Re-Writes & Happiness

writing in class
This is my notebook for my math class.  Only there’s about twice as much novel-writing as math notes in it, because I write in class a lot.

I’m once again finding myself in the vast green land of Re-Writes.  To be honest, I think this might be my favorite part of novel-creation.  The rough draft is hard because I’m not sure where the story is supposed to be going, and then later, edits are monotonous and they just take forever.

But in between those two, there are Re-Writes.  For me, this is the sweet spot of writing.  It’s the mysterious Wood Between the Worlds, where the real story starts to take place.

Right now I’m working on a fun, snarky, YA urban-fantasy novel that I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015.  After a year and a half of very little love, it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.  Because here’s the thing: in NaNo, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted the plot to be.  I knew very little going into that November, and just hard-core ‘Pantsed’ my way through the month (in other words, behaved like a Pantser, or one who flies by the seat of their pants when writing as opposed to outlining first).  So then on December 1st, I was left with 50,002 words of cool characters, a great voice, a fantastic world, and very rambling plot.  So now I’m taking all those things and adding characters, tension, and a real plot.  In other words, I’m doing re-writes.

And it’s amazing.  I’ve already written the rough draft, so I’m that much closer to having a complete, ready-to-share-with-the-world story.  (Or at least share with my mom.)  The fact that the rough draft is already done gives me strength and hope.

done the impossible, that makes us mighty

But also, I’m still in the writing phase (I’m creating like 10 new chapters out of nowhere), which is the best because WRITING IS FUN.  And since I’ve written the end of the story (or a version of the end), I know where this needs to go.  I know (sortof) what needs to happen.  I have the bare-bones story, and I can then add in a plot: complete with conflict, stakes, and motivation.

So, yeah.  Remember this quote?

first draft

I love this quote.  I live by this quote.

For this novel, I’ve written the rough draft.  I’ve hauled in the sand.

And now, my friends, it’s time to start building castles.

A Snippet of a New Story

I’ve finally started the serious writing of my newest story.  It’s about a 24-Hour Bookstore, and college students and friendships, and betrayal and heartbreak and forgiveness.  And books, and writers, and stories.

Anyway.  I thought I’d share a few early scenes with you guys.  I like them a lot, and I hope you do too.

        “I don’t understand.”  Amelia cast her eyes around the room, trying to find something to look at besides Doctor Barton’s kind brown eyes.  The white walls.  The plastic skeleton.  The neat cabinets.

Doctor Barton cleared his throat.  “It’s Stage Four.  You will need to start immediate treatment.”

Amelia heard the words but didn’t let them sink in.  She couldn’t have cancer.  She had just bought a bookstore.  Well, a warehouse.  She couldn’t be sick.  Not now.

“Amelia?”

She forced herself to look at him.

“You will need to start chemotherapy next week, and have it for the next two months.  After that, we will do some more tests.  Probably radiation.  Probably more chemo.  Maybe surgery.  You have a long road ahead of you, but there is hope.  Is there anyone you want to call to come in to discuss this with you?  I’d like to have a meeting with you in the next week or so to lay out your treatment plan, and I suggest you bring a family member or close friend.”

She shook her head.

There was no one.

Not anymore.

Doctor Barton stood up and ran a hand through his thin gray hair.  “Okay.  Well, why don’t you let Jamie walk you to the receptionist’s, and you can schedule our meeting.”

Amelia found herself being led through the cold, sterile hallway.  Making an appointment.  Walking out towards her car.  Numb.

#

Amelia had come back to this cozy red chair over and over again.  When her boyfriend had proposed and she’d had to come home and made a cup of tea, trying to hold in her excitement.  When she’d been unable to sleep on the night before her wedding.

She’d even had the chair moved into the house that she and Jim bought together, and dreamed of one rocking babies to sleep in the Red Chair.

Then there had been the drinking.

Never a problem until Jim lost his job.

Then Amelia turned to the Red Chair for every late night that she waited up for her absent husband to come home.

Some nights it was past one when he stumbled through the door, breath tainted and temper raw.

Some nights, he didn’t come home at all.

Two months ago, Amelia had taken the Red Chair and all her belongings and moved out.  Moved away from the drinking and the hitting and the cursing.

She found solace in the soft fabric and the white knit blanket and a mug of hot cocoa and a book.  Maybe not happiness, but comfort and quiet.

It had always been there for Amy.

But now, the Red Chair couldn’t hold her.  She couldn’t sit still.  She roamed from room to room, looking for something, anything.  A lost mug, a half-read book.  Cancer, whispered the walls.

Be quiet, she begged them, returning to the living room.

Cancer, teased the Red Chair, betraying her.

The phone rang.

“Hello?” she breathed.

“Mrs. Brown?” asked a young girl’s voice.

“I’m not married.  Just Miss Brown.”

A pause.  “Of course.  This is Katherine.  You interviewed me about a job last week?  I’m calling to follow up with you.”

“Oh.”  Amelia vaguely remembered the girl with the hoop earrings.

“Yeah.”

Amelia swallowed, not sure what she was supposed to say next.  She’d never hired anyone before in her life.  “I’m sorry,” she finally said, “that I haven’t gotten back with you.  I’ve had a – a bit of an unexpected emergency.”

“Oh dear.  I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yes, well…”

The girl cleared her throat.  “Well, I’m very interested in the job, so I hope that you’ll be in touch.”

“The job?”

“At the bookstore.”

Amelia nodded, her head pounding a bit.  “Oh.  Yes.  You’re hired.”

“Oh?!  Wonderful.  When do I start?”

Amelia paced to the kitchen.  “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

Paced back to the living room, the Red Chair staring her down.  “I have cancer,” she whispered, the last word getting caught in her throat.  “Stage Four.”

There was silence.

“I’ll be in touch, just give me a few days,” Amelia choked out.  She hung up just as the tears started.  She didn’t even make it back the Red Chair before she was on the ground, sobs shaking her entire body so that she couldn’t think or move or breathe.

#

The warehouse that Amelia had bought stood quiet on Monday night.  The rain had stopped last week, and no one had been inside it since the quiet blonde lady and the loud young one.  The walls were bare and cold, but they sat patiently.  They knew their potential.  They knew what stories they would hold.  They knew their time would come.  And they were willing to wait for it.

I’m really enjoying meeting these characters and getting to know them and discovering where this story is leading.  I think it’s going to turn out really well.  I feel kinda brilliant right now, and I’m relishing that feeling.

I'm brilliant (10).gif

MM3 – Don’t Be Afraid to Write Rubbish

After spending months and months editing a novel until it’s the best it can be, it’s hard to go back and start on another book.  For me, it’s about quality: the past year I’ve been working on a novel that’s pretty close to publishing-quality.  So it’s strange – painful, even – to jump back into writing and find myself wading through first draft quality.  I’ve thought to myself several times man, why am I so bad at this?  And then I patiently remind myself that this is the first draft of my new novel.

This is one of my favorite writerly quotes:

“The First Draft is Just You Telling Yourself the Story.”  -Terry Pratchett

Or I’ve also heard it put this way:

first draft.jpg

As someone who doesn’t really plan out their story ahead of time, these speak to me on a deep level.  I’m feeling this strange pressure to be perfect, to obey all the “rules” of writing, to write flawless prose on my first go.  And not to mention, to have my plot perfectly thought out – complete with every plot twist and piece of suspense.  Oh, and my characters?  They need to be exactly right ASAP.

NO.

It’s okay to write trash.

That’s what rough drafts are for.

okay to write garbage.jpg

No matter where you are in your writing process, allow yourself room for mistakes.  Take chances.  Write boldly.  Pick yourself up when you fail.  Also do learn to edit well.

It Seems My Antagonist Isn’t Good Enough

Sorry for a bit of a hiatus on the blog posts.  It’s still winter break for some, and for those of us on the East Coast, there’s been a lot of snow and a lot of snow days.  My time has been spent shoveling, reading, and shoveling some more.

But something of great magnitude happened this past week besides the unnatural amount of snow:

One of my great Beta Readers for The Sound of Color finally got back with me.  Overall, she gave me very high praise (which felt amazing).  But maybe even better, she gave me some really good insight into what the story lacked.

And what needed the most work?

My antagonist(s).  Both my Main Antag and my Sidekick Antag are characters that we THINK are good but turn out to be evil.  (*cue the menacing laughter*)

But this Beta Reader suggested that I needed to work on them a little more.  You see, I’d never really stopped to think about why my antag(s) wanted what they did.  Sure, power always looks good.  But why?  Why them?  Why would they do what they do?  And just as important, how did they get people to follow them?

In other words, my antagonists read as plot devices instead of characters.  They were an evil force instead of a warped individual.  The result was a fatal flaw in my story.

all my antagonists.jpg

In most of my favorite stories, the villain is someone with a distinct personality, a concrete set of goals, a thought-out plan, and – most importantly – strong motivation.

Part of the issue is that I never took the time to really get to know my antagonist.  I’d never given much thought to his motivation, his personality, his goals.  He pretty much showed up to cause some trouble and then disappeared again.  He wasn’t someone I know very well.

Voldemort, Loki, Darth Vader, Moriarty, the Joker, Saint Dane, President Snow – they are all people that I could describe to you better than I could describe my OWN antagonist.

So here’s to getting to know my Antag.  (I can’t say his name cause it’s a spoiler.)  To adding some scenes that show us his motivation.  To giving him more personality, more life.  To making him the hero of his own story.

If you struggle equally with writing a quality Bad Guy, let me know!  An antagonist always seems like an afterthought to me.  Or, if you’ve developed some tricks and tips to making your antag fabulous, I’d love to hear that too.

eye of sauron jif.gif

 

My Love-Hate Relationship with my NaNo Novel

Well, folks, I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts lately.  But the truth is, since NaNoWriMo ended, I’ve needed a break from anything writing-related.

But today I’d like to talk a bit about my feelings for this NaNoWriMo novel that I’ve spent the last week completely ignoring.

The first thing that comes to mind is burning hatred.  It is awful.  The plot makes no sense, and there are more plot holes than I can count.  The characters are flat, the dragons don’t get developed nearly at all, the first three chapters are in past tense instead of present, and just the whole thing is hugely awful.

Today, however, I made the decision to open up my MS and read some of what I wrote during November.  Just to see if it’s really as bad as I thought it was.

And guess what?  Some of it was.

But a lot of it wasn’t.

Okay.  So NaNoWriMo didn’t deliver a perfectly-plotted novel into my lap.  It didn’t drop life-like characters from the sky.  But it did do a lot for me.

It allowed me to write a rough – very rough – draft of a novel.  It allowed me to get an idea down on paper.  (Well, computer screen.  Same difference.) It allowed me to see where I need to go from here with this novel.  It gave me the chance to create some really cool characters, some incredibly amazing ideas, some scenes that make me want to laugh or cry or both.

And my favorite thing?  It allowed me develop this sarcastic, witty, informal voice that I am absolutely in love with.  My MC makes jokes and funny comparisons to herself, and it’s straight up awesome.  To show you how great it is, here are some examples:

I watch in horror as Brylee’s long, lovely black ringlets become choppy strands of limp, cheek-length hair. It’s like a pixie cut done by a drunk pixie.


 

“Alright!” she says when she’s done. “Now for Stage Two!”

I swallow. Stage One was just so much fun.


 

The hot pink lipstick makes me feel like a total weirdo. A pretty wierdo, but a weirdo nonetheless.


 

“Wait wait wait!” Brylee says. “Let me get a picture.” She pulls out her Iphone, holds it up, and waits. “Oh, never mind. It’s dead. Maybe we’ll buy one of those portable chargers while we’re in town, and I’ll get a picture when we get back.”

“If we get back,” I mutter under my breath.

“Right,” says Daniel. “Either we get captured and killed, or we have to face Brylee’s photography. It’s a no-win situation.”


 

I glance around at the shop. It is, by far, the biggest jewelry store I’ve ever been in. And – don’t tell Brylee – the first magic jewelry store I’ve ever been in. The store is actually two levels. That’s right. Because one huge floor of too-sparkly bracelets and necklaces isn’t enough.


 

The spiral staircase is like an escalator, just, you know, spiral. Man, if I’m shocked by a spiral-staircase-magic-escalator, I really need to get out in the magic world more.


 

I look at the blue earrings on the table in front of me. I do really want them. But it seems silly to want something as frivolous as earrings when our lives might end in about fifteen minutes.


 

I think I’m gonna break a rib from holding my breath this long.


 

“You’re awake! Good,” says Brylee.  “Here, I’ve brought you some clothes. You might want to, uh, take a shower…” She looks at the floor, like she’s trying not to be rude about my appearance/smell/the fact that it’s now been thirty-six hours, one fire, and two teleportations since my hair has been brushed.


 

I can’t help thinking about Eric on the way home. You’re pretty, he’d told me. He must have terrible vision.


 

I stroke Fangar under the chin, and he purrs a cute Dragon-Purr. You think your sister will get less angry later? I ask him.

She just wants to eat someone, he says innocently. I swallow hard.


 

Adileen is still staring at me funny. I wonder if she’s a bit afraid of dragons, or if she just thinks they’re gross and might mess up her dress.

Probably the latter.


 

So, even though there are a lot of things that are totally wrong with my novel, there is so much that I actually love.  And I think I needed to step away from it for a week in order to realize that.  To see that it might actually have potential someday.

But not right now.  I think I need a bit more space from it before I keep writing/ do re-writes.  It seems like a good project to work on while I’m querying TSOC.  Yes, you heard right.  I do indeed plan to start querying in the next couple months.  Just as soon as I get around to writing a super awesome query letter.  BLOG POST COMING SOON ABOUT WRITING QUERY LETTERS!

Let it demand to be read

There’s a great line in The Fault in Our Stars – “Pain demands to be felt.”

What if our writing was like that?  What if the novels we wrote demanded to be read?  If readers were unable to sleep at night until they read the last page?

I’m in the middle of reading four books right now.  FOUR.

The first three did not demand to be read.

I was simply bored with the first.  Twenty pages in, it was still the setup for the main plot.  The plot that I KNEW was going to take place because I’d READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK!  So it was 100% un-suspenseful.  You know what I did with that book?

I returned it to the library.

(It was due.)

But wouldn’t that BREAK YOUR HEART as an author if you went through all the trouble of getting a book written, polished, PUBLISHED… and then have someone RETURN IT TO THE LIBRARY after 20 pages?

It would break my heart!

The second book, I’m reading for book club – so I (probably) won’t return it until I’ve read the entire thing.  But let me tell you: the first 5 pages are about a boy going to a swamp.  LEGIT, that is ALL THAT HAPPENS!  The dog chases a squirrel, the boy yells at the dog, and then gets hit by a passer-by for using language.  But he’s basically just CHILLING AT A SWAMP.  Oh, and there’s some cleverly disguised info-dumps about the world.

The third is okay.  I’ll finish it, definitely, but there’s nothing PULLING ME TOWARDS IT.

When I write, I don’t want it to be “okay.”  I want it to DEMAND TO BE READ.  At this point, I have a solid beginning – no boring setup or disguised info-dumps.  And no swamps.  But now I’m at a part where one major suspense point has been resolved, and the MC has no major obstacles in front of her.  No suspense.  No conflict.

It’s so bad that I don’t even want to write it, because there’s no mystery for ME.  No raging emotions, nothing EXCITING.  If I’m bored writing, that equals the reader ready to return the book to the library.

WHAT DO I DO???

Ashley and Kathleen, two of my favorite authors on the blog CrackinTheWIP, frequently talk about blowing things up when they’re out of ideas.  Or just want some more excitement. ie, “Hm, and have you tried making something explode yet? Perhaps a person, or a place, or some sort of fruit cart?”

Maybe I should try that.

Either way, something’s gotta change.  Some suspense must be added, some character must turn evil, some fruit cart must explode… something to make the chapter I’m on DEMAND TO BE READ.

WIP, here I come.

The Captain

Six Mixed Critiques and Two Weeks Away

Just in case y’all are wondering, I wasn’t eaten by sharks.  Or attacked by hippos.  Or chased by an armed gunman.

The reason for my long absence (of TWO WEEKS!) is one word: school.

Summer is almost here.

But I haven’t been entirely futile these weeks away.  I kept writing in Camp Nano (reaching a grand total of 15,000 words) and I’ve posted chapter 1 & 2 of my re-write on CC.

Chapter 1 has gotten six reviews.  There has been much crying and celebrating.  (Well, no actual tears.)

Here’s some of the feedback I got:

I like the atmosphere you create with your opening paragraph.

Thank you!  That’s what I was going for.

There are a lot of adverbs in just these few paragraphs. Eliminate the adverbs.

Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for un-needed adverbs that creep into my writing.  LATER – okay, that adverb was needed… huh, so was that one.  And this one.  Umm… most of my adverbs are fine.  Thanks though?

Beware overusing exclamation marks. It can blunt them.

True!  Right you are!  Thanks for pointing that out!!!!!!

Star immediately felt bad for her accusation.

Oh, it’s the adverb police again.  Run quickly away.  Quietly!  Less loudly!

Thankyou Thank you.

Okay, typo.  But… is that all you have to say?  (That was literally all he had to say.  Almost.) So THANKYOU for your time, but didn’t you notice anything else about my story?

You write well. I’m very impressed. Especially considering your age.

Thank you!  That means a lot!

I don’t know if you need without a trace.

Eh, you’re right.  I can take that out.  I’ll make it vanish without a trace.

Great. Conflict.

*pats self on back*

Closing Comments:

Wow, Beth. You are good.

Thank (space) you!  That means more than you know.

I like Irsong and Emmella’s development as well. Irsong is brusk. Emmella gentle.

HAHA!  SUCCESS!  JUST WHAT I WAS GOING FOR!

Yes, I do want to read what’s going to happen next. I wouldn’t want to say the story is well polished.

Well, I’m working on it, okay?!  I mean, uh, yeah, I agree.  It needs a little work.

I do want to read the next chapter and I hope this doesn’t fall into another cliche Tolkien plot.

Um, no worries.  I love LOTR, but it’s nothing like that.  Kay?

And last but not least,

Stop posting here and submit to a publisher.

Does this leave you wanting to read the next chapter?

Hell, yes!

That one right there made my day.  Possibly my week.  Possibly my life.

Well, that’s all for now.  See you in less than two weeks, hopefully!  Unless I get chased by dinosaurs… attacked by whales… (or hunted by the adverb police).