Spinning wheels

I haven't blogged since the conference. I haven't had anything to say.

Well, that's probably not true, but it would have been a bunch of negativity, and who wants that?

This year's conference had the same effect that last year's did: complete loss of confidence. It left me raw and uncertain. There was a point at which I wondered if I should even go back next year. And there have been other points during the last three weeks when I've wondered if I should continue writing at all.

In the weeks between then and now I have made some changes to Sweetwater Kill that were suggested by the codirector of the conference. It was an exercise in acceptance. Some of his points I completely agreed with; some of them seemed off-base until I understood that they were the result of ambiguity in my writing; and others made me gnash my teeth and seethe internally. The changes in that last group didn't get made, for the most part. I made small concessions here and there, but some of them would have changed the meaning of the story and the nature of the characters.

I have to thank the Forward Motion crew once again for seeing me through the two weeks it took to get that draft done – in particular Ann, Moosey, Paul, Empath, and Camilla (there are probably others who helped. If you're one of them, thank you, and I'm sorry that I didn't remember when I wrote this.) I bounced several of the changes off of them and got great feedback. They supported me through the teeth-gnashing, and told me when I was wrong.

I figured it would be like working with an editor, and in that sense was good practice.

I finished the draft a week ago, and then gave it to a trusted friend to copy edit before I give it to anyone. I was able to discuss some of the things that had come up during the last draft – things about the MC's character and whether that was coming across clearly enough (it's not) and how to tone down or eliminate a theme that had emerged and that I do *not* want. So there will be an eighth draft. *sigh* And then, so help me, I'm abandoning it to the editors. If anyone wants me to change it again, they're going to have to pay me to do it.

Because I'm spinning my wheels. I've been writing and rewriting and submitting the same two stories over and over, and it's taking time away from new work. Every time I think I'm done with them, someone reads them and comes back with more changes – some valid, some not. But I can't ignore the valid ones. They eat at me. So I write another draft.

I need to increase my body of *submitted* work. I have a few complete first drafts, but I need complete *second* drafts, and some submitted *third* drafts. I need to increase my chance of success by increasing the numbers.

For the past week I've been working on the second draft of Devotions, and with a little discipline I think I can have it done by the end of the weekend. It won't be cringe-free, but it should be critiquable. And then I have the choice of either Red Carpet (which needs so much rework I'm afraid to look at it) or Locks.

I'm also reading what I have of Pages, which was my 2004 NaNovel. I never finished it. But November is coming up quickly, and I don't want this one hanging over my head. So I'm reading it, catching up with my characters, and figuring out what needs to happen next – and then August will be spent finishing it. I was surprised to find that it's not complete crap. The writing is bad, but I can fix bad writing. I was worried that the story wouldn't be there – but it is. It's not a perfect story, but I think the bones are good. That was a pleasant surprise.

Well, that's my catch-up blog. There will be more to write about soon – like my older daughter's foray into fan fiction, and the fact that my fifteen-year-old sister is writing her *second* novel now.

If either of them publish before me I will be forced to commit hare kare to preserve my honor.

Cheers.

SBWC – Day 1

I spent most of today smiling.

I love hanging out with writers. A lot. I don't get to do it often so it is absolute joy for me to immerse myself in the company of writers for a week.

Spec fic writers are even better. There is a fair sized contingent of us, all a little off, all a little bit broken. As I said, joy.

And returning for a second year is SO much better than going the first year. Last year I was scared to death, intimidated by pretty much everyone, and felt completely inadequate as a writer. I've come a long way in the past twelve months, though, and knowing a few people helped a lot. At dinner and orientation I got to reconnect with some of my favorite people from last year: Award Winning Writer A. Zayne Tawil (TM), Soon-To-Be Best Selling Children's Author Maureen Seifert, and Imminently Fabulously Successful YA Author Steve Kenton, all of whom deserve gold-plated publishing contracts with enormous advances. You editors out there just don't know what you're missing.

If you're ever going into a strange situation that you know will be uncomfortable and you don't know anyone, *volunteer.* By the end of the day I had met dozens and dozens of people, including a couple of agents and an editor for Writer's Digest. I spent the day at the Agents Day sign-up table, helping with the scheduling. It's a first for the conference, and so far appears to be a success. The litmus test will be on Tuesday, when people actually meet with the agents. There were a few unhappy attendees who didn't arrive in time to get slots with their agent of choice. I predict that there will be a few more unhappy people who don't get instant representation on Tuesday. It's kind of strange to learn how people *think* it works.

Barnaby Conrad, Founder Extraordinaire, mentioned that in his opening speech tonight. Some people honestly believe that the only thing standing between them and best-sellerdom is their lack of an agent, when in reality their writing isn't publishable yet.

This is all a little disjointed – sorry about that. It was a long day.

The conference is held at the Westmont College campus in Montecito, the posh southerly neighbor of Santa Barbara. The Westmont campus is amazing – all gorgeous architecture and manicured gardens. The sun broke through the traditional Santa Barbara June Gloom just in time for dinner in the garden. We could even see the Channel Islands off the coast. It's a beautiful setting. The whole experience is grand.

The one negative note of the day was that my PDA appears to have a battery drain – I charged it all night and it wouldn't turn on this afternoon. I bought it (and the keyboard) specifically so that I wouldn't have to take my laptop this year. Alas.

Tomorrow the workshops begin, and in the evening there is the Tribute to Ray Bradbury. As a volunteer I received an invitation to the pre-party, where in theory I should be able to actually meet Ray Bradbury. I confess to being completely star-struck, and will probably vomit on his shoes out of nervousness. I will take my camera but anticipate that I will be too self-conscious to use it.

That's it for today. Gonna relax for a little bit and then head off to sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day. Cheers.

Day before conference.

Panic.

No, wait – there's nothing to panic about. I finished the edit of Red Carpet last night, and I won't have a chance to workshop it until Saturday, so that still leaves me one night to rewrite the outline and another to write the first six pages of the second draft.

Sweetwater Kill is as ready as it's going to get, so that's not an issue.

I have clothes to wear to the pre-party for the Tribute to Ray Bradbury, at which I hope to actually meet Mr. Bradbury himself.

My PDA is updated with my down-to-the-minute schedule for the entire conference, with alarms going off ten minutes before I have to be anywhere. I got my WIPs into WordSmith so I can work on them during downtime. I need to get used to writing on the PDA, I've avoided it for too long. I'm sure by the end of the week I'll be a pro.

It all seems to be coming together. I still have to print off copies of everything. Things are going so smoothly that I'm sure to run out of printer ink after the third page of the first manuscript.

I also wrote 1000 words of the second draft of an essay I've been working on for a while. It felt good to sit down and knock out some pages. It needs a couple more drafts, though, and I need to refine my thinking before it will say what I want it to say.

There's a lot to get done around the house, and I'll need to cram my family full of vegetables tonight because I know they'll eat nothing but cheese pizza for the next seven days.

I'm excited.

A blog in need of a purpose.

When I created my website (http://www.christie-johnson.com) it was with the thinking that a) some day I would need one and when the time came I would be ready, and b) that I could blog a bit about what's actually involved (for me) in working toward the goal of being published. I know I'm not the first, nor will I be the last. I read a *lot* of blogs by published authors and unpublished writers. I've found a lot of help in those blogs. But I'm not sure that I have a lot to add to the body of blogged experience, and frankly I'm not making progress quickly enough to make the subject interesting.

I can certainly blog about the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference, (http://www.sbwc.org) and the workshops that happen throughout the year. But I'm not a journalist, so I don't know how well I'll do. I'll give it a shot though.

Aside from that – SBWC and the trials of an unpublished writer – I'm not sure what I have to say. I don't want to talk about my personal life here. It's lovely, but happy people aren't all of that interesting, and my domestic commentary probably wouldn't be useful to anyone.

My other interests include first amendment rights, evolutionary science, skepticism/rational thought, and other secular humanist subjects, but I'm not an expert in any of those things – just a student. They might creep in here and there in the form of recommendations and links.

I'll think about it for a couple of days and see what I come up with. By then the conference will have started and I'll have plenty to talk about for at least a week.