I’ve written several books. Six children’s books, two novels (well three technically, though that one is half finished) and I’m about to launch another in the next few days. Where are they? Oh, yea. Unpublished.
This year’s theme has been “Shine” for me for a reason. It’s been time to put my foot down, put my big girl pants on, and woman-up to getting my books out into the world. I’ve been hiding, in a way, but not for the reasons you think.
I’ve never been afraid of moving forward, except when it drew what I considered too much attention to myself. Dealing with permanent health issues that changed, sometimes drastically, how people would interact with me (Watch Shallow Hal and you’ll get the hint.) I became more comfortable leading from the shadows unless I was in a life-is-too-damn-short mood (in which case all bets are off and look out ‘cuz here I come). I started pushing past that fear a couple of years ago, emerging from the safe anonymity of being behind a computer and not face-to-face with onlookers. I took over the Kentucky Browncoats the week before we moved here, and I forced myself into public speaking in front of an audience, however brief and infrequent. It was, I felt, a necessary baby step in my own personal evolution.
So I got bored the other night and wrote a book. Quite literally.
This year I put my novel, Stalemate, into the critique process. I am still a few weeks off of getting advanced reader copies (ARCs) out to a small list of people, and have revisions to finish, but I’ve been anxious to start. So I didn’t decided one night, when I found myself with a little downtime, to write a book dummy.
Book dummies are paper book mockups, kind of like zines. I made up a few dummies last month in order to have some on-hand for projects. Restless one evening, I picked one up and literally wrote “What happens when I’m bored” on the cover and it just snowballed from there. When I was finished about 20 minutes later, I realized I had to make it. The message was one I’d been repeating to people for years. So I jumped on the iPad Pro, grabbed my Pencil, and opened a new project in Procreate. I wrote it all by hand, threw in a couple drawings, then headed to bed. The next morning I jumped on my desktop and compiled it all into a book template, uploaded it, created a cover, and viola! Book. Technically my second book – I’m revising the other one, so technically two more books in a few days – but it got me over the hump and out in the open again when I’d started to crawl back under my rock.
And that is what the book is about, just starting. Just doing one thing, one step to move forward, it doesn’t have to be a big one. But it just might be all it takes to bring down the wall and shine.
I’m working on Stalemate again. Val and I have been meeting with two close friends for a critique group every couple of weeks and we have been breaking it down, chapter by chapter. It has taken on a life of its own and I am very grateful for the feedback. It has also been a small thrill as a writer to see them interested and on the edge of their seats ever so slightly meeting after meeting.
One of the most emotional scenes in the book just came to life for me. I found the scene’s soundtrack and it transformed everything, as music often does. To say Ludovico Einaudi was one of my muses would not be an understatement…
I put the headset on my husband’s ears and asked him to read the scene. Part way through he put his hand over his mouth, moved, eyes tearing.
This is what I wanted. This is how I wanted the reader to feel. I’m happy.
I got my round one writing assignment for NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge at midnight Friday night and have been writing, rewriting, outlining, and generally banging my head on a pillow. We were given 48 hours so the deadline is midnight tonight.
I’m at 846 words out of the needed 1,000 for submission.
I’ve never written Spy genre before so it’s a real challenge. With this particular genre, you have to be concise with details and you focus your subplots. I dove in head first the moment I got the genre/location/object prompt, brainstorming for about 20 minutes till an idea hit. I wrote for about an hour then let it percolate overnight. I started writing again this morning a little before 8am and, four handwritten pages in, I decided I needed to revert to outlining and work on my summary.
I loved writing loglines and working on elevator pitches at Full Sail, so that’s where I’m starting. With what I know.
It’s going to be a long haul waiting till mid September to find out if I made it to round two. The best thing I can do is put it totally out of my head and mark a reminder on the date so I can make sure not to miss any emails. Till then, good luck me!
4782 became 2517 about 5 minutes ago. I’ve started over.
With a 1700 per day daily average, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful challenge if you want to make your writing a daily practice. If you beat it, you can look back on it and say you’ve written a book. It may not be a very good book, but that doesn’t matter, you can always edit later. You aren’t pulling the trigger yet, you’re just loading the gun.
The Junk Maiden is a short story I have had rummaging around in my brain for a while now. I didn’t do any writing, not much anyway, the first couple of days, but busted out 4782 over the course of a couple late night oil sessions. My heart wasn’t in it though, she was calling. You know, that one character that just won’t leave you be. She had other plans you see and, a different story, so I decided to listen. After all, she wasn’t going to shut up until I did.
Beyond Sleep (working title) is up to bat now. The 2517 came from a session this afternoon and I already like where I’m heading with it. I’ll be working on a synopsis and log line, always seemingly the hardest part. It’s like writing an author bio. It is always easier to write one about someone else.
So 4782 became 2517 today and I’m looking to watching that number grow over the course of the month.
Have you ever written a story in one format, only to decide that it just didn’t sound like itself? As though it had a frog stuck in its throat, hidden behind an ornate mask at a masquerade ball, trying to act like something it’s not.
I graduated with my Creative Writing MFA in October of 2011. My thesis, a 124-page cross-genre script was the first really complete piece I’d done in a long time. When it was done, I had to see it in print to make it real. I remember how it felt holding it in my hands for the first time. That new baby sensation, as the piece that you’d poured your heart and soul into through sleepless nights and obsessive writing sessions had finally ceased to take over every waking thought, and you had given birth to this I-can’t-believe-I-did this piece of art. You were, of course, required to carve into it several times during the process, shucking away the chaff, leaving it bleeding and bare on the floor, but you were used to that part of the process. You had long come to grips with it and knew that, worst case, if there was anything you absolutely couldn’t bear to incinerate, there was a revision copy of it living somewhere, waiting to be reused or reinvented. Having that in your mind holds a kind of solace for you; that it won’t be forgotten and that the open wounds will be fertile ground for something new, something incredible.
Thrill aside, I knew even then that its journey wasn’t done. I was enthralled with my newfound skill at writing screenplays, the Final Draft software having been the bane of my existence the first few days as I learned to use it. It is old hat now to an extent, though, the software and I having simply reached an accord, as it were, and not quite intuitive level for me yet. The story still had another journey to make, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it – it was good, probably some of the best I’d written in a long time – but it didn’t feel right.
I’ve let it sit for the last few months, percolating in the back of my mind, and I now know where I want to take it: Novel. It’s not a script, or game as I’d once intended. The game can come later as a spin-off of the movie that will be optioned from it.
I can’t quite say that without laughing, it doesn’t even sound like me saying the words.
Fake It Till You Make It
It seems incredibly arrogant and very forced for me to think that way. I don’t. I look at it all, this completed script, as a growth process. This incarnation only being a stirring of the ground, making room for the real story to emerge from the roughed up dirt. But as a writer you have to adopt that kind of attitude, that forced positivity when it comes to your work. If you don’t have confidence in it, no one else will, and it will sit for months collecting dust only to become a trivet for a bedside water glass. So you put on your game face, you straighten your posture tits high, and you put it on the pedestal till you can take a few knockdowns, pick it up, and put it on the next.
Having begun the transformation from script to novel length fiction, I already knew how I was going to handle it:
Copy the entire script out of Final Draft and paste it without the formatting into MS Word.
Select all and convert it to grey-colored font.
Keep it single-spaced, for now, and set it in 12pt Times New Roman.
Save it as, in this case, “novel_AMSelvaggio_Stalemate_revision1”.
Rewrite in black, sectioning dialogue and narrative. Small bite, baby steps. Focus.
Save. Save. Save.
Revision 2: Delete anything in grey and read through what’s left to flush it all out so it flows.
Resaved in its new form, no blank lines without the formatting, the document was just under 29,000 words at 78 pages at letter-sized 8.5”x11”. Out of curiosity, I changed the page size to half-sheet. I learned this trick a long time ago, a kind of pep talk that I’d actually written more than it looked and that day-dreamy visualization of seeing it as a trade paperback.
At the smaller layout it was roughly 160 pages; just an approximation, but not too shabby. It’s a nice little mind trick to combat any crest falling and it keeps the internal monkey off your back for a bit. Especially knowing that once I start flushing it out it will be much longer.
I am enjoying the process quite a bit, revisiting old friends and devising new ways to essentially torture them, throwing them into newly freshened devices.
I had toyed with the idea of making the entire story into a tablet game. Something akin to the likes of the MYST legacy that devoured me whole years ago, or Syberia and its sequel, with the tablet-driven sensibilities of Drawn or my newest love, The Guardians of Imagination, and it’s storyline driven interaction. It is more than that, though I will use the game as a device to tell the collection’s stories.
A collection, says you? Wait for the book, says I.
Any serious writer knows that you have to make writing a daily practice. Daily. I cannot stress that enough. Writing requires effort, and good writing even more so.
I write all the time. Cheap, quad notebooks and my black, fine point .5mm gel pens are always with me. I make lists, doodle, jot down notes for story ideas, and sometimes pen a few serious pages of plot. But even I get caught up in the day-to-day and have to remind myself to get a word down at times.
Day One is my eight-ball in the corner pocket. I schedule it to pop up around lunchtime and make myself write a few words, even if it is crap, just to make it a habit. I don’t allow myself to skip or dismiss it, which takes discipline, even as simple as that sounds.
The Three Dollar Squirrel, a monthly zine by writers for writers on the act, art, and process of writing will be getting a facelift and relaunching August 2012. Posing one question per month, the Squirrel will be offering participants the chance to tell the story of their own process as insight and encouragement to other writers. Participants get exposure and the opportunity to network with their readers. All participants receive a free PDF copy of the issue they are in.
You can also follow Diggory, our mascot, on Twitter here.
Each issue of the Three Dollar Squirrel is available for viewing online through Issuu, an e-zine publishing platform. Due to the economy and printing expenses, the zine will not be available for print though a yearly book is under consideration.
Deadlines are the same every month:
The question for the month is posted on the 1st.
Reminders are sent out on the 10th and 15th.
Submissions are due by the 25th.
The zine publishes on the 1st of the month.
HOW TO USE THE ANNOUNCEMENT LIST
Join the list to receive the monthly topic as well as automated reminders. You will email your response to the publisher by the deadline. (instructions below) This is an announcement list only.
GUIDELINES | EMAILING SUBMISSIONS
All answers to monthly questions should be emailed to ria.selvaggio at gmail dot com. By submitting your replies, you grant Three Dollar Squirrel the right to publish your submission in the monthly zine as well as any promotional uses and books.
When emailing your submissions, you will need to include your full name or the name you want to appear in the zine (pseudonyms are acceptable), as well as up to three links for publication under your submission.
Links can be your personal site, your blog, social network (Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc) and/or a site where your writing is. We prefer not to censor so please avoid using profanity.
From every length
In spite of gravity
I myself am
A preposterous verdue
Beneath coarser grass.
Patient from broad, keen storms.
From morn now creeps ivory.