The Writing Process

January Debrief

There are two facts about January that remain fairly consistent: 1).  It is cold where I live and 2). I read voraciously but write very little during the month.  It’s not a productive time of the year, as I’m still usually recovering from the post NaNo and holiday burnout.  Thus January is my month to read other people’s work while silently cursing every fluffy white flake that falls from the sky.

This year, the weather held true to form with an extra dose of arctic chill just for good measure.  I fell down on the task of reading, however, returning several library books unopened.  I did begin rereading Hesse’s Siddhartha at the beginning of the month.  It remains unfinished on the growing pile of books that I plan to read.  Considering Siddhartha is less than 175 pages and that I am perfectly capable of devouring an entire George R. R. Martin novel over a quiet weekend, this failure to read is pretty substantial.

Where reading failed, writing flourished.  A quick tally of non-fiction comes in at about 5100 words.  The word count for fiction is uncertain, as most of this is still in hand-written form.  However, I can venture an educated guess based on what I normally average per page that would put the count right around 25,000.  Let’s compare this to January of last year.  I believe I have that total fiction word count memorized, as it was a nice round number that starts with z and ends with o.  Non-fiction came in at 1900 words give or take a half-dozen.  So, that’s 31,000 versus 1900 words  from last year.  Suddenly I feel perfectly justified in my failure to read more than a few pages.

We’ll see if the trend holds for February, as that bloody vampire novel is still very much in its infancy.  Sorry, Siddhartha, but enlightenment might just have to wait awhile.

AB-019
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Character Building

Terrible news, great news, but it’s all one in the same news…  I am still fang-deep in that vampire story that I mentioned in my last post.  The great bit is that I’ve spent a lot of time butt-in-chair, words-on-page.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to re-vamp this story into something that doesn’t involve blood-suckers (obvious pun intended).  So vampires it is.  At least I’ve avoided capes, widows peaks, men dressed in velvet and lace, Elyria-esque females, and sparkly baseball players thus far.  If any of these do make an appearance, it will likely be as punchline to a bad joke.

In spite of my complaints, I am actually enjoying the writing process with this particular story.  The last two larger works that I produced were both done for NaNoWriMo and were excruciating to write.  In looking back, I realize now that neither of the novels had good character development.  Both had male protagonists who seemed to move through life simply because they were both too unmotivated to lay down and die.  Both lacked any real passion about anything, with the possible exception of self-preservation.  Even in that aspect, they were dull and unappealing as day-old dishwater.  There were days that I wanted to take a match to those manuscripts (and probably should have!), because writing them bored me to tears.

Not all of my NaNos have felt as flat as the last two and, with twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s clear that the interesting ones were the stories whose main characters I wanted to know better.  For me, the process of creating a character is like getting to know someone new.  Even though I am technically the one who decides what a character likes and dislikes, what motivates and stresses them, and what ultimately they do and do not do, my favorite characters to write are the one that surprise me.  Characters that I think I know who pull some ace or joker from their sleeve when I’m not expecting it.

The protagonist of this latest work is such a character.  Looking back at the short piece where she originally appeared, she had a lot of potential to join the ranks of the dull main characters described above.  Fortunately, characters sometimes  have a way of telling a writer “No, you’re writing it wrong.  This is not who I am.”  In the case of this female protagonist, it was the other characters who informed me that I wasn’t writing her correctly.  They pointed to little hints that she wasn’t exactly who I had originally created, that what lurked beneath the surface was quite another person entirely.  She has become, in fact, far more interesting and complex than originally envisioned.  Writing her is a joy.  Daily word counts that were agonizing during last  year’s NaNo are flying off my fingers easily now.

I don’t know how long this particular enchantment will last, but I hope that it continues through the duration of the novel.  I’d like to continue to be surprised by this character and what she chooses to do.

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Dusting Off the Cobwebs

Dear Readers,

If you’re still out there, thank you.  It’s been a longer than expected hiatus from posting here and for that, I apologize.  There’s a great quote from Hemingway that goes “In order to write about life first you must live it.”   My only excuse is that I have been far too busy living to post here.  Of course, there is also the fact that I am a hopeless procrastinator and have been putting off any attempts to post here.

Since I last wrote, I’ve completed two NaNoWriMo challenges, neither of which were particularly pleasing to me. Saligia, Inc was finished by the end of November 2012 and unless I can come up with some brilliant ideas for a rewrite, is destined for the rubbish bin.  Last November’s work, The Island of Evernow, was slightly more coherent, but still rambling enough that I haven’t had the heart to revisit it.  I may take up the challenge again this year, but only on the condition that I have a well thought out plot and characters long before the starting gun sounds on November 1st.  I should start now if I’m going to have any hope of making that happen.

My writing plans for 2014 are simply to write  and to do so on a regular basis… daily when possible, no less frequently than weekly.  Two weeks into the new year, I’m happy to report that I have worked daily on a fiction piece, produced a poem, and have managed a few thousand words of non-fiction in the form of blog and journal posts.  I plan to continue that pace for the entire year and yes, I will endeavor to shorten the gap between posts here by at least twelve months.

Write to you soon (really! I mean it.),

AB-019

 

A Brief but Tedious Check In

I do believe that in my last post I was bemoaning my NaNo progress and citing all of the non-writing activities happening this month.  With both Thanksgiving and a road trip to Savannah out of the way, it is time again to focus on that soul-devouring event known as NaNoWriMo.   This year’s novel is being written in waves, going a few days without writing and then attempting to catch up in a single sitting. As of this moment, my word count is hoovering somewhere around the 42,000 mark.  I may actually make it this year.

Failure is Always a Viable Option

The mid-point of November has come and gone without so much as a “Hi, how y’all doin’?” and my NaNo novel for this year is progressing in much the same way.  I woke up this morning and realized that my word count is hovering just around 19,000.  That’s just a bit shy of the 26,666 that would have had me on par through yesterday.  For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, this means I am roughly 8000 words behind.  Excuse me while I go have a scream followed by a little lie-down.

It is not a hopeless situation, at least not yet.  I am happy to say that after a productive morning, the word count is now a bit over 24,000, which puts me only 2666 words behind where I should have ended yesterday.

Of course, we are not going to mention the additional 1667 words that will need to be written today just to stay on par.  Nor will we mention that there is a major holiday coming up that will eat way not only a few pounds of turkey and dressing,  but a good size chunk of writing time. I’m also due to make a trip to Savannah before the end of the month.  While the city inspires me immensely, I find writing on the road next to impossible, particularly when I’ve been officially designated as the official chauffeur and tour guide.   I also won’t mention that the character I’d intended to be the main antagonist has done a complete 360 and turns out not only to be batting for the other side, but is apparently managing the entire damn team.  This could get complicated, I think.

In short, that glimmer at the end of the tunnel may be the oncoming train of a November 30th deadline, rather than the gleam of a shiny new novel.  I’m not giving up yet, though.  In the words of Frost, I have ‘miles to go before I sleep’, not to mention many pages and several chapters and most of a whole damned novel.

 

For My Next Trick…

… I will be pulling a novel out of thin air.

Ah yes, it is that time of year once again during which otherwise sane and rational people attempt the superhuman feat of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  My intent was to begin posting updates at the beginning of the month with all kinds of interesting tidbits about the writing process and how this year’s novel was progressing.

After consulting my calendar, I’ve come to the realization that one-third of the month has already trickled by without  so much as a thought to this blog or my intentions for it.  It would appear that some updates are in order… and here they are in no particular order:

Writing Software

I’ve tossed aside Write Way in favor of Scrivener.  My only real concerns with Write Way were that it wasn’t aesthetically appealing to my eyes and that it didn’t feel particular intuitive as far as how the program flowed or where things were located.  I’m sure that it’s wonderful software, just not quite right for my particular tastes and needs.  So I’m trying Scrivener as my writing platform this year.

My plan was to use Scrivener to outline the novel and organize the character sketches.   These feats were accomplished.  Then I started playing with the idea of using it to actually write the first draft, which brings me to this…

How I’m Writing

I cannot recall if I mentioned this previously, but I am a pen and paper purist kind of gal who has steadfastly refused to play fast and loose with digital platform boys.  Even my blog posts are usually being life as a real world piece of paper complete with scribbles, scratch outs, and red edits.

For expediency sake, I am trying something new this year and forgoing the handwritten first draft in favor of typing it out.  With a average typing speed  of 60 WPM, I’m certain that I can compose much more quickly by typing.  I must admit, though, that I prefer the scratching of pen on paper to the clatter of my keyboard, so I’m afraid that headphones are required if I’m going to survive this experiment.

What I’m Writing

After much waffling, I final made a final decision about which novel to write this month.  The winner is Saligia, Inc.  The other two novels that I’d seriously considered were both giving me difficulties – one had no plot to speak of and the other had some character development issues (as in the characters decided to strike out on their own without me and were up to some strange things).

This year’s novel is a mystery that has, for its backdrop, a lingerie manufacturing company run by the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Each of the sins is embodied by a sister who responsible for a certain aspect of the company.   The novel follows an investigator as he tries to navigate through the various personalities in hopes of finding a missing man.  I think it’s going to be deliciously fun to write.

Progress Report

As of this moment, the official word count is just over 13,000.  I have time set aside later this week for an all day writing marathon, so that should help in the way of getting caught up.  In the meantime, I’m pecking out a few words here and there in between real life obligations.  Speaking of which, I do believe that I have a sweet potato pie that needs to come out of the oven before it becomes a charcoal briquet.
Until next time!

Organizing My Thoughts

In an attempt to get both inspired and organized for this year’s NaNo, I’ve downloaded a demo version of WriteWay.  I think it’s going to be great for organizing a novel and keeping track of characters, if I ever manage to get as far as that.  Unfortunately, inspiration is rather lacking at the moment.

I’m still chewing on that scene that I mentioned in my last post, trying to suss out what would happen next, why, and to whom. Ideas about the back story and MC are beginning to solidify into something interesting  and vaguely horrifying.  If this particular story finds its way to the page, I think it might be of the ‘it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night’ variety.  Well, what do you know?  The only scene that’s been fully formed is about a dark and stormy night.  At least something appears to be going in the right direction.

 

The Ticking Clock

Less than three weeks remain until this year’s NaNoWriMo kick-off.  I’ve spent a little time over there updating my profile, changing my picture, and dusting off the cobwebs.  I’ve explained again to all of my non-writers in my life that I will not be available for the month of November.  The family has been advised that, yes indeed, I will again be making a sandwich out of Thanksgiving dinner so that I can keep a hand free for writing.   Since I tend to eat terribly during NaNo, I’ve planned ahead this year and am stocking the freezer with homemade foods that  actually have more nutritional content than my writing notebooks (although probably not as much fiber!).  The tea cabinet is  already stocked full of Earl Grey, lavender, and chamomile.  The notebooks are laid aside with a pile of pens on top.  In short, I’m taking a page from the Boy Scouts and being prepared this year.

Just one wee little thing is missing.  I still don’t know what I’m going to write. In a dream world, I’d already have a detailed outline written, characters sketches created, and at least one chapter fully formed in my brain.  Instead, I have this:












Yes, that is one big blank and that’s exactly what I have a the moment.  In a burst of forced enthusiasm, I dug up the outline and notes for a previous year’s NaNo that never actually came to fruition,  a little gem was to be titled Saligia, Inc.  For those of you who don’t have heads full of weird and obscure trivia, Saligia is a mnemonic device used to remember the Latin names of the seven deadly sins.  I’ll leave the meat and bones of the novel to your imagination for now, as I’m still not convinced that the novel is this year’s novel.

My enthusiasm for that story was usurped by two small pages of writing that I found tucked in among my notes. It’s a first draft of the beginning of a scene in which the narrator is watching an approaching storm.  It’s a scene without a story, without a novel, without even a complete sentence at the end.  In spite of its brevity, I was entranced and sucked into the scene, which usually only happens when I read the work of others. To turn it into a NaNo novel would be- what’s the word I’m looking for?  Interesting?  Challenging?  Wait, I know – Really Bloody Difficult.  It’s one scene, for goodness’ sake, and an incomplete one at that.  Yet, the narrator hasn’t stopped talking in my head since I picked up those pages.  There’s nothing quite like having your characters go rogue and deciding that they are going to tell you their stories, whether you like it or  not.  Unfortunately, sticking my fingers in my ears and chanting “Lalalala” has not worked so far.  I may have a novel to write after all.

Countdown to November

  25 Days and counting…

When fall arrives, my thoughts turn to falling leaves, Halloween, and of course, National Novel Writing Month.  November has become a month of shared writing madness, best explained by the Venn diagram to the left.  If you’ve never heard of it, I can boil it down to you this way: write one novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November.  That’s all – just write until your fingers bleed for the sheer pleasure joy madness of it.

This year marks NaNo #6 for me.  There’s only one small roadblock standing between myself and a sixth win:  I have no idea what I’m going to write.  There are fragmented ideas floating through my head, but none of them are lending themselves to a novel-length work.  Pulling out my notebook of possible story ideas hasn’t helped this year.  Nothing is quite appealing to me the way NaNo ideas typically do.  The muse is apparently away at the spa or skiing in the Swiss Alps.

I am a writer without ideas. I am a writer without a plot.  I am a writer without a single character in my head at the moment.  I am a writer who has 25 days to come up with an idea interesting enough to keep my full attention for another 30 days after that.  I am a writer who is living in a literary black hole where no ideas can escape.

Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. Maybe the muse will be back by then.

And Then There Was August…

July was such great month to get the creative juices flowing.  And then there was August…

August, in which my muse decided to take a month’s vacation somewhere tropical without inviting me along for the ride.  August, in which the sum total of my writing amounted to scribbling to-do lists in between trying to get everything done.  August, in which my household moved, leaving me without a computer for several days and without my shelf of writing notebooks even longer.

August was not a good month for writing, neither was the beginning of September.  The muse, newly back from her month long hiatus, was too busy talking about the fabulous Brazilian she’d met and showing off her tan to be of any help with writing projects.  That bitch.   However, she seems to have settled back into our normal routine of taunting me with just the merest hints of ideas before running away in laughter.

Ah, it’s good to have things back to normal.