Research Woes

I’m currently working on a YA novel that takes place primarily in Peru. I’ve been to Peru–once. That was enough time to collect some wonderful photos and notes on the people, places, and cultural details I saw, but unfortunately, I wasn’t there long enough to learn everything I now need to know for the book. For the most part, I’ve been able to fill in the gaps by reading what other travelers have to say about the country. Sites such as Life in Peru, Virtual Tourist, and Rachel in Peru have been extremely helpful, as have a variety of humanitarian websites and sites advertising bicycle and jungle tours…but I still have some unanswered questions.

I’m finding that it’s not too difficult to track down information about even extremely small, off-the-beaten-track villages. Travelers and expatriates chronicle their experiences and share photos online–I was even able to find a photo of a particular suspension bridge along the (mostly unpaved) road from Urcos to Puerto Maldonado, Peru. What I need now, though, is a closer look at what life is like for the people in Peru, especially the 50% of the population that lives at or below the poverty line.

Needless to say, these are the people who are writing about their lives online. They also aren’t the people most tourists get to know.

My first and best choice is to visit Peru again and, this time, interview a lot of the kids who spend their days selling postcards and finger puppets; but since that doesn’t seem an option for the near future, does anyone have any suggestions for me?
:) Cheryl
(Photo from Flickr archives)

The Writer-Mom’s Schedule

8.30 Walk kiddo to school

8.45 Exercise dogs to prevent later distractions

9.00 Get coffee

9.05 Check and answer email

9.30 Read blogs and comment. Write blog posts.

10.30 Gasp at time. Close all web browsers and email client.

10.35 Open WIP

10.40 Get more coffee

10.42 Make snack

10.45 Get lots more coffee

10.50 Reread last chapter WIP

11.00 Type and delete next chapter opening. Repeat.

11.29 Check email

11.31 Make new pot coffee

11.40 Brainstorm WIP scene details. Longhand.

12.10 Furiously write WIP

1.00 Come up for air and sustenance

1.20 Type new passage. Realize its brilliance.

1.45 Reread and realize that scene is mediocre at best.

2.00 Write furiously and with renewed inspiration

2.45 Gasp at time. Write more furiously.

3.00 Alarm goes off to remind me to get kiddo. Continue furious writing.

3.10 Race to school!!!

…and so, the return to the real world begins. For a few hours, at least.
:) Cheryl

Writing is a Business

Writing is a business: bold statement of obvious fact? Not for me. I tend to forget that little detail, even though it should be informing daily choices of how I spend my time. After all, I started writing because…well…that’s who I am. I make up stories and play with words. I write.

But nowadays, being a writer has become a bit more complicated. If I want to, say, get paid for doing what I love (and I do) I need to do more than play with words. I need to take on projects that pay short-term to fund my longer-term work. I need to send out invoices. I need to pay attention to whether those invoices are getting paid. Weird, huh?

Needless to say, this is not my favorite part of being a writer.

Occasionally, I check out self-help books about the business side of writing. (The Organized Writer, Creative Impulses, Julie Morganstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out and Time Management from the Inside Out are a few favorites). These books all offer helpful tips and advice, whether you’re just starting in the field or need a fresh dose of organizational inspiration.

Unfortunately, none of these books substitute for actually doing the work. Even writing about filing hasn’t made a dent in my to-be-filed folder. Sigh.

Guess I have to go do the work….

:) Cheryl

The gift (?) of perpetual surprise

Why is it that I continue to be surprised when writing is–hold onto your computer screens here–hard. Yep, it’s true. Sometimes when we writerly types sit at the keyboard, the words refuse to jump through their hoops.

It’s not that I ever find writing easy, exactly. It always takes a certain amount of effort to move from an amorphous vision to polished words on a page. But sometimes the first step of the process–dreaming the scenes–comes so easily that it’s jarring to lose all momentum at the keyboard. I mean, it was all so clear in my mind, so alive and vivid; why are the words emerging as sawdust?

So today I took two breaks to get coffee, rearranged existing text a half dozen times, reread the opening chapter twice, and began chapter 2 about ten times. The result: I’m fairly convinced that the scene that seemed so perfect in my imagination doesn’t work on paper.

Although, come to think of it, I might have a new vision of how to move the story forward. It looks absolutely perfect in my mind…we’ll see how it looks on paper tomorrow.

:) Cheryl