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So I've run into a problem in my WIP. I run into this problem regularly, in fact. I'll be cruising along, writing a new scene, playing with the dialog and making fiddling with the setting, thinking...Now, what?
And then the other day, I was flipping through a how-to book for a chart on structure, and I found the answer to my question.
Let me explain. In each scene, there should be a goal, right? Something your protagonist is trying to attain or achieve. And there's some form of obstacle in her way, be it the hottie next door or the vampire trying to suck her...blo0d. So she has a goal in each scene. Does she get it?
There are only four possible answers to that question: yes, no, yes but, or no and furthermore.
Yes and no are boring answers. They don't leave you with anything next. You say yes or no to the conflict of the scene, and then you're stuck staring at the screen, going, "Now, what do I do?"
So how about the other two options? "No and furthermore" gets more interesting. No, she didn't get attain her goal, but furthermore...fill in the blank with a way it can get worse.
"Yes, but" gets interesting too. Yes, she attains her goal. But...
Recently, I had a scene I was floundering with. Josephine, my protagonist, had a goal. She was being released from prison, and about to face the media storm standing between the gates of the prison, and the car taking her to the airport. And she did it. She withstood the media, made it into the car with her dignity intact.
And then. . .
So I thought, what if the answer was "yes, but" instead of just "yes." What if she gets through the shit storm of cameras and questions, but there's something worse waiting for her in the car?
Suddenly, there are new possibilities. The things I needed to have happen plot-wise can, yet the possibilities in front of me are now endless.
So how about it wenches? Anyone have a scene they seemed to stall out on, and are left going "Now what do I do?" Check if the answer to the protagonist's goal is a plain yes or no. Will giving that scene a "no, and furthermore," or "yes, but" ending open up your future options? What else do you use to get you past the "Now, what?" sticking moments?
There are a lot of parts of the male body we can admire. The abs, the pecs, the face, the jaw, the thighs, the quads, the...
Where was I?
Oh yes, the good parts on hot boys. One that gets looked over is their arms. And man, do some of these boys have great arms.
So what else? What body parts do we not pay nearly enough attention to?
I’m going to start with the third point, because I like working backwards. It amazed, what I heard during breaks and at the end of the day. “Well, guess I’ll just scrap what I have and start over!”
And I thought, “What? No bloody way!” My inner censor held me back from standing up and staring then all down, “Are you all mad? He’s hasn’t said anything that isn’t fixable!”
I do have some instincts toward self preservation. And these were my chapter mates and I need to continue meeting with them once a month.
Now, I am not so egotistical to assume nothing he said pertains to me and my manuscripts. Quite the contrary! Some wonderful ideas for adding verve and excitement and sharpening the works… Lots of great ideas.
But this was an important point for me…I’m not writing perfect, but I don’t believe in pillage and burn. I mean, how can I continue to build a mutually satisfactory relationship with any manuscript if I just pillage and burn it?
He spoke of revisions. He spoke of receiving a rejection and resubmitting according the suggestions made. He didn’t say…burn it. So, last thing I walked away with? Don’t burn it.
Secondly, protagonist! I discovered that I write great protagonist. Oh, boy, sounds egotistical again, don’t it? No, not that way! But Donald said that protagonists tend fit into two types. Those that are born great and those that have greatness thrust upon them. Say…the Navy Seal compared to the stock clerk. And he emphasized with both of these types…make the reader connect with them in the first five pages.
(I hate the first 5 pages stuff. I know, it’s realistic. But I struggle within the confines of reality all the time.)
But I listened and understand the gist. Those that are great need to be made fallible so the reader can relate. Those that aren’t great naturally…well, my notes suck here, something about giving them attributes to admire and enable to them rise to the greatness they are headed for. I create protagonists that are already great. (Not in an egotistical way, remember, but in a already a warrior sort or thing… Oh, never mind, I’m getting myself into trouble enough.)
The gist of it? Examine where your protagonist fits into this world and make sure you bring them into the world. Not so great that no one can relate and not so…uh…not-great so that there is no suspension of disbelief when they end up doing great things. (Did I use a double negative there?) Suspension of disbelief? Yeah, that might be better.
Firstly, oh…I loved this one! Special Characters! This topic fascinated me. He spoke of how to use this tool to address a need for action, for information, for climax wrap up. Special characters, the larger than life presence that hovers over the action, but often isn’t ever introduced. The general in charge of the troops, the scientist, the head of the school board. The one we writers use as an off screen device.
Donald recommends bringing them on screen and let them relay information, spur action, add color.
I have the Guardians in my current WIP. They know why the world changed, they make rules, but for the most part, they are off screen and they don’t interfere. Until one of them pops up near the end and because he’s eccentric and disagrees with some of the original Guardian doctrine, he drops bits of information that changes everything for the H/H. But he does it in almost an accidental way.
I love it, I can use him more. Not just at the end. It’s going to be fun to incorporate him just a bit more. Just a bit….mostly at the end, but I can do some gentle foreshadowing using this character.
There was more, of course. At one point I wanted to thrust my fist in the air and shout out “YES!” Because he spoke of how telling can be as important as showing. How an objective POV can be useful to make the intangible dynamic.
Donald is my hero.
Details? Give me more time to reflect and I hope I can give you more. And maybe I’ll read the book…find the specifics that struck me as wonderful. He did use an example of a paragraph from an author he represents. Daniel Depp. Yup, related to our favorite pirate actor. Wrote a mystery of sorts set in Hollywood. Great passage he read. (Gotta look for this book!)
The last question he addressed was great. Asked how he recommended an author approach revision, he replied that a linear approach was fine and good, but he suggested a more scattered and random approach. Work out of order. A sort of shuffle things around and grab a scene, a bit of dialog, some action…read it, apply the methods he suggested…grab another. From anywhere.
This appeals to the chaos imp that lives inside me and likes to play.
So, to reiterate…
3) Don’t burn. (Sin, this is for you. Stop the bonfires. Now.)
2) Great or greatness thrust upon them? Either way, still need a way to connect to the reader, for the reader to believe this could be them…
1) Special Characters are to be used.
.5) Edit out of order
Now, lets see how you might find some of this useful with your current WIP… (And keep tuned in…one last point he made I am writing up as an entire blog on all its own. One I know Hel is going to take great delight in…)
I’m up at me Mum’s and time will be tight today. Bear with me as I pop in and out…and play nice! The bar is open!
It’s no secret I’ve felt frazzled these days.
Yesterday, it culminated with my son coming down with some cold that officially made it impossible for him to sleep. Up all night, no real nap = cranky. Add a pregnant mom who’s been up all night and the situation became nuclear.
My solution? Death by pop culture… toddler style. I zoned on the couch with my kid snugged up against me, his nose running all over my unwashed person while we took in a fill of Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, and the incredibly annoying Max and Ruby. What is with that show? They’re two kid rabbits living for all intents and purposes by themselves in a house alone. Where are their parents? There are other adult rabbits around. Has no one thought to call child services? And Max seriously needs to be tested because I think he’s on the autism spectrum. He says one word the whole show but solves every problem in Penny a la Inspector Gadget fashion. He’s like Rainman.
This flurry of toddler television is the best I could manage. Most days, I try to do it all. I attempt to be entertaining, at least for most of the day, to this kid who’s the light of my life. He does give me that look now and again. The one that says, “Why does Daddy leave me with you? Does he not know how seriously unhinged you are?” But most of the time, I manage. In the midst of all the parenting, I try to write a couple hours a day, be a good wife/friend/daughter/etc, and keep the dust bunnies at bay.
Pregnancy has not helped. Something about being pregnant reduces your IQ to roughly that of a turnip. Recently, I don’t have quick comebacks to my three year old. That’s just pathetic. When he says stuff like, “You’re bad, mommy, you’ve got to stay in Walmart” (I have no idea what this means, but I think it’s the equivalent of mommy hell) I have no ready response. I fire back with something along the lines of, “Well, oh yeah?” which sounds just as stupid here as it does in real life. I’m only saved by the fact that he doesn’t understand how ridiculous I sound. Now and again my husband catches this witty repartee but he’s smart. He says nothing. He knows I’m a hormonal mess and I’m holding the strings of our life together on a knife edge.
I confess all of this to you not as some sort of therapeutic session. Deep down, I know I’m doing the best I can. Pregnancy saps your brain cells. I think there are studies about this. (Someone? Please let there be studies about this.) I’m tired. I’m big--awkward. I can’t get up and down as easy and it’s only going to get worse the next few months. Logically, I know all of this and acknowledge that I’m managing pretty well on the majority of days and I try to give myself a little slack. No one expects me to always be perfect. Only me.
In the same way, I think we try and balance everything when we write. We try and do it all: titillating dialogue, fabulous conflict, description that puts us right there. Characters so real and POV so close that we feel like we’re them. We try to be fresh; we try to take risks but still stay inside the lines. We try to put it all together and on the first go around even. Like if we don’t get it right that time, the story, our careers, everything about us as a writer will be ruined forever.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that’s not true, in the same way that my son will probably not be emotionally scarred forever because of one day lazing on the couch watching bad toddler TV with his mom. Or a few months of his pregnant mommy being less brilliant than she usually is. *cough cough*
But the fear of failure, the quest for perfection, can absolutely destroy our self-esteem. It can wreck our good intentions. And I think maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to be perfect. Maybe we can just be the best we can and that’ll be enough.
If we let it.
Are you a perfectionist? What things cross your mind while writing that stop you in your tracks? Any ready comebacks for a three year old, something more authoritative than, “Because I said so?”
Don't ask. I've been in a really random selection mood. Stress at work is starting to take it's toll on what little of my brain that still half-assed functions.
*cue busy tone* I’m sorry, but the person you are trying to reach is currently unavailable. Please hang up and try again. *end busy tone*
So in the spirit of trying to accomplish something in this lifetime, I’ve decided the only way to do it is to lock myself in a dark room with just a computer and no internet and have at it. Otherwise, it will be in my next lifetime that the book is written.
I wonder if my reincarnate will have a darker mind than me. I’m also trying to imagine what that would be like. I once wrote about a guy having his fingers chopped off, thrown into a shark tank to start a feeding frenzy and then when he was of no use informational wise anymore, he was thrown into the tank and disposed of.
So a darker version of myself would use what? Flesh eating flies?
Ooh, that’s actually not a bad idea. Let me scribble that down for later.
Hells, in her infinite brilliance, gifted me a wonderful book during our last writing meeting. I don’t know if she was hinting that I should try out some new “experiments” or if she was merely suggesting that I try poisoning people instead of torturing and killing. The book, “The Book of Poisons (A Writer's Guide)” is super fascinating. We will completely ignore the fact that I know two-thirds of the book from personal experience. I think the most interesting thing I found was in the back of the book where it lists off in order which poison will cause a reaction the fastest. Did you know that a Gila Monster is ranked higher than Acid.
And I’m not talking like psychedelic Acid- see hallucinations and trip balls; I’m talking flesh eating, burn like the depths of a fiery hell Acid.
So much like Renee, I had to go do some writerly investigating. Honestly, I can’t write with something like this in my head and not knowing the truth of the matter.
I went to the Wiki. Everyone knows how reliable the Wiki can be.
Stop giving me that look.
It is very unlikely on my trips to Arizona that I will die of a Gila Monster bite. Apparently they are slow and sluggish. But like snapping turtles, if they get a hold of you and clamp down, you’re screwed. The Wiki- in all it’s brilliance- says that you have to submerge a Gila Monster completely into water to get them to let go. Well, Wiki, have you been to the desert lately? Ever seen a puddle deep enough to submerge anything? If you’re clumsy enough to fall and get bitten by the slow ass Gila Monster, you better pray it’s the monsoon season (or right now because it's been raining cats and dogs on the coast and in the southwest). Otherwise, you’ll hemorrhage from the poison and that’s probably not before a Rattler sneaks up on your ass and liquefies your bones into- well- liquid.
Still not clear how this is faster than Acid.
While I’m not particularly worried about plugging in random assault weapons and looking up F.B.I information for background research into my writing, there is something that stops me at putting, Gila Monster venom vs. Acid into my Google search. Like plugging that in is finally going to get me the red flag. I’m pretty sure they’ve been watching me for three years now.
“Why the hell does she need to know that?” *looking into the Google search and pulling up articles* “Did you know the odds from dying from a stray blow dart are 5 to 1?”
*scratching head* “Are you sure she’s some backwoods kid from Missouri?”
It gives me hives to think someone out there has probably pulled up my complete record and medical history merely because Google is the very devil and allows me to research anything and everything. I try not to think about it.
Lots of good stuff and food for thought on last week’s blog. I want to know how everyone feels about research and investigating. Half the fun of writing is learning new things to incorporate into your writing. Have you uncovered anything interesting you want to share with the rest of us? Anything useful stored in your back pocket about putting someone to sleep permanently that I might need to try out in my next scene?
Reporter: “How do you feel about each other?”
Taylor: “OMG, I totally love him!”
Taylor: “And I’m crazy about her!”
Taylor: “Look, he wrote his number on my hand.” *turns to gaze adoringly at Taylor*
Reporter: *turning away to look at the camera* “There you have it. Young love. Full of promise. Full of hope. Ignorant of reality.” *pan shot of Taylors kissing like wolves*
And really that’s the meaning of life summed up: Full of promise. Full of hope. Ignorant of reality. Applies to just about everything, doesn’t it?
Marriage: “Aww, he’s so sweet. He brought me roses for our two-week anniversary! I bet he’ll never take me for granted.”
Kids: “Look at him so quiet as he sleeps. I bet he’s going to be one of those kids who advances early through those Einstein classes. He’s so smart!”
Graduation from high school: “Thank God! I will never have to work with people who are so self-absorbed and shallow ever again.”
Graduation from college: “Yeah! Now I can finally get that job where I’m paid $100,000 a year! No more working for peanuts!”
Movie theater: “Another Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy? Okay. I heard this one was really funny. Really. How bad could it be? Vince Vauhn is hilarious!”
Bookstore: “Yeah! The newest book in the Wallflower series! I bet Daisy and Cam get together finally!!!”
Lies. Lies. Dreadful, awful lies. (And don’t bother telling me “let it go”, Sin, because I won’t. I still want my money back for The Breakup.)
If it works so well in basically every other aspect of your life, why wouldn’t it be the same with writing?
I remember writing when I was a teenager—I still have the drivel somewhere—and it was these lovely anachronistic knight-and-lady masterpieces where the bluestocking won the heart of the rakish jock. I never worried then about plausibility, plot, or whether people would actually act in the ways I had them behaving. The heroine, perhaps, who was acting like an overdramatic teenager was the most likely. Being I was an overdramatic teenager. (Write what you know.) It never felt particularly hard, I thought; I just loved writing. And I’d go wherever the whimsy took me.
Of course, now when I try to read it and try to discern anything that remotely smacks of a plot or even a thought process, I wonder, “How in the world did I ever think of myself as a writer? Honestly. This is awful.” The same sort of horrific wonder you get looking at your husband twenty years later and thinking, “I used to think the belching was cute. Why?”
Still, despite the awfulness, you read those beginning works and you definitely get the sense within the writing of those teenagers from the clip: full of promise, full of hope, ignorant of reality. You can’t rule out passion as a necessary substance for writing. Only passion for something will get you to do it every day, regardless, because frankly there are a lot of other awesome uses of your time you can be doing, like sleeping or reading your TBR pile or even laundry. (Don’t you hate how that piles up?)
But like all things, you have to put it in perspective. You look at those teenagers and give one of those grown-up little snorts of laughter. Bemused to remember being that way once, thankful you’re not still that deluded. Same with writing. Some of those first writing forays were really, really good for the soul. They suck you right in, really make you crave the thrill you get from stringing words together like popcorn and cranberries at Christmas until you have enough to drape all over the tree. But then when you look at later pictures of that tree, you go, “WTF?” It’s always the way. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
When you start a project, there is always that glimmer of “full of promise, full of hope, ignorant of reality” that begins the project, and it’s not until a few weeks into it you remember how hard writing really is. The reality returns, but the ignorance is always an important aspect of the process.
What do you find important about the process of writing? What reality are you reminded of every time you start writing a story? And will anyone be seeing that Valentine’s Day movie? It’s got everyone in it….
Now look at this. Once again, a brilliant specimen of that which we call Book. Even if half this ship hasn’t read it.
These two seemingly different genres (namely: Homo and Literature) actually have much in common.
Let’s start with Jason.
For starters, Jason is not really…Jason. Jason is actually millions and millions of teeny, tiny Jasons—cells—that all contribute to the great big Jason you see here and love. And even though each cell is individual, it does not exist except to be a whole of the great big Jason; and even though there are cells for blood and cells for nerves and cells for nostril hair, they are all connected by the fact, they all make up a unique and important part of the great big Jason. I mean, look at Jason [wistful look at Jason]: he’s a finely tuned machine, isn’t he? His body is constantly working and restructuring and getting rid of waste that is not needed to keep Jason in good working order. It’s really quite brilliant.
Now what is the point of Jason? And what does this have to do with books?
Good questions. The point of Jason is that novels are also built one scene—cell—at a time. You may write hundreds of scenes. You may write scenes that give you great insight to Jason, but when Jason is presented to the rest of us (see: above and sigh wistfully), those scenes have been discarded, no longer of use to the whole. No scene is wasted per se, but you can’t keep them all. Sometimes you have to do some exfoliating to get to the bright, shining layer. Some days you spend a lot of time with Jason in the shower, loofahing him to finely tuned form.
What is the point of this sexist, gratuitous eye candy blog? And again, what does this have to do with books? Again, good questions.
A larger-than-life, heart-clutching novel is really nothing more than lots and lots of little larger-than-life, heart-clutching scenes, created one at a time to contribute to the whole. Start small in order to finish big. And a lot of times sitting down to page one of the 400-page Great American Novel can be daunting because Fluffy shows up (everyday) and points out that you can’t possibly keep this up for 400 pages. It’s too big. You’re trying to capture a story that’s too big and put it into a book that’s too big. And you’re just a moron…and it’s going to take too much time. To kill Fluffy you have to be prepared to write one scene at a time instead of trying to write the whole novel at once.
Scenes are basically two things—1) An action or reaction and 2) Basic journalism. Characters are either doing something (pursuing a goal) or reacting to something (overcoming obstacles that are keeping them from their goals; dealing with conflict.) The action is the story and the reaction is the conflict. The basic journalism comes in with: who, what, where, when, why, how, and significance. Whose point of view are we in; what are they doing; and where, when, and how. When can be very important because it is frequently observed in writer articles that characters with urgent problems (i.e. not a lot of time) are characters we care more about. Also characters with urgent problems tend to try to solve them in more madcap ways, which tends to make the reading more exciting. The why is for “why do we care”—motivation—and we always need to care. If the why is non-existent, the POV is probably not deep enough and it will be too easy to put the book down. Lastly is: what is the significance of this scene.
No scene is an island…
Oops, wrong metaphor. Back to Jason and the mini-cell Jasons. All those cells making up Jason are necessary. The same applies to your scenes. You can’t just have a scene—no matter how brilliant and funny it is—that does not move your story to the ending in some way. If it does not reveal plot, character, or the Mayan secret of life, you need to cull that llama from the herd.
Now I believe if you make every scene bigger-than-life and heart-clutching, your book will come to be a very fine-looking Jason. But if you don’t, you may end up giving your readers this:
And that is not what we romance readers came to the bookstore for. Don’t kill trees; Al Gore will come after you.
What do you think?
And since we started by talking about baseball, it only seems right to round out the week with.........a baseball bat:
So what do you think, wenches? Feeling more organized now? They were even in alphebitical order!
Course my ain’t right is different than her ain’t right. I seldom create scenarios involving the demise of innocent characters just for the heck of it. (I’m not denying envisioning numerously painful ways for the twit in front of me at Starbucks to die when he pulls out a list of 45 drinks that have to be made before my single little caffeine fix is done… Nope, not denying that.)
My ain’t right involves the directions I find my stories taking once I get going. I recently started a new book… (Needed something to entertain myself between editing duties. Once I’m actually doing the editing, I’m fine. It’s the thinking about doing or the break I need once I’ve spent some time doing it… I long for something light and frothy and fun.)
So, I started the book I’ve been talking about to myself and to the blog. I wanted to write a nice sexy loves story staring two not so young people. Like a woman in her 50s, a man in his 60s… It would be sweet and sexy and fun… I’d make it a pirate adventure, but nothing too wild…
Well, maybe a little wild. No magic, just some fantasy stuff. Friendly… No time travel. Well, maybe a little time travel. And a touch of magic. Ok, a curse and a wicked ice queen. Absolutely no vampires…
But I’d have i-pods and good drinks and toss in the kraken. An albino kraken! Oh, damn. Vampires snuck in…but they aren’t really sexy or alluring. They do, however, know how to waltz.
At this point I figured what the heck. I added a swamp and some zombies wandering around. And what’s a romance without a pack of werewolves racing around the forest? And a voodoo queen who can mix up a cure for hangovers…
Toss in some pirate ships, and maybe some goggles, for the steampunk fans. No aliens. (So far.) And no dukes! (Or viscounts, or duchesses, or royalty of any sort.)
You know, this stuff just happens to me. I’m writing and my mind just takes this detour somewhere strange. But…come on! Doesn’t this sound like a party?
I do believe that sometimes, the muse just needs to chug that pitcher of margaritas and dance the wild one on the bar. Is it marketable? I have no idea… I don’t even know how long it’s going to be. But the sexy love story is central to all of it. I got a heroine who longs to become the sexy woman at 53 she’s always dreamed lived inside her. A tortured hero who starts out a villain but eventually redeems himself and teaches her that she sure the hell is that sexy woman. And he sure the hell deserves her!
I actually have a plot in the midst of this madness. I have motivation, goal, AND conflict. Internal conflict and external conflict. (Remember the curse?)
Actually, it’s one of the first MS I’ve ever worked on with all of these things pretty well established before I’ve reached the editing steps. I know this isn’t really…normal.
Maybe it’s normal for me. Because I ain’t right.
But I’m not necessarily wrong either. I’m just a bit…different.
OK, a lot different.
Unless, maybe I’m not!
Here’s your chance. Another confession Friday! Who else has decided to try it all, toss your hat into the stew pot, in fact, jump in and have a hot tub party? Or maybe a little less wild…mix just two odd elements together? Or what would you like to see put together? I mean, we had Jane Austen and zombies… Of the current trends…your passions…what would you like to mix and match?
I’m sure it comes as no surprise I consider myself a bibliophile. I like the way books smell, the way they mute noise in a room better than any soundproofing, the way those crinkly plastic covers from libraries show every fingerprint—as though we readers have joined an anonymous club with our most personal signature.
And then there are the insides: the verbal ballet, the shock of recognition, the titillation of some siren author’s pen making my nerves throb. To me, there is no greater artist than s/he whose paints, clay and notes are in fact words. Graceful words. Tough words. Melancholic, flowery, and gritty words. I’m seduced by them all--from McCarthy's and Hemingway's, to Nin's and *moment of silence* Keats'. In essence, I am a word slut, opening for the promise of printed bliss.
In every word slut’s background, however, there is one moment heralding future biblio-whoredom. Mine came at three years of age (and yes, I realize it is rather creepy to connect the words "slut," "whoredom" and "three years of age").
I could already read, thanks to my mother, but it was a visit from my grandfather that made me realize just how much I adored books. Papa always came to our house bearing gifts. Assuming I couldn’t read, he brought me a small white radio and my older sister a book. The book was called MILK and had a salmon-colored price tag showing he'd paid a whopping .69 cents for it.
He probably bought it at an airport gift shop, but it was AMAZING, exploring a variety of mammals, as well as the journey milk takes from udder to shelf. It also detailed the history of milk, spotlighting a queen who bathed in it. God, I loved that. She actually bathed in creamy white milk, reposing in her stone pool as handmaidens poured urns-full over the side.
So at three, I convinced my seven year old sister to trade her cheap little milk book for my expensive radio.
And here she thought she got the bargain.
I still treasure that little book while the radio is long gone.
So what about you? What was the moment you realized you were a word slut (or were biblio-phallic, as the case may be)?
Look, I’ll take what I can get. Beggers can’t be choosers. Reminding me of death and destruction only tends to make me look at the bigger picture in life and how someday before I take my last breath, I’d like to say that I actually did what I set out to do. Write a novel. Get published. Feel like I’ve accomplished a sliver of the dream. January is filled with all these things you have to do every year (taxes, ugh) and just serves as a reminder that another year has passed and I’ve yet to accomplish what I’ve set out to do in my life.
I made a promise to myself this year that come hell or high water I’m going to jump out into the deep end and get it done. I have the means to do it. I have the ability to accomplish my goal. Now I have to figure out a way to beat my mind at its own game. Even if I drown trying to get there, at least I can say I attempted it.
Writing is mental war. Just like anything else, writing is worth all the sacrifices you have to make to get the end product. It just takes a little will and determination to set out on the path. Yet, I step two feet out onto the path and it feels like I’m sinking into quicksand. Four years ago, if you’d asked me if I’d contemplate writing a novel I’d made a very rude unladylike remark and laughed you all the way out the door. A lot of things change in four years. People change. Lives change. Circumstances change. Determination waivers. Critics and haters bum you out and make you second guess everything you’ve ever done. But your heart is always the same no matter what happens. Use your heart to rule over your mind. Your heart will always find a way.
I’ve always found a way. When I was a child, my mama told me I was the most bull-headed stubbornest child she’d ever come across. I don’t put off things to do tomorrow when I can do it today. I don’t drag my feet when it comes to responsibility. I spent most of my teenage years living life full speed ahead, yet since I’ve gotten to be an adult, I’ve lost touch with the very thing that makes me… Me. That spark is what lit my fire in those early days of writing. All the pain and sadness and loneliness, fear I poured into my characters. The newness of finding my voice and finding a rhythm helped me when nothing else would’ve touched me. I felt alive through them. I want to feel that again. I want my pages to feel like life. I want the reader to feel moved and touched and as if they just lived through the story.
Instead, I’m floating around in fiction land without an anchor, inspiration lit up like a beacon in the distance and the wind is pulling me in the opposite direction.
I’m planting my feet into the sand this year. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a damned thing written. It’s so pathetic. A waste of all that time and effort for nothing just because I have issues with admitting when I need help. When I need a push in the right direction. All that stubbornness is coming back to bite me in the ass. If I died tomorrow all the words inside my head would die too and for me after the worlds I’ve shifted through and characters I’ve built up that would be a shame. I just needed a reminder of what I need to accomplish. Sometimes the reminders just come in the saddest way possible.
While I realize that this is a horribly personal blog for the day, (believe me, I even debated hiding this in a dark corner and pretending I never wrote it) I think a part of my promise to myself is to be more open. I've spent years closed down because it was the only way to manage how I really felt about how the world turns around me. The only thing that serves purpose to is drowning out the creativeness. Without emotional ties and connections there is no creativity in the world around me. So here's to a new year and to a new goal and to me accomplishing something I'm more than capable of accomplishing.
What inspires you? What inspiration do you take from the world around you? Anything ever impacted your ability to write and you found yourself questioning everything you put onto paper? What helped you get past that?
Everything Hal said was spot on and will go a long way to making that final draft more powerful. Unfortunately, it’s the exact kind of information that has tied me in knots for more than a week.
You see, I know I must vomit out this first draft. I have to spit the words onto the page, get the story out and not worry about finding the perfect words or the deepest POV. But this week, I forgot.
I think of it as getting off track. My writing train pulled into a station and took the wrong track out. How did this happen? Good question. And if I had an answer I’d write that book and make a fortune.
Deep POV is what hung me out to dry. Which is funny because it could have been a host of other things. All my action takes place in empty rooms. All my characters hang out pretty much naked. My hero is a eunuch. (That last one is a real problem and Nate (the hero in question) is NOT happy about it.)
Can you put parenthesis inside parenthesis? Is there a plural for parenthesis? Word suggests parentheses so maybe that’s right, who knows.
See how easily I’m sidetracked?
Back to the story. So I googled deep POV and found this great ten part series on everything you needed to know about the topic. Ironically, around about part nine, the author says something like “by the way, don’t try any of this in your first draft.”
FOCUS is what I need right now and I need to focus on vomiting this story out. Since I’m the only person here who doesn’t have at least one MS under her belt (bed?), what I want to know is, does the vomiting come easier the more you write? Do you have the confidence that you can fix anything in revisions or do you get tangled up thinking you needed to do better the first time so revisions are less painful?
PS: I wonder if people would be offended if we gave out little black barf bags with the skull-n-crossbones as decoration? Wouldn’t that be a great reminder? We could sprinkle them with glitter.
For those of you who haven’t heard me yammer on about this, I’m working on my MFA in genre fiction at a school in Pittsburgh. And this semester, I asked for a new adviser for my thesis, as I wanted to be challenged more.
I’m starting to understand the funny looks I got when saying that, as perhaps I didn’t want to be this challenged. But there’s one comment he had about my writing that’s really stuck out to me. And since it’s been filling my head, I now get to share it with you.
In the opening ten pages of my WIP, there’s a lot of dialog. And interspersed with all this dialog is apparently a lot of nodding. A lot of nodding. As in, seventeen nods in ten pages. He counted.
His comment: “Congratulations, your characters have officially turned into bobbleheads.” Yikes! Then, to get him really worked up, I tried to convey one character’s shock, awe, and excitement by saying, “She blinked up at him.”
Now, in my defense, this sentence is used in a good percentage of fiction to convey shock (though, oddly, in a writing program, “but everybody else uses that sentence” isn’t a good defense J). He wrote in the margin: “She doesn’t blink. She reacts like a bloodhound who just caught the scent of a fresh kill.”
Now that creates an image in my head! With only that one sentence, I saw her entire upper body straighten, her eyes zero in on her new target, her shock quickly being replaced by the new pulse of excitement. Hell, she almost licks her lips in my head.
So I decided to take his advice and try this again. I have a boring piece of description: “The reporters swarmed the car as we drove away.” Not a terrible sentence. Swarm is a good verb that evokes something about reporters. But there’s no real image evoked, and certainly no emotion. So I tried again, and here’s what I came up with:
Through the tinted windows, reporter’s faces, their mouths frantically gaping, bobbed and hovered next to the window before being replaced by the next face in line, their microphones stretched out to the car like lifelines.
It was an inverted fish bowl. I was safely cocooned in the bowl; they were the dying, gasping fish, hoping my story could save them.
“You did good.”
The car pulled away, leaving the fish to flop on the pavement. Yeah, I’d done real well.
Still not perfect – the writing itself is rough – but there’s an image there. Does it evoke any emotion for you? Any mental pictures? Any suggestions for improvement?
So let’s hear it wenches! Who wants to fess up to the same bobbleheaditis I was suffering from? Anybody willing to give this a try? Take a plain piece of description, and let’s see what you can do to make it pop!
So while there are a myriad of ways we can all help, one of the ways has got to be ogling the hot bodies of urban search and rescue, and cheering these guys on. It's a dirty, demoralizing job, and their time is running out. But who better to believe in the impossible than a bunch of pirate writers? So let's cheer these boys on! (and enjoy the view while we do it!)
(Uh, nope this isn’t the second in my naval contemplation of genres. I’m on the road today, crew, and will be posting periodically. So I went with an easier one to bat around. Enjoy!)
“Sin? Sin! Blast it, where did that sneaky tart go?” Chance held up the vial of perfect brightness, figuring even that ninja couldn’t hide from that elvish light. She hadn’t counted on that cloak Sin had flinched from the wizard’s school. The Quartermaster was invisible, still!
“Wow, this thing is great!” Terrio spun, holding out an old looking compass. “If I think of my daughter, it points to her! If I think about a job, it points toward toward the southeast! This is so cool! Slipping into that script was a great idea, Chancy!”
Chance rolled her eyes, hating that new nickname. She glanced over toward Marnee, who was gazing intently into a large mirror of water.
“I can see my son…he’s going to be so handsome! Oh, and the new baby...!” Marnee beamed, being careful not to let anything touch the oddly still bit of water. On a ship…and it didn’t move. Gotta love magic.
“I’ve got twelve things done and in the oven!” Santa twisted the lever of the time piece she’d lifted from the girl at Hogwarts. “And I’ve finally caught up with all my e-mail!”
This ship was becoming dangerously full of stolen ideas.
Chance thought it would be fun to slip into other books and lift a few bits of sparkle. After all, they are pirates and pirates…uh…borrow. A lot. But she had a feeling the Captain wasn’t going to agree about this. Though her never ending barrel of rum was stolen from an idea from her own book…
But Hogwarts! There was going to be hell to pay when the Captain made it on the ship.
You do know there are no new ideas. No new plots… Everything that seems new is just a different perspective on an old idea. I, personally, have lifted ideas from numerous sources. My sexual witch? Janet Morris did it first. (Though I’m sure the erotic pubs have played this. It’s a natural!) Traveling through time and space? Thank you, the BBC and Dr. Who. Riding through space without a vehicle? Thank you Doris Piserchia and Star Rider. An infinite variety of alternate worlds? Michael Moorcock. A world without people? Left to rot without human intervention? The History Channel and Life After People. I am sure there are more examples in my books. Dozens. Or more.
J.K. Rowling purportedly credited Diane Duane and the So You Want to Be a Wizard? series as inspiring Harry Potter. (An American version… I like Duane. It’s a good series.)
Tolkien borrowed extensively from the myths of Northern Europe. (In the movie, anyone else see Saruman’s Orcs and think…Klingons?)
The entire Star Trek universe, personal opinion, can be traced back to A. E. van Vogt and The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Van Vogt had an episode in the Beagle book that had to be the inspiration for Alien.
We all do it. We all read something that just twinkles for us and like the good pirates we are, we steal it. Er…borrow it. Now, we generally disguise it. Give it a different name, twist elements of it. Be it a basic universe, a magical toy, a plot device, a character’s profession…
The key, I’m certain, is to brand it in some unique way. To make it ours. Change it so that it isn’t instantly recognizable. Now, some readers are going to see it and be offended. Or entertained. Sometimes, we’ll do it better. Sometimes, we’ll do it worse. But we must make it ours.
I tread close with A Caribbean Spell… I struggle to separate it from fan fiction. And I am constantly tweaking it, changing this and that…pulling it away from the roots of the idea. I think I need another good rewrite to cement it as an individual work of fiction. I won’t mind if it be seen by those who love pirate stuff as a tribute to Pirates of the Caribbean. It certainly won’t be the last!
You can’t steal characters. You can…borrow elements that inspire you to create a new character, a new universe, a new romance. Of course, it won’t really be new, but if you really take care, it will be yours.
Because nothing is new, and we are all thieves. In the strictest definition of the word. Or perhaps just the spirit…
How about you? Noticed anything when you read that you know is the hallmark of another author? I know I’ve read books where I say to myself, “She read Jennifer Crusie… But it’s good! Nicely done.” And I’ve read ones where I thought, “Oh. Big Eloisa James fan. Eh.” Ever read one book and then every other book by that author reminds you of the last? (Yup, we borrow from ourselves, sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t…) Same with movies, television…
Can you admit to what you’ve lifted? Give credit where credit is due! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or something like that. Confession is good for the soul!
Have an idea you want to flinch? Need some help on how to make it yours? We’ll help! Well, I’ll help.
Because I admit it, I’m a thief.
Stolen articles: Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, the Phial of Galadriel, Jack Sparrow’s Compass, Galadriel’s Mirror, Hermione’s Time-Turner
I have two completed manuscripts under my belt (bed?). The first, a Regency paranormal and the second, a contemporary paranormal.
I’ve started writing another contemporary paranormal but as I plotted this book, I’ve had to wrestle down another story idea that just won’t leave me alone. This one: a dark Regency, not a hint of paranormal anywhere.
I’ve started to wonder if I’m writing schizophrenic.
But something about each of these stories really sang to me. The characters. The plot devices. Just other elements. And they were both fun to write.
Also, maybe after just spending a year on a contemporary paranormal, I’d like to do something different for a bit.
I know there are writers out there who write more than one genre. A little voice inside me says, “That could be you! You could write one historical and one paranormal every year.” (Ambitious little voice. Mustn’t be plugged into what the rest of my body’s up to because if it knew we had another baby on the way, it’d probably sound less perky.)
The creative part of me says, “Go follow your bliss!” The practical one, the market conscious one, wonders if an agent/publisher might doubt my marketability.
Are any of you going at this thinking you’d like to write in more than one genre? Could you ever see yourself writing in another genre? If you do write in two genres, why and what interested you about them?
Music Influence stuck on repeat: Snuff- Slipknot- (Album) All Hope is Gone
Every writer has an internal Fluffy. Fluffy comes in all shapes and sizes. All different types of voices. Different names. But Fluffy is all the same. She sneaks. She seizes. She conquers. Fluffy is the Destroyer of Worlds- the world you've created inside your head desperate to get it on paper before she taints it with her black magic poison (AKA doubt, insecurity, forgetfulness).
I deal with Fluffy on a weekly basis. She grins, her black eyes sparkle with mischief. She crackles her knuckles and hunkers down over my fingers as I'm typing. She sings songs inside my head about how my plot has holes and my characters aren't realistic. How my issues shouldn't transfer into writing. How I neglect everyone by flipping open my laptop. Yet I can deal with Fluffy and her remarks. She's a jealous little creature with black pixy wings on a gargoyle body. I'd be bitter too.
Now, Sunshine Fluffernuckle is a different story. SF will cause me to put my writing aside for months at a time. SF knows no mental mercy from his tyrants. He sees and not only does he conquer it. He complete decimates it. He worms his way into every plot. He's more sneaky than the snake Mr. Grinch. But he's sneaky about it until he gets exactly where he needs to be and by then it's too late. You lose your plot to his complaints. To his constant you're-not-good-enough- to-write-this-plot mentality. Because when you hear it constantly, you start to believe it.
As the new year is underway, I've been working on ways to head off SF. A new year is a new beginning and while I've been stationary for a couple of years, I'm going to make my move this year. I've played a mental chess match with SF for far too long. He just hasn't realized he's about to be checkmated.
Now, can you put a description on your Fluffy and how does Fluffy disrupt your writing pattern?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve found people, and men in particular, to be fascinating. While the love of the written word has been in my blood for as long as I can remember, the very nature of human nature never ceases to amaze me. And as a writer, I find my male characters both hero and secondary characters to hold me in thrall and I wonder to myself – Just what are they thinking?
The men of our stories, our heroes, are on a journey of self-discovery. In meeting and falling in love with our heroines, they must break one of the cardinal rules of manhood. They must open up to themselves, and their ladies, that they falling in love and actually have the capacity to do so.
There are numerous resources out there to facilitate the research into exactly what men are thinking because we really want to paint an accurate picture when we are writing. So what are these resources? One could go to the local library or order on line books that help spell out what men are thinking for the 21st century woman. Classic among these is ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’.
Another gold mine is the internet. I stumbled upon this resource on my way to check in on my writing group VaNo. It’s a Yahoo group and, as such, Yahoo comes up and lists clips on interesting bits of information. On that particular day, they featured an article on four reasons men marry. And I thought to myself, they were able to come up with four? Off the top of my head I could only come up with one. He married because he met the love of his life and could not fathom life without her. Yes, that’s the romance writer in me speaking. So I clicked on it and found my way to ‘Men’s Health’, a men’s magazine, in its internet incarnation.
What an eye opener! It’s geared towards men in their twenties and thirties and focuses on men’s health (duh), getting and staying fit and staying at the top of your game. It is also full of helpful hints on how to get and keep your woman – in a very PC, his is the 21st century kind of way. It seems, ladies, that what men are thinking is how to please us – in every way. Who knew! All this time they’ve been concerned about keeping our goals a priority and to keep the lines of communication open.
And then it hit me! Men think just like we do and want the same things we do! And this is exactly how the men in romance behave – once they’ve come to their senses and realized that they are in love and want the whole world to know it. Whether it’s at a ball with the heroine’s favorite urchins surrounding them or while filming a cooking show that everyone from their hometown has come to watch.
So, friends, in your own reading or writing, what are your heroes thinking? Are they listening to what other people are saying to them or do they prefer to drive on through without stopping for directions?
I started this little writing journey back in December of 2006. Back then it was “I guess I could write something just for my own enjoyment.” By the summer of 2007 it turned into “I may try to get this published, but it’s no big deal if I don’t.” By the summer of 2008, it turned into “I *will* become a published author.”
Unfortunately, in all this time, production did not keep up with intention. So as 2010 starts, I still have no finished product to pitch. In fact, I don’t even have half a product. But that’s about to change.
I have completely and totally embraced plotting. I’m aware this is no surprise to everyone else. If one more person says, “Of course you’re a plotter, duh,” I’m going to throw the undead monkey at them.
It seems the last couple months were full of “AHA!” moments for me, not the least of which is the joy of storyboarding. I’ve been reading everything Jenny Crusie writes/wrote about the craft of writing and put that together with Hellie’s info on storyboarding. I now have a beginning, middle, and end with action that escalates all the way through. There are turning points, a clear mid-point where the story kicks up a notch, and two black moments. And we can’t forget the HEA.
I can add, move, or remove any post-it, and it’s a miracle for a visual person like me to see my entire book in one poster board sized picture. It’s like I can *see* the story. Now, this doesn’t mean getting the actual words on the page will be any easier. But, I have a clear direction and feel more confident about what I’m trying to do.
So, this is about “AHA!” moments. My favorite one from these last couple months was Hellie’s advice to write larger than life. One of my major weaknesses is that I rarely think outside the box. So now when I get stuck, I ask myself what could I put here that would be exaggerated? And it works! Nothing too big, but nothing run-of-the-mill either.
What was your latest “AHA!” moment and what is the best one you’ve experienced since starting this crazy writing rollercoaster? What tip or tips have you used more than anything else? And if you want to give credit to those who share the best advice, feel free to share here. I'm sure we'd all appreciate it.
Turns out -- there aren't a lot of hotties bundled up in winter coats. So I figured, what the hell, let's go the opposite way. Shirtless hotties!
So, did I make the right choice: shirtless over bundled up in coats? I figure this will warm me up quick! Who else is trying to stay warm today?
How does one differentiate between alternative worlds/history and the ‘real’ thing? (Though you all know my argument with the word ‘real’. So I’ll go for actual history. Though I do think that could be debated also. Since history is recorded by survivors and winners and all depends on the perspective…)
But I digress.
I don’t write in the ‘real’ world. Or the actual world. I write alternate world fiction or completely different world fiction. Yes, I sometimes involve aliens, fairies, and witches…but I’m not terrible content with the classification of paranormal. I mean, so my characters do magic…that isn’t the defining plot point of the books! If your characters have hot sex, but it’s more about falling in love, then it isn’t erotic, right? It’s erotica or erotic romance… So? My lead can do magic, or is an alien, or a fairy…that’s just part of who they are…
Damn it, I’m digressing again!
I want to write about how obvious does one make it to the reader that this isn’t your ‘real’ world. Do you state it up front, big letters… ALTERNATE WORLD or do you sprinkle it in, enlighten them slowly? In A Caribbean Spell, set in a Caribbean of the 1690s, my people are much more liberal in outlook, much more open to strangers, less formal, less religious bound, more open to believing in magic…than how it was in the ‘real’ world.
But I’ve been dinged in contests for how ‘unrealistic’ this is. And my mentor has commented that this isn’t believable. Even though the book is labeled as a paranormal.
Drat. So, I wrestle with the conflict, again, of how much to reveal up front and when. Now, my sister has read A Caribbean Spell and floated through it, no argument. She reads mostly scifi/fantasy and had no internal censors throwing up flashing signs to disrupt her reading. (As my mentor did.)
What does a writer do? When this book sees a bookshelf, I would not expect it to be shelved with historical romance. I actually think it might slide into the scifi/fantasy shelves… But I have no control over that, of course. Do I write for the occasional historical reader, who might pick it up and then be gnashing their teeth at my lapses regarding ‘real’ history? Do I assume they need a big flashing neon sign on the book, pointing out with bluntness and regularity that this is an ALTERNATE WORLD?
Or do I sedately assume they will see the small and subtle clues from the start, or the blurb, and either not buy the book, or be aware that this is not a regular historical romance/adventure?
Or do I assume the books will be picked up by the more freewheeling fantasy adventure reader, who will relish the small differences? Or more accurately, not even see them? Or care about them?
Yes, all fiction is ‘unreal’ but let’s face it, the historical set have very strict standards for trampling, or tiptoeing, all over history. (Yes, Hel, I muck about with when coffee and chocolate enter the pubic awareness…and where they are grown.) (I just couldn’t create a world where the two weren’t readily available. Have mercy on me! And remember, this is set in an ALTERNATE WORLD. It’s smaller, the equator is further north than in the ‘real’ world…)
A more blatant paranormal might find these waters less treacherous…or not. I actually don’t read a great deal of paranormal. (But that is a blog for another day! To read what you write or to not read what you write, that is the question…for another day!) And I came from a history of reading mostly fantasy so the entire historically accurate debate never came up. (If I read a historical book, yes…I do want accuracy, as far as historical facts go.)
If I read science fiction, I want it to seem plausible. If a mystery be set in a town I know, I want it to be the town I know! I’m just like everybody else.
The question is, how much is enough with differentiating between the ‘real’ and the ‘not real’? The accurate and the different accurate? Without wanting to trample on expectations, but not wanting to treat the reader like an ignorant twit… (As tempting as that is sometimes…)
I wonder if a publisher would go for one of those computer voice things like the greeting cards have now… “Warning! This is a book set in an alternate world! If you wish to read about REAL pirates, set this book down and look elsewhere. Thank you.”
Use a disclaimer? Color the sea purple? I have the same problem with the newest of my MSs… The Changed World…our changed world…or should I give up and just make it a totally different place, different planet? Would Planet of the Apes have carried the same punch if the Statue of Liberty hadn’t been in that final scene?
Thoughts? Helpful suggestions? Rotten fruit? Opinions? Without getting into the us vs. them debate? (This is not a fantasy vs. romance blog, really. Hel, I’m not kidding. It isn’t.) I really want to get some opinions here!
I’ve started a new story. This is the third time in so many years I’ve started something new.
As I remain unagented and unpublished, you can assume my first two attempts haven’t gone the way I hoped. There are a number of reasons for what’s gone on with them but that isn’t what I’m going to address here today.
Instead, I want to talk about what it means to keep moving forward with those kinds of experiences behind us.
Everyone reads the tales of quick success. The author who writes one story and sends it to the dream agent who says yes. Said dream agent then sends it to the author’s dream publisher who also says yes. Just like that. No learning curve. No first book (or three books… or five…) that stays under the bed while the writer hones their craft. No mountain of rejections or unfortunate critique experiences. Just a story that the industry immediately loves sent out into a world that immediately loves it too.
I’d love to say I’m not jealous… but I am. I’d love to say I’m not discouraged… but sometimes I am. Not always, just sometimes.
Oh there are positive things too. I’ve come a really long way as a storyteller. I’ve had some contest finals. I’ve met a fabulous support system of writers who inspire me.
But as I sit in front of my new story, it’s been hard—so far—not to second-guess each word I type. The right wording? The best place to start? Deep enough POV?
I don’t know the answers to those things. Part of me says, “Just write it, if it isn’t the right wording/start/POV you’ll find out further along.” And another part, the part that paralyzes me, says, “Why are you bothering at all? It’s going to suck, end up under your figurative bed like everything else.”
I’d like to say “No it won’t!” to that voice, but I don’t know that. I don’t know if this story will do any better out in the big bad world than the last two attempts. I have no idea if this is the story that brings me success in the marketplace. Will it be better than my last story? Probably. Good enough? No clue.
But maybe it will. I’d love to say I’ll be happy just writing for the rest of my life, no matter if I publish or not. But I’d be lying. I want to publish. That’s the goal I see at the end of all this. I won’t stop, though, if I don’t publish after this book. I can’t see that I’ll stop after the next one either. I can’t foresee a stop point at all, honestly. Because I keep thinking if I keep going forward, odds will favor me. I’ll get exponentially better and, if I get a little sprinkle of luck, I’ll eventually hit the jackpot.
I just need to keep going. And that’s what I tell myself when I’m doubting my words on my new story. Keep going.
So, what keeps you from giving up? Any fabulous inspirational quotes about writing you can share to get us going? Or any author’s publishing stories that prove that perseverance pays off?
*** December 2006 ***
I've never been a talkative person. When I was younger, talking to someone was about as painful to me as a root canal and it's not much better now. I get all flustered and my face flushes pink. I start to get spoltchy and my brain turns to mush. It's frustrating to feel that feeling of my throat swelling closed and I just have to nod, put my head down and walk away. I say this because I was watching my DH today while he was working and was amazed at his ability to just talk to anyone. He literally took someone just walking by and had a thirty minute conversation with a stranger. A comfortable conversation too, like they'd known each other for years. When the guy walked away from the DH, he smiled and waved and the DH turned to me and said, "I have a problem. It's a disease." Then he smiled and I turned into blubering mush like I do so often.
Which got me to wondering- Is the DH's gift of gab much like my love for voicing myself through writing?
The DH and I are completely opposite of each other. It fascinating to me to think of all the things we don't have in common and that we're perfectly happy together. It annoys him that I spend so much time logged on the computer. At first I kept my writing hidden from him, worried that he would think me more of a nerd than he already knows I am; but then he caught me one night before I could shut down the computer when he came home from work. Then we had the writing conversation. "I'm only doing it for fun. I'm bored while you're at work." He shook his head and I'm sure didn't think anything of it.
Only problem was, it wasn't just for fun for me. Writing has turned into an obsession for me. In just a little over a year, I turned from a bookaholic to a writeraholic. I don't imagine that anything will ever come from it, but there's that tiny little fire in my heart that just keeps on living.
Is there anything that you keep secret, just so that you have something for yourself? Something that makes you happy to do? Like reading is my second favorite passion. I leave books everywhere so that at any given moment, I can pick up a book and read a few paragraphs. Was there a pivotal moment when you came out about your writing to a loved one, and you were so excited only to find out they weren't? Does it or will it stop you from doing what you love?
*camera zooms onto the ship, winding down the spidery stairs to the galley below, where Carrie Lofty—author of WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS and SCOUNDREL'S KISS—is sitting on a barrel, next to the stove, warming her hands*
Carrie: Hi! Who would have thought the Caribbean would be so chilly? *holding hands out to the stove and rubbing them*
Jack: *pushing his chair near hers and draping an arm around her* We would not want you get sick, my fair Carrie. Are you quite comfortable?
Carrie: Quite! *realizing Jack is about a hairs breath from nuzzling her ear* Um, aren’t we supposed to be doing an interview? You said the galley is where the rum and crumpets would be.
Jack: Of course, of course. *drawing out a half-drank bottle of rum and a handkerchief, unfolding it to reveal a handful of Oreos* Nothing but the best for our author guests. Please, have one.
Carrie: Wow, this is nice. *clearing throat* You know, I think I’ll wait on the cookies for now. Oh, all right. *takes one* Now, what would you like to talk about first?
Jack: Sisters! I want to talk about sisters! I love sisters! Well, not so much the nun-kind, though occasionally I've met one of those who has been... *grins roguishly* Never mind. So your book is not about those kind of sisters, but the blood kind. Tell us more about Ada of Keyworth. What's she like? Is she into pirates?
Carrie: I can't speak for Ada regarding pirates. She crossed the waters between England and Spain, but no pirates accosted her. Such a pity! She probably wouldn't have noticed anyway, caught as she was in the throes of an opium high and seriously hating her sister, Meg. You see, Meg chose to be happy and stay with her husband, the roguishly awesome Will Scarlet. In-law bliss was spoiled by the fact that Will had arrested Ada by mistake, leaving her in the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who did some pretty terrible things to his favorite prisoner.
Now Ada...she bears a grudge. Against everyone. That includes her sister. So she leaves for Castile (in modern-day Spain) and decides that opium is a far better companion than pesky family members. Avoidance for the win! To say she has some forgiving and growing up to do is an understatement.
Jack: Tell me about it with the pesky family members. I have a cousin, Billy, who thinks he’s a pirate, but he’s the worst pirate. Always stealing my rum. Family should be avoided at all costs. Except for good-looking sisters, of course, for the obvious reasons.
Now your first book is WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS; and this book is called SCOUNDREL'S KISS. I'm sensing a pattern; and I myself as a scoundrel do enjoy reading books featuring scoundrels. Do you then prefer scoundrels? Is this why you research so many of them?
Carrie: Any woman who says she doesn't have a little soft spot for scoundrels is lying. Even Princess Leia couldn't avoid falling for first-rate scoundrel Han Solo. If you don't know her, Jack, just think of her as a space version of Elizabeth Swann--prim and beautiful, but who chooses the scoundrel instead of the pretty boy. As you can see, my research on the topic of scoundrels is extensive. It comes with the job, which makes mine just about the best job in world...outside of piracy, of course.
Jack: I’m glad to see you take your research seriously. *rakish look* We’ll discuss your research methods later. Privately. I note this particular scoundrel is not a typical rogue. He is in fact about to take his vows as a monk. Incidentally I dressed as a monk once to escape some of His Majesty's Navy, but I nearly gave myself away when we passed the nearby brothel. Your hero is not just dressing a part, is he? What kind of man would take a vow of chastity on purpose? Isn't one's adolescence enough?
Carrie: Gavriel probably claimed more female conquests during his adolescence than during the year leading up to this story. He was, well, a rather bad man--a slave raised to kill a king. So I don't imagine he'd have too many scruples when it came to women. But all of that immorality can wear on a soul. A little distance from his previous misdeeds shows Gavriel just how lost he's become. Not one to do anything by halves, he decides that absolution can only come through extreme sacrifice. Silly boy.
Jack: That is a silly boy. Glad he comes around to sense. Okay, now for the lightning round, the Trifecta of Writer Inquiries: what's your call story? What's a typical writing day like for you? And are you a plotter or a pantser?
Carrie: I finaled in a few contests in the spring of 2007, which prompted me to head to the RWA National Conference in Dallas that July. I was set to pitch to Hilary Sares of Kensington, but she was a few minutes late because mine was the first pitch after lunch. Tick-tock, tick-tock... No rain checks, baby! When she arrived, she sat down and read the elevator pitch I'd included on my business cards. She said, "I want the full." After returning home, I mailed it on a Monday and she called me two days later. Commence celebrating!
Writing day: We have one car, so I do the school and work run in the morning. After my husband and our two daughters are ensconced in their various buildings, I head home to the blessedly awesome silence of our condo. I try for 10-12 pages a day, book-ended on the couch by my two tabby tomcats, and then I tackle promo, networking, chores, etc. Notice how chores come last?
Plotter or pantser: I know my characters very well when I begin. I also do research regarding the setting and what sorts of plots might be possible for that time and place. With those preliminary considerations satisfied, I just start writing. Let's call me a prepared pantser.
Jack: What's next for you? Still going to write Robin Hood era historicals for the time being? (Going to see the Russell Crowe Robin Hood this summer?)
Carrie: I'll continue writing more Scoundrel books, if I find a home for them. Otherwise, I just sold a historical romance set in Napoleonic Austria to Carina Press, Harlequin's new all-digital venture. My book will help launch the line in June 2010. In addition, under the name Ellen Connor (http://EllenConnor.com) , I co-write hot'n'dirty apocalyptic paranormal romance with Ann Aguirre. Our "Dark Age Dawning" trilogy will be coming soon from Penguin.
As for the new Russell Crowe movie, I hold a grudge because it was supposed to come out *last* summer, when it would've made the perfect tie-in with WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. Stoopid Hollywood. But I'll probably go see it anyway!
Hellion: *gate crashing the interview* I have to ask. I saw this on your website, and I was such a HUGE The Young Riders fan, it wasn't even funny: what do you mean you became the authority on Pony Express history? Did you watch the show? Any character favorites? Did you teach at a high school? Also you mention you wrote your MA thesis about the Old West and legend--will you write any Westerns, if you're given the chance?
Carrie: Oh, oh, oh--I totally watched The Young Riders. I had a massive crush on The Kid and seriously wanted to be Lou (although my tastes changed as I got older: http://lovelysalomearts.blogspot.com/2006/06/young-riders-1989.html).
Hellion: *squealing* Me too! I had all this fan fic where I was Lou…and never mind, keep going!
Carrie: The show had everything: hot guys, horses, romance, adventure, history, and smart, self-reliant women. I became obsessed and began studying everything I could find about the Pony Express. The obsession didn't wane, and I wound up writing my master's thesis on the impact of Jesse James' and Wild Bill Hickok's legends on post-Civil War society.
Shortly after TYR ended, I found historical romance. I was sunk. That's why when I was teaching at Ohio State, completing my MA, I decided that academia wasn't for me. All of my colleagues were busy fretting about getting published in academic journals...and I wanted to write romance!
As for writing a western in the future, who knows? I moved on after finishing my thesis--call it Old West burn-out--but it holds such a special place in my heart. There's still a part of me that wants to write about mail-order brides and resolute sheriffs and plucky, cross-dressing heroines and deadeye gunfighters...
Jack: *pinning Hellion and gagging her with a bandana* Sorry about that, Carrie. She gets a little carried away. I want to thank you again for coming to interview with us today. Is there anything you'd like to ask the crew?
Carrie: Hey, don't enjoy his rough treatment too much, Hellion. *grin* I'll ask about my favorite topic: unusual settings. Are you on-board with taking romance out of the British Isles? Keen on new-to-you times and places? Which would you like to see...and which wouldn't float your pirate boat at all?