Obviously, I’ll be writing more about this, here and in the “regular” blog (it’s in the bar up top–click the “blog” tab to go to it, and then scroll down and follow, so you don’t miss the goodies there!). But for tonight, since I just got back, I give you this awesome:
Seriously, people, it was like the bucket list item I didn’t know I had.
I have a written book proposal–a completed proposal! I am, if you can’t tell, really excited about this. I’ll be talking more about this on Wednesday (what makes up a proposal), but this is a huge step forward in preparing my queries/book packages.
The proposal is essentially an Idiot’s Guide to my book. I summarize it, say why it’s needed, talk about me and my background, and then give a bit of the book. Some agents and houses just want this; some want this and a completed manuscript, and some just want a manuscript, full stop.
I’ve also decided that the book, at the moment, doesn’t need a prologue, so I don’t have to write a new one. I’m planning on writing the new epilogue once I’m back from vacation, because by then the actual ten year anniversary will have passed.
Today, I start work on the last list item: going through what particular houses/agents want.
I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July! Did you do anything particularly exciting to celebrate?
So, if you read last week’s post, you know that I’ve made some major decisions regarding the length and scope of the memoir manuscript. (If you haven’t read it, go do that and come back.)
OK. So, I give a vague outline there, but here’s more specifics of what I need to do:
Write a new beginning/ending to the manuscript, reflecting the new scope and tone of the piece. Due date: July 9.
Get out the drafted book proposal and print it out. There will be a Real Live Editor from a publishing house at the conference I’m attending in July, so I really hope to get to talk to her, and I’ll need this to show her (I think. Maybe not. But it can’t hurt to have it, right?) Due date: July 6.
Go through my list of houses/agents and being to assemble the things I need for a query. This can be really complicated, actually. Some want them mailed, some want them emailed, and they all have a list of things they want in the “package.” Some houses don’t want to see the manuscript at all, and some want it completed (Hence item one on this list.) Due date: July 9.
These are the things I’m aiming to have done before I leave. When I come back, that will start the actual process of querying, which as I said before, is terrifying, but exciting (“excited and scared”, anyone?)
I feel a little sheepish about this. However, I’m sharing anyway!
I had thought, when I was writing, that I needed to write about the entire decade post-transplant. Everything that happened….every trip, every show, every everything. And I kept hitting blocks in my writing.
While I was trying to write what I kept calling “the last part”, I had a brainstorm. What if….I didn’t write everything? I mean, who says I need to write everything? This isn’t War and Peace! You don’t need to know all this stuff I’m writing!
It was ridiculously freeing. So I opened my scrap document (this is an idea I got from Elizabeth Gilbert–a Word/Pages doc that holds the big parts I cut from the manuscript, so I can use them later, if I need them), cut out about 5,000 words, and put them in there.
I feel so much better! And the manuscript is now a decent length! I’ve decided that it needs a new prologue and a new epilogue, but that’s it.
So I’ll be moving things around/fixing things for the next week or two, and when I get back from Charleston, I’ll start sending out book queries.
Scary, scary thought. It sort of terrifies me to send out book queries. But hey, it has to be done. Seize the day, screw your courage to the sticking place, and all that.
I’ve submitted my August Real Housekeeping piece to the editors, so I’m excited about that. My piece on books for babies will be going up sometime in July, and I’ll post the link here when it goes live. My August piece is about how to create and keep a well-stocked pantry so you can make a variety of meals without having to run to the grocery store right before dinner time.
The memoir is coming along. I feel like I keep writing that, but it’s true! I’m working on the section about the Dominican nuns now (for those of you who don’t know me, you’re probably going, what? But all will be revealed….eventually). This section is proving to be the hardest to write, but it’s also the last section that really needs written. The plan is to have this section done by the end of the month, so that when I’m back from vacation in July, I can start sending out queries and proposals. I’m on track with this plan.
Last week, I talked about some writing books I’ve found inspiring and helpful; this week I thought I’d share some movies that always serve as a creativity jumpstart for me.
Shakespeare In Love: (1998) This film, written by Tom Stoppard and directed by Mark Madden, won Best Picture in 1998, and gives the “back story” of the writing of Romeo and Juliet. With fantastic performances by Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow (she won her Oscar for this movie), Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench (who also won an Oscar for this movie), and Colin Firth, it may not be based in reality, but it’s a wonderfully funny film, especially if you’re a Shakespeare fan. The costumes are sumptuous as well.
The reason it inspires creativity is because the basic premise of the movie is that Shakespeare (Fiennes) has writer’s block–and he solves it by falling in love with Lady Viola (Paltrow), who is, alas, already engaged, to Lord Wessex (Firth). The movie takes us into Will’s world, both onstage and backstage, and demonstrates that writers can’t just write good things at the drop of a hat. This is an excellent movie for when you’re facing any sort of creative block.
The Hours: (2002): OK, guys. This movie is not for everyone. But if you’re interested in the life of Virginia Woolf, this is a great movie. Nicole Kidman won her Oscar for her performance as Woolf, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture. Every time I watch this, I’m motivated to dive back into my writing and journaling. And the music, by Philip Glass, is incandescent. The novel is also on my list of favorite books.
The Red Shoes (1948): Not about writing, but about dance, and art in general. Nominated for Best Picture, the film is a retelling/adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Red Shoes, which compel the wearer to dance to death. In this case, the story revolves around an up and coming ballerina (Moira Shearer), the impresario who becomes infatuated with her talent, and the composer whom she loves. The film demonstrates the physical effort involved in creating beautiful art and the extremes that are to be avoided in its creation!
Babette’s Feast (1987): This shows creativity in the kitchen. If you’ve never seen it, please do so, but eat first. This is the story two single sisters, who live quite lives stripped of luxury, until their devoted cook, Babette, wins the French lottery and wishes to cook a meal for the sisters and their friends. The film is based on Karen Blixen (Out of Africa)‘ s short story. A wonderful fable of hospitality and virtue, but also creativity: watch how carefully Babette prepares the course of her meal, in every stage of its development.
Becoming Jane (2007): Of course, this one. This biopic, based on Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen, focuses on Jane’s (Anne Hathaway) relationship with the young lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), and the writing of Pride and Prejudice.
Summer is prime vacation time for most of us, and for me, it’s also prime writing inspiration time.
There are the usual thoughts on this, that getting outside of your normal environment can help spark creativity, and exposure to new things does the same. But I find that any sort of travel, even if it’s to places I know well, can be inspiring in multiple ways.
For example, a recent trip to Washington, D.C. familiarized me with a part of the town I hadn’t really experienced before, and added new depth to my knowledge of the city, which is useful. Details–from coffee shops to what people are wearing, to traffic patterns–can make their way into future novels and pieces, making my imaginary store of places richer. (There was one restaurant in particular that I loved). This is also when keeping a journal comes in handy. I have an instant place to record my observations and details I want to keep in mind.
For new cities, of course, there’s always much more that I’ve never seen before. When I go to Charleston in a month, I’m fully expecting that I’ll be writing a lot in my journals about the city and details about the people and places we see.
I always get the itch to write when I travel. Usually it’s in my journal but if I have my laptop with me, sometimes I’ll do sketches or write the first few paragraphs of what I hope will be a larger piece. The larger piece may not appear, but just the practice of writing regularly can be reinvigorated by a new setting and new experiences.
Do you notice your creativity grows when you travel? Tell me about it in the comments!
One of the most common tips writers give to want-to-be-writers is to read a lot. This isn’t something I’ve ever had a problem with, but there are certain books about writing that I’ve found incredibly helpful to me over the years, so I thought I’d share them with you.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg. The chapters are short essays that motivate and inspire writing; there’s a list of prompts toward the front of the book if you’re stuck on the what am I supposed to write? horse. I found her writing very accessible and almost like she was sitting across the table from me at a coffeeshop. Goldberg is a gifted writer and her writing always inspires me to take another crack at my current project.
Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True, by Elizabeth Berg.This is my favorite book about writing. Berg gives a ton of unusual prompts and activities to really inspire creativity, and she writes about her own writing process and inspirations. I’ve got this book post-it marked, underlined, and bookmarked in many different ways.
Make it Happen, by Lara Casey. This isn’t a writing book, per se, but it’s a book about setting and achieving your goals. I love it!
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. The classic book on freeing your inner artist, this has helped a lot of writers I know, especially in the institution of Morning Pages. I’m working my way through this–very slowly. 🙂
These are my favorites. How about you? Do you have favorite books that inspire you to be creative?
Remember the NaNo novel I abandoned last year? I think I might have a new way into it, which excited me, but I need to play around with it. Right now it involves moving from a third person to first person narration, and possibly adding more points of view, instead of the limited third person I was going with before. But we’ll see if that helps.
Coming up on the blog this week: travel tips and Sketchbook Skool!