Category Archives: writing

Of course you can change a man

I am, for good or ill, often ridiculously literal. And this tendency makes me kind of irritated by expressions that get thrown around a lot. Sometimes I have to sit and pick at them like burrs until they stop bothering me.

There seems to be a lot of debate about change in the world of cliche. “People change,” but “you can’t change a man,” but “everything changes,” but “people don’t really change who they are,” and “a leopard can’t change its spots,” though no one actually gives a rip about leopards anyway.

The draw of many a romance is grounded in our desire to change men. Whether or not the old bodice-rippers appealed to you personally, the appeal of many of those books was in seeing a brutish man brought to his knees (or maybe to one knee) by the grace of the one woman who could get through to him. Beauty and the Beast, classic for good reason.

One of literature’s most sigh-making moments, when Darcy admits his faults to Lizzie, and tells her how she affected change on him…

“I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child, I was taught what was right; but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. (…) Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous.”

At some point recently I was made to read the definition of “catalyst.”

noun 1. Chemistry . a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. (Dictionary.com)

For some reason, that got me thinking about people, well, characters, and this whole change thing again, because that’s so much like the heroines I read as a kid. (I submit to you that I was probably more warped by reading constant example of man’s inhumanity to man in “classics” than I was by reading romance novels.) The ones who only had to be what they already were to change a man from someone who wanted to use them to someone compelled to care for them, and to save his soul in the process.

To this day I find that idea of “be who you are” very compelling.

I guess the point of these musings was that sometimes I think the “fix a man” concept is seen as a bad way to go now. You can’t change a man. We’ve got to stop encouraging women to delude themselves into thinking they can change men. It’s irresponsible!

Sometimes responsibility is such a drag. Sometimes I just want to read a swoon-worthy escapist fantasy. I ADORE characters who are changed by love. Slap a warning label on it if you must.

CAUTION: Professional shero on fictional course. 
Do Not Attempt.

But I digress. While big change is difficult and has to come from within, the fact is that we change each other all the time. We are in a constant state of becoming, and our relationships shape that because the people we encounter inspire feelings and thoughts that lead to new decisions and patterns. We are catalysts for changes in others, big and small, in countless interactions, intimate, casual, intellectual, memorable and completely forgettable.

Remember that in your attitude when you’re out and about, because that’s what that whole “be the change” deal is about, yeah?

Anyway, don’t get bogged down on that “you can’t change a man” tripe. Don’t be afraid to show characters inspiring each other to be more than what they are, because it’s one of the great beauties stories have to offer us.

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Star Wars Day Rec

Happy Star Wars Day!

I’m reading a surprisingly delightful bit of Han x Leia fanfic told in snippets of journal entries and various communications. You’ll find it here.

Enjoy the day, and may the Force be with you.

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About how there should be even more words in the English language

This morning I find myself thinking about the words we’re missing in English and really need. If you think about it, this is ridiculous.

Last week I started reading Holly Lisle’s How To Create A Language Clinic. Not that I even wanted to create a language, it was just that once I got it in my head that it would be interesting to see how someone went about it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And it is interesting, and probably really useful, especially to those are writing fantasy and not getting great results from a name generator. But that’s besides the point.

One interesting bit that I read in the book was a whole bunch of numbers. She lists approximate counts for the number of words in a handful of languages to kind of illustrate points about how language shapes thinking–having more words for a thing allows you to think about more shades of meaning of the thing. She brings up the classic example of all the Eskimo words for snow. Anyway, I think she said that English had, like, a million words. And then she goes through other languages and no one else even comes close to this.

Don’t you love English? Seriously, if you’re a word lover, you’ll enjoy that section of the book. (Sidebar: Another interesting bit was something like the average English speaker’s vocab is, like, 20,000 words. Word Dynamo is fun and will estimate how many words you know.)

So the reason we have all these words is that we cheerfully pick up words from all kinds of different languages whenever we feel like it, and we cheerfully invent new terms to talk about all the awesome things we invent.

How on Earth is it, with all this freedom and language addition, that we still have–

“my girlfriend–I mean, my friend, who is a girl”

“do you mean like him? or like him like him?”

“I want you to meet my girlfriend” (who is 53. Does that make anyone else feel middle school?)

And, for the love of all that is holy, can we come up with, and finally agree on, some gender neutral pronouns instead of having to resort to the plural forms?

I don’t mean to be all political or anything. I’m probably only half serious. But it is interesting how freely we’re willing to adopt new vocabulary for technology, but we resist clarifying words that touch on gender and relationships. Just sayin’.

One new one that I love and I’m sticking with is “shero.” In my mind now, when I speak, there’s a difference between a “shero” and a “heroine,” and I think you can all figure out what it is.

Also on my list of stuff that should be made official is College Humor’s New and Necessary Punctuation Marks (via Kait).

***

Wrapping this up with a PS. The campaign to help indie author Lauralynn Elliott is ongoing. If you don’t know about it, Kait, who has done a fabulous job putting this all together, has written it all out for you here. Kait gives great ideas for how to help beyond the easy answer of Send Money. However, do consider the Send Money option as well. If everyone we could reach took the time to drop a dollar, it would make an unbelievable difference in the life of someone who really deserves to have good things happen.

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Ooh, plot device!

Some of you know that I’m a pretty critical reader.

Some of you are chuckling at my gift for understatement.

It’s been many years since I started reading fiction with the intention of learning how to write. The longer this goes on, the more I learn. The more I can see. The more OMFG pickier I become.

To the point where I’m actually a really good editor. Not only can I see snags, but I can see what to do about them and make suggestions.

To the point where I’m so jammed up about doing anything wrong that it’s hard to work.

But that can be for another whiny-ass post. This is about something else, actually.

[insert audible relief sighs here]

I’m reworking some of the first act of Heroes Under Siege this week and it’s getting better, so I wanted to talk about something I learned about Act 1.

Back to me being the super critical reader.

I hate the beginnings of lots of books.

Not the first lines or the first scenes, but the slog-fest that the first few chapters become. And I’m not just talking about self-pub here, there are plenty of trad books that leave me wondering when we’re going to start getting this story started.

But Susan, according to the rules of story architecture to which you claim to ascribe (OMG, whose butt am I talking out of right now?), the story really doesn’t become The Story until the First Plot Point at the end of Act 1. Act 1 is setup and introduction of all the elements we need to know about. What. Do.  You. Expect?

There are a lot of things that can and do go wrong in Act 1– with some regularity, but one of the things I long for when reading is to feel like I’m being led by a competent hand. And that’s something that may be hard to explain.

Sometimes it’s obvious when it’s not happening. Like those books where information just keeps getting dumped on you because it’s important to the author that you know this stuff so she can use it later. But the author hasn’t found a way to make it important and interesting to you now, so you kind of want to claw your eyes out and go all stabbity on the narrator.

Or when you find yourself aimlessly wandering about through descriptions and scenes of actions that don’t seem to connect, and you’re thinking, OMG what the hell does this all mean and is this EVER Going Anywhere??

So a few months ago I was reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. There was a first act that really pulled me right through. I remember enjoying it so much that I actually said to Kait, “This. This is how it’s done.

Wait? How was it done?

So I had to sit back and think about that, and there’s a device which I think worked…

(First there was a prologue. And it was an excellent prologue. Attached me right to those characters as a children. Great job there. But that wasn’t what pulled me through act 1 so easily. That was just a part of what was done right.)

The characters had a goal from Chapter 1.

See, I think this is the thing that I responded to.

But wait! You can’t go introducing the story goal in chapter 1! That doesn’t happen until–

I didn’t say story goal. Did I say story goal? Pipe down.

In chapter one, years after the prologue, the main character, Alina, is on the march with her military unit. They’re going to a place where they can cross the Fold in order to get somewhere else, and this crossing will be fraught with danger. (And, as Tigger says, you just can’t argue with a word like fraught.)

So I knew where we were going! I don’t know why that would be such a relief to me, but it just was.

In terms of structure, I’d say that the crossing of the Fold contained the inciting incident.  What happened there, what Alina did there, started a sequence of events that led to the First Plot Point and dragged her into the next phase of the story.

Despite knowing where we were going (wherever the crossing point was) and why (to cross the Fold because the leaders said we have to), I still had plenty of questions to keep me interested in the story. I was getting a lot of worldbuilding information, but because there was already a story going on, there was something to hang that on, so it wasn’t just floating about in the atmosphere.

A novel is often comprised of stories within a story. This “getting to the Fold” mini-plot was a very small portion of the whole, but it grounded all the introductory material, gave it a purpose in the now of the reader.

So. There’s something I saw and why I think it worked. If your act 1 is like Alice’s slow fall down a rabbit hole filled with floating worldbuilding paraphernalia, there’s an idea for you.

Now get off the Internets and go write something.

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Letterboxing: Make hunting buried treasure your new hobby

And now for something completely different…

Letterbox found

Letterbox Found

Last weekend, for my husband’s birthday, we went letterboxing. I stumbled on the activity back in the fall when I was looking at Girl Scout badges our troop might pursue.

How fun is this? Someone gets a box. They put in a rubber stamp and a notebook, and they hide the box somewhere out in the world. Then they go online and leave clues to find the box. You read the clue, go out with a notebook, an ink pad, and your personal stamp, find the box. You stamp your personal stamp in their notebook and leave them a little note to let them know you were there. You use their stamp in your own notebook to record your discovery.

There are tons of letterboxes hidden away in parks, public gardens, and unexpected places. It’s a great family activity that gets us out of doors and moving around–together. It’s also a great way to see all those little places you’d probably never find on your own or never get around to seeing.

Who knew giant authors were sitting around in Knoxville, TN

Like a number of places we’ve found while letterboxing, I had no idea that Alex Haley Park existed. The day this photo was taken we walked around the university area and found another tiny park with gardens, and we visited the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.

Last weekend we visited a number of sites downtown, including one box which was kept under the counter at an ice cream shop. While that particular one may sound like more treasure than hunt to you, here’s the unexpected thing I found in a place I otherwise would not have entered…

Finding that made my day.

To learn more about letterboxing visit AltasQuest.com.

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I, Antagonist, part 1: The Procrastination

Yesterday I said we were going to talk more about this procrastination issue.

Here’s how I got here. I can’t get anything done. I feel like I’m busy, but nothing gets done. I’m constantly stressed. I must be disorganized. I need to learn how to buckle down and get things down.

I’ve read Eat That Frog! Twice. Makes sense, I guess. But I can’t prioritize. I go to make a list and I can’t discern what the important things are. No matter what I decide to call the “important” things, I feel tremendous guilt over what was labeled “less important” thereby.

And yes, I know I think like a crackheaded idgit.

So I read Brian Tracy, David Allen, Julie Morgenstern, and somewhere in the quest to organize my shit to get it done, I realized–wait, I don’t think I’m really trying to get this done.

Because I’m not actually mentally impaired. If I had been trying to get stuff done, stuff would be a hell of a lot doner than it is. I’m flat not doing the stuff. I mean, I’m stressed out all the time like I was when I had jobs and was busy, I feel busy, I’m doing something, but I’m not really doing anything. If you follow. I’m doing a lot of purposely avoiding that which I mean to be doing.

So I go to Amazon and I put in “overcoming laziness.” And out pops “procrastination,” because Amazon loves me and doesn’t want to agree with me about the laziness to my face.

Now I don’t know why I keep wanting to reassure you that I’m not actually stupid, but it’s what I keep feeling like saying here. I’m not stupid. I know I procrastinate. I know it’s a problem. A big one. I lack discipline, I lack motivation, I lack organization.

I am the biggest lacker this side of Mississppi.

And I read and read about discipline, motivation, organization, and it’s like…I keep missing something. I don’t understand how to do what they’re telling me to do. I try, but I don’t get it. And, I repeat, not stupid. Pretty sure. Have test scores. But I feel stupid because I don’t get it. It’s like the books are written for people who somehow, somewhere, have discipline, motivation, and organization, and just need this book to bring it out. But I look and I don’t have it. Does. Not. Compute.

So on this particular day I grabbed the sample for Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It Now, and then I bought the book.

Ho-lee Shit. How fucked over am I by this procrastination crap?

Very.

You know, it’s like you think you’ve got a cold and you go to the doctor and find out you have some kind cancer that’s been there for freaking ever and it’s grown into all your parts. This avoidance crap is everywhere! I do it all the time!

Aaah! Make it stop! Well, the book just goes on and on and on. Lots of psychology. Very interesting. And lots of new stuff since I was in school.

And the reason the productivity books don’t work for me is apparently that if I’m disorganized, it’s at least partly on purpose. Because what I really am is afraid of failure, afraid of judgment, afraid of putting forth quality effort and having it not be enough, afraid of doing well and having that lead to more pressure and responsibility and losing my choices…and a whole host of other things that are much harder to ignore when someone spells them out at you for a couple hundred pages.

So I procrastinate to avoid all these things that I’m afraid of. And I’m afraid of a lot. It’s been my way of life. I hardly realize when I’m doing it. I stress about the things that are scary, so I don’t do them, and then I stress about how they’re not done. And I can’t think for all the stress-headedness.

In the writing, I’ve done a lot waiting for the inspiration. Waiting until I’m “in the right place” when I can really think. But honestly, that “right place” is usually just the state at which I can’t stand the pressure and guilt of not having done what I ought to be doing anymore and I have to do something so that my head doesn’t explode. And then I feel marginally better, having righteously accomplished something, and then start to stress about having moved forward toward judgment, and then have to avoid it again.

Anyway, it sucks. I’m working on the problem. If what I’ve said sounds familiar, check out the book’s sample, see if you want to read more.

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What’s that, Universe? You want me to journal?

Lately I’ve become attuned to signs. This might sound a little kooky to you–and maybe you think, hey, it’s Susan, who’s surprised? I get that. There was a time I would have thought so too.

But right now? Totally into the signage.

See, whether or not you care to believe that there’s a force out there that tries to work with you, try to deny that there’s a force within you that has thoughts, desires, and ideas that you don’t even know about. Look, if you’ll just admit that, I won’t ask you to tell the class about that hinky dream your subconscious sent you last week. “…undigested bit of beef”* my ass. That place that makes those thoughts (the ideas that become stories) can’t seem to find a way to contact you, so it’s is reaching out, making you notice things outside that pertain to inside. You dig?

So anyway, when this happens, when I manage to notice a bunch of random things linking up on the outside, I pay attention to corresponding thoughts on the inside.

Today’s outside linkup: journaling.

It all started with procrastination. Which is a WHOLE ‘nother festering cauldron that we shall surely visit another day. I’ve been reading about procrastination, and to fight the procrastination, we need to maintain a procrastination log for a few days to see not only how we procrastinate, but what we do instead and how we feel about it, and a whole bunch of other stuff that we do up in the playhouse of my brain.

Naturally, given that perfectionism is part of the procrastination CONDITION, I needed to find the right tool to log this shit. Is there an app for that? Off to the app store. Well, I’ll probably have to write something myself, which I’ll put in Evernote, because I have a sick and twisted devoted love and obsession regarding Evernote, as some of my peeps will tell you. Hey, maybe someone’s already made this thing and made it a public notebook. Off to Google. Which led me to a forum post on using Evernote for journalling, which was very interesting–esp. if you’re an obsessive Evernote fangeek.

And I was thinking about journalling, and, you know, I don’t journal anymore, but I loved it whenever I did, and this guy on the forum had, like, 40 years of journals he was moving to Evernote, and other people thought this was really nice. And I thought it was kind of nice, but I can’t move my junior high and high school journals to Evernote, because I burned them in a fits of shame over various imperfections.

Oh well.

Hey, it’s my birthday. One of my besties from those days, the one who’s still speaking to me, only we rarely speak at all because, you know, life stuff and etc.–she sent me an email this morning and we had a bit of back forth in which she told me that her dad just gave her a bunch of boxes for which he got tired of paying storage, and inside were her junior high momentos. And when she has time to go through them, she’s going to tell me what she finds. “You figure prominently,” she says.

A bit scary, that. But maybe it will be nice for her to go through and remember some of that stuff, and maybe it will be nice for me to hear about it, and to gain some perspective, and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have those journals I burned and be able to look back at what I said and how I saw things. Maybe it would be cool to read those stories of wish fulfillment and Mary Sue mania. Maybe I’d see a spark of talent there or the beginnings of my love of snarky dialog.

But whatever.

So I’m reading the forum about the journaling, and I’m making a mental note to consider passing this along to A, who is looking for his voice, because I remember that this is how I found mine. And maybe not only how I got comfortable hearing myself talk and understanding what sound like as opposed to what a book should sound like, but blogging–which was really journaling, every day, all the time–was when I got comfortable dumping how I feel on the page. So, yes, journaling, important for writer growth. Make a note to mention it.

Wait. My friend’s dad just happens to dump boxes in which I “figure prominently,” and she just happens to write me about it when we never talk, getting me thinking about my burned journals and lack of mementos, on a day when I’m reading about procrastination and looking for the right logging tool, which leads me to information on using Evernote for journaling, which makes me remember how invaluable that experience was for me as a writer (and perhaps as a person?) which I should note for–

Myself.

Dear Susan,
We think you might find a return to journaling beneficial in your quest for personal growth and getting your far flung shit together. Why don’t you give it a try? (before we have to send mementos of you to someone else to get your attention again.)
Hugs,
The Universe
You might think this is the natural conclusion to this post. You wish. But no. There’s one more thing we needs to address.
I journaled in middle and high school. Every paper attempt since then has failed, partly because I’m not good keeping up with paper when I’m not in school, and partly because of my tendency to destroy my imperfections in that format.
Over a decade later, I kept a LiveJournal very actively for some time when I first moved here (to TN) and had my daughter and all that. (I don’t look at it.)
And now, at 41, I’m going to start again? I mean, what’s the point? That guy on the forum is 54 and has 40 years of ticket stubs and crap. I don’t have that stuff. I’m just going to start it up again and ignore that my life is half over and I’ve hardly recorded any of it and what’s the point now??
Dear Susan,
This would be the perfectionism issue. We have sent you numerous memos on this topic. We’re just going to go ahead and get you copies of those memos. Meanwhile, we’re going to have to ask that you come in on Saturday to work on the perfectionism issue.**
Kisses,
The Universe
:recalcitrant eye-roll: This is one of those journey is the destination things, isn’t it?
Yes. Yes it is.
*Ebeneezer Scrooge, A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens.
**in which the Universe is sinister and amused by its Office Space parody

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The Universe wants YOU to find the book…

My dear friend, Claire Legrand, wrote an AMAZING post today. Partly, it’s the kind of post we all wish we could write every day, the kind of thing so that, on any given day, someone could stumble upon our blog and say, wow, this girl can write, where can I get a whole book? Claire took something that happened to her on the street and turned it into a lovely bit of entertainment, a story, a lesson, something moving. Go read it.

This is the most basic of writing alchemy. Take something that happened, tell a story, move someone.

And I was so moved. I was excited! I immediately began an email to Claire with the subject line: YES!

You know that moment, don’t you, when, out of the blue, someone up and says just what is in your head?

I’m currently TOTALLY into this idea (you can tell by the glazed eyes and generally demeanor of excited, passionate, demented insanity) that…

the stories are in you, and the Universe just keeps sending you signals to bring them out

I mean, the Universe (and you may give this whatever name fits your framework) put them there in the first place. Everything you’re going to write about is somehow inspired by your experience. And the reason you’re the only one who can write about it is because you’re the only one with the exact experiences that add up to the ability to tell that story.

The one the Universe gave you.

The one that’s already in there.

But you can’t just click your heels three times and suddenly know the right way to put all the random bits of information together with just the right words to make something awe-inspiring. Oh, ho, nooooo…

how can you inspire awe without experiencing awe?

And don’t you, experience awe, every time you come out of a passionate writing trance and look back and go–

At this point, I get a little me and start using descriptive language, so don't scroll any further....holy fuck, that just came out of my head? I fucking wrote that shit. [And then, later, sometimes, you go back and say, holy shit, I fucking wrote that shit. And that shit smells. But that is not the point of this emologue, so I shall now recommence my ode...]

The Universe wants you to write great books. That’s why the Universe planted all the seeds that looked like every day things in your every day life. That’s why the Universe put you in situations to feel different things and to develop the perception to understand, in the way that only you can understand–all of it.

 

If the Universe just gave you the great book, it would break the system.

 

So it keeps sending you signs (See, swing away!) and inspirations. It sends you music that directs your thoughts and all kinds of books, movies, and art to inspire you. To remind you of that incident that happened, that thing you saw, that emotion you experienced, that you’re supposed to weave into the story.

Isn’t that amazing? It keeps trying. Because the Universe so much wants YOU to share its stories.

If anyone could share the stories, everyone would be able to listen like we do.

But they don’t listen like we do.

The Universe wants them to understand the stories. So it gives them all kinds of experiences in their lives. Then, when they get your story, they relate, they understand, they feel, and sometimes they even change.

Maybe the books that I wrote weren’t exactly what the Universe wanted them to be, despite all the signs. The Universe is okay with that. The Universe will keep trying.

 

And so will I. 

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I will finish the book that I started…for Kid President.

People have been wondering what happened to me. I mean, plenty more just plain forgot about me or aren’t interested, and that’s cool, but a number of people have been kind enough to ask where the hell book #3 is (but nicer than that), and I’ve been really rude and not answered.

Because that’s what I do when I’m upset. I go away and ignore everything.

I have life stuff that was upsetting. and it’s stuff I don’t have the luxury of ignoring, so something had to give. Writing, housekeeping, friends, personal hygiene… Apparently that was all optional and I opted out for a while.

But I’m back and freshly scrubbed. I shoveled chest high piles of crap out of my office–true story. I’ve started to get back in touch with a few of my friends.

And I’ve started over on Heroes Under Siege. I think the fact that I’m comfortable with the idea of starting over shows that 1) I’ve been away long enough that I can really clean slate it and start fresh, and 2) what I had written could not have been that awesome if I can be easy about trashing it.

What that means for you and the answer to that burning question–When is the next Talent Chronicles book coming out?

Well, I still don’t know. (And this is a huge part of the avoidance of everything and everyone, I feel like a huge failure and I HATE having to say that I still don’t have a book and don’t know when I WILL have a book.) At this point, the fact that is still IS coming out is a thing. But I hope the break and the fresh start will eliminate the foot-dragging and avoidance problems that have plagued it and that it will be soonish rather than laterish.

I’ve been working on notes for the series and the current book, refreshing my memory, getting solid about where I’m going. Yesterday I worked through Joss’s character arc for this story. Today I’m working on Dylan’s.

And…that’s where I am.

This is my new motivation:

  • Kid President wants YOU to be awesome.
  • If you refuse to make awesome, Kid President will be sad.
  • What kind of an ogre would make Kid President sad?

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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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