No More Excuses

We were out to dinner with some friends last night (yes, our neighborhood bounced back from Hurricane Sandy pretty darn quick).  While we were waiting for our food, they asked how my writing was coming.  I proceeded to make noncommittal noises and launch into a stuttering explanation of why progress had been slow lately.  My friend winked.  “I’ve got about six months of excuses ready myself,” he said.

Light bulb.

He’s absolutely right.  I have been making excuses.

I was sick.  There was a hurricane.  My father-in-law died.  These might be good excuses, but they are still excuses.

There is very little writing advice that everyone agrees on, but one tenet I think most would say is reasonable is this:  you should write even (maybe especially?) when you don’t feel like writing.  If you only write when the muse strikes or the planets are aligned or life is good…well, you won’t get very far.  And lately I haven’t been getting very far.

Sure, I’ve set deadlines and made pronouncements, but those things have not changed either my attitude or my behavior.  It’s one thing to assert that you’ll finish your revisions by the end of the month.  It’s another to believe that’s true and act on it.  I’ve done the former but not the latter.

This brief conversation with my friend made me realize that I don’t need a bunch of sticks (or carrots) to get going again.  I need a perspective change.  I love writing, and I love the projects I’m working on.  Why am I letting a bunch of circumstances external to that love get in my way?  The things that have kept me from writing lately have nothing to do with insufficient time and everything to do with my state of mind.  Unacceptable.

So.  No more excuses.

Time to write.

(and, to my friend who probably had no idea his comment would have such a big impact on me…thanks!)

Writer’s Workspace: 3/28

Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on: only 9 days remain until my self-imposed deadline to complete the second draft of my archaeological time travel novel, ABSENT.  I conferred this morning with my secretary and social planner, Mr. Ramses, and he and I decided the agenda for today was to lay some major pipe.  Word count needs to exceed 3K this afternoon or there’s no way I’m gonna make it.

Snippet from the screen: Black spots appeared in Nick’s vision, peppering his last glimpse of Emily’s pale, determined face before she disappeared from view.

“Be careful,” he whispered.

He and Alexa worked in silence, shoveling away snow, listening to the weight of it groaning up-slope.  He had to stop halfway through and throw up.  Alexa watched him with a deep crease set between her brows. 

“Hey, Detective Stoic.  You determined to kill yourself too?”

He shrugged.  Maybe he was.

In my mug: Tazo Zen green tea, ’cause, you know, antioxidants and stuff.

On the iTunes: I’ve got a little Bruce Springsteen “Thunder Road” action going on over here.  And It. Is. Sweet.

Out my window: Brooklyn’s bout of spring/winter cray-cray ain’t over by a long shot.  Yesterday it was 40.  Today?  65.  I know which I prefer, and global warming be damned.

Keeping me company:  the aforementioned secretary/social planner, Mr. Ramses, King of Cats, has abandoned me for his afternoon nap.  Hard to argue with the cute, though.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  links for you, my dears!  First up, some musing on the writing life from the awesome Laini Taylor.  Second, the next book in Stacia Kane’s SUPER FABULOUS Downside series is out!  If you haven’t devoured these great books yet, now’s an ideal time to start.  And, finally, for those of you who like being in all your characters’ heads at once…a podcast from Writing Excuses on the omniscient POV.  Enjoy 🙂

What great links do you have to share?  Post em’ in the comments, and while you’re at it, tell me what you’ve got cooking today.

The Magic of Place

I was listening to a recent Writing Excuses podcast discussing the city as a character and special guest Sarah Pinborough made an off-hand remark that set me to pondering the connection between place and magic.

She mentioned that London’s gritty and historical character made it a city particularly easy to imagine as magical.  Though it has a far shorter historical resume than London, I’ve always felt the same was true of New York City.  Where does that dark, garbage-strewn alley lead?  To a magical land?  To hell?  Could the stall at the end of the row in the bathroom at the New York Public Library be a portal to another world?  Surely there are fairies living in the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park?  Surely there are.

Not only the history of the place, the sense that it’s current incarnation is built on the bones of something older and darker and different, but also it’s mood of danger, excitement, and anonymity, lend New York an air of believable mystery, of magic.

Is this true of every place, though?  Is Newark, NJ a magical city?  Could we set a convincing urban fantasy tale in Miami or Dallas, or would New Orleans be better?  Is there something about the run-down, dilapidated corners of older places that make them better suited as magical settings, or can new, shiny cities provide inspiration too?

Another question: what about urban versus rural?  The countryside is magical, isn’t?  We can picture magic lurking in the dark, cool depths of an old growth forest and sparking in the bright, sunny charm of the pastoral world, with it’s crooked fences and falling-down stiles.  But what about in the manicured limits of a suburban park?  Does the vast swath of strip mall America provide a good setting for a magical story?  Will we find Selkies bathing by moonlight among the concrete fountains of open-air malls or a coven of witches dancing beneath the glow of parking lot lights?

When we devise settings for our stories, how important is location?  To what extent does the place we choose influence the flavor and believability of the magic woven into the narrative?  Can any place be magical?  Does taking a seemingly unlikely place for magic and making it work lend your story a freshness that setting it somewhere more obvious might not have achieved?

I like to think New York is a magical place, but maybe that’s because I live here and I love the city.  Perhaps we all feel that way about places we love – be they Savannah, GA or Palo Alto, CA.

What do you think?

Can we make magic anywhere, or are some places better-suited to telling magical tales?  Share your thoughts in comments!

Writer’s Workspace: 1/20

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  I’ve got two projects going right now.  The first is development for a new book I want to start drafting.  It involves an epidemic, so I’ve been working on building an epidemiological model for the virus.  This has been a fun confluence of research, imagination, and ick-factor.  In the meantime, I’m continuing with revisions to the second draft of my archaeological time travel novel, ABSENT.  I’ve made it about 1/3 of the way into the novel and my characters are currently marooned in Ice Age Wyoming.

Snippet from the screen: “Nick was crouched at the edge of the group, his gaze shifting across the barren, grey landscape.  He looked as if he felt slightly ill.  Emily didn’t blame him.  It was one thing to speculate about traveling through time, but quite another to actually find yourself 11,000 years in the past freezing your ass off on top of a glacial moraine.”

In my mug: White tea with honeysuckle and…honey. 

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses is not so much keeping me company as begging constantly for food.  He seems to be of the opinion that colder weather = development of a Jabba-like exterior layer of fat.  Fortunately for Ramses (and unfortunately for me), he is an expert, extremely annoying, relentless beggar.  Jabba-the-cat, here we come.

Out the window:  Brooklyn is currently clear, cold, and sunny.  Passersby on the sidewalk are hunched into their coats.  Snow is in the forecast for later today, with the weatherman calling for everyone’s favorite, a “wintery-mix” (read: ice slushie).  Good times.

On the iTunes: to keep my heart warm on such a brittle, cold day, I’m listening to Afro-Cuban jazz and remembering the feel of sunshine on my face and wine in my glass from last week’s vacation to the Napa Valley.  It’s working surprisingly well.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  First up: an interesting podcast from Writing Excuses on how to turn protagonists into antagonists (or just add a little twist of the dark side to your good guys).  Second: a link I’ve found very useful lately — a slightly older post from Rachel Aaron’s blog in which she lays out her process for plotting a novel.  It’s very pragmatic and detailed and nuts-and-bolts.  Finally, for those of you interested in my aforementioned trip to Napa, or those of you considering making such a journey yourselves, I’ve blogged a wine country travelogue (with reviews of restaurants, wineries, etc.) over on the food blog I contribute to, Between Courses.  Check it out.

Alrighty!  That’s it for me today.  I’m off to get my characters into more trouble (up next: a run-in with an Ice Age giant bear.  Fun!).  What are YOU doing today?

Writer’s Workspace: 6/8

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  One word for you all today: NOVEL.  Must finish the first draft.  Now that summer’s rolling along and I no longer have even the minor time pressures of my day job, I’ve decided to enforce a daily word count.  1500 a day and not a word less.  Most days I’ll get more, but if I don’t force myself to do at least this much I might get swallowed whole by the gaping maw of excuses (e.g. “I’ve got all the time in world,” “I’ll start writing after I view every Netflix watch-instantly movie from the 1980’s,” “Maybe I should clean out my closet/bookshelf/pantry/magazine rack again?” “Oh! Is that the ice cream truck I hear?”).  So, the novel and at least 1500 words.  Go.

Snippet from the screen:  “Dinner was a blur; Nick barely knew what he ate.  Music rolled over them in waves, crashing gently across the room.  He drank bourbon.  She had champagne.  They talked, telling each other stories about their lives, sharing secrets, leaning in across the table.”

On the iTunes: Rolling in the Deep, by Adele

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses has been shunning me lately.  Whenever the hubby is out of town (as he is now), it becomes abundantly clear that Ramses prefers him vastly and actually might even hate me.  He appears only to imperiously demand food and play time (then looks at me disinterestedly once I actually get the toys out), or to bite me.  Good times around here, folks!

In my mug: Ceylon tea, slightly over-steeped and a little bitter.  But who am I kidding?  Of course I’ll drink it all.

Out my window:  95 degrees and sunny, as if God had taken a magnifying glass, held it down towards Brooklyn, and said “ROAST LITTLE PRIMATES, ROAST!”  The window A/C units are gasping like marathon runners in the final mile and it’s only 9am.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone: (except, as noted above, me).  But, nevertheless…  Check out Chuck Wendig on when to quit writing over at Terrible Minds.  It seems sleepless nights as a new dad have only spurred him to more humorous heights.  Or, if you prefer something a bit more serious, the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal has joined the team at Writing Excuses; go listen to their latest podcast on creativity.

Better yet, head to the comments and tell me what you’re up to today, what links you’d like share, or how blisteringly hot it is where you are.

Then go write.  Seriously.

Writer’s Workspace: 4/8

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  Now that I’ve FINALLY finished Blood Red Sun and sent it off to Angry Robot, I’m diving back into my next novel, Absent.  I’m about 1/3 of the way in to the first draft and the characters have just traveled through time to the excavations at Ur, Iraq in the 1930’s.

Snippet from the screen: “A crumbling guard’s house hunched to their left, and Emily saw two Iraqi men lounging inside.  Then she was swept along in Davis’ wake, following him through the outer wall and into a large, tiled courtyard.  A trio of boys crouched over buckets, washing broken pottery from the excavations; they looked up with keen, dark eyes.”

In my mug:  Lately I’m obsessed with Numi tea.  Today I’ve got their Aged Early Grey steeping in my cup.


Keeping me company:  Since I’ve revamped my office with a new desk and ergonomic chair, Mr. Ramses has inherited my old office chair.  Regular readers will know that he and I have long competed over access to that chair.  Needless to say, he is pleased with what he perceives as a thrilling triumph of good over evil.

On the iTunes:  I put the collection on shuffle and it offered up “Try a Little Tenderness” by good old Otis.  I’ll take that.

Out the window:  I can’t talk about it, I just can’t.  I know a lot of us are wondering where the hell spring is.  All I can say is:  it ain’t here.  We do, however, have plenty of April showers.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  Writing Excuses has a podcast up that’s all about the romance, Catherine Schaff-Stump is working on a series of posts addressing things she wished she’d known when she first started writing, and John Favreau defends his latest offering, Cowboys and Aliens.

Okey-dokey people, that’s all from here.  What are YOU up to today?

Procrastinate, my precious

I’m a busy bee today, so I’ve put up a few links to distract you from whatever you’re supposed to be working on.  Never say I don’t do my part.

The SFWA blog on putting a price tag on your ideas (or not).

Chuck Wendig on how to avoid starvation and death as a writer.

Some advice for bloggers from Kristen Lamb.

A new Writing Excuses podcast on making the reader feel fear for your characters.

Have some great links of your own to share?  Post ’em in the comments…and happy procrastinating, my dears!