Posts Tagged ‘ first novel ’

The Story of Sexy Grammar: Peep Shows & the Power of Fiction

I straddled the brown plastic wastepaper basket and made a kissy face at the man behind the glass. I tried but couldn’t piss. This is unusual, I thought.

Before I became a writer and tackled my first novel, I worked at a peep show, San Francisco’s World Famous Lusty Lady, a literal window into a gutter-glam world not everybody sees.
That particular day found me torn between my conservative work ethic–the guy had forked over $200 for a golden shower show–and my fear of spraying a fine mist of urine all over a tiny glass box I shared with a hundred other women. Still the new girl, I’d listened attentively to bitter dressing room complaints about bodily fluids left behind for other dancers to clean up.
Not everybody has been in that unique conundrum, but anyone can find herself stuck between a rock and a hard place with her pants down. Novelist Barbara Kingsolver says of fiction, “It cultivates empathy for a theoretical stranger by putting you inside his head, allowing you to experience life from his point of view. It can broaden your view of gender, ethnicity, place and time, power and vulnerability, all the elements that influence social interaction.” That’s what compels me to write fiction: the opportunity to tell a unique story that cultivates empathy in the world around me.

The Sexy Grammarian is a writer struggling to tell her story, just like you. When you get a free Private Session with The Sexy G, you get a teacher, a collaborator, and an empathetic writing partner to help unfold your burning stories

NaNoWriMo Day 8: My Life as a WriMo

NaNoWriMo 2011, day 8

Today’s personal word-count goal: 19,998

Today’s actual word-count so far: 17,620

Ahead or behind? Behind! I’ve got 2,378 words to write today.

Years I’m Writing About: 1991-1993, on my Facebook Page you can contribute your own words about these years.

In 2008, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, and my life has changed forever. My 2008 novel is in its 5th draft now. I can see a light at the end of the revision tunnel.

I just revisited 2009’s manuscript for the very first time this August when I went to Hawaii, from whence one of that story’s main characters hails. I did some great research, but that manuscript still has a long way to go.

In 2010 I tried something different based on my own theory that you’ve got to write about 50,000 words to get 500 good ones. I wrote 50,000 words about my city’s pigeon population, hoping to edit them down into a 500-or-so-word children’s story.

This year, because I’m about to turn 40, and because Susie Bright‘s memoir really moved me, and because of some wise words from Jane Fonda and Julia Cameron, I’m writing about my life so far, a memoir, though Jane would call it a life review and Julia, a narrative timeline, not necessarily for publication but instead for my personal and creative use.

Get a piece of the action. There are several ways to participate in NaNoWriMo. Support the do-gooders who run this free event online by making a donation to the Office of Letters and Light on my fundraising page. And visit the The Sexy Grammarian Facebook Page to contribute your own words to my daily word count.

Still Life With Novel #1

Last November, I posted this story of my writing process for novel #1. After I finished writing about pigeons, I returned to this project and have been deep in it ever since. So I thought I’d update.

I snapped the shot above because when I finished the current draft and printed it, I felt proud. Now I’m working with this pile of papers to ensure a few things:

  • the story has a day-by-day rhythm that works
  • I’m using sexy, thematically appropriate language and sentence structure
  • the plot makes sense

So what are we looking at in this photo? That stack of paper beside the butt-end of my hot pink stapler, a pen, and a nail file, consists of:

  • a color-coded, day-by-day plot outline
  • theme-word lists for each of the novel’s four sections (on hot orange paper)
  • an 80,000-word manuscript

Yep, the manuscript has almost doubled in size, so I’m also looking for places I can cut. And I’ve joined a local queer/trans writing group where I hope to find some momentum for this final push. After this draft, I’m looking to sell.

Anybody know an agent or publisher looking for a bisexy romp through deadly sin and snow in San Francisco?

Mornings at the office of the Sexy Grammarian

The southeastern sky shines bright in the mornings in the SOMA district of San Francisco, so bright that I wear a sun hat to work at my desk and meet any morning clients out in a cafe.

I’m busy with new coaching clients and a new workshop series. I’m writing a lot, focused on completing the third draft of novel #1. A lesson I’ve learned before about being busy and letting creativity flow: take good care of my body. See the healthy breakfast?

Day 8: Novel #1 and the value of NaNoWriMo

Today’s Word Count Goal: 17,700

Today’s Word Count So-Far: 14,179

Total Word Count Goal: 50,000


Recent controversy over the value of writing 50,000 words in 30 days (Salon’s Laura Miller wrote this mean-spirited piece, which launched several snarky posts like this one and even an LA Times piece) has me distracted and behind on my word count.

So I’m thinking about my first NaNoWriMo experience in 2008 and considering the fate of novel #1, which remains unnamed but has otherwise blossomed in satisfying and promising ways. Here’s its story:

November 2008: In twenty-something days, I wrote my first novel’s first draft. This sexy, angry story had been swimming around in my brain for almost a decade when I finally pumped it out at roughly 2,500 words a day. That first WriMo experience rocked my world–check out one wacky WriMo ’08 story here.

December 2008: I read what I’d written the previous month and found, to my horror, that my story had no story–no plot.

January 2009 to October 2009: With beginning participation in NaNoWriMo ’09 as my deadline, I revised novel #1 and handed copies of the second draft to 25 trusted readers. Revision work included several field trips and writing retreats. I braved snow, sprained my ankle twice, and took up smoking again, all in the name of a solid second draft.

December 2009 to April 2010: Receiving feedback from twenty-five people takes time–five months, but it didn’t require the courage or strong-sense-of-self I feared it would require. On the contrary, my readers said nice things about my second draft. By the end of April, I had a big list of notes about what I needed to change and a bigger list of aspects of my novel everyone loved. Most notably, readers praised my sex scenes and the strong presence of San Francisco as a character. Readers disagreed on whether my main character was likable, and agreed on one awkward criticism, which went something like this: “It’s entertaining, but it’s a little shallow, isn’t it?”

Although receiving this feedback went very well, actually doing something with it sent me lurching into a catatonic state of paralysis. How can I deepen without losing the hot sex? I needed help with a third revision.

June 20010 to October 2010: Enter Minal Hajratwala, my friend, colleague, and now, my writing coach too. Yep, coaches need coaches. And working with Minal on revising for a third draft of novel #1 not only supported my writing process but helped me to see the value of the work I do with writing coaching clients.

Working with Minal set my process free. She helped me to digest the fantastic feedback I’d gotten and then empowered me to pick and choose from that feedback. With Minal’s  support, I developed a third draft and then set it aside again, to participate in NaNoWriMo  2010.

I tell you my first novel’s story to participate in the recent discourse about the value of NaNoWriMo. For me, NaNoWriMo is a tool. It lends structure to my writing year: a month every year where I prioritize writing as much as I can every single day and a deadline for setting aside other projects to do that writing unfettered.

But you can’t build a whole house with just a hammer, and a writer needs more tools than just writing with literary abandon for thirty days every year. So far, with novel #1, I’ve needed editing tricks, feedback sessions, long walks, a coach, writing retreats, and plenty of big sheets of newsprint.

Do tell! What is the value of NaNoWriMo for you? What other tools support your process?


Watch the Sexy Grammarian participate in National Novel Writing Month for the third year in a row. I’ll post word counts and worries here daily, Tweet about it, raise funds for the Office of Letters And Light, and host Meet Me/Tweet Me open loft writing sessions all month long.

Day 1: What is this and why do I do it?

Today’s Word Count Goal: 2950

Today’s Word Count So-Far: 1018

Total Word Count Goal: 50,000


NaNoWriMo is an annual, global endeavor where writers support each other to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

What I’ve done in previous years is increase the required daily page count in order to not write on weekends and be done before Thanksgiving. That means 200 pages in 17 days or about 12 pages a day.

Sound crazy? It’s my favorite kind of crazy. This will be my third year participating, and the exhilarating experience of watching a novel grow from zero to fifty-thousand words inspires me. I will get more done at home, connect more with my loved ones, and be more productive at work because I am tapping my potential this month.

I had time for just an hour of writing this morning before running off for a busy day. I’ll need another couple hours to make today’s goal, but I’m off to a good start. I’m looking for good pigeon-watching roosts around the city. If you know of one, please post!

Watch the Sexy Grammarian participate in National Novel Writing Month for the third year in a row. I’ll post word counts and worries here daily, Tweet about it, raise funds for the Office of Letters And Light, and host Meet Me/Tweet Me open loft writing sessions all month long.

My Pre-NaNoWriMo to-do list

Today’s Word Count Goal: 0

Today’s Word Count So-Far: 0

Total Word Count Goal: 50,000

  • post to blog (check)
  • get manicure
  • final touches on newsletter
  • final touches on NaNoWriMo page
  • put novel #1 away
  • finance meeting with wife
  • clear desk (check)
  • make home office client-ready
  • do laundry
  • buy Halloween candy
  • take free iPhone class
  • prepare for medical school clerkship session tomorrow
  • prepare for coaching clients
  • read 60 pages of client manuscript
  • APA formatting on client manuscript
  • set up NaNoWriMo document

The Internet stirs with anticipation today. One former participant offers this lovely ode. For up-to-the-nanosecond updates from around the globe, I highly recommend the entertaining #nanowrimo feed on  Twitter. And the good people at the Office of Letters and Light point out that WriMos have begun their race in New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Micronesia, most of Australia, and half of Russia!

Watch the Sexy Grammarian participate in National Novel Writing Month for the third year in a row. I’ll post word counts and worries here daily, Tweet about it, raise funds for the Office of Letters And Light, and host Meet Me/Tweet Me open loft writing sessions all month long.