Never Done

Seven years ago I decided that I had a story burning up inside me that I needed to get out. So I wrote over 100 pages and went to get feedback.

It wasn’t pretty.

So I decided to take a writing course. That helped shape me up. I rewrote the story, got stuck, so write an entirely different novel, applying all the good notes I received from my course. I used said without fear, made sure the character’s scenes were conflict motivated, beefed up my setting description but not over doing it.

This time when I handed my manuscript to beta readers, I got more line-by-line tweaks since I had improved my basic building blocks of writing a compelling story. Now that I am starting to feel good again about my abilities as a writer I read a blog and now I question my sentence structure. Am I varying them enough? Am I boring the readers?

Even though I’m submitting my work to agents to get this book published, should I stop and rework the entire thing, for the 12th time? I know that each time I work on the manuscript it is getting better but when can I just let it go? When will I stop working over the same material but from different angles?

My guess is once this is goes to print. *sigh* That seems like that is so far away. At least, I don’t feel sick of working on it but I sure wish I could stop feeling self conscious of it and just feel done with it. Well, that could be my motivation to get this done and printed. So I can truly be complete with this manuscript.

Back to the little red pen.
The Dutiful Writer

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Focus

My creativity, well most likely my life, is being super squirrelly. I’ll get these great ideas and I’m excited to do the work. The words flow out of me and onto the page. It feels me with joy and struggles to capture it all. And then nothing. I slam into my own back hole. I’ve never had this happen to me before it’s like I’ve been robbed of the sun.

Maybe this is because I’ve still got other pieces that are in various stages of pruning and shaping that I can’t seem to focus so my mind keeps wanting to wrap up the other works first? Naw, that sounds like an excuse. So how do I keep my eye on the long-term goal of getting the actually writing down and finish a project?

Well, I do know of one thing NaNoWriMo is around the corner. I’ve been wanting to do it for a few years but I’ve normally been neck deep in editing when November has came around. So this year I’ll make sure I’m pumped and ready to write starting November 1st. I love me a good deadline so this idea works with my goal oriented brain. So between here and November I’ll make sure I’ve got the structure of what I want to happen and the characters a bit more fleshed out than what I normally have before I start writing and see how it goes for me.

To the plan,

Melissa

No Wrong Way

I recently had a friend ask me how I structure my novel and how I keep the details of my characters in order.

Sharpen Pencil

So here’s a bit of my writing process:

When I first started to write novels it was a hard thing to figure out just how to structure my story, should I write with a fill in the blank structure or fly by the seat of my pants. Well, I’ve done it both ways. First, I didn’t want to be constrained by outlines (AKA a pantser) so I just wrote; no plan on what was going to pop up all I wanted was the words onto the page. I didn’t want to impede my ‘natural creative brain.’

After over 100 pages I realized that I need to have structure so went to the opposite extreme, where I scripted the entire thing. I build a meticulous outline detailing all the major scenes and the conflicts within it. Yet that was too much restraint on my creative

process. So now I have a calendar of how long my book is going to take in character time (days/weeks/months) and I write down major scenes that I have mapped out with no idea how to move the character from one event to the other so I allow that to flow out of my actually writing style.

Well what about characters, how much must I know about their background before I start? When I first get an idea for a novel, I normally see the beginning scene in my head and see a few of the character’s personality traits but for me they grow and evolve as I ‘meet’ the character. As I write I normally know my destination but never exactly how I shall get there. I have a software called Snowflake written my a writer who is also a scientist that I fill in about the characters & their background as I go along so I can keep all the details like their physical descriptions straight but that’s normally after I’ve made it a good hunk of the way through my first draft. While writing the draft now I’ll leave myself a comment about quirks, nicknames they call each other, or hair color so later I don’t have to hunt as hard.

So I guess I kind of write with a rough cage of what I want but allowing me the most amount of freedom to let the story develop in fun and surprising ways. The only thing I know for sure is that for me how I write is in flux and I have to find fight a delicate balance between too much structure, where I stifle myself, & too lax, where my story falls apart because I don’t know exactly where I’m headed.

So I guess the only conclusion about how to write and structure it, is that nothing is wrong as long as you keep getting words on the page because at the end of the day that’s what really matters.

BetaLand

Finally, my first beta reader has finished my WIP (work-in-process). I love getting the feedback from them. Why? Because they are honest and will tell me what I’m missing and what they thought of it as a whole. My beta reader is not a writer but an avid reader. I choose them because they are my target audience, not writers, but readers. My next round of readers are all writers so I expect my book to be dripping red questions marks and slashes but this first round gives me hope that the story in its entirety is decent at least.

Plus I know I will constructive criticism, which should be the only type you get on a WIP. If they don’t like something, they will give me a reason as to the why they didn’t like it not just a rewrite.

Now all I need to do is go and pick the manuscript up and have a little heart to heart with my book.

Novel Idea

About a year ago, I was working on honing my ability to use setting effectively in my stories and and I read an exercise about how to create moods with it’s place. I was struck on an idea of all the roads could lead you to a house but if person who owned the house doesn’t want you there you’d never be able to find it. The streets would shift and twist so you’d never reach the destination. And what if this house was old living among newer homes that the newer residence couldn’t understand why they always got lost on seeming straigh streets.

What would that magical house look like? Who would live there? Then I meet one of my main character for my newest novel, that is a work-in-progress. A year ago, I started to flesh out her, her world, and a short story sprouted.

But it was only the tip of the adventure so I continued to write and deleve into the world. Now one year since I read that exercise, I’ve have a first draft of my manuscript done. It’s shorter than my first novel manuscript I finished and since it’s YA, I think that’s fine. Yet I’m excited to rework it and flesh it out.

As I’m wrapping up with this round of writing, I have another character tugging on my ear. Yes, muse, I’m coming. My fingers can only go so fast across the keyboard.

Heading the Call,

Me

Bye 2012

With today being another New Years Eve, it’s time to step back, survey where I’ve been as a writer, and take stock of what’s next.

It started off rough for me. My first completed manuscript was mostly done and I gave it to a beta reader and it blew up in my face. After many tears and tearing out my hair, I put the review aside and went to my first writer’s conference. There, I did a pitch with a massive publishing house and was told that it was a good story; if I changed everything from the main character’s motivation to love interest.

Not deterred, I continued editing the manuscript, wrote up a synopsis and query letter, and sent it out to literary agents I meet at the conference. Got two, “We’ll only respond if you are interested,” and one, “Thank you, no, thank you.”

I guess it’s official, I’ve got a rejection slip so I’m a “real” writer.

I also started and finished another entire manuscript. Plus, I wrote another 7,000 words on my newest work-in-progress. I didn’t take part in this years NaNo month but I don’t feel too bad about it since I’ve been constantly in some phase of writing this year.

Through out all this writing, I also managed to keep up my appetite for books up. I managed to read 123 books. By reading, it helps my words to flow onto the page.

So for 2013, I guess I’ll keep on the path. Add to my word count, continue to shop my stories around, and most of all keep on believing that I am a writer.

Tale of Two Structures

My first serious attempt at writing a novel, I refused to outline. Why? Because I am such a highly structured person they I didn’t want to squish my “creative freedom.” What came out that experiment was heavy on the back story and weak on scene structure. That’s no good.

I set it aside for two years and when I reread it I cut the first 100 pages and began again. This time before I started the story, I did in depth character analysis and plot construction (thank you, first round for giving me all this info). I knew then the arc of the story and some of the subplots, I was ready to go.

In theory, but in reality, all my love for the story was gone. The adventure dimmed. I already knew where it was going when I started. So I set the story aside. I let it breath. Maybe absent would make the heart grow fonder.

In the meantime another character tugged at my mind. So how could I find the Goldilocks spot? The next story had a three week time frame so I put day 1 and mapped out using vague notions like, “Has a bad date” or “Went out to lunch with her mother.” I paired that knowledge with how I wanted the scenes to go and let the minor characters ride the tide of the muse through my fingers.

It was great. I got what I wanted out of the characters without all the heavy plotting and if there were problems with the story I trusted myself to buff them out in the revisions. So know I use this idea of calendaring my stories with key words or character intent and let my muse do the rest. Since I changed to this method, I’ve finished one book, written my first draft for another, and am two-thirds the way through the next manuscript. In my book, I consider that a win.

Moral of the story: Find what works best for you. Read books, take classes, and ask others but in the end find your way. Then write and try out the various nuggets of wisdom to find your personalized style to structure.