Monthly Archives: December 2013

Writing… with children

I had some good news recently, writing-wise, but I’m going to save most of that for next week. Instead, I want to talk a little bit about writing and being a stay-at-home parent.

I’ve been at home with the kids now for ten years– longer than I’ve been writing. And most felony convictions. Now, I imagine that writing while stay-at-home parenting isn’t that much different than writing while holding down a full time job (which most writers have). You do your work, which in this case is making sure the kids are alive and at least vaguely prepared to interact constructively with society, and around that you fit the writing in. The main difference is that the kid job– well, lets just say it surrounds you. It’s in your house, eating your food, bouncing on your bed, and doing terrible, terrible things to your laundry. While most jobs follow you home to some extent, this one climbs all over you, drooling and puking.

Carving out time to write can get difficult under those circumstances. But the most frustrating thing is that it seems like it shouldn’t be that hard. Tell the kids to go play in the yard, or let them worship at one of the electronic idols, or play hide and seek while you count to one million. That should be good for some writing time, right? It seems like it, but it never is. There’s always something, some squabble that must be solved, some problem that must be handled, some horrible bodily function that must be dealt with. And in those rare instances when there isn’t… I end up sitting, waiting for it, wondering what’s going to happen. Because invariably, those long, peaceful times are the buildup to something awful.

Because of this, writing when the kids are around just ends up being stressful. It’s hard for me to work, and then when I do start to get something done, I get interrupted. Which makes me grouchy, and then I feel guilty for being grouchy at the kids. Then I feel guilty for not getting the writing done. Then I feel grouchy for feeling guilty, and wash, rinse, repeat.

The only solution that really works for me, then, is to not write with children. My first writing times were nap time, a couple of beautiful hours of peace. It was fantastic, actually- there wasn’t much time, but it was very set. I knew when I had to write. Similarly, bed time. Kids go to bed early, and that gives me some more time in the evening. Though that ends up competing with the all important lie-down-and-go-blegh portion of my life.

Starting this year, I have a major new time block. School! Both kids are in, and suddenly I have all this time! However… Turns out there are still things like cleaning, and cooking, and other irritating aspects of life that compete for that time. Along with other things like errand running and exercise. Still, school is cool! At least if you’re an adult.

Now wrapping this back around to my good news. It involves a contract! And a deadline! A couple of things I’ve been wanting for awhile. I was so wired, thinking about how easy this was going to be, about the ridiculous word counts I would be able to pile on while the kids were away, getting smarted up. I sat down that first day, and I started writing.

Then I got up to answer the phone.

The youngest had puked in class. Could I come get her?

Okay, one day kind of shot. I could make up for that. She bounced back quick, and went right back to school.

Which called me again, to let me know that my older daughter was now sick.

So, most of this week has been spent doing Daddy the nurse.  A not-so-subtle reminder that thinking I finally have time is just asking for it. But that’s true for all of us, parents and workers and writers and bomb-squad technicians.  So back to doing what I can, when I can, taking care of the kids and squeezing the writing in.

Just like always. 

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A Meme for Readers

A meme’s been going around facebook as of late–the 10 books that have meant something to you, basically off the top of your head. Here are mine:

 

The Stand, Stephen King

The Genesis Code, John Case

Then Again Maybe I Won’t, Judy Blume

The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier

The Night Angel series, Brent Weeks

Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen

Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling

The Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson

The Year of Living Famously, Laura Caldwell

Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz

 

It’s times like this that I feel like an odd duck in the world of speculative fiction publishing. Most of my writer-friend’s list are filled with iconic science fiction and fantasy titles. Mine is all over the map. As I result I feel deep down that I’m somehow doing it wrong. Then I try to get rational and tell myself that there’s no wrong way to be a reader or a writer. Try.

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A Tale of Two Mice

Last night, we caught two mice in adjacent traps. Yay, two fewer mice to poop in the kitchen! But what was the second mouse thinking? Wouldn’t it have been warned away by the corpse?

I imagine it went something like this:

Sniff.

Sniff sniff.

Peanut butter! I love peanut butter! But there’s something else…overtones of death?

Hey, Fred! Didn’t see you there. Did you like the peanut butter?

Fred?

Fred?

Fred! No!

Oh, Fred, no. We had plans, Fred. We had dreams. What happens now to the little bungalow under the furnace? The summer cottage in the cornfield? Who will take me on adventures to the kitchen upstairs, or bring me cherry pits to gnaw? Fred, why?

Sob.

Sniffle.

Sniff.

Peanut butter! The salty, fatty, peanuty goodness will take my mind off you, Fred. I miss you so much already.

nomnomnomSNAP

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3%

Okay, I blew off my post last week. I blame the fact that it was Thanksgiving, and I was deep in the valley of tryptophan toxicity.

I’ve finally shrugged that off though, and I thought I would do a post on something that I’m currently thankful for, writing-wise.

3%

That, according to Duotrope, is my acceptance ratio. Which, the site cheerfully announces whenever I go on, is higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets. It’s a reminder to me that I’m actually being somewhat successful at this writing thing.

Of course, it’s also a reminder that being somewhat successful writing entails a whole lot of rejection.

97% rejection, to be exact.

 

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Leveling up your writing

Delilah S. Dawson recently wrote a great post about leveling up your writing. Aside from the geek points she gets for using the term “level up,” the list has lots of great info for new and not-so-new authors alike. My favorites are “kill dialogue tags” and “kill adverbs,” both of which I find I need to do when rewriting.

I should mention that, too–gather as much writing advice as you can. Learn it by applying it. But never, ever let advice kill your mojo. If you worry too much about doing it “right,” you run the risk of not doing it at all, and that’s way worse than doing it “wrong.”

 

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Milestone

I am now an Associate member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Which, to be honest, doesn’t do me a whole lot of good at this point in my career. The organization does a lot of good work–“We host the prestigious Nebula Awards, assist members in legal disputes with publishers, and administer benevolent funds for authors facing medical or legal expenses”–and while it would be nice to win a Nebula someday, the other services are ones I hope I never need. But it’s nice to know there’s someone there to back me up if I need it, and for now, to be part of the system helping others.

It’s also, of course, a networking opportunity, though with the rise of the internet maybe a less important networking opportunity than in past decades.

And it’s a milestone: another box to check off on the way to feeling like a “real” writer.

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Done…though not really

And that’s a draft, folks.

Approximately 77,000 words.

Dozens of cups of tea.

1 tired woman.

Time to go rest for a day so I can start revisions.

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