Ninety thousand one hundred and ninety words after starting, I completed the first draft my second novel The Particulars. The final two words were “the” and “end”. Yes I know I’m a tease (there’s a real excerpt at the end of this post). I’m super excited. And yes I left room for a sequel.
I really don’t know what else to say. I’m sitting here in shock. I’m done. Well with the first draft anyway.
I’m not sure what my next move will be, but I’m excited to take the next step having completed phase one.
Here’s a little excerpt from the middle of the novel:
The scent of musty damp earth permeated Veril’s nose. Despite the bright blueish glow emanating from his cell phone, Veril could barely make out his surroundings at first. He stood at the bottom of the stairs blind and and helpless. All he could see was the glow of Logan’s cell ahead of him. He couldn’t hear anything either but the sound of his rapid shallow breaths and the rush of blood past his eardrum. He wiped his sweaty palms on his slacks and waited for his pupils to adjust to the low light.
When he could somewhat see again, he crept forward towards Logan’s light looking around. Straight ahead was a door where Logan waited for him to catch up. On either side of his path were rows of large rectangular boxes made of some sort of rough ancient stone. They looked large enough to hold a fully grown man.
He shone his phone on them to get a better look and nearly dropped it as he jumped back. He clamped his hand over his own mouth stifling a scream. What were all these coffins doing down here?
He wasn’t about to hang around to find out. Shaking, he rushed over to where Logan stood waiting.
“Come on. Let’s go upstairs.” Veril reached for the door knob but Logan caught his wrist.
“Wait!” Logan said.
“Wait for what?” Veril tried to pull his arm away, but Logan’s grip was iron tight.
“I just don’t know if we should be doing this. What if you get caught? This is such a bad idea. I just know it.”
Logan was right. This was a terrible idea. Knowing his luck he’d probably get caught and end up in jail for breaking and entering. His head started to spin at the thought of himself in some prison somewhere. He wouldn’t last a single day in a place like that, and Sam would probably leave him there to rot. He shivered. His legs felt like lead weights. He just wasn’t cut out for this type of thing.
Maybe if Sam were here by his side helping him, he’d feel differently. The thought of Sam made his chest ache. He had to stop being such a loser if he had any hope of a future with her. Besides, Tracy needed his help.
“Look,” Veril’s tried to sound as stern as he could, “one of my students is trapped up there.”
“Can’t you just call the police or something and let them deal with it?”
“And what should I tell the police? That I have a semi-invisible student being held captive in Doctor Cameron Johanson’s library? I’ll be lucky if all they do is laugh at me.”
Sometimes I’m just really so grateful for my life. And though everything is ultimately all in God’s hands, I also know that God doesn’t want us to sit around and wait for Him. Going forward with faith, it’s really clear to me that there’s so much I can do to create what I want my life to look like. And so much of that has to do with attitude and structure.
I can chose to be apathetic, bored, isolated, or depressed about my life or I can choose to be excited, engaged, connected, and grateful about my life. And then I need to put that into a structure that reminds me and helps me fulfill on how I’m choosing to be about my life.
To give a concrete example, here’s what I’ve been doing recently. I’d been wanting to change how I’m being about my writing in my life. So now, most every day (six days a week), I get up and start my day at 8am by checking in via Skype with my writing buddy Yudit. In our conversation, we talk about where we are with our writing and what we are going to write next. We also talk about what’s going on in our lives and how we want our attitudes to be for that day. We put how we are going to be into words. For instance, today I’m my attitude has to do with being in touch with divine light in humanity, joy, and connection. Then we write until ten-thirty when we check in again to see how each of our writing projects went.
As a result, not only has my relationship to my writing transformed, but my whole life has transformed. I’ve gone from inconsistently writing about a thousand words a week to writing nearly a thousand words a day consistently. I’m now rapidly approaching the end of the first draft of my second novel, The Particulars. Things have shifted in my life as well. I start out the day now feeling so accomplished that my productivity has increased in every area of my life. I’m getting more website development done. I’m making more progress on the Alternate Reality Game I’m designing. I’m fulfilling on my spiritual goals by reading my scriptures and doing my callings.
And life is just plain good as a result. No, good doesn’t even begin to cover it. Life is wonderful. Life is miraculous and awesome. And I can’t help but feel so very grateful for the wonderful blessing of being alive to enjoy it.
I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. They seem too arbitrary. Too easy to make. Too easy to forget.
In my life, I’ve found that everyday is the perfect day to make a resolution. Everyday is a perfect opportunity to commit to something that will transform my life into whatever I am determined to make it.
The key word for me is commitment. Doing what I say I will do when I say I will do it in the way it was meant to be done. This is no small feat. Days are busy and intense, and what I’m committed to often gets buried under layers of things that seem more urgent but are in reality less important.
Fear, too, can be commitment’s nemesis. Like so many people, I am afraid of change. I am sometimes afraid to commit to the very things I ultimately want. But it would be tragic to let fear of abandoning what’s not working but is comfortable determine what I am willing to commit to. So commitment takes courage. The best definition of courage goes like this: courage isn’t the absence of fear but a willingness to act in the face of fear.
So what am I committed to?
Three things immediately come to mind. Writing, health, and faith.
I call myself a writer. And writers write. It’s not hard to realize that I need to write. I have two novels I’m working on. One is a first draft and one is a second draft. I am committed to finishing them and getting them published. It’s great that I say I’m committed, but that is not enough. I need to take actions towards my commitment and be accountable for them. So over a week ago I set up a structure in my life to help me meet my commitment. I got in touch with one of the members of my weekly writing critique group and told her my commitment. I told her that I wanted to be working on my writing for 2 hours every weekday. And I asked her to be my accountability buddy in this commitment. She agreed and requested that I be the same for her. So last week, everyday at 8am we’ve checked in via Skype to talk about what we’ll be writing over the next two hours. The we’ve written until 10am at which point we’ve briefly checked in again to discuss how it went.
It has been a great experience so far. And it’s given me insight into a pattern of steps I need to take to meet my commitments. They are:
Account for it.
“Say it” is just like it sounds. It’s declaring what I’m committed to and what actions I’m going to take to meet that commitment in a formal fashion so that it is clear what I’m committing to and what I’m going to do about it.
“Do it” means following through on those actions I committed to.
And “Account For It” means to in some way set up a structure of accountability for what I am committed to. That could be another person I ask to hold me to account or it could be something entirely different such as a reward structure for when I meet certain commitments.
So far I have a great structure in place for my writing. I’ve started to setup something similar for my health, but I’ve come up short in the “do it” and “account for it” departments. That doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up for not following through. It’s merely an opportunity to re-commit to my structure. And finally I plan to figure out some sort of structure to support my commitment to my faith.
So this year isn’t a year for New Year’s resolutions so quickly out of sight, out of mind. It’s a year of commitments. Commitments I recommit to everyday, every hour, every minute.
When I was around seven years old, I went camping with my dad, and he took me fishing for the first time. I was a tiny thing, and so when I hooked my first fish, it was so strong it lifted me right off my feet and started to pull me right into the raging river. My dad grabbed me just in time. The fish got away, but I didn’t. Ever since I knew that that my dad would always be there to catch me from falling into the raging waters of life.
My dad and I are a lot alike. We are both philosophical and introspective. Since I was a little girl, we would have long meaningful discussions about life and my dreams. He always encouraged me in everything I did especially in my creative endeavors. Whether I was acting or drawing or writing or filming a movie, my dad was always my champion. He has never been much of a reader of fiction, so it has meant the world to me that he has read along as I’ve written the first draft of my novel.
He kissed booboos. He smushed spiders. He taught me to be handy around the house. He make amazing breakfast on Saturday mornings.
Over the last few years, my dad and I have gone through a rough time in our relationship. My health and my parents splitting up put a strain on our bond. Things were said. Trusts were broken. But my dad never gave up on having an amazing relationship with me. And I in turn have worked very hard to open my heart up to him again. I learned to accept him for the wonderful man that he is in my life and have given him space to be a contribution in my life which is what he wants more than anything. Lately we’ve both come a long way. We went out to dinner on Friday night, and our bond has never been stronger. Our communication has never been more open, heartfelt, and authentic. The only way I can describe how our relationship felt is with the words “grace” and “ease”.
I love my dad so very much! He has taught me so much about life and what it means to be a kind and decent human being. Happy Father’s Day!
I’m excited to announce that I finished the first draft of my novel, The Riddlebane Chronicles, last week! It’s been a long time coming. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I began this novel writing journey. I suppose you could say that it started back in November of 2009 when I began writing it in earnest for National Novel Writing Month under the title The Alone Elevator. I wrote about 30k words of it that first month, and then it took me nearly another year and a half to finish the remaining 46k words.
So this is what a 348 page first draft looks like.
But I you could also say I started working on it several years prior when I first realized that I had a novel in me. I was listening to an episode of PotterCast with editor Cheryl Klein who was speaking about what she looks for in a novel. And for the first time I wondered if I had a novel in me. I’ve always loved to write. In fact, I’ve been engaged in creative writing since I learned how to write, turning my spelling words into short stories and poems. But I had never even considered myself capable of writing a novel up until that evening. It had always seemed so daunting. At that point writing a twenty page short story seemed daunting. But for some reason her words stirred up something inside me and I thought, “if I were to write a novel, what would it be about?” Then I remembered this one page hand scribbled “thing” I had written back when I was 14 years old in high school creative writing class. At the time I had no idea what it would turn into. I had written it out one day and forgotten about it. But that night I suddenly knew what happened next. I stayed up until 4am writing.
A few days later, the whole plot of the first novel came to me in a rush while I was driving back from a doctor’s appointment in the city. It wasn’t long after that I realized that the book was not just one book but a trilogy. So I suppose you could say that I really began writing this novel at age 14, though I hardly knew it at the time. This novel has been nearly 13 years in the making so far. And it’s not done yet!
Now the real fun begins as I start to write the second draft!
Here’s a short summary of The Riddlebane Chronicles:
Kylie Lockmoore cannot believe her good fortune when she is chosen to attend Riddlebane Academy, society’s most prestigious school for training the next generation of leaders. When the most popular girls in school accept her into their clique she is sure her time there will be absolutely perfect – that is if odd but brilliant Art will just leave her alone.
But at Riddlebane, she learns secrets that turn her world upside-down, and Art quickly becomes the only one she can trust. She finds out her now deceased Grandmother was the genius behind a chemical supplement that everyone is required to consume. Though the population is told the supplement protects them from the dangerous levels of pollution in the environment, Kylie discovers that it actually is being used to keep the population subdued.
Even more mysterious is the ancient elevator in her family’s home. The room at the top is Kylie’s special refuge. One day she accidentally discovers a hidden basement level that contains the belongings of a sister she didn’t even know existed. In her sister’s belongings is a brilliantly encrypted electronic diary.
With Art’s help she is able to unlock the diary and discover the story of her sister’s disappearance, the misdeeds of her school and society, and the plans of a rebel group who wants to change everything. And once she knows the truth she must decide where she stands – with the school and government who would use her to control the population, or the rebels who would use her to destroy the supplement and only society she’s ever known.
The Riddlebane Chronicles is a Young Adult coming of age story set in dystopian future.
And here’s a excerpt from the novel itself:(more…)
Writer’s guilt. That horrible feeling when you experience when you fail to write. I’ve long struggled with writers guilt subsequent to writing only sporadically. But as I approach the end of the first draft of my first novel, I’m finally getting into the groove of writing regularly. Here are some of the techniques I’ve employed that have helped me get writing and avoid writers guilt.
I found that making promises on a regular basis extremely helpful. I make weekly writing promises and promises for each writing session. It helps to make these promises in a tangible and measurable form so you know if you met them. This is why I prefer to make my writing promises in number of words, pages, and scenes written rather than in time spent writing. The former is much more concrete because you know when you’ve written a page, but it’s easy to sit for a hour “writing” while only actually typing for a few minutes.
Hold yourself accountable. Promises are somewhat meaningless if you don’t hold yourself accountable to them. This may seem rather obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of making excuses to yourself about why you haven’t written. But if you are committed to your writing, you owe it to yourself to meet your own writing promises and goals. That being said, when you fall short, don’t waste time beating yourself up. Acknowledge that you haven’t kept your promise, and then make a new one that you can keep.
Don’t wait until you’re in the mood to write.
When you are serious about your writing, you simply cannot afford to wait until you feel like writing to write. If you wait to feel in the writing mood, you might never or rarely write. Remember that your writing is more important than your feelings about writing. Besides, I’ve found the quality of my writing has little to do with how “in the mood” I’ve felt at the time. And most of the time when I force myself to get started, the writing is flowing before long.
Schedule writing time.
We live busy lives, and our schedules fill up quickly. So it’s easy to run out of time to write. I try to avoid this pitfall by scheduling time on my calendar just for writing. This also helps me avoid only writing when I’m in the mood.
Shut down distractions.
Computers are great for writing, but they are also big sources of distraction. When you are entering into scheduled writing time, shut down other programs on you computer like chat and email clients that might distract and interrupt you. Also turn off televisions and silence cellphones. There are also writing programs that help eliminate distractions with features like full screen mode.
Try a change of scenery.
If you really can’t get any writing done in your normal writing spot, try changing locations. I’ve found that going out to write forces me to both schedule writing time and get away from writing distractions like the internet.
Writing may be a solitary activity, but you don’t always have to go it alone. Other people can be a great source of encouragement and support. I have an amazing writing critique group that helps me maintain a writing structure and gives me awesome feedback on my writing on a regular basis. If in person writing groups don’t work for you, look to writing communities online. There are writing chat rooms, forums and websites to be had.
Keep at it.
Don’t give up! There are still times when I fail to write as often or prolifically as I would like, but I keep going back to it, and my persistence ultimately keeps the worst of my writer’s guilt at bay.