Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing Update for April 2018

I know, I've been absent for a long time.

I think everyone reaches a stage as a blogger when you feel like you're only rehashing your own thoughts or the thoughts of others. The main purpose of this blog is to share my discoveries as I aim to be a better writer in the hope that it helps others miss some of my mistakes or gets a lift in the right direction faster than I did.

So what have I learned lately? To chill out mostly, especially when it comes to writing. There are going to be good and bad days, entire chunks of time agonizing because of writer's block, or real life gets in the way of writing. I imagine it's much harder for people who are under contract to get their books done by a certain deadline. I don't want to imagine how stressed I'd be if I had to submit to a deadline like that! I do set my own goals and deadlines, but I've learned that's its okay if I don't meet them exactly - as long as I tried my best to meet them in the first place.

Book 2 has taken longer to put out than I originally planned. Firstly because I was burned out after publishing Book 1. I strained my eyes badly in the editing process, and when it was all over, I didn't even want to write. It wasn't enjoyable. Plus, I couldn't shake editor mode for the longest time. I hated it, because I had a goal, but I had to have a year off. Then slowly, I got back into writing again. I'm making great progress now. Book 2 is in the final deep revisions stage before heading into those tweaking and copy editing drafts. This time I won't blow my eyes out by staring at a screen too long.

And to support that, I won't announce the release of Book 2 until after copy edits are over. I'm all for a more laid-back release this time. Book 2 is garnering more excitement from critique partners than Book 1 did, which is saying a lot. Mostly, that I have chilled out and am enjoying the writing process, and secondly, I'm a better writer than before. It's progress, and I'm glad.

Along with ramping up my enthusiasm and time on Book 2, big changes have been going on for me in the social side of writing. I created a group for speculative fiction writers on Agent Query Connect a decade ago, and now we've branched out into our own private forum. It took some time to get the new site figured out and to make the move. I have two wonderful co-moderators helping me run things and a loyal core group of writers who wanted to stick together. I expect there will be lots of tweaking for awhile before we get into a strong rhythm. I look forward to continuing the process of improving my writing skills and helping others do the same on the new site.

What words of wisdom or advice can I offer with this post? Have goals and be realistic with them. Know your limits. Writing a story should be an enjoyable process in the long-run. And I still say it's best to take your time to write the best story possible than to rush in order to meet someone else's deadline or try to make a bestseller list. A lot of those best selling books do fade away in time. Books that endure have a better quality to them than meeting a trend. They have something to say or to show. It really depends on what your motivation to write is. Knowing that, can help you with the rest of the picture and knowing what to expect.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Welcome 2018!

Happy New Year!

2017 was a pressure cooker for me and my family, but good things came out of it. Not anything monumental. Small, subtle things. Hardship can either make you hard or it can make you change into something softer yet stronger. I don't know if that makes any sense to you. I don't suppose anyone who hasn't gone through such a metamorphosis is capable of understanding.

Now, looking forward to this next year, I am hoping to make the announcement of my second book's publication date at some point. I'm getting closer and with the long hours and trial and error behind me from book 1, I am able to pull things together faster with book 2. Stay tuned for updates as the year progresses.

On a personal level, I've decided to work on having more hope. Things look so crazy and black sometimes out in the world, and sometimes in my life. In growing upon what I learned last year, trying to increase the perspective of looking on the bright side and hoping for the best in people rather than the worst is my aim.

I'm also hoping to find wonderful new books to read and new authors to discover. My big new (fiction) author discovery last year came through my daughters, who introduced me to Tui T. Sutherland's Wings of Fire series. I also really enjoyed Brandon Mull's latest offering, Dragonwatch (although you should read his Fablehaven series first to understand this second series better), and I look forward to the next installment. Another good book I recommend is The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell.

If so inclined, tell me your new book recommendations from last year or what your writing goal for this year is.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Writing Update for October

After a writing hiatus, which included all things writing (like blogposts) I am getting back to work. Health problems have dogged me all year. While the break was a welcome change, I'm not happy for long if I don't write. When I left off I was facing a block, when I returned I smashed through the block.

So what have I been working on?

I eased back into writing by working on two side projects. One is an older story in the MG - YA bracket (over the course of the series). It was very good for me to look at older work and see how much I've improved and learned. It was also very good to realize that way back when I first wrote the story I had a good thing going. Some stories get shoved in a file or shelved, never to be presented to the public eye. But, the good ideas, characters, places, and even events from those can be recycled. I found myself pulling from shelved stories to supplement this older story and I'm very excited about the direction it's going.

The other side project is one I work a bit on every autumn because it's an autumn styled book. Some stories just have a way of feeling like dear friends, and this is one such story. It also has some recycled elements from old ideas, things I knew to be good, original, or fun and I didn't want to let them go.

But now I'm back to work on Trefury Book 2 again. I read through what I'd written this past year, half dreading it would be awful. I was very relieved and happy to see that it was the opposite. This going slower and being more thorough method is working out beautifully! I hope to start getting beta reader feedback on the first chapters soon.

So I'm back on track. I'll be blogging more often again, I hope.

How about you? How is your writing journey going?

And don't forget that National Novel Writing month is days away! I'm looking forward to the concentrated time. It's the one time during the year that my family knows to give me plenty of writing space and time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Writing Update for May

Have you ever felt so stressed about writing that you couldn't write anything? 😖 That was me a month ago. I had set a goal, I had people encouraging me enthusiastically to get book #2 done, I had a successful draft completed just prior to then, and I choked. 😭 The story was there. It was in my head and heart and I wanted to write it. But I'd sit down to work on this polishing draft and all the pressure of getting everything right killed my ability to write. 😱

Being stymied like that is depressing. The last thing you want to do is go on social media because you'll see your writer friends noting their progress on their stories, you'll see other writers giving advice and encouragement, and you'll see a barrage of new novels making the rounds for people to see. 😊 Depressing. 😞

Well, I didn't go on social media. I've scaled back quite a bit from that scene, hoping to get more work done. I didn't want to fill up my time with useless attempts to get inspiration or recapture my writing mojo. And it turns out I didn't have to pull out my hair or beat up my computers either. 😡

I got sick. I became really really sick. 😝 (Please note, I didn't get sick on purpose, nor did my not being able to write make me sick.) I caught a horrible superbug that turned into bronchitis. I went down for a month. I was coughing a lot, I was constantly tired 😴, I had little appetite, I ached, I got feverish one moment and chills the next 😰, I couldn't hear out of one ear because there was so much fluid built up in it, and I certainly didn't have the brain power to write. 😳 So I let writing go. There are times when you have to let go of everything just to get better.

And you know what, getting sick did the trick. Now that I'm nearly better, I've relaxed and I'm writing again. It's fun once more. 😁 I'm not feeling pressured or stressed.

So what did I learn from this overall experience? Be patient with yourself. Take breaks, long ones even. And that you can destroy your story by forcing it and by second guessing every decision you make. 👿 When I write now, I'm not envisioning So-and-So who will critique the novel when it's done, or Fan A who has been hounding me for the sequel. It's just me and my story. And that's the key. 😲

So the next big question is: How's it coming?

It's coming. 😉 Right now I'm not worrying about what everyone else thinks, remember. Stay tuned for the next update post!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Utilizing Setting

Here's another writing skill I've learned as I go: using your setting well, especially when a setting is visited more than once.

Have you ever made up a list of your settings and taken note of how many times you use them? No? I don't normally either, but I did this time and the data revealed a wealth of information. It made me think about how I distributed details describing that setting and how I was using my setting to set the tone or as an active story element. I understood the initial theory of the latter already. It was time to try it out.

So I combed through my scene profiles and made up a list of settings, noted when they were used, and what details were used. As I came to settings used more than once, I especially wanted to know what details would be different each time the setting was visited. That lead me to consider what the atmosphere or mood of the scene was.

For instance, the first time a character visited a dining room, it could be full of people, lively chatter, the clank and clatter of dishes, the smells of freshly made food. Those kinds of details the character would notice right off. If the character was looking for someone in the scene, they would focus on people more than anything else, and if their mood was hopeful or happy, they might find the sunshine coming through the windows adds to their mood. But say the same character visits the same setting later on and the mood and setting has altered. The character is sad and the room is empty. There are no people, the smells are old and stale, it's quiet. The sun may still be shining outside, but it feels hot and stuffy and oppressive to the character. Or perhaps it's now raining and the wind can be heard whipping around the corners of the building. Maybe the circumstances are familiar to before with lots of people and action going on, but this time the character doesn't look at anyone. They scurry to a corner table or seat and play with their food. The food served this time they hate, and the time seems to tick by slowly - illustrated by the grandfather clock in the corner. So many options!

Differentiating details help set the tone of a scene. And no one notices everything about a setting when they go into it - unless they're a detective looking for clues. Think about when you walk into a room or a park even. What details do you notice, depending on your mood and the circumstances that brought you to that place? The next time you go to the same place, I'll bet you, like me, notice different things, or changes in the same things you noticed before.

A setting can act as an antagonist. It doesn't necessarily have to be a haunted house or the lair of a killer with obvious danger signs. The setting might have been once a favorite place, now tainted by plot elements that has soured the memories. Or there may be a hidden danger or trigger in the setting. A fire breaking out would make a setting a definite threat. A setting can also be a refuge or sanctuary, a resting place where a character can strengthen themselves for the battles to come.

I've learned to consider these things, in conjunction with utilizing the five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch) to describe settings, filtering the description through the narrative, not lumping it all together. I feel it's made me a better writer and I notice even more depth and subtlety to my story because of it. Showing these kinds of details at the right time, in the right place, in the right way makes a lot of difference.

My challenge for you is to try analyzing your scenes and checking to make sure you are using them to the best of your ability. If you do, tell me about what you discovered. If you're an old hand at this sort of thing, do you have any further advice for me and my readers on utilizing and differentiating setting visits?