Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WiP Wednesday - September 29, 2010

48 Degrees this morning! Woo-hoo! This week, well, since last Friday, has been absolutely amazing with autumn temps. I spent a good part of the weekend outside just soaking up the autumnal weather. I love the early Autumn/Spring when the temps are just - baby bear - right!

On the writing front . . . I'm still plugging away at Book II. I'm in the home stretch, standing on third base, just waiting to run for home once the current batter knocks the ball out of the ball park. Woo-hoo.

I'm about to hit the big climax scene. I've typed up some notes regarding that scene. Now, I just have to do a few lead up chapters, do that chapter, the follow up chapters, and then . . . The End!

Once this project is done, I'll immerse myself in the revision phase of Book I. I have the rough of Book I out to two beta readers right now. Normally, I don't do this. Normally, I wait until, like, the fourth or fifth stage of revision. The reason: there's a contest I'd like to enter, which means I have to polish up this cozy a bit quicker than normal. I can't submit a rough draft, but, with the amount of time I have until deadline I should be able to do two revision phases and then . . . off it goes.

Why? Well, why not? Why not take this little book that came out of nowhere, that poured forth from my brain in less than two weeks, that hit right in between the required word counts for cozy mysteries, and - cue Abba - take a chance???

We only live once in this life. We can be passive or active. I choose active, in this moment, if not always in other moments. I choose to take a chance with a first draft, in a contest, because . . . well, just because. So what if it doesn't win? It might not. It might.

Things happen when they're meant to happen and not when I want them to happen.

Maybe, just maybe - the margarita glass half-full - everything has fallen into place so far for me to enter this contest, this year. Ha!


BTW - I responded to comments on yesterday's post this morning. Yeah, a bit behind! Sorry.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Write What You Read

"The most important thing is you can't write what you wouldn't read for pleasure. It's a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can't say you're going to write romance when you don't even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it." ~ Nora Roberts

The above quote comes from the Writer's Digest Facebook page. If you haven't LIKED the page, you may want to do so. Tons of useful information.

And, as normal, an established writer says it like it is!! Woo-hoo!

It's a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot.

Amen, Sistah!!

As an aspiring writer, I found the best joy and freedom with writing, when writing what I want to write . . . not what I think is the current trend to write. It is the moments when I quit thinking about trends and audience (yes, audience) that I feel I do my best writing . . . because I'm writing solely for me.

Yes, at some point, I have to consider a broader audience. Every writer must do that at some point.

The fact is, trendy today is not trendy tomorrow and, to the best of my knowledge . . . writing a fabulous novel, query, synopsis, agent research, finding an agent, editor, publisher, revisions out the ying-yang just doesn't happen in a day.

So, even if I write the best been-there-done-that-vampire-novel-EV-UH . . . by the time I go through all the stages of the writing process . . . vampires have been eradicated from the literary world, only to be replaced by a kid who loves pickles. Yeah, go figure.

You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it.

Amen, sistah!

I don't read the current trend of vampire books. Okay, I read Anne Rice back in the day. I loved the first few books in the Lestat series. I also loved the one and only book in her mummy series. Please, Anne, write another one! Please???

The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned is an excellent book, btw! Loved, loved, loved the book! I always hoped she would write another book. She never did. Perhaps now that she's come out of her religious phase, she'll get back to writing another book about Ramses the Damned!

But, I digress . . . hey, it happens.

I write what I want to read, and, in some part, what I've been reading. I also write, to a greater extent, about what I know.

In the end, every writer will write what they write. Every writer must - should - follow their heart and instinct with their writing.

Best of luck to all . . .


Monday, September 27, 2010

Revision Phase

I'm getting ready to delve into the revision phase of the cozy mystery I wrote a month or so back. You know, the one I wrote in a bit under two weeks. Yeah, that one.

I'm still working on Book II - slowly, but surely. I have about 1/4 more to go before I'm done.

Still, my brain has begun to drift toward revisions of the first book (of hopefully many - ha). I did a read through of the first few chapters the other day. I already know that one chapter is going to disappear . . . for the most part.

The chapter in question is mainly backstory . . . which, in some cases is needed. It is needed in this case, but with less length . . . and all that can easily fit into the next chapter. Woo-hoo!

On a side note . . .

The read through . . .

My main problem with the read through is that I have a tendency to want to fix things. It's an irritating, borderline OCD, tendency. A read through should include reading only, no editing . . . at least in my opinion.

I finally solved my - somewhat - OCD tendency to edit: Adobe Acrobat Reader. Yes, .pdf format is how I do my read throughs. I might come across a scene to edit/delete/whatever. The Adobe format doesn't - well, not the free version anyway - allow me to edit the document. This is a good thing.

So, in the first few chapters of the read through I came across "here" instead of "her". I came across a paragraph I pretty much knew I wanted to delete.

Both things will still exist when I begin the editing phase.

As easy - obsessive, perhaps - as it is to edit on demand (Ha!), I think, for me, it's better to not have the edit option available. Sometimes, I just need to read and not edit. If I'm always stopping to change "here" to "her" . . . or whatever, than I'm not getting a sense of the flow of the novel.

Yes, my mind reacts to what is wrong within the novel, but . . . I can keep reading with only a brief pause, rather than a long pause to fix what I find that I think is wrong!

And, if worse comes to worse, there is the bookmark option which allows me to mark a specific page for later reference.

How about you? How do you handle your read through? Do you have a tendency to edit as you go? Do you hold a red pen in hand? Do you read through totally, from beginning to end, with out an edit at all? How do you turn off your inner editor?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Influence of Writing

So, last week, or the week before, I was reading a blog. The blogger was ranting about this, that, and that and this, and a whole lot of other stuff. Fine. Dandy. Not a problem. Then, the blogger stated that he/she was the first person to use a particular writing technique . . . or something to that effect.


I think not.

In fact, I'd used something similar more than once.

OMG . . . I'm psychically plagiarizing!

No. I'm. Not.

The whole post started my brain cells synapsing. In fact, they were doing the synapsy-dance thing.

The end result: the influence of writing.

I firmly believe that every single thing I read . . . influences my writing AND eventually, permeates my writing to a certain extent.

We all know there are no new ideas. There are only ideas used over and over and over and over and over again . . . with a unique twist we, as writers, can call our own.

We should also know that what we read influences our writing in some way, shape, or form. It happens.

So, if someone writes a story about dragons that communicate telepathically with humans . . . well, they've been influenced, most likely, by Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern - LOVE IT!) or some other story they've read that used a similar idea.

Tolkien set the stage for Elves. Seriously, people, he did. My image of Elves is firmly set in Middle Earth. When I write about Elves . . . they're influenced by Tolkien's imagery. I can't help it. I forever see Elves as tall, somewhat ethereal, individuals. I don't see them as small, pixie like beings . . . and I don't write about them in that way.

Tolkien influenced my concept of Elves. It happens.

The whole point is . . . while I'd love to take sole credit for something, in reality, I really can't when it comes to writing. I can take credit for a great concept and a great story. I can't take credit for comparing a relationship to a flower. Many, many writers have been there, done that, and have multiple t-shirts to prove it. It's been done before.

I can't take credit for telepathic dragons. I might use them in some fantasy novel in the future, or a story idea that's outlined but hasn't gone anywhere, but I can't claim credit for the original concept or say I'm the first to have telepathic dragons in a story.

My imagery of dragons was firmly established by the brilliance of Anne McCaffrey . . . just as my imagery of Elves was firmly established by Tolkien. Oh, and he established my imagery of dwarves as well.

In the end, I can take the influence of everything I read, and acknowledge that influence in what I write. I don't live in a vacuum. I don't NOT read books. I devour books. An author's irreverent and quirky writing style might inspire me to try something similar. An author's long, narrative descriptive passages might inspire me to try the same thing. Then again, it might not. If my Elves are tall and my Dragons telepathic, I can acknowledge, to myself and others, that the writings of Tolkien and McCaffrey influenced my Elves and Dragons. If I don't acknowledge the influence of all that I have read, and all that I will read, am I not lying to myself?

Hmmm . . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Perils of Familiarity

There are ups and downs to the writing process. Sometimes the words flow and other times they don't. Sometimes a brilliant ideas remains brilliant and other times, well, the brilliance fades and the idea gets placed in a folder to collect dust. Yes, it happens.

There are perils to writing as well. The peril I'm going to discuss today is the peril of familiarity.

What is this dreaded peril? Well, in simple terms, it happens when a writer becomes so familiar with their characters that, well, every character they create is pretty much the same.

There's one series of books, well, two series, same characters, very well written. I've read the series many, many, many times. The author had great success with this particular series, so-so success with another series, and then, many years later wrote a stand-alone, single volume book.

Well, enter the perils of familiarity. The characters in this book - perhaps intentional, perhaps not - were carbon copies of the characters, down to personality traits, of the oh-so familiar characters I knew and loved from the author's previous works. In fact, the only difference was the names. Yes, the characters were that familiar.

Now, on to a different author that I love. She makes me laugh out loud every time I read one of her books. Heck, one time, I had to quit reading because I was laughing so hard. I walked the dogs, still laughing btw, and couldn't pick up the book for almost twenty minutes because the one scene was so ingrained in my mind. Great writing.

So, anyhow, new book by this author, good concept and characters, loving the book, even though there is a sense of familiarity about one of the characters. There's enough difference, however, to make the sense vague . . . unlike my previous example. Then, wham, bam, this vaguely familiar character happens to drive the exact same vehicle as a character in another series by this same author. Screeeeeeeeeecccchhh! Apply the brakes. WTH??? Yes, pulled right out of this great story by the perils of familiarity.

I mean, couldn't this similar to another character have driven a different type of vehicle? Couldn't the explanation for where the vehicles came from have been a bit different than used in the other books by this author? Couldn't . . .

Yes, more than one similarity (i.e., familiarity).

So, all of this got me to thinking about my own writing and whether I too might suffer from the perils of familiarity.

Why, after careful inspection, yes I do . . . to a certain, but hopefully not jarring, extent. At some point, in most projects, the characters end up drinking margaritas. At some point, the individual characters might drink Jack Daniels and Coke, or Crown and Coke, or Scotch and Water, or . . . some other type drink that my real, not fictional (ha), friends drink.

This is okay.

The fact that all the characters in each different project drive the same vehicle, at least in my opinion, isn't okay.

The fact that every character I write is exactly the same except for a change in name, at least in my opinion, isn't okay.

Now, back to the book I just finished reading. Here's my hope: the author, in book II or III or whatever, will link the vehicles to the character in her other series. Yes, wham, bam, right out there for every one to see the author will insert a sentence that says "Yeah, we get the vehicles from this dude in Chicago who runs a . . . " This, dear readers, would be neat, and a great tie in to the other series, and make the perils of familiarity not so jarring.

How about you, do you suffer from the perils of familiarity? Is there a way for this not to happen? Is it okay that this happens? Thoughts, comments???


Friday, September 17, 2010

Project Runway

This post is for Tess!!!

This post doesn't have much, if anything to do with writing! Fair warning!

This post probably contains spoilers about last night's Project Runway episode. If you haven't watched, don't read. I'm just saying . . .

Okay, Tessinator, here I go . . .

Can someone run over Gretchen with a steamroller? Push her off a high building? Lock her in a closet? My nerves can't take much more of her! Ha!

So, last night, in the current incarnation of Project Runway (i.e., Big Brother meets Project Runway) the claws, as usual were out again! Why? Well, one designer summed it up the best I think too many of the designers have an elitist attitude and think they're way better than everybody else! Ya think? Yes, that designer nailed it on the head.

As I've mentioned with writing, distance is required for objectivity. Yes, we, as writers, must defend our work. Yes, sometimes, we as writers write, well, crap!! Yes, crap! Designers, sometimes, especially on a reality show, sometimes design, well, crap!!

Last night was no different than any other week. The designers talked bad about each other behind their backs and then were all smooches when they saw each other face to face. The worst of the worst is Miss Sickly Sweet She Makes Me Want to Puke Gretchen. In her one on one with the camera she doesn't have a nice thing to say about any body, but put her in a room with a bunch of people and the saccharine pours out of her like water at Niagara Falls. Ha!

The winner - stop reading - last night, oh, wait, did anyone see Mondo's personal outfit? OMG! I couldn't stop laughing. Okay, I was laughing because I could picture a friend of mine wearing that outfit on Halloween . . . or just a night out at the bar. I'm just saying . . .

Anyhow, Mondo won with a neat outfit that, at first, I thought a clown had puked up the skirt. But, with the other pieces, everything worked and, for the first time ev-uh, Mondo was the big winner.

Poison Ivy redeemed herself from last week and proved she's more than just a seamstress, though, she made a bit of a goof which cost her the win. So sad . . .

Did I mention Gretchen was pissed that she wasn't in the Top Three? Oh, the look on her face . . . priceless.

Andy made an outfit that, well, Michael Kors summed it up best . . . it looks like MC Hammer met Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies! Yes, it was that bad, though Andy loved his look . . . which he should!

The loser . . . Michael D. I'm gonna miss that man. He added humor to the show . . . which'll be sadly lacking the rest of the season. I really thought Valerie was going home. As Nina said about Valerie . . . she bores me. I thought that was the final nail in her coffin. I was wrong! Go figure.

And that, dear readers . . . and Tess, is the sum total of my recap of Project Runway. Here's hoping Gretchen goes home soon. I haven't disliked a contestant this much on PR since Wendy Pepper from Season 1!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WiP Wednesday - Sept 15, 2010

Okay, it's the middle of freaking September already!

Sorry, about that, this whole time is flying way too fast is really getting to me.

Works in Progress Update:
  • Book II Rough Draft - Cozy Mystery - just over the 1/2 way point of the rough draft. Words are flowing and alibis are being dissected!
  • Fantasy Project Rough Draft - not working on this as much because of a crazy hectic weekend last weekend. Still, progress is being made. The exposition (i.e., into) has been completed and the rising action has begun. Not bad, not bad at all.

Blogging! Well, I've been a bit absent from actual blogging, but I am out there reading the blogs and leaving some comments. I just haven't had much to say lately. Yeah, I know, go figure. I'm sure this is only a temporary thing on my part as I'm more immersed in my personal writing than my blogging, which does count as writing . . . btw!

So, never fear, Polly Purebred, Underdog is . . . well, on a sabbatical, so you'll just have to deal with those pesky villains all by yourself. Ha! Kidding!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WiP Wednesday - Sept 8, 2010

First - where in the heck did summer go? Seriously? Heck, where is the year going? Why is it racing away so fast?

Second - spent the past weekend in Chicago eating, drinking, and walking way too much. Had a fantastic time with friends and family. Ate the best cinnamon roll ever, and some excellent deep dish pizza. Riding the train . . . oh, the inspiration to be found riding the "L" in Chicago. You outta try it some time. At one point, had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud at the one conversation. Then, there was the woman with the - at least - six inch stilettos riding the train. You should have seen her try to stand up and maintain her balance. Oy!

Third - still plugging away at the two projects as I maintain distance from the project that I need to edit. Just a bit more time.

Speaking of distance . . .

I love Project Runway. Okay, not so much this season because it's become Big Brother Meets Project Runway. Not pretty, not pretty at all. Too much drama. I liked the show better when it was more about the designs then drama.

Anyhow, last week's episode reminded me that as writers, we are some times way too close to our work. We can't see the flaws because of the closeness . . . which is why we need distance between the different stages of the writing process from the beginning to the i'm ready to query.

Now, on Project Runway last week, five or so designers who didn't make it into the top three, were sitting back discussing the six designers that, together, were in the top and bottom three. There's one designer that they DESPISE. They are ripping this designer and his design to shreds. "Blah, blah, blah!" Now, at the same time, the judges are praising this designer. PRAISING! In fact, said designer is the winner.

Said Despised Designer comes back to the lounge area, announces his win, and nobody congratulates him. NOBODY!

Each of the designers in the room thought their design was the best design ev-uh! In fact, one of the designers said "I just don't know what the judges are thinking". Well, when she's in the top three, the judges are doing their job. When she isn't, the judges don't know what they're thinking.


So, this episode brought home to me, that distance is needed between ourselves and our work so that we can look at our work objectively. If there is not enough distance, if we do not create the necessary distance, than objectivity of our work doesn't exist.

Now, back to Project Runway and the petty designers that cannot congratulate someone on a win. I'm sorry, but even if I despise a person, don't admire them, or whatever, if said person does an excellent job, I'm going to congratulate said person. I don't like one of the designer's on the show - her attitude sucks, she's arrogant and manipulative - but she makes good clothes. I admit, she makes good clothes. I might not like her as a person, but, as a designer . . . she's good.

On that note . . .


Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Update

So, this week has been about not one, but two project: Book II in my cozy series and the fleshing out of a fantasy idea.

Normally, I'm a one project at a time kinda guy! Focus! Focus! Focus! It's how I work.

Okay, there was that point earlier this year when I was working on three projects at once, but only because I couldn't decide which I wanted to work on the most, and once I figured that out, I set the other two projects aside! Whew!

So, I've been alternating, since this past Sunday, between Book II and New Idea.

For the New Idea, I just wanted to get down the basics: premise and main characters. I did that! Woo-hoo!

Then, for whatever reason, I began to write more and more. I'm 6,000 words into the project. I'm at the 20,000 point on Book II.

I'm also probably at the point where I'll set the New Idea aside . . . well, after whatever I complete today. Sometimes, I just need to work through the initial rush of the new idea so I can then shift my focus back to where it needs to be . . . on Book II!

How about you? What are you working on right now?