Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Draft

I've been waiting for it with breathless anticipation and a slight dread that the words will not come. I call it First-Draft-Land--my happy, happy place. I'm sure not every author loves writing the first draft as much as I do, but every author must tackle that first draft, nonetheless.

There are a million ways to approach a new book. I am a self-described organized writer. Before I even think about firing up that laptop, I spend time researching my characters, the setting, the plot twists; I cannot imagine writing a single word without having a brief outline in front of me. It's like mapping out the journey before a long trip--some find it necessary, others do better winging it.

Even though I'd finished gathering background information a few weeks ago and had dreamt about this week for quite a while, I wasn't ready to take the plunge and start writing. Why wasn't I ready? Good question. Well, the best answer is that sometimes the planets need to align and other miracles of the universe need to occur before I'm ready to face the first blank page.

On Monday, I opened the laptop (after grocery shopping, cleaning cat litter, and sorting laundry--bleh! Was I procrastinating? Hmm...), and my cat decided to hoist herself onto the desk and use my open laptop as her napping spot. Since I'd never seen her do this before, I could have taken it as a bad sign, but I reminded myself that the planets had aligned and other miracles of the universe had occurred and Monday was definitely the day to start writing.

The words, "Chapter One," stared at me for a long time. The blinking cursor lulled me into some sort of trance. Breaking my gaze free, I went downstairs to make a grilled cheese sandwich. On the way back up, I threw in another load of laundry. I sat back down. Cat meowed incessantly as my fingers, poised to begin typing, hovered above the keyboard.


But then...I just forced myself. The opening line of my first draft is always, and I mean ALWAYS, horrific. Only in the revision stages does the first line remotely shine. But the pressure to build a great opening line haunted me, so I tinkered with it for far too long before telling myself to move on already!

Do you know how great it feels to be writing another book? It's magnificent! There may be something slightly off in my brain, because I truly love deleting my ridiculous first line over and over to come up with a sassy opening. Joy fills me as my characters come to life and dictate the scene. The book was a shadow in my mind but now is filling with color, and nothing could tear me away from writing every day. Not even my gigantic, meddling cat.

Wish me luck as the draft takes shape. I've gotten over my worst first draft hurdle: writing the first line. I wonder what other authors' worst hurdles are? Hmm...I'll have to start asking around. Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sick of Summer?

I have a confession to make. Is it controversial? No. Does it make me nervous? Yes. Why? Because it feels naughty. Oh, now I've got your attention. Well, I might just as well admit it.

I am sick of summer.


I know, I know. Terrible, but true. My productivity is inversely related to the heat/humidity index. Sure, there are superhuman people out there who thrive in humid, fire-like temperatures (my hats off to you!), but I'm just not one of them. I get cranky, and whiney, and I turn to ice cream for relief. My body's internal temperature feels on par with the inside of a turkey roaster, and my writing goals have officially taken a backseat to last-minute summer plans.

Every Memorial weekend, my heart sings for joy at the thought of watermelon, beach days, sundresses, and endless hours of sunshine. June, July, and the first weeks of August come and go with me basking in the season. Mid-August hits. I get itchy--no, silly, I don't get a rash!--I just start to feel restless. Suddenly, the watermelon begins to taste ho-hum. The wonderful sun feels irritatingly hot, and I get tired of squeezing into shorts destined never to fit.

And that's when it hits: fall fever. I begin dreaming of red, orange, and yellow leaves. I irrationally get excited to wear jeans (also destined never to fit). Warm sweaters, apple pie, and football games race through my mind. I have visions of writing for hours on end, always with a satisfied smile on my face. Bliss!

Inevitably, November rolls around; I tire of fall and my mind races with visions of perfect holidays and dresses. (You guessed it: destined never to fit.) Can you see the viscious cycle?

I will hang in there. Productivity and normal body temperatures will return in a matter of weeks. Maybe I'll even fit into those jeans this fall. Hey, a girl can dream.

Enjoy the final days of summer!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If romance writing were an Olympic sport...

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics are in full swing, and I'm caught up in the excitement. Besides living vicariously through the superstar athletes, I'm also getting a glimpse of Beijing from my couch. The city's architecture is stunning, but I'm more captivated by the rural beauty outside the city limits. At times the countryside looks magical with dark trees rising up in the background, mists weaving around their tips. My remote control will not be switching channels for the next few weeks.

The many events of the Olympics got me thinking: what if there were a romance writing event? What would it look like? How would it go down? My brain began stringing things together and here is what I came up with.

"Welcome to the final round of Romance Writing, women's division. I'm Rowdy Bones, and this is Skeeter Done. We are broadcasting live from the Cave."

"Thanks Rowdy. We've got an exciting line-up today. Eight contestants worldwide will compete for the gold medal. For those of you new to the sport, each finalist is equipped with one student desk, a laptop, a printer, printer paper, notebooks, pens, and pencils. Their goal? To write the ultimate query, synopsis, and partial manuscript."

"A big job, Skeeter. Are these ladies up to the challenge?"

"That they are. However, since this is the first time romance writing is being included in the Olympics, none of the writers are aware of the obstacles that will be thrown their way."

"No kidding. What kind of obstacles are we talking about, Skeeter?"

"Each desk has a phone in its drawer. That phone is going to ring off and on throughout the day. Also, the printers are designed to malfunction. Expect a power outage mid-competition. I hope those ladies save their work! And finally, the biggest obstacle of all: hyper pre-schoolers."

"Wow! Given those challenges, I'm not sure we'll see any finalist on the podium!"

"Hold on, Rowdy. The competition is about to begin."

A bullhorn is sounded. The contestants fire up their laptops and furiously begin scribbling on their notepads.

"Look at the French competitor. She's already typing!"

"Amazing. I don't know if you're aware of this, Rowdy, but none of these ladies have coaches."

"No coaches?! How do they stay on track? How do they keep moving forward?"

"Sheer willpower."

Thirty minutes elapse. "Things have been progressing smoothly up to this point, Skeeter. The writers brushed off the ringing phones with ease. Most of the contestants simply turned off the ringer, but one actually picked up the phone and began speaking into it, listing her plot even though no one was on the other line."

"Yes, I saw that Rowdy. And I have to say that I've never seen Olympians helping their competitors. As soon as the German contestant figured out how to un-jam the printer, she sent a note to each of the writers with instructions! Phenomenal!"

Several hours elapse. "Skeeter, the contestants are about to face their biggest hurdle: out-of-control pre-schoolers. Let's see how they handle it."

Screaming children run wildly into the stadium. The American finalist reaches into her duffel bag.

"What's she doing Rowdy?"

"I'm not sure, but it looks as if she's--yes! She's pulling out a box of fruit snacks. She's throwing the snacks into the air like a fountain! And wait--she's launching candy bars to the other competitors! Unprecedented! Look, all of the children are clutching their treats and are leaving the stadium!! Now that's sportsmanship!"

Thank you for letting me get that out! That's how I see other writers: gifted, able to work through impossible circumstances, and always generous.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics. I know I will!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The journey begins...

Welcome! I'm thrilled you stopped by.

A journey. A beginning. But not quite. I've been writing contemporary romance novels for two years. Since I adore reading Harlequin Romance novels, I wrote four manuscripts targeted for that line. I've received rejections for two of the books, and in the meantime have gotten feedback on my writing from other authors and contest results. So why do I say I'm beginning my journey?

The last two years have prepared me for the real saga. Until I got honest feedback about my work, I was destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over. So I decided to devote the summer of 2008 to study the craft of writing before starting my fifth manuscript this fall. It's been an emotional ride. The more I learn, the less I know. But I just keep moving forward.

Designing my website and starting this blog were huge goals. If any of you are like me, I had NO idea where to begin! I decided to check out all of my favorite author's websites: a fun job! Then I went a step further and checked out many of the Harlequin author's sites. It's easy to get sucked into their amazing worlds.

Yeah, I got sidetracked, but forced myself back on my own path.

So now you know where I'm at. This is probably the most serious post you'll read, because I tend to view the world through silly, sassy glasses.

Thanks for stopping by and come back each week as I post my musings.