- I’ve recently started listening to audio books, mostly while I putz around the house. I was never sure if I’d enjoy doing this, but since I discovered that I concentrate better on cleaning and any other chore that doesn’t use a certain part of my brain, I figured I’d give listening to stories a shot. And it works — my house is often much cleaner than it used to be, since I want to keep listening but need to find something to do with my hands. It works for longer car rides, too. Right now I’ve just been listening to young adult (Sarah Dessen) and funny stuff (Tina Fey) so it’s not as crucial for my concentration to be quite as full.
- Also, obviously, I’ve been reading (listening) a lot of Sarah Dessen. I never thought I’d like her, but her stories are sweet and tough some inner teenager part of myself. Then I discovered that a bunch of her books have overlapping characters, and now I’m kind of hooked.
- My grandmother went to Prince Edward Island a few months ago and of course read all the Anne of Green Gables books. I mentioned that I read the first one and would get to the rest eventually. She logically interpreted this as I wanted to borrow each one from her at exactly the same time, so now I have them all in a sack, on the floor, because where the heck are 9 books going to go?
- There is a great amount of relief in recommending a book to someone wholeheartedly and having them enjoy it as well. Takes away the potential embarrassment of you flailing around and thrusting a book in their face, half-shouting “It’s good! It’s so good!!” when they also have an emotional response. This happened recently with my frantic praise of The Fault in Our Stars. (Which, have you read that yet? You should. Go read it. Go!)
Big reveal — I’m an introvert. I like spending time alone, away from people. It’s how I started writing in the first place: hiding in my room, or staying up later than everyone else so it felt like I was alone in the house.
But to make writing something that I continue, something that I actually improve on, I can’t just sit alone in the house. I have to get out, and learn, which was a big reason for starting my MFA. On my own, I was stuck in place, and in order to move on I needed more eyes, more ideas, more guiding hands. And through my mentors and the friends I made at Lesley, that’s exactly what I got.
Then I graduated, and I left my nice little pocket of guaranteed advice. While it’s been nice to go back to completing things on my own time, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to continue without some sort of continued support group, only this time it wasn’t going to be maintained for me. I had to keep it up myself.
Forgot to mention this a couple weeks ago when it posted. I have a new Comic Conversion installment over at Manga Bookshelf, this time looking at City of Ember. I wasn’t even aware that there was a graphic novel adaptation of this book until I saw it come through the library (another great reason to work at a library) and figured this would be as good an excuse as any to read the original book. It’s another dystopian story, but this is for middle graders, so it’s more of a toned-down version of Hunger Games. See all my thoughts on the book and its adaptation here.
I mentioned the other day that I was having trouble focusing, now that I’ve put my “completed” work aside. I did wind up deciding, at least for now, to put my main focus on writing something new. I do think that this was the best path, since brainstorming ideas seems to generate more energy for me than it saps away. But I also forgot what a giant mess it can be. Read more…
So I’ve queried off my manuscript, which means I’m going to abstain from poking and prodding the story, at least until I start to actually hear back from people. That leaves me with a dilemma: what do I do in the meantime?
The obvious answer to that is: WRITE. But what, exactly, should I write? I already write reviews, and without the hours of editing everyday I have more time to dedicate to that. But that’s still not enough to fill in the gaps. I have old work I’ve been wanting to fix up, a couple of novels that got shelved since I couldn’t think of how to make them better at the time. I’ve tried a rewrite on one of them, but I haven’t been able to get myself to sit and work on it for quite as long as I ever did with my submitted piece. This novel is something I wrote a little as an experiment, and now every time I go back to look at it I keep getting the sinking feeling that redoing it is a bit of a waste of time. I worry about that with the other novel, too, that I just don’t know how to go back and completely fix something like that.
The next logical thing would be to just start something new. I have a couple of ideas bouncing around in my head, but nothing that’s too super concrete, and all I’ve done so far for either of them is scribble notes on scraps of paper I may or may not have lost. It’s not like anything else I’ve ever worked on has started with more than that, but it’s literally been years since I started a new LONG project that, honestly, I’m a little nervous to dive right in.
There are also essays, poems, and even short stories I could fix up or attempt to start, and I could try sending some of these finished shorter pieces out to magazines. I could do all of those things. But I can’t seem to focus on one for very long. It’s not that I want to write — sometimes I’m squirming with the need — but I don’t know WHAT to write, and I wind up jumping around from thing to thing. It’s like I’m stumbling around in a cave, feeling out the different paths: without that faint light at the end of one of the tunnels, I don’t know which way to go. Guess I just have to grab onto something and go with it, and see how far it takes me.
Or, I’ll just let my new knitting hobby take over my life.
What do you do when you finish a project? How do you know what to start next?
Novels take a long time to write and, unless you have some sort of magic powers, they take a long time to revise and edit. In my case, at least, much longer than the actual initial writing. This is fun, of course — finding new paths the story can take, discovering new information about your character that you hadn’t realized before. You can discover a whole new depth to your story, and that’s amazing.
But, you can also take it too far. You can edit and shift until you turn it into mush. Or, maybe even on the 500th read-through you still see a new plot hole, realize another, potentially better way to play out the scene in chapter 2. And then you just get sick of it — either you decide this will never be readable at the rate your going, or you simply can’t abide the thought of looking at those words again. Again barring those with magic powers, I think this happens to most writers at some point, and then it’s either time for a break, or to accept that it’s as good as you can make it and just send it out into the world. Either way, set it aside and work on something that you haven’t edited into the ground yet.
Which is exactly what I’ll do… once I edit it one more time.
What do you think — how much editing is too much? And how do you decide to just stop?
I’m a relatively fast reader. When I put my mind to it, I can get through an entire novel in a day or two, sometimes one sitting if it’s a shorter kid’s book. Unsurprisingly, I often fly through graphic novels with their low word count (a Shonen Jump volume takes me minutes, max). But sometimes I wonder, am I reading my comics too fast? Read more…
A while ago my novel, Speaksong, reached what I suppose I can call it’s “ending” (it has altered, lengthened and shortened since then, hence the quotes). Since that sort of happened two years ago I have been working with mentors and friends to edit, rewrite, delve deeper, and rip it apart to put it back together again a hundred different ways. Now, after all of that work and rereading my opening chapters quite probably a couple hundred times, I’m easing into what I’ve only imagined doing — sending my novel out.
The weather can have a big effect on my writing, not just on an inspiration or an energy level, but on how much I actually produce. When it’s warm out, and the sun is shining, you start to feel a little odd about sitting inside for several hours, pounding at the keyboard. This is especially true when I look out my window and see everyone else in my building going to their cars for a drive, or going out for a walk… basically, basking in a beautiful day while I curl up in the shadows like some sort of goblin, feeling so antsy that I never actually enough work done.
Then there are “bad” weather days, when the sky is gray and it’s raining or snowing — who would go out in that? No one, not if you didn’t have to. So I can sit at my desk, imagining characters and snapping out reviews, pounding out a blog post or scribbling in a notebook, and somehow hit all my writing goals for the day by noon. So everyone can lament the gross days — and trust me, I flinch when I realize I have to go slosh through the parking lot and brush off my car — but boy I love them.
Thanks to school, and my own inability to focus on a single idea, I took a bit of a hiatus from my Comic Conversion column over at Manga Bookshelf. But last week I finally made myself focus and wrote a new article.
For this one I looked at Nursery Rhyme Comics, a collection of adaptations of nursery rhymes from — surprise! — comic artists. There are 50 comics in all, each done by a different artist. I was interested in doing this one since it’s a little different from what I normally review. With the rhymes, you don’t WANT to cut out portions of the text, but then you still want to show something that the text doesn’t necessarily reveal. It was fun to look at, and it took a little less prep work since it didn’t involve reading a giant novel beforehand. (Which reminds me, I want to look at the Thoreau graphic novel next, so I need to finish rereading “Walden”.)