Will he remember me? Will he be forthcoming? Have I completely lost touch with my protagonist? Have I completely lost touch with the last vestige of my sanity?
The door opens and he grins broadly. “Writer!”
It is the first time I have visited him here in his new home, now several years into his happily ever after. “Nick?” I ask nervously. “Do you have some time?”
He laughs and steps aside to let me in. “Of course I have time. In fact, I’ve been expecting you.”
I look him over curiously. He hasn’t changed all that much since I last wrote him and still has that lean confident bearing that drives the women wild, and he still favors black over all other colors. If I looked closely I could probably see strands of grey in the dark locks that fall provocatively in front of his eyes, but I don’t try too hard to find them. Mortality is hard enough to face in myself—no reason to confirm its existence in my characters. “You’ve been expecting me?” I ask and step inside. The hardwood boards creak under my boots.
“Can I take your coat?” he asks.
A fire blazes in the hearth and soft furniture is scattered in front of it. “Maybe in a bit. But can you find a place for this?” I offer him my precious, my laptop.
He takes it with a smile and sets it on a table behind the sofa as I gaze at the artifacts of my story spread out in the room. The sunburst Strat is leaning on its stand, plugged into a rack with headphones tossed on top. I wander toward it, as if drawn by a magnetic force stronger than my own will. “This is the one, isn’t it?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies softly. “You want to play it?” He reaches around me to wrap his fingers around its neck, and the scent of his skin and breath surrounds me.
“Oh no. I don’t play. I just want to touch it.” Which I do, and marvel at the smooth cool surface.
“Can I get you anything?” he asks. “Pop? Wine?”
“No thanks,” I reply automatically, recoiling at the thought of too much wine ruining my chances of discovering what secrets I’ve left unexplored behind those stormy eyes.
I settle into the sofa and open my laptop. “Okay, just a glass of water.”
“That’ll work,” he says and scoots into the kitchen while I pull up the questions for the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Since I see that I’ve already wasted four hundred words summoning him up, I’m determined to keep the answers short and sweet.
Nick returns with a frosty Corona and a glass of water. He leans back on the sofa across from me and lifts the Corona to his lips, taking a long drink while I finish typing. “So, what brings you here tonight? Got more Larry Brooks questions?” he asks.
“Nope,” I reply. “I haven’t given up on those yet but I’ve got some other questions for you. It seems I was nominated for a blog hop.”
He laughs. “Not the blog again.”
“Yes, the blog Nick. They love you over there, you know.”
“Course they do …” he says without a trace of irony, then takes another drink of the Corona. “What kind of blog hop?” he asks.
“It’s the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Urban fantasy writer Juneta Key nominated me last week, and it seems I’m supposed to post on August 18. So here I am.”
I can tell he’s repressing a smile, but seems willing to play along. He sets the beer on the coffee table and runs his fingers through his hair. “What about that guy you’re writing now? Tristan something or other? Can’t you interview him?”
“I thought about it Nick, believe me. But he’s in first draft, and I tend to leave first draft behind the closed door.”
“Okay, fine, but you do realize that our conversations tend to meander?”
He nods and the smile escapes at last. “Okay, shoot then. What do you got?”
I look over the questions and paste the first one onto the screen.
What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?
“I think we’ve covered that one, haven’t we?” he points out.
“Yes we have, but for newcomers, I should mention that you are indeed fictional, in spite of all my attempts to portray you realistically.”
He snickers. “Next?”
I whip another question on the screen:
When and where is the story set?
His eyebrows rise. “You want me to answer that one?”
“Sure,” I type.
“Okay. So most of the story takes place in modern Los Angeles, where dreams are supposed to come true but often don’t.”
“And?” I prompt.
“Of course there’s the back story. The Summer of Love, the acid tests, and the music.”
“You know they say the best thing about the Sixties was the music,” I observe. “Do you think that’s true?”
He gives me that skeptical grin. “And what’s wrong with the music of today?”
“Nothing at all, Nick. It’s great,” I say. And because I know that a discussion about music can eat up hours of story writing time I toss the next question on the screen before he can delve any deeper into his favorite topic.
What should we know about him?
He eases back into the sofa, setting his feet onto the coffee table. “Well, they say I’m pretty good with a guitar…” Then he frowns. “Not so good with the ladies.”
“See? I’m modest too.”
“Well there’s that dying thing. You know, about the ghost and stuff.” He avoids my gaze and grabs his beer. “You going to write about that on your blog?”
“Maybe, but I won’t give too much away.”
“Good writer,” he says.
“I try,” I type. But we have more questions. I paste the next one up.
What is the main conflict? What messes up your life?
He rolls his eyes. “Where do I start?”
I sit with my fingers poised over my laptop. “At the beginning?” I prompt him.
“Yes. There’s Stuart, who was a certifiable drunk, not to mention all that other shit—“
I cut him off. “This is a family blog.”
“Yeah, all right. But Stuart. And then there’s Libra. Every time I tried to talk to her, she disappears on me …” He stops, unsure if he should continue.
“Perfect, Nick. We don’t want spoilers. And we are taking your story to Jami Gold, the book doctor, so anything can happen. How about another question?”
This prompts another long drink of his beer. He wipes his mouth on his sleeve and I slap the next question on the screen.
What is the personal goal of the character?
“You mean my goal, right?” he asks.
He takes a deep breath, then fixes me with his dark stare. “I think you know what that is. Same as yours, Writer. To share my music, my art, with the world.” He laughs. “Screaming fans. Late nights making music. Touring with guys I can get along with.”
“Babes?” I ask tentatively.
He smirks. “Maybe. You’ll have to write me to find out.”
I pause and think about that for a moment, and I’m relieved to find that the next questions are easy.
Is there a working title for this novel and where can we read more about it?
Nick sits with his arms across his chest and asks, “You can field that one, right?”
“Are we done?” he asks.
“We’re never done, Nick,” I type, glancing anxiously at my word count. “But yes, this post is almost over. There’s one more question, but it’s for me.
The question everyone seems to be asking these days appears on the screen.
When can we expect the book to be published?
“What do you think, Nick?” I smile at him and he grins back.
“The book will be published when it’s ready to be published,” he states.
So that’s my bloated, rambling character intro. Do you get carried away with your characters like I do?
But wait, don’t go yet. I have nominees!
The super-talented Kristina Stanley whose manuscript Descent was nominated for the Crime Writers of Canada Unhanged Author Award. Its sequel Burnt was nominated for the UK’s Crime Writer’s Association Debut Dagger.
Look for their Meet My Character posts next week. I can assure you they will be much shorter than this one! (Okay, maybe not Will’s …)
Water images courtesy of ‘Homydesign’ @ stockfresh, masks courtesy of ‘Lucretious’ @ stock.xchng
No, I’m not talking about my lifeless blog–although I can see why you might think that. I’m talking about my novel, and I’m worried …
This month’s insecurity is brought to you by the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a whole bunch of awesome created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers (like me!) who have issues with their self-confidence. Are you insecure too? Fear not! Just click on the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
So, about my novel.
Last month I got back the last of my reader critiques for The Tempest’s Serenade and was thrilled that everyone seemed to like the story. Some readers were confused– some were very confused– but in general they found the characters to be compelling and the concept interesting enough to keep them turning the pages. I’m excited to start in on my next revision. It was scary to share a story that I felt was so broken, but I’m really glad I took the plunge.
Something surprising came up in the critiques. I’m finding that more than one reader has strongly suggested that, after nothing more than a polishing pass and a run through spell check, I self-publish The Tempest’s Serenade as it stands right now.
That’s wonderful, right?
Then why do I want to curl up into a ball muttering, “No No No No No no nonononononono …”?
How could I in good conscience perpetrate this mess upon the world? My readers are confused by the story. Hell, I’m confused by the story.
I had to walk away from my computer after I read that suggestion and do something else. I pulled the weeds out of my front yard. I took a long walk in the woods. And I pondered. Should I take that advice? Am I simply dragging my feet on this story? Should I let it go and move on to something else?
Eventually after consulting my playlist (where my Muse lives), I pulled myself together and realized that, ultimately, I am the warden of my own stories. No one else, not even writers I respect, can tell me what to do with them. I don’t even think an agent or a publisher can push me in a direction I don’t want to go in. I need to learn to be true to my vision, even if that vision is still fuzzy.
Does that make me an uppity artisté? Does that mean I will never make a dime writing fiction?
Good thing I like my day job, isn’t it? Because I’ve decided to be true to myself and proceed with another revision. I didn’t sit down to write A Story; I sat down to write this one. And I need to stop and think before I do something that feels wrong for me. Putting The Tempest’s Serenade out into the world with so many loose ends is something that feels wrong to me on a fundamental level.
Will I know when it’s finished? I think so. I hope so.
How about you, insecure writers? How do you know when it’s time to send your story out into the world? Am I crazy to keep banging away at this story?
Toy image courtesy of David Jones, thumbs up image courtesy of ‘magicmarie’ both @ Stock.xchng
No, I haven’t utterly disappeared! But I’ve been pulled head over heels back into my writing as I’ve fallen in love with my story again.
What’s it like to be in love with a story? Is it like the puppy-love infatuation teenagers have when they hold hands for the first time or cast shy glances across the classroom at their new-found crush?
Maybe. Because that’s how it was in the first draft of the story, when everything was rosy and bright and the words flowed onto the page like cream into my coffee, and tasted just as sweet when I read them back to myself. This is when characters lead me by my furiously typing fingers into their world, and didn’t let me go until a hundred thousand or so words later I looked up breathlessly to find that I’d filled another Scrivener document with their adventures.
Now I think my love might have matured into the real thing. This is the love that cleans up the dirty dishes after dinner and mows the lawn on Saturday afternoon. This is the love that gets up early in the morning to cook breakfast before heading off to work, and that welcomes me into its arms telling me I’m beautiful no matter how sweaty and mud spattered I look when I come in from working in the yard.
Revision is this kind of love. This love reads craft books like Save the Cat, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Story Engineering. This love is working with book doctor Jamie Gold (thanks to a lucky break and a blogiversary prize) to bang out my plot inconsistencies once and for all. This love painstakingly enters each and every comment from my critique partners into worksheets in preparation for yet another draft.
Still, there are moments where my passion for this story makes me feel like a teenager in the throes of her first crush, and that calls for a playlist, don’t you think?
Click here to visit my playlist on YouTube.
Have you ever fallen in love with a project you thought was past hope? What do you do when you want to restore faith in your abilities?
And, is this leap of faith the real reason they call it ‘make believe’?
Watering can and daisies image courtesy of Sandra Cunningham, daisy image courtesy of Konstantin Kirillov, both @ stockfresh.com
Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you’re not yet familiar with this fantastic group, we’re a bunch of writers, three hundred and counting, who are brave enough to air our insecurities on the worldwide web the first Wednesday of every month. Want to join? Click on this linky, hop on board Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog, and put yourself on the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
Hi, it’s me, your Past Self. Remember me? The one who thought it might be fun to enter a writing contest? The one who thought there was a remote possibility you’d impress anybody with those miserable three chapters you sent out?
So by now I’m pretty sure you’re really distraught about the results. When you look at your scores and think it was a stupendously stupid idea to try to write a novel, much less to try to make it publication worthy, I want to make sure that you aren’t entertaining even the slightest notion of ever quitting this crazy gig.
In fact, I want you to remember how much you love writing. So many thrills on this storytelling road have nothing whatsoever to do with what a professional editor thought about the ponderous beginning of your novel.
Remember that sunny May morning, when for the first time you banged out a thousand word scene in one sitting—a scene that had a beginning, a middle, an end, and best of all, a point?
Remember the first time you ‘saw’ your protagonist leaning against your car with his hands in his pockets, smiling shyly at you from underneath his dark locks?
And those low scores?
Wear them like the badge of honor that they are. You took a chance and let your words shake out on the screen of someone who knows what they are doing. Not only did you finish this novel, but you revised it, and revised it again, and then dared to give it to someone who can point you in the direction of a better story. You took this clumsy misshapen early effort and allowed someone wiser to have a look and poke at it with a red pen.
I know. Sometimes those pokes will draw blood. That can hurt and weaken your resolve.
But I want you to see how blood can be beautiful, given in sacrifice to a new and better version of yourself. Those red marks show your dedication to your craft, your willingness to take a bit of pain in order to grow stronger. As you learn to fix mistakes, you will cover them with bandages while your bruised ego heals. Wear those bandages proudly. It means you’ve taken steps to become a more proficient writer.
Does your feedback tell you that you started the story in the wrong place? Great! Next time you’ll start it somewhere else.
Does the protagonist have murky stakes? It’s time to bring them into sharper focus.
But whatever you do, Future Self, don’t despair. There are many who have taken this road before you and emerged a stronger writer. You will too.
And one more thing … check the fourth drawer from the top of your bookshelf, where the colored pens are. I stashed some chocolate there for you. If all else fails, ingesting large quantities of that will get you through.
With highest regard,
Your Past Self
How about you, insecure writers? What would you tell your future self about the steps you’re taking now to improve your writing? Have you ever entered a writing contest?
And, where do you hide your chocolate?
Ink blots images courtesy of marija jure, blood image Courtesy of ‘MPMthe1′ , pen image courtesy of Antonio Jiminez Alonso all @ stock.xchng
I hear a loud slurping sound as I open my morning pages. Suspiciously, I type, “What is it now, Muse?”
And there he is sprawled in the middle of my screen, legs askew, wings spread out behind him. He looks up at me with dark-rimmed eyes and blows another stream of bubbles through the straw in his daiquiri. At least half a dozen empty glasses lie discarded beside him.
He finishes his drawn out bubbling, then wipes the foam from his mouth with his sleeve. “Write much lately?” he asks.
“As a matter of fact,” I reply, “Yes, I have written quite a bit. I put together a post for the How To Think Sideways Boot Camps blog, and wrote another wrapping up the A to Z Challenge, and there’s that critique I need to do. I know—” I stop typing when I realize that none of these endeavors involves writing fiction of any sort. “Okay,” I concede, “I get it. You’re feeling neglected. That doesn’t mean you should start drinking.”
He takes a long slurp from his straw, emptying the glass, then says, “It’s Friday night. Party time.”
“Not for me it isn’t. I’ve got a night of revision ahead of me.”
“How’s that going, Writer-babe?” he asks and rises unsteadily to his feet, then stumbles off the screen and into my office. He grabs the corner of my massive bookshelf as he peers over my shoulder at the words that stutter onto the screen. “You’re getting out of practice,” he observes.
“I know, but you’re not helping.”
“Tell me something, Morpheus …” I type. He straightens at the sound of his name. “Why is it that I always get pulled away from what I love the most? How do I always end up feeling detached from the stories that brought me here in the first place?”
“You know the answer to that,” he slurs. Clumsily he edges down to the floor, and with uncharacteristic awkwardness, leans against the wall.
“I do?” I ask. “Tell me: Why can’t I be focused and calm and happy and write nice words that don’t sound awkward? Why can’t I bang out blog posts and then switch over to writing a scene or two of my novel, then kick out a few short stories for good measure?” I wait for his reply, although he’s right: I do know the answer. I just want to hear him say it.
“Because you get so hung up on being a writer that you forget about the writing.” He sags back against the wall from the effort of speaking and closes his eyes.
“Yes.” I sigh. “Remember when I first started writing, and all I could think about was the words I was going to write when I got home from work? I didn’t worry about whether my scenes made sense, or if my antagonist was ever going to show up, or if my story would be relevant, or marketable. It was all about the story and the characters– chocolate cake every single time I sat down to write, no soggy vegetables or meat by-products. All juicy steak and fine wine.” As I was making myself hungry I looked over at Morpheus to see that he’d passed out, his silver crown fallen haphazardly over one eyebrow.
“Morpheus?” I type and then reach over to poke him. “We’re not done here.”
“Huh?” He hiccups and then rubs his bleary eyes.
“I was trying to talk about why I can’t find that special writing place anymore.”
“Sure, yeah. That special place. When you gonna finish some of those stories I gave you?”
He grins up at me. “Who says I’m not?”
“I do. You have a home right here next to my writing desk, and in my heart.”
“My head hurts,” he replies and rubs his temples.
“Why don’t you take a nap then? And come back later once I’m done with all my blogging?”
“Blogging,” he mutters as he shuffles into the bedroom to curl up next to my cat. “World’s most stupid invention.”
How about you, faithful friends and followers? Are you hung up on being a writer? Or are you too busy writing? And, what is your muse’s favorite beverage?
Daiquiri image courtesy of Elena Elisseeva, letters courtesy of Anton Balazh, heart on a chain courtesy of Feng Yu, all @ Stockfresh, my new favorite stock image site. :)
Otherwise known as the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
People sometimes asked me why I would undertake something this crazy. What benefit could I get from posting something, anything, about every letter of the alphabet on successive days in the month of April? What could that possibly have to do with writing novels? Which, I should remind you, is the stated purpose of this blog: Postcards from my Journey to Noveldom.
Novels, not blog posts …
The reason I decided to take this on has everything to do with my insecurity, which is why I’m reflecting about the experience for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group this month.
The IWSG, by the way, is founded by the fabulous Alex J. Cavanaugh, and is a place where writers can freely air and discuss their writing insecurities without fear of appearing foolish or weak. If you want to join us, click this here linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
Though I realize that it may sound as if I regret participating in the challenge, I’m incredibly proud to say that I managed to write and post for all the letters, getting my words out there–as Kristen Lamb writes:
… we must learn to keep pressing forward and ship.
from Writing–So Easy A Caveman Can Do It by Kristen Lamb
For an insecure writer like me, putting up a blog post every day except Sunday is huge.
So, how has all the commotion around here impacted my attitude towards my writing—even though I haven’t even done that much of it?
I’ve gained confidence! And I finally understand why I keep piling on all these different projects: Gotta finish that next revision. Gotta write another draft. Gotta finally get that other book out the door, after fixing all the holes my sharp-eyed beta readers pointed out. Gotta learn to write short stories.
Gotta read craft books. Gotta read regular books. Gotta read my writing friends’ books. And leave a review, a good one if possible.
I could go on, but the point is, I do all these things because I’ve been told that’s what good writers do. And that’s true, they do. Just not all at once.
Knowing myself and that I’m a person who tries to play by the rules, I can see that doing everything for everybody all the time is my way of trying to follow all the rules and thus become successful.
What I’ve forgotten is that I didn’t find the stories I wanted to tell until I concluded I’m hopeless as a writer anyway so I’m going to write whatever the hell makes me happy. Damn the torpedoes. Forget the markets.
So I wrote that and, lo and behold, people who’ve read it like it. It needs work, but I can do the work. I’m not afraid of work.
I think I needed to surmount the A to Z Challenge to prove that I can do something really big and scary. As a result, I built up some confidence, the kind of confidence that will allow me to look at my array of projects and say, “This is what I’m going to focus on, to hell with what everybody says I have to do.”
Maybe my blog didn’t eat my novel after all. Maybe focusing on one thing–writing a post for every letter of the alphabet– forced me to set everything else aside, and now that that the challenge is over I have a fresh start. I can choose one thing I really need to work on.
Yes, I’m revising my first novel, post beta readers, again.
How about you? If you did the A to Z challenge, what did you learn about your writing? What are your goals for your blog?
Mug image courtesy of ‘Maja …’ @ stock.xchng, Cheese and meat plate images courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski @ Stock.xchng, strawberry image courtesy of Roberts Ratuts @ StockFresh
Zero words. Zero posts. Zero views. Zero followers.
Honestly, I pretty much stumbled into blogging. (And novel-writing as well, but we won’t go there today …) WordPress makes it easy enough to come up with a name and sign up, so I did that. I mostly just goofed around with it, putting up pictures, writing silly posts.
It didn’t bother me much that no one came by to take a look (in fact, it terrified me a little to think about it!) because I was having fun just making blog posts. For some reason the concept that someone would actually be interested in what I have to say seemed incomprehensible. After all, I’m not really a writer …
Little by little though, with the help of a side project called Write A Book With Me, people started to swing by. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group gave me another boost of followers and, post after post, month after month, building confidence, building writing chops, I’ve put together a blog I can be proud of.
I know that a blog with followers comes with certain expectations–things like regular posts of a manageable word count, as well as a commitment to check out the sites of commenters and followers once in a while–but I sometimes wonder what it might be like to start over with zero.
Imagine the freedom I would have! I could dream up a new blog name and create a whole new blogging bubble. No one would expect a certain kind of post from me, or a schedule, or anything at all. I could blog once a month, or twice a day. I could write ten word posts or three thousand word posts. I could post time-lapse pictures of my sleeping cat and quote random excerpts from my morning words.
But then, isn’t every new project, whether it’s a blog or a story, the beginning of a new adventure? Isn’t every zero the beginning of infinite possibilities?
The thing is, I’ve also come to realize that I would miss you guys, my patient followers. So, I think I’m in this for the long haul.
But if you ever stumble upon a really weird blog, with posts of wacky photos, odd character excerpts, punctuated by the unmistakable rants of a contentious muse, beware. It might just be me, having fun all by myself.
How about you? What made you decide to start a blog? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start all over with zero?
(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)
Image courtesy of ‘Leonardini’ @ stock.xchng
I’m a bit compulsive about my playlists, and I love to share them. But for a while I was stumped about how to do that without forcing my followers to listen to only ninety seconds snippets of my favorite songs (iTunes) or to log in to a new application that tracks their Facebook profile (Spotify.)
Enter YouTube. By simply clicking on a link, followers can listen to my playlist, even put it on shuffle, without any fuss at all.
There’s a bit of set up required on my end though. First I need to make my playlist by gathering up all the videos from the YouTube archives. This is fun, but time-consuming, because of course I need to watch every single one of them first!
Wanna listen to the result? Just click the link: Swan Song
Do you make playlists for your stories? What’s your favorite way to share them?
(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)
XML stands for Extensible Markup Language, and is the default format for many office productivity tools.
What does that have to do with WordPress, and my blog?
.xml is the extension for the backups of my blog. When I export all the hard work I’ve done here at the blog I am making a complete backup of everything I’ve created: my posts, the comments, the image galleries, all the components I need to set up my blog just like it is now on another host. Isn’t that reassuring?
In fact, I think I’m going to go make a backup right now. Wanna join me? Click on the Tools menu and highlight Export.
Usually I want All Content. Then I click the blue Download Export File button. A few seconds later my export is finished and I have a complete backup of everything I’ve created here.
Do you back up your blog? Have you ever moved from one blog host to another?
(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)
Where does one find these cute little buggers?
In the Appearance category! Just click the menu and the page loads to show the ‘Available Widgets’ on the left side of the screen. To activate a widget, simply drag it from the ‘Available’ column into one of the columns on the right side. And don’t worry about using them up. The ‘Available Widgets’ column always repopulates itself. I don’t know how it does that, maybe the widgets throw a party when I’m away…
Anyway, each widget can be opened with the triangle on the right, where it will display all the
knobs and wires boxes and menus inside.
I like a busy sidebar. Image and text widgets display everything from the disposition of my Muse to my myriad WIPs and their various stages of incompletion. Even my hard-won A to Z badge has earned a place on my sidebar. I also have the requisite Follow Blog widget, and the My Community widget is a favorite of mine as it displays the avatars of all my blogging friends. I even have a calendar of my latest blog
I know some bloggers find a crowded sidebar to be distracting, and I get that, but for now, having my badges next to my words inspires me to more confident blogging. Besides, they’re colorful!
Do you like to put lots of badges in your sidebar? Or do you prefer the sleek, minimalist look?
(Here’s your link back to the A to Z Challenge Sign Up list.)
Robot images courtesy of Cécile Graat @ stock.xchng