Tag Archives: Writing

Blogging and the Writing Process: My Evolving Mass of Words

Blogging makes the writing process different.  It is faster, without the ongoing revisions and drafts that other writing generally entails.  For me, this is sometimes challenging.  I find myself wanting to obsessively reread everything I post, hung up on word choice, grammatical errors, and length, realizing ten minutes after I walk away from the computer that I left some gaping hole for all to see.

While this can feel very vulnerable, blogging can also be the rare opportunity to just get your words out, perfect or not.  For me, it is also an exercise in moving away from perfectionism, something necessary to improving my voice as a writer.  And, it provides the opportunity for instant collaboration that does not always occur in the regular drafting process.

As such, I’ve decided to be brave about blogging my pitch for my query as it improves, (or worsens, depending on the day).  I am working on it bit by bit as I digest feedback and finish polishing my manuscript.  The feedback is amazingly helpful, gradually resulting in a transformation that I am excited about, (even if somedays I totally mess it up as part of the process).

So, if you’re interested to watch this evolution, I will keep editing here:

https://oliviaobryon.com/2012/06/16/drafts-and-drafts-and-drafts/

I am not so self-absorbed as to imagine that people care to watch it change, but somehow its existence as an evolving mass of words in a public space is liberating for me.

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Drafts and drafts and drafts

As mentioned in newer posts, this is my evolving (or devolving, depending on the day) description of my novel.  It is a work-in-progress that will hopefully come together once my book is officially ready to submit.  If you have any helpful suggestions, I am always excited to listen.

Expecting Happiness
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Kristen and Jake used to be like many other young married couples. Despite their love for one another, they somehow found themselves stuck in windowless cubes, trudging to meaningless jobs, grasping for purpose.  That is, until a failed pregnancy changed everything.

Acutely aware of their unhappiness, Kristen and Jake say “Fuck it all.”  They quit their jobs and sell their house to embark on separate journeys.  Instead of traveling together, they seek time apart, unwilling to compromise their visions of self-discovery.  While Jake, a lanky but attractive runner, heads across country by car, intent to live out his fantasy of solitude on the open road, Kristen, a self-conscious contrast of dark hair blue eyes, departs for Europe, searching for independence even as she inches her way closer to an old flame living in Paris.

New friendships, passions, and adventures abound along the way.  Torn between the allure of the unknown and their unrelenting longing for one another, each must ultimately decide which life holds the secret to greater happiness.

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Notebooks, Notebooks Everywhere!

I don’t keep a diary or a journal.  I do keep notebooks and notebooks full of lists, ideas, quotes, and little pieces of inspiration.  I recently read that both adults and children that keep gratitude journals are happier and healthier.  That’s what my notebooks are for me, little conscious reminders to live life and be happy.  I encourage some of my students to do the same thing and am planning to make a more concerted whole class effort next school year.

Interestingly, these notebooks helped to pull me out of my darkest moments and are now an integral part of my life.  At yoga last night, I realized that I need to start bringing a notebook to class so that I can jot down all of the ideas that come to me while I’m out living life.  Others might think I’m strange, but I swear by these little notes to myself.  They keep me creative, inspired, planned, and happy.  They help me shape my own reality.

My current rotation of notebooks.

I use my notebooks to collect quotes…

And brainstorm life choices. This was before quitting my old job, I like how I thought there was a magic answer.

Happy little inspiration scribbles…

Plans for the future, (Six Weeks is now Expecting Happiness)…

And, today’s list, plans to finish my book with help from my lovely readers.  Thanks ladies!

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Writing in Layers: How do you decide when you’re done?

Does anyone else feel like their writing evolves in layers?

Each time I reread my work, I add more and take more away, sculpting it into something new, something better.  I’m afraid I’ll never know when I’m done this way.

How do you decide when you’re done?  Set yourself deadlines?  Read a certain number of times?  Share with a set number of readers?  Stay as long as it remains enjoyable?

I thought I would be done in two weeks, but now that I’ve crawled back inside, I could probably live here a lot longer.

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Coffee Shop Writing: Distraction Collection

“Hey babe, hand me the phone and get to work.”

My husband had a point.  Instead of writing, I spent at least a half hour amusing myself with Instragram, (which I just read should not be used for blog photos, but whatever, amateur blogging in action I guess…).  It seems like wherever I go, home or out, I spend necessary time distracting myself before I hunker down and get to work.  I maintain that this is part of my creative process.

Distractions help me get focused, if that makes any sense.

So after I played with Instagram, eavesdropped on a conversation between dad and teenaged kids about a solo backpacking trip, and ate my chocolate chip banana bread, I got to work on revisions.  I also realized that Old Soul at Weatherstone is my current favorite coffee shop in Sacramento.  Between the shady brick patio, the beer on tap, and the artsy Portland-esque decor, I can’t get enough, (see, I’m totally a wannabe hipster).

I’m making it a semi-daily goal this summer to spend a couple of hours working in a coffee shop in addition to the time spent at home.  I love listening, observing, and being outside, while also creating, (increased distractions or not!).  Best of all, my husband’s job allows him to join me some days, (speaking of which, if you’re looking to buy or sell a house in Sac, I know the man for the job…).

Any other favorite Sacramento coffee shops I should know about?

Here is today’s distraction collection, (the first of many, I’m sure):

Old Soul at Weatherstone

 

Favorite Outdoor Coffee Seating in Sacramento

 

Think it’s time to clean my computer screen…

 

MacBook ad? More distractions from revisions…

 

Our feet wishing they were in Roma, or Tokyo, or Paris… Wow, I’m a dork.

 

Found this in my wallet from when I quit my cube job, made me smile.

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The Illusive Twenty-Something Happiness

Damn you internet.

I’m trying to focus on writing but I got sucked into reading an article and then writing this blog simply by searching the correct way to write twenty somethings, (and, I still don’t have a freaking answer, looks like it could be twenty-somethings, twentysomethings, or twenty somethings, depending on who you ask!).

I guess that I’m already breaking one of my summer writing commandments by allowing myself to be distracted by the internet and social media instead of focusing on the task at hand.  Damn you again internet.

But, this was too good not to share:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2012/03/12/how-to-make-twentysomethings-happy/

Stumbled across this article about twenty somethings and happiness which cuts to the core of what I’m trying to write about in Expecting Happiness.  We are a generation obsessed with finding this magic key to life that may or may not exist.  Really, we’re probably no different than any other generation, we just happen to be the ones complaining right now.  Doesn’t every generation face the quintessential crisis of having to grow up and get a job?

Are we really that different for hoping we can change the work world into a more satisfying place?

I like that the article ended with a desire to bring our dogs to work.  My husband was pretty stoked when he found out he could bring Simon to his new office and we’ve envied other friends with this luxury for years.  Seems like we might be simpler to please than we pretend.  And, really, I can’t complain, Simon is pretty much always by my side as I write.

That’s why I’m convinced writers have it the best.  They can write from anywhere and achieve any of those desires mentioned in the article.  Now only to figure out how to get paid for doing it…

The only thing better than bringing your dog to work? Bringing you dog to work at the beach…

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Ready to Climb Back Inside

Funny how we find ways to avoid doing what we’re really excited about.

I’m anxious to climb back inside my story, but instead I’m letting my brain wake up by starting here.  Of course, it’s only 7:17 AM on a Saturday and I’m definitely going to need a nap later.  I just could not stay in bed any longer.  I was too excited to get started.

Yesterday, I entered the carefully marked edits of my first finished reader, and bless her, she found errors I missed.  Then the notes came from my second reader who miraculously confirmed all of the things I was feeling but with the precision of new eyes.  She gave me places to lengthen my story, spots to further develop characters, and somehow managed to still lovingly hold my hand so that I feel encouraged.  Or, maybe I’m just tougher than I thought.

So, here I go.  Time to climb back inside and do this for real.  It’s funny how I feel like a little kid standing up on top of the high dive, scared to jump.  I just know that once I hit the water it’s going to be hard to get me out.

Wish me luck.

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Five Writing Commandments of Summer

The moment I’ve been waiting for is here.  It’s day one of summer vacation and time to write.  The next two weeks are devoted to the last fixes to my manuscript before I submit.

Surprisingly, I feel anxious.  I’ve been delaying opening back up my book until I’ve had real time to focus.  Now that the time is here I feel internal pressure to get it right.  I also do not want to waste a single precious moment of summer.

In honor of my excitement for seven weeks to write (among other things), I’ve come up with my five writing commandments of summer:

1.  Thou shall be prolific.  Blog, jot, write, brainstorm, and/or create every single day.  However, thou shalt not let social media or blogging stand in the way of the real writing work to be done, (this includes obsessive rereading of blog entries for errors, stats monitoring etc.).  All obsessive social media behavior must cease because it’s a waste of valuable time!

2.  Thou shalt not forsake human interaction to write/blog/etc:  Thou shall listen to your husband, or whomever, talk instead of letting your fingers continue to type.  Thou shall also seek out social engagements instead of embracing seven weeks of exclusive writing hermitude.

3.  Thou shall start a nerdy Sac girls blogging club with friends to maximize blog efforts, (you know who you are!).

4.  Thou shall complete manuscript and submit queries to 31 agents, (hells to the yes!)

5. Thou shall revel in every single wonderful moment of freedom.

Ready, set, go!

Today’s Project: Delve into formatting my manuscript!

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Are you afraid to put yourself out there?

This morning I woke up feeling vulnerable.

Putting myself out there on my blog sometimes makes me feel like I’m overexposed.  I told you, I’m an introvert at heart.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I started blogging because I wanted space to write and hold myself accountable for writing, but it has grown into much more.  It is now a space that I think through my life, my writing, my challenges as a teacher.  It is a place where I make new connections with like-minded people and strengthen old connections with those I wish I saw more.  It is a way to put myself out there and build a platform in anticipation of publishing my work.

In other words, blogging is increasingly significant to my life.  But, as a result, I also feel increasingly self-aware.  When I share my posts on Facebook, I question myself, wondering whether I’m driving people in my life crazy– “We get it, you have a blog!” I imagine people thinking.  Yet most of my clicks come from sharing my posts on my other social platforms.  Likewise, I’ve been convinced that creating a following is necessary to success as an author.

I know that there will always be voices of self-doubt.  In general, I try not to listen.  I just also wonder if other people feel the same way.  Do you ever feel silly about blogging?  Self-absorbed?  Self-important?  I’m not saying that blogging is any of these things, it just feels this way for me sometimes, maybe because I have a slightly obsessive personality.

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Even if I full-heartedly agree, it is a hard lesson.  It’s hard to put ourselves out there and not be afraid of our own greatness.  I hate to admit that sometimes I don’t feel that brave.  I really liked this commencement speech that I watched last night.  It reminded me that when all else fails, pretend to know what you’re doing…

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100th Post: Writing Business Plan!

To keep myself focused, I made a writing business plan for the rest of the year:

May – June 7:  Research one agent/day to add to my query list.  Create spreadsheet to record submission guidelines, contact info, why I selected each agent.  I already have a list of 7 agents that represent authors that either are young/up-and-coming or wrote books that I enjoy.  Goal is to have 30+ agents on my list for summer.
June 8 – June 22:  Hello summer vacation.  Two weeks to edit/revise my manuscript before submission.
June 23 – 30:  Perfect my basic query letter, (to be tweaked based on information gathered on individual agents above).
July 1 – 31:  Submit query to minimum one agent/day, making up for any days missed on subsequent days.  Goal 31+ agents in 31 days.
August:  Post pitches for next book to blog, commit to next book idea, (I have four!).  Even if nothing happens to the first book, I am determined to keep moving forward.
September – October:  Research background information for next book, read similar books, non-fiction texts to support experiences in book.
November:  Nanowrimo!  Time for another 50,000 words!
At this rate, I should produce at least one book/year, (last book began in July, got rolling in November, will be finished June).
Last, but not least, I have to celebrate that this is my 100th post!  It has apparently been a very wordy year.
I love lists/plans/notes/calendars.  They give a sense of control over the future, making huge tasks feel attainable.
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Writing: Hope, Focus, Perseverance

Audrey Niffenegger, author of Time Traveler’s Wife, sent out 25 agent queries before landing an agent.

I don’t fancy myself at her level of writing, so I am prepared for the reality that finding a home for my first book may take forever, literally.  While I’m researching agents with similar authors and small publishers accepting manuscripts, I’m also anxious to start writing again.  Writing is the fun part.
My next book already lives inside my head and I’m obsessed.  It’s very different than my first.  Darker, more developed.  This time, I plan to thoroughly brainstorm the characters backgrounds before I begin.  I’m excited to see my writing grow.
Last time, in the heat of 50,000 words in one month, (under Nanowrimo’s tutelage), I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t stop to plan along the way.  In some ways this was wonderful.  It got me past the first couple of chapters, where I usually get stuck.  It also surprised me as the plot unfolded, allowing me to live in the story like a reader instead of just following an outline.   
I’ve tried to outline write before, it didn’t work for me.  I had fun writing the outline and then lost interest when it was time to write the middle chapters.  
Do you have a writing process that works best for you?  
I enjoy hearing how other people write.  I relate a lot to Audrey Niffenegger.  She wrote Time Traveler’s Wife for herself, for the enjoyment of writing, in her moments between doing other things.  I could not help but note that she’s older than I am.  This gives me hope that I can craft myself into a distinguished writer over time.

Now, all I need is a mantra…

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What is your book about?

Today, I showed up to work and was humbled by all of the interest that I received about my book.  For some reason, I forget that I broadcast pieces of my life on the internet, so it always throws me off when my real and cyber worlds collide.

The question that I received repeatedly, “What is your book about?”

Seems easy enough.  I just get so self-conscious about sharing my writing soul to real live people, (somehow internet people, even if they’re actually the same people, are less intimidating!).

My one sentence answer:  A couple that is frustrated with their jobs and life and decides to sell everything to travel separately.

Not the most poetic response, but truthful.

Even trickier, however, is putting my 59,089 words into a couple of meaningful and engaging paragraphs.  If you’ve already read my previous attempts, save yourself the time now, stop reading.  Tonight’s attempt is likely no better than before, and more likely than not, will drive me crazy with revisions.

However, if you’re new to my explanation of my book, read on!  As always, thoughtful input is welcomed:

Expecting Happiness

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