Archive for the 'Writing Things' Category

Sep 05 2008

When I’m Not Writing…

Published by under Writing Things

…I’m going insane.

I don’t usually work actively on more than one story. It’s easy to get your voices fouled up, your characters crossed and bleeding into each other, and your plots muddled. It does happen sometimes, when the characters are very distinct, but I tend to start one thing and stick with it (no matter how tempting it is to work just a little on that other thing…and I do occasionally fold).

Writers need to write. If they go too long without doing it, they start to unravel. The words build up like magma under the ground, rumbling and rolling and picking up a head of steam. There’s a kind of mental, creative pressure that starts to push at the sides of your skull. Sometimes you don’t realize it’s happening. You might note that you’re a little restless, or that something is just off, but you don’t know what.

Even if you’re writing world notes, scribbling constantly, organizing information into coherent bits, it’s not the same. There’s writing, and then there’s writing. And that pressure just keeps on building.

Until you finally start writing again. At last, all the notes are in place, your outline is done, you’ve got the trip planned enough to get on the road. The first couple paragraphs might be a little rough, or they might just flow, but either way, you hit a point where you are typing, and the words are erupting, and the pressure drains away.

And you realize, “Oh. That’s what the problem was. I wasn’t writing.”

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Sep 02 2008

God Took Seven Days

Published by under Writing Things

Me? I take a little longer.

Building a world can be a real beast. There’s a lot that goes into creating a full, believable setting, even for short stories. Your readers know when you’ve fudged, I guarantee it. Even if they never see a spot that you didn’t bother to define, they know when you don’t know.

I usually start with my infamous notebook. I always have a notebook. I have, in fact, two notebooks. One stays on my desk, the other stays by my bed. I should buy a smaller, leatherbound notebook to keep in my purse. When the first ideas for a new world show their faces, they go right into whatever notebook is handy so that I don’t forget them.

And like weeds, those notes grow. I scribble while I sit in front of the school in my car, waiting for my kids at the end of their day. I scribble during the day. One idea becomes several. One question leads to fifteen other questions. Everything gets an answer.

Diagrams. Doodles. Those are in there, too. Character essays, snippets of writing, failed attempts at first paragraphs. Ideas for first lines and opening hooks. More character work. More world notes. Plot notes. Plot threads. Redone plot threads. Plot threads with arrows pointing every which way, rearranging sequence. Entire pages crossed out.

At least two dead pens. If I haven’t killed two pens, I know I’m not done yet.

Once the notes reach critical mass, I have to do something about them. I know I’ve hit this point when I’ve started answering questions twice (because I’ve lost track of everything in there). Plots have started to come together, but I’m not getting all the points in there that I want because again, I’m losing information. I have to get organized.

This, by the way, is where the first bout of doubts gets staged. Do I have too much information? Not enough? Is it all stupid? I’ve started to see the story; what if I can’t tell it right? How am I ever going to turn two dozen handwritten pages of notes, which are in no particular order, into something coherent?

A wiki, of course. I start up a wiki on the series, or the story. I go through and make notes on my notes, distilling the ideas into the main categories, and I get those categories put up. Then I turn to the first page of my notes and start to fill in pages. As I get to a category, I go to that wiki page and put in the information.

Before I know it, the information has organized itself. I can find everything I need. I’m usually amazed that I’ve got so much, and that hey, look, I did account for that thing, and oh look, I’d forgotten I had this idea, it’s pretty neat.

And suddenly…there’s a world there. It has some people who probably still need names. (Her ex, that cop, the chief, that bad dude…they don’t cut it. Readers demand names, for some reason.) The story may or may not still need a title. The plot threads need clarifying, the series arc probably needs work, and I need to find the fuzzy places where the details are thin. But there’s a planet spinning out there in fiction space.

And Cass looks down upon it, and sees that it is good. But it took somewhere between two weeks and a month. And by now, Cass has started to go insane because she hasn’t written any stories, just notes, and the words are starting to build up inside…

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Aug 27 2008

Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Agents

Published by under Random Musings,Writing Things

So, I’m at that point. Time to put an eye toward the future. Time to think about finding an agent.

I haven’t actually looked at agents. I think I’m an odd bird in this regard. I mean, by now, haven’t most authors made up a list, scoured all over for their favorite authors’ representation, swooned and said, “Yes, this one! This is my dream agent!”

It’s like a sports fan’s dream team, maybe. “If I could play football worth a lick, I’d so totally sign with the Raiders.” Or maybe a music fan. “If I could carry a tune in a bushel basket, I’d so totally sing with The Cruxshadows.” Most people dream about being onstage with that favorite band, or on the field with that team, or maybe at the top of that Fortune 500 company. Writers dream about agents and publishing houses.

Except me. I couldn’t give you the name of Neil Gaiman’s agent. Or Jim Butcher’s. Or Patricia Briggs’. Or Sherrilyn Kenyon. My dream agent is one that says, “Yes, I’d love to represent you!” and saves me a bunch of money in Valium by doing so. Sad, isn’t it?

But I’m starting to pay attention.

This is a piece of the writing world that most people don’t think about. I think every job has particulars that the world at large doesn’t think about. It’s one of those things that makes writing work, which I’ve talked about in the past. Rock stars must do this, too. Practice. Promotion. Booking. Dealing with agents and whatnot.

I came across a blog post from Caitlin Kittredge today about agents. This has some great information. If you’re interested in learning more about the process, you might take a look.

And don’t forget my new release! If you don’t want to read about agents, how about werewolves?

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Aug 12 2008

When Work is Work

I had this talk with my husband about a week ago, and another writer friend of mine today, so I figured I’d bring it up here, too. Seems like it’s going around.

When most people imagine a writer’s job, they imagine sitting down at a computer and pouring out the book of their heart. And sometimes, it really does happen that way. The plot and details just fall together, the words practically dump themselves onto the page from your fingers, and when you look over what you’ve done, it’s got that magic something. That’s when the work is the most satisfying and rewarding.

But sometimes, work is work.

When you take up writing for publication, there’s a lot to consider. You can’t just sit down and write any old story. Not and expect to sell it, anyway. There’s a lot to consider. That fun hobby that called to you so loudly at first suddenly takes on this new, tedious side.

Writing as a hobby is very, very different. It doesn’t matter what you put out there, even if you’re writing for a fandom or forum or collection of friends. All those fun stories with trite ideas and holey plots go away. Wild, quirky ideas turn into things you know you can’t sell. For the first time, you have to consider genre, market, promotion.

You aren’t just planning your next book. You’re planning your career. You’re making choices, accepting ideas that will make your next story less what you envisioned, and more saleable.

It’s easy to forget that writing is a job. To say, “I don’t feel like doing this today” or “I only got 500 words done, that’s good enough” or “I have this great idea, and nevermind the 40k I have in on what I’m writing now”. It takes dedication, commitment, and a thick skin. You will get frustrated, depressed, angsty, and upset. Your publisher will piss you off. Your agent will piss you off. Your editor will really piss you off. You will piss you off.

You’ll hate everything you write, at some point. Plots will refuse to come together. You’ll get halfway through something and realize it sucks. You will have to stick with and finish something that you never want to see again. You will run out of words when you’ve done 500 for the day, and grit your teeth and push to 2000.

And despite all that? Yeah, you’ll love it, and you won’t want to trade it for the world.

Sometimes work is work. And sometimes work is magic. Writing is work. Even if you do it for fun, if you’re publishing, it’s also a job. But the rewards make it absolutely worthwhile.

And in publishing information, here’s a terrific Alt Text post at Wired.com about how to keep yourself safe from predators while trying to get yourself published. These are things every aspiring writer should know!

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Mar 04 2008

Un-a-Mused

Published by under Writing Things

Well, that’s not quite the term I want. I’m very Mused. It’s just that she’s brought friends, and they’re singing in a barbershop quartet instead of the torch song I’m used to.

It’s not unusual for me to have several ideas at once. Usually, though, one story’s fighting to get out, screaming for me to write it. In this case, though, I don’t have that. I have a harmony of stories that would like to be told, and it’s making it hard to choose. I haven’t lit on that single one that compels me to plunk down and write a few thousand words a day.

So I’m browsing, something I seldom do. I write a thousand words on this one, a thousand words on that one, continue the outline on this other one… I’m used to a singular focus. I expect that one will come as I work through this handful of ideas. But for now, it’s making me a little nutty.

Like I wasn’t already.

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Nov 15 2007

Gear Grinding

Published by under Writing Things

Sometimes, you’re writing along, all innocent-like. You’ve got your story outlined, and it’s just telling itself. Halfway done, or thereabouts, and it’s looking like you can get this thing kicked out before all the holiday mess hits you…

…and then your Muse picks up a two-by-four and whacks you in the head.

Ouch. Thanks. So the outline, which had already had a chapter added to it, also got a bit of an overhaul in the last half today. A friend of mine was online, thank goodness, and let me throw plot at him until I saw what stuck. I think the story’s a whole lot better for the re-imagine of its climactic (haha) scenes, and the threads I’ll go back and weave in, but it sure does make the gears grind as I shift gears!

It did, however, give me a name. I believe I’ll call it Yesterday’s Sins.

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Nov 09 2007

Duel of the Alphas

Published by under Writing Things

Everyone loves an alpha male.

And in this latest piece…I get to write a duel between two of them. The word processor is practically dripping testosterone. I’m cackling with glee.

There are days when I’m pretty sure I have the best job in the whole world.

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Nov 08 2007

Flying Fingers

Published by under Writing Things

I did almost five thousand words yesterday on my current project. Go me!

I set a goal of fifteen-hundred words per day. It’s kind of a low goal, but it gives me something to shoot for and exceed, as well as permission to feel like I got something done on slow days. Yesterday I sat down, wrote til I had to help the kids, wrote more til I had to stop for dinner, wrote until an online meeting I had to go to, and then wrote more.

I finally looked up when my husband plugged my ears and said, “You cannot hear your Muse now. We have to go to bed.” Oh. Yeah. That bed thing.

Now, if only the story would present me with a title!

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Nov 07 2007

Interruptus

Published by under Writing Things

Writing when you have two kids is sometimes a real pain in the keister.

It always feels like I’ve just really hit my stride by the time my kids come home from school. Oh, sure, I’ve been writing for hours by that point, but that’s when I really seem to hit the groove. They come bounding in, all talk about their day and asking for a snack, and while I’m glad to see them, I can’t help but think, Couldn’t I just have another hour? Please?

Every day, though, I run my head against the same wall. They get a snack. I get my lunch. They sit down to do their homework, and the place is quiet. I sit down, I get a couple paragraphs written, I’m just finding that stride…

…and someone needs me to check their math. So I break off the story and go through multiplication tables. Then I go back to it, and I’m just finding it again…

…and someone needs me to check their English. Then I need to go over directions for a worksheet. Then I have to check it. Then I have to shoo them off to do chores. By the time they’re ready to go entertain themselves and each other, I’ve ripped out my hair and wondered, Why don’t I just wait til they’re done? Why do I do this to myself every day? Pavlov must be rolling in his grave.

Yesterday, my daughter hauled out her pogo stick and asked if she could take the beginner’s stand off it, and do it for real. I said, “Well, Daddy or I need to be out there when you do that.” She said, “But Mommy…you’re always writing.”

I hit “save”, I got up, and I went outside with her. Sometimes, the interruption is more important.

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Nov 02 2007

Can I Find That at the Store?

Published by under Writing Things

I’ve written for most of my life. I wrote my way out of trouble in my seventh-grade English class (I’d been very, very bad and hadn’t bothered to do my homework), from a D to an A+, because the teacher gave extra credit for stories you turned in. I was voted Most Likely to be Published in High School. (Good call, guys!) I am amazingly scribbly.

But I’ve never written a love scene from a first person point of view before. I’ve written oodles of stories in the first person, but never anything steamy like that. And it’s a challenge! My biggest problem? Trying not to make it sound like a grocery list.

“He did this. Then he did this. Then I did this. Loaf of bread. Stick of butter. Container of milk. Throbbing manhood.”

Wait. Can I get one of those at the store? What aisle is it in? Is there a two-for-one coupon somewhere?

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