Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Insecure Writer's Suport Group

It’s that time again. Time to shake out our fears, release them into the might sea of electrons and offer up some words of encouragement. Be sure to thank Ninja Captain Alex and hop on the linky: it’s another IWSG.

I’ve been struggling with an idea lately: is it worth it?

It’s a hard bridge to tackle. Every scrap of my life has been the safe road. Every choice was for the future, safe, solid, conservative. Every choice.

The act of starting a novel is complete madness. Writers start with an idea. They do all the work on the idea before anyone else sees it. They feed the idea their words. Hours and hours, gone. Housework? Nope, I’ve gotta write. A full day’s paying work followed by long nights pecking at a keyboard, and for what, a flawed first draft. The writer goes back and reads the manuscript (more hours) decides what to keep and what to toss. Then it’s back to writing. More long days, more frozen dinners for the family. Send it to beta readers: they hate it. Revise, rework, reword. Write. Betas say: better, but not enough. Rewrite. Redo. More dark lonely hours, but like a drug, the manuscript calls us back.

Then, finally a writer emerges from the writing cave blinking and holding something in their hands that represents months—sometimes years—of work. They craft a one page letter to carry the hopes of their dreams out into the morass of the query trenches. More months pass, but the writer has already fallen in love with the next idea. And the next one is The One.

I know plenty of people who’ve been on this merry-go-round for a decade with varying degrees of success. Madness. In what other profession would we tolerate so much failure? But every week I hear from those same friends about their novel, how they love this or that about it, and how they’re excited to get back to work.

Excited. Years of failure and they are still excited.

I’ve been writing like I mean it for years now. Granted, they sort of skipped by with me busy doing other stuff—notably that paying job, etc.—but I sort of look up every now and then and wonder, Holy Copernicus, how did another year slip away? Will I ever get published? What if I never get to print? Another year that just flounced by with me splitting myself into worker, mommy, writer: Is this worth it?

From a logical stand point: no. There is no way that spending hours and days and weeks and months and years could possibly work out to “worth it” for a novel that gets trunked. A touch of math will tell you it can’t be worth it in terms of lost work potential. If everything went perfectly, a novel probably takes something like 400-600 hours of work depending on length, revision, rewriting and so forth. That’s a lot of time. So logic says no. It isn’t worth it.

But logic has never dictated my actions. I’ve tried, but every logical choice I’ve made has bit me in the asterisk. Writing defies logic. For 400-600 hours, I get to live in a world filled with magic and justice, wonder and beauty. Heroic deeds well up from people who never knew they had it in them. I get to watch worlds and people unfold before my eyes, and there are so many I want to share, so many stories. The stories are boiling out of me, and if I didn’t write, I’d self destruct. That’s not hyperbole. It’s madness, yes, but it’s my madness.

So if you’re sitting at your desk today, looking at your manuscript and wondering if it’s worth it, to split your life and be an employee, and a parent, and a spouse, and a writer, just remember: writing a novel is madness, but we’re all mad here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Tales and a brief hiatus

As the title implies, I'm going to have to take a brief hiatus. I'm trying to do too many things all at once and it's not working, so don't expect to hear anything from me for the next two weeks or so. In fact, probably not until the Hobbit comes out. I'll still be reading other blogs, just not commenting as much. I'm going into lurker mode.

But before I go, I thought I'd share an odd bit of wisdom for you WriMos who might be having a hard time sealing the deal in the final stretches. You all are going to love this advice.

People make mistakes.

(I told you you'd love it).

Sometimes we make great big mistakes, and sometimes we make stupid mistakes that take us out of the game. A hesitation, a stumble, a dropped priceless piece of mars, you name it--it happens. But it just wouldn't be a story if I wasn't attacked by food.

Turkey salad anyone?

So there I was on the morning of Thanksgiving with a surprisingly small list of stuff to bring. Usually I've got bird duty and other sundry items (sauce, potatoes of the orange variety, potatoes of the smashed variety, salad, you know, the whole freakin feast?), but this year I had just three items: vegetable of choice, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Not taxing.

I did my workout (nothing like jogging for twenty minutes before eating a 3,000 calorie meal to reintroduce someone to the meaning of pointless), and put on the potatoes. After they finished cooking, I poured out the water, added some butter and started on my smashing duties.

Now, at this point I feel like I should mention that I'm actually a good cook (funny that I can call myself a good cook, but I shy away from using those positive words to describe my writing). In fact, I've made all manner of dishes and sometimes randomly try out recipes for fun. So I went about my business smashing my potatoes by hand, as I have for many years.

Then I thought, "Wait, why am I supplying elbow grease when I have power tools?" Admittedly, the hand blender is new. We always want to play with our new toys. For the record, do not use a high speed blenders on potatoes. I stuck that blender in, and I ground my way right down to the bottom of the stack of potatoes, but when I moved the blender to another location, a doughy tendril of potato stuck out like something from call of C'thulu (some spuds are older than others).

That was my first hint of not good. I pulled some of the doughy stuff out and remembered that starches could in fact be made into that sticky stuff that holds bread together. Oops. Well, at this point all I could do was add more milk and hope that the potatoes wouldn't acquire a texture too much like bread dough. I surrendered my blender, picked up the smashing tool and smashed.

The dough-like potatoes lubricated the bottom of the bowl and the rest came leaping out, somehow launching the milk right at me. My ninja like reflexes kicked in, and all but my shoes avoided the splashback of milk. I caught the bowl before it could disgorge it's contents, and all was right in the world. Well, all except that giant milk stain on my trainers. Seriously, I don't know what people are on about when it comes to milk baths, but I can honestly say, it did not improve the skin on my toes for being soaked in it.

So yeah, throw a mistake or two into your MC's life. After all, if we were all perfect, we'd never have to mop the kitchen floor. I don't know about you all, but I'm much more likely to murder my steam mop from overuse than neglect.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bogged down by the middle?

I’ve found myself in the wonderful “I can’t wait to get to the end” euphoria of my novel's third act, and it made me wonder, why was the middle such a chore? I’m pretty sure everyone knows about the boggy, soggy middle of a novel (and if not, go read about them here), but for me it’s something even more than that.

The middle is our time of flux, the world isn’t settled and our futures are uncertain. I hate that time. But when I read a book, I don’t mind so much. Mostly I don’t mind because it isn’t around for any length of time. There’s only a couple hours of reading and viola, out of the middle.

As a writer, this just isn’t the case.

When I get to the middle, I can be there for weeks or even months depending on the project. It’s like this curse that you experience the book so much faster reading it than when you’re writing it, and it distorts the way writers view their work. I think this is why we get into the middle of a novel and lose faith. It isn’t because our work is bad (even though it needs to be edited), it’s because we’ve been experiencing the novel for so long that we can’t imagine anyone else wanting to spend that much time on our novel as well. And that, luckily is why I’m here to tell you: No one will spend that much time on your novel. They’ll read it in a handful of hours (maybe longer, or maybe over days or weeks), but they aren’t going to spend quite so much time with it. So take heart, no one else will spend as long in the middle.

All right, I’m hoping you wrimos and revismos are all on track, and for everyone else, Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Birth of a crazy—I mean novel

I’m typing my little fingers off over here because I’m working on too many things all at once. For Birth of a Novel, my goals were to meet my word counts. Check! For my dissertation, my goals were—you know, it’s pretty boring to read about how I set some goals and made them. No one wants to read about how I’m a goody-two shoes who’s learned over the years that either I make my goals, or I don’t.

But my guess is that most people don’t have an almost 4 year old singing about the coming apocalypse. Yeah, my family is known for overachievers.

See, my daughter has been learning Christmas carols. Sweet mother of science, why didn’t someone warn me about Christmas carols? I should have remembered, after all, I was a prime offender in my youth. I guess I’d just forgotten. But the problem is that she’s still a kid with a bit of a speech impediment (they all grow out of them).

But until she grows out of it she sings “Joy to the world, the warg has come.”

The Warg.

You know, the Warg:

How’s your November going? Preparing for the invasion of family or on the side of the invaders? Good luck one way or the other, and for those of you in writer’s bliss (or hell depending) To NANO!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Birth of a Novel

Write, so I was supposed to post a progress report for Birth of a Novel, but two annoying/upsetting things happened. First the kid got a stomach bug, and second, like the complete idiot I can be, I caught the puck during my Wednesday night hockey game. Wait, no, let me say that again: I caught the puck with my hand on the part of the glove that’s worn through from overuse. I didn’t break anything, but two days later and still hurts. I didn’t do much typing yesterday (part of my NaNo word count was actually from the day before and I just hadn’t reported it).

Right. So back to Birth of a Novel.

As it turns out I’ve been tagged for the next big thing a bunch of times, but I haven’t done it. Since the birth of a novel blog hop is just getting started I thought today would be a good day to pass it along.

1. What is the working title of your book?

THE PRINCESS SINGULARITY and I can’t decide if it’s the greatest title ever or a complete failure of nerdity. The previous title was ACCIDENTAL GODMOTHER, but one agent said “I think I’ve read this already.”

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for this book came after my daughter fell in love with Cinderella. On the fifty bazillionth watching of it, I thought about how funny it would be if there was someone whose magic was always destined to reproduce plot points from stories with similar spells. For instance, if the mage needed to get somewhere in a hurry, but didn’t have a cart, but she had a love sick girl and some mice, she could recreate the carriage and dress from Cinderella to get a ride to the nearest town or village. The only problem is that at that inn or village, for whatever reason, there would be a prince there, and he would fall madly in love with the girl (not the mage). Because of this chance meeting the whole region would be destabilized politically, and so on and so forth. It’s changed a lot since then, but that was the start of it all (hence the original working title of Accidental Godmother).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Genre, you prickly thorn in my side. So if this were a perfect world, I could say YA fantasy. But this isn’t a perfect world, and people tell me “Oh, those themes make it MG, or this is too mature for YA, so it has to be adult.” So right now, I’m writing with a genre in mind, but I’ve read enough YA to say, it’s not like your typical YA because it doesn’t revolve around a romance. Sure there’s some in there, but my story is about defeating an evil wizard who wants to take over the world (for some very valid reasons, mind you). My book is a lot of action and adventure in a magical world (and our world, too).

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I know he doesn’t do bad guys, but—absolute swoon—Neil Patrick Harris.
The villain would of course be married to Cate Blanchet… And these are the love interest’s parents.

As for the main character, I think Selena Gomez would do a great job with it. Although, Anne Hathway from Princess Diaries wouldn’t be a bad choice either (but she is getting a little old to play a teenager).

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I suck at this, but here it goes:
When Tessa’s best friend is kidnapped by an evil wizard who has mistaken her best friend for Tessa, she has to hunt down the evil wizard and steal back her friend.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft of the manuscript took 12 weeks. This draft, a full rewrite, has been a hot and cold affair which I’m working on for NaNo (To NaNo!)

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is another one of those things I’m supposed to be good at, but actually totally suck at. See my big problem is that there’s not a lot of adventure YA. There’s a crap ton of romance in weird settings, but not a lot of adventure. So to compare, I’d say if Jim Butcher got together with L. Frank Baum and George RR Martin to write a book featuring a teenage girl, this would be it (note that I recognize the fact that L. Frank Baum did write a book about a teenage girl, but he didn’t have voice like Mr. Butcher… not that I do, but you know what I mean).

And I think that right there is why I have such a hard time comparing my books to other books, I feel like I have no right to say my book is what you would get if you had a book with voice by Butcher, politics by Martin, and world building by L. Frank Baum.

8. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

What inspired me to write this book was that I was going completely insane. No, really I was going COMPLETELY INSANE. At the time, my little girl was only 8 months old, and I had exactly one day of child care, during which I had to teach a five hour class and get as much research done as possible. So on this one day off from raising an 8 month old, I would arrive at work wrangle analytical equipment all morning, and teach all afternoon (often without lunch). Anyone who’s ever done the kid thing knows what I’m talking about, no sleep, I was actively doing research and writing my dissertation and teaching. I had the equivalent of three fulltime jobs. I was going insane. Then this idea for a novel struck struck like lightning. I had to write it.  

9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Who doesn’t want to see the prom queen break out a giant sword to go chop off the wizard’s head? Or how about an MC who decides to turn herself into a dragon to take out the wizard even though she knows it’ll probably kill her?

So yeah, this is a silk, swords, and sorcery book. And I wrote it because I haven’t been seeing nearly enough of these in my life. (that should tell me that they don’t sell well, sigh.)

As for who I tag:

I’m tagging everyone on the Birth of a Novel Blog hop. And if you want, feel free to sign up, just go here and jump on the linky.