Wednesday Wonders: When to Call the Book Done

Standard

IMG_56803333

The other day my son said, “You know you’ve got a LOT of books on writing on your bookshelf. Have you read all of those?”

Mostly, I told him. (He wasn’t particularly impressed — just astounded that I could stay focused for that long on reading books about putting words on paper.)

And he doesn’t even know about the courses I’ve taken and the blogs I’ve read.

Writing takes a lot of reading.

And, of course, it takes a lot of writing words.

In my online reading, Randy Ingermanson once explained to me that the average writer puts over a million words down before she or he becomes a published author.

The million words could be several different books or it could be the same book rewritten over and over again.

I don’t know how many words I’ve written. It’s hard to keep track.

My very first novel is at the back of my file drawer where it will stay. I think I drafted 50,000 words or so. My second short historical fiction set on Whidbey Island is now around 30,000 words. Here is where it gets tough to track, though. It was 50,000 then I cut it down to 40,000. Then I added some. Then I cut it to the bone at 20,000. I added again to 32,000.

I have a third historical fiction set in Tacoma with a word count around that size, too, including the cuts and additions and whatnots.

Those are the larger pieces that are easier to keep track of. I’ve written scads of shorter pieces, some published, many more not, and some even on this blog. I’ve grown fond of mathematics but not fond enough to actually add up all the single words I’ve written to see if I’ve gotten to a million words. I know publishing isn’t anything like that straight forward anyway.

(You wrote the millionth word! Now you are published! Not exactly.)

P1270121

I declared my my second short novel finished last week. Over the last five years I drafted and revised, took classes with it, had my critique group read and re-read it through and then section by section. I’ve had beta readers take a look at it and acted on all of the feedback I’ve received in one way or another.

I’m ready to stop cutting and adding. I’m ready to turn my attention to other things and let the million words add up on some other project.

At first I decided to consign it to the bottom of a drawer, tucked into a file next to the first one about the fairies and the the other worlds full of trees and magic.

Then I read this by Priscilla Long in The Writer’s Portable Mentor, one of the those books my son saw on the shelf:

“Work never sent out is very likely never completed. The author never has to stand by it, for better or for worse. It is never exposed to a stranger’s eye. It is never received with love, hate, indifference, or with interest. It has no audience, no public. As a result, the writer is never obliged to see it through a reader’s eye.”

Well, then.

I guess I’ll send those several thousand words out, roll with rejections, and get down word counts in revising my third novel.

I suppose I knew that all along from my music and drawing. Unless I share what I am doing, the art wilts in a corner. More often than not, I never make it at all if I know no one will ever see it.

May you know the joy of calling things finished even if that means you have to take a risk to get there-

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

 

Wednesday Wonders: A CT Scan to Diagnose and Treat Stuck

Standard

Stuck Ostrich

I am stuck. I have a deadline of May 19th to finish revising my novel and it won’t let me move forward.

Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten side tracked with writing for the band I play with.

Maybe it’s because the day job has been especially demanding lately.

Maybe it’s because the cottonwood covering the air and earth with it’s gorgeous white balls of fluff causes my throat to close up and my voice to turn husky. (The husband likes the sound of it, but now it’s veering toward a whisper which I don’t think is all that cute.)

Maybe it’s because I got a rejection. (Good grief, I say to myself, one rejection should not stop you!)

One of my wise friends tells me to set the novel aside and come back to it later. I can’t even seem to do that.

So instead I am trying a technique I heard from Elizabeth Gilbert, that guru of creativity and giver of artistic permission slips.

I am running a reverse CT scan on myself. To do this, I slowly scan my consciousness to see if some glimmer of curiosity for my book still exists in the tomography of my creativity. (It’s a reverse scan because I am searching for goodness instead of the disease that the medical world tries to find.)

If you ask, I will let you know if I find any sparkles. I may not. It may be time to let this novel go and move forward.

I’ve got until the 19th to finish scanning.

In the meantime, here are the sparkles of wonder I found while keeping my eyes open in the everyday.

IMG_7695

A great day out with the boys at our favorite after-the-beach dinner spot The Spar. A restaurant with Duplos and chess sets can’t be beat. 

 

Of course, the flowers in my yard and on my walks sparkle. Even though spring is biting me in the nose, I adore it as much as ever.

 

IMG_7697

A clarinetist I am sorry I never got to meet. Dr. Michael Lovezzola’s daughter sent me this to go with the piece I wrote recently. I can feel how much she misses him in her photos.

May you find your sparkles,

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

 

And one more…

IMG_7698

The long legs of my five-year-old when he tries to sit on my lap. His are the bruised legs on top. Mine are underneath with the mismatched socks. I think I’ve got two years before he outgrows me.

Wednesday Wonders: When Your Art is Worth Saving

Standard
IMG_7219

By Sydney Zylstra (retrieved from the attic in 2011)

“You know all those paintings your mother makes and then throws out?”

My sister and I nodded as my dad said this. We knew.

“Well, I pulled a few out of the garbage and stuck them up in the attic. Remember to get them out of there when I die so she doesn’t toss them.”

I understand why my mother wanted to throw those beautiful pastels away. It helped her feel free to make mistakes and go on to create more when she knew she didn’t have to keep or share what she created.

She probably felt something like Molly in this clip Jody Casella shared with me recently:

I also get why my dad didn’t want to let them go. He couldn’t see her mistakes. He only saw a picture worth saving — something he didn’t want in the trash even after he died.

I am drawn to that video of Molly and the memory of my dad stashing away my mom’s art. And I’m happy to say I no longer feel like dipping my manuscript in alcohol and setting it on fire over a gas burner. 

Instead, I keep this mantra by James Scott Bell posted near my computer screen:

“It can be fixed.”

That helps enormously when the mean voice in my head chatters on about all that is wrong even as I work to make it better.

And I’m glad Dad saved the pastels. A year or so after he died, my mom found them on my wall and stopped, looking them over for a slow minute.

I held my breath, praying I would not lose my treasures.

She surprised me by insisting they needed a coat of sealant to protect the surface. She then took them down and returned them to me, never suggesting that I throw them away.

Those canvases covered in flowers still hang in my hallway, reminding me to look at what’s worth keeping even when, at first, I might not think my characters have led me down the right path. 

May you know the joy of creating and the power of saving your work-

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 6.57.01 AM

Extra wonders:

IMG_7186

Seattle waterways before the Ballard Locks and the ship canal connected the lakes to the sound.

IMG_7202

My book and I loved this trip to see my Seattle family and visit the locks. So much to research for us here!

A recycled bit on the wonder series:

I love the way writing and other art forms open my eyes to the surprises around me in my everyday life. Many of these wonders will also be in my Instagram account since I discovered the joy of that program during an advent photo project.

I collect these surprises like little rocks in a kid’s pocket. I may use them in a story. I may not. Either way, life gets a little brighter when I take the time to notice.