I was interviewed as the guest author on Jamie Marchant’s blog today.
Check it out and read more about Faye and Summer Solace!
I was interviewed as the guest author on Jamie Marchant’s blog today.
Check it out and read more about Faye and Summer Solace!
Another round of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This time I’ve been thinking about revitalization.
Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?
Um…yes and no? “Really old” is pretty subjective. I feel like it’s hard to say yes because I’ve not pulled out anything that existed only on paper. (Though my mom did find a story I wrote when I was 5. It was adorable. But I didn’t feel the need to rework it.)
Dangerous Metal was initially a radically different story. I wrote it, tried to go back and edit it, actually went through and changed the tense and POV for about 75% of the book before I realized that the whole story didn’t work. I finally reevaluated what the story really needed to be about, what was the core of it, what was the conflict, what was interesting. So I sat down and wrote Dangerous Metal with the same(ish) cast of characters and what had been barely a side plot turned to be the focus. What had been the primary plot trashed entirely. What had been the genre trashed entirely. And really pivoted hard. Hard.
I think it turned out really well for the most part. Far better than the initial, which had some good moments, but was still really rough. I’m not a great writer now, I hope to always be able to be a better writer and be able to see that I can be a better writer. But wow was I worse then. I’ve learned a lot of stuff since. And that’s continuing to be true.
I feel like I’ve had several hurdles I’ve manage to climb over (because that’s what you do with hurdles, I mean, you’re supposed to effortlessly leap them while staying low to the ground and maintaining an incredible speed… but when I as not a magician try to deal with hurdles I climb over them). Each time I manage to get to the other side I do better, so I look back and go WOW.
First, characters. This was a long time ago, creating characters-for the most part-seems like the natural thing to do.
Then I spent a lot of time, strangely writing …descriptive things? I once write a wikipedia style thing about an alien solar system, including all the math. That was fun. (I’m not kidding, I quite enjoyed the math and structure that came with it.) Then oddly once it came to creating characters or plot I just went…nah! (And more of these hurdles…dot.dot.dot boring!)
I think I’ve come a long way, and I can see that what I go back to redo doesn’t have the benefits that present me brings to the table so it is hard to rework some much older things, or things that are significant hurdles ago. Sometimes it is easier to set things aside. I know the times I struggle the most are when I try to rework something that has real deeply fundamental flaws because I’m simply a writer with more knowledge now than I was before. That’s ok. I’d say that’s great. But it does make it harder to rework things.
How about you? Check out what other insecure writers have to say too!
Read what other authors have to say about revitalizing old work or just what other awesome things they have to say!
Time for the February check in and it looks like…failure. Or it feels like failure. I’m not sure it was, just not…what I was hoping.
Last check in. I wanted to clean up. Yes, and no. I’ve been dealing with hacked bullshit all month. Trying to secure the site, bopping it over the head when it happened again, and addressing the next exposed nerve. Unfortunately, one of the things I was planning to do (spend my best brain power on writing) got co-opted by spending my best brain power on my website.
The other thing a lot of my good, especially creative brain power went to was a large work project that sucked all the creative out of me. But the good news is that it is like 92% done and will be done by the end of March. Woo. It’ll just be uncreative projects after that…? Something along those lines, but I hadn’t realized how much energy that was taking until I put the doneish stamp on it this week and I felt that terror/relief when you send something out into the world. (I hope I’m not the only one who feels terror/relief.)
More visuals! I actually did pretty well at this. Well enough that I got the scary email from Canva saying, Hey! You’re making a lot a lot of pictures. I have been, I’ve also been liking Canva for making them quickly, I don’t want to start spending all my writing time on this, so being able to easily make them is important.
Audio? I did very well, I finished up another story for the Monsters anthology. A handful of podcast episodes done. (I’m very excited to head into Season 2 with some amazing returning authors and wonderful new ones too!)
Writing. 🙁 I just want to leave this as a sad face and call it a loss. Get internet forgiveness and start fresh in March. Speaking of…
Writing. I’m putting it at the top of my list. I really want to get back to Stranded. It’s a fantastic story and it deserves my attention. I’m going to carve out some regular time to work on it and actually put it on my schedule. Turn off distractions and dive into working on it. It’s been easy to push it aside when everything else feels more urgent and pressing, having time actually blocked on my calendar for writing Stranded will help a lot.
Visuals! Keep at it. I’m going to be trying to make sure that all my posts and podcasts for Season 2 have images.
Season 2! Starts the first Friday in April. Prep, plan, get excited! Submit! Listen! Enjoy!
Also working toward more of that fantastic terrelief and need to reach out to my cover artist to start working on the set of covers for the Smoke Jumpers series since the first one of that should be ready in April. I’ll need to get the cover done so when everything is back and ready I can compile and send it out into the world.
Is that enough? How was your February?
So this is a post I’ve been thinking about for…months? At least. Strong women. Strong female characters. I’m writing this Sunday after the marches around the world yesterday, which, great, now what? And what does that mean? And whole lot of other stuff. This is going to be a messy post. I’ll come back and edit later, and it will still be messy so be warned. And crabby…I get crabby…
I’m sitting having dinner with a friend of mine. She would tell you that she is more feminist than I am. (I’m not 100% sure that’s true, but splitting hairs either way.) We are talking about books and I’m trying to get her input. She’s a reader, not a writer. She reads in the genre I write and in others. We are talking about romances. I bring up some questions about books I’ve read and their audiences. Let’s say we are talking about 50 Shades of Grey (we weren’t, but it will work for this) and who the audience is for it and what they like about it.
I was trying to explain the plot and some of the key pieces. She kept trying to simplify it down to just a thing.
Her: Oh it’s about money.
Me: Well not really, or only only, because a big part of it is rejecting the money, she doesn’t want the money, she doesn’t want him for the money, it is important, but not as in he buys her a whole bunch of stuff, that’s not the focus of that.
Her: It’s about sex.
Me: Yes, a little, but not entirely. If it was just sex it would be just sex but in this tome there are only like 3 scenes. And the sex isn’t the story driver, and isn’t the character driver.
Her…: I’m not sure, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. I like strong female characters.
Ahhh there’s the rub isn’t it.
But that character, and …quite frankly? Most of the female leads in most of the books I read will tell you they are strong. My friend is not the only one who says she wants strong women.
Everyone has their own idea of what makes a character a strong female lead. The problem seems to be, to me at least, that we start stacking these. You can’t just be one thing. You have to be ALL OF THEM.
Some of the examples from books I was reading at the time that I brought up to her, each one she sort of shrugged and eh but’ed.
I could go on and on and on. So you stack them up and you have a single mom who spends a ton of time with her kid, a ton of time at her career, has a very active and healthy sex life, and is going to be a breakout star.
No seriously, why does a character have to have all those things? And you know what happens when you stack them up?
Mary Sue. Which are 2 words I could 100% live with never seeing again.
So you can’t be strong because then you are too strong and you can’t be only one thing because then you aren’t strong enough. (And yes, heaven-for-fucking-fend if you have any intersectionality.)
I have seen a few things about complex female characters, which sounds a lot better than “strong” and even might include some intersectionality in there. But I don’t know how to really get across that…I don’t want strong women only. I want a range of women. I want a range of people. I want people who aren’t only one thing and who aren’t all things. And I’m going to keep calling this friend(s…this is actually a compliation of a few people, I love my friends, we are all always learning) out on this shit and seeing if I can keep shifting opinions. One beer or coffee at a time.
And in the mean time I’m going to do my damnest to write them and read them and share them.
Every year at my day job I have to pull together information for everything I’ve done for the year. Usually, this comes this week, someone several levels above me running through and saying they need it. I try to be prepared.
So this is my 2016 Roundup of all the shit I’ve done.
Back at the start of 2016 I made a post about my goals.
I really dove into narration this year. While I’ve done some of it elsewhere and at other times in my life, I’ve never done as much or as all in as this year.
I narrated 3 novels. One of my own, one for another author, and one for another author under a penname. (You can see narration at Audible.) Three novels this year! I narrated three goddamn novels this year.
Oh but we are just getting started.
I also narrated 7 novellas.
Plus I narrated 2 parts for the anthology I’m an author in. (That isn’t out yet, still waiting for the other parts next year.)
Something like 50 hours of professional narration that I did in 2016.
While we are on the topic of talking into a microphone. I created a podcast. Yup 600 Second Saga was an endeavor of this year. I’ve had 46 episodes so far. (A Halloween bonus episode and 5 preseason episodes.)
I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of amazing authors. I’ve gotten the chance to share their stories in a new way and share something I love. Bite-sized stories and audio. It has been a lot of learning, but I also feel like, at least as of now, I made some good decisions at the start.
I still love the name. I still love the format. I still love the time limit.
Some of the stuff I tried I didn’t like as much. I wasn’t thrilled with Halloween month. I liked the episodes, but I just didn’t feel like I did what I could have with it.
Marketing! I need to get better at marketing (Like! Share! Subscribe! Submit!) but I think I have a good, high-quality product. When I started the podcast I subscribed to a few other shows that started at the same time…I’m the only one left.
Going along with these two I’ve seriously improved my studio. Overall I’m really pleased with it, with the quality of sound I get, with how long it takes to produce things. I’m still improving and changing. But I really did all of this in 2016. So…created a studio.
This was the first I did any self-publishing. In 2016 I self-published 1 novel and 3 novellas (1 under a penname). HOLY SHIT I PUBLISHED. Plural. A fucking novel. I published a fucking novel.
I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve done. A lot of time was dedicated previously, and in this year, learning about publishing and what I needed to do to be successful. I feel good about what I’ve done. I have so much distance to go. But I’m more determined than ever to keep going.
I’ve got plans for publishing a few things in 2017 as well. I have 1 novella in a penname that is 85% of the way there. I have a Smoke Jumpers novella planned for, I believe, March. I’m hoping for a second Smoke Jumpers piece in the fall but I’m less sure on that one. I am very much hoping the anthology I’m a part of (Monsters in the City!) will come out this year. My piece for that is done and has been for…a while…a long while.
Holy shit I wrote this year on top of all that up there?
I wrote 4 novellas? Wow. I wrote 4 novellas. Wrote, edited, edited, edited, and got to various stages of ready.
I finished editing 1 novel, I am still working on editing another novel.
I wrote…mumblemumble 40 plus flash fiction pieces. Not all of them were good. Many got tossed upon finishing.
Huh. I’d been feeling like I was doing bad at writing this year. Maybe not that bad?
Most of my goals were writing goals – 30 in 3? Done. So very done. In less than a year at that. I did not write a novel. (Fail.) I did more than the 1 novella. I did not get a full anthology worth of Smoke Jumpers. But I did get a few pieces, and one published.
Also this year? I started an email list. I’ve been trying to be really consistent with blogging. I’ve started trying to use FB and Twitter and Pintrest as an author and better.
Reading. I did quite a bit more, and in other genres. Not quite as much as I planned, but very much on the right track.
Critiquing. I did a couple of novels. I tried to sign up for Scribophile.
(I had a giant thing at work where I’m part of a training program that has taken a lot of this fall and will take a lot of spring. I also got a promotion to a fancier title this year.)
And I’m sure other things I’m not even remembering.
Holy shit it has been a hell of a year. No wonder I’m exhausted.
November is easy to plan for as an author. At least if you are planning for NaNo.
I read a recent post planning for the whole of 2017. I’m not sure I’m ready to plan out for all next year. Not that I haven’t done that. Just when I do that I tend to over plan, and then panic, and then stall. So…let’s not do that.
I have a couple goals for this month.
Finish up a project I’ve been working on for another author with a pen name. I’m like 85% of the way there. I’m looking forward to being done.
I’m hoping to do a few things:
I have a couple different things I want to work on here. I have been slacking on writing my own flash fiction, so I want to write at least two flash pieces.
Take a brain break. (This might be next weekend!)
Redouble my efforts on editing Jenna’s first book. I’m not going to try to push to get the whole book done, I just want to get through a couple more chapters. Which should be entirely doable.
So that’s my December plan. Brain recharge is important. I want to spend at least 1 day not working, not my full time day job, and not my podcast and not authoring. …It’s been a long long time since I’ve done that. But a 100% day off day.
Hopefully I’ll also be able to get out and enjoy the snow.
What’s your December plan?
These are some (slightly messy! sorry) thoughts on Scrivener and writing for NaNo.
I’ve shifted a lot of where and how I do the Nano writing. A few years ago I did it all in Pages on my iPad. I think 2 years ago I did it all in Google Docs and that was the year I fought A LOT with the slow down of google docs. When it gets big it gets really slow and clunky to maneuver. I tried doing it in google docs broken out by chapter but that was surprisingly hard to maneuver and make work as well. I think it was after that year that I bought Scrivener and then I dumped those chapters into Scrivener and worked with them inside it which was much much easier.
I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…
It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.
I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.
So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.
So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.
Um…Just do it?
I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.
I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.
One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.
I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)
I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.
It really is ok.
I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.
I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.
I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.
I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.
Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)
So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.
Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.
If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?
Now! Dammit! Or else! Plan your novel. (This is dear me, love me, you can do whatever you want.)
I need to do some more planning as the end of the month looms large.
Easy: Jenna’s first novel, a full rewrite. (That part is hard, knowing was it is is the easy part, also reading that sentence, hard.)
Jenna’s novel is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy. A young woman who is struggling to regain her life after a long absence from the world is finally feeling settled. Now she’s finally gotten a job offer, she’s meeting new people. And she’s got a shiny little necklace.
The second book is written and I’m feeling pretty good about it, but the first needs to come in line with it. I know basically where the third will go for the big arc on it.
Now I just need better titles. Oof titles.
I read something a while ago that has been bubbling around in the back of my brain. I’ve read a lot about flash fiction and I’ve read a lot of flash fiction. I read something that said the person who wrote it assumed all flash fiction main characters were stand-ins for the authors.
I was stunned and confused. Was this person reading the same flash fiction I was?
I’ve read flash fiction with characters that have more depth than some of the epic novels I’ve read.
Writing flash fiction can feel like a way to just dash something off quickly. But great flash fiction evokes a lot of things in just a tiny little space. You are basically creating a world from white space.
I will say that I far prefer flash that is sci-fi and fantasy because it opens the world wide. The contemporary flash I’ve read does feel a little different, so maybe the person who thinks that all flash fiction main characters are author stand-ins.
Finding a way to develop a world with brush strokes that all draw your eye far beyond the edges of the canvas is the magic of flash fiction.
Thinking specifically about those main characters and how I build them.
Sometimes they are characters from larger stories. (An Axe is a great example of this in my work since I’ve been working on putting some more polish on the novella about that character.) Those stories are often small bites, more information of the character, side stories that didn’t belong in the book. I love doing these, they are fun, they let me explore other sides of a primary character. They give that character the chance to show other sides of themselves.
I don’t often run between a ton of POVs. My novels tend toward a single POV. Doing a flash fiction lets me explore what other characters are seeing. I often write these just as I’m doing planning work for the novels, I’ll write a handful of these for each of the characters to see what I’m thinking about them, most of these never make it past my drive, but sometimes I’ll really like one and clean it up well enough to send it off into the world. A Meditation was very much that. Jana was a character who was sort of a mash of things and I had done a couple of scenes with her separately. This flash came out of that. It was significantly rewritten, but it was partly about me learning who Jana was in the first round, and showing a little more of her in the final.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I will often find bits of inspiration, a situation, a story, a news article. I’ll pause and let this play around in my head until I’ve got characters and situation developed. Most of the time this sort of dies on the vine. But sometimes these become stories.
Thinking back to writing my first stories, I’ve sort of always been a shorter fiction writer. At least I don’t recall a time I was a tome writer. So, I’m sure there was a time when I was doing a lot of that. I hope these days I don’t do that nearly so much. I think of parts of myself in some characters. But some are clearly someone else. The Thing About the Future? That’s a mash of a handful of people I know plus a few stereo types carved into an actual character. On Fire? That’s a few characters from books and a few heartbreaking true stories I read all mashed together and then carved and molded. But Relics? Yeah, there are shades of me in there I suppose. Discovery? Not really, but I had a couple of people I know in mind, if you take this from that person and this from that person and yeah that person hates science (don’t ask me, I don’t get it) but that part.
So maybe sometimes there is shades of the author, but I think that good flash fiction is like all other fiction. Sometimes there will be shades of an author just like there are shades of people they know or celebrities or the personality test they took for a character. It is always a mash, carved and molded to be a unique character.
I’ve read flash fiction that doesn’t have people/aliens/monsters/ghosts as characters at all. Environment only. Or beautiful descriptions of ships. Or processes. I suppose you would argue that the author as the person who decides what to show you is the main character. But then you’re really saying that the author is always the main character in a way that is sort of no longer worth talking about. You literally can’t create anything without being the main character in that way. So it doesn’t really seem relevant. So sometimes there is no main character.
This all makes me want to read more flash fiction though.