shay_writes: (Default)
( May. 2nd, 2014 08:17 pm)

May is here. Spring is in full swing and the world is coming back to life after a miserable winter of sub-zero temperatures and more snow than I am comfortable with it. It is time for me to reassess the goals I set for the year. 

Back in January, when I was crippled with bronchitis, I pledged to finish the second draft of  The Valiant by the end of April. I failed to reach this goal. I've only edited one third of the manuscript. Several road blocks prevented forward progress. I am pushing back my completion date to September 15th. The positive is I know where I want the story to go. I am almost certain on how the series should end. I can see script unfolding in my head. I only need to transfer what is in my brain to the page. 

Work on The Hunted stalled after I had a massive flare of condition in April. My goal is to be finished with the first draft of it by September 15th. I would also like to have a working outline for The Calling completed by then. I know these are ambitious goals considering I have a problem with consistence. I can work daily on my writing and then illness can push me back for a month. It is something I need to address if I hope to become a professional. 

 

shay_writes: (Default)
( Apr. 25th, 2014 08:30 am)

"The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape" 

 "The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties"

 "Toughness" 


It has taken me two weeks to recover from my latest flare. Today is the first day I've felt good enough to be online and typing. Today is the day I "spring back into shape" and carry on. A fortnight was lost, but now I carry on.

I lowered my Camp NaNoWriMo goal to correspond with my difficulties. I wrote over 11,000 words in April and an amazing bit of back story came to me in an odd moment, so I am declaring the month a success and moving forward. I don't think your failures should define you. It is what you do with the failures and how you proceed after the dust has settled.  Moving forward and not letting adversity derail progress is important. 

The goal for today is to write a piece for LJ Idol. I have several ideas for how I want to approach the prompt. So far this season, my entries have been non-fiction stories about my life. Do I vary from the norm or continue in the same vein? Things to think about.


shay_writes: (Default)
( Apr. 8th, 2014 09:47 pm)

After plotting my second novel in less than a year, I have story structure ingrained on my brain.

Inciting incident. check.

First major conflict check.

and so on. If you are a writer, then you know the drill. Even the most die-hard pantser has some idea about the path their story will take. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of plotting every detail and letting the story take me where it may.

Yesterday, my grandchildren were watching an old episode of Scooby-Doo and I was reminded of  Saturday mornings spent sitting in front of the television with a bowl of cold cereal balanced precariously on my lap. Back then I didn't  care about the predictably of the cartoon. It was reassuring in a way. I knew by the end of twenty minutes those crazy kids in the funky van would catch the bad guy. Now, I can see the structure of the story telling.

There is an inciting incident.

 Usually the van breaks down in the middle of nowhere near a creepy house, amusement park, movie theater, ect. and a mystery presents itself.

Conflict develops within the group as Shaggy and Scooby uncover a clue and no one takes them seriously. I can understand why they don't, a dog with a weird accent and an obvious stoner aren't exactly to be trusted.

Next, the heroes come up with a plan which usually fails and someone is kidnapped, in danger, ect. The group then splits up to cover more ground.

A chase scene infuses more conflict in the story.

 It is all wrapped up tidy at the end, usually deus ex machina, and the culprit turns out to be the last person anyone would suspect.

Yes, it is predictable, but I watched faithfully, every Saturday. I like to think I was waiting for Fred to break character and sweep Thelma off her feet.

Formula stories don't have to be boring. I think it is possible to follow a structure guide loosely and produce a piece of fiction capable of surprising and thrilling readers. It takes a bit of skill and the art of misdirection, but it can be done. I love those types of stories, the ones that start out and you think you know how it is going to end, but then something different happens to throw you off. Those are the ones I recommend to friends. Those are the ones I want to write.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Apr. 4th, 2014 07:30 pm)

For me, staying in the habit of writing every day is hard. I need a deadline to help me focus and to keep me moving forward. If left to my own devices, I will wile away my days watching bad television and playing video games. This might be why my edit/rewrite of my NaNoWriMo novel is taking so long. I need the accountability of a public forum to stay motivated. 

 I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo and I'm using the month of April to write the first draft of the next book in the series. Writing another first draft when I have one I need to edit seems like a weird thing to do, but I feel I need to get the entire story out of my head before it disappears. A part of me wishes I started writing the second book back in December when I had a clear idea of where I wanted the plot to go. The partial outline I completed then doesn't seem like enough of a road map. I have fragmented notes, but they are confusing to me. Brain fog is the symptom of fibromyalgia I hate the most. Thoughts, ideas, and memories fall out of my mind so easy. 

When new writers are starting on their journeys, they are encouraged to write every day. The practice of putting words on the page daily sharpens your skills and makes you a better writer. I agree with this idea one hundred percent. But it is easy to let life and other things keep you from following your dreams. Pain, sickness, and just plain procrastination has deterred me from writing on a daily basis. It was only since I lost my job, that I have rediscovered the joy of creating worlds out of words. 

Not writing for a couple of years was a good choice for me. I think I appreciate it more now and I think I am better writer than I was back then. I spent the time reading and thinking about writing. I feel lucky to have a writing group who stood beside me during the times when I wasn't writing. They have become like family to me.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 31st, 2014 02:03 pm)

When I first started my writing journey, I bought numerous books on the subject. One thing they all agreed on was the concept of "writing what you know." Did this mean I needed to trash my fantasy novel involving parallel universes? I'm not a student of quantum physics and the mechanics of my world were pulled from my warped brain. Was my story less since I was writing about things foreign to me? 

Of course not. I don't believe in "write what you know." I support the idea of "writing from you heart." In other words, write about things you love. In the case of novel writing, you will be working on your project for at least six months to a year, so the subject matter should be something you find interesting and are passionate about or you run the risk of losing interest. For example, someone who loathes world building probably shouldn't write a fantasy novel set in a make believe world. 

My stories tend to be more character driven, with the plot being secondary. In the past, I've abandoned projects when I couldn't love the main character. It is hard to spend time with characters you don't care about and sometimes come to detest. The characters who capture my affection are flawed yet still strong. The main character of the series I'm working on is an angry woman who is searching for the truth. I love the sensitive side of her nature and how it balances with angst she feels. 

The best advice I can give to new writers attempting to write their first novel is to make sure they love their story. Write from your heart. Tap into your feelings and use what you have experienced to bring your characters to life. You don't need to have fought dragons to write about them, but make sure you have tackled adversity and can relate to the emotions involved with slaying monsters.

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Novel writing is a marathon, not a sprint. 

I need to remember this. Growing a story from an idea takes time. My current idea came to me almost a year ago, after a specially, vivid dream.  I jotted it down in my story ideas file for future use. I wasn't writing at the time, having stopped due to stress and health reasons. It has been my experience  even though I stop writing, the ideas don't stop coming. When I lost my job, I  decided to start writing again. I went through my list of ideas and it called to me. 

NaNoWriMo was approaching and I had a shiny, one sentence idea. How would I write 50,000 words based on one sentence? Enter my writing group and a technique we stole from a fellow writer. They threw me a novel "bash" where my one sentence would be expanded into characters, setting, and plot. Without my fellow Yetis, I would've been lost. They helped me expand my idea into not one book, but three if all goes as planned. 

After plotting, I wrote my rough draft in one month and "won" NaNoWriMo. I completed this feat with caffeine, anti-inflammatories, sheer determination. Now comes the hard part, taking my rough draft and polishing it till it becomes the story I want to tell. Editing doesn't come easy to me, it never has. This is why I have so many half finished, unedited novels on my hard drive. For me, editing is tedious and time consuming. 

Last week, my online writing group held a chat with a published author about editing. It helped me get past a roadblock I encountered. The author mentioned spending two years (please correct me if I heard wrong) editing a novel. This helped me to relax and stop worrying about the time it was taking me to go from rough draft to second rough draft. My game plan is to finish a rough second draft then print it out and read it all at once, taking notes. From my notes, I want to compose a third draft to send to my beta readers. This will not happen over night. 

Novel writing is a marathon. I have been in training for ten years.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2014 03:43 pm)

March 24th is my blogging anniversary. I will have officially been splashing my words across the internet for ten years. Ten years. I've been writing with a purpose for ten, long years. For me, writing with a purpose means writing with the intent to sell the finished product. My thoughts about writing have changed since the day I started my journey. As a writer, I have matured. Looking back at my first attempts to compose a first draft make me ill. Then I remember I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for those first mangled pieces of prose.

I've written over 3,600 posts spread across a variety of blog sites. I was regular on Livejournal when it was still cool and Facebook was just for college students. The posts range in content from silly memes to meaningful essays. They are a record of my progress and growth as a writer. Ten years later, I'm still chasing the dream I've had since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand. I honestly can not remember a time when I didn't write. 

Whether I publish a book or not, I know in my heart, I am a writer. Writer and Author are not synonymous. Authors are writers who have sold their creations. My dream isn't to be a writer. I am a writer. My lifelong dream is to publish a book and have others read my stories. I want others to join me in my imagination and love the characters I care about.

Ten years later, I don't know if I'm any closer to making my dreams a reality. I do know I'm still writing and ideas are still coming to me. I'm not giving up. I will keep on working toward my dream till I die.
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shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 12th, 2014 09:59 am)

I've had trouble finding my way back after being sick for almost six weeks. Finally, I feel almost normal so it is time to return to putting words on the page. The momentum I conjured during November and continued with through December has fled. The mere thought of working on The Valiant is filling me with dread. Writing the first draft wasn't as hard as editing has been. 

CuzWriMo was a bust. I  started the first chapter of The Hunted four times. I can see the opening scene in my mind. My main character is driving her beat up inherited Volvo down the interstate with the windows down. It is early summer and she is still searching for her runaway partner. The difficult part is summarizing what happened in The Valiant in a non-boring non-exposition manner. What details do I reveal for people who didn't read the first book and what do I leave out? 

My cousin didn't fare much better. As I healed, she became ill. We both signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo next month. I want to lock away the inner editor and feel free to vomit my story on the page. The draw back will be the editing process after the month is over, but I want to get the story down before it leaves me and I forget what happens.When I envisioned The Valiant, it felt like a series or at the least a trilogy. The story was bigger than one book. 

I remind myself the important thing is I am writing again, no matter how terrible the words are. I didn't write anything of substance for almost two years. Finding my path again feels good.

 

shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 9th, 2014 01:56 pm)

After many hours spent writing and staring at a blank computer screen, I discovered I work better with an ink pen held in my mouth. Picture a dog carrying a bone between its jaws, that is how I look when I'm hard at work creating other worlds. I don't know when this ritual began, but I have come to rely on it. I think it might have become a signal to my subconscious it is time to stop fooling around and get to business. 

Writers work differently. Some listen to music when they are writing, others do better in a quiet environment. Music helps me block out the outside world and concentrate on my story. Before I begin a new project, I create a playlist with songs related to my subject matter. I include a variety and lean toward songs I know rather than newer ones. This helps the music stays in the background rather than becoming the focus.

I envy writers who have created special spaces in which to practice their craft. I don't have the luxury of space to do so. My cousin bought an armoire she converted to a writing nook. During November, I spent the month on my daughter's love seat, turning it into my writing space. These days I work where ever I happen to be. A Facebook friend posted about Amtrack's residency for writers program and I wish I had the courage to apply. I've always wanted to ride the rails and write. It is on my list of things to do before I die. 

Regardless of how and where you write, the most important thing to remember is to write. The words won't write themselves and putting your bottom in the chair is crucial to getting your story told.

shay_writes: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2014 08:44 am)
Unhappy with our current writing progress, me and my lovely cousin, Robyn, decided to declare March to be a month of writing. We are pledging to write 50K new words during March. I dubbed it CuzWriMo. We are refusing to let illness and winter melancholy stifle our creative juices. As I said in a thread on my writing group's forum, no one writes in a vacuum and if I sit around waiting for a muse to whack me with her inspiration stick, I will never progress.

Robyn enrolled in Holly Lisle's online editing course and is working on editing her NaNoWriMo novel as well writing a YA prequel of sorts set in the same world. My editing progress is still stalled on Chapter Three and trying to get the correct tone of a character. She doesn't seem "right." My brain is saying "move along you can fix her in rewrite number two" but my heart argues. In the end, I will have to listen to my brain or I will be stuck on Chapter Three forever.

Last night, to commemorate CuzWriMo, I started writing the first draft of The Hunted. Before I started, I went back and read the last two chapters of The Valiant. Both need so much work. I think toward the end of the story I was racing to get it out of my head before it evaporated. I almost cried when I saw how bad it was. Not one to cry over spoiled words, I moved on. Like Robyn is fond of saying, it can all be fixed. At this point in my process, nothing is set in stone. She is right of course. I have I mentioned how incredibly smart my cousin is?

This morning I am about a thousand words behind on my CuzWriMo commitment. This shall be rectified shortly with a few sprints and the completion of Chapter One. Once I get back in the habit of writing every day, I'm diving back in editing/rewriting The Valiant. The sweat you smell is the scent of literary progress.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Feb. 27th, 2014 06:56 pm)

Condensing a novel to one or two sentences is hard. Trying to come up with a decent log line to describe my current WIP has been a nightmare. Mine remind me of cheesy movie trailers complete with the dramatic music and ridiculous pyrotechnics. 

An edgy, young woman with a hidden talent just wants a normal life. Instead, she finds herself protecting a young man marked for death by the man she trusts the most.

 It doesn't mention the secret organization she was born into or how everything she ever knew is falling apart. I will keep working on it. Edgy is the nice way to say angsty bitch who is pissed at the world. Our relationship is one of love and hate. It needs work. At times I feel she is too cliche. But I digress from my topic of choice. Compressing my idea into a few sentences is proving to be a near impossible task. 

Despite my recent failure to be prolific, I am celebrating my return to the world of words. Currently, I'm sitting in the dark, typing with Pink's Raise Your Glass blaring in my headphones. After I hit the publish button, I will be joining several fellow writers in chat. I'm hoping they can give me some guidance in the log line department, or at the very least help me restart my creative juices. My hiatus has ended.



 

 

 

shay_writes: (Default)
( Feb. 24th, 2014 07:53 pm)

I spent almost the entire first two months of the year sick. My body is finally healing and I'm slowly coming back to myself. The short version is: cold leading to bronchitis leading to severe asthma attacks leading to a case of the shingles. It was not a fun time. But now the blisters are almost completely healed and I don't want to spend the entire day in bed moaning about how much it sucks to be sick. 

The consequence of battling illness is the lack of motivation to create. My edits are stuck on chapter three and I haven't written any new words on my next projection. I am spending the next week recommitting to my writing goals and getting  back in the habit of putting something down on the page every day. This set back will not hinder my determination to produce a polished manuscript by the end of the year. 

My time wasn't completely wasted. I read a great deal and beta read a friend's novel. I've read chapters for people before but never am entire book. It was an interesting experience and I hope my notes helped the author. One day I will be brave enough to send my "baby" out into the beta world. 

 Tomorrow I will be creating a log line for my story. We are covering it in our bi-weekly writer's group meeting. The thought of condensing my idea to a couple of sentences frightens me. Looking at my manuscript scares me too. It has been almost a month since I've opened the file. I'm most worried I won't love it any more. 

 

My body isn't completely healed from the Great Upper Respiratory Infection of 2014. This fact has inspired my brain to shut down and become a pile of gray mush incapable of forming coherent sentences. I've written less than five hundred words in the past two weeks and I'm still working on the rewrite of chapter three. The good news is I am still excited about my new idea and have been thinking about characters and plot points. I know thinking isn't the same as writing the ideas on a page, but I like to wallow things around in my mind first before I start committing them to pen and paper. 

The problem with chapter three is it wasn't completely written in the first draft. It was roughly eight hundred words describing what I wanted the scene to be and the action that needed to occur. During NaNoWriMo it was enough. Now it is sadly lacking. I have the task of filling in the blanks. One of the characters in the scene changed as the story was progressing. At the end, she was a different person. It was a surprise to me as well as my main character. I want to reflect this change in the scene and it has been hard, hence the procrastination. 

I'm choosing to focus on the positive. I am writing again. I've done more since November than I have in the past two years. I've had to relearn some things and get back in the habit of sitting at the computer and putting the words on the page. If I can survive the editing process, I can do anything.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Jan. 23rd, 2014 01:29 pm)

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

How very true. I intended to start editing again on Tuesday. This didn't happen. My time off has stretched past a week. Health wise, I sound like I've been smoking three packs of smokes a day since I was eleven. This paired with a hacking cough and fountains of mucus have prevented me from creating fiction. (or rewriting anything)

My time away from the keyboard hasn't been a total loss. I've been able to get some reading done. I finished We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson. I find hacking and Anonymous fascinating. The most important fact I took away from the book itself was how easy it would be to hack me. Note to self, change the majority of your passwords.  I was also surprised by the fact that Anonymous isn't a group but more a movement or a way of looking at the world. I always thought, mostly because of mainstream media, it was a very organized group of hackers standing up to "the man." I rather like the fact it is a ever changing group of individuals with similar views. This does not mean I condone their methods or criminal acts. 

Next on my agenda, more research. I'm giving myself the rest of the week to beat down the virus that has inhabited my body and is using it as its own personal Disney World. Then Monday it is back to work on The Valiant and character development for the yet to be named hacker thriller mystery story. This minor set back will not derail my commitment to write daily and with purpose. I won't let it.

 

 

shay_writes: (Default)
( Jan. 20th, 2014 03:36 pm)

The common cold had the power to derail my writing progress. In fact, my entire life was put on hold while I dealt with sneezing, coughing, and an over abundance of mucous. My time was spent in bed reading or watching sitcoms on my computer. I developed a Nyquil habit, chugging it back like a ho slamming tequila shooters. Rest, soup, and Cougar Town have vanquished my viral demon, leaving behind a croupy cough and dregs of mucous in my lungs. I feel better.

Writing shall recommence now I've won my brain back. I missed it, but I wasn't in any condition to be writing. No telling what I would have written in my stupor. I answered my phone and instructed my cousin on how many Aleve should take then promptly hung up on her. I jotted down a story idea.

Group of people traveling country in RV living off grid. They have unofficial meeting. Race for control.

I have no idea what it means or when I typed into my phone. (I have a list for story ideas) I am guessing I woke up from a dream and wrote it.

Today I blog, tomorrow I dive back into edits and possible character creation for my new idea. After going a year or more without any story ideas, I have several different ones vying for my attention. It feels so good. Creating makes me feel whole and complete. It is hard to explain, I just know in my heart, it was what I was meant to do.

shay_writes: (Default)
( Jan. 12th, 2014 08:00 pm)
Nothing excites a writer more than a new idea. Last night, in the middle of a trip down a wikipedia rabbit hole, a new idea bashed me on the head. It started with "I wonder" and ended with "what if." Scared it might disappear, I added it to my idea file on my smart phone. The list is currently small and there are several items that have me scratching my head. If I have a cool dream, I add the neat elements to the list for future inspiration. (Ribs are light sabers is a good example)

After saving the idea for the future, I texted it to my cousin. I was too excited to sleep and I thought her husband could use it and do it more justice than I could. Her response, even though it was after one in the morning, was positive and she encouraged me to use it myself. I think her words included the phrase "if you aren't going to use it, I will." I decided to tackle it.

Yes, I am in the middle of editing a rough draft. Yes, I have ideas for two more stories in the same world with the same main character. Yes, I have an outline for the next story I planned on writing. But this idea is shiny and completely different than the series I've been working on. It is singing to me the siren's song of new idea happiness. There is a whole world of possibilities and characters to discover. I almost didn't sleep last night. My first instinct was to grab my notebook and start scribbling ideas for characters and setting.

This is tremendous. I went six months or more without having ideas. I was worried I would never have another idea. My creative well was dry. There were times when I thought I would give up writing. The thought of not putting words on the page made me sad. For as long as I can remember, I have been a writer. (note I did not say author, that is a different thing) Ideas for stories have been coming to me and I have been writing them for over 30 years. It is who I am.
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One of my goals for the new year was to establish a solid writing schedule. It is still a work in progress. Life seems to have a way of intervening. I know there is a saying about good intentions but my brain fog is preventing me from retrieving it at the moment.

The thought was for me to write at the same time every day and not stop till I hit my daily goal, which is a doable 500 new words. So far I hit my goal once since January 1st and I have yet to sit at the computer at the same time every day. The good news is I have managed to write seven out of the past nine days. There are new words being written each day and the WIP is shaping up.

A good friend urged me to relax and take it easy on myself. This was in response to my angst over the speed of editing. It was good advice. I was putting too much pressure on myself. This is new uncharted territory for me. In the past, I would spend several months with a draft, then give up and move on to something shinier. I never committed to doing the hard work it takes to edit a story and make it suitable for human consumption.

Writing is hard. The pay sucks and there are no guarantees anyone else will want to read your story once it is finished. That said, I can't stop doing it. I have tried. I always come back and start again. No matter how many ways I find to put it off, I must write. It is part of my soul.
shay_writes: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2014 05:07 pm)
Knowing when to stop is an important trait to possess. I am sad to say it is not one of mine. In the past, I have pushed beyond the limit. Today that is not the case. After four hours of poking at my rough draft, I gave up.

The two beta readers who received my first chapter, responded with good feed back. I applied their notes and my chapter was better. Moving on to chapter two I discovered it will have to be rewritten entirely to match the changes in chapter one. Like the familiar cliche, I moved one step forward and took two steps back.

After beginning work on chapter two, I discovered things which I needed to add to chapter one, mainly the MC's goal or motivation. The good news is I know where I can add a few paragraphs and not interrupt the flow of the story. The bad news is I have looked at this chapter for so long it seems old and ugly. The solution was for me to note where the changes need to be made and press on.

The editing process is moving along, though at a slower pace than I would have liked. I long for the care free days of November when my hands were flying over the keyboard. In the time it takes me to write 150 words now, I was writing over a thousand then. Instead of bemoaning my slow process, I probably should be congratulating myself for having the courage to keep moving forward. At this rate, it will be June before my second draft is finished.
The revision process has begun. Today, I rewrote the first scene of my NaNoWriMo novel. This is a first for me. Usually once November has passed, the novel sits untouched on my hard drive. I have six or seven such masterpieces collecting dust. I'm afraid to go back and look at my first attempts at novel writing.

Looking at my beginning with fresh eyes helped. After all was said and done, I cut almost three hundred words, most of them notes to myself, which are perfectly acceptable during NaNo, and added four hundred new words. The original scene just tapered off without a end. Transitioning from scene to scene is one of my weaknesses. The new version has a suitable ending, but it changes the next two scenes a bit. They will have to be rewritten and combined. I keep telling myself it is all right, nothing is set in stone and change can be good.

It is important to me to keep moving forward and to write every day. My goal is five hundred new words a day. After writing over two thousand a day during November, this will be a piece of cake. The hope is by March, I will have a second draft I can send to beta readers for their input. Putting my words out in the world is scary to think about.
My cousin gave me a beautiful day planner for Yule. I have yet to write in it. The pages are pristine and hold the promise of things to come. Defacing them with my goals and lists feels almost sacrilege. I know if I submit them to paper and ink they become real. The thought causes my palms to sweat and my heart to beat faster.

The coming year stretches before me much like the empty pages of the planner. Free from the constraints of a steady job and monetary obligations, I have time to pursue my dream. I've wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to form sentences and tell stories. I can't remember wanting to do anything else with such passion. The time has come to move forward or give up.

Fear has held me back for many years while others have prevailed. It is the main stumbling block in my literary journey. Part of me wonders if I want it badly enough. The reasoning is, if you want something with enough vigor you will not give up until it is within your grasp. I am determined to conquer my fears and succeed.

Today I will write in the planner. With the new year just two days away, I shall declare my goal for the coming year. I will finish my second draft. I will write a query letter. I will write the first draft of the second book. Fail or succeed, 2014 will be the year I finally try.
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