Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Okay, not really, but it sounded good . . . and I've barely had one cup of coffee this morning!
Last week I posted this about my Platform and the next great breakthrough novel . . . Margarita Nights. In case you're wondering, every use of the word margarita in the manuscript is bolded, italicized, and greened. Why? Because I wanted to do something different, something unique, something that set me apart - other than my brilliant writing - from other writers. Okay, seriously, I saw something similar years ago and borrowed the idea. Still, I thought it was neat and until someone tells me otherwise, I'm keeping it in the manuscript!
This weeks post is about research. Research is integral to any writing. There's no way I could write about Paris in 1876 without doing some research. I also couldn't write about knitting without doing a ton of research. I have no clue what knit one, purl two actually means. Same thing goes for butterfly collecting, moon walking, or golf. In order to write about those subjects, I would need to do research. Research is key - remember those words.
So, how does a guy research a book about margaritas? Okay, LitGirl01, you got it: he drinks lots and lots of margaritas. Seriously, I didn't drink that many. Still, I did have to do research . . .
The book, unlike Aphrodite, did not emerge fully formed. I wrote out the rough draft (50,000 words) in two weeks in a period of intense obsessiveness where I lost 10 pounds because I was barely eating. It's called the Writer's Diet. You should really try it sometime. Anyhow, the research for this manuscript was fairly easy.
Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a semi-snarky (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it) young (again, my story, sticking to it) man who went out for margaritas with friends every couple of months. They talked, they laughed, they ogled the college men, they discussed stories they had heard on the gayvine (telephone, telegraph, tell-a-gay man), and they often danced around their own problems. On some nights, they went to the bar afterwards.
Somewhere along the way, on a day in July, I thought hmmm, what if I write a story about a group of friends who get together for . . . well, yes, I did. I wrote that story. I took a real life moment and (hopefully) fictionalized it beyond recognition. I did my research by drinking many, many, many margaritas, by watching the people around me, eavesdropping on conversations, and paying close attention to the tendrils of the gayvine. I ferreted out the truth behind the stories and inserted them (cleverly, I hope) into the manuscript. I watched the people in the bar - searching, searching, searching, ever searching for Mr. Right. I wrote about the desperation of ending up alone at the end of the night, the feelings of something being wrong with the character in question because he always ended up alone. I wrote about the doubt, the frustration, the mild anger when nothing seemed to go right in a character's dating life. I delved into relationships and then shattered those relationships with a simple kiss. I exposed secrets that should have, perhaps, forever remained hidden.
Yes, I did my research, and kept doing that research so I could realistically portray life. I dug beneath the surface of the characters to show their insecurities and loneliness, their sense of frustration, and the struggle they (or rather, one) endure when they realize that sometimes, love is not enough.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Now, when I think of totally unredeemable characters, I always think of Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. J. K. Rowling wrote that character so well, that there is no way to like that character. She is unredeemable. She is hateable. I absolutely despise that character.
So, who was the inspiration for Dolores Umbridge? Was there a real person cleverly wrapped in fiction? Did someone make such an impact on J. K. Rowling's life, and not in a good way, that she suddenly came to life in the pages of a book? Have you done the same thing?
I repeat: have you done the same thing? How many of your less than likable characters are fashioned after people in your life that you don't like? Come on, now, honesty here, people. I mean, isn't it fun to create a character based on someone you don't like and then have horrible things happen to them? Isn't it fun to give the girl from high school who had perfect hair and complexion zits and bad hair days in your YA novel . . . and give her the same name so that all your friends absolutely know who you're writing about? Isn't it cathartic?
Have I done the same with people who have made my life miserable at some point? Yes and no! In my great Epic Fantasy novel that is languishing in boxes in my closet, there is a truly evil character that was inspired by the witch next door neighbor when I was growing up. She was all blonde and beautiful, friend to your face and enemy to your back. She was one of those people that no one would suspect of being so . . . bitchy! Dang, and I thought I exorcised those demons long ago. Seriously though, she did make it into a manuscript at some point. It felt good to have horrible things happen to this seemingly perfect person - pretty on the outside and dark on the inside!
Now, in recent manuscripts, I haven't done this. In recent manuscripts, I haven't had the need. Still, the world is full of inspiration for truly unredeemable characters to which horrible things might happen within the pages of a novel. How often do you use these inspiring people when creating despicable characters in your novels? How often do you weave fiction around real people you don't like and insert them in your novels? Do you exorcise the demons of the past by having horrible things happen to these characters?
Friday, June 26, 2009
Have a great Friday. I'm off to KY for a mini family reunion. Why mini? Well, my mother was one of 10 kids, and I'm one of 36 grandkids! Yeah, Catholic, go forth, be fruitful, and multiply. We took it literally . . . well, my one aunt did, she had 13 kids over a 25 year period. Yes, 13! At least my Mom stopped at 4. Well, she had to after me. I was the favorite child, so why bother after perfection? I'm just saying . . .
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
So today’s post is all about MY platform. Yes, MY platform. This post is about the next great breakthrough novel . . . Margarita Nights. There, I wrote it, the secret is out . . . of the closet, so to speak! I wrote a book about margaritas (stop laughing, LitGirl01!!). Seriously, I didn’t, but they do play a part in the book, or rather the fact that the characters in the book meet for margaritas once a month.
So, that’s the first (well, second, since I already wrote the book and edited it ad nauseum) step of the platform process . . . at least for me. I’ve let the title of the book out of the closet.
What’s the second step? Well, since you asked so nicely (yes, I’m quite snarky this morning), I guess I could give you some (admittedly) biased reviews . . .
From one of my dearest friends (hard as nails sometimes, direct, to the point, no holds barred and not one to cushion a crushing blow, even for her dearest friends) . . . I have started the book. I am on vacation all next week and I am doing nothing but finishing this great read!! No phones, no family, no people, just me and my babies! I had no idea how well you can write. I am in love with each character! I know when some one writes well because I can actually visualize the setting, the people, all of it! And that is what you have accomplished. Do I see a little of you in Jared??? This is great and I can not wait to finish! (This was her response not long after I emailed her the book and wondered why I hadn’t heard from her).
Now, here is her response after she finally finished . . . Scott, I think your writing is great and the book was wonderful. From your comments, I think you are a tad hard on yourself. You write so well, so descriptive, and all the while I can feel what all the characters are feeling; humor, insecurity, loneliness, appreciation for what is gone; the hope of what is to come; and the meaningless relationships that ironically have meaning in the end. As far as hetero women enjoying....I can't think of one that wouldn't. And if they didn't, they probably wouldn't want to read any thing but self help books!!
Last, but not least, are some comments from someone I have never met. He works with my sister, has never met me, and was kind enough (since he’s one of my people) to take time out of his very busy life to read the book . . . Overall, liked it alot. It got better as it went along and very good concepts. I liked the style of writing and very realistic scenes. It ended up a nice fun read. Thanks for asking and please don't take the suggestions as critical. Love it that Scott is even writing this. Very admirable. Thanks again.
Oh, and just so somebody else doesn’t get his feelings hurt . . . I will put some of your comments up in another post.
That’s it for this post. The next step of the platform will be . . . I have no clue, but it will be something! Seriously, perhaps an introduction to the characters and some brief excerpts from the book every now and then as I, step by step, build the platform even as I go through the agony of querying! Perhaps some clever, and a bit snarky as well, agent might stumble across my blog and go . . . . hmmmmmmm!
Oh, and I know what some of you are thinking reviews from friends don't count! Well, you don't know my Suzi. As much as she worships the quicksand I walk upon, she's going to tell me the truth, harsh and brutal, no holds barred. If I'm having a bad hair day - she'll tell me. If I look like crap after a hard night of partying - she'll tell me. If the zipper on my pants is open - well, she'd probably not tell me because she get great amusement out of my embarrassment when I finally realized my fly was open! I'm just saying . . .
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Did I have fun? Oh, yeah! It was a fun relaxing trip - good food, good times, walks on the beach, days spent floating in the pool, and good friends to hang around with!
Am I glad to be back? Yes! I like my normal, everyday routine.
Would I go again? In a heartbeat!
So, now that I'm back in the real world, and blogging once more. Let me tell you, I missed checking on the blogs on a daily basis, leaving comments, and just seeing what my fellow bloggers were up to in this crazy journey called writing.
Now that I am back I have a major dilemma before me. As you know, I've been working on a new WIP. I haven't written a word in a week, but I've been on vacation, and that was from writing as well. Now that I'm back (I wonder how many times I can use that phrase in this blog???), I have to decide what to do. My choices are: finish my WIP, rework my query and send it out to five agents at once, or do one more read through of the project I'm querying just to see if it needs any more tweaks. Then again, I could do that while I do the endless waiting game after sending the queries out. Hmmmm . . . .
I hope to get back in some type of routine tonight . . . which will dissolve into nothingness after Thursday since I'm gone again this coming weekend for a family reunion. : ) Oh, the joys of life and writing.
Have a great day. I promise to post something more in-depth at some point!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Word Count – 23,047
Thursday – finished Chapter Nineteen; started Chapter Twenty
Word Count – 23,565
Saturday – finished Chapter Twenty
Word Count – 24,351
Monday – started/finished Chapter Twenty-OneWord Count – 25,816
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Stephanie Kallos' Broken for You - do not read this book, at least the last 1/3 without at least two boxes of Kleenex nearby, and maybe a third for good measure. I cried my ass (well, not technically, but . . . ) off when reading the last 1/3 of this book. I called my friend who loaned me the book and said couldn't you give a guy some warning. The author - Stephanie Kallos in case you missed it the first time - somehow drew me so totally into the story, that by the time the last 1/3 of the book came around, there wasn't a chance in Hades of a dry eye. Not a chance, people. The characters were so well written, the plot so crafted, the inner demons of the characters so well portrayed, that the tears flowed easily . . . and naturally. The pain, the love, the emotional impact were out of this world.
I love that kind of emotional impact.
The best thing I've read about such emotional impact (sorry, don't know where, one of the blogs I follow) was not to put tears in your characters eyes, but to put the tears in your readers' eyes. Stephanie Kallos accomplished this big time.
Now, I make myself cry with my writing all the time . . . in a good way, people, though there was that one time . . . My current project is full of emotional impact . . .well, at least for me. I don't aim for the tears, the chance to make a reader cry, I just aim for the depth of emotions my characters need in a certain place/time. Without that depth of emotion, the scene is most likely going to fall flat.
In my current WIP, the emotions are flowing. Perhaps it is because I'm drawing so much on my past and changing events through the what if game, or perhaps it is because I have invested these characters with enough emotions that they are visible in the scenes I write.
Now, the big question: will the emotional impact remain when somebody else reads the rough draft? Hopefully . . . YES! If not, back to the drawing board.
My main point is: I don't sit down and say I'm going to write this really great emotional scene that is going to make my multitude of readers cry. I sit down and write. I write to the best of my ability and don't focus on whether a reader will cry or not, or whether the reader might laugh or not. I cannot do that. I can only write to the best of my ability and hope that the emotions that are conveyed to me in a particular scene are also conveyed to a reader.
Lastly, some ideas about emotional impact. Confrontation - anger, rage, the past rushing forward to the present, the insecurities of childhood brought to the forefront in an argument, and so much more. Two siblings - grown adults - fighting over something. Two people, desperately in love, unable to work things out and realizing that they're better off apart than together. A young woman fighting with her mother over something stupid and saying horrible things that can never, never be taken back. The mother, smiling at her daughter and saying I love you. An epileptic young man, has a seizure and knocks his mother across the room - later, after the seizure is over, the man consumed by guilt, and the mother smiles and says It's all right! Unconditional love right there! Emotional Impact!
So, how do you deal with emotional impact in your writing? Do you plan out the scenes? Do you outline the emotional moments of your manuscript? Do you just let those scenes happen?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Today, I want to share my absolutely (so he wrote with sarcasm dripping off his fingers) fantastic morning with whoever happens across my blog. Today I turned into the driveway at work (our offices are located in two historic houses, so we have a normal driveway) and noticed something in the driveway. I veered the car slightly to the left since it looked like some sort of animal. I didn't want to squish whatever the heck it was. So, park the car, and walk back up the driveway to investigate. Dead Possum! Yes, Dead Possum! Great! Fantastic! Wonderful!
Why? Because I'm always the first to arrive at work and, therefore, guess who gets to remove the Dead Possum?? Yes, you guessed it, wonderful, snarky me . . . and without a margarita in sight!
So, into the house, grab a big plastic trash bag, back outside, find a big stick - you really didn't think I was going to just pick it up with a trash bag, did you? Silly, Readers! - and back to the Dead Possum. I gently touch the allegedly (you know, they do pretend to be dead sometimes) Dead Possum with a stick. No movement. Whew! Wipe the sweat off my brow. Touch the allegedly Dead Possum with the stick a second time. Just making sure, people! Now, how do I get the frakkin' Dead Possum in the bag? Stand there for a few minutes pondering the Dead (at least I hope it's Dead) Possum. Drop bag over Dead Possum and attempt to roll Dead Possum into bag using aforementioned stick. Not Working. Frak! Try again! Still not working! Double Frak! Try one more time and push Dead Possum covered in black trash bag toward curb! Success.
Oh, wait, now Scott has to pick up bag containing Dead Possum. Insert case of heebie-jeebies! Slowly, very slowly - if the Dead Possum really isn't Dead and suddenly moves, there will be a Dead Scott laying in the parking lot for his co-workers to find - pick up the bag. No movement. Wipe sweat from brow. Slowly walk across both parking lots - fervently hoping Dead Possum doesn't suddenly become Alive Possum - toward trash cans. Possum hasn't moved . . . yet. Case of heebie-jeebies getting worse. Make it to the trash can with no movement. Delicately place Dead Possum in trash can. Heebie-jeebies still intact. Return to office and wash hands for ten minutes. OMG, where's a margarita when I need one???
Yes, that was my morning people. Trust me, had the Dead Possum moved at any point, I wouldn't be writing this blog!
So, let's hope everyone else has a much better start to their day!!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Okay, the picture to the left is not the best. Squeaky is in the bed to the left, and Tasmyn to the right. These are my girls! Squeaky is 7 and Tasmyn is 16. Squeaky is in Tasmyn's bed. She's decided, after the beds being in the house more than a year, and Taz alternating between beds, that she likes the beds. Taz is not happy, not happy at all. She suffers Squeaky's presence . . . barely!
- Wednesday – started/finished Chapter Eleven. Sketched out some plot points for later in the manuscript.
Word Count – 14,440
- Thursday – started/finished Chapter Twelve. Sketched out a few more plot points – no this is not an outline – for later in the manuscript.
Word Count – 15,840
- Friday – started/finished Chapter Thirteen. No sketching tonight. MARGARITAS!
Word Count – 16,924
- Saturday – started/finished Chapter Fourteen; started/finished Chapter Fifteen.
Word Count – 19,703
- Sunday – went back through the chapters and worked out the timeline so far. Also worked on Excel spreadsheet w/character descriptions. Didn’t do much else. Needed to recharge the old batteries.
- Monday – started/finished Chapter Sixteen. Started Chapter Seventeen – couldn’t finish, not tonight, too intense, too emotional, too raw, too REAL. Tomorrow . . .
Word Count – 20,911
- Tuesday – continued with, but didn’t finish, Chapter Seventeen. Still very intense. This will be a slow process chapter. Sometimes, cathartic moments take a lot out of a person. This is one of those times. Dang, this is definitely one of those times.
- Word Count – 21,697
Well, that's it for this week. We'll see how long it takes me to complete Chapter Seventeen. Hopefully, I'll work through it tomorrow and move on to the next chapter. Hopefully!
p.s. Check out BookEnds for a really great post.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
It seems that my post about what if inspired quite a discussion, not only from commenters, but from yours truly as well.
Tess' actual comment was . . . And, I like your comment about living vicariously through our characters. You could do a whole post on that...it is a great idea and a new way to look at our work. A few other commenters made similar, well, uh, comments - go figure. : )
Do I live vicariously through me (okay, this was a typo, but I left it because it made me sound all Irish - like that Lucky Charm's guy - they're magically delicious!) characters? In many ways, yes. My characters often do things I wouldn't - not in a million, gazillion years, not even with 12 pitchers of margaritas - do. I'm not Tyrone the Margarita Drinking Gladiator, after all (woo-hoo LitGirl01) . . . I just play one in the blogsphere! My characters live the dream, find happily ever after (well, sometimes), have far more stable lives, never seem to clean the house, and only go to the bathroom on occasion. Hmmm, is it so bad being a fictional character? I mean, wouldn't I just love it not to wake up at 2 AM because nature is SHOUTING - not calling, she never seems to gently call out any longer - at me?? Wouldn't it be nice to sleep past 6:30 AM? My characters get to do that all the time, though I have been known to make my characters step in a hair ball or two, and scoop the kitty poop. Hey, it's all about realism here . . . well, a bit of realism.
Now, even with living vicariously, there is a fine blending of fact and fiction. I may pull out certain moments of real life and insert it into the fictional lives of my character(s). I might take a situation and expand, greatly sometimes, on that situation for dramatic effect. Or, as with my current WIP I might take moments of my life and actually respond to a situation - again, for dramatic effect - through the character, in a far different, more dramatic way. Is this living vicariously? Heck, yes.
Is there a downfall to living vicariously? Yes. Sometimes, the emotions (even decades later) run far, far too deep. Last night I was writing a vicarious scene and I actually had to stop writing. The scene - part fiction, part reality - became way, way, way too intense. There was no way I could continue writing. Who knew those emotions still existed within me? I have a feeling the chapter might take a while to write, or I might have to move forward and come back to the chapter. Yeah, it's cathartic, but not easy to write. So, there is a downfall to putting fact into fiction, even when doing the vicarious thang!
So, what do your characters vicariously do that you wish you could do? Anything? Everything? How much real life do you invest in your characters, especially in emotional and/or confrontational scenes? Do you draw upon your own experience? Do you visual the fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner/whatever, play it out differently on paper, and feel the same anger/disappointment/whatever as when it actually happened? Do you feel drained afterwards? Do you feel better afterwards? Or, like Makita, do you not want so much of my life in my writing?
Last, in drawing from real life, and fictionalizing those events, do our fiction novels somehow inherit a sense of memoir?
Well, that's it for today. Just some food for thought.
p.s. check out the comments from my what if post - there were some great comments that inspired some pretty in-depth thinking on my part.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
p.s. the above picture was taken 3 or 4 years ago. It's one of my absolute favorite pictures. If you pay close attention to the top of the picture, where the main lily ends and just the barest hint of another lily can be seen, you'll see a . . . ladybug. There's also an ant in the picture as well. I had no clue of either thing when I first took the picture. It was only later that I noticed the ladybug and the ant. I titled the picture At the End of the Day because it was late afternoon when I took the photo, and the ant and ladybug seemed on their way home. : ) If you click on the picture, it will get bigger and you can see the ladybug and ant more clearly. The ant is just on the bottom edge of the yellow center of the main lily. : )
Here it is Wednesday . . . again . . . and time for a status report. So, in true writerly fashion doing the writing thingy . . .
The picture to the left is from our garden last year. The day lilies have just started blooming this year. We have a friend who grows and hybridizes lilies, so at the end of each summer we get the castoffs. Not a bad way to stock a garden.
- Wednesday (last week, not this) - started/finished Chapter 3 & 4
- Wednesday (last week) - prewrote (sorry, couldn't help myself on this, the inspiration was hitting me in the head) a good portion of two chapters for later in the book - one of the chapters is the last. Normally, I don't do this, and things may (so he says while trying not to laugh) change before I complete this project. The ideas fell out of my head and it was a shame to let them go to waste.Wednesday (you get the idea by now, last week, not this) - 5,900 words.
- Thursday - started/finished Chapter 5 ~ had no clue what I was going to write. All day long I kept thinking, thinking, thinking about what should Chapter 5 be about. Finally, on the drive home, inspiration struck and I just had to wait for a red light so I could start jotting down notes. It took two red lights, but I jotted down enough.
- Word count - 7,600
- Friday - no actual major writing today. Inspiration again arrived while driving in the car, this time on the way home from margarita night. Sketched out the idea for Chapter 6 when I arrived back home.
- Saturday - started/finished Chapters 6 & 7; sketched out the details for Chapter 8
- Word Count - 10,160
- Sunday - started/finished Chapter 8.
- Word Count - 10,954. Okay, not the best writing day, but in my defense, the yard work did need to take precedence today. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
- Monday - started/finished Chapter 8
- Word Count - 12,103
- Tuesday - wrote opening for Chapter 10 while waiting in line at Starbucks. For whatever reason, the car is inspiring me so far in this work in progress. I'm not about to question why Inspiration seems to strike in my car. She is fickle after all and I take what I can get
- Tuesday - started/finished Chapter 10.
- Word Count - 13,110.
Well, that's a week of progress on my work in progress. It might not be much, but it's something. I've written everyday for a week. Woo-hoo! I haven't even taken my night off that I allow myself when immersed in a project - just a night, some down time where my brain can rest. Oh wait, I did that on Friday (silly me); but, I did sketch things out in my mind and type up some notes, so that counts as writing.
p.s. I'm posting this Tuesday evening, just because I'm done for the night. : )
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I basically suck, yes, suck, at writing query letters. I've read the books, blogs, and everything on how to write the most amazing query letter EVER that will immediately get you a book publishing deal! I've obviously failed that course.
I recently braved the harsh world of a query critique. It wasn't pretty, not at all. Death by Chocolate almost happened yesterday. Okay, it wouldn't have been death but it would have been Ben & Jerry's chocolate therapy. YUM! Anyhow, the critiques were brutal . . . and helpful.
Now, some backstory. The basic premise of my current project: six friends meet once a month for margaritas. Yes, margaritas. Yes, I drew from real life inspiration (in more ways than I'll ever admit). They're each at a crossroad in their lives. Their decisions, good or bad, will have far reach consequences for each of them. The story takes place from three perspectives. Okay, initially, the story took place from six perspectives, but separated into Part I and Part II. Part I dealt with three perspectives, wrapped up their storylines, and then Part II picked up the remaining three perspectives. The end result, 140,000 words. Ah, so you see the problem. What agent in their right mind is going to look at a new author's 140,000 word book. So, since it was fairly easy to do, I split the book in two.
In my query letter: do I mention all three perspectives, the issues those characters face, and the resolution of the issues? Or, do I just focus on one character and let the sample pages show the agent the different perspectives?
As you can see, I'm totally confused and torn. I've written the query letters both ways. I haven't succeeded with either.
Now, Elana is currently ripping my query letter to shreds. Don't worry, Elana, there's a Ben & Jerry's right around the corner. I'll survive. : ) I'm just really wondering how the rest of you, or those that have queried, or those that are about to query, or those with multiple perspective books, would handle the situation.
Monday, June 1, 2009
This year, after the new sidewalk was put in running from the street to the front door, after we dug out along each side, hauled away the dirt, and planted masses of plants/flowers, my partner decided he no longer liked the flagstone border around the front flower bed. So, we begin to move the not so light stones to the side of the house to go around other beds. He wants the front to look more natural, the back to look more sculpted.
As I'm hauling the last of the stones this weekend - recycling them in fact (aha, the inspiration for this post), I begin to think about how often I recycle in my writing!
Seriously, people, I recycle all the time. I steal characters from manuscripts languising in their boxes in my closet, or in folders in my desk, or wherever those manuscripts languish. I also recycle barely sketched out plots, scenes, and whatever other clutter is covering my desk at the moment.
Do you recycle? Do you steal a character when you need a character on the spur of the moment and your brain is just too dang tired to create a character on the spot? Do you pull a deleted passage from one book - I save all deleted passages in a Word document, btw - and insert it into the current project you are working on? Do you take the general idea of one story, that didn't work for this reason or that, and suddenly make it into a new story?
I do this constantly. In fact, on my current work in progress I'm recycling a bunch of ideas from a project that never went anywhere at all. I created the character, the situations he would encounter, and then I just (unusual for me) moved on to something else because I just didn't feel the fire of that project. Still, those ideas were still there, the scenes that I wanted to write about, the darkness (of sorts) I wanted to delve into, and now they'll be recycled into my current work in progress.
On that note . . . have a great day. And remember, recycling is a good thing.