Thursday, March 21, 2013

some dreams (about outlines) really do come true

Got any cymbals? Go get 'em. I'll wait.
Right, okay, you have them? Then slam those things together, because the outline is done!!

Over 100 pages. Months and months of notes, stuck together in a somewhat-orderly fashion. And with almost as many holes in it as there is content, but... I'll take it!

Whew! It's a thing of beauty.

A thing of beauty with a low ominous whisper.

And what's it whispering?

"Buckle up, Lucy Flint. Drafting is right around the corner."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

46 weeks: or, Writer Girl versus the Forces of Chaos.

Forty-six weeks left, until my manuscript dives from my loving hands into the vast unknown.

That's not so bad. That's a lot of neat little boxes on a calendar, right? Plenty of space in there for brilliance, for good old fashioned lack of brilliance, for rewriting, revising, re-envisioning. I think I'm basically right on track.

Even though all the contents of the kitchen cabinets are strewn on countertops and every other available surface. Even though the exterminators are arriving, yet again, even as I type. Even though the toilet decided to stop flushing properly. (Yes, I just mentioned toilets. It happens.)


I didn't forget my last post: I'm not complaining. Not at all. This is actually a battle cry.

From one red-capped, tea-swilling, trying-to-be-plucky writer girl to the Forces of Chaos.

Guess what, Forces of Chaos. I'm not taking it. This is the week that I finish the massive outline, and that the next draft begins. Really. It's on. No matter who is ringing the doorbell. No matter what happens.

So, let the plaster fall, let the floorboards crack and split, let the tree limbs rain down...

I'm getting this draft started by Saturday!!

Seriously. You don't know who you're messing with.

It's on.


(Which is the sound of a gauntlet smacking a pesticide-stained floor, in case you couldn't catch the nuances.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

the lucy flint promises

I love blogs about books. They remind me that my mania for reading (especially fiction) is shared by so many others. And I especially love blogs about writing and writers. They make me feel less crazy. Less alone. They make me believe it's okay to be every bit as nosy as I am: I want to peek over other writers' shoulders and say, how are you doing that?

I didn't think I would start a blog about my writing life, though. There are so many already!! Written by people far more clever, talented, and hey--published, than I am.

But in the midst of this year, of straining toward the finish line, of writing more than I wrote before... well, I've gotten a little lonely. And while I still love reading about other writers, I wanted to add something to the discussion. Put myself out there again.

I have loved posting these last ten days, blowing the cobwebs off my old blogging brain. I feel terribly rusty, though! My voice is coming out all weird, and I'm so sorry about that. I feel more awkward doing this than I thought I would, but hey, that's all part of writing, isn't it? Getting out there, feeling weird, and shrugging it off, because after all, it's just practice.

I'm just practicing.

But because I've read good blogs and bad blogs, writers I loved and writers that put me off, I wanted to give myself some guidelines. To keep on track.

Ever find when you're writing that you do exactly what you hate in other books? I have so done that. Mortifying to realize it, but good too... Anyway. To keep myself clear, here's what I've been thinking of, for the Lucy Flint Project:


work six days a week: it's so easy to just talk about writing, and not so much write. I don't want to fall into that! I'll write first, blog second. (Usually.)

post often: simply because, if I don't, I'll forget I have a blog, ha ha! But seriously, I hope to stay focused on these new goals, and if I stop holding myself accountable, stop reaching out, stop trying to meet other writers... the momentum stops. And the goals get hazy. 

celebrate the small things: I'll be honest, I'm not awesome at this, but I want to be. I'm so much happier when I recognize the little victories, and toast them appropriately.

be honest: I've met a handful of people lately who are flat-out amazed that I'm a writer. They want to know all the little details about my day, and it makes me laugh--you'd think I was doing enormous work at my desk, rather than just tormenting my little make-believe protagonist. But it makes me realize that this really is an incredible vocation. I want to see it all for what it is, and not hide the mundane parts, or the times when I feel inept, but also not forget what's great about it.


complain: it is just too darn easy to complain. So easy for me to sit here and whine, whine, whine, but who wants to read that? And seriously, it doesn't help any of us. So I'm gonna quit. As of now. Really. Right now.

seek ugly perfection: I'm a lifelong perfectionist, and it's taught me two things: seeking perfection never works, and it makes me miserable. Books are never perfect, though they can be excellent, and they can and must be authentic, and for heaven's sake, they should have a bit of beauty. I'm seeking those three things when I write now, and I'm not looking for hard and fast and false perfection.

... So. That's where I'm starting, as I look ahead at the year of writing, agent-seeking, and conversations with other writers. This is what I want to hold to.

Off we go.

lucy flint vs. the ever-lengthening outline.

It has been a wild & crazy week. Thanks to some household pests (not human ones, I'm talking about bugs), this house has been turned upside down, thoroughly shaken, and put back on the ground. We're trying to get all the pieces back in order, dishes washed, laundry done, shelves cleaned.

It's been a big deal, that's what I'm trying to say. And it makes me want to curl up in bed and watch every single Poirot episode on Netflix, and not be a genius-writer-girl, stringing together an outline for this next draft.

Comfort food, yes. Plot twists, no.

Cinnamon twists? They would be okay. Any kind of pastry would be great. I'd also except wine. (And maybe whine.)

BUT, in spite of dust, Clorox wipes, and paint (yes, paint), the outline is still progressing. I'm trying to put months and months of notes into one continuous outline.

I sometimes think that half of writing is trying to organize ideas. How the heck do you do that?

But I'm going to persevere. This little story of mine is growing and growing. The dust (real, household dust) is settling slowly.

And even though I won't start this next draft of mine on time (whatever that means), I will start it. Soon. Ish.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

you & me.

It's like being early to a party.

No wait, it's like being the party hostess, and knowing you have big plans and great prizes and the best ever food... it's like admiring your little party dress and smiling at the invitations.

It's gonna be big. It's gonna be great. ... But no one's here yet.

That's kind of how I feel on this blog.

I've written for two other blogs before--one was part of a blog circle thing, so there was a lot of natural traffic coming from what we were discussing and who else was writing and all that. A few years of that, and then I split off to do my own thing, and a bunch of readers followed me, so that was comfortable and great.

But I felt really strongly about starting the Lucy Flint Project in the dark, in the quiet. Just me and a big empty party room. So it feels a little bit like I'm talking to myself... maybe because I am talking to myself. It's just me, the search engine robots, and a whole lot of quiet.

But that's okay. Good things are ahead. It's going to be an exciting place. And eventually, when I ask questions out loud, someone will be there to weigh in, have an answer, or hey, even disagree. And that will be wonderful.

And even if the party doesn't ever get here ... well, it will still be fine. If all that happens on this blog is that I talk to myself (and the robots), over and over, tell the robots all my goals, and still send out my manuscript on February 1, 2014?

Then it's a total success. And there will definitely be champagne. And I will be in a darn fabulous dress. And it will be one heck of a party.

Till then, I'll keep reporting, just to me and the robots and the quiet. But if someone happens by, feel free to talk back. Okay, Someone? Feel free.

Monday, March 11, 2013

strength & confidence.

I'm going to say it a lot during this year, so why not start now...

I would not still be writing--shoot, I probably would not be sane--if it wasn't for two brilliant books by Heather Sellers: Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter. I cannot recommend them enough.

(And since I know that I'm my only reader at the moment, I'll say this a lot more later, when someone else is reading. For now, you know, it's just practice.)

Plenty of people tell you how to write paragraphs, dialogue, character, emotion, etc. etc. What Heather Sellers does is help you see how to have a writing life. After four years of creative writing classes and practice, I at least was a decent beginner at writing... but I had no idea whatsoever how to craft the life that went with it. The whims and emotions. The neediness. The cycle of feeling like a pure genius, only the next moment to feel like the village idiot. Sellers talked me through all this, and does it with class, again and again.

She is brilliant. Buy her books. Trust her.

Today I scribbled this quote from Page after Page, to help coach me along this year (read: to keep me from shirking):

Your confidence as a writer is going to come from the strength you get in establishing a regular writing practice. Something you can count on. While publication is very juicy and sexy and delicious, it doesn't change the fact that you will have to go write. You need to focus on that.

And with that... back to work.

forty-seven weeks left.

Forty-seven. It's a nice number. It's bigger than I was afraid it would be. With February gone and March slipping past, I start feeling like, why even bother?

But that would be crazy. This is your year, Lucy Flint!! Keep writing! Untie those knots in your plot! Figure it out!!

(Insert other encouragement here.)

Right. I could let it make me crazy. Or I could sit here with my Lady Grey tea and stare outside (all greys at the moment, grey greens, grey browns, even the red of the tail lights is a bit ... grey), and let calm seep into my heart from somewhere.

One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One nifty little plot trick... at a time.

On February 1, I am sending a manuscript out. No matter what. No matter what.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the Lucy Flint Project, part two.

I don't know about you, but for me, goals require a lot of talking.

I talk myself into believing them, day after day. I break goals down into little bits, the tiny rungs of the huge ladder I'm planning to climb: and then I talk myself into believing that each rung is good for me. I coax myself up, step by step.

This goal, the goal of going professional in every aspect of my writing life? Well, it's a darn big ladder for a girl who--ahem--may or may not always brush her hair, and who certainly does a lot of writing while wearing faded pajamas.

(I definitely need some new pajamas: let's add that to the list.)

I'm more willing to do something difficult if I surround myself with pep talks. I write down encouraging quotes from all kinds of writers, artists, creators. Sometimes I have a fantastic bit of insight, and I write that down too, and stare at it when things go awry.

And I'm far more likely to do something difficult if I tell other people about it. If I make loud promises.

That, new friend of mine, is the Lucy Flint Project. This is my super-loud megaphone promise to myself, that, come havoc or high water (I seem to attract both), I am sending my best manuscript to the top agent on my list, at the end of January 2014.

One year after I made my Let's-Go-Pro decision: End of January. 2014.

So there's my ladder. Let's get climbing.

what is the Lucy Flint Project?

I realized in January that this year is time to aim higher. This year, I write not just to learn, but to publish.

Ooof. Publishing!

I feel like I've been scribbling under a rock for six years, and now it's time to creep out, look around at what this industry is, who the competition is, and at what it takes to be truly professional.

Living under a rock, I've picked up some bad habits. You don't really need to brush your hair much when no one sees you, you know? So being professional means more than just writing the best book I can and brushing off those social skills I might have misplaced. It also means, um, brushing my hair. And looking somewhat like a grownup.

I realized one other thing about this whole going pro scheme: If my goals stay in my head, they'll vanish. I'll whine and complain and pretend I'm being mistreated, and all the things that this year, 2013, should be about? They'll fade out and I won't be any further along by this time next year.

That's where this blog comes in.

who is Lucy Flint?

... which means, who is Lucy Flint for now, ha ha.

At the moment, being Lucy Flint means: I'm 28 years old, single, and vegan (more or less).

I'm also a writer. Unpublished and undaunted (more or less).

Through four years of college and six & a half years after, I've been writing, writing, writing. Poems and essays and short stories for professors. And for myself? Three novels, and working now on a fourth.

I read somewhere that writers--like all good craftspeople--have to go through an apprenticeship period. And that the apprenticeship takes about ten years. Ten years of hard work before you're ready to become something else.

It's been ten years of apprenticeship. I wrote those novels and put them under my bed. We learned a lot together, but they need massive repairs. But this fourth novel, I think it has promise. And this year, I've decided, is when I become more than an apprentice.

It's time to go pro.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

progress is better than fudge.

Right, so I've moved past the fudge-eating stage. Feeling very proud of myself.

There are dozens, hundreds, of index cards in neat little groups of three, and then larger groups of nine, spread every which way in my bedroom/studio... covering the bed, desk, all available surfaces. The plotlines and subplots labeled, very neat, very nice...

But all the rest of the cards are empty.

Snow falling outside; blankets of snow-white index cards inside.

The idea of a symphonic score is all well and good, but you still have to compose the darn thing.

Composers, how do you do it? Something I never learned in years of music lessons. How do you turn chaos and bits and pieces, snatches of a melody, bits of fugue... how do you make it an actual workable piece of music? What's your process?

Years of being fascinated by where do you get your ideas have turned into this: How do you do it? Skip the brainstorming and idea generation: tell me how you make it happen. The rubber to the road, notes to the score, ink to the paper.

I think I've captured the high points. I think I know where those go. Hoping to inch my way from there...

where we begin

Today I am facing down a mess of notes, a patchy first draft, and a second draft gone cold after fifty pages. So many little notes, character tidbits, scraps of dialogue that don't attach to anything, abandoned narrative trails... I'm supposed to somehow pull these far-flung elements together and produce some kind of outline for draft three: the draft that will save the world.

I can see the outline in my mind: it will be breathtaking in its neatness and order. I picture it taped to my largest wall, in neat rows of index cards--each card bearing a sweet little description, a tiny plot nugget. All the plot layers and subplots running in rows; sections of chapters in columns. It would read like a conductor's score, I think. For some great, to-be-played symphony.

Only I can't stop freaking out about the sheer volume of notes, in so many places, and so, so disorganized. I actually need a new word, something beyond disorganized to convey the sheer catastrophe that's smoldering on my desk and in my computer.

I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I ate fudge.

I think Hemingway recommended fudge, right? Or maybe Flannery O'Connor? Or actually, wait, maybe that's just me.

Here's my writing advice to you: When your outline is just a dream and your book has exploded and you're sure, deep down in your marrow that you are far too stupid to ever be a writer (in spite of years of hard work)...

Go eat fudge.

And then make some tea and go start a blog. Start chatting to strangers out of thin air. Bare your soul online.

A heck of a lot easier than making sense of those notes.