Thursday, December 31, 2009

HTRYN: Lesson 1 Accomplished

Because I haven't done too great a job working a consistent writing schedule into my life what with making the DDJ into a career, I decided to sign up for Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" course. It's a six-month-long intense look at a finished draft and weekly lessons to take that steaming pile o' crap to the manuscript you wanted and that you can submit for publication without infinite tweaking. I've got three drafts that are truly good stories but are atrocities in their current condition and need significant work to get them out the door. I wanted a structure to accomplish that work and some help in pulling together all the various skills I've acquired and advice I've heard over the past decade of writing.

I just finished Lesson One. Seeing as how this class started Turkey Day weekend and, as I mentioned, the lessons are weekly...well, you can do the math. It was hard but good work (a line-by-line reading of the draft, without changing a damn thing and only noting where everything falls to pieces in several different areas). And I just started in to Lesson Two, which requires yet another line-by-line reading of the draft. I'm very very glad I chose to do this course on the 85-page novellette that I want to turn into a long novella or short novel instead of the 100,000-word novel I finished last year before I started my job. Mind you, I want to fix that novel, but I think I might've abandoned the course with the enormity of that task with this sort of intensity.

Tomorrow is really the last day of my vacation I have to make significant progress on the rest of the course lessons to date. Here's hoping I can complete Lesson Two.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Obligatory 2009 Retrospective

For the half-dozen stubborn souls still regularly reading this blog after a very sparse year, I thank you and look forward to a fresh start in 2010.

As for 2009, I have a nice long list of excuses to take me off the hook for writing so little, for taking poor care of my bod, for going long stretches of time not hanging with my family, and for not giving as much of my skills and talents to my writing group in the position I was in this year. Thing is, all those excuses stem from a choice I made rather unwittingly at first but then continued to make without planning much beyond said choice. That choice? My day job became a career. I'm not very upset about that choice. I love what I do during the work week. It's very satisfying and it keeps the anal-retentive perfectionist control-freak side of my personality extremely busy and happily so.

If I could go back to the beginning of 2009, I would still make this choice, but I would be smarter about it. I wouldn't just assume that my life could fall into place around my career choice without effort on my part. I wouldn't assume that choosing something as a career means the career naturally progresses according to my effort and abilities without reference to the careers and attitudes of others around me. I didn't make these assumptions consciously, but I realized I had made them sometime in the fall and didn't take steps to correct them or work around them. That's what my journey since Thanksgiving has been about.

So for 2010, I will not accept exhaustion at the end of the work day or the weekend as an excuse not to write for at least an hour or not to do something active with the family for at least three hours on the weekend. I know my body's limits and a little fatigue is not going to deter me. No more wuss-fest after a long day and week. I think most of the exhaustion I felt was more mental and focused on my logic-slave side anyway than the parts of me I employ writing and being with Drew and Mark. I can compartmentalize better. My body has been in the habit of not falling asleep until 11PM and waking up at 5AM. Rather than toss and turn in bed for an hour or two every night and doze through the last half-hour before the alarm goes off every morning, I'm going to use those times for writing and exercising, respectively.

All of that being said, however, I did submit a short story twice this year, once to a contest, once to an on-line zine. Got rejected and earned the ability to write-off my writing expenses for tax purposes. I did bring in many amazing speakers to my writing group and contributed to another fabulous year for our little volunteer-run chapter of RWA. I also had three writing retreats this year (the first of which was spent sick and huddled under the covers afer about 2K of crap-tastic words; the second was spent playing solitaire after about 2K of pure schlock; and the third produced 3K of great stuff that launched a project I'm using for a revision course that will keep me on a good schedule for the first half of 2010 and should seque right into fixing THUMB for the second half). While it was mostly stress-induced, I also lost 30 pounds this year and am now a size 8 (there's some residual flab that needs toning, and I'd like to maintain this weight without the negativity of severe stress). And we did spend a good deal of time together as a family, also getting Drew in the habit of brushing his teeth every day and practicing writing his letters regularly. And the career is coming along quite well.

So 2009 wasn't a bust though it kind of feels like it. Mostly because I know I can do better.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The One Who Birthed the Reason for the Season

Had my Christmas songs on shuffle as I drove home from a half-day of work, getting in the mood for tonight and tomorrow, looking forward to taking off from work until Jan 4, and one of my top five Christmas songs came on. I decided to link to it on the blog as a way to get back into this swing of this here online journal. But I was utterly disappointed with the versions of the song I could find on-line.

Back in 1996, I attended the Notre Dame Glee Club's Christmas concert and was absolutely amazed breathless by their rendition of Franz Biebl's Ave Maria. Unfortunately, the versions now available by the NDGC, while pretty, lack all of the punch that the 1996 crew managed. In fact, the song sounds almost like a dirge in the current production. I'm not sure if the director changed or what, but in 1996, the song built to a powerful crescendo that brought tears to my eyes and made me want to thank every single man on that stage for giving me one of those musical experiences that I carry with me and treasure. (This is the version, much to my delight, immortalized on the CD I bought while a student but no longer available for ya'll to enjoy.)

Instead, I shall share another of my top five Christmas songs.