Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pages and pages!

I thought I was done. I thought the first draft of the Revisions book was finished and I could happily be on my way to whip it into Draft 2. Then, after reviewing the Table of Contents, I realized something: The manuscript is NOT complete! It doesn't give enough information in the first part of the book. It wasn't what I had envisioned from the beginning. It was not the kind of section that it should be.

In other words, I needed to write new chapters!

I didn't want to think about the demise of the few chapters I have in there right now. I could worry about them later. Or put them into a new section. Or see what the publisher says. (The publisher is the one who gets the final word!) Right now, I had to think of new chapters. And what these chapters would cover.

So I spent days, literally weeks, mulling over this. What should I write about? How should I organize it? How do I write these chapters without making them look like I was echoing what other authors have said on this subject? How do I make them my own?

I had to spend a lot of time inward, reflecting on how exactly I go about doing this thing. I had to recall the many instances I would tackle editing (not revising) my work. What did I look for? What were common mistakes I uncovered? What sort of dillemas did I trip over?

Finally, inspiration struck. Maybe it was all that time I've spent studying books and web sites. Or all of that reflecting I did. Or maybe it was finding a grammatical mistake in my article which I came across only after it was published. (Groan!) Whatever it was, it worked, because I was soon writing pages and pages of ideas for these new chapters. I started to remember everything that I struggled with when editing my work. All of the things professional editors have pointed out to me. The many sources of confusion I have had while editing my writing. All of it just flooded into my head, coming back to me at full force.

I got ALL of that down on many pieces of paper. Then I went to play with the baby. And I kept coming back to those pages to write even more ideas! I even started writing in the margins my questions and ideas, and soon those margins were full. (Sigh. Even marginal notes can only go so far.)

And after I was done, I was happy about the fact that I had not one, not two, but SEVEN new chapters for this section of the book! Woo-hoo! (If it gets to be too long, I might combine one or two of them.)

That done, I could only go over these pages feeling a sense of accomplishment that I finally figured out the new chapters for the Revisions book. I nodded my head and observed, "I have my work cut out for me."

I also have to figure out how to organize it all. But that will come later. After the writing is done.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dabbling Day

I wasn't able to meet my goals for today. And I didn't write anything from start to finish.

Today, I only dabbled in this project here, that project there.

My goal was to get a project started and done today, but I discovered it required more research than I thought in order to get it written adequately.

With the other thing....well, I think I'll be working on it a little longer before it's finished.

So I guess today was not a day for me to finish writing anything. Just dabble with it.

We all have those days.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's a good thing I slept in

This morning, I didn't have to get up at my usual time of 5:15. Why do I even get up so early? It's so that I can have one good hour of "me time" before taking on the mom stuff and the usual busy-ness of my day starts up. I spend this time praying, reading, having my first cup of coffee for the day -- and writing, if I'm so inclined. (Some mornings, I wake up with a whole lot of stuff crammed into my head that I NEED to get down onto paper.)

But not this morning.

Earlier in the day yesterday, the coffeemaker got knocked over while I was making a fresh pot of coffee and the glass carafe fell to the floor, shattering into pieces. The water spilled out of the machine and all over the stove, flooding the stove! (Oh, what fun it was to clean up all of THAT mess!) When I was chatting with my publisher later, I told her about what happened and she mentioned her gratitude for not having a glass carafe. She even sent me a link of one that had a neat, futuristic metal carafe. (Hey! I love sci-fi, so I'm totally into anything that looks futuristic!)

I was not happy that I wouldn't be able to have my morning coffee in the a.m., but cheered up by the prospect of hitting a Starbucks instead. (Actually, I ended up hitting the coffee service station at a market down the street. The coffee I got is called "Hi-Rev Cappuccino" and it's actually pretty good.)

So last night, when I got to bed at around midnight, I was grateful for the chance to get an extra hour of sleep. (I stayed up late submitting poems.) This midnight-to-5:15 sleep schedule I've had has made me cranky. Despite giving me one hour of peace. So I was glad to have extra time to sleep. I think getting enough sleep should be more important than having a little "me time." All the same, I woke up at my usual time this morning. And I went back to sleep. Lately, I don't prefer to sleep in or get more sleep after I awaken, because I end up having bad dreams. (A sign not to oversleep? I wonder.) So I went back to sleep. Instead of a bad dream, though, I had an interesting dream.

You know the kind. The kind of dream where you wake up and say, "That would make a great story!"

Actually, I put a "WHOA" before that sentence. Haha.

But, yeah. I had a very interesting story dream. And I became excited about writing this story. When I wrote out the story idea on paper, just so that I wouldn't forget it later on, it became something bigger than just what I saw in the dream. I added more details and plot twists. No names, though. There weren't any names in this dream! Gah! But that's not the important part right now. Right now, what mattered was the story. And getting this story idea down so that I could remember it to write later on. (Didn't have the time to write the story itself after I wrote out the idea. I could take hours to write a short story. And I didn't have that window of time just yet. Some stories take me days to write because I run out of time while at work on them!)

So I got a new story to write just from sleeping in this morning. For once, no bad dream. So maybe it's a good thing I gave myself this break and got some extra sleep. The coffee carafe broke, I slept in because I couldn't have my morning coffee, and I got a story idea because I slept in. And I got to enjoy a very yummy cup of cappuccino this morning instead of plain ol' black coffee. Interesting how things work out like that.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Not enough words

Lately, I've been grappling with writing articles that have too many words. They're too long, over the limit, and I am pulling my hair out trying to trim and edit them until they are A: Decent articles and B: Within the word count limit.

So I've been doing A LOT of that lately. Imagine my shock when I actually had one this evening that was too short.

That's right; TOO SHORT! Yowza!

How on earth did THAT happen?? HOW is it possible that I actually ended up writing something that was not, WAS NOT, too long or wordy??

So when I tried to bring it up to the maximum amount of words allowed -- because I always TRY to push that envelope, ya know -- I just let that superfluous writer within run free. Go ahead and break contractions. Go ahead and add extra details. Go ahead and be WORDY.

And I gotta admit...after ALL this time of whipping my articles into shape.....deleting words, sentences and entire paragraphs just to cut down on the word count...it felt a little weird that, for once, I didn't have to do that.

For once, instead of deleting words, I was adding them. And adding them and adding them.

Strange feeling, that.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I clicked, I wrote, I conquered!

One of the articles I was assigned to write this week was about healthy breakfast ideas. This was the second time my editor threw one of these topics at me. The first time, I let him know that A: I am not a chef. B: I only had ONE good recipe of my own creation to share. And C: I didn't feel comfortable copying and pasting recipes off of the Internet.

The long and short of it, I decided to throw together a bunch of links and book suggestions for the recipes readers would be looking for. The result? This: Healthy Chicken Recipes

Now, fast forward. I got assigned ANOTHER recipes article this week. And I was all ready to tell my editor, once again, that A: I am not a chef. B: I only had ONE good recipe of my own to share.... But I really didn't think he needed to be told all that stuff twice. I guess he figured I'd either try to gather recipes from my friends to put into the article (like I tried to do, and failed at, last time) or do a repeat of the other article.

But I didn't want to do that.

Actually, this time, I wanted to TRY to have some recipes in this food and cooking article. I had to at least give it a shot!

But, like I said, I didn't want to copy and paste anything. That's copyright infringement, y'all!

So, what to do? What to do. What to do.

This morning, I had a little extra "computer time" while drinking my coffee and before my shower. So, for the heck of it, I typed the article title into Google to see what popped up. And what I ended up seeing was pretty much an indication that there wouldn't be anything to copy and paste. Mostly, they were meal suggestions, with nothing in the ingredients that were trademarked. And the suggestions and recipes didn't belong to professional chefs, either! They were mostly people sharing their creations on the 'Net.

Seeing all of this, I realized that, yes! Writing a food article was doable for me after all! I could reword the recipes, change the fomatting so that they weren't technically "recipes" but just ideas for things to use, and not use the names of the creations that the people used. I visited message boards, blogs and newsletters. And the recipe ideas I decided to use in the article didn't come from professional chefs or have any trademarks all over them. I felt I could just take these meal ideas and use them. It's not like I'd be saying they were MY recipes in the article, anyway.

So, I did that. I put the meal ideas together using my own words and without formatting them as recipes per se. And I think I did a pretty good job in pulling off my very first food article!

In fact, I think I can safely submit this article without worrying about getting hit with a lawsuit! I mean, it's not like I used any brand names, and you can't trademark words like "banana" or "oatmeal," can you?

I'm very happy I conquered that hurdle. Part of the reason why I do these articles is for the challenge of testing my writing skill and writing a GOOD article about stuff I am not well-versed about. It's all part of the learning experience and the challenges I face with this gig is helping me to be a better writer. And now it looks like I will somehow or another find a way to be a food writer, too. Yay!

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

When nothing is something

Yesterday, I thought it was going to be another typical busy Monday. I thought I'd get started on my next batch of articles to write this week, finally interview someone for a book project and get some other work done on another book project. And type up another story I have, to boot!

That was the plan, anyway.

Alas, 'twas not to be.

The thing about yesterday is that I was really busy with the baby. He is climbing on everything now (even the window sill! YIKES!) so he's definitely been keeping me on my feet! I'm not complaining, of course. It's just, WOW. He REALLY does keep me busy watching him and getting him down off of the window sill, bookcase, tables, etc. (I need to get this kid to a baby gym!) My daughter was not this much of a climber when she was a baby. Actually, she was an explorer, exploring the cabinets, drawers, shelves, etc.

Another thing that sort of impeded my ability to get that stuff done was that my brain was not in work mode yesterday. Actually, it was in "organizing mode." Checking with this, looking for that, updating that. I DID manage to type up one thing, though, so at least I got THAT part of the plan done.

All the same, I was feeling kind of frustrated that I didn't get a whole lot done yesterday (when I do have a whole lot to do! More stuff to type, research to do for a book, articles to find homes for, etc.). I don't regret getting busy with the baby, of course. Mostly, I just blame my inability to FOCUS on the work that I need to get done this week. I was thinking, "My book is due in 5 months and I only have two chapters done!" And I was panicking over that, too. But nothing could get me to focus on that book work, no matter what I tried. I kept feeling like I got NOTHING done.

Nothing productive, anyway.

I keep a work log that notes what work I get done on days I do writing work. Basically, it covers the writing work done Monday through Friday. I usually don't work on the weekends (those are meant for things like catching up on e-mails and typing things up), but when I do, it goes on there. It has really helped me to keep tabs on what I have been able to do so far, stay updated on the progress of an editing project, and just have it on file what got done when. It also allows me the chance to analyze what I was able to get done so far, and how I can fit in what I have yet to do in order to meet a deadline.

So I was looking at what I put on there for the "work" I did yesterday. At first I thought why bother? I hardly got anything done yesterday. It's not something worth even typing up. But I typed it up, anyway. Here is what it says:

Date: Monday, May 4, 2009
Typed up poem (must hunt down other notebooks to type up marketable poems in there)
Found poetry markets to submit to
Worked on a list of other poems to submit
Dug up an OLD article that I don’t know the status of (published? rejected? lost?) to consider submitting elsewhere
Checked out status of SIGNews. Seems they have shut down.
Checked with Shadowlands newsletter. My article is FINALLY in there! Woot!
Added link to newly-published article on web site
Time: N/A
File name: Friends across the miles.doc, Cappers poems to submit.doc, PARENTING Cochlear Implants.doc
Status: Complete

That "status" part is meant to indicate if I finished the work noted on there and if it was submitted or not.

And in looking that over, I realized that it wasn't all that bad. I mean, given how busy I was chasing after the baby and also getting the housework done, I think that what I managed to squeeze in yesterday was actually pretty good. At least now I know of some poetry markets to submit to (not just Cappers), now I know it wouldn't do much good in contacting the editor of SIGNews to see if I could write for them again (which is what I was considering doing -- I sure miss having articles published in a newspaper!), and now I know I have to try to find out just what in blazes happened to my cochlear implant article that I submitted MONTHS ago but never got a reply from the editor. (Gah!) If it was never used, I'll have to contact my sources to see if the information is still valid and try to get that article published SOMEWHERE!

And see what other articles I have in limbo, as well....

Speaking of SIGNews, I was reminded of something about my writing experience with them yesterday. I was watching the movie Marley & Me with my daughter, and when the wife pointed out to John that the newspaper spelled his last name wrong, I could only laugh and shake my head. "Whoa, been there and done that!" I said. Yep, SIGNews actually spelled my last name wrong on one of my articles they ran. I was NOT happy at the time, but I can laugh about it now. C'est la vie!