When Momma Ain’t Happy…

I have a bad case of the grumps today.

It’s a perfect cocktail of lack of sleep, deadlines, discouragement, busy kids, and the fact that we’re clean out of ice cream at our house (how did that happen?).

I’m still on track for finishing Old Hag by the end of the month, but this unexpected case of the grumps has derailed all my glorious visions of knocking out thousands of words in a single day.

When I do sit down to write, I see everything in my story through this grumpy lens. My protagonist is pouty. My world is bleak. My characters’ relationships are full of angst.

In some ways that can be useful, because it provides conflict. But the conflict in my writing should be intentional – not a product of my own personal storm cloud.

The solution: Write a navel-gazey blog post, get a full night’s sleep, get those %#$! Halloween costumes finished, enlist Darren’s help with the housework and kids, and keep plugging away at everything tomorrow.

That, and buy more ice cream.

Hard Things

Pup is in his room, not sleeping.

I know he’s tired. I know he needs a nap badly. I know he’ll be happier for the rest of the day if he takes his afternoon nap.

But he fights it.

It makes me wonder if I’m ever like that. Do I ever resist things just because they’re hard, or because I’d rather do something more exciting? The obvious answer is a big neon yes.

I’ve been staring at the opening of my chapter 8 for the past six days. In the past month, six days is how long I’ve averaged for each chapter. And I’ve finished four chapters.

But here I am, at a rough spot – six days of blinking at that blank page, and closing the computer when I can’t figure out how to make it work.

Maybe I need to take some time to chew on it.

But more likely, maybe I need to just remind myself that this is a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m shoveling sand into the sandbox in lopsided heaps, so that later I can form it into a beautiful sand castle. (At least, as beautiful as a first-time novelist is capable of making.)

It’s hard, but so is everything else that’s worth it.

Recalled To LIfe

Lest you thought this writing blog was turning into a pregnancy blog, I am here to assure you that that chapter (haha) is over.

Baby came! He’s sweet and cuddly and smiley and we’re all in love with him. So here we are, nearly three months after the fact, and I’m just getting my writing legs back.

Holidays are over, sicknesses are all better, vacation has come and gone, and our little Jack is consistently sleeping through the night.

*rubbing hands together*

Time to get to work!

I agreed to email a friend a new chapter each month. But I want to write at a faster pace than that. If I can finish two chapters per month, I’ll be sitting pretty to finish my goal of a first draft of a novel well before the end of the year. I may even have time for some revisions.

Realistically, there are other things going on in my life than writing, and those things may prove to be worthy roadblocks to my goal.

So far, I have one chapter done. One chapter in one month — but that was a month interrupted by sicknesses on top of sicknesses, and an unexpected trip to California in the middle. That, and our laptop (dear, departed laptop!) met an untimely death halfway through the month, which made it much harder to get my writing in.

I’m fairly confident that I could have finished two chapters in January if we’d had a normal month. On the other hand, crazy-and-unexpected is normal. Maybe I can’t count on finishing two chapters every month.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

What Are the Odds?

Yesterday I fixed my hair (and put on makeup), handed the kids over to a babysitter, and attended UVU’s Book Academy with my husband.

The whole day seemed to vibrate with serendipity.

Among other things, I won a prize.

I’m not usually excited by door-prize drawings at the end of events. And this one was particularly long. I sat in my unpadded chair, trying not to zone out (did I mention I was running my pregnant body on four hours of sleep?) as name after name floated by. I perked up when they whipped out a few sets of Hale Theater tickets to give away. But they didn’t draw my name for any of those, so my brain went back into slump mode.

Then they pulled out the grand prize, which was a coupon for a FREE full manuscript review by a certain skilled editor from a contract editorial company – an awesome prize that anyone else would have traded a limb for. And my fuzzy brain thought, Finally, the last one! Never thought I’d see the end.

Then I heard my name over the microphone.

Um, what? I don’t even have a manuscript.

I didn’t deserve it. Unlike every other person in the room, I haven’t spent the last several years dreaming up stories and characters, putting words on the page, submitting queries, or attending weekly critique groups.

I felt like a complete fraud. A cheater. A thief. I felt a strong temptation to seek out one of those Hale Theater ticket-winners – surely one of them would have traded with me.

But my fingers held onto that prize, because to me it said, “Go and do.”

True, I haven’t worked as hard or as long as most of the people there. I’m new at writing fiction. But at this point, the thing that I need more than anything else is motivation to continue getting words on the page. And trust me, having a prize this valuable is a pretty good incentive to complete a manuscript and polish it up.

And perhaps I need that motivation as much or more than the others. Who knows? If that glossy sheet of cardstock keeps me going on this goal of mine, and helps me to reach a dream and improve a skill, then maybe I’m just as deserving as anyone else in that room.

Starting Up

This is my “writing blog.”

The idea of adding yet another blog to my list seems a little crazy, since I already run a family blog, a baking blog, and a personal blog, none of which get much attention from me, and two of which I’m tempted to scrap anyway.

Yet here we are.

I consider myself a writer – mostly. I drive a baking blog. Most of that writing is about food, past experiences, thoughts on random subjects, and life updates. Nonfiction seems to come naturally to me. It’s comfortable and easy. I’ve developed my own unique writing voice. That makes me a successful nonfiction writer, I think.

But fiction? This is the part where my palms sweat and my brain fuzzes, and I become paralyzed at the idea of crafting a compelling story with good pacing and character development. Sure, I can form complete sentences with correct grammar and punctuation. But will it be good storytelling?

I have very little experience writing fiction, but good heavens, I’ve done a lot of reading. And the more I read, the more I can see what authors are doing. I’m becoming more and more convinced that I could be good at it, if I could just get over the paralysis and get a draft (or two, or ten) down on the page.

I’m a natural-born editor. I can analyze and revise the heck out of anything, and I’m educated enough intellectually in the craft of writing fiction to know what to look for and change. But education isn’t going to get a first draft completed. And if I don’t get that first draft done, I won’t have anything to revise. Call it strange, but that’s what I say to keep myself motivated:

If I don’t get a first draft done, I won’t have anything to revise.

So. I need practice. I need to turn off the internal editor. I need to shovel words onto the page and promise myself that I’ll be allowed to play with them later.

This cognitive loop has helped me get a first draft of a Chapter 1 completed. That may seem pretty small to an experienced fiction writer, but I see this as a pretty major victory, because I’ve never completed more than two pages of any long-form fiction. But I’m winning. I’m doing it.

And I’m thrilled and terrified.

And now I need to finish Chapter 2.