The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Tag: novel writing

14/30 NaBloPoMo09 Back from Vacation


Hi. It seems like more than four days since I’ve written.  I am trying like hell to start a new novel.  I did start one in January, and I might continue it.  I’m not sure.  The fact that my father in law is in critical condition in the icu seems to be taking a front seat in my thoughts.

I don’t know how it’s possible that I am so sore, so tired, and so disoriented.  I always think that summer break is going to be relaxing.  Ha.  Ha ha.  This year is different than last year, in that we had an odd vacation – up north with my Mom rather than going somewhere touristy, and we cut the vacation short to come home.  We have been at the hospital every day, hoping that my fatherinlaw pulls through his illness.

All of this takes my focus from writing, and in fact, gives me a darn good excuse not to write.  I would use that excuse, too, if it weren’t for the fact that writing is calling to me.  It’s pulling me. Even as I know I am writing with half a heart, I must write.  It’s summer.  I have a month.  I need to get a good chunk of American Girl – Lyrics to Living Life as a Modern Mythical Creature under my belt.  I need to get these characters walking around, living, breathing, talking…mostly talking, considering my other writings…

So, guess I’ll go do that.  And if you have time, please send good thoughts and wishes to my father in law.  Thanks.  Sheila

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2/30 – NaBloPoMo09


What is it about writing that is so gratifying and so frightening at the same time?  I have been keeping a journal – off and on – since I was about 20.  Alot of my early independent writing was done when I was in high school, in the form of notes that I never passed on to my friends.  I still have a pile of them, and they clearly reveal that I was a teenager in the 1980’s. ‘Like, gag me with a spoon.’ (shudder.)

When I was 20, maybe it was on my birthday, I went to CityCenter with a guy friend who later was my boyfriend for two days before we realized that we were not really interested in each other.  We are still friends, though, through chance meet ups around town and the occasional facebook note.  Cyber friends, I guess.  The journal I bought was bright yellow and blue with repeating prints of an Andy Warhol rendition of cows.  I especially loved that it was unlined.  I filled that journal up completely.

Since then, I have probably started 10 or 12 other journals, and brought them to varying degrees of completion.  I find it interesting how much I have changed in the time since the first journal.  Of course it has been 18 years, but it’s a lot of change, to my way of thinking.

I used to be mortified if anyone read any of my work.  Now I’ve written a (n unpublished…) novel, I have a little website, I make comments on Facebook, and I blog for all the world to see, should they care to take a gander.

I’m not sure that Mortified has the capacity to convey just how shy, trembly, sick I felt if I knew someone’s eyes were scanning my very own words.  I hated it, but of course like any good passion, there was an equally strong flip side.  I desired intensely for people to have read what I had written and to receive the praise I would demurely say that I didn’t deserve.

Hence, despite wanting to crawl into the nearest hole while ‘being read’, I have shared my writing.  I wrote a few little poems for an improv show I was in during high school – I am forever thankful to my improv troupe for their reactions.  Let me set the scene for you:  We knew that we wanted to do a sketch about people in authority taking advantage of their positions – even the smallest amount of authority seems to go to some people’s heads.  I was up late one night writing, and I decided to try writing something for that sketch.  I wrote a series of short poems from different points of view – a judge, a crossing guard, scout leader….I don’t remember the details, really.

What I do remember is bringing in my poems and telling the other cast members that I had written something, but I didn’t want to read it.  They said I must.  Since I didn’t want everyone to hear, we went into the girls dressing room, they kicked out some non cast member who was in there, and they all encouraged me to read the poems aloud.  I did.  I remember that I felt my voice was not even audible, but they heard me, and then they used the poems in the show.

I think that’s when I started to realize that not only did I like writing, but that writing has a power.  There is something about the written word.  There are other forms of communication – speaking, music, video, plays and so on, but the written word, besides being essential to many other forms of communication, stands alone.

Even while everyone decries the internet and advancements in technology, it seems to me that what a lot of the internet consists of is people reading and writing.  Different forms – not a printed book, but reading and writing none the less.  I mean, here I am blogging my little heart out, and here you are reading it, so what does that tell you?

I think the fear of writing comes from an essential fear of being oneself and being rejected.  And once words are down on a page and released into the world, you really can’t take them back.  You can apoligize, you can claim that something was a typo, but it’s still out there.  And in writing.  A solid piece of evidence about how you felt or thought at a particular moment in time.

For most situations, there should really be no fear – how you felt about this or that is probably inconsequential.  But once in a while it’s important, and you have to have the sense to know when that is.  There is only one sentence I have ever written and sent out to someone that I truly regret.

It was when I was in Mexico, thoretically studying Spanish.  I received a call from a friend of mine, and she was insensed because of something my ex-boyfriend had said.  I do not have any memory of what made her upset, but at the time it made me upset, too.  I was so angry about whatever his offense had been, that I wrote him a post card.  All I said on it was, “You are such a f****** pessimist.”  And I sent it.

I’m blushing right now at the memory of that.  How very wrong.  What a rotten thing to get in the mail.  And he really was a nice person – he didn’t deserve that.  But it also illustrates the power of words.  I think it’s just that power that makes writing both gratifying and frightening.  I, for one, am going to keep on writing, even if it scares the hell out of me.

Thanks for reading.  Peace out.  Sheila

Wondering where to go with my novel.


I just got some good feedback from a good friend of mine about Someotherville, and I now feel fairly confused. I was really surprised by her feedback – she loved the parts about Joan, didn’t like the story within a story at all.
At first I was slightly defensive because I was hoping that the two stories would meld together in the end, and it would be obvious or feel inevitable that it had to happen the way it happened. But this was not how my friend felt about it.
As we were talking it through, I remembered that the part where she really didn’t like it was the same part where I didn’t know what to do next, and so I pulled something extreme out of the hat. I think that at the time of writing it, I had it in the back of my mind that I could always change things and that it would be best if I just forged ahead.
But now I am second guessing whether I could go back in and change the story within a story to either have more details about the secondary characters *which I should do because I do go on about how secondary characters are pivotal, and we often end up caring about them more than the main characters* or whether it was a poor choice for the story within a story, since it’s so weak – I mean, who really cares about a spy story? Cold war stuff is completely played out – when it was the 39 steps or whatever, it was fresh because people didn’t know what was happening or why. Now it really is a stereotype, a stock story. Alias…dollhouse… and those are just recent examples.
There’s only a certain kind of friend that can tell you that something you wrote is gimmicky. But now that it’s said, I guess it is a little. It was a quick fix for a long term problem, and it shows.
So not to be too mean to myself – that’s not what I’m trying to do – but I’m trying to convince myself that i do need to dive back into this pool – it can be better. Arwin, Cece and Katrina need to have more substance before they will ever seem real to people. I am heartened by the fact that someone thought Arwin seemed real. That makes me happy.
Now I need to tend to the rest of them. Maybe it’s a matter of pride, I really had thought I finished a book in a month, with only needing minor rewrites. Now if I go back in and make major changes, that is no longer the case. Yeah. Pride is foolish. Do I want this to be something that is read and cast aside as being mostly really good, or do I want it to be better than that?
Obvious answer. So now I know the task ahead of me – I don’t know how I’m going to do it – or whether I should do it – funny…I just had a moment of feeling exactly how Joan felt – she didn’t know if she should write her project either, but she felt compelled. And I feel compelled. So there you have it. The adventure begins again.
Ha.

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things


Good morning, all.

This will be a short entry as I only have about five minutes to write. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I completely forgot that I have a blog and that I had committed to write at least a few times a week. I think I actually said I would write every day. Ha. So I managed to forget, but I have been writing.

I wrote a novel over the summer this year. I like it, but now I have been tinkering with it a bit too much. I really think some of the changes are good, and then there are some random paragraphs that I know I need to go back and take out. I really like the first 30 pages, though, so I think that’s progress.

I am slowly letting people read it and give me feedback. At first that was giving me panic attacks – Jay could read with no anxiety on my part, but anyone else and I was in a state. Two of my friends read it, and a few students started it, but I don’t think any of them finished. Or at least they haven’t said anything.

It’s a strange thing to have a book written and not know what to do with it. I have been sending out letters to literary agents, but honestly , and this isn’t the anxiety talking, they seem swamped and I read that they typically receive hundreds of query letters a week. It seems that knowing someone, an author, agent or editor, is the way to go.

Or I could take classes at the Loft in Minneapolis. Problem with that is time. I don’t seem to have any to spare. So maybe that will have to wait until summer, and who knows? By then I’ll have forgotten that I wrote a novel at all, but you can bet I’ll still be writing on my blog! (I hope!)

See ya, thanks for reading!

Sheila

PS if you want to see the first little section of SOMEOTHERVILLE, my novel, you can check it out at http://www.sheilamcmahon.com

🙂 Sheila

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