Tag!

My son took this at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Miles driven yesterday: 547

Times I heard the song “Wide Awake” come on the radio before I switched stations: 52

Words written in my novel so far: 28,101

When I was four years old, I liked to swing out on my Candyland-painted swingset and sing songs of my own making.

One day, when I came inside, my mom was not happy with me about something or other. I cried and said they should make a movie about my life.

“Well, it would be a really boring movie,” my mom said.

My first novel, now sitting in a drawer (shelf) in my office, shows how oddly prescient my mother is. When I follow that oft-repeated advice, “Write what you know,” agents tend to fall asleep.

Hence, the second novel… the one that will knock their socks off. Or something.

Thank you to JM McDowell, who offered me the opportunity to talk about My Novel That Does Not Yet Exist in its Entirety. Here are the interview questions she doled out and my somewhat evasive answers.

1. Which genre best describes your current WIP (work-in-progress)? Women’s fiction.

2. Who do you consider the audience to be for your work? With women’s fiction, clearly I am writing for women of any age. But as with any writer, my goal is to capture universal truths, something men or women, young or old, will find relatable.

3. How did the idea for the work come to you? I learned my lesson with the first novel. Agents want something fresh, different, something they haven’t heard before. I mulled over many different concepts before I dug into this one because I realize now how important the concept itself is… agents aren’t interested in how well you write if the concept itself isn’t AMAZING. BAM!

4. Are you an organized outliner or a “pantser” when  you write? I am somewhere in between, but closer to a pantser. I find that if I outline, I try to fit things into a very pat outcome. To avoid that, I like to start with a concept, have an idea of the major plot points, and let the characters start to tell their stories without forcing the issue. I’m afraid I would miss something wonderful if I had everything all figured out already.

5. Is this book part of a series or a stand-alone? I think this concept would do best on its own.

6. Did your research for the book lead you to new twists or scenes for the story? Okay, see, I’m still researching. One thing I can say is that part of the book takes place in Santa Barbara, California, and I am starting to think that only vampires, hobgoblins and surfers live in Santa Barbara. Do any real people live in Santa Barbara? I am highly doubtful. Please discuss.

7. Some agents suggest comparing your work to that of a published author. Can you think of a good comparison for yours? I was able to do this with my last novel. I think I will have to be finished with this one before I know for sure. I started out thinking it was going to be very funny, and it seems to have a darker undertone than I’d imagined. So the author comparison will have to wait.

[I am skipping a couple of questions here about my agent “pitch” because my novel is “high concept.” This is a snooty, high-falutin way of saying, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Are you intrigued or just disgusted?]

8. When the book is published, how will you celebrate? I plan to take my husband on a two-week spa vacation to Tahiti. Oh. Writers don’t make enough money to go on vacations to Tahiti? OK. I will buy a photo of a beach in Tahiti and post it in my kitchen. Then we’ll go to dinner and split an entree. I get my own glass of wine, though.

I also want to put in a pitch for the South Carolina Writers Workshop fall conference. My writer friends and I have attended the past few years, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ll be volunteering this year, and I would love to see any blogging friends who are out pitching their books, learning more about writing or meeting with agents.

Advertisements

In Between the Goals: Embrace the Process

Work vs. Play. Please note that my grocery store labeled Cadbury's Mini-Eggs "produce."

Words I have written in new novel started yesterday: 1,207

Words I need to write by October: 69,003

How many ways this is a bad idea: 42 million

My son got his first goal at a soccer game last night. The look on his face was a tremendous blend of “I can’t believe I just did that!” and “I just did that! I wanna do it again!”

I can relate: I have a goal-setting problem. This may come from the same gene as my list-making one, as if by simply writing down “Mueslix,” on a grocery list, it’s as good as done.

I absolutely love short-term goals: blog posts (check!), the newspaper articles I write (check!), essays (check!), getting a 10-miler or other long-run distance done each Wednesday (check!)… but the long-term ones are both my saviors and my nemeses (is that the plural of nemesis?).

I have come to view winter as a time to buckle down and work: the kids are at school (unless they’re sick, which can happen quite a bit in the winter), the weather is too cold to beckon me into the outdoors much, and Things Get Done. This winter, in between shivering and squinching my shoulders and threatening to move to The Islands, I did some novel queries, wrote and researched a couple of longer articles, trained for a half-marathon and felt generally productive.

Summertime, on the other hand, is my favorite season. After the kiddos get out of school, they fight with each other roughly every 5.3 seconds for the first two weeks. Then they settle in, and we go to the pool, visit the family, go to the beach, eat lots of ice cream, watch movies and go on bike rides/runs. Not a lot of goal-doing gets done. Short articles, and this summer, maybe short blog posts will get completed. Don’t bet on productivity. It’s a 16:1 spread.

Then there’s this wonky time in between the two seasons: the feeling of being untethered. The half-marathon over (but a 10-miler race next weekend!), the long, hot summer stands before me. The first novel written, the next one a shimmering possibility turning over and over in my mind. Completing a goal is a complicated mix of satisfaction and… what now?

Back in my last year of college, my then-boyfriend spent some time thinking I was uptight when the end of college was looming. Senior year, for me, was like the image old cartographers recorded of getting ready to step off the end of the world. I didn’t have the problem of having no goals, because my goal was to get a job. Preferably one that didn’t involve asking the two questions: “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to put this on your credit card?”

(I’m rethinking about whether this is uplifting story, since I did end up waiting tables for seven months. And I’m a little peeved that I never got Employee of the Month.)

Some form of redemption did occur when my then ex-boyfriend (remember how unsupportive he was about my freak-out? I kick butts and take names, and don’t forget it.) came over and told me he finally got it. He finished college a year later and experienced the same form of untetheredness.

I did go on to get a job, and then another job, and another job… all goals, all checked off and satisfying. But always, there is the feeling of “what’s next?”

As a goal-setter, I’m trying to learn to embrace the process; the inevitable, in-between time… the time when thoughts are swirling but nothing is getting on paper or legs are covering shorter distances with no goal race in sight. Of course, the novel will get written, the race will be registered for.

I think about the goals themselves at my son’s soccer game: there’s the whole field, lots of running, and people serving as obstacles; the goals are a pretty small fraction of the whole game space. But when the ball sails in between the posts because you had something to do with it… satisfaction.

I’m setting new goals for the fall, even if there will be some slacking off during the summer months. And I have a new tool in my arsenal: Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs are now categorized as “produce.” I can’t imagine anything more motivating.