Monday, July 5, 2010

The Things I Carry

I live in a small apartment. A one bedroomed flat. In many ways, if you look beyond the boring carpet and the renters' white walls, it suits me. There are ample walls for art, the kitchen is adequate, though not great, the walls are thick, so I rarely hear my neighbours.

All in all, if is a fine place to live.

But that's not my issue. It's not the box, but what is inside. I have too much. All of it (or most of it) is beautiful and lovely and means something and it takes up space and I am wondering if my things are keeping people away from me, or if I am using them to find fulfillment that should come from people and not stuff.

I've not had a dinner party at my flat and I've been here almost 4 years. That's a long time to not have people over. It's kinda creepy. I mean, I've had individuals. But I haven't cooked.

That's not me.

I have stuff. Not people. Not even a dog.

And my bags are getting heavy.

I feel heavy.

Finishing the novel I think changed me. I have accomplished something. Completed it. Round one, done. I've talked about it for decades, and now it's done. It's not earthshaking or world changing. I doubt Oprah will ever read it let alone recommend it. But I wrote it. And it is cohesive. Mostly. It needs some nips and tucks. A little weeding and propping and repotting. But it's done. And I wrote it.

So, I look at my house, and I think, I can finish this, too. Things that make me happy, and not things that ought to make me happy. There are things attached to memories, and things attached to people and things just, well, thing-ish. And it is those that need to go. No matter how good they are, valuable, heavy, weighty, important. they are taking up square-footage of my life and I don't need them.

But there's a problem. See, I am always thinking about what's round the corner. Maybe a house. A cottage. This would look fantastic on a porch. I just need to get these framed. I love to eat Tagine.

I have kitchen and housewares the way that some people have clothes that don't fit them in their closets. Too small. No longer in fashion, but one day and they're good quality. I bought this for an event I never went to. Well, one day we'll all dress up and go to the opera.

Much of it doesn't suit my life just now. I can't put shelves up in a rental. I don't have a porch. I've never made fondue. I wouldn't put cookies in the cookie jars and don't have a Welsh cupboard to display them.

So, I think, starting tomorrow, I will cull one item a day, 7 items a week, for, oh, 2 months. I'll start there. And they have to leave the house - a Goodwill Run or Friends of the Library Store trip once a week.

Who will join me in this challenge?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Draft. Finished. Complete. Done. Over.

As of 10 PM on 25 June, 2010, I became the proud "owner" of a completed manuscript.

Completed first-draft.

I wrote The End.

Well, Y made me go back and write, The End, after I had saved everything and closed down the file with a satisfied smile on my face.

So, I had to open everything back up and then re-save to my thumb drive. The End had to be backed up in case of fire.

Of course, as I was writing the last chapter, all I could think was, I write crap, I write crap, I will never be Jenny Crusie when I grow up because I write crap.

Maybe one day. Maybe some day. I will actually think, no, this is ok. But not last night. Not today.

Not when I am thinking about conflict and theme and core story and all that kind of thing. Not when I am thinking, I haven't any of that. I couldn't identify it in the novels and shortstories Dr Galvin had us read in 11th and 12th grades and I'm not certain I can identify it in my own book.

So don't ask me.

But all that aside. All that ignored. I completed my first novel and I am really rather dead chuffed with myself.

I told the Crit Group. The Rockville 8.

We yahooed.

I told my family. I called a friend. I wrote Joe.

I made an appointment to meet with an editor at RWA.

(Oh shit. What was I thinking?)

But my book is written. Far far far from complete. But it is written. It is The Ended.

I am now a novelist.

With my very own, hand-written, brand-spanking-new Novel.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On Needing Alan

Perhaps this should be a short one.

Today, I read Shakespeare and in my mind heard Alan Rickman reading it. There was lots of moan and moaning and even a bemoaned (emph on the ed) and woe. O and Alan Rickman. They are good friends of mine.

Especially when they come together.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Afraid of the Finish

2.5 months later...

And writing is still hard. But I've done it. I have written nearly 30K in this time. And despite the bears scaring the hell out of M and me in Massanutten, despite being distracted, despite my crit group tearing up what I wrote and having visceral reactions to my hero and heroine, despite fear over my finances and job prospects, despite all this. I kept writing.

And now, dark moment idea'd but not perfectly formed, I am in the home stretch and I am finding it so difficult. I mean, wow. Time for a whinge because I am not racing towards that end. I am not seeing it and thinking, Yahoo! I am a novelist! I am a finisher!! Instead, I am thinking, a handful of scenes from the end, why am I doing this and what is the point and why finish it.

oh. hell.

I recently put a post up on my other blog ( ) about becoming a finisher. That the only sure-fire way to getting published was finishing the novel. And now that I am within spit of it, I am slowing down. I am gazing at it. I am looking at the finish line and the prize and wondering, really, is it worth it? I am so ready for the snide comments, for the dismissal, for the "so what? wait til you've finished the 20th" that I am not wanting to keep going.

Suddenly, I am afraid. Really afraid. I mean, I've gotten over the hump of telling people I write Romance and want to publish with Harlequin Presents. I'm telling everyone. No matter how much I respect them, no matter how long I've known them - or in what context, no matter how much money they make or how successful they are. I am telling them that yes, I am writing a romance novel. A Presents. White cover with a circular illustration.

And you know what? Everyone, everyone, even if they have never read a romance, tells me, great and congrats and I'll read yours when it's published. So why why why am I so afraid of this finish line? Why am I so afraid of completing this project? Why am I such a yella-bellied scaredy-cat?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

omg why is writing so hard???

OK, ok. I realize that it has been ALMOST TWO WEEKS since I last wrote. I get that. I am bad bad bad. Naughty Zjazja, that's me! And still, and yet, I am only at 33,500! I coulda sworn once I finished (and I think I am the one that's finished) writing this week's installment, I'd be at 35large. But no. Not quite to THAT milestone!!!
And I was writing sex and conflict and secrets and things that are meant to be All Good in a novel. If they are so blasted All Good, than why the heck are they sooooo difficult to craft? (And I do mean CRAFT). With chisel and hammer and dust and sweat. It is so Miller time (or in my case, Celestial Season's finest Peppermint Tea time. And I am still not fully satisfied with the chapter. I am still wanting to pull that puppy up and go through it again. I need to add more finesse, more tension, more sinew, and perhaps less cool tightening gasp gaze hand slide glide hips cushion glass.
Dean Koontz, mr i-don't-move-on-to-the-next-page-until-this-one-is-perfect, I am not. But, still, it tingles at me, that chapter. It is not finished and yet I hit send and off the scenes went to the R8, and I am left wanting to call them back, snap them back like a yoyo, whip them back cos they just aren't ready yet!
(oops, language!)
But I committed. I said I was submitting. Final polish or no, I had to. I had no choice. If I plan to move forward, if I plan to have plans, then I had to follow through with my commitment.
This weekend, as I read Agnes and the Hitman (Crusie/Mayer) and wrote and tidied and cooked (whoever can read Agnes without cooking breakfast is either much stronger then I or has no imagination and the book is probably lost on them anyway), I thought, seriously, ZZ, what are your goals? What do I want to acheive? Why are you spending this time writing? What do I want? I want to write. I want to finish this ms. I want to buy a house. I want kids. Can one lead to the other? Can I write and have that pay for a house? Afford kids?
Maybe even a dog?
Maybe. Perhaps. If I finish it and revise it and revise it again and maybe tweak it one more time. and then LAAAHHHH!! if the heavens open and the editing hoardes pour forth, grant me the good blessing to read it and then bestow upon me the most sought after words in all publishing history: I'll buy it. Then, after much shock and hoopla and more than a little champagne, what is left of my advance might buy me some new shoes and a month's health insurance. Maybe even a few month's rent if the magic truly is released.

But can I do it four times in one year? Every year. Even if smoke emerges from my laptop and the writing gets really really difficult and I can't come up with another word for slick thick stroke look anger languid heat?

Can I? or even, Will I?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Perambulating Around the Point

Have you had one of these days at work recently? A day with a full desk, a dozen ongoing tasks, at least 3 immediate ones, access to email, jefe leaning over your shoulder, and the attention span of a three-month old golden retriever combined with the energy level of your average possum? Classic symptoms of adult-onset attention deficit inactivity disorder - ADID.

Yes. This was me on Friday. Currently, my office is whichever fine dining or drinking establishment that comes equipped with outlets and wifi. This allows me to move about and get refills, look at sale merchandise, or perhaps order another orange scone. And my current task - this combines the dozen ongoing and the three immediate - is to fill in 20 thousand blanks.

Each blank, of course, is a word. A word that must be plucked out of thin air (or as Dr. Galvin insisted, my collective past) and placed carefully on the page. Of course, there will surely be the requisite thes, ands, hes and mobiles, plus a smattering of queridas and Dios' (sometimes accompanying madre de). There will be phrases like "golden eyes gone molten" and "with shaking hands." Easy-peasy, some would say. (They are the same ones who exclaimed how on earth I could possibly write a novel "complete with character arcs" with only 50 thousand words. As though that weren't enough time to get the characters across a street let alone to evolve.) Of course, right then, on Friday, I almost wanted to throw in a scene or two of them walking back and forth across some street or boulevard because I couldn't find the next sentence that would move the story forward.

I sat there, staring up into Ste Exupery's cluttered atmosphere and wondered how I could possibly make that chaos into not only coherent sentences, but satisfying scenes that culminated into a happily ever after. (HEA, for those in the know.) Because much is dependent on that HEA. You may even feel a little pitty for the 20K blanks for having so much riding on them. The reader's satisfaction and trust. The writer's ability to pay rent. The editor's trust in the writer...

Last night, I attended a Berta Rojas concert, a classical guitarist from Paraguay. It was extraordinary. Amazing. Before Rojas performed each piece, she would first still the strings. Because if she didn't, they would hum, softly. And that hum is not part of the song. Maybe only she could feel them as she held the guitar, but as soon as she stilled them, the air became silent.

She would begin each song with a silent guitar and end each song with a note's full vibration. When she finished and struck the final note, she allowed it to continue and continue, and her face and her body would curl into her instrument and I would want to shout Is that it? because the anticipation was too much and I didn't know if I should clap or breathe or listen harder. I had to wait for her to raise her head because even if I could no longer hear the note, Berta could still feel its vibration and until it was completely silent, the song had not yet ended.

When I look at those 20K blanks in my immediate future, I feel as though the page is humming. I am past the mid-point of my novel, the stakes have continued to rise, and my characters need to be twisted even tighter so that the climax will carry the reader straight through to anticipating my next book. I think my ADID on Friday stymied my ability to differentiate between the need to simply lay my hand across a page and silence the past whispers or find the actual echo of my last note and coax it into an audible sound. I realized, listening to Berta Rojas play, that like her and her guitar, I am the only one in control of my pages; I can silence them or fill them with words. Or I can get up and get another refill of Pepsi.

What do you do when you find yourself in this place - of knowing that you are the only available to complete the task, that you actually can complete it, but are immobilized by what is riding on its outcome?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Starbucks said k thx bye

There was no room at the Starbucks today. Made me sad. Made me really really really really miss Perfect Pot in Portland. Made me miss Portland and its plethora of welcoming coffee shops with their square tables and bottomless cups of coffee and vegan muffins and room to write without people glaring at you because you have been sitting beside the ONE of TWO flipping outlets in the whole entire enormous coffeeshop.

Pls 'splain to me: why offer free wifi and no electricity?

So today, between a full Starbucks and a closed Starbucks, I ended up at Paneras. I had to sit at a table w/ no outlet, but it didna matter. Cos I wrote. 726 new and 1679 revised. Woohoo. I think I even have a solid scene and know where I am going forward and backwards. Psych. Might get this puppy finished any ol way!

OK. Maybe this is not a terrifically rounded post, but hell, I wrote. And wore work clothes. And ate a salad. (and a scone and a bagel). I also read. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen. But I mostly stayed offline. And I wrote. A lot. So, yea me!! I almost felt like I was working! Like I deserved to breathe. Like I had a purpose.