Friday, June 30, 2006

Grrr!

I had what I am sure was a brilliant blog about balancing commitments, and I lost it! Grrr!

That being said, I'll just give a little update on the novel.

Yesterday I reached 35K words, and just over 110 pages. Yeah! That's a good deal, because the night before, I awoke at 1 am certain the entire idea stunk, the plot was thinner than vellum, and I was never going to be anything but a hack writer.

Isn't it interesting what the brain can do in the middle of the night? I remember when my kids were infants, everything seemed harder at night. I was always less able to cope when it was dark, but somehow, no matter how bad the night had been, how many times I'd been up, or how long the baby had cried, when the sun came up, it was always easier to deal with.

When morning rolled around, I awoke thinking of my novel. I pinpointed some areas of need, then, when I got together with my writing buddy, we kicked them around. She was very helpful. I don't have to throw the whole thing away now! LOL

We've set up another writing day for next week. It is such a boost to do this. We are both competitive by nature, and we spur each other on to fill that page or word count. M&Ms don't hurt either.

Other writing news...my DH ordered me a way cool laptop computer. It is so great to type on, and doesn't heat up like my little antique IBM did. God is good. If I am patient and wait on Him, He gives me the desire of my heart. (And sometimes He changes that desire, but that's a topic for another blog entry.)

Off to the library today for research and writing.

Erica

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Encouragment from an Unexpected Source

Wow! What a week. My ms has swelled by more than 10K words, and almost 50 pages. Last night, when the writing week officially closed, my brain was the consistency of a toasted marshmallow. Yesterday's writing was particularly harrowing and emotional, thus my progress was slow.

Quite often, tiredness = discouragement in my life. I begin to wonder if the effort is worth it, if I'm making any progress, if anything good will come of this awful novel I'm trying to piece together. I decided to put it away and not even look at it this weekend.

We piled into the car and took off to pick up my son from Bible Camp. It felt good to get out and not think about plot, style, syntax, flow, grammar, characterization, motivation...and yet the thoughts kept swirling. Sometimes the 'writing mindset' is difficult to turn off.

I suspect most novelists are like that. We live intensely real inner lives and sometimes we're miles away, buried in our make believe worlds, wrestling with a plot problem or living our character's emotions.

When we got home (the boy had a great time at camp) an email was waiting from my agent. There had been no news, good or bad, from that quarter in quite awhile.

A publisher sent word that they are taking a closer look at my second novel. It received favorable reviews from an in-house reader and has been passed up the ladder another rung. My agent says he is 'cautiously optimistic'. That's good enough for me...I'll be cautiously optimistic too!

I just finished reading "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman, a guide to staying out of the rejection pile. One thing I noticed when reading this book was: The farther I got into it, the more nebulous the topics. At first his advice was all concrete. Things like presentation (clean paper, clear font) and grammar/spelling. He moved on to repetition, overuse of modifyers, and consistency.

By the second half of the book, the errors he was pointing out become more subjective and less tangible. Pace, tone, style, progression...and so much more. I think some of these things can only be evaluated by an astute outside reader and not the author who is too close to the work. And they can't always or in some cases ever be truly evaluated in just the first five pages of a manuscript.

That being said, I would recommend the book. When the time comes to edit my current novel, I'm sure I'll be re-reading Lukeman's advice.

News from friends...Stephanie also got encouraging news from a submission. She's passed her ms farther up the ladder at another publishing house. We're praying for good things! I just know she's going to make a mark on the writing world and impact many young girls with her words. I can't wait to celebrate with her!

Erica

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Work and Play

We are two days into the writing week. So far, I'm +5000 words! Already the week has been a success in my eyes.

Today we learned the benefits of having a reward to strive for. Peanut M&M's! Write 1000 words, get M&M's. It works!

Today's writing was smoother than yesterday's, because I took the time last night to 'compost' the scenes I'd be writing today. It made things easier when it came time to put words on the screen.

I was surprised, however, when my friend asked me to read a scene aloud how awkward it felt. This is a first draft, so there are holes, errors and rough patches. I noticed redundancies, clunky phrases, and lack of clarity. I have much to do on rewrites.

Tomorrow we'll be halfway through the week. I didn't know what a realistic goal for the week would be, but 10K words seems within reach. That would be so great.

We've planned another writing week before summer is over. Maybe by the time it rolls around, I'll be doing rewrites.

Erica

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Goals

On our recent trip to South Dakota, I fulfilled a long time dream of seeing De Smet, SD, the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a girl, I wore out a set of her books and had them practically memorized. Now, I'm re-reading them with pictures of the actual setting in my mind. It is so...amazing!

I've also been studying her writing style. I've learned a few things.

1) Classic literature does not have to be wordy.
2) Verbs are so...alive!
3) Tight writing is good writing.
4) Morals don't have to be taught in literature. The reader will learn as the character learns. That way, you avoid being 'preachy' and still get the message of your heart across.

In her book "These Happy Golden Years" she writes about a composition she did in school on the subject of 'Ambition'.

In it, she says, "Ambition is necessary to accomplishment. Without ambition to gain an end, nothing would be done." and "Ambition is a good servant, but a bad master."

She was so right. If I choose to channel my ambition by writing down my goals and aims, I get a lot more done. Having a target to shoot at is much more effective for me than a vague notion of doing 'something'.

That being said, one of my downfalls is when I write down a goal, I then kill myself to meet it as soon as possible, often to the exclusion of all else. I've had to back off some of my goals, in favor of other things at the moment, which leads to frustration.

What I'm learning is to let my ambition serve me, not to be mastered by it. I'm learning to take a realistic look at my goals and adjust them so they are incorporated into my life rather than becoming the entire focus of it.

In relation to my writing goal. I'm up to 50 pages and over 15K words. Five pages a day might have been too high an expectation for this time in my life, but I'm going to keep plugging away. I'm pinning my hopes on the writing week next week, where my buddy an I will encourage each other's ambition and goals.

Erica

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Real Life, Real Fast

Ok, so I haven't gotten much farther on the ms. Real life has been coming at me real fast.

However, I think I have things typed and taped now. The new job is under control (or the illusion of control).

And today something happened that I never thought would. I got cable tv and cable internet access. I haven't had cable tv since I left for college (I won't tell you how many years ago.) And the cable internet access...I'll never go back to dial-up again if I can help it!

Now if I can just limit the distraction of more channels than I've seen in a coon's age, and stop dancing around at no more fuzzy snow, adjust the bunny ears, wish we could get the Cubs on tv, antics.

The novel...I have 41 pages and 12K words. I can already see where I need to add some scenes for continuity, but the framework is taking shape. I'm using Angela Hunt's "Plot Skeleton" as a guideline for this book, and I must say, as a former Seat of the Pants writer, this has given me enough structure to see where the book should go, but left me enough leeway to still feel creative when it comes to writing the scenes.

I was able to take a class taught by Angela Hunt this spring. It was wonderful. I learned so much, and I hooked up with a writing buddy that has been a joy to know. You're gonna be hearing from her in the future, I just know it.

Erica Vetsch

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A challenge

I can rarely resist a challenge. This had gotten me into trouble a time or two in the past, and yet, picking up some challenges can be very good.

Yesterday I chatted with a writing buddy, and she said she had set herself a goal of writing five pages a day, every day for two months. By the end of July, she expected to have a full length first draft of her very first novel. How cool is that?

That got me to thinking...(Always a dangerous thing.) I've been snowed under with my new job, and longing for time to write, and yet, when I sat down before the laptop to write, I couldn't seem to focus, because the task seemed too big.

I have committed to writing five pages per day...or 150 pages this month...keeping pace with my writing buddy. Today, I wrote five pages, a realistic goal, and it wasn't THE HARDEST THING I'VE TRIED IN A LONG TIME...which it had become lately. I now have 10K words and 31 pages.

I just finished reading "The Twisted Root" by Anne Perry. I love her "William Monk" novels. I love how she weaves a plot. Everything ties up so beautifully at the end, and the connections between the hero's story line and the heroine's mesh perfectly. I'd recommend her "Monk" books anytime.

Erica

Saturday, June 03, 2006

You just never know

So, I'm getting a handle on my new job, learning new things, adjusting my schedule to make everything fit (It is a tight squeeze.) and feeling pretty good about the whole thing, then something comes down the pike I wasn't expecting.

I had a life situation I was struggling with. I asked the advice of some dear friends, prayed, thought about it, and had decided to leave things as they were, change my expectations and just enjoy the situation for what it was. No sooner had I reached that conclusion then...WHAM!...situation changes.

I sometimes wonder if God only wants my capitulation, my surrender and willingness to be quiet, before He changes something in my life that I've striven with.

On another note...I have a friend whose book went before a major publishing house's pub board this week. Congrats to Vicki.

I have another friend who has had a request for a book proposal from another publishing house...Hooray for Stephanie.

A friend and I have set ourselves a pretty hefty goal of 150 pages a month of writing for each of the next two months. That will be an entire first draft. I'll try to keep the blog updated on how we do. Right now, I have 26 pages...so I'm a little ahead of the game for this month.

Erica