Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

WriYe and Themes

Waiting til the end of the month, like normal. Whoops.

May’s WriYe blog post prompt is:

What are some of your “go to” themes you like to write about?

Themes are weird. I suspect they’re one of the areas of writing I don’t understand as well as I would like to. Because, like, themes are the heart of your story, and the thing that your plots and subplots connect back to, the thing that gives your story meaning and lets it resonate with your reader.

But they’re also weirdly subjective. Like, I could have my theme be one thing, and depending on how people read the story, they could see the theme as being something completely different.

Anyway.

I write a lot about friendship in my stories, and by extension, found family. This is one of my favorite tropes and I use it a lot. Not sure that it counts as a theme.

Hm. This is harder than expected.

I don’t like depressing fiction, and I almost always end with a happy ending, so my themes also tend to be positive, stuff like “you can do anything if you work together” or “it’s worth it to fight for what you want.” I don’t know if I re-use a lot of themes necessarily. I probably do, but I also don’t really work in themes. Like, I’ll poke at them from time to time, maybe come up with a vague one for a first draft and then poke it a little more when doing my revision, but as I said above I’m not sure I really understand them all that well. A lot of what I do with theme is instinctual, and possibly not very good. I don’t know.

Elements, now, I do reuse a lot. Found family, like I mentioned. Forests. A lot of horror elements lately, like settings that are falling apart or ghosts. Magic, because I write a lot of fantasy. Dinosaurs. I really should stop putting dinosaurs into things but I just find the concept really funny.

But, yeah, I guess I reuse themes. People working together, from a variety of backgrounds, to get what needs to be done done. I think almost all of my longer works can be summed up that way.

Is that theme, though, or plot?

Auuuuugh I don’t know.

Anyway.

Thoughts about theme, squiders? Do you have a better way to tell what is theme versus other story elements?

Back to our normal twice a week schedule next week. My edit will be turned in, no matter its state. Wish me luck!

WriYe and Memories

Hello, hello, squiders! How are you? Home ownership continues to be one step forward, two steps back, which is, well, what it is, I guess. I’d like to say I’m not stress eating, but I am absolutely stress eating.

Anyway, onto this month’s WriYe prompt.

Best writing memory.

Hmm. Memory how? Of actually writing? Of doing something with said writing?

I have a lot of good memories of writing. And I have some awful ones. (There may or may not have been a writers’ conference where I spent some time lying on the floor crying.) But in general, more good ones.

A lot of them involve other people. My first local Nano group up in Boulder, and how half the time we’d talk about Star Trek or tell jokes instead of writing. Sitting with my best friend in my favorite tea shop, drinking tea and eating scones and fancy chocolates. Weekly write-ins with friends out in California. Getting to go to the first ever Night of Writing Dangerously (and drinking my first and only Red Bull). Going to the Stanley Hotel for a write-in, and then absolutely not participating in the ghost hunt afterwards.

I probably miss that the most, right now. The in-person writing. Since we’ve moved back to Colorado I’ve had a hard time finding a writing group that can meet on a regular basis at a time I can also meet. I’ve had a few groups, but none that have lasted long, or provided what I wanted out of it. So, uh, side note, if anyone knows how to put together a writing group, give me tips, I guess.

But there’s good memories of the writing too. There’s been some stories, especially earlier on, when I didn’t understand structure or pacing or plot but also did not care, that were such a joy to write. My first sale felt pretty dang good (I think I got $5 for that story), and I still get a thrill when a story is accepted somewhere. And whenever a reader or a beta comes back and tells me how they couldn’t put a book down, or how they’re still thinking about the characters or the story after they’ve finished it.

But a “best” memory? One that outweighs all the other ones?

I don’t know that I have one. Maybe I will someday.

What about you, squiders? Do you have a best memory related to something creative?

I Think I’ve Got It

Well, squiders, I’d like to say I’ve been hard at work and have made great progress on my revision, and that everything is going fine and I am close to meeting my goals.

I would very much like to say that.

Unfortunately, the truth is that Life has really gotten in the way over the last few weeks and I haven’t had much time to work.

(Well, I take that back. Yes, my time has been limited, but I’m also running into the problem I had the last two years where I’m so stressed that when I do find a bit of time I can’t focus and instead play phone games or something useless.)

It’s all very frustrating, because I can see myself falling into the issues of the previous years and goddamnit I want to get things done!

Now, all that being said, I have made progress. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the revision, which, while not the most useful thing, isn’t too awful.

I’ve also spent some time writing some related scenes about the changes, to see if they fit with the themes and larger narrative, and so far so good, so I think we’re good to move forward.

The next step, I think, is to make a list of each chapter (and their summaries) and map out what changes need to go where.

I still haven’t figured out how to do the actual revision without rewriting from scratch (it’s easier for my brain to add the changes in if I’m writing everything out, but it takes longer and I would like to figure out how to just edit where I need to edit), but I think maybe I need to print out the chapters that need the most changes and map them on paper, and then I can just put them in.

Progress! Just not as much as I wanted.

I also bit off more than I can chew for the month, I think, which is adding to my stress. Hopefully I can just prioritize things, however, and that should help.

How’s your March going, squiders? Reaching your goals?

WriYe and Pantsing

It’s that time of month. March’s prompt from WriYe reads as such:

Planner, pantser or plantser? Why?

Okay, quick runthrough for the new people (because we’ve definitely talked about pantsers and planners before)–planners outline before they start writing, pantsers start writing without planning and make it up as they go, and plantsers are somewhere in the middle.

(Arguably almost everyone is a plantser of some shade.)

So! I definitely started as a pantser. I remember my first Nano way back in 2003. It was a murder mystery, and I was 10000 words in before I knew who the killer was. The next several novels went the same way, where I just made it up as I went. This led to Issues, most specifically pacing and the fact that some stories (my YA horror that I poke at occasionally, and Shards‘ first draft) would change tone/genre in the middle.

(My YA horror went from fun high school romp to horror, and Shards went from romance to adventure. You can’t really do that and get away with it, in most cases.)

(There are, of course, exceptions to everything. I’m sure there are novels out there that undergo tone/genre changes at the halfway point and are brilliant.)

I think it was…probably the second draft of Book 1 (2009/2010 time frame) where I sat down and planned out the story before I started writing. Of course, it was also a second draft, so I knew generally where the story was going (makes outlining WAY easier), but I did plan it out to some extent, because I needed to make changes and changes are always easier if you know what you’re doing and why.

I want to say I also outlined Book 2 (written 2010/11), though with a much simpler outline than what I currently use.

And then I spent a few years revising, and in 2014 started the space dinosaur story with a different but still simpler outline. The space dinosaur outline is significant because it fixed pacing, which had been my major issue up to that point.

After that we get into the City of Hope and Ruin timeframe, which I co-wrote and, consequently, adapted to Siri’s outlining process. Siri’s outlining process was WAY BETTER than what I had been doing up to that point. I combined it with the space dinosaur outlining and occasionally the phase outlining that I used for Books 1/2 (and still use for short stories) and that is my current outlining process.

It is lovely, and I find it works really well for my novella and novel projects.

But would I consider myself a planner? No. At most I’m going to have like, 10 pages of outlining and notes before I start a story. When I think planner, I think someone who has the exact events of each chapter planned out, and knows how long each chapter is going to be, and has already figured out all of their character quirks and worldbuilding, and has mapped out the whole series if, indeed, it’s going to be a series, and knows the rise/fall of their scenes and so forth and so on.

I would love to be a planner. But I can’t do it. My brain gets bored of the whole project and I never write the thing. Oh well. From what I understand from acquaintances who are planners, the actual writing goes really easily because they’ve figured everything out in the planning stage.

So I am a plantser, and I suspect I will stay that way. As I said above, my process is working really well, and it’s dynamic enough that I can change it to fit each individual project. (For example, when I wrote my cozy it required way more pre-planning of where everyone was at what times, and I also use a timeline for longer duration stories that take place over several months.)

Anyway, that’s me. How are you doing, squiders? I need major non-writing projects to stop popping up, thank you very much.

Fingers Crossed

Okay, squiders. I’m still going through the feedback from the marathon, but I think I’ve figured it out.

(Turns out there’s a lot of marathon feedback to go through, and some of it is just grammatical which is unhelpful in this particular instance.)

Part of the problem I’ve had with the beginning of the story for God knows how many iterations is how to properly pace the beginning to give the characters the time they need to build a relationship while still keeping up tension. It’s a balancing act, certainly, one that has gotten better with each iteration (I still recall the first draft, where they started in a different city and spent the first third of the book getting to the main city before the main plot even got going).

(Ah, to be young and unaware of structure.)

But I think I can solve both the pacing balancing AND the internal conflict bit by moving up a plot point to happen just before the story starts (right now, it’s in chapter…six, I want to say, which isn’t really doing anything and can probably be taken out after I move this).

So right now, the plot goes something like: FMC moves to capital > hints of prophecy > war is declared (and so on, to be vague about everything).

So I think I move it so the war being declared is the catalyst for the FMC to move. Then war is already looming throughout the beginning of the story, plus it gives Lana some internal conflict because the war will have already affected her life, versus everyone around her, who are operating under the “it’s awful, but it’s not affecting me” state of things. PLUS it adds in some tension to her relationship with the MMC, because she can feel conflicted about building relationships in a place she doesn’t intend to stay.

With the exception of chapter six (or whatever it is) which can just quietly go into the night, most of the other chapters don’t have to change that much, either–just change internal monologue and dialogue, tweak motivations, etc.

This…this might be the answer.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, squiders.

Also, I’m going to take next week off of the blog. Hopefully when I come back the week after, I will have successful news to share with you all.

Revision Uncertainty

Okay, squiders. I have finally started my revision on Book 1. Well, a week or so ago. I read through the current draft (put it in the mode that makes it like a book and occasionally clicked on a comment to see what it said) and took some notes. I still need to look over the feedback I got from the critique marathon last summer, but hopefully I shall get to that here today or tomorrow.

But I find myself in a bit of a pickle.

So, I’ve revised books before. I use a modified version of the process Holly Lisle teaches in her How to Revise Your Novel class, which I’ve found to be very useful over the years. Heck, Book 1 has been revised this way itself, to get it into its current state, which is a million times better than the previous draft was and is, in general, pretty solid.

The problem is the beginning. My critique people last summer rightly pointed out that one of my two viewpoint characters is lacking internal conflict at the beginning of the story. She’s fine later, once the main plot is rolling along, but at the beginning, she’s lacking.

I suspect what happened is that I’ve got two viewpoint characters (chapters alternate, for the most part), and the other one has given me issues for years. Back when these two characters were characters I role-played (many years and a couple universes ago), he was essentially the villain. So every iteration of the story I’ve had to tame him down a bit to fit the plot. He got a major overhaul between the last and the current draft, and I’m really happy with him now–he’s sympathetic and believable, even if he still does questionable things from time to time. But I think, since he was so difficult compared to the other viewpoint character, that I mostly focused on him and saw her as being essentially fine (probably just by comparison). And now she’s lacking, and I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do with her.

And how to approach the revision as a whole. As I mentioned, once the main plot gets rolling, the story mainly needs tweaks (a couple of subplots get a little lost in the middle, but it should be relatively easy to weave them back in). But I’ve never just revised part of a story. Normally I do the whole thing, and it takes forever, but that what I’m used to. I’ve never had a draft before that’s mostly working but having issues in a few places.

Plus, because I did such a massive overhaul of everything last time, it feels weird to change things. Like, this is a story I have written on and off for eighteen years (holy crap), and almost nothing is the same as that first 2004/5 draft. Almost everyone has a different personality than they started with, half the character have different names, the plot has changed and subplots have been added or taken out. So I haven’t had any issues making changes, til now. But now, it feels weird. Sigh. Brains are weird.

Anyway, I spent some time talking to a friend on Tuesday about Lana (my female MC) and her lack of internal conflict, and we came up with something at the time, but in retrospect it was more of a character arc than internal conflict, so I may be back where I started. Hopefully going through the marathon feedback will help, but if I recall, the internal conflict issue didn’t come out until a discussion after the fact.

So, wish me luck. Hopefully this gets sorted quickly and I can get to the actual revision, once I have ideas and a process in place.

Happy Saturday, squiders!

Stuck on Horror

Hi, squiders! How are you? I’ve got the small, mobile ones’ Pinewood Derby cars finished finally (they did most of the work, I just had to attach the wheels and the weights, but we haven’t had time to work on them because we’ve had rehearsal every day for hours on end and impound is TODAY and aghhhhh) so that’s one thing that’s really been stressing me out done.

(Assuming they get checked in okay. A friend is taking the cars to impound because we have dress rehearsal tonight and can’t go. I’m trying not to worry too much.)

And, yes, it’s dress rehearsal tonight, and we open tomorrow, and Saturday we’ve got the Pinewood Derby, a Girl Scout cookie booth, AND the show, so that will be madness.

But it’s got to be better than my spouse being in the hospital and me having to go back and forth between the hospital and performances, like last show (Feb 2020). So, hey! I’ll take it!

Anyway. Enough of that.

Over at Turtleduck Press we’re working on an anthology project. We each provided artwork and/or photos as prompts, and using those, we’re going to write short stories on the theme of “connection.”

So I’ve been trolling through my idea files and looking at my prompts, and I finally came up with a story idea and wrote an outline.

But, let me tell you, it was SO HARD not to go horror with it. I actually had to set a guideline for myself that the plot could not involve ghosts or connections across death in any way.

It was kind of surprising, actually, how difficult this was, and it made me realize that so much of what I’ve written lately is horror. There’s my scifi horror novella, and the Gothic horror novella I just finished, and I wrote that murder mystery (a cozy, though, so not too horror-y), and even a lot of my short fiction lately has had horror elements if not been fully horror.

And it made me realize that, hey, maybe this is how I’m coping with the pandemic and everything else that is falling apart around me. Horror is a genre based on fear, after all.

That being said, I don’t want to write just horror, though. I do like horror–though I think I like writing it more than reading it–but I also like more traditional forms of science fiction and fantasy, and I would like to get back to writing more of that.

Anyway, I guess we’ll see how this goes.

Wish me luck!

Being Productive, Yet Not

Good afternoon, squiders. It is snowing YET AGAIN, which is in theory a good thing because I don’t want any more of the state to burn down, but is also annoying because it keeps snowing when I have to go and do things.

Since last week I have done my serial and started poking my anthology story. Only started, because I keep having to do other things. Right now I’m still trolling through my idea files and throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, which shouldn’t take very long except I keep getting interrupted. Alas.

I’m starting to get really anxious about not getting to Book 1 yet. We’re already two months into the year! And February is so short you blink and it’s gone (or lasts forever, depending on pandemic levels). Despite finishing my novella draft and my serial, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, which is a VICIOUS LIE and brains are horrible.

We’re a week and a half til opening on Pirates of Penzance, and tonight (in the snow) is the time rehearsing on the actual set. I am excited to finally have stairs to go up and down instead of benches representing the stairs which are ALWAYS in the way, but on the other hand I am also freaking out that we open so soon and are only just now getting into our space.

Logically, I know we do this almost every show and that everything is always fine, but right now it doesn’t feel like we’re going to get there. Which, again, happens every time.

Hopefully, after tonight, everything will feel better.

I may take my idea files with me and troll through them, since I’m not on in Act 1. I’ve been reading a book — The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life — but sometimes that means I’m not paying good enough attention to what’s going on.

That’s the secret. Work where and when you can.

Anyway.

Hope you are doing well! I’m surviving the chaos the best I can over here.

WriYe and Romance (Again)

Hello hello, squiders.

I almost don’t want to do this one. I feel like every February, the WriYe blog post revolves around romance.

(No, I’ve gone and checked, and one was about motivation, and another about inspiration. 2019, however, was definitely about romance. Ah well. Maybe I’m projecting.)

(Although there is some repetition in the monthly prompts in general. I suppose that, too, is to be expected. Maybe this is the last year we do the WriYe prompts.)

Again, like I noted last month, they’ve changed the prompts this year so they’re just a statement instead of a series of questions. February’s is The role of romance in your novels.

Hm.

I feel like as time has gone on, I’ve moved away from romance in my novels. Like, my earlier novels almost always have a romance of some sort, though it is not generally part of the main plot. The trilogy that I’ve been working on forever (and should be editing Book 1 of) has a romance in it, though I do like that one–slow building and natural feeling. My fantasy that’s alternately YA or MG based on the way I’m feeling about it (originally written Nano 2006, I think) has the start of a romance between one of the main characters and a minor antagonist (for her). My YA horror (Nano 2007) has one of the main characters pining after a friend, who returns the feelings, but they’re both too shy to act on it. And Nano 2008, which eventually turned into Shards, has romance at the very core of the story.

But more recently…I haven’t included it, unless I was working on a story for Turtleduck Press which, until recently, required a primary or secondary romance in all its works. So there is a love story in City of Hope and Ruin, and in anthology stories I wrote for To Rule the Stars and Love Shines Through.

But let’s look outside of that. From 2009 to 2019 I wrote a scifi serial about a sleepy town that’s not what it’s seems. No romance in that, though the main characters pretend to be in a relationship to avoid suspicion. In 2014 I started Excalibur-1 (which I finished in 2018), and, again, there’s no romance in there, though I believe I do set up a potential one in the future.

I did a lot of revision in the 2015-2018 time frame, so that’s all older stuff.

In 2019 I started World’s Edge (which I finished last year), which is single viewpoint, a rarity for me. There is romance in there, but not the main character’s, though the romance does drive the main plot. (If you recall, I was playing with my viewpoint character not being the protagonist.) 2020 I wrote my cozy mystery and, yeah, I guess I did set up a romance in that. A potential one, for the future, since cozies do seem to include romance. (Though they rarely actually get together. Interesting, that.) 2021 I did my now-finished Gothic Horror. No romance though. Too busy trying not to die, I guess.

Hm.

Oh, there was my scifi horror novella in there too. No romance. Again, trying not to die. Death is bad for romance.

Looking at everything, I guess I do include it, but not necessarily as a main component. At least, not anymore. I’m not even sure I’ve included it as a major subplot in a while.

That probably says something. But, I think, that I kind of feel like I did a lot of romance, and now I’d like to look at other relationships, or see how a character fares when they’ve got to step up all on their own.

(Plus I do seem to be writing a lot of horror lately, and a lack of support can help the feelings of isolation in a horror story. So.)

(Hm. Maybe that’s why. A minor shift from straight speculative fiction to speculative fiction with a horror bent. I probably should think about that too, why everything revolves around horror lately.)

Anyway, huh, that ended up being longer than I expected.

How do you feel about romance in novels, squiders? A necessary component? A distraction? Sometimes good, sometimes bad?

Draft Done! (And Other Sundry)

Hooray! I finished my first draft of my Gothic horror novella yesterday! (I also sat down and wrote over 3K in less than a few hours, FINALLY, omg.)

Is it good? Who knows? It also doesn’t matter til it’s time to revise it.

Man, it feels so good to get that behind me.

Now, in theory, we move on to other things. I’ve got to write the last selection of my serial this month (only 2.5K, in theory doable in a day, already outlined and everything).

An added complication is that we’re working on an anthology project over at Turtleduck Press, and I’ll need 5-10K by mid-March. Also not hard, just need to do it.

But it’s already February, and I can see how this goes, where I never get to revising Book 1 (again) because other things keep popping up.

But does it make sense to start Book 1 only to have to change gears and switch to the anthology project sooner rather than later?

In theory, I could do both at the same time. I can normally handle one writing and one revision project without overwhelming myself and losing time to having to shift gears. But this will, fingers crossed, by the last revision for Book 1, and I want to be able to really focus on it and make sure it’s getting done correctly.

Augh, decisions.

In non-writing news, I’ve started my video game for the month. I’ve picked Jenny LeClue – Detectivu off of some friends’ recommendation. (I don’t know why Detectivu, except maybe to rhyme? It confuses me.) It’s a point-and-click mystery game that’s on the silly side, so it’s pretty much right up my alley. I’m about three and a half hours into it and we’ve just gotten to the (first?) murder.

Having trouble focusing on reading this month. Currently in the middle of three books and not making decent progress on any of them. I need to fix that or I’m not going to hit my goals for the month.

How are you, squider? Doing anything fun? Making progress?