The day before Thanksgiving, I wrapped up my third run at NaNoWriMo and hit my 50,000 word goal for my third novel. I’m giving the novel a good long rest on my desktop until I pick it up again to begin editing in early 2020.
Here’s the draft synopsis:
“After a succession of personal tragedies, Libby Farina runs her family’s Italian bakery on Mulberry Street in the year 1910 in New York City’s Little Italy. As the city around her swirls with innovation and its often dire consequences, a stranger arrives on her doorstep near death. Who is he and how will his presence in her life, however brief, forever change her world?”
For all those who create and face criticism for putting the very best of your imagination out into the world, remember this👇
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and themselves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
~Brad Bird via Anton Ego, Disney’s Ratatouille
I write a book the way a painter covers a canvas, the way a scientist arrives at the lab, the way a baker arrives in the kitchen. I have an idea in my mind of what I want to create, what I want to discover. It’s a bit fuzzy at first with soft edges, a hypothesis, a dream.
I start to sketch some lines, some ideas, a recipe via my outline. It’s broad at first and then gets more and more refined as the story becomes clear in my mind. I experiment by writing some passages, bits of dialogue, setting descriptions, and character sketches. I watch and listen and read. Then I add some more lines and then maybe some color and shading with scenes that are more fleshed out with more detail and more purpose. Every draft is adding more detail, more information, more frosting.
My point in this metaphor is that I don’t see editing as onerous. An artist doesn’t paint a canvas in one sitting. A scientist doesn’t prove a theory in one trial of one experiment. A baker doesn’t perfect a recipe in one swift action. It takes multiple efforts over a very long time. It’s trial, error, and trial again.
First, I have to zoom way out. I take in the whole world surrounding my characters, the context in which they live their lives. Then I move closer step-by-step, taking note of the details, the times they live in, the circumstances swirling around them. Eventually, I’m standing beside them, eavesdropping on their interactions. And finally, they’re telling me their deepest darkest secrets.
We don’t get to know someone all at once. Their story unfolds for us over time. The same is true for my books. I wish there was a short route, an easier, faster path. To date, I haven’t found one and honestly I think that’s for the best. What builds slowly, lasts. I have no doubt that eventually every story will come into focus. Much of that is out of my control. What I can do is show up every day and get down what’s clear in the moment.
I say this to myself as much as I say it to you: give yourself a break. Just keep showing up and getting it down as best you can. Just keep moving forward a step at a time. You can’t do it all, all at once. Just do today’s part today. Refinement takes time.
I got excellent feedback at my meetings with literary agents. 2 of the 3 said Emerson’s story is inventive and original, ambitious and promising. They had very specific requests for revisions to make the 2nd book even stronger and then they’d both like me to send them the revised manuscript. I have a lot of work ahead on this next draft but I’m excited to see what happens next. Thank you for all your support on this journey!
This week I have my first literary agent pitch meetings. I directly worked with a publisher for my first book so this is the first time I’m meeting agents and pitching myself and my writing to them.
I wanted some advice on this process and came across the Netflix series Shine On hosted by Reese Witherspoon. In one episode, Reese interviews Ava DuVernay and they talk about this exact kind of high-stakes personal pitch scenario in creative fields.
“They want to hear you be the one [they’re looking for]. They don’t want to hear that you’re nervous. They want someone who’s smart, and capable, and passionate, and going to try. And those are all the things you already have.”
What does Reese Witherspoon think when she auditions? “I think in my mind, “Give me the ball.” Because people just want to know you’re going to handle it.”
Their bottom line is that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, be committed to figuring it out.
So today as I prepare my materials and refine my pitch, I’m holding this advice in my mind and heart. I’ve already got what I need. Now it’s just a matter of walking into the room like I already belong and letting myself shine.
I tried to sleep in today to rest up for the wknd. I just couldn’t—way too excited for SciCommCamp. I’m in LA only for the weekend to go to this amazing conference that is nerdy Fall camp for people who love science and love talking about it! Sneaking in a quick trip to Griffith Park before heading up to Simi Valley. Excited for everything I’m going to learn and I promise to share when I get back.
Sometimes I think I could live off a steady diet of curiosity, joy, and enthusiasm. (I won’t test that theory because I love food but it’s a strong hunch!)
LA, I’m glad to see you again and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again very soon. Happy Friday, friends.
This is what it’s all about, you magical, imaginative, creative being. You can create worlds out of thin air. Characters, settings, desires, motivations, losses, victories, love, joy, disappointment, and healing. The full breadth and depth of human emotion lives in you. As a writer, you’re trying to get all of that out of your mind and heart, into your hands, and out into the world so you can connect with others, so we all feel less alone. What a noble, generous, and loving thing to do. Writing is service in its highest, most selfless form.
“Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” ~Ed Freeman
Hello, writers and readers! Are you diving into NaNoWriMo today? Me, too!
For those of you new to this event, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Thousands of people all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words (the length of a novel that’s on the shorter side) in the month of November. There are a lot of great resources available over the at the NaNoWriMo site including a calendar of virtual write-ins, Twitter chat times, encouraging letters from well-known novelists know as pep talks, writing tool suggestions, and a community of other writers writing this month.
This is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo. The first two times I wrote the first drafts of my two Emerson Page novels. The first was published in 2017 (and you can buy wherever books are sold). The second I’m shopping around now. This year, I’m trying a new genre—historical fiction romance set in an Italian bakery in New York City during the Christmas season of 1910. It’s called For Love and Other Reasons.
50,000 words in a month is a lofty goal, and winning it means you get to that goal. However, my p.o.v. is that any progress you make this month is a win. Here are some ways that have helped me the last two times I’ve done this:
1.) Break it down into small parts
Break down your writing into small parts. One scene, one part of a scene, one description. Heck, one good sentence is fine, too. My professor, mentor, and friend, Ed Freeman, is my Albus Dumbledore. He always says, “Every book in history has been written the exact same way: one word at a time.” I think about that every single day. One word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one book, one library. Everything in our lives is composed of smaller parts. Don’t get overwhelmed by writing a book. Just write a word and then another and another. All the greats have done it that way, and you can, too.
2.) Schedule your writing time
Put it in your calendar and hold yourself to it just like you would any other important appointment. Sometimes people ask me what’s the trick to writing book. I wish I had a silver bullet for you and for myself! I don’t. Writing a book takes time, dedication, and effort. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
3.) Treat yourself
I don’t know about you but I like rewards so I treat myself for a job well done. When I hit my word count for the day, I have a cookie, a piece of candy, or a cup of delicious tea I bought especially for this purpose. Set up a reward system for yourself to stay motivated and to celebrate along the way.
I love a good outline. This year I’m trying a new software called PlotPins. You can try any number of different tools and can go as low-tech as scenes on index cards which are my personal favorites because then I can move the order around. The New York Times ran an article this week with a list of great tools for writers, and some are completely free.
5.) Fun it up
This year, my novel includes baking so I’ll be posting pictures and recipes of my NaNo baking on social media and on my NaNoWriMo profile as my word count adds up. You’ll be able to find them on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as on my Author page on Facebook.
Happy writing and reading, friends!