Current Status: Blogging Failed

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Last night I had a dream that I went to work for a 24 year old frat boy type who had to do something with his life because daddy was getting mad. So he decided to start his own business. He recruited a bunch of people, including me and we met for our first day of work. Except as it turns out, he didn’t have an idea for the company and he didn’t have any money or financial backing. Everyone gradually left that first day except me. I sat him down and started building a plan with him.

I’m not sure what that dream means. Am I loyal or an idiot?

And why would I ever leave the security of my current job to go work for a know nothing 24 year old at a brand new start up?*

Dreams are weird.

But enough of that. Guess what time it is? Well, since I’m actually blogging, it must be time for some iteration of NaNoWriMo! And since it’s a summer month it can only mean that it’s Camp NaNoWriMo time!

Blogging = procrastination

So yes, I’m currently avoiding working on my script that I’m already behind on.

I’m currently taking a break from that very daunting novel series that has literally consumed the last five years of my life. Five years! Can you even believe it? It was the summer of 2012 when I interrupted the script I was writing to brainstorm everything I knew about poor Chase’s attack and the vampires that were responsible. I had no clue that one little idea would grow into this massive world with such an intricate story and characters that I would fall hopelessly in love with.

I never did go back and write that script.

The good news is that I’m still plugging away at the series. The bad news is that I’ve yet to actually complete a novel. It’s one hell of a world and I’m still excited by it and I absolutely adore the characters, but nothing has jelled into a finished novel. But I’m working on it.

The other good news is that I actually took a break from it. Over the past five years, The Destined Revolutions series has had a hard time letting me go. Like a jealous lover, it holds tight and it so rarely lets me work on other things. Not that I don’t get ideas for other stories. I have tons of them. But The Destined Revolutions never lets me get too far away before it’s pulling me back into its steely embrace.

December last year, in the middle of the hubbub of Christmas, I had an idea for a movie script. It’s the idea that I’m working on now for Camp NaNoWriMo. I almost wasn’t going to participate because it’s a lot to do more than one NaNoWriMo type challenge a year, but Camp is more laid back. You can work on any kind of writing and you set your own goals. Originally I set the goal of 100 pages – I basically wanted to complete the script within a month. That was a little too ambitious, so I revised it down to 50, given that I’m still trying to work out story lines.

But anyway you slice it, I’m happy right now. I have a notebook that is almost filled with notes, plus loose paper with character sketches, scene outlines, structure notes and plot points on something that has absolutely nothing to do with The Destined Revolutions. It’s almost like I can breathe. I have 11 pages of the script complete and it’s made me deliriously happy. It’s such a relief to be able to work on another fiction project without having that pull back to the novel. I’m hoping this much needed break will revive and refresh me to continue working on the series.

Six months of working on another project and TDR has barely made a peep. I’m such a proud momma. My little novel series is learning how to play nicely with others and learning that it can’t have all the attention all the time. And as much as I’m loving working on this movie script, I am missing my little novel series. I’m hoping to finish the script soon and get back to it for a bit before it’s time to plan for the big granddaddy itself, NaNoWriMo.

My 24 year old self would be pissed that I don’t have a novel complete as yet. So I think I’ll sit down with myself and make a serious plan as to where all this writing stuff is going. Even my dreams are sending the message that I need to keep writing, keep building and keep chasing my own dreams. At least I choose to see it that way.

 

Lots of Love and other fluffy stuff,

Denise

 

*Come on, he was drinking whiskey at 9 am in the morning!

P.S. Yes, the image for the post is a poster mock up and that’s the working title of the script. Don’t judge me, I suck at media arts.

Finish What You Start

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This is James Gunn. I think I stole this pic from his Twitter account or Instagram. Probably Twitter. Sorry James, but I wanted to show everyone who you are.

This is James Gunn. I think I stole this pic from his Twitter account or Instagram. Probably Twitter. Sorry. Credit to one of or all of James Gunn’s social media platforms.

No matter what you do, finish a writing project that you’ve started. Sage advice from writer/director James Gunn. His inspiring Facebook post on the subject can be found here. Can I tell you how much I love James Gunn? And his dog, Von Spears too. So in love with his dog. I might actually love Von Spears more*. But as usual, I’m digressing here.

So James Gunn had the exact same problem as I had (and still have). Except he seemed to have overcome his issues about twenty years ago and is now the proud accomplisher of many things, particularly a fantastic blockbuster Marvel movie and its upcoming sequel. I’m still struggling with my non-finishing ways. He’s only two years older than I am and I feel like he’s got it together so much more than I do. Well, of course he does. That’s why he’s making Hollywood movies and I’m still just dreaming about making them.

Finish it. It’s so basic and it’s something we know intuitively. We’ve been told this all our lives, to finish what we start. Finish reading that book. Finish your homework. Finish the food on your plate. Except for the chocolate cake. That’s maybe not such a good idea to finish the whole chocolate cake. And yet, finishing non-food things is something that becomes so difficult to do. There are as many reasons as there are people in the world for why we don’t finish things. A sparkling idea hits you full on and causes a cascading waterfall of enthusiasm. Then sparkling idea isn’t so sparkling anymore and it becomes incredibly difficult to plow through and see a now lackluster idea to completion. Especially difficult when newer, even shinier and far more attractive sparkly ideas start doing their little shimmy dance in front of you. It’s hard not to be seduced. So shiny.

But I know I have to finish what I start, even if I haven’t been practicing that as of late. I am notorious for starting projects, writing or otherwise and abandoning them mid-stream. I have a writing box. It’s where my writing projects go to die. I guess technically, I sentence them to death, half-formed fledglings lacking any kind of substance or cohesion. The box is full of half-done writing projects and ideas going back to when I first dived into the writing world as a child. It felt like the only stories that ever got finished were those that were mandated by school and had definite deadlines. Other than that, I’d work on things until I was either stuck or became bored with it or discovered maybe it really wasn’t such a ground-breaking, awesome idea after all. Then that partially completed piece would be quietly slipped into its very own file folder and tucked neatly into the writing box, to be forgotten until some sweeping moment of nostalgia when I just had to comb through the box to re-visit my incarcerated, defunct writing projects.

When I re-discovered my penchant for writing, I was determined that it would never happen again. No matter what, I was going to finish all of my projects, even if I didn’t like the way they were going or how they came out. And I did pretty well in the beginning with that. My proudest writing accomplishments to date are completing two screenplays, Between Men and Women and The Price of Falling in Love, without requiring a deadline of any kind. I’m probably most proud of The Price, even though I love Between Men and Women so much I could squish it to bits in a giant hug. The Price wasn’t going the way I wanted and while I absolutely love parts of it, the whole wasn’t coming together quite the way I wanted it to. But I still pushed on and finished it. Old Writing Me would have shoved it in the writing box and run away, arms flailing, to hide in the corner. But I didn’t. I finished it, edited it and I can now proudly say I have that work as a finished piece. There you go Hollywood, come and get it!

And in the spirit of finishing things, I’m actually going to finish this post and publish it, instead of letting it languish in my drafts folder like so many of my posts do. (I actually started this the day James made the post that inspired this post.) I’m turning over a new leaf and getting back on the finishing train. Now I just have to finish this monster of a novel I committed to. (I’m trying at this point not to shove the manuscript into the writing box and run away, arms flailing, to hide in the corner.)

So in the immortal words of Kansas, “Carry on my wayward son (or daughter).” And my new mantra is going to be “Keep on writing!”

#KeepOnWriting Pass it on.

*P.S. Don’t worry Izzy, in the doggie world, I love you the most and nothing will ever change that.

P.P.S. You’re probably wondering why I chose a picture of multiple people, instead of just James Gunn and then scribbled on it. It’s because he looks so darn sexy in this one. And then I didn’t have the heart to cut the others out because I like them too.

Photo L to R: Sean Gunn, James Gunn (Yes, they are brothers), Andre Royo, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry (who has done a crapload of stuff, but will always be near and dear to my heart because he one time did that one episode of that one show that I love so much, even though it only had 14 episodes.)

Bye Bye NaNoWriMo. Thanks for the Writing Habit.

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I did it! I won NaNoWriMo 2015. This is my 3rd win.

I did it! I won NaNoWriMo 2015. This is my 3rd win.

So another NaNoWriMo has come and gone. And I’m proud to say that I stared into the depths of its hell, into those menacing, piercing black eyes and I slayed that beast. My third NaNoWriMo win in 4 years of being a participant.

For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s where slightly off balanced writers who need their heads examined, write a novel of 50,000 words in one month. That being the month of November. The month that just past. If you read my earlier posts, you’d totally know what NaNoWriMo is, but I’m not shaming you or anything. Okay, I’m totally shaming you. Anyway, suffice it to say, it’s a pretty big important part of my world, where I pretty much give up any semblance of a social life or a clean house and my family ends up eating a lot of take out. November is when I’m totally focused on writing, because I’m crazy and I have this constant need to tell the stories of the voices that are in my head.

Basically, NaNoWriMo is the writer’s equivalent to a marathon. At the end of it, I’m completely exhausted, my bones ache from all the sitting and my arms have gone numb and I have pains all through the tendons. My brain is probably something akin to tapioca pudding. It’s late nights and early mornings. There were so many times when I wanted to stop. I wondered why I was torturing myself. There I was with 2300 words left to write and I hit my brick wall. It literally takes every ounce of strength to force yourself to keep going. But I dug deep and with some encouragement from my son, I was able to continue on, cross the finish line and stand proudly in the winner’s circle. Or maybe it’s a square. Trapezoid? My eyes are so blurry I can’t really tell. Anyway, I completed my 50,000 words – 51,533 to be exact and I’m a winner for 2015.

It’s amazing how good it feels when you accomplish something that you have to commit to like that. When there’s such a struggle and you don’t think you’re going to make it, but you dig deep and then you do. For me, it’s such a rewarding personal accomplishment as a writer.

So what did I learn from this year’s NaNo? Well, this year they had a whole whack of badges that you could earn for reaching various writing milestones. One of the new ones was to update your word count for 30 days straight. Translation: You have to write each and every single day during the month of November. Each day, no skipping. It was a really big challenge to achieve that. For the most part, my normal habit was to skip whole work weeks at a time and write like mad on the weekends to try to catch up.

Now it’s completely crazy, but I was hell bent and determined to win that badge. Because I’m five years old and I like to have gold stars on my work for validation. But in trying to earn that badge, I learned the importance of writing every day of making writing a habit. It’s something, that if you truly want to be a writer, you have to make that commitment to do. Every day, no matter what, find the time to write. Even if it’s for ten minutes, even if you only write a couple of hundred words. The importance is to keep the momentum going and to keep the words flowing. Keep going until it’s done.

My novel is far from complete, but it’s a pretty good start. NaNoWriMo also gave me the freedom to play with my scenarios. I took the stance that this was my own personal sandbox, to test out scenes and scenarios with no obligation to commit to them for the final story. Whenever I got stuck on a section and didn’t know where to go with it, I’d leave and continue on with another scene. If I really got stuck, I just wrote a random scene, not caring how out of left field it may have been or that it didn’t necessarily fit with my story. The result is that I got to know my characters better. I know a lot of those scenes won’t make it to the final cut of the novel, but it allowed me to explore my characters further, see them in a different light and ultimately achieve a deeper understanding of them.

I’m taking two days off to allow my broken body to heal from the frenzy of typing and sitting, but then it’s back to work on the book. And not just thinking about it. Actually putting words down onto the paper, because that’s the only way this story is going to get told. And it’s a story that needs to be told and I need to tell it.

It’s December now, so I’m off to go get some sleep and then it’s back to writing.

Woefully Late for a Very Important Date

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And that date would be my debut book launch. And not just a few days or months. Whole years. Like two of them. Ooops.

After all, the website proudly proclaims that the first novel in the series, Darkness Becoming, will be released Summer 2013. That date is now long gone. And I’m not done. Not even remotely. And I’m pretty positive Darkness Becoming won’t even be the first book anymore. And The Destined Revolutions’ website is gone. And I haven’t put it back up. I know. I’m a terrible human being.

And I have every excuse in the book for why it’s not done. Here they are in no particular order:

1. The dog ate it.* I swear she did! That girl eats everything!**

2. I fell into a hole and I think I’m in some alternate dimension that actively prevents you from finishing books. I’m telling you, there’s some kind of weird force field here that keeps you from writing.

3. My computer blew up. (Well, it did. But I have a new one. So, I guess that’s not all that valid.)

4. I have an unhealthy obsession with Joss Whedon. Which lead me to…

5. An unhealthy obsession with the complete and total wrongness that is Netflix. It’s turned our society into a bunch of binge watching zombies. Or maybe it’s just me. I mean, they make it so easy to just sit there staring at a screen for hours, probably even weeks at a time.

6. My ultimate confession: I have this unbelievable urge to have a roof over my head and wear clothes and well, eat from time to time. These crazy urges lead me to have a job. I know, you’re stunned and horrified. Perhaps I should have warned you to sit down. I’m disgusted with myself, but it’s an addiction. You have no idea how much time this addiction saps from writing.

7. My characters left me. I have no idea what I did to offend them. They kind of wander in and out at will. Sometimes, they’ll sit down and stare at me blankly. I try to have conversations with them and they shrug apathetically.

8. I can’t find the words. I tried searching in the sofa, but all I turned up was some loose change, a few M&M’s and something I’m not sure I want to figure out what it is.

9. Life always seems to fall down and go boom.

10. I was kidnapped by operatives who insisted they would let me go only after I had given them the Caramilk secret.***

But if you want to know the truth of the matter, it’s really because of every reason that every writer faces: writer’s block, time, full-time job, family issues, friends and having even an teeny-tiny social life, household chores, needing a little bit of down time from it all and unhealthy obsessions with cult t.v. shows. It’s been a crazy two years on the life front.

If you want to dig deeper into my psyche, it’s probably all the self-doubts that we writers face about not being good enough. I have fantastic ideas and I have been working on the overall story itself, it just hasn’t jelled into a cohesive or remotely readable or understandable novel. The story I thought was so amazing and had me on a serious nerd-high two years ago has left me doubtful and scared that it’s just not good enough for public consumption. The last thing I want to do is waste anyone’s time with something that’s sub-standard. And so it remains in its ether-like state, floating in my brain, with me only able to catch snippets of it here and there.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for not delivering on my promise. I’m trying to be better.

 

 

* A friend told me that “I don’t have time” is the adult version of “The dog ate my homework”.

** No she doesn’t. She only eats stuff if it’s food or the little plastic ends on shoelaces.

*** I actually used this as an excuse for being late for a high school history class. Our teacher insisted we give reasons for showing up for class late. “Because I didn’t get here on time” wasn’t sufficient.

Here We Go Again – It’s NaNoWriMo Time

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Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

NaNoWriMo Participant 2014 – That’s me!

Yep. It’s that time of year again boys and girls. Gather around while I tell you the story of psychotic writers who do this psychotic thing at the same time each November, all in the name of chaotically writing a story in a month. And yes, I’m one of those unstable, most definitely need their head examined lunatic writers participating in NaNoWriMo.

Fifty thousand words written in 30 days. Now I suppose if you were a professional novelist, that wouldn’t be so difficult. But what about us ordinary schlubbs who have actual full-time jobs and families and houses and try to have some semblance of a life? How is it possible for an event to generate such excitement and dread at the same time, leaving one to wonder if they maybe shouldn’t be locked up in a nice padded room, with their arms tied snuggly around them.

So let’s recap a little of my NaNoWriMo experience. This year will be my third one. Won the first year, got a little too cocky the second and blew it by a measly 2913 words (Never agree to lunch and a stage show in the city with your friends on the last day of NaNoWriMo. Either that or don’t leave the vast majority of your writing to the last two days). It has remained a sore spot with me for the entire year and I’m planning on redeeming myself with flying colours for this one. Never again will I take the NaNo Beast for granted. It is a sneaky and formidable opponent. It has time on its side. I don’t.

It’s actually very easy to win NaNoWriMo. It just takes discipline. Fifty thousand divided by 30 days equals 1667 words per day. Do that and you sail into the winner’s circle. But like most things, the theory is much easier than the practice. As of today, it’s Day 12 of NaNoWriMo and I’m at 5129 words. Dismal. And I was planning on having 10,000 words written within the first day. Ooops.

But like all well laid plans, things go astray. Life happens and sucks up time that would otherwise be used for writing. Plus I’m not that disciplined when it comes to things I should do in my private life. I think I have a bit of passive aggressive or maybe flat out rebellious. I’ve never liked being told what to do. Apparently, not even when it’s myself telling myself to do it. Not to mention, I’m having another, very serious, very annoying, not-so little problem.

I’m trying to be smart this year. I went for the story that’s been plotted out with developed characters, rather than trying to write another installment of The Destined Revolutions, when at this point I have no idea what is going on. I have four books partially finished and they are just a slapdash disaster. So I’m doing the sensible thing and writing the story that knows where it’s going. It’s a stand alone story, so I don’t need to worry about where it’s specifically been before it came into my life. I can write fresh and make up stuff as I go along because it doesn’t have to fit into anything already established.

You see this story for NaNoWriMo is a “real” world story. It’s made up of normal, yet not-so normal people in our everyday world. There are no spaceships or aliens or ghosts or demons. I thought going back to the real world would be a piece of cake. Because the rules of the everyday world are already laid out for you. You already know them because it’s at least some semblance of where you live. Unlike The Destined Revolutions world which had to be built and created and its rules and history formed. But as it turns out, I may have been away from the real world for a little too long. I miss the fantastical nature of my made up world. It makes it hard to stay on track with this story, which by the way has been code named “The Secret of Sugar Cay.”*

But I have to tell you that TDR is one seriously disturbed, pain-in-the-ass, obnoxious, jealous beast. Even as I try to focus on the story I need to write this month, it shamelessly barges into all aspects of my life, popping into my head when I least want it. As soon as I start to think about this current story, it tries to bully its way into the forefront of my life. And it tries to seduce me with it’s alluring, not-real world ways. It beckons. It calls. And I want it to go away. At least for the month of November.

Too bad I couldn’t count the eight hundred and six words in this blog article towards my daily NaNoWriMo count.

 

P.S. I seriously need to stop procrastinating. Oh look, another eleven words!

*I don’t know what the secret is. It just sounded like a cool title. It’s original working title was “Hotel Caribbean”. Not nearly as cool. And there’s another thirty words.

Yes, you get obsessive with word counting. (Another ten words.)

Okay, I’ll stop. (four)

 

 

 

Well, It’s Not Going to Write Itself

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Small part of an infinite star field

The pieces of my story lie somewhere within this infinite star field. I’m hoping to find them. It might be a little challenging.

I’ll admit, for the past little bit I’ve been a very, very naughty little writer. And I don’t mean the R rated or NSFW type naughty either. I’ve been very bad about actually sitting in front of something and physically writing. I’ve still thought about my story and characters, I’ve discussed aspects with various people (okay, maybe only my son and Izzy, the dog) and I’ve jotted random notes down on scrap pieces of paper. Plus I have tons of notes on my Scrivener. But in terms of progression with pages of novel – well, not so much has happened in that department.

I’d call it the February blahs, except that it’s August and this has been going on since the beginning of December. I went into a writing frenzy trying to complete NaNoWriMo and since then I haven’t been able to really write. I came off my first NaNoWriMo in such a giddy state of euphoria, like the marathoner finishing his first race. That was in 2012. For 2013, it was a dismal failure. The worse part about it? I only failed by a little. Less than two thousand measly words. There’s nothing worse than failure, but to come so close and ultimately not make it? Devastating.

So take that and throw in all my real world problems along with a family emergency and you have all the makings for an impotent writer. Do they make some kind of writer Viagra? Is there a pill I can take that will return me to that glorious state of being able to create stories, to put down words to advance the plot, develop my characters and unveil their motivations, finishing in a crescendo of excitement and glory?

I thought maybe I would take a break from the world of The Destined. Put it aside and go back to work on the other things that were in progress when this whole behemoth very ungracefully crashed down onto me and would allow me to do nothing else but work on it. But as I try to go back to other projects, I can’t help this feeling of guilt and I can’t shake the nagging voice inside my head telling me I’m being unfaithful, that what I’m doing is wrong. Which of course is completely ridiculous, because writers work on multiple projects at the same time. No, The Destined storyline has grabbed a hold of me me and like a psychotic, jealous lover it refuses to let me pay attention to anything else.

So my apologies for being absent. Apologies for not progressing with my story. And I know all I’ve fed you is a pile of excuses and excuses don’t get things done. But I am trying. I have pep talks with myself everyday interwoven with severe tongue lashings played out inside my head. The end result is, no matter what I do, I just can’t move forward with it. I’m not sure what it will take to get me out of this crazy funk I’m in, but I sure hope I find it soon.

 

P.S. You can just go to hell SEO. I really don’t care if I’ve optimized things adequately. I’ve got bigger fish to pull out of the water before I can even fry them, so you can just go away now.

Apocalypse Not Right Now. Maybe Later.

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Me: Okay, guys, it’s November and we have a story to write. So far, we haven’t gotten anywhere, so we’re going to need to work —

Ricky: Are there any refreshments at this meeting?

Me: Uh, I don’t know.

Ricky: I’m famished. I kinda missed breakfast to be here.

Me: I – I don’t think… Wait a minute, this meeting is for main characters. You’re not even supposed to be here.

Ricky: I’m a recurring character, I gotta right to be here.

Me: There are supporting characters that have bigger roles than you and they’re not here. Never mind that, we have to get moving on this story. Anyone have any ideas?

Rory: I’m on strike.

Me: What? You can’t be on strike! There’s no Character Union here.

Rory: I know what you have planned for me and I don’t like it one bit. I’m not saying anything until you change it.

Me: I can’t change it, it has to be that way. Desdemona sit down! You cannot kill Sierra! Okay, back to the matter at hand. We have 50,000 words to get through and there’s only 1483 written —

Audra: Hey, we didn’t sign up for this. YOU did. It’s your problem.

Me: Well, that’s not really the way I see it. I let you guys do the first story in July, with the explicit understanding that we would work on the second story for November. So, I need everyone to work —

Berkeley: This is a load of crap. I’m out of here.

Me: No, Berkeley, you can’t leave —

Ellie: Why don’t we have everyone vote on what happens?

Me: Uh, okay… Except we need to have ideas that we can vote on.

Ricky: I vote we go get some food. Can’t believe this cheap-ass meeting doesn’t have any food.

Sierra: I vote we dump Miss Super Know-It-All Bi-otch. She thinks she’s better than everyone else.

Desdemona: I do not! I’m only better than the people I’m better than, like you – Miss Boyfriend Stealer! We were totally in love and you took Chase away from me!

Sierra: I did not steal your boyfriend!

Chase: Yeah, I never even really liked Des. She really is a bitch.

Desdemona: [gasps] Well, fine! I never wanted to be associated with you bunch of talentless… boring… Just try and fight the hell god without me!

Audra: Did you add egotistical, pompous and self-absorbed to her description?

Me: Ladies… No… Des, come back! Don’t fight. We have to work together! Chase, Sierra, Mestipen – do you guys have anything? You owe me. You added to the main character count and now I need to know what to do with you.

Mestipen: [cackles] You are running out of time! Everyone has left the scene of the crime! [claps hands]

Me: What? No, guys! Come back!

Lennon: It’s almost time for Drop Dead Diva.

Me: You watch that? Isn’t that, like, a girl’s show?

Lennon: Don’t judge. I’ll have you know it’s very entertaining.

Ricky: Yeah, let’s get something to eat. There’s a waffle place around the corner.

All: Yeah, good idea. Let’s go! Sounds good to me.

Me: But guys! NaNoWriMo! Fifty thousand words! November! Only 23 days left… Guys? Guys? [cricket… cricket…]

————–

This was a piece I wrote in the middle of NaNoWriMo last year, when I was experiencing terrific writer’s block. The characters that had been clamouring in my head since July, so much that they made me start the story in advance of November, were all of a sudden strangely silent. I had fleshed out the first book and now I had to move onto the second in order to participate in NaNoWriMo. But I wasn’t ready yet and had no where to go. And the characters weren’t helping.

So it’s Day 15 and I’m just a little bit panicked. I’m experiencing deja vu all over again. Except now it’s only 15 days left. The month is turning out to be far busier for me than anticipated and I’m having a hard time concentrating on this story. Translation: I’m going no where fast. I’ve been stuck at 5120 words since about Day 3. Who the hell thought free falling off a cliff into the unknown would be fun? I hate heights! And that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you fall from somewhere.

Of course, the absolute idiot that I am, what do I go and do again for this year’s NaNoWriMo? I choose to continue with this series, having no idea where it should go. And the characters aren’t talking. Again. I’m trying, to get them to, but they are eerily silent. Hello? Anybody there? See. Silent. I don’t know where they’ve gone, but I want them to know I love them very much and they need to come home. I hate to sound desperate and clingy, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

In their heydays, they scream and yell and fight. They push their way onto the stage. They jostle for attention and everybody talks at once. What I wouldn’t give for the good old days. But now, there’s nothing. Not a peep. I’m wondering if they’re on vacation. Because if so, I never authorized any time off, especially in the middle of NaNoWriMo!

Ugh. Only 44,880 more words to go and no characters to tell their stories in sight. So if you happen to see my characters anywhere, please tell them I need them. And I have snacks.

 

NaNoWriMo Baby!!!

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This is me. I'm a NaNoWriMo participant. 50K words or bust, baby!

This is me. I’m a NaNoWriMo participant. 50K words or bust, baby!

Yeah, that’s right. It’s almost that time of year again when all the crazy, insane writers come crawling out of the woodwork and attempt that mountainous, torturous, make you want to tear your hair out of your head feat known as National Novel Writing Month.

November is the month where my fellow crazies and I attempt to lay down 50, 000 words (yeah, you heard me – 50,000!) in a short 30 days – that’s just 720 hours or 43,200 minutes to accomplish this task. Needless to say, I’m sure there will be many meals skipped and my house will be a disaster (it still hasn’t recovered from the last month of craziness in my life), the dog will be neglected and so will my husband.

I have two ideas that I’m thinking about writing. The first one – I’ve been thinking about this idea on and off for well over a year. It was actually supposed to be my next project until TDR barged its rude self into my life. And this idea is a pretty much a fully developed one, outlined and plotted, character sketches firmly in place – a nice neat roadmap all laid out before me. All I have to do is pack up the car and drive along right to the final destination of 50,000 Wordsville. All wrapped up in shiny paper and tied up with a big, beautiful bow. Writer’s Christmas.

The second idea is to continue writing the fourth installment of The Destined Revolutions. I have no ideas, no outline, no plot and absolutely no idea where that story needs to go. I know only one thing about this story: It will continue the saga of the group of seven, who have better things to do than save the world from a hell god. Manicure anyone? I don’t even know anything about my main character, except her name.

Guess which one I’m doing?

Yeah, I know. But when did I EVER take the easy way of doing anything in my life? I guess on some level I’m trying to earn my Martyr badge. In five days, I’ll hurdle myself off a cliff and free-fall into a story and I don’t know what will be there to greet me at the bottom.

So let’s sum up here. I have to write 50,000 words in 30 days – a daunting task, in and of itself, but I’m also writing about something I have no idea about. Is there a support group for masochists?

No sleep ’till December!

 

Hijacking Your Story: Beating Writer’s Block

Okay, so I’m a dumbass. I’ll admit it.

I’m feeling particularly stupid right now, the day after I had a major epiphany. It’s all thanks to Donald Maass and his book that I’m reading right now, The Breakout Novelist.

So, you know how I’ve had this disdain for One. I like to pretend that it’s because it hijacked my personal life and then ruined my plans for last year’s NaNoWriMo. As much as that’s true, there was another reason for my half-joking animosity towards it.

Now, don’t get me wrong! I am absolutely, totally and out of control madly in love with the story. I love the characters, I love what happens to them. However, something about Book One just wasn’t working.

At first story flowed out so deliciously – like beautiful, yummy chocolate rivers flowing through a fountain, it spilled out onto the page. But then I got stuck. Dreaded writer’s block. I’ve been in the editing process for what feels like forever with still a few chapters to write. The story just wasn’t coming together and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

You see, when I first started envisioning the whole series, Des was the main character – the focus of the first book and potential leader of The Destined. The series would start with Des’s story of how she was catapulted into this bizarre underworld of magic, vampires, demons and hell gods. Following close behind her would be Audra, the other heir apparent to The Destined leader throne. The two would butt heads and create all kinds of chaos for the group, instead of concentrating on solving the very pressing issues at hand.

Except there’s a fly in that ointment.

Des starts on her journey out of Normal World and into Crazy Nightmare Land when she finds her boyfriend Chase being attacked. The three players to the catalyst – Sierra, Mestipen and of course, Chase himself, were supposed to cause pandemonium, then disappear off into the sunset.

But they didn’t.

As much as I tried to get them to go away, they wouldn’t. Like unwelcome party guests who never leave, they just never left! They hung around and created all kinds of confusion and turmoil, angst and conflict – it was amazing! They turned things upside down. They became the life of the party they were ruining. Oh, and of course, like typical bad party goers, they brought along a friend – Rory, who was never supposed to be and has probably become one of my most favourite characters I’ve written to date. Bastards! Every last one of them. How could they do this to me?

There was Sierra with all the relationships and all the guys and the backstory and the wondering what was going on and what is their story? and all the really awesome stuff. Those were the parts of the story I loved to go back and read and looked forward to going through during the editing process. Des, if I’m being totally truthful, was kind of tedious.

It nagged at me that Des didn’t seem to have enough to do, wasn’t involved enough and the story never seemed to want to focus on her. She was running around, looking for Chase and hitting roadblocks, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

And of course, last night’s epiphany – I was trying to squish what should rightfully be two books worth of story into one. And the major, mind blowing, earth shattering point: Sierra was the main character of this story, not Des.

I wanted to believe and I didn’t want to believe. So I did a little exercise. And the paper doesn’t lie. Maybe cake does, but paper sure doesn’t.

I had chopped up the manuscript into chapters, thinking that maybe if I re-arranged the order of the chapters, the story would work better. I took those chapter “packets” and started grouping them by which character it belonged to. When I was done, guess what? Sierra had far more than anyone else and Des had the least. Voila! Problem unveiled – you can’t have a main character of a story and have them driving the story the least. Yeah, I know. Duh. I told you.

It was all at once thrilling, euphoric and completely devastating. It had finally clicked. The series – the complete story, not just Book One, would have to be completely re-written. Part of me is ecstatic, knowing that Sierra’s story line is the main one, because I am so in love with it. The other part of me is in despair knowing that the story as I envisioned it, cannot be.

And so, it’s back to the drawing board. My epiphany leaves me in the position of throwing out a good deal of the over arcing story between all the books. Months of work down the drain.

But don’t weep for me, it’s not a bad thing.

I started taking all the characters and their “jobs” in the story line and re-arranging them in my head. Thinking things like, what if Chase was Audra’s boyfriend instead of Des? That could possibly work, but it tied up Audra too much and she wouldn’t be free to do the things she needed to do down the road. Then I thought, what if this story wasn’t the first one in the series, what if it happened later on? What if we come in earlier on the story (in the timeline) or what if we come in later? What if I wove sub-plots in earlier or certain key points happened sooner? Or later?

Basically, I turned everything upside down and started tearing storylines apart and merging them with others and had characters switch roles. It’s incredibly freeing, just to go all crazy nuts with your story and let ridiculous things happen that you had never, ever intended to have happen.

If you’ve been blocked with your story, pillage and plunder it. What have you got to lose? Swap roles with a supporting character and your main character. Turn your story inside out. Change around what characters do what to drive the story forward, but don’t change anything about them, other than what they do in terms of the story. None of these changes have to be permanent, but they are incredibly liberating. And eye opening.

Donald Maass offers some fantastic writing exercises to get you to see your story in a different light, while adding layers and further developing your novel. You’ll find some on his website here. Better yet, go get a copy of his book. Apparently any of his books are awesome. (I’ve only read The Breakout Novelist  – it’s completely amazing. And eye opening. Did I mention the part about having your eyes opened?)

So thanks Donald Maass for making me realize I’m a dumbass and allowing me to be happy about writing my story once again.

Tell Me My Work Sucks: Why You Need a Book Editor

 

Why you need a book editor

Why you need a book editor.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net          

So you’re an aspiring novelist, like me. Why do you need a book editor, you’re asking? Betcha think you can do it yourself. You’re dead wrong.

“I can do it myself,” you say. (See, I told you, you’d say that) “I’ll just go over my work a bunch of times and activate the good ‘ol spell and grammar checker in Word and get my best friend who was the spelling bee champion in third grade, to look it over. No sense in spending money on something like that. It’ll be fine.”

No it won’t.

It will be the end of the world.

Okay, so I exaggerate. Just a little. But it will be the end of your story for whichever unfortunate soul attempted to read your mess. Which means they won’t be recommending your incredibly epic novel to anyone. And, here’s a top for you: that’s how you get even more people to read your masterpiece.

I’ll admit, that I once subscribed to that misguided line of thinking, way back at the very, very beginning of my writing journey. I quickly smartened up and saw the error of my ways. And now I’m standing on my soap box, trying to get others to drink a different flavour of Kool-Aid along with me.

I haunt quite a few writing sites and with a lot of the writing, I can’t even begin to tell you how atrocious spelling, grammar, sentence structure, story structure and word choice is. I mean, painful, like the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced – painfully. Eyes bleeding, awful. People tend to slap-dash their writing up, without even giving it a read through and catching even the most basic of mistakes. And they’re hurting themselves. If I start reading and I find glaring mistakes, I shut it down, never to return. And obviously, if I’m not reading it, I’m sure not telling any of my friends about it.

Not to say that I’m perfect, as much as I try to be. Stuff still gets away from me and for some things, I just don’t plain know any better. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken an English class, but I still retain some. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I am a pretty decent editor, not having been formally trained in the art. But I’m decent with articles, blog posts, manuals, even movie scripts. A novel is a whole ‘nother story. Okay, you’re groaning. I’ll stop it.

So what it comes down to, is that you’re way too close to your story. You can’t see your own mistakes. Trust me on this. I know that I’ve become less than objective with the story, mostly because I’ve gone over it so many times that my eyes are blurry and my brain is crying for me to stop. Plus, I know the story inside out. I know the characters, their backgrounds, their motivations and ultimately what is supposed to happen to them. I know the story sub-consciously, which means I can’t be sure if I’ve adequately conveyed what I mean to convey. Enter the editor.

An editor is vitally crucial to producing a good book. What I’m looking for, is someone who can really help to make my work soar. Someone who will tell me what I don’t want to necessarily hear. Someone to hack apart my baby and put it back together for the better. My friends are great for some pointers and such, but I know they love me enough to not tell me where my work sucks. And I need someone to tell me my work sucks. And how to fix it.

If you took the time to read my last post, crazy talking about this insane thing I’m attempting to do, you learned that I plan on using an editor and that the associated costs don’t fall within the scope of the publishing challenge I’ve set for Darkness Becoming and the rest of The Destined Revolutions series. That’s because of how vitally important I feel it is to have a professional editor.

So now I’m looking for a partner who’s not afraid to tell it like it is, but not in a completely brutal way, after all, I’m still a sensitive artist and I have feelings made of delicate, hand-blown glass, you know. I’m looking for someone who will take this journey with me and make the long-term commitment to work with me through to the end. Because as much as I like to think I like change, I really don’t. I happy with familiar.

Still not convinced? Believe me, I’ll have much more to say on this topic in the coming weeks, but for now, listen to Joanna Penn*. She knows lots of stuff. A lot more than I pretend to know.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/10/11/why-you-need-a-professional-editor-for-your-book/

Do the world a favour. If you’re an indie writer like me, bite the bullet and splurge on an editor. Because you may have a hell of a story, but if it’s not polished, it’s junk.

So go ahead, tell me my work sucks, editor type people. Just, be gentle. And help me fix it, please!

 Why you need a book editor… I just told you why. There you go SEO advisor. Now leave me alone. Sheesh.

* Joanna Penn is a very wise woman and knows lots of stuff about writing and publishing. Check out her website.