Indulge Your Various Creativities

Right now, I’m editing a manuscript that took me about five years to write. I don’t think another book will ever, ever take me that long. This was a book that, if I hadn’t believed in it as much as I do, and loved the characters as much as I do, I would have probably given up on it long ago. I know it’s a possibility. I’ve given up on other stories, left them to dwindle in files on my computer, some of which I forget exist 95% of the time.

But this story would not let me go. Even when I finished it and I knew, and I mean KNEW that it wasn’t ready. That it was NOT in a place that I could send it out to the world and give it the chance it needed. But I also didn’t know, at the time, what it needed. So I wrote some other stuff and tore my hair out a bit and worked and relaxed and didn’t look at it much. Finally with gentle nudging from my CP and not-so-gentle nudging from my husband (let’s face it, I needed it at that point!) I started working in earnest on the rewrite. I sort of knew what needed to happen, but it started slow.

So I did the thing I like to do to keep my creativity fresh… I made things. Other things. Things that have very little to do with words and writing (though not nothing, all the time).

Here are a few examples of some things I’ve been making/indulging in the last few weeks:

craftiness

This is, clockwise:

1) yarn for a new yarnie project—I’m going to be making this Abalone vest, all goes well… I usually knit shawls and hats, so….,

2) I wrapped a new pair of headphones with embroidery floss on account of I thought it would be pretty and I often break my headphones at work and am sort of hoping this will provide extra protection, though I don’t really know that it will. Mostly, I thought it would be pretty.

3) Really  all this is is a rub-on decal that I put on my book journal—where I write notes to myself about whatever I’m reading while I’m reading. It’s not much, but it made me love the simple plain old thing much more. I’ve had the journal for years and finally used it for this because I was never interested in using it for actual journaling purposes. Oh what a difference a little bit of pretty makes! I prettied the title page a bit, too… Oh I just had a lot of fun with it. 🙂

4) A year or two ago I bought a bag of floof scraps (read: roving, AKA fiber AKA what yarn is made up of) and I’ve decided to lay it out in somewhat of a gradient and just spin it all up into one long yarn that may or may not all make sense together. We’ll see.

And as I was doing all of this… along with another top secret project for my mom and one or two other things… I’ve kind of solved my stump over what needs to happen to make my manuscript sale-able. Sellable? WORTHY OF SALES.

Something worth buying, anyhow. Something cinematic and poignant and full of grim justice to go along with the pretty, pretty I had before.

Even The Mr agrees that my new ending idea has a lot of potential. And that’s big.

So excuse me if I’m busy the next couple of months. This baby is finally getting ready to see the world.*

*You know… eventually. Or at least a few dozen (?) agents’ eyes.

Write What Scares You.

Photo credit: iconriot on livejournalThis is old advice. It’s stuff I’ve been hearing and wanting to follow for years.

I say wanting, because… well, I can’t say that I’ve ever been particularly good at it.

It’s not that I avoid the stuff that scares me, exactly, just that it doesn’t come to me naturally. My main characters and their backgrounds and their personal demons—that’s cake.

But, bad guys.

Bad guys are not my forte. It’s not that I’m afraid of them, exactly, it’s more that I don’t know how to handle them very well, so I avoid it as best as I can.

Except you can’t exactly write a lot of genre without having to deal with one or two bad guys.

I admit, this is a reason why it has taken me so long to get where I’m going. Because I knew that this story needed a better bad guy. But. But I did not know how to do this thing.

A friend of mine ended up giving me a very basic bit of advice just from hearing the background of what my story was about—not to put too fine a point on it, she basically gave the advice that instead of inventing a wholly character-driven tale for my villain (note that I said wholly character-driven), I should use elements of the bigger themes in my story—in this case, namely, magic.

And as soon as that little suggestion was made to me, a lot of what needed to happen involving my bad guy suddenly made a lot more sense. I knew how and why magic was a part of what made him bad, or why and how he was involved with magic, anyhow. And the way things do in stories when you’ve found the right idea—things sort of fell together with what I already had.

But I was still a little afraid to actually get to the writing of it. This new angle involved not only interspersing scenes throughout the novel from the villain’s POV, but also inventing and introducing at least two whole new characters (I was going to do three, but now I think I’m good with two) and altogether altering a lot of my book.

Still, this is what I need to do to get it to where it needs to be—which is great. (I know not every book has to be great, but can you blame me for wanting my books to be?)

This post is meandering a little bit, but I won’t apologize for it. I’m also getting away from my posting schedule, but I thought a non-post-day post was better than no post. I’m still a long way from my goal of having my first round of edits done by the end of the year, but we’ll see. I have a new fire under my feet now, and that’s always a good thing.

On the Terrifying Notion of Change

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Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I’d say I’ve been busy (because I really, really have) but I’ve also been a little bit overwhelmed by something that I am just starting to really wrap my head around.

I recently returned home from a writer’s conference with a buzzing sense of clarity on how to fix my novel. My novel that is 80,000 words and “completed” but just not done. Not ready.

I was already going to have to rewrite it to pretty it up, but I’d been putting that off until I figured out what I needed to do to strengthen it into what I really needed it to be. Now I feel as if I have a good strong idea as to how to make this book as good as I can truly make it on my own, but And here’s the kicker: I would have to change all of it.

Okay, not all of it. My story really in its basic form is almost exactly the same. But I am working to rewrite it with more conflict, higher stakes, and stronger motivations.

And while it was a little bit terrifying, when I got home from that conference, I ignored my 80,000 word document and opened up a new, utterly blank one.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t think this will be easy. I don’t know how long it will take. But I’m thankful that I knew what I was doing well enough to know that I wasn’t doing it well in the first place. If that makes sense.

Right now I have some 1600 words in my new document. It is… nothing. So far I’m working from my head and my heart and rewriting things word for word. Soon I’ll get to patches that I can more or less transcribe, but right now it’s a whole new terrifying ballgame. I feel a bit like I’m freefalling. Which isn’t new for me on this project.

But you know what else? For the first time since I finished the first draft? I’m thrilled to be working on this project. For he first time, the freefalling is actually fun. Is another project still distracting me a little bit? Yes, I have to admit that it is. But I’m not too worried about that.

This is a big change for what Isabelle Santiago calls my “heart story,” but if it takes it closer to becoming something that will last in the hearts of others, I’m all for it.

Have you ever had to start something over completely before? Where did it take you?

Booking Through Thursday: One or Many?

Vampira2468 asks:

Series or Stand-alone?

I know this question is about reading books, whether you prefer reading a series or a stand-alone novel, but since I’ve answered that before (somewhere… don’t quote me) with a resounding “Well… both….” I’m going to instead look at this today from a writer’s point of view.

Forgive me if my answer stays more or less the same. Do I prefer writing a stand-alone novel or a series? Well… both.

If you look at my “Works” page, you can see that my two main WIPs at the moment (though really, I’m letting the one wait in line as I finish the other) are a stand-alone (Daughter) and what I at least hope might have the meat to pull off a series someday (Jethro). Both of them are very different writing experiences. One is an epic-fantasy-adventure that’s somewhere between The Princess Bride and Anastasia (figure that one out) and the other is about a bunch of high school kids in a small town who have to face the fact that they all have unexplained powers. One is focused very closely around one main character and a few of her closest connections, while the other technically has a main character, but also has an ensemble cast list as long as my arm.

I cannot tell you which one is more fun to write.

I really can’t. And I’m not going to make any comments about it being like picking between two children (though really, it is) but what I will say is that both stories have their own challenges and benefits, and I love that. So let’s talk about those challenges and benefits… let’s call them bonuses, though, because that’s what they really feel like.

Writing a Stand-Alone Novel (One or Two Main Characters)

 Challenges:

  • Typically you only have one (or two) perspectives to work with, even if you’re working in third-person. Unless of course you’re working in third-person omniscient, but that’s not often the case. This can make it hard to show the audience something without letting your character see it, which is sometimes vital.
  • Your character also has to be strong enough to carry a full-length novel. There’s really no half-ways-ing on this. Either you have someone who feels like a real person and is exciting or relatable, or you don’t have anything. Really. Because if your character doesn’t hold up, nothing else will. There’s no room for it to.
  • This is your one shot. Everything you want to say in this story, has to be said in this book. It’s a little bit different with the internet now, because we have the opportunity to do ebook tie-ins and things like that, but it doesn’t change the fact that if there was something you wanted to happen in this story and it didn’t make it there, it will never be there. The end.

Benefits:

  • The story has a clear-cut ending. This may not be the case with a series, at least with an ensemble cast like I’m planning. The story could well go on forever in an ensemble piece, but with one character, it’s easier to see where to say goodbye. (Clarification: this does not make it easier to actually SAY goodbye!)
  • You get to really fall in love with your characters. Not saying you can’t do this in a bigger cast (and obviously you can if your series is all based around one character, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work), but fictional characters are often enigmatic and untrusting, and it takes time to peel away their layers. You get to do this if most of your time is spent with only one or two of them.

Writing a Series (Ensemble Cast)

Challenges:

  • Think making one character strong enough to carry a book was difficult? Now you have to have half a dozen (or more!) characters and they each have to be different enough to feel like different people. No use having a lot of characters if no one can tell them apart.
  • You also have to be very, very careful that your characters don’t fall into archetypes. Or if they do, that they have something about them that really makes the archetype worth it. Make sure there’s a twist. If the character just really needs to be an archetype, make sure that they feel organic. Avoid clichés as best as you can.
  • You have to make sure that your ending lets everything be said. Again, this is a little different now that we can offer side novellas and what not, but if you have half a dozen important characters, you have to make sure they each get their due and that their storyline ends by the time you say “The End.” This may not be an easy thing to balance out.

Benefits:

  • So. Many. Voices. Really that’s what’s fun about an ensemble cast and the time a series will give you to feature them. You get to experiment with so many different characters and write in their distinct voices. You don’t get “stuck” with one or two characters.
  • Time. Really a big benefit of a series is that you have room and time to get to a lot of things. In my case, a lot of different characters with personal storylines that play into the bigger story arch. You can even end a book halfway through one character’s personal struggle… it will bring some back to read the next book, to see how it turned out.

So… sorry to turn a reading question into a lecture about writing… but really, I’m not. I wonder if anybody else can think of benefits and challenges to the two?

The Awesome and the Less Awesome

There are a few adjustments being made in my life at the moment, and things are still changing and needing to settle down, so I’m deciding to cut down my blogging to one day a week. I know, a little lame, but until I have things more figured out, I want to at least be dependable in the things I’ve said I’ll do.

That said, I’ve been negligent about this blog the past few weeks, and I’m so sorry. Here’s a little list of what’s been going on in my life, both the Awesome and the Less Awesome.

Awesome: I’ve started the first “normal” job I’ve ever had in my life. I say “normal” because I’ve been working since high school, just about, but it’s always been in unusual conditions. Single-employee office jobs, online gigs, selling crafts and what have you. I’ve just never had what you might call a normal paycheck, and I’m enjoying the idea of a little bit of stability in my life.

Less Awesome: This does, of course, cut down on my time to write, which is why sacrifices must be made. I know I’ve been rearranging blog schedules as is, but cutting down on blog time is essential in this. This way I can focus on quality, not quantity, and on getting my WIP all finished for my goal at the end of June.

Awesome: The other day I broke 70K, writing over 4600 words in one day. Less time = more focus!

Less Awesome: I’m really worried that my bad guy is one-dimensional.

Awesome: This weekend is the LDS Storymakers Conference here in Utah. A fabu writers’ conference that a lot of my writerly friends will be attending!

Less Awesome: I can’t go. 😦

Awesome: I will be able to meet up with a bunch of those same friends on Friday night at the Authors Incognito Mix & Mingle that goes along with the writers’ conference!

So that’s what’s up in my neck of the woods.

Oh, and one more Awesome: I’m giving away a ten-page critique at the Dojo! Enter the Rafflecopter here!

Now a word from you… what are you reading this week? How are you liking it?

Music Monday: Mat Kearney – All I Need

Mat Kearney – All I Need

Background: I love Mat Kearney for one thing—he sounds like Adam Duritz, of the Counting Crows, my absolute favorite contemporary male artist. That sounds close-minded of me, but I love that voice, and I’ll take it even when it’s not really Adam’s. (He doesn’t sound 100% like Adam, but about 90%, close enough).

Favorite line: “I’m grabbing at the fray for something that won’t drown.”  But really I love this whole song. Every single line. “Light’s just breaking so don’t let go of my arm.” “If all we’ve got is what no one can break/I know I love you, if that’s all we can take.”

My song history: I found this song at the perfect time, just as I was starting to really form Daughter in my mind. This song is inextricably connected to that story for me, and always will be.

What drew me in: Like I said, what originally drew me in was Kearney’s voice, but the minute the lyrics started to sink in, I couldn’t escape loving it.

For my writing: According to last.fm I’ve listened to this song 176 times, but that’s probably a fraction of the truth. If Ashes and Wine (my #1 on last.fm, with 198 plays) is my song for Amara, my heroin, “All I Need” is my song for Philo, the boy who loves her. This song is so Philo I couldn’t have found a better one if I’d tried. It talks about “trying to be the man” when they’re seen as just a boy, about running without knowing what you’re running for, just that she needs it, and being completely over their heads on a journey that’s much bigger than them.

All Over the Place

Hi guys!

Okay, this blog is still a little rough-going. I’m in between apartments at the moment… which, in case there’s any confusion in that, is not an easy place to be. So posting might be sporadic, just so you know.

Best news is The Mr. has one job already—part time, but we’ll take what we can get. In the meanwhile, I’m still posting at The Hollow Tree and the Dojo.

Make sure to check out my most recent posts – I wrote a very well-received (to my delight!) explanation of Voice over at the Dojo with the Blue Bike Experiment, and on Tales From the Hollow Tree, my latest story went up today called The Frozen Castle, with a retelling of one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. See how long it takes you to figure out which one it is!

In other news, I’m plugging along working on Daughter. I’ve successfully pieced together a lot of it, but there is still an awful lot to go. I’m excited to see it starting to come together, though! This book really is my baby, and I’m glad I’ve made the commitment to finally get it done.

 

** Why the jellyfish? Because that’s how I’ve been feeling of late. Floating through life in a sporadic way, being rushed along by the tides. Hopefully I’ll be settling into a more familiar skin soon!

Music Monday: “Ashes and Wine” by A Fine Frenzy

“Ashes and Wine” – A Fine Frenzy

My Song History: This is a song about giving up on a relationship, or rather, being right at the point where you realize that things aren’t going to work, so giving up might be the best option.

According to my last.fm, this is the most commonly played song on my laptop. I’m not too surprised. I use this for writing on repeat constantly. Somehow it always puts me in the mood for writing Daughter, even though the lyrics and the story of the song are nothing like the story it inspires me for. I just love A Fine Frenzy, from the first time I heard “Almost Lover,” and something about the music and the ups and downs of Alison Sudol’s voice inspires me and makes me want to write.

Favorite Line: “Is there a chance/a fragment of light/at the end of the tunnel/a reason to fight?”

(I also LOVE “All the same/I don’t want mudslinging games”)

What Drew Me In: Quite honestly, the title. Such a delicious promise of wreckage. Something beautiful that’s turned into something desolate. And desolation is a feeling music does help me with…

For my Writing: As I said, this song is an inspiration for my WP, Daughter of the Falling Leaves. Surprisingly this was actually the key to unlocking a big conflict/fight scene in the story for me. Since then it’s become a general inspiration for the overall story. Even though the song is about a relationship ending, its general feeling of melancholy and wanting desperately to fight for something that you may not be able to win is perfect for this story. Because maybe it’s worth it, even if you can’t win.