Saturday, November 14, 2009

30 to Thirty-one

Last year, I looked at my birthday as goodbye to the twenties and hello to the thirties. I was bound and determined to have a great time, and so I did. But the next morning when I woke up, clenching the pillow to my head to stop the version of Stomp that was playing inside of my still intoxicated head, I started thinking about what I was going to do. I mean, 30, that’s adult. That’s not cute, wild-n-crazy twenties – not that I was that crazy. I was a mother, a wife, a full time employee, a student – not a college kid. But there was something tugging at me. Not that something was missing, because my life was fairly full. But there was something there.

I was standing with my foot inside the door of 30, and I couldn’t see past the threshold. I had no idea what was on the other side. What were my dreams, my hopes for the future? The big 3 – 0, and I was asking what I wanted to be when I grew up. Let’s back up. I have a wonderful job, and I am great at it. I work with wonderful people who I learn from everyday. However, this was a path that I fell into – not chosen.

I started trying to “find” myself. Asking questions like – what is my purpose? Maybe it was a third-life crisis (as opposed to mid-life, hope to make it past 60!), maybe it was the question of legacy – I don’t know. All I know is that I needed answers.

I turned to God, and asked him. “Lord, I’ve been thinking. Trying to figure out the gifts that you gave me, and what you want me to use them for. Not to be rude, but I’m coming up short. I’m not questioning you – ok, maybe a little. You seemed to be in a silly mood the day you picked my skills, because you put together some very odd choices and some that I’m not sure that I could ever use in the real world.”

Here’s what I knew. I am an avid people-watcher. I enjoy watching how people relate to one another.  I can be rather silly. I love to look at the world in new and unique ways, and point those out to others. I am empathetic to the point of ridiculousness. Seriously, why do I cry at cotton commercials? And with that comes the ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. My imagination is a tad bit out of control (no meds please). What “job” in this world could use these skills?? (If you know the answer, shh, don’t tell. She ain’t figured it out yet. That’s coming.)

So, off I went on my journey to “find” myself. Who would have thought that a kick-ass store in Decatur would have the answer hanging on a wall? (Heliotrope, for the locals.) I walked in browsing, just killing time. Up on the wall was a print with the words that would slap me in the forehead. “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about CREATING yourself.”  “Hmmm,” was all I could say. I wanted those words. I wanted them tattooed on my backside, but knowing that I would want the world to know them too – I decided against that. Running around mooning people is not my style.

Months later, my journey began. Not only was I creating myself – I was creating other wonderful people and a world for them to live in. Their lives existed on my typing. The battles they faced required me to save them. They needed me, and I needed them. All that goofy stuff, those unusable skills were suddenly so clear as to why I possessed them. And I never feel closer to God than when I am writing.

This past year I transitioned from 30 to thirty-one (hopefully my writer buddies will get that). I not only found use for my talents, but I have found so many friends. This has been a great year. I am thankful for all the old relationships that have been re-kindled, the new ones that are growing, and friendships that have been with me all along. I am grateful for each of you, and I look forward to another great year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turn Still Waters Back Into Babbling Brooks

I have come to a stopping place. Well, not really a stop, more like the slow trickling spot of a river. I’ve been flying down rapids, and have come to still waters. The words haven’t stopped, but they are quieting down. For a writer, it’s unnerving. My mind’s first response is to wonder if the writer’s block is around the bend.

It’s times like this that we have to remind ourselves that it is just a phase. I went through this before, and here are a few little tricks that I’ve learned to help get me back on the babbling brook.

*Go find it. Use slow writing periods for research. Whether it’s a name, a town, or a question that your character would have the answer to, research can often spark new ideas allowing you to pick up the pace. My stories tend to be heavy in research (read post), but I think that every story requires a little. Digging deeper might open up a door that you didn’t even know existed.

*Re-explore backstory. Is the character fully developed? Is there something missing? Or is there a particular trait that is slowing you down? Whether adding another layer or removing a hang up, this can jump start your writing. If your character’s backstory and personality are complete, they will often walk and talk on their own.

*Fresh Subplot. Maybe you are in need of a bit of inspiration. A fresh fun subplot can wrap around the story and send you into a new direction. It may be just the thing your characters were waiting for, or the last thing they needed (depending on the type of story you are telling).

*Who’s the new guy? Introducing a character can spice up a story and give you more possibilities for subplots. Not to mention a new character often times can be very revealing of your other characters – how they react, what they think? Does this guy bring good tidings or buckets of drama? But don’t forget his backstory.

* Reread and Multiply.  This may not be too helpful for those who start at once-upon-a-time and stop at happily-ever-after, but for those like me who are page-hoppers, using a slow time to go back and fill in holes often sparks much more than what was missing. It gives you the chance to revisit what you’ve done and see what you’ve missed. What can you add, or where did you veer off in the wrong direction?

Most importantly, keep a positive attitude. I know easier said than done, especially for us sensitive writer types, but this is just a slow spell. Pollyanna attitude says, “You are just giving your arm a break for all those words that will be flying from them once the inspiration ignites your fingertips.”

What do you do to get through the slow spells? When inspiration doesn’t find you, where do you look for it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Conversation

Now that book one is finished, well as finished as it can be right now, it’s time to pick up and start a new project. You’ll notice on the sidebar that Craving Copper is currently at 15,000 words. This is the sequel to Iron Thirst, and it’s already been started. I was working on it before I decided to go back and revise Iron Thirst. It is the most logical choice.

Then there is a new idea. Something that I have been mentally chewing on. A complete departure from Iron Thirst. This is the idea that I was talking about last week. It is the one talking to me and pulling at me. The problem here is that it scares me. This book is going to take me down some dark paths, some very unfamiliar terrain. On one hand, I am excited. On the other, I am terrified. Even though it is the project that is talking to me, I’m not sure I am ready yet.

But more on the fun side. I’ll give you a dramatization of what’s been going on.


Craving Copper stands arms crossed, toes tapping, clearing his throat in exasperation.

“What?” I ask.

“I think I’ve been more than patient.”

“You have, and I appreciate that.”

“Do you? It’s hard to tell since you started a whole new book. One that has nothing to do with us.”

“I know, I know. It’s just--,” I stare at my toes unable to look into the eyes of the betrayed. “He’s the one talking to me. You haven’t really opened up.”

I can feel the anger radiating from him.“You do realize that the only reason why I shut up is so that you could go back and clear up the unfinished business with Iron Thirst. You said you’d be right back. You promised!” He actually stomped his feet matching each syllable.

Dear God, don’t let him cry. Wet pages are so hard to deal with. “It’s not that I’ve forgotten you. You are very important to me.”

Through wet eyes, he says, “But, shouldn’t you write about us right now. While all the voices are still so clear. Think of the tone.”

“I plan on writing about Fee and Blake and Bristow for a long time. I have ideas for at least two more books. Complete outlines.”

“So, are you bored with us?Is that it? Do you like this, this, Touch of Light better?”

Good grief. Books are just as sensitive and insecure as the writer. “All right, listen. Don’t be jealous of Touch of Light, I mean, that’s just a working title anyway. You have to take some responsibility for yourself.” He starts to interject, but I hold up my hand. “Let me finish. You can’t just blame it all on me. You shut down first. Say it was Iron Thirst, but you know as well as I do that if it was not perfect, you would never see the light of day.”

“So,” sniffles and wipes nose, “you’re saying that if I open up, if I talk—you’ll listen?”



“I owe you that.”

“Thank you.” He gives me a joyous hug.

So after a little tough love, we are all in agreement. We’ll see what happens.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ta Da!

It is done. Finished. Complete. 80,000 words, 261 pages. I am not so naïve as to think that I will never revise it again, because I am sure after a month or so, I will tackle it once more. It does feel good though.
The last step I took in the revision process taught me more than anything so far. I learned the trick from Stephen King. (I’ve learned a lot from him as anyone who has read more than one post would know.) He said to read the whole thing, start to finish, making notes and marking corrections. Then go back and make all of those corrections. 
Previously, I would print out a chapter, mark it up, and then revise. Chapter by chapter, sometimes having to reread the chapter 3-5 times, over and over until I had it right. I don’t think this was a bad plan, and I am glad that I did it.
Once I had the whole thing as shiny as I thought it could be, I then took Mr. King’s advice. I plan to replant all the trees that I have killed in the process, but I have a hard time using the editorial side of my brain on screen. My creative side tends to shine there. (This may be just me.) I took the entire 261 pages to Kinkos, and had them spiral bind it. Which is a nice experience in and of itself. It cost $6, and allowed me to carry it with me without worrying about pages getting shuffled, dropped, or misplaced. Plus, holding a spiral bound copy of your work feels so rewarding. Sometimes you forget that you actually wrote a book.
I went through and read the whole thing. I was able to catch where I repeated themes, check the pace of the novel, and see for myself what the reader would feel. Did I get bored part way through it? Did I feel like I needed a break from the adventure/excitement? Were the love scenes spaced evenly apart? These are things I wouldn’t have caught before, because of the way that I was revising.
What are some of your tricks and techniques for revising?
Also, to celebrate this next step – I wanted to give you something fun. Enjoy!
Vampire Reunion