This month I am celebrating two years since beginning my journey as a writer (even as I write this it’s making me tear up a bit). I can hardly believe it’s been two years since the idea for Remaining Aileen was birthed, her first words were written and her story was set into motion. Since it has been since December of 2015 that I last posted, we have some catching up to do!
Not much other than writing happened after December 2015, until August 2016 when I wrote the words “The End” for the first time. I had completed the first draft of my very first novel Remaining Aileen. Tears were definitely shed. I never thought I was a writer, let alone a writer who would write a whole novel. Finishing my first draft was a wonderful feeling, I still cry thinking about it. (I even printed out the whole entire thing, 350-something pages, AND did a mini “newborn” photo shoot/birth announcement.) It’s somewhere on Instagram.
After finished draft one I ran off to a yoga retreat in Tahoe for some much needed rest then came back home to a whole new world of writing- revising! Wow is revising different than writing draft one. In fact it was downright terrifying. Every word I changed or paragraph I added/removed, I worried I was ruining it. My sweet first novel, just a baby and here I am slicing and changing and discarding thousands of words. So many changes, so much fear, but the story was becoming so much better. The lines were flowing better than before, my intentions were reading through to others. It was magical and I quickly learned to appreciate the revising process.
December 31, 2016 I reached my second “The End” of draft two, which I changed to a “To Be Continued…” First because the story will go on for two more books, second because while revising you really shouldn’t say “The End” until you’re edited, done and ready for print (just my opinion).
January 1, 2017 I emailed my second draft to my most amazing editor Amberly for a manuscript evaluation. Having a manuscript evaluation done was the best choice I could have made for this book. Amberly took it, read it, made countless wonderful notes on how to improve this or that. She then wrote me a seven page report on her findings and passed it on back to me. This helped me see the story’s weak points, plot holes, where the characters could use more development and what not. It gave me fuel for my next round of revisions which brings us to present day, March 2017. At the end of this month, Remaining Aileen will head back over to Amberly to be edited, scrubbed down and (fingers crossed) one step closer to querying.
Thank you for sticking around and for following my journey into becoming a writer. I have found so much support and love along the way and will be forever grateful for that. My Facebook writer page is about to reach 500 followers and to celebrate that as well as my two year anniversary as a writer, I will be posting a meet and greet sort of thing with Aileen and her family, Phil, Imogene, Davina and her mother in law Ana.
It’s December, how did that happen? My house looks like Santa barfed the North Pole everywhere, the air is crisp and cold, and there is a constant fire burning in my wood stove (no that’s not an innuendo). We’ve had our first winter snow storm and last I checked it’s not winter yet. Things are looking good for the end of the year. Now let’s play a game of catch-up so you can know what’s been going on with my life.
End of July I lost my mind, put my novel on hold, and joined the theater. I dedicated the next few months of my life to the role of Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. This didn’t help me reach my September deadline for finishing draft one of my novel, however it was exactly what I needed to reset and refresh my mind. In the middle of all this, I turned 30. It’s not so bad. The play wrapped end of October, so to make up for my missed deadline I hopped on board the NANOWRIMO train for the month of November. (If you don’t know what that is go here: www.nanowrimo.org it’s pretty cool) Well November is over, I did not “win” NANOWRIMO but I didn’t lose either! I logged almost 10k words for the month and I think it’s okay to be proud of that.
Alright, back to December, let’s chat about goals. Goals are great, but I tend to set them and…?… (That’s about as far as I get.) Writing has been different for me though, I may not reach all my crazy goals but I haven’t given up yet. I’m realizing how much time and energy writing takes from me and everyday I’m learning how to balance that within my life. (Remember I have three kids and a Husband who I like, and a dog… the cat moved to Grandmas, #sorrynotsorry)
I get emotional when I think about my novel, like really emotional. Overwhelmed to where I cry out to my muse “Why me? I’m not a writer!” But due to the very strange and curvy path (remember that Parks and Rec episode I mentioned in my very first post?) which birthed my novel, I hold to a strange certainty that I am supposed do this, this story chose me. So, since this is my current “calling” I know if each day I sit down and type word after word my goals will be reached (when that will be is the question). I’ve learned in my short 9 months as a self proclaimed writer, a story can not be forced. If you let it, your story will take on a life of its own and grow in it’s own time. And, like a child if loved and nurtured well, will most likely grow up into a super awesome adult. I will continue to set goals for myself but I will also allow my story the time it needs to grow properly. I look forward to what the new year might bring (hopefully a finished first draft!).
My apologies for not posting last weekend, but I have been stuck at the base of a mountain so to speak and I finally made it to the summit! There are still many valleys and peaks to go but I’m proud of this one so I have to share it (don’t worry, no spoilers).
The very first scene I wrote back in March was this crazy action packed, pivotal moment in Aileen’s life. Terribly written I must say, but the intent was there. So, I moved on to start at the beginning and left that scene with a “till we meet again” and a tip of the hat. 10k+ words later we met back up at chapter 7. It wasn’t the happy reunion I’d hope for. I thought we’d pick up where we left and run off together harmoniously to THE END. It became a stumbling block and a huge puzzle I needed to solve to move my story forward.
The intent I had before was not longer fitting to the story and very little was salvageable. I put it on the back burner once again and distracted myself with revising the first few chapters. I tweaked stuff here and there, made sure it was still flowing all while hoping chapter 7 would fall into place. Really I was procrastinating because chapter 7 obviously wasn’t going to write itself. So, I “writered” up and started reworking the chapter one word at a time. Before I knew it the scene and all its intentions made its way out to the mighty page. It still has growing to do but I sat down, dedicated myself to my story, and I couldn’t be happier with where it’s taking me (before you think I’m off my rocker read, “It’s Alive”). When you get to those mountains in your story the best thing you can do is gear up and climb. The view from the top will amaze you.
I don’t know if you can tell or not, but I am very excited to share Remaining Aileen with you. It’s hard for me to not tell you every little thing each step of the way, but I love you too much to let that happen. I also love my story too much to let it out before it’s ready. Mark my words though, as soon as it’s ready, you’ll know!
Check in next weekend and we’ll talk about how I’m finding my voice (or more like how it’s finding me)!
In last weeks post, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, I was expecting the man to complement my family since that’s what people normally do when they stop me. When he insulted us instead by asking if we could afford our children, a rift was torn between what I expected and what happened. In writing, this is called a gap.
As important as gaps are in fiction, I’ll be honest, in reality they often suck. Gaps are those moments in life when you’re walking along your merry way expecting all the usual things that occur to do so, only something unexpected slaps you in the face instead, like in my pizza guy example. Another instance took place today. I spent most of my morning writing a blog post for tonight when my computer battery died. I plugged it in, booted it up expecting to continue on with what I was writing, only to find it wasn’t saved (ironic, no?). So, there lies a gap. A rift torn between my expectations and desired results. But without these gaps in reality, what would we learn from life? You have to figure out a way to bridge the gap or give up (can you guess which route I took)? Without gaps we’d have no stories to tell.
“STORY is born in that place where the subjective and objective realms touch”. (gaps) -Robert McKee, Story
I’ll say this again, without gaps there is no story. Nothing would challenge the characters (or readers) to grow, learn, fight, give up, take action, make conflict, find truth, risk it all, and hopefully reach their goal. You would have characters that are invincible, reaching their goals without trial, in books filled with empty words. We need these gaps in life and in fiction to tear our expectations apart no matter how painful. Thus creating challenges to learn from, pushing us forward, bringing light to change, and writing stories that speak to the heart of humanity.
In a small town, nestled comfortably in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, the Lindsey family settles down to a table at their favorite pizza parlor. Smells of melting cheese, pepperoni and freshly baked dough float amidst the carefree atmosphere of a calm Sunday afternoon. The Lindsey children’s mother cuts their pizzas into smaller bites, as any great mother would do, whilst their father graciously cleans up some spilled water. Through mouthfuls of pizza the three young Lindsey children excitedly talk about the earlier events of the day. A loud chuckle from an obtuse, not so gentle-man, behind their table interrupts this happy family affair.
“Wow, three kids! Can you afford them?” He says, clearly lacking tact and proper procedure of human introduction.
Mr. Lindsey sits silent with eyes like daggers. His lips pursed tight to keep in the profanities he’d like to share with the man. Mrs. Lindsey smiles politely at him pretending to laugh it off. All while watching the stranger, who’s uncomfortably close to her children, like a mama bear who won’t hesitate to tear him apart.
The rude man’s wife nervously covers for her husbands faults by sharing how they raised three kids, all boys. After an awkward pause she scoots him along to the counter to order their meal.
I was almost inspired to write a whole post on what not to say to parents. Like most people, I don’t appreciate strangers asking me if I can afford my children, especially while my children are present. But thanks to Mr. Social Ineptness, my husband and I now had a topic of conversation for our 25 min drive home. Having the relationship I want with my children takes depth. To put a price tag on my children would make that relationship skin deep. This brought about the idea of what being a writer makes you confront. The man at the pizza parlor probably hasn’t done much soul searching. And in turn, if he were to write, what would he have to say to humanity? A crucial aspect of what makes a good writer is the ability to confront issues most people hide behind, which otherwise get passively projected onto others. Not only did that man’s comment lack depth and human connection, he projected his own insecurities of being a provider unfairly onto my family.
If you can’t dissect yourself, the good, the bad, and the ugly, it’s going to be hard to write something others can relate to. And that’s the point right? We read stories or watch films because we want entertainment. We fall in love with those stories when something within them connects to our souls. As if they show glimpses of all the hidden secrets of the universe. Stories like that are written by people willing to dig deep down inside themselves. Openly exposing every dark crevice they find so the good, the bad and the ugly can transform into a greater human connection.
If you want to be a writer, beware. Writing makes you confront things you might not want to, or maybe didn’t even know existed (it’s quite possibly the cheapest form of therapy out there). And if writing is not making you confront such things, you may want to rethink your story. Everything has already been done. It’s what we take from ourselves that makes it new. What is your story adding to the conversation? All of us have something to say, things we’ve learned that can push humanity forward. You just have to be willing to go there.
Next week’s post I’ll use this same pizza parlor situation to discuss creating gaps.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine. Ready? Here it goes, I am not an organized person. I’m a feel my way through life, see how the day goes, if there is a spot on the shelf something gets placed there (instead of where it should go), type of person. So how does someone like me get anything done, like write a novel? I’ll tell you. I’m stubborn. Generally speaking my stubbornness works against me but in this case it drives me to finish what I set out to do.
Now, like I said I’m not structured. When I get the urge to write, I write. This works fine except I’d like to be on my second draft of Remaining Aileen by the end of summer. Here’s what I did to ensure I reach my goal, May 4, 2015 I made a pledge to myself and social media that I will set 30 minutes aside everyday to write or edit. Thanks to my stubborn pride I am determined to accomplish this until Remaining Aileen is completed. There are days I barely get those 30 minutes in (you know, I have three kids and a list of other excuses), but there are also days where 30 minutes turns into hours. When you take time to write every day magic happens. I hope I can be an example to the other free spirits out there, that you don’t have to be a super organized person to be a writer (although I’m sure it helps).
If you are a writer and would like a little motivation to write on a daily basis, join a writing challenge. There are many out there. Two specific ones I’ll share are Writerology’s Write Chain Challenge, and She’s Novel’s 30 Day Author Up Challenge . I joined Writerology’s Write Chain Challenge. It’s been such a great reminder for me to stick to my pledge of 30 minutes a day. My goal may seem small, but I know myself and my stubbornness will only take me so far. Each day I earn a link for my write chain and get a place on the Write Chain leaderboard. It’s fun and helps me in getting closer to a finished novel. How do you swallow an elephant (or in my case write a novel)? One bite (one word) at a time!
When I started writing my novel I blindly spewed out a scene from my head on to my brand new laptop. I’ll be honest with you, it sucks, it’s something I will probably never let anyone besides my husband see. Even though my writing on it is terrible (it will be rewritten when I get to that point), I am grateful. Why? Because it set the tone for my novel and showed me the point of view (POV) that would work best for this story.
Remaining Aileen is told entirely through the eyes of my main character Aileen. It’s a first person account of the events that transpire around her and to her (first person POV). I want readers to feel like they are a part of Aileen. Experiencing everything she is doing, feeling, discovering, and learning about herself and her world. This is challenging to write (at least for this novice writer). But, it’s true to my story and no other POV will satisfy my crazy vision. I will execute it to the best of my abilities. P.S. there are many other great options for POV.
My challenge of writing in a first person narrative is showing not telling. No one wants to read an 80k word thought bubble. So, I’ve been learning to focus on how to show, not tell. For example, Aileen is in a terrible plane crash (I say this in my synopsis, so no spoilers here). This is a major life changing event that launches us into the story and forever changes her life. I don’t want you to read her thoughts in that moment. I want you to feel like you are on that plane with her, experiencing what might be her final moments of life, falling from the sky (at least that’s my goal). Showing, not telling.
On a side note, I’d like to say thank you to the many writing blogs I have found. I consider them my crash courses in novel writing. Already I can see my story telling improving from the wise words of those who know far more than me. The differences between my first “chapter” compared to my more recent chapters are night and day.
Here are links to a few of my go to blogs. Check these awesome ladies out:
This past week was messy. I’m talking icky stomach bug, everyone throwing up everywhere, messy. If that weren’t enough, our leach field failed, meaning I couldn’t use my washing machine. To top it off, our hot water went out (Because apparently you have to check your propane tank on occasion). Try cleaning up a kid covered in regurgitated dinner at two in the morning only to find you’re out of hot water. Thankfully, we don’t have a gas stove top. Now I’ll raise the stakes, really make this past week of mine sound epic. My daughters 4th birthday was at the end of the week along with her very anticipated birthday party. Would we all get better in time for the party? Or did it have to be canceled, crushing her sweet four year old spirit? Thankfully by Friday we were all better (a birthday miracle). Propane tank got refilled and the party could proceed as planned. The leach field however, is to be continued.
Now that the storm has mostly passed, I can look back and laugh at the unfortunate events that conspired against me all at once. My “first world mom problems” bring to mind the things I have and will be putting my main character, Aileen, through (is there such thing as literary karma?). But ultimately, what good is a story without conflict and what good are my characters if they aren’t conflicted?
If life was always calm and peaceful it would get really boring. Same goes with storytelling. You start off with the status quo of your characters lives and then watch as their lives are completely upended. It sounds messed up, but conflict is what makes life, life. Conflict gives our brains problems to solve, which gives us new ways of learning and thinking. It helps us continue to grow as humans and hopefully move forward to be better than we were before. I don’t want to read a story or watch a movie where the characters sit on their mundane patooties the whole time. What shared human experience do I gain from watching someone live a perfect life where nothing bad happens, ever? When there’s no problems to solve our brains have nothing to do and they get bored. But, add struggle, conflict, someone trying to rise above all odds only to get beat back down again, now you have something interesting. Maybe they triumph in the end, maybe the bad guys win. Either way, it makes me want to share in their failure or success. It makes me feel like I’m part of their world, and maybe I’ll even learn a little something about myself while I’m in it. This is only possible with characters that are conflicted, messed up, imperfect people just like the rest of us, who get thrown into conflicted, messed up, imperfect situations.
So don’t hold back, mess up your characters lives! You have my permission.
If you follow me on twitter you may have seen or responded to my many laments and questions regarding titles. Thank you for all the input and advice, it has greatly helped shape my decision. The final choices were, Dying to be 30 and Remaining Aileen.
Having a strong title for my book is important, I assume it’s important to any writer really. I want the title for my novel to draw you in, really make you wonder what the pages inside hold. I want it to have a sense of mystery, but also have a feel for what the book might be about. This may be too much to ask from a title, but I like to aim high (can’t hurt right?).
So, drum roll please, without further ado I’m proud to introduce the official working title of my very first novel, Remaining Aileen. *Insert firework show here*
Becoming a mom has been such an incredible life change for me. Over the last 5 years I have poured everything I am into my children. I realized though, I was hiding myself behind this new identity in the process. Instead of integrating who I was before motherhood with my new role, I was focused only on my identity as a mom. Once I woke up to this, I’ve found it to be such a fun, exciting, sometimes frustrating journey of getting reacquainted with who I am now. This is what Remaining Aileen is about. What happens when circumstances in life (good or bad) change us and will there be any part of our old selves remaining in the end?
I’m leaving this a little open ended because I’d hate to share too much about Aileen’s adventures at this time. However, I couldn’t be more excited to finish this novel so I can share it with all of you!