Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Archive for the tag “editing”

Julie, Not On Display

TODAY’S BREW: cupcakes.

By Julie

The world has gone mad. If riots in the streets were the least of our worries, the sun could shine more brightly, but instead we have been cast into the gloom of an orange glow that is so tremendous it flays us alive. And we did it to ourselves.

In the midst of this terror, you wonder, WHERE IS JULIE HUTCHINGS? WHAT DOES SHE THINK? WHAT IS SHE DOING IN THIS, THE DAWN OF OUR FINAL DAYS?

Oh, I’ve been kickin’ it, you know?

I unplugged an awful lot. (See also: “Are you on Facebook?” “BAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! gasp. BAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” and “Did you see that tweet?” “NO! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”) Part of that was relieving myself of the brain-insistence that the universe will turn to goo if I don’t blog on a regular schedule, if I don’t answer emails for a day, if I go for even a couple of days without opening my laptop.

Not just for political reasons, but personal reasons. I needed to occupy my own headspace , remember who I was before people on the other side of the screen existed, and wow, do I feel like Julie.

SORRY, WORLD.

You know what I’ve been up to? Making like, 3 dozen cupcakes at a time with my kids. I got a tortoise (he’s kind of a jerk and it is the best thing ever). I’m editing for clients like WHOA. (hit me up, writers. My rate could change come January.) I did stuff like buy new curtains, get rid of old furniture, things that exist and affect me in my personal space. I’ve been writing (though not as much as I’d like) and planning my next books. I’ve been going to the park even when it’s too cold to feel my fingers. I’ve been reading. I’ve been teaching writing courses and helping the elementary kids with their writing at the boys’ school. I’ve been breathing and doing one thing at a time.

I couldn’t recall the last time I’d done one thing at a time.

I’ve been doing things for folks that have helped me when I was down.

I’ve been watching TV.

I’ve been Christmas shopping. (too much)

I’ve been breathing and enjoying everything.

I’ve been writing in notebooks rather than on my laptop a lot and that feels so grass roots and like home that I could just cry.

Anyway, I now feel like I’ve rested, and that I can weave blogging in a lot more without wanting to close the door and not speak for the rest of the day. I want to share with you guys again. But for a while, I just wanted to be happy with my family and friends in my physical life and be Julie, not on display.

But now ROGUE ONE is coming out, and I can’t make any promises. I live at the movie theater now.

 

The Zen of Kicking Ass with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: I took Juan Valdez’s donkey and I just squeezed.

By Julie

I missed you guys.

Blogging for me was a business strategy. Kristen and I wanted to make it as writers and knew we needed a platform. I had no idea that blogging would bring out a new side of me as a writer, one that connected to a community sometimes with my ugliest side(s).

So stepping away from blogging for so long, when I had been meticulous with the schedule was very, very difficult. But I couldn’t do it all anymore. I couldn’t blog once or twice a week, write a book–no, two books!–no, three books! I CAN WRITE A HUNDRED BOOKS AT ONCE!, edit for clients (which is the same amount of energy as writing a book), run the Scholastic book fair, be Most Involved Mom Ever and survive. I had a nervous breakdown, which I did a post about. My last post, actually.

But guys, things are better. Not just better–they’re GOOD. I see a therapist now, just for ME. Not for my marriage, not for my child, but for me. I realized that not blogging would not end time as I know it. I wouldn’t lose anyone. I missed deadlines. For interviews, editing, my own for writing…. And everyone was like, “yeah, that’s okay, just be better.” I thought for sure I would be screwing up; everyone’s lives. I gave myself a goddamn break. And everything is better because of it.

Even my books are fine. They’re still there, waiting for me to finish up all in good time. I don’t need to produce at the fastest rate humanly possible. I NEED to enjoy the process. I can be tired to write. I wrote all of RUNNING HOME and half of RUNNING AWAY after 10 hour shifts in retail, after being awake since the crack of dawn with an infant. But I can’t write well when I’m spent. I shouldn’t say I can’t write well–I do, I do write well, but I don’t write at my best, even when I think I am. THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS is a good damn book, one I’m uber proud of and was so sure was ready for an agent. A lot of agents thought so, too. Amazing agents, including my dream agent read the full manuscript, and all were torn, but all of them just found something MISSING.

One would think this would be heartbreaking for me, and sure, the dream agent passing on the book was. But I got over it, and I’m revising the book–based on what I think it should be better at–and I realized that the book was the best I was capable of AT THE TIME, which is still goddamn good, but I was spread too thin. It’s difficult when your best work isn’t your best but still damn good because you can’t recognize the troubles within. It’s the A+ student who suddenly gets a B and has a heart attack–still good, but not good enough. It breaks you for a minute, but you take the next test. Because you have to. Because being that good is a commitment.

Totally off the subject–I get to do that because this is the first blog I’ve written in months–yeah, I just said a few times that I’m a good writer. I am. IT’S NOT JUST OKAY BUT ACTUALLY RECOMMENDED TO CHAMPION YOURSELF. Being your own worst critic is fine or whatever–I prefer to be my own best friend. I wouldn’t be nasty to a friend about their writing, and I won’t do it to myself. Not for that or anything else.

ANYWAY. I’ve felt really well-balanced for two weeks today. I count it like someone sobering up would. Two weeks where I didn’t feel like I was hanging on by a thread. Where I woke up happy instead of feeling like I was fighting against my life from the second I opened my eyes. I’m starting to feel like I can do anything again–a dangerous feeling if I didn’t learn a lesson so well.

So, you’ll be seeing more of me ’round these parts. Talking about writing, dropping wisdom and stuff, telling you my dark and uglies. You know, I never got the appeal of Howard Stern until I started working at becoming a public figure. He HAS to be himself, let the ugliest sides of himself show and highlight them like it’s the best fucking thing ever. I kind of get it now. I mean, he’s still a pig? But he refuses to be ashamed of anything about himself, and that’s awesome. I think of him sometimes when I talk about my raging hormones, my crippling anxiety (which is doing much better), being the poster girl for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, mistakes I’ve made, the weird crap I like. This is me. I like myself a whole lot, and I do what I want to do. I can apologize for mistakes I’ve made, but I won’t apologize for who I am. Who I am is pretty goddamn fantastic, dark and uglies and all.

Thanks for sticking around, folks. I look forward to kicking some ass for you on the regular.

 

 

 

Julie Gets Sappy About Living the Dream

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Cappuccino Something or Other

By Julie

Work/Life Balance is this unicorn everyone is always chasing, correct?

I finally have it.

I almost said I “think” I finally have it, but no. I do. I have it. At least for now. I might lose it again, but looking for it is fun, too. Trying to achieve is never a bad feeling. Exhausting, sure. But not bad.

Last night a book club in my neighborhood that’s been meeting for twelve years brought me to dinner (lobster ravioli and harvest sangria), and these wonderful women not only read RUNNING HOME, but loved it. We talked books, and the neighborhood, and kids, and I talked shop about being an author and that it’s what I’ve always wanted to do my entire life, and that I went to school for it, and that I had a great job and I got rid of it and we laughed and I was so happy. So grateful.

It’s one thing to be recognized in the world of publishing as a solid author. It’s another thing when your neighbors and the community you live in recognize that this is YOU.

Yesterday afternoon after school one of Bennett’s classmates came up to me and said, “I learned today that you’re a writer and you’re coming to talk to my class.” My heart stopped as it does every time one of these kids finds this out.

Friday I get to go to Bennett’s class and talk for an hour about drafting. They came home with packets about how a particular author they’re reading developed her novel through five drafts. I get to show these incredible kids and their incredible teacher that there’s not just one way to write the story you want to write. Everyone has their own process, everyone finds it on their own by trying. That getting it “wrong” in the first draft is an illusion–that the first draft is telling yourself the story, and every draft after that is about making it what you want it to be. Drafting, editing, revising–it isn’t about fixing what’s wrong. It’s about knowing what you want it to be and shaping it to be that. By your standards and nobody else’s.

I do a lot in a day. It’s not always easy, but greatness rarely is. Greatness by my standard–no one else’s. I get to bring my babies to school every day and bring them home. I got to carve pumpkins with Sam’s class on Friday, and host a giant trick or treating parade Saturday night. I learned that a novel I edited was nominated for the Bath Novel Award. I made scrapbooks with my kids and watched movies all weekend and write in short spurts, making every word count. Every single day we go to the park after school and my kids and their little troupe leave the swings behind and play in the woods, and their parents and I have made these amazing friendships while our kids play together. And while I worry about Christmas money and car inspections and new tires and rent, I remember that amazing literary agents are reading my latest novel, one that I believe strongly in, and growth comes with growing pains. And I remember that living the dream is exactly that–living it. Not getting it. But getting there. I want all these things: the bonding, the creativity, the time, the comfort. I’ve worked for it, I’ll work to keep it, and I’ll work to make it better all the time. Success for me comes in succeeding, and in all the steps it takes to get there. Feeling all the rocks underfoot in the road and smiling at the potholes. The potholes are deep, but my strength runs deeper.

Work/Life Balance isn’t just about time for me. It’s about meaning. Doing something meaningful myself, showing my family and community that they’re a part of that every step of the way. Seeing all the parts form the whole. The whole is my standard, and no one else’s.

The Illusion of Routine and the Mad Scientist Mom by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin FacePunch. (This is what I named it because it is SO pumpkiny.)

By Julie

I realized a few minutes ago as I woke up and cleaned the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee that I reheated from last night’s pot, listening to the kids fight over Matchbox cars as they slam onto the wood floor, that this is not what I usually do.

I also realized that what I usually do is an illusion. I have an ideal of what I want to do every morning, a routine that I like to think of as mine: Make the coffee, clean one chosen thing and make breakfasts while I wait for it to brew, do 20 pushups before I sit down to edit while the kids watch TV before school. But this is not even MY ideal.

This is me, working around a series of non-negotiables and squeezing in time to do what I want to do, which is write 1000 words, edit for clients, drink my coffee in peace and—happens AROUND the non-negotiables.

I also realized that my ideal routine—and I’m not talking about My Perfect Day Routine If I Was Only One Thing and Not Twenty Each Day—my ideal routine that involves the things I need to do and want to do and the incidentals that prevent me from doing them seamlessly DOESN’T WORK.

It’s okay that it doesn’t work. Routines need to change consistently as your non-negotiables grow and real life gets in the way. I’ve always been of the mindset that you need to change your routine or things will always go exactly the same.

I can’t do anything NEW if I do everything the same.

I can’t grow if I don’t implement change.

I can’t be excited about doing if I’m always doing the same things.

If I really change my routine all the time then routine becomes experiment—and experiments fail.

To be clear, I’m happy. My stuff—all my stuff—is working. But it could work better. This is the first month of school drawing to a close. All new routines for everyone in the house. I am the captain of the routines—their routines are dependent upon my implementation. So now that I have found what works for my family, I have to adjust my routine accordingly.

I don’t come first in the planning scenario. That’s okay. I’m going into October with a few new thoughts:

  • MY time and needs are still important and non-negotiable despite being the last to get planned. Timing and importance are not the same thing.
  • Having multiple routines in the house that I am the captain of means that I have a crew. A crew means that everyone has responsibility that I hold them accountable for. The new change that I have to implement is that responsibilities are not favors to me—they’re important to everyone. (Bringing dishes to the sink and navigating your own quiet time are responsibilities to yourselves, kids. Not favors to me.)
  • My time to do necessary things needs to feel less like stolen moments—even if they are. Otherwise my time to do stuff I just feel like doing makes me resentful.
  • Implementing accountability and realization of responsibilities for a whole family takes time. If I don’t take the time to set those up now in light of all the new stuff we’re doing, I will regret it later. Also known as: THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHORE CHART WHICH NEVER WORKED ANYWAY.
  • CHECKLISTS AND CALENDARS AND ROUTINES ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Chew on that one for a while, organization freaks.

I guess at the end of this whole seemingly well-organized ramble, what I’ve realized is that my responsibilities need to be as important to my family as theirs are to me. We’re a crew. While writing, editing, and all the things that contribute to that are MINE and belong to me alone, respecting what each of us does as individuals on the crew has always been part of our routine. Growing how we view each other’s non-negotiables is how we grow our respect for each other and ourselves. It’s that perfect balance of routine and individuality and growing great kids that value themselves and people that I don’t just want and demand, but that I’ve already started. This is the next stage. Life is an experiment and one that almost never seems to totally blow up on me, so I look forward to this next phase of life with a smile on my face and a stack of calendars and lists in my hand.

On Apologizing For Writing by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Milk Shake. Thank you, Target.

By Julie

“Remember, this is only a first draft.”

“I should have gone over it one more time before giving it to anyone.”

“I can’t believe I wrote that.”

“Reading my first book is so embarrassing.”

These are just a few of the things I hear writers say every single day. I’m guilty, too, but then I shut my damn face because every once in a while something like this happens:

“I followed you on Twitter because you remind me of the character I just wrote in my book, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS.”

“You wrote a book??? That’s awesome!”

She didn’t say:

  • “WHO IS YOUR AGENT?”
  • “WHAT PUBLISHING HOUSE PICKED YOU UP?”
  • “IS IT A NY TIMES BEST SELLER?”
  • “IS THERE EVEN ONE TYPO IN IT?”
  • “ARE YOUR CHARACTERS ONE DIMENSIONAL?”
  • “WELL, DOES ANYONE ELSE LIKE IT?”

None of these things came up. She just said “you wrote a book? That’s awesome!”

You know what? The book could be about frigging cats that sell hot dogs to the Taliban, and if I wrote it from beginning to end, if I committed to completing it and stuck to that idea enough to make it real, even if it was just for my own eyes, THAT IS AWESOME.

*slaps you* GODDAMMIT YOU LISTEN TO ME.

DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR THE THING YOU CREATED.

YOU BROUGHT A THING TO LIFE.

A THING THAT DIDN’T EXIST EVEN IN THEORY BEFORE YOU DID IT.

DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR MAKING THINGS.

DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR NOT BEING BETTER.

YOU’RE A CREATOR. FEEL AWESOME ABOUT IT.

Get Edited!

Today’s Brew:  All the tea in China. I’ve been nursing a serious tea addiction lately. I hardly even drink coffee anymore.

by Kristen

Hi!  I haven’t posted anything here in a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been around. As you know, we are pretty much snowbound in Massachusetts, with 8 feet of snow falling in something like 3 weeks. Public transit is crippled, giant snow drifts make driving dangerous, and my downstairs neighbors now live in an igloo.

snow

The windows you see are on the second floor. The first floor is completely buried.

 

So I’ve been behind the screen, typing madly away during my slow season at the day job. I mean, what production in their right mind would want to try film under these conditions? (There are a couple happening in town right now, but all my jobs have been inside lately. Thank GOD.)

I’ve completed two new projects! Yes!  The next book in The Night Songs Collection, and a new novella in Colorado Shifters.  I’m currently working on a sexy shifter short (say that five times fast) for box set.

But enough about me, I want to talk about you.

After a busy fall, I took some time to catch up on social media to see what ya’ll are up to. Yeah, I stalked you. Get over it.  It’s awesome to see the books that I remember you guys outlining coming out in the world!  It’s like watching people’s kids grow up.

But I also see some people who are faithfully revising the same manuscript they were working on when I met them a couple years ago. You guys are the ones I want to talk to today.  Or maybe you’re a new writer, and you’re nervous about showing other people your work.

I want to encourage you to take the next step. Let’s get some eyes on this puppy. I don’t mean your friends, I mean critique partners and developmental editors. Yes, I know your heart might stop beating for a minute when you hit send, and you’ll freak out like Julie and I used to when we were working on Because the Night and Running Home. But dooooo eeet.

Some of you might be published for the very first time when you submit to Julie’s Flash Fiction Showcase next month. Fuck yeah. Julie and I are very proud to be your first. That didn’t sound creepy at all. We’ve been the home of many first timers, like Beau Barnett and Zoey Derrick, who is now a publishing rock star!  I want to be Zoey when I grow up. For real.

Everyone says keep writing! More words will make you better! That’s true, but more editing is where you’re really going to grow.

Getting edited made me a better writer.

You might know that I write a lot. The word machine has been thrown around once or twice. So how do I do it?  Yes, butt in chair, of course. Now that I’ve had ten books (full length and novellas) edited, I am aware of my weaknesses. I love to put a comma after dialog when there’s no dialog tag. For example: “Kristen sucks at grammar,” She sipped her tea. I want an app that will give me an electric shock every time I do that. I love, love, love the word just. I used it four times in two sentences once. Call Guinness, please. I used to have my characters make their way places instead of walk or enter or simply (I almost typed just) go.

These are all things my editors have had to break me of like a wild mare.

Now, I don’t do them anymore. Well, I still love just. Me and just are BFFs. What does that really mean for my manuscripts? My editors can concentrate on things that really matter, like character development, plot, and flow.

When those notes come back, I work on strengthening those things. The next story, I’m aware of what I did wrong last time, and I can correct it in the first couple of drafts.  Now, my editors can go even deeper.

I can say with absolute certainty that the first draft of the story I’m working on now is light years better than the first draft of Because the Night. (God, that thing. I found the print out of it when I was cleaning my office, and I wanted to die of embarrassment reading it to myself.)

Another thing that will make you a better writer is critiquing your peers’ work. Everyone’s got their own personal just and making their way. Seeing other people’s work in this raw stage was so helpful for me. Helping other people weed out passive wording or repetitiveness made me aware of when I was slipping that shiz into my own work. I was able to obliterate it in draft one.  I learn more from doing this than I do from reading masterpieces.

You might not think you’re ready for editing, but what do you have to lose? A fresh, honest set of eyes are going to help you get ready for the next step.  You write alone, but you publish with a team.  If you’re thinking of submitting to the March Madness Flash Fiction Showcase, do it.  Let’s get these stories out in the world.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got lion smut to write and zumba to do.

 

 

Patience and Publication

Today’s Brew: I bought Bailey’s Vanilla Brown Sugar creamer and it takes over everything.

by Kristen

Our friend Summer Weir announced her book deal this week. On it’s own, it’s amazing news. But Summer’s story of her road to publication really struck a chord with me.

When Julie and I started writing together, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to finish a book. Julie, on the other hand, was one driven mo-fo. She had already had begun researching how to get an agent when I was still in the “well I’ve got this really hot guy I want to write about” stage. She told me about self-publishing, and even though somewhere deep in my heart, I knew this might be a valid option for me, her pure enthusiasm about the prospect of getting an agent and a publisher seduced me. Once I thought I was ready for an agent, I started querying.

Here’s what Summer says:

My original intent was to self-publish right off the bat. It was a business decision. I know about marketing, promoting and social media, so to make better royalties on my own made sense. But I had a friend who suggested I try to get an agent. Because that’s what people who write books do, right? (As you can tell, at the time, I had no idea what people who write books actually do lol.)

Once I decide I want something, dude, get out of the way. I will run you over. I read everything I could find about how to get a book ready for publication. I entered contests. I got critiques.  I queried. I had an agent.  But ultimately, I decided the best place for me was self-publishing.  Two factors: timing and control.

Had I gone straight to self-publishing and put out my book in the summer of 2012…oh my God. Oh. My. God. I found an early draft of Because the Night, which at the time was called Immortal Dilemma, when I cleaned my office a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t even read it. At the time, it was the best I could do, and damn, I was proud of that manuscipt. But it needed work. So much work. It needed those rejections, critiques, and revisions that made me want to put my head in the oven.  Why? Those characters had become an extension of me, and I was way too close to them to see their flaws. When people  pointed them out, wow, it hurt. But together, we worked on things. Now, the central theme of the book is still there, but otherwise, it’s not the same book at all.

Here’s what Summer says:

So as I revised, I participated in writing workshops, agent boot camps, contests and pitch sessions. I swore I wasn’t going to be a victim of first-manuscript-shelving-syndrome, and so I found CPs, betas, and hired a couple editors as professional insight of how I could better my ms…During this time, I read a lot of industry advice, blogs, expert opinions etc as I tried to make sense of the whole process. I realized it didn’t matter what worked for everyone else, I had to figure out what I wanted for my book and for myself (my career).

Even though Summer and I write different things and are taking paths, our journeys and thought processes are very similar.

Now I that I have my self-publishing team in place, my books go straight into that process. Even though it’s called SELF-publishing, like Summer says, it takes a village. Chuck Wendig is probably more correct in calling indie authors author-publishers because not only are you producing a book, you’re overseeing the entire publishing process. I can do this now because of the path I took with Because the Night. I am pretty sure I made all the mistakes with that book, even creating some new ones along the way. (Hey, I’m a trailblazer). They were hard lessons, accompanied by a lot of tears and beers, but I learned from them.  I like to think I’m a better writer because of them.  I want each book I write to get stronger and better.

It gets frustrating to be patient. I hate patient. It’s up there with going to the dentist for me. But the critique/beta/rejection process is so important, because this is what actually gets your book ready for the publication process.  It makes you a better writer. You need to know how to take constructive criticism and revise before you work with an editor. You need your editor to have the best possible playing field to work with before she even touches your book, so she can work on making your story sing.  No matter how we decide to publish our book, this is one part of the road we all share.

 

 

Getting the Point Across in a Hurry

Today’s Brew:  I’m not sure coffee is going to cut it today.

by Kristen

Sure, I did get to go to the beach with Johnny Depp this summer (but it was Revere Beach and he was in costume as Whitey Bulger), but for the most part, my job isn’t that glamorous.  I do a lot of corporate work, and my job is to make sure CEOs don’t get shiny when they sit in front of a green screen and read from a Teleprompter.

One of my regular clients asked me to do one of these jobs over the weekend. I actually like corporate work.  The productions are usually small, everyone is nice, and the hours aren’t crazy long.  Since this one was for a medical company, I got to do some wound and bruise work  (Yesssssssss!).

When the spokeswoman began to read the copy from the Prompter, the director stopped her.

“We need to fix this,” she said.

Once the script was  read out loud, the problems came to light.  There were many repeated words, and three sentences were being used when one would have got the message across. It had a sing-songy rhythm.  This was a sales video aimed towards medical professionals. Busy people who don’t have time to waste. Every word needs to do a job, and do it quickly.

As they started to work through the script, I asked if I could join in. The director knew that I wrote, and was happy for the help. We all worked together, eliminating redundancy, unnecessary backstory, and weak wording.  One sentence read “Blah blah product is unique.”

Unique means nothing. You could put any adjective at the end of that sentence and it would have as much meaning as unique.

Show me why it’s unique.

We took that word out, and went straight to the features that made this product unique.  “Blah blah product does this and doesn’t do this.”  Take away: this product is unique.

Some voice-overs were meant to compliment power point presentations. We gave the words purpose, didn’t repeat the information the viewer could see, and didn’t complicate things.

By doing all of this, we cut the length of the video significantly. Not only did we save people time, but we ensured that the viewer would actually make it to the end of the video, taking away the message the company meant to convey, and hopefully be excited about the product.

This all made me think a lot about Pitch Wars. (waves to anyone who is considering entering.)  You’re selling your story. You’re pitching mentors, and once you’re published, you need to sell readers on your book and then keep them reading.

You get so close to your own work, and it can be  hard to see clutter and confusion on your own. These things will help make sure everything works:

  • Read your work out loud to someone else. Have them listen for clarity.
  • Make sure you have a variety of sentence lengths.
  • Give every word power. Eliminate weak words that tell or aren’t specific.
  • Once you use a descriptive word in a scene, try not to use it again.
  • Get to the point. Give backstory only when needed. Keep description lean.

Happy editing!

 

 

The WereMerUnicorn That is the Perfect Writing Time

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Pie Coolatta! THAT IS A THING.

By Julie

Oh, summer. Your blazing death rays and constant reminder that I should be Doing Things is nigh.

This girl is a lover of rain and cold. The hoodie and the hot coffee, curled up with a book or a movie, scribbling away in a notebook about all the new ideas that the bright colors outside framed against the iron gray sky sparked in me.

Things that do not mix well with me: HOT, BRIGHT AND LOUD.

Not to mention that I am the twenty-four hour entertainment system in place for Bennett starting in 5 days. Any semblance of a writing schedule I had is as lost as the sweatpants I won’t be able to bear for the next three months. That being said, I’m actually…..looking forward to summer a little this year??

The kids are of the age where we can do things together that don’t necessarily involve me carrying a caravan of supplies with me. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. This also involves not having to carry a child. This is the first year I haven’t had to do it in too many.

But the writing and editing. This needs to have a place in my life every single day. My former go-to schedule of waking up at 5 to get things done before the kids wake up is not going to work every day this summer, what with Sam’s sleep habits which are another story altogether. I’m too exhausted at the end of the day to write anything of quality, but I can edit at that time. I have the senses about me to do that well.

But if I can’t write in the morning, and I can’t write in the afternoon because I’m Doing Things, and I can’t write at night–

WHEN THE HELL DO I WRITE?

I love a schedule. Routine and me are the best of friends. Change and me? Not as much. But you not what I love more than routine and what is more important than holding a grudge against change in my day? My writing. This book that I’m working on. They’re critical in my life.

I’m coming to realize that having a cut-out writing time is something I may not have the luxury of this summer. Then I realized–I haven’t had cut-out writing time for a looooooong tiiiiiiime. But I still write.

THEN I realized that like parenting and eating and breathing, writing finds its way into my day one way or another, forcing itself out there like that cougar neighbor of yours who never quits.

AND THEN I realized that the perfect writing time is just like having the perfect writing space–free of toys, clear of a stack of bills, with your favorite comfy blanket and your favorite pen and your favorite songs playing and your favorite unicorn riding into the sunset while you have your favorite piece of pizza delivered to you by your favorite Robert Downey Jr. THIS IS ALL A LIE THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AND IF IT EVER DID YOU ARE SO LUCKY. The Perfect Writing Space is a MYTH, people. Even if you are lucky enough to have this tranquil nook that you can escape to in order to spill out the words, once you get there, the words are GONE. Or you’re too tired to do it. Or you’d rather read and be on social media. I KNOW IT’S TRUE, I SEE YOU ON TWITTER.

My routine this summer is going to be digging for the treasure of that 1000 words a day between going to the park, the beach, Walmart, Anywhere Air Conditioned, not to mention the Things That Keep Your Home Somewhat Liveable. So, I’ll be the mom at the park writing like a fiend under a tree BECAUSE MY KIDS CAN PLAY FREELY NOW. I’ll be writing notes that I can type in faster than fast later that night while they eat dinner. I’ll be reading, because reading is the first half of writing–at the park, in line, in the car while they nap after all that playing and having fun with Mama.

This book I’m writing is non-negotiable. It’s screaming for air. And I’ve long since learned that showing your kids that you have a passion is as important in parenting as playing Legos with them. They need to see me say when we get home, “All right, Mama needs one half hour (which will become 15 minutes) to write. Time me!” And I’ll be running word sprints with them. Reporting into them what I’ve gotten done as much as I do Twitter. It’s all an experiment, but so is writing and parenting.

The moral of the story, those of you who dread summer as much as love it, is that your feelings on how much you need to write or do whatever it is that makes your heart tick, needs to be weaker than your determination to do it. Get yourself into Creation Survival Mode. Be Spartan in what you need to get it done. And see how bare your art comes out and how clean you feel when it’s done.

How To Be A Mad Scientist

TODAY’S BREW: Cinnamon Pecan Pleasantries. (I added the “Pleasantries.” It sounds better.)

By Julie

I’ve been in the house A LOT. Between editing THE ANIMAL immediately after finishing RUNNING AWAY, and editing for clients the whole time, along with a new schedule around here, I’ve been grounded. Kristen has felt the same way, and with the weather warming up, it makes us both restless on top of it.

With every edit I do, I’ve been getting the itch to write something new, desperate for that clacking of the keys for an extended time, instead of just the occasional line here or there. Being trapped in the house doesn’t exactly lend itself to creativity always, but it doesn’t have to detract from it either. The job of the writer is to make the ordinary into something deliciously new. Make the flatline start beeping again. Kick over the anthill to see what’s inside. (It’s ants.)

The creative person needs to change their world, not wait for their world to change for them. Such is my epic hatred for the “finding of the muse” that so many talk about. You control your creativity, no fucking mythical bitch is going to bring it to you. The creative type is a warrior, fighting for their voice to be heard, not the princess waiting to be saved. You want inspiration? Look for that shit. You don’t have to drive across country to get it, do some life-threatening thing like hangliding or whatever, you can get it by looking at the stuff you look at every day differently.

I’m somewhat of a militant when it comes to writing. My creativity works for me, not in spite of me. I want that spark of inspiration, and so I look for it, actively and with venom in my veins. I scout through Pinterest as a job. Not a hobby, a job. I searched “empty containers” the other day for probably an hour and a half, and from it gleaned an entire storyline that I WANTED. My idea was vague and I researched every aspect of what would go into it in order to make it come to life. That means the dull stuff, too. Because dull stuff made magical is what writing is all about. Be inspired by stupid crap as a choice, not a stroke of luck. Make your art sing for you. Be the composer, not the conductor.

Here’s a little trick that I practice when exercising my brain to write. Because, indeed, you have to work the muscle that is your mind. I like to find an ordinary picture of a thing and another picture of something that really speaks to me, and try to weave them together. Now, you get a little sneak peek. A picture like this:

The Witch of Empty Things. She's a serious motherfucker. Stares at these empty frames for hours, picturing them full. You don't want to know of what.and what it would mean to this person:

Stunning portrait.Now, how could I fit in something like this?

The Witch of Empty Things needs a container to carry. Could our MC give her a new one to keep her good thoughts in, ones like this? "I know you're afraid to look at the sky, so I wanted to bring some of it down to you." 5 Tiny STAR shaped clear glass vials with cork and free eyehooks on Etsy, $5.50What do they have in common? How would she see them working together? How do they challenge her, and what does she do to rise to the challenge? Who’s the person that throws a wrench in her thoughts of them?

Creating is a process, and like any process it needs to be altered, added to, and be reshaped for new purposes all the time. Making a story is like being a mad scientist…putting things together that nobody else thinks of, making explosions and rebuilding, thinking of things that are so far-fetched they make people stare at you with gaping mouths, and then making them see it with as much gusto as you do.

Now, I have a crazy ass book to write, if you’ll excuse me.

 

 

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