Knock on Wood

I’m writing again (see post title).

I debated back and forth about whether or not to blog through my experiences writing this second novel of mine. I tried it with my first, but was massively inconsistent. In the end though, I’m not so sure that matters much. What matters is that I did finish that first book. It took a variety of motivators, but I got it done, and I’d very much like to do that again. I’d like to do better though. I’d like to write better, and take my work farther. That first one, it’s all mine. Few eyes have scanned it’s pages. It’s secrets will die with me – something I find oddly romantic, but it’s not what I want for all of my work.

It’s world cup time. I was doing this exact thing four years ago. Starting one of the biggest creative projects of my life. Summer of writing.  Summer of soccer. I haven’t missed a single match. This tournament transcends sports and athleticism for me. It makes feel a bit more connected to the world. There are always surprises… sweet little peeks into other cultures through the lens of a goal celebratory dance, an underdog upsetting a champion, tears of joy, tears of heartbreak… I find it all inspirational. Watch parties with friends and strangers alike. Cheers, flying beers. Good fun. Good fun. I don’t know why, and I’m not questioning it, but something about it all makes me want to contribute… to share. Every human being has something unique to offer up to the universe. Athletes, teachers, travelers, scientists, writers, yogis, mamas, cooks… countless people could put themselves in any of these categories and more, multiple, but their approach, their specific contribution is special and cannot be replicated. I think it’s lovely. I’m also ridiculously sentimental though. 🙂

Anyway this book… my second book. It’s essentially a fetus.  It’s an outline and an opening paragraph. There’s a long way to go, but I’ve been here before. I’m excited to do this again. This makes me happy.

 

-Elle

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Dear One

Dear one,

Write me a song.

Make it silly, like us.

Hug me.

Tell me you love me.

Lift me up,  so I can see the pretty things.

Dear one, I don’t mean literally…

See, your words,

They make my legs long,

They make my back strong.

You’re magical, dear one.

Speak to me.

Your voice is healing.

Your voice is invigorating.

Be with me, dear one.

Sass me, then laugh with me.

Kiss me, dance with me, challenge me.

I know you. I trust you.

You’re made for me, and I for you.

Dear one, come find me.

 

-Elle

 

#WriteEveryDay diamonds, trash, or something in between #WriteEveryDay

Feel, Don’t Touch

My truth is hidden in the darkness.

A firecracker encased in blackness

Sparkling, crackling, and emoting

In a sound proof room.

Monsters with no eyes lurk there,

Desperately seeking something they will never find.

They cannot tell day from night

They cannot tell salt from sugar

And yet, I fear them still.

 

Brave adventurers scour the darkness in pursuit of my secrets.

They have much in common with the monsters.

Cannot see.

Cannot hear.

But they can smell…

Rain. Ocean. Tears.

Can almost taste it…

Earth. Water. Salt.

The scents are transformative.

They are also distracting.

 

My truth is hidden in the darkness.

Only one sense can be used to find it.

Dear adventurer,

Close your eyes

Plug your ears

Overwhelm every taste bud

Every scent receptor

Clear your mind, open your heart.

Meld with the blackness. Be silent now.

It’s just there…

You cannot touch it, but you can feel it.

Magnificent. Tragic. Light. Heavy.

Tell me, can you feel it?

Complex. Simple. Fiery. Cool.

Tell me, can you feel me?

 

-Elle

Today’s not-so-secret: I am not a poet. I know nothing about poetry. (can you tell? haha) I don’t even particularly enjoy reading it. What happens is, see… I fill up with words. They fall out. I dump most of them into what wants to a be novel. The scraps… well, they are what they are. I am profoundly emotional (#becausehuman), but it’s not socially acceptable to publicly feel all your feelings. Mostly I think that’s good (there’s enough drama out there already). Hopefully for me, stock piling emotion will result in a pretty piece of written work one day. That, or a melodramatic pile of entertainment. Either or. Either or, my friends. 🙂

Peace to you!

Dear Broken Girl

Broken Girl,

I see you. Cloudy mind. Broken heart.

Lost Girl,

I know you. Invisible. Misunderstood.

Hopeful Girl,

I feel you. Daydreamer. Believer.

Sweet Girl,

I hear you. Empath. Caged bird.

Broken Girl,

I love you.

Broken Girl,

I am you.

Strong Woman,

You are me.

 

-Elle

Hey 20’s, our time together is running out

So I might have forgotten that this little blog of mine existed. I’m mildly comforted by the fact that it’s practically a shout into the void for now… no shade to my close family and friend followers or the strangers who may come across this and somehow make my world feel smaller… cozier.

I’m rapidly approaching my 29th birthday and doing a lot of reflecting on my post-college adult life and my future. My goal is to walk a path of authenticity and take control over my own happiness. I pray for the strength and courage to make choices that serve me positively and to commit deeply to all that I cherish and all that brings light to my life and to the lives of those whom I care for. I want to live open, and honestly, and beautifully. I want my happiness to be so evident to my loved ones that if I were to die tomorrow, they could know, with no doubt, that I lived– or at the very least, worked very hard toward– my very best life.

Here’s my slice of #vulnerablepie …
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Changing Gears

Hello and happy Saturday!

The school year is off to a good start. I’m teaching some pretty cool kids biology, but good teaching means busy weeks. I’ve spent more weekends than I care to admit bumming around my apartment playing the procrastination game with papers that need grading. I’m happy to say that I am currently caught up (well, let’s say 95%) and life is good. I’ve even started planting the seeds for my next novel, which is insane because that means I’m getting to the point where I can imagine finishing my current work in progress (what!?). Also, another word on my students- I’ve told many of them over the last couple of years that I’m writing a book and can I just say how much it warms my hard when I see kids in the hall and they say, “Hey Ms. D! How’s your book coming? I can’t wait to read it!” Just, joy to the world. Little (big) sweeties.

On my last post I shared some last-half-of-the-year goals with you all and I think it’s about time for an update. Below are the goals I set for which my self-imposed deadline has passed:

Complete a second pass through my 6th draft by 8/23 DONE! albeit not by that date

Send draft 6 to CP (Thanks Twitter) and Betas by 8/25 DONE! Again, not on time, but done

Draft a synopsis and query letter by 9/15 Not done, but in progress!

Have a list of at least 50 agents to query by 9/23 (I currently have 13) Not done, and I haven’t even tried, if I’m honest

So far I’ve met none of my goals on time, but that’s been pretty standard since I started this novel writing journey. The bright side is that I am, indeed, accomplishing the goals that I’ve set… just on an extended timeline. I am a bit disappointed in myself for literally spending ZERO time searching for more agents to query. That is a critical part of the process and I need to start devoting more time to it.

Sending my manuscript off to my critique partner and betas felt pretty momentous. It’s the first time people will be reading my book from start to finish, which is an exhilarating combination of scary and exciting. It also felt like a major transition point. I’ve been drafting for years and now I’m getting to the place where I have to seriously consider what comes after I decide I’ve polished my MS to the best of my ability. There is a very different vibe to this side of my journey. So far I’ve been focused on writing the best story I can. Now that I’m about 90% done with that part, I have to start thinking about how I can pitch my story in a way that will hook agents. It’s difficult, but I find the change of gears enjoyable. Summarize my 86,000 word novel in 500 words? Challenge accepted! …I’m currently failing the challenge, but I’ve got faith. I haven’t done much on the query side except play around with the first few sentences. It’s tough, but I’m glad to have a break from drafting and revising my MS.

I’ll check in again when I get feedback from my CP and betas. Hopefully that will set me up for my final draft… or maybe they will tell me my story is crap and I’ll spend another year revising… mysteries of life!

Happy Writing!

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

6th Draft Done and Feeling Ambitious!

Hey Folks!

In January I set goals to blog more and get comfy with my then newly-created Twitter account. I’ve been successful with one out of the two. I bet you can guess which one was the fail (Hint: this is my first blog post in five months). Anyway, Twitter has been awesome. It has given me the opportunity to interact with other writers every single day. The “amwriting” hashtag is my happy place. It’s lovely to read little snippets from people working their way through the same general process as me. Likes, retweets, and replies are super encouraging on tough days. I love doling them out as much as I love to receive them. It’s a really supportive environment and a quick and easy way to keep myself accountable. Accountability is actually the reason I started this blog, but it’s a bit easier to disappear from here than it is from Twitter. It’s easy to make excuses about not having time to sit down and write a blog post, but I can’t say the same for 140 characters. Still, I’m keeping this blog around because I do enjoy having a space for the occasional long update… and update time it is!

Since I last posted I’ve written two more drafts of my WIP. I just finished up with draft six last night. I’ve truly come to love that feeling I get at the end of a draft. It still feels like a huge accomplishment, even 2.5 years in.  I was particularly proud of myself because I made a pretty significant plot-tweak that forced me to change quite a bit at the end of my book. I haven’t given it a reread yet, but I can say that I felt very, very positive about the changes I made and the words that I wrote last night. Right now I’m feeling confident and excited about my next steps. Granted, tomorrow could be a completely different story, but I’ve learned to relish in these optimistic moments. They are the perfect time for goal setting and planning. I’ve come to notice that there are two times a year where I’m guaranteed to be feeling hopeful and ambitious: Just before the start of a new year, and just before the start of a new school year. I’m sure many people are familiar with that late December, early January “I can make changes in my life, I can be successful” vibe. Well, I’m a teacher and I get hit with that same vibe right before I go back to work in late July and it usually hangs around through the middle of August (this happened when I was a student as well). I try to take advantage of these time periods because there are surely a couple of rough patches throughout the year that are set on undoing any awesomeness I’d previously achieved.

In the spirit of goal-setting and high ambition, this morning I a made a list of writing-related things I’d like to achieve by early 2017 and some estimated dates by when I’d like to achieve them. Here’s a little sample:

Complete a second pass through my 6th draft by 8/23

Send draft 6 to CP (Thanks Twitter) and Betas by 8/25

Draft a synopsis and query letter by 9/15

Have a list of at least 50 agents to query by 9/23 (I currently have 13)

Begin draft 7 upon receipt of feedback from Betas/CP

Complete draft 7 by 11/25

Polish MS, synopsis, and query letter by 12/30

Send out first batch of queries by 1/8

Guys I THRIVE off of goal setting so I can’t even tell you how happy this list makes me (and it really is a small sample). Of course, the hard part is actually meeting these goals. Things happen and I’m sure life will get in the way of at least a couple of them, but I try not to beat myself up too much about it… so long as I’m really trying (for instance, if I write draft 7 and decide my MS just isn’t ready to query, I won’t see that as a failure). It’s also nice that I have a full week off work in September and November, and two weeks off in December. School breaks are golden writing marathon/catch up weeks for me.

I’m going to take a mini-break from writing for the weekend. My draft needs to rest a bit before I dive back in anyway.  I go back to work on Monday and need to get ready for the coming school year. Hopefully I can also knock a few books off my reading list.

Wishing you all a little mid-year spark of inspiration and ambition!

Happy Writing!

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

Fourth Draft Complete

Hey Folks!

My first major writing goal of the year has been met. I wanted to have the fourth draft of my novel completed by 2/21, and I’ve brought it in four days early. I’m currently on winter break so I will likely devote the rest of my time off to putting a dent in draft five. Right now, I think draft five will be the last one. We shall see. If I don’t feel like it’s ready, I sure won’t be rushing to begin the querying process. That said, aside from a few notable things I want to update, I’m not sure continuing to fiddle with the story will add anything of value and I’ve heard that that is when it is time to stop, lest you go on tweaking until the end of time.

I’ve quite enjoyed the revision process. Getting the first draft out was like pulling teeth, but I’ve found loads of joy (okay, the kind of joy that is drizzled with frustration) in figuring out how to make that little story I wrote better. I love challenging and pushing myself.

Stats on draft four:

Word count: 82,000

Time to complete: 48 days

And just for fun… stats from draft 1:

Word count: 71,000

Time to complete: over 364 days

Goals for draft five:

Do not allow word count to exceed 83,000 (awesome if I can find a way to hack it back down to 80,000)

Finish by 4/6

Make it as awesome and polished as I can

 

Happy Writing!

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

Reminiscing and Music Playlists

The first seeds of my WIP plot line were planted in March 2014. I had an outline completed by May, but it wasn’t until the following May that my outline had been successfully converted into a 70,000 word manuscript. Since then, my story has seen three more drafts and lots of changes (including 10,000 additional words).

As I approach the next stage of my novel writing journey, I often find myself reminiscing about the early days. It was teaching my 9th grade biology students a lesson on overpopulation that first sparked the idea for my book. I’d tried and failed to write novels before, so I decided to take a more organized approach this time. I started by loosely following Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. I kept all my ideas in a notebook that I’m still writing in today. A few days ago I found myself reading through the whole thing. The experience was pretty surreal. It’s amazing to see how much I’ve learned over the past two years. It’s also great fun to see how far my plot has drifted from my original ideas, but at the same time, still rests on those original building blocks. I’ve got other fun stuff in that notebook too, one of my favorites being a list of songs that fit the vibe of my story. There are several tracks from The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, and Citizen Cope. At some point I think I’ll actually download all the songs, but for now, I’m still adding to the list. Recent additions: Let it go- James Bay, Family and Genus – Shakey Graves, Broadripple is Burning – Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, and Is This How You Feel? – The Preatures.

What artists or songs would make the ultimate music playlist for your story?

Happy Writing,

ED

Current progress: Draft 4, 13/37 chapters revised

Making Time to Write When There Seems to Be So Little

First and foremost, I’d like to point out that, in my experience, there is always more time available to write than there seems to be – it’s about making a commitment and maximizing on opportunities. For instance, I’ve been on Christmas break for two weeks. I enjoyed lazy days filled with coffee, revision, and Downton Abbey, with no care given to the time of day. This translated to going to sleep at 3am and waking at 10 or 11 (plus a late afternoon nap or two). I forced myself to wake up early this Sunday morning to break the cycle and spent the day at work prepping for the new semester. I happily fell asleep at 9pm. Problem? It’s 2am and I’m wide awake. I could toss and turn in my bed, or watch TV, but I’m taking the opportunity to write a blog post instead. Perhaps by the time I’m done, I’ll be ready to squeeze in 3 more hours of sleep.

I point all this out to say, seize the opportunities as they arise. And when they don’t arise naturally, make them. Value your craft. Put it above those potentially time draining activities like watching TV or staring at the ceiling, wishing you were asleep. This is going to be more important for me than usual, as I enter my most chaotic time of year. As a teacher and lacrosse coach, I’ll be leaving home at 6:15 every weekday morning and not returning until at least 12 hours later. Game day? Make that about 15 hours. Throw in all the grading and planning many teachers must do at home and there is minimal time for anything but dinner and sleep on Monday through Friday evenings (it’s a good thing I like my job). I’m still amazed that I somehow managed to finish my first draft and complete the final semester of graduate school last spring without neglecting myself, cat, students, or team. That proves that it is indeed possible to find the time. Oh, and shout out to any teacher-coach-writer-moms /dads out there. I know you exist and WOW… It’s a struggle just caring for myself. Go you!

Anyway, here’s how it usually works out for me: I do very little writing, if any, Monday through Thursday. I choose to look at the writing and revision of my novel as another job. This job has a flexible schedule, but there are certain weekly requirements (writing and revision goals I’ve set in advance). I choose to spend the weekends (minus a few lacrosse filled Saturday’s) working to meet those requirements. The problem? Making time for friends and family. I end up turning down lots of invitations. Often times, “just lunch” turns into a five hour outing- an enjoyable outing, but one that most certainly has negative consequences on progress with my book. Does that mean I never see friends or family in the spring (semester)? No! I take advantage of breaks from school and 3 day weekends and I play catch up with my writing when I’ve indulged in a playful weekend. It helps that my friends and family know what this time of year is like for me and they understand what my writing means to me. Still, I appreciate that they also know when it’s time to forcibly draw the hermit out of her shell.

The take away? If you want it badly enough, you make it work. No exceptions. Repeat this to yourself over and over on tough days and you’ll look back with pride, wondering how the heck you managed it.

Happy writing… Whenever it is you make the time.

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips