Fear Waits By My Computer

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I get up. I send the kids off to school. I grab a cup of coffee. I go to my office.

I say good morning to Fear.

Fear waits for me by my desk every morning.

Good morning, he says. Are you ready?

I am. I sit down behind my computer and push Fear away. He’ll breathe down my neck if I don’t. 

And I type, ferociously and as unbrokenly as I can manage because if I stop, Fear is waiting.

Fear is patient.

Are you sure that’s the right way to put that? He lingers at my shoulder. Then he shrugs. Never mind. Nobody reads your stuff, anyway.

You should’ve started writing novels earlier instead of that short story crap. Ten years earlier and you’d have an agent and been able to sell your stuff instead of messing around with this self-publishing thing. It’s just vanity press by a different name.

You should really get an agent, but agents don’t like what you write, do they?

Fear has a grip on me now, so he is confident enough to walk away a little. He looks back at me and shakes his head. Why did you quit your day job? Oh yeah, to be a mom. But you could get a real job now. Maybe you should. 

And now Fear has a little friend. Self-Doubt holds his hand, and is somehow more frightening than Fear himself. 

What’s the problem? Fear says. Are you afraid if you stop writing you’ll be just another regular Joe?

Maybe you already are, whispers Self-Doubt. Maybe you always have been.

Note: So far this month, I have defeated both Fear and Self-Doubt. I’m at 48,254 words of the National Novel Writing Month book. Take THAT Fear and Self-Doubt!

 

Double Promo: Becoming Dickens?

I have a guest blog post on Sharing Links and Wisdom today that’s sort of a compare/contrast thing about my two current releases, Becoming Magic and Dickens Magic. I’ve never actually had this sort of thing happen before—two fresh books out at once? I remember the first time I met with an agent and he asked me for proposals for at least three more ideas for novels. I had no idea how to go about that.

And now I have two books out, one rough draft complete (Timeless), and I’m working on my National Novel Writing Month book, Magic at Sea. I’ve also got plans for another magic book and another standalone romance. Plus, my daughter’s been asking me to write a kids’ book and I might have a rough idea for one… It’s in the process.

So I haven’t forgotten about either of my new releases. I’m hoping they’ll help promote each other. And I’ll go ahead and tell you, Connor and Carole from Becoming Magic and Alex and Kate from Dickens Magic make multiple appearances in Magic at Sea.

Wish me luck on this crazy month… For anyone keeping score, my word count is currently at 23,201, which is well ahead of the curve, but I know from experience the end of the month is when it gets hard, so I’m writing as much as possible now. They’re not all good words, but they  are words, and during NaNoWriMo madness, that’s what counts!

And hey, buy one of my books! They make great escape reading.

What’s the Date? Writing for a Different Season

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Charles Dickens began writing A Christmas Carol in October 1843. It was published December 19, 1843 and sold 6,000 copies by Christmas.

One of the things I used to love about reading Stephen King books was the way he would put in the dates of when he started the book versus when it was published. Cujo, for instance, was September 1977 through March 1981. Three and a half years he spent on that book.

I think I must know how he felt when he got the idea. It was September and, in Maine, at least, the season is fall. (In eastern N.C., it’s hurricane season.) The dead leaves were skittering across the pavement leaving a wet smell of decay behind, and all the sounds were louder, crisper. Like the bark of a dog. A really big dog.

Of course, that’s all conjecture, and far from how I conceive my own ideas. I decided to write Dickens Magic right after I starred as “Woman 3” in our community theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. One problem. There’s no time to write around Christmas. Seriously. National Novel Writing Month takes place in November for a reason.

So I ended up putting it off starting the book until spring. By then I’d gained some more stage experience but the Christmas spirit was worn down and put away until this year. I’m only starting to want to put that spirit back on. So how do you write about Christmas in seventy-, eighty-, and ninety-degree weather?

It’s a question every writer eventually has to answer. How do you put yourself in another time? It helps to think of the things you like about that time—sights, smells, sounds. I listened to a lot of Christmas carols, which actually helped me with the magic show at the end of the book. It also helps that snow isn’t really a thing here in eastern N.C., and especially not at Christmas. You might see some in January or February, but not December.

And of course I have to thank Charles Dickens. His story is timeless in more ways than one. It does the soul good no matter what time of year you read it. Considering he sort of self-published it (and did not make the fortune he should have), it does make sense that I would feel a sort of kinship with him about this story.

So, though I didn’t keep exact track of my writing, I think I can guess what the dates at the end of Dickens Magic would be. March 2018-October 31, 2018.

NaNoWriMo wrap up: The big secret.

I’ve spent a day recovering from National Novel Writing Month and I’m happy to report that I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in my third novel of the Synchronicity trilogy and I won. What did I win? Well, this:

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Which is really just a fancy way of saying I can feel huge accomplishment in the fact that I spent a month writing and not procrastinating. Because, as we all (especially my high school chemistry teacher) know: Procrastination is the thief of time. Especially for writers.

Every time I do this to myself, I think I’ll come out of November knowing what’s so magical about National Novel Writing Month. If you survive it and actually manage to stick with it and hit the goal, you feel like you should know something more than what you did when you started. You should be privy to some spectacular secret that J.K. Rowling and Stephen King knew and chose not to tell you.

Guess what?

There’s no secret. There’s not even any real magic.

The purpose of National Novel Writing Month is to serve as a reminder of what J.K. Rowling and Stephen King actually did tell us. Writing is fricking hard work. And the only way to accomplish anything is to stick the hell with it. Every single day. Pounding the keys and writing and rewriting and beating your head against your desk if that’s what it takes to loosen the words up. Writing sucks. Writing is like flying. Writing is the ultimate in time-sucking, frustrating, awe-inspiring (for you if nobody else), wasteful, necessary vocation in the world.

And there you have it. It’s a vocation. A job. It’s work. And that’s what the secret is. If what you write is worth it to you, you’ve got to write it. Even if nobody else ever reads it and you drive yourself nuts getting it out of your head and onto paper.

Because anything worth having is never, ever easy.

Whoops…there it is: Rewriting, the true test.

I’ve been offline for far too long, trying to make my Facebook and a few Twitter posts make up for my lack of blogging. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that I am. I’m actually writing and having a lot of fun with it.

And something else is looming on the horizon.

My current work in progress is lovely. I’m in love with my characters and it’s set in New York, which is a city I love to write about. Not sure I’d want to live there, but I do love writing about it. I get caught up in the storyline, and the twists and turns of it reveal themselves a little more to me each day, so every time I sit at the computer, it’s an adventure.

But every now and then something else lifts its head like Nessie the sea monster and smirks at me with seaweed-stained teeth. Something that will take the joy—at least temporarily—out of my writing.

It’s the first draft of Movie Magic.

I don’t know if you remember Movie Magic. I wrote it way back in November during National Novel Writing Month, which was only the second NaNoWriMo I’ve ever finished. I have no delusions. Movie Magic is bound to be a mess since it actually started out as Pirate Magic and took a turn a third of the way through…and I obeyed the unwritten NaNo rule not to go back and fix what had gone wrong but just to plow through and get it done.

So it needs to be rewritten. Edited. Reworked. Sweated and bled over. I still owe this book a pound of flesh.

I know it’s coming after I finish the first draft of this as-yet-untitled new book. I plan to publish Movie Magic on October 31 (Halloween to the rest of the world, but always Houdini’s birthday to me). So eventually I must face it.

If you’re asking what the big deal is, you’re not a writer. Mark Twain once remarked that the best writers are the best rewriters. Because that’s the true test. Writing a book is one thing. Being able to open it up six months later and face the mess AND fix it…well, that’s a test of courage and willpower and skill.

National Novel Writing Month Retrospective: A Good Month’s Work

Winner-2014-Web-BannerOn Sunday I achieved my goal. I slayed the NaNoWriMo beast: I wrote 50,000 words of my next Sleight of Hand novel in 30 days.

So what next? I took a day off. I baked a cake. I shopped for towels. I watched three episodes of The Gilmore Girls (my current guilty pleasure). And then I sat down to think about the crazy, hazy (caffeine-fogged) days of November.

I noticed some things about my writing during NaNo that are different from the way I normally write. For instance:

1. Writing was THE most important thing in my life this month (except–in most cases–for my family). Everything else, including daily exercise and even food, was a luxury.

2. With a daily word count in mind, I could make myself sit at the computer until it was done. I let Facebook and Twitter go. I totally neglected this blog. I haven’t done nearly enough to promote my newest book, Island Magic.

3. I only took one day (Thanksgiving) off writing the entire month of November, and even on that day I wrote a couple hundred words.

4. I wrote straight through the storyline. Well, almost. Normally, I am wont to skip around and write whatever scene most appeals to me at the time. This usually results in a lot of discarded writing. For my NaNo this year, I wrote straight through, beginning to end. I skipped a couple of scenes in the middle, but I made a note about what they would be.

5. I didn’t stop, even when I knew I’d screwed something up in the beginning. I didn’t go back and fix it either, which is what I normally would have done. Instead, I went back and made a note about what needed to be done to fix it and kept writing from where I was as if it had been that way all along.

So what’s next NOW? Well, that particular novel is going to sit on the shelf for a while. At least until January. I’ve got a couple of other ideas percolating that I will eventually begin on, though I may take another day or two off. I know there are a LOT of things to fix in my story. I know, for instance, that I accidentally named one of my minor characters after a country music star. Oops. That will have to change. I also know there are scenes to add and references to fix and I think I left at least one blank instead of trying to come up with a place name. It was just easier.

I also know that this book, Movie Magic, will eventually join my Sleight of Hand series. It will be book 4 and it will be done by October 31 of next year. That’s pretty good for one month’s work.

NaNo Halfway Point: What It Means to Me

twentyfivek_earnedNational Novel Writing Month means different things to different people. Some people start it to prove to themselves that they can write a novel. Others brag a lot about how many words they’ve already written. I think still others (hopefully not many) consider it a farce and might even type “the” 50,000 times just to say they finished NaNoWriMo. There’s nobody to say you can’t do that. If you want to spend several hours typing “the”, the powers of NaNo aren’t going to stop you from wasting your time.

Today marks the halfway point in my own NaNoWriMo Quest, so I figured I’d take a minute to examine what it is to me. After all, I’ve written nine novels and a novella. Writing 50,000 words is no longer the nearly insurmountable objective it once was. Writing 25,000 words in 15 days hasn’t seemed horribly hard, and I’m fairly certain that, even taking into consideration travel time later this month, I should be able to fit the other 25,000 words into my schedule too. So why do NaNo when I can write a book without it?

National Novel Writing Month is a sort of boot camp for me. Over the course of a year or two of writing, it’s easy to get discouraged when the words aren’t rolling off my fingertips. It’s easy to forget the number one requirement to be a writer: YOU. MUST. WRITE. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Without fail. Without pandering to self-doubt. Without wondering where the words will come from. Because if you force yourself to sit at the computer, the words WILL come. They may not always be the right words, but once they’re on the screen, you can move on until the right words do show up.

So what will I end up with at the end of a month? A book? No. A manuscript. I don’t even think it will be a complete manuscript. Fifty thousand words isn’t really long enough. I’ll probably keep writing for another ten or fifteen thousand words before I declare it done. And then will it be a book? No. It’s still just an unedited manuscript and while it will contain a lot of words, I’ll know they’re not all the right ones. But at least they will be written ones.