Monday, March 25, 2013

My name is Gretchen, and I am scared spitless

I am a writer.

I write all the time (not that you'd know from this blog over the past year or so).  I write Facebook updates, and captions for my photo albums.  I write the school newsletter, and I helped write the content for the school website.  I'm helping write the expanded content for the website of the store where I work.  I journal.  I write notes to my daughter, notes to school, notes to myself so I don't forget to write notes to my daughter or to her school.

And even when I'm not writing, I'm thinking of what I'm going to write about when I get the time.  I'm brainstorming photo captions even as I press the shutter button.  I'm making note of funny conversations to use as fodder for future blog posts.  I get up in the middle of the night and write two full pages of ideas for a story, then stuff it in a drawer until I have time to work on it.

"I am not a fiction writer.  I write essays on my blog, and while they may stray a bit from the strict truth sometimes, they're still non-fiction.  I don't write stories."

That's what I told my mother every time she would encourage me to write a book.  I don't have time, I don't have any story ideas, I can't write dialogue to save my life, and I really don't have any desire to get rejected over and over by strangers who hold my future career in their hands.

Then in January I decided to take a writing class.  I hoped it would light a fire under me to actually write some blog posts.  But it turned out that it wasn't that sort of writing class ... but it was exactly the class I needed.  Because somewhere during the first week or so of class, A Story appeared in my brain, and it wouldn't go away.

It was all there - plot, characters, setting, format - and after about an hour of roughly outlining the story and the characters, I knew it was something I wanted to work on.  I started writing The Story in addition to the work assigned for the class, and I loved it.  I wrote longhand, and by the end of January I had most of the rough draft of The Story finished.  I typed it into the computer, made some edits, and set it aside for a while so I could forget it enough to edit it properly.

I did a major edit around Valentine's Day, then shoved it back in a drawer to stew for a bit.  Things had changed massively in the format of the story, and some valuable early feedback made me completely rework the opening and closing chapters of The Book (for by now, at almost 50 pages and 14,000 words long, it would indeed be considered A Book in the children's market I'd be selling into).

My class was over, but I tried my best to keep up the schedule I had started as part of it.  I read books on writing, I worked through exercises in some of them.  I reworked some parts of The Book to meet some of the suggestion I'd found in the writing books, and I was happy with how they had turned out.  But there were still big sections that said things like ******INSERT SOME KIND OF ACTION-Y SEQUENCE HERE TO DRAW OUT THE TENSION*******,  so it was by no means a "finished" manuscript.  I didn't have to do anything with it.  Nobody had to read it.  It was just a draft, in a drawer.

Today I finished the third round of revisions.  I work on paper to make the edits, then type them into the document, page after page, and it sucks big sweaty donkey balls, especially when you realize that out of a 50-page document, you have exactly ONE page with no changes.  One.  But it's done, and I'm happy with The Manuscript - because it is a manuscript now, it's got all the parts I think it needs to be "done."

But today is the day I have been dreading, because today is the day I admit to the world that The Manuscript is as good as I can make it on my own, and am going to need help to make it the best it can be.  I hate asking for help, I hate putting things that aren't what I consider "perfect" out where people can see them.  I hate being unsure that what I've written is good, or worthy, or whatever.

I have a cadre of wonderful friends who have volunteered their children to be my test readers, and I need to send my manuscript out into the world.  I feel a sense of accomplishment at having "finished" it, and an overwhelming sense of dread at having anyone other than me, Jason, and Liza read the thing.  The thought of people I know reading it makes me want to build a blanket fort and hide there until it's all over.

But I can't tell my test readers that.  If I come off as too fragile, they won't tell me the whole truth, they'll tell me pretty lies and reserve the truth for when they make fun of me behind my back.  And that doesn't do me any good.  If I'm going to expose my precious darling to the scrutiny of chest-high strangers, I want to at least get honest feedback when they're done.

So I procrastinate.  I write a rambling blog post.  I make turkey broth.  I hit Facebook like a crack pipe, as Ze would say.  I watch Ze's invocation.  I do laundry.  I wash the freaking basement floor (it really needed it, but still - really?).  I watch Ze's invocation again with snot running down my face and a huge ball of horror in the pit of my stomach.  I tell myself that I can't send it out until I have a questionnaire to go with it, and then I procrastinate about making that, because really, when that's done, I'm out of excuses.  I have to send The Manuscript then.

And that thought scares me spitless.

ETA:  I just sent it.  Excuse me while I go throw up.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Today was the bee's knees

That is, it was slow, clumsy, and covered in fluffy yellow crocus pollen :)

Friday, March 08, 2013

Six-word book reviews

Liza's been working on her Mensa For Kids reading list, and early this year I decided I would start reading the books on the high school list. After all, most of them were books I hadn't read since high school (or junior high, or EVER, in a lot of cases), and they would add a bit of depth to my reading. Because, you know, "vampire porn" is a pretty shallow pool - more of a puddle, really - and it's wicked difficult to discuss at the dinner table.

So I decided I would read at least one of the Mensa list books a month this year. So far, I'm kicking butt and taking names, and I've found that I'm actually enjoying the books more than I expected. Of course, the fact that I don't have a deadline or anyone telling me which book I have to read next helps a lot. When, for example, I started listening to The Odyssey on audiobook, and in the first 5 minutes there were 45 different random characters listed and I couldn't keep ANY of them straight ... well, that sucker just went back to the library, and I moved on to something else. Since many of the books on the list are "classics" which have also sort of run out of copyright protection, I've got plenty of them on-demand from the e-book section of the library. Awesome! You never know when you're going to want to start reading War and Peace at midnight on a Sunday, after all.

And now I've decided that just READING the books isn't enough. I'm going to write a book review for each one as a way to keep track of what I've read (and brag about it online, of course). But since I have, like, no time for or interest in writing substantive literary criticism, I'm going to do them all in the Six Word Story format. Yep, Six Word Reviews, here I come!

Jane Eyre: Never realized this was a comedy... Thumbs up!
The Moonstone: Multiple narrators, achieved in style. Bravo! Thumbs up!
Walden: Treehugger waxes lyrical about being poor. Thumbs up!
The Turn of the Screw: What the hell was that about? Confused thumbs down!

Watch this space for more reviews soon - I think I'm on a roll! And feel free to chime in with your own reviews of these or any other books. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

ps: link to the book lists: