This month had me wondering if there are emergency meetings for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. No?! What if I can’t wait until the first Wednesday of the month to get support and encouragement from fellow writers?
Fortunately, my Muse and I survived until our normal posting day at Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group but I’m faced with a dilemma …
I’ve always been a writer who listens to advice.
Kill adverbs? I’ve got my red pen ready.
End each scene right after the twist? I’m on it, slicing away needless meandering.
a week in a while? Sure I can do that.
This time, however, I may have come upon some advice that I can’t stomach.
A few weeks ago one of my favorite blogging gurus, Kristen Lamb, wrote a post about appropriate blog techniques and topics. I happily read through her list, congratulating myself that I never lack for subject matter, until I came upon a line that made my heart stutter in my chest:
Talk to your characters.NOOOOOO! (*hint* Anyone who knows the characters already bought the book. To anyone else? Seriously creepy.) ~Kristen Lamb, How to Write a Great Author Blog AND Avoid Huge Ships
I do that.
All the time.
So what do I do now? I feel as if part of my voice has been silenced and I’ve been told to sit in the corner for bad behavior.
My first impulse, as a writer who listens to advice, is to take heed and start writing about other things on my blog. I think I have plenty of other topics to fill out my glacial posting schedule. I can write about software I use, where I find royalty free pictures, some sources of inspirations, and there’s always playlists.
Is it right for me to stuff my characters back into their stories, never to speak with them again, after all they’ve done for me? Can I at least telephone them once in a while? Write them letters? Send them a message in a bottle?
Conversations with my characters are an essential part of my novel-writing process, and sure, I could keep my conversations with them private because I certainly don’t want to come off as creepy. But this blog is about my journey. My characters are the lens through which I view my world. They say things I can’t find any other way to say. If I’m to be honest about the treasures I find on the road to a published novel, conversations with my characters would be part of the collection.
I think it’s great fun to play with what my characters might do in my world, or explore what they might think of me, their writer. And isn’t that the essence of what fiction is? We know stories are merely ways of processing the world around us and making sense of our place in it. How is having the characters stomp and saunter across my blog any different from telling a story? Is a character sitting next to me as I type any weirder or creepier than having him appear in an imaginary setting? Both are made up scenarios to explore a conflict and come up with a conclusion. Other than convention, is there really a difference?
Still, I’m hesitant. This might be one of those moments where I have to evaluate how strong a stomach I have for my convictions. Do I continue on my merry character-chatting way? Or is it time to stop goofing around, take up the mantle of a Serious Writer– and march all my characters back into their respective stories and leave them there?
Want to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? Click on the linky, and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the world-wide web!
Images courtesy of Louise Docker and Denz Aani @ stock.xchng
Maybe you thought my Muse was the sort who wants chocolate and flowers.
Not so much. He can have all the chocolate he wants any day of the year, and I give him a steady supply of music and books to keep him out of trouble. No, what he really wants is … software!
So I got him a little program by the name of Scapple, cooked up by the industrious programmers at Literature and Latte, who also created my favorite writing program, Scrivener. I first read about it on Nancy H. Doyle’s blog a few months ago, and this little gem has been distracting me from my writing ever since.
With a thirty-day free trial, the download starts right up displaying a blank screen that just begs to be filled with graphics and, as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been following A Scenic Route for any length of time, I’m all about the pretty pictures.
But Scapple’s main function is to map the process of story creation or any sort of project building. One simply types out the words and drags lines between them to make connections. Depending on whether the shift key is depressed, the arrows can lead from one topic to another or even in both directions. Much to my Muse’s satisfaction, everything is customizable, the background, the font, the size of the pictures, and the whole thing converts to a pdf when I’m done.
Here’s what the story map is starting to look like for The Shoals of Stars.
In the non-spoiler-tastic version of The Tempest’s Serenade, I’ve pasted in images of characters, props and the all-important time line. Gotta have that if you’re going to venture into the treacherous waters of time travel plotting!
Sometimes when the brain
Sometimes when the brain no longer wants to write any more words, it’s fun to play with pictures and pretend everything fits together like it’s supposed to. I’m glad to have found a program that lets me do that.
What did you get your Muse for Valentine’s Day this year? Any new software keeping you from writing your words?
Cloud image courtesy of Artyom Tchen @ Stock.xchng, all other images courtesy of Big Stock and Wikimedia.
An ill-advised post, sharing a discussion I had with the protagonist of my impending book …
Tristan has his back to me and is tossing things into a knapsack that lies open on his bed. We find ourselves at his home, the country estate where his father, Rigel, brought his mother, Cerule, after they returned from Luna.
“So you’ll need to take a snack?” I type.
Tristan turns to me, his pale eyes narrowed into slits. “It takes about two days to get there. So I need to take a few rations. What’s it to you?”
“Just making notes. Do you know that I’ve written two first draft books in your story, a couple hundred thousand words, and not even bothered to discover that it’s two hundred and twenty thousand kilometers to our moon?”
He raises an eyebrow, then steps around the bed to rummage in his closet. He emerges with a crumpled pair of pants, along with one sock. “Welcome to the real world,” he says and stuffs them into his pack. He kneels on the floor to search under the bed for the other sock, so his next question is muffled. “Why are you following me?”
“I’m trying to figure out your story.”
“Since when do you plan out your stories in advance?”
“Since I want to end up with something publishable at the end of it.”
He stands with the sock in his hand. Static holds it in an odd V-shape, and his silver blond hair sticks out in all directions. “Publishable?” He snorts. “Who the heck cares?”
I stop to consider. “Perhaps I put this wrong. I want to have a clearer story when I’m done.”
He snorts again as he tosses the stray sock into the bag and pushes his clothes into a lump in the middle to get the zipper around them. “How do you plan on doing that?”
“I thought Kristen Lamb told you not to do that.” He grabs an apple from the counter and takes an over-sized bite.
“Much as I adore her, she can’t tell me what to do on my own time. That’s just for the blog.”
Still chewing his bite of apple, he nods and sets the fruit down to pull open a large drawer. Piled inside are what look like protein bars and sticks of jerky. He grabs a handful of them and swallows his first bite of the apple, licking his teeth. “Want one?” he says and holds out a stick of jerky.
I grab it gingerly. Post-apocalyptic jerky looks suspiciously similar to the jerky we consume today. “Is this any good?” I ask.
“If you like eating tree bark, sure it is.” He flashes a rare smile. “So, how does this work? You follow me around and ask questions?”
“Something like that. Sometimes you just do stuff on your own while I’m away, and I look in on you. Sometimes I go make scene cards for things that might happen in the story. Sometimes we just hang around the campfire and tell stories about the way things used to be.”
He scratches his temple as he nods, then takes another bite of the apple. “C’mon then,” he says through a mouthful of apple. “I’ll load up the dragon.”
After this little discussion, it came to me that Tristan isn’t afraid to break things because he knows how to fix them. At first I thought that was just an interesting observation about his personality, but after some more thought, I could see that it applied to myself as well. I’m standing on the threshold of finally starting this story, afraid I’m going to screw it up because as story sketches go I have the equivalent of an oval for the face and two circles for eyes. If I screw this up, can I fix it in revision? Dare I proceed?
How do you know when it’s time to start a story? Could beef jerky survive an apocalypse? And what’s with my protagonist grabbing an apple this early in his creation?!Images courtesy of Chris H. and Earl Wilkerson @ stock.xchng
Welcome to this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group where, thanks to the genius of Alex J. Cavanaugh, writers all over the world-wide web gather to share their insecurities and triumphs. If you want to join us, click the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.
This month I’m worried my weird stuff will never find the right audience.
People always told me I should write. Maybe it’s because one of my favorite things to do is edit other people’s writing, rearranging sentences and looking for the perfect word to make the prose sing. Maybe it’s because I find typos in everything I read. Maybe it’s because they give me books they’ve read and want to know if I think they’re any good. Some of them, after they’ve got a few chapters of their own book written, even ask me, “What do you think? Should I finish it? Would someone pay to read it?”
“Of course,” I tell them. “You should write.”
“But what about you?” they would ask. “You could write a book someday.”
“Nah, I’m too busy,” I would respond with a smile. “My life is too boring to write about. I have no good ideas for stories—besides, show me the money.”
That all changed when I read a certain bestselling novel. It doesn’t really matter which one; there are so many that sell oodles of copies despite what seem to be obvious shortcomings. There were parts of it I liked, but also parts that I felt could be so much better. “What if–” I thought, “I took the parts I liked, combined them with parts I liked from another story, then put in something I really love, and made a story that’s perfect for me?”
If I wanted that story, I’d have to be the one to write it.
So I did. It took a bit of prodding and lots of free writing to get the words out, but soon I was writing a thousand words at a time without coming up for air. And it was fun! My characters took me to the most amazing places, the plot twisted in the most unpredictable ways, but there was no way I was going to consider this ‘Thing’ I was writing a novel.
Until one day I realized my characters and plot were acting out some of my inner truths and demons. Thinking about that took my breath away.
And I didn’t care if they made money. They needed to be written.
My next story was about a kid with a mind reading tiger for a pet and was set on a desert planet where his father, the king, had been exiled. That was followed by a story about an engineer who contacts aliens, then a story about dragons and the moon, then a story about vampires …
This next transition however is filled with self-doubt and missteps. I need to reconcile what the world thinks I should write with what my heart has discovered I want to write.
What genre are these ‘Things’? Where do my stories fit into the spectrum of books people like to read? Are they paranormal romance? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Modern adult, young punk, mature audiences only, dark suspense comedy?
And how will I ever revise all this to fit inside a three act structure? In the requisite ninety thousand words?
Can I ever learn to conform to the constraints of writing prompts and word count limits?
When the Muse crooks his gloved finger in my direction and drags me to the page, whispering, “Hey, Writer-Babe, C’mere. There’s something you just gotta see …” do I follow—even if I have deadline for a blog post?
Images courtesy of ‘Georgie C’, Billy Alexander, T. Al Nakib and Zsuzsanna Kilian @ stock.xchng,
As the entire Midwestern United States seems to be buried under a snow drift, there is only one thing left for a chilly writer to do: Pull out my summer playlist, stir up a storm of margaritas and pretend I’m on an island far away from all this. This playlist always takes me there:
Care to join me? Put on your flip-flops, grab a beverage, and click here to dial-up the playlist on YouTube. What do you do to beat the winter blues? What’s on your beach party playlist?
Cocktail image courtesy of Beatriz Chaim, flip-flops courtesy of Marcelo Terraza lei courtesy of Shannon N @ stock.xchng
For this week’s Sunday Scrapbook I present to you a blog post about … a blog post.
I’ve decided to give you a peek behind the curtain and reveal the magic I use to polish every post until it’s sparkly. Since most of my posts are much too long for this kind of analysis, I’ll share a post from the How To Think Sideways Blog (and you thought A Scenic Route was a ponderous name!), where I post every Friday to highlight a particularly interesting forum topic.
I’m going to go through some iterations of the draft and highlight the changes that helped it come together. There were actually seven drafts, but to spare you the agony of the entire process (and to keep my word count manageable) I’m only posting three of them.
Here we go!
Step One: Today’s post topic is about a forum member who is looking for a critique partner. In preparation for my writing session, I make a cup of tea, dial up a suitable playlist, and set the timer for an hour. I soothe my Inner Editor with the assurance that if I don’t have anything good after an hour, I can just write a plain vanilla post and get ‘er done.
Then I bang out a first draft, no stopping to edit, just to get the ideas on the page. I posted it here for your edification:
Writing a novel can be a lonely job
(I stopped here, and thought blech … then started over)
Writing a novel can be a lonely business. With nothing but a dream that is no more substantial than clouds between one’s fingers, writers shape a story out of thin air. Practicing our moves, checking the mirror to make sure our backs are straight and our toes pointed.
But there comes a time in this intricate dance that we need a partner. Someone to check our footing, initiate a turn in the right places, or suggest a different tempo. The right critique partner can choreograph a mundane story into one that soars.
How does one find such a writer? One brave intrepid writer has raised his hand and asked for laid out his credentials in the hopes of finding just such a person. Log in and check into the boot camps to find out if you can help him out, or post your own!
Words on the page. Yay! Now it’s time to look them over and see what I can fix.
Writing a novel is a lonely business. With nothing but a dream no more substantial than a cloud between one’s fingers, writers must fabricate compose a story out of thin air. Like a dancer learning a new program, with each draft, and each revision we are practicing our moves, checking the mirror to make sure our backs are straight, our toes pointed, and that we’ve got just the right spin in our pirouette.
ButOften there comes a time in this intricate dance that we need a partner—someone to check our footwork, initiate a turn in the right places, or suggest a different tempo. The right critique partner at the right time can choreograph a mundane story into one that soars.
How does one find such a
writerconspirator? A Boot Camp member has sent up the smoke signal in the hopes his call will be answered. Log in and check into the boot camps to find out if you can help him out, or post your own call.
Step Three, Four: More polishing. I’m starting to have more confidence that I will be able to see this idea through as I substitute better words and smoother sentences for clumsiness. I’ll spare you that step, because I can see your eyes glazing over.
Step Five: After this step I realized that starting with clouds and ending with dancers just didn’t quite flow yet. I knew I needed to connect the beginning with the end, and that’s when the magic happened. Watch the first paragraph closely …
Writing a novel is a lonely business. Listening only to the music of our imagination, we compose stories from nothing more than clouds between our fingers. Like a dancer learning a new program, with each draft and each revision we are practicing our moves, checking the mirror to make sure our backs are straight, our toes pointed, and that we’ve got just the right amount of spin in our pirouette.
Often there comes a time in this intricate dance that we need a partner—someone to check our footwork, initiate a turn in the right places, or suggest a different tempo. The right critique partner at the right time can choreograph a story that stutters into a story that soars.
How does one find someone to fill that role? A Boot Camp member has sent out the casting call. Log in and check into the boot camp forums to see if you can help him out, or post your own casting call!
After this comes a bit more polishing, and the final touch: A Title. However, in the spirit of blogging community, I’m going to have to insist you visit my other blogging home, the How to Think Sideways Blog if you want to see the final product!
How about you? How many drafts does it take to get things just right? And aren’t critique partners the best?