Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fulfilling the stereotype

Here I am, sitting at a table at Panera, using their wifi and drinking their soda while I work on my story.  How stereotypical, right?  The trope of the lonely writer holed up in a coffee shop working on the Great American Novel, has been done, done again, and overdone.  Darn you, Ms. Rowling, for giving everyone the idea it could be done successfully!

But ... it's a convenient place to squat during the two hours I have between when I drop off my daughter at school and when I have to start my work day.  I find I get a lot done here, despite the constant distraction of other people's conversations and the cold draft from the front door opening over and over again.  I've got a system nailed down now that works pretty well for me.

I usually don't try to write here - that's done at home, in a comfy chair, preferably in the sunshine and with a cup of tea at my elbow.  But I do all of my first drafts longhand, so eventually I have to tackle the tedious job of typing them into my computer.  Panera is a great place to do that, because if that's all I bring with me, and I purposely don't connect to the wifi, I'm not tempted to do other things instead.  There's no laundry to wash, no Facebook to check, and no writing books to peruse.  Just me and my handwritten draft and a keyboard, every Tuesday and Thursday, until it's done.

Most of the time I can tune out the noises around me.  It's hard - I love to eavesdrop (what author doesn't?  where do you think all of our ideas come from?) and people seem to think the booths at Panera include a code of silence or something ... they discuss the strangest things in the middle of a very public location.  If all I have to do is type the words in front of me onto the computer, the intrusion of an occasional conversation doesn't really slow me down.

Other days, though, the lure of the hubbub is too strong.  That's why I always bring along my earbuds, and why I installed a white noise generator on both my phone and my iPad.  I prefer the full-featured one on the iPad, which lets me make custom mixes of sounds.  I like matching the mixes to the subject matter I'm writing about - when I was working on Susannah Saves the Swamp, for example, I listened to lots of beach  noises and croaking frogs, and it helped keep me in the mood.  If I don't have a specific theme that fits, I go with a standard blend of traffic noise, crowd sounds, and a cat purring - I call it my City Apartment Special.

I'm a good squatter, always purchasing something, never taking up insane amounts of bandwidth by trying to edit photos or post video or anything.  The restaurant makes money off of me, but since I was buying my lunch here before anyway, it's not like it's an additional expense.  Besides, if my $10 lunch is the cost of actually getting something done twice a week instead of just driving back and forth on the highway another time, it sounds like a pretty good deal.  Besides, I plan on thanking them in the credits when I finally get published, so it's a good deal for all of us, right?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Howdy! (waves hand in your direction)

Well, here it is - the start of a journey.  Technically the journey began last year, when I started writing my first manuscript ... but now is when I'm beginning to get serious about getting published, so I say the journey starts now!  Here's where things stand:

I have one manuscript, Susannah Saves the Swamp, that I consider finished and ready to submit to agents. My second one (The Indian in the Garden) is in the final throes of my editing process and is about to be sent out to test readers.  I finished the rough draft of a third story (working title is DIY) on Monday, and I'm procrastinating on typing that sucker up even as I write this blog entry.

All three of those are chapter/middle grade books, focusing on characters that are in 2nd-6th grade.  They aren't easy reader books - they're books for kids who don't mind lots of description in their stories and are willing to occasionally look up a new word or two.  I'm proud of the characters I've created, and I think the stories I've written are uniquely mine to tell.

I have two more potential books that are bumping around on paper right now, too.  One is definitely a Young Adult book, since there is - gasp! - kissing in it.  That one is on its second incarnation - it started out as an adult book written from a different point of view, and boy, let me tell you, was swapping out all those pronouns fun to do! Right now it's stalled about two chapters from the end of the story, and it's stayed that way for a month or so.  The other story hasn't decided whether it's upper MG or lower YA ... or even whether it's really something I want to write at all.  I mainly started it to give me a place to try out a techniques that I haven't had the guts to use in a story I'm serious about finishing.  This attempt at writing without an outline, just letting the characters "tell me what they want to do" is proving that I babble at even greater length when I don't have an outline to rein me in.  I've got lots of pages, but not a lot of story so far.  Eh, we'll see - maybe once I'm done with the two stories I'm editing there will be space in my brain to plan out this one.

So here I am - a few manuscripts written, SCBWI joined, an untidy pile of agent descriptions sitting on my desk.  I'm starting to build my official online presence, worrying over writing a bio, and honing my query letter to a fine point.  There's a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks and months, and very little of it involves actually writing stories.  But if I want to be a published author - not just a hobby writer - these are all important steps on the road to success.

I guess if we're going to use the metaphor of my writing "journey", my bags are packed, some maps are uploaded to my phone, and I'm about to go fill up the car with gas and check the oil.  Hop in the car, dear reader, and let's see where this literary road trip takes us!