Writing for a Living, Chapter 1

Writing for a Living, Chapter 1.

Observations from my first seven weeks as a full-time freelancer.


The last day is the shortest.

So, Nano happened.

I took a break from the novel (and the blog, apparently).

I wrote whatever the heck I wanted.

That was good.

There was this essay, which I can’t post, because for once I actually submitted it to something, which led to an audition, which could lead to reading for the Listen to Your Mother show in May. (I hope so!)

And there were a few short stories, and a hundred poems, and some letters.

It’s been good.

But I’ve noticed that motivational posters and Ted talks seem especially loud lately. Little sophistries like, “Done is better than perfect.”  They all seem to pertain to that fat stack of novel on my shelf.  Guess break time is just about over.


taking a break







The monster is DEAD.

Chapter 7 is WRIT.

Wassup? Take that, stupid trepidations!

Also, I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo, which means I’m committed to at least 1667 words a day. Yesterday I did 3500.

This marks the beginning of a new modus operandi:

Write November; edit December.

I’m trying to make peace with the rough draftiness of it all. The peacemaking needs to wrap up in the next hour, because I’ll be at my first NaNo write-in, typing frantically with a bunch of other NaNo heroes at the library around the corner. Onward.

Let’s bag us a Chapter 8.


Why, yes.

Yes, I am still writing Chapter 7.



I’m writing it, and that is sufficient.

It’s not important that it happens to come out in tiny pieces, all over the map.

It’s not important that I’m bad at jigsaw puzzles. Like Chapter 7.

It will come together in the end, and it will be acceptable.

Just keep writing.

P.S. You must try Write or Die. They have a free web version, if you just want to give it a spin. I’m in love.

A Very Deep Hole

So I hit a roadblock.

It should have been a teeny-weeny, easily-surmountable road block, but I made a big deal out of it and turned into a skulking coward baby and let it hold me back much longer than I should have.

The situation: a medical question needed answering– one that would have a huge impact on the plot. I couldn’t google this one, but I had the contact info of a lovely OB who wanted to help me. Instead of emailing her right away with my questions, I sat around being an introvert afraid to make the first move.

A few weeks later, my 10-year-old child found out what a pansy I was and offered to write the email for me. So I bucked up and sent the darn thing. That weekend, the OB replied with the information I needed, and I sat on it a few days longer.

I’m done sitting on it now. The itch to finish this thing is back in force. Tomorrow night I plan to be up as many hours as I can stand after the kids are in bed, writing the heck out of chapter 7.

Here’s the good news from this little trip: Looks like writing is a habit now, even while I’m hiding from it like a bunny shaking in his burrow. During the weeks underground, I wrote a short story for NPR’s Three Minute Fiction competition, as well as a poem or two a day. (Poems are here, if you’re into that.) No stopping it now. It’s ingrained. I wondered if that would ever happen.

I also gathered a few bits of advice from the other writers on NPR’s 3MF page. This was the best bit. I’m going to put it into practice as soon as possible. It’s simple, really…


Work on one while you put off the other.


You can write this thing.

I know it’s a mess in your head. And you’re busy.

And I know you’ve got a story. A great, green glob of a story. You might not know the details yet, but you know they’re there, somewhere, in that mess in your head.

And I know that stringing together the hours and days and brain cells it would take to write through the mess is probably a pipe dream.

But that’s only if you try to write the forest.

You don’t need to write the forest.

You need to get high enough to see the forest, map it out, and write the trees, one at a time, in the little minutes and hours you salvage from your day.




You can do it.

Chapter 4

Oh, Chapter 4.

This was the week that I discovered outlines don’t fix everything.

Seven days on one chapter, people. Three rewrites. Not revisions. Rewrites, from top to bottom.

Three very different answers to that one little line on my magic outline. Three correct answers, technically, but only one of them was right for the novel, and it took all week to hammer it out.

Maybe my outline isn’t specific enough. Maybe instead of, “Push and pull, Hal tries to come to terms with Ellen’s pregnancy and to temper his fears in light of her happiness,” I should have planned the specific meetings, conversations, settings, that would bear that out.

But could I have? At that point, before writing, so far removed from where the characters and dialogue would play out, how could I have known the specific locations and conversations that would come into play? I’m not talented enough to see that far ahead without writing through it. Three times, in this case.

But, but, but… The magic of the outline is in the fact that, even though I wrestled my text for a week, trying to get it right, I’m not discouraged. I don’t feel like giving up. Not in the slightest way. Because I have another prompt to tackle tomorrow, for Chapter 5. And Chapter 4 has led me to the specific settings and the dialogues I need to answer it.

My outline keeps motivating me, and I get to tweak it into a little more detail, chapter by chapter, as I go.