Every ending has a middle?

I haven’t had much time to work either on the current draft of my novel or on blog posts, for, as you can see, two years. I got a job at the post office two years ago, but it was part time, so I had to keep my other job, too. I worked two jobs with very few days off for six months, then went straight to a different second job, then started a new full-time job and kept my old job as a part-time job, and only quit my part-time job the day before I started back to school full time (while also still working full-time at my new job).

On the bright side, I changed my major to English with a concentration in Professional Writing. I hope to become an editor somewhere, but I also hoped to learn things that might be helpful to me in editing my novel. And, I have. My commas and semi-colons are on point now, guys.

On the even brighter side, it’s now summer break, which means I have more free time than I have in two years, and I’m hard at work on finishing the fourth draft (almost done) and starting the fifth draft of How Their Story Became My Story.

The end really is in sight, and I’m so excited to have time to plug away on this project that is currently eight years in the making.


Oh happy day, my first publication

I checked my e-mail on my lunch break at work earlier this month and saw I had an e-mail in response to a piece of writing I submitted months ago. I wasn’t having a great day, so I kinda sighed and thought to myself that I should go ahead and get reading my first rejection letter out of the way. It was, after all, a historic moment of sorts.

I opened the e-mail and can’t even describe the feeling that washed over me when I saw my piece had been accepted for publication. I’ve always heard the expression “on cloud 9” but I believe that is one of the few moments in my life where I’ve understood it. The rest of the day I felt sort of disconnected from the mundane things in my life, riding a disbelieving high.

I was even more amazed by the piece that was selected. I wrote it about 5 years ago and though I did a quick edit before submitting it remains very close to the way I originally conceived it. At the time that I wrote the piece one of my exes who is a creative writing major was looking over every piece of writing I made before I shared it with people. This piece sticks out in my memory because it was the first one where he made me post it without him offering approval or criticism first. He told me that if I was going to be a writer I had to get used to putting myself out there.

I have all sorts of ideas in my head of things to write, fantasy, poems, romance, etc. But lately I’d started to think that maybe I should stick to one area of writing. This piece that was accepted for publication is a sort of dark modern fantasy piece, not the area I was planning to limit myself to. So maybe this publication will help remind me not to write myself into a box.

With that in mind I registered for a workshop here called Drunk on Writing. I was selected to be one of the 12 women in this session, we will meet every 2 weeks for 6 months and write and critique pieces in various genres. I’m excited to see what new things I can produce and learn by participating.

Here is the link to the e-magazine where my short story “1,000 Lies to Break Your Fall” was published. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested. http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/romance-issues/romance-magazine-vol-02-09/

In the End: How Their Story Became my Story

I just started working on the third draft of this novel about a month ago. I’m really enjoying the process actually. I feel like I didn’t know what I was doing at all when I started writing this book, and that’s probably because it’s true. So, chopping it up and adding new bits to it for the most recent draft has been really satisfying.

I have some reservations about doing this, because I hate to appear incompetent, but I thought it might be interesting to do a series of posts showing the progress this book made over the various drafts.

Maybe seeing that I kept going despite the awkward beginning will inspire someone else to keep plugging along on their own book, or just make them feel better about their own work. Ha.

I wrote the first draft of my novel in present tense. That worked at the time because my motivation for writing was completely different than what it became for later drafts. I was dating the guy who was the inspiration for the main character of this book, and I set out to write a story that would show guys like him the contradictions in their behavior. So, I also wrote it To the main guy. I rather liked that, it is rare to see stories written that way, but the novelty of the idea wasn’t enough to convince me it would be useful in the next draft.

It has been a long time since I looked at this draft of the book, for good reason. It’s a bit painful for me. But I was surprised to see a few lines in it that I like which never made it to later drafts. Still, I think they’ll stay there in the first draft without moving forward, a reminder to myself that the story had good bones.

This scene from my first draft was the first scene that I re-wrote for the second draft. It therefore became the first chapter of later drafts, I felt it was an intriguing place to drop the reader into before going back and showing them earlier information about the characters. So, here it is, the earliest version of the first draft of this book.

February 2009 Meeting Laura

“Questioning her good intention, Jealousy’s a bad invention, when you push on glass it’s bound to break. … Accept this confession! I’m walking on pins and needles. You’re not my possession.” –From Billy Talent’s “Pins and Needles”

I’m taking down the hot food bar at work, talking to a co-worker, when I see you at the salad bar with her. You start gesturing wildly, seemingly excited to see me. By the time you make it over to me, my co-worker has disappeared.

“Is it that time of day already?” you ask, watching me streamline pans. I guess it is earlier than when you worked here.

“Yeah, the deli closes at eight now,” I remind you.

“Lemme see it!” you exclaim, referring to the tattoo you know I got the day before. I painstakingly roll up my sleeve. Ink is still flaking off of it, and my heavy polo sleeves really disagree with the placement.

“It’s all grody,” you say, looking taken aback.

“It’s less than twenty-four hours old,” I tell you. You, who already have five tattoos, should understand my predicament.

It’s about then that she wanders up to us with her salad in hand. You have not mentioned this broad to me in nine months, easy. I certainly don’t know why she is with you now, since you told me you could not hang out today because your Mom is in town and you’re having a family weekend. My knee jerk reaction is to mentally distance myself. You turn to her, and say her name slowly, softly, as though it might break on it’s way out of your mouth, warning her with your eyes, apologizing to her in advance.

“Laura,” and her eyes flinch, she pulls into herself, and I’m not quite sure why she is the one upset. “This is the one I was telling you about.” And God only knows what you told her, but it bet it doesn’t include the fact that we fucked last Wednesday.

“Hi,” I say, my face registering the fact that I don’t understand why this is happening.

“She was just showing me her new tattoo. It’s from a poem,” you explain. “I don’t remember what it says exactly, it’s like…” and then you look to me for help.

“Did you want me to tell her?” I ask.

“Well, yeah.”

“I didn’t know where you were going with that,” I inform you, before making sure no customers are nearby and leaning close to Laura. She responds automatically to my gesture, leaning in too, until our faces are only separated by the marble top of the hot food case.

“It says ‘When God created you, lying in bed, he came all over his blessed universe’” I tell her per your request. Her eyes widen, and she leans back without responding.

“It’s interesting because it looks all girly, then you find out what it says. Pretty badass. And it’s her first ink.” You talk fast, seemingly wanting her to accept me, though I’m still not sure why. She wanders off to look at sushi, still not saying anything. I don’t think she liked the showing me off quality our interaction had.

“She’s the one I’ve been helping move. We had to finish up today.”

“Ah. That’s my favorite one of your shirts, by the way.”

You look down at your black button down with velvet designs, and I wonder if you are thinking what I’ve already realized…that you would not have worn that shirt to help someone move. She wanders back up, and I tell you both goodbye.

“I’m out like a fat kid at dodgeball,” you respond, and I watch you both disappear around a corner, wondering how much ‘splaining you have to do.

In the Middle (again, but closer to the End): How Their Story Became My Story

I started writing my novel in 2009, and nearly completed the first draft that year (oh, to have that much free time again). After I decided to write my second draft, the writing process moved much more slowly. By the end of 2012 I still had not completed it. So, at the beginning or 2013 I vowed that I would have my novel completed by the end of the year.

And I wrote, I wrote more than I had in 2012 for sure, but less than I wrote in 2011 or 2010. Life got in the way, summertime found me so busy that I’m not sure I touched the draft at all for three months. As fall began, I was discouraged. It seemed like another year would go by without a complete second draft.

On November 1 the English teacher who has been kind enough to edit my second draft sent me a message. She wanted to know if I had heard of this thing called NaNoWriMo. I had not. I checked it out and it sounded perfect, but also, you know, impossible. November is National Novel Writing Month (that’s what NaNoWriMo is short for) and the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. That’s an average of 1,667 words per day. I started writing with renewed vigor. I wrote a few hundred words that very night and updated my word count. A graph showed me my progress, and though I was starting out a little behind, the graph motivated me. Is it possible that a graph tracking my progress was all that I needed all along? I wrote vigorously the next day, and learned that my usual amount of words per day was about 1,000 shy of the average I’d need to hit to complete 50,000 words by the end of the month. (By the way, you’re supposed to write a totally new novel during NaNoWriMo, by working on an old manuscript I was being what they called a NaNo Rebel, which is acceptable as long as you write 50,000 brand spankin’ new words by the end of the month.) I wrote a little bit more each day, until eventually I was hitting the 1,667 word average, and sometimes exceeding it. On Thanksgiving, I completed the 50,000 words and became a NaNoWriMo 2013 Winner.

My novel still was not quite finished, but suddenly it didn’t seem so crazy to attempt to finish it by the end of the year, and I was back on track to complete my second draft.


In the Middle: How Their Story Became My Story

I started writing my second draft with high hopes of finishing it quickly. I wasn’t quite sure what to call the new version of the story at first, it went without a title for a long time. Eventually I was inspired by the form in which I was putting the book together. Since each chapter tells the story of a different girl the main guy was involved with from the main girls point of view I decided to name it “How Their Story Became My Story”. And so I created a title, and it was good. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to create much else. The form, my motivation (from proving a point to a guy, to making a story girls could relate to and learn from), everything changed and I felt a little out of my depth.

I was so out of my depth that months would go by without me writing anything at all. I would get bogged down in research, or “not feel inspired” and so much of the time my manuscript sat untouched. Then there would be good periods, months where I’d make steady progress, and still I was nowhere near the end.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I read so much, for once more, the introduction to a book I was reading saved me from giving up. I began re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and when I read at the beginning how it took J.R.R. Tolkien thirteen years to finish since life, work, and other obligations kept getting in the way, I felt a sudden invigoration. Yes, of course life gets in the way! Everyone has a life outside of writing novels, why shouldn’t I? And yet, it didn’t have to stop me from finishing in the end. So, three years after I started my second draft (four years after I started writing the story) I made a pact with myself, I would finish the novel by the end of the year.

No, I wasn’t writing an epic fantasy like Tolkien, and I don’t dare compare myself to him, but I did feel a kinship with him, we were both writers in the trenches who kept going no matter what. My story may not be epic, or fantastical, but I do have tentative plans to make it into a trilogy. Each book in the trilogy would tell the story of a different man the main character loved during her life, and the men would each have bit roles in the novels where they weren’t the primary love interest.

If Tolkien could do it, I could do it, and if it were a race I planned to win, it wasn’t going to take me more than a decade to write my stories!