Posts Tagged ‘WriYe’

WriYe and Nano

Hey, so I realized that I hadn’t done the WriYe blog prompt for the month. And the month ends tomorrow.

(How goes my revision, you might ask. Well, I got to the chapter in the character book that talked about character arcs, and I was like, YES, give me tips on how to make a character arc, I need ideas for this so I can fix Lana’s arc, but it didn’t. It was like, here’s how you check your arc to make sure you’re not missing anything. I did eventually sit down and pull out a character arc, which is a huge step, but the book wasn’t as much help as I needed, and this was the area I really wanted help with. Alas.)

Anyway, prompt: Your thoughts on NaNoWriMo.

Being November, of course, it always comes back to NaNoWriMo.

(Funnily enough, WriYe, when I first joined it, was NaNoWriYe, and was a direct spinoff.)

I have been doing Nano forever. I’m sure I’ve told you guys this. I seriously considered doing it in 2002 (it started in 1999) and ended up not doing it as I was double majoring in two engineering degrees at the time and figured that was too much all at once, and 2003 was going to go the same way, except I woke up on Nov 3 with a fully-formed plot and gave into the urge.

2003 Nano was a very different place than modern Nano. I think there were only 5000 of us doing it. You could actually keep up with the entirety of the message boards.

I did not win Nano in 2003. I got, oh, 29K? I also got a concussion and the death flu. And that story has never been touched again.

I did and won Nano 2004-2011. In that time I wrote Book 1 (2004, 2005, 2009, 2010), Broken Mirrors (2006), What Lurks Beneath the Bleachers (2007), Shards (2008), and Book 2 (2011). (Book 1 lurks everywhere. Still. Continuously.)

Then the bigger, mobile one arrived, and I took a break.

2014 I won again with the Space Dinosaurs story, and then the smaller, mobile one showed up, and I didn’t come back until 2019, where I won with World’s Edge, and in 2020 I wrote my first ever complete draft with my cozy mystery.

Last year I only got 31K on Hallowed Hill, and yet here we are a year later, with it published and everything.

Nano was a huge deal to me when I was first getting started with writing. I mean, I’d always told stories, as long as I could remember, in various forms, but I didn’t often finish stories. I had (maybe still do, somewhere) a folder in high school where I’d put all my stories, and it was dozens of story starts–a few pages, maybe a chapter or two–but they never went anywhere. I never finished anything. I never even got more than a thousand words or so.

That first Nano, in 2003, showed me that I was capable of writing more. And when I got the initial draft of Book 1 done in 2005, that was huge. I had written a novel. Yes, it was terrible, but it was done.

And that is the magic of Nano–the ability to show you that you are capable of more than you think you are. And when I was first starting out, I needed that.

In 2006 I started writing year-round. I joined a number of writing groups, including WriYe, and I began to expand as a writer.

But now that I am a more experienced writer–Nano doesn’t really work for me anymore. I know I can write 50000 words in a month, but sometimes that’s not the right choice. Sometimes I need to focus on revising what I’ve already written instead of churning out more words. And Nano itself has changed. There’s so many people that it’s easy to feel lost, and not make the connections that used to be easy.

I will always remember Nano fondly. I lived in the Bay Area in the mid-2000s, and I got to meet Chris Baty (the founder) on several occasions, and he even remembered my name most of the time. I think I’m in some promotional video in there somewhere. And on one memorial occasion, I went to Nano HQ to help them box up and mail out merch that people had ordered.

(I’m sure they don’t do that themselves anymore.)

I love Nano, but I’m not in love with Nano, you know?

I think it’s a great program, and I hope many more people find it and get what they need out of it. It’s just not what I need anymore.

Thoughts on Nano, squiders? Thoughts on the impending avalanche that is Christmas? Hell, thoughts on character arcs?

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WriYe and Horror

Catching up on my WriYe blog circle prompts, plus it’s an easy blog topic in the midst of convention planning, haha.

(Trying to figure out my last outfit for the con. Do I want something that says “horror writer” to go along with Hallowed Hill? Do I want to look professional? Do I want to look eclectic and artistic? Do I want to just dress like myself? Should I wear unicorn pajamas? Options abound.)

Here’s October’s prompt: Your thoughts on horror/gore/scary stories?

In general I am pro-horror, which comes as no surprise. I love ghosts especially, and am less enamored of other paranormal creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and zombies. I don’t read or watch a lot of those.

I’d say ghosts first–and ghosts are a major draw to a story for me–and eldritch horrors second, or really any story where you’re never really sure what it is that’s out there, if anything. And ghost-adjacent things are also good.

I am also fond of Gothic literature, though I do prefer there to be actual paranormal aspects, or at least a really juicy mystery or family secret. (One that’s not just dead children buried on the premises. God. I am so sick of dead children.)

I love scary stories, where the scares come from the atmosphere, or the unknowing, or the mystery. Which is probably why I like ghost stories so much, especially ones where it’s the little things you really have to look for.

I am not a gore person. If a game or a book or a movie relies mostly on gore and violence, count me out. I don’t need that in my life.

(With books I’m a little more flexible, because I can skim through violence or gore if necessary if the story is worth it otherwise. Though I have found that if the story feels like it needs quite so much gore and/or violence, it doesn’t necessary have the legs to stand up otherwise.)

I mostly read or listen to scary stories (through podcasts or YouTube videos) and don’t really watch a lot of horror movies or television shows. I don’t necessarily scare very easily, but I do have an overactive imagination, and even visuals that weren’t especially scary in the moment tend to pop up at inconvenient times (usually the middle of the night).

(When I saw the Ring in college, I slept with the television on for three nights straight, because if the TV was already on it couldn’t turn itself on. Though I either saw or hallucinated a really disturbing episode of the Flintstones one night, so that’s a thing. And when I saw The Witches when I was six, I thought a witch was living under my bed for about six months, despite that not being an aspect of the movie at all.)

What are your thoughts on horror and scary stories, squiders? What’s your favorite scary movie? (I’m rather partial to The Village, which is not technically horror, I don’t think, and also has a very predictable twist.) Favorite ghost story? Especially share your ghost stories.

WriYe and Writing Courses

Hey, guess what I forgot to do in September?

Here’s the prompt from WriYe: Share your favorite books, courses, or websites you like to visit to grow your writing!

I’m firmly of the belief that there’s always more to learn about just about anything, and so I do periodically take classes, go to webinars, and read books about writing. Sometimes these books are specific to a genre or an area of writing, and sometimes they’re not.

I have found, though, that a lot of the stuff goes over the same ground, most of which is not helpful at this point (because I already know it). So something does need to be a little more unique these days.

ANYWAY though.

One of my very favorite writing books is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Pacing was long an issue for me, with many very badly jacked up first drafts (and some second drafts) in my past. This is the book that fixed all that for me.

Do you know how many pacing issues I had in my first draft of Hallowed Hill? NONE. This is hugely different than when I had to completely reconstruct the pacing on Shards to make the story make any sort of logical sense. I am cured, and this book is the cause.

(Seriously, this is the only note I got from the editor about my pacing for HH: “The pacing is good throughout, with a nice balance of Martie in problem-solving mode, moments of terror and despair, and enough support from expected and unexpected sources to keep her going.”)

The other thing that was very influential on me was Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel class. This taught me how to effectively revise, and it’s done in such a way that the steps are fairly easy to copy and use yourself, and I have used this on every book since I went through the class. (Including Hallowed Hill!) I have modified the procedure a bit, but this is a wonderful class if you’re having issues figuring out how to edit your own stuff.

(Holly also has a free class, How to Write Flash Fiction, which is also quite useful and has actually gotten me a number of sales on my flash fiction.)

There are a ton of other resources out there–so many great ones, really. It’s overwhelming, and you can (and I have) spent a ton of time (perhaps too much time) looking at stuff. You have to remember to balance your learning with your doing.

Oh, all right, one more. My favorite writing website is Fiction University. Janice Hardy runs this site (and also has a number of How To writing books and workbooks) and it’s been a go-to of mine for years. I don’t read every post, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

All right, well, those are my favorites! Any thoughts? What has worked best for you?

WriYe and Gift Lists

Good evening, squiders! How is your week going? I’ve been fighting with my book description for my Gothic Horror, which is going worse than expected. I feel like book descriptions are not generally that hard, but maybe it’s just been awhile and I’ve forgotten that they suck.

I think the hook is good; it’s just everything else that sucks.

We also finished Amphibia tonight, which is an animated fantasy cartoon on Disney+. I thought it was going to be silly, but it ended up being really good, with a nice emotional payoff at the end. So if you’re into such things, it would be worth checking out.

Anyway, let’s get on to this month’s WriYe prompt.

What is on your writerly gift wish list?

I’m going to interpret this to mean gifts I would like to receive that are related to writing.

I suppose it could also mean “writerly gifts” like talents, but that feels harder to answer and so I’m going to go with the other interpretation.

I don’t necessarily want anything specific. I’m not sitting around going, “Man, I wish I had so and so, that would really help me reach my writing goals.”

That being said, there are things that I always like. Notebooks. Pens. I’m rather partial to fingerless gloves and arm warmers of various types, though I don’t use them as much as I used to. Arguably none of these things are actually helpful for writing.

I have so, so many notebooks.

I guess, if I were going to pick one thing I’d really like, it’d be a writing cave of some sort. A friend of mine has a shed out in his backyard where he goes to write. I have my office, but it’s not mine alone–my spouse and my children also use it, and I do other work other than writing there as well, so it’s not ideal. There’s something very appealing about perhaps having a shed or something out in the yard that would be explicitly for writing. Unfortunately it’s against our covenants, and there’s not really anywhere to put it.

But it would be nice. Maybe someday.

Until then, I shall hoard notebooks, I suppose.

What would you pick, squiders?

WriYe and Cliffhangers

How’s it going, squiders? I spent an hour or so earlier going over the timing of my novella that’s due back for copyediting at the end of the month. I had some notes from the last phase of editing where the editor was confused about how much time had passed, so I’m figuring things out in detail so I can clarify it. (And I figured out that I need to move a chapter out a day, because my MC goes to a class she doesn’t have that day, whoops.) It’s pretty time consuming, but I do have to do it every book so it’s not unexpected. Not because my timelines tend to get messed up, but just because I find it so useful as an editing tool.

Anyway, let’s do this month’s WriYe prompt.

For July: Feelings on cliffhangers? Best cliffhanger you’ve written.

I don’t know that I have any strong feelings about cliffhangers. I think they’re a tool, like any other, and that there are different ways to go about using them. I do think you can overdo them. You ever read a book that just makes you anxious continuously? A lot of times, that’s because the characters never get any moment to rest, and sometimes that can be because there’s too many cliffhangers.

I also think that, if your plot is tight enough, you don’t need that many cliffhangers. The questions you’ve built into the story, and the characters you’ve created, can pull the reader along without having to resort to cheap tricks. But they do have their place, and they can be effective.

I don’t know that I use them that often in my own writing. Or perhaps I tend to use a more subtle version, where I end a chapter with a question. But, again, you can’t do that all the time. Variety is the spice of life. And I don’t tend to write a lot of multi-book or multi-section stories, so really big cliffhangers, ones that would pull people to the next book or the next installment, are less useful for me.

That being said, I do think the cliffhanger at the end of the second part of my four-part serial Deep and Blue (the last part went up in April) is pretty dang good.

What do you think, squiders? Any thoughts on cliffhangers? Favorites?

WriYe and Strategies

Might as well get this over with early this month, instead of waiting until the last minute.

So, June’s blog prompt over at WriYe is:

Some of your strategies to avoid burn out.

All right, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, burn out is where you physically and/or mentally cannot work on something (writing, in this case, as it is a writing community) despite wanting to.

Burn out can be caused by a number of things–working too hard on something, pushing yourself too hard, trying to do writing on top of everything else in your life, especially if you’re going through a hard time, are sick, have too many other responsibilities, etc.

Burn out is a real issue, because if you’ve reached the burnt out stage, there’s really nothing to do except let yourself recover, which may take weeks or even months, depending on things.

So, I guess my number one strategy is to allow yourself breaks. Personally, I set time limits for how long I can work on one thing in a day, and I make sure I’m building in breaks throughout the day and allowing myself some decompression.

Of course, sometimes you might have to do more work than you’re comfortable with (due to deadlines or whatever), but I still think you’ve got to allow yourself a chance to decompress periodically. Watch some YouTube during lunch, or take a nice bath before bed.

My second main strategy is to have smaller things that I can break up a big project with. Things like doing RaTs prompts or, heck, writing a blog post. Drawing a picture or knitting, if one can do so (I have never been able to figure out how to knit, which is irritiating). Just something that’ll take you less than an hour and give your brain a chance to focus on something else.

And I guess my last strategy would be to pay attention to yourself so you can identify the signs that you’re starting to burn out, and take steps to make your progress more sustainable before it gets really bad.

Thoughts, squiders? Things you find work for you?

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?

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.

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?