“The Science Project” — and the Lucky 7 meme

Hello, all! 🙂

In her great blog, A Life Less Ordinary, the inimitable Story Teller has tagged me to participate in the Lucky 7 meme, in which I’m supposed to post seven lines from page 77 of my current work in progress. I’m going to bend the rules (as usual, heh heh!) because my work du jour is a short story. Here are 7 lines from page 7 of “The Science Project.”

11-yr-old Joshua has just explained to his younger sister that adult Nematomorpha (an organism he discovered in a drainage ditch on their farm) are free-living but their larvae are parasitic.

“What does that have to do with me?” she asked.

“Maybe nothing.”

“Maybe?” Janet scratched her arm and frowned. “I’ve been itchy lately—I don’t have a larva in me, do I?”

He considered pretending that she might, but thought better of the idea. Science wasn’t a joke. “No. I haven’t figured out how to trigger that mutation.”

“What?”

But the dishes were done. He squeezed out the dishrag, folded it twice and hung it over the tap to dry, and started out of room.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” she called behind him.

“You can go to the science fair,” he said.

Duh-nuh-nuh-NUH!

I hope you enjoyed the sneak preview. . . .

And now for the basic rules of this meme:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP

2. Go to line 7

3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.

4. Tag 7 authors

5. Let them know

I tag . . .

Angela Dorsey

Jen Brubacher

Jennifer Neri

Kathy Chung

kc dyer

Rebecca Emin

Shannon Mayer

These are all writers/people that I hold in great esteem. They may be too busy to play, but you never know. In any event, it’s really worth checking out their blogs and/or their books!

The Wonder of Writing by Leigh Russell

Dear All,

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I love about the Internet is the writing community it can foster for those of us who live in remote areas or small towns where there aren’t as many opportunities to meet with other artists and writers.

A few years ago a friend of mine introduced me to a new author she’d discovered by sending me (excitement, excitement!) a signed book. (That friend was Jen Brubacher—and if you read my last post, you’ll see a theme to her gifts. Books, books, glorious books—and I couldn’t be more grateful!) The signed book a few years back was Cut Short by Leigh Russell. I liked it, and I think what happened is that I wrote a short e-mail to Leigh telling her just that.

Long story short, we’ve kept in touch (a bit anyway) and I’m excited to announce, especially if you followed my previous recommendations (here and here) and sought out her novels yourself, that her latest Geraldine Steel book is out: Death Bed.

She shared these words with me recently, so that I could share them with you:

I wrote somewhere that I fell into writing like Alice down the rabbit hole. That analogy seems increasingly apt. Alice truly enters a different world in Wonderland – and isn’t that the joy and the magic of fiction?

The comparison seems to be following me around. I continue to pursue a back-to-front writing career, as though working through a Looking Glass.

Many writers start with short stories before tackling a full-length novel, then sign an agent who finds a publisher to produce hardbacks followed by paperbacks. All of that happened to me in reverse. I found a publisher before signing an agent, was offered my first three book deal after writing only one manuscript, and now that my books have all become bestsellers in paperback, my publisher has produced the first hardback of the latest book in the series, Death Bed.

As if to put the finishing touch to this writing career in reverse, while I was signing the limited edition hardback copies of my book last week, my publisher asked me if I would consider writing a short story. It’s a real challenge to an author accustomed to writing novels.

My advice to aspiring writers is to work hard, be brave and be lucky, so good luck if you are going through the submission process at the moment. ~Leigh Russell

An encouraging author is Leigh! If you haven’t already checked out her books, you should get on it.

And if you want a bit more of a serious bio on her, your wish is my command. 😉

Leigh Russell writes the bestselling Geraldine Steel series of crime novels. Among other accolades, her books have been shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award, in the Top 50 Bestsellers list on amazon kindle, Number 1 Bestseller around the world for Female Detectives, in the Top 10 Best Crime Books on Crime Time, and a Great Crime Sleuth on Lovereading. Her books, in order, are: Cut Short, Road Closed, Dead End, and Death Bed. For more information about her, or her novels, visit her website:
http://www.leighrussell.co.uk

p.s. Did you drool over the gorgeous chair she’s sitting in for that photo? I’d be beaming, too.

Motivation

I’m gearing up for SiWC 2011 (leaving on Wednesday actually, yay!), and as usual I’m super stoked for the conference and all the workshops, presenters and kibitzing with other writers—lots of whom have become friends by now, my eighth year. (Ohmigoodness, do you know how wildly affirming and inspiring and plain ol’ fun it is to be in the midst of 600+ people who all share your obsession? I live in a small town, so perhaps the huge gathering of like-but-very-different minds is that much more amazing, but it is good, good stuff—worth every penny I pay every year. It fires me up, re-energizes and refocuses me for the next 12 months, every time.

That all said, as much as I relish the conference itself, an equal draw is the time I’ll spend with three other writers—Barb Cameron, Angela Dorsey, and Jen Brubacher. While Jen is unable to attend SiWC, because of the way her trip to Canada worked this year, she is able to make our annual pre-conference sushi and gab-fest—a group meeting of what we informally call Woodstockers 5—a name with a story behind it that makes sense only to us.

Thursday night, we’ll meet at a certain restaurant that’s become tradition, slide our bottoms onto bright-coloured satin cushions, and commence blabbing our heads off over our past year’s literary successes, woes, accomplishments, and challenges.

Then we’ll pull out our Woodstocker 5 Goals and share what we followed through with—and confess what we didn’t. A couple of us will then go onto elaborate about plans for November 2011 through October 2012 (our writing year has started to mimic the months that pass from one SiWC to the next). A couple of us (or at least one of us, me) will have to share our plans later, via a small online writers’ forum, after the conference has done its magic and put wild dreams in our (my) head.

Writing is by necessity a solitary pursuit and like a lot of writers, I’m okay with that—thrive in seclusion, actually. Need a lot of alone time. However, over years I’ve noticed that I write better—and am much more prolific—if I have a few close writing friends to celebrate and commiserate with. And to give me the occasional swift, motivational kick. (Thankfully, the boot is usually just a figurative.)

If you’re feeling in need of a bit of motivation, I can’t encourage you enough: try to find a writing workshop or conference to take part in over the next months or track down a writing friend or two to start meeting semi-regularly with. There can be a danger to spending too much time talking about writing and not doing enough writing (a post for another day, perhaps!), but for some of us, too much isolation is just as inspiration-killing.

p.s. I’d love to hear what works best to keep you on track with your writing goals (so I can steal your method, lol).

p.p.s. I think I’ve written on this topic before. What can I say? Sometimes I need reminding of what “works” to keep me working!

What Writing Means To Me

I was just tagged by my friend and fellow author Jen Brubacher in a meme about what writing means to me.

She wrote that writing is truth and her elaborations are so perfect and true that I’m kind of jealous she wrote it, not me. It’s particularly worth reading for a certain drunken dwarf’s quote and her thoughts on said quote.

The person who tagged her, Icy Sedgwick, wrote that writing is escapism—and I wonder, really, if any writer lives who wouldn’t agree with her on some level at least.

And the “it” who got Icy? Tony Noland, who expressed that writing is freedom.

And just before him, Ruchira Mandal expounded on how writing is a journey.

Am I trying to cheat by giving the answers those other writers provided? Not at all. It’s just that their answers fit perfectly with what I want to say: writing is many things to me. The reasons I write, what I “get” from my writing, and how I feel about the process vary from day to day, even from hour to hour—yet I find there are always similar tendrils of desire as put my pen to paper or my fingers to my keyboard (to discover, to explore what’s “known,” to have fun).

Writing is a science—especially non-fiction, where I work from a hypothesis (thesis!) (articulated or not) and hone each phrase, insert each fact, and carefully draw each picture or stage I want to reveal to my reader, all the while deliberating on what I know and what I can reasonably infer about life.

The results can be surprising—sometime I realize I need to discard my initial premise because my experimenting (my writing) reveals a flaw in my thinking or logic—a new hypothesis is needed. Other times, the conclusion is exactly what I had hoped/envisioned/felt sure it would be—very affirming stuff. And, as in all science, while there are breakthroughs and massive epiphanies, there is never an arrival moment where all is known, all is suddenly clear.

And writing is magic—especially fiction. Us odd few called to the task, take strange ingredients, some commonplace, some only hinted at in polite company, some imagined, some completely undefined, only intuited, and throw them all together in simmering mess (or carefully measure out and weigh and add in at specific times, depending on our style).

It’s a shadowy art, unpredictable and dangerous even when it’s white. It’s often exhilarating, joyful and fun—but no words appear without some personal sacrifice (even if it’s just time that we worry could or should be better spent) and sometimes there is pain.

When the magic works, we conjure people long dead and still to come. We play with time, sending readers back and forward in both this world and others. A barrage of scents—good and gross—waft from our pages. People curl up, relax and smile—and freeze, sweat, flinch and flee—at what we smooth across their brow, glide along their chest—jab into their bellies. They grow embarrassed, become livid and enraged—weep, laugh, bite their lip and nod—with emotions evoked by lines of text.

We reveal strangers’ stories and end up showing the readers themselves. We hold up a mirror, but it’s our guts and innards that are reflected back at the reader with their lives, past and present, transposed over top.

When the magic doesn’t work—or, at least, doesn’t yield the results we were aiming for—we, sometimes weeping, bleeding, and beaten, return to our worktables to try different combinations, to explore different roots and weeds. We work, despite the pitying looks of naysayers and the laughter, even jeers, of those who doubt our ability or think we’re merely crazy for trying.

And why do people turn to science and/or magic? Because they are searching. They are longing. I am searching. I am longing. For connection, for understanding, for hope and to give hope . . . for many things actually. So for me, perhaps above all else, writing is a quest.

I don’t know why you write or what writing means to you—perhaps, like me, you find your thoughts on the subject toss and change like the ocean—but I’d like to find out and would love you to share thoughts here.

And to keep the meme-tag game going, I tag:

Laura Best
Jennifer Neri
Angela Dorsey
Kathy Chung
Vello Sork

Is it weird to post a link to an interview of me?

In answer to my title’s question . . . perhaps. But I can’t help it. The questions were really fun and I’m excited and flattered to be featured on one of my favourite blogs, scribo ergo sum–a blog that just coincidentally happens to belong to to one of my favourite writers, Jen Brubacher. It is the best coincidence of all that she is also a dear friend.

Anyway, I always love a chance to talk about writing and if you’re at all interested in hearing about my first publication, how I got into writing and editing, what my opinions about ebooks vs. traditional books are, what my favourite writing books are, plus other intriguing writerly things ;-), please check it out at: http://jbrubacher.blogspot.com/2010/07/interview-with-ev-bishop.html

How many drafts?

Earlier today on Twitter, my friend Jen Brubacher retweeted about Anne Rice and how she only writes one draft: Doing drafts.

I watched/listened to the short blip with great interest. Anne Rice’s process supports some thinking I’ve been doing since I started perusing Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing, especially his ideas on Speed and ReWriting. (Okay, I’ve been pretty obsessed with his pontifications about agents too, but the thoughts sparked there are beyond the scope of this post!)

I don’t think I will ever get to a place where I do only one draft, and I’m not sure I want to. There’s huge value in going through work with the purpose of getting it to say what you want it to say, how you want it said . . . And there’s equally huge value in having that “Don’t worry” card to hand your nasty inner editor (presuming you have one of those too): Just let me fly through my story–it’s wonderful fun. And if I’ve screwed something up? Don’t worry. I’ll fix it when I’m done. (A cheerful rhyme infuriates my I.E. to no end!)

Most writing I do (and most writing I edit for others) needs at least one thorough self-edit, one more edit after trusted reader response, plus a proofing. But even that — for me to say, maybe things only need four drafts, total — well, that’s an enormous change in my approach to craft and process.

I didn’t rewrite my first novel; I just wanted to know I could write one. And I did it — 86K, with a solid beginning, middle, and end . . . What a rush!

I rewrote my second novel, literally, about 20 times. And tried to sell it. Sort of. I sent it out to about 30 people at various stages of its 20 drafts. But I knew as I edited, I wasn’t really so much editing as I was teaching myself how to write.

My last novel was stronger at the end of its first draft than that second one was at its 18th. And these days I rarely put things through more than four edits. I felt incredibly intimidated by that. Maybe I’m fooling myself? I wondered. Maybe I’m embracing mediocrity. Maybe . . . ARGH.

Lately my maybes have changed. Maybe, just maybe, I show a story better on the first wonderful spill . . . and again, just maybe, I see better _exactly_ what needs to be added, chopped, refined, respun, deleted on my first read . . .

I don’t think how many drafts a writer does actually matters. We all have our own processes and methods for getting stories out on the page, and so long as we’re finishing things, sending them out, and starting new stories at pretty regular intervals, our differing systems are perfect.

It’s been really motivating to have my current way of doing things affirmed by pros, however, even if it’s also a bit scary (in a delicious, wonderful way). I have quite a body of work. It’s time to stop stop hacking at it and starting sending it out with greater focus and energy (and less fear!) than I have before.

Wish me luck!

And now it’s your turn. Weigh in, please. 🙂 How many times do you work through a story (short or novel length)? Do you have an overarching system and rules, or is your approach to editing more piece-by-piece?

Happy writing (and editing),
Ev