Post Cancelled on Account of Teh Cute

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know we have a new addition to our family, an adorable 11-week-old Keeshond puppy named Neesa (yes, after the character from the 80’s Ewoks cartoon).

Taking care of a puppy is a lot like having a newborn, but with more time spent shivering in the backyard, waiting for her to do her business. Needless to say, I’m working with not enough sleep or time this week to compose a coherent post.

Advertisements

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Last week, I gave up on my NaNo manuscript (a YA Contemporary). Despite trying a few iterations of the basic plot, and tweaking the main character more than once, I just couldn’t get the manuscript to work.

But, I’d put so many hours into planning and writing, and I didn’t want to waste them.

Not only that, but, while I had some problems with my MC (including not finding her interesting enough on her own, and really not being able to nail down her voice), I *did* like the rest of my cast of characters.

So I’ve decided to try something I never have before: I’m taking the characters from my NaNo book and giving them a new story premise, including upgrading a side character (with some adjustments) into my new MC.

And I didn’t just pull the idea out of thin air. It’s been percolating for almost a year in my head, just waiting for me to figure out a cast of characters and formulate a more precise plot outline.

And now I think I have it.

It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, though. When it comes to ideas, I’m a bit of a hoarder. Usually if a story isn’t working, I won’t even consider recycling the characters, because I might find a way to fix the story one day, and then I won’t be able to write it, because those characters won’t be available. (It’s kind of like the way I hold onto craft supplies, because I know as soon as I throw out that scrap of ribbon, I’ll have a project where I need a two-inch piece of red fabric it would have been perfect for.)

But this time it feels like the right choice.

For one thing, the old manuscript was just too broken. I can’t imagine finding a way to fix all of its problems. And for another, my new manuscript has already found its voice. I’m already so far inside my new MC’s head, I don’t think I could relegate him to back to side character status if I wanted to.

I’m only three chapters in, but so far, I’m loving this story.

Now to try and find the time to write it.

Reading and Writing

As I mentioned last week, I recently started listening to audiobooks. While they have their ups and downs, I can’t deny they’ve helped me “read” a lot more (I’m on my 8th book this month).

And already I’ve noticed the effect on my writing.

Listening to 3 very different YA Contemporaries in 3 days lit my brain on fire (in a good way). Maybe it’s because I was listening, rather than reading (I find I can analyze it better because I get less wrapped up in the story when I’m not seeing the words). Or maybe it was just the quantity.

Either way, it helped me confirm something I’d already suspected: my current YA, the one I wrote for NaNo, is not working.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise. I’ve been dreading working on it. Had to drag myself to sit down and revise. And been really confused about which (if any) revisions were actually improving the story.

The truth is, none of them were.

After reading so much so fast, it became obvious: my plot didn’t work, my voice was only okay, and my MC…well, she’s not meant to be a main character.

It was a disappointing realization, but also, kind of a relief. A relief from the frustration of pouring time and energy into something that, deep down, I knew wasn’t working.

Even better? All this “reading” has sparked an idea on what to do next.

But I’ll write more on that next week.

To keep myself accountable, I’m going to post my reading stats at the end of each of month. Here’s my current list (I’m mostly keeping track of the novels I read on my own, but I’ve also read a slew of picture books and some middle grade and chapter books with my kids).

January Totals:

  • YA Contemporary (4)
  • YA Fantasy (3)
  • YA Alternate History (1)

I’m trying to keep my selections recent (everything I’ve read so far has come out in 2017), and from a diverse range of authors – although audiobook options are a bit limited, so I’m doing my best with what’s available.

Feel free to post your own reading stats in the comments, if you want to join me in my reading frenzy.

Audiobook Pros and Cons

As you all probably know, I’m still suffering from the concussion I got three-and-a-half years ago(!). And while I’ve been trying to get back into reading, I can only read for maybe 20 minutes or so before I get dizzy (which isn’t nearly long enough when the book is good, and which if I push through, makes me feel even worse).

So recently I started listening to audiobooks.

In some ways, I really like them, but I also have a few issues, so I thought I’d lay out my audiobook pros and cons.

PROS

  • They don’t make me dizzy/trigger a migraine
  • I can listen to books while cooking dinner, riding a bus (I get too carsick to read in a vehicle), or otherwise occupied

 

CONS

  • I can only listen to them while cooking dinner/riding the bus/otherwise occupied, or else I fall asleep
  •  It takes time to pause them – if I’m interrupted while reading, all I have to do is put the book down or quickly slip in a bookmark, but when I’m listening on my phone, I have to pull out the phone, turn it on, pause the program and remove my headphones if my kids start talking to me, or my landline rings. Then I have to figure out how far to rewind to catch what I missed.
  • They’re slow. I read fast (well, I did before the concussion), and I find the pace of the reading drags. I’ve switched to listening to them at 1.5x speed, but I find they definitely lose some of the dramatic impact that way (plus I occasionally miss words at that speed).
  • My library places all audiobooks *and* ebooks, regardless of genre or category, in one list. So, not only have I accidentally requested some kindle text versions in my haste, but the only way to figure out if the book is a YA or not is by Googling the title.
  • I’m a really visual person, and I find it hard to not be able to see the text. I want to know how weird fantasy names are spelled.
  • It’s almost impossible to go back and check something. Want to go back and double-check that bit of foreshadowing you just realized the author dropped in the first chapter? Too bad, so sad, unless you happened to remember the timestamp.

Okay, it probably looks like I hate audiobooks right now.

I don’t.

I’ve missed books (even though I’ve been reading a bit, I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I should due to the pain/difficulty), and audiobooks have given that back to me. So, while they probably won’t become my favourite way to consume literature, they are definitely better than not reading at all.

What about you? What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Let me know in the comments.

Some Thoughts on Body Image

Trigger warning: body images issues, mention of eating disorders

For Christmas I bought my husband a sewing form to help with making costumes for cosplay. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an adjustable male form, so it took some crafting to customize it to match his size (if you’re curious, you can check out the photos of the procedure on my Facebook page.)

When he went to stuff the addition, he commented, “Wow, I had no idea I was so much bigger than a male model.”

That floored me.

Because I can’t remember ever *not* knowing how much bigger I was than the average model.

And not just knowing it, but agonizing over attaining that ‘ideal’ – an ideal so impossibly thin that even when my anorexia was bad enough the doctor had to threaten me with hospitalization, I still hadn’t reached it.

I figured I was broken. What else could I think when every female in every movie -even cartoons- fit that model ideal and I didn’t? (Okay, there a few who didn’t, but they tended to be the bad guy, like Ursula from The Little Mermaid.)

And because in my mind, looking like a model or an actress was the only way to find love. From Rom-Coms to Disney fairy tales, the message was clear, only the most beautiful (aka thinnest) girls got the happily-ever-after.

(Never mind that I came from a family of happily-married women who were much further away from having model-like bodies than I was.)

But that didn’t stop me from believing if I could just be thinner, I’d be popular. Loved. Happy.

Every unrequited crush became further proof of my inadequacy. Because how could any guy love a girl without a thigh gap?

And yet, dating made the anxiety worse. I’d learned how to dress to flatter my body, but what would he say when he saw the stretch marks on my thighs? The surgery scars on my stomach? Would he dump me when he realized I didn’t have the flawless body of a model or movie star?

No matter how much I exercised, no matter how much I starved myself, my body was never good enough. Never thin enough. Never looked like a model’s.

Until, eventually, after my twins were born, I began to see through the lies society had ingrained in me: after all, despite the weight I’d gained, the world didn’t end. My husband still loved me. I still had friends, and family.

I began to see through the illusion of ‘perfection’ in media. To spot the photoshopping. To stop swallowing the lies.

And when the doctor told me, after I’d lost most of that weight, but my clothes still weren’t fitting right, that my stomach was never going to go back to its old shape, I realized it was time to accept the body I had.

And now, years later, when my concussion prevents me from doing anything even remotely resembling exercise, and every medication I try seems to affect my weight one way or the other, I’m not only glad I’ve accepted myself as I am, but I’m sad for all the time and energy and health I wasted on striving for an impossible (at least for me) ideal.

I still have days when I hate how I look. But now, instead of fixing it by skipping meals or exercising to excess, I fix it by rifling through my wardrobe until I find something to wear that makes me feel good.

And I fix it by trying to include characters of various sizes and shapes in my books. Because the world of fiction should represent the world around us.

And maybe, if more body types are seen as normal and healthy, my daughter will grow up with the same unawareness of her body size as her father.

Tackling My Goals Head-On

Now that I’m finally back to work after taking the holidays off (and, let’s face it, spending most of December focusing on non-writing chores), I am beyond ready to start meeting my 2018 Goals.

The only problem is, I seem to want to tackle all of them simultaneously (except revising my NaNo draft…that one scares me). I’m not used to working on multiple projects at the same time, so it’s taken a bit of adjusting to figure out the best way to get things done (as opposed to, say, staring at my computer, overwhelmed by choices…not that I know anything about that).

The solution I’ve come up with? Making a to-do list each morning, setting out my daily targets, in their order of importance, one small chunk at a time (ie. Revise 1 chapter,  etc).

Not only does this help me find a starting point, it feels really good to be able cross things off each day – which is good, because most of the stuff I’m working on right now doesn’t produce daily results (don’t even ask how long revision a novel takes).

Hopefully having a plan will help keep me on track, but so far things are looking good for meeting my 2018 goals. Already this week I’ve worked on critiques, revisions (of both my MG and the dreaded NaNo YA), and written a piece of flash fiction I couldn’t get out of my head. I’ve also registered for the online Write On Con conference and sent my PB draft out to be critiqued.

The only thing I haven’t started on is writing a new novel-length ms – but at the rate new ideas are coming into my head these days, hopefully I’ll be ready to tackle that soon, too.

In fact, things are going so well, I’ve decided to add a new goal to my list: Read more YA & MG books (so far I’ve read 2 YAs).

I’m determined 2018 is going to be my year, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it so.

2018 Goals

I don’t usually make personal resolutions because I have a bad habit of breaking them. But when it comes to my professional life, I think it’s good to have goals to work towards.

I’m trying to keep all my goals within my own abilities. (For instance, I won’t make “Getting a book deal” a goal, because, as much as I want/need one, I’m not the factor in getting one.)

So, here are my goals for the new year:

  1. Finish revisions on my MG Fantasy and get it submission-ready.
  2. Send my PB ms to my agent.
  3. Revise my YA Contemporary enough on my own that I can send it to critique partners.
  4. Continue with my online critique group.
  5. Write something new (not sure yet what this will be…maybe the YA fairy tale re-telling I’ve been toying with…maybe something else altogether)
  6. Attend a conference or retreat.
  7. Spend less time on Twitter (this may seem counter-intuitive, but Twitter has really been depressing me lately. Plus it’s a huge time suck – even if it does help promote my brand. Unless I get a book deal to publicize, I’m hoping to spend less time there this year.)

Well, those are my goals. Do you have any you’d like to share? Feel free to put them in the comments.

Wishing you all the best in accomplishing your goals this year.