Thursday, December 29, 2005

"Heavenly Peace"

Time spent today: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Today, I wrote, which was quite exciting and made me feel like I had accomplished something besides laundry and dishes.

What I've learned over the past three of four semesters is that I'm not one to jot down ideas, whether it be for fiction or school essays. I'm more of a muller, which is probably a good and bad thing. Bad because I know that there are ideas I've had in the past that I allow to float around in my brain but then I forget about them, and they die. Not so good. But it's also a good thing because when I finally DO sit down to write something, it's 50% complete. No seriously, it is. And the more I think about it, I've always been this way. I think this is why I have such a difficult time doing edits and revisions, especially with any creative writing, because I edit in my head as I go along, and to me, once it's on paper, it's set in stone.

Three previous semesters of creative writing have almost (ALMOST!) cured me of that notion though. They haven't cured me of the 'not writing ideas down' thing. And part of me thinks I should take that seriously too; all of my creative writing instructors have said that they carry around a notebook all the time and write ideas down for stories, and they suggest the same things for students as well. Well, that smacks too much of journaling for me, which I hate. (Blogging is different though, heh heh heh. I look forward to journaling this way, especially if a few people leave me feedback {insert not so subtle hint here})

Anyway, here's the point: I wrote today. It's a story called "Heavenly Peace" that's been stewing in my brain since last week. I knocked out ten pages this morning, and it's probably about half way finished. I mentioned part of my submission goals for the AST yesterday (I might talk about that in another post in more detail, but not tonight), but part of my writing goal is to write three new stories of 5000 words or less. Honestly, that's not much, and I'm about halfway there, which is pretty exciting for me. I think I've learned that I tend to write new things in spurts - write for a while, let it sit, write more, let it sit, and so on and so forth. It's not a bad way to write, unless one has a strict deadline, which I do. By starting early, I'm making sure that this project gets finished. Not only is that exciting, it's also motivating, and I want to do more. In fact, I got all my time in today that I really needed to, and I'm disappointed that I didn't do more. If you're having a hard time understanding why this is, think of something you really enjoy doing, and how it feels when you get on a roll. It's almost like you could do it forever, and it's disappointing when you have to stop doing that because of real life.

The hardest part, for me anyway, about all this stewing and crock-pot writing mentality is actually starting the story, even if I know EXACTLY what the first line is going to be. I've known for a week what the first line of "Heavenly Peace" was, and it took me all this time to actually write it. The first page of any piece is the most difficult for me - once I reach that one page mark, I'm fine, but before that I really have to watch out for distractions. This morning, the distraction was thirty-two inches of one year old who didn't care I was writing, he wanted his cereal. Everyone has a favorite distraction - at least mine is completely adorable.

That's all for tonight. Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Children's stories and learning to write

Time spent today: 2 hours, 45 minutes

One of my goals for this AST is to submit two children's books to publishing companies. In light of that, today I googled "children's books publishers" and got a whole list of things to research. And of course one link leads to another, so you're never out of things to look for when it comes to research.

The first place I looked was The Children's Book Council, which was very informative. It provides a list of member companies (publishing houses) that may or may not be taking unsolicited manuscripts. The only rant I have about this site is this: why would you include companies that aren't accepting unsolicited manuscripts? That just seems kind of silly to me, but hey, not my call. Something I didn't know - or maybe I did and I forgot - what I write is copyrighted the moment I write it; getting an actual copyright for that work just saves time and money in case someone happens to steal the idea. The chances of that, I'm sure, are nill. Because my name's NOT JK Rowling (yet - I'm considering it. Can you blame me?). Another point of interest for me - submitting a manuscript without illustrations increases the chance of finding a publisher. While I understand why this is, it's somewhat of a disappointment. I've already asked my brother, an incredible artist, to illustrate two of the stories I already have written. I think it's still do-able, but maybe it will be one of those things where I wait until I have something published and have a bit more clout to say, "Hey, I want HIM to illustrate."

The second place I browsed (briefly) was The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I didn't look too long though; the good stuff was only for members, and membership costs $75. Maybe when student loan money comes in...

The third place, by way of another website, was Another extremely helpful website that pretty much laid it all out for aspiring authors. What's nice about Bloomsbury is that, unlike other publishing house sites , Bloomsbury takes the time to encourage fledgling authors - and while they might not be accepting unsolicited manuscripts for children's stories (at least not Bloomsbury UK - it looks like Bloomsbury US is right now), they say it with much more finesse and grace than the previously mentioned companies and have a whole section on what it takes to get published. I will be visiting this site more often. Another plus - this is Rowlings UK publishing company.

I started reading HG Well's War of the World's yesterday (for another class I'm taking in the spring), and really noticed how punctuation is used differently today than it was when he published it in 1898. If you're reading this and thinking, "Ok, this woman's a huge geek and needs to get a life!" you might be right about that. But reading has become a major part of the writing process for me, as I'm sure it is for all authors, and I just notice these things now. You know how "they" say that you never stop learning? Well, it happens to be true, and sometimes it's hard to tell the student in my head to shut the heck up so I can enjoy the story.

That's all for tonight. If you are an aspiring writer, RUN to the Bloomsbury site. It's really fantastic. And if you're wondering about the "time spent" at the top, I have to have 160 clock hours for the AST, so that tell you how long I worked on it today.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Welcome to One Writer's World

Welcome to my blog!

For those of you reading this for pleasure, here's what this really is (no, not just some harmless blog!): This is my journal for my Applied Study Term at the University of Illinois, which officially started December 20. I'm doing a creative writing AST for Spring 2006, which means I'm basically doing a writing internship. I'm pretty pleased to announce that I'm the first Writer in Residence for the university's English Department as well - that's not only pretty darn exciting, it's also pretty good resume fodder!

What that means for this blog is that it will be 1) updated almost every day, because I will be writing just about every day (with the exception of the next couple of days - it IS Christmas, after all), 2) sometimes kind of technical and boring as the purpose of this journal is to explore not just what i did that day for my project but HOW I did it - learning about my writing style, what I need to write, what it takes to get published, etc, and 3) hopefully it will show my excitement for what I'm doing and my fears and successes and failures and me getting back up on the horse.

And finally, hopefully it will show me getting published by the end of the semester as well - I understand it takes a while, but I'm hoping for a stroke of good luck like I had last June: First submission anywhere, to an online journal called Toasted Cheese, and I got published in the June edition. That was pretty damn cool. Here's the link, hope the story doesn't scare you off:

Beautiful Medusa

I don't usually write anything that dark, but we were reading and analyzing Frankenstein in my advisor's class. Blame her! (haha, just kidding, Dr. Cordell) I'm trying to wrap my brain around two more stories for this and make it a series, and now when I do it I get clock time for it.

Alright, have to finish getting ready for work. If I don't update until after Christmas (but hopefully I'll do something noteworthy so I CAN), Happy Christmas and all that rot (I love Christmas, but I'm so tired of all the stuff that goes along with it).