Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On Reflecting Back: One Writer's Year

Since 1972 I have been keeping a daily log of what I do—just the basics. Last year, I resolved to complete the log in “real time” rather than relying on my fragile memory a week later, and I’ve been pretty good. The result is a better record of my life. Of course, like most good intentions, I started out with more gusto than I ended up. I know, for instance, that the first week of January, I wrote approximately 4000 words. Later on in the year, I know what days I wrote, but that’s it. But as I look back over the year, I don’t see a lot of white space, so I guess I’ve been keeping busy. In an effort to appreciate how much of my life is being devoted to my writing avocation, I have decided to summarize achievements in that arena, based on my log (fittingly, recorded in a diary called “The Writer’s Desk," with photos by Jill Krementz. The diaries are an annual Christmas gift from my husband. This year the theme is beleaguered 1950s housewives. We shall see how that inspires me!)

• Began my blog in January: 24 entries.
• Completed a first draft of my novel “How to Write a Best Seller” (HTWS) on July 4th (estimating about 250 additional pages during 2009).
• Wrote one and two page synopses of HWBS as well as detailed chapter outline.
• Completed a second draft on 9/4 and gave to two people to read and critique.
• Revised opening pages of “Gina”
• Reread 7th draft of “Gina,” decided to reset it in 1980, and fixed anachronisms in entire draft.
• Rewrote first few pages of HTBS based on feedback of 2 reviewers.
• Wrote a handful of haiku (inspired by our stay in Hawaii)
• Got new idea for a linked short story collection and wrote 1.5 short stories (November/December)

• Paarticipated in 21 meetings of my bi-weekly writers’ group (at two hours apiece)
• Participated in a 2-minute critique session with an agent on first 20 pages of “Gina”
• Reviewed chapters of another writer friend, and met/talked with him to discuss our writing on five occasions from April to December.

• Attended readings of: Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot (“The Third Chapter”);”Jury of Her Peers;” Jane Hamilton (“Laura Rider’s Masterpiece); Four Stories, Tracy Kidder; book party for “Map, an autobiorgraphy of my CCAE teacher; Steve Almond and Page M. Guttenberg machine demonstration at the Harvard Book Store; Ha Jin.

• Researched agents, sent out three query letters for “Gina in the Floating World” (eventually heard from two)
• Entered “Book in a Nutshell” contest and one line hook contest
• Researched synopses on websites

• Participated in 7-week Novel Development Class at Cambridge Center for Adult Education; reviewed and critiqued classmates’ outlines.
• Participated in full weekend Grub Street workshop “The Art of Language,” and one-day workshop on “Cinefiction.”
• Attended one full day of Muse and the Marketplace (including 4 workshops and keynote Ann Patchett); Boston Book Festival (multiple workshops); Somerville Book Festival (talked to authors)
• Attended shorter workshops on “Should I be on the Web?” and “Writers’ Contracts” sponsored by PEN; “Nail the Opening,” “Avoid Rejection,” and “Ask the Agent” sponsored by Grub Street.
• Attended panels of debut authors at BPL; “Muses, Monsters, and Mentors” at the Brattle Theatre; “Adaptations” at Coolidge Corner.

• Organized my writing drawer on several occasions

Of course, this list doesn’t include novels read, movies that give me ideas, or conversations about writing. Despite full-time work that pays the bills, I really have been devoting a lot of time to this endeavor –almost like my own private MFA! Now if only I could graduate….