December 12, 2015

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015

That darker, deeper, more serious book I’ve mentioned a time or two has been giving me fits. Many authors don’t bother to title their books. They’d rather let their editors do it for them. Not me. I need a real title in order to feel as if I’m working on a real book.

I have spent hours seeking a title. I poured over the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Shakespeare. I looked in my trusty, beat-up old book of quotes. I scoured the internet. I meditated. I sent the story outline to some friends and begged their help. I developed a short list of possibilities, but none of it resonated.  I was ready to give up and call it “Untitled Book”.

At my desk a few days later, I found a small slip of paper clinging wetly to the bottom of my glass of sweet tea. I peeled it off, but just as I pitched the damp scrap into the trash basket, I noticed something written on it.  At some point in my frenzied search for a title, I had scrawled a snippet from Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.  Five words.  “The glory and the dream”.

There it was. I had my title. Apparently I’d had it for days and didn’t realize it.

Funny how we don’t recognize what we need until we’ve exhausted our resources and decide to give up. At that point, we discover our answer in the strangest places. It’s been there all along.

December 8, 2015, Tuesday

I am not a multi-tasker.

Because I dislike chaos and confusion (i.e., too many things going on at once), I tend to work on one book at a time until it’s finished. If an idea for a different story occurs to me while I’m writing, I make a note of it, but continue to write. To stop working on one story in order to fiddle with a new idea is the perfect plan for creating stacks of unfinished manuscripts. It’s why a lot of talented writers remain unpublished. But I digress.

Right now, I am going against the grain. I am working on two books at once, and it feels a little weird.

You read that right. Just don’t spread it around and ruin my reputation as a drudge.

One of the books is a simple cozy mystery. I created a nice little road map for the plot a few months ago. If I choose to do so, and have few interruptions, I can get the book written in a month.

The other book is a deep, dark, psychological tale. It is not a story to be dashed off in a flurry of enthusiasm. No indeed. A page or two, then it’s time to rest, to ponder, to meditate, to prepare for the next page or two.  This book, too, has its map laid out, ready for me to follow. Unlike the mystery’s fun and gentle path, the written journey for this one is filled with metaphorical rugged valleys, tangled forests, churning waters, dangerous grounds, sudden drop-offs, betrayal, bloodshed, love, hate, goodness and darkness. There is no hurrying through this story. Word by word, slow and steady, examined and re-examined.  The writing of it is going to take a while.

I’m interested in how other people fulfill their goals. Would you please share with me? Do you wait for circumstances to be just right, everything exactly in place? Do you take one goal and work hard for only that one? Do you plow ahead and get everything done at once? Do you flounder and struggle and end up quitting in frustration?

May 9, 2015

Saturday, May 9

Yes, I know a few days have passed, and I have entered no updates. This is what happens when most of the time in the office is spent cleaning out drawers, closets, boxes, and files. The best I can say right now is that I can open the closet to get to supplies and/or manuscripts without being knocked unconscious. We have enough paper to compost the garden for twelve years.

And I’m not finished. Sigh.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. I’m eager to have this chore completed so I can concentrate fully on writing once more.

April 29, 2015

Wednesday, April 29

This week has been dedicated to cleaning and organizing my office. When we moved into this older, cottage style house nearly three years ago, the room I chose to be my office had a teeny, tiny closet. (How in the world was it EVER used for clothes storage?) I had deadlines to meet during that move, and after, so I shoved things into the closet until such time I had the nerve to tackle it.  At this moment, my neat little office isn’t so neat.

I’ve found so much old stuff. Old ideas jotted in old notebooks or on old scraps of paper, old short stories (some completed, some left undone for a good reason). A file folder bulging with carbon copies (yes, carbon copies) of query letters. Oh, my, I wish someone would have taught me how to write one back then. They are truly awful, but I’ll keep them to show new writers I made the same mistakes they make now. Maybe they’ll derive some comfort and hope. I have also unearthed enough writing tips to fill a book, discovered several packages of manilla envelopes, new and used file folders, and plenty of dust.

Then there are all those early book manuscripts. The ones where I was just beginning to crawl as a writer. The ones where I was finally able to walk as a writer were marginally better. By books five and six, I more or less knew what I was doing but still needed a lot of work and practice before I could even consider of entering any marathons.

I’m not finished with this cleaning/organizing task, but I know one thing for sure. Never, ever throw away book or story manuscripts. They might be old and dusty, yellowed with age, but they hold a lot of gold. Some of it can be mined. The first April Grace book, In Front of God and Everybody, proves that. It was an old book, chucked away for years.

I have a book coming out soon that was written nearly twenty years ago. It’s been polished and revised, brought up to date, but still, it’s a story salvaged from my desk drawer. Dare I say, it’s really good. I think so, anyway. I hope so.

April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22.

Honest to goodness, is there anything more tedious to a writer than final edits? Not the first ones where our editors ask for revisions or rewrites, or even the painful edits where we slash our babies, eviscerating a ton of unnecessary prose. I’m talking about the very last bits and bobs: a comma  here, an extra space there, a word that’s been deleted, a lost ellipsis … all those pesky little varmints that we seem to overlook during the first two or three rounds of editing.

I got up this morning at 5, and here it is, 8:15, and I’m only on page 130 of a 327 page manuscript. My back aches, my eyes crossed a long time ago, and boredom is drilling a hole in my brain. But, it must be done. I am not offering to you, my reader, anything less than the best I can do. If that means suffering through hours of seeking, replacing, deleting, or otherwise cleaning words, then it’s worth it.