In the Early Morning

Most artists have a preferred way to practice their craft. Some people crank up the music. Some people head out to a favorite coffee shop, wrap their fingers around a warm cup ‘o joe and their feet around the metal legs of the chair. I recently read an article about a woman who decided that she should dress up like she was heading to work at an office, because sitting around in her sweats made her feel less motivated. Personally, I could work half naked as long as it’s quiet.

I’m a shut the door and don’t talk to me kinda girl. If you do attempt to talk to me, you’ll more than likely be half ignored or receive a sort of disheartened sigh before I respond with a half repressed this-had-better-be-important expression in my eyes. I need silence. I need to be uninterrupted. I let myself fall backwards into the embrace of the world and characters and I’ve created and despise that whiplash-like feeling of someone popping around to tell me it’s time for lunch (I’ll eat when I’m ready goshfriggindanggit!)

Since moving and all the chaos that goes with that, I’ve had trouble getting back into my daily writing routine. My body likes to set its alarm clock a half hour prior to whenever the alarm clock is set. My husband used to get up at 5, so that meant I was irrevocably awake by 4:30. At which point I would grab my cell to check twitter and CNN. Once Tim was up and about (which was usually after a half hour plus of snooze buttoning), I would flick on the kettle and boot up my laptop. I’d write until about lunchtime (whenever that happened to be) then curl up with a book and read until he came home. I loved this schedule. I accomplished a lot and it suited my low energy introvert lifestyle.

My change of location screwed my habbits. I began to wake up at 8 or 9. I’m not a night person. My brain shuts off around 5pm, so sleeping in screws everything up. I missed my morning pot of tea. I missed my quiet little room on my quiet little street. It’s all still an adjustment.

A few weeks ago, I randomly woke up at 3am, feeling more awake than I did during any of my waking hours that week. I picked up my kindle and read a little bit of “War and Peace,” all the while thinking, I am not going back to sleep anytime soon. My desire to read wained, so I shut off my kindle and laid back down. Everything was quiet. It was utterly heavenly peaceful, that same kind of blissful quiet that I had all day when I was home alone in my little apartment.

It took me longer to figure out how to properly use that time then it probably did for anyone who reads this. Around 3:30 I rolled out of bed, sat down on the floor and started working. I wrote until 6:30, then crawled back into bed and fell asleep from 7 to 9. I used the afternoon for editing and reading, and by the time I went to bed that night, I had that delicious glowing feeling you get when you know you’ve actually accomplished something with your day.11889972_10153131436677963_7610756653671727759_o

I’m super thankful for the ability to make my own schedule and it’s looking more and more like my working day can start as early as 3am. Since the construction workers start working on the addition at 7 and the dog invariably throws a fit around 5, it’s probably better this way. 😉

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

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Movies and Pop Culture in Writing

Since moving in with my in-laws, one of my father-in-law’s new favorite things to say to me is, “You haven’t seen [insert movie title here]? Oh man, you have GOT to see it!”

The truth is I don’t really get excited about film or television. It’s rare that my husband and I will see an advertisement for an upcoming attraction and I say, “Ooo! We have got to see that!” More usually I say, “That looks interesting, but let’s wait for it to come out on video.” When it comes out on video, I wait in the hold line at the library to get it for free, then return it after a week, unwatched. And I’m just as selective with my television shows. The only show I regularly watch is Mythbusters and my husband and I have a subscription to MLS live so we can watch football till our eyes bleed (though studies show that watching copious amounts of football, aka soccer, can lower your cholesterol and help prevent cognitive decline.*).

This makes me entirely out of touch with current pop culture, which isn’t really a terrible thing most of the time. It only hurts me when people bring up movies in conversation or tell me that Mr. Hottie McHot is hot and I don’t know who they’re talking about. Trends are transient in nature so, most of what’s in vogue today will be tomorrow’s look of confusion and scorn while your children roll there eyes and say, “Gosh you’re so old!”

I recently read a book that spoke to me that way. It made me feel old, out of touch, or maybe even from another planet. On the whole, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I walked into it not expecting to agree with everything she said (and I didn’t), but her voice and writing style were fun and quirky. She had a cute, sarcastic sense of humor that made me chuckle rather frequently. The biggest thing I disliked about her writing style was the copious amount of pop culture allusions I had to slog my way through. I looked up a few then just sighed and rolled with it. It wasn’t until I shut the book at the end that I got to thinking…was that really a good idea on her part.

It fit her voice, absolutely without a doubt. She was cool and fun and tuned into what I assumed to be her target audience, but if I already felt lost in the bombardment of TV allusions, one after another after another, then what of the next generation of readers. All the poignancy of her writing could be lost in the years to come. She dated her work. That’s not the end of the world, but when I look at a picture of my mother or father from when they were teens, I usually have to snort back a raucous laugh. They thought they looked cool then. They probably did look cool then. But the photos don’t need to be yellowing around the edges for us to know that they’re old. Their style dates them.

In the classic “Elements of Style”, E. B. White said this:

“Youths invariably speak to other youths in a tongue of their own devising: they renovate the language with a wild vigor, as they would a basement apartment. By the time this paragraph sees print, psyched, nerd, ripoff, dude, geek, and funky will be the words of yesteryear, and we will be fielding more recent ones that have come bouncing into our speech…Most are, at least in their infancy, more appropriate to conversation than composition.”

A few paragraph’s later, he says:

“The language is perpetually in flux: it is a living stream, shifting, changing, receiving new strength from a thousand tributaries, losing old forms in the backwaters of time. To suggest that a young writer not swim in the main stream of this turbulence would be foolish indeed, and such is not the intent of these cautionary remarks.”

It would be a shame to cut all current allusions and lingo from our writing. Not only would that put limitations on our art (which should by definition be limitless), but it would also hinder our voices from being unique and make future generations miss out on all the nuances of life and language as we live it now. I think caution is key here. We need to be careful how much and how little we include so that we don’t make our writing as obsolete as…you know that guy who played so and so in that show I watched when I was 15 that they cancelled in the middle of season 2.

 

* Results may vary. Author of this blogpost is not responsible for the varyingness of said results. The studies mentioned were conducted mostly on badgers**.

** No badgers were injured in the making of this blogpost.

“Replace All”

Autocorrect. Spellcheck. Tab stops. Cut and paste. These are a few of the little things in word processing that are a mixed bag of blessings and curses. They may help us if we perpetually misspell “disease” but sometimes they may cause us to accidentally send a text to our mother to inform her that Dad’s hysterectomy went smoothly. I do most of my writing on my computer, and make regular notes on my iPhone, so I am constantly in a tussle with some smart technological device or other.

This includes the “Find and Replace” feature.

I only used this nugget of blessing once or twice in high school. I wasn’t very computer savvy, so most of my editing was accomplished with a printed copy, pencil, and eraser. Even now, I don’t have the feature quite figured out, except that I know it’s a tricky devil.

When I was working on Immortal Bond, my first novel, I spent the first few drafts trying to think of a decent name for the capital city and country of my setting. Until I decided on one, I just had the words “The Capital” as a place holder. Once I decided on “Cathair,” I opened up the Find and Replace box and found and replaced. This box has a deceptively helpful looking button labeled, “Replace All”. (Beware the Replace All button people. Beware!) I smiled benevolently at it. How sweet, I thought. Some programmer is saving me time. I clicked. I printed.

Somehow, every time “The Capital” was replaced with “Cathair” there was now an odd spacing issue. A sentence that once might have said: “Father, I can’t wait to get to The Capital!”, now said: “Father I cant wait to get toCathair !” I scratched my head, and manually fixed every single one.

Since then I’ve been more cautious.

So the other night when I changed a character’s name for the third, and hopefully final, time I was sweating.

This character suspiciously looks and acts very much like a friend of mine. In my first drafts, this character even, veeeeery suspiciously, had the same name. Obviously this would not do, so I changed his name to Don. It didn’t work for me at all. So my husband and I have been trying to rename him. Last night I decided to try Nick on for size. When I opened the find and replace box, I groaned. There was over 350.

I whined to my husband, “This is going to take forever.”

He shrugged and took the laptop from me. “Just do this.” The mouse hovered ominously over the “replace all” button. I squealed like a wild boar and slapped his hand away.

“Are you MAD?” I snapped. “D-O-N is in all kinds of words! It’ll turn all my ‘donuts’ to ‘Nickuts.’”

“Ooooh,” he mouthed and began to play with the box. A few seconds later he smiled at me. “Just do this!” He clicked a little checkbox that said, “whole words.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What will that do?”

“Watch.” He refreshed the box and the word count dropped by over 150. I turned my skeptical gaze to him.

“You sure that worked?”

“Of course.” His confidence eased my mind. I let him hit the “replace all” button then kissed him affectionately.

“You’re amazing!” I said, then skipped off to shower while he set it up to print.

Shortly thereafter, I was holding the first printed copy of my second novel in my hands. Giddy as toddler with a mini drum set, I sat down to play with my second child. I flipped open to a random page. My face fell.

“TIMOTHY YOU NINNY-FOPPER!”

Yes I did yell that for real. This is normal for me, for these are the names I call my husband. He did not respond. He was in the basement doing laundry. (See! How can I yell cuss names at a husband who does laundry without me even asking?)

He came up the stairs humming. I waited, patiently scowling at the door, until he stepped inside the bedroom. He saw my face and cocked his head at me.

You are a Ninny-fopper,” I repeated, softer and with additional menace.

“Why?”

I motioned to him with one finger. He sat down beside me on the bed. I lifted my laptop onto my lap and opened the find and replace box. I typed the word “Nick’t” into the find section and got a little grey notification that said “167 found”.

Every “don’t” in my story was now “Nick’t”.

Timothy proceeded to hug me and say “I’m sorry” while simultaneously giggling. I changed all my “Nick’t”s back to “don’t”s in my document, but I refuse to print another copy. Save the trees and all that.

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© Rachel Svendsen 2015

The End: Second Draft, Second Novel

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I have just completed the second full draft of my second novel! 78,895 words and I am elated! Tomorrow, I’m going to comb through the story once more and check for any silly spelling errors before I print out my hard first copy. So far, that is my favorite part of this process, having a printed copy in my hands to scribble all over in pencil. I love what I do so much.

There is no real update on my first novel, which is currently titled Immortal Bond. That one is a Young Adult Fantasy about a newly orphaned girl whose love for a mysterious king is threatened by war. I’m still seeking publishers and agents, a nerve wracking process. I thank God for my husband, who loves me enough to hold my hand when I act like a baby. He’s the most patient man on the earth.

The novel I just finished is a Literary Fiction retelling of Edmund Rostand’s beautiful play, Cyrano De Bergerac. It is modernized and set in NYC. I had a different idea in the beginning, a sort of interweaving of several couple’s stories, but I fell in love with my two of my characters and they practically begged me to tell more of their story. Who was I to say no? They are both goofy, making the book a bit of a romantic comedy. Their dialogue is playful and their story is sweet.

Granted that is only my opinion, I have yet to have others read it, and perhaps someone will read it and tell me it sucks, but at the moment I am floating somewhere between ecstasy and bliss. If the naysayers are shaking their heads, I can’t see, hear, or feel them. I am the happy one. 🙂

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

It’s Getting Real Over Here…

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My first novel is done. Or probably done… I only say probably because of the sleep stealing fear that it’s not ready and I don’t know it. From the things I’ve read by other writers in my situation, this feeling is not uncommon. Regardless, I now stand on the cusp of query and rejection letters…

I. Am. Petrified.

I also have no idea what I’m doing! I’ve been reading a lot of information on the subject yet I still feel like a lost child in the grocery store, too frightened and shocked to begin screaming.

So when my ever first copy of “Writer’s Market” arrived in the mail yesterday… well, I nearly vomited.

I’ve been trying to light a fire under my butt for a while, but I just keep staring at my manuscript. I’ve never dealt well with rejection. Now I have to daily grapple with the thought that it’s inevitable. I WILL be rejected. I MAY be accepted eventually, but the rejection is going to happen.

It’s my baby. Those words are not made up of letters, they’re made up of me, heart, soul, and the cliché sweat, blood, and tears. The Characters are my children. I love them all in a way, even the ones you’re meant to hate. I gave birth to them one night in Lancaster, PA to the glow of my iPad while my husband slept soundly beside me. I’ve nursed them at my bosom. I’ve watched them grow, eat, sleep, fight, love, live, and die, in my sleep, in the shower, in waiting rooms, when I’m at the gym and virtually every random waking hour of my life since that night.

My last step in the nursing process was to hand out several more manuscript copies to trusted beta readers. I’m hoping that if they come back and say, “you need to try” I will have the support I need to go forward. In the end I know it will only be published if God wants it to be, but that unknown future element freaks me out.

People bungee jump all the time. You know that you won’t die from it, but I won’t believe that anyone standing at the edge of the platform about to jump isn’t at least a little nauseated from the view.