Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happiness Is... A Used Bookstore

My husband and I spent Memorial Day weekend doing a lot of traveling. I try to get down to visit my family in Florida at least once a year, and we squeezed in what we could over a four-day weekend: grandparents, parents, meeting one friend's new baby, going to a shower for one due soon, and, of course, shopping. Halfway between my grandparents' house and my father's condo is a small town called Micanopy, and nestled under the mossy trees that shade the single block-long street that makes up the shopping district is a dusty little bookstore that's been there as long as I can remember. O. Brisky Books (read more here) has been my favorite store out of all the antiques and curiosities shops in the sleepy little town, even more than the ice cream shop across the street from it. When there's time for us to take a break on the road, I always try to stop in and browse the shelves for something interesting, and the store always provides. Obscure topics perfect for gifts, old, well-loved tomes waiting for a new bookcase to belong on, or just something that catches my attention on the shelf, I always find something to leave with. The books are vaguely organized by type in the cramped shelves (are you interested in Nautical books, or something on Photography? If you're looking for book on Russia or Poland, you just have to look at the well-labeled walls of the two-room store), and there's barely any room for anything new to fit between them. And every time, the same old man is behind the counter chatting with other customers, or putting books on the shelves, or answering question on the antique phone in an antique phonebooth that he uses for the store's primary form of contact. He doesn't even take credit cards: cash or check only, and he writes every purchase down on a notepad instead of a computerized system. Walking into this store is an instant trip into a long-forgotten past. It's every scent and sight and sound a used bookstore should be, and it's intoxicating. 

Not far from my dad's condo is a used bookstore that's the complete opposite of O. Brisky Books, Best Used Books. It's bright and modern, stuffed to the gills with books sorted in alphabetical order by author as well as DVDs, CDs, VHSs, board games and puzzles, anything really, but mostly books. Enormous sections of familiar genres, almost all modern and gently loved cover the store. The average age of the books there is probably younger than me, or around my age at the very least, as are the employees. And you know, I love it just as much as O. Brisky. They're two completely different stores, there may not even be a matching book between them, but they are equally delightful, with employees we can stay and chat with for hours, talking about nothing but books.

Up here where I live, I don't know of any local used book stores anymore. We had one in our local mall, but the last time we went, it had closed down along with half the other stores in there. It's a shame. Barnes and Nobles and Books-a-Millions are nice, but there's not much surprise there, nothing like a used bookstore. Entering a used bookstore is a mystery in and of itself. You don't know what you'll find, what you'll take home, if you'll find a new favorite author or a hidden autograph or an inspirational message to a friend or loved one between the pages. There's a beauty and inherent happiness in a used bookstore no matter the look or feel of the place. As long as it's filled with books that have been loved and enjoyed, that each have their own special history, it's all right in my book.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Moving forward towards a goal is terrifying. I'm coming to understand this more and more with each step of the writing process. I'm not even 20 posts into this blog and I keep talking about being scared. Scared to reread what I've written, scared to pick apart my draft, scared to read commentary. There are even more I haven't talked about yet. Scared of mailing the first query letter, scared of the first rejection, scared of nothing BUT rejections, scared of not being good enough to make my dream a reality...

I was scared of contacting a local author whose book of writing advice I had just finished.

I was scared I came off as a creep, or a weirdo, that I'd crossed the line when she didn't answer.

And now I'm scared of a meeting for other local writers that she's invited me to.


But I'm going to do it. It's a group for romance writers, and I'm a fantasy/sci-fi/adventure writer, but she said that's okay, so I'm still going. I'm honestly scared out of my wits about it. I'm an introvert. I still can't believe I've put myself out there like this. I probably won't completely believe it actually happened until it's done. It's exciting and scary, all the same. For the first time ever, I'll be spending time with other writers in a public setting. I won't have the comforting veil of the internet between me and them, just a table. Maybe less, I don't know how these are set up.  All these thoughts are running through my head in a jumble and it all comes back to "I'm scared".

I guess it's the uncertainty that's so frightening about moving forward. So many potentialities and no way of knowing what the end result will be. I know I can't let that stop me though. I can't achieve my ambitions without trying, and maybe failing occasionally, or making mistakes along the way. I keep telling myself that as long as I'm scared, it's means I'm moving forward, or diagonally, maybe sideways. What matters is I'm moving. I'm taking a chance. I don't know if it'll pay off or not. I won't know until June 8th. What I do know is that on June 10th, I'll have a very interesting post for you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Editing is HARD!

Back in high school, whenever teachers would insist we turn in a first draft and a final copy, I never did it right. I always thought the first thing to hit the paper was my best work. I'd write it, fake a few typos, grammar errors, rearrange things a bit, you know the deal. My first draft was the final copy, and the second draft was the dumbed down "first draft". And you know, in all honesty? It usually worked. I may have gotten called out on it once, but I usually didn't face any problems with this method.

And now I'm looking down at my first draft, my baby, my precious, and for the first time ever, I'm having to take the red pen to it. I'm having to admit to myself, "Okay, this dialogue is actually weak", "This bit of information doesn't belong here", "I know the background, but the reader doesn't, and that ruins this scene." I could never have imagined it would be this hard, and I'm not even going it alone. God of Ephemera did an amazing job as my first editor, leaving me pages upon pages of notes. I actually went through a few months ago and did a lot of minor fixes she recommended. Those typos, grammar errors, rearranging things. I just scrolled past the big things, reading them and saving them for later. Well, later is now, and I feel so much like a fish out of water.

I think it's helping that I haven't looked at it for a while. The first time I read GoE's notes, I was...kinda defensive, and very vain. This scene was perfect, why didn't it work for her? This didn't REALLY need to be changed. It's fine as it is. But it wasn't, and I'm seeing that now. I'm REALLY reading what she wrote, going back and forth between the comments and the scene to see what she saw. As the writer, it's so incredibly hard to step back and try to see your novel from the perspective as the reader. You know all the secret little details they don't that make things make sense to you. You know the motivations, the history, the future. You read your novel through completely different eyes, and no matter how hard you try, you can never see it the way the reader will. I can't help but wonder if, because of that, I will ever be able to edit without an outside perspective first. Will I ever reach a day where I can write a book, look at it and know what's wrong without someone else pointing it out? Or will I spend the rest of my life sending each draft to someone else to pick apart? I know I'm probably being too hard on myself because this is new. This is new, and scary, and difficult. I'm dissecting my precious, taking it apart, and trying to put it back together in a way that leaves it better than it was before without changing anything necessary.

I said I was going to be done by the 16th. "I already did the little things," I told myself when I set that goal. "It's just going to be a matter of figuring out where GoE was right and what's honestly just fine as it is. I can do that in a week." ("But Maxwell," you say, "Why didn't you start at the beginning of the month instead of Saturday night?" Well, friends, because I am a lazy butt. And I got gripped by that old "scared to open it" feeling again. But mostly because I'm lazy.) I was completely certain that a week would be more than enough time to finish the editing process.

Aha. Haha. Hahaha.

I've spent the last three days doing at least two to three hours of editing a day, and I'm on about page 10. Page 10 of 102. And now it's even higher because I wrote a 1000+ word scene yesterday that was necessary to explain the main character's history, and I had to do it in a way that seemed natural. I had to bring in a character I wasn't planning on introducing until halfway through the book, and now she's on page 4. I know the fact is that there's a lot more editing to be done at the beginning and the end. The beginning has the "writer knows" syndrome, and the end has the climax and the set-up for the next book. They were the parts I knew best going into them, so they suffer from my knowing too much. I don't think the middle has quite as much to fix, but we'll have to see. I'm not reading ahead. I'm taking it as it goes. I may not be done by the 16th, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I want this finished. I want to be able to feel the gut-wrenching terror of sending a query letter to my first agent, editor, or publisher. I want to be able to start getting the rejection letters, because it means I'm almost there. I just need to get to the second draft first.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reading for Research: The Graveyard Book

I updated and synced my Kindle on Sunday night. It'd been a while since I synced everything, and I'd picked up a few free books I wanted to read. While I was making sure everything had downloaded, I noticed one I didn't remember getting: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. It had been a Christmas gift, and I'd completely forgot about it. I put aside the writing books for the night and dove right in.

Over my Camp writing (which I won, by the way. Ambled over the 15,000 mark with about 3 hours left), I was trying to apply what I picked up from my previous reading with "said" versus other words. I found myself frequently going to adverbs to express HOW they spoke. People said things quickly, quietly, exasperated, absentmindedly. Maybe a bit too much. I tried to just stick with "said" or actions, and I spent a lot of time questioning how it sounded while I was writing it. Was I doing too much? Was what I was doing incorrect? Did I need to do it every line when only two people were talking, or if three people were talking but the conversation pattern was 1 2 1 3? Was I doing too much?

I love Neil Gaiman. More than any other author I've ever admired, he tells me that I'm on the right track. He tells me that the things I'm feeling or thinking or doing regarding my writing aren't wrong. It's in his interviews, his pep talks, his social networking, and his books. And while I read The Graveyard Book, as I tried to pay attention to the same things I was worried about in my own writing, I felt more and more comforted because the more I read, the more I saw my own style in the pages. I saw events of all the things I questioned in my own writing, and more that I hadn't. I'm feeling much more confident in my writing now, and I think I'm finally ready to reopen my first novel and finally start that editing I said will be done in...

9 days.

Oh dear. This'll be an adventure.