“I like reading in a pub rather than a library or study, as it’s generally much easier to get a drink.”
“I like reading in a pub rather than a library or study, as it’s generally much easier to get a drink.”
The Scene, Outside:
Thick snow is falling fast, 5 inches already on the ground and 4 more inches predicted. Wind is blowing hard, sending the temperature nose-diving below zero.
The Scene, Inside:
A one bedroom apartment, bookshelves lining the walls and the hum of the furnace running in the background. A young woman sits curled up on the sofa, slipper-clad feet peeking out from beneath the blanket she’s wrapped in. On her lap is a small laptop computer; on the table beside her is a steaming mug of hot chocolate. A stack of paper, just scraps with hastily scribbled notes, rest within reach on the sofa cushion.
She smiles to herself and places her hands on the keyboard, typing a handful of words so fast that her fingers on the keys sound like machine gun fire, only to stop abruptly. She frowns, sips from her cup, and frowns again.
She places one finger on the delete button and presses until she erases all she just wrote.
She begins again, and the process repeats itself a dozen times, her frown gradually deepening and the pressing of the delete key morphing into slamming.
“SON OF A BITCH!”
She jumps up, nearly knocking over her hot chocolate, and stomps out of the room to take a nap instead.
Focus on the computer screen where the cursor blinks on the blank page. Lights fade to black.
Success depends on more than just acknowledging a goal with a glass of champagne in one’s hand at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st. Resolutions—shed some pounds, kick the cigarettes, drink less caffeine, avoid speeding tickets, go 365 days without being arrested, etc.—are easily made and even easier to cast aside. One can’t just spit out a resolution; one must also have the ambition and obsession to achieve.
Let’s define these:
Resolution: the act determining upon an action or course of action, often made at the beginning of a new year and abandoned two weeks later.
Ambition: an earnest desire for achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment, an element often missing from New Year’s resolutions.
Obsession: the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea or desire, the presence of which elevates resolution to ambition and gives one a chance at success.
Okay, I might have tweaked those definitions but they’re still solid. 2014 is probably not the year I’m going to give up nicotine or caffeine, although I do plan on maintaining my “never been arrested” status and keeping a sharper eye out for radar-running cops than I did during 2013. I do, however, have plans for myself.
Not resolutions. Plans. Ambition + obsession > resolutions.
All word-based. Words require attention, sometimes hyper focus. Words are beautiful, the love of my life, but they don’t come easily. One must keep ambition foremost and feed the obsession that leads to success.
So here are my writing, reading, and word-focused goals for 2014…
1. Read 80 Books.
GoodReads promotes a yearly reading challenge, where members set their own “I’m going to read [#] of books in 2014” goals. Setting the bar too high would be doomed to failure—I have the real life, adult world responsibilities like everybody else. But setting the bar too low would be shameful because books are awesome and I have a massive stack of unread books waiting their turn. So in 2014 I will read 80 books.
2a. Complete My Work-in-Progress.
I began writing The O’Shaughnessy Reputation: Put on Your War Paint as part of National Novel Writing Month. I finished about half by the end of November and have kept putting fingers to keyboard since then (occasionally for frustrated keyboard-mashing). When I wrote the first part in this series (You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid), I started in 2011 and didn’t finish until early 2013, and I won’t allow that to happen again: I will finish this WIP at all costs.
2b. Complete an Edit of My Soon-to-be-Finished WIP.
I will not only finish this novel, I will do at least a first pass, rough edit on it before November 1st. I can’t start Kiss the Ring, part three of this series, for NaNoWriMo ‘14 until the events in part two have been smoothed into something resembling a coherent story.
Speaking of NaNoWriMo…
3. Participate in National Novel Writing Months, including Original Flavor NaNoWriMo (November) and both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions (April & July).
Providing concrete goals, a fast-approaching deadline, an active community of writers, and a nifty progress graph, NaNoWriMo has been one of the best things to ever happen to my writing life. It’s a kick in the ass, a kick so hard I’ll put said ass in a chair to avoid the hit. And half of writing is, after all, simply sitting your ass down to do it.
4. Begin Work on Charm of the Pavement.
The idea for this novel has been haunting me, bouncing around in my head for at least six months but doing little more than mocking my attempts to wrangle it into a coherent story. No more avoiding the pen, you brat; the time has come.
5. Increase My Writer Circle
The most successful writers seem to be those with a solid, expansive community of writers they consider friends. The interaction acts like an injection of word-adrenaline, promoting creativity and keeping a writer focused. I know several writers, a couple of whom are quite serious about it, and I’m determined to welcome more into my life. Because writers are awesome…and other writers are the only ones who share my special brand of ‘not quite right’.
I have my pen.
I have my vices—coffee, booze, cigarettes.
I have my ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’ mug.
I’m ready. Let’s fucking do this.
End of the year retrospective in list form? Hell, why not—everyone else is doing it and I feel left out. But a list of what? Top 5 Best Breaths Inhaled During 2013? Top 5 Attempt to Cook Dinner (That Didn’t Result in Setting the Kitchen on Fire)? Top 5 Epic Faceplants (From Tripping Over My Own Feet)? Or the Top 5 ‘Oh Shit’ Moments (Snicker If You Must)?
No, self, no. I’m all about the words after all, and while I could count down the Top 5 Works I’ve Written in 2013, no one else would know what the hell I’m talking about, so I went with the next best thing.
These, my friends, are my Top 5 Reads of 2013. They are not necessarily new releases—in fact, only two debuted during the past year. But they’re the books I read and loved, the ones that struck a chord and will stay with me forever, in my memory, in my gut, and in my library.
So now, in no particular order and without a drumroll…
1. Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
This is one of those ‘question everything, think for yourself, and question everything again’ books, but Letters to a Young Contrarian surpass anything I’ve read in the genre. I can’t really describe the effect—a sucker punch, perhaps—but the book definitely makes an impact, and I’m of the opinion it should be mandatory reading. Not for teenagers who are naturally rebellious, I don’t think most teenagers have the maturity to truly absorb the work, but mandatory reading for adults who have achieved the full ability to think critically (even if they choose not to do so) and may have become complacent. Go. Read it now. It’s short; I’ll wait.
2. The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Graton
My Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/560975040
Oh. Oh my word. I’m not one for anthologies but I am a helpless flailing Maggie Stiefvater fangirl, so I took a risk and read The Curiosities despite my usual aversion to compilations. One of the alluring aspects for us writerly types lies in the margin notes from all three authors, scribbles pointing out excellent bits and giving more technical opinions on the word play and writing itself. Many of these I found quite useful, while others I enjoyed in that “Hee! I heart snark!” kind of way. The best aspect, however, is the quality within these pages: the stories are sometimes polished, sometimes raw, but always of high quality. Do not be turned off by the idea you’re reading work from writers who write for the young adult/teen audiences, for these pieces transcend that and a few of the short stories will stick in your brain long past the time you’ve put the book back on the shelf. There are no forced happy endings; in fact there are very few truly happy endings and very few flat out unhappy endings. Bittersweet is the best way to describe the work within The Curiosities.
3. Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights by Liam Perrin
My Review: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17568126-sir-thomas-the-hesitant-and-the-table-of-less-valued-knights
Liam Perrin’s Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights was my Awesome Accidental Find of 2013. I first stumbled upon it thanks to the GoodReads giveaway page but was too late to enter the contest for an advanced copy. Thinking the cover simultaneously silly and adorable, I read the synopsis and thought it sounded cute, and when a day or two later I found myself a few dollars short of free shipping on Amazon, this became my “Hell, Why Not?” addition to the cart. No regrets. This is a fun read, one I completed relatively quickly thanks to a ‘reading when I should’ve been doing other productive adult things’ approach, and I happy sighed so hard at the end. Perrin is one of those self-published authors who are damn good but a reader must sort through the mountains of muck to find, and he is well worth the effort.
4. Fiend by Peter Stenson
My Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/664106799
Zombies. Meth heads. Meth heads fighting zombies. That’s all that remains in the world and, assuming you’re not one to clutch your pearls, it’s pretty fucking awesome. This is more literary than you might expect, certainly not of the same ilk as the churned out, burned out zombie crap that’s been flooding the market lately. Stenson’s writing style is a bit different but excellent for the story he’s telling, although I’ll admit that some quotation marks would’ve been nice. I don’t have anything to say on a literary critique level, only that I really enjoyed this and loved the ‘fuck that nonsense’ ending.
Okay, so a two-for-one entry is cheating but hear me out: I read one to better absorb the other. First came Jenny Boully’s work, a deeply weird and poetic version of J.M. Barrie’s classic story, much darker with threatening undertones running throughout. Boully’s writing style is eerie and beautiful and, unfortunately, rather difficult to follow unless you know the source material. I read not merely… the first time, understood it but didn’t really get it, and because I’m nothing if not an obsessive reader, I hopped online to order a copy of Peter and Wendy. (The original, not the Disney-fied, abridged for younger children version.) It came as a bit of a shock to me that I’d never read it before, Peter and Wendy is freakin’ classic lit for goodness sakes, so how did I miss it? That’s what I get for being uppity as a young’un and having a reading level far above my age. So I read Barrie’s original and was moved by it, by how shady it really is, how different from the Disney movie and the faint feeling of dread that permeates the text, tones one only picks up on as an adult. And then I went back and reread Boully’s novella and really got it, was in fact disturbed by it while simultaneously pretty damn impressed. These definitely stick out in my mind amongst the 77 books I read this past year, and in my memory they will be forever linked. Hence my two-for-one cheat.
Now go forth, my lovelies, and embark upon a new year. May 2014 treat you well!
Writer brain suffers. Writer brain hurts. Writer brain throws hissy fits because it wants to write ALL the words and I won’t allow it. Writer brain does not understand, and writer brain hates me for it.
Can writers write two separate projects simultaneously? Absolutely.
Can writers write two separate projects simultaneously and get at least one of them finished? That, my friends, is where the danger lurks.
I’m wrestling with the temptation to do this right now: begin a new novel while still writing my work-in-progress. My work-in-progress is going well, moving along rather smoothly, I just need to put the words down on paper. (Ha! I say ‘just’ as if it’s that easy.) But there’s this other story waiting to be written, an idea that’s been in my head for months and has finally started to coalesce into something actually resembling a narrative. More scenes, more coherent lines, more defined character voices…and the feeling is there, the one that makes it resonate with me and starts my fingers tingling with the urge to write it down.
And my God, diving into that story would feel amazing. But…
…if I give into the urge to jump into the deep end, I run the risk of never finishing the work-in-progress. Even worse, I run the risk of not finishing either project because I’m spreading myself too thin.
But I want to, damn it! I want to have my cake (WIP) and eat it too (new novel). I’m greedy, and I’ve never been known for my patience.
I’m trying to hold myself back. I’ve written multiple stories at the same time before, that’s all I did throughout my teenage years and early twenties, and I don’t have a damn thing novel-wise to show for it. I never finished any of them. Granted, none of them were particularly noteworthy, most were downright bad, but the point is that I attempted, failed, and left them to rot.
I know of writers—both published well-known names and plenty of people like me, toiling away because it’s fun and not because anyone is necessarily reading their words—who juggle more than one project. I’m in awe of and more than a little jealous of that ability because they write, they write well, and they get things completed. They get to type the end (or just sign and date it, such as is my preference) on both and sit back, all justifiably smug and pleased with themselves before immersing themselves in something brand new. I hate them because I want to be them.
Making it even more difficult to resist is that both of these stories have a similar gritty feel, something that induces my brain to slide back and forth from one to the other without any difficulty. Saving me from crumbling and giving into the urge to write more is the key difference between them, aside from wildly different plots: one is gritty and dangerous while the other is gritty, much more emotional, and full of that painful yearning sensation that hits everyone now and again and rips the breath from the lungs. That wouldn’t overlap well, and it’s the most rational reason, based in technical writing common sense, the thing that’s helping hold me back.
But I want to, damn it!
Are you one of those people who can handle two+ projects at once and get at least something finished? And not just juggle them but smoothly transition back and forth? If so please gift me with your wisdom, tell me how the hell you manage to do it.
Because I’ve got a hitman of the non-human variety demanding all of my time while a trio of half-wild fae whisper glamour in my ear.
A little help here?