Monday, August 18, 2014

Hibernation

I took the complete summer off of writing. I feel guilty and lazy at the same time. It was a much needed break due to my health and mental state. I experienced a bad flare of IBS paired with the fibromyalgia. I was miserable and in pain most of the summer. Things have improved slightly, though I'm still not ready to come back and be creative just yet. I've had several ideas for new stories, but right now I'm jotting them down for the future.

I pulled out of LJ Idol as well. It broke my heart to do so, because I adore Gary and all he has done to promote creativity on the internet. He is made of awesome. This is the last year he will be running the contest. (unless he changes his mind) Pulling out was hard to do, but I wasn't able to write my entries and keep up with reading all the entries too. It wasn't fair to the rest for me to keep on with my limited participation. Being chronically ill can be such a buzz kill. I try not to let it define who I am, but it has a way of asserting itself over and over again.

The remainder of August will be spent resting. Come September, I'm opening up my writing files with fresh eyes and finish editing my WIP. I might not finish the series the way I envisioned, but I'm determined to finish editing my story and sending it to my cousin to read. I trust her to tell me the truth about my ability and my work.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Rebirth

May is here. Spring is in full swing and the world is coming back to life after a miserable winter of sub-zero temperatures and more snow than I am comfortable with it. It is time for me to reassess the goals I set for the year.

Back in January, when I was crippled with bronchitis, I pledged to finish the second draft of  The Valiant by the end of April. I failed to reach this goal. I've only edited one third of the manuscript. Several road blocks prevented forward progress. I am pushing back my completion date to September 15th. The positive is I know where I want the story to go. I am almost certain on how the series should end. I can see script unfolding in my head. I only need to transfer what is in my brain to the page.

Work on The Hunted stalled after I had a massive flare of condition in April. My goal is to be finished with the first draft of it by September 15th. I would also like to have a working outline for The Calling completed by then. I know these are ambitious goals considering I have a problem with consistence. I can work daily on my writing and then illness can push me back for a month. It is something I need to address if I hope to become a professional.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Resilience

"The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape" 

"The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties"

"Toughness" 

It has taken me two weeks to recover from my latest flare. Today is the first day I've felt good enough to be online and typing. Today is the day I "spring back into shape" and carry on. A fortnight was lost, but now I carry on.

I lowered my Camp NaNoWriMo goal to correspond with my difficulties. I wrote over 11,000 words in April and an amazing bit of back story came to me in an odd moment, so I am declaring the month a success and moving forward. I don't think your failures should define you. It is what you do with the failures and how you proceed after the dust has settled.  Moving forward and not letting adversity derail progress is important. 

The goal for today is to write a piece for LJ Idol. I have several ideas for how I want to approach the prompt. So far this season, my entries have been non-fiction stories about my life. Do I vary from the norm or continue in the same vein? Things to think about.


 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Meddling Kids

After plotting my second novel in less than a year, I have story structure ingrained on my brain.

Inciting incident. check.

First major conflict check.

and so on. If you are a writer, then you know the drill. Even the most die-hard pantser has some idea about the path their story will take. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of plotting every detail and letting the story take me where it may.

Yesterday, my grandchildren were watching an old episode of Scooby-Doo and I was reminded of  Saturday mornings spent sitting in front of the television with a bowl of cold cereal balanced precariously on my lap. Back then I didn't  care about the predictably of the cartoon. It was reassuring in a way. I knew by the end of twenty minutes those crazy kids in the funky van would catch the bad guy. Now, I can see the structure of the story telling.

There is an inciting incident.

 Usually the van breaks down in the middle of nowhere near a creepy house, amusement park, movie theater, ect. and a mystery presents itself.

Conflict develops within the group as Shaggy and Scooby uncover a clue and no one takes them seriously. I can understand why they don't, a dog with a weird accent and an obvious stoner aren't exactly to be trusted.

Next, the heroes come up with a plan which usually fails and someone is kidnapped, in danger, ect. The group then splits up to cover more ground.

A chase scene infuses more conflict in the story.

 It is all wrapped up tidy at the end, usually deus ex machina, and the culprit turns out to be the last person anyone would suspect.

Yes, it is predictable, but I watched faithfully, every Saturday. I like to think I was waiting for Fred to break character and sweep Thelma off her feet.

Formula stories don't have to be boring. I think it is possible to follow a structure guide loosely and produce a piece of fiction capable of surprising and thrilling readers. It takes a bit of skill and the art of misdirection, but it can be done. I love those types of stories, the ones that start out and you think you know how it is going to end, but then something different happens to throw you off. Those are the ones I recommend to friends. Those are the ones I want to write.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Accountability

For me, staying in the habit of writing every day is hard. I need a deadline to help me focus and to keep me moving forward. If left to my own devices, I will wile away my days watching bad television and playing video games. This might be why my edit/rewrite of my NaNoWriMo novel is taking so long. I need the accountability of a public forum to stay motivated.

I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo and I'm using the month of April to write the first draft of the next book in the series. Writing another first draft when I have one I need to edit seems like a weird thing to do, but I feel I need to get the entire story out of my head before it disappears. A part of me wishes I started writing the second book back in December when I had a clear idea of where I wanted the plot to go. The partial outline I completed then doesn't seem like enough of a road map. I have fragmented notes, but they are confusing to me. Brain fog is the symptom of fibromyalgia I hate the most. Thoughts, ideas, and memories fall out of my mind so easy.

When new writers are starting on their journeys, they are encouraged to write every day. The practice of putting words on the page daily sharpens your skills and makes you a better writer. I agree with this idea one hundred percent. But it is easy to let life and other things keep you from following your dreams. Pain, sickness, and just plain procrastination has deterred me from writing on a daily basis. It was only since I lost my job, that I have rediscovered the joy of creating worlds out of words.

Not writing for a couple of years was a good choice for me. I think I appreciate it more now and I think I am better writer than I was back then. I spent the time reading and thinking about writing. I feel lucky to have a writing group who stood beside me during the times when I wasn't writing. They have become like family to me.

Monday, March 31, 2014

From the Heart

When I first started my writing journey, I bought numerous books on the subject. One thing they all agreed on was the concept of "writing what you know." Did this mean I needed to trash my fantasy novel involving parallel universes? I'm not a student of quantum physics and the mechanics of my world were pulled from my warped brain. Was my story less since I was writing about things foreign to me?

Of course not. I don't believe in "write what you know." I support the idea of "writing from you heart." In other words, write about things you love. In the case of novel writing, you will be working on your project for at least six months to a year, so the subject matter should be something you find interesting and are passionate about or you run the risk of losing interest. For example, someone who loathes world building probably shouldn't write a fantasy novel set in a make believe world.

My stories tend to be more character driven, with the plot being secondary. In the past, I've abandoned projects when I couldn't love the main character. It is hard to spend time with characters you don't care about and sometimes come to detest. The characters who capture my affection are flawed yet still strong. The main character of the series I'm working on is an angry woman who is searching for the truth. I love the sensitive side of her nature and how it balances with angst she feels.

The best advice I can give to new writers attempting to write their first novel is to make sure they love their story. Write from your heart. Tap into your feelings and use what you have experienced to bring your characters to life. You don't need to have fought dragons to write about them, but make sure you have tackled adversity and can relate to the emotions involved with slaying monsters.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time Keeps On Ticking

Novel writing is a marathon, not a sprint.

I need to remember this. Growing a story from an idea takes time. My current idea came to me almost a year ago, after a specially, vivid dream.  I jotted it down in my story ideas file for future use. I wasn't writing at the time, having stopped due to stress and health reasons. It has been my experience  even though I stop writing, the ideas don't stop coming. When I lost my job, I  decided to start writing again. I went through my list of ideas and it called to me.

NaNoWriMo was approaching and I had a shiny, one sentence idea. How would I write 50,000 words based on one sentence? Enter my writing group and a technique we stole from a fellow writer. They threw me a novel "bash" where my one sentence would be expanded into characters, setting, and plot. Without my fellow Yetis, I would've been lost. They helped me expand my idea into not one book, but three if all goes as planned.

After plotting, I wrote my rough draft in one month and "won" NaNoWriMo. I completed this feat with caffeine, anti-inflammatories, sheer determination. Now comes the hard part, taking my rough draft and polishing it till it becomes the story I want to tell. Editing doesn't come easy to me, it never has. This is why I have so many half finished, unedited novels on my hard drive. For me, editing is tedious and time consuming.

Last week, my online writing group held a chat with a published author about editing. It helped me get past a roadblock I encountered. The author mentioned spending two years (please correct me if I heard wrong) editing a novel. This helped me to relax and stop worrying about the time it was taking me to go from rough draft to second rough draft. My game plan is to finish a rough second draft then print it out and read it all at once, taking notes. From my notes, I want to compose a third draft to send to my beta readers. This will not happen over night.

Novel writing is a marathon. I have been in training for ten years.