What is "Doom Eager"?

Lorrie Moore, from "Better and Sicker"
"Martha Graham speaks of the Icelandic term "doom eager" to denote that ordeal of isolation, restlessness, caughtness and artistic experiences when he or she is sick with an idea. When a writer is doom eager, the writing won't be sludge on the page; it will give readers -- and the writer, of course, is the very first reader -- an experience they've never had before, or perhaps a little and at last the words for an experience they have."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

first words from the editor

Okay, so I'm officially stoked!

Last night I got a brief email from the developmental editor on my first 100 pages of Ruby Rising. She said she "loved the opening lines and the voice" and went on to say how she was getting excited to read the pages, or some such. I don't remember, exactly. After, I read the first part, where "loved" and "opening lines" and "voice" were all used in the same sentence, I got a little woozy and went tearing through the house to find the hubby, who was watching Jack Bauer save the world. He was sweet and paused Jack and CTU to listening to my gushing blather.

I don't know how other people read, but, for me, opening lines sell books. At the bookstore, I search for titles that appeal to me. Then, open to the first page and read the opening sentence. If that sentence doesn't grab me, I rarely read more. I'm sure there are thousands (well, maybe hundreds, or at least a few dozen) really good reads I've tossed aside because the first sentence didn't do it for me. So, for this editor to "love the opening lines" sends me into states of happiness difficult to describe. Similar to the happiness I feel eating really great chocolate cake or having fantastic sex (okay, maybe not that happy). But, man, did I feel good.

Now, I just hope the other 99 pages doesn't disappoint.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Writing a novel synopsis

I'm working on my novel synopsis this weekend. I have to admit, I'm a little stressed about it.

I've never written one before and, since I haven't finished the manuscript yet, it's the uncertainty about the scenes I haven't yet written that concerns me. I've introduced characters I'm not sure will survive later drafts of the novel and, although I have a general sense of the novel's ending, I'm still up in the air about some sub-plots, their development and resolution.

I'm preparing to send the first 100 pages to a developmental editor. I'm in desperate need of feedback on the draft so far. She's asked for a synopsis, as well.

Yet, I'm convinced this exercise is a good thing. It'll force me to 1) decide the sequence of events in the second half of the book, 2) address nagging questions I have about some sub-plots, and 3) provide motivation to pull me through the remainder of the first draft process. If you've read my recent posts, I'm in need of motivation. Or, maybe, its feedback and validation I need. Whichever, I'm excited to have the opportunity to have someone whose opinion I value read my work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blueprint for The Writing Life

Over my morning coffee, I'm admiring writing coach Jessica Page Morrell's use of the word "blueprint" to describe the writing life and wishing I'd thought of it. If you engage in the writing life and aren't familiar with Jessica's work, do yourself a favor and correct the oversight. She helps keep me inspired to write.

I describe my love/hate affair with writing, my engagment with the writing life, as "doom-eager." For me, writing is a compulsion, an act of joy and misery, a pleasure and a constant banging of my head against a beautiful brick wall. Those of us who feel the compulsion deeply, feel it continually, often when we'd rather shut it off. Burton Rascoe wrote:
What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window.

We construct, destruct, write and revise whether on the page or in our heads wherever we are, whatever we're doing. We have to remember sometimes, it's okay to shut it off, let the story go, be present in the world around us. Part of our "blueprint" as writers must include time released from the "doom-eager" hold the writing life has over us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Motivation Returning

My motivation has been returning. After my last post, I worked my way through half the scene in which I had found myself stuck and planned out the rest of the scene and the next few. Later tonight, I plan to glue my behind to my office chair and push myself through to the end of the scene.

Looking back on the work I've done so far, I realized I do need to give myself a bit of credit for getting this far. I ran across a quote by Steve Martin that made me feel better:

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.

As writers, we need to be a bit easier on ourselves when we get stuck or run up against writer's block. Writing is hard work. Writer and film editor Gene Fowler satirically stated:

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.

I hear you, Gene.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stuck in the Middle: My Motivation Dilemma

I've been concerned about motivation lately: how we get ourselves motivated and how we keep ourselves motivated to complete a task or achieve a goal.

In my case the goal is to finish writing my novel. I've been suffering from middleitis, or half-way syndrome. Whatever you'd like to call it, I haven't finished the scene I've been stuck on for two weeks. Of course, I have plenty of excuses: a bad cold, worries about finances, too little sleep, too much sleep, too busy, you name it...but, the truth is I've lost motivation and I haven't been able to determine why. Today, I might have come across the reason and it lies within the psychology behind motivation and the stage I'm in, which is "the middle" or "during" stage.

I stumbled across an article originally printed in the Los Angeles Business Journal, March 14, 2005 by Matthew Weller, "General principles of motivation."

Weller details general motivational factors one should consider at each stage of learning (beginning, during, and ending) and strategies one can utilize to motivate the learner during each stage.

What interested me was the "during" stage. Often, when I begin a project, I'm full of ideas and energy and the desire to bang out the pages. Then, a few chapters in, I lose my motivation. I think this must be the same for other writers or other goals we set for ourselves, which is why so many of us make New Year's resolutions we care deeply about and work conscientiously on during January and February, maybe into March, but by April forget we even made, until next January, when we start all gung ho again.

Weller states the chief motivational factor is stimulation, keeping the learner interested and engaged. One strategy he suggests is "use a group cooperation goal to maximize learner involvement and sharing."

Herein lies my dilemma, I don't have a "group." I have folks, family and friends, that support me in my efforts but no "group" with which to cooperate or set goals.

Writing is, in most cases, a solo act. I know writer's groups exist in larger cities, but living in northern Florida, I don't have much to choose from. I won't name the groups, but I've been to a few. What I find are writing enthusiasts with a cursory knowledge of the craft. I've always understood that if you want to get better at something you need to play above your level, not so high that you can't learn and keep up but not so low you're the best player. Okay, that sounds conceited, I know. Likely, I was not the best writer in the room, but from the samples I saw, I wasn't playing with the right group for me and at the level I needed.

I need a writing group and a writing mentor. Showing the novel to a friend who can do little more than say they like or don't like it isn't going to help me much. Anyone out there know any strong writer's group in the southeast? I'll travel. Maybe I need to hire a writing coach. I had a mentor of sorts, a professor, back in the early years of my MA degree in English, Dr. Kathleen Hassell. I have no idea where she is now or if she's still teaching.

I know there are online writing communities but I like the intimate nature and the immediacy of a face-to-face group, and I'm not sure I want to post chapters of a draft online at this point.

As of now, I don't have an solution to my dilemma of finding a writer's group/mentor, but I think I'm on the right track, knowing that I need to find one. Maybe that's enough to push me forward again. I hope.