from blah to writing

It’s been one of those weeks.

A few bright spots have been sprinkled in here and there, but it’s just been one of those weeks where all these little things seemed to have built up, stacking pressure upon pressure until it feels like whatever it is that’s holding me together will rip at the seams with one more slight push. Like an old, creaky chair whose screws are loose, the next time someone sits down, the legs will give out and the chair will collapse into a heap of splintered wood.

Listen to me. I sound like my entire world is crashing down around me. It’s really not that dramatic. More like, it’s been a week where the smallest thing feels a thousand pounds heavier than it should. I’m not explaining it very well, am I? It’s just…blah. Like when you’re sick and everything hurts and the slightest moment can send your emotions into overdrive. My emotions feel like they’re on speed. High strung.

And you know what all this makes me want to do? More than anything, it makes me want to write.

Why is that? Why is it that at times I feel my worst are the times I feel the strongest pull to write? Like, somehow, writing will release all this built up pressure and I’ll go back to normal. Like when you poke a tiny hole in the soft area of a balloon to let the air seep out slowly, you eventually end up with the same shape as before you inflated it with your hot air. Whereas if you straight out pop its surface, the pieces of the balloon scatter—unrecognizable strips of rubber permanently torn apart.

When I’m happy and content, writing seems an afterthought. When I’m sad or not feeling fully myself, writing feels like this need. My sad feelings seem to translate into better writing material than my happy ones. Does that make me a writing stereotype?

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
—Ernest Hemingway

When I first started writing Jaded, I wasn’t in a very good place. I was sad and dealing with a lot and writing became this sort of therapy. An escape. A way to throw all my feelings into something productive. Somehow, somewhere along the way of writing my first novel, I started feeling better. I became myself again. Like I’ve previously mentioned, I never intended to write a novel. I wrote small scenes and random conversations that turned themselves into pages and chapters and eventually…a book.

Now Jaded’s completed and I feel like I’ve lost my outlet. Yes, I have that lovely NaNoWriMo piece that desperately needs work. But, I’ve promised myself I won’t touch that manuscript until I get Jaded in the hands of agents.

That means finishing my query letter. I’m not much further along on that than I was two months ago. I do have more than an opening sentence, though. I actually have a full, working draft—albeit a rather rough one. It’s nowhere near where I need it to be. I guess it’s a start. Better than nothing, right?

Does anyone else go thru this? Do you write better when you’re happy or when you’re strung out and feeling…blah? What state of mind are you in when you produce your best material?

Here’s to hoping my blah week turns into something productive. Who knows? This time next week, I might have a working query letter.

– lindsey archer

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background noise

I can’t concentrate when it’s quiet. I write to background noise. Never silence.

Case in point—I currently have one iPhone earbud secured in my left ear, the other end plugged into my computer, shuffling thru my iTunes Library. Sounds of the television float in thru my open door from the living room where my sister has parked herself on the couch to catch up on DVR’d shows I watched last week without her. High-pitched barks interrupt the constant typing of keys, followed closely by frantic hisses as my cat and new puppy are still maneuvering that elusive road to everlasting friendship (they’ll get there—eventually).

So, yeah. It’s far from quiet.

People don’t understand how I can write with music lyrics flowing into my ears. How do I keep from focusing all my attention on the television in the next room instead of the computer screen in front of me? How can I possibly concentrate with all that noise?

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact answer for you. Only that, without it, I can’t write.

When it’s quiet, I find myself too easily distracted by the slightest sound. Then I freak myself out by wondering what could have possibly just made that eerie scratching noise that seems like it came from the empty chimney above my bedroom’s fireplace. OHMIGOD there’s a roach in my chimney, biding its time until it can attack me with its disgusting, spindly insect legs when I finally go to sleep tonight.

See? Noise is better. It drowns out the freaky noises so that I never see the roaches coming. What I don’t know won’t hurt me, right?

Back in November, Nova Ren Suma’s blog featured a series of guest posts called, “What inspires you?” (For those who don’t know, Nova is the author of the fantastic young adult book, Imaginary Girls. Her blog is also fantastic, so please check it out. I’ll wait right here.)

The series got me thinking about what it is that inspires me to write. I’m not talking about what specifically inspired me to write Jaded—that’s a long story that we’ll have to save for another day, perhaps when it finally gets published—but just writing in general. For some reason, when I asked myself this question, I thought immediately about how I like to write. How noise helps the words flow. Specifically, the type of noise that makes them flow the quickest.

And that would be music.

To me, musicians are writers just like me—their stories are merely a tad shorter than mine. A good song can have just as much of an effect on me as a good book. There are so many songs that when I first hear them, it feels like the songwriter wrote them specifically for me. I connect with it. I wonder how in the Hell he or she managed to describe the exact feeling that is flying around in my head at this exact moment.

Like authors, songwriters are able to pull from their own lives, weaving their experiences into these beautiful stories that so many other people can relate to and fall in love with. It’s what makes me listen to their songs over and over again until I can recite them from memory—word for word. It’s what makes singers like Adele so powerful. It’s why when you look at my most played section of iTunes, you see Lucy Schwartz, Adele, Greg Laswell, Jay Brannan, Mozella, etc. I can’t tell you how many Lucy Schwartz songs I’ve listened to and thought, “OHMIGOD, it’s like she knows me.”

The fact a musician can move me with their stories in a quick 3 to 4 minutes inspires me. It makes me want to write my own story. It makes me want to pull from my own experiences to create a novel that someday, someone else might relate to in a similar way. Isn’t that why we read? Why we listen to music? Not merely for entertainment or to pass the time or fill in all the eerie silences. It’s to feel that somewhere, someone else has gone thru what you’re going thru right now. It’s to be moved.

At least, it is for me. And that’s what inspires me to write and why I listen to music while I do so—hoping those creative lyrics might rub off on me. I want to touch someone with my writing. I want people to relate to it. I want someone, somewhere, to feel like I wrote it for them.

How many of you have had similar experiences with songs? With books? I’m not the only one, right?

– lindsey archer

new year’s resolutions? not so much

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Correction—I don’t follow thru with New Year’s resolutions. Here’s a little breakdown of how they usually play out for me:

January 1st—I’m really excited about this shiny, new resolution. I’m all about it. I can totally do this. This is going to be easy. I can’t believe I’ve never completed one of these before. Seriously.

2nd week of January—I hate this shit. Seriously.

3rd week of January—OHMIGOD WHY DO I INSIST ON TORTURING MYSELF??!?

February 1st—New Year’s Resolution? What New Year’s Resolution? I have no idea what you’re talking about. I totally don’t make those. Those are for crazy people.

I’ve learned my lesson. For the last few years, I haven’t made any resolutions. Because I don’t believe in them? No. Because they’re for crazy people? Maybe. More like, it’s because I’m afraid that—like always—I’m going to fail at them. And, really, who wants to fail? Um…that would be no one.

That’s one of the reasons why it took me so long to finish Jaded—that fear of failing at something new. Besides random papers for school, I had never really written anything before. I leaped from that to investing all of my time and energy into creating something that, until it was finished, I never even knew I wanted to do. And actually finishing it? A novel? I wasn’t a writer! Complete my story? Show it off to someone? Develop a plan for it besides hiding it away in the safety of my iMac? That would be crazy! That would be opening myself up for the possibility of failure I knew I wasn’t strong enough to handle. Thankfully, I’m slowly getting over that small hurdle. It’s all about baby steps.

Once again for this year, I’m not going to pretend to make any new resolutions. No crazy, unrealistic goals. No list of shortcomings that I’m going to half-heartedly attempt to overcome for three lousy weeks until I give up and return to my normal routine of waking up super late and yelling like a crazed maniac at all the slow drivers in front of me on my short commute to work. Instead, I’m simply going into 2012 with one objective: get an agent for Jaded. I may have mentioned it once or twice.

It might not happen in 2012, but that doesn’t matter. Whether it takes one year, two years, five years…ten years—for me, this is a life goal. It’s something I’m going to strive for, but not beat myself up about if it doesn’t happen by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2012.

I’m not naïve. I know the road to publication will be riddled with many small potholes of failure, layered with rejection letter after rejection letter. Not everyone is going to like my book. Some might even outright hate it. I’m not excited about that, but I think I’m okay with it. All I’m asking is for one agent to love it.

And, let’s be honest. I think that’s a far more realistic goal than me giving up my road rage.

– lindsey archer

end credits

It’s been four days since NaNoWriMo officially ended. Five since it ended for me. Because guess what? I officially won NaNoWriMo—one day early.

58,735 words in 29 days. Pretty impressive, right? I’m not going to lie, I have no idea how I managed to pull out a win my first year participating in this writing challenge. There were quite a few days when I didn’t even write a single word, followed by crazy I’m-not-going-to-bed-until-I-write-at-least-5,000-words-OMIGOD-I’m-so-tired-why-do-my-eyelids-keep-closing days. In other words, I kept my local Starbucks in business. Maybe next year I’ll look into getting a coffee sponsorship.

I know I drove my family and friends crazy by skipping out on them, night after night, so I could sit in my room with only my cat for company and write. And write. And write. I’ll admit that my social life was definitely lacking this month, replaced by daily word counts and obsessively updating said word count on my NaNoWriMo profile. I spent so much time holed up in my room with my iMac, my new office chair now has a permanent imprint of my ass. Seriously, I wrote A LOT.

Now I’m kind of scared to go back and read it all. It’s probably going to be awful. Like, majorly-flawed-typo-riddled-crap. On top of that, it’s nowhere near finished. Jaded, in it’s completed 1st rough draft stage, came to 124,000 words—give or take a couple hundred. I have a long road ahead of me to get the story of Ugly Parts anywhere near finished, let alone readable. And, don’t even try to ask me what it’s about.

The point is, I set my mind to do this challenge and I actually carried thru with it. I finished it. I completed it. EARLY. I’m never early with anything. So, yeah, I’m really proud of myself.

As a gift to myself, I’m taking December off from writing (other than blogging—that I’ll still be doing*). I’ve sent Jaded off to my beta readers and hope to hear back from them by New Year’s so I can spend January on final edits, based on the feedback I receive from them. But right now, I need to take a step back from both of my novels. I need to stop obsessively looking for typos and re-reading every chapter and starting to second guess my writing abilities. Otherwise, I just might go crazy and crack under the pressure of figuring out how to write the BEST query letter ever read so I can actually get something published.

And then, come February, maybe I’ll take a peek at Ugly Parts. Maybe.

– lindsey archer

*my December blogging schedule is going to be amped up since it’s the only writing I’ll be doing, so come back often for new content!

a little crap fiction

You may have heard me mention all the encouragement and support I’ve received from various other writers after I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Well, I’ve met some great people on Twitter, including @EricaWing from CrapFiction.

So, today, I’ve written a guest post for her blog, covering my nerves as the days until November dwindle down to zero. It’s helped me get really excited about writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Totally doable! Right? You can check out my guest post here.

NaNoWriMo starts in 3 days…wish me luck!

-lindsey archer

you mean people are actually reading this?

Sometimes, I forget. I forget that people are actually reading what I have to say on here.

I’m not stupid. I know that by posting my writing online, it’s open for anyone and everyone to read, analyze, judge, whatever. That’s why I started a blog—I want to get my words out there. I don’t want to keep them bottled up inside or only show them off to my best friend and sister. That’s not how I’m going to become a writer.

But Jaded? The characters. The places. The dialogue. I created all of it. It’s personal. It’s bits and pieces of me—scrambled up, spun around and weaved into a story. It’s my voice and I’m finally getting brave enough to let others hear it (read the first chapter).

With that said, it still surprises me when someone asks me about it. When someone—around whom I’ve never even mentioned a whisper of Jaded to—tells me they’ve heard I’ve written a book and follows up with the predictable question, “So, what’s it about?” I end up just staring at them. Sort of like this:

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The fact that someone actually approved this image for a book cover cracks me up. And yes, the fact that Levi Johnston got a book deal cracks away a little bit at my spirit.

But back to that little question. My first thought? How the Hell did you know I’ve written a novel, you crazy stalker person?! I have to remind myself that it’s sort of public knowledge since I posted it on a PUBLIC blog. Online. Where anyone and everyone can see it. Once I pass that little hurdle (yes, I’m still staring at them at this point), I kind-of-sort-of start to freak out.

My inner monologue sounds a little like this:

Did they read my first chapter? Did they just see it while browsing my Facebook and not actually read anything about it? Maybe they saw me post something about it on Twitter. Maybe they talked to someone who read my first chapter and OHMIGOD what if they read it and hated it? What if it’s horrible? OHMIGOD it’s horrible, isn’t it? What if they read it and laughed at it and OHMIGOD are they laughing at me on the inside right now? They’re totally laughing. Are they judging me? They’re totally judging me. Look at them, all looking at me with their judgy eyes like I’m a crazy person.

Then I realize they’re only staring at me because they’re waiting for me to answer that easy, simple, little, tiny question I completely forgot they just asked me, hence why I’m staring at them, open-mouthed like Levi Johnston, aka I do look like a crazy person. It doesn’t occur to me that, maybe, they’re actually interested. Then I start fumbling and stuttering (straight up like Len Levy from the Jessica Darling series).

“Well, see, it’s, um, about this girl, um, Jade Henry, and, um, she, um…” OHMIGOD what the Hell is my book about?

I have no idea why I have such a difficult time telling other people what Jaded is about. I’ve lived and breathed this novel for so long, I could recite whole conversations from every single chapter. Except, when someone asks me to describe it to them, I’m fairly certain they don’t want a 10 to 15 minute schpill about all my characters and their feelings and blah, blah, blah. They want a quick summary—like what one would see on the flap of a book jacket. The problem is, I have trouble condensing my 122,000 word novel down to only a few sentences. Am I the only writer with this problem? Am I the only one that freezes and can’t—for the life of me—figure out how to condense my novel into words that capture the essence of my characters and their story?

I’m going to start querying agents in a couple months and I have no clue how I’m going to grab their attention and get them interested in Jaded in a short email. I’ve bought some books to help me, bookmarked way too many sites online about it, but seriously, if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

In the meantime, if you ask me what my book’s about, please just nod and smile if I turn into a stuttering mess. I’m practicing. I’ll get better. Bear with me.

– lindsey archer

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