Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The sleep-deprived writer

Last night, I stayed up really late chatting with my sister online. We chatted for several hours. At one point towards the end of our chat, I typed, "I need to get some sleep or else I'll be a zombie tomorrow." I ended up crawling into bed at 3:30 a.m. and, even then, I was tossing and turning. This hasn't been a pleasant week for me and I dreaded facing the next day, even though it already WAS the next day! Anyway, I did manage to get some sleep, but obviously not enough because that morning, as I worked on the computer, I ended up making the following goofs:

--I was chatting with another sister and she brought up an idea for my haunted houses book. She felt it was a relevant subject to cover because, where she lives (and I used to live), people are telling stories about this kind of thing. I was intrigued and asked her "like what?" in chat, but given all the window-hopping I do while I'm online, that question ended up in in my email to a police sergeant for my article and I pressed Enter before I realized what had happened. The email was his reply to my interview request and he had replied telling me to go ahead and send him my questions. I switched windows, praying that hitting "Enter" wouldn't mean sending it off and, fortunately, it didn't. All the same, I had to laugh, even though it would NOT be funny if that had REALLY happened! I did get a good laugh over it, though, as I thought about what that might've resulted.

It was like, "Go ahead and send me your questions, Dawn."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. It's YOUR article!" LOL

--I ended up typing "sex" instead of "six" when renumbering the chapters for my book in the outline after my daughter distracted me (a chapter on sex in a book on haunted houses?? Hmmm...)

--I got an email from someone interested in buying a haunted house. I sat there thinking, "What are you contacting ME for?..." It still got me FURTHER distracted with the haunted houses book, making me wonder if I can use that as a part of the book. (I ended up with a kernel of an idea on how to make it a section in one of the chapters.)

--I was still braindead even AFTER the interview thing. I FINALLY decided on a chapter title but it didn't...LOOK right. I needed SOMEONE to run it by! Fortunately, there was someone online who wouldn't get all confused with me asking "What do you think of this chapter title?" She pointed out it was missing a crucial word and upon rereading the title, I was, like, "Ohh. LOL Oops!" (And, no, it didn't have ANYTHING to do with sex this time! LOL) She actually wanted to talk more on what EXACTLY I was planning to do with that chapter, and thinking more on that, I realized maybe the title was misleading. Maybe after thinking on that chapter more and figuring out specifically what I wanted to write about in there, I could come up with a better title. Which is why I printed out the revised-for-the-hundredth-time outline to go over later...

Despite ALL this, I think there's an overuse of "cuteness" with titles and sections of the book. Granted, the FINAL decision with that stuff rests with the publisher. But I'm thinking maybe the "cuteness" of titles will kill the book's attempt at being a serious, straightforward approach to the subject of haunted houses. One section, for example, is titled “Once haunted, twice jinxed?” and I think maybe that's not an appropriate title (it talks about "stigmatized properties" in the real estate industry, laws in some states about disclosure, some expereiences real estate agents have had in having trouble selling stigmatized properties, etc.). We'll see what happens. Maybe I'll decide on something AFTER a better night's rest.

Monday, September 25, 2006

So long, Skyline

For the record, I am no longer affiliated with Skyline Magazine in any way, shape or form.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Writer in distress

Today I was chatting with someone and during our chat, I recounted one particularly frightening experience I had while living in L.A. many years ago. Talking about this experience made me suddenly recall the many times someone has had to "grab me" or "push me out of the way" when certain dangers have struck. I realized one thing: There are many episodes of the past where I was a "damsel in distress."

Well, today, I was a "writer in distress."


Today was THE day I would tackle the Problem Chapter in my novel revisions.

I set about working on the revisions of my novel thinking I'd just do the requested "scene fixing" an editor made. Wasn't long before I got hung up on words and sentence construction. Now this particular editor is online. We chat every so often. I logged in today and, thankfully, she was online, too. I asked her about a particular sentence I'd written earlier and she noted it was a "mess." (I joked something about how "that's what I get for writing first thing in the morning" since I'm a night owl.) I'm glad she was online at the time I was working on this; it REALLY helped to ask her input on certain bits and pieces of the novel she wanted fixed up.

I felt particularly victorious after I improved what had been a "sitting and thinking" scene (something I'm not very fond of in novels), but that victory didn't last for very long. I soon came to the "Problem Chapter." Why is it a problem chapter? Almost the whole thing needed a facelift, per the editor's request, and I couldn't figure out how I was going to rewrite it! (I LIKED that humorous episode where my character meets this other character! *whines*) I didn't know why the editor wanted it changed. Her opinion was that it wasn't "realistic" and she also thought another character could've been introduced better. Yes, two characters are introduced in this chapter, first the supporting character then a minor character. The supporting character is IMPORTANT to the story so I had to be careful on just how she was portrayed in her debuting scene. I wanted to show her as a strong-willed woman who doesn't take crap from anyone, someone who is my protagonist's friend but also a very meticulous and hardened character.

One thing was clear: I could NOT write this chapter with the distractions of being online. This called for some rolling up of sleeves and using pen and paper! So I got off the computer, printed the chapter out, grabbed my notes and headed outside. Normally, sitting outside helps me when I get stuck with my writing. But that didn't happen this time. After a while of frustrations, I started grumbling over how I WISH TO GOD a writing buddy was around to help me out. Now since these two characters are nurses, I at first thought of how I could portray them in their work environment. I started debating whether or not I could get away with stealing a scene from ER (and exactly which characters from that show could "act" as my characters, thereby helping me along in devising a scene between them). I finally got up and came back inside. I was hungry, anyway, so I went into the kitchen to make some lunch. Still, I was SO FRUSTRATED! Was I going to have to go to a hospital and sit there, watching nurses interact so I could pick up on some ideas?? I even banged my head against the cabinet, grumbling, "Fix it. Fix it. Fix it!!" I made myself two tuna sandwiches, grabbed some chips and soda, and headed to the table. (I don't normally eat two sandwiches for lunch, but I was STARVING!) I looked over my notes while I ate, then I thought about other scenes my supporting character appears in. All of them are true to the kind of person she is. I thought maybe there's something I could "use" from the other scenes she's in for her introductory scene. Then I realized that...actually...there WAS! In one scene, my supporting character raises hell because patient files are missing. Hm, could that be something I could use now? Thinking on that scene, I realized that, yes, I COULD make that a repeat occurrence! There's a reason why files are missing later in the story, but I could use that to be my supporting character's debut scene. Yes, it could work. Then she talks about the OTHER character (the minor one) visiting a patient. And my protagonist COULD go see what was up, thereby covering the "meeting him" requirement of the chapter...

Yes! It COULD work!! It COULD be done! The whole scene started playing out in my head and I quickly started writing down how EVERYTHING would happen in that first part of the chapter, every step of the way.

When I finished eating, I got back to working on the chapter. I WAS back online as I'd been eating and as I wrote, but I didn't let that be a distraction this time. (I told the person I was chatting with that I was working on my novel as we chatted.) After I finished writing it all out, I was ecstatic. It was A LOT better than what I'd originally written. Believe you me, I really liked it better than the original. It just all fit together, and I later realized that the final scene of that part of the book acted as the "inciting incident" for the next scene that followed. It actually made what happened next MAKE SENSE! I didn't even notice that when I was writing it, and when I did, I was, like, "Whoa..." My muse knew EXACTLY what she was doing. :)

Now I'm anxious to show the editor the revisions for this chapter. It's quite an accomplishment I got it done and I'm GLAD it's over with. I just really like it much better. It's more interesting, plot-moving, and, above all else, realistic.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Out of sight...

Writers hate waiting. We can't stand it. After we submit something, we want to know RIGHT AWAY if it gets accepted or if it's just what was asked for.

I've blogged before about how the waiting is practically unbearable. I will spare you a repeat.

This time 'round, though, I've noticed that it's actually a REALLY good thing I've been so busy with the writing work. I've told my sister how staying busy on the weekends helps me to keep my mind off my daughter not being here (she spends every weekend with her dad). But staying busy, period, is a good thing, especially if you have just submitted a manuscript.

With me, it's the collection of love poems I sent to the publisher. At first, I kept checking my email to see if I got a response. But after a few days of no reply, I knew I had to focus my energy on OTHER things. Just, not freaking out about "what if he rejects it?" or "what if it's so terrible, he warns every other publisher in the world about me??" So, I put my energy into the writing.

Of course, running the home, homeschooling my daughter and parenting keep me pretty darn occupied. But the writing is my passion. This is what drives me every day, the thing that could make or break me. Being a success as a writer is VERY important to me, so it would follow that keeping at the writing work could help me stay too preoccupied to worry about a manuscript I just submitted. And what a load of writing work I've had! If I wasn't working on my SIGNews story, I was doing Skyline stuff, researching for my Shadowlands article and working on my OTHER books.

I'm not going to go over the manuscript "one last time," though. The rule is, once I submit it, it's "out of sight, out of mind." Despite this darn WAITING!! Ugh. But, at least other writing work can help me to follow that "out of mind" part.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hold monitor steady, drive head through

Man. You can really TELL when it's Friday. I've been inundated with Skyline work today. We are trying to get the mag out before 9/11 (since it's a commemorative issue) and we've been at it all week. Well, longer than that, of course. But, we've had some last minute changes to make and it had to be reformatted ALL OVER AGAIN. And we needed to put out an SOS for artwork and short fiction. All over again!

I've had to print stuff out to read and make editing notations. Since I was jumping on and off the computer so much (I am the only person responsible for my child in the home), I'd end up reading and editing stories everywhere, from the chair of my front porch to the bed in my room. I'd read stuff while my daughter took her baths or while I made dinner.

And I thought we were done today. Or, in the process of getting done, amid ALL of the emails and IMs. But it looks like I'll be proofing the (hopefully) final document to get printed tomorrow.

Gee. On my ONE free day of the week. Ugh. Oh, well.....

And, today, as the EIC and I sent IMs and emails back and forth (sometimes from her VARIOUS accounts LOL), I thought we had this thing licked.

Then she says, "Hold on, I'm sending you three more stories."

I was ready to plead, "No, don't!" But it IS just the two of us editing this thing (one editor had to be let go) and we ARE on a deadline. So, more stuff to read, edit and make illustration suggestions for.

Gosh. And here I was, hoping to start cracking on my next SIGNews story, which I got the assignment for yesterday. (It's another one of the South African stories. Yay!!!)

But, that will have to wait until Monday. My deadline is next Friday, so HOPEFULLY I'll be able to get that done on time. Looks like I've got another busy week ahead of me -- AND another busy Friday!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How shall I critique thee? Let me count the ways.

Does "lame" serve as sufficient critique of a story?

I wonder because recently, the EIC at Skyline asked me what I thought of a story she was planning to run. My response? "It was...kind of lame."

What I didn't tell her was what EXACTLY I thought of that story. The ending was too contrived. The plot was too predictable. The characterization was poor and the dialogue was too "everydayish." Oh, and let us not forget the setting wasn't really there!

But I didn't tell her that. I felt more comfortable going with "lame." LOL So if I say something is "lame," that's my way of saying "there's too much wrong with this story for me to go into details."

As for the above story, my hesitancy over elaborating on why I didn't like it faded when she asked, "Kind of stupid?"

"Yes," I typed back, then I summed up on what I felt was one of those "ha, fooled you!" tales using the aliens as a scapegoat. (Those poor aliens...)

A recent submission also got my "lame" response. And what was wrong with this one? Well, it lacked substance. Wasn't really ABOUT anything. It sort of rambled. Strayed from the topic. Failed miserably at the use of symbolism.....

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The next challenge

I figured out a way to write more love poems for my book. I wrote some new material to put in there, which I thought was pretty good. My nephew read one of the songs I'm putting in there and he really liked it, too. He'll probably be mad about how this song will go into a poetry book and not turned into a song, but, eh, there will be others. There will ALWAYS be others.

But now I have another challenge: The dedication. I need to dedicate this book to someone. Someone who I love. But....well, there isn't anyone. I do love someone, but that's a "fantasy love." I don't KNOW him. It would be silly to dedicate the book to him when I don't even know him! LOL Oh. Might even weird him out... Yikes.

Well, anyway. At this point, the dedication reads "dedicated to the one I love." Wow, how's THAT for an all-purpose dedication?? I figure it could work because it makes the book more personal for SOMEONE else. I really see this book as a gift book. Something special couples could share. Heck, even some of those poems could be used for weddings! And, if I'm lucky enough, it could be published just in time for Valentine's Day. But, anyway. I made the dedication a general one and right now that doesn't LOOK right to me. But maybe I will change it later on? I don't know. Maybe before it gets published, I can change it, possibly in the event that my personal life changes. Who knows what will happen.

Regardless, I finished finalizing the manuscript today. YAY!!! I was VERY HAPPY about getting it done. It is officially "ready" to submit. I don't remember how to use "page break" to ensure the formatting stays the way it's supposed to be, but the publisher will figure it out, anyway. (Luckily, I have that comfort with THIS particular publisher to let this formatting oversight slide.) But, yes, it's ALL DONE and READY. It's 70 pages long, with 60 poems in all. IT'S READY! IT'S READY! IT'S READYYY!!! LOL Sorry. I wanted to run around in the front yard yelling "It's done! It's done!" Haha. My neighbors KNOW I'm a writer and that I've been working on it, so I don't think the sight would freak them out all that much. Haha. But, I didn't do that. I DID IM my nephew, though, with those exact words. Haha I was HAPPY!!! Yay!! ANOTHER poetry book OUT the door! Sweet!!

I have been TRYING to get this book published for so long. I mean, the original manuscript was put together in 1993! This is partly why I wanted to add new material to the book. And now I have the chance to get it published. Even though I know the publisher, I realize he might still reject the book. So, I'm doing some serious finger-crossing it all goes well. If it DOES get rejected, at least I'll have it ready to start vigorously shopping around.

After I printed out the book, I wanted to take a break from the computer stuff. I still had to proofread my short story that's getting published soon (the editor emailed it to me as a PDF), but I had just finished this huge project and wanted to lie down for a little bit. Besides, I was SO TEMPTED to send it off now and I knew I couldn't do that. I had to look it over ONE LAST TIME to check for typos or if I missed anything.

And it's a good thing I did because, as I was lying on the bed and looking at it, I realized I'd forgotten one thing. My NAME on the title page!! Whoopsie....