Thursday, February 18, 2010

Schedules, Deadlines and Planning Oh My

I have a confession. I've been anti-scheduling. Not that I don't see the benefit in them, I do. But it’s like being forced to eat broccoli everyday as a kid. Eventually you may want to feed it to the dog.

As a project manager for 10 years, the time line was my BFF. Other than finding creative ways to tell a client how to utilize our software to maximum benefit, I pretty much had to follow the rules. There was no room for loosy-goosy schedules if I wanted a project delivered on time, within scope and within budget. Once I got out of PM and started focusing more on my writing, I slipped out of the shackles that I felt bound me – no more spreadsheets, due dates, or graphs for me!

It worked for awhile, I could just let my creative side take over without any rules. I write when I want which is as often as my life allows. But, I’m starting to see where I could benefit from the old me, where a schedule and plan could enhance my writing not hamper it.

The idea that the two ‘me’s’ could co-exist started with Nano (National Novel Writing Month – if you haven’t participated and you want to write a novel, go for it). I started Nano last November with the idea that I would write the required words per day and stick to it. About one third of the way through I was behind and panicking. So, PM girl from my past jumped in. She (my alter-ego) created a spread sheet with dates, word count and even little red numbers that showed I was behind and how far. That motivated me. I wanted to get rid of the red! So, I adjusted my daily word count, pushed through and won. (Nano calls anyone who completes a novel in 30 days a winner. I like that!)

So, this week I created a spreadsheet for the “Road to An Agent.” I’ve committed to editing a chapter of my novel a day until I’m done on March 10th. Then I work on the synopsis and my plan for finding representation. There, I’ve committed to the date for all the world (or the ten people reading this blog ; )) to see and hold me to it!

Write on and read on!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pure as the Driven Snow

30 inches? Washington, D.C.? Still snowing? No way! Actually…yes way!

We got hit hard with a historically heavy dose of the white stuff. It is beautiful, a ‘winter wonderland’ of blinding snow white drifts as far as the eye can see. If you can cope with no power, no water, no phones or internet for days, it is eye-catching ‘pure as the driven snow’ beauty.

So, how is this post writing or woolly mammoth related?

Well, here’s my pup, aka Armani, aka Moose aka Woolly Mammoth enjoying our ‘little’ gift from the snow fairies.

And, since I’ve already peppered this post with the red-headed step child of writing – the cliché – I thought I’d take a moment to opine on the subject.

I’m a firm believer that writing “rules” are made to be broken. Creativity reigns, in my humble opinion, when you bend the rules a bit. One rule that I would bend only on the very rare occasion is to avoid clichés when possible.

By definition, a cliché is: a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.

Most, if not all, writers know this definition. Why then do we see overused words and phrasing pop-up in writing? Because it’s easy! It’s convenient to draw on what we already know—what’s familiar. I admit (pause to slap my wrist) I do it, too. Particularly on first drafts. I draw from the familiar databank of words and phrases, eager to get my thoughts on paper. It’s not until I start the redraft process that I focus on these little villains – eager to weed out clichés. I don’t always succeed and at times it takes someone I’ve asked to review my work to point out the unoriginal in my writing. One reviewer whose tough love I respect will bluntly say .. ‘come on, you can do better than that!’ (Thank you crazeesharon).

Keep an eye on the bigger picture as well. Clichéd characters? No-no. The meek librarian who’s a different person all together when she lets her hair down? We’ve all seen her. But why not twist it, turn it and put on a different sheen? This same librarian could take off her glasses and reveal the laser beam eyes of a blood thirsty Alien. I would venture to guess this character has shown up somewhere in some story or novel, but not so often we anticipate the outcome.

Key – fresh, new, different.

As fiction writers our goal is to entertain. If your work is full of clichéd phrasing and seen a million times characters, you’re far more likely to bore your readers than entertain them.

My ‘two cents’ for what its worth.

“See ya later alligators” (oops, I mean, Tata Macaws :))