A Writer’s Creed

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I write stories I love.
I connect with the readers who love my work.
I joyfully trade my time and creative ability for payment from those who love what I create.
I take steps each day to live my dream and make it real.
I am a writer.

This is the latest and possibly final version of The Writer’s Creed that Holly Lisle and a number of her students have been fine-tuning over the past week or so.

A couple of students suggested that we each write our own version of the Creed, one that works for us as individuals.

I liked that idea.

One suggested that “all of us working at this magnificent dream should put it on our web sites, too–with Holly’s name at the end, to give credit where it’s due.”

I like this idea, too.

Which is why I’m doing both.

I like the idea of a creed.  It’s not something I’d ever thought of before.

My dream has always taken a back seat during the school year. This year I vowed to myself that it would be different–but it hasn’t been. I’ve written barely a word in seven weeks. Not coincidentally, my semester is in its seventh week.

It may seem ironic that this is precisely why the fourth line of this version of the creed works especially well for me: “I take steps each day to live my dream and make it real.”

I don’t. Or anyway, I haven’t been, not for the past several weeks.  When I’m working, I work.  I don’t write.  As those who follow this blog know, I haven’t even written much here, and certainly not according to the schedule I’d envisioned.

Holly’s Creed reminds me that I made a commitment to myself.   It reminds me that the dream is waiting, that it’s been waiting for forty-five years, that I’m not going to live forever, and that I don’t want to die without having finished, and without having published, this composite novel that I’ve already been working on for far too many years.  It reminds me that the stories contained in this novel, the stories I’ve already written, are not the only stories I have in me.

I promised myself this summer that I would no longer limit my writing only to summer and winter breaks, that I would find a way to write during the semester as well.  But I haven’t written a thing in weeks.

So this is not just a creed.  It’s a motivator.  A reminder.  And to me, an imperative.

It appears here in this post, and in one form or another—my own version—it will also find a permanent home elsewhere on this blog.  And I’m not just going to put it up on my website. I’m going to tape it to my bathroom mirror.

I confess, though, that I am a bit uncomfortable with the payment part.  It’s hard at this point for me to imagine being paid for my writing, or to imagine even including any mention of payment in my Creed.  But one day this book and other stories will be available for sale.  And I will accept payment for them with gratitude, and probably a certain degree of amazement, a la Sally Field (“You like me!  You really like me!”).

But in any event, here is my creed:

I am a writer.
I write stories I love.
I strive to connect with readers who will also love my work.
I will receive payment for that work with humility and gratitude.
I will take steps each day—not just during summer and winter breaks—to make my dream a reality.

***

Are you a writer?  Do you have a creed?

WIP: Working at a Snail’s Pace

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This week’s been a bit of a struggle, WIP-wise.  I guess that’s what I get for being so smug about last week’s accomplishments.

My deal with myself is supposed to be that I will write every day—write new material without getting lost in revision and without scooting off into Google-land every time I have a question.  The deal is supposed to be “No research, no planning, no revision, just writing.”

But I didn’t do so well on that this week.  I did a lot of revision.  I did a lot of planning.  And I spent a heck of a lot of time in Google-land.  But actual writing of new material, not so much.  Only four days of actual writing for a total of less than 2500 words for the whole week.  I console myself with the knowledge that I did work on a different story every day, and that most of that work was actually pretty useful.

Writing-wise, the first draft of Eddie’s story is now finished, and I’m truly happy with it.  It was for this story that I spent all that time in Google-land (it’s set in Belgium during WW2), but the time spent was well worth it.  The story wound up taking a couple of twists I wasn’t expecting (don’t you love when that happens?), and they set up some great potential for Chatón’s (his daughter’s) story, which up until this week I had barely even begun to think about.  Now I can’t wait for her name to come up!

Planning:  I did scene cards (a Holly Lisle tactic that my Muse usually balks at) for Emma’s story.  Emma’s and Chatón’s stories are the only two I haven’t even begun drafting yet, and this is the second time Emma’s has come up in the past couple of weeks.  Last time, I did a lot of character and story development, and now, with the scene cards, I think I’ve reached a point where the next time it comes up, I should be able to pound out a good couple thousand words on it–or maybe even get the whole draft done, who knows?  I’m really excited about this one, too.

I also got some revising done on Amelia’s and Tanna’s stories this week, but not as much as I would have liked.  Amelia’s in particular needs some serious cutting.  So now that my Muse has decided she’s willing to do the scene card thing, I think I’ll go back and re-plot Amelia’s story and see what can come out and what just needs tightening.

And finally, John’s story underwent some serious re-conceptualizing this week based on another of Holly’s methods, the Shadow Room, which provided me with a couple of surprising conflicts I hadn’t originally planned on.  Those are going to be fun to write, too.

So all in all, it looks like I’m still on track to have the novel’s entire first draft completed by September 15, as planned.  I may be working at a snail’s pace, but slow and steady wins the race.

Looks like it’s been a pretty productive week after all!

WIP: What a Good Week Looks Like

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I’m behind in the Pot Luck department, and I apologize.  But I’m also going to be behind in the WIP department too if I play catch-up first.  So, today, more or less on time, I’m doing WIP.

And there’s plenty of WIP to talk about.  It’s been a great week!  My Tupperware container (see my WIP post on Job Jar:  “Who’d a Thunk It?”) has become my friend.  Such a friend, in fact, that I’ve taken to calling it Tup.

Thanks to Tup, I’ve made substantial progress on the novel since my last WIP post.  The day I printed out the Eighteen Crossroads ms, I had just under 55,000 words.  Today, I have just under 61,000.  For some writers, six thousand words in ten days isn’t a lot—and even for me, I suppose it isn’t.  I mean, it does only break down to a rather piffling 600 words a day.  But what I’ve done in the past ten days is manage to send my Inner Editor on (what I hope will be a very long) vacation and get my butt in the chair and write.

Every.  Single.  Day.

And that’s not piffle.

In addition to the Butt-in-Chair success, another reason the 600 words a day pleases me so much is that it doesn’t all represent actual writing, since some of what I’ve done this week is revision.  Not the kind of procrastinating, time-wasting revision I so often used to find myself doing, but some very effective revision.  I remind myself that what I have here is a net 600 words a day.

I’m aware that many writing gurus eschew revision while one is still working on a first draft; Holly Lisle is one of them, and I have great respect for her and her methods.  But those gurus’ primary concern, I think, is with writers getting bogged down in unnecessary revision, whereas the revision I’ve done this week, far from bogging me down, has helped to move the book forward, so I’m pretty dang pleased about it.

I’ve also added fairly considerably to four stories this week (Josef’s, Tessa’s, Amelia’s, and John’s) and started three entirely new ones (Stan’s and Daphne’s, both of which I’d been planning for years but had never been able to force myself to sit down and actually start writing before Tup came along, plus an entirely new one for Tanna, which I had never planned to write at all), and I’ve also made substantial headway in my planning for Emma’s and Chatón’s, which are the only two left that I haven’t actually started writing.

But wait, that’s not all!  I also received my copy of The Adventure of Creation this week, and have been reading that, too.  And I haven’t read a single story yet that doesn’t make me feel very, very honored to have had one of my own chosen to be part of this collection.

Oh, yeah.  It’s been a good, good week.

WIP: Anthology Cover Reveal!

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The composite novel I’m currently working on is one whose first seeds sprouted in 1992.  But the stories I had so far written were set aside for several years, and it wasn’t until 2006 that I came back to the project with renewed vigor.  Ideas came so fast I could barely get them written down.  Characters took shape.  The book developed an entirely new purpose, one I was truly excited about.

But here we are, seven more years down the road, and I still haven’t finished the first draft.  Why?

It’s not that the book doesn’t need to be written, or that it’s not worth writing, or that I don’t want to write it.  It does, and it is, and I do.  But I have never tried to write and teach at the same time, so my writing has been confined to summer, winter, and spring breaks, and in addition, I discovered not long into the process that as a writer, I have REAL ISSUES with two “writing disorders” that interfere with my progress:  Butt-in-Chair Syndrome, and a particularly insistent and particularly evil Inner Editor Demon.

Butt-in-Chair Syndrome occurs when you realize that you absolutely must dust all the baseboards in your house before you can sit down to write another word.  Then you tell yourself that if you can just beat this level of Candy Crush while the ideas percolate, then you’ll be able to write.

But when you finally do sit down and write something, your Inner Editor Demon steps in immediately to tell you that everything you’ve written is crap.  “What makes you think you can write?” she says.  “You suck!  You couldn’t write your own suicide note!”

She’s very convincing, and you believe her.  So you set the book aside once again and go back to playing Candy Crush, which you’ve gotten quite good at.

It was in the middle of a particularly bad night last summer, while randomly cruising the internet looking for motivation and a way of killing the Demon, that I stumbled across Holly Lisle’s website (http://hollylisle.com/my-articles/).

“How to Think Sideways,” it said.  It piqued my curiosity.  I browsed through a few pages.  Tried some of the methods she suggested.  And they worked.  She had a “Write a Book With Me” page, and I joined it.  Two days later I had an entirely new story, one that I had known the details of for at least two years but hadn’t been able to make myself sit down and actually write.  And suddenly here it was, finished.

To say I was pleased would be an understatement.  But then the new semester began and I again set my writing aside.  And what with one thing and another, I didn’t get much done during winter break, either.

In March, during Spring Break, I found myself in Holly’s site again. I officially enrolled in her “How to Think Sideways” course, and I was still on Lesson One when the moderators of the site posted a call for submissions to an anthology Holly was putting together—an anthology of her students’ best work.

With this motivator singing in the background, and using some of Holly’s invention methods, I sat down and wrote another brand-new story.  Well, not brand-new.  It was one I had started the summer before, gotten stuck on, and set aside.  It’s called “A Play of Hopes and Fears,” and it’s part of Eighteen Crossroads, but as with most of the stories in that collection, it’s also a stand-alone.

I submitted it with two hours to go before the deadline.

In May, I received an email letting me know it had been accepted.

Calloo, callay!

The editor asked for only two edits—change “check” to “cheek,” and “loathe” to “loath”—but I spent nearly a month revising the story anyway.  As I’ve said before, I’m an inveterate reviser.

But I did get it submitted with time to spare.

OK, so that’s the backstory.  Here’s today’s news:

TODAY IS THE BIG COVER REVEAL.  Here it is (imagine fanfares blowing!!):

AdventureCreationSmall COVER REVEAL rec'd 6-30-13

The anthology will be available for purchase both electronically (Kindle, etc.) and in paperback, through what the mods refer to as “the usual venues” (I assume Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), on July 24.  I don’t know the price yet, but I suspect it’ll be very low.  Holly believes it’s better to sell a whole lot of inexpensive books (and courses) than just a few expensive ones, and I have to agree.

I’m told the moderators had planned to include thirty stories, but when the submissions came in, they had such trouble limiting themselves to thirty that they went with thirty-five instead.  The stories contained in the collection cover a wide array of genres, from fantasy and sci-fi to horror, romance, mainstream, and lit fic.  There’s something here for everybody.

I hope you’ll check it out!  Remember the day–July 24!

Evelyne Holingue

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