Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Writing the Novel: Class #1

I think I'm going to like my class. My professor, Bill Holinger, seems very smart and funny (and looks just like Dennis Quaid!). And the group seems serious about writing.

As a way to introduce ourselves, instead of the normal "why are you taking this class" line of questions, he had us list a good book we've read recently. I took copious notes, so I now have a long list of books to check out. Whoo! (See below)

We also talked a lot about the process of writing a novel, and the conversation left me daunted! It's so very different from writing stories, it seems. But for the moment, I am just going to focus on getting the first two chapters revised and focused.

If you have a novel that you're revising, you might find some of these suggestions interesting:
  • Put each scene on an index card and lay them out on a table in order. Read through them and see if the progression makes sense. Move index cards and insert ideas for new scenes, as needed.
  • Print out the whole book, and lie each chapter on a table. Read each chapter, leaving a handwritten note atop each chapter regarding what scenes need to move, what character details need to change, etc.
  • Tape index cards with scenes/notes on what happens in each chapter to the wall, and rearrange them as need be.
Partial list of recommended books
To Serve them All my Days (The prof recommended this one)
Brick Lane
Potato Factory
A House at the End of the World
Angle of Repose
Cloud Splitter
The Knock Out Artist

Anyone read any of these? If so, let me know what you thought!

Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Best laid plans...and a new class!

Well, my commute SUCKED yesterday, so I didn't get home until much later than expected. And by then I was pretty beat, so I didn't end up writing. I did finish the book I was reading (while warming up my frozen body in a bath), When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson. I found the book a little hard to get into because it bounced around to the stories of many different characters. But once I got a lay of the land and could keep everyone straight, it was enjoyable. The writing was particularly good, with lots of interesting plays on words.

My goal for this week/weekend is to finalize revisions on two short stories, and make a list of places to send them.

Also, I'm starting another class tonight! It's on writing the novel, and I hope to revise some chapters of my NaNoWriMo manuscript. I'm a little nervous to be back in the classroom, week in and week out. I thought I wanted the structure that a class would provide, and now I'm scared about that very same thing. I guess we'll see... Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 26, 2009

An evening of writing

My husband starts classes this week. It means he'll be out of the house two nights a week. And I am psyched. Not because I don't love spending time with him--I do, probably a bit too much. Having him home raises the question: do you want to write this evening or snuggle on the couch and talk or watch TV? That makes it hard to get my butt in the chair.

But now he'll be out of the house, and I have to go straight home after work to walk Chloe-dog. So that means I'll be home alone with every intention to cook myself dinner, and then write for a good solid hour. Then I might reward myself with some television and knitting.

I'll let you know how it goes! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 12, 2009

An encouraging rejection

I don't like getting rejections of any kind (see post from a few days ago). But I did learn through teachers and other writers that there is a "good" kind of rejection. I guess when editors were on the fence about a piece, they will often include a personal note with the rejection. Something like, "Nice work, please send to us again."

I got one such rejection recently from Hayden's Ferry Review. They were in my "top tier" of literary mags, so I'm proud to get a kind note from the editor. Of course I would've been prouder had they published the piece, but I'll take what I can get. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, January 05, 2009

WAP: Writing Action Plan

Poet mom has a great post describing the benefits of having an action plan for writing. In her case, it's a PAP: a Poetry Action Plan. I'm adapting her idea into a Writing Action Plan, or WAP, since I don't write poetry.

Here's my 2009 WAP.

  1. Get three short stories finished and into the submissions roster.
  2. Revise my NaNoWriMo novel.
  3. Attend Grub Street's Muse and the Market Place in May.
  4. Continue writing drafts of short stories as the muse strikes/time allows (meaning goals 1 and 2 take priority).
  5. Do NaNoWriMo again (most likely).
  6. Get something accepted at NPR.
I have some other things I'd like to do too, including getting a few steady freelance clients, breaking into a big magazine, and teaching at a community college. And I'll be teaching a writing workshop at the BCAE that I'm really excited about. But I like the number 6. And those 6 goals are really most important to me in 2009.
So here goes.

What's your WAP, or PAP or other-AP? Best Blogger Tips

Rejection: The hits just keep on coming

Dear Rejection,
I'm trying not to take you personally. I'm trying to be all Zen about you, each time you come into my email box or via the SASE that I enclosed with my submission to Some Literary Journal. I'm trying to say to you, "you're part of the process" and "the only way to not have you in my life is to give up sending my stories out." And I believe those things, I do.

But part of me still wishes you were a distinct entity that I could greet with a steel-toed kick in the crotch the next time you tried to make your way into my life. Another part of me wishes that I would never have to meet you again. Ever. And the rest of me knows that's not possible (See "the things I'm trying to say to you").

So Rejection, I will not take you personally. I will remember that all it takes to get out of you and into Acceptance is one editor who likes my work. I will make some tweaks to the story I've been sending out based on a wonderful reader's advice, and I will just keep going.

But Rejection? If you decide to stay home and hibernate this winter, I will knit you a quilt and brew you some tea to make sure you're nice and cozy.

With Grudging Fondness,
Writerbug Best Blogger Tips