Friday, September 23, 2011

Dusting it Off

I realize that it has been some months now since I have posted, and I am no nearer my goal now than I was then. The point is that this happens to writers all the time; Life gets in the way, the writing doesn't seem good enough, inspiration hides while insecurity rears its ugly head... at least that's what has been happening with this writer.

Now that I have finally been doing something to wrench myself from this very deep depression I have been in, I have decided that it is well beyond the time for action, and that I need to fight harder to meet my goals. I know that life is going to throw curve balls at me, but I intend to throw them back. Instead of making excuses, I intend to do what I have set out to do.

Sometimes there's a voice inside our writer heads.  

'The work is no good.'  
'Your novel will be too late and miss the fad.'
'You have no talent.'

Occasionally you just need to shut that voice out and do it anyway, and as I keep telling myself that right now, I am going to end this posting and get to what I set out to do.

What does your writer voice tell you? What are some obstacles you are overcoming in your own writing?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Talk it Out

Friday night was really an eye-opening night for both myself and the book. I had been spending a lot of my free time wondering what kind of climactic moments I wanted to add to the book in the upcoming chapters. While I really could have come up with these things all on my own, I like to bounce ideas off my fiance to see what his take is on them and to see what kinds of things he likes to see out of a story. The reason I do this with someone who is just a reader instead of a writer is that a reader knows the kinds of things they love about a story and what keeps them reading a book or buying the next in a series while a writer thinks more about setting, description, and tension. Also, I am always left wondering about motive with other writers, as sad as that sounds. I have to wonder why they gave me that idea... do they truly want me to succeed? Was the idea their own and it failed at one point? Are they sabotaging me? Are they going to hate me if the idea they gave me was a success and I wasn't sure to mention them in the credits? Too much paranoia. Too much to worry about.

I feel that everyone should have an "idea guy". Someone that you can talk bones with. Someone who doesn't know much about what you are writing that can give you some of their unbiased thoughts on what it is you are writing. Yes, I know that my fiance does have a bit of a bias because he wants me to succeed, but that is the best kind of bias you can find in an "idea guy". As far as the book goes, though, he is unbiased. He has no personal connection with the characters, and therefore doesn't really care what happens to them. He can be completely unrestrained with his ideas and I can be the one to take that idea and bridle it a bit. And there's no hurt feelings on his part if I take his idea and change it all around. I can tell him "that's not going to work because (this event) happens" and he just tries to come up with something else. I don't even have to use a single one of his ideas, and he doesn't get mad. I can get perspective with my "idea guy" by telling him what's going on in a story and asking him what he thinks of it and he has no problem telling me when he thinks something is overdone, or underdone in a story. I like that.

Do you have someone in your life that you consider an "idea guy"? Someone you feel completely comfortable sharing your story with that can give you ideas without giving you criticism? I hope this finds you well, fellow writers!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Publishing Can Be As Easy As Luck

Hello once again, fellow writers! Sorry it has been so long, and I have totally ventured away from my goal, but for good cause. I don't want the craziness of the other blog to leak into this, but suffice it to say that I have been rather distracted of late.

This past weekend I went to C2E2 in Chicago, Illinois, and decided to get my schmooze on. I have thought many times about making Cherry a comic book, but just wanted to meet people that I could talk to about it. I wanted to meet artists and writers and get their perspective on how the process has to begin, their advice on how to get there, etc. I got some great information out of these lovely people, and it was my plan to see Patton Oswalt ready to laugh my proverbial ass off. While my brother stood in the front of the line for seats I went outside for a pre-show smoke and a random gentleman with a pass marked "Speaker" walked out and lit up. I made a very lame comment about not seeing any wires, and we had a chuckle and got to chatting. He introduced himself as Julian and we got to talking about what we "do" and why we were at C2E2. I was telling him about my thoughts for making Cherry a comic and he seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying. I gave him a short synopsis of the book, and he gave me a card. That card said "Publisher". I have researched the company. It's legitimate. He knows the book isn't finished, but he wants to see the first chapter and I am beside myself about it. On the one hand, I really want to send off the first chapter but on the other, I really want to get the book finished before I get too excited about publishing... then again, he could give me some insight into what I am doing right and wrong, and that could be great but he could also say, "Hey, this work is shit! Why did you bother sending it to me?!" and then I would probably be crushed.

The point of all this is that sometimes you luck into meeting people, which is why you should be prepared to talk to strangers because you never know whether or not that stranger is a door to other opportunities in your life. I have to make my own decision in this matter, and you would too. You could get all the advice you want but in the end it is YOUR call as to whether or not you want to trust a stranger with your baby.

My best to you, fellow writers. May this find you successful in your own endeavors.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What to do With That Idea Now That You've Had It

I don't consider myself to be an expert on this subject by any means, but a friend mentioned that she had all of these ideas in her head but wasn't able to get anywhere with them. I know her pain, certainly. "Cherry Blossoms" had started out as an outlet piece I was writing while I was really pissed off. I envisioned a character ripping someone to shreds, blood splashing the walls and her arms drenched in iron scented gore.... Yeah, I was that mad. Rather than lash out at the person responsible for this ulcerous anger rising up inside of me, I took my laptop down to the hotel bar, ordered a drink and began writing Cherry.

At the time I had no idea about a middle and an end now that I had written the beginning, and that was probably the worst possible place to be. I have learned through writing this novel (and starting many failed ones in the past) that you are not going to get anywhere without some sort of outline. I used to be one of those people who thought I could just write what came out and hope that something came to me as far as the rest was concerned. That led to a lot of novel beginnings but like my current P.O.S car, stalled out at every stop light. Getting to my destination now becomes key. If you have no idea where you want your characters to end up and how they got there, you might as well forget novel writing. A story doesn't end with three chapters of a beginning and the characters left as only introduced. It takes some planning.

For free-writers like me, this became a real hassle. I am now asking myself to plan where this thing should go instead of allowing my creative side to just take hold and vomit words out on the page. When writing a novel, this just doesn't work. This doesn't have to mean that you sit down and write out one of those bubble charts that your high school English teacher made you work on but you should at least take a little quiet time to think about where you want things to end up. This means coming up with conflicts and resolutions within the story, and then the overall resolution for the story. You have to decide the message your story will convey throughout, or if that message creeps its way slowly into the ending by means of a discovery process.

I would like to think that this holds true for any kind of story, really. My lovely cousin (a very talented writer as well) writes creative non-fiction and is working toward finishing the story of her life. Having read some of it (or what it used to be when I read it) I can see that she has worked hard to make sure that the story has the overall conflict; a woman's spiritual and physical journey through abuse, and mini conflicts throughout. Each chapter allows the reader to feel what she feels and experience what she experiences, and each conflict gets to a point of resolution, for good or ill.

While it's certainly not true for everyone, poetry has been my bane throughout my years of writing. Not because I think it's a wishy-washy form of writing, that is certainly not how I feel, but because it allowed me to just write whatever I felt like writing in whatever way I felt like writing it. I could break the rules of grammar, and in some cases, spelling. I could write for no more than ten minutes, come up with a gem, then consider myself finished. It in no way prepared me for the novel writing process. I didn't know going into this how many words were expected... and how they had to be woven together into a tapestry of words that not only made sense, but went somewhere. I had to find a way to remove myself from the way I wrote poetry to the way I write novels. I still write poetry from time to time, but I find that my poems now read more like short stories in poem form. I am not sure if I think that is a sign that I am becoming more the novelist that I wish to be or if novel writing has ruined the way I write poetry. I suppose that will all depend on how well this novel is received when it is in print.

I also found that being involved in a writer's club can be the answer that you are looking for. The friend I spoke of at the beginning and I had a thing going on Sundays for a while, but with the holidays it kind of floated into the ether. I am hoping that now that the holidays are over we can start getting together again. Not only does it keep you motivated to write because others around you are doing the same, but it gives you a person or a group of people to bounce your idea off of. You can get feedback and ideas from them, they could beta-read your work, help you with editing, and provide support when you need it. Keep in mind though, that these should be people you trust with your piece of work. You need to know that they aren't going to take your ideas and make them their own, that they aren't going to share your work with others, and that they won't make you feel as though your work is not as good as theirs. 

As I said in the first paragraph, I am in no way an expert on novel writing. I am just sharing my journey with you, and what has worked for me. Maybe someday when I am a famous published writer I will come back to this blog and laugh at how little I actually knew... and in some ways that is comforting. I have no illusions that I know all or even most of what there is to know about publishing and writing a novel. I am just lucky to know some, and to have my own journey to look back on. I wish you well, dear readers. Happy writing!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ahhh.... That feels better...

Once I was able to find a quiet place in the house, I was able to get a lot done and get some words on the page. It felt amazing and liberating to get it out of my head, and now the muse can stop screaming me to sleep every night. It can just go back to screaming randomly throughout the day.

I don't want to get too far ahead of the chapters that I have already discussed, so I will only say that I am now about 25700 words into the book (6000 of those coming out in the last couple of days) which translates to roughly 102 novel pages without page breaks. This sets my mind at ease and makes me feel like I am getting a lot done. I also started writing an Afterword for the book, which explains a few things as well as reiterates my respect for the culture and history used in the book.

If you are trying to calculate how many pages your own novel may have when it's printed, take your word count divided by 250. 250 is the average number of words on a novel page. This is just a guesstimate for you, of course, but it gives you some sort of an idea where you stand on the hill of your novel. I like thinking that I could be a little over a quarter of the way done, and luckily for me, I have a lot more to write about. I'd hate to be this far along and have nothing left to say.

Just after Christmas I sat down and I wrote some goals for myself, and this will come as a shock to no one, but the novel came up. While I have dedicated my time to try and write in my blogs four days out of the week, I have set a firm rule that I must write for the book four days out of the week, no "trying" about it. The way I see it, if I write at least 1000 words per day, that works out to about four pages of text. My commitment to writing four days out of the week will put me at roughly 16 pages of text a week. Let's assume that I want it to be 350 pages long or more... that would mean that I could have this novel finished in 15 and a half weeks. That's less than four months! That's  not counting the days where I put out well over my one thousand word goal, like I did in the last two days. I set the date to be finished with this book as December 1st of 2011. If I stick to the plan I have I will finish before my set deadline and be able to get to the other aspects of publishing this, my first novel.

Okay, I realize I just went through a bunch of numbers, and probably lost a few of you along the way, but for some reason these numbers are comforting. It really puts a day to day goal on myself as well as a summit to this novel writing mountain before me. I wish I had a little machine like what they have on the Price is Right, where the little yodeling man is climbing the mountain... A visual reference that I could look at to inspire myself. I may just have to make one. Or one of those thermometer signs you see where it gives a donation amount and where you stand as far as the amount goes. I bet there's a widget for that, I would just have to find it. 

Climb that mountain, little yodeling man!

Where was I? Ah yes, goals. You have to have them. You have to set a number daily, weekly, or monthly that you can attain. When I sat down to look at the numbers I figured up for myself, it was more of a bite I could chew. Do you have goals set for yourself? What are they? How are you working to attain them?

I will leave it there for now, readers and writers. I hope that your own journey up the mountain is going smoothly. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Since I can't write...

With the holiday season in full swing, I am finding it impossible to designate any time to the novel which is beyond frustrating for me, especially when there are words in my head scratching to get out. Even if there were more hours in the day, I would still be the same restless insomniac that I always have been. To calm my restless spirit I have been reading a book called "Nature Girl", by Carl Hiaasen. It was an early Yule gift from a friend and since I can't be bothered to read a dust cover, and I am only a few chapters in, I have no clue as to what the book is actually supposed to be about. Right now the story is following three different sets of people in three different parts of the United States. I have found it to be interesting enough to keep my interest and far enough outside my usual genre (and the genre of the novel I am writing) to keep reading. At least it is doing something to relieve some of this tension I have.
 Most of the time when I find myself unable to write, even jotting something down on a napkin, I read. It seems to cool a little of the fire just enough to make life manageable for me.

I don't remember where I ever heard this jewel, and if you pressed me for an answer I would have to say it was on Sister Act 2... If the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning is singing, and you think about singing all day, you go to sleep singing, you're a singer. (I am paraphrasing. I have no idea what Whoopi actually said to the girl.) When I apply that same edict to writing, I feel as though it is what I was really meant to do with my life. 

Do I have some sort of false sense of hope that I might actually make a career and money off of my dream when there are thousands, even millions of people in the world with the same hope and aspirations that I have? Yes. Yes I do. Because I want it just a little bit more than they do. I am not, however, a fool. Being a full time writer means giving up a lot of free time. It means spiritually bleeding yourself dry once in a while. It means having something worth sending out into the world. I may have to work another job, I may have to stop wasting time in my life watching an episode of whatever distraction is on the television, I may even have to stop taking ten minutes at a time on this blog but I am going to do it. I think you are going to do it too. 

We are writers. We have a gift to give. We may be rejected and we may have to compromise but we are doing what we are meant to do. We may also be mothers, line cooks, factory workers, store clerks... but we are writers. We will keep the faith.

Best of luck to you, out there. Make those dreams come true.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chapter Three: The Denouement

I know that I said that chapter two was one of my favorites but chapter three, totaling out at about 2800 words actually is my favorite. That's because chapter three is all about the denouement. A denouement; The final resolution or clarification of a dramatic or narrative plot. While this isn't, obviously, the end of the book it is definitely a plot point where information is needed in order for my novel to continue. A reveal and a denouement can mean the same thing, but not all the time. You can have several denouements, or "little reveals", that lead up to the final reveal in a story. I think that is what I did with chapter three, and will continue to do as the novel goes on.
I worked hard at adding contextual clues into the first two chapters without giving away exactly what Cherry is and in this chapter, though it's not complete exposed as to what she is, there's enough there for the reader to figure it out for themselves.

Each time I go back and reread the chapter (which I did tonight to check for the same tensing issues I had had in chapter two and even found some), I find that I love the chapter more and more. There are so many sensory things happening in it that I feel compels people to read on... things they can taste and feel and see. I know it sounds like I'm tooting my own horn here, and in a way I feel it's deserved. It was made clear from the first blog post that this is my first novel, so I am really learning to explore along with the editors exactly what I am writing. I feel like this is the strongest chapter and I hope to write others as strong in the future for this novel.

Speaking on the subject of "reveals", usually they are held out until the last possible moment. I suppose you could say that chapter three holds one of many reveals throughout the story. I don't think that a story loses out because a reveal is, well, revealed early. In fact, I feel that in certain genres, this will decide whether a person is going to like a book or put it down and select something else. Obviously, if you are writing a mystery, it would be unwise to reveal the mystery in the first few chapter unless it was a total red herring or you had a good excuse for doing so and it led to a better ending for the book.

When do reveals happen in stories you have read or are writing? Are those moments of clarity what you live for in a story? 

Happy writing!