Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boo Who?

At times in dark suspense, bad things happen to story people.

On occasion, really bad things. Sometimes it's a secondary character, at times a main character, even an antagonist is not exempt from being made to suffer.

How a character deals with these bad things (conflict) IS the story.

As a reader, even if it's the bad guy or gal, I relate to character's suffering and their attempt to overcome adversity.

Who undergoes the aforementioned bad stuff in most dark suspense and thriller books? No one is exempt. Anyone can become a target. Of fear, of harm, of whoever, or whatever, is on the prowl and out to get them.

Do you hear the shuffling on the front doorstep? The muffled bumps against the door? Are those scratches against wood?

Excuse me, I think I'll turn on the porch light, just to make sure there's a light on when darkness descends.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sh--ty First Draft Versus Solid First Draft

When I began writing full-time in June, I dove in to write a messy or sh--ty first draft. "Just get the book out," I'd been told, "that's the main thing."

Thousands and thousands of words later, I can honestly say, that while getting the book out of my head was an important factor, writing something that makes sense and includes strong writing is of utmost importance WHILE getting the book out and onto the page.

The more messy, the more there is to discard and to clean up. Kind of like clutter busting. Slowing down and writing solid, cohesive, strong chapters saves having to toss out useless text and having to redraft the chapters numerous times.

My current first draft will need editing, of course, but instead of five or six editing drafts, this first draft will be finalized in more like two or three drafts.

Through trial and error, I have learned a stronger first draft equals more useable, close-to-final draft material.

Of note, I am learning. Foremost, I am enjoying the journey.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson is a keep-within-reach (not just a shelf-keeper) handbook that clearly shares and better explains the information I shared in my Kathy Writes Books Steping Out of the Way post.

The Amazon Book Description reads:

"Dear Novelist: Would you like your readers to live your stories, not merely read them? Deep Point of View anchors your readers inside the point of view character(s) of your novel. This handbook shows you how to perform the transformation from ordinary narrative to deep narrative in clear, easy-to-master steps. I invite you to sweep your writing to the next level with a technique that creates immediacy and intimacy with your readers and virtually eliminates show/don't tell issues. My Best to You, Jill."

This is one of those writing resources I wish I'd had access to years ago, however, since both the paper copy and digital version only became available earlier this year, the book is a welcome addition to my learning process. I highly recommend Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Uplugged and Plugged In

No phone. No internet. No television. No other interaction, other than between my story and me. It took taking limiting the time I spend writing each day (i.e., a drive down Only Street), and unplugging from all electronics during that time, for me to be able to hit my natural writing stride.

For many years, I've wondered what it would be like to do what I was meant to do. It took almost as many years for me to make a choice to make writing a priority, then a few more to be able to make writing a priority.

I won't dwell on what I could have done or should have done. That's the past. It can't be rewritten or changed (although I've got a great story idea for a book along those lines). Although I have plans for the future, all I truly have, all any of us have, is today.

By unplugging, I am plugging into that writer part of myself that I knew was in there somewhere. After all this time, I've come home.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Only Street - Reverse Scheduling

No that's not a typo. I didn't intend to write "Lonely" Street, although writing tends to be a solitary task. Only Street represents where you go when, instead of scheduling out your time until you become nonproductive, you schedule only specific blocks of time to spend on a project in a given day.

This Reverse Schedule is based on limiting time spent on a task, rather than spending an extended amount of time on the task. Basically, in order to increase productivity a particular task is performed ONLY during that limited time frame.

For instance, I will set three (3) to (4) hours aside for writing a day, and will only write during those set-aside hours. When those 3 or 4 hours are up for the day, no more writing for that day.

During my Reverse Schedule, I am allowed only to write during those set-aside 3 or 4 hours a day. If all goes well, I will add additional set-aside hours later on in the day; however, for now, I'm working an a reverse schedule am cruising down Only Street.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stepping Out of the Way (Author Intrusion and Deep Point of View)

He saw the girl. She's cute, he thought.

In these two sentences, I shared with the reader what the little boy saw and what he thinks. While doing so, I intruded into the reader experience and placed myself between the reader and what the character is experiencing.

For a cleaner, deeper point of view, and hopefully, stronger reader connection and experience, the little boy's experience might consist of the following:

Why did everything look so fuzzy?

He fiddled with the knob in the middle of the binoculars.

There.

Near the tent under the tree, the girl sat on the ground and talked with her friends.

Her shiny pony-tail, the color of sunshine, swished. Her eyes, a deeper blue than the early morning sky, went wide.

She looked straight at him.

Yikes!

More words, but we as readers stayed inside the character's head. There's no telling that he saw or that he thought.

A few examples of words that serve as an author filter between the reader and the character include:
  • thought
  • wondered
  • considered
  • knew
  • realized
  • noticed
  • saw
  • studied
  • watched
  • remembered
For instance, remembered, as a filter, and with the filter removed would include:

Filtered

He remembered just how S'mores tasted.

Unfiltered 

S'mores. How long had it been since he'd had one? The crunch of the graham crackers. The smoosh of the marshmallow. The smoothness of melting chocolate. All heated by the toasted marshmallow. A slow spreading sweetness that filled his mouth and took over his happy taste buds. If only he had one now.

Take away the Author Intrusion, and you have Deep Point of View, which leads to a much more appreciated and enjoyable reader experience.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shut Up and Write!

I bowed out of online writer's groups in order to use the time I was spending online to write.

Another reason, I chose to unjoin was that, truly, I don't see how I could, as a writer, spend such a tremendous amount of time and effort posting and "talking" with Facebook groups and commenting on blogs and have any energy or wherewithal to still actually write a book.

With all that posting and commenting, I doubt I would have any energy and focus, let alone words, left to write a book.

In fact, I know I wouldn't, that's why I've chosen to, except for occasional blog posts here on Kathy Writes Books, which tends to jump start my writing, and checking in with my critique partner, to not talk about writing (how, what, technique, suggestions) and keep my mouth shut and write.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"All magic comes with a price. Now it's yours to pay." (Rumplestiltskin, Once Upon a Time)

Rumplestiltskin, from the television series Once Upon a Time, said, "All magic comes with a price. Now it's yours to pay." Everything, in addition to storybook magic, comes with a price. If it's something we want, then we have to be willing to pay.

As a full-time writer, I've been forced to ask myself: What are you willing to pay? What are you willing to give up? Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get what you want?

Recently, I unjoined several Facebook Groups, writer support-type groups included. While I welcome the interaction with other writers, I could not justify taking the time to read numerous posts or participate in the group discussions.

Also, to foster a more writing-focused environment, I disconnect from the internet entirely for extended times during the day using Freedom software to block internet usage.

Television, especially coming from a family where the television was constantly blaring, has been another thing I've chosen to give up, except for a few preferred shows, such as Once Upon a Time, that I record, in order to get the time I need to write.

In addition, I don't get out much. Writing is a solitary, singular-focused activity; therefore, I shut myself away and write. (Thankfully, I have a husband who is independent and caring enough to all me that space and to remind me that I haven't been out of the house in a while, as well as a dear friend who gets me out and about for a girl's-day-out occasionally.)

There are tradeoffs. In order to write, these are the sacrifices, along with giving up my day job and not having a spic-and-span house, that I choose to make.

Oddly enough, now that I'm willing to give up other things in my life, I am able to have time to write.

As in most other activities in life, if you want to write a book, there will be a price to pay. (In my humble opinion, well worth the sacrifice and the price.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The CP from H-E-Double-L (Choosing Critique Partners Wisely)

Over the years, Critique Partners (CPs) have assisted me in the writing learning process in two extreme-opposite ways. On the positive side, these fellow writers have guided and encouraged my writing voice, style, and processes. The other side, one not so pleasant, was when a critique partner's feedback evolved into negative, critical stifling edits that undermined my confidence and stifled my ability to trust my own creative process and writing voice.

According to this CP, initially, my writing was: 1) overly descriptive, 2) too passionate, 3) excessively detailed, etc. Then, when I adjusted, my writing became too stark, too flat, etc. Despite continued efforts, I never was able to, according to this person's feedback, discover "just the right" style. I exchanged a few chapters with this CP, then stopped sending my writing.

Since I was committed and the CP didn't seem to notice my not sharing, I hung in through the publication of the book I assisted in critiquing. At this point, the writer developed what I have come to call Newly Published Authoritis, which translates into a condition where a writer asks for multiple critiques, but doesn't consider they need to implement any of the critique suggestions because they are now published and know it all. (I still don't have an answer as to why a writer would ask for feedback repeatedly and not implement at least some small portion of that feedback. If a particular critique, or CP relationship, isn't working, why not say so and move on? Why would a writer waste another writer's valuable time in such a manner? Another symptom of Newly Published Authoritis, perhaps.)

After numerous reviews of the same beginning chapters, with the same major this-isn't-working issues still in play, I snapped. I got to my I-can't-take-it-anymore stance and gave a scathing critique that listed, bluntly and harshly, everything I had noted in the earlier versions, to include, IF this is a romance, why do we not meet the hero until page 40?

For the final critique I shared with this critique partner, I responded in the same manner in which she had critiqued me. I am not proud of this nor do I recommend this critique-jabbing response in reaction to the same. In looking back, I am ashamed for letting my resentment build, continuing in the situation, and lashing out in that manner.

Heaven help me, I devolved into a dreaded CP from H-E-double-L. Ugly. Unbecoming. Acting that way was not who I am and is not something I choose to or will repeat. I am determined not to repeat the CP from H-E-double-L experience ever again, either on the giving or the receiving end.

I wish I could say that after I "blasted" out that final critique and terminated the CP relationship -- if given the opportunity, yes, I would apologize for responding in kind -- I shook off the uncertainty and lack of belief in myself the interaction with this CP generated, and went on to be a prolific writer.

YEARS. As a matter of fact, several years later, I have finally returned to close to my original writing style. Although I've eased up somewhat on the "flowery" descriptions, I've regained the passion that I lost (in my style, voice, pacing, character-reader connection, etc.)

Did this CP intend to cause me harm? Probably not. (At least, I  prefer to think that is the case.) Also, in lieu of writing this post, I googled this former CP. This writer has just released the book being written when we parted ways and serves as an editor for several independent small publishers. So, apparently and thankfully, no negative effects there.

For my part, I have learned, if I can't critique something in a positive manner, I choose not to critique. I won't go there. If someone disregards my suggestions, I respect that and their style. I also have boundaries in place so that I choose not to review the same material numerous times.

The other thing I have learned is discernment as to whether my CP's critiques are positive and constructive or criticial and constrictive.

Part of my current CP's process is to use document highlights. One color indicates sections she likes and relates to as a reader, another highlight color shows areas that lack character-reader emotional connection, etc. She's positive and encouraging. With honesty, professionalism, and positiveness, we build each other up. Which is as it should be.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Chapter a Day (Sprint Versus Long Distance)

Sprinting is running full-out as fast as you can for a short distance. Long distance running is pacing yourself, and positioning yourself to stay in the race longer for a greater distance.

My "ideal" of writing full-time had been that I would sprint, sprint, sprint, writing each first draft with lightening speed; however, during the last four months of writing full-time, if I've learned nothing else, I've figured out that I am more like a long distance runner when it comes to drafting and getting the book out of my head.

Yes, I can and able to fast and lightning draft. If I push myself, I can write 4,000 to 5,000 words per day. Yet, in doing so, it has become apparent that of those 4K to 5K words, approximately 1/4 are salvageable and usable, if I'm lucky, with several revision drafts ahead of me to bring the salvaged words to final draft condition.

On the other hand, if I focus on a chapter of approximately 2,000 words and work through that chapter at a slower, more deliberate pace, editing a bit as I go, that chapter ends up being close to final draft quality.

With a solid week of planning and plotting, instead of rushing to do so in a couple of days, and a chapter-by-chapter focus, it is feasible that a 60,000-word novel can be first drafted in a solid, close to final draft manner in approximately five (5) to six (6) weeks.

Obviously, the lightning draft, get it out fast, fast, fast approach is not working. My previous first draft of Book #1, Series #1 is evidence that this method does not work for me. As I've said many times before, we each find our writing process, by experimenting with what works for us, as individuals. What works for many others, may not work for me, and vice versa.

What I do know is that a solid 2K of writing a day will get me where I need to go, draft-wise. Due to the time it has taken me to learn this, I am behind schedule on my original goals for the 2012; however, for the rest of this year and into 2013, my path is laid out before me in a reasonable, realistic manner.

2,000 semi-edited words per day is most certainly reasonable. This writer gal is in it for the long haul, for the long distance span that it might take me to complete and publish this series, and for writing many books beyond that. One chapter per day -- not too shocking or taxing or overwhelming -- is doable. So off I go to write, one chapter at a time, 2,000 words per day. Onward!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Timeout (Reluctantly, but Necessarily)

Due to a health issue, for the next week or so, it will be necessary for me to take a writing timeout. I don't want to. I'd rather not. If I had my druthers, I would prefer to set high goals and write as much as I can in a shorter period of time.

Truth is, I am not well. I am experiencing frustrating symptoms of fatigue and difficulty concentrating, that hopefully, will be headed in a more positive direction in the next few weeks.

So, in the meantime, I need to pace myself, and will continue toward good health and a more productive writing journey soon!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ghost Dogs - Rumor or Unnatural Presence?

As a writer of Dark Suspense (Thriller, Suspense, Horror), I enjoy hearing, reading, and writing Ghost Stories. Always have. Always will.

With Halloween approaching, ghostly type stories abound. There's nothing like the thrill of being frightened, while actually being safe.

For example, there's the appearance of ghost dogs.

Ghost dogs can be seen racing along the side of the road or across in front of your car, either at dusk or during the darkness of night. Smoky, gray, brown, or black shadows streak along beside your car or dart from one side of the road to the other as you drive down the road.

Many people have seen them or think they have. What are they? Tricks of vision? Optical illusions? Supernatural presences? Unexpected hauntings? Unnatural warnings?

Imagine, a woman alone, in the midst of a long-distance drive. Our lone woman, exhausted from the drive, pulls off the main road in search of an out-of-the-way bed and breakfast or inn. Along the too-dark fog-shrouded winding graveled road, ghost dogs appear.

So, which is it? Rumor or unnatural presence? (I choose to believe the latter.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pressing the Reset Button

For my thriller series (Series #1), after I received Cathy Yardley's developmental edit, my hand has been wavering over the reset button.

The first book in the series is undergoing a major overhaul, to include:
  • Fewer point of views
  • Smaller number of scenes due to combining or deleting scenes
  • Addition scenes added that need to be written
  • Clarification of main character's story goals
  • Increased emphasis on scene goals for main characters
  • Addition of secondary characters
From this experience, I have learned that I need more work and clarification upfront, so that I have a clearer direction once I begin First Drafting.

So, from now on, I will spend more time working with Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Plot on the front end, to more so clarify the Character's story goals [Goals, Motivations, Conflicts (GMCs)] and story problems. Also, I need to plot each character's scene more clearly to get a better idea of their Goal, Motivation, Conflict and Disaster (GMCD). (Ah, those lovely acronyms.)

So, more plotting and characterization should lead to a more solid first draft in the end.

This go around, with such drastic changes, this level of revision can't be considered a second draft; therefore, I'm diving into writing my First Draft once again.

The story and series will benefit greatly from this unexpected reset. I know that. YET pushing that button.... Not so easy.

My hand hovers over, not quite touching, the reset button.

I was thrilled with finishing the first draft so quickly. The completion of the draft brought to fruition a lifelong dream and validated that I could write books for a living.

Still, resetting, basically starting over? Ouch. I have been frustrated and disappointed in myself and in my efforts.

However, this is not starting over. Not really. The first First Draft gave me a foundation upon which to build the entire series. Wasted words? Maybe. Maybe Not. Even though some scenes will not make it into the newest First Draft, they led me toward the current version, just via a road that traveled the long way around the destination where I and the story needed to arrive.

Better initial plotting and characterization efforts on my part should lead me to a straighter and more direct route in getting my first drafts written; therefore, with much excitement, tempered with a dollop of sadness, I now press the reset button.