What to Write

Last year, I participated in StoryStorm. For those not in the know, it started off as a way to generate picture book ideas – the goal being to come up with at least one idea a day during the month of January. I tweaked it, since I don’t write picture books, and came up with more than 30 ideas for both YA and adult novels, which I wrote down in a 3 1/2″ by 51/2″ notebook that I keep in my purse. I still have it and a second one of the same size in which I jot down ideas as they come – and they have been coming lately.

So now my problem is not ideas – I have at least fifty potential story ideas, as well as several partially-written manuscripts I could go back and finish. So my problem now is deciding WHICH idea to work on. (Plus I have a completed novel with revision notes from my mentor/beta reader I could be working as well.) What do you do with a plethora of ideas and no earthly clue where to begin?

I made a goal for myself at the beginning of the year to develop a regular writing routine by April 1. I decided this year that quarterly goals were stronger for me than New Year’s Resolutions. Sadly, so far, I’m not on track to achieve any of my quarterly goals, but I still have five weeks to get something accomplished. I think between today and next week, the last day of February, I’m going to select a project and then spend March developing that writing routine I wanted to accomplish.

Will be nice to be able to say I achieved at least ONE of the goals I set for myself.

When not writing, read.

One of the tips often given to newbie writers is to read widely, especially in the genre you want to write. It’s always important to see what’s out there already.

Fortunately, the category in which I primarily write, Young Adult, especially Young Adult Contemporary, is also one I absolutely love to read. When I scan through Twitter I see book bloggers mentioning a site called NetGalley. Though I wouldn’t consider myself a “book blogger” yet – I do have another blog solely dedicated to YA novels BUT it was inactive for years – I checked out NetGalley on Monday to see how to qualify to get my eager hands on ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of books I could review for my revived site (sharemyya.wordpress.com, if you’re interested).

Imagine my total surprise that when registering for NetGalley, THEY HAVE AN EDUCATOR CATEGORY! I’M AN EDUCATOR!!! So excited was I! I signed up and immediately browsed through for titles I might want to read. And I have been SO pleased each day this week to get an email from a publisher granting me access to the books I’d like to read. I have half a dozen books to read now, while I’m waiting for my writing brain to percolate its ideas.

Reading and writing go hand in hand. While it’s absolutely possible to read without being a writer, it’s much more difficult to be a writer without reading.

So go forth and read! My book blog relaunched on February 1 and a new book is reviewed each Friday. Please check it out!

Blocked

I admit it – I have not been writing.

My manuscript is out on sub to publishers.  I have a completed manuscript ready to revise behind it.  And a third manuscript almost halfway through the writing process.

But I haven’t written much of anything since mid-November.  I didn’t even finish NaNoWriMo last year.

I don’t know what the problem is.  I never used to have a problem writing.  Or making time to write.  But lately, I have a mini-notebook full of potential story ideas, a few online files with notes on potential story ideas, and I’M NOT WRITING.

Just wanted to vent.  Not sure what to do about this (other than write, of course).

Oh my god, I SUCK

Seriously.  I last posted a blog in MAY?

Summer was a blur.  I teach high school for a living, and once June arrives, man, I’m DONE.  Although I did manage to play Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and wrote a really crappy first draft of an adult romance novel.  The good thing about crappy drafts is they can be polished in revision.  Yay, revision!

Wait, did I seriously just say that?  I hate revision.

November 1 is right around the corner.  Like Thursday.  And I’ve been waffling on NaNoWriMoing this year or not.  I have a lot on my plate – in addition to the high school gig, I took on an adjunct professor position at the local community college. I teach ENC 1101 two nights a week (and love it)!  So I have two fewer nights to exercise, rest, and oh, yeah, WRITE.

What I will likely do then, is bend the NaNo rules a little.  I have a WIP that’s about 12000 words.  I may simply shoot for finishing that novel that’s been languishing for a couple of years now.  I love the concept but the plot isn’t coming together the way I wanted it to.  So maybe what I need is to power through, write, as Anne Lamott says, the Shitty First Draft, and then figure out the rest in revision.

I used to think writing was so easy.  The ideas come easy, for me.  Finishing?  Totally another story.  My favorite companion always tells me everything is about discipline.

I suck at discipline.

But sometimes, you need to bust your own ass to get things done, or they remain nothing but dreams forever.

Hello, November – I’m finishing my WIP in you!

Can’t Write in a Vacuum

Though writing is essentially a solitary sport, one of the requirements for bettering your book is honest critique to help in the revision process.  If you plan on traditionally publishing, you want to have a polished manuscript to query to agents.  But how do you polish?

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  I live in South Florida, and the Florida chapter of SCBWI is awesome.  We have a big conference in Miami each January and a workshop in Orlando each June.  There are also smaller workshops offered in several cities throughout the state.  So this has given me a great opportunity to meet other writers on all levels – newbies, veteran but still unpublished, published, veteran published.  So there are plenty of opportunities to find critique groups or beta-reading partners.

It’s important to have other sets of eyes on your book before you submit it for representation (or to self-publish, whatever your road is).  Fresh eyes can find plot holes, see flaws in characterizations, and make recommendations to help strengthen your manuscript.  I just had my mentor/bestie read my unrevised first draft of a YA novel, and she gave me so many good notes for revision that I almost can’t wait to dig in to it. (I hate revising.)

So when you write, to paraphrase Stephen King, write with the door closed.  But throw that baby open and invite other writers or really strong beta readers to give you feedback as you head into the revision mode!

When I First Found the Muse.

A lot of my friends are posting about summer camps for their kids.  I started thinking, how cool would it be to have a summer camp where kids who love to write could come and do writing exercises, share work, and feel accomplished at the end of the summer program?  Kind of made me wish I had a place and insurance and all the practical stuff to go along with “Hey, let’s take some teen writers and collect them for a couple of hours a day for a few weeks and see what comes out of it!”

And that reminded me of one summer, I believe it was the summer between 5th and 6th grades, the transition between elementary and middle school.  My parents sent my brother and me to the city-sponsored camp, held at my elementary school.  It was a fairly standard camp, I guess, that allowed a lot of freedom to play with adult supervision.  And I remember meeting a couple of girls my age with whom I would sit down for a little while each day, and we wrote “our books.”  We brought notebook paper from home and made “book covers” with construction paper and crayons.  I was ever the hopeless romantic then, and my two “books” that summer were called True Love and Love’s Arrow.  I still have them.  They are prime examples of Anne Lamott’s “shitty first drafts.”

Something else happened that summer.  I’d just come off a really bad year of being what we would now call bullied, but back then, “picked on” would have been the phrase of choice.  In our summer camp was a boy who had been in my 5th grade class.  I remember at the end of the summer he came up to me and apologized for treating me badly.  He said I was really nice and he was sorry he hadn’t gotten the chance to know me better.  It didn’t make up for his climbing on the bandwagon with the kids who teased me mercilessly, but it was proof, even for a minute, that I was NOT as worthless as I’d felt.

And for me, those two things combined compelled me to go on writing.  It started out as company when I had no friends to speak of, then morphed into catharsis when I’d put mean people into my books and give them horrible deaths, disfigurements, or teen pregnancies.  (Yes, I watched soap operas as a young person. What gave it away?)  Now, writing is so ingrained in me that even if I’m not actively writing, I’m still thinking about writing in some way.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  But I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Distractions

I’m still working toward a writing career.  I’m at the stage where I’ve finally snagged an agent, and have given her a few more requested revisions on my manuscript.  The next step of the road to publication is for my agent to now put my manuscript out on sub to publishing houses and wait for the bidding war to get my book a publisher.

Okay, the bidding war is a fanciful dream.  I just want to be published by a decent house.

But in the meantime, ideally, what I should be doing is writing more books.  I have a bunch of ideas I generated in January, and tried to start working on a couple of them.  However, I do have a full-time job that takes up time.  I teach high school, and it’s almost the end of the school year, which means testing and reining the ferrets in until final exams and the last day of school.  So by the time I get home in the afternoons, I don’t feel like writing.

Another distraction I’ve recently discovered is Doctor Who.  My favorite companion turned me on to the Whoverse, and I’m in love.  I’m binge watching like crazy.  But the cool thing about Who is the WRITING.  As a writer, I appreciate great story, and the writers for Doctor Who really understand great story.

So I guess the point of this meandering blog post is to say to embrace your distractions.  You never know what you can weave into your next story.