distracted writer is distracted


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But you know? I think I’m just going to go with it this time.

I’ve spent the better part of a year grimly clinging to one project or another while my brain basically did the bored-kid-in-the-backseat routine… kicking the back of my seat, fiddling with the windows while we’re on the highway, singing The Song That Never Ends loudly and off-key, and clocking the back of my head with a tiny, angry fist shouting no returns! whenever a VW Bug passes us.

(Can you tell I have younger siblings?)

Anyway. I’ve managed, more or less, to ignore this routine for the last 7 months. After all, writing a book is about focus and persistence as much as it is about talent and craft.

And I’m just going to go ahead and ignore the fact that I virtuously focused and persisted for 7 months on a project that was originally a distraction from a revision that was a distraction from a rewrite, because I think the irony might kill me. And hell, the process of slogging forward against the iron-fisted whims of my subconscious very nearly did that already.

Writing, particularly writing something book-length, is about persistence. It’s about putting words on the page even when you can’t think of anything to say. It’s about skipping that party your friends invited you to, confirming your reputation as a 30-year-old hermit, to get in another four pages and finish the damn scene. It’s usually about routine, and occasionally about guilt, and always about kicking yourself in the ass to jumpstart a sentence. It’s about pressure.

It’s also, however, about passion– because if you don’t love what you’re doing, chances are pretty good nobody else is going to either.

I think I kind of forgot that over the last half-year –I’ve been sitting on the pressure end of the scale for a long time now– but I had a reminder of the piano-falling-from-a-third-story-window variety last week, and I think maybe it’s time to follow the toddler in the backseat for a bit.

So I’m going to wander off and follow the shiny for a bit. Hopefully it’s not just a whole new way of procrastinating. 🙂

back to the daily…


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To find a routine, that is. During the warmer months, when it’s actually light outside before 7 am, I have no trouble getting up at 5:30 to write. I actually like it, if you can believe that –it’s perfectly quiet inside my head and outside of it, I know the phone win’t ring, my friends likely won’t be online, and coffee tastes particularly good when you still have sleep sand in the corners of your eyes, for some reason. It’s a good time to write. But there must be some seasonal trigger hiding in my brain, because it happens without fail every autumn: trees lose their leaves, squirrels waddle around glassy-eyed and lumpy-cheeked, and writers sleep in late.

Sadly, most of my best ideas come in the morning –right now, pretty much, about 20 minutes before I leave for work.

So, I’m working in it. Right now I write over lunch during the week and after work on the days when I don’t have something else going on –internet prime-time, unfortunately, so procrastination is like a pissed-off toddler bellowing noooo, mommmy, I want thaaaaat! in my ear the whole time. But I guess that’s good for self-discipline, right?

Anyway. Since I’m trying to be a good little blogger, and since it’s Tuesday and I could use something to keep my distractable self in line, here’s a teaser from the current WIP. Happy writing, peoples.


Unable to sit still for another second, Willa flung herself to her feet and stomped into the kitchen. “Willa!” Audrey yelped in pure outrage.

“I’m just getting drinks!” she hollered back, and leaned against the fridge for a moment. There were so many feelings trying to shove their unruly way out of her right now she could barely see straight. She knew she had no right to be angry at Audrey, who was just trying to help. And even less right to be angry at Perrin, who probably thought she was Darktown’s biggest freak now.

He didn’t know the half of it.

She spun, threw open the fridge and, on an impulse she didn’t feel like questioning, grabbed the six pack that had been sitting on the bottom shelf for the last few weeks.

Audrey’s eyes got huge when she brought that back into the living room.

“Okay, Willa, this is more serious than I thought.”

“Hey, Gritty’s” Perrin said happily, not a bit fazed by the sudden appearance of alcohol.

“It was Dan’s,” Willa said to Audrey’s raised eyebrows. “I can’t stand looking at it anymore.”

“Oh.” Audrey frowned at the beer like it might be hiding something. “Is it still good? That was weeks ago.”

Perrin was already tipping his bottle back, perfectly comfortable with the whole underage drinking scene, apparently. “It’s fine,” he said around it. “Beer takes a long time to go bad as long as you keep it cold.”

Audrey heaved a sigh and took a bottle, her forehead crumpled. Willa grabbed another one, trying to quell the little voice in her head screaming that she was going to get in trouble.

It wasn’t like Aunt Claudia was about to come downstairs and stop them, was it?

“Ugh,” she said a second later. “Now I know why I don’t drink.”

“This tastes like ass,” Audrey agreed, but she took another swallow. Willa smiled grimly and did the same. How did people learn how to like this taste? It was like moldy bread in liquid form. The bubbles were almost insulting.

Audrey pointed at her, eyes narrowed. “And now, Willa Presraka will start talking. Or I am going to dump this beer over her head.”

“It’s supposed to be good for your hair,” Perrin said helpfully.

Let’s try this again…


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…Only this time with less whinging about how busy I’ve been, yes? Sure, I’ve been busy. Everybody‘s busy, though. There probably aren’t many people who could say actually, I didn’t have a thing to do in 2011, I’ve just been lazing around watching ER reruns — but if you’re out there, rare writing adult with nothing at all to do, call me: apparently I could use a ghost blogger.

In any case, I had time to blog, I just didn’t. Partially because I’ve been waffling my way through several writing projects and the lack of a coherent plan made other kinds of writing –namely this– seem like way too much work. Partially because the whole industry seems to have had a mental breakdown in the last year, and I’ve been watching it sort itself out, trying to figure out where I might fit into the new thing publishing is making of itself right now. (If you’re curious, no: I still have no clue. I’m consoling myself with the fact that I seem to be in good company there.) And partially (probably mostly) because it’s just as easy to form a non-habit as it is to form an actual habit, and I knew that, so when I decided to take a few months off this past summer, I probably should have expected that it would stretch out for just exactly as long as I let it.

There are probably several lessons about a writing schedule hidden in that paragraph, and I can only hope I take them. 😛

Anyway, filling you in on the last 6 months or so would be hopeless, so I’ll just give the highlights:

I was Elvis for Halloween (zombie Elvis, actually)




I was a bit tipsy for New Year’s



And I went to Russia, which was the awesomest of awesomes.

And, you know, I guess I also wrote. A bit. 😉

So what’s going on with everyone?

NaNo: the willing suspension of self-doubt


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Well, I’m already behind… no surprise there.

But I’m not that far behind, and that is a surprise, at least to me. If I hadn’t landed myself a doozy of a migraine Sunday, I think I’d actually be pretty close to on schedule. I’ve been eking out sentences at a snail’s pace for so long I kind of stopped believing it was possible to put anything coherent on paper at this speed. But I’ve (re)learned an important lesson –again– about shutting off Inner Editor.

Inner Editor is great for revisions. She’s a disaster during the first draft, though. This all comes back to the Poo Mantra (doesn’t everything?): if you can accept that it’s going to be crap, you can get much more done. And the truth is, most of your belief that high-speed writing will be crap is probably Inner Editor.

For example:

Yours truly has been working on new scenes for an old favorite, WEAVE. They’re not particularly easy to write as they have to be shoehorned into an existing and complex plot, but really, they’re not that hard. Nevertheless, I’ve written two in twice as many months. They’re pitch-perfect and very shiny, but –really? Two?

Conversely, in honor of NaNo I dug out that wonderful old standby, Write or Die, refused to care whether any three words made sense in relation to any other three I type out (and spelling? psssshh.)… and I’ve written something like 9,000 words in the last week. Three chapters. Nine scenes. I just finished another 1K, in which I managed to a) rename a major character mid-sentence and b) more or less channel Middle English, judging by my spelling… and out of that stream-of-consciousness mess, I got: a library mystery, a love triangle, and a possible murder.

Enough fodder for a truly shiny subplot.

And you know? Once you get past the spelling and continuity errors, it’s really not that bad. Writing this fast requires a willing suspension of self-doubt –which, whether this particular project goes anywhere or not, is a lesson worth 50,000 words.


In other less self-reflective news, it’s voting day in Maine. And I am definitely going to go vote, because this year our lovely PsTB have decided they can take away some of the democratic process by removing same-day registration –which they called, hilariously, “preserving the integrity of the voting and election process”  (who says politicians aren’t capable of irony?)– and I say hell with that.

People of Maine: please vote! And while you’re at it, please vote YES on Question 1!


(Although, re-reading the last 2K words, readyaimfire might be more appropriate.)

So not only am I going to beta projects, participate in a writing prompt with friends, and, gods help me, write 50,000 words before December 1st, I am also going to somehow attempt to blog on a semi regular basis.


Because I am crazy like that.

Aside from secretly (or not secretly, as I’m announcing it here) telling myself that having this many balls in the air is a ready excuse should I not-so-miraculously fail at all of them, because preparing to fail is just so much fun… I’m trying to remember something else, a mantra my crazy bunch of of amazing writer friends have made tee-shirt worthy.

Are you ready for it?

~I give myself permission to write utter poo.~

NaNoers, remember this one. If your inner editor is even half as loud as mine, writing 50,000 words in 30 days is kind of like trying to win a marathon while picking up every visible piece of litter you pass on the roadside. Unless you shut your eyes, hold your nose, and aim for the finish line, it just ain’t gonna happen.

So I’m trying, while I rest on my 2K wordcount laurels on on this mildly caffeinated eve of Day One, to remember that chances are good a lot of what I put down over the next 30 days will be crap. I’m trying to forget that I might one day want to see this project in print, or just to re-read it later on without wondering what sort of medication I was on. The point of this isn’t publication, or perfection, or even moderately-acceptable-first-draft: it’s just to write. Which is something I’ve struggled with in recent months: so I think, if I can pull this off, that it will be good for me.

Good luck to y’all. Here’s hoping my head doesn’t explode. 🙂

back! maybe!


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Well, it’s been…*looks at watch* — um– a while. Sorry about that. Got caught up in things, i.e., life, the universe, and the insane ambition to work on three separate projects at once. You can imagine how well that went.

Ah well. Lesson learned, and now here I am all fresh and new and shiny (really: I got this new moisturizer and it’s alarmingly sparkly. I feel a bit like a Cullen trying to pass as a human), hoping to rejoin the Great Interwebs once more. And in an effort to avoid having to actually think about something to put down here, I thought I’d start with a Teaser.

–Hey, come on, blogging is not like riding a bicycle.

Unless you mean me riding one for the first time in many years this past July, wherein I managed to stop traffic, terrify dogs, inadvertently collect a surprising number of tree branches, and thoroughly mangle all three sprockets while trying to shift a single speed, after which I had to walk my pretty new bike home like a rube.

If that’s the kind of bicycle riding we’re talking about, then it might have some parallels to my remembering how to blog.

Anyway. A Tuesday Teaser, for your amusement and my comfort, from one of the many simultaneous projects that made my head explode a little bit.


“So did you check out Sam Willis at the mall yesterday? What was up with that shirt?

Audrey’s hair was purple today, probably in preparation for the upcoming start of school. She leaned over the counter in the kitchen, intent on her work, which was scribbling a stylized dragon on the dark flesh of her forearm with the pen she’d liberated from Aunt Claudia’s purse. Willa dumped a plate of chopped onions into a frying pan and stirred: a moment later the kitchen filled with the smell of cooking vegetables.

Aunt Claudia might come down today, if she made something that smelled tempting enough.

Of course, Aunt Claudia might also stay in her mom’s old bedroom forever. She certainly hadn’t done anything in the past week to suggest she had other plans.

The frying pan and the dark glass of the stovetop faded suddenly in a hazy fog. Willa squeezed her eyes shut, wiling her vision to come back. Ever since the lightning, her eyes blurred at inconvenient moments, turning solid objects into faint shapes that looked as though they would disappear like smoke. The pins-and-needles sensation that had plagued her for hours after the strike often came with it.

Add to that the fact that Babcia Tessa looked at her like she’d grown a second head every time she came over, and it had been kind of a hard few weeks.

“Willa. Willa. Hey, snap out of it!”

Willa blinked, realized that the burner was on high and the broccoli was blackened. She blurted a curse as she shoved the frying pan over. “It’s okay, I got it, it’s not–”

She looked down and groaned. The stir-fry was a steaming mess. “Crap,” Willa growled, and flipped off the burner.

“Pizza again?”

“Pizza.” Willa sighed. “I fail at life.”

“No, baby, just at cooking.” Audrey abandoned her skin art and picked up the phone. “What do you say, let’s try something crazy this time. No more of this pepperoni and tomatoes conformism. Trust me?”

Not really, Willa thought –Audrey had, after all, been known to mix peanut butter and cocktail sauce and call it interesting— but she nodded anyway, not actually caring, and slid the burned mess from the frying pan into the garbage while Audrey called Gina’s Pies and ordered them dinner.

Audrey’s arm came around her waist. Audrey’s chin dug into the point where her shoulder and her neck met. Willa set the frying pan down and sighed, trying not to tense up at that touch.

Everything made her twitchy lately.

Doc Gordon, who had wrapped her burned feet in gauze and who still called to check in on Aunt Claudia’s shoulder (and her mental state too, no doubt) every few days, told her it would take months for her body to recover, and said she should be grateful she’d lived through it.  “Messed up your nerves some, darlin’,” he grunted in his fabulous southern accent every time he took her blood pressure and scowled at the gage. “Might be a while before they settle again. Just take it easy, okay?”

What did he think she was going to do, rush out and hit every club in town just because she’d lived through it? Or maybe because she’d never wanted Dan to live with them and now he was…

Not living at all.

For a second the guilt was so huge she was afraid she was going to throw up.

the end of the whole meme, and happy Oestara


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…Well, I’m about 12 hours late on Oestara, actually, but I don’t post on weekends, so we’ll have to live with it. I’m just glad it’s finally spring (even if it doesn’t precisely feel like it right now: the 50-degree weather we had this weekend has become 35-degree weather and the promise of more snow — but oh well). As it’s not anywhere near planting season and I was never much for egg-decorating, I plan to celebrate by a) getting back into a gym routine, b) getting back into a serious writing routine, and c) planning out the (modest) vegetable and flower gardens we’re hoping to not kill this year. 🙂

Also, maybe I’ll get a helmet, because I got one of these last week, and apparently riding a bike is, in fact, like riding a bike.

Which is to say I haven’t broken any bones, lost any skin, or given myself a concussion yet. Keep your fingers crossed.

And then there’s this:

How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

All the time, and, um, all the time.

Really, I think that’s just part of being a writer, isn’t it? Or maybe I’m romanticizing the craft, I don’t know — but when I’m not writing, I’m generally planning on writing, wishing I had time to write, being knocked over by some amazing idea/image/ combination of words that just popped into my head that must be written down immediately, trying to remember what it was I thought of that I should have written down, reminding myself to write that thought down when I get home, or feeling guilty for not doing one of the above.

There are moments — possibly whole hours– when I do other things and concentrate wholly on them, of course: but generally somewhere in the middle of such moments I think of some phrase, character motivation, plot point or whatever-else that belongs in some project or other, and I think I have to write that down. I think that at various points throughout a day. If I actually managed to write something down every time I thought it, I’d probably have five novels finished instead of three.

So, well, I guess I need to work on doing that.

just write it


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I’m hitting that everybody-out-of-the-pool stage of almost-spring, wherein I a) find some drastic new haircut to get me through the warmer months (there are few things as effective for new perspectives, I’ve found –well, few simple things– as changing what you see when you look in the mirror) and b) hit some new direction in writing. The past few years, that’s been me rounding into the home stretch of a novel, where I sit for a few weeks and suddenly all the loose ends start trying themselves into Gordian knots. This year, being sans new project, I guess I’ll have to settle –happily– for waking up to small epiphanies about why I’m stuck on these revisions, and what to do to get unstuck.

So over the next however-long-it-takes, I’ll be going back to that spreadsheet outline of mine, deciding this time not what changes to make to the scenes ahead, but what should be happening instead of those scenes. Because this story already works as-is… as an adult epic fantasy. So, to make it YA, I guess I’m going to need to tell a different story.

Not hugely different, but the plot as I have it now just isn’t budging, therefore I need a different plot. Same characters, same themes, same angst, (mostly) same goals: new obstacles.

Yay. We’ll see how it goes, but it already feels good, despite the hefty amount of work I’m sure it will be. Being stuck for the length of time that I’ve been stuck is an awful experience. I’m used to writing for an hour or more a day, and without that I feel like I just lost a job — despite the daily routines of work, exercise, meals, social life and whatever else, my day has lost something vital. Instead of brooding, I probably should have picked up a different project and remembered my favorite piece of writerly advice: when in doubt, just keep writing.

So, well, here I go. Again. 🙂

Oooh. And happy St. Paddy’s Day, if you’re celebrating (or if you’re not). I’m not wearing green, but I just had an avocado. I hope that counts.

The Great Divide, or why revisions are evil


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…I was going to go with gap –it’s more succinct– but then I realized I’d just end up getting a thousand hits from people innocently shopping for jeans online. (Which is better than people innocently shopping for sex toys online: the one time I included the word d!ld0 in a post, purely in an illustrative capacity…well, lets just say I’m still getting a respectable number of daily hits off that, and no doubt the people who land on my show vs. tell discussion are a wee bit disappointed when they end up here.)

Anyway. Gap: breach, disagreement, discontinuity, hiatus, interruption, lull, void.

*cough* I do love my synonyms.

This pretty much covers where I am now in revisions. Rewriting SWORD as a YA has been, for the most part, fun even if it’s already taken twice as long as I expected. I like projects, goals are useful, and trying something new is always interesting. Also, I love this book, and I am (if I do say so myself) making some fairly significant improvements to something I already thought was pretty damn good.

Nevertheless, there are those moments. I think they crop up in any revision process, be it the book you just finished or the one that’s been sitting on the shelf for x number of years– but this moment is starting to be an hour. I think I’m covering every one of the above synonyms.

There’s plenty of disagreement and discontinuity happening right now: the scene I’m working on was already, to my mind, pitch-perfect. It’s just not YA, which means it has to be rewritten, but getting my stubborn subconscious on board with that plan is kind of like herding a pack of tripping cats: there are a thousand distractions, some of which might actually be real.

Hiatus, interruption, lull — well. See above reference to cats on psychotropics. Suffice to say I’m not really moving at the moment.

Void: that would be the spot where my brain used to be, I guess. 🙂

And the most literal one, breach. The space between where I am and where I want to be. I have a fair idea how I want this part of the book to turn out, I’m just struggling with the process of making that happen. So I read (and re-read) my crazy spreadsheet and the scenes in question; I drink too much coffee, I buy YA books and pick through the mechanics of voice and structure, waiting (hoping) for that click moment, when the ship sails, or the plane takes off, or the parachute billows open, or, well, pick your metaphor. Sometimes you just have to wait yourself out, I guess. I can only hope that this works the way this usually works for me, and that after letting my brain do its thing I’ll trip over the solution one day while I’m writing emails, or describing my new haircut to somebody, or making garlic naan. Who knows?

For the nonce, I’ll just try to keep in mind that breach can also be fish leaping out of the water.

lurgy, and (yes, yes) 30 days of writing


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Oy. This is the longest 30 days of my life. Didn’t I start this in November?

Anyway, I’ve spent the last week or so with some variation of the flu — my fault, as I was dumb enough to mention to someone how miraculous it was that I’d gone a whole winter without getting sick. I should know better by now than to issue blanket invitations like that, but the words were out of my mouth before I thought of it, and I spent most of last week curled up on my couch hacking up a lung as a result. I’m going to call it lurgy instead of flu, because it sounds more interesting that way, plus this way I can pull in Eddie Izzard.

But here I am, (mostly) recovered, ready for another day.  So:

How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Well, I think I’m as willing as it is necessary, if that makes any sense. I’m not one for random deaths (then again, I’ve never written something that demanded a lot of death) or that annoying species of deliberate yanking-on-the heartstrings killing that always leaves me feeling like the author was midway through a good chapter and then thought damn, this needs more angst. Where can I get me some good angst?

We’ve all seen those scenes, I guess. And I don’t think cannon fodder counts toward this question: if it did I’d look like a mass murderer. 🙂 I write epic, after all, and that often means I rack up a good body count. But killing off a main character or a fairly important minor character is a different experience. This is somebody your MC cares about, therefore somebody you’ve invested some time and effort in; presumably (well: if you’re me — I don’t know how it works for other writers, though I suspect I’m in good company) somebody you care about too. You know it’s necessary for the plot, you know it’s a great moment of drama and angst, you know it will move things forward in precisely the right way and Character X will have to deal with Situation Y as a result, blah blah blah.

But still, man, what a hard thing to write. I was all lip-quivery and sniffling when I killed off my first major-minor character (well, let’s be honest: I was in more or less the same state when I killed off my last one too)… and it wasn’t just because my MC(s) were so traumatized by it, though that was a wonderfully traumatic scene. I’d worked hard on that character, and I liked him rather a lot. I can only hope others reading that scene had a similar reaction.

As for the most interesting means of offing a character, I’m not sure any of mine are too far outside the pale: one died drowning in a haunted lake, one died by murder, one died by lightning (and killed several other people in the process) — and all died trying to save someone else.