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Why Sandra Bullock gives me hope

WIP update: 10,500 words! I’ve crossed a threshold! I’m really doing this! I can totally write this book!

Granted, I might have gotten a little farther if it weren’t for the Oscars last night… but whatever.

What I’ve noticed is that 500 words (my Mon-Thurs quota) has become easy for me. 1000 words (my Fri-Sun quota) isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard anymore either. Even on the nights when I start my writing at 11 p.m. — which unfortunately is fairly often — I can usually expect to collapse into bed around midnight or 1 a.m. I think my average is 500 words an hour. IF I’m focused.

(Which is why even though technically I can write at work, I never really get that many words down. There are just too many interruptions.)

Given that, I may up my daily quotas to 750 and 1250, respectively. Maybe in, like, a week? I don’t want to rush it, because the key is to set myself up for success. I want to make sure I set goals I can realistically achieve. Or else I could fall into that negative cycle of failing, beating myself up for failing, going into the next day/goal with a pessimistic outlook, and thus failing, beating myself up for failing, and so on and so forth…

Hey, can we go back to the Oscars for a moment? (Why, yes we can! Because this is my blog and I say so.) Besides all the glam and glitz, I enjoy Hollywood because it’s all about the same thing that I’m all about: stories.

Whether comedy, drama, thriller, or what have you, movies (like books) are about good stories. And I’ve learned a lot, both from movies and TV shows, about good storytelling. The compelling nature of friendship, from Sex and the City. The shades of grey that characters can (and really should) live in, from Battlestar Galactica. The simple power of real life highs and lows, from Life Unexpected. The list goes on.

(Obviously you can learn a lot about what not to do from bad movies and TV shows, too. But I like to focus on the positives.)

So last night (the Oscars) for me was a celebration of good stories, and the people who make them successful. And I have to admit, I was really happy when Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress. Because hers has been a long and varied career, from Speed to a Time to Kill, Practical Magic to Crash. And that’s what I want: variety. I’m terrified of being pigeonholed. Literary, Young Adult, New Adult, fantasy, mystery, chick lit… Truth be told, I’d like to try my hand at all of them. But nowadays, in the world of “author brands,” I worry about how much flexibility I’ll really have.

(Of course, Andy’s (extremely practical) advice is to just get a book published first, then I can worry about the next ones. But it’s so much easier to worry now!)

I know it’s a different industry, but still, Sandra Bullock gives me hope. That I too can experiment with different styles and roles. That I too can flop a few times and still come back strong. That I too don’t have to bend to my brand; I can make my brand grow to fit me. That I too can find success while staying true to myself.

Unfortunately, blogs don’t count towards daily word quotas

WIP update: I’m 8,400 words in, and stumbling through Chapter 3. I also injected additional material into Chapter 2 and need to shuffle some stuff from 2 to 1. It’s not exactly revising, but it’s not exactly progressing either. So I’m trying to make sure I allot most of my daily word quota to moving forward through my outline. That April deadline is looking less and less likely, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop aiming for it!

To my credit, I am writing steadily, if not quickly. Last night I almost went to bed without finishing (or really even starting) my quota, just because I was so exhausted. Well, okay, I did go to bed. I shut down my computer, moved Riley to Andy’s side, and even got settled under the nice warm covers. But my guilt wouldn’t let me sleep. So I got back out and wrote. Darn you, conscience!

(Or really: thank you, conscience!)

I am still tired, though, so I’ve only got 2 thoughts for you today:


On Wednesday night, a girlfriend and I went to see Valentine’s Day. From a writing standpoint, there were a lot of problems. The ideas were good, but the execution was mediocre/rushed, probably because there were so many storylines. But overall I enjoyed the film, and I did guffaw embarrassingly on several occasions.

My favorite storyline was actually the one featuring Eric Dane, aka McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll just say that it was unexpected and refreshing and really well done.


There are a lot of writing rules. Don’t start with conjuctions. Show, don’t tell. Always kill off a character. Never kill off a character. So on and so forth.

I think it’s good to know the “rules,” but I think it’s also good to break them sometimes. Because really they’re just guidelines, meant to help beginning writers develop their skills to a point where they (the writer, not the rules) are good enough. Good enough that a reader won’t care if they start a sentence with “And,” or tell us how the villain felt, or kill off a character and then bring him back to life. Or whatever.

Along those lines, Natalie Whipple held a contest this week, challenging people to start a story with weather. (Another no-no.) The results were pretty awesome. My favorite was the first place winner; I thought her story was incredible. So much packed into so few words! I was also quite impressed with the 12 year old girl who received honorable mention. Her first line definitely hooked me, and then there was a melancholy, contemplative tone that made me sympathize with the main character. Click here to read the stories. (They’re short, only 250 words each!)

All right, I’m headed home (from my Panera office) to play with my dog, read, and probably nap. Peace out, cub scout!

On laughing, and doing things backward

Yesterday was a day of laughter. It began with highly inappropriate conversations about sandwiches. Only a couple of you reading this will actually know what sandwiches are. To the rest of you, I apologize, but needless to say, a sandwich is not a sandwich. And for the record, you cannot unwrap mustard.

Then after work I went to my writing group, and I think something about our new location Book Bums (which is a fabulous cafe/lending library – anyone in the Cincinnati area should check it out!) really set us off, because man we couldn’t stay on-task to save our lives. Okay, that’s not completely true, we did read excerpts of two people’s work and give them feedback, plus we tried to help Sarah brainstorm on the sexual identity of one of her characters. But seriously? I laughed so hard and loud for those two hours that I’m surprised I didn’t get arrested for disturbing the peace. We also came up with the best story idea ever, but I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll just say “G-Y Z–B–!”


Sorry, this is turning into a bunch of inside jokes, and that wasn’t the point. The POINT is that by the time I got home, watched Life Unexpected (totally vital, btw) and then showered, it was 11:20 pm and I had only written 38 words on my WIP. I was exhausted (from all the laughing, naturally) and my boyfriend and puppy were already in bed looking cute, warm, and cuddly. So what did I do? I got in bed with them and went to sleep for 8 hours!


I took a deep breath, closed my browser, and forced myself to meet my daily goal of 500 words. (For the record, I surpassed that.) Was it hard? Yeah. Was I tired? Extremely. But was it the right thing to do? Duh. Because I’d already had my fun. I’d already cashed in for the day, with all the laughing and the sandwich jokes and the g-y z–b–s. But I hadn’t earned any of that yet. The truth is, I have a bad habit of doing that — of claiming the prize before winning the race — but one thing I’m good at is making sure I pay up. (Eventually.)

Like in the first grade, when my mom told me I could have a GameBoy only if I got all A’s on my report card, but then she bought it for me six weeks before grades went home? I still worked hard and got all A’s.

Or in college, when I told myself that I’d watch one episode of Battlestar Galactica for every one page of my term paper that I wrote, but then I actually watched Season 1 back to back for hours? I still finished my paper on-time and aced it.

Or when Andy told me I should get a MacBook after I sold my first novel, but then he gave me one for my 23rd birthday anyway? Well, okay, I’m still earning that one. But believe me, I will.

Now I’m not saying this a good way to do things. In fact, haha, I think it’s awful, and that guilt is probably part of what drives me. What I’m saying is that being tired isn’t a good reason to miss a goal. It’s an excuse. And excuses don’t put dreams on ice for later; they push dreams away.

Furthermore, if you really want something, then nothing — not even getting it — should stop you from making sure you deserve it.

So. Yeah. About that.

WIP update: I’m roughly 4600 words in. Chapters 1 and 2 are written. Chapter 3 is in progress. I kind of feel like all of it is crap, but my lovely first draft readers assure me that’s not true. Of course, I don’t entirely believe them, but I’m trying to remember that crap is okay for right now. I just gotta get the story down, then I can mold it into something pretty.

I do feel pressure to be polished, though. Even on this blog. It’s very difficult for me to shut off my Internal Editor, even though I know it’s holding me back. In fact, that might be my greatest challenge as a writer. That and my ASDD: Avidly Seeking Distractions Disease.

(Dude, it’s totally a real thing.)

Also, I completely forgot to do my morning pages this weekend. Whoops. I’ll blame my dog. See, there’s a new (ADORABLE!) puppy next door, and Riley has taken it upon himself to announce the puppy’s comings and goings with a rousing chorus of barks and howls. No matter what time of day. Or night. Yeah, it’s awesome. NOT. It also means I didn’t sleep great on Friday night, which means I didn’t function that well on Saturday. There’s still time for me to do my “morning” pages today, though.

In better news, I might be published soon? I submitted my flash fiction piece “How to Field Dress a Deer” to my alma mater’s literary magazine, and I got an email today that it was accepted. Hurrah! More details on that if/when it’s confirmed.

And finally, at the risk of sounding hokey, lately I’ve been reminded that real life/the world around us really does provide the best stories and inspiration. Like Joannie Rochette’s tragedy & triumph at the Olympics. Or like this weird parasitic fungus that infects an ant, kills it, and then bursts out of its head. Or like a twenty-something writer who’s struggling to meet her daily word quotas and just wants to watch some cute rom-coms, goshdarnit!

Oh, that one’s not a good story? My bad.

Optimistic by nature

How about a little humor for a Friday?

“Anybody who writes a book is an optimist. First of all, they think they’re going to finish it. Second, they think somebody’s going to publish it. Third, they think somebody’s going to read it. Fourth, they think somebody’s going to like it. How optimistic is that?”

– Margaret Atwood in an interview with CNN (via Amanda the Aspiring Writer)

Awesome, no? Then in the comments section of that interview, I found something that’s awesome in an entirely different way:

agentxyz: in 1979 a girl that i was interested in started reading The Handmaid’s Tale [by Margaret Atwood] and then became radicalized and very down on men.

guest: That’s interesting considering it wasn’t published until 1985.


Other than nerdy writing funnies, I’m keeping myself busy with the new WIP. Starting slow (daily quota of 500 words) but I’d like to finish the whole thing by April, so obviously I’ll be picking up the pace.

I’ve also started “morning pages” — which I haven’t been doing in the morning, but whatever. Through this free-writing, I’ve already gotten a new idea for a YA novel. Because, you know, FIVE ideas waiting to be written wasn’t enough.


Ah well, into the queue it goes…

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