Monday, September 14, 2009

One Potato, Two Potato

I am a woman plagued by projects.

  • Pulse, a 110,000 word project at least three edits from completion.
  • Three picture books I've written for my kids. (I inked a drawing this week. At this rate I'll finish one book every five years.)
  • A midgrade novel about a girl who becomes queen of the pirates when her pirate parents die.
  • The short story "The Sweet Life" that I previously posted, but needs the tension ratcheted up (and four hundred words cut so that I can submit it to the ROSE and THORN ezine-accepting submissions again as of today!).
  • A short story I've outlined wherein a man lives in a culture where he must set up his spouse with a new lover before he can dump her- and in the process of finding someone willing to take her, he remembers the good things about her and changes his mind.
  • There's this werewolf astronaut story challenge floating around.
  • I have a couch to recover.
  • And a rocker.
  • And I want to terrace the back yard and am researching price points on materials and a Bobcat.
  • My next novel, about an Ancient Egyptian woman searching through time to find her lost son. I wrote the opening scene maybe two years ago and haven't gotten back to it.
  • Oh yeah...this blog.

I was talking to my sister, Jenny, who is an AMAZING artist and clothing designer, about her recent meet 'n greet with a brand representative Urban Outfitters corporate (she's the set designer in the Urban in Salt Lake City). The woman asked her where she gets her ideas, and Jenny said to me (nicely) that that is a question that people who create do not ask. They know that you take a butterfly net with you everywhere you go, collecting things until some of them fit together.

You don't have to know when you're going to use an idea, just that it appeals to you, that it feels real. For instance, the grass in front of a church we drive by is bare in places like the bald patches of fur on a mangy dog. I have no place to use that right now, but maybe I will one day. Maybe in my next novel Atum-Re (or whatever her name ends up being) will journey into a fertile land that an army has marched through and that is how the earth will look to her. I don't know.

Another example--I was struggling to come up with a way to transport my current protagonist between worlds. Then we went swimming in a cenote, a sacred sinkhole that was a religious center for the ancient Mayans. They believed it was an entryway into the spirit world, which was perfect.

I tend to get bored with things—my long-suffering husband has dealt with too many 90% completed projects to count (but who doesn't like sheets of drywall leaned against the kitchen wall for a year?)—so sticking with one story has been a struggle.

I decided a year ago that my novel is the priority. I keep a list of edits to make and when I'm tired of going in order, I'll pick something from the list. I'm doing my third edit onscreen (I'm in Ch. 17, I think) and my fourth edit on paper (Ch. Ten- just finished nine this morning. Yea me!)

In my defense, short stories are part of my long-term goal of being a (paid) writer. I am trying to get some publishing credentials so I'll have something to put at the bottom of my query letter, and the process of getting a short story published should teach me a few things. Because how can you hope to hold a reader through four hundred pages if you can't hold them through ten?

To keep sane (relatively, at least), I take every Sunday off from writing or other projects. It's a time to relax and clear my mind. But every Monday morning, I start thinking about it again, and then it's go go go!

For me, the trouble is not getting ideas, but deciding which one to chase. Which is my next topic. Any tips?

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson. You find the present tense and the past perfect.

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