I keep reading, “You only know how to write the book you’re writing.” In other words, you might have written one or two or ten books before, but that doesn’t mean that you can follow the same formula for any other book. You just have to learn how to write THIS book, the current one.

I’m learning that is true. I’ve felt a little loosey-goosey trying to figure out how to write THIS book. I don’t usually outline, but with this book, I’ve written two or three separate outlines, a synopsis (maybe two pages), and I can’t seem to figure things out. Tonight I started to write a LONG, detailed synopsis, and I think it’s really going to help. I think it will help to show me where the pacing lags … but I’m also going to go through it and color-code it based on what characters/storyline it follows. The hope is that if I notice, “Oh gosh, there are like four purple chapters in a row and nary a sign of green,” that I can figure that out NOW before I go back and revise it.

I’m reading a couple good books about writing right now, including The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo, and it’s like a balm. Sometimes it feels like this book is written SPECIFICALLY FOR ME. The other book I’m reading is The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner, and I feel the same way about that one too. It talks so much about anxiety around writing, plus the relationship between editor and author. There was a whole chapter about addiction and mental illness, which just goes to show how strong the correlation between these things and creativity is. I sometimes tell people that I’d be an alcoholic if I took one drink … so I don’t.

Life is crazy, and the Minnesota summer is TOO HOT. But I finally feel like I’ve made good progress on thinking about this novel. THIS novel. 🙂

Rhythm is a Dancer

… and for a while now, I’ve not been invited to the dance.

That said, last night I wrote for a whole hour, and it felt SO GREAT. I remembered why I love being creative, love the hard work of it, the struggle to find the exact perfect word, the research and learning, the epiphanies (no matter how small).

I hope I can sustain some sort of rhythm. Right now I need TIME. There never seems to be enough hours in a day …


Striking Out

It just occurred to me as I titled this post that “striking out” can be positive or negative.

I’m striking out on a new adventure! 🙂

I’m striking out on this revision. 😦

I am hopeful that I mean the former.

I had a weird night, mostly in that I didn’t sleep, not for one minute. I stayed up looking at clickbait, and then it was one am, then I stayed up reading, and then it was four am, and then I watched YouTube, and then it was six am, and then the sun was up and I wasn’t tired whatsoever, so I got up, went downstairs, and now I’m on my computer, and it’s seven-thirty am, and I just yawned. This is my life.

Anyway, I’m diving into a new revision today. I plotted and prayed (and need to do more of both, I’m sure), but long-time blog readers will know that too much plotting destroys my soul and the soul of my stories, so I’m walking into the battlefield mostly unarmed.

Writing takes so much courage. It costs me just to open up my document.

And even though I prefer going in with just a minimal plan, it’s still really, really scary. (Maybe even scarier? I hate to pit plotters and pantsers against each other. Writing– period– is just really hard and vulnerable and frightening– period.)

Think of me today.


Odds & Ends

this hair i can't evenAbout two weeks ago, I felt pretty confident that my life was in shambles, so I did what I do: I made a list. It was 22 items long. Today I crossed item #22 off the list. I am still a hot mess. Go figure.

Thankfully, item #22 was getting my tax refund, which came today. Now instead of being dirt-poor, I’m just regular-poor. 🙂

One of the things on my list was to ask my editor for a few extra weeks to work on my first draft (she agreed) and then to revise my word count strategy to get the draft done by the end of the month. So far I’m on track. In fact, all week I’ve been staying one day ahead of schedule, always allowing myself that extra space to skip writing for a night. Instead, I’ve kept plowing ahead. This weekend I need to tackle some of the harder parts of the novel, a couple scenes that need to be written for the very first time, and a storyline that I have very little clue what to do with. Oh man.

I was invited to a young adult book club in St. Cloud last weekend, and it was wonderful, and everyone there was so lovely and asked such thoughtful questions. I was there to talk about Truest and about writing, but I ended up talking a fair amount about OCD, which is, of course, all wrapped up in my story too. Ashleigh, one of the book club members, was kind enough to tag me in this beautiful blog post.

I’ve been searching for most of my adult life for the perfect lip color. If I showed you my lipstick/lip gloss accumulation, you’d think I’m so lame. Especially because what I learned was that I never keep my lips colored unless it’s something I can put on without a mirror. So– between finding the perfect color(s) and something that could be applied mirror-less– I struck out a lot over the years. But not anymore. I’ve found the most perfect solution (at least for me): Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm. I use both Red Dahlia and Forest Flower (which … appears to be no longer available. WHAT IS THIS LIFE??? Are you kidding me? In my ANNOUNCEMENT of my perfect lip product, I find out it’s discontinued? The universe is cruel.).

I’m reading a book. It’s incredible. It’s so emotionally overwhelming that I can’t consume too much of it at a time or else I’d just binge-read it. Noggin by John Corey Whaley. I was fooled by its cover into assuming it was something else. But no. It is … so much. Maybe my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. I’m desperate for a happy ending and terrified I won’t get it. NO ONE SPOIL ME. Review will come soon … as soon as I can continue pressing my heart through this meat-grinder. Gosh, I love books.

What about you, folks? What are you reading these days? What are you buying? What are you doing for fun? Are you having to force yourself to be an adult the way I’ve been having to? What’s on your radar? Did your tax return save your life? I wanna hear from you.


time & books & paradoxes

As many of you regular blog readers already know, I just recently set aside the novel I spent the last 14 months working on and decided to instead focus on a different story.

Today my editor emailed me with a new timeline: Salt Novel will likely be published in summer 2018.

On the one hand, this is such a relief. I’m tremendously grateful for an editor who cares so much about putting out a quality piece of literature that she’s willing to give me the space to make it the best it can be. So many publishers seem to demand a book a year from their authors, and my life is just not conducive to that kind of rushed production. I’m lucky.

On the other hand, one of my writer-friends just announced today his book deal for books #3 and #4. He debuted with me last year. His second book comes out this year. The third in 2017, and the fourth in 2018. And I can’t help but think, Wow, he will have four books out when my second one is published. There’s a little bit of envy there, yes.

I don’t know. I’d love to be prolific, but the stress of producing a book a year doesn’t feel worth it or even realistic for me. I am so glad for the extended timeline, but then I wonder old books isolated on whiteif my career is going to be hampered by it.

Just sounding off tonight. Needed to type up my thoughts. Care to chime in?: do you get antsy when your favorite writers take a long time to write their books? Or do you appreciate it?


Life like a Rocket

An update on my life:

I’m reading again. I read two books this week and started a third. Loved Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea (review) and Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (review). I was lucky enough to get an ARC of my friend Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the DarkI’ve read the first couple chapters, which are brilliant. No surprise there. Addie’s writing knocks me off my feet every time.

My writing group is amazing. It was so good to get together with them this week and really hash out my POV concerns for Salt Novel. I feel really, really good about where we landed. Plus, they are so encouraging. To be honest, in the early stages of writing a novel, I think that’s probably my biggest need: to have people say, We’re interested. We like these characters. Keep going. 

I’m making some changes to my OCD meds. This is maybe a little surprising, since I’ve said before that I don’t like to rock the boat. Problem is, I had some blood work done and the little half-milligram of Risperdal I take each night is probably affecting me in such a way that I need to get off of it long-term. That part is fine to me. I feel like these days I’m using Risperdal more as a sleep aid than as an anti-psychotic. So I suggested to my psychiatrist that maybe I could trade Risperdal in for an actual sleep aid like Trazodone. He agreed. I really can’t sleep without Risperdal (see story below for case in point), but I also know from past experience that I’m suuuuuuuuuper sensitive to Trazodone. We’re working out the kinks. My primary care doctor also recommended that I start taking NAC, an amino acid that has been helpful for people with OCD. The next day, our OCD Twin Cities group was talking about NAC. Then I asked my psychiatrist, and he gave me the thumbs up too. I’ll keep you posted. The nice thing about NAC is that you can pick it up at any old vitamin store, no need for a prescription.

Sleep evades me. I’ve had some problems (read: lots) with sleep lately. I cannot sleep without Risperdal. But I also take 10 mg of melatonin, which is all-natural. Even then, I wake up throughout the night, and in the morning, I don’t feel well-rested. Last night, I gathered up my evening meds, and I thought I felt one pill fall on the floor. I got on my hands and knees looking for it, but couldn’t find anything so I went to bed. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I was restless. I was wakeful. I was up for long periods of time around 1, 2, and 3 am (at which point I started praying for my friends– sometimes when I can’t sleep I wonder if that’s why I’m up. Interestingly, one of my friends told me today that she was up at 3 am, fitful over some things going on. I was praying for her at the same time!). Finally, at 6 am, wide awake but soooo tired, I realized the pill that probably fell was my Risperdal. So I took Risperdal at 6 am and finally got some rest. YUCKO. Thank goodness it’s the weekend!

Except I have to work this weekend. This is historically the hardest couple of days of the year for me– President’s Day and the day before– because we have a wild and crazy large-group overnight event for prospective students on these days. As my personality has shifted into full-on introversion, it’s gotten harder and harder. Think of me.

It’s pretty darn cold in MN. We’ve had it easy so far this year for the most part, but in the last couple days, it’s been downright frigid.

I’m excited about my novel. I really am. I have so many ideas and so much hope. Sometimes all the ideas and all the hope kind of flood me and I get overwhelmed, so I remind myself to put my head down and to SHOW UP and put in the work. I have a really detailed word count spreadsheet, and I’m loving it. Theoretically, if I follow the spreadsheet, I will have a draft finished soon! It’s so good to be back on the island with these characters. They are lovely and cruel and have lots of sharp edges.

One last thing: Girl Scout cookies are destroying me.

How are you, friends? Please comment. I absolutely love hearing from you. Makes me feel less alone!