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?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Writing Update for February

Hi everyone, I'm back!

The downside to having surgery is pain and having to spend weeks in bed. The upside is that you get a lot of writing done. In fact, I'm happy to announce that Trefury: The Secrets of Callorin is written! At least the next draft of it. I've already plunged into my polishing draft, which means beta readers should get it in their hands in a few months and then the final leg of another book begins. It's exciting.

You think that writing that first book is quite the accomplishment, but to get up and write/finish a second one takes just as much effort. The big difference is the newness of the process is no longer a novelty. I expect it's the same with every subsequent book that you get done.

So I have a nice fat 3-ring binder and a nice fat notebook containing all the inside interviews with characters, the brainstorming sessions, the detailed descriptions, and the story itself. It's not in chapters yet, but separated by scenes thanks to my scene profiles. Remember me talking about those? Can I just say that I wish I'd known about making scene profiles years ago? They were a lot of time and effort, but they really helped me streamline the story and get it down on paper. It was super easy to follow through on object/character/plot threads, to take notes, to make sure I didn't have any gaping plot holes to fill. And the best part is that I can organize my information and notes easily for this next draft.

So what does the polishing draft do? Well, this is where the details come out, dialogue is refined, the plot is trimmed even more, and I make sure I don't have redundancies, tangents, or other no-no's. Basically, at this stage, you want to make the novel your best current effort. And then you give it to other writers to read ... I've blogged several times about that stage.

If you've got a moment, tell me how you are doing. How goes your writing journey? What stage are you at?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Writing Update for December

One of the tools I like to use is a chronological chart of happenings, paralleling each character's thread. I'm looking at the chart for Trefury: The Secrets of Callorin and I'm near the end. It's a good feeling. Five months ago I felt I'd never get to this point. I've faithfully kept a writing journal as I've plodded through my current rewrite and the dismay of an empty 3-ring binder and a brand new notebook has given way to a sense of satisfaction as they both have filled up. In fact, I may need a second notebook before I'm through. My scene profile files on my computer are grouped based on plot threads and it's handy to be able to read through them and make sure that information and action are where they need to be.

Basically, a daunting, humongous task has become less Herculean due to persistence and hard work. I don't have the luxury of having several hours a day to devote to writing. I snatch an hour or two where I can, sometimes only half an hour. The little bits add up and I'm glad that I documented them as they compiled.

Writing is so solitary an endeavor and I often find myself tucked away from the rest of the writing world as I'm in the middle of creation or revision. I poke my head out once in awhile and make sure I keep active on my writing forum because writing contacts and friends are important too. What I think I enjoy most is the self-discovery part of writing, the omniscient feeling. And the realization that how I picture my worlds and characters will never translate perfectly through words doesn't disturb me as much any more. As writers, we create alone, then give away what we write to the imaginations of those who read. Wouldn't it be scary and cool if there was a way to perfectly translate the story we see in our heads? Kind of like plugging up everyone else to the movie in our heads, including the strength of our emotions and how we feel about what is going on. I'm sure someone will create a movie about that concept someday.

It's interesting to reflect and chart your own growth as a writer, too. The absorption of technique, critiques, brainstorming, and improved skills is exciting to see. I don't think that makes each story we write any easier, unless we are following a set formula, but we're not the clumsy beginning artists we once were. There's a little more confidence, fewer paths down tangent roads that eat up time and make us feel like novice idiots. We've learned rules and when to break them. We've learned that there are very few hard rules in fact and that we can move creatively forward without incurring the wrath of people we once thought of as experts on pedestals. We've learned the difference between indulgent writing for ourselves and the slavery of writing to everyone else's expectations, and hopefully chosen a place in between.

We present our work to the world, have our PR time, then go back into the cave of solitude to create another story. And that's where I am. I've had my break from writing, gagged the internal editor, and am blissfully reworking a story I feel passionate about.

I'm having surgery today and I'm excited about it. I look forward to finishing this year and starting the next spending my recuperation time finishing up this draft before doing my final rewrite (the one before I solicit beta readers to help me iron out the bugs). I hope those of you who write or work in other creative endeavors have a great New Year and if you take anything from this obscure blogpost from this obscure writer, I want it to be hope that even if your circumstances are not ideal as to time and means to pursue your creativity, that you know even the small moments add up. Don't give up or give in to frustration because it isn't happening the way you want or in the time you want it to. Do give your best and work hard. Push yourself; it's so worth it.