Excuses, excuses

A few days ago, my older daughter was peering over my shoulder while I cleaned out my email inbox. She was curious about how many emails ended up in my trash folder. (At last count, it was 3600 and counting.) I was bemoaning how many emails I receive, many of which are blog posts from blogger friends, and how I couldn’t keep up with reading ALL of them. “Some people blog every day,” I told her. “Great material, but I could never do that.”

“How often do you blog?”

“Uhh . . . well” (cue sheepish look, tiny voice) “I haven’t blogged since January. Too busy.”

Cue the teenage look of disbelief, incredulity, and slight grimace that might or might not have been sympathy. She’s fourteen. She knows the rules of the internet even better than I do: to maintain an online presence, one must produce new content often.

Here I am, typing away, producing a new blog post. And apologizing for not blogging more often. I am, however, getting an astounding number of comments and email about the invisible in church post. (I’m also receiving an astounding number of spam on the post. Do spammers not have better things to do with their lives? Like, you know, get one. Or is it all computer generated now?)

I digress.

Here’s the rundown of what’s been happening:

The short story contest for Ruminate brought in 340+ submissions, with a huge number arriving in the last week. That was terrific. (I can’t wait for y’all to read the grand prize winner. I pegged it as a finalist the first time I read it.) But it also meant lots of time reading. I’m fairly certain I logged 40+ hours of work in that last week, between reading all of them, notifying my editor when submissions had author’s personal info in the body of the submission (a no-no when it’s a contest), and choosing my top 15 stories.

That meant that I had stopped working on my own novel. When I surfaced from contest-reading in early March, I realized that a huge part of my novel’s premise didn’t work. I mean, if it were an engine, it’d need a total overhaul, not a mere jump-start. Jumper cables weren’t going to do the job, y’all; this baby needed a tow truck to the auto mechanic shop, where some guy with grease-stained coveralls would pop the hood, mess around, and say, “Miz Droege, this here engine is gonna need a total overhaul, but me and Earl here” –slaps another big, grinning, grease-stained guy on the back– “we’ll fix it right up.” Earl chews his tobacco wad and nods and says, “Yep.” And I’d get a bill for a thousand bucks or whatever the going price is.

The biggest problem? The wrong antagonist. Changing that changed the entire story. I had ordered Donald Maass’s book Writing the Breakout Novel, and it was a godsend. His exercises helped me focus and deepen the characters and think about the story in different ways. (As a bonus, he uses many examples from current fiction. After seeking out some of the titles, I’ve found a few new favorite authors.)

The 5th draft was written in two months. I’ve spent the bulk of my writing time working on it, trying to finish before my daughters got out of school. My older daughter’s last day was Friday the 19th, I finished the draft on Saturday the 20th, and my younger daughter’s last day was yesterday. Goal accomplished.

There were other stressful things going on. Some were small (two concerts in one week, a complicated schedule). Others were large (a family emergency that took my husband out of town for a week).

I suppose all of this is my long-winded excuse for not blogging or having an online presence. My brain can handle only so much before it goes on strike and demands better treatment. I hope that I’ll be able to return to blogging on a more frequent basis.

2 thoughts on “Excuses, excuses

  1. Hey there, Laura! I have some of my favourite blogs listed on my main blog page, and when someone has a new post it pops to the top of the list; it was great to see yours heading the list today. I can see you’ve been very busy.

    That is so interesting about your novel and the changes you have made. I actually own that Donald Maass book too but haven’t brought it out in a while; I just bought his book The Emotional Craft of Fiction and am looking forward to reading that. I haven’t written any fiction in a LONG time, and I want to get back to it. I have a story … well, I won’t even say partly completed, it’s just a bunch of scenes I’m trying to figure out what to do with. Maybe the book will help me.


    1. Hi, Jeannie,

      I actually own the workbook version of Breakout Novel–the exercises are immensely helpful for me– but I also own two other of his books. I’m wanting to read The Emotional Craft, too. 🙂 I always devour his posts on Writer Unboxed; I’ve learned a lot from reading his work!

      I’m starting to do a close read of my 3rd novel. I haven’t looked at it in over a year, since I sent the full manuscript to an agent; she declined it recently, so I know it needs work. Hopefully this summer I’ll get a grasp of what changes need to be made. Even 30 pages in, I’ve gotten a picture of some major weaknesses.

      Good luck with your story. I hope things go well. My 3rd novel started with a scene I didn’t know what to do with, so you never know what might happen!


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