Monday, 28 January 2013

The Weekly Wrap - Flu Edition - 1/21/13

Monday 1/21/13 - This week started off so well. I was doing just fine, right on schedule and then...

Tuesday happened. It's been blisteringly cold (which in NC terms means right around freezing) and basically awful. We've been getting sleet and mixed precipitation, everyone has been driving like a maniac because no one apparently understands how to operate a vehicle during inclement weather, and oh yeah, there's this apparent flu epidemic sweeping the nation. 

I opted out of the flu shot this year since I get sick no matter what. I was sick back in December and thought that was the worst of it, but this past week proved me wrong. Tuesday morning, I woke up with a slight headache and a sore throat. By Wednesday morning, I was ill and basically immobile on the couch, which Boo used to her full advantage. I called in to get off work (because sneezing and coughing around people's food probably isn't the best thing to do) and loaded up on the typical OTC stuff: Emergen-C, Mucinex, Sudafed, Dayquil, you name it. 

My problem is I have crappy lungs. I've had asthma since elementary school and while I almost never run a fever or get sick to my stomach, all the crud that builds up in my sinuses ends up in my chest, resulting in a scary do-you-have-tuberculosis kind of cough. The cold weather definitely wasn't helping. 

By Thursday, my inhaler wasn't cutting it and I was wheezing in all four lung fields. I dashed to the doctor's office as soon as it opened (since I was supposed to work at 11) in hopes of getting some sort of medicine. The doc had me do a nebulizer treatment (aerosol breathing treatment) to open up my lungs, which worked well. However, the deep controlled breathing combined with the fact I hadn't eaten anything in about 24 hours took its toll. I began to feel nauseous, got up to run to the bathroom to get sick, and promptly passed out in the hallway at the doc's office. Totally embarrassing. My BP had dropped too low (systolic around 80 when I normally run around 110) and I was shaking and white as a sheet. The nurses were helpful though; they had me put my feet up and breathe into a paper bag for a bit until the tingling stopped in my fingertips. 

So, after that fiasco, I stayed home again and finally got some prescriptions which have been knocking this bug out of my system. I'm feeling much better now. I'm back on my feet after being couch-bound for about three days, but still have that lovely barking cough, which should hopefully subside in the next week or so.

Needless to say, I have been a bad writer this week. I've been resting up and trying to get well, which doesn't do much for the revision. Or blogging. Or much of anything else, for that matter. I'm off schedule for finishing by the end of this month, but I'm back to it today and will keep everyone posted.

Hope everyone around here is staying safe on these icy roads!

Also, I think Boo enjoyed having me be her snuggle buddy for a couple days:

That is one spoiled dog!

Muse Food for the Week 
Being off my feet did make for some good reading (and movie watching). I finally finished King's Different Seasons, which I started back in December. I took this book in slowly because it is divided into four separate novellas.
First, we've got Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (which the movie is based on). I read that in a morning. Absolutely loved the world of the prison and Red's telling of Andy's story. This isn't, to me, a "horror" story. It's a good story. Go read it! 
Next was Apt Pupil which explores a strange parasitic relationship between a Nazi war criminal and an adolescent boy who becomes obsessed with WWII. Totally strange, but interesting. It's a great character study and presents one of my favorite tropes, the morally ambiguous protagonist. Would Todd have turned out the way he did if he hadn't met Dussander? Hmm...
The third novella, titled The Body, tells the story of four boys who go off in search of, you named it, a dead body! Because strangely, that is what twelve year old boys do. I really loved this story. It has the same mythos that It held for me: that your childhood can be viewed through a much different lenses, that it was a cherished and strange time. 
Finally, King ends the collection with The Breathing Method which a story framed by an odd men's club that tells stories to each other. The story, this night, is of a young unmarried woman who discovers she is pregnant and the doctor who takes her under his wing. Not my favorite, but a solid story.  

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Weekly Wrap 1/14/13

Sorry this is a day late. There's a reason why (ahem, a book to blame), but here it is. Also, you'll notice the blog got another makeover because I am indecisive. 

Monday 1/14/13 - Today is gross and rainy which normally I would consider a perfect writing day: a moody atmosphere makes for good, moody writing which is basically my WIP in a nutshell, but I know that this gloominess is going to last for a couple of days. I'm not enthused. Thanks, graffiti, for summing it up:

I finally got my hair cut after six months though, so I guess that's an accomplishment.

Tuesday 1/15/13 -

"To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch." 
-Lili St. Crow 

Pretty much sums up my ideas on the world right now. In good news though, I hope to finish this revision by the end of January. I've passed the halfway point and if all goes according to plan, I should be done soon. These later chapters are tough though. They're the ones that need more work. You always start out so strong with a story; you've got the scene and the characters in mind. You've fallen in love and in obsession already of the way you want things to be that you even have a bit of the plot. For me, I'm aware of the ending, but I have to tease out the path there with my plot. This is where I get muddy and during revision, I have to clean up these spots.

Thankfully, my stories for my class aren't due until the end of February so I have plenty of time to finish this before starting something new. It's hard for me to split my attention between projects. Every thing I write ends up sounding the same. 

Wednesday 1/16/13 - Another bleak day! Although, they are calling for snow tomorrow night so there's that to look forward to.

This is Boo's "I'm adorable" face. She watches me and whines when I write sometimes. Unfortunately, I can't pet her ALL the time, but I do my best. 

Thursday 1/17/13 - North Carolina has SNOW FEVER! We're all running to the store to buy milk and bread for the coming snowpocalypse which will undoubtedly be half an inch of sleet and snow that will thaw out by noon. I'm hopeful though. Sometimes we get a nice dusting which always makes for some fun. It's a work day today, so I'm writing before running out the door and then driving back to see my parents for family dinner later tonight.

Friday 1/18/13 - This is what all that hoopla was about:

Terrifying, I know. 

A lackluster snowfall did give way to some awesome weather and I spent this afternoon and morning writing, writing, writing. I'm almost finished with Chapter 8. And you know what I've noticed? I'm falling back in love with my characters. I think this is why I've felt like I'm struggling. The beginning held me over because I (shamefully) loved the writing, but then the novelty of well-written prose falls away and I'm left with my plot and my characters. And they're starting to surprise me again. I thought I was done letting them say things I wasn't sure they would say, but they're growing right before my eyes. 

That's another piece of advice I can give to writers. You gotta learn to let up on the reins. Your characters are supposed to be real people, right? We're aiming for authenticity here. You have to give them the tools to move and room to breathe and really just sit back and let them do what they want to. Otherwise, you're forcing them into shoes that don't fit (or actions that aren't logical to their personalities) and your story ends up feeling contrived and awkward. 

Saturday 1/19/13

"Writing means not just staring ugliness in the face, but finding a way to embrace it."
-Veronica Roth 

And here is where I derailed for the weekend. I was doing so well, but then I cracked open a book and fell head over heels for it. 

Sunday 1/20/13 - Today I spent the whole day on my feet, slinging beers as Waitress Girl. I worked open (10:30 am) to close (11:00 pm) and make loads of money, but my tables had me run for it. It was insane, I don't want to do it again, and I'm happy it's over. After, I basically went home and collapsed. And, scene.

Muse Food For The Week 
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor 
This book ruined my weekend for me in the best and worst of ways. In the worst way, it destroyed my productivity because I couldn't tear myself away from it. In the best way, I came home from work each night and HAD to stay up reading it because I couldn't stand not knowing what was coming next. That, dear readers, is how to keep your audience invested. 
This is the second in a series, the first being Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a lovely book about a girl who runs errands for the devil, Brimstone, a chimera. She collects teeth which he uses to make wishes. This girl, Karou, is amazing and she leaps off the page. Then, she meets and falls in love with the enemy, an angel named Akiva. In this second installment, Karou is dealing with her past life, which was revealed to her at the end of DAUGHTER, and Akiva is trying to thwart the war the seraphim are raging against the chimera. We've got lovely settings in Morocco, one of my favorite places, and Eretz, the world of angels and the chimera. I can't tell much more without spoiling it but if you want more on my take, my review can be found here. I finished it and now I can get back to work because goodness, I need time to recover. I loved this book! 

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Weekly Wrap 1/7/13

Monday 1/7/13 - Spent my work time today on Momentum. Chapter Five has needed some serious work, but I've found that I'm extending chapters as I rewrite. Looks like the second draft is going to be longer than the first.

"The first step - especially for young people with energy and drive and talent but no money - the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art."
 - Chuck Palahniuk 

Tuesday 1/8/13 - Kicked ass today. Not gonna lie. I got a lot of revising done, adding about 2,000 words. That's a big writing day for me. Tonight I had my first class for this advanced Fiction Writing workshop I'm taking. It seems like it will be fun, but we've got a seriously limited word count. Under 4,000. Yikes! I know one of my first drafts of the stories I wrote last semester was almost double that and nearly all the revised drafts ended up being over 5K. I wanted to be challenged though and one of those challenges is learning to be brief. The short story is a much different game from novel writing. I have to adjust my brain to thinking in smaller, more sizable pieces. 

Wednesday 1/9/13 - I was doing double duty today, squeezing in some time for revision this morning before jetting off to work, leaving there to go to another job thing, and finally spending some time unwinding with friends.

It was a pretty day, if I do say so myself: 

Thursday 1/10/13 - Double duty again! Spent all morning working on a post at You Should, only to have it deleted right before I had to leave for work. Blogger can be good and it can be bad. It was definitely acting up today. Deleted an hour and a half of work. Bleh.

"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."
 -Ray Bradbury 

Ray helped me through it though. I went right back to it after I got off work and got the post figured out. You can check it out here, if you like. 

Friday - 1/11/13 - It is a perfectly awful day outside - raining and about forty degrees. This is what I like to call writing weather. 

Saturday 1/12/13 - Today was a lovely foggy morning. I finished two of the books I've been reading (We Have Always Lived in the Castle and On Writing) and did a lot of blog tinkering. I've gone blue! This is because my MC in the Work In Progress has synesthesia and loves the color blue. I wanted something bright and amorphous, therefore jellyfish. 

Sunday 1/13/13 - Another morning squeezed in before work all afternoon and night. Here's how I keep my routine. I nearly hit the halfway point in Momentum's revision today! Feeling good about it. This quote felt appropriate: 

"Nostalgia is inevitably a yearning for a past that never existed and when I'm writing, there are no bees to sting me out of my sentimentality. For me at least, fiction is the only way I can even begin to twist my lying memories into something true." 
-John Green 

This works in a lot of ways. The past really is subjective to your memory and how your mind twists it. My MC spends A LOT of time wrestling with his past, trying to decide how it informs his present and the future. 

Muse Food for the Week: 
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson 

This book is decidedly creepy. Mary Katherine Blackwood is part of the infamous Blackwood family. Her sister, Constance, was accused and acquitted of poisoning her family with arsenic, but the town isn't ready to forgive her yet. The family lives in seclusion and Constance cares for Uncle Julian, though his mind is somewhat addled by the poisoning. Mary Katherine spends her time burying precious things across their land and running with Jonas, her cat. Everything changes, however, when Cousin Charles appears on their front door. (You can check out a mini review of it on my 2013 Books page, which is sadly pretty empty right now)

And that's all for this week, folks! See ya on the flip side.


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Routines Suck, But Are Necessary

I've been inspired recently reading Stephen King's On Writing (check out my gushing review here), particularly by the writing regime King "prescribes."

He spends the morning working on the current composition, writing with "the door closed" until he's reached his arbitrary goal of 2,000 words. He saves naps and correspondence for the afternoon, and spends the evening enjoying his family, reading, and working on whatever revision he cannot ignore.

Sounds like heaven, right?

That's four to six hours a day focusing on writing, in some way, shape, or form. I admire his perseverance (2,000 words a day is like EXTREME NaNoWriMo writing) and envy the freedom he has to do what he wants.

Learning to write well takes practice. You must fail on a daily basis. That means writing all the time. Every day. Though the 21 day rule might not be true*, it does appear that habit forming activities have a sort Pavlovian response. Creating those behaviors is key to molding the habit, refining it, and keeping it. This is why as writers, we need to write every day.

Unfortunately, parts of my days are eaten up with this pesky little thing I call my job, so I take my writing time where I can get it. Here is my writing routine:

1. I write early in the morning, which is something I've heard in writing classes and read in advice books again and again. Not all of us are morning people (thankfully, I am - my eyelids start drooping at about 11 PM and I naturally wake up around 7:30 AM), but the morning is a great writing time. Nothing's happened in your world yet - no nagging obligations or pressing responsibilities. Your mind is clear, your imagination piqued (waking up from a strange dream can be a huge motivator for me). Use your morning time wisely.

2. I created fun associations with writing to help ease me into the mood. Instead of at my desk, I write at the kitchen table where I can spread out my papers. Before I start writing, I brew a pot of coffee. If I feel like it, I erase the previous day's quote from the chalkboard wall, spend a moment browsing writing quotes, select the one which most reflects my writing mood that morning, and write it on the wall. That's where you see those pictures in my Weekly Wrap posts. It all feels very silly, but I enjoy it. I roll right out of bed, put on the coffee, take Boo out, feed her, and sit down still in my PJs. There's nothing fancy about it.

3. The only thing I don't necessarily agree with in Mr. King's prescription is sticking to a solid word count, especially 2,000 words. That's a mammoth feat to conquer each and every morning**. I just aim to write something, anything. It can be a blog post, a new story, a writing exercise, new material to add to the manuscript, something. I sit down and make myself do it and I don't get up until I do.

That's it. It's very simple, but I have found in the short time I have kept this routine that I'm naturally chipping away at my revision, I'm writing more than ever, and it has started to become a habit. I feel guilty on the days I don't have MORE time to write. If I have the time after work or class at night or in the afternoon, I utilize those precious hours as much as humanely possible. If I'm working the lunch shift at the bar, I get up earlier to create time.

At first, I felt rushed and like I was setting myself up to fail each morning, but instead, it's done the exact opposite. My brain now wakes up ready to drink that first cup of coffee and get going.

Try it! I believe every writer should find what works for them, but I do believe that committing to the craft on a daily basis is crucial. You can't wait for the lightning strikes of inspiration***. They're pretty, but rare and you'll spend more of your time waiting for them than actually getting to the task at hand. You have to write when you aren't inspired, when you don't feel like it, when you didn't sleep the night before.

It's all part of the process and if you do, I think you'll find you improve every day. Happy writing days, y'all!


So, writers, what's your secret? Do you have some quirky routine that you follow or ways to get the words flowing? Share below! 

*Looks like it takes us more than 21 days to form a habit - about 66 instead. Hang in there, folks!
**In college with my first manuscript, I somehow cranked out between 2,000 to 4,000 words a day. Momentum was a much different monster though and the writing was slow.
***But if you get one of those strikes, don't you dare waste it! They are precious, but few and far between.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Weekly Wrap 12/31

Monday 12/31 - Spent most of today driving down to Charleston to visit some friends and celebrate NYE. However, after I had gotten ready and was waiting on everyone else, my guilty conscience drove me to start what I hope will turn out to be a two part blog post eventually.

Had some crazy apocalypse-looking weather on the way down. 

Photographic representation of the rest of my night. 

Tuesday 1/1/13 - It's so strange to write 2013. Time flies. To celebrate, I spent the day curled in the fetal position on the couch.

Wednesday 1/2/13 - Today was the dreaded ride back, physically and mentally, to the real world. Coming back after the holidays is like a giant reality slap to the face and I'm never prepared for it. Still broke, still struggling, basically in the same position I was in before I left. No amount of presents or celebrating changes that, but I can pride myself on the fact that I got a legitimate amount of work done. I arrived home and had a near panic attack, so I cleaned out the apartment from top to bottom to alleviate the anxiety.

Thursday 1/3/13 - Now I'm back to work, feeling totally guilty and terrible for those two days I didn't write anything. Some of my Christmas presents are watching me with their judgmental eyes:


"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the dont's. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the wont's. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be." 
-Shel Silverstein 

Trying to capture that moment of unadulterated bliss I felt driving down to SC, the whole road open before me, feeling like I could take myself anywhere with my writing. Calm down, breathe. You will make do. It's going to be okay. 

Now get back to work. 

Friday 1/4/13 - Chugging along this morning. Starting to feel that beginning of the year blues where you realize there's nothing really worth celebrating until the summer. 

Saturday 1/5/13 - Had to take Sara to the airport today, made for a sad day. Always reminds me of the quote in Code Name Verity: 

"It's like being in love, discovering your best friend." 

Chapter 4 has really been running me around. I feel like the timeline is all kinds of wonky so I'm having to rewrite a lot of this chapter. 

Sunday 1/6/13 - A foggy, disgusting Sunday morning, perfectly tailored for the moody type of writing I need to do today. I'm really feeling it today, like no matter how much I type, I'm slogging my words through mud and sand and they just keep dragging farther and farther away from what I actually want to say. 

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with a painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." 
-George Orwell

George, you said it today. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining because I hate doing this. I love it when the writing comes easily. It's like giving my mind a complicated puzzle to solve, to see how the final picture turns out, but when it doesn't come easy...Well, any writer can tell you about those dark days. 

I did break through Chapter 4 today so that is one small victory. Chapter 5 is a lengthy sucker, but it's a less introspective chapter. There's more action and I'm excited to finesse it. 

See you next week!