Broken Naps, Craft Books, and Tweezing

Naps, On Again-Off Again

After a series of excellent 2+ hour naps in his stroller at the end of March, the Little Guy has decided that naps on me are the only way to go. We had a frustrating couple of days where he napped in his stroller for approximately 20-35 minutes (after taking almost 45 to go down in the first place), leaving him tyrannical and manic by 7PM every night. So in the spirit of having a rested baby, I caved and at nap time, he curls up on my lap, and we watch movies (Flight of the Navigator, Wall-E, Mulan, Tarzan, Treasure Planet,  etc.). He usually falls asleep 20-30 minutes into any given film, and then sleeps for 2-3 hours (which is great!). The drawback to this is that I’m pinned on the couch during that time, unable to use the laptop for writing work, and limited in what books I can read (propping up hardcovers is breaking my hands…). Also: the Little Guy sweats like a rotisserie chicken when he sleeps. It doesn’t matter if he’s under a blanket or naked, he’s a sweaty, sweaty baby, and by the time he wakes up, I have to change shirts. Ick. But it’s lovely when he’s rested, and he’s much more even-keel in the evening if he sleeps well once during the day.

THAT SAID…today, the movie-nap failed. I think that’s one of the more challenging aspects of toddler parenting: the knowledge that any routine you set in place, anything that works, is subject to perpetual change. Every time a set routine fails, that horrible, dreaded thought–What if that’s it? What if this never works again?–sets in and gives you tremors of panic. It’s hard enough to get a toddler on any routine in the first place; the constant adapting to new routines can exhaust your creative faculties. So when today’s nap routine failed, I had that little panic moment, but one thing time with a toddler does is train you to take some licks and keep on ticking. So I gave him until 2PM (last-call for naps–if he sleeps much past 4PM, it’s a whole other challenge to get him down at bedtime), let him play, got some of my own household things done to assuage the bone-deep feeling of exhaustion and failure that comes around every time I start thinking he might not nap at all, and then at 2PM, I broke out the stroller. Still no guarantees he’ll sleep long in it, but he’s currently asleep, which is better than nothing!

Craft Books: An Addiction

So earlier this week, I got my paycheck for the ASIM story (in Issue #63 found here), and after some days of muttering aloud to myself (“…yes, but do I need more books?” “But then, I’ve been eyeing these for months and months…” “…it’d be a shame not to get them used…” ETC.), I threw a wad of cash at Did I pick up novels, or friends’ books I’ve been meaning to pick up? No, of course not. No, I picked up four writing-craft books I’ve been obsessing about for the past six months (okay, and A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham which I’ve been wanting to read since I interviewed him for Apex, so I wasn’t entirely bad).

What books? The Art and Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall (recommended by a fellow wordsmither whose novel openings have blown my socks off in scope and style), Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland (whose blog has had some very interesting and useful posts, and I’m fairly convinced that outlining will seriously help my process at this point–I’m trying to cater to my strengths, one of which is Prudence), and The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard (since I’ve wanted to try my hand at MG and picture books recently).

There’s a part of me that is ecstatically excited about getting my hands on these books, but there’s a part of me, too, that recognizes how easy it is to bury myself in “how to write” books, rather than actual novels and short stories (where the true learning lives). There’s an addictiveness to learning new tricks and tools of the trade. Reading them feels an awful lot like writing, even though it’s not. They make me feel productive even when my time is crushed into a microscopic point of singularity, which I can’t deny is satisfying. But it’s a fine line. It’s all too easy to only read craft books. So I’m a little torn on the arrival of these much-awaited books. One version of me wants to just jump in and tear them open, get to the guts, and see what I can apply to my own work. The other version (perhaps the inner editor) warns that reading about writing isn’t writing, and reading actual novels will be more useful in the long run.

I’ve got a list of YA novels to check out for future projects, as well as some MG novels to revisit, so I’m moving in the right direction, and thank goodness I’ve got a great library close at hand. I’ve also made a rule (as a poly-reader, I usually have 6-12 books in progress at any one time) that I can read only one genre craft-book at a time (I make exceptions for broader-concept books on grammar/style/literature in general). I also don’t count craft-related books towards my non-fiction reading goal. Hopefully, will these parameters, I’ll make good headway on other reading, too, and not get stuck in the well of books-about-writing!

Slashes, Slashes, The Words Fall Down

I need to freak out here a little. Skim ahead, if you prefer sanity in your blog reading…

CAN I JUST SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE THE 10% SOLUTION?! Seriously, in the last three years, I don’t think any one thing has helped my writing SO MUCH as cutting out the word “of” (along with, like, a million other overused words). Major plateau jump! Level Up +20 Professional Points! I take a clunky, chunky, mangled piece of pseudo-crap, and like MICHELANGELO CHIPPING THE DAVID OUT OF A BLOCK OF USELESS ROCK (okay, that’s maybe a bit too much…) a far finer story emerges from the rubble. Like Rocky running up those stairs, my story is trimmed and toned and ready to FIGHT! It’s a minor miracle!

Since starting to chop down the current WIP short story (starting word count, before critique in the Architecture of Fiction LitReactor class, 7,000), I have now gotten it comfortably down to 4,055, and I’ve still got quite a ways to go pruning and tweezing unnecessary words out, so I’m fairly confident I can get it under that 4k mark into the beautiful 3k’s. I CANNOT BELIEVE I WROTE A 3k STORY AND BURIED IT IN 4000 USELESS WORDS. *shame face/elated face/shame face*

Sorry, the crazy got in there a bit. But I am so excited about this project slimming down to this more salable length. It opens up a ton more markets, and hopefully the trimming streamlines and clarifies the story down to its shiny bones so that it can slip and wriggle through the death grips of the slush pile and competing stories in the to-the-death cage match that is the Editor’s Desk! RRRRAAAWR! I may also be a little too competitive…and maybe too excited about the Jell-O I made for snack time… :)

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