Day Five: in and out of flow

That’s right…there’s no Day Four. Don’t look for it. I was blindsided by my Monthly Migraine (TMI?) over the weekend, and flattened by 5 days of taking care of a sick child.

I *did* write on Friday, the “yooesh” (the “usual”…iCarly fans, anyone?). More importantly, I typed up what I wrote on Day One and got an accurate word count for The Yooesh…I’m averaging about 212 handwritten words on a page of college-ruled notepaper. Less than what I get on a typewritten, 1.5-lined page (250). So I decided to write 5 pages per day. Today I actually got in six, but it was pure quantity, not quality.

I’m expanding a scene I’ve written before — my protagonist’s first visit to a new apartment — but somehow managed to completely flip the building around and bring in new, confusing details that I’m not sure I’ll be keeping. After half a page, I stood up to walk around…it was not going right and I needed a break already, after just 5 minutes of writing! I read what I’d written previously on this scene, and realized I did not put in as much detail as I thought, so I let go and let the writing flow.

I had a note from last Friday for the blog: “saved knitting stuff = saved writing books.” I was going to talk about one of my favorite handicrafts and how I learned in 1992 (the time my story takes place, BTW) but then put all my new hobby purchases (needles, enough Rowan yarn for a complicated sweater, patterns, etc.) away for 12 years. At one point the whole box was in my garage (not the best place to store wool!) for about 6 of those years. Yikes.

Same thing, although more off and on and never in the garage, with my writing books. I have a small (3-shelf) bookshelf packed with various titles on writing, creativity, journaling, etc. The one I tried working with before, The Weekend Novelist, has disappeared; a bummer, since my most recent favorite writing book, Chapter After Chapter, recommends working with it. That’s the only missing book from my collection that seems to have been given away at some point…probably because I tried the process, and didn’t get a novel out of it.

The only thing that got a novel out of me — albeit a very short one! — was National Novel Writing Month. I “won” only one year out of 3 tries, and that is my “under the bed” novel — I have no desire to edit or work with it *at all.* It did teach me that I could do it…1,670 words a day for 30 days…and it got a lot of junk out of my head about what a novel “could” or “should” be (it was not the novel I’m working on now…I worked on this story the first year I did NaNo…and discovered a fantastic new character, but only got in 10,000 words instead of the 50,000 I needed…I was cheating anyway, working on “old” material).

So far I have not dreaded sitting down at my desk, not even on Friday, when the ghost of my migraine was trying to get in my head. I did write for well over an hour today and got in 2 extra pages, so I have reason to look forward to tomorrow. Again.

Day Three: just a little wrench in plans.

My daughter threw up at midnight last night; finally a reason to be happy that my husband suffers from insomnia. I was out cold and my daughter didn’t even attempt to come in and wake me…she saw the light on downstairs and went to get her dad, lying on the couch playing with his smartphone (aka The Binky).  The deal was done so all he needed to do was clean up, which he did admirably. Best of all, I got my beauty sleep. Seems kind of odd to be celebrating such a turn of events, but daughter is slowly recovering (and the doctor visit yesterday shows no signs of strep from the cultures taken) so we’re just letting things take their course. Fingers crossed that it isn’t mono — there is a rare outside chance of that, but we need to wait a couple of more days. Let’s hope for continued improvement!

Hubs also took youngest to school today…lil guy has twice been confused by a crowded bus and new bus hub where he has to listen for his “stop.” I promised to drive him in today, but with our overnight developments, hubs didn’t want to leave daughter alone and just dropped lil guy off on his way to work.

Which meant (a) I did not have to jump in the shower (although I should, immediately after breakfast) and (b) I had a chance (and grabbed it!) to crawl back into bed (this 5:30a wake-up time is for the birds, not me). Bad, bad writer.

Still — got my writing in. With both kids home, at 2p in the afternoon. It wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t un-interrupted (daughter suddenly wanted to take a shower…coughing up a lung…in my bathroom…three feet from my writing desk; lil guy wanted to switch online games he was playing…downstairs). I almost wimped out at the bottom of page two, and again about halfway through page 3 (of my 4-page a day goal), but plugged on through and almost — almost — didn’t want to stop there. I am taking Ernest Hemingway’s advice, and quitting in the middle of the action, so that I have somewhere to start the next day.

If I can keep up the 4-page goal in under an hour each day, I may just increase that goal. Do you have daily writing goals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Keep on keepin’ on.

Day Two surprise

Despite my daughter staying home from school today — yes, only the second day of school and I’m dealing with a sick child — I was able to get in a 45-minute writing session and meet my goal: 4 written pages, roughly 1,000 words (I still have to test that out by typing up what I’ve written so far).

I had a surprise in store…researching something that came up, a detail that just offered itself to me…swastikas, or rather, sauvastika: the mirror-image of the hated Nazi symbol, its right angles forming counter-clockwise Ls (the sauvastika). Apparently the Nazis subjugated the good-luck version (backwards Ls) and the counter-clockwise one meant the opposite:

“Some cultures in the past had differentiated between the clockwise swastika and the counter-clockwise sauvastika. In these cultures the swastika symbolized health and life while the sauvastika took on a mystical meaning of bad-luck or misfortune.”
(From about.com)

My characters encounter a sauvastika in the tiles on the floor of a foyer in an old apartment building (circa 1920s). I had a similar experience in Chicago, in the foyer of my sister’s apartment at the time. I can’t tell you if it was right- or left-facing, but I can tell you I had a very visceral reaction to seeing that symbol under my feet (mainly, “why haven’t they replaced this floor in the last 70 years?!”)

I came across a booth at the Ann Arbor Antiques Market two years ago that featured nothing but swastikas/sauvastikas…not just on Nazi paraphernalia (which was sparse, and hidden) but on Native American baskets and rugs (presumed Navajo) and American patchwork quilts. The man who owned the booth was well-versed on the reaction to such a symbol, and readily offered a deeper history of it as one of good luck. He insisted the counter-clockwise symbol (where the right angles form recognizable Ls) meant something along the lines of “Life, Love,” etc. However, being that this symbol is over 3,000 years old (predating the Egyptian ankh…and our alphabet), I’m going to have to decide which direction this symbol faces in my plot’s apartment building. It may mean a whole lot of difference between good and bad things having happened there.

My daughter is lying on the couch, (I think…if she were “laying” she’d have to be setting something else down, right? Like, laying eggs?! Oh, Grammar…you annoying bitch) making noises in her sleep as if she were battling evil. I just took her temperature — 102. Ugh. Which means no school tomorrow, either, but I know I can make my writing goal anyway.

And maybe find another surprise to research later.

I love writing.

Day One down

Today was the first day of school, and officially the first day of my “writing life.” Okay, first HALF day, since my youngest only does mornings. I was surprised by two things: my ritual for getting ready included reading over prior material (which was fresher than I remembered), and my goal (1,000 words…4 sheets of notebook paper, handwritten) only took me a half an hour. I sat there, stunned, then let myself accept that I had reached my goal quickly. Like getting into the pool, I’m okay with inching my way into this.

My only panic moment came as I sat there, pen poised, just before getting started. “Really?!” I thought. “Writer’s block already?!” Then I realized I just hadn’t decided on a scene yet. I had read through my (2!) outlines, each with conflicting paths, and choose to go with yet another restaurant scene (my protagonist is a waitress).

One of the delightful things I discovered in previous written scenes was that her BFF is a neat freak. It was fun to put in little references and habits of his that would drive a non-neat freak crazy.

I’m off to bed early; I was up at 5:30 a.m. to shower before my daughter got up to do the same. Unfortunately, she has a wicked case of laryngitis; she may not be going to school tomorrow…we’ll see how this affects my writing schedule…luckily she is 100% behind me on this writer-thing…it’s my husband I haven’t informed yet!

Preparing for fall

I recently found out that my youngest will have to go to an a.m. class (our neighborhood is on an afternoon bus route, but there are not enough students to hold afternoon-only classes for his age group) when he starts school this fall, which means that both kids will be out of the house first thing in the morning (7 a.m. if they take the bus, 8 a.m. if I drive them) and I will have Prime Time for writing! Yesssss….feel free to give me a virtual fist-bump 😉

I have been taking what time I can eke out of my day to pull out my novel research and pre-writing. I’m lining up my writing reference books (a la Heather Seller’s most excellent Chapter by Chapter) and catching up on my Books 100 (another Sellers suggestion). I’ve been checking my plot outline and doing small character studies.

I’m getting ready for the open-ended writing time I’ve been craving since my first child was born. What do you do to get ready? What’s your writing schedule? Do you have one?

Dreaming of Detroit

Combine a mild cold with 3-a.m. viewings of Toy Story 3 and a late night or three up scrapbooking,throw in some cold medications, and it leads to some weird dreams. I was listening to Chinese Man’s I Got That Tune just before I fell asleep last night, and it put me in the 1920s mood I so desperately seek when I sit down to work on my novel.

I ended up dreaming my recurring sad Detroit dream; the one where I go through the broken landscape of burnt-out homes and businesses, and for a moment see What Used To Be. Not that Detroit ever had such a glorious moment in history; even the 1920s were ripped apart by bootlegger crimes and young children carting booze in their schoolbags.

I have a very vivid, very real memory of going to a downtown intersection with my best friend Chris, and looking at the ruin of an old bike shop that still had her family’s name over the crumbled doorway. Tin ceilings showed through the rubble. Once, I thought, this was a real place, a livelihood, it’s the reason she and her father still pronounce “battery” as “bat-tree” and talk about “going begging” on Halloween.

I know all these bits and pieces about my hometown, but I feel I need to be honest about them when I write, even if what I am working on is part fantasy/part historic fiction. I need to get back to Detroit…what’s left of it. I always get the best vibes from the past when I’m immersed in the city.

Long weekend

My hand-knitted gifts went over well; so well, in fact, that it was requested next year EVERYONE hand-make something (since we are a crafty group) because a couple of our members are dealing with divorce & single motherhood & nearly extreme-poverty, and we are a crafty bunch, after all!

I brought my laptop but never fired it up once. I had 4 page kits done up with photos and matching papers, and got those pages completely done despite distractions such as awesome snacks, drinkage, and movie watching. So my count is 5 pages done, but 2 entries missed here. Oh, and one wicked cold coming on. TheraFlu should effectively end any attempt at sounding coherent.

And so I say goodnight on another brief entry. Incubating, my friends…incubating.

Dreams lost

Well, I just did one of those quicky select-all delete numbers that ate my post. I mentioned that I dreamt of work last night, not surprising given my subject yesterday. I was getting into dueling illustrators, clueless Senior Editors, and the worst author call I ever had to make, but now it’s all gone, and maybe that’s for the better.

I spent every spare moment today finishing up a knitted gift which I am giving to the recipient tomorrow. Excuses, excuses, but that’s my post, since my original one (a) got et, and (b) probably wasn’t something I wanted the whole blog-reading world to see.

I have a few more gifts to wrap (belated holiday party for my scrapbooking friends, a.k.a. Girls Weekend!) and I just took some Excedrin P.M. so my writing muscle is at its flimsiest right now.

I have to think about that post some more, and re-write it when I have a chance. Sorry for another cliffhanger.

Children’s Book Publishing

First, “we” (the royal “we”, I guess) got mentioned at CNN. Pretty cool, even if they didn’t quote me directly (mouthing ‘call me’ to Anderson Cooper. Yeah, yeah, I know what team he’s on. Still.)

I was on fire to write my post this morning, and I’m going to stick with my topic even if it is later and I’m TIRED gosh I’m tired; tried to nap around 5p but it did nothing to revive me. Probably thanks to my son driving his Batman car around the house. Yes, the one with the tire-squealing sound effects.

Here’s a fact you’ll learn about me around 10 minutes into meeting me, because if you ask me what I “do” I’m most likely to tell you what I “did.” I worked at a small publishing house, as a jack-of-all-trades “Associate Editor” for 4 1/2 years. Well, 2 1/2 full-time, and 2 part-time after my daughter was born. That was also right around the time the company was “traded,” to use a sports analogy (since we also did sports books), then bought out AGAIN by an even larger corporate entity less than a year later. The company went from being a small, family-run place (and not very well run, since the owner readily admitted to not being much of a “reader” — see Sports Books, above) to an international conglomerate, and all the perks like flex time and human decency (I’m looking at you, former Senior Editor who-really-doesn’t-like-titles, EYEROLL) went out the door with the owners.

The company is still limping along in some sort of boxed-in corporate tower (they moved from the quaint offices they had in a small-town above-the-storefront space two years ago), down to 3 in-office workers and an equal amount of work-from-home-in-another-state masterminds who are probably the real ones keeping the pacemaker working.

Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about my bitterness over my last “real” job (don’t get me on the SAHM soapbox) since it’s all water under the bridge now. I’m glad I was home in my children’s formative years, and truthfully, I don’t think I’d have been able to have my son while working. I am much more relaxed, laidback, “Zen” about lif,e and working for The Man no longer appeals to me.

But I learned some interesting things along the way, and I will share them with you in another post tomorrow morning, after my morning coffee kicks in. Hope that’s not too much of a cliffhanger.

Share something that makes you smile

One thing I do each night with my kids is ask them, “What was your favorite part of the day?” The original suggestion, by a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) mentor mom I used to work with, was, “What made you smile today?” but being the editor that I am, I made my own nightly quiz question. Because sometimes your favorite part of the day didn’t necessarily make you smile; maybe it made you sigh with contentment, run with joy, or simply laugh out loud.

But in regards to a Daily Post suggested topic (I’m just going to keep going with these, until I make time to write in the morning, just after my coffee, before my youngest wakes up…today, I went back to bed after getting my older child off to the bus at 7 (!) a.m.), some things that made me smile today were:

The smell of our Christmas tree when I lean over to plug in the lights (yes, ours is still up).
Cuddling with my kids.
Chatting on the phone with my mom.
My husband thanking me for making dinner.
Pulling out cardstock in anticipation of my girls’ weekend, putting together page sets (I. Love. Color.)
Listening to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and finding myself singing along.
Posting on facebook about my dropped (!) iPod Touch (cracked the glass cover pretty severely) and having a dozen people respond with sympathy and suggestions on getting it fixed.

Simple things, really. Nothing to do with writing, already…except that I got something written.