Archive for the ‘Writing Style’ Category
I’ve always drafted my books with a musical playlist inspiring me. Sometimes I would play the same song over and over and over again as I wrote a scene. But all throughout NaNoWriMo I haven’t felt compelled to write with music. Nor have I even found anything that stood out and spoke to me. That is until now.
The first song on the CHASING ADAPTATION playlist.
Write on NaNoWriMoers. Find the music of your words.
Do you write to music? Is silence your thing? Does it change from project to project? Has there been a specific song that has had an impact on your writing?
It’s been awhile since I’ve been late posting my blog. But here I am, keeping it real. LOL! What is making me late today? In a nutshell, there are a mess of things on my To-Wacko-Do-List.
In not particular order…
*The hubby had a small surgery last Tuesday. He’s recovering nicely, but when he’s home I have the worst time keeping track of time.
*Switching over to fall/winter gear is time consuming. Where did I put the hats? No, you can’t wear shorts to school anymore! And of course anything that no longer fits the 8 year old goes into the “For the Cousins Pile.” STUFF EVERYWHERE!!!!
*And I know I’ve been saying this forever, but we’re still moving. It’s not the house we’d originally planned on, that deal fell through, but we’ve found a wonderful new house and *crosses fingers and toes* we should be moving in some time before I die. I swear. This whole moving thing feels like an Indiana Jones movie. There are hurdles and traps around every corner. (But no snakes please) Moving is not easy, I didn’t expect it to be, but it’s harder than I thought it would be also. I can’t wait to get to the part where I can simply settle in and be excited. In the mean time, I’m in purge mode. It’s like fall clean up on steroids. I’m trying to do a little bit every day to make the process easier. I am FIGHTING my procrastinating nature and like I said, I want to get to the fun part of this adventure asap! Anyway, more to come about the move craziness as it gets closer.
*And running–I want to be running as much as possible in this weather because it’s perfect. No further explanation needed, but I will say one thing. Crunchy leaves. <3
*And dancing–it’s recital time. Extra rehearsals. Costumes. Trying to remember my dances eek! Always so much fun.
*Prepping for NaNoWriMo and my next WIP. This is a funny little book that’s coming together in my mind. *breathes a sigh of relief because it IS finally coming together* It’s just weird because it’s doing everything differently than my other books. It doesn’t give two figs about a playlist. Really? And it clearly has it’s own agenda. I may kick-off NaNo in the middle-ish of the book. Or maybe not. But I could. I still might. THIS BOOK! And this WIP has weird demands about how it should be written stylistically. I don’t even know what it means, but I know I’m excited about it and I can’t wait to get started. In fact, if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo kicking off, I’d be typing like mad right now. But I need a timeline for this crazy manuscript. *head thunk* Yup, I’ve never done that before either. I guess I’ll plan, the way this book demands I should, until Nov. 1st!!!
*Oh, and Halloween. Because if you have three kids, Halloween takes up a huge chunk of your existence–for weeks. LOL!
*And don’t forget all the time I spent checking out the new SCBWI website!!!!! You must go check it out and while you’re over there, don’t forget to sign up for the NY SCBWI Conference in February. It is so much fun and we can hang out!!!!
*And reading!!!! Oh, I am reading like a fool. I’m reading for information and inspiration for the WIP. I’m reading Veronica Roth’s ALLEGIANT. I’ve followed the series and I’m hearing all kinds of rumblings and unrest about the ending. So curious!!!! I want to find out what the heck is going on. (Before someone hits me with a spoiler) I’m also reading WONDERBOOK an illustrated guide on creating imaginative fiction. I’m fascinated by this book and it’s speaking directly to me about what I’m about to attempt to write. I love perfect timing. I love it so much I’m carrying it everywhere with me. Plus I’m reading a bunch of other great books in addition to having a heavy line-up of books in the wings begging for my attention. I love books. <3
Alright, you get the point, I’ve been busy and it’s with mostly good stuff so I’m not complaining, just explaining. But now it’s time to hear what you’ve been doing. What’s on your To-Wacko-Do-List? What are you reading? What are you cleaning? Are you prepping for NaNoWriMo? Fill me in…
As I’m sure you’ve probably heard, in the writing world, there tends to be two kinds of writers. Outliners and Pantsters. Outliners pre-plan and organize their work to get the most out of their talent. Pantsters are those fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants creatives, who build their stories while their characters are whispering in their ear. There are ups and downs to each approach. Although most people will staunchly defend their drafting approach, I also think most writers will tell you there are positives and negatives to each style.
I’ve always considered myself a pantster. I’m allergic to outlines. Seriously, even with the book written–I have trouble writing the outline. *not-so-fondly-remembers-a-27-page-outline-while-on-submission* But this week there has been a revelation. I’m not a pantster or and outliner.
I’M A WEBBER!
What is this???
It’s that gray middle ground between pants and outlines. As I’ve been researching and brainstorming my WIP, I’ve come to realize that I don’t write without a plan, but my plans don’t look or act like outlines. They aren’t rigid and they don’t have a lot of structure. They look more like story webs, lists and thought bubbles. They are thought stew. They are bits and pieces of ideas I move around until a pattern of connections emerges. 80% of this happens in my head and about 20% of this gets scrawled on paper in a very messy fashion. (Mostly to indulge my love of notebooks) but also to ground the thinking process with the motion of the hand. I draw timelines. I dash out thoughts that interest me, even when I have no place for those thoughts in my current web. But I store them anyway, because I believe they might eventually belong–when I’m smart enough to understand my own story.
I’m a webber–plotting and planning in a pattern that is all my own.
Who are you?
I’m trawling for story threads. I’ve got my divining rod out and I’m looking for the well that holds my magic mush. I am plotting a first draft.
I have a solid little starter chunk of my WIP on the page–again. Yup. I said AGAIN. That’s how it works. I write. I get stuck. I unstick myself. I write some more. This whole writing a novel thing is a process. Somedays it feels like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. But really it’s about critical mass. I need to gather enough story threads and magic mush to weave and mold a complete book. I’ve had some material that has sparked me–enough to START a novel–but not enough to birth a full term book. This is not unusual. Not for me and not for a lot of writers.
Lots of people assume writing a book looks like this…
But really it looks more like this.
Kinda weird and wacky.
You feel like you’re doing the same damn thing over and over again, but really–you are making progress.
On a good day writing can be a challenge, so not having the enough threads and mush to make a story come alive can be VERY frustrating. And while I do believe that Stephen King’s Boys in the Basement will get around to sending up what I need… eventually…I have discovered there are things I can do to stir up pot making the threads and mush more visible. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to light a fire under those basement boys…
*I’ve been reading really great books–books that inspire me emotionally and as an artisan. Some people say reading is counter productive for them because it masks their own voice, but I find it clears my head. It’s like waking up sleepy and having a strong cup of coffee. Reading fabulous literature illuminates me.
*I look back at my scrap pile and revisit the chunks of stories that have gone to the land of unloved toys. Why? Because these bits and pieces came from thread and mush that was once important to me. They came from things that made me think or feel and perhaps I am not done with them yet. It’s a bit like setting up a yard sale with all the stuff your kids haven’t touched in eons. Once in sight, those long lost bits make me fall in love with them all over again. There is good stuff in there–if I can turn it on it’s head and look at it in a different way–a way I was unable to see in the confines of a previous story structure.
*I spend time in bed day dreaming about my story. This is magic time for me. I’m sleepy and relaxed and my mind wanders to places I would never let it go if I was at full attention. I adore this thought limbo so much. It’s truly one of my favorite parts of the writing process. And trust me, it’s not like I’m sprawled out for hours at a time, day and night. I wish. In reality, it might be five or ten sleepy minutes between closing a good book and arriving at the Land of Nod. But those minutes bring me important stuff and I’ve learned to appreciate them.
*I also pay attention. I’ve learned to trust that content will show up for me to explore. It WILL show up. I simply have to be paying attention. I’ve gotten much better at accepting this and believing there are no coincidences. Just this week I saw a book in the airport by a non-fiction author that fascinates me. I had the urge to buy the book, but I was already reading another book that showed up. Yesterday I saw a blog post about the author of that airport book and I clicked on it and started reading. Of course they mentioned the new book. Then, within a few minutes I saw more information on the book and low and behold, it had content in it directly related to my threads and mush. I bought the book and I’m five chapters in and I have added a ton of threads and mush to my pile.
Doing all of the above gets me excited and stimulates my thought process. It forces the Boys in the Basement to be on high alert. And they are! I am tingling with excitement about how much more I can create with all the new threads and mush I’ve collected. I am sooooo close to starting over AGAIN. *head thunk* And that’s the thing to understand about collecting threads and mush–they don’t weave and mold themselves. You need enough of them to have material to work with, but mounds of raw product will never become art on it’s own. Craft is involved in the process. No one can pull a story out of my head but me. So, it won’t be long until you’re reading a blog post about the amazing, yet hair-pulling act of writing a first draft of my WIP–again. But that’s how I roll.
How do you collect the story threads and magic mush you need to make your writing work? Are you a researcher? Outliner? Do you bull-doze through multiple drafts in NaNoWriMo style or do you take a quieter, slower approach to mulling over your characters and plot lines. Does it change from book to book? Tell me your secrets, I might like to steal them.
This week, my agent Michelle Wolfson, accidentally went for a jog. LOL! Her littlest decided to scoot to school and Michelle had to run to keep up with her. This tweet followed…
I had to smile because I’m one of those nuts that *enjoys it* (Most of the time.) Like anything else, it can have it’s moments. *pant, gasp, fall over* But yeah, I do it voluntarily and usually with a smile on my face.
I’ve been running a lot since the weather’s gotten nice, but that’s not the only thing I’ve been doing. This week in particular, I’ve wanted to do nothing more than write. I’ve been hit by a tsunami of writingness. I love/hate when this happens. It’s great because I’m doing something I’m so into. Even if I’m not super productive by a word count standard (I am ME after all) I’m still making all kinds of break throughs and I AM getting new words, better words, on the page. And I don’t want to mess with the flow of the universe, because it’s smiling on me and raining creativity. But it’s bad because I don’t want to do any of the other important things in my life and honestly I’ve got tons, heaping tons on my to-do list. So how have I been handling it? Of course I’ve been writing–riding the wave. LOL!
You know my motto–BUY MORE CLEAN UNDERWEAR!!!!
But, being “in the zone” with my writing has gotten me thinking about Michelle’s examination about running. There are certain things in are lives that can be very challenging, but when we are riding their wave, they’re amazing. We are drawn to them like a thirsty desert dweller to an oasis. But the things that fulfill us are different for everyone. There are people out there that would rather do anything else than run and/or write. There are folks who would run a marathon before writing a sentence, of a tome before heading out around the block. There are also people who like to do crafts and cook for fun. Now those people are like a foreign species to me! You made cupcakes for fun? Hello! I EAT cupcakes for fun. And that helps explain why I run. Full circle. ROTFL!
So, tell me. Do you get hit with writing tsunamis? What activity do you love that other people might like to poke their eyes out before doing? Does it pay to ride the wave when it come your way? Or is it really just avoidance of less fun things?
Yesterday I FINALLY had my house relatively clean, a decent amount of laundry done, all three boys in school and the hubby back at work. There was no need to run because I had dance class in the evening and even the weather cooperated by being unseasonably cold and damp. It felt like a writing day. It also came to my attention that my fridge was empty and Panera would be a good place for lunch LOL! Without a doubt, all the stars were in alignment for me to pull out my newest work-in-progress called CHASING ADAPTATION.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I haven’t been neglecting this new manuscript. It has been in the research and mulling over phase while I did things like wash and put away snow pants and clean cat litter. I’ve been reading, making notes and participating in other forms of mental gymnastics. Lots of good things. But one of my writing resolutions this year is to move more quickly into the drafting phase after I’m finished with a project. (I say “finished” loosely, since we all know a novel is never done until it’s on the shelves.) Any-who, yesterday was the day to pull out the almost 6,000 words of CHASING ADAPTATION that I’d written during this year’s NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. And trust me, there was a lot of dust on that baby–I hadn’t read it since November.
I am soooooo happy that I wrote those 6,000 words!!! At the time I was disappointed that I couldn’t do more, but with the TOUCHING THE SURFACE book launch, Thanksgiving and a dance recital, almost 6,000 words was my best. This is a great reminder that sometimes it’s better to focus on starting than on finishing. Worry about finishing after you start LOL! It was so much easier to begin writing again, having a platform in place to jump off of. This experience has also cemented my desire to try NaNoWriMo again next year. I may not finish, but the writing I did do, turned out to be very helpful. Also, the NaNo draft (to my surprise) ended up being a lot better than I remembered it. I fully anticipated having to trash a sizable chunk of what I’d thrown down on paper, but I don’t think I’m going to do that at this point. My original instincts may have been better than I thought they were. I believe I’m going to give this puppy a little room to grow and see what my subconscious mind has planned. Have I ever told you how much I enjoy the voices in my head? They are pretty cool company.
Anyway–for the record–I want to say something out loud. You know, before I get to that part in the manuscript where I suck and would rather cut my wrists open with a plastic butter knife than ever write again.
I LOVE WRITING!!!!
I’m so deliriously happy that I’m pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Jumping into a new book right away feels brave and daring.
It also makes me feel good to know that I’m always growing and adapting. Recognizing my method while simultaneously learning to challenge myself.
Finding a new balance.
And I adore the potential and excitement that comes with a new idea.
The start of a book leaves me tingly as I filter my brain onto paper.
I can’t babble about this forever. I must finish writing this post so I can go back to Scrivener and write more words.
How long does it take you to start writing again after you finish a project? Can you juggle multiple projects? Are you able to “work” on a book in your head while you’re busy doing other things? What’s your view on starting and finishing? Does starting a book make you giddy?
I’ll be honest, I’m not really a researcher in the traditional sense of the word. I hear about writers attacking mountains of data for non-fiction and historical fiction–and quite frankly–I start to hyperventilate. That stuff freaks me out!
I’m sucky at tasks with a high attention to detail and prefer to flit around like a butterfly, but I’ve also come to realize that I do have a Kim version of research. Like most people, I start with an idea. Usually a question–an itch that must be scratched. I spend a lot of time, while I’m revising my current WIP, tossing the new nugget of an idea around in my mind. I examine it from every angle. Usually I find, that while I have a starting point, I don’t have enough stuff to write a complete story. In essence, I’m lacking the threads to weave a full blanket. I’ve only got enough to do a half of a sweater. This idea tossing sounds like pretty typical behavior for most writers, but this is where I get a little weird. When I get stuck trying to find the rest of those threads, I go divining for inspiration in the book store the way this guy uses a dowsing stick to find water.
The first thing I do is wander around a book store. (One of my favorite things to do in the whole world. *sigh*) I keep my mind open and I touch books. I literally walk around trailing my fingers over spines and grabbing random books that have covers that pull me in. Then I read the jackets and see if anything resonates. If my mind and my fingers get a little jumpy with curiosity, the way that dowsing stick does over water, I add another book onto my pile of “research.” I usually come home with an eclectic pile of books and after I read them, I some how I find my answers. I’m not really sure how it works. On my more logical days, I believe that reading simply stimulates the mind and if you read enough, you’ll stumble across enough questions and answers to fill a book. Other days, I’m pretty damn sure that I was born to be an author and when you’re doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing, the universe is happy and rewards you with a little magic. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. LOL!
How do you like to research a new book?
Right now I’m waiting for my lovely critique partners to turn around THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY so I can send it to my agent!!! *bites nails* If you haven’t already heard, publishing is all about hurry up and wait. LOL! Yup, get used to it. One day you’re rushing, the next day you’re waiting with the crickets chirping in the background. What am I doing while I’m in a holding pattern?
I think I mentioned how I’ve been doing some critiques. I love getting to help newbie writers when I have the time and I adore getting to read what my close friends have been working on. Of course, I’ve been doing laundry, especially since my dryer was broken for two weeks. I should probably be doing more, but seriously, it’s NOT FUN! And joy, bliss, rapture–I’m reading books for fun and books that inform my next project!!!! Woo hoo!!!! New projects are always soooo exciting. Preparing for a new project is just as fun as drafting, maybe even more fun. I plan on jumping into the writing part (which a dabbled with during NaNoWriMo) as soon as GRAVITY is officially out of my hands. And I FINALLY, I did some updating on my FAQ’s Page! I’ll be adding more, so if you have any burning questions feel free to ask them.
What do you do while you’re waiting in the writer’s twilight zone?
Recently I’ve been knee deep in revision, doing some critiques for friends, and answering some writerly questions at a bookstore event. The collision of these processes has gotten me thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that we writers are never as good as we think we are. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s hard to see the forrest through the trees. We get so immersed in the manuscript we’re working on that we lose all sense of perspective. We forget that just because we are turning around our best work, doesn’t mean it’s THE BEST WORK. And sometimes it also means that our best isn’t yet good enough in the publication competition. This is a very hard lesson to digest.
As I look back through all the phases of my writing journey, focusing on the times when I was ready, I realize that these moments were often more about me feeling ready than the work being ready. Sometimes I’d exhausted my capabilities, other times I was so freaking sick of the story I couldn’t look at it another minute. Sometimes there were deadlines. Other times I thought it was perfect. Silly me–perfect does not exist. I lacked objectivity. Often I still do. But that is not always a bad thing. Publishing is a tough business. It pays to have a little hubris mixed in with our neuroticism. It gives us the courage to keep going in the face of great odds.But that only works if we also have the ability to take criticism and use it constructively. I’m aware that everyone is wired a little differently, and what works for one, doesn’t always work for another, but here’s my takeaway…
I need criticism–it’s the platform that I use to plant my feet and push off of. Now, no–I’m not talking about the critique your crazy Aunt Myrtle gives you, that comes with her suggestions acted our in front of the family at the holiday get together when she hasn’t even read your book. I’m also not talking about the vicious review that says your kids are doomed to a life of hell because you, dear sucky author, are unfortunately their mother. That kind of feed back doesn’t count. I’m talking about the level headed stuff. Writer friends, agents, authors, editors, teachers, passionate readers. I’m talking about thoughtful advice. I repeat. I am never as good of a writer as I think I am and that feedback helps me. I know this is true because I look at what my book and manuscripts were like before I used the feedback and I look at what my writing was like after the feedback. Big surprise (NOT!) 99% of the time the work is ALWAYS better after the feedback.
So, on your quest for writing perfection, I urge you to be a sponge. Absorb all the universe has to offer you, then take the best and forget the rest. And here’s the thing about writers never being as good as they think they are. It works the other way too–sometimes, the writers who are ready, are also never as good as they think they are–they’re better. My guess is it’s because they learned today’s lesson too well–you can always get better with hard work and effort.
How do you deal with feedback on your writing? Do you cry and then wrap your mind around it later? Does it not even ruffle your feathers? Does it sting quick like a Band-Aid, but you get over it super quick? Do you avoid it at all costs? Yell and tantrum at the person foolish enough to try to help you? Does it depend on the day?
I am so excited. *fist pump* I’m almost done with my revision of THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY and I’m confident I’ll be turning it over to my crit partners this week!!!! I’ll be tweaking and tinkering some more while my critters do their magic, then I’ll have to turn around their suggestions. But even with that left on my plate, I’m up over the hump of this monster. I feel really, really good right now and I try to never ignore those little moments of success. *Woo Hoo!* Those highs are what gives me momentum to get back up the other side when I hit the next hump in the publication process.
And though putting myself out there–the waiting and risk of failure is hard–you know that I’m a girl who gets excited about possibility. The idea of getting this book back into the hands of my agent gives me tingles.
These are some of my favorite P words besides pizza and plethora. My little book is growing up and getting ready to go out into the world. *grin* This makes me very happy. A little nervous, but very, very happy.
Where are you in your writing process or in any big life project you’re working on? Do you like roller coasters? Are you able to celebrate each individual hump that you rise above? And do you scream on the way down????