Monday, November 30, 2009

A Writer's Christmas List




Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Slow





Just a few things from my list this year...

Ergonomic chair that feels like I'm sitting on down cushions.

Magic potion to avoid "writer's spread" from countless hours in chair.

On call, cheap, amazing childcare

Ability to function normally on four hours of sleep

Desire to exercise

Free enthusiastic research assistant

On call computer genius who has English as a first language and understands my problem on the first explanation. Also makes free house calls and looks like George Clooney.

Quarterly writing getaways. Preferably a week long on a beach with several writing buddies.

Writing studio with big windows, view, constant calorie free pastries and great coffee, overstuffed furniture and a fireplace.



What's on your magic wish list?




New approach on goals


Current Project: Derby book
Status: Slow going

So NaNoWriMo was a total fail for me, but that's okay! I'm thinking of doing my own NaNoWriMo in December. I respect the fact that November is a busy month and if you can write 50,000 words then - wow you're a superstar!! That's a great intent with the program. But, I just couldn't do it. And that's okay - I made a choice to put classes and work above my writing in November. But, classes are basically done this week and I'm taking a week of vacation this month, so I think it's a good time to do it. I had hoped to have a first draft of a book by the end of the year, it's not too late to nearly reach that goal.

I've also been thinking about long-term goals, particularly for next year. I've done major goal setting a couple of times, just never really stuck to the goals. I want to give it a valliant effort this year. I recently bought this awesome planner that has sections for charts and goal setting and other things that would make most sane people want to run for the hills. That will allow me to see my goals each week and chart progress toward them. So we'll see!

Typically when I set writing goals, I go overboard and it feels overwhelming. I'll make goals about how many queries to do, how many books to write/draft, etc. I spread myself too thin and get overwhelmed. But 2010 will not be that way.

Here are my goals:
1) Write every day. Even if it's just a sentence.
2) Get a polished book that I can query.
3) Begin querying.

That's it. Broad goals, not too specific. Enough to keep writing a focus in my life and move toward a career in it. I've noticed that I'm trying to move away from too much planning and plotting in my writing, and it seems to be carrying over to how I think about my writing. Maybe that's a good thing :)

Do you have any goals for next year?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Making steady progress

Hi, all! It's unusual that I'm the first at Saturday check-in--especially since it's evening. Must be a busy day or long weekend for all of you. Hope it has been a good one!

How are you all doing on your writing? How about those who are doing NaNoWriMo? Are you where you wanted to be when you started almost a month ago?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Authors beware


Current Project:For the Love of a Sister
Status: Synopsis

I haven't been receiving e-mail from my website e-mail account. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. My daughter thought I must have deleted something in my Thunderbird but when I went to my host site, there wasn't any e-mail in the box. I went to another one of my e-mails that I had routed through that e-mail and they were all bouncing back.

I called my host and they said I never paid the renewal on my domain name.WUWT? I know I received an e-mail about the renewal and I followed their directions, but there is no record of the renewal and I can either wait two weeks when the domain is up for grabs again and pay $9.95 or I can get a whole new website and domain name for $160 today. It looks like I'm going without a website and e-mail for two weeks because I am not paying $160 for their screw up.

So be aware those of you with domain names. DON'T let them lapse! It's a nightmare.

Thursday, November 26, 2009



In lieu of the holiday, I'm not going to drone on and on. (I know that breaks your heart!) I simply want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday. May you eat gobs of unhealthy foods, drink to excess and remember all the wonderful gifts that you have to be thankful for.

And if you feel so inclined - and have the time - how about sharing what writing gifts YOU are thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Count Your Blessings, Character Style

Current Project:NMMNG
Status: The tortoise approaches the threshold

Tomorrow countless blogs, facebook posts, and relatives sitting around the table will recount their blessings, and this is all well and good. And I'm sure there will be more than a handful of posts talking about our blessings as writers, so I'll leave that territory for those more reflective than I. Instead, I want to talk about our characters and how they celebrate the holiday. Christmas books are a long time staple of the romance world, but Thanksgiving books and scenes are a little more rare. I love when they appear though because they reveal so much about the character and his or her family dynamic, values, beliefs, and preferences.

Now whether or not you are planning a Thanksgiving scene in your WIP, choose one of your characters (pick the trickiest one you were complaining about yesterday for a challenge) and give him or her a typical Thanksgiving prior to the start of your story. Who is there? Who is he or she happy to see? Not? What foods does he or she like? Dislike? If he or she is without family, what might he or she do instead? Now when he or she was a child, what sort of Thanksgiving was celebrated? How did these memories shape your present character? Finally, what sort of Thanksgiving future would you like to give your character at the close of your book?

I'll be back to put up my own answers later. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNo Day Twenty-Something, "Motivate Me!"

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: NaNoWriMo 2009
Status: 13,258 words

Don't panic! That isn't me asking for your help (although, now that you mention it...wait, what?). Ahem, as I was saying, that's not me asking for your help. Oh, no. That's the sound of the characters in my head yelling at me.

In the past few days my characters have turned into whiny method actors, nitpicking every scene. Now it's, "What's my motivation here?", and "My character wouldn't do that!" I mean, really, you get boxed in a corner and throw in one lousy exploding llama* and it's all, "Now you're just making stuff up!".


You think they'd be grateful for their shot at starring in a novel. But are they? Nope, not them. I can hear them whispering in the back of my head. Occasionally a word or phrase will be clear: "...want script approval...too much coincidence...go on strike..." It's a nasty business.

*sigh*

I'll admit I've struggled with a couple of problem areas. The first is having too many things happen by coincidence. I don't want to write one of those books. You know the kind of book I'm talking about, where things happen just when they need to. Not as a natural consequence of a character's actions, but just because, well, the author needed something to happen and, hey, coincidences occur all the time, don't they? Not in my book, they won't! Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. It's so alluring, you know? When you've written yourself into a corner and there's an easy way out--why not take it? I now understand that temptation.

The second area I've struggled with is, yes, character motivation--the smaller, scene by scene motivations, not the big, this is my character's inner conflict motivation stuff. I mean, I tried to get my heroine to voluntarily walk through the interdimensional portal to an unknown fate, I really did. I told her her father was probably trapped on the other side somewhere. She didn't buy it. Said she was too smart to just assume stuff like that without a lot more proof and some hint of what she'd face--oh, and a means of, you know, returning! Fine, I said, I'll just have the damn device overload while you're fiddling with it and toss you across the portal (if you won't go voluntarily...). We bickered back and forth about the difference between an inciting incident and one huge coincidence (and somewhere in there is where the llama exploded). It wasn't pretty.

Come to think of it, maybe it's just one problem--too much coincidence!

We've come to a tentative agreement, my characters and I. I've promised to examine the motivation I give them in every scene and they've promised to stop yelling at me, at least until we get to revision. However, they've made it clear that if I throw in one more exploding llama* they won't be responsible for their actions.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself tempted to let something happen by coincidence in your plot? How do you resist?






*No llamas were exploded in the process of writing this post.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brainstorming a Title


Current Project: Spirit of the Mountain/ Cowboy Story
Status: reading pregalley/working on revisions

I missed the meeting last week and I am in need of some brainstorming for a title for my contemporary western about a bareback bronc rider and an ER nurse. My editor said it needs more emotion because it is an emotion driven book two thirds of the way until there is some suspense toward the end. And she wants me to come up with a new title.

This is my little spiel: A celibate ER nurse with plans to build a camp for sexually abused children finds herself drawn to a rodeo cowboy and his art. Their passions bring them together, their pasts wedge them apart.

The heroine was a victim of incest as a child, she overcame a promiscuous teen age years to vow to be celibate and help abused children through her love of music. The hero is a bareback bronc rider whose younger sister was a victim of abuse by his stepfather. But he didn't realize it until after his sister committed suicide. He feels he let her down.

The hero is intrigued by her walls and her beautiful music. She is intrigued by his art and his tenaciousness to befriend her. It is a slow building of trust. Then as she is admitting her feelings for him, a crazy fan causes trouble.

A friend said I need to have words like: Trust, Hope, in the title. I'm open to any thoughts to help me figure this out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN/NANO UPDATE


Current Project: None
Status: Thinking

It's official, I am out of work, unemployed, and wondering what comes next. This is always an odd time for me. Half my brain is whispering, "Relax, enjoy being blank. You're like a field where corn is grown year after year. You have to add some soil restoritives or rotate the crops. Lie farrow for awhile, stay open for the next seed that blows into your consciousness and sends down roots." The other half of my brain is saying, "You'll never write again. It's over." Have you ever noticed how bipolar writers are?

How about you? How goes Nano or your own personal goals?

Friday, November 20, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN/NANO UPDATE


Current Project:Between projects
Status: holding...

How has your week been? I've had better. I've also had worse. Hope yours was fulfilling and that you will chime in here to report.

The book is gone and in New York, so that's good news.

Your turn.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

YOUR OPINION, PLEASE, ON THE LATEST PUBLISHING NEWS

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Nine-book series
Status: Developing nicely!

My sincere apologies for this late blog post and I will also apologize if it seems rambling. Both of my older doggies are going through some tough times right now and my sleep has been sporadic at best. 


However, I have a ready topic thanks to Harlequin's announcement that it is establishing a vanity publishing arm and RWA's decision to remove Harlequin from its list of eligible publishers.


Many of the loops I am on are jumping with opinions on this topic. If you'd like to share your thoughts about this please, as always on our loop, be respectful of the feelings and opinions of others. 


I'm going to toss out some thoughts that I haven't seen expressed (but I haven't read the loops yet today). I'm sure there will be more news about this in the days to come.


THESE ARE MY THOUGHTS ONLY and don't reflect the any stance the chapter may wish to take. I've tried to keep these as thoughts only and not make a judgment on what's right or wrong or somewhere in between. Here we go:


For decades, RWA has done an excellent job of teaching people how to write as well as inspiring those same people to follow their dream of being published. 


Yet the number of RWA members has long exceeded the number of romance books published per year. 


So if only one out of every five or ten (or whatever the number is) RWA members become published by a traditional print publisher, what happens to the dreams of those writers who aren't yet published? 


Sure, some of their work isn't up to the standard we'd like to think all published books should be. Though we've probably all read or tried to read published books while wondering how in the world it ever got published.


I think we all know writers whose work is excellent and they haven't been published. 


Electronic book companies have filled the desire to be published for many authors. Stories that don't fit the mold of print publishers have found a happy home as e-books. Yes, early e-books got a reputation of not being "as good" as printed books. However, I think their quality has steadily improved--as has their market share. 


Of course, print publishers have noticed that market share of e-books, especially as they have experienced losses for many months (or years?). How are they going to stay in business? Perhaps by tapping into e-books and, ohbytheway, have you seen what vanity publishers are doing? People are actually paying to have their books printed. For a business whose priority is making money, I can see where this would be quite a temptation. 


If a print publisher goes out of business, where would all their established authors find a home for their stories?


I'm going to stop there as I need to dash off for a couple hours. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts when I return.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PRINCESS FOR A DAY


Current Project: PRINCESS BOOK
Status: page 0

Today I would like to ask for your help. I'm in the beginning plotting phase for a book about a heroine who becomes a princess for a few days. As I write RS, it won't turn out to be the best day in the world to make this change and mayhem will ensue.

Do you have a fantasy about royalty? If your fairy godmother showed up while you were asleep and transformed you into a princess of a medium sized realm and you could do nothing but go along with it, what would you want to do? Would it involve the jewels, the luxury, the palace, the people, power, what? What would be the first thing you would do when you got out of your impossibly feathery/downy/silky bed and stood in the middle of your 2000 square foot bedroom with your very own servants hovering nearby, anxious to meet your every desire? I'm talking fantasy, and remember, you don't have a choice about being in this position and no, you can't go effect world peace and I'm pretty sure you can't buy Gerald Butler.

I can't wait to see what you come up with. I'm going to put mine down later so I don't step on anyone's toes. Think like a princess! Think big! (Help me out....)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tantrums





Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Plodding along


I don't know if it is a lack of respect or simply a lack of industry education that makes an aspiring author strike out at others in publishing. Last week on the BookEnds blog, Jessica wrote about an email that had been sent to hundreds of publishing professionals. I read her blog with my jaw on the floor, and I imagine she looked the same way when she first read the email. And then laughed. The letter ranted against agents, editors, and authors.

Yes, this is a hard industry. Hard to get in, hard to stay in, and hard to be successful. But why lash out at the people who can help? Publishing needs gatekeepers (agents, editors) to filter out the crap. Does good work get skipped over sometimes? Yes. But if it is truly good, I firmly believe it will be recognized. A writer needs to simply find the right gatekeeper while improving their craft.

The letter was anonymous and made me wonder what the writer had experienced. Had she been querying for years and developed a folder with a hundred rejections? Had she written a dozen manuscripts only to find no one wants them? Or had she written one, queried a few agents, and gone into shock at the rejection. (I strongly suspect the last.) Whatever her experience, it pushed her off some sort of ledge.

My favorite bit was about how it is a crime for hard working people to spend years writing a manuscript only to get it rejected. I'm trying to image a world where every manuscript is published. With the internet anything can be published in some form, but imagine all those manuscipts with covers in a book store. I cringe to imagine my early work where people can see it. I was proud of it at the time; I'd finished a book. But did that mean I had the right to demand someone pay to publish it?

I believe this person will never succeed in the business. She may feel better after her rant, but it won't change the rules. I have an image of this writer crossing her arms and stamping her feet as she scowls at Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling. That's not going to help. Here's the formula I think will help: Buckle down, study the industry, ask for help, show respect for professionals, and grow a thick skin. A little prayer might help, too.

Keeping it anonymous, has anyone met an aspiring writer or published author like this? And what would you add to my formula?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Constructing scenes

Current Project: Derby book
Status: First draft

I have a question for you all - how do you come up with your scenes? Do you plot major points of the book and brainstorm what it takes to get you there? Do you write a scene at a time and think to yourself, how would my character react, then write the next scene off of that reaction?

I used to be a full-fledged plotter. I would brainstorm the major points of the book, then come up with the scenes to take me to that point. I've talked about it some here already, but that clearly hasn't been working for me. The plot only takes me so far, then I realize my characters fall flat because I didn't develop them enough.

So now I've made a point of focusing on characters. I'm not forgetting the plot by any means, I know the main points and where I want it to go, just not scene by scene. I thought I'd try allowing my characters and their actions and reactions to take me from scene to scene.

That's tough!

I'm having a heck of a time coming up with scene ideas. The amazing and wonderful Eli helped me brainstorm some plotting things late last week that has helped make the conflict stronger and more interesting throughout the book. I've been able to think of scenes for the next couple of chapters so I'm working on writing those, then I'll see what I can come up with next. But I could really use your ideas on how you come up with your scenes. Do you ask yourself a certain question? Post an issue? Or they just come to you?

Thanks for the tips! On an unrelated note, I'm trying to pick a roller derby name. I made a poll - if you have an opinion on any of them (or ideas for another one), I'd love your vote! I tried to think of a spoof on a famous romance author that the general public would know, like Nora Roberts, but couldn't think of anything. If you have other ideas, please leave them in the comments! Grazie!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN/NANO UPDATE


Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status: cutting, revising, trying to find a resolution I like...

Another week has flown by. The book should have left the house yesterday, but alas, it did not. My editor graciously said I could send it Monday which means it's crunch time. I spent most of yesterday working on a final read through and cutting extravaganza. About half done with that, so second half today, then it's time to wrap her up.

And then will come the plot another book phase, but hopefully, also some goof off time and some of that better include a little house cleaning because it's hard lately to find the house under all the clutter and dirt. The dh does an admirable job covering for me, but he's more an "event" cleaner (aren't most men?) Please tell me why our houses are not made out of cement with giant drains in the middle of every slightly sloping floor and a fire hose in every room.

So, how are you doing on your goals?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Low Down Gritty Truth

Current Project: Entwined
Status: 80,000+ words

We've talked about process several times. Plotting vs. panstering, character sheets vs. mulling things over in our heads. The act of writing is similar for each of us, regardless of the steps we take along the way. The only way to write a book is to sit at the computer and type. Or sit at a desk and hand write. Put words on paper. One page after another. That's the goal. That's what has to be done to get to 'The End'. But what about the mental game? Is that the same for me and you? Is it different if you're published or unpublished? When you're on deadline and when you're not? When you write for a NY pub or an epub? If you write novellas vs. novel length books? If you write category vs. single title?

My guess is no. But I'm curious to see if I'm right. A few years ago (three to be exact), I wrote out my mental process and posted it on my blog. Then I was unpublished and not working on deadline. Now I am. It was fun to look at what I wrote then and see how/if it has changed. To my surprise, not a whole lot has changed. My mental process when I'm writing a book is pretty much the same. The difference now - when I'm under deadline - is it's amplified. A lot.

ELISABETH'S MANUSCRIPT STAGES

Stage One - The Proposal
Chapter One - My shiny new idea isn't quite so shiny anymore. I forgot how much I hate writing first chapters. Hook? Hook? Gah! I hate hooks. I'm clearly hook-illiterate.
Chapter Two - Okay, maybe this isn't quite so bad. New POV, the setting works, I'm getting into the story. And wow, I sorta like my characters. Gonna have to go back and make some changes in chapter one, but I think this just might fly.
Chapter Three - Zip, zip, zip through the first three chapters. My agent is going to love this.
Synopsis - Pause to work on suckopsis. Pull hair out by the roots. Whine and complain on IM to anyone who happens to be online. Finally get it done and badda-bing...send away.
Wait - And Wait. And Wait. At this point I should be used to waiting. But you know what? Not so much.

Stage Two - The Reality
Chapter Four - Okay, now what? It sold? Oh, boy. Now I have to write it. The idea made sense in the synopsis. But that was months ago. I haven't looked at this thing since my agent sent it off. Oy. I think I'm in trouble here...
Chapter Five - Getting into the groove. I actually like this. This story might just work. Sure, characters are angsty, but they're fun.
Chapter Six - I am the best writer on the planet! This is going to be a NY Times Best Seller! Maybe I should take a break and think about writing my RITA speech.

Stage Three - The Middle
Chapter Seven - (Right around the 125 pg mark). OMG. What was I thinking?! This is the most contrived piece of drivel that was ever written! I'll have to PAY people to read it. And melodramatic? Argh. Sounds like a bad version of Days Of Our Lives. I'll probably get sued.
Chapter Eight - I'm too far in to give up. I will not give up. I will NOT! I have a contract. People are counting on me. Push through, push through, just keep pushing...
Chapters Nine through Eleven - Okay, if nothing else, I like my characters. I don't have a clue where the plot is going, but the characters are strong. That's something at least.
Chapter Twelve - The hero's getting on my nerves. He needs sex. At this point though I have NO idea where I'm going to fit that in. But seriously? If he doesn't quit pestering me I'm going to slit my wrists.
Chapter Thirteen - Oh, crap. I've passed the halfway mark and I STILL have all these plot points to get through. I'm going over my target word count, there's no way I'll get all this in here in 100K words. No way. I'm doomed.
Chapter Fourteen - Need chocolate. Must. Have. Chocolate. These two are driving me nuts. My editor isn't going to give a rip about these two. And the plot? Holy Crapoli. How will I ever tie this all together?
Chapter Fifteen - Building. Slowly. But still so much to get through. *big sigh* Okay, refocus. Time to get serious. I can do this. Really, I can. I might lose all my eyebrows in the process, but I can do this.

Part Four - The Beginning of the End
Chapter Sixteen - Tension, angst, black moment foreshadowing (and that's mostly for me, not the book)
Chapter Seventeen - Here it comes. Climax build up. Black Moment. Yes, hero, I know you hate me. Hang on with me. I won't leave you out to dry, I promise.
Chapter Eighteen - BAM. Black Moment. UGH. I'm emotionally drained. I need coffee. Or chocolate. Or coconut cream pie. Mmm...wonder if Shari's is still open...
Chapter Nineteen - Climax. My shoulders are tight. I feel like crawling out of my skin. Maybe I should kill someone just for the fun of it to ease all this stress?
Chapter Twenty - Resolution. Wrap up all the loose ends. Surprisingly, I did it! Kissy-face moment. Slobber, slobber, pant, drool all over each other. Man, I write pure sap. But it's not half-bad sap. ;)

Type T-H-E E-N-D.

Reeeeeeeeeeelief. I should get a medal or something. Too bad no one in the house will care that I finally finished. Wonder if there's champagne somewhere...

Hit "send".

Stare at blinking cursor.

Feel something funny. What is that? Oh yeah. I recognize that flutter in my belly. It's angst. Not over writing the book but over the fact I finished. Was the book crap or was it really good? Now I'm just not sure! And I have to wait to hear from my editor to find out the answer. (There go the eyebrows for sure...)

*smacks hand against forehead* Why do I do this again?

*sigh*

On to the next proposal...

***

How about you? What are the steps you go through when you sit down to start "Chapter One". Share your process!

And before I forget...this is for our dear friend, Alice:


(You gotta change that last word to "Alice")

Happy Birthday, Alice!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What I'm NOT Doing

Current Project: NMMNG
Status: Page 30

Sorry for the late posting! What is the longest stretch you have ever gone without reading a novel? Back in college and graduate school, I would routinely go the 3-4 months of the term without being able to read fiction of my own choosing. I would then spend the breaks gorging on fiction. One of my favorite rituals was the day-after-finals library run. In the last six (GULP!) years though, I have become really spoiled. As you all well know, I am a voracious reader, and my book-every-other-day habit has sustained me through job changes, pregnancy, and early motherhood. For the past several years, I have known that if I truly want to write more, I should read less--it *should* be one of the easier things to let go. However, reading is my main form of stress relief, and I just haven't wanted to make that sacrifice. In the last two weeks, however, I have not finished a book. Instead, bedtime finds me with my book light still in hand, but with a yellow legal pad across my knees as I use the time for writing.

In the past, many of our speakers have lamented the fact that they are no longer readers with any great regularity, and I have secretly vowed to myself that that I would *always* sustain my reading pace, but in addition to simply *wanting* it more, something else has happened in the last year or so: I enjoy reading less. GASP. I found myself chucking more books against the wall, reading more like a writer--dissecting scenes and cliches, and really searching for the gems that let me truly escape. I found myself obsessed with nonfiction narratives about mothering and was stymied as to why until my best friend told me, "Duh! Bethany! Your mind wants you to give birth to and nurture a new book."

A light bulb went on and stayed brightly lit as I plotted this new book. The spark of wanting IT--the golden ring of success--grew and grew until I was willing to make some new sacrifices, and reading time was chief among them.

This worked awesome for about a week and half and the point of this blog was going to be about how the no-reading diet was working wonders for me, but like Debbie, I hit a wall writing wise and other stressors crept in and the NEED TO READ was this palpable beast following me around. I get discouraged that my paragraph by paragraph, page by page progress really isn't that much, and I get ahead of myself thinking about a tough winter term I have and if I will even be able to finish this book. Deep breath. And I need to read to escape those voices in my head. So I have played games with the need to read--I can read read after I write at least a paragraph which often leads to pages as I hit the momentum again. I carry my yellow pad and plotting book around with me the way I do my knitting, and word by word I am getting there.

Do you read less now than when you started writing? Has the trade off been worth it for you? If you read less, what other ways do you reduce stress? By reading less, do you enjoy it more when you do get a chance to read?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNo Day 9, Goals and Motivation Revisited

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: NaNoWriMo 2009
Status: 7816 / 50,000 words

I've been blogging daily about my NaNoWriMo experience in my personal blog. Yesterday's post (NaNo Day 8, On Which I Hatch A Cunning Plan) was about trying to figure out why, at 7427 words, I suddenly experienced the dreaded "now what?" syndrome. While the post was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the topic was serious. (And I wasn't lying about the directed dreaming--I really did that.)

You see, I'd been chugging along writing scenes, getting to know my characters beyond descriptions on a worksheet, thinking we were all having fun, when wham! I came to a wall. A blank wall, at that. What the heck was wrong? I'd worked on plot (boy, had I worked on plot!). So why couldn't I figure out what came next?

Over the course of the day--spent mostly away from the computer--I came to realize that while my characters had strong personalities, their goals were weak and their motivations, tepid. I'd made the fatal mistake of confusing the huge world building of the story (i.e. the setting/framework for the story) with the, actual, you know, story of the story. Confused? Yeah, me too.


The "world" of my story is huge. It's set in the "multiverse" (an infinite number of alternate universes) -- and you can't get much bigger than that. But the story itself, I think, needs to be more intimate, at least, the story that I want to tell does. The problem is, I made it too small. Small enough to be resolved in a chapter, maybe two chapters if I dragged things out. Thus, the wall I hit.

Part of the problem is my inexperience. I know that I'm still learning and until I actually complete a book, I'll continue to grope my way along. I understand that, tough as it is for me to admit ("I've been voraciously reading books all my life. You'd think I'd just know how to put one together!"). But another part of the problem is my personality. I dislike conflict in real life and I go out of my way to avoid it when possible. I like the characters I've created and I've discovered a blind spot I didn't know I had. I have a tough time making their lives difficult. Who knew?

My advice to myself? Get over it!

What I did on NaNo Day 9 was go back to the character drawing board and really examine character goals and motivation. I'm not quite done with that. I'd say I've raised the motivation temperature from tepid to warm and put a little pudding into the jello of their goals (ew! I really need to come up with a better visual for that!). Still, it was a realization worth having and changes worth making.

What about you? Do you (or did you) ever find yourself making things too easy on your characters? How did you get over it/solve that problem? A newbie (really!) wants to know.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Co-Writing


Current Project:For A Sister's Love
Status: 80 pages

I've been working on a project with another author. She approached me several months ago with an idea of two sisters who crossed the plains in a wagon train and their parents were killed. The girls were adopted by different families and our book takes place with the journey of the two young women trying to find one another. She is writing the journey of the younger sister, and I'm writing the journey of the oldest sister. Her thought was the sisters were different to start with and then being raised differently the stories should be told differently.

Anyway, after the initial, "yeah, this sounds like fun", we instant messaged three times, discussing the family background of the girls, what each girl would be like and the heroes that they would encounter on their journeys. After each discussion we'd both think about our story and characters and then we'd get together again and do more brainstorming.

What I've found interesting in this process, is the other author started her story first. The catalyst that starts that sister looking for her sister has to do with the hero my sister encounters. And what she writes about that character I have to know to make my story work with hers. So in a way, I'm writing to a synopsis in that I have to make sure the information that she imparts is incorporated into my story. Very little of what I write pertains to her story, until I write the epilogue when they find one another. (the other author wrote the prologue about how they became adopted)

I'm finding I like this corroboration. It makes me think ahead more in my writing and gives me more points I have to make work in my story. I'm finding it challenging and fun. I hope our efforts pay off.

Could you work with another writer on a project that is interconnected? Do you think it would be fun or hard?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN/NANO UPDATE


Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status: last chapter

Welcome updaters and Nanoers alike. Hope your past week was productive and satisfying.

You know how when you write a book you have a last chapter in mind, a last scene, say? That's how I do it, anyway. I write forward knowing where I want to end. It's like completing a gymnast move, it's the dismount. No matter how brilliantly you twist and turn in the air, it's how you hit the floor that will make or break you.

That's where I am -- only this week I realized the last two scenes I had planned for the ending weren't really going to work and that leaves me with one week to think of a better way. I also need to figure out who was responsible for each act inside the book -- there is more than one bad guy and truthfully (I can't believe I'm admitting this), I am not entirely sure who did what. I need to write it all down and make sure it fits and I need to do that before I go on. This book has been an interesting learning experience.

So, how is it going with you? I know we're all hoping our Nanoers will check in with an update but there are many of us with other kinds of goals, as well. It looks like a yukky day out there, a perfect day for writing. Have fun!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: nine-book series

Status: Ideas leap-frogging!

Can you have too much of a good thing? Writing? Chocolate? Promo opportunities?

Ask an author on deadline who has gained twenty-five pounds and has a book coming out in two weeks and you'll get a different answer than if you talk to pretty much anyone else on the planet. DISCLAIMER: Said writer is a composite fictional character and any resemblance to a real person is simply coincidence. :)

Most of the time when we become overwhelmed, it's with negative events. We're chugging along pretty well with life and the kids get sick or the spouse needs emergency surgery or the washing machine dies or a variation of all these things happens in the same week. At least we can count on some sympathy from friends and family.

But what if your writing project is going so well that you want to work on it far into the night? Or some freelance jobs come in that will pay your property taxes and buy Christmas presents? Then a couple friends send e-mails about opportunities that will be perfect for the promotion you wanted to do with your books? And by the way, we get sunny weather for a few days in a row so you can squeeze in another yard project you thought would have to wait until spring. Is it sympathy or sarcasm when a friend or family member says, "You poor dear, your life is too wonderful"?

I hit Overwhelm Mode last year after my first three books were released within a ten-month period, promo was in full swing, and a number of other good things were happening. This year good things are hoppin' again. But I'm prepared for them! I read an article about how quantum physics says you can slow down time. I'm not sure that means I can sleep an hour longer and still get as much done, but it's worth a try. I've also had a year to practice focusing on priority projects and not become so distracted by shiny new ideas. And I'm headed into the end of the year with a Thanksgiving Attitude of being grateful all these good things--even if they are sometimes disguised as challenges.

How about you? Have you ever been overwhelmed by good things? If so, please share your survival suggestions. Chocolate and recommendations for good books are welcome--no sympathy needed!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

PSST... THERE'S A DEAD FISH IN YOUR PUNCH BOWL


Current Project: THE BABY'S BODYGUARD
Status: page 263

A couple of days ago I had a little down time with my WIP. I just couldn't seem to go forward so I went back. I fussed with scenes. I rewrote dialogue. I beefed up action scenes and love scenes. I changed a character's name and gave another character a complete make-over. Too many blue cars, make one a white van. Stuff like that. I busied myself for days fixing the details, cleaning up many of the little snags I knew were back there such as time jumps and characters without a purpose and red herrings that didn't belong.

Then I sat back, confident that I was now ready to go forward again.

Only I couldn't. Wait. Maybe it wasn't the distant past of the book that was halting progress, maybe it was what I had just written. So, I went to work on that. By the end of the day, the last scene was tight, the dialogue snappy, everything was set to go. Launch time: the next morning.

Next morning: well, the scene was still good and I was still dead in the water. About that time, it occurred to me I had killed the wrong man. Back in my novice days of writing, something like that would have tickled me to death. In fact, I can still recall a call from a good friend who informed me (with wonder in her voice) that she'd had the wrong the villain through the whole book, that she'd just changed to another man and it was perfect. We both thought her mistake was wonderful -- it was like an affirmation of her subconscious imagination.

But now it just struck me as careless. I went downstairs and talked about it with my puppy. First I explained victim A -- who killed him and why. Then I started in on victim B and realized there was no one who would actually murder this guy. That cut to the chase, victim A won. Bye-bye.

Which leads me to the title of this blog. I had been racing around the house getting ready for the party. Fluffing pillows. putting out trays of canapes, arranging flowers and choosing music and all the while, there was a dead fish in my punchbowl. The reason I am telling you all this is because I realized that I do this all the time. Somewhere in my subconscious, the internal editor that we all are told is an evil accomplice at best, KNOWS when I have screwed up. I picture her stomping down the hall and busting open the muse's door. With a stranglehold, she demands the muse stop work right that moment. And the muse, who doesn't give up easily, then flutters around trying to fix the unbroken while the fish in the punch bowl goes belly up.

Have you done this? Have you refused to face the big picture, or perhaps not understood you should? Have you spent time working and reworking details in an effort to make things work when a good look at the punch bowl might be in order? Try this -- the next time you get stuck, examine what you just wrote and not for how lyrical the prose is or how much you liked the dialogue. See if you haven't written yourself right out of the tension of the story or taken a one way street to nowhere when the interstate exchange is just another few miles along. I have a feeling a lot of books lose momentum when excited writers take a wrong turn and don't know it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

What did I sign up for?!?





Current Project: Derby book
Status: First draft
I signed up for NaNoWriMo. EEEEEK! It's November 2 and I'm already behind, but that's not a surprise. If I can get caught up today, it won't be as big of a hill to climb. I've done NaNo several times before and "won" it twice. Those two times I reached 50,000 words, I never picked up the book again to finish it. Let's hope that won't happen a third time, shall we?
I'm quite nervous about hitting the goal. I'm hopeful, excited, motivated and all of those other words that could be inserted - but, is it just me or is November a horrible month for NaNo? Work is always busy in November, it's right in the middle of the term (and fall term is always tough). I'd much rather do NaNo in January, once the holidays are over. Or March, before the weather gets really nice. I've tried to do my own NaNo in other months, but the motivation isn't there. It's the fact that I have friends doing it across genres, which makes it an easy bandwagon to jump on to. The fact that you can see it in the media, random mentions on facebook and online. It's everywhere this month - you can't escape it. It's a good reminder to get writing!
Finishing books is clearly not my strengh, but I'm especially determined to finish this one. I think the topic (roller derby) is hot enough to sell right now, even in the tight contemporary romance market. And the fact that I'm actually going to be doing roller derby gives me inside knowledge and and a good promotion opportunities. Hopefully there aren't a lot of romance-writing roller derby girls out there ;)
These are my 10 strategies for finishing NaNo:
1) Write every day;
2) Never get more than one days' word count behind (1,667 words per day);
3) Try to write 2,000 words per day so I can get some free days when homework is too heavy or I'm too tired;
4) Write throughout the day so I don't have 1,667 words looming over me at the end of the day after I'm exhausted from work, homework and derby practice;
5) Think of some rewards for meeting weekly goals, or for getting significantly ahead of my word count (but not food rewards!);
6) Take Scrivener full-screen so I'm not distracted by IM, email, Twitter, etc;
7) Turn off my cell phone if I become desperate for word count - no texting;
8) Make a music playlist that keeps me entertained so I don't feel tempted to turn on the tv while writing;
9) Keep in touch with others doing NaNo to rejuvinate my enthusiasm;
10) Just write, darn it!
Any strategies you can think to add?