Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The State of My Wips

I thought I'd share a few things that have been swirling through my mind lately.


The title for my current wip, The Other Side, comes from a term Mexicans use when talking about the United States. The call it el otro lado, which literally means the other side. Simple, right? I decided on this title over a year ago and since then have been surprised at how often that phrase comes up in normal conversation. Erica Orloff even used it as her sign-off several times during her Synopsis Boot Camp.

Last week Ibis and I visited his family, and while there his dad asked if I'd been to el otro lado recently. It caught me off guard at first, then I had to laugh. I've gotten so used to thinking of it solely as the title of my wip that I'd forgotten I chose it because it's so common.


I have an unspoken -- well, it was unspoken -- agreement with myself that I will not italicize The Other Side until it's published. Kind of along the lines of not calling myself a writer until I publish something or an author until I publish a book, I don't feel justified referring to my wip as something deserving of proper title treatment.

I suppose I'll have to bend on this when it comes time to query, but I thought I'd let you know why I don't italicize it here.


Back in November I wrote 60K+ words of a yet-to-be-titled wip about a tragedy that strikes a small-town family and how they deal with the aftermath. (Sheesh, generalize much?) I knew when NaNoWriMo ended that I would set aside that wip -- wherever I happened to be -- and continue working on The Other Side. As many writing friends pointed out, you can't query something that isn't finished, and since I believe in TOS, I really wanted to continue with it.

Well, my brain didn't get the memo that we'd switched stories. At least once a week I find myself daydreaming about my characters, wondering how they are and if we'll be able to pick up where we left off last December. My plan is to jump back into it as soon as I start querying, so I guess it's a good thing that this story hasn't strayed too far.


For those of you that have been with me since the beginning (of my blog, not my life. Hi mom and gramma!) you know that my writing journey began with a memoir, currently titled What Do You Mean I Can't Wear a Bathing Suit to the Beach? (Notice, again, the non-italicizing.) It tells Ibis and my story of how we ended up in Mexico and the wacky things that have happened since we moved here.

I shared early drafts with a couple people and cringe every time I remember what I subjected them to. (Sorry mom and Jes!) I set it aside a little over a year ago, when we reached the one year mark of living here. By then I'd gotten the idea for The Other Side and I knew it made more sense to wait until we left to finish the memoir. Into the bowels of the computer it went.

But it won't stay there. Little things keep popping into my head: better ways to start it, ideas of what I can cut (chapters and chapters...), and -- dare I say it -- a funnier voice. I don't really understand how the voice, which is MY voice, can suddenly be more amusing, but it's coming out that way.

What's that? How do I know the voice is funnier? Because, um... well. I've written a new opening.

*hangs head*

I know!! What the heck am I doing, right? I'm supposed to be editing The Other Side, then working on Mr. NaNo No Name, then dusting off the memoir. I'm a very linear person, and while I also happen to be a very good multi-tasker, I generally follow the rules I set for myself and happily plod along.

So what's with this new inspiration?

All I can come up with is I've diverted a lot of my creative juices to design lately and maybe that rattled a few things lose that I'd wedged in a corner. Either that or I've truly got a screw loose.

Thoughts? Are you juggling more than one writing project?


Amy Sue Nathan said...

If juggling means writing one and thinking about the others, well, yes! I'm writing my novel and I have other things in various stages of unfinishedness (very special word, that is!)

I have: notes for essays and columns (I do write at various sites with deadlines, so these get done each month); and I have half a query and a few columns for a pitch for a regular column on a website. I have notes for new books too.

I'm not sure how to work on more than one at a time -- when I need to meet a deadline I put the novel aside for a day or two.

Oh, I guess that's how I do it.


Melanie Avila said...

Amy, I think I'd have to do it the same way if I had regular columns to write. With all the web design I've been doing, I've often gone days, sometimes as long as a week, without touching my wip. Paying gigs come first, right?

Allen said...

I have three projects going all the time, and by design. I write one, I edit one, and I submit one.

Having more than one major project working keeps you churning out work.

The problems I have are the "all of the sudden" little works that pop up. Someone wants a one page description of an event. Another wants an article on nudism in America. (BTW, no bathing suit is the best way to go to the beach. Sand doesn't get trapped anywhere, no tan lines, and best of all, no laundry when you get home.)

I try to write the pop-ups on weekends, when I am supposed to be resting.

If you schedule the work in on-hour shifts, it works well. It will seem slow at first, but once you get the three processes going, you become more effective.

Good luck, and I guess I will be seeing more of you at the beach.

Benjamin Solah said...

Sounds fairly normal to me.

I'm very much a juggler but the problem is that this often means nothing much gets finished. I have a few novels on the go, plus numerous shorts that need editing, finishing and submitting...

The linear way probably sounds smarter but less, I dunno, sporadic and spur of the moment, which is how I like to work.

EMC07 said...

Sounds like you are a busy gal. I wouldn't worry about the order you do it in, I would strike while the iron is hot (did I just say that?) It's awesome that you have so many great projects!

IMO, I think you can be a writer whenever you want, it's up to that person to label that for themselves. I've had some articles published in my college newspaper,does that make me an author... for me? No, I need to have a book published first, or at least a short story. Am I writer in my eyes, sure, I write, therefore I am a writer.

Right now I have a great idea that has only been in my head. It's in a totally different genre. In my mind, I have to finish the first one before I start this second one... but who knows if that will actually happen. Sometimes I think you just need to go with your gut, ya know?

Thanks for the update :) Happy Writing!

Melanie Avila said...

Allen, you kill me every time. Unfortunately the title doesn't mean we go naked, it means they were regular clothes to the beach -- jeans, tshirts, whatever they happened to put on that day. Something about modesty...

Hour shifts seem to work well for me, too. If I tell myself I just need to concentrate for a limited period of time I get more done than if I set the task by the amount of work needed.

Melanie Avila said...

Ben, I get such a rush from finishing things that it keeps me motivated. Right now each new 1000 words is just thrilling to me. Querying agents is my carrot, and once I start doing that it's the excitement to work on my nano novel. I really want to get back to it! I'm tired of writing about dusty deserts, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

EMC, I published a couple articles in my college newspaper and in my high school's literary magazine, but those were so long ago I don't really count them. I say that I write, just not that I'm a writer. That's my goal. :)

As for your new idea, I'm so bad at advising about that because I NEVER get new ideas. I've had TWO ideas for novels so far, plus my memoir. I've gotten better at knocking out flash fiction pieces, but most of those ideas are from prompts. So I stick with the two ideas I have, lol.

Pink Ink said...

I'm the same way. So I try to bat away the distraction and focus on the task at hand. Works most of the time :-)

Good luck!

Your memoir sounds interesting!

EMC07 said...

LOL- All that matters are the quality of your ideas anyway, so you're two ideas could be the best ever, while out of my four of five, I may have one useable one :)

It's what you do with them that counts right?!

BTW congrats on those articles you published back in the day!

Lauren said...

I try to stay focused on just the one. Although I do have a few ideas floating around about the next one--which is set in ancient Mexico, actually :).

I hardly have time to work on my WiP, much less a second one. I also don't italicize or underline my WiP title. I italicized it once in an email, but switched it back because something didn't feel right about it, being a WiP and all...

Janna Qualman said...

GOOD for you! It's all so exciting! And I think you can give a little to each project. Don't you?

I'm trying to focus one at a time, too. Rewrite BL and keep the other WIP off to the side, so I don't confuse premises or characters. But I caught myself thinking over "the other WIP's" MC as I did my hair the other day. I don't think we can stop them from peeping in a saying 'hi' every now and then, you know?

spyscribbler said...

I struggling through a non-fiction essay that is so late I'm surprised if she'll accept it, but it's the best I can do right now. I should have told her I need two months. I'm also in the middle of a serial novella for one of my little pubs.

Late at night, though, I've been tinkering with my vampire opera story, just for the sheer fun of it.

We shouldn't wait for inspiration, it's true, but when it comes, it's a gift! Sometimes I push it away because I "should" be writing something else.

Melanie Avila said...

Pink, it's people like you and Amy (not to leave anyone else out!) that have regularly scheduled articles that I strive to emulate. It's tough to stick to a schedule when I'm the only person keeping track.

Melanie Avila said...

EMC, that's a good point. I just HOPE they're publishable!

Melanie Avila said...

Lauren, I'm glad you understand about the italicizing. I just don't think I've earned it yet.

Ancient Mexico? That sounds cool! Are you planning any research trips? ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I was thinking of you while I wrote this post because you're more or less doing the same thing as me, you just had a little more time off. My characters talk to me at the strangest times, but usually when I'm trying to fall asleep.

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, vampire opera? I knew it had vampires, but you never mentioned opera. Do tell!

I just watched Phantom of the Opera for the FIRST time over the weekend so I'd love to hear more.

I hope they still accept your essay.

Turkey Lurkey said...

I'm not juggling my wips right now. (In fact, I've put it aside until the literal 'dust' settles here.) But I have picked up THREE books to read at the same time! Two are fiction, and one is non-fic. I can only assume that this is the result of my desperate desire to escape the chaos. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, I normally can't read more than one boo at a time, but I've found I CAN read a writing book while also reading fiction.

How much longer on the construction? I can understand needing a break from that. :)

Lauren said...

To answer your question...It is ancient Mexico but with the Mayan mythology being real instead of myths. So historical-fiction/fantasy.

There is this tree that in Mayan mythology that separates heaven from the underworld. Something is killing all the trees so the underworld, heaven and earth all get muddled together.

I got the idea while in Mexico back in January. I will probably do a research trip again after my current WiP is out the door :) I will have to ask you about good places to go :)

Nadine said...

It's great that all your books are pulling at you! It's better than none of them pulling at you!

You go girl!

*looks at WIP and wonders when it will start pulling at me*

Melanie Avila said...

Lauren, that sounds really cool. I don't think I could ever write a book with that much world building. I admire those of you who do it.

I have NO idea of where to go -- I'm still trying to get there myself!

Melanie Avila said...

ROFL Nadine! You're plugging along. 1000 words a day is way more than some people do.

Amy Mullis said...

I do mostly shorter works, but have some two longer ones in various forms of disarray. I have to keep several going at a time. When one wakes me up talking in my head, that's the one that gets the attention that day. But I'm ADD and can't read complete sentences in order, either.

Robin said...

I'm with Nadine. I think it's wonderful that you're so enthusiastic about all of these projects. They all sound awesome, too!

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, you write very well for not being able to read sentences in order. :P I only ever have one short piece going at a time. I'm supposed to be writing one now...

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Robin. :)

EMC07 said...

Melanie--->I have a feeling your's will be ;)

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks. And btw, those articles from college were FOURTEEN years ago. Gah!