Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Plugging Away… June 13, 2011

I’ve been remiss. I’ve let my writing take second chair. Well, second chair (or first, for that matter) isn’t taken – it’s given. So the burden of responsibility rests solely on my shoulders. Oh, I’ve been writing – mainly for local magazines and blogs – but I consider that something other than “working on my novels”.

I could point to a couple of external factors – problems due to the concussion I received two years ago (just started therapy for that, finally) or my recent involvement in my son’s PTSA  (funny how when you’re cell deep in your novel, you almost forget you have a real, live family). And the editor I worked with is on hiatus until the fall. I love that word, hiatus. Sounds like something requiring surgery. I had my hiatus removed, so the doc said I can’t lift anything over twenty pounds.

So, I’ve been plugging away at my manuscript (the wonderous third draft you hear so much about), trying to apply what I learned working with said (amazing) editor to the other 300 pages. I will state this: my first fifty are solid! Um, I think.

Here are my goals for the summer – finish my revision. attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference , prepare for the  International Surrey Writers Conference (both manuscript and confidence-wise), lose ten pounds (nothing to do with writing, but still a worthwhile goal. On second thought, make that an even twenty).

And how, pray tell, do you plan to spend your summer? I’ll ask another way – what writing goals have you set? Please share!

Cat

 

Getting Back in the (Writing) Game… December 21, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Freelance,Write — justwritecat @ 12:38 am

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe it’s been a full month since I last posted on this blog. Shame on me. And, I apologize.

I started focusing more on my freelance writing – initially out of necessity, then because I found it helped my craft. Freelance took off, which was both good and not-so-good. Good because bringing in an income doing something you love is always good, plus I’m writing outsize my non-fiction comfort zone…which means I might do the same when working on my novels. Not-so-good because I’ve put my fiction writing on the back burner. My hope is that I kind find that balance again in 2011. I managed to balance out my time up until recently — last month — when we received some financially devastating news. So, I had to put more energy to writing that brought in an income.

I am incredibly grateful for those freelance writing opportunities. Not only for the monetary reward, but because the work is pushing me to grow as a writer.  Plus, I’m learning about things I never thought about before — and I’m taking down notes on ways to incorporate those newsy bits in my novels.

Some time ago I asked how I could make this blog more helpful. Of course posting more consistently is a given – sorry, again. But I thought I’d focus on ways writers can branch out…either in the genres they write or by giving serious thought to writing ‘for the other side’ – nonfiction. So, here’s the first post on Freelance Writing.

I’m going to divide this by freelance writing for print vs web content — because there are differences (and I’m doing both, though only starting on the web content opportunities). My first freelance gig came by way of another blog I write for a local magazine. Back in the spring, they were looking for someone to blog a few times a month on various topics. I applied, the editor liked this blog and my writing style, and gave me the chance.  I had the freedom to write on a variety of issues – mainly my experiences as a mom in Vancouver, WA (it’s a family magazine). A few months later, I asked if I could query her with some article ideas.  She said yes, I did – and my first print article came out.

Now, I don’t know if having an article published in a magazine makes me an author or not – I’ve heard yays and nays, but it sure does give one confidence. I’ve written a few more pieces for the magazine – Vancouver Family Magazine – and now for other local magazines and newspapers. I sent my first query to a national magazine last month.

I love writing for the local magazines because I can write about what I now – what I experience living daily in this part of the country. And you can establish great relationships with editors of local magazines. They live in your community,  you see them out and about, they seem incredibly approachable (magazines more than newspaper editors) — if you not yet confident enough as a writer (are we ever???), local editors tend to take the time to provide suggestions for article topics or insider tips. I think of the editor at Vancouver Family Magazine as more a mentor — and I don’t know if that happens when you’re looking for guidance/feedback on your novel (until you have an agent).

So, those are my thoughts on starting local if you’re thinking about branching out to freelance writing. Next post – differences between writing for magazines and newspapers.

Happy Writing!

 

Branching Out… September 17, 2010

Quick update – still working on revisions with independent editor, Lisa Rector-Maass. Still amazed by her uncanny ability to read the hearts and minds of my characters. Still waiting for the day when my first novel is ready to send out (again).

Meanwhile – I decided to branch out a bit.

Partly fueled by the belief that I should have ‘something to show for the past year plus of work’, but primarily out of a desire to further improve my craft – I started writing nonfiction (articles mainly).  I wasn’t sure if I could easily transition between writing fiction and nonfiction, but so far things are looking good.  For the past few months, I’ve blogged for a local family magazine – Vancouver Family Magazine.  The editor gave me the opportunity to write an article for their print edition (comes out next month). Getting that assignment gave me the confidence to query a couple other local magazines and a local newspaper. Result – my first printed article appeared in the Columbian last Sunday.  A travel piece.   Another article is coming out next month for NW Kids, and I have a future piece lined up for that same magazine. 

Boy howdy! The hardest part was giving it a try.  Seems it was worth it – especially if this keeps up.

Moral of it all? Be open to any and all writing opportunities.  Doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything – but if you keep an open mind, you never know what doors may open. 

Does it feel rather cool to get ‘paid’ for one’s writing?  Sure.  But more than that (honestly), it is validation.  Getting a thumbs up to your writing. Realizing that you may very well be witnessing your dreams come true.  Now that’s beyond cool.

I planned to blog about this in greater detail, but then another cool thing happened.  I received an email from another blogger.  I’m not going to mention who  – yet.  She asked if I’d like to submit a few guest posts to her site, gave me a few ideas, offered to consider some of my own.  She was open to the topic of ‘expanding one’s writing repertoire’, so that’s what I’m going to blog about on her site. Once I know when my posts go live, I’ll update everyone on the details.  But – isn’t that the greatest?  To have someone – someone you admire as a blogger/writer – reach out in that way?  I thought it was…

Okay, okay – as I double checked my post for errors, I realized something. I gotta come up with something other than ‘cool’.  Awesome? Fantastic?  Freakin’ Fabulous? Something that captures my allegiance to the 80s, but still expresses the extreme…uh…coolness of things. 

Suggestions??

 

For My Uncle George August 19, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps — justwritecat @ 6:18 pm

 

Here is my story, in honor of my Uncle George, who passed away this week, my Uncles Charlie (Peewee) and Eddie and my Dad (always the sneaky one).  I entered this story to Janet Reid’s short story contest.  We were required to use the following words:

  • honeywagon
  •  flaws
  • stake
  • pivotal
  • fairbank

 

“He’ll be fair. Bank on it.”

 “I don’t know, Ricky. Stakes are high, there’s no room for—”

“You ever know me to not think through everything? Not work through any flaws in the plan?”

 “Still, Peewee said it was pivotal—”

 “Ah, he’s filling your head with words you don’t know. Trust me on this, George. We’re golden here, like honey. Wagon’s here! Let’s do this.”

The boys walked up to the car, now idling in the driveway. Their older brother Eddie, the only one allowed to drive the sacred family wagon, rolled down the window and turned to face them, a doubtful look in his eyes.

“Hey bro, we hear there’s a two-fer at the Dairy Queen. If we take Peewee, then there’d be one left over for you.”

Little Ricky knew everyone’s weak spot, and his brother’s was the sweet siren song of the Dilly Bar.

 

Working with Lisa Rector, We’re Only Getting Started… June 28, 2010

I had my first phone session with Lisa Rector last week.  Wow.  Um, she’s amazing.   The session lasted two hours and was part therapy (see below), part brainstorming session and part line by line commentary.  And slightly overwhelming, but in a ‘there’s a ton of work ahead of me, but with her guidance I can do it’ kind of way.  

To prep for the call, I sent her my first two chapters and ideas/general thoughts and questions (on those two chapters and the larger story).  We barely made it to the end of the first chapter.  🙂

Let me begin by saying that she is incredibly friendly and approachable.  I was a bit nervous given how – well, how good she is…but within seconds, she’d put me at ease.  When I’d contacted her to see if she could still work with me on my manuscript, I’d mentioned my less than positive experience with the previous editor.  Before we started on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – she asked me if I could share what happened.  I did (she’s a great listener), and then we talked about our expectations going in…and then she got right into things!

She asked me some questions about the overall story, but mainly she focused on characterization.  We discussed Joe’s motivations, which proved rather enlightening.  I spent a fair amount of time getting to know Joe before and during the writing of his story, but she helped me dig deeper into his psyche.  If Joe ever agreed to go to therapy, I believe this is what it would be like!  She even apologized for asking so many questions, which wasn’t necessary.  I enjoyed discussing Joe and the novel, and her questions helped me think about things I hadn’t fully considered. 

We worked through part of the first chapter – not line by line exactly, more like by paragraph.  She pointed out the paragraphs that stood out for her, the ones that ‘were all Joe’.  She suggested ways to lighten some of the exposition and to heighten the tension.  All of this was helpful, but what I really got out of this first session was to ‘go there’.

Lisa encouraged me to stop pulling back.  She told me that I was on the cusp of making Joe a fully realized vampire unique from other vampires.  Now given how many vampires are out there (uh, in books) – that was an amazing compliment.  She said I just had to stop pulling back.  I understood what she meant.  I’m constantly struggling with how far to take things or rather, how vulnerable I should make Joe.  Which is directly tied to how vulnerable I allow myself to be as a writer (and as a person in general).  Yikes, who is on the couch now??

I know I have revision work ahead of me, but rather than feeling overwhelmed – I’m eager, excited and relieved.  Eager to make my novel ‘more’ (more of whatever it needs to be for readers).  Excited by the deeper plot lines and character motivations that will follow.  And relieved Lisa will be there to guide me and to let me know what I’m doing right and not quite right. 

For the first time since starting to work on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – I have this weird kind of confidence thing going on.  Like, maybe I might be able to write after all.  Not stellar or anything right now, but enough to feel good about what I’m doing.  That the efforts I’ve made thus far are not a waste, that I’m heading in the right direction and learning, learning, learning along the way.   

See, I always thought writers were born that way.  And that either you had it or you didn’t.  If you had it, you’d know rather early in life.  Maybe pen a few gems in your alphabet soup or in crayon on your bedroom walls.  At least by high school.  If you didn’t have it, well – hey, what else are you good at?  Cooking?  Sure, why not.  Everyone needs to eat.  Teaching?  That’s good, too.  Everyone needs to learn something.  Turns out, you can learn anything.  Like how to be a writer.  Yes, some writers are born with it.  Some show their talent early and often.  But some don’t – until they turn forty and realize there’s nothing stopping ’em but their own doubt.  Doubt’s a heavy thing to wear for long.  It’ll keep you grounded, and then how will your dreams take flight?

Wow, how’s that for my first two-hour session with Lisa?  I wonder what the next call will bring? 

 

Some Thoughts on Writing Your Next Novel… June 1, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Life,Writing — justwritecat @ 3:14 am

I started my first novel – Set ‘Em Up, Joe – last year.  When you begin to write your first novel, many things happen to you.  You feel a bit overwhelmed, you go a little crazy.  Maybe you start talking to yourself – more, and in public.  You dream, you hope, you pray.  You laugh at yourself, but not too much because you think you might just be able to swing it. 

Then, on the second day, you think it might be better to not worry so much, not over think the situation – or you’ll never get past the first scene.  So, you write.  And at some point, you finish (really finish, like after the many critiques and revisions).

Then, you find yourself in the middle of the submission process.  Maybe you have some partials, or even a full, out.  You wait a week or two before getting seriously into your next project- you know, just to give yourself some breathing room and a little time before you go through the whole crazy, glorious journey again.  You may have some ideas swimming around up there, a few possibilities jotted down on your favorite notepad.  You’re not quite sure which one to give yourself to, so you mull things over.  You could study trends, see what might be the best idea to foster.  But then you quickly realize doing so won’t do you any good – by the time you write the novel, the trend will be over (or on hiatus).  Plus, you should write what speaks to you.  Write what you have to write, not what you think you should.

Then, you decide on a project.  Could be one jumps out at you fairly quickly, or you might have one of those moments where you realize idea number five on your list of eight ABSOLUTELY MUST BE WRITTEN NOW.  Maybe one of the characters whispers sweet somethings (because nothings would be…nothing) in your ear or visits you in a dream and threatens you –  “Write this now, or else I’ll Stop. Talking. To You.”  Egads, that wouldn’t do at all (I’ve always wanted to use egads, thanks).

If you’re like me, you write the opening scene knowing it’s going to change and quite possible go away completely.  Then you do some research, interview your characters, start working through questions you find in the How to Write the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass.  You know, get a better feel for the story and the people.  Then suddenly the real opening scene appears, hovering just within reach, and you make a mad dash to your computer or notepad, shut out the world, and START YOUR NEXT NOVEL.

And you realize something.

That thing you read or heard about authors – you know, the one about how you never, ever find an agent to rep your first novel because it’s rarely good enough – you realize its true. 

And the other thing you heard about – that you have to write two or three or four or more novels before you can hope to have any idea of what you’re doing – you start to think maybe that one’s true, too.

So you fret and maybe cry – just a little bit, just enough to work out some anxiety and fear.  But then you tell yourself something you never thought you would hear yourself saying (or think yourself thinking):

It’s o.k. if my first novel doesn’t find a home.”

Because some day, it might – even if that is after your next one does (or the one after that or after that…)

Because, you have to write.  You Have to Write.  And each and every single novel you work on is worth it. 

If you have kids, you’ll get this – you love each child as much as the other.  Maybe you love different qualities about each child, because each child is different, unique.  But you love all your kiddos so darn much you can hardly breathe at times.  You want the best for each child – that includes doing the best you can as a parent.  Sure, you learn as you go and so maybe the way you parent your next child is slightly better (or way better, maybe) than your first.  Because you’ve learned some things – tricks of the trade, what works, what doesn’t.  Plus, remember – each child is different so you cannot parent all kids exactly the same.  What works for one may not (always) work for the other.  Which is good.  Parenting should never be easy.  It should be hard, it should force you to try better each and every day.  You won’t always – some days, you’ll be too tired or you’ll fall into old patterns of (bad) parenting.  But that won’t last long, not if you really want to be the best parent you can be and you really want the best for each child.

Now – substitute writer for parent and novel for child. 

That’s how you approach the next novel.  And the one after that and the one after that…

Cat

Submission Update – I’ve not heard back from the agents that have partials/full.  I did have the opportunity to meet one of the agents at a recent workshop.  She said she’d keep her eye out for the partial (I’d just mailed it out) and that she’s looking forward to reading it.  That made my day.  And she was so very nice!

Hard at work on my second novel – a supernatural thriller.

 

Logline Entry May 23, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps — justwritecat @ 4:50 pm

I apologize – I did not have time to post my entry for Bryan’s logline blogfest yesterday.  I attended an all-day workshop in Portland….which was fantastic, by the way.  I had the opportunity to meet an agent who has a partial of Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  She was incredibly friendly and kind. 

I will make time to read the entries for this blogfest and comment later today (I’m attending day two of the workshop this afternoon).

Cat