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Archive for ‘August 2009’

Transcribing - A Chore, A Release

Earlier last week I finished my pre first draft of my first WIP, which you can read about here. So anyways, I took half a days break before it called me back, needing me to fix all the extremely awkward parts. So I returned, eager to clean up the decidedly trashed bits. I've finished the first two chapters, a few times merging scenes that themselves took too long, tightening up dialogue or description, and general maintenance.

The hard part for me is seeing how, well, bad my writing was when I started longhanding. Because I couldn't go back and tweak each and every sentence as a better version came to me, it forced me to keep moving forward. It's also making me realize that the first draft of any novel can be VERY ugly. I'm trying not to mind it, knowing it was just the bones of the story and soldiering my way through it. But to be honest, it stings a bit, seeing these choppy, unsavory sentences even as I work to make them a little less painful.

The first day was especially difficult, partly because I was mixing the original beginning with the next major scene in order to maintain the flow, but mainly it was the sentence structure that stuck out to me. I kept doing double takes at the words written in my journal, surprised to see that I wasn't as beautifully natural a writer as I thought. Well, not when I'm trying to catch up with a Muse that's two scenes ahead, anyways. It took me that night and half the following morning to reconcile myself with the idea that, yes, the first draft will ALWAYS, invariably, suck. Yes, there will be some awesome passages, and I may tear up at the gorgeousness of a scene as I write it.

But every time I go back to type out my WIP, I HAVE to brace myself against the possible disasters I may encounter when I transcribe, revise, edit. Its the only way to make it all better. Not perfect, but better. And that gives me hope. I hack away at the words with determination and zeal, rearranging them or tossing them as I see fit until my writers voice is truly present and my characters fully formed.

So, I think of the immense sense of accomplishment I will feel when I'm ready to start querying for a literary agent, the optimistic confidence in that I had done all I could without the guidance of one. Even if the manuscript doesn't catch the eye of an agent, I will know that I put in all this work to hone my craft, learn who I am as a writer, and grow as a person. It makes me proud of myself, determined to fulfill that feeling in the future, time and time again.

How do you get inspired to return to your own editing and revisions?

When NOT to Read a Polished Manuscript

Andrea at MiG Writers made a very good point in yesterdays blog. However proud you are of a finished, polished novel you've written, refrain from reading it when you're working on a new first draft.

Makes sense, right? Why read a great piece of your own work when you're just getting the idea of a new one out? Its rough, basic, and not anywhere near the great writing you're capable of. So why taunt yourself with a finished work? It's likely you (and I) would see this fabulous writing and look at the new WIP, and go, "This first one was a fluke, I'm no good." I know I would give up.

But I think this thinking is so obvious, many wouldn't actually think it. Granted, it could be a great motivation to get through the next WIP, but it also has the equal potential to bring you down. Be careful about the decision to reread a finished manuscript of your own writing, and be honest with yourself about the effect it may have on you, and your current work. If the answer is truthful, and you are confident in it, then follow the course you choose.

The Words Call To Me: I Must Answer

As you may know, on Monday I finished the pre first draft of my WIP, written in longhand after my MacBook had to go to Apple for some repairs at the end of June. I had still had the story swirling in my mind, so I grabbed my journal and started writing. It had taken me 5 or 6 tries over 3 months to get a beginning that would work well enough once revisions were made, but when I changed to longhanding, I was able to finish the whole WIP in exactly 29 days.

I had an awesome Twitter party with all my friends from #amwriting, and then I took a well deserved break from putting my nose to the grinder - or rather, my hand through the wringer. Quite a few days ended with cramped hands. I read the awesomely fabulous debut novel by Michelle Zink, Prophecy of the Sisters, and reviewed it on my Shelfari. But then... I kept thinking about my WIP. How I needed to see whether the beginning meshed with the end, if I could jump forward just a bit more to make the story really start. I knew my main character needed work - he's too even right now, taking things too well in stride.
I couldn't stop thinking about it, even as I immersed myself in a wonderful book. So I bowed to my Muses desires, and have begun transcribing my work. And I was right, I can revise the beginning to move the story along. Also, my writing was terrible when I started out, so I'm fixing that as I go. I'm really excited to be getting back at it, even as I was looking forward to a week off. This story has taken over my life, which is how I like it. I don't have a day job because my husband works extremely crazy hours, earns more than enough, and wants me to concentrate on something I truly enjoy. I PROMISE, I will take a break after I get the first draft typed out.

For now, though, this baby needs to move into my computer, the journals locked in my safe (yes I have one, and it is AWESOME). Maybe then I won't be so tempted to take a look at it between drafts. Alas, my Muse calls. Happy writing everyone!

Autographed Copies of RAMPANT Contest!

So, Carrie Ryan, author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is giving away two personalized/ autographed copies of Diana Peterfreund's RAMPANT. Carrie and Diana became critique partners during NaNoWriMo in 2005, and Carrie's been hoarding her copies. But no more!

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns…

The sparkly, innocent creatures of lore are a myth. Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. And they can only be killed by virgin descendants of Alexander the Great.

Fortunately, unicorns have been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.

Or not.

Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed ather eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend in the woods – thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to prom – Astrid learns that unicorns are real and dangerous, and she has a family legacy to uphold. Her mother packs her off to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters, all is not what is seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to – perhaps most dangerously of all – her growing attraction to a handsome art student… and a relationship that could jeopardize everything.

I have been looking forward to this book for ages! It has suck a great twist to the everyday notions of Unicorns. And such a unique work! I don't see a hint of sparkly vampires or raging werewolves, though those can be good. Even better, there's this awesomely hilarious video at http://www.killerunicorns.org/. And here it is for your viewing pleasure.

If you want to join in on the contest, its at Carrie Ryans blog.

Pre First Draft of WIP Done - At A Loss

This evening, at about 10:13 pm, I finished my first ever full draft of a WIP.

I'm super excited about this, but it was a big surprise when I got to the end. For three days I'd been **thisclose** to finishing, but it wouldn't find the end. And then today my muse shifted into high gear. I don't normally get a cramped hand when I write, but today it was INTENSE. And then, all of a sudden, BAM. I stared at the page, thinking I'd hit a block, but then I actually looked at the last sentence.
And it was the perfect ending.

I sat there for a second, not sure what to do with myself. I'd been writing nonstop for a whole month, morning and evening. It was my entire life, because I don't work. I'd asked everyone if I should take a break or go straight to transcribing, and I will be taking that break. But it was just... wow. I was actually done.

I'm going to enjoy my time reading the new YA books out - of course, SO MANY books are coming out! I still need to get Catching Fire, The Lost Symbol, Splendor, Fire, As You Wish... so many! I still have 15 books on my to be read shelf. I'm reveling in the break, but I won't let it last too long. I have to do a lot of research, then get into transcribing, revising and editing. A few days.... I should be able to get about 2 or 3 books done a day. I read really fast, and I'm still able to fully enjoy every story. I've had a LOT of practice - read Harry Potter 7 in 18 hours.

So dance with me as I celebrate the finish of my pre first draft of my first full length novel!

When My Muse Decides It Wants To Come Back

If you've read my last post, you will know that I had a form of a crisis in my WIP. Nothing seemed to be working out, nothing wanted to be changed, and it all looked like a hot mess.

But the break I took was magical. *throws sparkles*

That same night, I was able to talk out most of the problems with the hubby, and find solutions. The rest needs simple research, which I do after the pre first draft, unless I think it will effect the whole flow of the writing if I get my facts wrong. I felt like so many huge problems plagued the WIP, it was unsalvageable. The silly thing was, it wasn't any major things that needed fixing. All that was needed was a few small changes in the timeline, seasons, and shifting one mans worth and truth to something more believable. It was all easily fixable, with a few sticky notes in my journals where the changes needed to be made.

In other news, August 19 was my birthday, and I got some amazing books! I have about 15 on my to be read shelf now, but the most amazing gift was from my mother - a 50 year old copy of Black Beauty. It smells old and musty, like when I used to check out books from my local library for their summer reading program. I cried, the memories rushing back. This is what I want from my attempt to become a published author. I want to go into a library with my grandchildren and find my book(s) still on the shelf, slightly worn from many little hands flipping pages, some corners dog eared. Its the happiest memories I have, even with a generally cheerful childhood.

My writing is going strong again, and I'm hoping to finish the pre first draft by the end of August. I'm thinking of taking a break and doing some reading before transcribing all of the WIP onto my computer, when I'll be filling out and revising the whole thing as I go. I think a pause to give me some perspective could be good for me, but I worry that doing so would cause me to lose my momentum.

What do you guys suggest?

Disaster: My Mind Has Failed My Writing

Today at approximately 10:47 am, I received a blow so devastating, I was still for many minutes. I was out in my garage, writing as usual. I had been working on some scenes I knew would in the end either be cut or shortened, but I let them go on, knowing my muse needed to get them out. It was only my pre-first draft in longhand, so I wasn't terribly worried.

I finally got to a scene that was rather important, a message from one ruler to another about their armies location and numbers, offering assistant in a coming battle. Something felt off, and I couldn't shake the feeling as it became harder and harder to get words on paper.

And then I felt it.

You know how cartoon characters get hit and sometimes cracks appear all over their bodies, then shatter, scattering on the ground?

That. Thats what I felt.

So many things had been working perfectly together, until I began counting days, characters, numbers. Everything was wrong. But if I changed even one thing to try and fix it, I couldn't see how to blend the rest to fit. I'd forgotten that both my main races were rather prolific, though only one had a proper army. That the offending army was ridiculously small and ill trained, a ragtag team thrown together from the dredges of the lands outside my world. So why in heaven would the 'good' army not simply surround the 'bad' army, instead of letting the 'bad' army attempt to lay siege on the capital? Why even would the traitor running this army attack the ruler to take over, instead of just poisoning the one man and installing himself as ruler, without the fear of ruining buildings and food storage or killing the citizens he hopes to rule? Why this? Why that? WHY?

I don't know the answer. At least, not yet. I'm still broken from the realization that so much of my work seems obsolete. I cried, horrified that I hadn't seen this problem before I had gotten too deep into actually writing the problem spots. I've had to put my husband on Full Pamper Alert - he turned off his XBOX, put on Spongebob, cuddled me when I needed it, and is drawing me a bath. He went out to get me Level 4 Depression Junk Food, and didn't even ask for some of the onion rings I jacked from him.

I know if I let my mind wander, my subconscious can work out all the mistakes. I need to stop aggressively thinking about the problem, and only idly pull apart the two main plot lines to see what I can or should recover, and play with what's left over. This is something that can't be forced - so much needs to be reworked, that no amount of blasting or climbing can get me past this mountain. I have to let magic or erosion either move the mountain or make it into a molehill. My instincts are to fight, but I am certain if I do, it will be to the ultimate demise of it all.

So, I am off to my bubble bath, not a hint of my muse playlist or a wink from my journals, a glass of wine in my hand. Its time for me to RELAX.

New Contest from Traveling To Teens!

I love receiving emails from Traveling To Teens about new contests. Their newest one is for Prophesy of the Sisters, a great looking book by Michelle Zink, an amazing writer I follow on Twitter.


“Have you been waiting long?”

I shake my head. “Waiting is made easy in a place like this. A place that reminds me of you while I wait.”

He tips his head, taking a finger and tracing my face from the loose curls at my temple, down the angular jut of my cheekbone, across the curve of my jaw.

“Everything reminds me of you…”

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents’ deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don’t know whom they can trust.

They just know they can’t trust each other.

O. M. G. I am so looking forward to this book! I myself am a twin, so it'll be interesting to see if the twin dynamic in the book is similar, or if its strong enough to last or what!

How My Ideas Come To Me

Because I write outside, and I'm in Texas, I normally come in around noon or so, as it is WAY to hot to keep going. I dilly dawdle around, checking email, Twitter, etc. I put on Spongebob or whatever I have recorded on the DVR. I love my DVR. And I wait. For what? The sun to go down and leave my garage, where I have set up my writing station. I got sunburned for going out again too early in the evening, and its all on the left side of my body from the way the sun slants in. If I read a book, its in a genre totally out of my usual zone, and I especially steer away from genres that my WIP would fall under.

A while ago, I couldn't get into rereading my all time favorite books, and I couldn't figure out why. I mean, I reread these books so many times, I have 2 copies of each. But then it hit me: those two books, along with several others, influenced my decision to write the idea I had floating in my head. It felt wrong to read something that affected me enough to start me writing, because I have four major influences on my current WIP. If I were to reread any of those, the delicate balance I've maintained throughout my writing would tip, and any readers would think "oh, its just like this other book thats really famous."

Please don't get the wrong idea. I'm not rewriting or writing more story to those books - duh, thats plagiarism. But reading them helped develop my own WIP. Wondering how I'm justifying this to myself? Read on.

All my story ideas come from books or movies. When I was young(er), I would read a book or see a movie, then imagine myself as the lead character, all sexy and skinny, usually kicking butt and taking names. But at sometime during high school, I was imagining myself into a character in a movie, and I got to a point were I thought "But I wouldn't do that. I would do this..." I began reworking the whole movie to play out the way I would act and react, changing it almost completely. It was then that I realized I don't want to limit myself to how a character is portrayed, but I don't want to ruin the flow of the original. Ever since then, with any book or movie that strikes a cord in me, I imagine an extra character for myself, ensuring that it wouldn't totally change the main plot.

And that is how I came up with my current WIP. I questioned something that was bothering me after reading one of my old favorites**, and did a quick draft of fan fiction about it. I realized my fanfic was too much memory and not enough action, and went through several beginnings (7 or 8 total) before settling on one that I felt worked the best, at least for a first draft. Then I left it for a bit, read some other things in the same genre but far in feel from that first one. I decided to play with using a species in my story, and set my world building and time around that. A surprise divine aspect popped up when I began longhanding my WIP, most likely an influence from The Chronicles of Narnia, the first books I ever bought with my own money.

Since I started my WIP, I have refrained from reading, watching, and searching anything involving those works. I only google to ensure a characters name isn't actually in any of the other books, unless its a very minor character of mine. I had to change the name of one of my characters names to something else, because he was important enough that fans of one book might notice the familiarity. If I search for something to help move my writing along, I skip any finds that coincide with those books.

Without reading and watching those books and movies, I would never have developed what I believe is a truly unique work. I'm still in the pre-first draft (meaning my journals of longhand), but when I finish that, its on to fleshing out, revising, and editing as I type it out into the first draft. More world building, character building, popsicle stick building (no, seriously. I need it to work out a battle sequence), mapping, ensuring no one and nothing is too "oh, hey its just like so and so from this famous book", and developing a script and language for my species.

I have a somewhat bloated list of ideas for future WIP's, and all of them have come from some combination of books or movies. All of them will get worked into ideas all their own, with characters unique to the story. (Well, hopefully anyway.)

**BTW, I don't mention what books influenced the actual writing because, well, I'm stupid that way. I'm scared people will figure out the exact premise of my WIP and make it all worthless, or take my idea, write it, submit it and publish it before I can finish writing mine. Yes, I am both shallow and insecure. Thanks for reminding me. (ps - that was all said in the "haha funny yeah?" voice. I don't want to offend anyone)

My Mac in the Hospital and Only a Journal to Write In

A few weeks ago, I had an unfortunate incident, wherein some water
splashed onto my MacBook trackpad and keyboard, causing them to stop working properly. The MacBook, sick, had to go to the Apple Hospital in order to get better. I was more than happy to make sure it got the best care available, but that meant having nowhere to type my current Work In Progress. I was stumped.

Until my eyes landed on my writing journal. I normally used it for ideas, notes, quick descriptions, random scenes and the like. But there was ample space for true writing. So, after two days of mourning the temporary loss of my Mac, I took a small portable table, a folding chair, and my coffee into my garage, opened the door to a cool early morning breeze, took my new ADD medication, and spent the next 4 hours writing in my journal, my iPhone's iPod playing the movie scores that inspire me.

And I've loved every minute of it.

Writing my current WIP in longhand has been the best thing I've ever done in MY ENTIRE LIFE. Except maybe marry my husband. Maybe. It was less like I was writing a novel I hoped others would read and publish, and more like writing fake memories I wanted to remember in my old age. It was just plain fun, without the pressures of making sure I didn't use the same word in the same paragraph, or feeling the need to go back and fix a scene so it would work with the one I was working on. Instead of scrolling back and doing that, I simply got to write a note or a quick description of something I forgot on a sticky note and put it where I needed the reminder. With just that aspect, I was able to make alot more progress than when I was typing it out.

For those novices out there, I suggest you all at least try longhand writing your WIP. It may turn out its SO NOT for you, but then again you may find the lack of Twitter, YouTube, and various interweb distractions entirely refreshing, affording you better concentration on your actual writing, which is what happened for me. Even now that I have my beloved MacBook home and all better, I'm not on it as much as I used to be. I still take my journal and my coffee out each morning and write. During the heat hours, I come back in and catch up on emails, blog posts, the DVR, or watch one of the movies that inspires me to write, and in the cooler evenings go back out and write some more. I haven't been able to keep track of my #writegoal's as well as I'd like, because there have been times where I needed to scratch out a page or more of writing that was so wrong in so many ways, but the scenes still flow better, and more frequently. I used to demand at least 1,000 words from myself each day, but now I am just glad if I get a scene or a chapter done by the end of the day. And that makes me truly happy.
Now that my Mac is back, I'm still going to longhand my entire WIP. When its done, I'll transcribe it into Pages, editing, adding, reworking and revising as I go. Its the best way I work. Because I can't revise very much while longhanding, I can finish the pre-first draft much sooner and with far less worry, then fix what needs fixing as I type it out into the first draft. And in the future, every WIP will have a pre-first draft written in journals before they even make it the computer.

Happy writing!