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Archive for ‘July 2009’

To Finish or to Revise

Recently, I went to Borders, who are having a FANTASTIC sale of buy 4 books, get the 5th free, and among the awesome YA fantasy books I'd been dying to read, I got this one:

While I have often hated "self-help books" and think that my writing is pretty good, I knew there was SOME REASON I couldn't continue my WIP past the first few thousand words. I'd been slaving away, fighting and fighting my words, my outline, my idea, everything. But I still didn't know what it was, I could not force myself through that writer's block. So I swallowed my pride, walked to the register with my head held high, and purchased THE COMPLETE HANDBOOK OF NOVEL WRITING from the editors of Writer's Digest.

Some writers can just write, then revise the discrepancies later. I can't, for the reason that I am a pretty good editor - once the words are in place, I can go through and make it fabulous. I once rewrote a short story for shits and giggles. The problem for me, here and now, is that I'm starting with my own words, with no guidelines set by a teacher or the parameters of a previous story. Its scary, and difficult. So I have to make sure that the chapter I'm writing is good enough for me before going on to the next one. Not to say it has to be perfect and ready to be published, but to a point were I'm confident that the message is there, the flow is clean, and the pace is decent.

I still had not mastered the art of "showing, not telling," because I had no idea what that actually meant. How does one describe a person without telling the reader? Then I read an essay in the handbook, "Mastering Fiction's First Rule" by Jack M. Bickham. He gave examples of each way, showed the differences in how the writing flowed, and when it was okay to slip in an occasional tell. That all really helped, and I looked back at all my previous drafts and saw that telling was all I ever did. I'm still no pro, but I've reworked some of them and it looks a whole lot better.

Apart from that, I've rewritten my opening chapter about 3 or 4 times, and all of them had problems that I couldn't get passed. Yesterday, I chanced on David Kings "The Fifty-Page Dash" essay in the handbook, about hooking your readers from the start. And thats when the lightbulb dinged in my head (blinding my brain, quite frankly). The problem with all of my beginnings? Far too much backstory. The setup was taking too long. If I need to explain something of the past to make the present realistic, then I have other ways to do that. I was actually GETTING BORED with my own story.

So now that I've found my major weaknesses, I'm in the process of detailing YET ANOTHER outline, but I feel far more confident in this one than any other. I just hope that I get through the whole draft, or at least the first half, before I decide its not good enough.

What do you guys think of this book, or other novel writing books on the market? Suggestions and comments welcome! (i.e. plz to leave comments to make me feel specials?)

You Have To Fight For Every Word You Write

Have you ever wondered how writes, well, write? How they get inspired, work through the lonely late nights to see their books, like children, go out into the world. Some think its easy, that the muses just come to them, whisper in their ear, paint pictures of what we want to put into words.

They are SO WRONG. I learned that the HARD WAY.

The muse isn't what inspires authors to continue writing, its simply A THING THAT COMES ALONG sporadically that makes things flow. Personally, I love chasing the muse - its actually why I love to write. I enjoy sitting at my laptop, my writing journals to the side, fighting for every word for ten or twelve hours, only approving a few hundred. Then, right when I'm brushing my teeth, or laying down to sleep, my fickle, heartless muse decides to mess with me and gives me the words I'd been looking for all day. And I'm not even being sarcastic. At least, not most of the time.

MUSES ARE CRUEL until you get to know them, and it can take years before that happens. Most of the time, it seems, muses like things a certain way. Mine always wants me in the middle of the night, and can't stand being around me in the mornings (I think this is because nobody is on Twitter).
It hates when my husband is around, because it doesn't want to be look at - its bashful, and EASILY SPOOKED. Also, being ADD and Bipolar just as I am, it gets distracted by shiny things. It likes soda before midnight but coffee after 4 am. Lots of chai spice creamer. It needs noms when at a coffeehouse, but is a finicky eater and only comes out when I get a seat in the corner.

But just because I see a pattern doesn't mean I go play during the day and then wait for it to come when the bribes are in place. I've gotten my muse out during the middle of the day many times before. I carry my 2 writing journals - one for scenes, another for character development and research - with me at all times, in case I get a freaking awesome idea. And it happens, because I still live my life. I still read, watch TV, go out with my friends. That time is called *research*. Because the best thing to write about is what you know, and if you don't experience life, then you don't know much. I mean, do YOU know what PWNED means? Or FTW? I had to freaking google that sh*t, because I was like, WTF? Then I remembered playing WoW with my neighbors and seeing that.

Did you see that? That was me, LIVING MY LIFE. But you may be the kind of writer who loves to go out to da clubz, or lectures, or WHAT HAVE YOU. Major thing - just live your life the way you want. Because your whole life as an artist is about CHASING YOUR MUSE.

Apparently I Write Like a Girl

Some things writers have to deal with just seem baffling. This is a blog by Bev Vincent and a prime example.

Apparently I Write Like a Girl

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When Your Book Won't Let You Sleep

Last night, at about midnight, I had finished my word count goal for the day. Being exhausted, I found a good stopping point (basically, my forehead hitting the keyboard) and stumbled off to bed, tripping on miscellaneous dogs. I laid down without bothering to take my bra off (very uncomfortable) and settled into what I thought would be a good nights sleep, what with feeling accomplished and all that. My underwire would not allow this, so 15 minutes later I was forced to make the effort to take it off and change into some comfy pjs.

Another 20 minutes later, my eyelids fly open. Truthfully, I am very afraid of things that go bump in the night, and that are capable of hiding under my bed (I really must look into platform beds). Backstory: when 8 yrs old, I convinced my parents to let me stay up and watch an episode of The Outer Limits. It just haaad to be the one with the Bogeyman that pretends to be a stuffed animal hiding under the bed in order to steal little children my age. *Now is more scared of dark* Because of this one traumatic night, every time I watch a scary movie or read a scary book (Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan), I cannot sleep. I get too paranoid. I'm a writer - my imagination goes crazy with anything.

Anyways, so I was thinking about some of the premises of my work in progress, and well, lets just say they're not the most sunny of plots and characters. So, I begin to think about other scary things, like when I went to the movies last week to see a comedy, and the last preview was for a psycho thriller horror thing, and it left me shaking and crying (no, seriously, they freak me out that bad when I'm not prepared for them). So then I try reading some nice chick lit, but to no avail. 4:30 am rolls around, and I am no closer to sleep. Worse, I keep interrupting my chick lit reading with thoughts of "maybe if my main character did this...." or "What if the antagonist said that..."

So now I am here, writing this blog and working on my book. Here is some advice for writers, sleepers with problems, and general populace:

1) If you are Bipolar with a wacked out sleep pattern already, CAFFEINE WILL NOT HELP YOU. Especially if drunk in the late afternoon and you have a chance at falling asleep before 1 am.

2) People DO NOT LIKE IT when you call them because you can't sleep. They don't care - right then they hate you.

3) Pets also do not like you when you are awake late at night, especially cats not declawed. BEWARE THE SLEEP DEPRIVED CAT.

4) PLEASE REFRAIN FROM EATING CAKE late at night. Give it to me instead.

5) If you get easily spooked by things in the dark, a healthy dose of LOLCATS and LOLDOGS can really help you out.

Contests Galore!

There are so many contests out there for readers young and old, and there are several books that I've been trying to get my hands on has still eluded my personal library. Here are two, from a contest by Traveling To Teens. If you want to enter, better hurry! Contests end on July 31, so follow the link at the bottom. Yay! I love Traveling to Teens and contests for books.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev:
(Blurb by Traveling To Teens)

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith has lived for as long as she can remember in the Theatre Illuminata – a magical place where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. She is not a player herself, and when management thinks she’s starting to upset the balance of the theatre, she’s tasked with making an invaluable contribution or leaving. So Beatrice decides to do what she knows best – stage a play. But it’s not going to be easy, and there are forces at work against her…

Link to Lisa Mantchev's site: http://www.theatre-illuminata.com/

O.M.G. I so want to read this! I was in Theatre all four years of high school, and I loved it - I have a small playbook, As You Like It, thats over 100 years old. And bringing so many characters together! I would love to see how the cast of this book gets along.

The Demons Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan:
(Blurb by Traveling to Teens)

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon's Lexicon. Turn the page.

Link to Sarah Rees Brennan's site: http://www.sarahreesbrennan.com/demonslexicon2.html

I love books that contain some aspect of magic, demon/angel, faerie... anything sci-fi, really. And the flow of the book seems to be fast paced and exciting - a great book for me to read in one sitting in the middle of the night. Excitement abounds!

Traveling to Teens

Book Contests on Twitter

As I was perusing Twitter, YouTube, and various other sites of humor and interest, I came across yet another contest to win some books. Being a follower and followed on Twitter by many authors, literary agents, and publishing houses, I realized something - where have they been all my life!

As a child, I never bought books unless they were 4 for a dollar at a church rummage sale or some such thing. I remember being super excited when the Christmas of my junior year of high school came and I got a collection of classics. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw a missed Borders sticker on one of them, knowing that I had books that had not actually been previously owned.

With the amazing anonymity but still openness to find new friends on Twitter, finding authors, book bloggers, and their websites have been increasingly easy, as is finding the contests for books that one desperately wants to own. I've even seen contests for signed Advanced Readers Copies - books that haven't hit the shelves yet but are looking for responses from the reading community.

And thats why I love the emergence of Twitter. I don't have to slog through the internet to slog through author websites just to look for interesting tidbits and just general fun. I get to get a link to a blog or website running a contest in which all you have to do is comment this or link that or follow on Twitter. Voila! I'm entered in a contest.

So thats the crux of the matter - find the authors (or bands, or actors, etc) that you love on twitter and keep an eye out for contests, clues, and other tidbits that you're interested in. You never know - Paramore may be giving out backstage passes and front row tickets to the 30,000th Twitter follower, or Rob Pattinson may agree to go on a date with a randomly picked blog comment between 8 am and 8 pm, or Stephenie Meyer may be giving out signed copies of a secretly finished Midnight Sun to first person who makes it to a book signing. None of the above is anything I know about - I just made it up. But how do I know if its not if I don't follow them on Twitter?
Twitter is the fastest way to get info on parties, movies, classes, anything. So get on the bandwagon (or branch) and enter those linked contests before it all gets ruined.

A Lesson Learned

One should ALWAYS back up their computer. Especially if you have transfered from a PC to a Mac in the past few months. Forgetting that I was on a Mac, I proceeded to clean up my dock and desktop, thinking that I could do it the way PC does it. Wrong. Just because there are two folders with the same name does not mean you can delete one - that is how I ended up deleting all the work I've been doing.

All the writing I've done, 30,000 words of novel development and scenes, GONE.

I tried everything, but once I had hit that Empty button in Trash, it all disintegrated. I felt like an idiot. So stupid! I cried. I yelled at my husband, even though he of course had nothing to do with it. I yelled at a Geek Squad nerd over the phone, for telling me it would cost thousands to try with no guarantee of recovery. Alas, there was just no way all that work could be recovered.

And then a good friend on Twitter told me to check the Time Machine. However, Time Machine needs a Time Capsule, which I have not. Which I should, since the day I saw Carrie's MacBook crash and Aiden tried to fix it with a PC maneuver. She then had to go down to a computer store and deal with all the trouble of trying to recover her files, and get lectured on backing up her computer. I should have purchased a backup device the same way she did but nooooo. I figured "It's never happened to me, and its not going to!" BTW, the Carrie anecdote is from Sex and The City.

So. I am going to hold off on any serious book work for the meantime. In a little while, I am going to go to Best Buy and buy me a Time Capsule.

The Curse of Being a Novice Writer

I have been trying for years to get a full book out of me. I haven't even made it to queries. And last night, I figured out why I've been having so many problems. I need to do OUTLINES!

I used to think that free forming was the best way to write, and it could be for some people - probably only seasoned writers. I've started my book with 10 different first chapters because I couldn't figure out the best sequence of events. Or the chapter I would be writing would end up having no reason to be in the book, and so 6,500 words fall to the mighty red pen of the editor. Even worse - I would get off on some ridiculous tangent and end up ranting about how people don't understand other people and how tolerance blah blah blah. I believe that tolerance is important, but does the protagonist really need to be seen tolerating a bad cut of meat from the butcher?

So for no particular reason other than it just happened, I started outlining the story I've been trying to tell for the last three years. And do you know what? It MAKES SENSE!!! Without having to worry about transition scenes, how exactly a conversation goes, or descriptive passages, I can get down to the meat of the story and figure out where the hell I was headed in the first place. I can actually see how one thing leads to another, and how my random subplots can actually work and weave themselves into a decent conclusion and what have you.

I feel so much less stress now that I have an idea of what I was doing. The best part? At least half of the 1st chapters I've written can be edited, reworked, and placed in different sections of the book. All I have to do is finish the plot outline, work on my main character outlines (the protagonist is admittedly flat at this point), and then I can get to work on fleshing out the story. It sounds like a lot of work, and well, it is. But its SO worth it - you'll see ;). Of to work I go!