Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ooh, if I weren't me...

I have been seething for much of the day today. I simply cannot believe the level of... well... cheating that is still prevalent at the graduate level.

I mean, okay, children cheat. True. But hopefully they're learning that cheaters never win.

High schoolers cheat. Well, teenagers are supposed to rebel and break the rules - that's how their brains are built.

By the time people go through undergraduate school and graduate school - the powers that be should start being able to weed out the cheaters from every one else. I mean seriously.

So I receive an email from another student asking if I would write her final paper for her and she would pay me. Are you kidding me? Not only would this entail doing her work for her, but she would have to send me information about her partner - personal, confidential information that is not allowed to be discussed or shared with anyone.

So many ethical issues - I really just want to slap he, tie a big scarlet C around her neck and boot her out of the school.

But then I'm thinking to myself that no... That would not be the best thing to do. I could just turn her in, but then I become the little rat who can't win on her own merit and has to knock someone else down in order to win.

And, these are psychology teachers, right? So somewhere down the line they must be able to catch on without my having to point it out to them?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November's Gone... Already?

Every year I wait for November to get here.

And every year November runs away from me.

I can never believe just how fast it goes by.

In case you're wondering, I'm talking about NaNoWriMo. You know, that writing exercise every year to see who can finish a 50,000 (or more) word novella within the month of November.

Just over 24 hours to go, and just under 13,000 words to finish.

November, you have screwed me again! But I will get the best of you and finish this. I just might not sleep at all until December.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

You're only as good as...

Okay - so I have a few guilty pleasures. Nothing major or life threatening.

Well, at least they aren't threatening my life. I guess I can't really speak for every one else who shares in these same guilty pleasures.

But I have recently started watching a few *gasp* reality television shows.

I know!

I know!

And to tell you the truth I'm not even sure how it all happened! Chopped is just a great show... Project Runway and Food Network Star just kind of snuck up on me... And before I knew it I just had to know.

Would Josh win? Would Jeff be the next Food Network Star? Who would be Chopped?

Who was I going to look for at my favorite dress shops? And what crazy new recipes would I be able to run away with from the new show?

It's just all too much! And I just had to know. DVR - don't fail me now!

And now I bet you're wondering just what all this has to do with anything, right?

I'm right, aren't I?

Well, there's one thing that they say in almost every episode of all these different shows...

"You're only as good as your last ______________."

Go ahead, fill in the blank with anything you like that relates to your field:

... design.
... dress.
... meal.
... cookbook.

... novel.

Ack!

Yes, that's right. You're only as good as your last novel. And this thought has me completely freaked out. What if my novel isn't that great? I mean, what if I think it's great and everyone else thinks that it sucks?

And let's face it - almost every time the judges on Project Runway announce who is out - I get pissed because it's always my favorite designer. Clearly, my taste does not match the taste of the professionals - the experts who truly know what they're doing.

What if it's barely mediocre?

And even worse... what if my novel never gets finished?

I have been wracking my brain trying to fit in the time and imagination between school and work and writing. I don't know how every one else has always been able to do this - because I really do think that I might just lose it soon.

But, as they also say on each of these shows:

"I didn't come here to lose... "

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Margins and spacing, check.

Chapter headings, check.

Sub-headings, check.

Reviewing rules of grammar regarding dialog... checking.

I had no idea about all the new grammar rules that are out now. Well, considering that my last writing / English / typing class was back in high school (which was, well, a long time ago) I guess many of these "new" rules could have been around for a long time.

For example, in 1994, when writing a list that contained three items or more, a comma followed each item up to the last:

Item one, two, and three.

Now, apparently, that is incorrect - the last two items on the list do not have a comma between them:

Item one, two and three.

The use of quotations and some punctuation have also changed. Has it really been that long for me? As I continue to stumble through this manuscript looking for these unknown errors I'm starting to question, for the first time really, whether or not I am truly cut out for even writing such a project.

I wish I could blame society... Believe me, I wish that. That I could say that this mightn't be happening if we could settle on proper language and grammar rules and stick with them.

That maybe so many people out there have refused to learn proper grammar and so we caved to the mediocre and changed the rules to accomodate them.

But, of course, it's not society's fault. Not the mediocre or the lazy... It's a sign that I am rusty; that hobby writing alone is not quite enough to keep up your skills and stay up to date with changing trends and rules.

That I should have been trying harder to stay on top of my game. Trust me, it will be a lesson I'll not soon forget.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I don't really know when I started to realize that the American Dream is, in fact, overrated. Or perhaps overrated is the wrong word? I don't know - you tell me.

I do know that as a little girl, I was filled with hope... Hope that all stemmed from what has become "The American Dream". Work hard and you can get anything you want. Study hard and you can be anything you want to be. Of course, this is only if what you want coincides with what your parents and teachers want you to be.

I know what you're thinking... No, that can't be. But it is.

You see, when I was little I went through many of the same phases that other little girls go through. I wanted to be an astronaut, a baker, a famous chef... I wanted to learn to play the piano, become a novelist, and be the next great singer / actress. And while I was little, these plans and aspirations were, for the most part, met with enthusiasm from my parents and teachers. Everyone said I could do it. Everyone said I would achieve my dreams.

But that's because at the time these dreams fell in line with what their dreams were for me. For some of them, they knew I would eventually change my mind... For others they thought, eh, I was young and still had all the time in the world to get working on them. But then I started to grow up and my dreams began to change. Not all of them; but enough of them to make everyone realize that if they didn't start to tell me the truth - that you can't have everything you want no matter how hard you work or study - that I was going to pick the "wrong" dream.

The earliest example that I can recall on this was when I was a teenager. Of course, there are two laws that govern the lives of all teenagers. The first required that I rebel against everyone of authority (especially my parents), keep secrets and most especially stop "working up to my potential".

The other law that governs all teenagers is that you have to find yourself. Finding out the type of person you really are, what you like or dislike, what your role is and what you want it to be. What cruel timing on Mother Nature's part to force us to go through such an important growth and learning period while we're still awkward from pimples, crushes, and bodies that just don't fit, hormones that are being held hostage by every emotion and - to top it all off as though that just wasn't enough - adults don't understand what you're going through and so they can't help you.

And believe me, even as a teenager I knew that most adults wanted to help me... they just couldn't. And it's not completely their fault. As a teenager - we all like to think we have the world by the shorties - but in reality we don't have a clue even about our own bodies. We don't know how to say what we feel. All we know is that every nerve at every point in our brain is on fire - we laugh hard, we party hard, we get pissed off at the smallest things, we hurt hard and we fall in love hard. Teenager do everything hard - they are the extreme human beings and they don't know any other way to be.

Wait... Where was I again?

That's right... The American Dream.

So, in class today, we had to run through some introductions and tell a little about ourselves. The session was great because I got to hear about so many different stories from so many wonderfully diverse people.

And then it was my turn. And my story was met with disdain and contempt. "You're planning to write a novel and practice therapy? Isn't that expensive and selfish? You're planning to work with children? Are you crazy?"

"Is all this just an afterthought for you? Or was working in psychology always your dream?"

Well, okay class. You caught me. Psychology was not always my dream. But sometimes the best dreams are not the dreams that you planned and worked for all your life. Sometimes the best dreams just find you.

And if that makes me selfish - well then, I guess I did get a part of the American Dream after all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Yet Another Dream For Me

So, here we are, and I'm doing it again... Launching off on another long-awaited dream.

No, this one is not of publication...

 At least, not quite publication.

 No, this one is of finally getting to finish my Master's Degree.

 That's right. as of today - I am rejoining the ranks of "Student" ... I start my first day of the rest of my life today.

 Well, to be more specific, I start my graduate studies as a psychology student.

 I know, I know what you're thinking.

What does this have to do with writing? And will clients be able to take me seriously if they see that I write fantasy / sci-fi novels?

 Well... I look at it this way. Perhaps my work as a therapist will help me develop deeper, more profound characters that my readers will fall in love with.

Or perhaps my writing will inspire me to help my clients in a way that no "traditional" therapist might think of. Either way, my vocabulary is bound to benefit, right?

And with all the research papers and writing that I will need to do while I'm in school... I doubt that I'll fall out of practice.

 There are still a lot of decisions to be made, like which population would I want to work with and where do I find an internship. What type of therapist do I want to be? (I had no idea that there were so many!). So - yes... Another day, another dream. Why settle for just one?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Me and my Timing

So... How 'bout my timing, huh?

After thinking and contemplating over where to go next... I've decided to go ahead and submit my work to the Edit Fast novel writing contest... Of course, this gives me about, oooh, five days to get everything ready for submission.

Am I crazy?!


Absolutely. But that's irrelevant.

I'm not so silly as to think that a manuscript I've been working on for more than six years will magically be finished with time to spare in four days and 22 hours...

So, I highly doubt that my manuscript will be submission-worthy by that time. I can try - but I will likely fall completely on my head once Saturday's Dungeons and Dragons group gets here. So, since they do hold a contest every four months, I will be entering into a contest of theirs - just not the one for August :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Official age of Old

Ugh... My birthday.

This year is hitting me harder than most years. I'm 35 now.

35

Two years ago when my husband turned 35 - he deemed that as the official "age of old". Of course, now he is regretting that conversation - now that he knows I remember it and that, since it applied to him, it must now apply to me as well.

I'm officially at the age of old... still not published. This is just not my year.

Of course, I know that it's not too late. Pfft, I've probably got another, well, 47 years before I really have to worry.

Why 47? Because that would put me inline with Myrrha Stanford-Smith who, if you'll remember from last year's news, received a three-book deal to publish her trilogy at 82 years young.

So - not too late, not yet. But still, the clock is definitely ticking and the years are going by faster and faster. Maybe I'll feel better about being 35 sometime after I've been published. Or maybe after I give up on the fight against fine lines and wrinkles (no gray hairs just yet... but I'm sure they're plotting).

For now I'll try to get by with simply looking at this as the snooze alarm to my wake up call... Time to get writing!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kiss Your Spare Time Goodbye

Earlier, I had described why this manuscript sat unfinished - forgotten in a sea of files left on my computer.

And, as you can likely tell, it's still happening. Even with the new status as a necessity, I'm straining to find the time to finish it. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

I know, it's so clich├ęd to use that excuse - and far overdone. Though, that really only makes this complaint sound trite - not any less true.

The sad fact is, I just have too many necessities going on right now. Clearly I need a better way of prioritizing my life or things just aren't going to be done. I just don't know where to start with that. So how do you set writing aside as a priority when it's really little more than a glorified hobby?

I mean, at least at this point, writing this novel is not producing any money. And there's no real guarantee that it ever will. There is a very strong possibility that once I finish this novel it may never be published in the fashion that I am hoping. And an even stronger possibility that if it does get published, it will be purchased by about ten people.

Ugh, ten people. Do I even know ten people? Make that eight.

At any rate, so now I need to physically make writing a priority. Clearly, it can't be placed ahead of other things, like my income-generating job or my family. But certainly it's more important than some of my other projects that I have going on?

So, here are some tricks that I have been able to put into place over the past several weeks. Clearly there are still a few bumps in the road that I need to work on... But, as you can likely tell by my return here, these tricks have been helping me prioritize a bit and get the time back where I needed it to go - to my writing.


  • Step One - Admit that Life Happens.

  • First, Life Happens. Well, duh. Life is always going to happen. Life is always going to fight for my time. There is never going to be a great time to be a writer for me - that time left back when I was in high school and filling our my spare time with naps, the cross country team and cheerleading practice. Now, spare time doesn't exist.

    That's not just for me, that's true of anyone post-school. Upon graduating school - whether it be with a diploma or a degree - kiss your spare time goodbye because that is something handed out only to students.

    And it took me a long time to recognize and accept this... too long. Now it's time that I stop making that a reason to procrastinate. There is no spare time - so there's no way to wait until I have spare time to work on my writing.

    There, simple, right?

  • Step Two - Carve out a schedule


  • This might be one of those deals where it's easier said than done. The problem with this little step is that as of right now, I work from home. And as such - people already have a really hard time remembering that while I am working I am working.

    So my best guess is that whenever I am at the computer writing, the same interruptions and distractions will apply as they do now when I'm working. And I mean all sorts of distractions - not just the little ones.

    "Oh, well, you're home anyway so I called the electrician and made an appointment for him to come by on Thursday and told him you'd meet him there since I won't be home."


    Seriously? Okay - that's for a whole new rant so I will stop now. But, yes, this next step entailed writing, with as much detail as possible, everything that I do within a given week and finding out where I can cut back on another project to devote that time to writing. Essentially carving time out of my schedule - not something that is easily done, by the way. But, by rearranging a few other projects and carving a little time from them, I did manage to find anywhere from one to three extra hours a week that I can devote to writing.

    So, you hear that appointment-maker? Devoted to writing... not maintaining your appointments. Which brings me to the next step:

  • Step Three - Enforce my Schedule


  • I have always been soft and flexible when it comes to my schedule. Clients email me on a day that I wasn't working and I would hop onto the computer and get to working on their issues. It didn't matter if it was two in the morning and all they needed was to have a typo fixed - I was there and hopping online to find and fix that renegade typo.

    Now, reenforcing an actual schedule is proving to be a challenge. For so long, my clients have been able to write or call me at any time for changes, updates, and general support and I have been overly accommodating. Now as I try to explain the changes in my schedule and let them know that I will not be available during certain times, well, they aren't really taking too well to that. Don't get me wrong, they aren't being rude about it or anything like that. In fact, most of them actually like the idea that I am trying so hard to uphold a more defined schedule so that I can fit other sorts of projects in.

    But, it's still rather inconvenient for them; and they still sometimes forget and send me those text messages at two in the morning. But, then again, I still have trouble not answering said texts.

    Definitely have a little work to do before this step is done correctly - but I'm getting there.

  • Step Four - Hire Myself


  • I know, right? If I'm so willing to take a text at two in the morning from a client, then why can't I motivate myself to take on a few extra tasks at the end of the day for myself?

    I don't know about you, but for me the only time I jump through hoops to get my writing done is in November... It's time that I started doing things like that every time I have a writing project that I want to finish.

    And, that about sums it up. I'm sure there are about half a dozen other ways that writers have found to help them prioritize their hobby-like writing over certain aspects of life... But so far these are the steps that have really helped me.

    So now all that's left to do is to go out and get a hoop ;)

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Suvudu Writing Contest, It was worth a shot

    Well, it's over and done.

    The powers that be at Suvudu have released the names of the winners of their writing contest... Congratulations Richard Gropp. I am sufficiently jealous of your success.

    :)

    Actually, Richard's submission sounds absolutely intriguing:

    About a young photographer who travels to the barricaded city of Spokane, Washington, in hopes of gaining attention for his work by photographing the bizarre incidents occurring there. No one knows why people seem to vanish from the city, or why some eyewitnesses report strange manifestations while other onlookers see nothing.”


    And from the looks of things, it wasn't exactly an easy contest to judge. 700 submissions to go through in roughly two months... Yikes!

    So now I've got to get to cracking on what's what with my own writing... I have a few ideas and of course there is always Plan B. But I need a little more refining with my manuscript - something that will really get my creative juices flowing. And I think if I take a quick break away from the "must get published!!!!!" mindset and just start trying to write - I would do a lot better.

    Of course, publication is still the ultimate goal. I just need a less stressful way to go about it.

    So I started looking at other writing contests that I could find. Here's a list of what I've found thus far:

    Edit Fast is a complete writer's resource that offers proofreading, editing, a list of literary agents and publishers and now writing contests. In fact, they have another novel writing contest in about a month or two.

    The International 3-Day Novel Writing Contest - in short, this contest is NaNoWriMo on speed. Labor Day weekend, 72 hours - Write! Okay, so clearly this novel would not be eligible for that contest; but the contest itself is interesting and it might just be worth it to take a break from this one and see what I can do there.

    Last but not least, Writer'sType is holding a first chapter competition. Essentially, if I choose to enter this novel into their competition, I can only submit the first chapter... From there I'm not really sure what would happen but it sounds interesting to say the least.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Time to find myself a celebrity!

    The Internet is just filled with... um... I'm not even sure what to call it, really...?

    Like everyone else, if I have a question I tend to go online first. Even knowing full well that half (if not most) of the information that I'm going to find is going to be wrong, poorly researched, based on opinion and bias, or (of course) so not even close to what I searched for as I typed my keywords into Google.

    Which is probably why I didn't even bother searching for anything on April 1, but that's a whole other story.

    Anyway, so most of the past few months I have been on the Internet seeking out advice about writing, more specifically about how to get my writing published. Finding the names of literary agents and checking out tips and tricks, aka advice, about how I can get this novel finished after reading the winner's name of the recent Suvudu writing contest. (Finger's crossed, still a month to go!)

    I did come across several pieces of advice that probably work well for a lot of people. But for a young(ish) girl living in PoDunk, Midwest - it just seems nearly impossible. So let's go through this advice.

    First, there was attending writing conferences in my local area. According to this article, conferences are a great way to network and get to know other authors and publishers in the business. And of course, just like every other business, the more you network, the better chance you have of connecting with someone that can (and will!) help you out. Sadly, the only writing conference in my local area this year is a three hour drive away for non-fiction writers and - at least last time I checked - Sci-Fi / fantasy does not qualify. Perhaps in 60-70 years when it's all been invented, but as of now, no.

    So, the next piece of advice was to attend a writer's workshop since, a lot of times, these workshops are offered by authors and publishers who have had varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, just as with the the hurdle of the conferences, there are none in my area, unless I wish to enroll as an under-grad at the local University.

    Another piece of advice, and one that's much more doable for me, is to enter your writing into a high-profile writing contest. Well, I've already done this as I entered this year's Suvudu writing contest. However, I can't submit my writing to anyone else, in the very least, until after I have heard from them. So, at least for now, this avenue is closed.

    And finally, get a celebrity to read your novel and give you a review to send in with your manuscript.

    Well... Let me just reach into my pocket and pull out a celebrity! Much less a celebrity who has the time and desire to read a Sci-Fi / Fantasy novel written by a nobody. No... I won't look like a complete stalker or anything. "Excuse me, Mr. Clooney, do you think you could read this between takes?"

    Okay, so this last piece of advice, though I laugh at it, might work for those of you in New York or L.A. where celebrities are much more commonplace. But here in PoDunk - not so much. And as much as I would like to have a celebrity read my novel and tell me how much they love it (thinking positively, of course - I'm awesome), how exactly am I supposed to pull this one off?

    I'm not entirely sure this advice was meant for everyone... Clearly it doesn't work for someone living in the middle of Middle America. But, for those of you in places where there are more opportunities to make such connections, there you go. I hope that the advice I found serves you better than it can serve me :)

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Traditional or Self Publishing?

    One idea that has been suggested to me several time is the option of self-publishing my novel. Of course, I have several friends that have gone this route. And there are certainly benefits to getting this done... Not the least of which is, you guessed it, you get published!

    And I do have to admit, as an option it is intriguing. The more I look into traditional publishing and all the hurdles and steps that I will need to go through to realize my dream through this avenue, the harder it seems to be. Traditional publishing is like the writer's version of an awkward catch 22.

    To get published, you have to already be published. It's an annoying, vicious circle that works well if you're already well-established.. The Stephen Kings of this world will never have to worry about whether or not someone will be willing to read and publish their manuscripts.

    But when you're not a Stephen King - when you're just a Naomi living in a po-dunky state covered in snow with no real publishing houses any where near you... it becomes a huge obstacle.

    So, yes, self-publishing definitely seems like a doable alternative At least I could get my book published, right?

    But, that's not the extent of my dream, so I don't think I want to settle for that. My dream is to walk into a Barnes and Nobles or Borders and see my novel on their bookshelf... my name written along the spine in gold-plated letters... I don't even care if it only sells one copy (my husband has to buy one, right?) - I just want to see it there. And getting Barnes and Nobles or any other mainstream bookstore to carry a self-published book is nearly impossible.

    So, at least for now, I'm set on going the much harder, much longer route of traditional publishing. I'll never be a Stephen King... But it'll all be worth it if I can see my name on the shelf at my local Borders store.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    From Hobby to Priority - My novel is upgraded.

    I think I'm starting to remember, now, why this manuscript hasn't been published in the six years that it's been in existence. I never classified it as a necessity. I have a tendency to to that, to classify my activities as either "necessary" or "hobbies". If it's necessary, then it's deserving of all my attention, blood, sweat and tears. Hobbies are activities I do to relax at the end of the day.

    And in this case, finishing a manuscript and getting it published was definitely not a necessity, it was always something that "would be nice if it happened". Well, I can be really stupid sometimes... of course it's not going to happen - not unless I do it.

    So, I've changed its status. I can do that too. It's no longer simply a hobby without stresses, deadlines and repercussions. It's something that will have consequences if it is not finished.It must seem silly, I suppose, to see someone who already has so much going on actually instilling deadlines and issues onto herself... But trust me. If I leave this manuscript to get finished during my spare time, I might as well toss it now.

    I don't have enough spare time to see it get done, for one thing. I'm going to have to set some time apart from other activities if I want to do this. Plus, what little spare time I do have is already getting split up between so many other hobbies. No, if I want to get this manuscript published - if I ever want to realize my dream of walking into a Barnes and Nobles or Borders and seeing my name in gold plating along the spine of a novel... Then finishing this novel and getting that manuscript finished has to become a priority.

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    Finding Plan B

    So, let's recap a little, huh?

    Sometime in February, I got a huge wakeup call that I am not doing what I want with my life. Okay, I should probably clarify that. I don't hate my job. I don't even dislike my job. But my job is not what I wanted to do. This state (six straight months of snow and counting!) is not where I wanted to be. And after this wake up call, I decided that it was about time to do something about it.

    So, I found a manuscript that I had started nearly 6 years ago and decided to get it published come frozen over wasteland or high water. And, during this time, I found an article posted at Suvudu about a writing contest. So I went on a month-long editing sprint to get my manuscript ready to submit. And now, we wait.

    Now, don't get me wrong; I'm probably not going to win that writing contest. I like my writing and I think I'm okay - but there are thousands of entries, most probably by people who have been honing their writing for years while I've been busy doing everything that's not writing. My possibilities are remote - and I know that.

    Which is why I need a plan B. :)

    And Plan B deals with figuring out how to get published. So, I went on a bit of a "research" trip. Okay, not really, I went to Barnes and Nobles online and read through a bunch of summaries, book reviews, and the like. I even picked up a title or two for my Nook! But mostly, while I was there, I checked out the books listed under Science Fiction / Fantasy...which just so happens to be the genre that my manuscript is in. Then, I wrote down the names of several publishing houses that had handled many of the books there.

    Now, of these publishing houses, exactly one of them accepts manuscripts unsolicited. The rest require that you have a literary or publishing agent. So maybe Plan C will be to find an agent. I'll work on that later this week. But in the meantime, should you be interested in knowing the publishers that I found through this unconventional method of research, here is my list:

    Random House Publishing - of course, this is the primary Publishing Group that created Suvudu, so it makes sense that they would have been one of the first I found. They're huge. And they require you to have an agent.

    Penguin Group - Another huge publishing group. They also require that you have an agent except for one subsidiary, Daws Books, which does accept unsolicited manuscripts (at least for the time being) in Science Fiction / Fantasy.

    HarperCollins Publishers - requires an agent.

    Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing - agent required.

    Hachette Book Group (including Little, Brown and Company) - agent required.

    Of course, I have no idea how I'm going to go about getting an agent. Which is one reason why I'm leaving that for Plan C. Meanwhile, Plan B entails waiting for the official news regarding the winner of the writing contest at Suvudu, and then submitting my manuscript unsolicited to a new publisher...and lots of finger crossing therein.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    How long do I want my novel to be?

    This may sound like a weird question, but I am starting to wonder just how long I want this novel to be. The more I edit and revise, flush out and refine, the longer this novel seems to grow. It truly is starting to take on a life of its own.

    Many of the characters and scenes have even started sneaking their way into my dreams. Which, actually, has been a big help since when I wake up I think to myself "Wait a minute, it worked out much better in my dream than the way I wrote it" and gives me a sort of fresh look on this scene.

    And while I realize that there's no set formula for determining the length of your novel, I'm just starting to wonder how long people - in today's world of iPads, iPhones, and iBooks - will sit and read a real book. And how marketable is a book if there is no market for it?

    One site I read regarding writing a novel mentioned that an average length to shoot for when writing a novel was 70,000 words. Well, pfft... NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, and they call it a novella. My novel, as of right now, is roughly 122,000 give or take a chapter heading.

    And perhaps I should mention that this is just book one of a trilogy? It just started to grow so long that I took my outline of ideas and drew two lines through it. Now, however, even each section of my outline is outgrowing me. How do you know when it's getting close to that line of "this is long enough". It seems to me that a good novel is never quite finished... I can come up with questions and loose ends on nearly every book I've ever read.

    So how do you wrap up those loose ends, tie together those plot twists, and answer those questions without drawing out the novel too far?

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    It's not over yet.

    Of course, as I wrote earlier, I succeeded in completing a huge milestone. In about a month, I managed to edit and refine my 437 page manuscript until I felt comfortable submitting it to the contest at Suvudu. And in that month, here is what I accomplished:

    • My manuscript grew from 437 pages and 78 chapters to 451 pages and 79 chapters.

    • I am now cross eyed. (Not really)

    • My husband and I grew even closer (if that was even possible) as he helped me through the editing process.

    • My cat learned that she cannot balance very well on my keyboard. (Yes, really)

    • My nails are virtually gone.


    Pretty good, right? But it's not over yet.

    In my quest to get published, now is sort of a "lull". Sure, I can continue editing and refining my manuscript even more - and I will, but I'm still faced with the same problem as what faced me before. Without a concrete deadline, I will have a hard time maintaining my focus and getting anything done.

    Since the writing contest is over, I can't use that. And for as long as my manuscript is being considered, I can't even try submitting it to any other publisher. Since winners will not be announced for another two months, that leaves me with a lot of time to lose my ambition and set my manuscript aside in favor of something more immediate.

    So, my husband and I have come up with an idea. In May, two very good friends (well, technically three, since two of them are a couple) will be coming to visit for the first time since we moved to Minnesota. And I thought, you know what... no matter what the subject was or what the genre was, I bet they would each like a copy of my unpublished manuscript.

    Both were such a huge inspiration to me. Of course, there were other inspirations as well, and I'm not in any way trying to diminish their contribution to my esteem in this accomplishment. But since these people will be coming all the way up here, battling through the snow and slush to see me, I'd like to give them a physical token of what their friendship and inspiration has meant to me.

    So here we go! Two months to get my manuscript further refined, polished, edited and printed!

    Rock on :)

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Submitted and on its way...

    Finally, with ten minutes to spare... The manuscript is as complete as I could get it and still submit it to the Suvudu writing contest on time.

    I'm sure there are still mistakes, areas that need improvement, and more than likely the powers that be judging over the contest will be able to tell that the end of the manuscript was a bit rushed... But all in all, I'm fairly happy with my submission.

    So what's my next step? Well, winners for the Editorial Review won't be announced until May 18 - two months of agonizing while I wait to hear my fate.

    In the meantime, I think I will continue working on the manuscript, though I'll be able to take my time now. If I win, it'll be great and whatever advice I gain from the editorial review I will gladly apply. But there are a lot of other applicants - and a large chance that I won't win.

    Which means that by May 19, I will need to make sure this manuscript is ready to be submitted to other publishing agencies...

    :)

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    48 Chapters in 24 Hours.

    Maybe I'm not in such a pickle after all?

    48 chapters to go, and only 24 hours to finish them in. On the one hand, it sounds so close... That's just 2 chapters an hour.

    But then I remember other things that continue to call my attention - work, sleep, food.

    Can I really afford to go without these things for the next 24 hours as I near the end of my sprint? Would anyone want to be around me if I did go without these things for the next 24 hours?

    I'm willing to bet that by this time tomorrow, I will be a mess. My hair will likely be thrown together in a make-shift bun, my nails are already all different lengths as I've ignored the chips that come from pounding away at a keyboard, and I am covered in a weird blend of cat and puppy fur. Add to that mix a lack of food and sleep...

    LOL, this manuscript so better be worth it ;)

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Three days and Counting!

    Ah, I just want to scream right about now. Three days to go and my little marathon sprint of editing is not exactly going as planned.

    I'm still only about half-way through the manuscript. I had no idea how unpolished this manuscript even was until I started this sprint.

    So now, I'm tired and cranky and dreaming in fonts. I have roughly two to two and a half days to get this finished and ready for Suvudu. I really wish that I had seen this article regarding their writing contest earlier. But, if I had, I wonder how well I would still have been able to get through this?

    I have always been a procrastinator - which is probably why this manuscript has been sitting around for close to five years already. If I have time to do it, I will likely take up just about every bit of time available to me. Chances are, even if I had found that article in January rather than February, I would still be sitting here today stressing myself out at failing at my own deadline.

    How sad do you have to be to fail at your own deadline?

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Plugging Right Along

    The good news is, I've managed to edit and completely flush out the first 65 pages of my manuscript. According to most of the sites and advice that I've found online, many literary agents and publishing companies ask for the first 50 pages with your submission. So, in the very least, I am at least capable of fulfilling this requirement should I decide to submit this manuscript to a new literary agent or publisher.

    The bad news is, at 438 pages, I am only 14.8% completed with the final editing and polishing of this manuscript to have it ready to submit to Suvudu for their writing contest. With 373 pages to go in only four days, this means I need to refine and polish an average of about 93 pages a day between now and Thursday to have this manuscript finished in time to submit to their contest.

    Well, this might be a tall order. This requires me to reach page 158 by tomorrow.

    Here we go... Can I get a second wind, please?

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    A New Way to Edit...

    Finally, after days of reading and re-reading this manuscript for grammatical errors, spelling errors, and obvious mistakes, the technical part of the editing is done.

    Thank goodness I have a husband who doesn't mind that I can become a rather neurotic pain in the butt when I'm under pressure :)

    Now, with just a few days to go, we have decided to take a different approach to flushing out some of the ideas and flow. Starting yesterday, I began reading the manuscript out loud as he listened. I stopped every few paragraphs or so and he would give me his initial reaction.

    This way, if he had a question, didn't understand something, or found that something didn't really make sense, I could pause my reading, adjust what I needed to adjust, and then re-read the newly written section for him.

    Although I probably wouldn't recommend this particular method for writing, it does really seem to help with speeding things along for this project.

    I assume (possibly incorrectly) that a lot of writers out there aren't comfortable with reading their unfinished manuscripts out loud to someone else. I know that even just a few short months ago I probably wouldn't have felt very comfortable. In fact, even just yesterday it took me a little while to get started because I was uncomfortable. But I am so glad that we started this method for this project. It really helped me smooth a lot of things out rather quickly.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Ideas Reborn

    So, as you can imagine, my fingertips have been flying through the pages of this manuscript... Looking for mistakes, flushing out ideas, deleting issues from one area only to re-add them in another area.

    Perhaps choosing such a tight deadline for the initial rewrite of this manuscript was a bit overambitious? Most likely. But, I am determined...

    Come hell or high water, whatever is finished by the deadline, March 18, is what will be getting submitted into the Suvudu writing contest. I'm thinking that despite the fact that Chapter 68 is one sentence long: "Lucien Escapes..." So long as the grammatical and spelling errors are taken care of by the time I submit this manuscript to the powers that be at Suvudu I will have plenty of time to go back in later and figure out how I want Lucien to be able to escape.

    At least for now the idea is there... Right?

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    The Stakes get Raised

    So, I knew that this project was going to be hard. Writing is something that I love to do... But it's never been something that I have developed beyond that. A few short notes that met their end crumpled on the floor behind a dresser, some short stories that sit hidden in a file still without an ending. I know the basics of grammar and can stumble my way through a few sentences without relying solely on the computer's spell-checker. But I don't know how to string my thoughts together into a book; nor do I know how to present these thoughts - once compiled - into a presentation for an editor or publisher. Or how to convince them that my thoughts - my book - are worthy of publication.

    So many things to think about. And it dawned on me last night as I was reviewing my header and chapter headings that I still had time. After all, it's not as though there is a time limit. That's when it struck me - that not having an exact time limit would make this project even harder for me to finish.

    I needed a deadline or else this manuscript would most definitely end up an unfinished mess, with only the two or three meager posts of a blog that could ever serve as proof of its existence.

    So, how to set a deadline for the edits that I need to make? That is where my husband is a genius. He found a writing contest being featured at Suvudu.

    March 18, 2011. That is the deadline now set for me to get most of these changes made and have this manuscript ready to submit. If I win, I receive an editorial review and consideration for publication... If not, then it's back to the writing board for more edits and time to find a new deadline ;)

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Where to Begin?

    As it turns out, starting a journey is much easier said than done.

    So I've found the manuscript - all 437 typed pages waiting for me to go through and fill in missing thoughts and feelings. I swear, I think that staring at a manuscript that was started years ago just might be harder than staring at a blank page waiting to be started.

    437 pages... So, I figured the best starting point would be to back track a little bit. Where did I leave off? What part of the process had I already started? And I found a critique that I had paid for back in 2008.

    Of course, the critique isn't great. I mean, the editor who critiqued my manuscript was very nice, but when I asked another editor to help me go through to make the suggested changes I was informed that the first critique was likely a cookie-cutter critique... A form letter that was filled out without actually going through and / or reading anything. But, still, I thought that this would serve as a good starting point for now.

    The first thing noted on this critique was the formatting... Apparently I had not formatted the manuscript properly. I used the default formatting for Microsoft Word, changing only the line spacing to be double spaced. Well, hey, I'm not an author (yet!) right? So how exactly does formatting a manuscript differ from normal formatting a paper? I turned to the Internet to find my answers and found this amazing article that I am now using to go through and reformat my entire manuscript so that it would be in compliance with the standard:

    Kleine Editorial Services

    So, while my margins and spacing are good, my header, chapter headings, and sub-headings need work. Guess I know what I'll be doing for the rest of the night!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Shaping my dream of writing.

    Well, saying that I am going to start writing more, and actually doing it, are two different things. Of course, you probably already know this, right? Isn't that something that we learned in the second grade? Or thereabouts.

    So how do I turn my desire to write - my need to get this manuscript finished - into an accomplishment? On that ground, I am stumped. I keep searching around for clues as to how other writers have gotten around their hurdles. And their stories are pissing me off more than inspiring me.

    If I read another story about how someone tried and tried and tried and worked so hard only to be laughed at right up until they came across a rich philanthropist who just happened to be holding their ticket to publication... Well... Maybe I just need to find a rich philanthropist who just happens to be holding an extra ticket.

    Or, actually, if I go the same route other authors seem to have gone, first I need to find a crowd to laugh at me. I've never really been a laughing stock before - could be new territory for me.

    But I digress...

    So, having the dream of being a writer is clearly not enough. The dream itself needs to be something tangible. For as long as it remains a dream, there's nothing to touch - no progress being made. I can sit and dote and whine to myself all day long about how life is getting in the way of my dream... But the truth is, until my dream is something tangible - a measurable output of a goal - then life is really only getting in the way of, well, a little thought bubble floating up over my head.

    And, really, is it possible to get in the way of a thought bubble?

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Write Me a Dream

    Being young is one of the best feelings that I can think of. Remembering what it was like to be young, however, is quite a bit more painful.

    You see, when you're young, you can bounce between three, five, or even more dreams. I went through several dreams when I was younger. I wanted to be an astronaut, a baker, a teacher, a famous chef... I wanted to learn to play the piano, become a great novelist, and be the next great singer / actress. I wanted to live in a warm climate that saw no Winter weather excepting maybe 1-2 inches of snow over the holidays. When you're young you have time for these dreams, and you can change them as often as you want because you have time.

    But, as time flew by, not only did my dreams come and go in waves of whim and want but a lot of them ended up taking a back seat as more pressing things came about. Bills had to be paid. I had to eat. I had to feed my cat. Marriage... Hurricanes... College... Divorce... Marriage again.

    All of these took precedence over my dreams. So where did I end up? Glad you asked. I ended up with a degree in Human Services Management that is doing me absolutely no good because I attained the degree in a different state. I ended up with a bill for nearly $60,000 in students loans for a degree I can't use and no longer want. I live in a state that appears to be covered in snow more often than not. And I pay the bills by building web sites as an independent contractor working out of the home and constantly reminding myself that I'm out of time - that my dreams are out of time.

    Clearly, none of these things were on my list. And worse yet, there is no money left over at the end of the month so that I can find a solution - go back to school, get additional training, or even join a community theater. Then, something extraordinary happened.

    I met a new client for web design. He was open and interactive, sending me video clips and content copy to review, edit, and post to his site. And all the while, as I read through his copy and watched his videos, I came to realize that he is out there living his dreams. Note, dreams - not dream. And at the risk of sounding like an after school special or a cliche from an old sitcom, I finally decided that he was right.

    It's time I started living my dreams. And so, Write Me a Dream is born - my journey to publication. A manuscript that I started nearly six years ago is being brought back into the light and onto my computer. I will polish, edit, and flush out the chapters of prose for what started as a minor hobby and get that manuscript published.

    So why the blog? Because I know me... If I don't try to keep up with myself here, I will let this manuscript fall the way all other dreams have in the past and it will eventually end up at the bottom of my to-do list. Now there is no looking back... It's no longer something that's far-fetched and would be nice to accomplish. Now it's something I have to do.

    I would also like to take the time to thank and credit Sayra at DeviantArt for the background image I used for this blog. The poem, "Write me a Dream", featured on her background image is my own; but her artwork truly makes everything work.