Archive for March, 2008

Mar 27 2008

Cast of characters – complete?

Published by under Writing

New people have been showing up to be included in this story for a full year now. I love them all, and a secret wish is that this doesn’t end up the stand-alone story I really think it might be, so I could keep writing their stories.  I’m fulfilling a bit of that urge with the short stories, so that’s all right.

But I’m looking over the ensemble list, and I really think I might be done with character generation. There don’t seem to be any more glaring gaps that need filled by a person in the story, and I’ve been looking for the past several days. There are certainly characters I haven’t tuned into sufficiently and need to flesh out more, but in terms of the initial arrival on scene…they actually may all be here.

It’s a strange feeling, but another sign to me that it is TIME to get this draft done. How very exciting.

One response so far

Mar 25 2008

Well hello there, you sexy thing

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I think I’m in love with my story all over again. Finishing Chapter 5 seems to have really unlocked the current novel rut. This is the craziest cast of characters I’ve yet invented, and I adore nearly all of them.

I want to be done with the draft RIGHT NOW so I can fix it and make it lovely. I hope that antsiness translates into, you know, finishing the draft. Now now now. Soon.

One response so far

Mar 25 2008

progress point success

Published by under Writing

I have just finished chapter 5, after writing 15 pages in three days (it’s a short chapter, but a more action-packed one–I even managed to finally introduce two more of my antagonist factions, something I’ve been avoiding as long as I could). I have at least a few of chapter 6’s scenes plotted, enough to not get stuck not-writing while I think up the rest of the next chapter.

I’ve also, over the course of attempting to avoid direct work on the story the past few days, got most of the way through inventing yet another member of the ensemble cast of characters, and came up with two great marketing ideas for promoting the novel when the time comes. I’ll need to start finding my artist now, though, since I expect we’ll need as much time as possible to get it right. Plus I helped my housemate Kit critique his latest short story. I know, I’m a terrible catwaxer, I’m far too productive. I’m willing to accept this. And I found the intro to another story I’ve had the idea growing for, and figured out what flavor of story these other characters need and what I need to research to do it, and, and, and. . .yeah, let the brain do what it wants to and it just doesn’t shut up. Not even in sleep!

I hope to remember to post about my latest shift regarding feelings and attitudes toward the first draft I’m working on and its anticipated revision stages. But for now, speaking of sleep, I think I hear a bed calling. . .

2 responses so far

Mar 22 2008

Re-writing Chapter 5

Published by under Writing

Finding one’s Right Path to successful writing is such an individual and delicate balance. So many opportunities to fall, to break, to become disillusioned; sometimes it seems they overwhelm the parts that soar. You learn quickly that there aren’t a lot of easy-formula answers.

The latest lesson along those lines is my Chapter 5 of the latest project. I’ve been limping along on the novel in fits and starts (it’s been a very, very full year), but have managed over 100 pages so far. I got several pages into chapter 5, took a couple of weeks off to write “Flowers In the Desert” (which is set in the same world with some of the same characters as in the novel, so it wasn’t really taking things too far off), came back to the novel…

…and found I was a better writer than when I left it, and Chapter 5 had some of the worst writing of the entire project. What to do?

I spent a few days fiddling with it, but not making much forward progress. A conversation with my lovely housemates confirmed what I suspected: in first draft, there are still times where just barging ahead and worrying about fixing in revision doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s okay and even necessary to backtrack to where the worst of the problems started, save what you have as a different file name in case there’s anything worth salvaging, and start over fresh from there. This doesn’t equal “failure”. It’s part of the process!

So I deleted all but the first scene, wrote one line notes for the rest of the chapter scenes, then illness and interpersonal difficulties have sapped my creative energy for a week plus. The Angsty Artist who must Suffer to write, I’m not.

But I’m about on my last leg of tired of letting that other shite interfere with my work, so I’m writing this blog entry to nag myself into hopefully finishing the chapter tonight, given enough energy. Tomorrow if not tonight. Then tomorrow, plot out Chapter 6. You, my lovely readers, are welcome to harass ask about my progress, come tomorrow. I have some Sekrit Writing Goals to achieve, dammit.

2 responses so far

Mar 12 2008

“Second First Novels”

Published by under Writing

I’m in the peculiar position, as a writer (aren’t they all?), of having the confidence that comes with knowing I can finish a novel draft (an edge over most beginning writers), but still basically being at a first novel skill level in knowing the how of building a novel from its essence outward.

The crappy finished draft was 13 years ago, after all. Then, I had no community for writerly support, no concept of how to take a bad first draft and turn it into a finished product, and a huge perfectionistic streak that had a hard time handling perceived failure. I spent 8 years after that not writing at all (well, I was also being drained creatively having all my energy tied up in crappy interpersonal relationships, too).

I fixed my head and started picking better lovers, started writing again, helped form a writing group, did scads of online research about writing, read awesome writer blogs (like Marissa Lingen, Elizabeth Bear, and many many others), wrote some more, started learning to revise, learned I was the sickest sort of writer (I like to revise!), and the ideas flowed like water.

Every part of this new novel process has been full of learning experiences. It’s been long enough, and my situation is different enough now, that so much of it is like doing it for the first time: learning all the technical fun parts, playing with structure and theme and mood and voice and syntax and sounds and layers and balancing all that with the need to tell an entertaining story, not take the easy ways out, do right by the story, fit all the good bits in…

And yet, that little voice of assured success, knowing that however badly, I’ve done this once and so of course can do it again, helps me less than you might think. Because the shrewd among you (or those who’ve met me) likely noticed I didn’t get rid of that inner perfectionist, though I might have learned a bit about modifying the extremes of her harshness over the last decade.

I know I can do this. I even know it will be good. But will it be good enough? That fear lingers, in the spaces between the words.

Happily, these days, the fear is smaller, though still there if I go looking. I do have a really awesome family, and writing group, and network of resources, and I think that will fill any gaps in my own amazingness until I can learn enough to jump ever higher hurdles. I’m stepping along this path carefully, this time, laying solid and healthy writer habit foundations wherever I can, building slowly when I feel like rushing, learning to let go my ego and let the story be written. I’m practicing along the way with short stories (I’ve even sold one!) , many of which are turning out to be rather nicely written.

It will be good. Good enough? Well, if not…there’s always the next novel.

3 responses so far

Mar 07 2008

Anthology Cover Art

Published by under Publication

They’ve announced the cover art for the anthology published by Dark Scribe Press in which my short story “Memory Box” will be published, Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet, if you care to wander over and take a look.

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Mar 07 2008

Continuing a tradition…

Published by under Writing

…of quoting Elizabeth Bear when she says something smart:

This is where the professionalism comes in, and I keep telling myself that. That craftsmanship and hard work carry you over the places where inspiration fails.

This and other awesome writerly advice can be found over at Storytellers Unplugged.

It’s good to remember that that’s part of what we’re doing as writers when starting out, not only filling the toolbox but building the home for inspiration to inhabit when it visits. When the guest has gone away, the home persists, and can even flourish; at the very least one needs to maintain it in good form until your guest returns again.

Or, get your butt in that chair and write. Practice daily. It takes an average of over two years for a first novel to get sold, so what are you waiting for? The you of two+ years from now will thank you. And the Muse will come.

2 responses so far

Mar 06 2008

Another story, another chance to collect rejection slips

Published by under Writing

A week later, and my previously mentioned reviewer did call it on the drafts, as the story has gone through two more drafts since I first sent it out to readers. Every sentence examined, more often than not torn apart and reworded, sometimes more than once. I am so thoroughly sick of staring at this story, it’s moved into the “hate it” phase.

From what I’ve observed, the “I hate this story” phase comes at different times for different writers, though it seems to come up at least at some point for most of the writers I’ve met. For me, it usually means it’s time to quit fiddling with it and send it out, and so I shall.

Thanks this time go to Will Shetterly and Voluptuary members Kiki Christie, Nolan Darilek, Jennifer Evans, and C.C. Major for reading and great feedback, and super-huge thanks to my sweeties Steve and Kit for helping with the tear-down-build-again phase of the line editing. This was hard work but a lot of fun (well, except for the hating the story bit, but that’ll pass).

Now to either work more on the novel, or come up with a shiny new short story. Preferably both.

One response so far

Mar 03 2008

Bruised ego

Published by under Writing

I just had a “kiss of death”–or at least serious ouchies–writing experience this weekend. At my love’s suggestion, I sent the latest story to a friend of his who works professionally in the field and who is respected for insightful critiques. I spent all weekend preparing myself by joking about waiting for the person to write back and tell me how bad it sucked. When the email finally came, I learned there was something worse:

I received the critical equivalent of a shrug. Pat on the shoulder, nice attempt at a story dear.

I would much rather the person had hated it. It reads like they missed most of the layers and depth I worked to include, though they did compliment my “style” and the couple of cool ideas I thought up. I already knew that this person was busy in the middle of working on a story themselves, but if one is not in the headspace to give full attention to the piece I would much rather have a courteous decline in the privilege of reading. However, they also made a couple of good points to look out for in editing the story, so it wasn’t all blah.

Worst of all, I didn’t think this would strike a vulnerability for me but it has: I’m now seriously doubting myself and my perceptions. This felt like writing a top-quality story, it reads to me like a really good story, the initial feedback I received (albeit from people who know me and care about me) was every bit as positive as I could wish for. I’ve tried to convince myself it’s like my previous story, “Memory Box”, simply a mismatch of writer and editor worldviews (which deserves its own post later), but it’s more difficult this time. If nearly all the nifty about the story could be so thoroughly unseen by a professional who has no particular reason to be inclined toward me, then how could I possibly have done as good a job as I thought–and felt–I did with this story?

On the other hand, Mary missed fundamentally important parts of “Memory Box” and I turned around and sold it as-was, so I suppose that’s worth remembering too. Every story you have to assume there will be some percentage of readers that just “miss the point”, along with the ones who totally get what you’re doing, and several somewhere in-between. I hope I can get my belief in my story back; I know I want to be right about its quality, but I also know that there are at least some subtle tweakings it probably needs that I can feel are there but can’t see clearly. Is it so much a stretch to believe that it needs complete gutting instead, when someone you respect misses all the coolest things you thought you wrote?

So to bring it back to the worlds outside my head again, fellow creative friends, which is worse for you? Someone who hates your work, or someone indifferent to it? Or doesn’t “get it”? Or another horror I haven’t named here? What are some coping skills you’ve developed to grow a thicker skin around these areas? I know one part of my brain takes the “oh yeah? I’ll show you, I’ll send it off and it will not only sell, it will get awards! book deals! fans galore!” approach, but while speaking thus hyperbolically can boost you up, it doesn’t always do much for calming the quiet, inner questioning of one’s own senses. Obviously “do it anyway” is a viable response to the sensory questioning, but also doesn’t do much for that inner twisty sick-stomach feeling.

This was a great opportunity to experience a lot of new things that as a writer seem likely to come up more than once. I don’t feel enmity toward any of the people involved, even if I felt disappointed in the response I received. Though I thought I was already comfortable with the idea that not all of my work will please everyone, I learned that it’s a bit different when it’s a story that has the feel to me of having a more universal appeal that then falls flat on a reader’s ear.

One person’s opinion matters, but not too much. It’s definitely a bit of a balancing act, finding that line within and without. Hopefully after I sleep I’ll have more words for the editors and writers post, since this line (whole post, really) leads into it nicely. I look forward to your shared thoughts!

7 responses so far