MOMS OF MYSTERY Newsletter
Who We Are: Two very different moms with one mysterious interest!
Alina Adams is Jewish, lives on the East Coast, married with two kids and is the author of Berkley Prime Crime's "Figure Skating Mysteries." ("On Thin Ice" in stores October 2004!)
Kyra Davis is African-American, lives on the West Coast, single with one child and is the author of "Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte (Red Dress Ink 2005).
What This Is: A quarterly newsletter for every mom who reads, writes, wants to write, or who would write a soon as she solves the mystery of where all her free time went....
In This Issue:
- The Working Mom's Guide to Writing a Novel in Your Free (!) Time.
- Sex and the Single Mom Writer
- Alina Adams and Jennifer Weiner Debate Motherhood
- Helpful Websites for Writers
The Working Moms Guide to Writing a Novel in Your Free (!) Time
By Alina Adams
Got kids? Got a job? Got a life? Also got a burning need to write a novel? Yeah. Me, too.
Got a problem? Yeah. Me, too.
In the two years prior to the birth of my oldest child, I'd published three romance novels, dozens of magazine articles, and a non-fiction book on figure skating, while working a full-time job. In the four years since the birth of my oldest child, I've published one romance novel, one non-fiction book on figure skater Sarah Hughes, and one mystery novel... although it's certainly no mystery why my output has dropped so precipitously.
It took a lot of trial and error (and crying over spilled breast-milk on a computer keyboard) before I even began to figure out how to balance the mothering with the mystery, the toddler with the typing, and the wailing with the writing.
However, four years later, I can honestly say that I've managed to work out a few "Working Mom Tricks For Writing a Novel in Your Free (!) Time," which I am eager to share with those interested in forgoing trivial matters like eating, sleeping, and the facade of sanity, all in order to indulge that elusive muse and squeeze a satisfying writing side-dish on to an already overflowing platter.
Trick #1: Think First. In Stanley Kubrick's film "The Shining," aspiring writer Jack Nicholson goes ballistic when wife Shelley Duval interrupts him with the excuse, "I didn't hear you typing, so I thought you weren't working."
"Just because you don't hear me typing," Jack roars back, "Doesn't mean I'm not working." (And then he goes on a killing spree. Just ignore that part.)
The homicidal lunatic has a point.
"Writing" is the act of actually sitting at a keyboard and tapping keys to produce words that might one day form sentences and then actual, coherent thoughts. "Writing" is an act that can and often is interrupted by someone wanting to sit on your lap and visit, "Noggin.com, please!" (one would hope that's your child and not your boss), as well as by someone asking you to watch his phone while he pops out to lunch with his latest girlfriend (one would hope that's a co-worker and not your husband).
"Working," on the other hand, consists merely of thinking about what you're going to write, and thus can be done while driving, washing dishes, doing laundry, making beds, giving baths, standing in line at the grocery store, packing lunches, showering, breast-feeding, pushing a carriage, standing on a subway platform, cooking, and even while reading "The Cat in the Hat" for the umpteenth time, since you probably can do the whole thing on auto-pilot by now.
The best part is, "working" works. You don't have to be in front of a computer to think about a scene, to decide what you want it to be about, where you want to set it, how you want each character to approach it, and where you need it to lead. Remember reading "The Cat in the Hat" until you can trill it by heart? Playing the same scene in your head over and over again, polishing the dialogue, tightening the structure, picking just the right word to describe a key plot point makes it much, much easier to maximize your precious computer time once you do get the squatters off your lap.
Trick #2: Skip Lunch. And on-line solitaire. The law mandates that every employee receive a one-hour lunch every day. The law does not mandate what you can or should do with it.
Look at that computer on your desk. It can be used for reports and spreadsheets and schedules. It can also be used for writing your book. In your free time.
What free time? Well, there's lunch for a start. A good hour to sit in relative silence and get your thoughts together-- on paper, no less!
Plus, let's be honest, here: Lunch aside, how much of those seven other hours at work do you use for getting the job done, and how many are spent playing solitaire, surfing the web, chatting with co-workers and forwarding e-mail jokes and petitions?
That's all prime writing time. No one is suggesting shirking your duties and risking your job. But if you're going to take breaks anyway, why not get your high from writing instead of caffeine?
Trick #3: Write Longhand. Even the most lightweight laptop is a tricky thing to schlep to the playground or Gymboree. However, a notebook and pen fit easily into the most crowded diaper bag (strong suggestion: Attach the pen to the notebook or you'll loose both in the Desitin Depths). Write longhand while you're sitting on a bench at the playground. Write longhand while you're standing and rocking a stroller with your foot. Write longhand while breastfeeding and while waiting for your pasta to boil and while waiting outside of "My First Karate Class." The best part is, entering your text into the computer later will give you the chance to revaluate your work with a fresh eye, fix those mistakes made on the first go around and, best of all, also counts as an official second draft (i.e., you're that much closer now to a polished manuscript!).
Trick #4: Get Your Kids into the Act. Experts say that reading to your children is the best thing any parent can do to bond, raise IQ and otherwise earn their Mother-of-the-Year stripes. Sure, toddlers and up would probably rather hear "Winnie the Pooh" than "Mommy's Work in Progress." But, can an infant really tell the difference?
Nothing gives writers a better idea of whether a scene, especially one featuring lots of dialogue, is working, than reading it out loud. It can be an ego-crushing experience as you realize that the brilliance you heard in your head doesn't quite match the drivel you seem to be articulating now, but that which does not kill you gets you ready for more editorial rejection later on. And that's a good thing. Probably.
So grab that baby and that manuscript and read it out loud until the prose finally shines. Or your infant is old enough to start requesting a different title.
Then start again with the next book-- and the next child.
Sex and The Single Mom/Writer
By Kyra Davis
My guess is that after reading the title of this article many of you single parents out there are thinking, what sex? Who has time for that? Perhaps its guilt thats been keeping you away from the dating scene. Maybe youve been telling yourself that you dont have time to schedule in anything that isnt a necessity or a means to improve your skills as a writer. Well if youre serious about writing you can throw the guilt away because you can now justify your time spent with the opposite sex as a research assignment. Thats right, bad dates have now become a tax write off.
A few people who have read the manuscript for my book, "Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte," have asked how I was able to come up with such original and outrageous characters, the answer is simple -- Ive gone to the bars and Ive seen whats out there. Its not always pretty if youre looking for a long time commitment, but its a writers paradise. Before I knew I wanted to be a writer I was disturbed when a biker sporting a tattoo that said "Fuck You Bitch" approached me and politely asked if I would ever consider stripping in the Juice Bar he was in the process of opening. Now I understand that was just Gods way of giving me great material.
If you take the time to scan the selection of titles on the Borders display tables youll notice that bad dates are all the rage in todays literature. From murder mysteries to Chick Lit you can find detailed accounts of the latest horrors of the modern day meat market. This is where we single mom writers have an advantage over the married ones. Sure those living in the holy state of matrimony can lament about the uneven division of labor between husband and wife, but do they know that there are companies out there marketing phony phone numbers to hand out to the those desperate individuals who simply wont take no for an answer? Probably not.
And of course if you do meet someone whom you like and they end up screwing you over, you can kill them! Not literally (thats illegal) but in a literary sense. Behead them, castrate them, chop them up and throw them in the river... its all up to you, and as long as its fiction there isnt a darn thing they can do about it. Revenge has never been so profitable.
So go ahead and sign up for online dating, go to the opening of that new night club, go to the church singles group. But whatever you do dont forget to bring a small note book and take the time to scout out where the ladies room is so you know where to go when you feel the need to jot something down-the guys get suspicious if you start taking notes while theyre hitting on you. I guarantee that after a few nights of dating you will have enough material to write your own version of "Sex and the City."
On a slightly more serious note, it is important to remember that the key to good writing is life experience. Being a single parent is hard and if youre a single working parent who is also pursuing your dreams of being a writer its even harder. You need to focus on the silver lining. And who knows, maybe one of those frogs will turn out to be your prince charming-just think of what a great story that would make.
The Motherhood Debate:
Alina Adams and best-selling author Jennifer Weiner go head to head here: http://www.sarahweinman.com/confessions/2004/08/heres_how_she_d.html
Helpful Websites for Writers:
Want to write and maybe even win free stuff? Check out: http://www.ThisMovie.com.
Until the next issue!
All the best from Alina & Kyra!