editing, editing, editing

I think I failed to mention that a couple of weeks ago, I finished the draft of my book Lucha. 

I realized this as I someone asked me the other day, “by the way how’s your book coming?”

Oh yea, I said. It’s done.

Yes. Done. Done. Done! And through stage one of the editing process. This was a very basic edit. I went through for all the grammatical issues and typos I could find. I did a very cursory overview of anything that may not be entirely clear. A complete hand edit is done, and now I’m working to rewrite the changes on my computer.

I have to admit that I’m loving the process. Within hours of being done with my school year, I sat down and finished the pencil edits. The computer revisions are at about page 92.

This is my major writing goal for the summer. Well, one of them.

The other is to do a major overhaul of the first novel. The funny thing is I love that story so much, but I’m not thrilled with the structure anymore. I learned so much writing this second novel draft, and I think that it will definitely help me create a solid second draft of the other novel.

The other goal for this summer is to start publishing Lucha on a blog again. I started a while back and stopped for a variety of reasons (mostly what I now consider to be bad advice).

So, if you want to start at the beginning, check it out. At this time, I think I’m going to update it three times a week until the story is done. And simultaneously, I think this will help me revise again.

Always, always a work in progress…

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23,483

It’s weird to think that many words can come out of your brain. Not all at once, of course, but all the same.

Even weirder to think that they’re all telling one story.

I have to say this time around it’s going much smoother. It helps that I had some help with the outlining and character development. It also helps to know that I’ve done it before. So, I know what I have to do to get it done.

I discovered today, though, that I have one major timeline issue. I guess I didn’t catch it in my outline. Part of me wants to stay up and fix it now, but the smarter part of me knows that trying to fix something while I’m tired usually makes a bigger mess.

So, I can happily stop with 27 chapters and 23,483 words written.

staring: on writing

A friend and I have been listening to commencement speeches and sending them back and forth. The recent habit was inspired by a speech we listened to together. It was awful.

(The truth is, though, that there are some really great speeches out there. John Legend’s at the University of Pennsylvania from a few years back is probably my all time favorite. From it comes one of my favorite things to think about: the collision of sound and silence.)

A couple of days ago, I found Ann Patchett’s commencement address given at Sarah Lawrence in 2006. I loved this for this moment in my life because she talks about the journey of a writer.

What I found (funniest) most interesting was the concept of staring and how much time a writer spends staring.

Yesterday, I went to wash my car. I use one of those places where you put the quarters in the machine and wash it on your own with this little spray hose thing. Next to this place is an alley. And across from the alley was an apartment building. It was not very well-kept and on the door nearest to me was spray painted APT 3. It wasn’t well done. And I imagined that one day someone just got sick of knocks on the door asking for Apartment 1 and grabbed a spray can and wrote with loud, big, sloppy words. So there, it says.

On the steps sat a man. Hair every which way. Long beard. Smoking. A Jesus-looking figure, if you will. Minus the cigarette. So, as I dried the car, I stared at him. And from that staring came this entire story. An estranged daughter. An all-too-helpful son-in-law. A lifetime of struggles.

And then my mind went to something my father said to me last week. Your imagination is a little out of control.

It is.

When I sat down last night to get my chapters in on Lucha, I realized that my transition from the previous activity (in this case the Dodgers & yoga) requires staring. At nothing. Stare. Stare. Stare. Then, the words comes. Easily, really. And they don’t stop.

There’s really a lot to be said for staring.

Moving Past the Post-Its

So the big non-secret is that in the past ten years I have written out the plots, settings and character sketches for three major stories. I say major because they have the potential to be novels. Or movies. Or TV miniseries. Just kidding on the miniseries, but that’s the amount of thought that has been put into these stories.

One came from lucid imagination. I dreamt the characters, and they started interacting. I put them in situations and they started responding. I simply wrote it out. That one is the oldest. It’s probably close to eight years old. It’s also 72 single-spaced pages.

The second came in college. It has a fabulous timeline. It’s part fantasy of mine and part fiction. The character is amazingly stable, and the story sits in a half-completed state.

And the third came to me in a dream. I dreamt the entire story. I dreamt the characters. The location was eerie though. I had no idea where it came from or where I had seen it before. I didn’t think I had. Then, one day I was doing research for a shorter posting I was writing for one of my blogs, and there appeared this picture on the PBS website. A picture of my dream. So I pulled this out. My sketches. Not of the place exactly, but of the layout of the town. And all the beautiful characters on the pages. Then, there was the plot.

My…umm…biography of sorts is about 20 chapters in. That has gotten the most work in the past two months. It’s easiest to see the progress on it, I suppose. And I will admit that the handbook I am partnering with a friend on sits with its first chapter written, begging for more.

The truth is I love to write. And I would love to create a schedule for myself. I really would. It just has never worked out in the past because I tend to jump from project to project or I share the stories prematurely and then feel that they are no longer mine.

But I realized as I provide my students every day with a very deliberate method, schedule and checklist for their own writing that it would not be that difficult to do it for myself. Well, minus the sheer exhaustion (as one students said to me today, “Ms. Sosnowski, don’t you EVER get tired?”). But I figure if I can take 2 hours a day to craft positive comments and constructive feedback for my students, another 20-30 minutes to work on this reflection of my life, I can simply steal moments here and there to start with this creative business again.

So I’m starting with the last one. Only because I truly thought it was a sign when I came across the pictures of my dreams…

And as one of my students said to me one day, “Wow, you’re like a real writer.”

Nope, not yet, I said.

On Discipline & Writing

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I like to issue myself challenges. I do this because I’m easily distracted, and I have a tendency to forget to do things or to devise a new plan every other day.

Several months ago, I gave myself the challenge of two miles a day for two weeks. I managed to get in fourteen 2-mile runs in a 15-day period and considered that quite a success. Last week, I issued myself the challenge of two weeks of double days. And I am happy to report that on the eleventh day of this challenge, I have successfully managed two workouts per day. This is one is more out of sheer boredom than anything else because I was absolutely horrified to learn how many calories I was burning. As a total side note, I’ve had a lot of fun replenishing those calories with Fully Loaded Dreyers Peanut Butter ice cream. Yum!

When I was in high school, I did a lot of creative writing. One of (perhaps the only) drawback of a journalism degree is that it completely squished the desire and/or ability to write creatively. I can write out technical, academic, and even blog posts with no problem. I write quickly and rarely edit in those cases, but I’ve had these grand ideas for fiction for the past couple of years after graduate school. In the past six months, I have written extensively for this blog and have started a second blog. Part of the problem I was having with starting a new project was that it would be an entirely new project. I figured though, what else do I have to do?

So, two days ago, I issued myself a new challenge.

One hour of creative writing per day.

I’m here at day three, and I’ve written close to five thousand words and am in the third chapter of a story that I have been dying to write for a good ten years.

I had such a wonderful time today. I completely lost track of the time in my writing and am quite happy with the product thus far.

My challenge is for two weeks. I’m hoping that it’s something I will be able to keep up after the completion of the challenge to ensure the completion of the story.