I still don't have a cell phone.

8. My laptop has died a few times in the past month due to a critical error. It was a nasty worm virus instead. All clean now - thank goodness for people who know how to fix jiggy computers.

9. I'm a huge Milwaukee Brewers fan who rarely misses a game (unless it isn't televised - since I live 4 hours away, I don't attend many in person). The poor team has taken a beating - to the point I didn't recognize some of the players Sunday afternoon. *takes a moment to shed a few tears*

10. My six-year-old would like you to know that octopus tastes like sand. (that's what I get for asking for his help)

So, I have today off (except for some shopping - my mom and I both bought my son a DS for his birthday - whoops, GameStop here we come), so I hope to visit all of you! What have you got going on?

6.01.2012

90-Day Novel

8 comments:
SO EXCITED!!!

It's summer.

This school year, a year I'm happy to end and forget, is over.  O-V-E-R, I tell you.

Do you know what this means?  DO YOU?????

I CAN WRITE AGAIN!!!  WRITE AND WRITE AND WRITE AND WRITE SOME MORE!!!

and mother.

because i promise to continue to do that too.

I AM GOING TO START THE 90-DAY NOVEL ON WEDNESDAY!!!

Do you know what that is?  Do you want to know what that is?  Do you want to do it too?  You can.  You can do it with me.  All you need to do is click on this sentence.  Then come back and tell me that you are IN.

In case you are not listening to me (I am used to this sort of behavior, I tell you.)  I will tell you what the 90-Day Novel entails. 

IT ENTAILS WRITING A NOVEL IN THREE MONTHS.  completely. 

The first 29 days will be spent getting to know  my characters and their problems and probably lots more about them.  I will know how my story starts.  I will know what my inciting incident is.  I will know other major turning points.  I will know everything I need to know so that when I start writing my first draft on Day 30 I will not hit walls and stare at blank pages.  My fingers will not slow down.  THEY WILL BE FIRE AND FREE AND SUPER SPEEDY QUICK.  (don't even ask why i'm channeling junie b jones in this post.)

I will post about my daily progress.  Aren't you so. very. lucky?! 

I know about this 90-Day Novel thingy because my CP, Kari Marie White, told me about it (she has a fantabulous writing blog.  go, go look!).  And she asked if I'd be interested in joining her and I said, "Heck yeah!" 

So that's what I'll be up to. 

THAT and finishing my co-novel with erica.  BECAUSE that rocks too!!!!!!