Archive for ‘Writing Bites’

January 29th, 2007

Words Upon Which To Feast

by Venomous Kate

A while back, I bought a wholesale lot of books on eBay — a few of which I’ve since listed in my own auction. Granted, as a would-be author I wrestle with the propriety of buying used books since the royalties don’t go to the author. On the other hand, many of the books I purchased are no longer stocked in most bookstores, and yet having read and enjoyed them I’ve since purchased other works by the same author. In other words, having read something that didn’t earn the author money led me to purchases that have.

Right now, I’m reading a book that I’ve ignored for the five months it’s been on my shelves. Why? Well, because Oprah recommended it and, while I’ve got nothing against Oprah (in fact, I rather adore her), I’ve previously assumed her book choices would be geared toward the mass audience: folks who want an easy read, a fast-paced story, and lots of emotional warm fuzzies. Thanks to running out of fiction to read before bed — I save non-fiction for daylight — I wound up grabbing Jewel by Bret Lott off my shelf.

Since then, I’ve been coming up with reasons to go to bed early. The story of Jewel Hilburn, a Southern woman pushing 40 and pregnant with what she knows will be her last child, speaks so poignantly of motherly love and angst. Not since Styron’s book, Sophie’s Choice, have I read such divinely crafted sentences. Some are so powerful I find myself setting the book in my lap, my eyes fixed on some distant point while I just repeat the words in my head, rolling them around like candy on my tongue.

I’m halfway through Jewel right now, and I don’t want it to end. I long for writers like this, for words so carefully written that I, the reader, know I should take care to read each and every one. I don’t need to know the end of the story to know this is a book that will stay with me — and on my shelves — for a long time to come. If not life-changing at its conclusion, well, I can say the book has changed me already: I have a new understanding of the beauty of a story unhurriedly told.

So… what book has rattled your cage lately?

December 1st, 2006

NOW What?

by Venomous Kate

Now that I’ve had a night of pure mental vegetation and at least a few hours sleep after National Novel Writing Month, the shell-shock has set in. I know you’re probably tired of reading about the whole thing, but I’m really surprised I managed to stick to it. At times it felt like every possible obstacle to the 50k mark had presented itself: losing my first two days’ work, my hands turning swollen and painful, even the six days off surrounding our trip to Minnesota over Thanksgiving.

And, frankly, I wanted to quit repeatedly but you didn’t let me. Thank you.

I figured once NaNo was over I’d set aside the unfinished manuscript for a couple of weeks, refusing to even think about the thing, much less work on it. But this morning, I woke up before the alarm clock and found myself reluctant to leave my warm bed. So my brain started wandering, and the next thing I knew I was plotting out the next couple of scenes, mentally revising some of the back storyline (condensing one character into two) and debating whether to change from first- to third-person.

Ten minutes later I was at my desk sucking down coffee and jotting down notes. Having learned how during NaNo, I’m now intent on incorporating at least one writing session into my normal routine. I doubt I’ll ever have the intensity or opportunity to spend entire days writing as I did this past month (well, at least not until next year’s NaNo), but it’s nice to discover I wasn’t only in it for the competition.

I just may be a novelist when I grow up after all!

November 30th, 2006

I did it!

by Venomous Kate

50,183 words with 13 hours to go. I did it! I finished National Novel Writing Month, with at least a fourth of my liver intact.

Ah well, at least there’s time for a good, long nap before National Novel Finishing Month begins.

November 29th, 2006

He Gets Me. He Really Gets Me.

by Venomous Kate

It’s down to the wire on National Novel Writing Month, and I’m 3,834 words shy of complete. Yes, I still have 27+ hours to go, but the fact is I’m in the flabby part of a novel: the midpoint, the belly, the chapter in which (since I’m writing Lit.Fic.) my character’s past story-line and her present circumstances should reach their emotional peak. Here marks the inner battle from which she’ll either emerge wounded but determined, or she’ll tuck tail and turn into someone who should have died on Page One.

Perhaps taking a week off to go do family stuff was not the best thing. I certainly wished NaNo was scheduled so as not to coincide with such things, but I knew the deal when I signed up. That doesn’t restore the momentum I lost in that week, though, nor does it refresh in my mind the intimacy I’d developed with my character until then.

I’m struggling, but I’m determined to finish. Even so, I can’t help noticing how much harder it is writing through this part of the book.

I mentioned this to VH a moment ago after he’d asked, for the third time, whether I was going to hit my 50,000 word mark tonight as I’d hoped.

“No,” I replied. “I’ll be glad if I can knock out another 500 words tonight, really. Right now, it feels like I’m ripping each one out of my head.”

He fixed me another martini and set it down carefully, always on guard against errant drops, he is. “Maybe that’s why novelists consider what they do to be work,” he said.

Damn. I hate it when my husband is right.

November 28th, 2006

Reaching Down Deep In Search Of Morale I Find Only A Bunch Of Indescribable Squish

by Venomous Kate

There are two days left in National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50,000 words. At the time of this writing, I’ve got 4,351 words left to write in 2 days, 25 minutes and 8 seconds.

By golly, I might just make it!

November 18th, 2006

NaNo: Day 18

by Venomous Kate

Look who’s 84% of their way through their NaNoWriMo quota!

I *heart* weekends.

November 12th, 2006

Yes, Another NaNo Post

by Venomous Kate

Are you sick of these yet? I know, I know. Somewhere in the back of my churning brain I’m vaguely aware that many of you could not possibly care less how I’m progressing in this National Novel Writing Month thing.

I feel bad for you. I do. Not merely because, after all these years together, I feel impelled to write witty things as a way to express my gratitude for the moments you take to visit my corner of the vast blogosphere. I also do it because, well, most of the time I’ve got something pressing on my mind that I just can’t wait to share with you and you. Or you. Yeah, even you.

But I’m not thinking of you right now. And, in all honesty, there’s a good chance that I won’t for the rest of this NaNo writing month. De-link me now if you will. I’ll understand.

I’m understanding quite a bit these days, I find.

After I woke up and brushed my teeth this morning, I shuffled unwashed and still half-bleary to the tiny, musty space that serves as my office. If I haven’t told you already, these cramped confines were once a closet. Back before we bought the house, the nice couple who lived here used it to shelve books on astrology and New Age healing. There’s still a nice vibe left in here, a hippy-dippy sandalwood and chakra kind of vibe only heightened by the Tuscan Sand color I chose to paint the walls.

At my request (not just to cover up the walls’ bleak whitness but also for a space to call my own), VH built shelves to hold the wholesale lots of fiction books I habitually buy on eBay. Wedged between the crowded, multi-colored spines of my book collection, and the door that does not completely latch, sits my golden oak rolltop desk: the one and only furniture splurge I’ve made since we moved here.

It’s a tiny space, but it’s all mine.

You cannot understand the significance of that word, mine, unless you have children and a spouse who takes to heart that 50-50 thing. And, honestly, even before the VH, I’m not sure I had too many private places in my life, too many things I could point to and say: “This is off-limits. This is not yours. This is ground upon which I alone can tread.”

Hell, even the diary I kept as a teenager turned out to be my mother’s best source of topics to discuss with her therapist.

But this room? This is mine, even if the Big-Eyed Boy walks through the door without knocking, he knows to apologize when he does. The VH comes in with a look upon his face that says, “Damn. I forgot. I am so, so sorry.” They get it, my family does. They understand.

Yes, sometimes their memories lapse and, because they love me so, they intrude. But they remember. They know and understand, without the need for me to raise my voice or seek the solace of an understanding but expensive therapist, that this is important to me, my space. My little room in which I am Kate, just Kate, and not someone’s wife or mother. I am me, within these walls where my keyboard erects the barrier between the woman I once believed I would become and the woman I’m glad to have turned into. In here I rebuild and re-create the woman they each need me to be.

This is the one place in our house not cluttered with The Big-Eyed Boy’s books or toys. The only real sanctuary I have from dishes and laundry and pee-drenched toilets that I alone, evidently, have the power to fix. In here, I am the Master of my domain. I am the Ultimate Authority. I set a martini down and I can guaran-freaking-tee you it will be on a coaster. This is my space, and here there is no sense of compromise, no happy medium. This is my place to do with as I will, and I protect it with a vodka-soaked defiance that, I assure you, you can’t begin to comprehend.

I’ve been in here since 11 a.m. today. Outside my closed door the sun reached it zenith and set without needing me to witness that fact. And I? I have expurgated ten lives or more in black letters against a bone white screen. I’ve wrestled with my demons. I’ve tilted at my windmills. I have grasped the child that once was me and, clenching her firmly to my heart, gave voice to the fears that no one let her speak before.

Right now, my door is closed. There is a towel wedged up tight between the narrow slit that separates the door and the carpet so badly in need of vacuuuming. My smoke-eater is going full-blast. All the better to drown out your voice, my dear, I tell VH when he suggests turning it down so I can hear him talking to the doorknob.

This is my space, and I love it. I’m guessing you’ve caught on to that by now.

Well, here’s something you may not have realized yet: in this space I have managed to go from 20,000-ish words last night to my current word-count of 29,743. And, between you and me and these four sacred Tuscan Sand-colored walls lined with some of the greatest books ever written, there are more words waiting to spill from my fingertips this night.

I didn’t know I had that many words within me. I didn’t know how good it felt to get them out, to simply let them fall as they will on the page without my ego stepping in to nudge them into something seemly, something more proper, something resembling the nice little pleated-skirt schoolgirl I’ve spent nearly 40 years thinking I ought to be.

Yes, I’m still plagued with biting, tinny voices hovering in the dark spaces of my mind long enough to say “This sucks! You suck! Why on earth did you ever thing you could write a novel?!” then darting away before I can excorcise them.

I’m realizing now, however, how very much like my mother and my junior high English teachers those voices sound. So shrill. So strident. So bent on my failure that, between you and me, I can’t wait to prove them wrong.

I’m past the halfway mark on NaNo now. And yet, somehow, I feel like I’ve only just now begun to write.

Thank you, Dana. Thank you Agent Bedhead, Kim of the Musing Mind, Rammer, Wichi Dude, and Horse and Bryan (even though I do think Hemmingway’s art was more a product of his time than any particular genius on his part) and my fellow NaNo-novice, Teresa. I’m writing my novel, and thanks to you — and the unprecedented display of support from the VH — I am loving it, no matter what I say when those other strident voices staart underminining my self-esteem. I’m writing. By God: I am writing!

Almost twenty years ago, I said this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Thanks to your encouragement, I’m finding out that the rest of my life has been waiting for me. Here in this little room where the walls hug me close I am discovering that great fountain of words within me which, thanks to the fullness of the courage you’ve given me, are ready at long last to erupt.

November 11th, 2006

How’d That Happen?

by Venomous Kate

After losing my data the first day of NaNoWriMo (and, again, many thanks to Rammer for offering me 350 of his words to appease my loss!), I got into the habit of saving my manuscript in several locations. Just in case. One of those locations is a text file, which I’ve been running through NaNo’s word count API each time I do a save. But I rarely pay attention to the actual word count.

I know I’m still in the first third of this story, and I’ve come to accept this first draft will be considerably longer than NaNo’s 50,000 word goal. Probably three times as long, actually, which is ok. By the time I edit this draft then send the second draft to a hand-picked group of first readers, then edit it again after receiving their comments… well, I expect one out of every three words to die.

I’m fine with that. Really.

(You can’t see it, but I just took a big swill of my martini to wash away the pain of having said that.)

Still, even I was surprised to find myself over 24,000 words when I did my final manuscript save for the evening. How the hell did that happen? Maybe I’m having more fun than I realized, eh?

UPDATE: Well, lucky me. Just in case I’m not done with the story at 50,000 words, there’s always NaNoFiMo next month. Heh.