My giant leap forward

I did manage one post for June (my flipping the coin villain backstory post), but the rest of the month was a wash, blog-wise. But, I did have some excitement. Drumroll, please….

 

My husband read one of my stories!

Some of you out there are likely thinking, Big f***in’ deal, but this was a huge deal for me. My husband hadn’t read anything of mine since university, which is…well, let’s just say it’s a long time ago, now.

I’d left my original story “Finding Mister Wright” in a file folder on the dressing table a few months back, inviting him to take a look whenever he felt like doing so. I left it up to him because I don’t like when other people force their writing on me. But, as the months went by, seeing that folder left untouched rankled me. So, when he messaged me one evening and mentioned he’d read it, I was walking on clouds!

I know it doesn't look like I'm excited, but I was.

I know it doesn’t look like I’m excited, but I was.

We spoke about it in some more detail, and I’ve gotten to bounce some ideas off of him, for how to make the third act come together with more punch.  One thing he said that made me nearly burst with glee was, “I like how you keep writing these characters after their main story is done. It gives them a much ‘fuller world’ feeling. Like they’re real.”

Honestly, a lot of my characters are real to me, even the fantastic ones. That’s what makes writing so joyous for me. It’s also why I get sad whenever I come to the end of a story. The characters and their relationships grow on me after all that time and effort of pulling their world and all of their conflicts together.

So, as of today, two people have read that first draft of “Finding Mister Wright” (Hi, JM!). Each of those people, with their timely feedback, has made me think about not just this story but all of my writing in a more focused way. I’m still undecided on the best way for me to get my stories out there – querying and sucking up to agents and houses, or hiring an editor and publishing on my own – but I feel like this little boost has fanned the flames of my spirit to be even stronger than before. Brighter, if you will. And each little bit of extra brightness makes the darkness of defeat seem not so foreboding.

I hope everyone out there is having a great summer (or whatever your local season may be). I’m looking forward to sharing more stories and steps forward in the months to come!

"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

Finding Mister Wright

Even though I currently have two full works-in-progress running through my head, my evil brain decided at 4am this past Thursday morning (hi, Kate!) to come up with a completely new plot bunny. The good news is that this potential plot develops rather organically from the stories I’ve been writing these last few years, so I think I’m in a better place now to tackle some of the issues to be presented therein than I would have been even a year or two ago. The bad news, of course, is that I don’t need a new story to write right now.

I’ve had persistent plot bunnies hijack my waking brain before. Usually, writing down the one or two integral scenes in my head allows me to move on. This happened most recently with that bit of Pacific Rim side character story I had. But, this new one is more elaborate than a single scene. It’s grown from a place of inner turmoil and dissatisfaction, one that would take more than a few thousand words to satisfy the nagging in my head and guts.

I keep thinking the stories and characters to have come before each new story are simply leading me to The Story of my writerly life…which each successive story still fails to be. Too long, too complicated, too much sex, not enough action – there’s a slew of reasons why my inner critic and editor always decides any particular story is not The Story I’m meant to share with the world…if there even is such a thing, for me. I write and share those stories anyway, of course, because I can’t not write, and I feel like a story not shared is hardly a story at all. But, how am I supposed to know where to put my efforts? Just keep moving forward, absorbing and learning and creating as I go? Should I just give up on The Story and write the lesser stories that come into my head but still manage (somehow, folks surely wonder) to bring me joy?

For anyone interested, below is the plot idea I had, the story’s working title being the title of this post. I guess I’m curious to know from any of you if the idea is worth pursuing…though, I’m pretty sure it will get written no matter what anyone says, if I decide so. Because I’ve been in an FTW sort of mood when it comes to my writing, lately. 😉

Marshall Wright has the perfect uncomplicated life. He loves his days as a paramedic pilot and even more his nights of bachelor autonomy. No clamoring kids, no ball-and-chain, not even a nagging girlfriend to make him stop drinking milk from the carton and leaving the toilet seat up. No one to help him finish off that opened bottle of Shiraz, either, but that’s all right. His freedom isn’t worth the cost of a woman’s saved mobile number, not when there are so many beautiful women to be had.

Civil rights attorney Sasha Price should have been just another beauty to share his bed one night. But, oh! That night! Marshall can’t stop thinking about that night, about the woman who gave as well as she got, enough to make his head spin.

He looks for her again, back at the bar where they met. That one night leads to two, three, four, and more, full of wine and roses. His friends think Sasha may be the one to get Marshall to move on from his swinging bachelor ways. Marshall even starts to think so, too, when the woman of his dreams drops a bomb he never could have suspected.

A girlfriend is complication enough in Marshall’s life. The secret of Sasha Price’s past adds a whole new set of ingredients to the mix.

…But, damn. She might just be worth it.

(This is also a first attempt at me writing a synopsis. I don’t know if it gives away too much of the “plot” in these few paragraphs, and it’s a bit too long to satisfy most submission rules (232 words). The story itself has less to do with the “surprise” than it does with the ramifications of the protagonist learning it. Though, I do wonder whether I should make that particular hurdle known in the synopsis, so readers would know what sort of story they’re in for.)

I won’t put you on the spot about this idea or the synopsis itself, so how about this question: how do you decide on which story you should concentrate, when you’ve got more than one (or two, or three!) fighting for your attention? 

My NaNo Retrospective

It’s November, and some of you out there are writing fiendishly for National Novel Writing Month. Despite my earlier expressed excitement, I decided at the last minute that I should instead concentrate on some works in progress rather than on a completely (well, mostly completely) new story. Rob and Paige’s story isn’t going in the bin; I’m just holding off on them a bit longer. They deserve a fuller telling, anyway.

2013 NaNoWriMo logo

NaNoWriMo is a celebration of writing, deadlines, creativity, and support, all important aspects of becoming a storyteller. Even though I won’t be running the race, this year, I don’t consider that a failure. In fact, NaNo has given me at least five stories of which I’m pretty proud:

anywhere_but_here-wp2012’s NaNo – “Anywhere but Here” – is a dystopian science fiction story, about four runaways and the Hounds tracking them down. In my delusion, I thought I could possibly push that one to publishable status, so I sent the first 1000 words to editor Kate Johnston. Kate had some great comments…but I was too shamed to send her the rest for a real job; I wanted to make the draft the best I could make it, and I knew that first pass wasn’t good enough. So, I’m working on that in bits and bobs.
On a side note, I believe Kate is still offering a great deal on a free critique of 1000 words, over at Musefly Writing Studio. Check out the link for more details!

fearless_graffiti_wp2011’s NaNo – Fearless – is still in progress, around 160K in first draft form. (I know: edit, edit, edit.) It’s a romance drama, one I’d once hoped to publish some day. As the story has become longer and more convoluted, though, that possibility has become ever more doubtful. I don’t mind. Once it’s done, I will print it up, bind it, and put it on my shelf. Because the story is so much a part of me, now. I’ve learned the most through writing it, and the depths of its beauty, sadness, and humanity I don’t think I’ll ever approach again.

Sixes-and-Sevens2007’s story was Sixes and Sevens, romance from an interracial angle, set circa 1997. Why that year? I remember being at a sleepover and waking up to news of Diana Spencer’s death, and talking with my friends about it, how we take the most important parts of life for granted. That, and the music from 1997 was pretty rockin’. 😀

In 2006, I wrote “The Daughters of Krull,” based on the high fantasy film from the 1980s (don’t judge me). While a fantasy, the main plot dealt mostly with fathers and daughters. I took three supporting characters from the film – a middle-aged man, a younger man in his physical prime, and a boy – and used them to examine their relationships with the women in their lives. It was actually a lot of fun to write, if not terribly popular with my usual readers.

through_green_eyes-wpAnd, all the way back in 2005, for my first NaNo, I wrote “Through Green Eyes,” a coming-of-age story of four siblings in colonial Japan, seen through the eyes of the family cat. This is probably the roughest and simplest of my NaNo ventures, but it’s also one of my favorites. It rekindled a love of my personal heritage I hadn’t felt in a long time. And, writing a cat was fun.

Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or not, take a moment to reflect on some of the stories you’ve written over the years. What are your favorites? Feel free to leave a link with your comment, too: because NaNo is just as much about sharing and inspiration as anything else. Tally ho!

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