Writer’s Something

I love trying to be a writer.  I have all kinds of ideas, but getting them on paper (or on screen, these days) is not always my forte.  I have a blog post I’ve been working on since April. It’s more history about the witchery of the Americas, and specifically Central and South America witchery. I’ve got a pretty clear idea of what I want it to say, but I can’t get make the words work, and it’s very frustrating.

I was very inspired after seeing Iron Maiden earlier this month.  (First to the Barrier!)  Anyways, Eddie (their mascot) is Mayan this time, and their stage is pyramids and jungle and just very cool.  So my head is full of the imagery and it’s very in line with what I’m trying to write. Alas, the concert afterglow did not knock any words loose.  (Picture attached to show the some of the set – not to brag about how close I was.)

Maiden

So, my apologies for a whiny blog.  If I get this finished, I’ll post it immediately. Because I’m afraid if I don’t, it will disappear into the ether.

 Sid says: Sometimes, the words just won’t come. It doesn’t mean you’re blocked, or that the idea isn’t a good one; mostly it means that it’s just not the right time. I’m with both Mickie and James on this one – I’ve been trying to write the blog about the water supernaturals of PCEarth for six months. As you saw with the May blog, the words just wouldn’t come. Part of the issue may be that we’re wrapping up the first trilogy, so we’re tying off loose ends, cleaning up, doing synopses, dealing with the website, etc. – the business portion of writing – and not actually writing, which means we’re not living in PCEarth at the moment, like we do when we’re in novel-writing mode. Or there’s the fact that we’re putting so much work into these stories, but we’re putting an equal amount of work into creating a rich, diverse, living world for these stories to exist in, and creation is difficult, exhausting work. Even God/Gaia/the gods (pick your pantheon) took a break on the 7th day, after all.

James says:  This resonates so much with me.  I love writing; it’s one of my favorite things to do.  But sometimes the words just aren’t there no matter how much I push the ol’ brain cells.  I have had to step back from the historical witch biographies because so much work on side projects can drain you.  And then, there’s the fact that sometimes writing is just plain hard!

A great quote I read once applies:  “Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a blank computer screen until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

It’s not as easy as you think!

So, here it is, mid-July, and I’m still struggling to finish my book.  So far, I’ve written a really great scene that doesn’t actually advance my story and changed my heroine’s personality in the middle of the story and had to fix it.  That doesn’t even touch the stuff that is probably just filler and will have be removed in the editing process.  

I wrote about 5 chapters in a linear fashion, and got stuck.  Sid and James suggested I write the major scenes that I already had planned out, then fill the gaps for the rest, and that’s where I am.   You would think that it would be simple to just link these scenes together, but no.  As I mentioned, I turned Charlie from a strong and independent young woman to a giggling twit in one scene, and completely changed the nature of the story.  I caught it when I tried to link it to a pre-written scene and realized it did not work at all.  Luckily, I think I’ll be able to use a few paragraphs in later scenes, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.  Anyway, the point is, it really is a lot of work to put together a coherent story that you hope will interest someone other than your best friends and family.  I’m going to keep trudging forward and make this thing come together!  

James says:  And thus we have a nice little cross-sample of the writing process.  It’s a weird little thing where you rip pieces of your heart, soul, and mind and try to put it into words that will mean something other people.  Don’t let Mickie fool you, though, her story is really good, and Charlie is a compelling and interesting character.  And this is going to be a great book for the foundation of our series.

Sid says:  Mickie is learning by experience that every writer’s process is different. James and I both write linearly, but we are the exception rather than the rule. Some people write the ending first and work backwards; some, like Mickie, write the major scenes and string them together like beads on a necklace. Whatever works for you, do it, and get the story down. Finish first; beta readers and revisions are for polishing, arranging, grammar checking, and all that fun stuff. Mickie is doubting her process right now (as everyone does at some point), but rest assured, even the stuff she’s cutting is really good and is being saved for outtakes to be used elsewhere.

“Finishing” A Book (or What Really Happens After Typing “The End”)

So – I finished the first draft of Perfect Coven 2: Cursebreaker’s Dance on my birthday, January 5th, 2016.

It felt glorious.

For about fifteen minutes.

Because now the real work begins.

Not to say that writing the story – getting it out of your head and into the computer or a notebook or however you write – isn’t work.* It is. But it’s also a wondrous act of creation. The story is new, the words flow from your fingertips, you’re watching it take form, live, and breathe.

But after you’ve told your story, then you have to polish that story. You have to make sure everything makes sense, that you have continuity, that your magic works, that you didn’t leave gaping plot holes, that you didn’t have the characters coming downstairs for breakfast two pages after you had them all seated around a table eating pancakes.** And you also have to check your voice and spelling and grammar and sentence and story structure.

While doing all that, you have to make sure you’re still telling your story and keep that story interesting and readable.

Then you have to turn your story over to someone else (or several someones) to get their feel. Do they like it? Does it make sense? Does something not work for them and if so, what and why? Fresh eyes really help at this juncture because by this time you’re on your third or fourth draft and you hate your story with every fiber of your being and your eyes might just bleed and you might just birth a chest-buster if you have to look it one more time.***

When you get it back from your someone(s), you have to squelch the immediate urge to ignore all their comments because, really, what do they know about your story? You wrote it, it’s your baby, and if they don’t get certain things, that’s obviously a failing in them and has nothing to do with your writing and your story. This is not a good attitude to have. Criticism is healthy, and will actually make your story stronger.

That’s not to say that all criticism is good; also, not all criticism is valid. My personal rule of thumb is that if two or more of my writing partners/beta readers/critique group members have the same issue, then the issue is with the writing and must be fixed. If one person has a problem, then you have to look at your story as a whole and decide if it’s a valid flaw that might prove an obstacle to your overall goal – to sell the book and get it out to readers. YMMV on this; make your own rules when it comes to accepting criticism, but don’t immediately discount it, either.****

Perhaps the most important thing a critique partner/beta reader/writing group will do is let you know if you’ve actually told the story. It’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of writing – structure, punctuation, point of view, word usage, word count, etc., etc. – that you forget that you need to tell a story. You need to give your characters something to do, something to want, something to strive for, then make them work for it. Tell. Your. Story. After all, isn’t that why we put ourselves through this? We want to tell stories.

Last, but far from least, your critique-beta readers will let you know if you’ve written a book that’s readable, interesting, and entertaining. After all, we don’t want to re-write – and therefore have to re-read – Moby Dick*****, do we?

James says: Sid left out one thing. When you’re writing in a shared-world along with your writing partners, and your stories are intimately intertwined, you have to keep constant awareness of what happens in the other stories and when it happens. This doesn’t diminish and of the points Sid made about what you have to look at; in fact, what it does is make every single one of them more important.

Mickie says: Oh dear. I’m still writing my first book. This is what I have to look forward to? YIKES!

I’ve been a beta-reader for several projects and it’s a bit fun to read with an eye out for things that don’t make sense or are repetitive. (Note from Sid: guess who found the double-breakfast issue.)

That said, I’m not looking forward to having my Frankenstein chased to the windmill by the crazed villagers.

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*Also, if you get that far – actually writing the story – you’re further along than most writers. My mentor used to say:

“Most writers don’t write.

Those that do, don’t finish.

Those that finish don’t submit.

Those that submit do it wrong.”

~~(Thomas Fuller)

So if you write and finish a project, you’re halfway further along than most writers.

**This is an anecdote drawn from life; I actually wrote a scene that way and missed it in all subsequent re-readings. A critique partner caught it – and that’s why the extra eyes are valuable.

***You’re also pretty sure it’s the most vile pile of excrement ever excreted and you should just give it all up and maybe summon demons for a living, since you’re spending your time nose-deep in a vile pile of excrement anyway.

****Yes, I know I stated that earlier, but it does bear repeating.

*****In my opinion, the most boring book ever written, aside from Walden.

All I Want For Yule Is…

I want to make a movie.

That is both more and less than it sounds.

What I want to do is make a small one- to three-minute animated short-short. I have a movie app on my laptop, an animation app on my iPad, and even a voice-changing app for dialogue.1

I had actually intended to do such a thing for the blog this month, but life and work and writing and other art and animals got in the way and then I realized that I was already late with the blog and I hadn’t even begun to draw the characters for the animation. So I thought, “Hey, I can make an animated, Perfect Coven-themed holiday GIF, and maybe do holiday wish lists for the characters or something.” That wouldn’t be too hard and I could maybe even get the blog out not too late.

Yeah. Best laid plans, and all that.2

So I sat down yesterday afternoon to throw together a quick GIF of falling snow on pine trees or something. I had a million windows open on my laptop because I’d been writing in the morning and just left it as is so I could come back to it later. I clicked around, doing this and that, trying to get my apps lined up to make the GIF, and got a bit frustrated because I had too many windows open and also I needed something on a thumb drive and I already had one plugged in and so on and so forth. So I started closing things down, trying to clear some virtual workspace…and not to drag this out any further, I somehow managed to shut Word down without saving properly. (This, even though I save nearly every paragraph when I’m writing to prevent such things from happening.)

And I lost everything I’d written.

I lost the entire cursebreaking.

I lost somewhere between 900 and 1,200 words.

Since I was busy having hysterics at that point, I didn’t do the GIF, either.

So what you’re getting for a blog this month is my holiday wishlist.

I want my lost words back.

(And I still want to make a movie.)

I suppose I should turn this into an educational thingy about being more careful about saving and backing up, and maybe even something about the pitfalls of writing, and then end it with a bit about having to re-do the scenes I lost and since I’ve done them once, this will technically be the second draft and it should therefore be even better, but honestly, I’m not feeling all that optimistic.3 I just want my words back.

So – there you have it. Save often, and make sure your writing program is saving properly. And if you do somehow manage to lose your work, write a blog whining about it. It’s cathartic.4

1Uh, Mickie and James, if you get a script and a request to record the lines and email that recording to me, just do it. Don’t ask questions.  

2Also, did I mention that this weekend is our anniversary? Only Best Spouse Ever is quarantined upstairs under a vow of silence because he has the plague and sounds like Beaker the Muppet when he talks. 

3Though all of that is technically true. I know what I was doing with the cursebreaking, so I should be able to recreate it, stronger, better, faster. And I will definitely pay more attention to Word to make sure it’s actually saving when I hit the save icon.

4Not really, but I had to write something.

James says: Ouch. Ouch. And quintuple ouch. Losing words that you’ve written is like having piece of your soul pulled out of your body and then slowly gnawed to bits by a family of slavering wolverines……except the loss of words is more painful. This is what writers feel toward their work, it seems. And yet, in some sort of masochistic insanity, we keep on writing and putting those words out there for other people to read. We are clearly insane.

And, also, Happy Anniversary, Sid!

Mickie says: It’s hard to get the words on screen in the first place. Losing them is awful. Trying to rewrite and recreate your work is a bitch, because you second guess yourself the whole time. The struggle is real!

WRITING HABITS

I’m a newbie writer and it’s taken a bit of work and time for me to find my groove. It took some experimentation to find not only my style of writing (which, to be honest, is still evolving), but the best setting in which to write.

I’ve learned that I do not do all that well in a public setting. I’m too easily distracted if I’m at a coffee shop. I’d just as soon get my coffee and take it home with me. I’ve have a tendency to talk to myself at work, so it came as no surprise that I do so while I’m writing. Hearing the words aloud helps me figure out if I’m making sense, or nonsense. When we do our 1 hour 1K sessions on Skype, I have to mute my mic so I don’t disturb Sid and James. The other reason the mic gets muted is that I play music while writing, usually very loudly. I also sing along, very loudly. While I’m certain Sid would not mind hearing Zodiac Mindwarp, she and James probably don’t want to hear me squawking along with it. This also doesn’t work well in a public setting. And no, wearing ear buds doesn’t work. I forget other people can still hear me.

I’ve done my best writing on my bed, of all places. It’s been the most comfortable setting, and every time I’ve hit 1,000 words or more in an hour, that’s where it’s happened. I have my old iPod with speakers in there, I can sprawl on the bed, or sit or whatever hits my fancy, and best of all, my cats get settled in on the pillows and don’t bug me. They don’t care if I’m singing or talking out loud. They do mind if I move around too much, but they get over it pretty fast.

I have a very nice office with a fancy desk and chair, but right now, it’s not very conducive to creativity, except for giving me some decorating and rearranging ideas. If my evil plan comes together, I will soon have an awesome recliner in there that I can settle into and write. I usually set up shop in the living room with my laptop on a tray table during our writing sessions. The bad thing about that is that I face the tennis courts and the screaming and grunting can send me into a rabid froth. The cats are fascinated by the tennis players and fight over the window space to observe. Either way, it’s a distraction and I can lose entire swaths of time being annoyed.

Songs listened to while writing this blog: Pool of Booza Booza Booze –Volbeat; Prime Mover – Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction; Drink – Alestorm; Heartache Every Moment –HIM; & Dark Passenger – Holy Grail.

Sid says: Ahem. I’ll listen to Zodiac Mindwarp any time, no matter who’s singing along.

That said, I don’t really have the heart to tell Mickie that her process can change novel to novel. What works for this one may not work next time. Still, most of us have certain rituals that we follow. I work best sitting at my desk (it’s an antique teacher’s desk my mom refinished for me). The desk has been moved from room to room, and that doesn’t bother me; I just need to be at my desk. I turn off the internet, unless we’re Skyping. Music isn’t necessary for me, but I like to have it occasionally.

What I listened to while writing this piece: Boon-chicka-meow-meow and Karma Katmeleon wrestling on the stairs. Hm. Maybe I ought to try Mickie’s sing-aloud technique so I don’t get paranoid about the crashes.

James says:  What Mickie is going through now is something we have all had to deal with at some point, in various ways.  It can be hard to find a good environment in which to do one’s creative writing.  I like having the TV or music of some sort going when I write.  That’s when I’m at home.  I sometimes enjoy working in a public setting, if only for a change of pace.  That can be tough, though, because I can’t tell in advance who else is going to be there, or even if the chosen place will be available.  (I think back to when our trio was meeting at Starbucks and often had to make do with tables that were sub-standard.)