Find a Way or Find an Excuse: Passion Project Day 1

OK, I know that many people know that I’m a writer.

(For those that had no clue, hi, it’s nice to meet you.)

Some know me well enough to know that I love to start new projects; and those that know me really well know that for how fast I churn out rough drafts, that correlates to how long my editing and revision stages are.

(It takes me For. Ever. to revise and edit a draft, if that was in anyway unclear.)

Well, just FYI, I’m basically finished with a rough draft of a writing project.

And I’ve been ignoring edits. A lot of very reasonable and logical excuses have come up—stuff like “Oh I’m tired! Oh I need to sleep!”—but in the end, I live by basic philosophies.

One is: If it’s important enough you’ll find a way. If not you’ll find an excuse.  

I am not an excuse maker. I hate excuses, it makes me feel icky and powerless. I set up my life to minimize excuses and instead come up with solutions.

The one thing I know that works really well for me is public accountability. So, I’m going to put out there that I will show up every day to do these edits and share one thing from my edits that day, whether it’s a passage of what I’d written or a key takeaway from the process of showing up.

(I’m also drafting a non-fiction book, the working title of which is called Choose Your Own Adventure…it’ll be a learn out loud kind of book about creating your best day, every day, and creating a life your love. As if I needed more things to add to my day, ha!)

I’d even noodled around going live on Facebook, but then it would just be my head talking at you, and that’s not really all that exciting. Anyways, I’m kind of an early bird, so I don’t expect anyone to see them live, but heck, why not.

I’ll commit to be live every day to show some accountability to what I’ve been doing so far, and what that may look like. If you want to follow along, I’ll be posting in this group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/yourbestdayeveryday/

It’s a closed group, but hit me up and I’ll approve you!

Thanks for letting me be a part of your day!

xoxo

Liza

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This Week

This week had started out hopeful. Even though I spent a part of a “day off” on Sunday at The Job, I still spent most of it with the hubs. We even went out to both lunch and dinner–amazing!

We spent the 4th mainly indoors. Even though it’s a national holiday, it was basically the only day off I had from The Job to catch up with my writing projects, and also finish one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time: Healer, starring Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it is easily one of the best “TV” shows I’ve seen, hands down.

I say “TV” because I stumbled upon it on Hulu.com and it was like a gift! A beautiful, amazing, shining beacon of happiness and positivity that I can look back on for this week. Because after Monday, the week slowly crumbled and devolved.

(That’s saying something when Monday was the highlight of an entire week.)

Local tragedy where two coworkers died in completely unrelated circumstances days apart…National news coverage of needless, inexplicable deaths…International news coverage of militant attacks in Bangladesh and Baghdad.

My heart is heavy. My eyes are hazy. My mind is numb.
These are not the best conditions to write.

I know I should focus on the positive…that I should count my blessings…that I ought to be grateful for what I have…tragedy happens all the time…etc.

I know all this.

But sometimes, it’s OK to shut down my brain and just sit and feel.
So I read. I’ve been listening and soaking in others’ stories, and pray that others have love, support, and light that they can huddle around to give them a semblance of peace at this time.

Hopefully, next week will be a little bit brighter. As for this week, I’m done.

This Week: July 1, 2016

BOOKISH FINDS:

I used to be a voracious reader. I’m talking like four books in one day kind of gluttony.

I was one of those people who would side-eye someone if heard them say, “I haven’t read a book in months/years.” Craziness. Seriously impossible. My ravenous brain monkeys were relentless; I couldn’t read fast enough to satisfy them.

I’d bring home piles of books from the library and read the entire pile in a week. Heck, sometimes I’d read an entire series in one day/night. (I’m looking at you, Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewls Trilogy. I started the series on a random weekday afternoon and finished it sometime around 7 or 8AM the next morning, napped for a bit, then went in for my closing shift at the Job. Totally worth it…one of my best reading marathons EVER!)

…but now…

I’d be lucky if I could finish a book in a week.*

I do have competing priorities for my time now like never before, which has made me pickier on which books to spend my time. And, I have decided to *Adult* and focus on getting enough of that Sleeping thing that so many people have told me was beneficial for my health.

(And, yes, OK, so my eyes don’t bother me as much, and perhaps my skin and overall immune system is a thousand times better…still…)

But, I ‘d gotten overwhelmed with how many books I’ve acquired and have a list of books I have been told I NEED TO READ, that I ended up doing what I’ve always done with things that intimidate me or make me anxious.

I avoided them. I either read something else entirely or ignore reading altogether.

Since reading makes me happy (my original blog title!), not-reading makes me not-happy. So, I’m embracing my first love, and making it a focus to read All The Books (and why I’m returning to this Reading and Writing blog format).

All that said, here are some titles that I was so excited to see available in my digital library (I promise next week I won’t ramble on and on so much before sharing 😉 ):

  • Lair of Dreams, Libba Bray (audiobook)
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Older
  • Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  • Truthwitch, Susan Dennard

I absolutely LOVED The Diviners, by Libba Bray, and had waited so long for the sequel that it fell of my radar! So, when I saw it available, I immediately snatched it up! I also loved the hype around Shadowshaper…anything Urban Fantasy intrigues me.

Some people can’t get into audiobooks, but as someone who commutes to the Job and values efficient use of time, audiobooks are an amazing way for me to get through my lovelist of books. (And, when my eye is irritated, which it often is, audiobooks are a great escape for me!)

Plus, there’s something about audiobooks that makes it easier for me to read books that were “too boring” to read as a physical book…I’ve found and finished so many amazing books this way!

For those who love audiobooks, SYNC is a free summer audio book program for teens 13+ that gives away two audiobook downloads a week (powered by the Overdrive App) from May 5-August 17. I really love this program, because I get to test out books I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, or re-read a fun classic. (It was through this program that I’d read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys three or four years ago? Worth it!)

This week, SYNC is featuring Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (easily one of my top ten fave books of all time) and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (They have weekly themes, which I’m always delighted by!)

WRITERLY RECAP:

Most days, I’m staring at my WIPs wondering WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT, but today all I want to do is work on my NANOWIP (my clever code name for my WIP that I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2014). Maybe it’s because I watched a whole slew of comicbook movies recently. Or maybe I have a whole load of feels because I may not be able to do my annual summer trip to NYC. Or perhaps it’s the news that this year would be Stan Lee’s last year at NYC Comic Con.

At any rate, I’m really excited and motivated to revisit the rough draft and get a game plan started on it. It’s the only YA Contemporary that my brain elves have fashioned together that survived past the seedling idea stage to bloom into a full-blown story. Hopefully, other people will enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of a teen-aged Filipino girl who secretly works on her art projects while at science camp.

As for WIP 2, I have printed off the manuscript and am currently sifting through it. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m raking through a Maui beach with a back scratcher, but I’ve found so many typos and tense/POV shifts (still!) so, it’s a tedious-yet-necessary step. Considering it took several back-and-forths for my query to finally be typo-free, I was inspired to re-read my manuscript and I’m so glad I did!

Speaking of the query, I’ve sent off my latest, shiny query to Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino for a workshop critique. I’ve already gotten positive responses from my writing buddies on this version, so I’m eager to hear his feedback! Then, in about three weeks, I go to my writing workshop! So excited!

My goal is to get the manuscript all cleaned up without these silly typo/spellos, so that it’s ready to send off into the world in August! (After re-reading it a million times, of course.)

Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to bribe myself enough to submit to Pitch Wars in August. We’ll see.

So tell me: anything new with you?

WIPWednesday: The Revision Cave

My current novel looks like this now:

WIP 2 Revision Writing

 

I love drafting novels. Love, love, love them. I love being swept away with the story. I love how my fingers fly over the keyboard. I love the fugue state I go into where the external world just drops away, and all I see is my internal world.

Reading what I’ve written, however, is something…else. There are moments that surprise me, of course, flashes of brilliance and heart that make me smile and make me all warm and gooey inside.

But most of the time, reading through one of my first drafts is like trying to glean poetry from vomited up alphabet soup. Not pretty. And, the Not Pretty keeps me from working my revisions as eagerly as I do my drafting.

I can do a whole rabbit trail about mindset and motivation and mental bracing to accommodate the new skillset of revisioning, blahblahblah, but I’ll just cut to the chase: I found a way to get over my issues.

I realized that:

  1. Everyone’s first draft sucks. They are ALL filled with plot holes, dropped characters, extraneous plot devices, and so much more. I know no one exempt from this universal fact.

2. The effort that goes into revision is ten times harder than writing a first draft, so brace yourself. The revision process is the actual “go to work” version of writing, at least for me. Sure, it could be fun, but it’s still a Responsible thing to do, up there with Eating Kale, Paying The Bills, and Taxes.

3. The work of revision is simply finding where the story dropped the connection with the reader. That’s it. I didn’t need to rewrite from word 0, add multiple subplots, and untwist/retwist the ending. For sure, I’ve done all those things and more over the years, and yes a story may need those things…but it may not. It may just need an extra scene or sentence for clarity. There’s no extra credit for rewriting and reinterpreting your previous draft(s) when the original vision was perfectly serviceable and just needed tweaking.

Revisions always feels daunting to me because I made The Crappy First Draft, so how do I get from CFD to that fun, beautiful, action-adventure that I see when I close my eyes?

This is where my INTJ brain comes in handy. We INTJ-ers love to create systems and make processes more efficient. (This is a pastiche of revising strategies I gleaned from other writers that I made work for me. If you’re familiar with Holly Lisle’s strategies at all, this is basically like that.)

What Did I Want to Write?

First, you can’t hit a target you can’t see. I spend months thinking about my story, dreaming it up, loving it…remembering why I love it and wrote it in the first place. I condense all that love into a  series of index cards.

  1. WHY I WROTE THIS STORY
  2. Story in a nutshell
  3. MC story arc
  4. Themes–major and minor

I eventually transpose those snippets into my writing diary (I have a different one for each WIP) so I’d have them to look back on, but the index cards were important to help narrow my focus and scope. Those who know me well know how I can ramble on and on because I find everything fascinating and pertinent. Index cards don’t have a lot of wiggle room. If I can condense my story on to the front of one index card, then you can too!

I also write a synopsis page of sorts, hitting the high points of the novel so I know which scenes are part of the DNA of the novel–part of the reasons why I wrote the story in the first place.

What I Actually Wrote

Then, I read through the current spine of my novel (about 40-50K words) and print it out, each scene on a new page. I divide the story into scenes, number each scene from 1-infinity. Then, another read through on paper, this time with a spiral notebook where I note all the issues–plot holes, convenient plot devices, characters that jumped to just the right conclusion, etc–including scene and page numbers and reasons why it’s off.

When I finally figure out what I wrote, I line it up with the story I want to see, aka my Ideal Story. The comparison is often brutal, but also reality, and the sooner I get over how wide the gap is between the two versions, the sooner I could work on narrowing that gap.

Prioritizing the Story Problems

I find that the most efficient thing for me to do is to work through Big Picture/Plot issues then work my way down so that the very last thing I worry about is polished prose and Oxford commas.

With that in mind, I make sure each scene gets its own index card scene summary. For easy cross reference, I put the assigned scene number and page numbers on the card. All the issues that I noted in my notebook get assigned a color (Blue for Plot, Pink for Character, Yellow for Setting, whatever) and an alphanumeric label (P1 for the first plot issue in my story). I write that alphanumeric label and page numbers on the corresponding colored post-it tabs, and stick it to that index card.

WIP2 Writing Revision

When I finally have my story condensed to color tagged index cards I spread them out and see what I’ve got. Based on the colors, I can see at a glance where my WIP needs the most help, where there are plotting issues or characterization issues. (I recently added a subplot flag to my process, so I can see where I can weave the plot lines together to help with the pacing.)

This is where I can move scenes around and shuffle them up a bit. (Scrivener is a program that I know and love and use…but I enjoy the tactile sensation of literally feeling out my story. Plus I’m convinced that the brain-eye-finger connection works at a different level off screen than onscreen. Not saying it’s better, just different.) When the rearranged scenes look closer to my Ideal Story, I read through the cards again. I use a different color index card to add in new scenes if needed, writing out a summary sentence on the card with elements I need to see in there to make it flow with my Ideal Story.

All of the above sorting and organizing and reading through basically takes me two days. The long part, the hard part, THE STRUGGLE is the long slog of actually making the words better. This arduous march is made so much easier with a clear guide of what was wrong and what I want to see. This process makes revising the content so much more efficient, and I don’t end up wasting countless hours and words on following shiny, exciting rabbit trails.

Beware of Shiny New Ideas

I love to ideate, it’s one of my top five strengths, but I have learned that I need an exceptionally fine filter when it comes to ideas at this stage, and which idea will stick.

Most of the time, it’s my muse BORED TO DEATH and wanting to play with a shiny new idea. I honor the idea, recognize its cool factor, jot it down in my journal, and continue the march onward through my WIP.

Be honest and critical with yourself–Would this new idea really serve the story you want to see, or are you finding yet another reason not to finish this novel?

Editing the Content 

The actual edits I do by hand on the printed out version of the ms. This is easy because each scene is paper clipped together, so I just go to my scene card, look at the issues there, reread what’s on the page, and make the words better. Most of the time, it requires giant X’s, squiggly arrows, and just writing stuff out on another piece of paper. (When that happens, I go to the working draft version on my computer and input the changes immediately and print it out again.)

Each scene gets edited until every issue on the scene card is addressed. I do not move on until I do. Once it’s finished, I paperclip the pages together again, and they go into the done pile.

This is the most time consuming aspect but I’ve learned to look at each scene like a micronovel so instead of figuring out how to describe setting, I look at conflict–what are the obstacles here, how is the MC going to overcome those obstacles, and will the MC be successful? Even if it’s a bullet point summary in the margin, at least it helps me grease the groove into crafting better words for my reader.

I’m still going through each scene for WIP 2, weaving the story together. I’ll be done soon. I’ve crossed the tipping point where momentum is taking over, and the flywheel is basically running itself.

It’s all pretty exciting, considering this story has lived in my head for five years. Some day soon, I hope to share it with the world.

If you have any revision tips of your own, I’d love to hear it!

May the Fourth

It’s Star Wars Day, and in honor of it and #WIPWednesday, I thought to share my current writing diary.

(Fun fact, Star Wars Day is also my blog’s birthday–>I started blogging six years ago, and thought it would be kind of poetic to start again today.)

 

Isn’t this so cool?? It’s a limited edition Star Wars Moleskine notebook, with fun stickers and technical specs for the X-Wing Starfighter. ^_^

When I saw this in the store, I knew I had to have it. I’d even kept it in its wrapper forever waiting for just the right project to use with it.

Then a month ago, I thought: what was I waiting for? What better, more perfect book could there be to chronicle my WIP2 revisions? After all, didn’t I pitch WIP2 as “Star Wars meets DUNE with a teen-aged cyborg” once upon a time?? (To a couple of full manuscript requests, I might add, but I was too lame to actually send it off. A good thing, too, because it was NOT ready back then. Like, at all.)

So, after a years-long hiatus from this particularly project (because Reasons), I am happy to say that I’m finally hitting my revision-y stride and found the story that I wanted to tell years ago. I kinda had to go full-circle on it, and yeah, I suppose I lost a few years only to say the same story. This time, though, I like to think that I trust myself now and have confidence in the worthiness of my ideas. That I have the discipline, passion, and talent to keep throwing down words until I get just the right combination to fit this story. And, if all else fails, I surely have the ridiculous work ethic/drive to see this to a polished The End that I can finally (Finally!) be proud to send off to agent slush piles.

Anyway, it’s great to be back, hanging out in familiar worlds, chatting with my characters. It’s like a great reunion of friends–when you get together, you pick up your conversation exactly where you had left off years ago.

How about you? Whatcha been up to?

Happy Birthday Month, Blog!

My blogaversary is this Friday, May 4th (Otherwise known as Star Wars Day. Yes, I’m THAT nerdy). It’s been a really fun two years, and I have to admit that even though I haven’t been the most consistent blogger in the world, I’ve really enjoyed the side effect of blogging, namely, the accountability I have to make progress toward my goals (writing or otherwise).

I’ve enjoyed the blogging community, and have met a lot of lovely writers, readers, and delightful nerds (and in a few weeks, I will actually meet many of you in real life!) who have become some of my closest friends. Because I believe in sharing the love and “paying it forward,” I want to celebrate the month by hosting a little giveaway.

Usually, I would normally host a giveaway for a book or two, but since there are so. Many. Awesome. Books out this month, like Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Drowned Cities or Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, I thought it would be better for you all to pick the book you want!

So, for my Blog Birthday, I’ll be giving away a $20 Amazon (or Barnes and Noble) e-giftcard! (Winner’s preference, of course!) All you have to do is be a subscriber/follower of this blog, and comment below, and you’ll be entered into the raffle!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Congratulations, Michele S!

 

Also, because I want you to know how much I appreciate you, any comment on any post this month, will count as extra entries!

So, tell me…Why do YOU blog? If you’re not a blogger, please feel free to share your goals for this year! If you’re a fellow writer, anything fun and shiny you’re working on?