How Badly Do You Want It?

I want you. I want you so bad. I want you. I want you so bad, it’s driving me mad, it’s driving me mad.

That’s how I feel right now about my Work In Progress.

Friends, family, work, TV, the internet, eating, sleeping, reading, blogging, cleaning out your closets… On any given day it’s easy to get distracted. Life holds not only Jungian hierarchies and obligations, but also the freedom to make poor choices, give in to poor time management skills, a million cracks in the sidewalks, and a few other things that can get in the way of our goals.

Generally speaking, everyone has time for what’s truly important to them, but some things are completely out of our control: Computer crashes, health problems, money problems, accidents, theft of one’s laptop… If you read my last post then you know that two weeks ago when my husband and I were in Costa Rica, we were robbed. They took not only our electronics, ALL of them, but also my eyeglasses and Rx sunglasses, four pair of shoes, jewelry, clothes, and most importantly, they stole two weeks of my life. That’s how long it has taken me to regroup, replace all my stuff (including my peace of mind), and get back to writing. The two most fortunate aspects of what we’ve been through are, one, we were not harmed physically, and, two, they did not steal my novel in progress.

My dear Twitter friend, Taylor Stevens—NYTBSA of The Informationist and The Innocent—and I agreed that a writer’s list of priorities are: 1) Life, 2) Work in progress, 3) Everything else. Los hombres malos did not get my novel because I was wise enough to back it up each day. (Note to others: since I was traveling, I actually emailed my novel to myself each night so that no matter what happened to my electronics, my novel would be safe. Google Docs would also work.)

What would have happened if I lost all 200 pages and all my notes and outlines and research? Would I have had it in me to start over, rewrite the entire work from memory, re-interview my experts? As much as I want this novel to be published (that would be more than anything in the world other than good health for me and my loved ones), I’m not sure if I could have garnered the strength and energy to recreate it. I would have been a pile of mush, I know that much. I would have been devastated. I would have tried, but I’m not sure if I would have felt capable of bringing it back to life, or if I would just have moved on. I do know I would not have given up writing all together.

This I know for sure: I am a writer; I will always write.

Fortunately, I am safe and I am back. I want this SO badly I must keep writing. So without further ado, please excuse me while I go apologize to my characters for abandoning them for the past two weeks, and see if I can’t write them in and out of a few more mini-dramas.

What about you? What’s the most important goal of your life? How badly do you want it? What would it take for you to be defeated? What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goal? Sure helps determine your priorities, doesn’t it?

Turns out orderly closets aren’t so important after all.


Only The Dates Have Been Changed

Costa Rica, Year 3, Day 1: It’s like we never left, only more so.

I’ve been reading The Best American Travel Stories 2011, edited by one of my favorite authors, Sloane Crosley. In her introduction essay, she states that she never wants to go back to the same place twice because the world is so big and wonderful. I used to agree with her, and in many ways I still do. In a previous life (about 15 years ago, I suppose) I spent 10 days on the island of Mustique. Mystical, to be sure. Ah, Basil and his friends (rock stars, clothing designers, European royalty, entrepreneurs and trust fund babies). What’s not to like? The beaches, the views, the restaurants. Ok, there was only one restaurant, but it was fabulous—a lively lobster once scampered across the dining room floor trying to escape his devilishly hot fate—heaven on earth for us humans. And here is where Ms. Crosley’s point is valid: my return trip the following year had none of the awe and fascination. I went back hoping to repeat the wonderment. Alas, it was, “Oh, yeah, I remember this beach.”
But this spot in Costa Rica where we (my hubby and I) have found… We love it more each year. We’ve met people here, found the best places to eat and buy good meat (organic beef and pork from Nicaragua), my Spanish has greatly improved, and I am over the culture shock that overwhelmed me on my first visit. But I post this post as a marker, taking my emotional temperature, if you will, so I can compare how I feel about it at the end of our trip.
Here’s my Costa Rican recap:
First trip to CR: 1 Week in Tamarindo: Fabulous. Me, hubby, 4 sons. Great time, great food, great town, great house though it didn’t have an ocean view.
Second trip to CR: 1 month near Coco Beach: Not so fabulous. Hubby and I land after dark; by the time we got our rental car and found our house, I was depleted of all positive emotions. An afternoon wildfire had scorched the hilltop just below our house, but our host insisted they’d hosed everything down so we’d be fine. The house was in disrepair, though the ants and geckos didn’t seem to mind. The tarantulas loved our pool, but they can’t swim so it wasn’t that scary to scoop them out in the mornings. But by Week 3, when 5 (grown) kids arrived, I had adjusted and relearned to sleep at night out of pure exhaustion from all the local adventures we mastered. This is how I felt about it at the time!
Then we moved to another house for 1 month: Ah, much better. Clean, airtight, no bugs inside. Wonderful. Enjoyment! A writer’s dream. Lovely. Until our final night here. That night, sound asleep, pure bliss, and then BANG! Ouch! OMFingG! My husband was stung by a scorpion who had crawled into our bed! After we killed it, we wondered if it had a nest of friends nearby…
Year 2: Back to the Scorpion house. (yes, I agreed to this… hey, it wasn’t me who got stung!). (We did have 10 scorpions in the house during our stay, but no stings. They were mostly dead due to perimeter fumigation by the time they snuck into middle of the rooms.) This year, no kids, no adventures, only peace, quiet, calm, happiness, and writing: 45,000 words on my “third” novel, The King of Liars. I also did a lot of blogging about our time here (See January 2011 archives). Some of it’s worth reading. Most of the last 20 or so entries relay our adventures. (Note: This link is to my “old” blog via Apple. I have since moved my blog to where you are reading now.)
Year 3: Now here I sit, in the Scorpion house again, in my “writing studio over looking the Pacific Ocean.” I wonder what lies ahead for us over the next 11 weeks. We’ll have most of our kids visiting for parts of 3 separate weeks. With any luck, our children will outnumber the scorpions, although that still leaves room for too many scorpions! This year, I’m working on a new novel—my “breakout” novel? Yes, this is the one!—A Reasonable Price. I’m at 35,000 words now (125 pages), but no telling how many of those I’ll scrap in the next 11 weeks. My current friends—I mean, characters—have different names from last year, but my intensity persists.
So, friends, I hope to entertain and inform you in the coming months. I’d love questions or comments from you along the way so don’t be shy. Take care and I’ll write more soon! Hasta luega!

Who Do You Write Like?

Who or whom? Either way, the rule now says. (Ok, not Strunk & White, but somewhere I read that modern day sloppiness is more and more acceptable, but that’s another post.)

There’s a very cool web site called I Write Like. It analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.” You can cut & paste your fiction, emails, poems, love letters, anything, I think, except for Tweets.

So I tried it with my WIP, three times, for good measure. My first comparison said I write like Stephen King. Wow! I can see that, but I don’t think Mr. King needs to worry yet. My second comparison: J.K. Rowling. Really? Unbelievable! I’ll start telling agents that. (Even better, for the record, none of my characters’ names are made up words or difficult to pronounce.) My third comparison—I guess I was going for two out of three—Stephen King again. Maybe he should start to worry…

Are you curious to see to whom you compare? I am curious to know if you agree with your results. Please let me know what you find out. I appreciate your comments.

Finding Your Voice

We are not alone. Not only is that a reference to a great book/blog/support group all headed by Kristen Lamb, but it follows with the theory that there is nothing new under the sun. Some of my most brilliant lines, ideas and blog posts (which I think are TOTALLY new), I later discover have been said before. Hmmm.

For instance, in March of this year, I wrote a brilliant post titled My Third MFA. I walked around for a week with a smile about how witty I was. (Unfortunately, you can’t see all the positive comments because Apple erased them!) But just yesterday, I read a post titled My Private MFA by Randy Susan Meyer about the very same thing. Granted, I wrote mine months ago, but hers put me back where I belong. She is—at this moment—singing “Anything you can do, I can do better.” She’s done the same as me, but she’s already published. Bravo, Randy!

The truth about an MFA is this: If you have the time, patience, money and open mind to pursue an MFA it will teach you how to write. If not, you either have to be brilliant or you have to be persistent and self-motivated. (I consider myself two out of those three.) But, perhaps more importantly, a master’s degree in writing will help a writer find her voice by practicing all kinds of writing and then deciding what feels best before starting a 90,000 word novel.

My first novel, Any Day Now, was written in First Person POV by a female protagonist. How in the world did I think of that?! My second novel, On A Midnight Street, was Third Person POV about a male protagonist. (Please see this post to find out why the hell I thought I could do that.) My current WIP is omniscient. I’ve recently read and loved and been influenced by two books (specifically Bel Canto) by Ann Patchett written from the omniscient POV. This is exactly why they say that writers must be readers. And we are not only supposed to enjoy other books, we’re supposed to study, analyze, and learn from them.

Recently, I was speaking to a brilliant young man (ahem, okay, my son Elliott Krause) about the pros and cons about different POVs. Elliott, if I may, just graduated Phi Beta Kappa from KU with majors in English and Psychology. He was accepted at the University of Iowa (#1 writing school in the country) into their Non-fiction Masters program. He’s becoming a writer the traditional (right?) way. I’m trying to sneak in the back door. But what I realized after that conversation, is that I am still—in the midst of my fourth novel— finding my voice. I would like to think that this is the one. It certainly feels better than any of the others, but it remains to be seen if this becomes my writing voice permanently, or if I return to 1st or 3rd POV.

I’ve been writing now, more and more hours each day, for 4 years. Not quite at my 10,000 hours yet, but well on my way. The good news is that I LOVE writing, so I’m having the time of my life.

For you writers out there, how did you find your voice? From school—writing required papers for teachers. Or from reading? Or did you just start writing and assume whatever came out of your finger tips was right? How many of you writers have experimented with all the POVs to find your voice? Is it predicated by the story, or by the author?

I’m Off To See… Chicago

Tomorrow (during my regular blogging hours), I’ll be driving to Chicago to visit my son. Six hours, in a car, alone, and back again on Thursday… Almost heaven.

I actually like driving long distances alone. The obvious reasons: I get to listen AND sing out loud to whatever music I want; I can chat on the phone when I choose, not worried about waking fellow passengers; but, mostly, I get to think! Driving alone is great for my WIP. In the past, I’ve jotted down dozens of ideas while (carefully) driving 70mph down lonesome highways. Hopefully this trip will be just as productive.

This trip to see my son is long overdue. The highlight will be dinner for just the two of us-in a big family, alone time is hard to come by- good food, good wine, and good conversation with a great kid… er, young man.

The fact that he lives in one of the greatest shopping cities in the country is just a bonus.

Talk to you all on Friday.

I’m Married To The Wrong One!

(HOOK) Yesterday I had a meltdown. Not the check-me-into-a-hospital kind of meltdown, just a rant-on-Twitter, lock-myself-in-a-room, go-through-a-box-of-Kleenex kind of meltdown. I realized I was married to the wrong title!

(BACKSTORY) Before I get too far, let me make it perfectly clear that I am happily married to a wonderful man ~ the RIGHT man. It’s my work in progress—or rather, my work-that’s-not progressing—that’s got me down.
(SITUATION) A couple years ago, we went to visit two of my sons in New York City. The four of us and one of their friends went to a quaint Italian restaurant in Tribeca. The three “boys” (all in their 20s) sat across from my husband and me. My son Ryan’s friend, Ariel, looks amazingly like my son except he has blue eyes. The phrase “the blue-eyed twin” innocently swam through my head. No big deal, that’s all. Except that phrase wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote it down and tried to forget about it. But it has haunted me for almost two years!
(GOAL) Not only has it haunted me, it turned itself into an entire novel, The Blue-Eyed Twin. Characters were born, conflicts arose, plots thickened, a twist and an ending presented itself! Aha, my next book! Hurray! Bells and whistles, secretly planned book tours and signings… all I had to do was get my brilliant work on paper.
(CONFLICT) But who’s point-of-view was this story? Was, in fact, the blue-eyed twin my protagonist? No, he is no hero. So, his twin brother then? No, not him either. This is not YA; I didn’t want to write a novel about teenage boys. The mother? The father? Omniscient? None of them fit with my hero/situation/goal/conflict/resolution. Like a child who develops talents a mother never fathomed, my story idea had outgrown the title.
(RESOLUTION) The last Kleenex in the box held the answer: Choose a new title and the whole thing works.
(HERO) Me! I am the author, I hold the lock, and I hold the key. If something’s not working, change it!
(THEME) We all hold the keys to our own happiness. Some changes are easy, some are painfully difficult. I’ve lived through both in my lifetime and expect I’ll have more before I die. Life is short and precious. If you’re not happy, make changes.
(ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS) I could not have gotten where I am today if it weren’t for two special Twitter friends. Kimberly Nichols and Taylor Stevens, both responded to my Twitter rants. Taylor, author of the thrilling book The Informationist and currently working on her next book, took time out of her busy day to reassure me I was not alone and this too shall pass. Thanks to both of you.

Conclusions, conclusions

Funny how timing works, isn’t it? A moment here, a minute there, and our whole lives could be different. Or, for instance, when people come into our lives and tell us something really valuable for where we are at that moment in time. How many snippets of advice have gone in one ear and out the other because the timing wasn’t right for us to hear it? How many people have we just missed meeting who might have become friends?

Yes, this is going somewhere.

Last week I had a phone consultation with Jenny Bent from the Bent Agency about my finished novel, On A Midnight Street. I’ve worked on it, off and on, for about 18 months. It’s complete and as polished as it’s ever going to be unless an agent/editor/publisher demands changes. (I should be so lucky.) After speaking with Jenny Bent, after she perfected my query letter, I was all charged up and decided I would send it out once more, to say 10 more agents.

Then I read a blog post by Allison Winn Scotch, about when to quit querying. I suddenly came to the conclusion that I was ready to move on because at this point, I couldn’t bear to do one more rewrite without the promise of publication. Even though my novel is “perfect”, even though my query letter is “perfect”, I’m movin’ on. I’ve written an 83,000-word first draft to my next book, Invented Lives, and that’s all I want to focus on now.

So, done. There it is. Close one book, open another. I am completely happy with this decision.
For now.

Invented Lives

What’s a child without a name? (an orphan?) What’s a date without a name? (a one night stand?) What’s a town without a name? (a concert tour?) What’s a book without a name? (a work no one will read!)

My work in progress (WIP), here to date known as The King Family, now has an official title. Not unlike Kate Middleton, my novel has been christened: Invented Lives.

It’s perfect!

That is exactly what my novel is about, invented lives. In essence, it’s a family saga, and yet it is so much more. I have finished the first draft, which means I now begin my second draft, which means I’ll be looking for beta readers, which means I’ll soon be looking for agents, which means one day I’ll be published, and you will be able to read for yourself!

It’s moments like these that really charge my batteries. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to edit I go!