My May writing recap

My “No Sex with Ax and Hal” 30-day writing challenge is officially finished! Only 1 or 2 people read most of it, but that’s okay. I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to write – and post – a complete vignette/chapter/scene every day for 30 days straight. (It actually ended up being 31 days’ worth of writing, and 32 chapters written, including one epilogue for each of the two mains, because I don’t like to leave too many plot threads hanging.) If, in that process, I also got to add a bit of characterization to my main Borderlands romance bros, all the better.

Not sure what I’m going to write next. I’m rather tired of feeling lonely in fandoms, so I’m thinking maybe I should return to my original fiction, like Fearless or Finding Mister Wright. Or, maybe I’ll finally get cracking on that detective story. At least with my originals, it’s alone without being lonely. Regardless, I’ve really enjoyed writing my BL adventurers over the last two years. (Has it really only been two years?!) They taught me a lot. They even found me a few new friends. I’ll always love ‘em, for that.

Heck, I’ll always love ‘em, anyway.

January 2015 (writing) recap

I figured I’d better put something up here so folks haven’t think I’ve died or otherwise slipped off the planet. While it may seem – from the non-existence of posts on this blog since the end of 2014 – that I haven’t been doing any writing, I’ve actually been doing a fair share of it, over on my other blog, The Highs, the Lows, and the In-Betweens, my ongoing chronicle of my 2014 NaNoWriMo story universe. Here are the post updates to prove it:

Jan 2015 Writing UpdatesI’m one of those fools who gets anxious when I haven’t updated a particular social media outlet or blog in a while, someone who thinks that makes me less of a person writer. But, seventeen story updates for January isn’t too shabby. (One of them doesn’t count, as it’s just a music video link.) It’s not a popular journey in terms of audience size, but I’m having too much fun with this story and these mostly-new characters to care much about that part of it.

Over the course of the last several weeks, I’ve also been working on a massive edit/rewrite of my homo-erotic space western opera story, From Hell: A Love Story. It’s been both interesting and enlightening to see this one evolve from a mishmash of sci-fi and romance ideas designed to cater to a fan fiction audience, to a tighter story of love and acceptance that satisfies my own inner reader. Through this process, I’ve come closer to understanding what my tastes really are, and where my stronger skills lie. I’m sure it will also affect my edits for my waiting-in-the-wings stories, “Finding Mister Wright” and Fearless, both of which I’d like to put through the same wringer starting this year. But, first, I’m working with Scrivener (finally!) to put From Hell: A Love Story together as a real book (courtesy CreateSpace, which awarded two free hardcopies of a book to each NaNo 2014 winner).

Of course, no writer – even a self-proclaimed one – should go too many days without reading something for the fun of it. I continue to enjoy Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series of classic detective novels, in the hopes of someday writing my own detective story. But, that’s a post for another day.

Twitter friend Moyabomb asked if I’d share my experiences with my publishing exercise as regards Scrivener, CreateSpace, editing, and artistry, so I’ll have to do a post about that coming up. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your own reading and writing journeys!

Third Time Charmed

Today, I posted the final chapter of my sci-fi western romance, “From Hell: A Love Story.” It’s the third story I’ve finished this year, “Finding Mister Wright” and Fearless being the other two.

I always get a rush of mixed feelings whenever I write the last words to a story. Relief for having reached the finish line, but a sense of sadness, too, at saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to love over the drafting time. Some stories never move much past that first draft, for me, but others find their way to revisions, rewrites, and re-posts. Still others become launching pads for completely different stories…or, the same story woven in a new pattern, as is often the case for me.

My issue at this point is: What do I write next? I’ve got a continuing timeline set up for my sci-fi western characters, but I feel like giving them a rest for a bit. I’ve been doing some off and on revising of Fearless and “Finding Mister Wright” over the last few months, and I’m enjoying revisiting those worlds, but it’s not the same as new writing. It’s been years since I’ve gone without a new writing project, I’m not sure I could handle not having one! The good news, I suppose, is that I’ve got a few twelve-plus-hour plane rides to consider my options (or maybe start playing with that heretofore unknown something new). That’s right – I’m out of here for the next few weeks while I visit my family in Japan. So, I won’t be around to read/comment/blog much or at all. But, don’t worry – I will eat lots of yummy sushi and green tea soft-serve in your honor!

So. I’ve done romance. I’ve done family stories. I’ve done science fiction with a western twist. Maybe it’s time to poke at that detective murder mystery? What do you think? What helps you decide what project to tackle next? Do you rassle your Muse into cooperating, or do you let the faerie ramble?

B2-FH-Completed

Woo! Yeah! That’s right: Complete!

On a side note, as many of you know, I recently had a bit of a rough go. Many of you offered kind and supportive words for that, and I have to thank you. Your words really helped me move past what could have been a downturn. Some of you even said saying farewell to one friend would allow me to make room in my writerly life to make new friends…and I did! A mutual love of a shared universe put me in touch with a talented writer with whom I’ve enjoyed some of the best writing conversations about character, plot, and issues that I’ve had in a long time. And it’s felt glorious! The extra-awesome part? This writer is also a visual artist, who has offered to do art of my story, with my original character! I’ve been floating on clouds ever since I heard that. I will share if that’s allowed…but I may want to keep this one to myself.

That whispering in my ear….

I got a question about my writing the other day:

Do you picture your characters in your head, do you hear their voices? Do they flesh out the more you entertain them and actually write about them? … Do you even start out with distinct picture of a character/situation that grabs your attention?

Generally speaking, I do have voices for all my characters. They often don’t change, either. And, it helps for me to speak out a conversation when it’s still in the plotting stages as well as after it goes down on paper. If something doesn’t sound natural to me, I spend a lot of time reworking it. Unless it’s plot exposition, though I still prefer that to have a spontaneous rhythm to it. 🙂

My sister has an uncanny audio memory. She’ll hear something once and remember it for years. Even inflections! I’m not that good, but I do think that reworking fiction conversations in my head over and over until they become second nature has helped my character voices a lot. One thing a few recent readers have commented on is that my dialogue flows really well, so I’m proud of that.

Characters become more real for me the more I work with them. I think that probably happens with all writers, though. And, it makes sense. We spend so much time in the heads and hearts of these people, we come to know them better than we know the physical people around us. Likely because we are privy to all the inside thoughts and turmoils. Personally, I project a lot into my characters, though I try to keep some of them to specific boundaries, because they all have different conflicts. (It’s hard to articulate.)

My inspiration often can be traced back to a single face/moment/voice, and, as time goes on, characters develop into their own people. For instance, Daniel (“Finding Mister Wright”) evolved from Hal (“From Hell”) by way of Aral (“Anywhere but Here”), who was a different side of Ross (“Fearless”). But, they share similarities in look, manners, and voice, which unites them in my head, and allows me to jump into their shoes with much more ease than I might be able to do otherwise. Fresh characters, as it were, take much more time for me to grasp. One thing that my husband mentioned to me when he read “Finding Mister Wright” was that the first two acts work really well, but the third needed more time with one of the late-intro’d characters. As it stands, she feels like a plot device, not a person, as the other characters do. I see his point, and I think it’s because when she was originally written, she was still one of those “new” characters. Of course, since then, I’ve written more with her, so, now, it’s a matter of going back and growing her into a person as fully-fleshed as the others.

Do you hear your characters’ voices in your head?

"The End" is only the Beginning

On Friday, May 9, 2014, I finished the last chapter of Fearless. 167,000+ words, two-and-a-half years, and countless dreams, tears, and laughs later, it’s done. The first draft, that is. Which means it’s really just the beginning. Now, the manuscript (holy $%*&, I can really call it a manuscript!) can go to beta, then to editing, then to revision. Then, it goes to beta, editing, and revision again. I’m not sure how many passes this story will require to make it the best it can be before I die. For the moment, though, I think I’m going to take a deep breath, sit back, and let Ross and Amber rest a while. They deserve it.

I always get this happy-sad feeling when I finish a story, especially a big one. Fearless was my 2011 NaNoWriMo project, and it went through plenty of ups and downs before I typed those final words. I rather love that part of writing, though: the adventure of the first draft. It’s often imprecise and messy, but it’s full of such raw, untamed emotion! Revision requires analysis and skill, and it’s a necessary part of building a better story. It’s nothing like that rush of first draft, though. Not for me, anyway.

As an online reader, my experience is with works in progress. Friends and fellow storycrafters will post scenes or chapters as they’re made, and there’s a real sense of accomplishment to seeing a story come together organically in that way. But so many times, potential authors lose steam in their stories, and plots and characters are simply abandoned. It’s trite to say, but that makes me sad.

Clip Art by Ericlemerdy, shared via Clker

Clip Art by Ericlemerdy, shared via Clker

A story that is given time to grow and evolve becomes like a thing alive. When we let a story fall by the wayside, its world dies. I completely sympathize with writers or artists who start a project but then quickly realize this won’t work or that isn’t what it should be. But I really can’t understand artists who can devote huge chunks of their lives – like, years! – to a project, only to let it wither and fade when the going gets too rough or, heaven forfend, they move on to newer, shinier worlds.

I had a writer friend who told me, “Always finish the story, even if the ending is crap. You can always go back and fix it. But a finished story, no matter how crappy it is, is a real story, with a beginning, middle, and end. If you can finish, that puts you above at least half of all the other writers out there.” Now, I don’t know if his numbers were accurate, but his words have always stuck with me. And, every time I’ve started a story, I’ve wanted to make it “real”. Yes, some of the endings are crap. Some of the endings I wrote simply to get to the ending, so I wouldn’t have to look at that world any longer. But for every story I’ve written since I got that advice oh-so many years ago, I’ve given an ending. And, honestly, I think it has made me a better writer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m due for a break…at least until the next story comes calling.

What do you do when you finish a story? Do you celebrate or put your nose back to the grindstone? And, would you like to join me for a celebratory beer? (Sure, I’ll buy!)

SchneiderAventinus

A Schneider Aventinus poured right. Photo by bonusparts

Recycling the family tree

So, as some folks know, I’m writing this sci-fi western story based on a videogame universe. Blah blah blah, I know, it’s fan fiction and not real writing, whatever. I’m still having a blast with it, and just one of the reasons why is it’s given me a new perspective on some old characters.

For those who read “Anywhere but Here,” my 2012 NaNoWriMo project: Remember Tych and Imien? They were the pilot and the cypher, the secondary runaway characters following the two mains in the teenager half of the story. (Don’t worry if that’s confusing. It’s not important for this post.) Anyway, I came to a point in my current story, “From Hell,” where I needed a getaway ship. At first, I’d planned to model the ship’s captain on the character VT from the seventh session (episode) of the anime Cowboy Bebop, “Heavy Metal Queen.”

vt-bebop

– screen capture: “Cowboy Bebop” –

If you’ve any interest in anime, sci-fi bounty hunter stories, or jazz music, check out Bebop. But, again, not important to this post.

In playing around with the different interaction scenarios between the main characters of “From Hell” and the ship’s captain, I realized the ship couldn’t have just one crew member. So, I developed a daughter for Janus (that was going to be the captain’s name). On the story went, but neither Janus nor the daughter character really took hold with me. The daughter, by the way, never even got far enough in my thought process to get a name. That should tell you something about how well that subplot was going.

One afternoon, I was sitting at my writing desk working on designs for the ship. (That went through a few permutations, too.) I stumbled across an old sketch I’d made of the Ridout, the smuggler’s ship from “Anywhere but Here.” Never one to pass up the opportunity to save the world from my terrible vehicle sketches, I considered my work on the new ship done. And, quite suddenly, it hit me.

I already had a smuggler crew, all ready to go, fleshed out and everything. Enter Tych and Imien…or, as I renamed them, Twitch and Ivory. I’d always liked the Tych and Imien characters, but their personal stories never got any deep attention in “Anywhere but Here,” focused as the story had been on the more major plight of four teenagers on the run from the galactic government. Bringing them into “From Hell” offered me a chance to examine their personalities in a more acute light. Plus, their own conflict, such as it is, relates well to that of the main characters…who are also on the run, now that I think about it, but that’s a thought for another time.

Of course, Tych and Imien had to go through some changes to make the jump from one universe to the other, but I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been not to consider reusing these characters before! I’d borrowed pieces of other characters to create new ones before – I think every writer does that, at least at a subconscious level. For instance, the second principal character in “From Hell” – Hal, Axton’s engineer partner – developed from a mishmash of Amber from Fearless (cultured and sensitive, but also an elitist snob), and the Brock and Captain Aral characters from “Anywhere but Here” (sharp, loyal, a know-it-all techie, but afraid to pull a trigger). In turn, those characters developed from ones to come before them. I could draw up a whole family tree of where my characters come from…but it would probably be as confusing as the Baratheon/Lannister line of heirs!

I had to bring this up because I’m just having so much darn fun writing this story, and I wanted to share some of my excitement. I’ll go back to more serious stuff next time. Maybe.

Do you recycle characters?

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