Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weekly Clutter Challenge, Week 2

So far, so good with my first de-cluttering challenge, keeping the kitchen peninsula clear. It's been a week, and it's still clear. Even better, it hasn't been difficult at all.

This week, I decided to tackle the upstairs office/den. As you can see from the "before" picture below, it's one of those places that often has little piles of paper, like files for books I'm working on, or magazines. It's not outrageously messy. On the other hand, I tend to leave those piles unsorted for weeks.

I know why, as I rediscovered as I tackled it on Monday. It's a pain trying to find new homes for those things I think should be kept. I confess that some of those papers wound up on my desk in the downstairs office. That office is going to be the biggest challenge, so I'm saving it for last, when I can take a weekend, or at least a full day, to tackle it.

However, I also made some calls to get some estimates for work on the house, like more insulation and either refinishing or replacing the floors. That means I've had to tackle de-cluttering my daughter's room and my bedroom this week. As with the other challenges, the goal will be to keep those areas clutter-free.

This is the "after" picture of the office/den. Fingers crossed I can be ruthless with the magazines!

Next up, I'm thinking it's time to de-clutter my email.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The First Draft's Done. Now What?

This weekend, I finished the first draft of a novel. First, YEAH! Because this is the hardest part of the process for me. Writing a novel is like going on a long journey. I've got some general directions, but only a few signposts on a very dimly lit path. Sometimes there may be a burst of light and I can see for several feet. Other times, I go the wrong way entirely and wind up in a swamp. In general, though, I'm inching my way along until I finally get to "the end."

And heave a big sigh of relief.

So now what?

Now I start the second draft. I print up the entire manuscript and begin re-reading, revising and editing as I go.

What do I think about? What am I looking for? Here are the main things:

Does what I call the emotional plot make sense? Is is believable that the main couple fall in love and have a lasting relationship by the end of the book, one that goes beyond mutual lust? Have I made it clear that they've come to respect and trust each other and that I've done so in a believable way?

Have I made every character's motivation clear? Are the motives believable?

Have I used the best point of view in every scene? My goal is to make every scene dramatic, exciting and interesting, so have I chosen the character whose POV ensures that? If not, I'll often strip the scene of all internal monologue, keeping the same dialogue and activity, and write it from another character's POV.

Are there plot dead ends? Have I started down a path that I later abandoned?

Do I have character dead ends, characters who started out to be somewhat important, only to become less so? Do I need them at all?

Do I have characters whose importance grew as I wrote the first draft? Do I need to flesh them out more, literally with description and figuratively with motive and personality traits?

Setting will always need work. My first drafts are, basically, plays - heavy on dialogue, some blocking, not much description. Should I keep the scene where it is and add more description, or is there a more fitting or more dramatic spot I could put my characters?

I look out for anachronisms. If a bit of dialogue or description sounds too modern to me, out it goes. When it comes to similies and metaphors, I try to use comparisons that would make sense to my characters. I'm also careful when it comes to time. My characters don't generally have watches or clocks, so I try to avoid using minutes or hours.

I'm always trying to make sure I've said things in the best, clearest way.

Once I've worked my way through the second draft, is the book done? Oh, heck no. It's on to the third draft for more polishing, and sometimes four or five, until I'm satisfied that the story is the best I can possibly make it.

This week, I'm taking some time off between drafts to get some other chores done. Taking a break can also help give me some necessary distance, so I'm approaching the work more as a reader. That way, hopefully, what would confuse the reader will be more obvious.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Clutter Challenge Check-in

So far, so good with keeping the kitchen counter clutter-free. However, the real test will come this weekend, with the hubby back from his business trip and shopping to do.

Next up, I think I'll tackle my office/den upstairs, formerly my son's room. I was thinking I'd go with my daughter's bedroom, which has become a sort of storage facility now that she's moved out, but given that I spend more time in the office/den, I think that'd have more impact on a daily basis.

I'll confirm my choice for the second Clutter Challenge next week. And I think I'll add a Writing Challenge, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Clutter Conquering Challenge

Ever watched Hoarders on A&E? Or Hoarders: Buried Alive on TLC? I confess to a morbid fascination with those shows. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the way a hoarder will refer to all the things in their homes as "clutter." Usually it's more like trash than just a "disorderly heap."

I, however, do have a few "disorderly heaps" in my house, like piles of magazines neatly stacked in various places that I occasionally go through and discard, or various papers that need to be filed.

I've decided the time has come to try to get rid of clutter, so I'm giving myself a Clutter Conquering Challenge. I'm going to try to come up with a weekly goal to reduce clutter - and prevent it.

First up: I have areas of the house that seem to collect clutter, like the kitchen pennisula. Things come into the house or get dropped there and stay there for, well, too long. So this week's challenge is to keep the pennisula clutter-free. I cleared it off this morning, and my goal is to keep it looking like this not just for one week, but from now on. Wish me luck!

(See that the tall object on the mantle in the background? It's a Shakespeare nutcracker.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where have I been?


Both on a book proposal and the cottage yard, which was seriously neglected for over two years. That makes for a lot of weeds that need to be dug out. And then there are the violets the former owner planted. Do you know how much they spread and how hard they are to get rid of? Ay yi yi! Then there was soil to put down, seeding and watering to be done. To say I've spent hours and hours on that yard is no exaggeration. I'm hoping all the work this year means much less next summer.

I've also been working on a couple of writing projects. One didn't get the green light. Another was tentative and I decided to put it aside. I'm waiting to hear about another, but in the meantime, I've continued working on it. I want to get back in the writing groove.

Since I'm Mother of the Bride next year, I'm also trying to get my diet and exercise groove back. So far, I haven't been as successful as I'd like. I don't have as far to go to reach my goal as I did when I was Mother of the Groom, but I've left it late to get started. In my own defense, all I can say is, I find it more difficult to lose weight in the summer. After hours of weeding in the broiling sun, the beverage I really craved (aside from water) was cola. I know, I know - they're bad! They're evil! I'm trying to give up on the cola! I've switched to decaf coffee in the afternoons. (Teeth whitening is now on the wedding agenda, too, I might add.)

I've been doing a few craft projects, as well. Most recently, I made fleece pillowcases. Fast and easy and I'm going to make more. (Anybody in my family reading this, if I got your name in the draw, well, maybe you know what you're getting and maybe you don't!)

There have been a few other projects and social events on the calendar, too. But now the main cottage season is over for the year, and we're in a nice lull after Canadian Thanksgiving and before Christmas, so I'm hoping to both finish a manuscript and blog more regularly, too.