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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Critical Thinking

I have a friend who can’t write during the school year.

She just can’t. She’s tried. Her three kids (one high schooler, one middle schooler, one fifth grader) are safely ensconced away in their classes. Her husband is consumed by long hours in his high school guidance counselor’s office. But she’s a special education aide. She physically can’t find the time to write between work and homework and what have you. Her novel was half-finished and the remainder was plotted out, ready to go. All she needed was time.

She was so looking forward to summer. Sure her three kids and her husband will be in the house, but so will she, for once. I don’t know how it’s going. I don’t know if she’s found the peace and time she needs, or if she’s been attacked by other obligations.

Once she’s finished, she’s hoping for a quick sale. It’s historical Christian romance—a pretty hot market. And she’s a good writer with personal history in the setting. It’d be a nice addiction to her Sp.Ed. aide income.

Another friend of mine only has two boys, seven and six, but the seven-year old has ADHD. She’s a stay at home mom, non-home-schooler. She writes at night, when the house is quiet and the chorus of “mommymommymommymommy” is temporarily stilled. Then she wakes up early and exhausted and tries to keep the two creatures entertained.

She’s written two novels already that her agent can’t find homes for. A lot of editors said, “I love this, I just need to find a place for it,” and then never called again. The only books she’s sold have been those co-authored with her mother, a respected author in her genre.

Another in our circle is a casual writer. She’s good, and she likes writing, but there are other things she likes more. She’s a part-time graphic designer with a seven-year old girl and a three-year old boy. Her husband works odd hours. She spends most of her non-working/non-kid time mentoring teen writers, both in her home and online. I’ve seen her pull out a thousand words in half an hour, but her husband’s schedule has been such that she hasn’t been able to come to writers’ group. She blames this on her lack of output—if she had a reason to write, she would.

She’s sold short stories to a few online magazines, but she’s not really in it for the money. She had an entire novel in the can for months before a friend practically forced her to shop it around. It seems to be in her nature to find more value in helping teens than looking for more money.

My output varies. I go through a season of typing every spare minute of the day, then a season of forgetting that I’m supposed to be a writer. I planned on taking the summer off from novels, instead focusing on queries, short stories, and the Creature. Word-count-wise, it hasn’t been a very productive summer; I’m stuck on two novellas, and I’ve written only one short story in the past few months.

But I think the decision to concentrate on short stories for a while was a good one. Get a rejection letter for a short story, and you feel like you’ve wasted a month. Get one for a novel, and that’s a good year down the drain.

And, sometimes, that rejection doesn’t come. Remember that story I talked about earlier, that I couldn’t wait for you to read and tear apart? It’s up. My first paid writing gig. A whopping $25. But the encouragement is priceless, eh?

I didn’t think I could write short stories. I had written two novels and one NaNoWriMo when I decided I needed to figure out how. That’s when I found the old Ranting Room. It was exactly what I was looking for. Writing prompts, feedback, even an occasional win. The Stupefying projects are raspberries on the chocolate cake. More than enough encouragement to saddle up to the laptop again and try to figure out where the heck those two novellas are going.

I read a lot of blogs for writers—maybe too many. The tone out there is so desperate. As if, if you don’t sell a million copies of your debut novel in three days you’re a failure. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like a modest income—drafting work’s been slow, lately, and Maj Tom’s retirement gets closer every day. But I’m determined not to freak out. I do best, anyway, when I approach a new adventure slowly enough to get my bearings. Digital Dragon, Mindflights, Stupefying Stories—next stop, Analog!

As soon as I find time to finish those stinkin’ novellas.

What are you working on? What encourages you to write? What environment do you like to write in?

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