Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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Social Media Blackout

Currently I am participating in something called the Whole Life Challenge. Every week there are different challenges to participate in that are designed to imscreen-shot-2015-09-28-at-7-05-06-pm-615x450prove your life. One of last week’s challenges was a social media blackout. For an entire week I did not check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Surprisingly, the hardest was Twitter. I use it as my breaking news feed, and without it, I feel out of the loop. I had to go on Facebook for work, so I got little glimpses of my feed as I signed on, then switched over to the business page. A friend adopted a new kitten. How could i not respond? What else was I missing out on? Whose birthday was I appearing to ignore because I didn’t send them good wishes? I resisted, and for the most part didn’t miss much. Here is probably what I missed – pictures of delicious looking food, political outrage against either candidate/party/party supporters, humble brags, cute pictures/videos of kids, cats, and dogs, recipes that look easy because somebody already prepared all the ingredients into cute little bowls, and memes that have made the rounds several times but are new to the poster and they’re wondering why more people aren’t liking it. Does that about cover it?

So what did I learn? I learned that checking Facebook is more of a habit than an addiction. Whenever there was a lull, I wanted to grab the phone. It wasn’t out of any burning interest to see what was going on, it was boredom. While I do miss being aware of what’s going on in distant friend’s lives, I am fully engaged in the lives of friends nearby, and that is far more important for all of us. I don’t post much on Facebook anymore anyway, and now I’d like to do far less skimming, as well.

Twitter, well… I’m still a news junkie, I don’t think I’m willing to give that up just yet.

On to editing. We’re closing in on the end of the editing process. My editor has done the Herculean task of fixing all my rookie mistakes and bad habits. His eye is so critical he finds fault with Tolkien, (and destroys my illusions in the superior story telling of the Lord of the Fantasies) which means he is pulling my story apart and finding the weak spots. At times that feels frustrating. I’m a little burned out on this portion of the story and just want to move on. And of course I would like to believe I’ve already produced something perfect. On the other hand, I know better and want the story air tight. I want it to be the best it can be, so I ignore my wounded ego, learn from my mistakes, and do the work to make it better. After all, if it is popular, I wouldn’t want someone at Comic Con getting stabbed with a pencil over a plot point argument.

I have a growing confidence that some publisher will want this series. I’m not saying it will be the next big thing, but I think there is an audience for it. I might not have to get a full time job just yet. And really, that’s what I want – the chance to keep writing and to keep this enchanted life going.

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