The Writing Process

Waiting in the silence and the fire

8:13 PM

You haven't heard from me because I have not been writing. I mean, I've taken some notes, whipped off some journal entries, and kept my style blog from disappearing into the crevasse of no return, but I haven't really been writing.

I'm in school, 30 hours a week, training to be a professional cosmetologist. And then I nanny another 13 or so. And then I come home and do homework, and prep meals and clothes and sometimes assignments for the next day. Every evening.

Weekends? Laundry and more homework.

This is my life right now, and it's been wearing me out a bit.

So I've had to accept the fact that for this season, I really can't write; not consistently. And I have so much I want to write about. So many ideas, stories to be told, and maybe songs or bits of poetry. I've made some notes, recorded some good ideas, but at this point I just have to sit on most of it and wait.

It's lit a fire under me.

There's nothing like a little (or a lot) of time away from something to help you look at it and see what it really means to you. Having to distance myself from writing has allowed me to understand it more clearly, and decide what I want my writing future and the new career path I'm pursuing to look like. (Although I know there's only so much I can plan that sort of thing.)

I am a writer. I can not wait to get back to it; all the blood, sweat and tears. It's something I am meant to do.

But for now, I wait.


The Writing Process

Tortured thoughts on a beautiful day.

5:43 PM

I am ordained to be a Writer. I know this is true because it causes me so much pain. 

There are other things I can leave off and survive without... even music, which probably burned the brightest passion of my life. But I can live peaceably, without the urge to create it tearing at my window curtains and scratching at the glass panes like Cathy's ghost. 

I do not have a bright passion for Writing. 

Of course, I can be passionate about it, but the Writing itself is a dull, painful business, and leaves my head aching and my soul only half full. 

It haunts me the days in and out, insisting that I create, and then tying me up in a corner so that I cannot. It comes in starry, beautiful flashes of inspiration, and then drags me through a mile of mud when I try to put down a single word. 

The only place it has not infiltrated is my dreams. Even my nightmares, thank goodness, are free of Writing. Maybe sleep does have its uses.

To Write is to flirt with madness, to not Write is to go insane. Or is it the other way around? Some days I do not know if I am right side up or standing on my head.

Writing takes an ugly day and glorifies it, and then snatches a beautiful day and dims it so that I cannot see two feet in front of me. I only know I must Write on, or I am doomed. 

It has tied my hands many times; made me shrink from opportunities, hesitate before careers, see less of the world than I should. Because the thought that I should become too busy to Write... why, it's like a death knell. 

It would be wonderful to be liberated, to never feel the desperate need to Write another word. 


It is a terrible thing to be imprisoned, but I am a willing prisoner. If I were released I should be an unwilling freedman. 

What kind of freedom would that be? 


P.S. In happier news... today I wrote the opening paragraphs of the follow-up to the middle-grade novel I completed last year. I'm not sure how much opportunity I'll have to work on it with school coming up fast, and the first book needs still some serious 3rd draftiness, but it is started
That is the main thing. 

Short Stories

Short Story Struggle

10:44 AM

I must admit, I never liked short stories. A novel was always my best friend, with pages upon pages to look forward to, and usually a good resolution. Short stories left me feeling unsatisfied, sometimes desperately wanting more, and other times feeling like I'd eaten a bad piece of leftover cake. I just didn't enjoy them.

I also never wrote short stories. My "all or nothing" mindset wanted to write novels, fat and tangible, and with the possibility of publication in a slick hardcover. I wanted none of this writing 5-10 pages for some magazine. If it wasn't a book, it didn't feel legit.

And then there's the fact that it's hard for me to be brief. The few times in life that I started to write a short story, it ended up getting so out of hand that it really needed to be a novel. But I never allowed myself to work on more than one novel at a time, so the stories ended up unfinished, brushed aside for my more "important" work.

But lately I've been rethinking the whole short story thing. I must say that the introduction of Figment has made me want to share my work there, some writing that could be public, for "fun," and that others would hopefully enjoy. And I'm definitely not ready to put any of my completed novels online, especially the one that I'm revising and would like to pursue publication for.

Short stories are an entirely different beast. They might be just the thing to post, written up in less time with less commitment, and more freedom to just write something fun, since it's not intended for "official" publication, and to build an audience who (hopefully) cares about my writing. I could also use short stories to explore plot ideas that I like, but don't have the interest to develop an entire novel around. You know, a sort of novella. A quick write.

Confession: I have been working on one such "novella" since last fall. I got an intriguing idea while free-writing during one of the excellent "Writing for Children LIVE" sessions (man, I miss those!), and I really wanted to develop it. So I began writing it down. The story has expanded considerably since I started (it's definitely more of a "mini novel" than a short story :P), but I'm about 75% of the way through and I'm enjoying the experience immensely. It's nice to write mushy, dramatic, young-adult stuff... inconsistently, without pressure. And sometimes it's embarrassing. ;)  I'm not sure when this story will be complete enough to post on Figment (my "serious" writing takes priority) but eventually I would like to get it up there, for laughs, if nothing else. :)

Do you write short stories/novellas/fluffy pieces? And do you like to read other writer's "less serious" work, via Figment, or somewhere else? I'd love to know your thoughts!


Finding Inspiration

Book Questionnaire

10:49 PM

Do you snack while you read?
This deserves a whole post of it's own. Books and food are the perfect marriage. I'm not a "foodie," but it's so wonderful. Especially sweets. Especially chocolate.

What is your favorite drink while reading?
A hot chai latte. It's special.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I sometimes wish I had the guts to make notes, or at the very least underline, in my books. I think it would be helpful for looking back through them and remembering my favorite quotes. But it aggravates me like anything when library or used copies are marked up, and I know I'd get annoyed seeing notes from myself. So I don't.

How do you keep your place while reading a book?
I have bookmarks, but they rarely find their way into what I'm reading, and then they annoy me by getting lost in my bed. So usually I am desperately trying to remember page numbers (I make up little games and rhymes to remember, but it's hopeless), and find my place without accidentally seeing ahead. The best bookmarks are the flaps of the book jacket, IMHO.

Are you the type of person who tends to read to the end of the chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
Depends on the book. I finish chapters when it's something exciting, but if it's slow, or I'm really tired, I may just stop in the middle, and think I'll remember the page number the next day.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or onto the floor if the author irritates you?
I may have done that once or twice, but I usually just yell out loud at the author, and call them names. My bark is worse than my bite.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you look it up right away?
I try to, especially if I'm unsure how to pronounce it. (I read so many fantastic words that I've never heard anyone use.) I especially need help when it comes to French words. I've gone years without connecting the common pronunciation with what I've read on paper.

What are you currently reading?
Give 'Em What They Want, which is about pitching your novel. I'm also skimming The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album.

What is the last book you bought?
I hit a local flea market and came home with a nice copy of The Bronze Bow (one of my favorite authors, and I love the book), The Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Workbook, and The Hunger Games (because I want to re-read it soon).

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
In bed at night, especially if it's not really late yet and I have a good couple of hours ahead of me. Unfortunately, I'm usually up working on projects later than I want, and only get to a few pages or a chapter.

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?
I think there is something really fantastic about a tight, stand-alone book. But I do hate when it leaves me wanting more, and as a kid there was nothing as exciting as having a whole series to devour.

Is there a specific book you find yourself recommending over and over?
Hmm... The Witch of Blackbird Pond? It's one of the best.

How do you organize your books?
First by fiction (which is alphabetically by author), poetry, nonfiction and biography, children's books, and lastly art, history and film. I am really up tight about organizing. Here's a picture of my bookshelf (which doesn't even fit them all anymore).

I saw this questionnaire over at Eternal Simplicity, and thought it would be fun to fill out. Just because. I like books. And I'd love to hear your own answers to the questions!

In other news, the 2nd draft of my middle grade novel went out to my unofficial "critique group" of about 20 people. I can't wait until the feedback rolls in so I can make decisions about the steps. It's exciting!

Have a lovely weekend! (Friday counts, right?)


Lucy Maud Montgomery

Authors that shaped me: L.M. Montgomery

11:59 PM

My introduction to the work of Lucy Maud Montgomery was through the Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea films starring Megan Follows. I wish I could remember my exact age when I first saw them (probably 6-8), because they made such a strong impression on me. 16+ years later, and numerous revisits, they are still my favorite movies ever. Period.

A few years after seeing the films, I started the "Anne" series. My mom and I read the 1st book together, and I went on from there. I have now read and re-read (and own most of) almost everything L.M. Montgomery wrote, with the exception of a couple of short story collections. Her work is "comfort food" to my literary soul.

I identified with the character of Anne Shirley from the beginning. I was a "romantic," running off into the woods to escape the petty problems of life, imagining myself in fairyland, or being swept off my feet by a knight of King Arthur's round table. (He didn't have to wear "shining" armor, or ride a "white" horse, as long as he could kick some serious butt, was kind and sensitive, and at least moderately good-looking. ;) My sisters and friends and I dragged a canoe out onto more than one pond to play "The Lady of Shallott." They let me be the fair Elaine, which was lucky, because otherwise I think I would have died of bitter disappointment.

I had a temper. I was stubborn. I was a snob. (And I am not quite recovered.) I don't think I smashed a slate over any stranger's head, but my love for Anne provoked me to accept dares, attempt to out-spell the boys, and stand by my stupid opinions as if my life depended on it.

I was ambitious. I wanted fame, fortune, and success. (Still do, in a slightly less crazed measure. These things die hard.) I loved to talk. I still do. Voicing my thoughts lends clarity to my mind. I talk to myself all the time, especially in the car. It's incredibly embarrassing when I forget that my younger sister is in the backseat.

Lucy Maud Montgomery is magic with words. She paints pictures with them, captures the tiniest, most beautiful of moments, and makes you feel as if you are there, experiencing the places she loved along with her characters. And yet, for all her lengthy descriptions, and fairy-lit ramblings, I feel as if she is never excessive. Nothing is wasted.

She first taught me to look at the world with rose colored glasses. The best kind. They're not the sort of glasses that blind you to pain, suffering, or the frequent hardships of life. But they are full of hope, and they finds beauty in the smallest, simplest of things.

Montgomery can break me with her words, and split my heart down the middle. Her book, Mistress Pat, is the only thing I've read that has ever made me sob aloud. Me, who never cries at a book (or film), no matter how awful or joyful it is.

But that is not all.

L.M. Montgomery also seriously warped my brain.

For whatever reason, she always seems to write heroines that are not physically beautiful. In fact, they can be downright awkward and plain. None the less, they all seem to have an enchanting something about them, and manage to attract the attention of complete strangers, kind celebrities, and myriads of boys (who find them fascinating next to the "ordinary" beauty of fashionable girls). Seriously, almost every heroine Montgomery wrote has no less than 3 suitors, and multiple proposals of marriage, before they settle down with the one they were destined for.

Was it any wonder that I; tall, bony and be-spectacled, took this to heart? That I clung to the belief that "being smart is better than being pretty," and imagined I had charms enough to attract almost any boy I was acquainted with? Poor, delusional, awkward Amanda Flynn. I was so full of myself, it's a miracle my head didn't explode. (And I guess it's a miracle it doesn't explode now, either. There's always a new set of issues to resolve. :P)

Thank you, Lucy Maud. I am still recovering from the embarrassment of my teenage years. I imagined myself to possess exquisite charms, and I was never asked out once. ;)

But I love her dearly, even if she did warp my foolish, adolescent brain, and inspired me to spend 2 years on a novel that made my sisters laugh out loud. Every time I re-read some of her work I realize that she really, truly is that good.


So, now that I've finished writing more than I even talk, who are some authors who have shaped you? And is Lucy Maud Montgomery one of your favorites?


My Work

Breathing a deep, victorious sigh.

11:04 PM

Draft #2 of my middle grade novel is complete.

And now I'm just going to take the next few weeks to go over some things I made notes on, make a few more cuts, additions, and adjustments (this will probably still technically count as second draft work), and hopefully get it out to my "critique group" in early May.

This is kind of a big deal. I've never completed a second draft before (because I felt like my previous novels didn't meet my standards, or just weren't what publishing houses would be interested in right now). I have also never let anyone outside of my immediate family read any of my novels (because the other 3 never got farther than 1st drafts). Ok, I did let one friend read something. But that's a secret. ;)

I really hope this book isn't crap.



Finding Inspiration

Still a child, chasing my destiny.

12:26 AM

It is comforting to realize that my heart is still young; that I am a child yet.

The world is cold and terrifying and unfriendly. Life is a complicated thing, ever so much more confusing that I once thought it would be. Sometimes the days wear me out so that I want to fall into the deepest of slumbers and never wake up. The dreams I built for years seem even farther away, perhaps unattainable, and I am tempted to settle for less. For security, for comfort, for the ease of normality.

But then words touch my heart. The lines of a poem. The prose of an artist. And I can hear the wind talking to me through the window pane, and the sun beats down on my head with the pressure of a warm embrace, and the raindrops pelt my skin and send shivers up my spine. And I want nothing but to walk the road, run the secret pathways, and lie down in the tall, tangled grass and feel the comfort of the earth beneath me. I shut my eyes and listen to stories that have never been told, and would be sacrilege to repeat. And when I open my eyes, there are pictures in the clouds.

My heart soars. I am alive. And life IS a beautiful thing. And I will work, and wait, and chase the dreams I have been given, with the fire that is burning in my heart. I will not settle. My soul will not grow old. I will be a child, who dreams, and laughs, and dances.

I owe my God my life and breath. He is indescribably glorious, and He has given me a destiny. And I am ready for it.


Book Reviews

Cake (A Review)

10:17 PM

So, the lovely people at Zondervan sent me another book to review, and this one is adorable. Middle-grade fiction is my favorite genre and I love discovering new releases that have a blend of old-fashioned charm and contemporary appeal. Cake, by Joyce Magnin, definitely fits that bill.

I was in the midst of a busy few weeks of rehearsals (for a local musical) while reading this, and it kept me coming back for more, despite all the distractions that were swirling around. That's saying a lot.

12 year old Wilma Sue was abandoned by her mother when she was just a baby, and she's lived off and on at Miss Daylily's Home for Children (or, as Wilma Sue calls it, Miss Daylily's Home for Unwanted and Misunderstood Children). At least, when she wasn't in a foster home.

When the family she currently lives with (and despises) wins the lottery and takes off on a tour of the world, she's relocated to a new home, and it's unlike anything she's ever experienced before. Naomi and Ruth, two retired missionaries living in an old-fashioned parsonage, eagerly accept her into their lives and hearts, but Wilma Sue is hesitant to let their love creep in. She's sure that she'll be sent back to the Home again sooner or later.

But Wilma Sue can't help befriending the chickens in the coop in the backyard, and helping Naomi make some very special cakes for the neighbors. The cakes seem to be almost magical, and they change people.

Cake caught my attention from the very beginning, with its quirky descriptions, funny character surnames, and a reference to Emily of New Moon (by my beloved L.M. Montgomery) right off the bat. It feels as if it was made, like the cakes it describes, with a lot of love, and a pinch of something special. This story has heart.

All those lovely things said, I want to be completely honest in my review and say that sometimes the style of writing seemed to change, and occasionally pulled me out of the story. I'm not sure if this was just me, or if the author purposefully (or accidentally) meandered and took time with description in some chapters, and then hurried through others. (The places where she meandered were my favorites.)

Lastly, I wish I had seen the growth of main character more clearly over the course of the story. I felt that in the end some things weren't quite resolved, and it left me feeling as if I was missing a piece of the puzzle. Perhaps this was intentional... is there going to be a sequel???

But, personal writing style and pacing preferences aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this fun and easy read and I definitely recommend it.

I will also give a warning: This book may make you crave cake. :)


The Writing Process

Write drunk; edit sober?

8:51 PM

Editing has been on my mind a lot lately. I am currently working on the 2nd draft of the middle-grade novel I finished up this past summer, and I must say it has me giddy with excitement. I've done my fair share of editing shorter works, articles and blog posts, as well as some of the work of my relatives, but this is the first time I've begun to actually edit a full length manuscript of my own.

I've always written very clean 1st drafts. I can't help it. I'm not one of those people who can just let the words pour out onto paper (or computer) without thinking about it, accumulating pages of genius and  "rubbish" that will need serious revision. I am a slow writer, and I think very hard and very slowly while I do it.

I've tried to be more free with my writing in the past; to just let it and my mind run wild. Pretty much every book on writing has advised it. And the greats agreed.

But now, as I am in the process of editing my work, I find myself feeling very relieved that it is clean. The editing will not take as long, or be as hard. Yes, I will tweak the wording of things, re-write dialogue, descriptions, and even whole scenes. (I've actually got to take the first 5 chapters of my story, and intersperse them throughout the rest of the novel. :P ) But because I plotted the story out so heavily before I started, and thought my way through the whole slow process, there is so much less work to do. The plot structure is pretty sound, and the characters are consistent. It just needs to be tidied, and strengthened.

The point is, the more I write and discover myself as a writer, the more I feel the importance (for me) of "writing sober." I am not the sort of person who spontaneously explodes with brilliant ideas. I have to plan them. The more thoroughly I plan my story, characters, and plot structure in advance, the easier I feel it is for me to write, moving (a little bit) faster from chapter to chapter, with a clear sense of where it is all going.

I guess I don't really like surprises. ;)

So... how does the writing process work for you? Do you write "drunk" or sober?