10 days left…

Until NaNoWriMo and I still don’t know what I’m going to write.

I’ve been procrastinating, focusing a lot on the story I’m writing for my critique group, and now I’m hitting the panic stage, lol. Well, it’s more of a nervous titter than an actual laugh, but ‘lol’ will do.

So first the positive; my critique group story is going really well! I’ll call it CG story for now. I haven’t titled it, as I can’t think of a goddammed thing. I’m sure something will turn up. Anyway, it’s inspired by scenes from two movies; The Ninth Gate and The Devil Rides Out/ The Devil’s Bride. My story is basically ‘guy tries to stop cultists from summoning a demon’ with a few twists.

Thanks to Halloween being so close, I recently rewatched The Devil’s Bride, and it made me rethink one of the fixes I’d planned from of the critiques I’d received.  Namely, I’d unintentionally introduced two of the MCs as a couple/coworkers. Since they barely know each other, I’d intended to make it clear that they weren’t. Now however, after refreshing my memory of the source materials, I’m going to take that unintended link and use it to write a ‘one week earlier’ scene that I hadn’t realized I needed until now.

But before I can get working on that, there’s NaNo. I know I could rebel and work on bits and pieces of various stories, including my CG story. I’ve done that before. I just really wanted to do a traditional NaNo this year.

I’ve gone over my list of unwritten stories and can feel a bit of a zing from a few of them, but mostly it’s been a bit… meh. I was feeling frustrated about it and started analyzing it over the last few days. I think I know a few reasons why.

  1. Most years I use NaNo to escape from life. Lately though, I’ve been pretty happy. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in twenty years, I’m writing on a semi-regular basis, and nothing crisis-like has happened in at least six months. I basically don’t have anything to escape from, so I need to work on how I think about writing.
  2. A lot of my story ideas have some pretty dark and heavy elements. I’m just not feeling it; my inner monster is feeling rather sleepy these days. I want to write something happy, dammit.

So I either have to take one of those unwritten story ideas and rework it, which makes me anxious, or come up with something brand new, which also makes me anxious. I’m leaning toward the first; if I can’t fix/adapt an old story, I shouldn’t call myself a writer!

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What I did on my summer vacation

I actually did get a week of vacation this summer, but mostly all I did was hang out with family, eat great food, and drink. I did manage to get half a page of handwritten stuff done during that week, so I’ll call it a success.

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Sadly, not my cat

Over the summer break from the critique group, I decided to take the time to figure out what I really wanted to get out of the group, and then go from there. I love the feedback I get, and the constructive suggestions, but the problem lay in the fact that all I have are long, incomplete novels to hand over. Some of it is fine, but some of it… not so much.

My novels aren’t quite dumpster fires, but they do need to be a) completed and b) go through a rough edit before hitting the critique group.

Sigh.

It just seemed like too much work, so I let my brain wander for a bit. After a few weeks, it occurred to me that one possible solution was to focus on writing shorter stories, which would be faster to finish and easier to rough edit before handing them over. I had been feeling really bad about showing them stuff and then never letting them read more; it seemed like a tease. Writing a comparatively short story, on the other hand, would be far more satisfying for everyone.

The only drawback – I haven’t written short fiction in twenty years. Ugh.

I’m really good at blathering on, not so good at brief. In fact, I’m not sure this will end up as a true short story, the wordcount might go to novelette or novella length.  So, fingers crossed, and I hope this experiment goes well! I’ve got approximately 1500 words written so far, and with any luck I’ll have enough rough edited for October’s meeting.

 

I’m back

marc-randolph-i-am-back

I know, gone for ages, no word, no nice chats about writing, plotlines, anxiety, etc. Sorry not sorry. But I’m going to try and be back properly, and not just because NaNo is on the horizon.

I didn’t really intend to disappear off wordpress without a word, but distractions abounded and I not only wasn’t writing, I didn’t even want to think about writing. Part of this came from trying to figure out what to bring to the local critique group.

My writerly modus operandi is to do a bulk writing fest (such as during NaNoWriMo) and then never look at it again. This didn’t work for the group (surprise!). Not only were they giving me excellent advise on my writing, which meant I had to do re-writes on the rough drafts I’d been presenting, but I actually had to have the next bit ready to go for the same review. All too often, the next bit either wasn’t written, or didn’t fit the new direction I was inspired to go from the critique.

So, not really fun, and a bit stressful. I was thrilled when the group took the summer off, because it meant I could reevaluate what the hell I was doing, and maybe even get my act together before we met again in the fall.

Another reason I wasn’t blogging is because I was going through a hermit phase. Other introverts will understand; all I wanted to do was shut off the world, listen to music, and read fluff. Which is exactly what I did.

Final reason (not that I really need reasons): the few times I did want to blog/diarize, it wasn’t about writing. That stuff got posted on my personal blog, which has nothing to do with writing and isn’t something I share with anyone, mostly because I don’t see why anyone other than me would be interested in hearing me whine or humble brag.

So that’s why I’ve been gone. Fortunately, I’m feeling the itch again, so hopefully I’ll get back into the habit of regular posts.

 

Bridging the Gap: inspiration vs skill

As great as it feels to have figured out the problem with my story, it doesn’t actually make the solution all that easy.

I’m a lazy writer. Most of my story ideas come from dreams, and my main skill is transferring the vague and often disjointed visions into something that I enjoy reading.

With this story, I know the beginning and I know the second half. I’m finding that there’s a lot of stuff that needs to come between those two points for the story to both make sense and flow well. Stuff like ‘why did the villain do X?’, ‘why do the good guys not see the problem?’, ‘why does MC care?’. When you add in the need for some exposition and world-building, it becomes obvious just how big a section this is.

I’m used to relying on the dream sequences to give the story shape; they tend to have just enough shadowy structure that I can drag a real plot out of them. When I don’t have enough story, I’ll wait till my subconscious can throw something together, something that can take years. That’s how lazy I am.

I do know how to write without inspiration, it’s just that I’ve just always separated the two. With a story that is dream-inspired, I try to match the ‘feel’ of the dream and build on the bedrock of the story that I found there. With a a consciously directed story, I’m more willing to experiment and grope around for the plot.

Trying to mix the two feels weird. Is this what maturity feels like?

Bridging the Gap: pinpointing the problem

Wen Spencer, one of my favourite authors, has long advocated for writers to join a writers’ group*. I’m coming to really appreciate this advice, as I find that I’m getting a lot out of the local critique group I belong to. I just wish we met more frequently (as in having a the second monthly meeting that’s more of a writerly chat than critique).

I was thinking about this because I’m finding the group has really made me think about the story I’ve been submitting (we submit a chapter or less each month). There’s the basic level of ‘grammar/tense/spelling’, but I’m also finding myself examining things like story structure, plot arc a lot more deeply.

This isn’t always a happy thing, lol. The story I’ve been submitting is mostly unwritten (no surprise), but I never could quite put my finger on why. Examining it for the purpose of sharing with the group put it under the microscope, and now I know the problem; I’m missing a section.

I’d written the beginning, glossed over the next bit, and built a fairly strong plot line. I realize now that the glossed over bit is the problem. The future plot stuff? It’s the middle to end of the story. The glossed over bit, which in my head was little more than a bridging chapter, has to be more than that. It has to be the section where the characters are established, clues are mentioned, and the worldbuilding is done. In other words, that ‘bridging chapter’ needed to be the first half of the novel.

I’ve been trying to jump from the opening scene to the middle of the story. No wonder it wasn’t getting written; my inner critic was keeping me from making a huge mistake.

So yay, now I know what I need to be working on. Now I just have to actually figure out what will get me from point A to point C.

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* Many writers advocate this, but Wen’s the one who mentioned this recently on her Patreon, so I’m going with her.

A valentine’s day gift to myself

I was incredibly busy with stuff last week, and sadly, none of it involved fiction writing, which is probably why I completely forgot that my favourite author in the known universe released a book last week.

blackwolvesClearly too much stress is bad for my memory.

Wen wrote the rough draft of this on FB, as a gift to her fans. Not only did she show off how her mind produces story ideas, but also showed her methods for structure, plot, and editing. All of us fans loved every single post*. Eventually her publisher saw it and decided to publish it. Anyway, if you enjoy urban fantasy with lots of humour, intelligence, fast-paced action, and interesting characters (and don’t mind a bit of violence), go buy this book.

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*If you want to see all the writing-process stuff, mostly in order, join Baen’s Bar, go to the Tinker’s Dam forum. One of Wen’s fans posted all the FB links. For some bizarre reason FB itself sucks at getting things in chronological order.

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EDIT: I just wanted to add, for Wen Spencer fans, this book has more of a ‘young adult’ feel than her regular novels. She’s exploring something through one of the characters, and I think the intention is to have lots of fun with him when he finishes with his ‘babyhood’.