Thursday, October 27, 2011

Come again?

“Steady by jerks”
I always thought that phrase was pretty well known - until I moved to the city and had to explain what it meant pretty much every time I used it. Maybe it’s a local colloquialism or maybe I transplanted myself into the one pocket of humanity that had never heard it.
So I Googled the phrase and although I found others who used it, I was unable to find a definition. So here’s an example:
Consider landscaping—you work like crazy in the yard until weather runs you indoors, and a week later you go back out and work on it until the weather changes again. You’re making steady progress but in jerky rhythm. Like Elaine dancing on Seinfeld.
I kept thinking I’d get into a routine after I moved to the country. I’d sit down every day and work on it, even if it was only 10 minutes at a time, I’d chip away and get it done. (Larry and I agreed from the beginning that I would do the revising, so I can’t even share the blame!)
          Instead, it’s been accomplished steady by jerks. I’d have a chunk of time and work like crazy for three hours then put it away for a couple weeks. Then I’d work like crazy for a couple hours and put it away for a week.
          Yesterday I had a block of time and put in the last few hours of revising (woo hoo!) and sent it out to our next wave of readers. I’m feeling really good about the manuscript, and considering what it’s been through, we really should. Here’s how our steady-by-jerking has gone so far (with a few steps to go):

1)         Write the book
2)         Discuss the book, agree on what to change
3)         Revise the book
4)         Take it to critique group
5)         Discuss critique group comments, agree on what to change
6)         Revise it again
7)         Send it to beta readers
8)         Discuss beta reader comments, agree on what to change
9)         Revise it again
10)      Send it to next set of readers
11)      Discuss next set of reader comments, agree on what to change
12)      Revise it again
13)      Begin submission process

Ending with 13 didn’t thrill me, but it is what it is. We are now on step 10 and awaiting the verdict.
I don’t know how other people write their novels, whether their process is as broken up as ours, but what I do know is that it works for us. It’s in the down time that our subconscious does its thing and we go back to the manuscript with fresh eyes.
Steady by jerks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Inconvenient Convenience

My laptop. An amazing convenience.

·       When in college, I didn’t have to skip vacation because I would have homework due. I sat with my laptop completing assignments in our down time.
·       When writing/editing our book, I took the laptop to wherever Larry and I were meeting.
·       This year I took my laptop camping and used it for both an entertainment center and a night light.

Now, when it comes to editing our manuscript, when it should be MOST convenient, I find myself longing for the days of a dedicated location for the family computer. Back then, there was room to spread out whatever papers I was working on. There was always power. There was quiet place that when I went there my brain knew that it’d be working and kick itself into concentration mode. Like Pavlov’s dog. Sort of. 
In my last blog, I promised that by this week’s blog I would have a dedicated location for my laptop—even had the spot all picked out. But it didn’t happen for a few reasons:
1)    My planned spot was the dinner table, so I still have to pick stuff up when we sit down to eat because the table’s so tiny.
2)    Either the table is too tall or the chairs are too short, because within half an hour, muscles were spasming in my shoulders and neck. I kept trying to sit up taller, but there’s only so far I can stretch.
3)    Way too much light, and there’s no way to angle the computer to get the glare from the windows off the screen.

          I have not given up on the plan to find/create a dedicated location, but it’s apparently going to take longer than a week to do.
I’ve tried the bed where I can spread things out, but it makes my hips ache and kinks my neck.
The recliner is an option for researching and writing (as I am doing now). But I can’t spread the manuscript out to edit. Even in the binder, it’s too unwieldy to balance on the chair arm.
The next place to consider will be the sofa, when it comes available. Right now our sofa is a bed until we finish decorating the bedroom. 
So the convenience of a laptop has turned out to be a bit less than convenient in this particular instance. Certainly the benefits outweigh any negatives, but there are times that I do miss a desk and a den and the room to spread my notes out far and wide, take a break for an hour or a day, then come back, and everything is where I left it, ready to continue with the next page.
When I think about writers who banged out entire manuscripts on manual typewriters, I know I’m wildly blessed to have a computer at all.
I’m so spoiled by my convenience that it’s become inconvenient.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Opportunity. Skill. Motivation. Habit.


When I moved out here to the farm a month ago today, I thought, “I won’t  be working. I’ll have the time to devote to our novel EVERY DAY.” Turns out, boxes that are stacked three high and covering 90 percent of the spare-bedroom floor scream for attention like toddlers for Happy Meals. You just have to give in, so I unpacked until I ran out of room to put things, at which time I changed gears to making space, and my husband and I emptied another bedroom, which I’m now painting (including the floor) so we can move some stuff in there.


I think Larry and I have that as writers, if not in spades, at least in Old Maid. Our male beta reader turned in his critique and compared our novel to the movie "Snatch" which is VERY cool, because it’s one of my favorite movies.


I’m highly motivated to get our boxes unpacked and organized, but there just isn’t space for it until we create some. Creating space means emptying attics and outbuildings that are still full of stuff from when my husband’s mom and dad lived here. That’s all extremely time consuming and exhausting, so motivation for working on our book has taken not the backseat, but the trunk.


That’s what I need to develop. At the other house, I had a dedicated spot for my laptop and plenty of workspace to spread our manuscript out for revision, so it was always ready for attention, and I was driven by habit to attend to it. Here, my poor laptop has lived in a bag and the manuscript waits patiently in a binder on the kitchen table, stacked precariously atop a filing box surrounded by the KitchenAid mixer, Cuisinart food processor, and miscellaneous bags of carbohydrates: sliced bread, an Italian loaf, and English muffins.

Apparently, if I needed a laptop to prepare a meal, it’d have a dedicated spot. So by next blog, I promise myself I’ll create a space for my laptop, and it can behave as badly as the stacks of unpacked boxes do, screaming until it gets attention.

One Transformers Happy Meal to go, please!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Methods to Madness

My writing methods are changing, and it’s been a bit of a challenge. The primary challenge is research. Our book is entirely fiction, but we are trying to get the details right, which requires occasional Googling.

I was working on our book the other night, and there are questions that could easily be answered in about 30 seconds with Google and a cable modem.

Now that I’ve moved to the farm, we have dialup, as I’m sure I’ve said before. To look something up, I have to set my laptop aside, go to the computer with a modem, dial up, log on, type in what I want, then wait five minutes for it to load. And that’s only for the text. Heaven forbid if I want to look at pictures.

Yes, I could just work on that computer, and that would eliminate the trip across the house. Buy it doesn’t speed up the dial-up connection. Could I look it up in a dictionary or encyclopedia? Probably, but only if they were current, and only if I owned them. Why purchase those dinosaurs when you’ve got Google?

Well, now I know.

So our novel--which has been produced steady by jerks anyway--is going to get even jerkier on my end. Larry is already accustomed to the limitations and unreliability of dial-up, and I’m learning, but it’s a really painful curve.

My plan right now is to make a note of all of my research questions as I have them and when I drive to town for groceries, I’ll stop at McDonald’s, log on, and do my research there. It’s a pain, and I do that only about once a week, but considering how long research takes on dial-up, it’s gentler on my patience.

And regardless what you may have heard about my charming personality from Larry, I am not a patient person.