25 pages later. 

Me – 1.  Horrible inner voices – 0. 

Are the pages any good?  Who cares.  They’re written.  Good can wait.  I’m going to BED. 

Self Doubt

“If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind… I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.” -Stephen King, On Writing

On Tuesday night, I wrote six pages, and then I got a horrible sick feeling about the whole project, and I went to bed cringing against an internal monologue that goes something like this:

Why are you writing this?  It isn’t any good.  It’s mediocre.  It’s run-of-the-mill.  It’s a better idea than you are a writer.  You can’t write this well enough to make it work.  This is the tricky part, and you’re not equal to it.  

It got worse.  I started giving myself terrible advice. 

You should go back and read the whole thing so far and rewrite it. You should rewrite it until it’s good enough, and then go on when you’re sure it’s worthwhile.  There’s no point in writing any more right now, because it’s probably going to suck anyway, and you’re going to end up rewriting it all in the end.  You should take a break.

For three days, I haven’t written anything.  I’ve been locked up in the emotional fetal position, rocking. 

The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with taking a break.  I probably did need a break after generating as much as I did in such short order.  If I were a professional, full-time writer, it would be different, but I’m not.  I’m writing full-time on top of teaching full-time and being a mom and being a wife and all the other massive demands on my internal resources.  Yes, I needed a break.

But this break wasn’t really about that, and I knew it.  I had the energy to write.  I even had the WILL to write.  For the past few days, I’ve actually sat down to write, and I’ve had the next sentences typing themselves up in my head.  And then I’ve psyched myself out.

Here’s why: the next part of this story is HARD.  All the action threads are beginning to intersect, and the logistics are tough to keep my head around.  And I have a horror of characters being stupid.  Not that sometimes people aren’t stupid, but I hate it when, as a reader, I’m thinking, “Why doesn’t she just do X?” because the solution seems so clear, but the character conveniently doesn’t think of it, because then the story would be over.  I’m imagining all the situations from every angle and thinking, “Wouldn’t she figure this out?  Wouldn’t she at least try this?  If she tried this, wouldn’t that solve it?  What barrier would reasonably prevent that?  If that barrier is in play, then wouldn’t he see that happening?  If he saw that happening, then wouldn’t he ask X for help?  If he asked for help, wouldn’t they give it?  If they gave it, wouldn’t that solve it again?  What would prevent this?”

It’s hard.  That’s all.  I’m shrinking from the hard part. 

Reminder to self: This is a first draft. The important thing is to keep writing it.  Even if it really is mediocre.  Even if it DOES suck.  Keep on trucking.


Yesterday, my friend Melissa Anelli outed me as a writer on Twitter.  But although I’m in the middle of writing a series, I haven’t actually published anything except fanfiction.

Lots and lots of fanfiction.

Since Melissa outed me, and since I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Harry Potter geek, I might as well out myself.  It’s not like I’m going to be able to hide it – and you know what?  I don’t really want to.  I’m Arabella from the Sugar Quill.  Hi.  You have no idea who I am, do you?  That’s because I’m irrelevant.  For a while, I was a heavy participant in HP fandom, and I wrote a lot of fic.  Most modern, Twittering, Leaky-Con-attending, Wizard-Rocking HP fans probably aren’t familiar with the Sugar Quill, because it’s been an archive since 2008.  But a couple of people who jumped over to my Twitter feed yesterday were people whose names I recognized from back in the day – hi, you two!  It was so nice to see your names on my computer screen again. 

When I say that the Harry Potter books literally changed my life, I’m serious.  I met most of my dearest friends – who are still, and will always be my friends – through the Sugar Quill.  I met my husband there.  I changed my career, cut my teeth as a writer… There’s little of great goodness, in my life, that can’t be attributed in some way to those happy years on the SQ.  

I dropped out of the superfan loop a long time ago.  I left fanfic unfinished.  I thought I’d come back for it, but I never did.  Partly this was because my obsession had run its course (though I will always love Harry and I’ll return to the books again and again for the rest of my life).  Partly it was because a lot of big life changes occurred: I met my husband, moved across the country, attended graduate school, got married, started a career, and had a baby.  These things permanently redefined my priorities.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still get geeky-obsessive about stuff – I do – but never again with the same burning focus. 

The other reason I fell out of touch with the HP world was that I started to write something of my own.  After playing around in Rowling’s universe (and other universes) for so long, I honestly didn’t know if I could write anything original.  I wanted to, very much, because I love to write.  Sometimes I would start, and then I’d stop, because whatever idea I had wasn’t worth the energy.  Sometimes I finished whole books, and then realized that, in the vernacular of the SQ, they SUXED and must be burned.  When I finally stumbled into writing original work that I loved, I had to turn my full creative attention to that.  So that’s what I did, and that’s what I’m still doing.

And that’s that.  Long live the Good Ship.  87 for-eva. 

Arabella out.

Don’t Stop Me Now

Cause I’m havin’ such a good time – I’m havin’ a ball.

It was a long and tiring work week, and I had meetings or supervised activities on four out of five of the work days, but I still wrote 25 pages between Monday and Friday.  I don’t think this is because I am suddenly a stronger, better person than I was a few weeks ago.  It’s simply that I’m caught up in the story I’m writing, and I want to read the rest of it NOW, RIGHT NOW.

I have something of an addictive personality, or at least an obsessive one.  I’m no psychologist and don’t really know the difference, but I’m sure one of those descriptions applies to me.  I can’t watch just one episode of McLeod’s Daughters, no, I have to watch season after season like eating popcorn by the buttery handful.  I can’t just enjoy Knights of the Old Republic, no, I have to become the character and identify with her completely, going back five or ten hours of play if I realize I have backed myself into a corner that my character would never accept – and then I have to write hundreds of pages of Star Wars-style fanfic and even take Karate for a few years (really) to fully satisfy my geekery.  And when I said once before that I was a fan of Harry Potter – well really, let’s not even get into that yet.  If you think that what I said about Knights of the Old Republic borders on psycho, then you don’t even want to hear about HP.  That particular obsession was bottomless and literally life-altering.

Being obsessed with something I’m writing that isn’t derivative is pretty amazing.  I love it.  This morning at 2:45, my crying son needed comfort, and yet again, once he was back down for more sleep, I was up for two hours, typing away.  I won’t even be that tired today because of it, because I went to bed early last night, when I hit a brief wall in the story and wasn’t sure how to get to the next plot point.  In the middle of the night, I realized “It’s raining, that’s what’s next,” and that blew open the next segment.

Of course, eventually, obsession does lead to burnout.  I know that this wonderful driven feeling won’t last forever; eventually, I’ll have to drive myself, whether I feel like it or not.  But for now, I’m just going to keep enjoying the ride. 


My son had an awful coughing fit at 3:30 or so this morning.  I went in at 3:45 and sat with him and gave him things to drink until it passed, and when he went back to sleep, I was awake.  So I showered, and then I was really awake.  So I made some coffee, and then I was really, really awake.

So I sat down and wrote ten pages before work.

I am in the grip of this thing.  I usually make a clean break between home, and work, and writing.  When I’m teaching, I am fully focused on that.  When I’m at home, it’s the same.  I write when my son is napping or in bed and everything else is done.

Right now, at my house, there is laundry on the floor and there are dishes on the counter (my husband absolutely does his share of the housekeeping, it’s not all down to me, but we’re both insanely busy right now).  This morning, I actually drove all the way to work and then realized that I had forgotten to drop my son off at daycare.  In two minutes, I have to turn my attention to teaching, which usually is not difficult.  When a horde of middle schoolers pushes through the door, they pretty much demand complete attention.

But I just want to write.  I’m itching, itching, and not a little tickle of an itch, a horrible, bad spot on your back but you can’t reach it and oh my God it will drive you crazy kind of itch.

Which is a good thing.  A very, very good thing.  I just wish I could give into it completely.  Must.  Turn.  Brain.  Toward.  Work.  Now. 


Attack of the 50-page weekend

I wrote FIFTY PAGES this weekend.


That is ridiculous.  That is old-school prolific, right there.  I used to write like that all the time.  Before I was a teacher, and a wife, and a mom, it was not unusual for me to churn out pages like an absolute machine.

Of course, back then, it was all fanfic.  Now it’s ALL MINE.  MWAHAHAHAHA.

I’m so happy.  Just so incredibly, stupidly happy.  I didn’t know I could still do this, but I TOTALLY CAN.


Five hours of blissful writingness

My husband passed out at 7 last night, exhausted from many nights of staying up till all hours to work.  My son was already asleep.  So it was MY NIGHT.  And guess what I did with it?

I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, and at midnight, I looked up and realized that I had been writing for five hours, and that for those five hours, I had been completely immersed.  It felt like five minutes.  Except I know it was longer, because I generated twenty pages (ten of which will get cut, the other ten of which will get rearranged, but who cares?  They’re out of me and in the story, where they belong.)

During my five hours of blissful writingness, I had a thing happen that happens to writers.  A wonderful thing that sounds creepy and weird but is magical and true.  My characters started doing things without my permission.  I had the next scene fairly planned, in my head, and I knew the emotional journey of it – I thought.  It turned out I was wrong.  Where I had seen angst, my characters said “No, there is no angst here.  We are going to skip the tension and just say what we want to say, because that’s how we roll.”  And it worked.  And I was like, “Hey, thanks, guys.  That’s excellent.”  And they were like, “Shut up and let us talk.”  So I did, and they did, and this morning, I reread it to make sure it didn’t stink (sometimes, I read something after sleeping on it, and I am horrified by the badness I have wrought).  But it didn’t stink, and I’m happy.

The end. 

Partially Awesome

The agent I queried responded today and requested a partial manuscript.  She wants 50 pages.  I just sent them off. 

I know it’s nothing to celebrate yet.  I’m trying not to be excited.

It’s not working.

Keeping Promises

I promised myself that I would update this blog at least once every two weeks.

So there.

The Waiting Game

When the book is finished, the waiting starts.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m impatient, which is true, but I can imagine myself on the other side of an agent’s desk, wading through the sea of queries that are only part of the day’s work. I appreciate that there’s only so much a person can do at a time.

The agent I queried today does not reply to all queries.  No response after 6-8 weeks means it’s time to move on.  If that’s how things roll, that’s okay.  I want to find the agent who has an emotional reaction to the book.  And that will happen, in time, I have no doubt.

Okay, I have a little doubt.

Or maybe a lot.

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