The First Draft

Time For A Little Refocusing On February 24th, I started writing the first draft of my first novel. This isn’t the first time I’ve started the first draft of my so-called first novel. I’ve developed–and perfected–a start/stop method of writing, where I plan and plan and plan, then after spending waayyyy too much time in the planning phase, I will finally take the plunge and start writing the opening scene.

During the summer, I wrote three or four opening scenes and decided they sucked. I went back to my outline and delved a little deeper, and again got too comfortable staying in the planning phase. Then I got to thinking about what exactly was stifling my progress. Why the hell can’t I just sit down and start writing? Why can’t I get it right???

I reminded myself that I’m a novel-writing newbie. It’s not going to be easy. But realizing that wasn’t enough to get me writing that first scene again. So I turned to my Kindle copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and read the chapters entitled Shitty First Drafts and Perfectionism. I read them over several times, highlighting things that really resonated with me, such as

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.

The first draft is the down draft–you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft–you fix it up.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

That last statement was my Aha moment. My pursuit of perfectionism was holding me back from starting the first draft. I kept starting and stopping because what I was writing was not perfect.

From that moment I said screw it. Enough with the planning. Enough with the stalling and waiting for perfect prose to flow through my fingers. I’m going to write the shittiest first draft ever written.

So I sat down that day and I started typing, and believe it or not the story started to flow. It’s clunky and full of holes, but I let go of trying to be perfect and allowed my self to start writing my shitty draft, which I will continue to work on until I reach the end.

Why I Read Romance

When I pick up a book, I want to be temporarily transported to another place and time. Most nights, one hour before bed, I read. For those sixty minutes I’m able to forget about the daily grind and immerse myself into another world. I look forward to this time. For me, reading has always been about escape. And that is what romance fiction is – an escape.

A lot of people think romance writing is crap. They call it fluff, trash, smut, a waste of time. I call it pure entertainment.

Here’s what I like about romance novels

  • Watching how the relationship develops and the excitement that goes along with that process – the first kiss, the ups and downs, misunderstandings, will it all work out in the end??? (yes, we know it will, but it’s still entertaining to read about what the hero and heroine have to go through on their way to a happy ending)
  • Quirky sidekick characters – great for a laugh and adds to the entertainment
  • Setting – from small towns to glamorous locales
  • Characters to root for – I want the heroine to win in the end!!!
  • A guaranteed happy ending – I mean, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

What I don’t like

  • Flat characters that have no chemistry. If you can’t relate to the characters, or worse, you just don’t like them, then who cares how it ends.
  • Stale, overdone tropes – secret babies, marriage of convenience, the big misunderstanding, etc. There is nothing wrong with these themes. They just need to be written from a fresh perspective.
  • Stories with too many characters and subplots. I hate it when I can’t remember who’s who in a book. It disrupts the flow if I have to stop and try to remember who a character is or what role they are playing in the story.

The bottom line is when I read I want to be entertained, and that’s what romance fiction does for me.

How do you feel about the romance genre? What do you like about it? What do you hate about it? Why do you read romance?

Making Sacrifices to Reach Goals

In order to reach a goal, any goal, sacrifices need to be made. For example, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less food and exercise. You might need to give up certain foods, and you’ll also need to carve out time for your exercise regimen.

In the grand scheme of things, giving up certain behaviors and activities in your life is just an inevitable part of the goal-reaching process. Once we fully grasp and understand that concept, the easier it will be to achieve those goals.

With writing, the more you do it the better you become – at least in theory. My goal is to become a published author, and in order to achieve that goal I need to make some of my own sacrifices. One of which is bowing out of a reading challenge that I signed up for at the beginning of the year. I need to devote more of my spare time to writing, which means less time spent on reading. I signed up for a few challenges but decided one will be enough.

I’ve also set a specific writing schedule for certain days of the week and decided to treat my writing as a part-time job. By doing this, I’m more apt to stick with it rather than blow it off to watch the Real Housewives, play computer games or chat on the phone.

Paring down my reading challenges and spending less time watching mindless bullshit on television are just a couple of sacrifices that I’ve made while working on my writing goals.

Now, how about you? What kind of sacrifices have you made in order to achieve past or present goals?

A Writing Milestone

Way back in July of this year I got up enough nerve to submit a short story to a national magazine. I kept my expectations low because, although I’d been writing off and on for a number of years, this short story was the first thing I’d ever finished.

By sending in that story, somehow the “dream” of becoming a writer suddenly turned into the reality of being a writer. Seeking publication changed the game for me. It allowed me to transition from  “aspiring” writer to full-fledged writer.

This past Friday I finally received my self-addressed stamped envelope back from that magazine. Guess what was inside? Are you sitting down? Well, here goes…

A big fat rejection letter, that’s what was inside the envelope. Yes, they rejected my story. Actually, in their words, they “have decided to decline this story.”

The likelihood of selling it was pretty slim. Like I said, I kept my expectations low, but of course there was a part of me that hoped I’d find a contract in that return envelope instead of a rejection letter.

I’ve been wondering what my reaction to receiving a rejection letter would be like. Would I retreat to my bedroom and curl up in the fetal position and cry like a baby? Would I cop an attitude with the publication and use a few choice expletives? Would I give up on the dream?

As I read the letter, I experienced that sinking feeling of disappointment in the pit of my stomach. But within about ten minutes that subsided. The fact is the story was not right for them. Whether that means it sucked, they didn’t like it, or it just wouldn’t fit with their style doesn’t really matter, and I’m not going to worry about the reasons why.

Everything is subjective and dependent upon the individual who is reading your work. A large factor in getting published is solely based on luck. The only thing I can do is continue writing and submitting, and that’s just what I’m going to do.