Sunday, November 29, 2009

Capote - "Finishing a book..."

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the yard and shot it.
-- Truman Capote


I'm currently finishing off the rough draft of my NaNo novel. I don't think I'll feel at all like Capote when it's done. Of course, I still have several rounds of revisions and edits to do. So it won't really be done for a while yet.

His quote is probably referring to finishing the final stage of the novel - and giving it over to editors and publishers. I haven't got to that stage yet. Or maybe he means when even that process is done, and you have absolutely no control over it because it's printed. Will I feel like I've killed my baby?

My previous ms is still awaiting another revision round. I'm hoping to let it go off into the real world someday in the not too distant future. Will I feel like Capote?

What about you? If you've been published, did you feel like you'd shot your child? If you're yet-to-be-published, how do you imagine yourself feeling?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Finished! Well... sort of

Woohoo! My NaNo novel is finished. Well, the novel isn't finished. In fact the first draft isn't even finished yet. But the NaNo challenge is :)

I hit 50,676 words a few moments ago. It feels good. But the story isn't yet complete. I probably have another 10k to go depending on how the ending unravels. I'm not quite sure what my characters have planned for me yet.

There was more violence, more sensual tension than I expected. I know I've dropped a few clues along the way - things I included for the mystery, then promptly forgot about. There are a few places where I've left hints for a needed scene, but the scene wasn't coming to me, so I just skipped it.

I know I have a bit of editing to do - well probably more than a bit - but I'm quite happy with the way the draft went. This is the first draft I've done with any intention or thought of publishing. I've always written, but the thought of publishing is as recent as my previous ms. The publishing thought popped into my mind one day, and hasn't let go. The previous ms was full of writing just for me. Lots of superfluous scenes, lots of descriptions of settings. Stuff that helped make the characters, scenes and plot real for me, but that a reader has no use for.

I've edited and revised that ms to half of its original size, and I'm still looking at one more round of revision.

I don't think this ms will require as much effort or polish. I've learned a lot from this past year. And it's all thanks to you! The online writing community is absolutely amazing. I've found writers to be extremely generous with their time and expertise. They are honest, warm and so talented. It's been a fun year of learning and growing for me. So, thank you!

How has your writing changed and grown through each ms? Do you find the learning curve is a continuous climb, or does it level off after a while?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Comfort Books

Comfort books - what a great concept. Just like comfort food, only better. No calories, and they last a lot longer :)

My friend Belle over at Ms. Bookish is hosting the 42nd Bookworms Carnival. Her theme, you guessed it, is comfort books.

I can literally disappear into a book. I'm sure many of you are the same. The world, with its worries and despairs, just goes away. I'm whisked off to a new world. Sure, its got its own share of worries and despairs, but that's okay. I suspend my disbelief and fly with the characters.

The first book I fell into was Anne of Green Gables. I'd never met anyone quite like Anne. As a shy, serious girl, I wanted to be Anne's friend. I wanted her nerve, her imagination and her joy.

The Hobbit was probably the next book to completely capture my imagination. Bilbo is such a great character - and the magic! I couldn't get enough Gandalf. When my parents bought me a boxed set of the Lord of the Rings, I didn't resurface for weeks. I tend to reread these books every few years. Love them.

Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern series is another one I can't get enough of. I've read all of the books at least twice. The planet is perfectly created. The mix of science, fantasy, vivid characters and a unique society combine to make this one of my favourite comfort reads. I can slip into their world and wonder what it would be like...

Agatha Christie's mysteries are kind of like chocolate for me. Sweet, even when you know what the taste is and there's no surprise. I try to leave them for years so that I won't remember the murderer, but the writing is so strong, I tend to remember the clues. I've read "And Then There Were None" to several classes and they loved it. Such a great writer!

Those are a few from my list. What about you? What are your favourite comfort books?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Wrong Word

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.
-- Stephen King

I've always liked this quote from Stephen King. I'm not a pretentious person in any aspect of my life. This quote kind of symbolizes how I live: simple, to the point, straight-forward. I write the same way.


Aren't there exceptions to every rule? In my writing, I rarely use a thesaurus. Really, really rarely. But I still use it upon occasion.

I have some problems with the thesaurus. When I reach for it, it's because I'm trying to find another way to say a word I've been using. Okay, overusing. In that situation, the thesaurus is the lazy way out. I usually find I'm better off rewriting the scene so that I use the word less often. After all, if I've repeated it so often I need to find a substitute word, I'm pretty sure the reader will be fed up of the word as well.

With this ms, I've been using the thesaurus more often. I'm writing in a new genre, Steampunk, where I get to make stuff up. Loving it! But naming these new devices is sometimes problematic. Cue the handy-dandy thesaurus. I've found it helps springboard my brain into creating more options so the name of the new device gives a hint to its purpose without sounding common.

Do you often use a thesaurus? How does it help you out with your writing?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What if...?

"What if?"

I think those are two of the most powerful words in the universe.

Many of your comments from my last post included them. Some of you talked about how you see something in the newspaper, or on tv, or in real life and you wonder, "What if?". I do the same thing.

It made me think about scientists and writers, and how we are alike. Yes, really.

Both groups deal in the "What if?" factor. We write stories about it and around it. Scientists use it to propel their research and their innovations.

We make revisions and edits because of it. What if I eliminated those pesky dialogue tags, what if my character had to deal with..., what if I tried this scene first... Scientists also make revisions, not to their stories, but to their experiments and their approaches. Both groups work towards improving the now with, "What if?".

"What if?" brings us hope. It gives us a way out. It encourages us to take a risk, make a change, try something new.

How often do you "What if?"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The First Spark

There's been a lot of talk flying around the online writing community about first drafts lately. I'm sure this is because it's November. NaNo nuttiness is everywhere! :)

Anyway, it got me to thinking about that very first idea, that very first spark for the story.

For me, emotion always comes first. It's not attached to a character, or a setting, or a plot. Not right away. I tend to feel the emotion from the climax scene of the story first. The fear, guilt, terror.., whatever.

Of course the character builds pretty quickly around the emotion, but it's definitely what hits me first. I've always been a bit of a sap - I can get pretty weepy around certain commercials - and I empathize really well. I fear my emotional range is pretty wide and pretty deep. My folks stopped me watching Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid - couldn't get through too many episodes without sobbing!

So, for me, the emotion of the climax scene is the key to the whole story - the key to the idea.

How about you? What is the first spark of the story for you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Peace and Hope

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada. A non-writing post today to ask each of you to take a moment out of your busy lives to think of our brave soldiers and veterans. Such courage. Such loyalty.

It was interesting to talk to the kids at school today about Remembrance Day. They, thankfully, have limited knowledge of war. They are fascinated by the stories of courage, the horrors and the sheer will it took to survive. Kids pore over the fiction and nonfiction books in my classroom about war. They have endless questions and boundless compassion.

Today, during our conversations, several of the kids asked how it was possible to hate that much. They completely don't get racism and prejudice. We have kids from 8 different cultures in our class. No one hangs out along cultural lines, there are no racial comments, no stereotyping. Not everyone gets along, but that's due to personality conflicts and nothing else.

It gives me hope, and fills me with pride for the small part I play in raising these kids.

Two of the songs we sang during our Remembrance Day service today were Let There be Peace on Earth by Vince Gill, and Everything I Do, I Do it For You by Bryan Adams. Powerful songs, powerful lyrics, powerful images to go along with them. The kids sang along and it created this amazing buzz of love and hope.

I hope you managed to find a corner of peace in your world today. We certainly did, and the future looks good.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sideways Solutions!

I was stumbling along with my ultra-fun NaNo project, when I came to one of those bumps that trip you up when you least expect it. An unexpected death in my ms caused my half-baked, sort-of-kind-of plan to go sideways.

All normal in the course of my writing, but still unexpected. Especially during NaNo when I don't want to spend a lot of time figuring out what to do next. So, what did I do?

I asked my daughter to create a device for steampunk England that someone would kill to own. "Steampunk? Huh?" was her first response. However within about 3 minutes, she had the perfect device for me!

After a few very hectic back-and-forth minutes of discussion, not only do I have the next step in the story, but I have a pretty good idea of how the ending might turn out. At least until the next sideways turn. :)

So, what do you do when you hit a wall -- when the unexpected stops you short and changes your plans? Do you step sideways or plow right on through?

(On another note, a huge THANK YOU to WM Morrell (aka Quillfeather). She awarded me the Honest Scrap Blogger Award. Notice the great picture to the right of the blog. I've just posted my info for the Kreative Blogger award, so I won't torture you again. Well maybe a little :) I'll bet you didn't know I used to play the clarinet and I can probably give you more details than you ever want to know about hockey!! Thanks QF for the award. Check out her blog for some awesome stuff from my New Zealand buddy -

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Runaway Characters

I'm currently having a lot of fun writing my YA steampunk. Exploring a new genre is even more fun than I expected.

My characters, however, are acting like such teenagers. Well, they are teenagers, so I guess that's okay. Isn't it?

My two main characters enjoy making their own decisions. They're a little spunkier in that regard than I expected. The male is full of bravado, and keeps trying to hide his vulnerable side. The female is nervous about trusting anyone, but also finds herself pushing the boundaries of what she expects herself to do.

The dialogue between them is lively. And full of innuendo. I didn't really expect them to want a relationship. At least not with the circumstances of the plot. Certainly not until much farther into the book. But... well, you know teenagers.

Right now, I'm sitting back and cruising along with them. We'll have to see where they want to go. Hope I don't have to act too much like a parent!

How often do your characters run away on you? Do they take you to places you never expected to visit?

(NaNo update: over 7000 words now. I've been sick, so not really sure how great those words are, but, hey - it's a first draft!)

(Thanks to TK Richardson at My Writing Masquerade TK has generously awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award. As I've already passed along the award, I won't go through the process again, but I wanted to thank TK. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, pop over and check her blog out! It's well worth the trip :))

Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Drafts

All the NaNo talk and excitement has got me thinking about first drafts. There are so many styles of writers. There are probably just as many styles of drafting.

I tend to use the backspace key a lot. I don't think I get through too many paragraphs without backspacing a bit and changing something. It could be word choice, eliminating unnecessary words, rearranging an idea, correcting spelling, or just about anything else. I tend to multi-task. One part of my brain whips along with the story. Another part, the good old internal editor, shrieks at me to change it NOW, while I know what the change should be. I'm afraid if I ignore the shriek, the best wording will disappear into the abyss.

Even in NaNo, I can't stop the backspacing. One cyber friend says she never backspaces more than 2 spaces during NaNo. I think my shrieker would deafen me if I tried that. :)

I also go back and skim, change things up, do re-writing. If I notice any major issues, I go back and fix them. I've tried leaving myself notes to make changes later, but the idea for the change festers, and the shrieker goes a little nutty. So I listen. Better than being deaf!

How about you? Do you draft straight through? Do you love your backspace key? Have you got a shrieker?

(NaNo update: I chose the steampunk, although the cozy is getting louder and louder. I've managed about 2000 words today. Let me know how yours is going!)