Monthly Archives: February 2010


Links and odds and ends, to share…


Filed under Links

hope, humility, despair, determination, optimism

What I found under the blanket

Starting my novel revision is a start and stop process–I don’t understand how it is that one can spend everyday on novel revision. I can’t figure out what to do and where to go just yet, a feeling I experienced when I embarked on my first draft. I’m feeling…lost.

And I don’t do “lost” very well. I’m a “black and white” person–yes or no, there or here, cold or hot, happy or sad, sort of person. Nothing felt as good as it did when I figured out the structure of my novel, and saw the ending of my novel–it was then that I pummeled away at my keyboard and made steady and consistent and (mostly) joyous writing progress. At times I have to say that it was just…total…bliss, enabled by certainty of plot.

It took me years and years to even accept, and occasionally embrace the “gray” areas of living; that I could acknowledge feeling sad and happy all at once was a huge step in my personal development. Even so, in this “lost” space of initiating revision, I am looking for the parts of my novel that do feel certain: the parts that “work” that “should not be deleted,” and so on and so forth.

I do acknowledge that this feeling of “lostness” is one filled with great potential and opportunity, and even though it fills me with discomfort and uncertainty, I know I need to embrace the sensation and this space where anything is possible (versus my tendency to think that “everything is uncertain”).

There is possibility, and I will wander and explore. Yes I will.

And in the interim–I leave you with this articulate illustration, over at “Modern Conjure,” of what writing a novel can and does feel like. (And yet I still write and find it the most fulfilling thing in the world; even the worst days are amazing when I get to write).

Hope, humility, despair, determination, optimism. Fall down, get up, look forward. My novel is making me a better person.


Filed under Novel, Revision, Writing

umm. ahem. so, uh…um.

How’s it going? How are you? Where are you with your writing? How’s life going for you? What brings you here? What’s your favorite color? Oh? Really? Why are you drawn to that color? Cool. What makes you happy? Have you done that in awhile? What makes you sad? Are you still sad? Or are you happy? Are you enjoying this weather? Yah how’s that weather going? I like your shoes. And your purse. Cute. And dude, I like your jacket. Niiice. Thumbs up. Excellent martini here. Gin, not vodka. So uh, how uh…are you?

Sometimes, figuring out what to post is like making small talk with myself.

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Advice, Software, Tools for Writing

Scarlet reads A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

Reading “A Day In The Life of Alexander Chee” over at Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog, Catching Days is inspiring. If you’re in the midst of writing something, if you’re aspiring to write something, if you’re in the midst of revision…go read it to start off your writing/revision day (as I am, mine).

Alex’s description of his workspace and his discipline is one that will get you itching to work on your manuscript. He has 3 desks for writing (his office, his living room, his kitchen)–so that writing is unavoidable in his home–reminding me of how my father used to come visit my apartment in college, and critique my setup. “The apartment should be about studying,” he would mumble, waving at the desk in my bedroom, setup in the most uncomfortable, unwelcoming corner. He wanted me to put a study desk in my living room, and a study desk in my bedroom, so that I couldn’t avoid studying.

(I now, for the record, have writing spaces in 3 rooms of my home: my office, my dining room, and my bedroom–all set up with the comforts of writing. Dad should be proud).

Another piece of advice that Alex doles out is that one should “Write down the page number where you stop work on your writing, so you can start there again the next day, and not begin on page 1 per the computer’s software. You’ll destroy less of your work that way.” This is something I learned the hard way, destroying much of my work by opening Word to page 1, and machete’ing my way through the manuscript until I arrived at the page I’d last touched the previous day. Valuable advice, especially if you’re writing a novel and can’t afford to machete your work every single morning.

For me, Scrivener has been key to finishing my novel manuscript’s first complete draft, a project that has taken me more than five years to finish, all told, given life’s twists and turns. Before Scrivener, I kept starting my novel over and over, and doing so without a structure in mind. Scrivener’s format is novel-centric; when you think about it, Word just isn’t made to support a longer piece of work. (For one, the doc opens at page 1, and you have to scrrrrrrrrolllll through until you reach page 50, 100, etc.). Word doesn’t have innate support for chapters and doesn’t help you see your novel as a whole. I’m not being paid by anyone to advocate any of the tools I’m mentioning in this post–I don’t think I’d write another novel without Scrivener, though.

Then there’s my Lacie backup drive. Backup your novel. I have immense solace in the fact that my novel is backed up somewhere (and now, also printed out and secure in a bubblope).

Sometimes, in the course of writing this first draft, I got stuck. That’s when Dr. Wicked Write or Die would come in (now in a downloadable desktop version). Write or Die is simple: you give yourself a certain amount of time and the software starts “torturing you” if you STOP typing, the idea being that you’re negating your inner critic by getting the words down before the critic shuns them. Then at the end of your time period, you copy and paste what you wrote into your manuscript. There were a few times I got more writing done in 30 minutes with Dr. Wicked than I got in an entire day other days without Dr. Wicked.

The internet. Other apps on your laptop. Twitter. Facebook. Writeroom (“distraction free writing”) helps you block this all out on your laptop.

Update: Too many of my friends tout Freedom for me to ignore, and thus I’m going to add it as a belated recommendation on my list. I haven’t used it personally but several of my trusted friends have done so, and recommend it highly. It’s supposed to disable networking on your Mac for up to 8 hours (you set the time limit, and the only way to “un-do” the limit is to reboot your Mac). I am afraid to use it because I’m afraid I’d reboot my Mac a kazillion times; Writeroom doesn’t actually turn off the network access, it just has a full screen that helps you “ignore” the internet.

Music. iPod. Pandora. I’ve used them all. Sometimes your novel requires music, other times it requires silence. Sometimes headphones work. Sometimes your novel wants nothing in your ears, just like your novel sometimes prefers that you drink tea and other times juice and other times prefers you totally dehydrated.

Take care of yourself. Sleep. Nurture. Take care of your body–because your mind can’t function with your body, and vice versa. I took up running, but you/your novel might require different.

Last but definitely not least, my friend Randa and I made a pact to write a certain amount of words per week as we both wended our way through our novel first drafts (I started from scratch at the beginning of 2009). We kept each other going through some rough weeks and cheered each other on during great weeks. Get yourself a writing partner–share your word counts (you don’t even have to share your writing). Encourage each other.

Good luck. 🙂 And wish me luck, too, as I revise (and revise and revise)…Hopefully, I’ll be back here in a few months to offer what I learned in the revision process!

Scarlet and The Lost Blogs


Filed under Helpful, Novel, Writing