Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trials of the Analytical

Current Week's Edited Word Count: 1,479
White Lilac Total: 70,110
Favorite Book of the Month: Shield of Stars By: Hilari Bell

Okay, I have a confession to make. For the past two months I have been soooo psyched about editing my book. My mind would take breaks from my first draft writing to imagine how fun it was going to be to tear down my old writing and build a sparkling tower in its place. I pictured myself gleefully deleting extra words and crafting glorious sentences that sang on their own.

I currently have five pages of a new first chapter that I have spent the last two days going over...every...single...word. And I have decided writing a blog would be more fun. : ) This is to distract my mind and give me a creative outlet. Yeah. I need a break from being too analytical. That's what I'll say.

When I write my stories for the first time, there is always an element of editing that goes on as the story progresses. Since I have switched to using a computer for my writing needs, it has been so much easier to scroll up to the spot I need to fix and do it immediately. Once the first draft is completed I go back over it making any changes I think would make the story flow better. But this time it is different. I find myself struggling too much with each word choice and finding it difficult to move onto the next.

Is it possible for editing a story to be harder than creating one?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One First Draft Down....

Current Week's Edited Word Count: 1,414
White Lilac's Total: 70,045
Favorite Book of the Month: Shield of Stars By: Hilari Bell

It's been awhile since I've blogged. Sorry about that. I would like to announce that I have finished the first draft of my book, The White Lilac! Ta da! (This is said in the voice of Wall-e when he shows Eva how he compacts trash into neat squares. And his rushed square of trash pops out in the shape of a cute little box and then flattens like a pancake.) I actually finished my first draft a week and a half ago and promptly fell into a creative slump. I thought about writing. I thought about doing anything productive. I thought about not thinking because my head was hurting.

Then I went to a writer's conference last Saturday. There is nothing so inspiring as being around other story lovers. Unless it is having someone say something you wrote is good. Is there a cloud higher than nine? I am always a bit apprehensive when going to a writer's conference and getting my work critiqued. Normally I hear all the problems with my story, all the things I need to fix, and it is only after a month or two when I go over my critiquer's notes that I see the positives. So knowing my newly finished work was going to be critiqued was a bit nerve-wracking. I entered the room ready to flinch. But the woman I met was really nice and she asked me questions like she understood what my story was about.

Now, before you begin thinking I walked away with a perfect story under my belt, I must tell you that one of the correctional things she said, and I agreed with, is my first chapter need to make the reader connect more with the main character. I had sent the sample she critiqued almost two months ago and then decided I didn't like the way the first chapter was and had written a new possible opening. So, this Monday I have started editing my first (now second) draft and rewriting the beginning.

Have you ever been afraid to show your work to others? What do you do to conquer your fear?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Long-Awaited Ending

Current Week's Word Count: 2,842
The White Lilac Total: 64,364
Favorite Book of the Month: Catching Fire By: Suzanne Collins

If reaching the end of the book is better than starting a new one than I am tasting the sweet life. Right now I am looking down the home stretch of my outline and I am throwing my hair back into the wind and sprinting like a wildcat was on my tail. I have two chapters left to write, a character to kill and an ending to wrap the loose ends. I can't believe I am actually here.

I put so much time into creating the characters, world, plots, themes and tone that this ending comes as a bit of a let down. What will I do to fill my time? What of all my hard work? In the beginning I buckled down and refused to think of the future because the thought of writing 70,000 words was overwhelming. In the middle I was too busy trying to figure out how I would connect where the story was now to the ending I had so carefully planned that I had no thoughts to spare. Suddenly I find myself thinking about the last words I want to type and I am not ready to do so.

True, now the joy of editing begins, but editing a story I have already written is nothing like experiencing it myself for the first time. To arrive at a scene and have my character do something that shocks me, to be the first to feel the emotion of the moment and to sit in front of a blank page and know anything is possible. Once it is written certain doors close and the story is no longer this fluid concept in my mind, but a tangible object other can see and (hopefully) feel as well. Although my mind may want to rush the process and move on to my much needed rest before buckling down to edit, my heart wants to savor the moment and maybe shed half a tear for the end of a great experience.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Writer Self-Esteem

Current Week's Word Count: 2,954
The White Lilac's Total: 60,888
Favorite Book of the Month: Catching Fire By: Suzanne Collins

I have been writing for several years now and one area I still feel I struggle with is my self-esteem. I mean, I know that I have grown as a writer. I enjoy laughing at myself and the stories I wrote when I was young. My spelling, grammar and mechanics have improved a hundred-fold. I know my audience and I know I am not boring. Yet when I send off a short story, a manuscript or enter a contest, there is this sinking feeling deep inside me that I am not good enough.

If writing was the kind of venue where an individual could compete against his/herself I would be fine. There is no pressure, just learn from my past mistakes and keep growing. No sweat! But it's not. Not only do I have to compete with other writers who are starting out like me, but I have to compete against well-established writers, NY Times bestsellers and all those literary geniuses who died hundreds of years ago. No matter how good I feel about what I write, I know there are thousands of great, brilliant writers out there who I would love to sit and listen to no matter what they were talking about.

There are times when I hate reading because I know that if I lived for a million years I would never think of writing the story I'm reading and I wish I could. Some books I've read the language is so poetic, even if the story is boring, I have to read every line. Other books have twists and turns I could not anticipate or characters I remember for years. How did the author do that? Did it come naturally or (hopefully!) was it something they learned? All I can do is pick up my pen, open a Word document and keep writing. One day someone may think the same thing about me and I will have to give them the archived web address for this post if they don't believe me.

What area do you struggle with the most in your writing pursuit?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pen or Keyboard?

Current Week's Word Count: 2,539
The White Lilac's Total: 58,078
Favorite Book of the Month: Catching Fire By: Suzanne Collins

I used to be one of those writers who hand writes the first draft. When I was a teen I preferred to use a pencil, but after several years even I found my stories hard to read without a bright light, so I switched to pen: black, narrow point and no clicking end. Not that I have a problem with a clicking pen. Quite the opposite. I enjoy clicking it up and down, seeing how many times I can click in a minute and syncronizing the sound to the beat of my music. No, the problem comes more in the distraction. Instead of thinking about how I will get my main character out of an impossible situation, I am thinking of how fun my pen is.

When I first started typing my stories into the computer I didn't like it. It took me forever because I had to keep looking over at my first draft every few words. I knew where most of the keys were located on the keyboard, but every once in a while I would use vernacular that required the use of letters I was not comfortable finding and I would have to pause and look down.

After typing three first drafts and multiple short stories my typing and speed improved. I would start typing the story from memory and then have to go back to the first draft to see how close I was. Sometimes I was pretty close and other times I would remember points I used later and I would have to go back and fix it.

My current work-in-progress is the first first draft I have actually created on the computer without my pen. And I love it. I used to go back through my pages and add notes I would have to figure out later. Now when I have something I need to show sooner or a surprise I need to lay a trail of crumbs for I scroll up to the right page and never have to think about it again. I still like to use my pen and I probably always will, but now I will use it for fun, not work.

When you write do you have a favorite medium?

Friday, October 2, 2009

For the Love of Books

Current Week's Word Count: 2,569
The White Lilac's Total: 55,588
Favorite Book of the Month: Catching Fire By: Suzanne Collins

This week has been busy for me. I went to the library and came out with twice as many books as I was going allow myself to borrow. It funny how that worked out. I fully intended to be good and only take as many as I thought I could read and this stand alone book caught my attention. Then I saw several new sequels I have been waiting for and, of course, I had to take those too. I love my library, but sometimes they overwhelm me with stories and information and I leave wishing I could read all day and night for years.

I finished Suzanne Collins' new book Catching Fire and now I need to know when the next book is coming out. I need to know what will happen. And which guy will Katnis chose. Can she redeem herself? Can she lead the revolt against the Capitol? I would take a sneak peek or even a title at this point. Sigh.

Instead I must console myself with the other books in my to-read-stack. It's about as fulfilling as eating a carrot when you wanted chocolate or visa versa. Who knows, there may be new books for me to fall in love with and can give me something else to look forward to. Can people die from waiting?

What was the last book you read that you absolutely loved and wished would never end?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book and Chapter Titles

Current Week's Word Count: 6,648
The White Lilac Total: 53,900 of 90,000
Favorite Book of the Month: Sent By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

I love creating stories, but I come very close to hating the creation of titles. My aversion to titles leads me to call my chapters by thrilling names like, "Chapter One," or "Chapter Twenty-two." I normally follow a sequential pattern, but it could be fun to start a book with the last chapter number and work back to one. So when I move onto naming the actual written manuscript I have nothing to base my ideas off of. Most of the "working" titles I come up with are more for me to know what I want to do with the story. Like, The CEO Killer, The Kingdomless King or The Plane Ride Home. (Not Actual Titles. Titles have been changed to protect the innocent.) Perhaps I should try using a word aside from 'the' to begin the creative process.

I have been blessed because when I sit down to write each day the empty page does not fill me with dread. But when I sit down with a pen and paper preparing to title my new work to death, I stare and stare at that page. Then I start dropping phrases like those above until I have used every creative atom in my brain at least once, some more than once. When I am too tired to think of anything else, I hold a democratic vote and give myself unlimited ballots. (And yes, most of my elections are fixed. It works better this way.) For tie-breakers I ask family members and writer friends. With the new title sworn in, I hold my breath and wonder when my creative atoms will be recovered enough for another brain storm.

If there is a system for creating exciting titles I would love to know it. As you can see from my current work-in-progress title I am still growing in the title creation process. Let me assure you, this title is much better than what I used to call it when it was only an idea. I shudder when I remember it. Until the day when perfect titles blossom on my page, full of mystery, adventure and magnetism, I will struggle through the empty page and corrupt election system.

Question: How do you come up with titles?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Beginning

The time has come for me to step away from Internet surfing and into the world of blogging. I must admit I have spent the last two weeks wondering about what I should say, or even if I had enough to say. Which is odd, now that I am looking at it. I write books and I am concerned about finding enough to say in a blog. Ironic, huh.

I am a writer of young adult and children's fiction. Although I have many different genre ideas, most of them are in the genre of fantasy or science fiction (when I am feeling particularly left-brained). I would rather spend months, years, creating my own worlds than research real life. Somehow, I get the feeling my priorities make me work harder, but when my calculator grows arms and legs and begins to dance on my desk, it is more entertaining.

I love having an imagination. It keeps my life from becoming boring. Of course, there are sometimes when I wish there was an on/off switch, like when my taxi driver pulled into a dark alley and left me alone in the car. Then when he returned, followed by another man, a million scenarios flooded my mind--most followed by "and I am going to die"--not one of these scenarios had anything to do with him asking for directions. And I was really betting on the alley being a disguised mothership.

Final Question: Have you ever been in a situation that seemed like it could be bad at the time?

Current Week's Word Count: 3,133 (And it's only Tuesday.)
Favorite Book of the Month: Sent By: Margaret Peterson Haddix