Monday, November 28, 2011

Editing? Read Poetry.
      Also, Wipmadness Week 5

My crit group meets every Wednesday night at a midtown coffee bar. We smuggle in a bottle of red and pour covertly at our table in a back alcove. I highly recommend this form of ego lube, by the way, for those rough moments during constructive criticism.
Img via Desert Living Today 

Leigh, poor thing, is massively pregnant, and the baby bump pulled a ligament in her side. So Karin and I sat down to discuss Leigh's story, sans Leigh.

Comparing our chicken scratch, it became hilariously evident that one of us had been seduced. It had to be the reason why Leigh's pages were, on my end, covered top to bottom in annotations, and on Karin's smothered in hearts and this is so effing good.

It was effing good. I'd wrestled with myself the previous night, staring at my handiwork. Are you trying to make her writing like yours, Lora? Be honest. Come on. Are you doing what's best for her?

The answer, it turned out, was yes. We began unfolding pages, word-by-word, and I realized why mine looked like they'd been hijacked by a cartload of pencil-canoodling critbots.

I'd been reading and line-editing poetry for the previous two hours before sitting down to crit group work. It's like meditation for writers, guys, this fine-tuning of one's senses for the critical consumption of the written word.

I was buzzing with hyper-sensitivity by the time I turned to Leigh's story, and no amount of her characteristic sizzling energy could kill my high. I was on fire, y'all. I wanted to bottle up this brain state and market it to practicing writers.

The best I can do is say: Are you editing? Read poetry.


So, yes, Wipmadness lovelies, I'm editing. Still. But I'll have Round 2 of the WIP complete by the 1st. Nearly query-ready. Thank you so, so much, beta readers. You know who you are =D

Any mischief managed lately? Where have your WIP and NaNo journeys taken you? Feel free to leave links to any brilliant writerly insights you blogged about this week.

And most important: Who is hosting for December?
UPDATE: Lori Parker is hosting. She'll be welcoming the Wipmadness team on Thursday on her blog.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Thing and the Other Thing.
Also, Wipmadness Check-in Week 4

My MFA workshop professor stands in front of the classroom drawing little squiggles and lines on the whiteboard.

"In every story," he begins and shadows in this nest-looking object with blue marker, "there's the thing." He circles the nest earnestly. "...And the other thing." He draws a second nest in red, circles it too, then adds two stick figures clawing at each other.

Not kidding
He goes on to illustrate conflict and plot with mumbling inchoate interjections, each followed by a connection of some nest or figure with a dotted or solid line.

Needless to say, I'm bemused and amused by his efforts at sharing this esoteric mechanic for deepening stories. For about four years. And now to attempt an interpretation of the above ramblings.

Let's call this "The Missing Other Thing."

Anecdote 1: I quit NaNoWriMo.
My writing group commissioned a book pulled from a place in my life I haven't grown or learned or matured or simply lived enough to write about yet. As I wrote (complete sh**), I found the stories interesting, plot-wise, but lacking any measure of compelling complexity. My NaNo project was lacking the other thing.

Me and my Bestie
Anecdote 2: Scoring dinner and Irish Goodbyes.
My bestie and I traveled last week through LA, Napa, and San Franscico. She's single, I'm not. She was paying for food, I had hotels. She had a plan: Not paying for dinner or cocktails, not once, and finding some schlep or five to buy for us. 

Fun, but left me with an exhaustion migraine and severe ew when I missed my op for the Irish goodbye and got a real Irish goodbye instead (tongue included, which, it turns out, is sexual assault when he grabs your hair the way you'd grab a shirt collar; who knew...). Anyway, point is this scene is full of conversation and innuendo, but as we all know, it makes for boring stories. Why? No other thing.

Anecdote 3: Last anecdote (I promise!!).
I had a text message conversation with a reasonably good friend. The dialogue was full of the general things reasonably good friends might say to one another, but underneath there was this unspoken thing neither of us wanted to dredge up. The other thing.

So, it's easy, right? There's the thing that drives the story, the glamorous trope, the plot or conflict-driven mechanism that makes a story swell, trough, crest and low-tide. Then there's the other thing that makes the story matter. It's what the whole story's about without actually being about it. And I'm not talking theme, here, or subplot. I mean, there's a goal underneath, there's a subtext, and when that subtext resolves (usually coinciding with the plot resolution but not always), the story is over because there's no more subtext, there's no more matter, there's no more other thing.

I believe this other thing is the difference between a story that lingers in your bloodstream a few days or longer and one that barely gives you a buzz.


Oy, Wipmadness friends!

I did join you this weekend after the hangovers and exhaustion migraines. I resumed editing the WIP and am still set for finishing by the end of November. Steady, if slow, progress. My food diary went out the window. I believe there were cookies at some point. And wine. And clam chowder. And Ghirardelli sundaes...

Please pipe up if you have any insight into this thing and other thing business. And tell us how the WIPs are working. How are your goals? Those of you braving NaNo, are you beating yourselves silly? It's been kind of quiet on the hash tag front lately...

Monday, November 14, 2011

(Napa Adventures)
Week 3

The stranger I met in Napa tonight had a fondness for orangutans.

At this moment, my best friend's passed out beside me. The smell of baking cookies pirouettes through the bedroom like an infinite troupe of aromatic  helium balloons, bounding, frolicking. Chocolate. Oatmeal. Caramel. A bottle of a sparkling wine's still bubbling on the night stand.

The stranger who paid our entire bill tonight claimed to be writing an article for some swanky New York mag, comparing wine to women -- or women to wine. Was I research? I didn't mind being paid for, but if I was research. . . . I'm a writer, right? I know how these things can go.

Apparently in his youth, the man learned from his uncle's raising of orangutans, giraffes, peacocks; learned to appreciate his wild side, to honor rather than fear the passionate, rarefied touch of the great grape god.

How this week is all connected is rather swimmy. No writing. There were my first four chapters edited. New encouragements unleashed. New books read. New lives lived. Roads not and gladly taken. The week has spun through a haze, with Dionysus swooping in at every angle, gloating without malice, a small, plump god with florid cheeks puffing away as if sobriety itself were an indignation.

Needless to say, the WIP is suffering a bit. It needs another good round of edits and I haven't quite got there. But next week will be better. I still hope to have WIP edits done by the end of NOV.

And you? Any related, tangential, perpendicular, orthogonal stories!? Tell, tell :) How are your writing goals coming . . . or not coming, as in my case?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wipmadness Check-in Week 2:
Almost There

First order of business: Wipmadness Team Pride!

Crafted by our very own, L.S. Taylor, this blog badge captures the spirit of our endeavor. Feel free to jump over to her blog to copy/paste the image url, or simply grab it below!

#Wipmadness Participant!

A little preamble:

Whenever my husband and I take a car trip, I read to him. This saves on otherwise expensive audio books, keeps us both amused, and allows me to indulge in a little practice for when I'm published and have to read aloud.  ;)

Especially when the book drags -- for instance, when it's LoTR and our hobbits are meandering in a forest -- I always finish up a section with an optimistic, "We're almost there, hon!" Of course, the effect is somewhat diminished by his glancing over to find we've barely bitten off the first hundred pages and have five or six hundred to go.

Anyway, #wipmadness peeps, all this to say, we're almost there! No matter what your goals were last week, you are seven days closer to being out of the forest--er, to achieving those goals.

My goals were:
  1. Write 2,200 words a day for NaNoWriMo. Some days were a struggle, but I managed to make the count each day this week.
  2. Stretch my poor, pathetic, immobile ankles. I missed one morning (Wednesday), but otherwise success!
  3. Log my food intake. I only missed one night out with the gals.
This week, Goals 2 & 3 are the same, but I'm changing Goal 1 because, in a nutshell, I've decided to avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy (see also Sunk Cost Dilemma). More on this later.

So, Goal 3 for this month is to finish another round of edits on McCorduck 7, my MG WIP.

How did you do this week? Need to add/subtract, augment, slash, forever destroy anything? Let us know so we can cheer you on!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Warm Wipmadness Welcome
Week 1 Check-in

Hello Wipmadness folks!

I'm honored to host Wipmadness this crazy month of November, picking up the torch from L.S. Taylor, last month's lovely host. I joined this network of writers through Angelina's blog back in August and learned that the team has been pounding out words together since its inception in March 2011, spearheaded by Denise Jaden.

As Jaye Robin Brown put it, "This is a tool for networking, encouragement, and accountability." Through this supportive team, I've finished a manuscript and found beta readers. Others have done as much and more, evening polishing their manuscripts and snagging agents.

This month, some of us will be frenetically hammering out new stories or finishing up old ones through NaNoWriMo. I'll be among you. Others will continue piecing together worlds at a more natural pace, researching, revising, creating and beta-ing.

This week, let's lay out our goals and keep each other accountable. Don't forget to use the #wipmadness hashtag when encouraging, ranting, and celebrating on Twitter!

My goals for November:
  1. 2,200 words a day. Ack! I'm shooting to achieve the NaNoWriMo goal of completing 50K words through the month of November. Week 3-ish, I'll be travelling to LA, Napa, and SF with a friend, so the 2K goal is to try to make for anticipated lost words that week.
  2. Physical Therapy stretches. I'm on a strict stretching schedule to get back 2-3 inches of mobility in each of my ankles and about 15 degrees in my hips. Who knew that wearing high heels all your life could cripple you? My goal: Stay on schedule with my twice-a-day stretch regimen.
  3. Log food intake on, even while on vacation and stay in the green zone.
What are your goals this month? And don't be afraid to shift them week-by-week. We're all here to help each other succeed.

Oh, and by the way, what do you all think about creating a blog badge for Wipmadness participants? Is anyone graphically inclined? I sort of love web badges and think it'd be fun!