Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.

New Fantasy Novel Out: Rethana’s Surrender

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

 

When I was 15 years old, I had a dream about a yellow telephone booth.

No, that’s not a Dr. Who reference. ; ) In the dream, I was standing inside the phone booth, holding the handset. (Yes, this was a rotary phone. Let me know if you don’t know what that is. *grin*) Outside, it was dusk, and fog was rolling in. I couldn’t see any farther than about twenty feet from the phone booth. And as I watched, dozens of yellow eyes with slitted black pupils appeared in the fog.

That dream gave birth to the universe in which I set my latest novel, Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1).

What’s the Because?!

If you’ve already read Rethana’s story, you’re probably wondering how in the name of all that’s good and writerly I got from {fog + yellow eyes + relatively modern phone booth} to {epic fantasy universe + magic-wielding heroine + semi-political love triangle}. Well, my dear inklings, that story is a rather long one, and tell you it would take a series of novels in which I invite you to explore this whole universe I have built and am building….

Oh. Wait. I guess that invitation would be what Legends of the Light-Walkers (LLW) is all about. ; )

So, the books themselves are the long explanation. The short version is that the phone booth dream turned into a scene in my LLW novel Legend’s Heir (working title). Chronologically, that one takes place before Rethana’s story. But I finished Legend’s Heir (working title) more than ten years ago…and, perhaps needless to say, it needs quite a bit of work before it sees the light of day. Thus, you get Rethana’s story first. Y’all seem like you’re okay with that, though.

And What’s the Big Idea?

The big idea for Rethana’s story grew from a cold, snowy visit to a small town in eastern Germany back around Christmas of 2002. The husband and I were living in Chemnitz, Saxony, then. Some friends took us to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in a little town called Annaberg-Buchholz.

I could wax nostalgic on how much I miss the German Christmas markets, but that’s not why you dear people are here, and it would make me cry besides, so let’s just skip that part and move on.

Belltower of St. Annenkirche

On that cold, snowy evening so many years ago, our friends insisted that we visit St. Annenkirche (St. Anna’s Church; please note that I’ve linked to the German Wikipedia article because it has more pictures than the English version). Thus, we traipsed up the hill — there was much slipping, sliding, and sniggering — and entered the church building, where we proceeded to get an unexpected tour.

We ended up climbing the belltower.

If you’ve read Rethana’s story, you know where I’m going with this.

Near the top of the tower, we stepped from the wooden staircase onto a wide, circular platform spanning the width of the tower. About thirty feet above our heads was a wooden ceiling. Another staircase led up to it. The tour guide explained that we were looking at the underside of the apartment housing the bellringer and his family. And above that apartment hung the bells.

These people lived in the top of the belltower. They hauled household goods up to their apartment via lifts that had been operational for hundreds of years. They were in charge of the bells, the largest of which was named Anna.

Images flooded my mind. Characters, scenes, plots, dialogue. In my head, I saw a bellringer family in medieval dress, and I knew they were hiding from something. I saw soldiers and magic-users in the town below, and I knew they were hunting this family. I saw a mischievous young girl using her magic to tease her friends, who were sneaking up the tower staircase to play a prank on her.

All of this flashed through my head within the space of about 20 seconds. In the meantime, the tour guide was still talking. I had no idea what he was saying — but the next thing I knew, he was handing out earplugs. I stuffed them into my ears just in time.

Somebody rang Anna.

Anna of St. Annenkirche is a big girl. Even through earplugs, the noise was deafening. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I wandered over to the stone wall of the tower and laid my hand on it. The wall was vibrating with Anna’s song, and I could feel the reverberation all the way up into my shoulder. And I knew what my next story would be.

Writing Rethana’s Surrender

The mischievous bellringer girl became Rethana Chosardal. Anna became the sacriligiously-named Lirrenae. Annaberg turned into Saemnoth. I started writing the story for NaNoWriMo 2003.

It would take me more than 4 years to finish the first draft. By the time I was done, I had close to 230,000 words. I knew very good and well that no publisher would consider reading an unpublished author’s 200+k words, so I spent the second draft trimming. My mom read it. Another beta reader read it. Both made suggestions, and I trimmed some more. When I hit 210,000, I knew I couldn’t do anything more with the story, so I shelved it and moved on to the next project.

By now, I was living in Oklahoma again and had recently re-met Aaron Pogue, a college acquaintance and fellow writer. We fell to talking of fantasy (because really, why wouldn’t we?), and he asked to read my fantasy novel. I let him.

Aaron had feedback. Part of that feedback was that I should split the book in half so as to achieve a manageable word count. The moment he said it, I knew where: right after the fight scene in Terllach Caverns. Right after Rethana almost admits to Allasin that–

Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it. ; )

Aaron said, “That’s a doozy of a cliffhanger. Your readers will hate you for it. Or they might love you.”

Aaron might or might not have actually used the word “doozy.” Either way, I decided to take the risk. And, once he got his indie publishing company, Consortium Books, up and running, he decided to take the risk of publishing it.

So far, so good.

Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1), is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can post your review at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

Advance Reading Copy of Rethana’s Surrender!

Cover art by the cramazingly talented Adele Lorienne

NOTE: Some of you have been expecting this book to come out under the title Schism or Schism’s Daughter. After much debate and debacle, my publisher, our marketing director, and I have finalized the title as Rethana’s Surrender. But it’s still the same story, I promise! : )

Dearest readers!

As you might already know, my newest novel is coming out within the next two weeks! This one is epic fantasy: another world, magic, intrigue, danger, swords, and fantastical creatures. I’ve been writing stories in this universe for twenty years, and this particular novel has been in the works since 2003.

So you can probably imagine how close this story is to my tender little writer’s heart. ; )

But in spite of my possessiveness, I am excited to let you read it. Early. As in, before it’s published.

That’s right, dear inklings! I have Advance Reading Copies available!

If you’d like to get an ARC of Rethana’s Surrender, leave a comment (with a valid email address) on this post before the end of the day Wednesday, June 20th. You don’t need to say anything besides, “Me too, please!” in your comment — unless, of course, you want to tell me how excited you are to get your ARC. : )

I only have digital copies available, but they should be readable on whatever you’re using to read this blog post. On Thursday, I’ll send review copies to the first hundred people who comment below. All I’d ask in return is that you write me a review at the digital vendor(s) of your choice. Blog posts are welcome too, of course.

Aaron is going to send his horde of fantasy readers over here to get their ARCs from me, so get your bid in early!

For those of you who want to know a little more about the novel:

Legends of the Light-Walkers: Rethana’s Surrender is the story of 20-year-old Rethana Chosardal who can use fun and visually cool magic, but she’s not supposed to use it. For one thing, it freaks the natives out. For another, her family has spent the last ten years in hiding from the ruling class of magic-wielding clerics.

When the magic-wielding clerics show up and take Rethana and her sister captive, this is not a good thing.

Also, Aaron recommends that I tell you: In grand The Princess Bride tradition, *this is a kissing book*.

Finally, a shout-out to Adele Lorienne for the lovely cover art that completely blows my mind every time I look at it. Adele, thank you for your stunning work!

UPDATE: The ARC request deadline has passed. But if you want to get your hands on a copy of Rethana’s Surrender, it is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can also post your reviews at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

To those who have already read and reviewed the novel: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I very much appreciate all of your positive feedback so far. It’s encouraging to hear that so many of you connect with Rethana as deeply as I do. : )

5 What-To-Dos When Your Novel Is Too Long

1st draft of high fantasy novel. 200,000 words = NO

 We novelists slam headfirst into this particular wall all the time: Finish first draft, sit back with sigh of contentment. Languidly reach for mouse or mousepad, click “wordcount” in the dropdown menu of whatever word processor suits our fancy.

Sit back once more. This time with the horrid sensation of paralyzing shock.

As far as we’re concerned, the story is finished. It is complete as is. Major alterations would destroy the beautiful statue we’ve worked so long to carve out of that rough-edged block of marble called Idea.

But the wordcount generator tells us the awful truth: Our manuscript is 10,000…30,000…50,000 (…100,000? *ahem*) words too long. In today’s economy and with the ever tightening belts in the publishing industry, there no way anybody’s gonna publish this behemoth until we trim the fat.

“But,” we wail, “the story is what it is! How are we supposed to trim anything when there’s nothing to trim?”

Nobody said it would be easy. Writing the story wasn’t easy; trimming it won’t be, either. But here are a few suggestions that will at least get the process started.

5 Ways To Trim Your Novel’s Wordcount

1. Change your thinking
Here are the sad, unavoidable facts of reality, my dears: First drafts are drafts. They are not the be-all, end-all of noveling. Finishing a first draft is a great accomplishment, for certain — but the work doesn’t stop there.

That lovely statue I mentioned before? It’s got rough edges that you’ve overlooked (on purpose). It’s got odd lumps in peculiar places. Its face isn’t nearly as well-defined as it could be. When you type “The End,” the story might feel finished, and it might feel perfect. I hate to break it to you, but it is neither.

When we writers finish a first draft, our story needs us to work on it some more. The sooner we wrap our minds around this fact, the sooner we can start getting that wordcount down to something manageable.

2. Get beta readers.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You gotta get you beta readers. We writers are chronically unable to view our work objectively — especially when it comes to trimming it down! Forest-For-the-Trees Syndrome strikes again.

You can’t see the forest of Necessary Trimming, because you’ve got your writerly nose shoved up against the bark of the nearest tree. And that, sadly, is where the writerly nose generally stays from start to finish. We need somebody outside to look at our story and identify excess branches and superfluous shrubbery.

Writing can be lonely work, but we can’t do it alone. That’s a paradox I’ll save for another post…but maybe you get the picture anyway.

3. Edit for simplicity.
I grew up in Germany and went to German schools. Do you know anything about the German language? Without turning this into a grammar lesson, I’ll tell you this: One of the peculiarities of German is that the verb often comes at the end of the sentence. The result of this can be (and often is) long, convoluted sentences nested within more long, convoluted sentences. By the time you get to the action verb, you’ve forgotten who was doing the action and why — so you have to go back and re-read the whole paragraph.

And that’s the main language I was taught to write it. Did I develop some tenacious sentence-nesting habits? You bet yer patootie I did.

I had to break that habit. I had to simplify. I had to break up long sentences into two or three sentences. I had to replace flowery phrasing with straightforward description. I had to choose simple action verbs over the ones that sounded high-falutin’.

Simplify. I promise, your story will thank you — and your readers will too.

4. Get rid of adverbs.
Okay, brief grammar lesson this time. And yes, I am keeping this very simple, and my explanation here is not complete. But I don’t want to put people to sleep, so the purists are gonna have to deal with the incompleteness of my instruction.

Adjectives describe nouns. Blue, hot, solid, wet, and shiny are adjectives.

Adverbs describe verbs. In point #2, I used the phrase “view objectively.” Here, “objectively” describes the how of “view.” Other examples of adverbs are: lustily, happily, worriedly, and sideways.

“I got a new bike for my birthday!” she said happily.

Okay, so she said it “happily.” What does that look like on her? Don’t tell me she said it happily; instead, tell me that her eyes are wide, her smile is huge, and her teeth glisten in the sunlight like tiny bottlecaps.

Yes! Make it a hideous description, if that’s what it takes. I’ll read anything, just get rid of that clunky, boring, milquetoast adverb!

“But wait,” you say. “Wouldn’t adding description actually increase my wordcount?”

Well, yeah. Probably. But adverbs weaken your sentences, and overusing them will make your novel unreadable. I’m picking on adverbs because they’re a bad habit and because this is my list and I can.

5. When all else fails, re-write.
This one’s kind of self-explanatory. If you’ve trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and the novel is still too long, it might be time for a complete re-write.

Yeah, I know. I hate even thinking those words, much less typing them and putting them where people can see. But sometimes, it’s the only choice we have. Maybe the story took off in the wrong direction in Chapter 2. Maybe there’s a side character who needs to be cut. Maybe there’s a side character who’s supposed to be the main character. Maybe the climax should’ve happened five chapters before it did.

Whatever it is, a re-write might fix it — and fix it well enough that your wordcount “magically” decreases (ahhhh, adverbs) by whatever percentage you require.
_____________________

So, there are my five ideas for trimming the fat!

What do you do when your novel’s too long?

Care to challenge me on the adverb thing? Let’s talk!

How To Write A Novel

Since I doubt the demons will ever deign to craft such a mundane, human thing as a newspaper, it’s up to me to report the news of goings-on in the world of Saltmarch. Saltmarch, in case you missed it, is a fictional realm inhabited by the demons of my paranormal trilogy. And, in case you missed that as well, the trilogy consists of:

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

Colors of Deception

Shadows After Midnight

Stains of Grace

Colors has a publication date of April 2011. (Oh, final edits, how I both desire and dread thee!) Shadows has no publication date yet, but it’s in the third draft stage.

As of this past Monday night, I’ve finished Draft 2 of Stains.

The First Draft

Now, allow me to clarify: When I write the first draft of a novel, I pound out the manuscript as coherently and quickly as I can. I started pre-writing for Stains of Grace on October 1, 2010; started writing on November 1, 2010; and typed “The End” on February 10, 2011. That’s the fastest I’ve ever finished a first draft in my life. The final word count was 80,421.

“The End” happened in the wee hours of the morning. After I’d slept (8 hours = a MUST!) and eaten (breakfast = a MUST!), I waded right into editing. Usually, I’ll let a first draft sit for a month before I go back to it; but this time, with the pub date of Colors approaching, I don’t have the luxury of taking my time.

Besides, my two foremost Saltmarch beta readers (Mama and Celia) have been admirable in not pressuring me for a complete manuscript — yet they’ve made it quite clear I am to deliver said manuscript into their eager hands, posthaste!

The Second Draft

And so, not ten hours after completing Draft 1, I started editing with the goal of completing Draft 2.

When editing toward Draft 2, I use the following approach:

1. I delete strikethroughs. As I pen a first draft, I try not to backspace. It breaks the flow of my thoughts, and sometimes it can break the flow of story. If I’m backspacing, I’m editing — and that’s a no-no for my first drafts. Strikethroughs mark words, phrases, and paragraphs I won’t need later.

2. I do light editing: fixing typos as I see them, changing a word here and there if it catches my eye. Sometimes, as I write Draft 1, I’ll write notes to myself in brackets. As I light edit, I judge whether or not the stuff in brackets is a quick fix or not. If it is, I’ll do it now. If it’s not, I’ll save those bracket notes for a later draft.

3. I just read the thing. I don’t allow myself the leisure of reading the story as I write the first draft, so now is my chance to read and see if this mass of words really is a story or not. If I get caught up in it and forget to edit, I know what I’ve got here is rough but usable material.

In the case of Stains, light editing took six days. The final word count of Draft 2 is 78,254.

Now, I hand Draft 2 off to my beta readers, and the agonizing yet exhilarating wait for feedback begins! Oy vey. 😉

The Third Draft

While I wait for my betas to chew through my story, swallow it, and spit out the parts they don’t like, I’ll tinker with the story a little bit. This means more light editing, a few fixes here and there, maybe adding a paragraph or three.

Or I might just leave the story alone and let it ferment some more. Taste-testing too much too early sometimes keeps me from appreciating the full flavor of what my beta readers have to tell me later. But for this part, I just trust my instincts.

When I get feedback from the betas, that’s when the real work on Draft 3 begins. Depending on what they tell me, I’ll do little stuff like correct typos, add dialogue attribution, and shorten sentences — and I’ll do big stuff like rewrite characters, move paragraphs from one chapter into another, and add scenes or entire chapters.

Once I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, I’ve got me a hot little number called Draft 3.

The Fourth Draft…and Fifth

Or Sixth — And So On.

After Draft 3, the rest of the drafts are basically wash, rinse, repeat — editing, handing off to readers, getting feedback, editing — until I feel like it’s clean enough. No book is ever squeaky clean. Especially from the writer’s perspective, there’s always going to be something that needs fixing.

But for me, it’s kind of like oil painting: If I go back to it too often, I’m eventually gonna mess it up. I must needs reach a point at which I wouldn’t be embarrassed to share the story with the public.

It might take me four drafts to get to this point; it might take me six. Colors is currently in Draft 4.5 stage. My epic fantasy novel, Triad, has gone through eight drafts and might require one more before it’s ready for the world.

Tell me, fellow writers:

Does my process look anything like yours?

How do you feel about handing your baby off to its first beta readers?

What’s your favorite tip/trick for the early draft stages?

I’m curious. Let’s talk. 🙂

5 Reasons Why Your Novel’s Getting Nowhere

Writing a novel is hard.

Writing a novel makes your fingers hurt. It makes your head hurt. It makes your heart hurt. It puts you in a place where you have to acknowledge certain truths — about reality, about other people, and, most of all, about yourself. Writing a novel is like being an actor filmed in a low-definition movie and suddenly projected in hi-def on a screen the size of a football field.

All of your tiniest flaws are on display to the world. You can no longer hide the grime, the sweat, or the over-sized pores. You can no longer hide your heart, and you have to hope and pray that nobody laughs at it.

So when you’ve made this commitment to laying your naked soul on a sacrificial altar for the world, what really kicks you in the gut is when the novel, this lifeblood-spilling work, just refuses to go anywhere. You’ve risked all, you’ve let them film your grit and tears — and right before they show the film, somebody packs it into a container and hides it away in the bunker from the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

All that sacrifice, all that heartache. For nothing but a screeching halt to everything you hoped. Some of the thoughts that go along with this screeching halt sound like this:

Every time I sit down to work on my story, my mind goes blank.
My characters took the story in a new direction, and I don’t know what to do now.
I don’t feel like writing — the inspiration just isn’t there.
My writing feels stilted.
I’m just no good at this.

Here are a few reasons why that screeching halt happens — and a few hints on what to do about it.

5 Reasons Why Your Novel’s Getting Nowhere

1. You haven’t started writing it.
This one’s kind of a duh, right? Of course, it’s impossible to keep a novel going if you haven’t actually written any of it yet!

But that blank page — whether it’s lined or unlined paper, a notebook, or a word processor with blinking cursor — it’s awfully intimidating. It jeers and sneers at you. It knows your fear of failure. It speaks doubt into your mind and despair into your heart.

In Stephen King’s Misery, writer Paul hears a question every time he sits down to write: Pauly, can you? Every writer hears that question (most of us minus the “Pauly” part) — and too often, faced with getting started on that new story, our answer to that question is, “No. I can’t.” And so we don’t.

The solution to this problem is complex. Each of us has reasons for our fear of the blank page. Failure. Rejection. Ridicule. The belief that we don’t have the right to write. And a myriad of other mental/emotional buggaboos. Overcoming these fears can take years of dedication (and a lot more heartache). Sometimes, whether or not we overcome these fears depends on just how far we’re willing to go in knowing ourselves.

But the answer boils down to the simplest of phrases: Just write. Sit down, pull out your pen and paper, open your word processor, and just write. Write anything at all, even if it’s not your story. Engage in the simple act of getting words out of your head and into visible, tangible form. The rest might just take care of itself.

2. You don’t know where it’s going.
Ack! This plot! I had such a fantastic concept for how this book would go. But first the main character quit talking, then that supporting character just up and died, and then there was a major plot hole I didn’t know how to fill, so I changed direction somewhere around the middle, and now I’m getting to the climax and it doesn’t make any sense in the context of the beginning of the story, HELP!

*ahem*

You’ve been there, haven’t you? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Not knowing where the story is going will kill your novel. The fix? Figure out where you want to go before you start. This means work, my friends. It means prewriting: outlines, character descriptions, synopses, and the like. You might not need all of these; you might need only one of these. You might need pre-writing in a form unique to your writing and working style. But you need to figure out your roadmap before you start the story, or you’re going to end up in a sticky rut.

If you’re already quagmired in the middle of your story, all is not lost. It’s going to take some tricky effort to extricate yourself, but you can do it! Sit back, plot it out, outline it, and take a close look at your story arc. You’ll figure out where you went wrong. And who knows? You might discover some side paths you overlooked before, and they might just lead you to something sparkly and grand.

3. You’ve forgotten the whys.
Why is he walking down the street with a machete in one hand and a lemon meringue pie in the other? Why is she standing in the middle of the market with nothing on but her hair curlers — and a smile?! What turned him into the kind of person who picks at his cuticles every time someone mentions faulty wiring?

If you don’t know why your characters do what they do, then eventually they’ll (a) do nothing the story needs them to do, or (b) do nothing at all. You must, must, must know their motivations, and you must know these motivations on an intimate level.

And once again, this means prewriting.

You need solid backstories for these people. These backstories might never make an actual appearance in your novel; your readers might never know about them. (Unless you become wildly famous and all your fans clamor to hear so much more about your characters that you have no choice but to broadcast their life stories to the world.) But you will know. You should know. Because that personal history is what makes your characters who they are today. And who your characters are should be your story’s driving force.

4. You’re not getting any feedback.
Oh, I know. You’re not writing this story for other people. You’re writing it for you — so why should you need feedback? You should be able to figure the whole thing out on your own, right?

Wrong.

We writers are blind. Every last one of us. Yes, yes, we see the world in ways that others might not, and we see things in the world that others might not. But when it comes to our own writings, we’re a bunch of blind mole rats. We fall in love with our characters, plots, and turns of phrase — and we’re incapable of seeing their collective flaws.

Fellow writers, there are a bunch of sighted people out there. They are called beta readers, and we need them like a blind mole rat needs…well, whatever it is a blind mole rat needs to get along. I’m guessing it’s more than a cane and a seeing-eye cricket.

In other news, I seem to be digressing into a really bad metaphor. The point is, we writers need objective feedback on our work. Our characters and stories deserve it. Without it, our craft will stagnate, and our stories will die. And if you’re stuck in the middle of your novel, the wisdom of an objective beta reader can get your novel started again in cramazing ways.

5. You’re waiting.
I have sad news to share with you, my friends: Inspiration doesn’t strike. Inspiration’s not an ethereal, graceful lady clad in something sheer, whispering the right words into your ear at the right moment. And inspiration doesn’t just show up out of the blue to help your novel along when you get stuck.

Inspiration, sadly, is a greasy little creepazoid twerp who’s never going to show up at work unless you show up there first. And if you expect him to do so, he’s just going to sit back in his worn-out, grimy easy chair and point at you and laugh.

Okay, so I lied. Sometimes, inspiration does strike — but you can’t count on it, and you can’t wait for it. If you’re waiting for a random hit of inspiration to get you out of your noveling rut, you’re going to be waiting for the rest of your life.

There’s just no way around it: You’ve gotta put in your butt-to-chair time. You’ve gotta make yourself sit down and write, even if every single word strains your mind and makes pulses visible in your forehead. It’s hard work, and it hurts. (Hmm, where have I heard that before?) But if you want your novel to go somewhere, butt-to-chair time is the price you have to pay.

And sometimes, the creepy inspiration dude won’t even show up then. Sometimes, you have to wrestle him into the chair beside you, hold a knife to his throat, and tell him to start talking.

The great thing is that once you’ve got him in that position, the guy usually won’t shut the heck up. And that’s when it turns glorious.

So, there we have five reasons for our noveling woes!

What other reasons have you experienced?

How did you turn the problem into a solution?

Are you still stuck? And what do you want to do about it?

And There Was Much Rejoicing

Readers Dearests, I am so excited! Today, I started writing the climax to my eighth novel, the unfortunately untitled Demons 3!

If you’ve been paying attention (which I know you have, you sweet, observant things, you), you know that Demons 3 is the third in a YA paranormal trilogy. The first is Colors of Deception, which will be released by Consortium Books in April 2011; the second is Shadows After Midnight.

I’ve been working on Demons 3 since October 2010. It’s been a romp, a headache, and a blessing — just like the first draft of any other novel. Since I’ll need to start final edits on Colors soon, I’ll be breaking standard procedure after I finish Demons 3 Draft 1: Instead of letting this first draft sit and stew in the back of my mind for a month, I’ll start working on the second draft immediately. Maybe even moments after typing “The End.” That way, my beta readers can start reviewing Demons 3 Draft 2, and I can turn my full attention to Colors.

Exciting things happening in Courtney’s Writing Life! Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Why I Think Writers Are Like Bats

No, I’m not talking about baseball. I’m talking about flying mammals.

Yes. I am of the opinion that writers are like rodent-ish creatures with leathery wings, sharp teeth, and rabies.

Okay, so maybe not the rabies.

I’m kind of winging it here (Get it? Winging it? Hahaha.), because when I first came up with the idea for this post, I was just drifting off to sleep. “Writers = bats” popped into my head. I woke up enough to grab the nearest writing utensil — which happened to be my iPhone — and “scribbled” something that would later jumpstart me into writing a coherent blog post.

The note I “scribbled” took the form of an email I sent to myself with the subject line “writers are like bats. pinging.”

My Computer Comprehension. Let Me Show You It.

Unfortunately, the body of the email remained blank. And “writers are like bats. pinging” is not quite enough to send a power surge of writerly inspiration through my brain. However, one works with what one’s got.

“Pinging” gives me a clue as to what I was thinking. (I’m sure you computer gurus are going to squirm uncomfortably in your seats at what I’m going to say next, but I’m sorry — it can’t be helped.) My understanding is that a “ping” is kind of like a computer’s version of a Facebook “poke”:

Computer A sends a signal to Computer B…
…(i.e. Computer A “pokes” Computer B) to see if Computer B is paying attention.
If B is paying attention, B sends a signal back to say,
“Yeah, I felt your poke. Dude.”

If I didn’t get that right, you computer gurus are welcome to tell me about it. 😉

The Return to High School Biology

Whether I got it right or not, my concept of pinging reminds me of how I understand a bat’s echolocation works.

The bat makes an ultrasonic noise that bounces off of objects and other animals, specifically the bat’s prey. The bat analyzes the echoes that bounce back; this lets the bat decide whether or not those tiny flying things right there are yummy insects or not.

Facebook-style poking: I poke you to get your attention — will you poke me back?

Chiropteral echolocation: I make a noise at you — are you edible?

Writerly sharing: I show you my work — will you give me feedback?

Writerly Facebook Bat

From Ping to Publish

I do believe, gentle readers, that this is what my almost-asleep brain was trying to tell me when I made the frantic grab for my iPhone in the dark and typed an email subject line that didn’t make a whole lot of sense:

When we writers share our work with beta readers, we’re asking them to give our project attention.
We’re asking them to read and analyze it, then communicate their resulting thoughts to us.
We’re sending a signal, hoping to get one back.

The same applies when we finally get our work published. A writer’s published novel is the writer’s attempt to ping, poke, and echolocate the world. Readers’ feedback consists of opinions, concerns, complaints, and, we desperately hope, enjoyments. These responses, these echoes, these answering pings let us know the shape of the world around us.

If we know the shape of our world, we have more reference points for relating to the world.

When we writers share our work, we find out what and where the world is. And that helps us know who we are.

Perhaps most importantly, echolocating our readers lets us know whether or not you are edible. ; )
_____________________

Fellow writers, what do you say? Do you feel like a peckish, pinging mammal with leathery wings?

What have been your best/worst experiences getting feedback from readers?

Fellow readers, what do you say? Do you feel pinged?

What have been your best/worst experiences giving feedback?