Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hiatus

As much as I love National Novel Writing Month, it sucks me dry every year. It's pretty normal for me to drop off the face of the planet for about two weeks afterward.

It's been two weeks. I am slowly emerging from my Nano induced coma.

This year was especially brutal because I started my Nano book right after finishing my Camp Nano book. Two books back to back wiped me clean out.

For awhile I wasn't sure if I'd ever write again.

I say that every year, of course. And I always bounce back.

So here I am. Back to what I do best.

I've already received a lot of positive feedback on Online Dating for Demons, so the consensus is I need to put the work into it and try to get it published. Part of me is terrified of that notion. Am I ready? Publishing Paralysis aside, I've never significantly edited anything before. This will be my first big novel overhaul. What if I can't do it?

I'm having my fair share of doubts, obviously, but I have an amazing group of writers supporting me through this. I know if I don't work on it, they'll get on my case until I do. And they'll keep pushing me until it's done.

The rest of this year will be spent in input and reflection mode. I have a lot of books to read, I have a handful of other people's Nano novels to enjoy and give feedback for, and I have a lot of thinking to do about Dating for Demons.

But starting next year, it's back to work.

I'll try to check in a few times before then. If I don't catch you, have very happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Importance of Input for Output

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an input/output entry. Lately I’ve been reading a great deal of non-fiction, books I’m not all that into, and watching a lot of episodic television, so I haven’t had much input to speak of.

I believe this directly correlates with how much trouble I’ve had writing this month.

I’ve said it so many times before: writers have to be avid readers. We have to constantly stimulate the mind in order to stay in touch with our creative sides; too much of our daily grind causes a complete shutdown of creativity, so in order to nurture, to cultivate a mind fertile for ideas to grow, it needs nutrients.

I’ve been starving my poor mind of stimulating input.

It’s true that I’ve had spurts of good, fun writing this month, but overall it’s been a slogfest.

Until two days ago. Writing the last two days has been easier than it has been all month. Fun even.

It’s possible that it’s because I’m nearing the end of my story – I’m finally on the downhill stretch, things are finally starting to happen, my characters are starting to reach the crest of their character arcs – but I think all of these things are happening because I finally read a book I was really excited about.

I have to remember to read while I’m writing. It’s tough sometimes to make time to write, let alone read, but the two go hand in hand.

Which brings me to this post’s actual input choice:

Grave Dance, by Kalayna Price

It only took me two days to read this book. I realized as I was reading it how much of my world in Online Dating for Demons was influenced by this series. My female lead has similar promiscuity issues, there’s a heavy use of glamour, the way magic/supernatural works in the world is similar. The main difference is I use demons instead of faeries.

I didn't mean to steal so blatantly from this author, but her books, while being pretty fluffy paranormal romance, are pretty awesome.

So. Yeah. If you like my story, you will love this series.

And with the help of this book and my writing group, my story will be done by midnight tomorrow, just in time for the end of National Novel Writing Month. I'm taking a long nap after that, and a short hiatus from writing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I've been struggling all day for the topic of today's blog, and while I contemplated all of the possible subjects, I realized that none of them felt quite right.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I've been pretty anti-holiday this year - mostly because I went overboard on holidays last year for various reasons - so I haven't thought much about the meanings behind them lately. They've all seemed like selfish or silly or commercial celebrations. I'm even soured on Christmas already and it's not even December.

But Thanksgiving is different. I know the true reason behind the day is the conquering of the native peoples, but I think the idea behind it is a profound one:

Be thankful for what you have.

People in our capitalist society always seem to want the next new thing - electronics, clothes, cars - but I've come to realize over the past year that those things are all just status symbols. Do we really need all of those trappings to be happy?

The answer is no. Friends. Family. Doing the things you love. Those are the things that make you happy. And for the most part, those important things don't cost money.

So tomorrow, as I sit down to our Thanksgiving feast, I am going to take a minute to count my blessings. And I am going to take that warm feeling and infuse it into the rest of my life.

I am thankful for my health. I'm thankful to have a good job. I'm thankful for little things like a wonderful cup of coffee or a fabulous glass of wine.

I'm thankful for my amazing friends. Those close friends who are the family that I chose, not the one I was born into.

I am so thankful for my family - my brother and sister are amazing people, my Dad has always been supportive and loving, and my aunts and uncles and grandma and grandpa and my cousins.

And I am so thankful for my writing group. These people have helped me realize that I can do this writing thing. Their support and encouragement has been the most amazing thing I've experienced this year.

Because I've also realized that I am finally doing what I love. I am writing. It's the smallest thing, sitting down every night to record the stories in my head, but I love it. Even the days I hate it, I love it. I've challenged myself more this year as far as writing than I have my entire life, and I met every challenge I set for myself. It feels right. It feels like I have finally answered some question about myself that I've been asking all my life.

I am so thankful for everyone who helped an encouraged me to follow my dream. I have a long way to go before I am successful at it, but I've been living my dream every day for the last year. Even if I never publish a book, the time I've spent writing and the time I've spent with my writing friends has been beyond worth it.

The invaluable things are the biggest things I am thankful for.

Thank you friends, family, and readers. I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving. Count your blessings, eat, drink, and be merry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Should I Be Worried?

Please don't stab me
I think my serial killer is keeping secrets from me.

As a serial killer, he is, of course, by his very nature a secretive character, so one would expect him to be a bit reserved...but he won't even let me in. And I'm the writer. It's difficult to write a character who won't tell me what's going on.

He won't tell me what happened.

Maybe nothing did. Maybe he lived a perfectly normal, happy childhood and adolescence.

But the man is a serial killer. He doesn't believe that he is - he thinks he's doing the world a favor by ridding it of demons - but he gets too much joy from blood and death to avoid the sociopath label.

Something had to have made him that way. I keep trying to figure out what, but he keeps deflecting me with horrifying lines about murder being like popping zits, and watching blood soak a cotton ball, or contemplating the murder of inanimate objects, or what inanimate objects make good murder weapons.

He makes me uncomfortable when he talks like that, but also fascinated. It's like he's waving a shiny object in front of me so that I forget the nagging question: why the hell are you a serial killer??

I know that he has scars on his face. I know they enrage him. I suspect demons gave him those scars, but I don't know for sure. It could just have easily been his parents, or his next door neighbor, or the school bully.

What do you do when your character refuses to tell you the truth?

Those of you who don't write or who don't write fiction may think I'm being silly: I made up this character so why can't I easily make up his backstory? To put it a different way: I have tried on several different scenarios as to what trauma might have set off this descent into madness and darkness, but nothing fits. Nothing resonates. Nothing I think of feels right. I haven't found it yet.

This character has a very strong voice - and it's certainly not my normal style - but because of that, I've been letting him reveal bits and pieces of his life at his own pace.

I know eventually it will come to me. He'll blurt it out, like he does with everything. Even when I don't want him to.

But in the meantime, I can't help but feel like he's standing in the shadows behind me with his enchanted dagger clutched in his fist, waiting to slide it between my shoulderblades rather than tell me his story.

I've had a constant tickle between my shoulderblades since November started. I don't entirely trust this guy in my head.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Write-In Magic

Magic: The Write-In Gathering
The Write-In is a powerful part of National Novel Writing Month. I've already discussed how Nanowrimo is all about the community, and write-ins are a key component of that. 

There is a particular tool used in conjunction with the write-in, which can be in-person or virtual in nature, and that is the Word Sprint, which is also magical.

Here are some examples of write-in and word sprint magic:

  • They have unclogged my writer's block more than once, one time resulting in an info dump that helped me explore my character, and another pushing me through a painfully uncomfortable scene from the point of view of my serial killer character. The most recent set of sprints during an online get together with The Writing Buddy resulted in a lovely word-boosting sex scene. I can now reclaim this story as a paranormal romance!
  • They got R.L. Naquin back on track. She was frozen, unable to figure out what came next, having doubt, which she tried to Give Fear A Swift Kick Out the Door. It wasn't until the write-in and our word sprinting that she was able to start hammering away at it again.
  • Between the online and in-person word sprints, we shot several people past 25k and even 30k. They even helped my poor Writing Buddy get back some words she sadly lost due to technology failure.
  • Word sprints at write-ins, a blissful silence descends, except for the clack of keys. It's motivating and helps us flighty writers focus.
  • My favorite part is the whole room full of energy from the humming minds of writers. The air just oozes creativity when you get that many writers in a room working on their novels. Some of my best stuff comes from those meetings.

So while write-ins are also for the community, and the social aspect of writing, we also get an amazing amount of writing done at those things, primarily thanks to word sprints.

I definitely need to do some word sprints tonight, as I am really lagging again. I wish I would stop hating my story every other day. Sort of takes the fun out of writing it.

The Halfway Party is tomorrow night, though, which will help with the motivation, and then, thankfully, we'll have another write-in on Thursday! I need it badly.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Info Dump

I really want to whine about my novel writing, complain about the doubt gremlins and the doldrums of Week Two, but instead, I'm going to do an actual blog post about writing. Here it goes.

We writers like to call a dense block of information that doesn't move the story forward an Info Dump.

Incoming Info Dump - watch your toes
Have you ever been reading a story that is moving at a good clip, and then all of a sudden, the action slows down and you are innundated with all of this information - about the character, the magic system, the class structure, the geography of the world, or a long-winded story about how everyone knows each other or the origin of everything?

I hope not, because that's poor writing. The writer should feed you that stuff gradually, so you don't even notice it, because you absorb it along with the story as it plays out.

Or rather, I suppose a blatant info dump is more poor editing, not poor writing.

Because the info dump is actually a very useful tool for writers in our early drafts. It sometimes will read like a flow of consciousness, where we work things out as we type. We tap into the creative side of our brains and give it free reign.

It is like we are walking around in the world, describing what we see, feeling our way along, watching the details unfold. It helps us establish the world we are creating. Helps us get to know our characters - we listen to their backstories and their opinions on various topics that are sometimes irrelevant to the story itself. We work out the intricate details of government organization, or religion, or society structure.

All of that is important information for the author to know, but how much does the reader need to be exposed to? Small, edible chunks that flesh out the world or characters without detracting from the story that is being told.

What it comes down to is that a lot of the info dump details might not make it into the final book itself. But the writer knows, and can therefore write a convincing story in a fully formed world with those details in mind.

I stagnated on my Nano story for a couple of days, but I sat down and did some timed word sprints with my Wrimos last night, and got about 1500 words written. Those words, I realized when I was done, are a giant info dump. I know a lot of it will either be cut up and inserted/distributed elsewhere, and the rest will be shucked off for the second draft, remaining only in my mind and my notes.

But I also know that I was in desperate need of that info dump. I hadn't delved too far into this new world of demons and humans that I created off the cuff for this story. I have a better understanding of it all now. I was so focused on the needs of my individual characters, I hadn't thought about the demon population as a whole. What does this entire species want? Why would they even need a dating website?

And so I came up with the past, present, and future of the demon races.

So while many of you may never see what I wrote last night, it was an enlightening evening of writing, and it boosted my wordcount significantly.

And now I am moving on to the point of view of my serial killer. Should be an interesting couple of days.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The True Meaning of Nano (for me, at least)

My job is to keep my Wrimos
stocked in sugar and motivation
Day One started with a bang, but since that intense opening scene, I've been whimpering. The words are coming, I really like my idea, and the characters are starting to take shape...but something has been missing.

I finally figured out what it is.

November is no longer the only month of the year that I write. I am missing the excitement I usually feel when embarking on 30 Days of trying to write every day, because I've been writing every day for the last three months already.

So while all the newbies and the weekend warriors who only write in November are blasting through Week One excited and motivated and clocking huge word counts, I am plodding along at the 1,667 words to stay on track, feeling more like it's Week Two.

I know this slow and steady pace will get me to the end. But I want this to be fun! I want to be excited. I want to love my story so much that I keep going back to read over it.

My opening scene is that way. I still read it and love it (you can read it, too - I have it posted on the Current Writing Projects page). I need to find that magic again.

On the upside, I am still having the time of my life this November. I have a whole crew of writers that I get to boss around and administer sugar to. It brings me back to the Christmas analogy: I love getting and giving gifts, of course, but to me, the holidays are more about spending time with family.

I've realized it's the same for Nanowrimo. I love writing. Really. I'm a writer. It's what I do. But for Nanowrimo, it's about the community that forms during November that I look forward to the most now. Anyone can sit and try to write 50,000 words in a month by themselves. Some will succeed. Many will fail. The magic of Nano is in the writers themselves.

Photo compliments of Dave DeHetre
It's like I told Jason in the comments of my last post: my writers are my adoptive family. They are the people who understand exactly what I'm going through because they've been there themselves, who will celebrate my successes with me and comfort me through my failures, who will push me to be a better writer and put myself out there.

I hate to be sappy about it, but it's true. And it's important.

And if any of you make fun of me for this, I will probably cry.

So this year, between painful sprints of writing, I troll the forums, exchange tweets, and haunt our Facebook page to stay in touch with the family.

And I am really looking forward to this Sunday's write-in.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Online Dating for Demons

Everybody's favorite serial killer
National Novel Writing Month is officially underway, and Online Dating For Demons now has an opening scene. I started the month unsure of a lot of things about my novel. After the first day, I still am unsure about most of those things, but I've settled into the spirit of NaNo, so I have confidence that things will work themselves out as I write.

So far I've got demons named using Latin, a demon serial killer who I've just discovered likes Stevie Ray Vaughn, and a fat, insecure demon on a blind date from the online demon dating service.

Oh, and a gruesome murder. That I enjoyed writing way too much.

For some reason, everything I've tried to write lately has turned into horror. Or at least, I thought it was lately. I've been thinking back to some of my old stories, and it seems I've had a horror fixation for awhile. I blame Joss Whedon and Clive Barker.

It doesn't help that my Dexter calendar this month has a picture of Dexter smugly holding an axe.

There will still be love stories in what was originally supposed to be a somewhat fluffy paranormal romance, but they are going the way of Shakespeare's tragedies. Or his comedies, even.

I will admit to something: I had serious concerns about my ability to start another book so close on the heels of my last one. I had no motivation to write, and couldn't get my head out of one project and into the next.

But NaNo is truly magical. The second midnight struck I was writing, and by the end of the first day, I was in the zone. My head was buzzing, filled with ideas and pride, as I tried to fall asleep. I am only 1700 words in, I'm not sure what my next scene is going to be, but the words are solid, and I have big hopes for this story.

It makes me a bit nervous to have high hopes, though. Makes it too easy to disappoint myself, and adds more pressure to try and make it good. And then Publishing Paralysis sneaks up and Writer's Block plops itself in the middle of my keyboard and my muse runs off with another writer.

But. I'm getting ahead of myself. Those are more likely to be Week Two problems. Right now I am definitely wrapped in the warm fuzzies of Week One. I really love my story so far. I'm excited to write it and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens!

I'll keep track of my word count and my favorite lines on the Current Writing Projects page, so check back frequently. I'll let you know how things are going in another blog post after a few days.

Monday, October 31, 2011

T'was the Night Before NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo.org
As my fellow writing buddies have been saying: it is NaNoEve. October 31st means Halloween for most people, but while they are celebrating ghosts and ghouls and tricks or treats, we are all anxiously awaiting the kickoff for a month filled with literary abandon.

I've always called National Novel Writing Month the Christmas for writers, so NaNoEve is wholly appropriate.

It's coming, my friends. My seventh year attempting to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

Let the madness commence.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Days to Spare

Photo compliments of Steven Lundberg
I am slowly releasing my death grip on Monsters of Lawrence. I have been obsessively thinking about all of the editing that it needs: all of the places it makes no sense, where the characters act out of character, what I could change to make the story more powerful. Have I reached the beating a dead horse to death stage? Maybe. Probably.

It's been difficult to get excited about NaNoWriMo when all I can think about is Monsters.

Although thinking about monsters in a more general sense has sparked a brilliant story idea. One I am super excited about. One I am going to use as my novel for November. Three days to spare! Phew. Cutting it close this year.

This will make the third idea I've tossed around and thought I wanted to use. It's safe to say that this is the one I'm sticking with, though. I am notorious for waffling up until the last minute when it comes to ideas for NaNo, but lightning always seems to strike a few days before the event, and all doubt is erased.

All doubt has been erased.

And you will totally see why when I explain my idea.

The premise: an online dating service for demons.

Ok, so maybe I am a bit bitter about my online dating experiences. And I was thinking about dating this morning. And about demons. And the two sort of coalesced in my mind and I started to laugh. Online dating for demons? Surely this idea has been done! Still, I kept giggling and kept picturing what these demon profiles would look like. The thought of demons dating is a pretty ridiculous thought to begin with, but throw in the Match.com designed specifically for them?

Tell me that's not brilliant.

And after a quick search on both Amazon and Google, there doesn't appear to be any prominent books based around this idea.

Which actually makes me worry. Maybe this isn't such a brilliant idea after all? I mean, come on, everything has already been done. I know I'm not that original. Maybe someone tried it and it totally bombed. Although I'm sure buried in some paranormal romance or urban fantasy novel, there is an online dating service for demons. And I really want to read it.

One way or another, it doesn't matter. Lightning struck, and I am writing this story. Already I have characters waving at me, telling me how they fit into this story. I have a villain (who thinks he's a good guy), and a love story (which, of course, I have to have if it's about online dating), and a whole realm of character possibilities from the demon/monster world.

I just have to decide how serious or ludicrous the tone of this story is going to be. The love story is already turning slightly tragic in my mind, and there are some other really tragic things going on, but, I mean, really: it's online dating. That whole concept is just tragically funny. Everybody seems to have a good online dating story.

So this is a call to my readers. I need your help! Tell me your best funny/horrific/amazing online dating stories. I need material for my book.

Ok, November. I am ready for you now. Bring it on, NaNoWriMo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Zero Draft

As an aspiring writer, I absorb as much advice about writing from other writers and editors as I can. It's interesting to get all of the different perspectives, and all too often I find myself laughing and nodding understandingly in response to their anecdotes.

It helps me affirm that I am, in fact, a writer. Yes, I need this affirmation often. Regardless of how many times I actually come to this conclusion, I still sometimes have my doubts.

But not today.

I finished Monsters of Lawrence last night.

When I say finished, what I actually mean is that it is written from start to finish. All of the gaping holes between floating scenes have been filled in. It is a long way from being done. The sheer amount of rewriting it needs makes me wonder if I can even call it a first draft.

Don't get me wrong, I am elated. There was shrieking and laughing and a little bit of fist pumping when I finished that last connecting scene. I finished writing my first full length novel!

But it is what Chuck Wendig calls a Zero Draft. A hot mess written under the pressure of NaNoWriMo (in this case, Camp NaNoWriMo). It's  more like a gigantic, 107k word detailed outline than a cohesive story. I actually kind of like thinking of it that way. It has absolutely no obligation to be a decent novel until it has achieved First Draft status.

It won't be seeing First Draft status for awhile. It's time to put it away, let it stew in the back of my mind while I focus on my next big noveling project.

Because, yes: I finished this NaNo novel just in time to start my next one.

Hopefully by the end of this year I will have two Zero Draft novels that I can work on cleaning up in 2012, in addition to my Sally Prescott short. This year was my year to create, and next year will be my year to edit.

Although don't get me wrong: I still plan on writing. I'm still working on my five year plan, so I'm not sure yet what my writing goals will be for next year. But I'll let you know. I figure when I'm making New Years Resolutions for next year will be a good time to plot all of that out.

Haha. I said plot.

That being said: I have absolutely no plot in mind for next month. I have a world and a couple of characters floating around, but I'm not even convinced I want to use them yet. There are five days and eight hours until NaNoWriMo begins. Looks like I'm flying by the seat of my pants this year, because the last thing I want to do for the next five days is think about writing at all.

I need a vacation. I've been living, breathing, dreaming, and writing Monsters of Lawrence for the last three months now. My brain might explode if I don't take a break.

But I did it! I finished it before November 1st! I am pretty awesome.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Pendulum Effect

It's no surprise to me that writers are weird, somewhat unconventional narcissists. I think most of us deal with a lack of faith in ourselves and our work on a fairly regular basis. Some of us are taught to be humble to the point of self-deprecation, but in order to be successful, we have to do a song and dance to convince people how great our work is (whether we believe it or not). It's a constant struggle for balance between confidence and modesty. I think most of us lose, because writers are mostly introverts - more comfortable hiding behind their written word. On top of it all, we all suffer from god-complexes: we are the creators of worlds and manipulators of fates. How could that not go to someone's head?

Thus, we are all slightly neurotic. I'm not just saying this based on the evidence of my own neurosis. I have read plenty of blogs written by other writers, and even talked to some of them, from best-selling to not-yet-published. My findings are pretty definitive. We're all nuts. In a good way, of course. For the most part.

The negative side of that is the debilitating depression when things aren't going well.

The positive side is the euphoric high when things do go well.

Right now, things are going fantastically well for me. I've come out of my funk, and I've been writing like a crack addict the past few days. I just can't stop. Scenes are coming together, and the the light of the tunnel is almost blinding. I am so close I can almost taste victory. Right now I have no doubt that I can knock out the rest of this book before I have to start my National Novel Writing Month project.

I will be the first to admit that I am super annoying when in this mode. I'm loud and hyper. I babble almost incoherently. I love life. I love my story and my characters. I love the boss I usually hate. I want to kiss babies and adopt puppies and solve all of my friends' problems for them. I am a plot master. If I can solve my characters conflicts with such ease, than obviously I can accomplish world peace by sheer force of will alone.

It's times like these that I love being a writer. That I know I am a writer. That I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing.

Unfortunately, I'm rather manic when it comes to writing. I have to cling to the euphoria while I can, because the pendulum will swing back the other way and I will go back to hating everything I've ever written and bemoan the fact that I am doomed to be a writer.

But if I can just remember these high moments, it might make the low ones less crippling. I'm counting on you, friends, family, and readers, to remind me.

Did this entry make sense? I'm suffering from lack of sleep and an extreme caffeine overdose (and it's not even November yet. Yikes). Nothing is making any sense to me right now. In case you are looking for the cliffnotes to this post, here are the main points I was attempting to make:

-Writers are manic weirdos
-I am a writer, whether I love the fact or hate it on any given day.
-Monsters of Lawrence, the first draft, will be completed sometime in the next 11 days and 10 hours.

The End!

Oh, P.S. If you are a writer and you are reading this, feel free to debate whether or not you are a manic weirdo. I'd love to hear your take on it. Because it's possible that it's just me...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Input/Output: Music and Art

Go listen
Are writers artists? I tend to think so. We are subject to all the same neurosis that other artists are.

Same with musicians. They are definitely artists.

As a writer, I talk a lot about other writers and books that influence me, but sometimes I forget how much the other categories of artists inspire me, as well.

Music is a big one. When I listen to instrumental music, I see worlds and envision scenes to fit with that music. When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed listening to my favorite movie soundtracks and make up new stories to go with them. Hell, I still do that. For Monsters, I have a Pandora station based around Evanescence and other angsty female rock bands, but I've actually found the Tron: Legacy soundtrack has shaped my story quite a bit - or at least inspired scenes I hadn't previously considered.

Last night, I went to a concert for these three amazing guitarists - one of them originally from Topeka. They are touring all over the country right now. The lead guy, Andy McKee, became an almost overnight sensation when he put himself on Youtube. Seeing him on stage, having a blast, doing what he loves and making a living at it - just the look of passion and being truly alive as he entertained us - inspires me a great deal to continue to push myself to follow my dreams.



Visual arts - painting and drawing and sculptures and photography - also trigger stories in me. I have always struggled with setting. I have a vague idea of what something looks like, but the details are missing in my writing. Visual representations help me really think about the details.  Also, sometimes a picture will really speak to me and I'll be driven to write a story that fits the scene. I'll want to tell the story of how that domed city on the cliff came to be, or why the sky has inexplicable green miasma in it, and where that dragon got all of those books. Then characters start to wander around inside the images to answer all of these questions for me.

I support all of my other fellow artists in the small ways that I can. I buy their products, I look for more stuff that they’ve done, I tell my friends about their work. I can't wait to buy the two anthologies my writing friend R.L.Naquin is about to be published in. As an artist myself, I like to enable other artists who are trying to make their way with their art, in hopes that someday people will support me and my passion.

It’s a whole other blog entry, but most of the time, artists who are trying to make it do it because they are driven to do it, not because they want to. Who would choose that life? It’s incredibly hard work full of constant self-doubt and the fear that you are just a passing fad or you won’t be able to finish the next project on which your next paycheck depends.

This input/output is a shout out to all my fellow artists, and a plea to the rest of you to support the artists you admire. Keep doing what you do. Maybe buy one of my books someday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unfocused

X Marks the Focus
I've been hiding. From you, from my blog. Not blogging meant I didn't have to admit to the fact that I've been slacking. Unfocused, slouching, making excuses.

October has gotten away from me. National Novel Writing Month starts in less than three weeks. And Monsters of Lawrence still isn't done.

August and September had structure. I had specific goals, and when October hit, I thought I could keep with it without the strict regime.

I was wrong.

That's not to say that Diana and her world haven't been on my mind. I've been thinking about her and the rest of the gang a lot. I've done a lot of brainstorming, and sketched out the rest of the scenes I need to write. I've even started thinking beyond the first book, and how her story fits into the bigger story of the world I created.

The trouble is, like most of my stories, the rest of the book is written in my head. Unfortunately, that doesn't do anyone any good.

I just need one or two intense writing sessions to knock out the rest of the first draft. Already I see lots of places for changes and improvement, but those are second-draft concerns. That's also been part of my problem, though: a loathing for all the parts that are bad, which has discouraged me from moving forward.

But I need to do this. I need to finish a book. And I need to finish this book before November hits, because the longer it sits unfinished, the more it slouches towards the Novel Graveyard.

It's time to sit up straight again.

And fast.

Because I'm already starting to hear the voices of characters from my NaNoWriMo idea. They are just whispering right now, but I find myself leaning in to hear them better. Taking tentative steps in their direction. Before I step over the boundary line between worlds, I really need to finish Monsters. It won't be easy to cross back once I'm on the other side.

This blog was designed to keep me on track, and help me towards my writing goals. My current goal is to finish Monsters before November. I need to be more specific. I need to have wordcount goals, or some sort of timeline. I originally thought A Touch A Day Keeps the Graveyard Away would be a good one for October (graveyard, October, Halloween?), but I never committed to that goal. This Saturday, I'm going to block the whole day for writing. At the end of the day, I'll see where I stand and set my specific goals for the rest of the month.

I found some old notes I took from a panel of writers at ConQuest, a local science-fiction/fantasy convention, and one of the tips they gave stood out: treat writing like a job. Figure out your five year plan and stick to it. I have the vague plan of getting a novel published in the next ten years, but that doesn't keep me accountable on a year to year basis. I need a goal each year, and I need to break down that year into months, as the case may be.

Let's face it, folks. I am obsessive-compulsive. I am also a writer, which makes me an emotional wreck when it comes to my art. In order to contain that hot mess, I need structure. It is the responsible, OCD part of myself that needs to channel my creative energies into something productive.

I do have it in me to be a successful writer. I just need all of the parts of myself to work together to get there.

Anyone know a good therapist??

Friday, September 30, 2011

Done! But not Done Done

At 10:58pm this evening, I successfully reached my September word count goal of 90,110 words. With an hour to spare. That's a solid 25k more words than I've ever written on a single story before. I've blown my personal record away and established that I do, in fact, have the ability to write a full length novel. I consider L33T September a success.

For the most part.

The whole point of L33T September was to write 40k more words on my August Camp Nanowrimo story so that I could finish the novel.

Word count goal I met, but the damn thing still isn't finished. Nor do I have any idea how many more words or months it's going to take me to wrap it up. I think I am beginning to have an inkling as to why it took George R. R. Martin so long to write his most recent book.

So while I am absolutely astounded that I've written 90,000 words, I am also quite depressed. I still don't feel like I've proven myself as a novelist since I still haven't written a complete novel.

Where unfinished novels go to die
I am also depressed because I was looking forward to taking a month off before jumping into National Novel Writing Month, which a mere month away. But if I quit writing now, I will never finish it. I know myself. It will go to the Nanowrimo Graveyard.

I refuse to let that happen. So I will plod on into October and keep writing, maybe with a nice, modest word count goal of 1,000 words a day until the monstrosity  is done, and just pray to the writing gods that I don't burn out before November.

Speaking of Nanowrimo, though, I am starting to get excited. Had my first meeting with my co-ML today, and we're planning a great month for our Wrimos. Should be a good time for all. I've also finally settled (tentatively) on an idea. That's not saying a whole lot, because I've been known to change my idea the day before Nanowrimo starts, but it's a place to start at least. I'm going to miss The Boss a great deal this year, although he's promised to still dish out plenty of guff, since he's signed up as a rival region co-ML. Bring it on, I say.

So, are you planning on participating in Nanowrimo? Check them out: National Novel Writing Month.

Also, I need a catchy name for writing this October. I had Camp Nanowrimo in August, L33T September...so maybe Last Chance October? Save Sara's Story from the Nanowrimo Graveyard Month? Hah. Graveyard...October...Halloween...maybe?

Like I've said before: I am miserable at coming up with catchy titles. Help a girl out?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Dark Side of Book Obsession

Sometimes I fall too far into myself. When I do, the books I read or the stories I write become more real than my real life. I get lost in the endless landscapes of other worlds, befriend characters that were spun from other writers' minds, get so caught up in the events of these fictional people's lives that mine doesn't seem all that important anymore.

When this happens, I withdraw. I curl up inside my mind and I avoid friends and family. I avoid my responsibilities. When I'm not reading, I feel like an aimless zombie. The emotions that the characters feel are boundless compared to what I can feel. I hate finishing a book. When that story comes to an end, I feel empty.

I ask myself, do I exist at all? Am I simply a container for these stories, these characters, these worlds in which to reside? I have seen more imaginary worlds than I have seen of this world I live in. I live more in my head than I ever have in this actual world.

Books manipulate me. I am not who I once was after I read them. Each one changes me ever so slightly. I can never go back to what I was before.

I used to think my book buying obsession was an unhealthy one. I've cured myself of the buying, but now I realize that the unhealthy obsession is the books themselves, not whether I possess them.

They possess me. Every now and then, a book will suck down my soul and won't let go. Nothing else matters. I am a slave to the book I am reading. Once I start, I cannot stop. Not for food, not for bodily function, not for sleep. Nothing else matters except that I keep reading. Rushing inevitably to the emptiness I will feel when it is done, and I look at the clock, and realize I have been reading all night.

Will I ever write a book that will compell someone to stay up all night reading it?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Events that Changed my Writing


And now for something completely different. I need to step back from my current project, so we're going to look at the bigger picture for this post.

I've talked a little bit before about how I use life experiences in my writing, anything from everyday life to childhood memories. That being said, I think all writers have certain significant life events that can change their writing drastically. I've had a few of those myself, but one of them stands out the most.

As many of you probably are already aware, my mom passed away a year ago in August. Obviously something like that is incredibly life-changing in general, but it still surprises me how much it affected, and even continues to affect, my writing.

Journaling has always been a form of therapy for me, but in the months that followed Mom's death, I didn't write at all. Even the memorial speech I gave was written in large part before she passed. When I lost her, I lost my passion for everything. I couldn't even read. I worried for a long time what that might mean. Was I truly changed so much that I would never be a reader or a writer again?

I think part of the reason I avoided writing was because there were so many raw thoughts and feelings that I needed to sort through, and I just wasn't ready to face looking inward at that point. Even in my fiction, I draw heavily from my own life experiences, and I was terrified of what would come out if I touched pen to paper at all.

I eventually did write again. It wasn't fiction. It was a brutal account of the last few months of Mom's life, and the void that followed. Almost sixty-thousand words, that ended up being. Once it was finished, I buried it. I haven't opened the file since. It may stay buried forever. It's the little locked box where my memories of the ordeal are safely stored, so I can put them out of my mind without the guilt of feeling like I'm forgetting Mom.

And eventually I did write fiction again. It's different, though. The tone isn't as light hearted as it use to be. It's the dark humor that so many of my favorite writers are good at. I always wondered how they did it. Now I understand. I'm not afraid to be morbid and cynical. I use to gloss over or shy away from those hard scenes, but now I face them head on.

Because it taught me to write from intense emotion. I journaled extensively when caring for Mom, and it was brutally honest; it was raw, it was ugly, and it was heartbreaking. But that made it beautiful. I now blatantly scavenge memories of those emotions and infuse them into my characters.

Whether all of this makes me a better writer, or just a different writer, I don't know. All I can say is that the experience cut me deeply, and filled in with a wealth of emotions and knowledge. So I now have a rich pool to pull from when I write.

What major events have influenced your writing?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Journey Continues (mine and my characters')

My name and title here?
I dreamt of Sally Prescott last night. I think she is feeling neglected after all this attention I've been lavishing on Diana and her Monsters. I promised her that I would edit her most recent adventure as soon as I'm finished my current project, but apparently she's getting impatient with me.

I'm not telling Sally that Diana hasn't been getting enough attention from me the past week or so, either.

I have been behind on my word count since the 12th.

That being said, I have managed to at least open the file and look at the words, if not write any, almost every day without fail. My characters are solidly in my head. I walk through the setting every day as I make my way around town, always noting details I can add in to flesh out the world. My mind works even as I sleep to make connections and fill plot holes, almost like the story is already told and my concious mind is just discovering it. My subconcious mind already knows it.

I've written more words on this story than I have for any story I've ever written. Even my two and a half Sally Prescott short stories don't equal where I'm at with Monsters. I may still be sloshing my way through the Bog of Doom (and believe me, I've gotten lost in there a couple of times), but I know that I will make it to the end. I have about 15,000 more words to wrap up my story. I'm starting to worry that might not even be enough.

Sometimes calling myself a writer seems so ridiculous. But after spending my whole weekend reading, I sat down to my own novel on Sunday night and I realized that I am actually writing a freaking book.

Me. Writing a book.

I know that's the goal as a writer, but to actually have a nearly finished manuscript that will actually be book length...is completely surreal to me.

Now whether this book is any good, or will ever be published, only time will tell, but when this story is finished and I've reached my 90,000 words, I can say that I've written a book.

I just might be able to do this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Found Number Four!

I knew there was something I was forgetting last entry, and I finally remembered what it was. It was a quick input/output I wanted to do.

As you probably already know, I read a lot. I feel it's as essential for a writer to read as it is to write. Ehem. Sorry. Soapbox. So. As an avid reader, I've read a lot of novelists' first books. I've found that first published novels fall into two categories. One: the book has such a good idea, and there really is something shiny about it, but the writing has some room for improvement. In these cases (even with Stephanie Meyer - please don't throw shoes at me for saying this), the following books are always leaps and bounds better written as the novelist refines his or her style and voice. Practice makes perfect and all.

In the second category: the book is absolutely phenomenal. This story idea has been peculating in the author's mind since birth and has grown and morphed into the best book it can be over the years.

Obviously, I'm hoping that my first novel will fall in the second category. I have a feeling it'll be the first, though. But I think I'm ok with that.

Anyway. I digress.

What I wanted to tell you is that I am reading The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett right now, and this is a book that blows the second category's mind. It's not like the Cassandra Clare novels that I love because they were the books I wanted to write. This is an epic fantasy so sublime that I could never hope to write anything nearly as amazing. This world is rich and vibrant and extensive. The characters are complex and varied, and very real people. And the writing - oh my goodness the writing - is brilliant: paced just right, with strategically placed world building that makes the backdrop vivid without bogging the story down, it has a fantastic balance of action, narrative, dialog, and backstory; and it is the easiest thing in the world to read, direct entertaining, without the typical flowery, distracting description that most fantasy novels are known for.

What I am saying is, first and foremost, if you like fantasy, you will love this book. It's a series, I believe. It has one sequel out, and it looks like the next one will be out sometime in 2012.

What I am also saying is that books like this discourage the hell out of me. I look at the novels I've partially written and vaguely finished, and I can't even begin to hold a candle to this author's blaze.

But then I read blog posts from my writing group buddy, R.L. Naquin, that remind me It's Not a Competition, and I realize I should stop comparing myself to other writers.

My first novel will be amazing in its own right, regardless of whether it lands in the first or second category.

And besides...sometimes those folks in the second category never write another book, or another book as good as their first. I plan on writing dozens of books, each better than the last. The only person I am in competition with is myself.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More like Slacker September

I've been neglecting my writing blog the past couple of weeks. In my defense, it's partially because when I sit down to write, I've been putting my novel before my blog. I figure that's probably the more important of the two. I wouldn't have much to talk about here if I wasn't writing.

I'll touch on a few miscellaneous things in this entry, just to catch you up.

Bog of Doom
First - L33T September is going well. I am still on track word-wise, and most days when I sit down to write I am still excited about it. This is the longest I've written almost daily on the same project ever, and I have found myself struggling with a whole new batch of problems. First and foremost - it's getting harder to resist the urge to edit. When I write entire scenes of crap, it becomes a pitched battle with myself to leave it how it is and move on to the next scene instead of re-writing it twelve times. My other problem has me bogged down in the middle of the narrative - which sometimes happens during Nanowrimo, but I'm seriously stuck in the Bog of Doom this time. I've heard other writers talk about the middle of the book slump before, so I'm trying not to be discouraged. I'll push through and hopefully get to the good action scenes I've already written soon. Just gotta connect the dots. La la la laa.

Second - my writing group's official blog is getting closer to official kickoff. It's really starting to come together. We'll start writing content over the next couple of months, and we hope to go live December 1st. Once there's something to look at, I'll link you all there. It should be a lot of fun!

Third - I'm starting to get ridiculously excited about Nanowrimo. Even doing Camp Nanowrimo this summer hasn't diminished the feeling that Christmas is almost here. The Christmas for writers. This blog will look a little different during November: it'll have word counts, me complaining and me being elated, yammering flows of consciousness, sometimes all in one day. So, um, maybe not that much different.

Fourth - Um, four went missing. I'll let you know if I find it.

Fifth - Due to the encouragement of my writing group, I am going to be using my Twitter account with much more frequency (although "more frequently" is relative - it was six months between posts before)). I've added my Twitter feed, with a "Follow me on Twitter" link, or you can click here if you want to follow me. I will try to be insightful, witty, and original in all of my tweets.

Haha.

So, as a writer, what social media do you use? Twitter? Facebook? Myspace? Linkedin? Blogs? Scribd?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

L33T September

If you've had a chance to look at my Current Writing Projects page, or if you've talked to me since the end of August, you know that I am attempting to continue the novel I started in August for Camp Nanowrimo through September. When I reached 50k (with ten minutes to spare on the 31st, phew!!), I realized that I have a lot more story that needs to be told, and I am excited to tell it. I'm aiming to finish it off in another 40,000 words. The Writing Buddy helped me figure out that if I write 1337 words each day to meet my goal, I will have 40,110 more words by the 30th, and I will be "leet" every day in September!

For those of you who don't speak geek, if you type in 1337 on a calculator and turn it upside down, it looks like "leet" which is geek speak for "elite." Hilarious, I know. I feel like a huge tool explaining it. One of those whole funnier-if-you-don't-have-to-explain-it things. Moving on.

Before this year I've never had much luck at writing without a Nanowrimo to back me up, but with my word counter on the Current Writing Projects page, as well as the progress chart I made in Excel, I'm hopeful that I will be able to keep it up. I've been having a blast writing it, and it keeps getting better. I hope these fun days help me through un-fun days I know are ahead.

Amazingly, this story has continued to grow and evolve in ways I never even expected. Not bad for a random story I decided to write the day before Camp Nanowrimo began, with only a vague idea for a few characters and one dramatic action scene.

So the plan from here, like I mentioned, is to finish out around 90k words by the end of L33T September. I then plan to spend October going through it and figuring out what to keep and watch to ditch, what needs expanding and what needs changing, and get it ready for a rewrite. The rewrite probably won't start until next year, since that will bring me up to November and then I'll be embarking on another writing journey. That will give it some time to sit and simmer on the back burner of my mind. It should be done cooking by next year. I hope it turns out to be a delicious dessert: light and fluffy with absolutely no nutritional value, but irresistible and decadent, leaving you wanting more after taking the last bite.

Damn. Now I want dessert.

Perhaps next year will be the Year of Editing. I have the Sally Prescott story I wrote this summer, the Monsters of Lawrence that I hope to have finished, and whatever story I write Nanowrimo 2011. I have my work cut out for me.

I think I'll just focus on September for now.

And dessert.

Monday, August 29, 2011

And then life happens...

I love being a writer. There's nothing quite as exhilarating as spending hours pouring ideas from my head onto a blank page; watching a story unfold and characters running around doing things. I love to learn, and writing gives me ample excuse to research anything and everything for the sake of a believable story. Even sleep deprivation is worth it sometimes because as I drift off to sleep, plot holes will mend and plot points will fall into place. I love the "aha!" moment when a snag works itself out in my subconscious and bubbles to the surface. To quote one of my own characters: "The mind is an amazing thing."

The only trouble is...all of the aspects of writing - from the writing itself, to the research, to the obsessive-compulsive planning and plotting - are very time consuming. When you're not a professional writer, when it's a passion not a job, you have to sneak in time to write wherever you can cram it.

And life always seems to get in the way. I can only ignore housecleaning or errands or exercise classes or friends and family for so long before all of that violently reclaims my time and attention.

I was doing so well. I was on track to hit 50,000 words before August 31st for Camp Nanowrimo. But the past several days have been demanding my attention with a vengeance. I kept having to put off writing, and now I am about six thousand words behind.

To be honest, I could knock that out in maybe three or four hours. The trouble is, life not only kicked me in the ass, it then kicked me in the face while I was down. My head is filled with mucus and my nose/throat/eyes are burning, Wednesday is the dreaded year anniversary, my three days off this week where I was supposed to relax have somehow filled up with endless appointments and other commitments, I haven't slept more than 5 hours a night in over a week (and last night I slept maybe an hour), and there is a goddamn mouse living in my bedroom. He's not paying rent, so he's got to go. I just haven't figured out how yet.

I just can't seem to make myself care about writing with all of that going on. Even when I have the time to work.

All I can really do when this happens is hunker down and hope it passes quickly. My story has so much potential. I don't want it to go to the Nanowrimo graveyard like so many others.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motivating the Muse

I thought I would try to do a fun post where I conduct an interview with one of the characters from my story, kind of like on a talk show or something, but it turned into an epic failure. One flat our refused, one didn't bother showing up, and then I got in an argument with my last resort (I honestly had no idea how upset he was about the whole love triangle thing). Unfortunately, that doesn't leave me with many other characters, so I might have to try that another day, or use a character from another story sometime. I suppose this is what I get for being so mean to them all the time. Give them a chance to talk to me out of the story and they let me have it.

So instead, I am going to talk about motivation. More specifically, my motivation. Every year I resolve to write more than just during National Novel Writing Month, but my muse is fickle. What it is about this past year that has kept me writing when in previous years my resolutions ended in epic failure?

The answer is this: meetings, deadlines, and tracking.

krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Meetings - The Writing Buddy and I have been steadfast in our meeting schedule. We've been meeting at least once a week almost without fail since December, and while not all of those meetings were wildly productive, it kept us both in touch with our current project and constantly thinking about the next project. Some of this I think is accountability, but it is also actually scheduling time to write - setting aside that time in my week so I have no excuse not to do it.

Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Deadlines/To Do lists - I've found the more specific the better with this, however they also have to be realistic and give me a bit of leeway. I set the goal to have my fanfic and my Sally Prescott adventure done by the end of the summer - they both got done. I set the goal to have my Rift story transcribed before I started the next story - it got done in record time. I've set the goal to write at least two blog entries a week, and so far I have. None of my past "write for at least an hour every day this entire year" or "type up every story you've ever written by hand as soon as possible" or even "you have to write a blog on Tuesday and Thursday by 5pm every day." I've discovered ways to set deadlines so that they work for me instead of against me.

krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Wordcount bars/charts - I've had a chance during Camp Nanowrimo this month to analyze what makes Nanowrimo so effective for me. A lot of it has to do with the community: fellow writers who are fighting the same battles at roughly the same pace. That's why I am Municipal Liaison for my region - to help unify that community and offer support and encouragement. But I've discovered another part that keeps me motivated: I am obsessed with tracking. I track the books I read, the exercise I do, the food I eat, the money I spend, so when Nanowrimo rolls around and I can input the number of words I've written and see it come out in a neat little chart or graph, I am immediately hooked. I want to spend the month of September finishing the novel I started this month, so on my "Current Writing Projects" page I've implemented a word count bar, and I spent (probably too much of) yesterday morning creating a bar graph in Excel that has a trend line for each day's wordcount. It's not pretty, but it's functional and I'm excited to use it.

I am confident that in the years to come I will be able to use these strategies to get the words written. If I can keep up, or even increase, the amount of writing I did this year, I should be able to complete several novels over the next few years.

Now if I could just find some motivators for the editing aspect, I might actually end up with a novel I can query with someday. Advice?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This list will probably look different for every writer, but here are some of the tools that I can't write without. Many of these are linked on the right side of my page. In this post I'll explain why these resources are invaluable to me.

Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com
When I've been using a word excessively, or if I use a word but I'm not quite sure if it means what I think it means, or if there is a precise word that I know exists for what I'm trying to say but I can't seem to pull it out of the depths of my brain, I plug in variations until I find what I'm looking for.

Wikipedia
Probably not the most reliable source for information, but it gives me a starting point, a foundation, which I then build from. And actually, new scenes and plot twists have resulted from stuff I've read in Wikipedia articles.

Babynames.com
As I have mentioned before, I am abysmal at coming up with names. At my job, I see a lot of names, so I collect the ones I like, but sometimes I exhaust my list and need a fresh supply. I often use this site to find names based on what I want a character's name to mean, or if I know I want it to start with a particular letter. This site also has a brilliant section on Character Names, Tips for Writers, that I read through now and then to remind myself that not every one of my characters needs to have an exotic name.

Pandora
Sometimes I need mood music. And sometimes it's a nice distraction if it keeps playing crappy stuff I don't want - then I can spend time cultivating the perfect mood music station by disliking and skipping the stupid songs.

Goodreads
I include this because so much of what I write is influenced by what I read, and without Goodreads, I'd be lost in a sea of all the books I own, need to read, and have read.

Youtube
You can learn how to do anything on this site. Taught me how to pick a lock. I think I needed this information for a character once...honest!

Real life
No, that's not a website. Sometimes us writers get so wrapped up in the worlds that we are creating that we forget that there's a real one out there. When I step back and reflect, I realize how much material I can pull just from the experiences of one normal day. As I am writing, those things filter into what's going on in my story. Sometimes subconsciously. Sometimes very deliberately. On days that I get stuck, I go out into the world and pay just a little bit of extra of attention to the things going on around me. This always helps me find the piece I need to move the story along.

My People
Last but not least: my writing friends. All those blogs you see linked in the corner on the right? Yeah, them. And many more who don't have blogs. The Writing Buddy is especially wonderful to bounce ideas off of. Not just my writing friends, either. My brother and sister and my non-writing friends are great when it comes to talking through ideas.

I use a lot of other tools - anything from books about writing and editing to random  Google searches (the internet is a wonderful thing) - but these are the ones I consult the most often. This is my essential toolbox.

So, my writer-ly friends, what are your tools of the trade? Anyone have any other recommendations for good writer resources?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Love is in the Air


 luigi diamanti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It's half way through the month (holy crap where did August go??) and I am on track with my novel at 25,000 words. I've reached the point where the story has taken on a life of its own, and has set my vague road map on fire and thrown it out the window. I'm ok with that, actually. It's making the trip much more interesting. And I'm pretty sure we're not lost. Yet.

But I'm feeling a bit like a sell out. I broke down and gave my protagonist a love interest. I had been trying to keep her chaste - being that she is inspired by the maiden goddess Diana, and, for a big spoiler-of-a-reason, she won't be getting together with the main boy in the story - but I've realized that chastity is boring. Or at least, I'm bored with it (I'm not sure what that says about my priorities). So I threw in another boy for her.

Maybe I haven't sold out, though. Maybe having a budding romance as a subplot makes a story more engaging.

Besides, I also want her to have a non-Hunter friend - someone who isn't involved with the dangerous Lawrence Underground. Someone that she can discover that world with, instead of having to experience it all by herself or having another character lecture her about it.

I suppose if I really want her to have a non-Hunter friend, instead of a "civilian" she could befriend one of the monsters who could then introduce her to the fantastical underbelly of Lawrence. Might make sense, since the goddess Diana is also associated with being able to talk to and control animals.

It's become apparent that my need for another character is a crutch; I am a dialog fanatic. I need someone for her to talk to. She talks to herself too much already, and I write dialog so much better than I do action or description.

So anyway, what do you think? Do you think a love/romantic interest adds an interesting dynamic to a story, or do you think it's distracting and irrelevant? Is adding another male character superfluous?

As a side note, I am considering having her fall in love with a unicorn trapped in the body of woman (my sister's character suggestion that I am taking a liberty with). This would probably be instead of the male love interest, if I go that route. More interesting? Or maybe too contrived?

For the record, she is NOT falling in love with a vampire. My vampires are proper vampires - the terrifying kind that violently rip your throat out just because it's funny and they are only interested in humans because their hot red blood is delicious.

So yeah. Who's hungry?

End of side note.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Watch out for that Hole

Is this what a plot hole looks like?
The one cool thing I took away from the Tad Williams book I read was that the goblins in his faerie world always told their stories with a hole in the middle. It was a neat concept - you'd have the beginning, and then the middle, but then all of a sudden you're at the end and it's like you missed a chapter or something, because the event that led from here to there was missing. It was up to the listener to fill in the blanks. It thought it was a very clever device.

Well, I seem to be having that problem with my current story, although not intentionally. There is one pivotal scene that changes it from a story about a normal girl moving to a new town and trying to fit in, to a girl who becomes a vampire hunter bent on revenge. I've written up to the scene itself, and several snippets after that scene...but I have yet to write the scene itself.

I always do this when there's a scene I don't want to write. I do whatever I can to write around it. I add backstory, I add subplots, invent new characters, and this time I'm even writing later stuff (which I almost never do), but I avoid the actual scene.

Not that I haven't been thinking about it. It's pretty much all I can think about: how am I going to write this scene? I've written it in my head a thousand times, but I have yet to commit it to paper.

What's the problem?

I have no idea, but my suspicion is that it's going to be a hard scene to write and I'm being a weeny.

So for now, my story is like a goblin story from The War of the Flowers, with a gaping hole in the middle of the narrative.

My plan tonight is to settle down at my computer with a bottle of wine and get the damn thing written.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Input/Output for Camp Nanowrimo

Urban fantasy has been the rising star genre lately. I'll admit, I read a lot of it. It's always so jam packed full of action and horror and fantastical creatures and, as long as it's not YA, some sex thrown in (although even then, sometimes you get some good before-the-cutaway scenes).

It's all so fun and fluffy. So dramatic. No wonder people like it. It's almost like watching television.

Since I enjoy reading the genre so much, I've really wanted to try writing it for awhile.

Enter Camp Nanowrimo. What better genre to write when trying to cram a 50,000 word novel into a month?

And so my first true attempt at urban fantasy is beginning to take shape. I'm roughly 11,500 words in, and I haven't introduced my first supernatural creature yet - at least not a full frontal look. Lots of things lurking in the shadows and the corner of the protagonist's eye. But the big reveal is a scene that's coming up soon, and then it will all be chaos and action and blood and fighting and death. Rawr!

I'm only slightly worried about the fact that I am terrible at writing action scenes.

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Guilty Pleasures Vol 1
I've found while writing this particular story that I am pulling a lot from the Anita Blake novels. Anita Blake is a badass vampire executioner who also happens to be a necromancer. All kinds of baddies from vampires to zombies to shapeshifters make trouble for her. Some of the snippets I've written, jumping ahead in the narrative, have been a bit influenced by Hamilton's world and style. It's also interesting because her books take place in St. Louis, Missouri. So not too far from home, since my story takes place in Lawrence, Kansas.

The other series I am finding myself heavily influenced by is the Mortal Instruments books by Cassandra Clare. I love the world she created, with the angels vs. demons dynamic, not to mention her characters are dynamic and deep. Her pacing is excellent and her dialog is brilliant - laugh out loud funny at times. The entire time I was reading, I kept thinking "these are the books I've always wanted to write." So now I am. I've stolen a couple of character traits and other ideas from her novels. I can't quite nail down the humor, though. I'm just not that funny, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I find myself hilarious, but not many other people get my sense of humor.

Diana, maiden goddess of the hunt
I've also found myself drawing from Greek/Roman mythology. I'm not sure how it happened, but I have two characters based on Roman gods. Their stories are nothing like the stories of those gods, but I've stolen character traits and relationships from these two gods. My protagonist is named Diana, which I thought appropriate since she is going to become a vampire hunter. I've given some of the traits associated with the goddess to her. That's all I will say for now, in case this story turns out to be any good. I would hate to give out spoilers for my own work.

Finally, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, a lot of my own life experiences have inspired this story. A year ago this month my mother passed away after a long fight against breast cancer. While I am so lucky to have lots of friends and family left, I got to thinking about a person who might not have much family after losing someone close. And what if that person had the only family member she had left violently taken from her? What would that look like? How would I react? I have put a lot of myself into my protagonist, even if she isn't actually me. In a way, all of my protagonists are me, or at least share some of my experiences.

But I digress.

And I procrastinate.

It's time to go work on that novel I've been yammering about.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pages

Insert Myst reference here
Since I started this blog back in June, it has been slowly evolving. I customized the look and feel, where things are, what gadgets I include, and I am constantly fiddling with all of that. Then I discovered the brilliance of pages! So I began adding them (possibly in excess), and I tweak those quite a bit, too.

If you haven't had the chance, I encourage you to check them out and let me know what you think. Do you like the pages? Are there too many? Is there enough content on them? Or too much? Do they need more pictures? Are they easy to navigate? Do the titles on the tabs make sense? Can you even find where the tabs for the pages are??

I suppose what I am asking is for you to critique my website. I am open to any and all suggestions or feedback. This blog will continue to evolve as I figure out what works and what doesn't, what people like and don't like, and also where I am on my path to publication. Maybe one of these days the "Read My Stuff" tab will become a bibliography for stuff I've actually published instead of stuff I've just posted on the internet.

Today I added the "Current Writing Projects" page. I don't think anyone saw the boxes at the bottom of the home page that list what I'm currently reading and writing. I decided that I would like to showcase my projects so people who are interested can really see what I am working on and where I'm at with the project. It will be another way to illustrate my process, which is one of the primary functions of this website.

Maybe someday I will actually have fans and that tab will be of interest to them. In the meantime, I suppose it's mostly for myself and my dear friends and family who only read it because they love me. If you are reading this purely because you want to, then I am your fan. Can I get your autograph?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roadtrip Without a Roadmap

50,000 words in 31 days? Pshaw.
Camp Nanowrimo is underway. I may not have any idea where this story is going, but my word count is on track, the story is unfolding, and the pages are filling up.

I've become neurotic, like I always do during Nanowrimo: babbling to myself as I wander through my apartment, acting out scenes to get dialog right, insomnia, leaping out of bed with a flashlight to write down ideas that coalesce as I fall asleep, and drinking copious amounts of coffee even though I had completely kicked the habit. All of these things mean writing to me. It gives me a warm, euphoric feeling. Normally all of this is associated with November, but now the Christmas for Writers comes multiple times a year. I am ecstatic.

I'm don't know what it is about Nanowrimo that gets my writing juices flowing. While I will say that this year has been better in leaps and bounds as far as my writing progress, I just don't feel the things I feel during Nanowrimo as strongly. Something about the community, the deadline, the pressure (get 50,000 words written in a month), and also the lack of pressure (write for the love of writing without judging what comes out). Writing with true literary abandon. It really is magical.

Granted, it's only what, Day 4? Everything is still fresh and new and exciting. I'm sure posts full of complaints will follow in the days to come.

For now, though, I'm settling into the groove and ideas are coming and characters I didn't expect keep introducing themselves and I have gotten distracted doing internet searches to chase down ideas. My brain has spark flying from all the information and ideas. I'm stealing every drop I can from my life and infusing it into my story: the funny guy at the coffee shop, the weird kid at my apartment complex, the street performers on Massachusetts Street, a conversation I had with a friend. Nothing is safe. You'd better not do anything memorable or noteworthy around me for the next month, or you might find it in my story.

I'm even building a Pandora station for mood music for this particular piece. I am finally writing the urban fantasy I've been obsessing about. I have no idea how it ends, and only a couple of vague scenes in the middle, but I have characters and a world and some very strange things going on and a very horrible thing about to happen. I may not be driving a shiny new Porsche easily across the finish line (more like a beat up Ford Taurus clunker), but I have got the wheels to get me there.

Oh, and I'm happy to pick up hitchhikers along the way. Care to go on a road trip without a known final destination? I've already got R.L. Naquin and Could the World Be About to Turn in the car. I'm sure we can fit a few more!