Head Down, Power Through. Repeat.

There is no secret to doing something well. You simply have to do it, do it consistently, and do it often. I have been reading more and more about the craft of writing, most recently “The Getaway Car” by Ann Patchett, which is included in her book This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which should be at the top of the list of required reading for serious writers, if such a thing exists.

 

I am committed to improving my outlining. It’s something I didn’t do enough of with my first novel, and felt the repercussions of when I went back to revise. I’ve read about Save the Cat! and the Heroic Journey, and I’m trying to apply them to the new ideas I have. And you know what? It’s hard. But as I tell my three-year-old son, it’s good to do things that are hard, because then we know we can do them. And then we do them again, and again, and again until we can do them well.

 

My writing assignment today was to complete an outline for a contemporary YA novel I want to write. I’ve tried a couple of times in the last few weeks, but let myself get distracted when it got hard. Not today. No internet, no editing, just spit it out until it’s done. I allowed myself the out of adding in aliens, if that’s what it would take to get it done.

 

Once I sat down with a focused goal—finish one draft—it wasn’t so hard. I actually wrote two separate versions, because I wanted to add in another aspect to the first, but couldn’t let myself go back and rewrite. I knew if I did, I’d never finish. And I didn’t even need aliens!

 

Three years into it, I’m finally noticing growth in myself as a writer. I am more willing to just keep going to get a draft out and then start all over again next time I sit down, if that’s what I need to get the story out. I’m not worried about what I throw out, because I know the ideas (mostly) get better the more I work on them. I’m still a little terrified of one particularly ambitious project, but as Patchett writes, only the writer herself can make herself get any better.

 

Head down, power through. Repeat.

Digging In Before You Dig In

I’m connecting today to a post by Elizabeth Graver, whom I had the opportunity to study with at Boston College.

 

I’m launching into a new project that feels like it’s going to take five years to write just a first draft. For more immediate gratification, I’ve been working on a short story, a nonfiction article, and a picture book. None of this is getting the novel written, of course, at least not directly. Graver explores her pre-writing process with grace and confidence that makes me want to reprioritize.

http://readherlikeanopenbook.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/filling-the-well-elizabeth-graver-on-the-early-stages-of-the-writing-process/

Get Thee to a Reading

Part of what I love about writing is how isolated it can be. I am, in a lot of ways, an introvert and a homebody. I like being in my own place, both mentally and physically. But that isn’t the whole story.

 

Without the balance of the community aspect of writing—whether it’s reading someone else’s work, having someone read my work, discussing published books with friends, working through critiques with my writing group—the endeavor isn’t meaningful; it doesn’t have purpose, to me.

 

Living in or near a major city—New York, in my case—means there are almost constant opportunities to get out and engage in the writing community at large. This weekend, I attended a launch party for Amanda Maciel’s debut novel, Tease, which has been mentioned on this blog before.

 

It was great to see in person the members of my writing group I’ve only seen virtually since my family’s out-of-state move last year. I also had the opportunity to meet another writer—a freelancer who works from home and writes in the time she can manage, just like I do. Though I know Amanda personally, it was wonderful to hear her answer questions on how she came to write this book, her process, and reactions the book has received thus far.

 

Attending a signing means supporting the author, the bookstore, and the writing community in general. Showing up means showing that books have a place of value in the world. (Buying the book is important, too!) It means encouraging each other and finding inspiration when I’m stuck.

 

Public readings are an easy form of what I like to think of as writerly cross-training. What better way to celebrate books? To celebrate our fellow authors?

A Gift Well Received: Why We Write

For Christmas last year, a close friend gave me a copy of Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do edited by Meredith Maran. I just finished it, and I’m so grateful my friend Alex put it in my hands. It’s inspirational, encouraging, challenging, honest, and relatable. A must-read for writers, I think.

 

I should be working on a short story right now, but I just watched this instead. As a result of my chronic procrastination, this post is continuing in bullet points.

 

Reasons to read this book:

 

1. Each author gets his or her own chapter, so it’s easy to read in fits and starts, even while reading other books. It’s probably better that way, since there’s so much good stuff to take in.

2. The diversity of the writers means that one your favorites is probably in here, but there are also likely some authors you’ve never read before.

3. Every kind of background, process, and technique is represented, but none is hailed as “the” way to go about writing.

4. What does become clear is the thing these authors have in common is how seriously they take their work. That’s a takeaway anyone can relate to.

5. A portion of the editor’s royalties go to 826 National.

 

My copy is highlighted through and through. It has a place on my shelf as a pick-me-up next time I get discouraged!