Friday, November 13, 2009

A sample of my NaNoWriMo project

Yesterday, my good friend and fellow writer Becke Martin linked me over to Jenny Crusie's blog. Jenny posted a sample of her NaNoWriMo work in progress and I thought, "I can do that, too."

Hers was brilliant. Mine is . . . well, 350 more words.


"So there you are," she muttered. "It's about time."
"Not my fault. Writer put in 45,000 words of back story."

"Dude, you’re the hero! Instead of meandering across the countryside gathering mixed-species children you could have been hunting me down."

"Again…I'm not the one writing this story," he sighed. NO! He said, sighingly. "So now what?"

"How should I know?" she huffed huffingly, and flipped her black dreadlocks over her shoulder, flippantly.

He looked at her out the corners of both of his sea-green torquoisey eyes,

"I suppose she want us to get it on," he said dubious—NO, with great dubiosity.


"No offense, but you smell."

"You try going feral for the winter and killing people willy-nilly. You'd have body odor, too, Pretty-Boy."

"Is that how you've been spending your time?"

"Did you not READ the last 45,000 words?" she rolled her well-lubricated eyes. They were not, however, as well-lubricated as his, him being a sea-creature and all.

"And what's with that, anyway, Dude? Your Dad's a jellyfish."
"God. My Dad's a minor god. And he doesn't stink."

"Yeah, right. He just smells like jellyfish."

"Lady, you are not making me think of sex right now."

"Bullshit. You are semi-hard. You've been semi-hard ever since you walked into my forest and saw me chopping wood or whatever it is she's going to have us do when she goes back and finally writes the first eye-to-body contact moment. I'll probably be mostly naked. I usually am."

"It's the dead of winter."

"Not my problem. She can fix it in the edits, Dude."

"And what's with you calling me 'Dude' all of the sudden? It's a total anachronism."

She shook her head shakingly, her dreadlocks flying in disgusted disbelief. "Look up at the sky! The planet has two moons, which clearly means we're in an alternate reality, which clearly means she can break all sorts of rules regarding authenticity. My girl knows how to cheat."

"I doubt she will get away with that," he replied, with even more dubiosity than before.

She laughed,

"It's NaNoWriMo. She'll get away with everything."

Friday, October 23, 2009

30 Days Hath November

Gabriella Edwards asked me, "Did I miss a blog entry?"

No, Gabriella. No, you didn't.

After chunking out my most recent novel draft, I did a leisurely bit of editing, submitted my RWA PRO materials (and--drumroll, please!--my pin is on its way) and took a vacation. A real vacation with grown-ups and hotels and bars and boat tours and art museums.

What I did not do is write. I deliberately chose not to draft diddly for the entire month of October as part of the Let-Your-Puir-Wee-Brain-Rest-Before-NaNo Plan.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a decade-old grassroots movement wherein participants are challenged to write 50,000 words (a novella) in November. Last year I participated and wrote 100,041 words. In the ensuing 12 months, I've been revising and polishing the heck out of that draft (and learning, on the way, more and more efficient ways of revising so that it will no longer take me a year to do so).

This year, unlike last year, I'm going in ice cold. I have a few images in my brain. I have words that intrigue me ("tortuosity" is a new favorite). I have no plot, no premise, no central character, no location (except I think I'll be trying my hand at world-building). I've got bupkis.

I'm going to write 100,000 words (a full-length novel) out of that ever-so-promising beginning.

At last month's OVRWA meeting, Jenny Crusie (who also plans to do NaNo this year) said, "The novel exists already in your subconscious." Boy howdy, do I hope she is correct.

If you're joining the party, buddy me: keristevens.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I did it.

Here's what I did:

I wrote a book. Another book. Sort of.

I wrote 80,792 words (I'm counting "The End") on a novel that has had two false starts and, ahem, some history (see my previous blog post).

I had promised myself (and you, my faithful blog readers) I would write the rough draft (a.k.a. CrapDraft) in 14 days. It did, in fact, take me 18 days.

I did not do the whole "write ten minutes while you're waiting for the teakettle to boil" business. If I didn't have a decent block of time to write in (at least 2 hours) I didn't start. I didn't wake up early (well, once I did and decided that was for the birds). I didn't stay up late.

I did growl, snarl and hold up my hand to ward off the various members of my family. "You get nothing from me until September 21," I repeated time and time again.

I did attend my high school reunion and drink heavily. I am worried about the 7K I wrote while still hungover and riding in the passenger seat on I-64.

Not too worried, however--I refuse to worry until September 28th at the earliest. October, after all, will be for editing--or, in my case, rewriting the entire thing, including doing copious back research to see if half of the crazy stuff I put in this draft is even feasible.

This is what I've learned about myself in the process of crapdrafting: I write bigger. My characters get gored by boars and caught in Borneo mudslides. They kick each other in the guts and pull each other out of whirlpools in hurricanes. They swing from the chandeliers while engaged in other, well, activities. Sooner or later, I know, I'll have to calm them down.

But not before next week. This week I will simply strut around, struttingly.

I would edit that sentence--and decimate my em-dash population--if it were next week. But it ain't, is it?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Binging (or Purging?)

I'm at it again: I'm binging on writing.

As part of the RWA's Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter's 60 Days to PRO (RWA status) program I've signed onto Candace Havens's Fast Draft loop. In the next 14 days I will pound out a rough-and-dirty draft of the novel I've started, stopped and restarted again.

No excuses this time. No blaming anyone else. Once I'm off the starting line I will slog my sloppy ass all the way to the finish.

I won't blame the Famous Author who told me the conflict between the hero/heroine would never work (The choice at that point to shelve the book for nine months was mine and mine alone). I won't blame the Venerable Agent who told me to restructure it as a novella (The choice to shelve it again was, again, my choice).

This time, I won't blame anyone--including myself--for this book not coming to the page (Nor, for that matter, will I tell anyone anything about this WIP until the draft is done. My learning curve isn't very steep, but I do have one.)

To the page it will come, dagnabbit!

What I've finally come to realize after nigh-on 40 years of living is that I'm a binge-purger. Cleaning the kitchen every day makes me dull, slow and stupid. Give me a dumpster, some empty boxes and a couple of gallons of bleach, however, and watch me rip open and cleanse a garage at speeds that make the roadrunner blush.

So, too goes it for writing, at least for that initial draft: I get more done--hell, I get IT done--when I shut down, focus and type till my wrists scream and my butt spreads to fit the shape of the seat.

So Tweeple, don't expect much of me on twitter. Friends, my facebook status isn't likely to be that fascinating this week. And Ohio Valley chapter members please forgive me if I knock over all the folding chairs in the meeting squeezing into the room next weekend: You'll know it's because I was writing on the floor.

I will sneak over to read my comments, however, so let me know--have you ever NaNo-ed, Fast-Drafted or followed any other plan to dump the words on the page? And do you share your WIP with others, or keep it top secret until it's a fait accompli?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Steppin' Out.

I'm guest blogging today over at Fire Drill on "Disbelief," the first stage of Query Grief.

I hope you find it edifying, inspiring, and that the coffee cleanses your nostrils.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Biorhythmic Writing? A Method, or an Excuse?

I do not get up at 4:00 AM to write. I hear about writers who do (quite often, in fact), but I've never been up at that hour to witness such a feat.

I don't write at 2:00 or so in the afternoon. That's nap time, and I'll end up face forward in my keyboard. I'm not saying I actually nap--but my body drags and my mind goes blank and my fingers go slack at 2:00PM.

My best hours are about 6:45-10a and 7-9p. Unfortunately, my body is most up for a good sit-down while I'm pushing the Stevens-sons out the door, teaching my morning fitness classes for the day job or eating dinner.

So what do you when your writing and the flow of your life conflict? How do you harness the energy from 8:00AM to use it at one in the afternoon or even three in the morning?

Do you change your schedule, or do you power through?

(And pardon me, do, if this post is slightly incoherent. It's 2:27PM and my over-long acrylic nails keep tapping the wrong keys).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Retiring Writer

It's old news by now, but Margaret Drabble has decided to retire from writing. Yep. She says she's stopping completely because she is afraid of repeating herself.

I wonder how that's been working for her for the past few months.

I've spent more years of my life as a non-writing writer than otherwise, and I can tell you, it sucks. Characters float into your mind--and die. Settings prick at your awareness--then fade away. Conflicts beat at your breastbone, but your heart slows, your attention shifts and you're back to "reality." The pain of non-writing is subtle, and ever-present: That underlying itch of frustration (and depression) that you can't breathe away in yoga class, organize away in your latest "Rule The World In Seven Easy Steps" seminar, or buy away at the shoe store.

I've quit writing before, and I keep coming back. I think, as I stare down the maw of 40 years, I've finally accepted that I must write, always. They'll have to pry the word-processing software out of my cold, dead eyeball-socket-neuralnet connections when they shoot my body into deep space.

And as for repeating oneself--I've been doing that for years. I was once told, "There are only two stories--'A stranger comes to town' and 'the quest'." I think those are, in fact, the same story.

I already know which story I'll be telling for the rest of my life: Leap, and love will catch you.

What about you? What is your core story? And what would it take to make you "retire" from writing?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dishing It Out . . . And Taking It.

Back in the last century, I was an MFA student in Creative Writing. The centerpiece of our program was The Workshop (which deserves its capitalization). Each week, one of us would hand out a copy of our latest short story (all they taught us to write was the short story) for "workshopping." The following week, we fed.

While the writer sat in silence (after all--you don't get to talk back to your reader at home, do you?) A bunch of 22-year-old "artistes" spent 2.5 hours explaining to that silent writer everything that was wrong with his little tale. As an undergrad, I, at least, had been trained to "say something nice before you criticize." Not everyone had had my training, apparently. The object of the exercise, most weeks, was to impress the professor moderating the session with your brilliant, incisive dissection of your neighbor's work. I, to my credit, only cried once--and only after class was over.

Now I have entered the world of Critique Partners. I've begun the process with a couple of writers in my RWA chapter whom, after many months of scoping them out, I've determined are (a) kind people and (b) at least as smart as me.

They might not know it (in fact, I'm sure they don't yet), but I have a couple of unwritten rules for being a CP, and couple of expectations from my CPs:
(1) The CP's primary motivation should always be to help their partners write the best story possible.
(2) CPs comments should always answer the specific question, "How can I make this story better?" Scathing derision, sarcasm and non-specific opinions about the story such as "I don't care for this heroine. She's just kinda blah," have no place in a critique. If I cannot give a specific recommendation about how to improve something, I don't mention it at all. Anything else is either mean or lazy.

Right now, my CPs are reading this and going, "WTF?" So let me just state that they already intuitively know how to be useful CPs--and how to write well. I'm really glad I found 'em.

What about you? Do you participate in a critiquing process? And if so, what are your expectations?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Writing Readers, Reading Writers

"A REAL writer reads," declares an Authority On The Subject.

I am so relieved, because I read all of the time. AOTS would be really proud of me.

I read in the morning because I no longer have the stamina to stay up all night to finish the book. I read while I'm at the desk because I need "a little inspiration." I read when I should be editing in the late afternoon because, darn it, I'm tired and I just want a break. I read at bedtime because it helps me get a good night's sleep. On a good reading day, I can get through two, even three novels. My TBR ("to be read") pile is huge, but I am the tortoise, crawling through it book by book.

Of course, there is this other aspect to being a writer that AOTS did not mention . . .

What about you? How much do you read in a given day/week/month? If you write, do you feel you keep a good balance between getting your words down and reading other people's books?

Monday, June 29, 2009

In the Beginning was the Word

It's not that I have no ideas for the next book (the one I was supposed to start working on last week). I have plenty of ideas. Some of them, I stupidly shared with others:

"Don't write that," I was told. "Nobody's buying that concept."

"Don't write that," someone else said. "Shifters are hotter. Write shifters."

So there they sit on their shelf, my poor little unmarketable, non-shifty ideas. Next to them sit a couple of others who are similar enough (lacking shifterliness) to make me worry.

Oh, em, gee! Have you seen my schedule? Sure, I can scribble junk on a notebook longhand while I sit in a parking lot for ten minutes waiting for the Stevenses, Jr. to get out of summer camp, but really, what's the point? None of those words will make it into a book anyway.

EXCUSE #3 (The Deep Thoughts)
It's a fear of commitment. Once I embark on my unsaleable shifterlessness project, that's it! I have to see it through. And what if I hate my protags? What if my antag takes over the story? What if I invest 100,000 words in the initial draft and have to throw all of them, ALL of them back out again? What if I can't figure out what to name this dude? What if he ends up just another Nathan Kamp look-alike cardboard romance hero? I AM DROWNING IN ANGST!

I have a blog to write and post.

Oh, wait. It's finished. Well, crap.

Help me procrastinate (don't worry, you won't end up #5 on this list): What excuses do you use to put off getting started? And if you are rolling your eyes as you read this, enlighten us: How do you overcome initial inertia to get your book rolling?

*No. Clint has nothing to do with this post. I just like the picture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pelvic Power for Core Stabilization

Yes, Grandma, I write about sex. I write detailed descriptions of people having sex.

No, I can't and won't simply "fade to black."

Why, you ask, must I write that smut?

#1) Because it's plot-relevant. What happens between the sheets changes what happens on the streets, and vice versa. If the sex doesn't forward the story, I don't write it (nor do I want to read it).

#2) Because sex is integral to the developing relationship between the hero and heroine. Intercourse of all kinds is a power game (especially in a new relationship). Intimate details about who is on top and how he or she got there let us see (once again) how power games in the public arenas of our characters' lives will play out.

#3) Because sex is fun. Unlike, say, golf or shuffleboard, almost everybody does it, sooner or later. People read for pleasure. Sex is (or should be) pleasure. Eating, for the same reason, is also featured in most books. Put the two together? That's a recipe for sex-cess!

#4) Because nobody talks about sex. Sure, we read the how-to books. We joke with our friends. We even might confide in a doctor or girlfriend if we think something is wrong. Unlike with eating, however, "good" people aren't allowed to go look up new and different recipes. Except--we want to. And we do. And just as a learning a new spice opens up a whole new approach to the same old bread and cheese, reading about a new approach to lovemaking can (and does) spice up our sex lives.

What do I call pornography? Any sexual activity in which the participants are unwilling or unable to make a rational choice to participate (rape, as opposed to dominance; pedophilia). Those things, Grandma, you won't see celebrated in any books I write, nor those on my shelves.

But down-and-dirty, sheet-soaking, wall-crawling, primal-screaming sex?

Sigh. Yes, you can borrow a book. Just let me leave the room first.

(BTW--the title of this post came from an e-mail I got this morning about Pilates).

Monday, June 15, 2009

VOTE for ME!

So I think I got it right this time:

If that doesn't work (and recent rumors suggest it might not) try the LONG version:

Enjoy my flash fiction, "Christmas, Filtered" and rank the story. The forum owners (with guidance from the voters) will choose a winner in a month. So, if you please--go guide 'em!

For those of you at the OVRWA holiday party--this is the story I read aloud.

Let me know if you want the recipe for Spamadakia.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Get-Together, Part Deux (w/pictures!)

That's me, pretending to be useful. The nice thing about volunteering to stuff the bags is that you get to scope out the first round of swag ahead of time.

Lori, Dianne and the gals. It was a weekend full of , "OMG, is that Toni/LuAnn/Marjorie/Lora . . ." And the answer was always, "Yes! Yes it is."

If you are on twitter, you aren't anywhere.

On the left: Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance B(u)y the Book fame. Don't hate her because she's beautiful. On my face is the expression one wears when not hating one's new friend because she is beautiful.

Here, we're attempting to understand the latest trend in erotic romance/erotica. It requires stick-figure diagrams.Gabriella decided stick figures didn't cut it.

The incomparable Becke Martin took some great shots of us cutting up at the Lori Foster/Dianne Castell/Linda Keller weekend. No, I am not picking my nose.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lori Foster/Dianne Castell Reader & Author Get-Together 2009

I'm home from a gloriously decadent weekend with more than 305 of the loveliest people: readers and writers of romantic fiction. When you spend 3 days with people who all believe in Happy Ever After, you can't help but feel that the world is a joyful and miraculous place.

Three of my friends from the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America chapter roomed with me. They were party animals who kept me awake all night talking about--what else? Romance books. And sex . . . in romance books, of course.

We swapped books. We bought more books. We hounded more than 100 published authors present at the Get-Together for their autographs--and they were unfailingly gracious.

We tweeted at each other (it was a twitterific time and I found a dozen new friends to follow). We bid on the best selection of silent auction baskets I have ever seen--full of books, ARCs, wine, chocolate, purses and even a couple Kindle e-readers.

Sometimes we worked. My friends and I participated in a two-hour presentation by Samhain Publishing's Angela James--a useful primer on e-publishing. Some of us met with agents, editors and romance experts like Romance B(u)y the Book guru, Michelle Buonfiglio. I even caught a couple writers writing (you know who you are, Gia Dawn!)

We drank a cocktail or three. We sang Babe. We played trivia games. I lost, but Donna MacMeans gave me a consolation bracelet, although I would have rather had her hat. We drew naughty pictures. We took photos and videos to blackmail each other with (keep your eye on twitter links and blogs from attendees--you might get to see yours truly making an idiot of herself.)

And at $52 for the entire two days, I think I made a profit--and I wasn't selling anything! I came home with fifty (count 'em, fifty!) new books and SO much swag! Never shall a book of mine go unmarked again.

I'm exhausted and blissful . . . and I'm going to read a book. Top of the stack is LuAnn McLane's Redneck Cinderella--perfect for a new Kentucky girl who's happy to be home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cleaning Up as a Writer

Last Friday at 3:05PM, I reported to the twitterverse that my house was completely clean. I had mopped, vacuumed, dusted and windexed my backside off. By 3:15, two toddler toys had made their way to the middle of the TV room floor. At 4:00 my oldest sons got off the bus--and that's all she wrote.

Truth be told, however, I had left some dust on the fireplace grate. The substance settled in the bottom of my A/C vents could fertilize every wheat field in Kansas. And that waterproof eyeliner my youngest smeared all over the hall wall? Still there. Upon close inspection, I have to admit that at 3:05 last Friday, my house was not, in fact, as clean as it possibly could have been.

I am editing my WIP ("work in progress" for you new readers who want to learn the trendy jargon) and running into much the same problem. The words are spelled correctly now. The passive voice (actual passive voice, not just variations on "to be") has been made active (and yes, I do realize this was a passive-voice sentence). I cut almost all parenthetical statements (I do love me some parentheses . . . . and ellipses--and dashes!) The time line is clear, the story arc is solid . . .

. . . . and I want to throw this puppy out and start all over again (which would, in fact, make the fourth time I've done so).

How clean is clean? How finished is finished? If I told my husband, "We can't get the eyeliner off the wall, so let's tear down the house and rebuild it," he would lock me away in the mental institution I often fantasize about (seriously--sitting on a bench in front of manicured garden while pretty young women bring me cups of pills. Lovely!)

I'm not going to do that to WIP again, either.

How about you? Writers--when do you know your story is clean enough? Readers--do you ever get the feeling a writer has just tossed a book out there without swishing the metaphorical toilet first?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

VOTE for ME! (a.k.a. "Blame it on the Zin")

UPDATE (Thanks Becke and Mary--I am still blaming the zin) You can read the stories at Editor Unleashed, but you can't vote until June 14. Don't worry, I'll remind you :)

So it's 11:07p and I've had two glasses of wine. OF COURSE I would enter a flash fiction contest.

Quick! Go to! Read and vote for "Christmas, Filtered" and then post a comment on this blog OR e-mail me at and say "I voted!"

And I will send you . . . the recipe for Spamadakia! (Dolmades made with Spam (r). They were a HIT at the OVRWA chapter Christmas party. Seriously! Don't knock 'em till you try 'em!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Just Want to Read My Book

It ain't all love these days between my Work In Progress (WIP) and me. The spark is gone.

I pull up the draft and think, "You need to structure in a new scene here." Or "How is this sex plot-relevant?" I have highlighted sections in the manuscript where I've written notes to myself like, "Good God, what were you thinking?" And, "Put some sex in here."

This is starting to feel like a marital slump year (If you've had more than two years of marriage, you know exactly what I mean). I'm going through the motions. It looks good on the outside. But the passion? Pffft.

When this happens to Mr. Stevens and me, we throw money at the problem (hire a sitter, go away, buy the expensive dinner) and he listens to me talk until I feel sexy again.

But WIP and I? Well, SHE doesn't have any money yet. And unlike the mister, she doesn't understand how to give a sympathetic nod, or a grunt of acknowledgement. She just sits there and waits for more sex. And she is less than enthusiastic when I'm done.

I want the magic back.

What about you? Writers, how do you handle the WIP-Slump? Readers--can you tell when you're reading a book that the writer was just going through the motions?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Should Be

"I should be writing," I think, as I bleach out the recycling bins.

"I should clean up the shredded diaper on the bathroom floor," I think, as I'm reading to my bare-bottomed toddler.

"I should be playing Uno with the big boys," I think as I catch up on Dayjob client e-mails.

"I should be implementing Phase 3 of the Dayjob Marketing Plan," I think while I'm writing.

Only on rare occasions does what I'm doing seem to be what I SHOULD be doing. The tape in my head always plays a sob song for something else.

(BTW-I never wait on the shredded diapers. And I never let my dog lick me in the face.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm Stepping Out . . .


Visit with me today as I guest-blog at Frightening Journeys!

You think you're paranormal? I got your paranormal! All week the bloggers at FJ have been talking about "What is paranormal?"

What do you think? Visit now!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Writerhead vs. Real World: The Great Battle

When I write, I focus--usually to the exclusion of all else.

"No, I can't change his diaper. I'm in the middle of edits."

"No, I don't care. Tell the Publishers Clearinghouse van to drive on--I'm in the middle of a sex scene, here!"

Writerhead is Mr. Hyde--surly, with no sense of time. When I get into the project, I spend hours. During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I tried the whole "bits and pieces" approach. It wasn't pretty.

Even when the oversoaked diaper falls off of its own accord, someone has to slap another on that chubby bum-bum (though potty-training is moving along nicely, thanks for asking). The business clients do not serve themselves. And as for the PC van? For God's sake, pry me out of my chair with a crowbar if necessary please

When I talk to productive, prolific authors, what fascinates me most is their lifestyle. How do they structure their days so that they can get 2-6 novels polished in a year and not detach completely from friends and family? Are those they love merely more tolerant (and out of diapers?) Or do they stick to rigid writing schedules with military discipline and buckets of inner fortitude?

And you? If you write, when do you read? When do you pay bills? How do you balance real life and writerhead?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Leap

I'm staring down the gaping throat of 40 and asking myself the age-old question, "If not now, when?"

I write. People pay me for my words. They order the words, and I write them. "I need a 300 word article on pole dancing," my clients say. "Coming right up!" I answer.

But, when I can find the energy and the time and the fearlessness, I write. Stories about statues and spam filters, virgins and vegetables (sometimes in the same plotline), manly men and manic meanies. I write them down, and I revise, revise, revise them until they are words you might want to read.

Spicy. Contemporary. Paranormal. And above all, romantic. That's what I read. That's what I write.

What about you? Do you read? Do you write? Do you read and dream of writing? Do you write, and dream of being read?