Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rest and Writing

I'm feeling a bit better, finally! It's a challenge not to take off full speed and try to catch up on missed time, but I really have to take it easy. I don't want to end up back at square one. I don't think I could survive another month off my feet.

I took a couple days off writing last week. I couldn't sit at the computer for even five minutes without hurting all over. After about the third day, on the brink of going stir crazy, I moved my computer into the bedroom so I could work on my novel. Having the computer in here with me is a nice change, and yesterday, I managed to bump the story over the 30k mark.

I've kept my Kindle Fire close by as well. I've been Facebooking and Twittering that way. I actually prefer it. I've also kept the KF loaded with books, and yes, I'm still using Kindle Unlimited. Personally, I love the program. I can say that as a reader, but I know nothing about it from the writerly side of things, so don't quote me. The point is, I'm reading like a fiend, and lately I've been working my way through all the Richard Laymon books that I wanted to read but could never get my hands on. A couple of those books, after reading them in ebook format, I bought them in paper editions. I'm still waiting on Night in the Lonesome October to get here. I read it a couple of weeks ago and wasn't sure I liked it at first, but what kept coming to mind was the way it was written. The way the characters are presented on the page. I liked that about it, so I ordered a keeper copy for my bookshelf.

I'm a big fan of non-fiction and writerly craft books, too, and there are a ton of them on Unlimited. The thing is finding the good ones. I've picked up some that were excellent, others that were...eh, not so much. I'm currently reading a book called Sentence Xpert. Or something like that. I thought it would be a list of sentence variations, but really it's more or less taking sentences from popular books like The Joy Luck Club, stripping them down, and analyzing their structure. That's a totally Virgo thing to do with them, so I like it. Fascinating stuff.

That's all I've got for now. I'm about to take command of the kitchen and forage for some eats. Until next time, wishing you all the best. Oh...and Happy St. Patrick's Day! ♣ 

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Breaking the 20k Barrier

Tomorrow I'm making an appointment with the gastroenterologist in Ruston. I've been sick, feverish, and in the worst kind of pain for well over a week. I spent most of yesterday and today lounging around feeling like crap, running a temp, etc. It hurts just to stand up. Clearly the pain is not going to go away on it's own, so it's time to call it in and find out what's wrong and what can be done about it.

About two hours ago, I took a dose of pain mediation that's so old it's a wonder moths didn't fly out of the bottle when I opened it. We never cull the medicine cabinet; everything sort of accumulates and then goes to rot in there. Or the label blanches and falls off the medicine bottle so I no longer know what the pills are for. That's when I toss them out.

I hate taking pain medication - hate, with a passion - because it always makes me feel queasy. Even after I gave birth to MiniBeast, via c-section, I ditched the prescribed pain pills and took over the counter Tylenol instead. Well, earlier tonight, I broke my no pain meds rule. I was hurting so bad I took a ten year old Loritab. I'm stunned it had any effect at all, but it did. Thank goodness for that, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sit here and type this blog post. I do feel a bit queasy from it, sadly. Still it's better than lounging around crying in pain.

I did very little writing today. It hurts too much to sit at the computer. Instead, I camped out with a heating pad and finished reading Richard Laymon's The Beast House. He's one of my favorite authors of all time. His books tend to be hit or miss, and they're chock full of rape scenes (which I prefer to skip), but I love his writing style anyway. Even his "bad" books. I've learned a lot about writing from reading his work. I've learned more from him that probably from any other author. That said, his beast house series is pretty good. I've read The Cellar, and now The Beast House. I have one more book in the set left to read. I'll see if I can pick up a copy to read next weekend.

Yesterday, I got a couple thousand words down. I'm back over the 20k mark after losing all my data via the untimely death of my old PC. I'm glad the story is growing again.

Unlike my other books, the project I'm currently working on goes off into some dark and unsettling directions. I love the characters, and they love each other; however, I don't think this is going to be a Cora Zane book, in the sense that it is a dark romance. Yes, the story has romance in it, but truthfully, it's more of a horror/supernatural thriller. Instead trying to reign it in to appease the genre, I've decided to let it be what it will be.

I haven't decided yet whether I want to publish this new novel myself, or submit it to a few places first. Whatever route I choose to take, I'm pretty sure I'll be pubbing this one under a different name for branding reasons. Just an FYI for anyone curious. Whatever I chose to do with it, I'll share the news here when the time is right. I typed that as "write" then changed it. See where my mind is?

That's all for now. Until next time, happy wishes! ☺

Thursday, March 05, 2015

More Snow, More Writing

Today was another snow day. At this rate, the kids are going to have to go to school until June to make up for all the lost time. I don't remember the schools ever letting kids out this many days due to winter weather.

Wednesday actually started out sunny and warm. We ran the air conditioner for a while, then around 4 p.m., the temperature began to drop. We knew it was supposed to be cold over night, so I rushed around and turned on all the heaters.

I woke up around three a.m. and winds were slamming ice against the back of the house. It sounded like someone trying to scratch their way inside through the windows. For hours sleet raked across the exterior and the screen door. I listened to it until I fell back asleep. When I woke up a few hours later, the winds had died down and the yard was blanketed in ice.

Mini had no school due to the ice accumulation, and Hubby was home most of the day sleeping since he's working nights. It's been cozy and quiet here around the house. Uneventful. Mini played computer games on and off, and I worked on my novel. That's about the gist of it.

This weekend we have a lot of tidying and rearranging to do. Oldest is on his way home in a few weeks, and we've rearranged the house since he was last here. I suspect we'll have to pick a day and hit it hard. Arrange furniture, etc. Then rest. I can't afford to overdo it right now.

Aside from that, all is calm. All is well. I'm looking forward to the weekend. Until then...back to writing. •

Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow No More

After several days of ice and snow, it's mostly melted now. Nothing left but a few patches in the yard. Boohoo. It was great fun while it lasted, though. Mini wasn't jazzed about returning to school today at all, but I managed to get him dressed and out the door without too much whining and carrying on. I admit I loved the snow break, too. I stayed busy reading and writing and making a list of the things I need to do before Oldest gets home. He's back in the states and will be home with us in a few weeks. What he decides to do from that point forward, we'll have to wait and see.

Yesterday I managed to get roughly 2800 words written. My weekly total is sitting at just over 11k. I'm very happy with those numbers, and I'm looking to add to that amount after lunch. The main thing is to keep the story moving forward. So far, so good.

That's it for now. I should know in about an hour if Hubby has maxed out his work time for the week. If he has, he'll be home a bit early. I hope he has. We'll get to kick off the weekend early. ☺

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tracking Expedition

CharlieCat has the right idea.
A Sunday snoozefest. ☺
Last night I worked on my novel for a couple of hours. I wrote about a thousand words and took a ton of notes for future scenes - scene sketches, basically. I have a total crush on my main character. It's been a while since that has happened for me!  A good sign, for sure.☺

Today's order of business: I have a couple of scenes I want to add in with what's already there, but I think I'm going to have to use a spreadsheet to keep track of where everyone is at what moment. I've never had to do that before, so I'm kind of browsing around the internet for suggestions. Easy suggestions, nothing too complicated. Nothing complicated like a plotting system. Just a way to keep track of my characters while I'm writing.

In the meantime, I'm moving on with this thing. My characters have hit their stride. •

Friday, February 20, 2015

Writing Study: Difficult Characters

Silhouette by mzacha.
"Michal Zacharzewski, SXC"
I had a great writing day yesterday: 3600 words. Even better than that, I uncovered the personal history of an important character I've been struggling with. Exciting stuff!

Up until now, I just couldn't nail this guy down. He was basically a roughly sketched stage player, although absolutely necessary to the story. I have written a lot of material about him, but I have always ended up scrapping it. Without "knowing him", I couldn't seem to get the story to come together.

I kept trying to foist a persona on him, but it never worked. Nothing fit right. Each time I'd try a new history on him, it was like trying to pose and repose a statue - impossible. So I just wrote along, letting him be a stick figure if that's all he wanted to be...then suddenly, yesterday, some of his inner demons slipped out. Uh-oh. Too bad for him. You can't stuff the inner demons back in once they escape. No hoping I won't see 'em either, tough guy. They're like glitter, or confetti - once it pops, it goes everywhere. There's no hiding it. Everyone can see it. It gets on everything, and you can't shake it off. Just when people think they've got rid of all of it, two weeks later, they're still finding glitter in their hair.

When I'm reading, I'm always most interested in the characters who are a little closed off, but who reveal more and more personality and history details as the story develops.You pick up on all of these little detail until suddenly in a later chapter....boom! Something triggers the character, usually something to do with a sensitive area of his personal history, and all his skeletons fall out of the closet. As a reader, you see this and shout "ah-ha!" because now the reason he was acting like this or that in chapter four makes perfect sense.

For example, there's a nice guy, Bert, at the local pub. He's good looking, does standard nice guy stuff - opens doors for folks, buys a round once a week, drives the local drunks home when they get too toasted to walk it off. Then one night, he has one too many, and under the influence, he talks about how he'd like to take everyone of those little teenage shits that hang out on the corner of Colorado Street and gut them - going into graphic detail of how he'd do it. Then he says he'd take what's left of them and hang them from the massive oak tree in Midtown Park. The bartender looks at Bert, "Why would you say something like that?" Bert shrugs, looks into his glass before drinking the last swallow of scotch. "For all those years of hassling me." Hassling him? How?

Imagine yourself at the end of the bar and you hear this exchange. It doesn't matter if Burt means it or not, or if it's just the alcohol talking. The probable reaction would be, 'Whoa! I didn't know that about Bert. He seemed like such a normal, average guy. A real nice fellow, but I didn't know he had such a violent streak." It totally changes your perception of Bert. Doesn't it? You begin to wonder if he has a criminal history. Is his nice guy routine just that - an act?

Once a character spills details like that, once they show you (inadvertently or otherwise) what's going on in their minds and how they think, you can't put that rabbit back in the hat. There's something going on with that character. You know it, even if you don't know what it is or where it comes from. His personal truth is out there, so as a writer you might as well grasp onto it and run with it. Later on, months down the road, when you run into a character who actually knows Bert, and knows him well, you recount what happened that night he went on a bender. The listening character responds rather sympathetically, "Oh, well, you know some teenagers attacked his wife, Harriet, sixteen years ago. She died from her injuries. Bert never really got over it."

Suddenly you get it. It makes sense now. You understand who Bert is, and why he said what he did that night. It also becomes so much easier to imagine a whole line of backstory about him, just from uncovering that one small piece of his personal history.

So yeah, that character I've been working on...he had a tough shell. Probably the toughest I have ever worked with. But I finally cracked it. The confetti is officially everywhere. Once I discovered his personal history, the story took off at a gallop. It also made my character richer, adding more facets to who he is. Also, in the last chapter I wrote, by knowing where the character was coming from, I was able to add all these little mysterious nuances on his behalf. I can also better predict how he's going to act in the next scene when the crap hits the fan.

Sometimes the character's history comes easily; sometimes characters don't seem to want to reveal a single detail about themselves. The importance of personal history is that it takes characters beyond flat descriptions of hair and eye color, and gives writers a character "context" to work from. Who is this person?  Why do they do what they do? Without that context, we simply pose and repose a figure, a statue on the stage of our story, instead of letting the character act according to who he or she is as a person.

Anyway, I'm really glad I didn't give up on this guy. There were many, many times I wanted to. When a character isn't revealing anything, if they have nothing to share or contribute to the story other than walking around pretending to be breathing, I know it's best to let them go. But this time I just couldn't. I felt like this guy had something. That spark. I just couldn't see it. I had to keep searching. I'm glad I stuck with him, because I'm very happy with the payoff. What a fascinating person he is under that cool, unshakable surface. I can hardly wait to dig deeper. ◙

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

All Aboard The Creativity Train

My writing productivity has gone down considerably in the past five years, and I never really could figure out why. I mean, what's causing it? The desire to write is still very much there. I've always figured it had something to do with living the mom life (and schedule), or it's the obligations, the endless stream of weekly errands, etc. Whatever the case, not knowing the exact why has been driving me bonkers, especially lately. I want to find the problem and fix it, so I can get my writing mojo back.

It's been a very frustrating soul search to say the least. Years ago, before I ever attempted publishing, I'd write at least a novel a year and tuck it into a special box under the bed. Why don't I do that anymore? Why can't I do that anymore? I can put in hours at the computer and still feel like nothing gets accomplished. Nothing publishable, anyway.

In January, I started looking at how my writing and process has changed over the years. I've been looking at everything from where I've been writing, to what I was using to write with (originally a Smith Corona electric typewriter - that was in 1993.) It recently occurred to me that it wasn't until a couple of years after I had Mini Beast that my productivity dropped off a steep cliff never to be recovered again. It didn't happen when he was an infant, though. Why is that? One would think it would only be natural for one's writing productivity to take a nosedive with an infant in the house. However, I wrote a lot of material - three published novellas, and two full novels - with him swaddled against me in a baby sling. I'd set music playing in my office, (Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day was a favorite then), and while he fussed, or slept, or just rested against me, I'd write.

So when did things change? When did I lose that productive spark?  I had to really think about this, but I'm pretty sure it was when Mini got too big for me to hold and write at the same time. I deliberately and completely upended my old writing schedule to do the mama thing. I would rock him in the recliner til he fell asleep. Most of the time, I fell asleep too. *fond memories* I wouldn't give up those times for anything; they're very precious to me. In terms of writing, however, this was when my writing productivity took a swift downward curve.

My old schedule was to write from around nine at night to about four in the morning. Those were my peak hours. I'm not entirely sure why those are my peak hours, but I think it has something to do with not many friends being online, no stores in my area being open aside from the Circle K, and if there's a problem bothering me, there's really nothing I can do about it at that hour anyway. So, free from distractions and worry, I can write. Of course, this just an uneducated guess.

I obviously couldn't keep my old schedule with a kid in high school and a toddler at home, so I tried to taper my schedule around my family. That has never worked very well for various reasons, but mostly because my best ideas have always come to me at night. That's when my characters are chattiest. I can't count the number of times I've had to climb out of bed and run to my office to jot down an idea before it could slip my mind.

Last year, my hubby bought me a Kindle Fire HD. I love it. Seriously, love. Before the Fire, I used a second generation Kindle with a grayscale screen and actual page scroll buttons. I have to admit I didn't use it as often as I use the Fire. I didn't like that the old Kindle wasn't back lit. The page scrolling was clunky feeling. I couldn't read it in bed at night without leaving the lamp on.

After I got the Fire, I joined Kindle Unlimited, and I go through quite a few ebooks per week. Three or four on average. Now I'm starting to use the Fire for other things - checking emails, surfing the web, homework help, research, etc. I'm also using more apps. There are two writerly apps that work on the Kindle Fire that I really like: Polaris Office, and Notebooks Pro. Polaris has more features (you can import word documents, etc), while Notebooks Pro has an easy to use, bookshelf-style document storage system that I really like. At any rate, both are simple writing applications that allow you to write in-app and share your work via email. These programs have done wonders for my writing productivity.

Anyway, for the past couple of nights I've had major writing binges, reaping between 2-4 k words each session. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this. I haven't had writing binges like this in years. So this morning, I had to ask myself what's different. What's the change?  Why are the words suddenly flowing again? As much as I love my Fire, I don't believe for an instant that it's the device. I've had an iPod Touch for a long time, It's backlit. I have several writing apps on it that I've used here and there. I could've used that for writing in bed at night if it was just about having a handy device.

This morning while going over some of the words I wrote last night (over 2k, I'm thrilled to report) it finally dawned on me what has changed - my writing schedule. That's what's different. I'm writing at night again, during my peak hours. What can I say?  It's no secret that some writers are morning writers, some are evening writers, etc. etc. My muse (my characters' voices) has always preferred to show up between midnight and four a.m... I simply haven't been meeting up with her for conversation and coffee like I used to do. I haven't been showing up on time to catch the creativity train.

So I get it now. For years, I've been standing around on the writing platform all day long waiting for the creativity train to show up, not realizing my brain's natural schedule has the train arriving at midnight. That's the reality of it. I've tried other schedules, and they simply don't work for me. What a simple fix. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to grasp this.

Even as a small child, I was a night owl. (My poor mother!) And ever since I was in middle school, I've had terrible insomnia. What's worse is that when I'm not writing at night, I lie awake in bed and toss and turn. I can't turn my thoughts off in order to rest.  I think it's because my body clock knows. I don't know why or how, it just does. It knows when I could...or maybe should... be writing.

I'm a night writer. I've stopped fighting it, and now I'm writing again - actual, good, usable words. It's really freeing to just accept it, do it, and charge full speed ahead. My productivity is way up simply by changing my writing schedule to what feels natural for me. At midnight, when I settle in at my computer or with my Kindle Fire, it's as if my characters are already there on the platform, waiting to ride out those peak writing hours with me. ♥♥♥