#NaNoWriMo When You Have No Freaking Clue What Happens Next

Hile, wordslingers!

With neither ado nor adon’t, Ima splat you right in the face with a lemon meringue writing advice pie. It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo, and though I ain’t perticipatin’, I know there’re plenty of you crazy kids out there who might need a little scribbling inspiration as the end of Week One approacheth. So here y’all go:

This Hoopla We Call Writing

Writers are people with ideas. Or so the story goes. Most of us, when we sit down to start writing, don’t seem to have much trouble finding something to write about–after all, if we didn’t have the idea, we wouldn’t have sat down to write in the first place. (This might be what’s called circular logic, but I’m gonna go with it anyway.) (Also, this might not apply to the dreaded monster known as Undergraduate Thesis Paper; but in this case, if the list of ideas grows short, there’s always coffee and foolhardiness.)

Hitting The Wall

But I digress. (Shocking, innit?) We writers are people with ideas…except when we’re not. The initial sit-down-and-start-scribbling-like-mad ideas are not a problem. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve got that covered. But what happens after the first bout of hectic, joyous franticness fizzles out?

Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t you dare shy away. Make eye contact with me, kiddos! We’ve all been there: You’re slashing away with your pen at that bountiful pad of lined, yellow paper. You’re hammering away at those keys as if they’re tiny square culprits who drank the last of the milk and stuck the empty carton back in the fridge. Things are flowing, story’s moving, characters are sparkling–and BOOM. Dead end. You smash face-first into a wall, and you’re pummeled by that most horrid of questions: What happens next??? You don’t have a clue, because you. Are out. Of ideas.

Part of the solution to your difficulty is that most horrid of pre-writing exercises, The Outline. But that’s another story and shall be told another time. What we’re concerned with today is ideas, and we’re going to turn to a seasoned pro for advice on where to get them.

Elmore Leonard Gets Ideas…

In “Making It Up as I Go Along” (AARP Magazine [don’t ask], July/August 2009), Elmore Leonard describes some of the ways in which he generates ideas for his stories. Considering his novel-pub cred (Get Shorty, Three-Ten to Yuma, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch, among many others), I figure the man probably knows what he’s talking about. So take a look at some of these and see if any of them resonate with you:

…From Photos

Leonard describes how the main character of his novel Out of Sight started life as a photograph of a woman deputy marshal holding a pump-action shotgun.

eleonardAs some of you, my darling readers, already know, I am a very visual person. I can see myself picking up a magazine like National Geographic, thumbing through to an article about some 19th-century adventurer, and feasting my eyes and my creative brain on the sepia-fuzzy image of a hood-eyed man in a weather-beaten hat. Maybe he’s wearing a heel-length overcoat and carrying a pack. BOOM again–but in a good way, this time. Suddenly, I have a character named Mac Finchley, and he just stepped out of the magazine pages and into my dead-end chapter–to do what? Shoot my main character in the leg? Build a fire and cook supper? Juggle spoons? Release two badgers and a wombat? The possibilities are endless, which means the ideas start piling up and the story can roll on, dude.

…From Other Writers

When Leonard needs spare style, he reads Ernest Hemingway every day. When he wants to flavor his prose with humor, he picks up Richard Bissell.

Me, I turn to Stephen King when I have trouble with characterization, and to Tad Williams when I need a refresher on world-building. In my opinion, though, it’s best to use caution when reading other writers specifically for help with your own writing. Especially when you’re reading one of your favorites, it’s easy to adopt that person’s style instead of developing your own. It’s natural to imitate what you love. But if you focus on finding your own voice and remain aware of your literary surroundings, you should be able to glean what you need from other writers without transplanting their entire crop into your own creative field.

…From History

Moonshine and the library gave Leonard the seeds for his novel The Moonshine War.eleonard2 Speaking of war and not-so-shining historical moments, I have long thought that the epic battles described in the Bible’s Old Testament provide great framework for battle descriptions in fantasy stories. And in ancient Roman tradition, a slave whispered “you are only a man” to the great leader as he made his triumphal entry into the city; in my novel Rethana’s Trial, I turned this bit of real-world history into a character’s final test of manhood. Humanity’s past abounds with facts and people and scenes that will spark a fire of what-happens-next in your mind. Grab a history book, open it to a random page, and let what you read be the next challenge your characters face. How does the real-world snippet “translate” to the world of your story? How will your characters handle it? Let them tell you.

…From Real People

Leonard based a fictional judge on a real-life friend in the judicial system.

For my novel Shadows after Midnight, I needed someone to get my main character into a heavy metal concert without a ticket. On the day I wrote that scene, I happened to be texting with my friend Bryan, who listens to the kind of music my MC was hearing. Jokingly, I asked Bryan if I could put him in my book. He said sure–and suddenly, my MC had the knowledgeable insider he needed, complete with a T-shirt bearing the name of Bryan’s favorite heavy metal band. Later on, it turned out that Bryan had information my MC was desperate to get, which moved the MC and other characters halfway across the country.

So look around at your friends and family and see who possesses the traits your characters might need to move your story forward. You know these people–their habits, hang-ups, foibles, and faces. Once you start pondering, I promise you’ll find you know exactly who is going to help your characters take over the world. Of course, you should always ask permission before you assign a real person the role of Evil Overlord, lest you acquire too-intimate experience with a lawsuit for defamation of character.

______

So there you have it, sweetlings. A few ways to generate ideas that will poke, nudge, prod, or blast your story forward when you’re stuck. But plenty of other options exist, and I don’t doubt you’ve thought of some while reading this post. The mental block of what-happens-next can seem as intimidating as a 2001 monkey-hysteria space-monolith. But it need not lay you low. Use some of Leonard’s methods to generate some ideas, or follow some of the methods that have worked for you in the past. (Share them in the comments! We all need ’em!) You’ll be skipping gaily around that monolith in no time. Or at least hacking dementedly away at it with a hammer and chisel.

To wrap up, a few particularly enjoyable and helpful quotes from Leonard:

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

“Dialogue, in fact, is the element that keeps the story moving. Characters are judged as they appear. Anyone who can’t hold up his or her end of the conversation is liable to be shelved, or maybe shot.” (I, Courtney, heart this one with gusto.)

“A photo of a woman marshal with a shotgun, and a prison break, gave me what I needed to write a love story.”

“After 58 years you’d think writing would get easier. It doesn’t. If you’re lucky, you become harder to please. That’s all right, it’s still a pleasure.”

May we all be able to say that after 58 years. 🙂

Writing Resource: First Lines #NaNoWriMo

Hile, my lovelies!

Today, with the pleasure of a thousand sheikhs bathed in chocolate, I bring you a creative writing exercise resource THING. As you might have noticed, of late I’ve become a regular reader of Chuck Wendig’s blog terribleminds. One of my favorites of his columns is his weekly, Fridayly (Fridaily?) flash fiction challenge. He posts a new one every week, and each one is a frolicking romp of a creative writing challenge, and it’s all muy inspiring and so forth and whatnot.

1stThe current challenge is to write an opening line (15 words max), which other writers will then use to craft a tale for next week’s challenge. Me, I’ve officially hied myself to the comments section of said current challenge and posted the following as my opening line:

“I can see why you don’t have any friends,” said the poltergeist.

After I posted this to Wendig’s blog, I thought that I should probably post it to mine own.

And after I thought I should post it to mine own, I thought that I should also post a few other opening lines just for fun.

And after I thought that I should post other opening lines for fun, I thought I should invite you all to use these lines as you see fit: either as inspiration for other opening lines, or as inspiration for stories, or as inspiration for poetry, or as inspiration for a collection of fictional tweets from the bathroom. It’s up to you.

At any rate, please to be finding below a list of first lines (some longer than 15 words). You have my permission to use them as thou wilt. If you get rich and famous off the resulting stories, though, do be kind enough to drop my name to the press, won’t you? Thanks.

Creative Writing Resource: Opening Lines (Free!)

The humans slept.

The book fell open to a well-read page, and what she saw there made her heart race.

After dinner, he took the guests’ tongues one by one.

He always knew some small thing would bring his destruction, but he’d never suspected a bobby pin.

“Ow, my elbow joint! Hand me that oil can, willya?”

The whispers wouldn’t stop.

Maybe nobody would think to look for her under the bubbles.

In the nineteenth year of Goriakin Warhound’s reign, the owl people came down out of the mountains.

“Try again.”

She stared out over the rim of her glass, still tasting the poison on her lips, and wondered which of her brothers had tried to kill her.

Look. I was just doing what I had to. Everybody knows the only good crilli is a dead crilli.

It wasn’t until he was ten that he realized he was the only one who could see the blood.

“Don’t you effing dare hang up on me! I have exactly three more points on my li–”

In a certain light, the back of the door looked pink.

The storm refused to break until the fever did.

The house was an adorable combo of Victorian frill and oversized 1980s slouch, and he was sure that it was trying to kill him.

I like music that tells a story. What was happening onstage was more like a tech manual for vacuum cleaner assembly.

“My goodness, get in here. What have you done to yourself? Your hair looks like a mullet.”

Years later, they would reassure each other that she deserved it.

When the priest levitated over the altar and up past the crucifix, Mrs. Denby finally bolted from the front row and ran shrieking down the nave.

He glanced at it just in time to see it move.

___________________

Annnnnnd that’s a wrap. Share your thoughts, inspirations, stories, world domination schemes, and whatnots in the comments!

Why #NaNoWriMo? (Of Plot Bunnies and Ninja Zombies)

Hello, my lovelies.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I spent November firmly and happily ensconced in this year’s National Novel Writing Month, abbreviated to NaNoWriMo for your convenience.

NaNoWriMo is the manic, overcaffeinated, unpaid, underslept, head-desking, face-palming, keyboard-hammering, plot-bunnying, ninja-zombieing, annual November endeavor of hundreds of thousands of writers world-wide, each writing their own 50,000-word novel between November 1st and 30th.

2011 marks my eighth year participating in this adventure. Because I am a crazy person.

I first stumbled across the NaNo website in January? February? of 2003 — and I knew this was my kind of party. AW yeah. With bated breath, I waited most of a year before the next November rolled around. When it did (because how could it resist?), I banged out 50,000 words of what would eventually become my high fantasy novel Triad.

In 2004, I tried it again. I got 12,000 words into Triad‘s sequel and quit. Only last year did I realize that this happened because I had no plot.

Chorus: DUH.

In 2005, I staged a comeback and got my 50k in. Bam.
In 2006, I did it again.
In 2007, I moved across the Atlantic Ocean. This is conducive to *headdesk*ing and *facepalm*ing but not to NaNoWriMo-ing.
In 2008, another successful comeback. Another win in 2009, and another in 2010.

And, as you can see, I just garnered my seventh win a couple days back (click to embiggen):

But Is This Getting Me Anywheres?

You bet your patootie it is.

Colors of Deception, my 2008 NaNo novel, came out in April 2011.
Shadows after Midnight, my 2009 NaNo novel, came out in October 2011.
Stains of Grace, my 2010 NaNo novel, is slated for release in April 2012.
Triad is on the publishing schedule for 2012 and will come out in two volumes: Legend’s Artisans: Schism and Legend’s Artisans: Triad.

NaNoWriMo works for me.

A Few Reasons Why NaNoWriMo Works for Me

1. DEADLINES!
Myers-Briggs-wise, I’m an INFP who, in some things, turns into an INFJ. It’s really kind of scary how accurately parts of both profiles describe me. I don’t want to go into detail about either right now, because that’s not what this blog post is about.
But if you click through those links and read the profiles, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I am crazy passionate about writing, and yet I have trouble setting myself writerly deadlines and actually adhering to them. Note that I’m a master at setting the deadline; I just sail past it with a wave and a wink, and the easy sailing-past doesn’t bother me one whit.
NaNoWriMo gives me a deadline I can’t ignore — because somebody else sets it. If I ignore it, I’ll feel like an abysmal failure and spend the rest of the year kicking myself for disappointing…somebody. (Myself.)
Deadlines are great for me. But only if they come from outside.

2. PEOPLE! PEOPLE DOING THE SAME THING I’M DOING! AT THE SAME TIME!
I cannot count how many exercise videos I’ve purchased and tried to do at home. It never works out. I get bored with them. I talk back to them. They don’t talk back. I hate not getting a reply. I move on.
I’m an introvert, which means I get my energy from my alone time. But I also crave interaction. I crave the meeting-of-minds that happens on a deeper level. I crave that instant in which the other person gets me.
NaNoWriMo is like 300,000 people getting me all at once, sustained for a whole month.
I swear I don’t mean that as dirty as it sounds.
Fortunately, I don’t have to talk to all 300,000 of them. I get to interact with a choice few, and they meet my mind in a big way. They keep me going, and I keep them going, because we grok. When I talk, they talk back. To an INFP like me, that’s water in the desert, y’all.

3. PLOT BUNNIES AND NINJA ZOMBIES!
Honestly, I don’t know what plot bunnies and zombie ninjas are all about. They have something to do with getting unstuck when you get stuck during NaNoWriMo. I think.
If I were to make up my own connections: Bunnies proliferate; it’s great when plots keep going and spawn new ideas. Ninja zombies…mindlessly…kill people…in interesting ways.
And eat them.
Yeah. I got nothin’.

4. COFFEE!
Moving right along! Coffee is a writing elixir. It is a writing balm. (Please note, that’s “balm,” not “bomb.”) It is a salve unto the writer’s wounded, weary spirit during the Dreaded Week Two (during which many NaNo-ers tend to give up). I take my joe with stevia and almond milk.

5. #WORDWAR AND #NANOWORDSPRINTS ON TWITTER!
This year, I participated in these for the first time ever. The idea is to meet up with other WriMos on Twitter via these hashtags and challenge each other to meet a certain wordcount goal in a certain number of minutes. I might tweet, “#wordwar for 10 at :20! Who’s in?” which would be my invitation for others to join me in writing like chimpanzees on meth for 10 minutes straight, starting at 20 minutes past the hour.
These meet-ups worked okay for me. They worked because of everything I nattered on about in point #2 above.
They didn’t work, because if I did too many of them on any given night, I burned out fast. Some writers can pound out 1500 words in 30 minutes and turn right around and do another 1000 during the next 30. Me, I struggle to get 600 or 700 in half an hour. There’s something about my attention span and stamina that requires me to take frequent, brain-resting breaks. Anytime I ignored this, I burned out on #wordwar and #nanowordsprints.
But still, there is point #2, which is why point #5 is worth including.

6. EXCLAMATION MARKS!
Don’t mind this. It’s nothing but gratuitous silliness.

7. NO INNER EDITOR!
The last time I completed the first draft of a novel separate from NaNoWriMo was in 1999. (It was my final project for my bachelor’s degree; I had a deadline; see point #1.) Since then, every time I’ve tried to finish a non-November novel, my Inner Editor has tied my hands to the back of my chair and refused to let me finish the story. She has to tinker with it, and she is never satisfied.

The hussy gets in my way.

Every November, I banish my Inner Editor to the deepest mental dungeon I’ve got. She rails at me from behind those bars. She weeps and gnashes her teeth. She pleads. She wheedles.
She sucks.
Happily hammering away at my keyboard, I ignore her and get my first draft out. Once I purge it from my system, I’ve got something to work with. (See Inner Editor licking her bloody lips even as I type this paragraph? She knows what’s coming, and she is hungry for it.)
When I have something to work with, I let Inner Editor out of her prison. She is up the stairs in a flash, pretty much rabid with desire to get her hands on my story.
By this time, you see, she is hungry.
Me, I meander upstairs and make myself another cup of coffee. I can already hear her in there, crowing with delight as she highlights, deletes, and backspaces. Every so often, I peek over her shoulder to watch her progress. She might even ask me a question or two about plot arc or character development. For a manic, starving thing, she can be disturbingly generous.

But mostly, I just stay out of her way and let her work.
She’s gonna craft and hone me a story that will knock your socks off.

_____________________

Inklings, fellow WriMos, writer friends, and coffee lovers: the comments are yours. Tell us what you’ve gleaned from NaNo, from your own editing, from this post. Share and share alike! Inquiring minds want to know. Feed us. : )

Top 10 Writerly Fears; Also, #NaNoWriMo

Halloween is scary. Writerly fears are scary. Therefore, a non-scary (I hope) pic of me with my Halloween facepaint totally fits the subject of this post. No, really, it does. Click to embiggen!

Hello, my darlings. I’m sorry you’ve heard nothing from me all week! Alas and alack, all of my wordage has gone toward National Novel Writing Month, the insane challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.

I undertake it every year because I am a crazy person.
 

 

 

Most happily, the daily word count average is 1,667. As of this blogposting, I am the happy writer-owner of 14,200 words, which puts me about 5 days ahead of where I need to be. My story is the low sci-fi adventure Elevator People (working title), and it is going quite cramazingly. Thank you for asking. : )

I have a couple thousand more words to pound out tonight. So, without further ado or adon’t, here is a top ten list to entertain you!

Top 10 Writerly Fears

 

  1. Every image I use is cliché.
  2. My character doesn’t have a clear voice.
  3. I am a one-trick pony. (I.e. everyone loved my last book — what if the next one sucks?)
  4. My friends are going to disapprove.
  5. My family is going to disown me.
  6. I can’t execute the requested edits.
  7. I can’t make this story long enough.
  8. I can’t make this story short enough.
  9. I’m going to invest ten years in this writing business and then find out I should’ve done something else.
  10. I’m never going to get any better at this.

____________________

I should note, perhaps, that only a few of these are my personal fears, and they only rear their ugly heads upon occasion.

How about you? Do these fears match any of yours?

Which writerly fears can you think of that I didn’t mention?

The comments are yours. Weigh in! : )

* Facepainting design based on designs by Fancy Faces Face Painting. (Used by permission.)

the one where i don’t make wise choices sometimes

Dear Two Remaining Faithful Readers,

I’m back.

Sort of.

Maybe.

Long story short (too late), I have made the probably unwise choice of signing up for JuNoWriMo. It’s 99% like NaNoWriMo, except that it’s in June instead of November and it’s not affiliated with NaNoWriMo except for having gained permission to use the concept Mad Dash of Writing a 50K Novel in One Month That Isn’t November.

It’s Becca‘s fault for telling me that she’s doing a murder mystery for hers, and trying our respective hands at a murder mystery is something both of us have expressed a desire to do, and when she told me she’s going for it, it took me about five minutes to roll my eyes and sigh and come around to deciding that I wanted to hop on this crazytrain too.

So. There you have it. I’m doing a murder mystery for JuNoWriMo, and I’m setting it in my Light-Walkers Universe. After all, if I’m gonna indulge in complete insanity, I might as well go all-out and do my first ever murder mystery AND add magic and otherworldly creatures and lack of “modern” technology into the mix. It’ll be FINE.

Oh but come to think of it, it’s not actually my first murder mystery. My very first novel was a murder mystery. I was 12, I got 1.5 chapters in, and the gardener did it. I was highly inspired by Jessica Fletcher at the time. I still have the two typewriter pages somewhere. They’re a thing of ancient beauty, lemme tell ya.

During June I’ll try to update here daily with word count and story progress and amount of caffeine consumed. I have zero idea if I can actually swing the requisite 1667 words per day — in regular life I struggle to write even a little bit every day. But I also know that when motivated by sheer panic and the cheers & desperation of fellow writers, I can accomplish way more than I give myself credit for. So we shall see.

It’s worth noting that I’ve never done JuNoWriMo before, but I’m a NaNoWriMo veteran. From 2003-2011, I “won” it 7 times out of 9. Hopefully, some of those mad skillz still lurk deep within the recesses of my writerly subconscious.

I’m off now. Need to do some more plotting (murder mysteries are complicated!) and make sure the five-year-old isn’t torturing the cat. Ta-ta for now, cutie pies. *kisses*

reading and (w)riting, no ‘rithmetic

Last night, I wrote about my hope, my not-hope, and my forever-hope, all threaded through with the discouraging guanoshow that was 2016 A.D.

Today, I turn my mind and heart to lovelier things. When it came to reading and writing, 2016 was one of my best years ever. 🙂

On Reading in 2016

In 2016, I started reading 67 books, and I finished 64 of them. (The unfinished 3, I just couldn’t get into or enjoy, but I won’t mention them by title.) That’s 17 more books than I read in 2015, and I credit intentionality for the difference. Last year at this time, I purposed to read as many women authors as possible. At some point, my to-read list and to-read stack basically exploded. When the rumblings echoed away and the dust settled, I found a SMORGASBORD BOUNTY OF WOMEN’S VOICES, and I devoured them with vigor. YUMBLY IN MY READER TUMBLY.

This was the first time in my life I’ve read so many women in the space of a year, AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

These voices rang fresh and clear in my mind. They reverberated with beauty and sorrow, disgust and joy. They spoke things I’d never before heard. They made me laugh and cry and think. They inspired me to write more. They inspired me to write more freely.

Reading these women, I found myself living the reality that I could write as they do, unbound by shackles.

HALLELUJAH I’M FREE

But more on my writing later. First, their writings.

Books I Read in 2016

Asterisks indicate particular favorites.

  1. The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee ***
  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke *
  3. Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse *
  4. Journey to America by Sonia Levitin
  5. Dark Beyond the Stars edited by David Gatewood *
  6. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas *
  7. Servant of the Underworld (Obsidian and Blood, #1) by Aliette de Bodard
  8. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor *
  9. The Giver by Lois Lowry *
  10. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab *
  11. When the Silence Ends by Jade Kerrion
  12. In the Woods by Tana French *
  13. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin **
  14. Gateway to Reality (Reality Series #1) by Becca J. Campbell
  15. Kushiel’s Chosen (Kushiel’s Legacy, #2) by Jacqueline Carey
  16. “The Father Hunt” (A Flawed Story) by Becca J. Campbell
  17. The Selection (The Selection, #1) by Kiera Cass
  18. The Likeness by Tana French *
  19. Kushiel’s Avatar (Kushiel’s Legacy, #3) by Jacqueline Carey *
  20. Open Minds (Mindjack Saga, #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn *
  21. A Wind in the Door (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #2) by Madeleine L’Engle
  22. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) and short story “Glitches” by Marissa Meyer *
  23. The Haunting of Gillespie House by Darcy Coates
  24. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess **
  25. The Three by Sarah Lotz
  26. Blood Oranges by Caitlín R. Kiernan writing as Kathleen Tierney
  27. Hopeful Monsters by Hiromi Goto
  28. You by Caroline Kepnes **
  29. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  30. Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips
  31. The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal
  32. Sword-Bound (The Sword-Dancer Saga, #7) by Jennifer Roberson
  33. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
  34. The Wild Road (Book 3 of Karavans) by Jennifer Roberson
  35. Timebound (The Chronos Files, #1) by Rysa Walker *
  36. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  37. The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude *
  38. Just One Damn Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book 1) by Jodi Taylor *
  39. Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials, a short story by Annie Bellet
  40. The Paper Magician (Paper Magician Series, #1) by Charlie N. Holmberg *
  41. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater **
  42. Tiny Bites: A Collection by Stacy Claflin
  43. Kindred by Octavia Butler *
  44. The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl *
  45. Asylum by Madeleine Roux
  46. The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
  47. Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse, #5) by Charlaine Harris
  48. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
  49. Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson
  50. Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell
  51. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
  52. The Christening Quest by Elizabeth Scarborough
  53. Ill Wind (Weather Warden, #1) by Rachel Caine *
  54. Trey of Swords by Andre Norton
  55. Uprooted by Naomi Novik **
  56. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, 1) by Meg Elison *
  57. The Fading Dusk (Smoke and Mirrors #1) by Melissa Giorgio
  58. The Leaving by Tara Altebrando *
  59. Jinian Footseer by Sheri S. Tepper
  60. The Kraken Sea by E. Katherine Tobler
  61. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped by Madeleine Roux *
  62. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope *
  63. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness **
  64. The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts *

Recalling these stories is like thinking back on the utter joy and satisfaction surrounding delectable holiday meals. Here’s hoping for even greater tastiness in 2017.

So…what *is* in store for 2017 A.D.’s To-Read List?

Well…lemme tell ya. The other day, during our family’s roadtrip back to Oklahoma from our Florida-panhandle Christmas, I decided to head a head start on my reading list for this year. I already had a few titles and authors in mind, but I hadn’t collected them all in one place yet. Here’s the tentative reading plan so far; the only order is “ladies first” again (with a single exception):

Currently reading: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Further reading
Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl
Sarah Maas, Throne of Glass 2
Aliette de Board, Obsidian & Glass 2
Lowry’s The Giver sequel
Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows
more from Kerrion’s Double Helix series?
Tana French on nightstand (that’s not the title, it’s where I’ve stacked the book)
Jemisin, 100k Kingdoms 2
Cass, The Selection 2
Quinn, Mindjack 2
L’Engle #3
Meyer, Cinder 2
Bloggess, Furiously Happy
Carrie Ryan 3
Walker, Timebound 2
Taylor, St. Mary’s 2
Holmberg, Paper Magician 2
Stiefvater, Raven Boys 2
Sookie Stackhouse #6
Caine, Weather Warden 2
Lilith Saintcrow, Night Shift
Delilah Dawson, Three Lives of Lydia
Ellison, Road to Nowhere 2
Harkness, Discovery of Witches 2
Kepnes, Hidden Bodies
St Crow, Strange Angels 2
The Power, Naomi Alderman
Slipping, Lauren Beukes
Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen
Fifth Season, Jemisin
Thin Air, Paver
Copper Promise, Williams
Crosstalk, Willis

Wendig: Aftermath, Invasive, Thunderbird
Nod, Adrian Barnes
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Hendrix
NOS4A2, Joe Hill
Versailles, Yannick Hill
Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones
Paper Menagerie, Liu
Lovecraft Country, Ruff

Well, then. There’s my 2017 reading list already more than halfway sorted, and the year isn’t even a day old yet. And so it goes.

On (W)riting in 2016

Compared to previous recent years, I accomplished quite a bit in 2016. Not as much as I’d planned — I published only one book instead of two — but I ain’t kicking myself over it.

Not too much, anyway. 😉

The Elevator

elevator_cvr_lrgIn tags list at the end of this post, please to be clicking “The Elevator” for more details about this novel. For now, I’ll just say that I consider The Elevator my best published work to-date. As of this writing, it has but one Amazon review to its name, which makes me sad for it. Completely objectively and also quite biasedly, I think the book deserves more. Apparently, others’ mileage varies. Oh well. Can’t make everypony happy, and I long ago decided not even to try. 😉

But come on. It’s a space fantasy adventure with a chaotic psychopath, a cross-dimensional traveler, a vampire, a mech-woman, and two adorable smartass street urchins, all tied up in the nature of Reality at the heart of the multiverse. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

*ahem*

Don’t answer that. Unless it’s with a resounding silence in which you fork over money for my book. In that case, BRING IT ON.

I…uh, what?

elvendeadThe Elven Dead & Other Legends of the Light-Walkers

Ohhhhh, did I ever have such plans to publish this anthology in 2016!

Alas and alack, ’twas not to be.

I just ran out of oomph, y’all. In its final eleventh, 2016 managed to plaster me with that guano I mentioned before, and I didn’t cleanse myself of the disgusting sludge in time to hit “publish.” The short story collection *is* complete, minus a couple of touch-ups. I even have the cover art, thanks to fabulously talented Sam Hunt. All that’s left is to put in some butt-to-chair time to get the book out into all y’all’s greedy little reader hands.

Come on, I know you want it. 😉

Soon, my inklings. SOON.

Writerly To-Dos for 2017

What’s next? Well, that’s an excellent question, dearies. In early December 2016, I counted up the number of projects I could possibly turn to next — after taking care of the pesky pubbing details I mentioned above, of course. The count numbered 9. I repeat, NINE.

Nine project ideas with equal potential for becoming my next completed work.

People ask writers where we get our ideas. The better question is how can we NOT get ideas, so that we have space and time enough to work with the ideas we do have.

When it comes to writers’ ideas, picture a closet with all the junk just shoved in and the door slammed shut, in which each junky-seeming object represents a story or character idea. Except that the closet is actually a warehouse the size of Montana.

That’s why we never need people to tell us *their* ideas for a story *we* “should” write. Our ideas warehouse is already filled to bursting at the seams. Dude. The roof has practically exploded off. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND TRUE AND WRITERLY IN THIS WORLD, DON’T STUFF ANYTHING ELSE IN THERE

*ahem* But I digress.

In trying to figure out what to work on next, I enumerated and described my options to my writer friend Becca. She listened and asked pointed questions. Simply through conversing about my dilemma and sifting through the story ideas in my mind, I realized that I kept coming back with excitement to one particular idea:

the story of Taeven Ravenhair.

Taeven makes a cameo appearance in The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers 3) and gets a mention in Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers 2). I penned the first 12k words of her tale for NaNoWriMo back in 2004 — and promptly screeched to a halt because I had no clue which word should be number 12,001. The story’s been shelved ever since.

But in 12 years, Taeven has never left me alone. She’s not naturally a patient person, but she has exerted a monumental amount of self-control, waiting her turn. So, as I shared a bit of Taeven with a fellow writer, suddenly it all turned crystal clear:

2017 is the year in which Taeven finally gets a real voice.

Of course, as soon as I decided this, I frantically typed out four pages of notes and then started writing a completely different story.

And so it goes, right? Busy, busy, busy.

This new story, currently entitled The Flight of Elfled unBlessed isn’t part of my Legends of the Light-Walkers series, but it does take place in that universe. It promises to be a novella, so I’m hoping it won’t take up too much of early 2017. But more on it later.

Taeven’s story has gathered dust under the title The Bearers of the Stones. I never really liked it, so I tried to come up with something more suitable while I was taking those four pages of notes. As of a couple of weeks ago, Taeven’s story is entitled Sister of the Black Flame — subject to change at my writerly whim. AH THE POWER MUAH-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAA

So. 2017 shall be:

  • pubbing Light-Walker shorts collection
  • first draft of Taeven’s story, hopefully final draft
  • Elfled’s story
  • getting paperbacks prepped and on sale pages for all the longer works

Plus LIFE.

And enough.

For now. 😉

my 10 novels

Since my social media vacay apparently has catapulted me into random-abundant-blogging mode, and since I have books on the brain (HA HA BUSINESS AS USUAL AMIRITE), here are the titles and statuses? stati? of my finished…um…”finished” novels.

Egad, I bet ya’ll thought that sentence would never end.

(BUT I HAVE A MILLION OF THEM OH YES YOU CANNOT HIDE OR FLEE YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED AND YOU WILL LIKE IT)

*ahem*

*eyeroll*

My Ten Novels

1. “‘S’ Is for Survival” — a practice novel

  • completed at age 15
  • YA soft sci-fi/coming-of-age
  • not related to Sue Grafton’s mystery novels
  • inspired by The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson
  • two drafts; will never see the light of day

2. Mindsnatcher — a practice novel

  • completed at age 17
  • YA sci-fi
  • two drafts; will never see the light of day

3. Tomato Electric Destroy Force 9: Writer Dearest and the Interlopers

  • a novel about one writer’s adventure through NaNoWriMo
  • 3rd or 4th draft stage
  • will see the light of Publication Day if I can firgure out how to author-pub it; it contains must-have images and would work best in color

4. Colors of Deception (Demons of Saltmarch, #1) — published by Consortium Books

5. Shadows after Midnight (Demons of Saltmarch, #2) — published by Consortium Books

6. Stains of Grace (Demons of Saltmarch, #3) — published by Consortium Books

7. Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1) — published by Consortium Books

8. Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #2) — published by Consortium Books

9. The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #3) — author-published, Faeddra Books

10. The Elevator — author-published, Faeddra Books

Big ol’ FYI. 🙂

What’s next?

Next is the Legends of the Light-Walkers short story anthology I’m working on. My goal is to pub by December 31st; preferably earlier, so I can do a Christmas special and whatnot. But I’m not pressuring myself. The holidays are stressful enough as it is, and I plan to enjoy myself in any case. So we shall see what we shall see. In the meantime, my coffee cup needs a refill. Laterz, inklings!

Your New Writing Coaches

Hey y’all,

Just FYI, I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts. You’re not seeing them here because they’re not for my own blog. They’re for the writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com.

unsylbanner

For those not in the know, I used to write a regular column for Unstressed Syllables. I believe my last post was in October 2011. Then NaNoWriMo hit, I got pregnant, and my UnSyl column kind of got shoved onto the back burner. (Mea culpa.)

But no longer. UnSyl’s owner, Aaron Pogue, is in the process of revamping the site. Starting in February, Unstressed Syllables will begin publishing all new material and new columns from a handful of excellent writers and a talented graphic designer. I’m in the process of reading all the upcoming posts, and lemme tell ya: This stuff is CRAMAZING. UnstressedSyllables.com is about to become your one-stop shop for fiction writing and publishing in today’s adventurous new market.

You’re welcome. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to go. : )

Your Novel Is Missing Something

Greetings, my lovely inklings! I hope your day is fantabulous thus far.

Since I’ve been posting on so much various and sundry of late, I thought it well to pen for you a few whats concerning writing today. This is also by way of an update on my own Writing Life, i.e. my work-in-progress, i.e. Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #2).

Background Particulars

If you recall, I recently mentioned in passing that I’d submitted the final draft of Rethana’s Trial to my indie publisher. I did not, however, make note that while I considered the draft complete, I did have a few minor bits and pieces to clean up. I figured that I could just work ahead of Aaron and have all of my fantastical ducks in a row before he laid eyes on whatever section of story I’d just finished polishing.

Said polishing, by the way, was to consist of fact-checking Book 2 against Book 1; fixing some linguistic errors in Lirren Eamnaya, the language I invented for this series; and making sure that the redhead in Chapter 2 wasn’t a brunette in Chapter 17. Things like that.

I write my stories in Google Docs, so I’d left myself comments all over the place. And as I went through the document, checking and fixing and comment-resolving and congratulating myself on how well I was keeping ahead of Aaron, I came across the following:

Note to self

Do please click to embiggen and feast your eyes on the note I left myself on the right-hand side of the screen capture.

Yes. I had managed to “complete the final draft” and had left out an entire chapter in the process.

*le sigh*

I sent Aaron an email with the subject line “oh crap,” detailing the lack of finishedness. The good news is that in the Google Doc comment, I’d left myself an outline of the missing chapter. It’s a very rough outline, but at least I’m not racking my brains trying to remember what it was I intended said chapter to contain and accomplish.

The bad news is that I could go into labor at any moment, and if I don’t get that chapter written before this happens, I likely won’t get it written for at least another month. (I am trying to be optimistic.)

How to Add Necessary Wordage to Your Novel

So. Now the goal is to add 4,000-6,000 words to the story. How to accomplish said feat? I know I can’t be the only writer out there to be facing such a task, so I thought I’d delineate a few steps for all of you writerly people. This is by no means an exhaustive how-to; this is just how I’m approaching the problem. If it works for you, too, then I’ve done A Good Thing. : )

How to Add Necessary Wordage to Your Novel

1. Have an idea of what those words need to be.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already got a rough outline of what needs to go into this chapter. Now, by “outline” I do not mean a point-by-point bulleted list, although that might be helpful. I mean I have three or so run-on sentences that say “first this happens and then this and then someone says that and the MC responds and then they argue and blah.” Yes, the “blah” is a direct quote. When I wrote the comment, I needed to remind my future self of the thoughts that had inspired the idea that the story needed this chapter. The Run-On Blah serves as my “oh yeah, that.”

2. Know what the extra words need to accomplish.

In my case — and without providing spoilers — my entire extra chapter serves a dual purpose:
(a) It fleshes out a side character as one of the main antagonists of the story.
(b) It provides my main character with extra motivation for her decisions over the course of the next 2-3 chapters.

Unless you’re in the throes of NaNoWriMo and are trying to pad your word count, you’re never just adding words for the sheer heckuvit. This is not a thesis paper to which you’re adding fluff in order to get your letter grade. This is a novel, in which every word must be absolutely necessary. (Really, you should approach thesis papers the same way, but who does that?) In novel-writing, if a word doesn’t need to be there, you have to cut it. Conversely, you shouldn’t add a word unless you need it, either.

So, before you go adding a couple thou of wordage to your story, be sure of what function you want those words to perform. Fleshing out character? Adding motive? Clarifying action? Tying up subplot? Giving main character another delicious obstacle to overcome?
Decide. And then move on to the last step.

3. Engage butt-to-chair and write the darn thing.

I discovered my lack-of-a-chapter on Thursday. I didn’t get around to sitting down to the story again until Monday. Granted, in the meantime I had baby-related necessaries to accomplish and away-from-keyboard activities in which to engage. But still…I’m a big enough girl to admit to the possibility that I might have been procrastinating a little.

Do as I say, not as I do. In every step of novel-writing, plunking your butt in your chair and just doing the work will ultimately be the only thing that gets your story written. It’s the only thing that will get your story finished — and I mean really finished, not just ready for someone to start reading while you frantically work ahead of said beta reader and hope they don’t catch up to you before you’re done.

———

So, there ya have it. My three steps on how to add necessary words to your novel. Comments, questions, and even disagreements are welcome. What would you add to the list?

OPINIONS WANTED! Win free books!

Hile, inklings!

If you were paying attention last fall and winter (and I know that you were, because that’s just the attentive sort of darlings you are), you might recall that my novel for NaNoWriMo 2011 was a low sci-fi story workingly entitled Elevator People.

Should you require a reminder, do please click here for relevant blog posts.

Unfinished Business

By my calculations, when pregnancy-related woes brought my post-NaNo work on Elevator People to a screeching halt back in January, I had about 20,000 words left before finishing the story.

Since then, I’ve published two more novels:

Stains of Grace, the third book in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch

and

Rethana’s Surrender, the first book in my epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers.

In spite of the work and focus that went into producing those two books, and in spite of the work and focus that has gone and is going into producing a baby, the somewhat-abandoned Elevator People has never been far from my thoughts.

Finishing the Business

I am under no illusions that I will have time or energy for writing during the first few months of my child’s life. I anticipate having the attention span of a hamster.

But.

It would be really cramazingly cool — it would flip my bangerang switch — it would really swing my verge if I could write the final 20,000 words of Elevator People‘s first draft before the end of 2012.

Seriously. All I’ve got left is the final approach to the climax, the climax itself, and the denouement.

That’s not a lot, y’all.

Delegating the Business

So.

Here’s where you and your opinions come in.

Ready?

As a title, Elevator People is not sufficient. Several fellow writers have told me it sparks nothing in them. Other fellow writers have said it makes them think I’m writing about elevator technicians. Or maybe office workers.

This will not do. After all, this story is sci-fi. And the title should invoke something to that effect.

Therefore.

I want your opinions, people. I want you to re-title my novel. And I shall reward you for doing so.

Why do I ask this of you? Well, mostly because I can’t think of anything myself. ; ) But also, if I know others are already invested in this project, then I am more likely to complete it. It’s like working out: I can rarely stick to an exercise regimen if I’m just working out at home by myself. But give me a yoga class or an aerobics class in which I can see others invested in the “project,” and I’ll step up my game.

Aerobics. Step up. Get it? GET IT???

I crack me up.

Anyway. I hereby formally request that you, my dear inklings, ponder title possibilities for my novel and share them with me in the comments below. Here are a few things about the book that you should consider whilst pondering:

Genre: low sci-fi with steampunk undertones
There’s not a huge amount of science in this story. It’s set in the main character’s present (but our future?). It’s set on multiple worlds, possibly in multiple dimensions. The main character is not tech-savvy but is familiar with Industrial-Revolution-style trappings.

Main character: Wentworth “Went” Banning, male, mid-20s, not from Earth, traveling the galaxy via elevator

MC’s goal: use elevator find his real father, whom he knows only as “Mr. Banjoman”

Elevator: runs on magic in the sense that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from “magic”; one myth about elevator says it was created from music

Supporting characters: 2 Earthling urchins, Jop and Skee; 1 tech-savvy non-Earthling woman, Risk

Main antagonist: galaxy-traveling sociopathic pedophile slave-owner

Other antagonists: 1 wanna-be female slave owner, 1 vampire

ROUGH STORY QUESTION: Will Went Banning find his real father while protecting Jop, Skee, and Risk from their enemies?

If you need more information than that as you ponder your titular ponderings, let me know. I’ll endeavor to answer without spoilers. ; )

Rewarding Business

Okay! Now for the really fun part:

You ponder a title.

You share it with me in the comments below by end-of-day, September 30, 2012. (No more than one title each, please.) Don’t forget to leave a valid email address.*

As my future hamster-like attention span allows, I will pick my favorite and one runner-up.

Whether or not my indie publisher chooses to adopt your title, I will reward you as follows:

If I pick your title as my favorite, I will give you a free e-copy and a free paperback copy of the novel once it comes out.

If I pick your title as runner-up, I will give you a free e-copy of the novel once it comes out.

GO.

_______

*I promise to use your email address for contest-contacting purposes only.