Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Surrey International Writers' Conference in Surrey, British Columbia near Vancouver. It was fabulous! This is the second time I've attended the conference (the first was two years ago) and both times I learned so much. It has such a positive atmosphere and I love being surrounded by so many other writers.
One of my goals this trip was to pitch my book. I met with four different literary agents, and three of them requested more from me when the manuscript is ready. (The fourth said she'd be interested in reading more as long as the story had a "women's fiction" bent to it, which I'm not sure it does.) I was happy to hear that my idea intrigued them, but I'm not counting any chickens. It's all good and well to have an interesting concept for a novel, but if the writing isn't up to par, it doesn't matter how great the premise is. Still I'm glad they liked what they heard. It's another baby step forward!
Some random observations from my trip:
When you miss your initial flight, the airline wipes your whole itinerary. Yes, even the flights of your return trip. (Which is why I had to wake up at 3:45 on Monday morning, and got to spend five hours in the Seattle airport trying to catch a connection home.)
Boy, those hands-free cell phones make people look bizarre! I must have seen ten different people, walking through various airports, talking away to no one, cyborg-like electronic devices clipped to their ears. Too weird!
Why is it so difficult to trigger the motion sensor on those knob-less faucets in public bathrooms (or washrooms, as they say in Canada)? I felt like I was constantly waving at the sink, trying to get its attention.
What could be cooler than sitting in a room with 20 or so other people and listening to three well-known authors (Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte, and Michael Slade) read from their own work? Not much!
As great as it is to be away from home, immersed in the writing world, it's even greater to come home!
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Beep, beep, beep...beep, beep, beep...beep, beep, beep. My watch alarm already? It's dark. I'm sleepy. But I get up anyway.
"MEOW! MEOW!" Bristle's hungry. I try to finish up in the bathroom as quick as I can so she doesn't wake Scott.
The cats are crunching away at their bowl. My coffee and oatmeal sit steaming next to the computer. I press the power button and flip open the print-out of my manuscript to where I left off.
The computer is booted up and the document is now open on the screen. I start keying in the edits I've marked on the print-out. I flip back a few pages to check on something and see a sentence that doesn't read very well—awkward wording and vague, lazy description. Shit! I thought this part was in pretty good shape already. I start tweaking the language, trying to get it to flow better.
I'm still struggling with the part I thought I'd finished already. I have no idea how to improve it. Fear and insecurity make every word seem like gibberish. Who am I kidding, anyway? It's all crap. I've been spinning my wheels for months, no years and this stinking heap of ineptitude is all I've managed to come up with. (And now I'm ending my thoughts in prepositions! Some writer!)
What's sad is people I know are actually excited to read this! It's going to be so embarrassing when they see how much it sucks. I spend a minute feeling sorry for them because I know they'll worry about sparing my feelings. Poor souls.
I finally figure out how to fix the sentence that's been torturing me. Thank god! Now I flip back to where I started and try to stay focused on the words themselves without getting overwhelmed by everything else.
I'm clipping along pretty well—able to float down the wordstream on the page, not worrying anymore, almost too engrossed to notice I’m not worrying anymore.
Kyle. He’s not supposed to be up until six, although I usually hear from him earlier. Not this early, however. I dash back to his room before he wakes up anyone else.
“My nose doesn’t feel right,” he says. His consonants are thick with congestion.
“Oh, are you stuffed-up? Would you like a Kleenex?” He nods and rubs at his droopy eyes.
I sprint to the kitchen and the Kleenex box, consider bringing back the whole box so he’ll be less likely to ask (no yell) for more in 10 minutes, but then a premonition hits—the floor of Kyle’s room, littered with thick clouds of delicate white tissue paper. I pull out three sheets instead, and return to his bed.
“Here you go, Honey.”
“Thanks.” He swipes the tissue across his nose and curls up on his side with his eyes closed.
“Try to go back to sleep, okay?”
“Okay,” he mumbles.
I cover him up and tip toe out, closing the door as softly as I can. Usually if he wakes up any time after four in the morning, he’s up for the day. But he was acting so sleepy, maybe he’ll go back to sleep this time…. I decide to be optimistic.
I’m working, editing page after page. My critical voice is only whispering now, and I’m able to ignore her most of the time.
Kyle again. I race back.
“I don’t want to lie here anymore. I want to get up.”
“I’m sorry, Sweets. It’s not six yet.”
“But I don’t want to lie he-“
It’s Kara this time.
“Just a second, Honey,” I tell Kyle. “I’ll be right back.”
I zip to Kara’s room and open the door.
“I need to go to the baaathrooom!” she sings out in her best Larry the cucumber imitation.
“Okay,” I say holding the door open for her.
“Didn’t you hear how I told you?” she asks, disappointed I didn’t chuckle over her Larry impersonation.
“Yup, just like Larry!” I try to sound cheerful, but it’s not even 5:40 yet and I should be editing right now instead of playing bathroom escort.
Kara, bless her, quickly does what she needs to do and returns to bed without a fuss.
“Can I read until six?” she asks.
“Sure!” I answer, then turn on the light, close the door, and head back to Kyle’s room
“I need to go to the bathroom!” he announces in his normal voice, apparently not in the mood for Larry.
I escort Kyle to the bathroom so he can use the facilities and then march him back to his room.
“Can I go in Kara’s room?”
“Can I play in here?”
I pause, considering. Technically he’s supposed to stay lying in his bed until six. But if I let him play, I’m less likely to hear another round of "MOOMMMYYYY! MOOOMMMYYY!"
“Okay.” I nod. He beams.
I’m editing, but also listening for trouble or cries for assistance from either of the two back bedrooms. Miraculously, all stays quiet and I finish up page 50.
I've now edited 50 pages! Yay! Only 400 more to go! Crap.
Kara and Kyle come skipping out, happy that six has arrived at last. I’m less than happy. In fact, I’m many things and happy is not one of them. I’m frustrated about the editing, worried that the manuscript sucks, irritated that despite doing my best to carve out some uninterrupted time, I still get interrupted.
And I’m guilty about feeling irritated. After all, these are my precious children who need me, whom I love so much simply thinking about how much I love them makes me wince. I shouldn’t let myself get irritated.
I swallow my frustration, irritation, and guilt; save the file; turn off the computer; smile; and start making breakfast.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Cindy correctly pointed out that I needed to change the name of my blog. Renee, write! Finish that novel! doesn't work any more! :o), so I decided to revamp the whole thing. I'm not sure if I like this layout or not, but it certainly gives a different feel. I wish I knew more about html code so I could do more customizations.
And here is a new picture. Not super flattering, but since this blog is mostly about writing, I thought it made sense to do a writing picture (FYI, the pic was taken by my sister in the Maui airport on the way home from our trip this summer.)
I'm editing away. Currently about 75 pages into the manuscript. I'm enjoying the process and am trying not too worry so much about getting everything perfect. Susan posted a link to an Elizabeth Bear essay that I think of often when I'm panicking because I can't get the words just right. It's helping me not obsess quite as much.
I'm cutting where I can, but am nervous that I won't be able to shave enough off to make it marketable. Publishers don't typically like long first novels. It's tricky, though, because I don't want to cut just for the sake of cutting. There definitely is some superfluous writing I can ax, and fortunately I don't have a hard time pressing that delete button.
Things continue to move right along, and it feels great!