Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are you an "everydayer" or a "weekender"?

I've had it stuck my brain for years now that serious writers, e.g. writers that are serious about pursuing publication, are the ones that write every day, rain or shine, inspiration or not. They don't just "find" time, they "make" time. They treat their writing time like an important appointment in their calendar that they can't miss.

I really admire everyday writers and I've strived for years to achieve that. And I can, for short-term deadlines like NaNoWriMo. But I tell you, last year when I made a New Year's Resolution to write everyday, if only 200-300 words, I was never more miserable. Uninspired, I logged my 200-300 words a night, forcing out stuff mechanically. I soon gave up. It was too painful. And the words were awful.

I absolutely admire writers who write everyday. I think the world of you guys. But I'm not wired that way. I'm wondering how many others might not be wired that way either, and yet are still very serious about their writing? I have finally discovered my niche, and while it's not what I aspired for originally, I'm my happiest and most creative (and most productive) as a weekend writer.

Yup, it sounds lame. Weekend writer. Kind of like "fair weather friend." But I've been happily churning out roughly 3000 words each weekend so far this year. Turns out, the first hour that I sit down to write, nothing really good comes out. It takes me at least an hour, sometimes two (the hour or two that everydayers would be busily typing away during) to re-read, chew things over, frame a new scene in my mind, peck out a few words, stop and re-frame, and then finally FINALLY the words start to roll. So I need the time a weekend gives me - four or five hours minimum - to get any useful writing accomplished. I just don't work well in smaller increments of time, even though theoretically writing everyday keeps the mental wheels well-oiled and ready to write. (Might be different though if I didn't have a day job).

So how about you guys? Do you consider yourself a weekender or an everydayer or do you have a far more creative term for whatever type writer you are? I'd love to hear!

Another quick reminder, I have a giveaway open for a chance to win two books of your choice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

In which this blogger reveals her true self...

I just read a book that not only really inspired me but just reminded me of a life lesson that I've struggled with ever since I was a kid.

I'm not going to tell you what book (yet) but it was a YA paranormal. As I was gushing about it on Goodreads, writing down the things I loved about it, I found myself typing these words:

"I think the most important thing teenagers need to know is that it is okay to be yourself, whoever you are, whatever your quirks are, your strengths and your weaknesses. You don't need to put on an act. You don't need to copy cat others or wish you could be like someone else. You are your very best when you are yourself."

I was never one of those teenagers that fit in. Sometimes I wished I was, and I tried to "play the game" but it just made me unhappy. So I'd just go back to being myself, and if I got strange looks once in a while (especially during my Lord of the Rings phase when my way of speaking became a little odd and elvish at times), then so be it.

I still struggle with it as an adult from time to time. I try to appear (even on this blog) as a nice normal American mom who writes on the side and reads lots of fantasy books. But suddenly I'm compelled just to smile and say, "what the heck is normal, anyway?"

Truth is, I'm forty years old and I love fairy tales and unicorns and princesses and I'm deeply passionate about certain books (I even moved to Wyoming because my all time favorite books are set in Wyoming) (My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming, by Mary O'Hara in case you are wondering) and I might just exchange 10 years of my life for one year, maybe even one day, in Middle Earth.

I have been known to take walks in aspen groves and talk to the trees and sunsets make me cry and when I read about someone who loved someone else so much they died or almost died for them it takes my breath away because I believe in the strength of true love. I want to write stories about this deep love, love that transcends fear and hate and one-upping and making fun of other people and racism and all the other uglies in life.

A while back, Lisa Gail Green pegged my paranormal self as a library gnome, and that's pretty darn close, but I'd like to add that I am also a romantic library gnome who sometimes dreams of growing wings and taming dragons.

I also admit to being a SF geek and one of the most embarrassing moments of my life was when I was having lunch with a lady I very much respected and she asked me about my writing. I told her I was writing a short story called "The Diamond Wormhole."

She looked at me with very wide, wary eyes. "Wormhole?"

"Yeah - you know - a wormhole." (I thought everybody knew about wormholes. Star Trek has been on TV for almost FIFTY YEARS in one form or another. Surely everyone has seen at least one episode?).

I suddenly realized that this lady was envisioning a slimy tunnel in garden dirt instead of the shimmering paradox of time and space that I envisioned. We continued with polite conversation on the weather and recent events and then went our separate ways and I was afraid to talk to anyone about my writing (except for my other writer friends) for years. (By the way, I still respect the lady; I've come to appreciate her for many other reasons, even if she never has watched Star Trek. I also understand that Lord of the Rings isn't on everybody's reading list, either).

But every once in a while I shrug off my frightened little self that is afraid of wary reactions and let the passion spill out. It's especially easy to do it here because while people can't hurt each other with looks on blogs, they could hurt each other with words; but I have YET TO SEE any meanness or the wordy equivalent of rolling eyes and behind-the-back smirks on the writing blogs I visit. I think that is amazing.

Please share with me something about yourself that you sometimes keep "hidden" because you're afraid of rolling eyes or wary looks. Or if you'd rather not (and I totally understand), tell me YOUR reasons why you love this blogging community of writers and book lovers.
The book was Wings, by Aprilynne Pike, by the way. And oh, please also leave a comment on this post for a chance to win two books of your choice. I love your comments, and since I've fallen behind on my writing this week, I need the encouragement!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An "a ha!" moment from Nightshade

This post is mostly a book review, but there are a few notes about writing craft in it too, in particular a really good technique for balancing a scene that might otherwise be too overloaded with the main character's POV.

The first chapter of Nightshade is packed full of action, blood-spilling and breaking rules. Right away you know you're dealing with a werewolf falling in love with a human that she shouldn't - ah, forbidden love! It hooks me everytime.

The beginning lays the foundation for what you realize much later in the book, is a supernatural society of....well, I can't give it away, but you can tell all is not right in this society. There's something really creepy and wrong about it. The main character, Calla, a high-school senior and werewolf, can feel that something is wrong but she is so much a part of what she's been raised in and all her friends and family (pack) are a part of, that she can't see it/admit it. Though the werewolf packs interact with normal human society (the story is based in Vail, Colorado) they are still worlds apart from it.

A lust-triangle is huge part of the book. Calla has the hots for two different guys - a werewolf Alpha male, Ren, that she's "promised" to and Shay, a human intruder in pack dynamics with a mysterious background. There are LOTS of scenes with LOTS of breathy sentences like this one: "I could feel the heat of his body and it was making my own temperature rise." (this is with Ren). Then almost in the very next paragraph, she's with Shay and his "light touch speared my body and exploded deep within me." I'm not making fun; I'm just explaining what this book is like. I enjoy the tension of a triangle, and this one is very bold.

A couple of the werewolves have musical talent, and the scenes describing their music are powerful. The dancing was well-done, too. I haven't been to a dance club in a long time, but now I can almost say I have, after reading this book - the author did a great job of transporting me into the light and the throb. In fact, I think my favorite scene from the book was this one:
A smile ghosted across Neville's lips; his fingers hovered over the guitar strings, and he began to sing.

Mason flashed a grin at me and I nodded. Yeah, I get it now.

Sabine took up the harmony. Her voice was sweet and dark like the first shadows of twilight. The music poured into my veins, a mixture of grit and silk.
I noticed something about the writing craft, here. Imagine if it had been written this way, without the middle sentence:

A smile ghosted across Neville's lips; his fingers hovered over the guitar strings, and he began to sing.
 Sabine took up the harmony. Her voice was sweet and dark like the first shadows of twilight. The music poured into my veins, a mixture of grit and silk.

It's still good, but it's even better with the insertion of Mason's reaction to the music, and Calla's response to him. I recently received a first chapter to critique with a great opening and very clean writing, but there was something missing from it and I couldn't figure out what it was. Then it finally clicked. It was TOO much the main character's POV. The MC was recounting what was happening to her so intensely that the scene lost its balance, so to speak. There were other active characters in the scene, but it was like they were only half there, in comparison to the example above, where Mason's input adds more weight to how the MC is taking in the music.  Sorry I probably haven't described this very well, but it was a big "a ha!" moment to me as writer.

Okay, back to the review. The book does a really good job of keeping you guessing about who Calla is going to end up with, Ren or Shay. It also has just enough action and scary supernatural surprises (what they find in the cave! yikes! - and the statues and pictures in the old house, whoa!) to keep you flipping pages fast. The ending is a cliffhanger.

I'll definitely come back for the sequel. Its style reminded me a little of Vampire Academy (no vampires, though) - a society with strict castes and unbending rules; but in this book the stakes are a little higher for breaking the rules, for everyone.

If you are a writer, have you had any "a ha!" moments lately with your writing? Do tell! Or if you're a reader, tell me the name of a book that you didn't like at first, but you finished feeling mighty impressed.

Oh, and don't forget to enter my contest to win your choice of two books! Open until 1/31.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Big Questions, and they might be harder to answer than you think

Reminder: Comment on my writing progress and you have a chance to win a couple books of your choice!

When you are writing a novel, there's a few BIG Questions you have to know the answers to. I think Larry Brooks at sums them up pretty well; these are just three from his excellent list. If you find these three questions easy to answer, check out the rest of the list to see if you can answer some of the other questions.

What is the conceptual hook/appeal of your story?

How does your story open? Is there an immediate hook

How is your hero the primary catalyst for the successful resolution of the central problem or issue in this story?

I've been subscribed to Larry's blog many months now, I've learned a ton about story structure and required elements for good story telling. And yet when I tried to answer some of these questions for my WIP (especially the first one!) I really struggled.

Have you ever run into a situation where you think you know what you're doing, because you're fairly well-read (I mean, I've read at least a dozen writing craft books, and I follow good writing craft blogs, and I've learned a ton from giving and receiving critiques) and then...

And then somebody asks you a basic question and you flounder around like a fish out of water?

That just happened to me. Asking myself just a few basic questions about my WIP is making me scratch my head, and I'm surprised, because I've put a lot of planning and outlining and structuring into this novel (I used the Writer's Journey).

I certainly know how to identify the appeal in the books I'm reading, and I can quickly spot the opening hook. So why am I so staggered that these things aren't immediately obvious in my story?

I realize I'm going to have to really put my story up against these questions and see if it can legitimately answer them, or if it needs more development or restructuring. Or just flat brainstorming!

Makes me realize how important Big Questions are, and all the writing craft in the world isn't going to help you unless you can answer them.

Have you ever floundered when someone asked you a Big Question? (this can apply outside of writing, too)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kiss a Frog or Win Books

You want to add a comment to this post because:

a) you have a chance to win any two books you want (how does a $30 Amazon giftie sound?)

b) because it's much easier than kissing that frog, even if the frog has signed in blood that it really WILL turn into a Prince/Princess

c) your encouraging comment will inspire me to keep up with my writing goal of finishing my current WIP by March 1st 2011

d) your muses will be so proud of you for that clever comment that they will bless you with 2000 new fantastic words on your novel during your 30 minute lunch break tomorrow

See, I suck at New Year's Resolutions. I really suck. I've never kept them longer than February before. Yet, I keep trying.

This year, I'm trying two new strategies:

1) instead of making a New Year Resolution (which implies a resolution to last ALL YEAR) I am only making a resolution until March 1st. Write approx 25,000 words in two months. Hey, I did 50k in November, so it's theoretically possible. Only problem is, I don't have other writers competing participating with me and all the great pep talks to keep me motivated.

2) Which is where you guys and your wonderful comments come in! If I have a few people keeping my toes to to the task, I think it will help me stay motivated!

To enter to win, just leave me a comment letting me know what you think of my writing goal of 25,000 words to finish my book by March 1st (I'm currently at 50k, need to reach 75k). The contest is open through January 31st. Then in February I'll have another identical contest to help me get to my March 1st goal.

Check out my Writertopia progress bar (right below the blog title) to see how I'm doing. If it's January 20th, and I'm still at 50k, then your comment might be something like "get in gear, girl, turn off your internet and get your fingers moving on the keyboard".

You can get an extra entry each for 1) becoming a follower (or if you are already a follower, just let me know), spreading the word via a 2) sidebar link 3) Facebook post or 4) Twitter.

You can get 3 extra entries if you come back sometime between January 16th and January 31st, check my progress and leave another comment to keep me accountable.

Please leave your email or website in your comment(s) so I can find you if you win.

I'll use a random number of total entries to select a winner.

So what kind of perky/inspiring/annoying/motivational/kick ass comment are you going to leave? Dare you! Dare you!
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