Room at the Table

So I am sitting here, 28 years old, turning 29 this year, and I have been trying to finish a book since I was, I dunno, 16? 17? And still. Haven’t succeeded.

I’ve written stories here and there, Maybe three or four? Class projects and a couple of contest entries.

Now, to some of my readers, this is just a sign of my constant growing, a sign of me following the normal way of things. My mentors and other writers have told me that I’m doing what I need to be doing. But I don’t always FEEL that way. I don’t feel like I’m improving, I feel frustrated. Not about my actions in the last four months, but just the last several years. I feel like I have wasted all this time in my life, years that I could have been achieving my dreams and goals. The time has passed and I didn’t put in that work. And now, here I am, almost 30 and I still wonder if I’m ever going to do it, or if, just like all the other times, I’ll fizzle out and fall down one more time.

Yet, underneath it all, is a deeper terror.

The fear of success.

I’m afraid that once I finally write my book(s), when I finally get good enough to join the table, the writers I want to be around, won’t have room. I’m afraid that when I finally put myself forward, there won’t be a place for me. What I put out will have been done before and better by other people. I’ve read a theory that we can only meet about 150 people at a time and once that quota has been met, that’s it. Too bad for you, you’ll never get to be the peers of the people you admire.

Then, there is the nagging worry that if I DO manage to publish and get my stories out, I’ll never have people who want to listen or read about the worlds I create and the people who I birthed in my head.

These fears? These worries? They’re ridiculous. Intellectually I know this. If this were true then we’d have stopped caring about literature after our first books came out in the days of the past. It’s not true because people are evolving and changing and they hunger for stories to change and evolve with them. There is plenty of room in the world for new stories and I know that I’m worth listening to because why else would I pop words in this space every three to five days? But there is an inevitable narssicm to being an artist of any type. If you’re a singer, you must trust that you are worth listening to. If you are a painter, you must put that work in daily and just accept that it must exist. Dancers and actors and video game developers…creators of all kinds. We must believe within ourselves that what we do and say has meaning, that we can be another voice in the sea and be heard.

Still, knowing all that, I’ve been struck by this fear, this idea that I might not be putting out anything worthwhile and I cope.

I cope by doing the following:
I write.
I write the characters.
I bury myself in the story.
I sketch out scenes.
I re-examine my outlines.
I skim pictures of potential cover ideas.
I write some more.
I skim pictures of places I’ve never been but am putting in my book
And then…I write some more.

I sit and I write and I work and I craft because while I might be scared of not being good enough, I might as well be scared while I’m learning how to get there instead of sitting still and being miserable.

If you feel like this, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you friend.

Your story is just one more facet

I’ve been thinking this week about Stories and how when they are framed for different mediums, the creators focus on different aspects to emphasis.

When I was in the 3rd Grade we read ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Dahl and watched the 1970s movie staring Gene Wilder. Our teacher asked us what the differences were between the movie and the book, making us think about not just the details, but how in a movie, you have to have the action flowing and in a book, you have to focus on some breaks in the action so your reader can breathe. She was doing it to show us why you can’t usually watch a movie that was based on a book to totally get the impact of a story. Yet, she also inadvertently was exposing me to the truth that no story is set in stone when it comes to adaptation.

That’s what I love about our world though. A good story usually is universal. Look at all the Superhero movies that we have out in the world right now. All of these stories were based off of comic books and graphic novels cataloging these character’s lives. There is no way a comic would completely work as the only script for a movie. You need to consider lighting, sound, and different shots of action. Then of course, there is the editing, where all the real magic of the story comes together.

When I was in high school I read a ton of Japanese Mangas. I wanted to read Manga all the time because the stories within them were so beautiful and so easy to get through, yet they usually held a lot of emotional and intellectual impact. One of my favorites from high school was a high school Romance story called MARS by Fuyumi Soryo. MARS was about two broken people who wind up making each other stronger and overcome a lot of tragedy and sadness together. It was one of the first times that I had seen a book approach suicide and rape with such a focus on the survivors of those events.

Mars,_Volume_1
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20450557

Now, there has been some decay in it’s message as the work in question is about 26-20 years old. Attitudes and understanding about suicide and rape has changed. But at the time, it was what truly my first encounter with subjects that serious put in such an understandable manner.

I have been a romance junkie since I was a kid, ok. So the romance is beautiful, but what touched me more was the focus on the two people trying to WORK through their problems and coming to terms with what it took to survive and thrive in the real world. That was a story I loved when I was in high school, but what I didn’t know until this week was that Taiwan had actually developed a live-action drama series by the same name in 2004. I wasn’t too sure about that when I first learned of it, but I was curious.

liveaction
Source: http://www.gtv.com.tw/Program/B051420040731U/picture.htm

The only other Asian-Style live action dramas I’ve seen aren’t really dramas. There was a live action Sailor Moon back in the 2000s that I’ve seen, but it was by it’s nature a bit goofy and silly. I was not prepared for the absolute seriousness that the creators of MARS the TW-drama was going to take. Not at all. Because they do. They treated the source material with the greatest respect and went at the entire story with a few interesting changes.

They aged up the characters from being in high school to being in College. As an adult, of course I find that sort of thing easier to relate to. It also made the wildly uneven scheduling and the extreme amount of class-missing that happens with certain characters a lot easier to understand for me. While they do the best they can to focus on the way that Soryo framed her shots and artwork, mirroring many of the scenes from the book, the drama also gives the viewer the experience of feeling what the characters are going through by having their actors focus on their facial expressions, the dynamic change that comes from a character making connections in their head as opposed to the Manga style that allows a reader to hear a character’s thoughts.

It’s why I’ve been taking such care with my current story and work in progress. I want the reading medium to give as much as impact as possible when I finally publish what I’ve working on. So I’ll be over here, polishing the facet of my story until it gleams.

Your Manuscript is a Hawt Mess

Yesterday was a fantastic day for me.

I got up, wrote my way through my current action scene and started the end of Act I of my current manuscript. It felt glorious. I’ve been in the middle of this particular action scene for, oh, weeks. I might have gotten through it sooner but as I generally only have 1 hour a day set aside for writing and working on this book most of the time, I just had to keep pecking at it until I’d failed in enough ways to find the best way to approach it.

This method is very effective for me. However, it leaves a trail of broken paragraphs, half-finished and discarded scenes and general mayhem behind me.

So today, I’m combing through the manuscript that I have and storing all my non-connecting scenes in my ‘scraps’ bin that I keep with all my projects and just focusing on the manuscript flowing smoothly from point A to point B behind me. This is not an edit people. This is still drafting for me. However, if I get tied up later when I’m down by point J, I can go back and skim through what I’m keeping of point H,G, and I to identify where I went off track.

It’s a messy method of novel writing. I have started outlining….sort of.

I am calling it a Tailored Pantsing approach.

In normal pantsing I’d write several hundred unconnected pages without any care for how they all stitch together, then go through in my Editing phase with scissors and a red marker, linking and stitching my novel back together. Then I’d do about a dozen more edits to complete the book.

However I still can’t hold too closely to a tight outline. I feel strangled if all my steps are laid out so cleanly. Instead, I’ve drawn a sort of map that the story is going to follow.

So I have a chart: Opening/Hook -> Inciting Incident -> Act Two with x event and so on until I’ve reached the end.

Now instead of just writing twelve random scenes, I’m writing twelve versions of the scene that I need and then tossing the other 11 into the scrap pile a lot sooner and moving on.

The feeling of trailblazing that I love in writing is still there, but I’m not dangling from cliffs anymore.

All first drafts are gross messes though. We make typos and we accidentally forget that we gave our main protagonist a gun the scene before and heck, novels are long and holding such a detailed story in your head for an hour a day over the course of months is tricky. But here we are, machetes in hand, ready to take it on anyway.

 

Habits and Streaks

For the last six months I’ve been doing some other things in my life. I bought a house. I moved a roommate in. I have had some changes at my day job that have caused some adjustments and over all, just slipped away from my writing goals.

Like I said in May, things like this happen.

As I’ve said in other posts, that’s to be expected when you follow me. I am unfortunately, a months on/months off type of writer.

Of course, the goal is, as always, to get better and to have the months off be shorter, the months on be longer and the projects that result from the work to be well crafted and enjoyable.

Right now I am on a streak. An 8 day streak counting this post, in which I have put down effort and work towards a writing goal. I got asked by a Twitter follower yesterday if I came into my morning writing sessions with a word count goal in mind but the stage I’m at in the writing game, ANY words on ANY project that pushes that puppy one more step to completion is a success.

I miss my old writing classes. We’d have to turn in a short story a week and that sort of ‘graded’ deadline was always really motivating. But when you’re a ‘young’ (as in not experienced with no name recognition, not age) writer like I am, we don’t have the luxury of some boss agent or publisher laying down the deadline. And I’m still in the ‘prove yourself worth the time’ stage of writing.

That’s ok though. Right now, I get to write what project I want when I want to. I get to decide if the morning is going to be gay romance novella or my gumshoe urban fantasy.

It’s like being invited to several parties all at once.

I’ve made update schedules in the past but broken them after a few weeks, so new plan.

I’m going to post when I can. If when I can happens to be regularly, then y’all leave me a cheerful comment. If not, then at least you’ll know I took that time to peck away on one of the projects I’m stalking until completion.

Until then, I’ll keep walking this road that always seems to lead, eventually, back to my chair.

Goals for Writing and Life

If you really want it, you’ll make it happen. If you don’t, you’ll make excuses.

I was reading that quote while browsing Pintrest and reeled back from the truth bomb.

It made me start to think about what my goals are and what really is important to me. So I made a list.

A: Living a positive and healthy life

I qualify this as trying to be more conscious about how I interact with people and what I consume. I feel like we’re all responsible for what we do, how we treat others and how we are impacting what’s around us. In the broad sense, that could mean recycling or participating in some social project. But it applies to small things too: Making sure your animals are in clean and safe places. Being the best partner you can be or the best family member. Making your friends feel comfortable and safe. Sometimes being positive and healthy doesn’t just mean trying to smile a lot and doing your work-outs, but also your emotional impact on those you’re around. People don’t always remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel.

I think it also ties back to writing. When I write, when I tell a story, I want to convey the high and lows that I am getting from these imaginary people that live inside my head. If my main character is franticly trying to save the vestiges of her mother, I want the audience to feel that. If he’s working as hard as possible with a lot of risk to keep an innocent person from being punished unjustly, I want a reader to be able to identify with that. I might not always be able to find the right words to convey the image, but if I can convey the emotion, then I feel like I’m doing pretty well.

B: Living with no regrets.

Regret is defined as disappointment of a lost opportunity or sadness for a choice that was made. On one hand, I feel some regrets are inevitable. It’s a matter of opportunity cost. You don’t always get to see the complete map of choices you have. Sometimes the other path is shrouded. You can’t let that stop you though. Sometimes things are scary and you have to move forward anyway. With that said, it’s ok NOT to take an opportunity if you don’t think you can handle the consequences that come with that opportunity. We have to recognize that the choices we make in life are like walking down a path. Sometimes our paths can lead us to dark or lonely places. Othertimes the path brings us to a huge field where no clear destination is present. Remember that no matter what road you’ve chosen to walk down, there are always branches that present themselves so that you can change. Maybe that leads you in a circle. Maybe that leads you deeper than you wanted to go. But you always have a choice.

I used to feel really terrible about all the days that I didn’t get my butt in my chair to write my daily workshop of words. But I won’t let myself be upset anymore. If I was doing something OTHER than writing, then THAT was the thing I wanted, not the writing. Sometimes that thing is watching an extra few episodes of a show. Or watching a movie. Or going to the gym or eating or visiting friends. Doesn’t matter. I won’t punish myself for the path I didn’t walk that day. Because there are always branches off those paths that lead back to this chair, this screen, these keys and the mind of my reader.

If we want it, we’ll make it happen. Sometimes you want something other than the words more. You have to acknowledge that and decide if that’s the direction you’re still going to go. I’m ok with that. I need those moments away from this desk and out of these walls to EXPERIENCE my life and to enjoy things. I need the sun and the cold and the rain and the laughter of people around me. I need the tears and the touch. I need the other plots, need to keep my eye on what’s going on around me.

Positive, Healthy and No Regrets.

What are your goals?

How to make use of writing prompts

I often find myself getting stuck in a story about half-way through. The official writer term from this varies from writer to writer; some call it The Middles, but it reminds me more of the doldrums that old time sailors encountered. The wind has stalled, the sea is overly calm and my boat won’t move forward.

This middle part is deadly to most of my works-in-progress and while I’ve been better over the last year at finishing and completing projects, the doldrums are often the most iffy part of my process.

So that’s why I keep a stack of writing prompts in a side file on my computer to help me move the story forward.

Often my issue with stagnation is that I didn’t spend enough time getting to know my characters, or I haven’t explored some manner of my plot. This helps when you get to a section of your story that really requires some exploration of a character trait. That’s when I like to take a moment and free-write character moments.

For example, during my last project I realized that I didn’t know what tattoos a character had on his body. While I didn’t necessarily need to describe all his tattoos in detail, it might be important later when another character saw him. So, I did the thing: I wrote out the ink origins for each of the pieces and kept them to the side. Even though that writing didn’t appear in the book and probably won’t, it lets me understand his relationship with his body and in turn his feelings and reactions when he shares that body with another character in an act of intimacy or, alternative, an act of violence.

Writing prompts act like a kick in my butt to propel me forward into a story. How do you use prompts?

Writing Parties

It’s very difficult to quantify writing in a regular way. Often, writers are completely solitary creatures who lock themselves in corners so that they can hear the imaginary people in their heads easier. Yet that can get really lonely and very frustrating. Especially when the people in your head are NOT playing nice with one another and are ignoring you to do their own thing except they aren’t telling you what that thing is.

Then it’s wonderful to have a friend to talk to who is also familiar with the frustration of imaginary people going about their lives. So, as is often known, so was born the Writing Party.

I am blessed that some of my two best friends are writers, trying just like myself to get some work done. Of course, I’ve already interviewed the fantastic Elizabeth Belyeu on my blog before and I enjoyed this weekend as she plodded her way through the first draft of her current work-in-progress, a sequel for the very excellent Secondhand Shadow.

My other very dear friend Aimee is working on her own book. She and I are in the “I’ve been writing a book forever but haven’t finished it” club.

Still, it’s handy to have people around you who understand the struggle and work to keep writing no matter how hard the words are to put on the page.

Ha Ha! It’s Thursday

I had my days completely mixed up yesterday. I was convinced that Wednesday was Thursday.

Our topic today is metaphors.

One, because a good metaphor is like a brilliant photograph and two, because I have been listening to Amy Poehler’s brilliant Yes, Please and while going through her book I had an amazing experience with how she describes self-loathing and self doubt.

In her chapter about confidence and growing up, she talks about how she feels insecurity and self doubt are really a demon that has moved in with you. That demon shows up at your house when you’re a small child and starting to find your place in the world and settles itself down so that it can remind you of all the things you don’t like about yourself. In her metaphor, Amy breaks down the power our own brains have at sabotaging us.

That’s the beauty of this wonderful literary device. Taking one unrelated thing and comparing it to another thing so that an audience can picture the emotional issue you are trying to portray.

I use metaphor and similes all the time. In every day speech, in my writing, and in poetry.

“That patient talked longer than a hungry preacher”

“She was slower than Christmas”

“That lawyer was like a pornstar; she found all the holes in that argument.”

Metaphor is also a key element in humor and comedy writing because you take two unexpected elements and connect them, usually in a way that is, hopefully, hilarious.

What are your favorite and funniest metaphors?

Getting on the Wagon

I find it so ironic that my last post on this writing blog is about how I’m bad at sticking to an everyday type schedule.

Thank you everyone who has followed me anyway despite my crap update schedule. I appreciate it and will continue to work towards excellence.

Current Projects:
-Erotica novel that I started at the end of January that I am about to hit 10k on
-My Nano novel that is in pieces
-Edits on my next writer of the future short story submission. The story is written, I just need to sit and edit the darn thing
-My urban fantasy novel
-My high fantasy novel that is currently only a short story
-My other high fantasy novel that is currently a few chapters in with no clear plot presenting.

Various and sundry other projects that I don’t know will actually make it to fruition, but that shouldn’t stop anyone.

Thanks for sticking with me guys. The new update schedule is as follows:
Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday until further notice. I’ve got some other activities that I’m doing outside of work AND we’ve opened an entirely new clinic where I work. But I’m back to carving out the first hour in my morning to writing so hopefully that will lead to a better butt-in-chair experience. The goal is to write the blog posts out early and schedule them. Until Tuesday, keep on trying, no matter how many times you fall down.

Starting Over

So, as has happened multiple and many times (and unfortunately will probably happen again) I got behind on writing and my update schedule.

I don’t have anything to blame it on except for the fact that it’s part of who I am. I forget things. I am bad at sticking to habits and I’m constantly having to push myself to keep going.

Whatever. Forgive the gap, dear readers, it’s a new months with new goals and new progress!

I did not get past 14000 words on my NaNoWriMo project, which is frustrating and unfortunate. BUT I’ve decided to let it teach me something. One: No matter how much I want to be a person who can finish ONE PROJECT AT A TIME I am not there yet. If that means taking breaks and going back to a project, I’m just going to accept that about myself and move forward. No guilt. Two: I have quite the long list of works in progress right now and while I did manage to finish the first draft of the next short story I’m going to submit to Writers of the Future, I haven’t gone through my second pass on it yet. I’m going to do that this week and by Sunday submit it to WotF for their 2nd quarter entry period.

The good news.

I GOT THE HONORABLE MENTION FOR Q4 OF THE WRITERS OF THE FUTURE CONTEST!

I’m pretty proud of that. It was my first time and to get an HM means that the judges READ MY WORDS and DIDN’T THINK THEY WERE BAD.

Which, for me, is pretty awesome.