Category Archives: wotm

What I learned from a Sexy Old Book

Fire bad.

Tree pretty.

Writing hard.

I may have mentioned this before. I’ve been stuck on HEROES UNDER SIEGE again. And, to be honest, not so much on the book itself, but on writing, or me as a writer, or some such nonsense.

I have issues. We know this. I have a serious case of subsequent book syndrome and every time I take some steps in the right direction, I tend to run away and hide from the work again because I get really scared about finishing things. I’ve never been good about finishing things because I always relate being done with judgement time. If something’s never done, you can keep saying, sorry, not done yet, and then no one can really tell you how much it sucks.

It’s a perfectionism thing.

The other day I got Dragon Age 2 from Gamestop for $6. Kait about had a fit. I thought her head was going to explode. And I get it. I’ve been really absent, hiding, for the better part of a year. And when I’m hiding in a video game, I’m completely gone. So I put the game aside and tried to go back to work and still couldn’t settle.

This has been The Summer of the Sexy New Book. For the last few years, I’ve been so focused on the Talent Chronicles that I’ve been incapable of thinking of anything else. And then suddenly, this summer, my brain exploded and it’s been plot bunny central up in here. And every Andreweekend, poor Andrew shows up on GoogleTalk and I’ve got a new book or a new series to babble about.

And by this time, Kait and Andrew are about ready to tie me to a chair for some BICHOK action until SIEGE or something gets written, when I decide to take a side trip down memory lane and pull out the book I almost finished five years ago. I think it was the last thing I seriously worked on before I did that thing where I decided to quit writing altogether.

I didn’t expect to get very far. I expected to spend a few chapters cringing, and then to pat myself on the back for how much I’ve grown as a writer and be inspired to get back to work.

But I was kind of blown away by what I found.

WEST OF THE MOON (the working title I gave it because I came up with most of the plot while listening to a-ha’s East of the Sun, West of the Moon album), at 86k words, was nearly finished when I walked away from it. I remember the last plotting sessions, visualizing my way from where the characters were in act 4, all the way through the climax and how that was going to go down, all the way to the denouement and happily ever after scenes at the end of the book. I knew exactly where that story was going and I guess it scared the crap out of me.

Five years ago, I just didn’t understand the stuff about plotting and structure that I do now and I was really running just on the instinct developed from reading a few hundred books in the genre. I expected to find a formless mess that couldn’t be salvaged. I didn’t. I expected my voice to be so much different. And it was different, but not so much. It’s like this weird mix of the same-old same-old melodramatic romance writer tone I was trying to stop emulating with these moments where you can absolutely hear the same voice I have today. It was so cool!

And it had dirty bits! I used to write grown-up books. I think that, over the past two years of being steeped in YA, I’d forgotten that I used to write that subject matter. Oh yeah, I remember those parts and how they fit together. Ooh, did I really write that? And that? :blushes:

The point is that I kind of loved reading it. And I am soooo not objective about it. It needs objective eyes to help me rewrite and finish it because it has plenty of problems.

And if there are any Talent fans who actually read my blog, they’re all getting pissed off right now, thinking that I’m abandoning the Chronicles for Sexy Old Book.

I’m not.

Because, honestly, one of the first lessons this should be teaching me is not to abandon good things because they get hard or because I’m scared to finish them. Because realizing how close I came to abandoning Matt and Alex and never sharing them was kind of tragic. Not tragic for you. You’ve got plenty to read and you’ll be just fine. But sad for me because I get a hell of a lot out of sharing characters and stories with you. These guys were totally worth sharing, and I just threw them away.

But here’s my other epiphany of the day…

I used to have this thing about saving material. I did this with the Talent Chronicles, absolutely. I didn’t touch that idea for years because it was so important to me and I didn’t want to waste it until I was good enough to really do something with it. Do you ever do that? Do you ever hoard concepts, characters, witty lines, or moving scenes because you’re saving up all your best stuff until you’re really good at this and then you’re going to put it all together in one perfect storm of a book?

Reading through WEST OF THE MOON, it had moments. It had moments of self-deprecating snark that made me smile, lines that made me laugh out loud. It had moments of achy tenderness, and moments when the aches were of a different nature. It had “good stuff.”

There’s no way to excise that good stuff and move it somewhere else. I can’t transplant Matt and Alex to another story. I can’t pull out those witty lines and give them to someone else. Because they come out of these characters and this story.

But there’s good stuff in HUSH MONEY. There’s good stuff in CURFEW, and there’s already good stuff that I love in SIEGE. There will always be more good stuff. Like love, it’s not something that comes in a 2.5 oz package and has to be used sparingly or you’ll run out. It’s already there, and it just comes out when you’re open to it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m god of my fictional world. I make the shit happen, and I make the hard, conscious choices that make it a story instead of the amorphous emo-fest my subconscious would have you read. But, you know, maybe I need to have a little more faith in her [my subconscious]. Like Alex, maybe what’s held me back in this relationship is fear and refusal to trust that I can have this next book and have it be just as good, and hey, maybe even better than the last one.

A few weeks ago, Kait pointed out that I made this big lifestyle change with regard to food. I cleaned up my act a lot. I controlled portion sizes, I stopped emotional eating–I really made all these changes to the way I even think about food. And here I am, nearly forty pounds lighter for it, at a healthy weight I hadn’t seen for 20 years, and I’m not having a problem maintaining it. She said something like, if you can make those changes in the way you think in one area of your life, you can change your thinking about writing.

That’s…kind of empowering. And it’s been rolling around in my head since she said it, along with the notion yeah, as soon as I figure out WHAT to change, and HOW to do it, I’ll get right on that.

So here’s a thought: What if I stop being the baggage-laden, can’t get over herself heroine everyone wants to throttle and have a little faith? What if I start believing that the book, and all the good stuff I want for it, is already in there? In me. And all I have to do is sit, Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard, and be open to it.

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No Admittance Without Plot

It’ s been awhile.

I’m trying.  Maybe not very hard, maybe not in the most consistent way, but I am.  And the why of it is simply that my head is full of brain dolls, and more show up all the time.

A brain doll is sort of like a character.  But a character is someone whom I work, whom I form and mold and tweak.  A character fits into a story and the story fits around the character.  They are the ones who make it to the keyboard and are not generally allowed to run amock.  A brain doll works me.  Brain dolls are creatures that live in my head.  They’re made up of bits of backstory and internal conflict with a dash of physical characteristics, and they often show up in pairs.  They tend to come with very few accessories like, say, plot points, and most of them are lazy and don’t build on their own.  They just wait around for me to do it.

Some of my brain dolls, the ones that have been with me a long time, make their own spaces in the corners of my world.  They build sets and create stories, and they live lives within the borders of their regions.  Their stories tend to be soap-opera quality messes that I could never untangle enough to put to paper, even if I wanted to.  Some of them are former characters, retired with their abandoned plots to enact and embellish on their favorite scenes for, it would seem, all eternity. 

Matt and Alex still live in the WOTM region, waiting for that last 20K or so of grey area to get colored in.  They’re still characters, and thus far, they continue to wait silently for my return, should you wonder what became of them.

 But it’s the huge brain world playset of Supertown that’s out of control.  That’s the world where Mac and Colby live, though they, too, linger as characters trapped in the brain doll world.  Rand and Marissa want their story told, but not enough to give me enough hints on plot points to keep the action going.  Marissa brought in this ex-boyfriend named Joel, and next thing you know, Tina showed up with a criminal past and said she wanted to, after much angst and denial, be hooked up with Joel please.  Well ok, Tina, but what else ya got?  Give me more to work with or get in line.  One young woman showed up a month or so ago, and she felt promising.  She brought a hero, a father, a sister.  And then she turned around and informed me that no, she had 2 sisters, and they had beaus, but please excuse their complete fuzziness.  Great.  Thanks.  Take your trilogy and wait over there.  Patiently, Carolyn waits, reminding me that she’s important and she has a love interest, and please don’t forget to introduce him at some point.  But while she’s told me what she can about him, he has yet to show up and introduce himself properly.  Which might be why we refer to him as Stasis Guy.    Today, as I stare at the last line I wrote for Rand and Marissa, wondering about their motivations, I realize that someone needs to die.  Not right now, just, you know, sometime.  And the man she leaves behind waves to me from a dark corner.  I didn’t even know he was there, but he’ll be ready to play the Grieving Widower type who finds true love a second time later on down the road.  He introduces me to his Best Friend, who pulls him away from the body of his lover.  Best Friend says hey, how’s it goin’?  Just wanted to let you know that that experience will make me realize what a jerk I’ve been to my COMPLETELY FUZZY love interest here, and I’ll be having one of those Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone moments (yeah, coincidentally Cinderella is playing right now, neat).  Oh, how will that come about?  Well I don’t know, that’s your job, isn’t it?

Hey, I love hangin’ out in Supertown.  I love you guys.  Really.  But I’m constantly distracted by all these new arrivals.  You guys are never going to reach your character potential if I don’t get some work done.  Help me.  Help me help you.  Give me some stories to go along with these setups, or your world is never going to be anything but a some assembly required brain doll playset. 

Rand, you’ve got that anti-gravity thing going for you.  Get up there and pull down the Welcome to Supertown sign with the everchanging digital population indicator.  Bryan, get off your not coming up with my YA subplot butt and help him out, because I suspect you’ve got a bit of telekinesis going, don’t you?  The new sign is right over there.  It reads:

No Admittance Without Plot.

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The Obligatory End of Sweat Challenge Post

Today I had hoped to have 60K words written since July 12, and a completed novel somewhere between 90K and 100K.  I didn’t get that far.  What I ended up with was 48416 for the Challenge and 84700 overall.

And I’m totally ok with that.

I’d do the Dorothyesque what-I-learned bit, but I just did it at the Sweat website and it feels to redundant right now.

Right now, my plan is to try to finish this in time for the next round which I think will start on 10/15.  For the first few weeks of the next round, I intend to work on planning out the new story rather than reporting actual words, and then hit the writing hard on Nov. 1 when Nano starts to catch up.  I think I’ll be working toward a first draft goal of about 75K overall, so getting 50K done in the first 45 days or so and then 25 in the next 25 days doesn’t seem too bad.

I’m not going to make myself crazy over this.  This Christmas is a big deal for us because it’s the first year my daughter will really get the whole Santa thing.  We’ll also be moving.  We may or may not host a huge family get-together in our new house.  Frankly, I have enough on my plate without being hard on myself over the writing stuff right now.  (Go sell crazy somewhere else; we’re all stocked up here.)

So right now Alex and Matt are on the run, and they’re in they’re getting into the part that’s going to end the Dark Period.  Probably no snippet this week, as I will be deep in my yard sale, won’t be able to read everyone’s, and don’t really have anything in mind anyway.

Next up, unless something else comes to mind, is a reunion story between HS sweethearts.  The heroine’s father convinced the hero to leave town rather than mess up his daughter’s life with the chaos that marked the hero’s.  Years later the hero is assigned to protect the father who, it turns out, has been more of a potential danger to his daughter than the hero ever could have been.  Working title for this story is “All Coming Back” and will be abbreviated ACB.  Set in autumn in Western New York, this story should make me constantly want to put the laptop aside and pick up knitting needles and wool.  (If I had magic, one of the first things I would do is enchant my needles!)

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WOTM Update: Plotting the End

I just dumped a few more words I’ve been working on into the draft, updated my counters, and then I went back to the post where I started the Sweat and checked my math.  Turns out I was off by a few hundred words.  In my favor, so that was nice, but I’m still over 8500 words behind with 7 days to go.

So you’d think I’d be writing like the devil.  No such luck.  I’ve still been stuck for how this all works out.  But Kettle’s been really cool about taking time to brainstorm with me the last couple days, and I think I’ve got some ideas that are going to work just fine.

Incidentally, working with Kettle today was funny.  Not funny ha ha, but funny strange.  Usually, I feel like I want her to like my ideas.  If she likes my ideas then I can get excited about them and and run with it and start coming up with more stuff in that direction.  Today, she was skeptical.  Very skeptical.  But since the tiniest flicker of Plan A was all I had to present, I sold it.  I pleaded my case.  And in doing so, probably fleshed it out a lot better than if she had said “I like it; go with it.”

Whooda thunkit?

Tangent: That’s triggering some random “Eight is Enough” memory in which the kids are sitting at the table and Susan keeps saying “Who would’ve thought?”  Why is she saying that?  I don’t know.  I think maybe David and Janet broke up and she’s saying “David and Janet.  Who would’ve thought?”  But I’m not sure.  Bradfords stuck in my head is always somewhat disturbing, and I really need to get back to Matt and Alex, so– /Tangent

Back to plotting the end.  I didn’t really have a solid end in mind for the action plot.  You know, it was something about facing off with the bad guys and surviving, blah blah.  I thought as I got to know the characters and found details of the story, that it would just come to me.  But no, not really.  I decided to jump to the very end, try to think that through, and then think backward to where I am.  Ok, this would work for a satifsying ending that would tie things up nicely.  Great.  For that to happen I need this to happen.  So I need them to do this first.  And gradually I’m working my way back to where I left off.  It’s not what I’ve been doing, but I’ve found that the Sweat Challenge is really quite motivating for making someone desperate enough to try anything! encouraging new avenues of thought.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been getting a lot of words down, just notes.  So, for the “in case my counters blow up” update:

792 since last check-in, 48,416 for the Sweat, and 84,700 total.

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WOTM Update: Skippage

I ended up skipping over the fight last night.  During the day, I could really see the scene that follows it, so I did that instead.  I wrote a bit more than half of this scene, and left off right before they find out the thing that sends them on the run.

Right after that comes the last love scene, and who knows how long that will take me to get through.  I roughed out a speech by one of them last night. 

After that I have to get them to the place where they finally face off against the bad guys.  I’ve been hoping time, place, and circumstance would just come to me out of what’s going on.  Nothing so far.

In addition to the fight scene, I’ve got a few other little holes to go back and fill, but nothing that’s a such a big deal.  I know the end of Draft 1 is just around the bend.  I just wish I could see it.

Anyway, I’m trying to write about 1450/day to catch up on 70 Days.  I did 1534 last night.  I’m at 47315 since the challenge started (still over 6K behind where I’m supposed to be), and 83908 for this draft.

8 days left.

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WOTM Update: We’re Caught in a Trap

For those of you who are now plagued by Elvis and “Suspicious Minds”, I apologize.  Me too.

But hey.  That’s where they are.  Caught in a trap.

Tomorrow, hopefully, there will be much sexy fighting.  Tonight, hopefully, there will be sleeping for me.

1652 words.  I’m at 82374.

Goodnight.

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds….

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WOTM Update: Another Day Leaves Me Aching

So I’ve been laying a-ha lyrics on you lately…

Another day leaves me aching
I try to wake up
But somethings breaking
Here inside me
Deep and hollow
A sound that no other sound could follow
I know the pain
Before the wound
East of the sun
And west of the moon

I dumped 5085 words into my draft today.  It’s the first stuff I’ve finished since I wrote my Black Moment.  I’m up to 44007 for the Sweat Challenge, and 80,720 for the draft.  I don’t know if I’ll catch up and finish on schedule.  I think maybe I’ve come to a place where I’ll be ok if I don’t.  How about that?

Anyway, what happened?  Well, Matt reacted to Alex’s reveal of her secrets.  Alex learned that something she believed was not actually true.  There was some sad tension between our h/h because they want to be together but can’t get past what’s just happened yet, and now they’re on their way to a meeting with someone they don’t realize poses a threat.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me.  I appreciate everyone who’s hung in and read my intermittent and whiny posts.  I can’t believe I almost didn’t post a snippet this week.  Comments to that helped me sooo much in giving me the kick in the pants I needed to get back to work. 

You never know how much what you take the time to say might mean to the person you say it to.

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If I Could I Would I Swear

That’s actually an a-ha lyric, to go along with the blog title and tag-line theme.  Actually, I’m not sure it’s true.  Maybe I can, but I just won’t.  I’m just too far down right now, and I can’t generate enough energy to take their stuff on and write it out.  I’ve got too many of my own problems to work out.  I can’t do theirs too. 

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Quick Update on Nothing

I think you can now appreciate how much Kettle’s work habits affect mine.  What day did she finish her manuscript.  She’s been taking a well-deserved writing break, catching up on some reading and some neglected home-stuff, etc..  But without her just being around writing all the time, well, it’s even harder for me to make myself work when I really don’t want to.  Plus, I’ve still got some details to work out, and need to brainstorm, and her head just is not in my game at all right now.

But!  There is hope.  Today she said she would probably go back to writing this week.  And I sort of felt like writing earlier today, though I didn’t because I had people here pulling at me to do other things.  But said people will be going back to work and off to Mother’s Day Out (that’s like nursery school, if you will) this week, so we’ll see how it goes.

Hopefully I’ll have something to report in to 70 days with on Wednesday.  I think this has been at least 3 straight check-ins with me report ing 0. 

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WOTM Update: Boys Don’t Cry

Last night I wasn’t going to write anything.  I was doing that regrouping thing, figuring out the next bit to come.  What that really means is that I DID NOT want to write my Black Moment and was stalling like anything.

Well, Kettle pops up, and of course she’s writing.  That girl is always writing in whatever snatches of time she has.  Makes me feel like crap sometimes, let me tell you.  “Progress?” she asks.  “Depends on your perspective,” is my reply.  “I knitted a sweater for Blythe and I’m just about to write up the pattern before I jayne fan blytheforget what I did so I can do it again.”

Bad Susan.  It’s 100°+ every day.  Like Blythe needed a sweater.

Anyway, since Kettle was writing, I was like ok, I guess I can write the intro to the Black Moment scene.  So I pretty much whipped that out at 725 words, showing that it was right there ready to be writ and I was just being lazy and/or stubborn.

Kettle went to bed and I wasn’t sleepy, so I decided it would help my mental health to try and get some notes written about this Black Moment scene, so I wouldn’t forget to include stuff once I got into it, and so I’d know where I was going and wouldn’t have to fear the writing of it so much.  So la dee da, and the next thing you know, it starts pouring out onto the screen, in that very rough way I tend to write things in the present tense with no proper quotes or format.  And almost 3000 words later I was through it.  Whew.  It was after 1am and I was on a roll.  As Alex left the room I was ready to jump right into Matt’s head and get his reaction.

I turned around, and he’s sitting there crying.  Oh no.  Oh.  NO!  I freaked.  I admit it.  I cannot stand to see men cry.  It scares me.  I hate it.  I shut the lights on that scene so fast you’d have thought a transformer had blown. 

Yeah, I’m pretty much afraid to go back now.  Don’t be surprised if you see me rewriting and tweaking the Black Moment a whole bunch to avoid it.  I don’t know what’s going to happen now.

Men crying in books has to be handled just right for me.  It’s very dicey, and generally, I wouldn’t recommend it.  So what do I do now?  I like me my brooding, stoic, Alpha males.  How did I end up with Emo Matt?  When he’s not blowing sunshine out his butt, he’s emoting all over the damned place.

So do I fix him?  Do I deny him the emotional outlet?  How much do I not want to go back there and not only be Matt in tears, but also watch and record at the same time!

How about you?  How do you feel about teary men?

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