Just. Write.

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The other day on Twitter, a writer tweeted a snippet of awesome advice: the first draft is for your (the writer’s) eyes only. The writer, whose name escapes me thanks to mom brain, repeated it several times, too.

I certainly wasn’t planning on having any of my writer friends or anyone else read my first draft I’m plugging away on right now. But it was still a nice, gentle reminder that your first draft is just for you. And also a more subtle read-between-the-lines reminder that that first draft you have there — no matter how much you love your idea, no matter how much potential you think it has — is a big ol’ pile of poop.

I don’t mean anything by that — just stating the facts. Real, not alternative, if anyone was wondering. Your first draft is just the beginning — it’s the time to bang those computer keys and get your idea out of your brain and on to your Word document. Pour it all out. Then, when it’s done? Get ready to take a jackhammer to it and edit the crap out of it — pun intended.

But even though your first draft will suck (I promise, it will), there is something beautiful about this messy time in your WIP’s young life. It’s the exciting phase of just writing. Not editing, not revising, not taking notes on what you need to add, delete, or change. It’s the only time that you really are Just Writing.

So, if you’re like me and in the midst of finishing up your first draft, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself. Enjoy this time.

Just.

Write.

My Version of Marathon Training

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The last couple days I’ve done an impossible feat.

I’ve woken up at 5:30 am to write.

I usually have to drag myself out of bed at 7 am every day after my daughter wakes me up, bouncing into bed with me.

I am not a morning person in any sense of the word; I never have been. But lately, I’ve tried to figure out when is the best time of day for me to write, and the only time I truly have to myself is the early morning hours. So, here I am! The second day in a row, fresh from writing close to 1,000 words today. It feels amazing. Sure, I’m exhausted, but what mom of young kids isn’t?

My inspiration for making this life change is three of my best friends, Holly, Kaleena, and Lauren. The three of them get up some mornings super early to train for a half marathon. How awesome is that? They are all moms, too, tired AF like I am, but yet they are doing this for themselves. Though I am not training for a marathon by any means, I feel like getting myself to get up and write is like my own kind of marathon training of writing. Like with running, I know the more I do it, the easier it’ll come to me — and the more I will want to get up and do it.

I am so thankful to my mom for reminding me to be patient, something that is so hard for me to do! She is so encouraging and keeps me excited enough to keep chasing this crazy dream of mine.

And who knows, maybe running a real marathon one day isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me.

Okay, I couldn’t type that last line without laughing out loud.

 

Here Lies Deserted WIP’s

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After finishing up a bit of writing this evening, I did something I hadn’t done in a really long time — I looked through some old files in my writing folder on my laptop. And there, nestled inside, I found stories I had started once upon a time and either forgotten about, gotten to a point where I was unclear where the plot should move next, or I had convinced myself weren’t good enough.

And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but most of them were good ideas in my opinion. But as I’ve blogged about before, as a writer, it is so incredibly difficult for me to silence my inner critic while writing. Some of my best friends asked me the other day what is the most difficult part of writing a first draft, and that’s what I told them. It’s not the writing itself — if it’s flowing, that’s the easy part. It’s that nagging part inside that’s constantly shouting, “oh my God! That chapter was lousy! You need to fix it right away before you go any further!” I wish my inner voice was a tad more supportive and maybe even a little too nice, at least at first. It would make things a hell of a lot easier!

As I was opening the different Word docs and reading the first paragraphs of stories past, it made me both sad that I’d left all these characters hanging, but also more determined, because if nothing else it reminded me one simple, easy truth: I am a writer.

And, when I can silence that damn critic long enough, a good writer, too.

“I’ll be right back!”

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Said every next victim of every slasher flick ever made. Extra points if he or she also just had sex and/or went to a dark part of the house alone to retrieve a beer in the dimly lit garage.

Right now, I feel like that character. Over the past year plus, I’ve tried to remember to write a new blog entry, write more, read more, and so forth, but life always got in the way. I just had my second child, a boy named Asher, in August. So most of this year was spent pregnant. That’s certainly not an excuse to not blog, but that wasn’t the only major event that happened to me in 2017.

In the early hours of January 1, my 21-year-old brother was killed in a car wreck by a drunk driver. It took me several months before I didn’t wake up and have to remember all over again, crying, still in disbelief. This was something I only ever read about happening to other people. In my first ever novel I wrote, my thesis manuscript, something similar happened. But I never thought I would experience something so horrific and heartbreaking in my own life. Every day, I put on his remembrance bracelet and vow to live for his memory. If anything, his death has taught me we could all be that character from the horror movie — we may think we’ll be “right back” to do whatever it is we want to do but don’t make time for, but we aren’t promised tomorrow. Anything could happen.

So today, even though I’m exhausted from caring for my newborn, I’m making the choice to not leave the metaphorical house party that is my writing career. I don’t need that beer. Instead, I’m going to stay put with the characters in my head, and put their stories to page.

So, if you’re still on this journey with me, buckle up. The ride may be bumpy, but I’m moving forward. Because I believe in my dreams. And you should believe in yours, too.

First Draft Confession

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Oh, the joys of the first draft bubble. You all know what I mean, right? When you’re surfing the wave of excitement and giddiness as page after page flows out of you in record time. All the while you’re patting yourself on the back, your carefree surfer voice assuring yourself with one or more of the following: Holy crap, this is ah-ma-zing. You’re so witty — how did you come up with that? This is the best thing you’ve ever written. 

My personal favorite, however, comes from the little voice wearing an Eeyore onesie with the hood and ears proudly pulled up over her head that keeps screaming, Keep going! Don’t stop now! Edit later! 

But alas, the last voice — the one that wears round-rimmed glasses and a sweater vest even in the summer, whilst using a pipe and exhaling perfect rings of smoke into the air — it always brings me back down to earth and the simple reality that I do need to pause and work on the beginning.

Because the first fifty pages have to be ah-ma-zing for real, though. When it comes to agents and editors, guess what’s the first part of your story they read? If you guessed the beginning, give yourself a high five. The first part of your novel really does make or break your chances of representation and publication. And like the annoying third voice pointed out to me when I zeroed in on page 50 of my WIP, it’s time to print those suckers out and change/add/remove parts to make my beginning the best it can possibly be.

Here’s my confession: I really, really tried to convince myself to keep going and edit later, like the Eeyore onesie voice suggested. I know a lot of writers keep on surfing wave after wave until they get to the dry sand, a first full draft in hand. But unfortunately, this isn’t the way I write, and like the sweater vest voice, I’m too pale to stay out in the sun that long — I need to take breaks now and again to keep myself burn-free.

Every writer’s process is different. For now, though I’m a little disappointed in myself, I’m going to do what I’ve gotta do — go to Staples and waste money on fun new highlighters and pens to mark up my draft  have my pages printed out to make the beginning much, much better.

So, high five to the writers who can finish a first draft in its entirety before looking back. And a salute and hug to those, like me, who can’t. We’re all pretty awesome, don’t you think?

 

Nocturnal Characters

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered from writer’s block. I once read a pretty accurate definition of the dreaded affliction: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you. In the novel I’m reading, Pretty Is, one of the characters is a writer herself. She’s working on a sequel manuscript, and she narrates how her main character keeps doing the same repetitive things over and over, but he isn’t actually doing anything that advances her plot at all. And she sums it up pretty well by saying he won’t talk to her — and therefore she doesn’t want to force the story.

Well, right now, I’m suffering from the opposite. My characters won’t shut up. I’m sure you’re thinking, big deal! Why are you complaining? That’s a good thing! And I will concede that it isn’t the worst thing by a long shot. But what it means instead is that I write a few chapters, revise them, send them to my writing buddies, and THEN the characters all start talking at once in my head, pointing out important characteristics of themselves I either need to change or left out completely and can I go back and fix them already? What’s worse is the time they typically choose to speak up: when I’m about to go to sleep at night OR when I wake up in the night and to have to get up and pee. Yep. Those are what my characters consider the optimal times to inform me where their stories need to go. They must be nocturnal.

It’s frustrating, and not to mention exhausting.

But I’m done complaining now, I promise.

Because even though I’m sleep-deprived from listening to these chatterboxes in the middle of the night that practically talk over each other (you’d think my characters would have more manners, right?), that doesn’t mean I’m not also eager to do as they say. Because after all, this affliction might be a bit annoying. But if I don’t keep them happy, they might stop talking at all.

And thanks but no thanks, writer’s block. You are NOT welcome here. BTW, anyone want to get me this button?

antiwriters_block_button

Weasels & Sweat Pants

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Last weekend, I had a mini-reunion with my fellow writing weasels, Jess and Rach. It was so fun to catch up with both of them, as we hadn’t seen each other since Jess got married last year! On Friday, we were able to meet up with our favorite professor, Hillary, for lunch close to Hollins University. As always, it was awesome catching up with Hillary and getting a fresh round of advice and encouragement from her as we move forward in our writing endeavors.

After lunch, we walked to campus and found the perfect spot in the library to do what we do best: we each took turns workshopping our projects that we’ve each been able to read and critique. Before we knew it, a couple hours had passed, and we each had a few pages of notes and suggestions to implement the next time we revise. I’ve started editing, thanks to their awesome feedback, this week. I can’t even begin to describe how much their comments have helped me with my WIP. I was stuck on a couple pesky details before the three of us met, but now, my head is clear and I’ve decided where it needs to go.

And even though they really helped me make a few decisions about the plot, it’s not all squared away quite yet.

One of the things I mentioned to them that I know I’ve blogged about before is how difficult it is to nail the beginning chapters of a novel. The beginning is extremely important for obvious reasons: not only does it set the tone for the rest of the manuscript, it can also make or break whether an agent or editor chooses to keep reading. To put it simply: your beginning better rock a reader’s socks off.

But no pressure, right?

This got me thinking about first dates. When you first meet someone you like, you really try to impress. You want your hair to look its absolute best. You want your make-up to be flawless. You want your outfit to be flattering. Basically, you want to come off as the perfect woman. Maybe even at the beginning, you laugh at jokes you wouldn’t normally find funny. You pretend to be interested when your date tells you all about his work’s softball team, even though you couldn’t care less about going to a game. As in the words of the character of Amy from Gone Girl, you pretend to be the “cool girl.”

For me, that’s how I try to mold the beginning of a manuscript. I want it to be irresistible.

But then, a few months (read: chapters) in, that’s when the metaphorical sweat pants can come out and the make-up wiped right off its face. Not that I don’t want the rest of the story to be as impressive. But my goal is for the reader to want to get comfortable with the protagonist and her whole bag of ridiculous issues – to know enough about her flaws at that point that make her human, and want to hang out with her anyway. To see that she doesn’t have to be the “cool girl” to still be pretty amazing.

So right now, I’m still plugging away at the “cool girl” part of the story, laying the foundation for the shit storm coming her way.

It’s going to be hard, sad, and at times, horrible for my protagonist. But it’s also going to be really fun to get to the heart of the real her.

Sweat pants, and all.

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