Friday, July 18, 2014

Big Project Update - It's a Doozy

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I sat down to write this post, then wondered when I had made the announcement that I was going public with my editing process on the memoir. So I saved the draft and opened a new tab in my browser to check previous posts.

It was June 17th.

Now it is July 17th.

After the Universe gave me a few unexpected gifts last week, I did some serious thinking about writing, including The Memoir.

Before I go on, I must tell you that the Universe had to slip the information in sideways, in the guise of work, because I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. Maybe I would have. Maybe she would have found something else to get my attention or some other avenue. But I doubt it. She made the work situation so appealing that of course I jumped at the opportunity with barely a thought to not do it. No regrets.

There were so many insights from the work that I won't even try to tell you all about them. That isn't the point of this particular piece of writing, anyway.

Within a week of that experience, I met with my sporadic Friday night writing group, a Portland writer I met at a workshop in Port Townsend with whom I am going to start regular writing meetings (which will probably become a writing group and more), and I met with my Tuesday writing partner. The writing energy was strong.

The point of this writing is: I have decided to shelve The Memoir for two years. Not all of the stories. There are pieces I have sent out into the world, a couple have been published; there are a couple of stories I want to develop more or rewrite. I will continue to work on some of the stories and revise or edit them to be standalone pieces (if they aren't already).

I realized that The Memoir project had become a block to moving forward with other writing. I did complete another read through the manuscript and came away with more questions, with more problems, with the knowledge that there are some challenges and problems which make it not work in major ways. I have been devoting most of my writing time to The Memoir and it has significant flaws. And I don't want to work on it right now.

I decided to set it aside for a specific period of time so that I don't waste energy and time wondering if I should look at it. If I should work through specific passages and dig out the industrial sized shovel to fill in some of the Godzilla sized potholes and looming question marks.

I have had some insights into the memoir work in the past eighteen months and they were good. New perspectives and new energy. And daunting. And they lead to another path. It is not the path I am on and I have been struggling to keep my footing but feeling like I had to hold on and keep going.

There are so many pieces of advice about creative work being hard, putting one foot in front of the other, hang in there and keep going and you will make it, and that when it gets hard it just means to try harder and you will get through it.

I did all of that. I am actually very good at hanging in there and wading through the muck, head down, move forward, just do it. But not for this anymore. I need a break.

I don't know what will happen in two years. I don't know if I will see where it needs to go and rewrite it. Or junk it. Or extend the "on hold" status. But I do know that I don't have to think about it for two years.

So right now, while I have another three hours alone at this place, with the ocean crashing against the rocks across the street and the wind blowing the shades on the window and the birds arguing over who gets the worm or seed or whatever it is they are conversing about, I am going to unplug and move outside. There is a lovely set of chairs and a table under the pine trees, on the edge of a now cold fire pit. The sun is reaching the edge of the welcoming space and - I assume - warming it just a bit.

I am moving out to that space on the edge of the sun. I will take the laptop, battery fully charged and Ethernet cable disconnected. The owner of the space offered to hook me up to his ultra secure wireless router before he headed off to errands for his work, but I said no, I don't need the Internet to write. So I'm moving outside and away from the temptation of the 'net into the open air - even my mobile has no service since we're in a little cellular black hole here - and I'm going to work on the novel. I've already done a little work on my short story collection and it is coming along well. But I am going to return to the novel I love and begin again. Not completely from scratch, but I am using the notes and research from the first draft to rewrite the story. The first draft was rough and unplanned - a NaNoWriMo winner written without an outline or storyline or anything at the stroke of midnight:01 on a November 1st, and it's a mess, as a pantser NaNoNovel will be.

Big Project Update? Shelved for two years.

Now I get to go write fiction without self-imposed guilt.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dorothy Allison Writes About Place

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Over at The Open Bar on the Tin House website, Dorothy Allison writes about "Place."

She begins with :
What do you notice when you first enter a story? Who is talking? Who are they talking to? Where are they standing? What’s going on in the background? Is there a background?

If you have not had the opportunity to be in a workshop or class with Dorothy Allison or are not otherwise familiar with her words on writing, this is a brief introduction to her work. If you know her writing and her work on writing, then you already know it's worth the click.

Click to read "Place" by Dorothy Allison.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Relationship with Rejections

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I received a rejection for a hard to place piece of writing today - and the rejection makes me happy. Reason one that I'm happy - it means I am getting my writing out there. Reason two that I'm happy - well, I will let you read the rejection :

"Unfortunately this particular piece was not a right fit for Mason's Road, but we were very impressed by your writing. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else.

We look forward to reading more."

I like this particular short story. I have workshopped it with several writing groups and individual writers and friends. I've edited and revised. I believe it's a strong piece of writing and I've received good feedback, and people like it - not everyone, but those who understand it, like it. I think it's hard to find the right fit for this particular story, but I am not giving up on finding a home for it out there in the world. I will keep looking for the right publication and go back to this one to see what I have which might be a better fit.

Rejections are a part of being a writer = getting a rejection means I am writing and submitting my stories. Thank you to Mason's Road for the note.
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Be Careful Who You Quote

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When I get stuck on editing the M-book, I turn to other books. Or to quotes. Or to internet surfing in search of helpful hints about editing. Or maybe I really am looking for that magical moment of ah-ha embedded in someone else's words which will make everything fall into place and I will have The Answer.

Right.

Or maybe I'm procrastinating. Like now.

But I was in a place where I wasn't able to work on the book, other than in 5-10 minutes stretches of time periodically and that was not helping. So I started another online search for a gem to share and to inspire me, somehow.

I found a quote I liked. The author whose page I landed on I had never heard of, but she had some good examples for editing and a short list. It was a familiar list, with one exception. Perhaps the one thing which was not familiar was just worded in a way I didn't recognize. But she opened with a quote I liked and which put a different face on editing. I made a few notes and emailed them to myself for this post. Then I clicked over to that author's webpage and gulped. From the look of her site, this person is not at all like me, at least not her author self as presented on the page. Her writing style is completely different, her approach to writing, her persona appears to be in opposition to a lot of what I believe in.

I decided to drop the reference to her essay or speech. It wasn't clear from her site which it was. Perhaps it was both at different points in time. There were also a couple of her examples and points I disagreed with, or questioned. Like I said, only one thing was new to me and when I read her examples, I realized it was new wording not a new concept which would crack open the editing process.

There was still the opening quote I liked. I decided I should look up the author of the quote and get more information about him before I posted the quote. Especially since I was a little surprised by the other author.

The author's name seemed familiar though I couldn't place him. I entered my search and then I saw why it was familiar. That quote is also now gone from this post. He is not someone I want to be connected to on this page. There was controversy and deception and when I realized who he was, the quote took on another meaning.

So the lesson learned today was to be careful who I quote. To do a little looking around before I post something whose author is not immediately familiar to me. We have free speech and these other two have rights to express their opinions and the "right to folly" or whatever it was. And I need to make sure who I'm holding up as an example or an inspiration.

So, instead of a clever quote, it's a warning. Oh, which also relates to editing: check your (re)sources.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Poetry Quote


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"Poetry isn't a profession, it's a way of life. It's an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that."

-  Mary Oliver               


Friday, June 27, 2014

M-book Project Update

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On Tuesday I started a script - a short script, maybe a radio script. It has nothing to do with the M-book. But I had inspiration around another setting and wanted to capture it on the page. So I did. The only relationship it bears to the project is that it is writing and it is about writers.

On the project itself, I feel like I am making no progress. A more accurate description is that I'm making very slow progress, which sometimes feels like nothing. But this is a stage I know I must go through before I can move to the next draft.

I am reading the entire manuscript, as is, from beginning to end. I am trying to not edit as I go; reading for where it is now, making notes. I bought large supply of sticky notes because there are some things I want to be able find easily. Some places need only notes on the page, or perhaps in another document - a running list of sorts, perhaps, but not yet. But I'm a fan of sticky notes as a way to get back to a place more quickly. 

I bought colored sticky notes because color coding works well for me; at other times in my left I've been called the Color Coding Queen and I'm okay with that. I created color coded systems when I was stage manager and ran lights for theatrical productions. There are things in the M-book I need to monitor in terms of repetition, the appearance of people/stories/places, which time period sections (chapters?) belong to, eek the gaps or missing transitions. Having a quick glance color system will help me with the flow of the story and events in addition to clearly marking the places where I need something more or have a piece which needs to be moved.

I also bought a new pen. A colored pen and, no, it is not red. I opted for purple. Solid, regal, it will stand out on the page and I like purple. After I bought the pens, I thought, just for fun, I'd look up some meanings of purple and, yes, I have confirmed this is a good color for making notes in the memoir :
         According to Emily Gems:
Put some violet in your life when you want:
  • to use your imagination to its fullest
  • to re-balance your life
  • to remove obstacles

Purple pens, multicolored sticky notes, a fresh printing of the book (don't worry, I promise to reuse every page; but I work best with the physical pages for notetaking at this stage), a pack of bubble gum, Lindor 90% dark chocolate, a new batch of cold brew decaf in the works and another quart already in the fridge. I'm diving into the next stage, the next draft - after I finish reading this one.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Writer is a Writer ... Junot Diaz Quote

This resonates with me today.

"...a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."
- Junot Diaz
[Becoming a Writer/ The List, O Magazine, November 2009]