Progress Report: On Creation

I’ve been MIA from the blog for a while because I’ve been writing. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo with my critique. My goal was to write 25,000 words in 30 days. It was touch and go for a while there, but I just made it. I’m now nearly done with the first draft of my sixth novel. It’s the first that I think I’ll probably add as many words as I cut once I start editing. The world needs fleshing out, but I’m really pleased with this one. It’s a middle grade fantasy and I’ve had a lot of fun writing it. It’d been over a year since I’d started something entirely new. I’d forgotten how exciting it can be to not know what would happen until I wrote it.
In the writing community there are two common methods of writing: pantsing and plotting. Writers who plot, work out the entire plot either in notes or outlines, or just in their own heads, before they write one word of the first draft. Pantsers, aka writing by the seat of your pants, don’t have a plan. They just see what plot appears as they write it. Of course there are infinite variations of either method. I tend to work best in a hybrid of the two.
Two or three months later I begin writing the draft. At this point I’m pantsing, letting the ideas come as they may, getting to know the character and their world. I may have an idea where things are going, but I’m never more than a single chapter ahead of myself. The story happens as I write it. And what I write informs what will happen next. For example, early on in this draft I had a character give Ben a gift. I didn’t know what the gift would be. I went through a couple of options, a sweater, a board game, a hat. Nothing felt quite right. I finally settled on an empty birdcage. Then I had to come up with a reason why this character would give her an empty birdcage. I decided it was because if she put a slice of bread and jam in the cage and hung it outside her window overnight, she’d find something inside in the morning. That led me to figuring out just what she would find. The thing she found in the cage has become vitally important to book overall. Things have happened that I had no inkling of when I began writing, and wouldn’t have had she gotten a sweater instead of the birdcage.
So I write, adding in new characters and plot elements as they come to me. But usually, somewhere between chapter five and ten, the plot tells itself to me, from wherever I am in the draft all the way to the end. I then plot it out chapter by chapter and continue to write based on those plans. That’s not to say what I eventually write matches what I wrote in those chapter plans. Even after I think I know where things are going, new scenes/characters/plot elements do crop up. I guess that makes me pantsing plotter, or maybe a plotting pantser.
The only downside to this method of writing is I tend to derail when I get to a part where I know what comes after the scene I’m about to write, but not what happens in that scene. I either stop writing until I’ve come up with a way to get from point A to point C or just write anything and hope it works. For example in the most recent chapter I knew Ben would find something she’d been looking for, but there would be an obstacle preventing her from getting it, only I didn’t know what the obstacle was or how she’d eventually get around it. I knew that this part was coming well before I got to it, and I’d been thinking of what it could be for a while. Everything I’d come up with just didn’t fit or would cause insurmountable consequences (just because you’re making something up doesn’t mean you can do anything you want). When I finally reached the point were I needed the obstacle, I stopped, let mu mind rest for a few days, thought about other things, and then out of the blue I had it. The perfect B to take me from A to C. But those days when I didn’t know if I’d find a solution were scary.
I think I’ve only got two more chapters to write in this book and I’m fairly confident in what will happen. I’ve already had an idea for the next book—not a sequel to this one. It’s a bigger, wilder idea than anything I’ve done to date, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have fun trying. I’m also sure I’ll be riding waves of inspiration right into big nasty walls of uncertainty. That’s how I write.
In the meantime, I’m still querying Random Acts of Nudity. Nothing new to report on that front, though that could change soon. And my critique partners are reviewing My Undead Ex this month. I’ve already gotten really good feedback on it and should get more during our meet-up. Maybe once I’m finished with the current WIP I’ll go into revision mode on Undead Ex and finally fix some of the draggy parts. The new idea needs some time to percolate before I begin writing.
I’d be curious if any of my writer friends and acquaintances are also pantser/plotter hybrids. Or if my method would make them crazy. Or if they are hybrids, but their method is entirely different. Share in the comments if you are so inclined.

Pitchapalooza

I was lucky enough to be selected for The Book Doctors’ Pitchapalooza event.

They’ve posted my pitch for Random Acts of Nudity here.

Susan Taitel

There are two prizes, one to be chosen by the judges is an introduction to an agent. The other prize is voted on by readers for the fan favorite, to receive a consultation with the Book Doctors.

Voting is done here.

2013 NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza

If you’d like to cast your vote for me, that would be awesome. Or one of the other pitches, many of which are pretty darn good.

The Year in Books

For the last couple of years I’ve kept a running list of the books I’ve read over the course of a year. My slightly compulsive brain likes having a record. This year’s list is a little shorter than past ones. I attribute that to working on three separate manuscripts (two completed, plus major rewrites) an editing class, querying agents, and a busier social life, taking up some of my reading time.

2012 by the numbers

Grand total
25 books read since January. (That doesn’t include single issue comics or the many picture books I read to my insatiable niece.) – 11 graphic novels/12 novels/1 short story collection

24 audiobooks listened to. (Coincidence that it’s equal to the number of books.

Breaking it down by category
6 read on my Kindle

4 of the 6 Kindle reads were unpublished manuscripts reviewed for my critique group. (I’m not counting the many times I read and reread my own work as I edited.)

4 books I’d read in the past and wanted to revisit.

5 borrowed from friends

3 from the library

16 young adult – 5 books/10 audiobooks

7 middle grade – 4 books/3 audiobooks

4 nonfiction – 4 audiobooks

Favorite Author numbers
2 Neil Gaiman – 1 book (Fragile Things)/ 1 audiobooks (The Graveyard Book, one of the revisited)

2 Jane Austen (Mansfield Park) (Emma, one of the revisited)

1 Jasper Fforde (the Last Dragonslayer)

2 Brian K. Vaughan (False Faces) (Ex Machina vol.9)

1 Douglas Adams (the Salmon of the Doubt)

Currently, I’m reading Bumped by Megan McCafferty and listening to Cold Days by Jim Butcher. But I’m only counting the books I finished before the end of the year. Alright 2013, show me what you got!

Edited: I finished Bumped this morning so I went back and added to the totals.

I’m a fan girl: Neil Gaiman

How big of a Neil Gaiman fan am I? Here’s a hint.

I was first exposed to Neil Gaiman as a teenager by my sister, albeit a indirectly. She lent me the Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll. I devoured it in a few days. I raved over it to her (it’s still one of my all time favorites). She mentioned that it reminded her of a particular arc of a comic book series called Sandman. I filed that away for future reference. About a year later, I was perusing my local Borders. I spotted a few Sandman trades. At that time I didn’t have a lot of money or many possessions to my name. Every purchase was carefully considered. I read each volume’s description until I found the one who’s plot sounded the most like Bones of the Moon. It was A Game of You. I took it home, hoping I hadn’t wasted my twelve dollars.

 

It probably wasn’t the best place to jump into the series as it was the most self contained arc, without many links to the series overall. It didn’t matter, I was hooked. Over the next year I read the rest of the series in order of what was in stock at the book store at any given time. I had already realized that I liked comic books before I left home, but I doubt I would be as into them as I am if I hadn’t spent that time in the graphic novel section searching for Sandman volumes I hadn’t read yet.

 

Once I’d devoured the entire Sandman saga, I snapped up everything else with the name Neil Gaiman on the spine. And they didn’t disappoint. Neverwhere, Mr. Punch, Stardust, they all sparked my imagination and made me see the world in a new way. I love the way he writes, often in a personal but slightly esoteric style. I love the way he mixes myths and everyday life in a way that makes me feel like this is the way the world has always been, I just hadn’t noticed before. And I love listening to him read his stories.

 

And my love of his writing sent me down many unexpected paths. It led me to delving into comic books. It led me to going to signings and conventions at a time in my life when getting out of the house for things other than work was a challenge. It led me to other artists who spoke to me, like Jill Thompson, Dave McKean, and Susanna Clarke.

 

What it didn’t do was spur me to do was write. Oh, it inspired me and made me long to be a writer. But I wanted to write like Neil, which I couldn’t. I would start a story and give up after a few paragraphs. I just couldn’t do what he does. It took a long time for me to realize that I’m not supposed to write like Neil, I’m supposed to write like me.

 

Occasionally I hit on something that feels like it plays in the same sandbox as Neil’s work (such as the story I posted on Halloween) and it pleases me immensely, but I’m no longer trying to imitate my idol. After all, he does an excellent job of being Neil. We don’t need another one. And I get to create something that only I could have created. Maybe I’ll never reach his level of craftsmanship, but I’m going to keep trying. And that is one of many reasons I’m a fangirl.

Flamewar: by a Lady

I’m a big fan of Jane Austen.I’ve read all but two of her books. I like to space them out between readings, so first readings of Northanger Abby and Persuasion are still in the distance. I also enjoy adaptations and retellings of her works, though the quality often varies. When FYA announced they’d be doing a Pride and Prejudice theme week, I might have responded with a loud “booyah!” You can read their many hilarious posts here.

Over the last few years there has been a rash of authors embarrassing themselves and damaging their reputations by responding to negative reviews on blogs and sites such as Amazon. It is a shocking phenomena, with both indie and traditionally published authors making a spectacle of themselves. These authors seek out the negative reviews of their work and lash out and attack the reviewers. It is a terrible idea on their part. Bad reviews are no fun, I’ve had my share and should I mange to publish something I’m sure I’ll have many more. And yes they sting and sometimes I get defensive and dismiss the review as “not getting it.” But only in the privacy of my own head. I would never attack someone else for their opinion of my writing. Watching these meltdowns from the outside can be a bit of a head desk moment. What on Earth are these writer’s thinking? No matter if the review in question is well written and thoughtful essay or a single sentence along the lines of “This author sucks, they should stop writing.” A tirade always does far more damage to an author’s career than a bad review could. In short if you can’t weather a bad review here or there, maybe publishing isn’t for you.

Which is a long winded explanation for what I’m about to lay out. I posed myself the question. If the experienced, successful authors of today, who should know better, can’t resist the lure of railing against a bad review, could one of the greatest of all time?

Jane Austen Gets Into a Flamewar With Her Fans

To the editors and readership of the “Austentonian Times,”

Before I address the comments which compelled me to put pen to paper, I would first like to ask that you cease appropriating my name for this “publication” which I most certainly do not endorse. I would also like to point out that while you purport said publication to be an outlet for so called “fanatics” of my work, it seems to me that it is more a place for uneducated lunatics to criticize and ascribe meaning to my work that was never intended.

I would like to refute the anonymous contributor who accused me of having a bias against the clergy.  On the contrary I have the utmost respect for men of God as a whole.  I am in fact a rector’s daughter, and consider the loss of my excellent father to be the great tragedy of my life. To suggest that because I painted characters such as Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton, both clergymen, as undesirable and comical is evidence that I have no respect for the church is utterly ludicrous! Must I explain the function of fiction to your readership? Must I defend my choice to create characters with foibles regardless of their profession? I fear even if I were to try, they would not have the intelligence to comprehend.

To the young lady who wrote to lament that “Fanny Price is so dull! As is Mansfield Park on the whole. La, what happened to the liveliness of Pride and Prejudice? It is by far my favorite.”  I must ask, did I force you to read Mansfield Park if you were not enjoying it? Were you perhaps stuck at the bottom of a well, with only my third novel to pass the time? Did you burn Pride and Prejudice on acquiring my next book, and therefore can no longer derive enjoyment from the less mature piece?  Am I not allowed to explore new themes in my work? Must I rewrite Pride and Prejudice time and again? Only changing the lovers names to Miss Traliza Bonnet and Mr. Pitzsimmon Farcy? Is that what you would have me do? I suspect it is.

To Mr. Currer Bell, if that is indeed your true name, I detect a feminine hand behind your words, but that is neither here nor there. I do not take offense that you and your family believe I concern myself too much with propriety and not enough with “poetry and passion” as you so eloquently put it. If you cannot detect the turmoil within my characters regarding the conflicting pulls propriety and passion, then you are not the audience to which I write. I encourage you to take the next few years, you will excuse me for presuming you are still quite young, there was much in your letter to give me that impression, to seek out books written with your sensibilities in mind. Perhaps if no one is writing such literature you can do it yourself, you clearly do not believe it is the least bit difficult. I look forward to someday seeing the overwrought, sensational, and likely sentimental stories you come up with in print.

There is much more I would like to say, but I have decided you are no longer worth the paper it would take to do so. Good day to you all, and God’s grace on all your future endeavors.

Miss J. Austen, authoress.

Week 14: The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Thanks to J Lenni Dorner for asking me to be a part of this.  You can see J’s answers by clicking here.

***Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
Random Acts of Nudity

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I kinda stole it.  NOT REALLY!!!  I did not steal it, but my idea was sparked from reading someone else’s concept.  I participate in a board on Amazon where authors post their pitch and get help from other authors in making it as appealing as possible.  About two years ago I read a pitch there about a person who saw themselves in a viral sex tape.  It got me thinking.  The other author’s idea was about an adult male, who didn’t remember making the video, and the book was a psychological thriller.  But the idea of being in a viral sex tape stuck with me.  I started thinking about how most kids these days have recording equipment and how easy it is to distribute video online.  I began weaving the story of a teenage girl who casually makes a sex tape with her boyfriend, not expecting anyone but themselves to see it.  Then after they breakup, it’s seen by their entire school.

What genre does your book fall under?
Contemporary YA.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
There aren’t many actors that fit the description of my main character, since she’s plus size.  There isn’t an abundance of teenage plus size actress working today.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A shy honors student is mortified when her ex releases their sex tape to the whole school.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m submitting it to agents now. Fingers crossed, one will like it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wasn’t keeping track, somewhere between five and eight months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read a lot of other contemporary YA.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
See the first answer.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The MC has a snarky, self deprecating voice.  The way she handles being humiliated and ostracized is (I hope) unique and entertaining, while still being believable.  And the supporting characters rock, if I do say so myself.

Thomas A Knight, I.A. Uaro, Dana Brantley-Sieders, Maggie Young, and Janet Oakley– you’re it!

It’s National Buy a Book Day!

Did you know that? I didn’t, but it is. Why not go and buy a book? I did. I bought the Academie by Amy Joy. It’s a dystopian young adult novel which was an entry in ABNA this past year.  I read the excerpt during the contest and really enjoyed it, so this was a great excuse to go buy the whole novel. Let me know what you buy.