Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blarg Blarg Writing Stuff

I run through three week cycles of manic-depressive creative confidence/despair. My life is a lot like this, actually.

So this week I'm dragging a bit.

However, I've had some success in the short story department. I'm knee-deep in a post-apocalyptic story at the moment, aiming for about 7k and getting close to finishing it, and I'm editing a paranormal one a wrote a few months ago (though I do wonder what sort of market those have these days. Are they out? Hmm.)

And I had this great idea the other night of how I can update an old civil war short story to make it a little more palatable to sci fi tastes.

So I'm being (sort of) productive.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday Fun at Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse

Friday night I did something I've always wanted to do. I went to a Halloween haunted house attraction with some friends. And this was not just any haunted house. Folks, this was an interactive, role-playing, undead extravaganza of apocalyptic awesome.
My awesome artwork.

The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse.

I found out about this unique attraction when zombie author Carrie Ryan twittered about it, actually. I was instantly intrigued. Zombies? Guns? Military escorts? Gotta do it. I dragged my (reluctant) husband, my (extremely eager) brother-in-law, and a handful of their friends on board with the idea. We went Friday night and had a complete blast.

I should add that when it came down to it, I was the one being dragged. I don't really LIKE being terrified out of my wits. I generally don't watch horror movies. Never in a million years would I want to spend the night in a real haunted house. But this experience, which was described by one reviewer as "like being dropped into a live video game," sounded too fun to miss. So I went, fully expecting to chicken out at the entrance, but my husband got exasperated, declared "You're going," and bought a $20 non-refundable ticket. It was the point of no return. And at the time, while I stood staring at this wall of skulls with creepy music playing and creepy workers milling around, I really didn't know if I was going to make it out alive.

But the event was really enjoyable. The basic premise is simple. You're a group of survivors in the middle of a zombie apocalypse being escorted through an undead-infested city by two military personnel equipped with M-16s. There's a lot of running and screaming. The video available through the link at the top of this post makes it look nauseatingly scary, but the actual experience was closer to simply "adrenaline-pumping fun." We ran through dark corridors and up and down staircases with stuff jumping out from dark doorways and popping around corners while escorts were shooting everything that moved. We got chased by zombies down narrow hallways and through a nasty hospital with some undead nurses lurking in the shadows. A blood-covered doctor flung something in my eye--I think (hope!) it was water? I was nearly accosted by some freaky biker dude in the red light district of zombie town. The military people interacted with us and each other. I got called "bright eyes." There was a mad scientist with an evil plot.

In short, it was FUN. I'm a giant wuss and I did just fine, so if scary stuff isn't your thing I think you'll do just fine =)

So if you live in the greater Atlanta area, I suggest you check it out.

~ I am still, however, Team Unicorn ~

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Short Stories!

Naturally, I picked THE EXACT TIME that image uploads are disabled to write the post. I'm freaking brilliant, people.


It's Weeeeednesday, which means that I have to give some sort of status update on my WIP. And I actually have good news, ya'll! Let's retrace the steps of MASQUERADE (working title):

How I write a novel

1. (2006) I have an idea while walking along a beach in Boston. I scribble down a few sentences.
2. I come up with plot lines and character arcs and hate them all. I loosely plot the book. Nothing is working. I hate it. I don't write anything. I loudly proclaim my despair. I forget the idea and work on something else that IS making sense. I write 6 other books before returning to this one.
3. (2009) I remember idea. Love it all over again. Scribble ideas, brainstorm, daydream. I put it aside, afraid to write it. It's not ready yet.
4. (early 2010) In a burst of inspiration, I discover the ending to the story and thus the entire book begins to make sense. I begin plotting and brainstorming characters. I dream up Shana. I love her. But I haven't quite figured her out yet.
5. (spring 2010) I begin writing while procrastinating on another book. At my in-law's house, I invent the romantic interest. I immediately fall in love with him. More writing.
6. I run into horrible trouble. Nothing is working. The characters feel flat and lifeless. I don't know what the emotional point of the book is, I don't know who anybody is or what they want. They all have secrets they're hiding from me. I become discouraged. I rant to my husband about character motivation and eat too much ice cream cake. I contemplate changing the POV.
7. (summer 2010) I discover, in another fit of creative brilliance, what my main male character is lying about. I realize why he and the queen have so much baggage, and why he can't fully trust my main character Shana. I decide I'm a genius. I begin writing again.
8. I impose a new rule upon myself. Must write for internet--I can't get online unless I've produced 1k of story. I get a lot done, but it's haphazard. I abandon much of the original plot and gleefully chase after secondary characters. The story has more rabbit trails than a petting zoo bunny enclosure. I discover lots of wonderful things. All semblance of order goes to pot.
9. I hit 45k and decide the whole thing is ruined. Angst mingles with horror. I throw everything out and declare that I'm starting over.
10. I decide to plot this time around. I write paragraphs of notes about each chapter, carefully making note of clues for the mysteries in the book. There are now all kinds of mysteries and twists and liars and secrets.
11. I finish plotting. I love the book. I already have ideas for a sequel.
12. (This morning) I write the first 2 chapters. I like them. I resolve to finish the 2nd draft by the end of January.

And there you have it. That's basically how I write a book. I've barely begun, really (I'm in chapter 3!) but at the same time I'm really about halfway done. I'm feeling pretty confident, though. HOPEFULLY this will all come together this time around.

Other news

I'm completely in love with short stories again. Yesterday at work I read a short story that knocked me flat. It was amazing. I went home and promptly began writing about paradox, which lead to writing about a girl at her grandmother's funeral, and her complicated relationship with her mother. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this vignette, but I am determined to finish it and make it into something beautiful. Also * deep breath * I want to try submitting some short stories. I've always wanted to but never dared.

Has anybody out there ever done so? Any advice?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zombicorns and Answering Questions

Happy Monday!

Actually, this Monday was a bit of a dud, and not very happy at all besides the slice of double chocolate ice cream cake I ate after work. So I added a zombicorn to this post, because zombicorns cannot help but make everything better.

 * Zombicorn *



I have a question for you guys! If you're an aspiring author, do you tell people about your goals and dreams? Are you candid with your family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances? Or do you mumble something about your day job when they ask what you do/want to do, leaving the writer bit out completely? Or is it something in between?

I know people mean well, but I have a hard time with this question.

Annnd question 2! If you DO tell them, what do you say? If you DON'T, why? Leave your thoughts in the comments, please! I'm planning a post about my feelings on the matter, and I'm interested in seeing what other writers think.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WIPW: Scrapping the Rough Draft

Last night I was lying awake thinking about my WIP. I have written almost 45k a this point in the rough draft, but I'm still pretty dissatisfied with the whole thing. Now, I really like the premise, and since I added a paranormal subplot I like it even better. However...

Right now the structure is pretty flawed. I feel like there needs to be at least one more subplot, something that will give my main character some more emotional rapport (I'm thinking of adding another friendship/drama and possibly another romantic interest early on) and something to think about beyond the main plot of the story, which has to actually get slightly buried on her list of priorities.

Anyway, I was contemplating the whole thing and all the work I'm going to have to do to restructure and fix the character arcs, and then I realized--I really don't even like the tone of the book. As I've been writing it, I've realized how much I want it to be a darker, Asiany/Gothic (weird combo?) story. Murder, plots, blackmail, monsters, masks. I want a sort of bizarre wonderfulness that has darkness and sparkle at the same time. It's the kind of book that I could write while listening to Phantom of the Opera or Poets of the Fallen. But right now it's more of a glittery fairy tale.

I don't know if I can do what I want to with this book, but I at least want to try.

So basically I decided it would be easier to throw everything out and start over, trying to get the mood right and the characters right from the beginning. But all isn't lost! I figured out where I want to go and who everybody is with that first draft, as awful as the thing was on paper. And who knows? Maybe I'll be able to salvage a few chapters.

Has anybody else successfully thrown out a first draft?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How Twitter Could Help You As A Writer

Twitter can be controversial.

When I first heard about Twitter a few years ago, I thought, "What's the point? You just tell people online what you're doing all day long? Who cares if I'm eating a sandwich right now?" At the time, the whole thing seemed pointless--a stripped-down networking site that reduced the user's presence to the equivalent of abbreviated Facebook statuses. And a lot of other people feel the same way, if blog comments and overheard conversations and things said on Facebook are any indication.

Fortunately, however, I bowed to pressure from my brother and got an account. I let it sit for a while, doing little with it other than following a few screenwriters and authors. I didn't really know how to navigate it, I didn't really know how to utilize it.

* BTW ~ Ignorance, my friends, is no excuse in the age of Google. *

Anyway, after a while I started tweeting about writing, and I got a few followers. I started to see that I could use Twitter to connect with others who shared my passion. Then I found this blog, which opened my eyes to how to use Twitter. She actually had a fantastic article about Twitter, which I would have posted here (but couldn't find it!) ... This was my turning point. I began to use Twitter in earnest as a tool to improve my writing.

Sometimes I hear people say things like "Twitter is just a huge waste of time" in relation to writers, or just people in general, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from giving them my rant about how a tool's usefulness is determined by the user, and how people shouldn't make blanket statements before they understand something.

Now, in all fairness, Twitter CAN be a waste of time (albeit an enjoyable one), and I'm not going to pretend I don't use it to procrastinate too. But it can also be supremely useful, and I hate to see something that is so useful be slapped down without any defending on my part.

So here's my rant about how it has helped me:

1. COMPANIONSHIP. Twitter is an excellent way to find others like you. Writing is lonely work, and Twitter has allowed me to connect with other writers, especially other aspiring writers who share my dreams and hopes and fears. I don't know a single other person in my normal circle of friends and acquaintances from my home town who is writing seriously with the intent to be published (there are one or two fanfic writers, but if I tried to talk about publishing houses to them they'd run screaming). Heck, nobody I know personally even knows what a query is, or why a synopsis makes me want to tear my hair out, or how funny Janet Reid is and why she makes me laugh till I cry, or what sorts of trends are big in YA right now (Well, nobody except for those unlucky individuals who I've chosen to confide in on a daily basis, IE, my bestie Nikki and my husband, poor souls).

This is why Twitter is so awesome. I have 300+ individuals who are following me who KNOW MY PAIN. Solidarity is a fantastic support when it comes to writing, and furthermore, having that emotional support and commiseration with others has transformed me as a writer. I am no longer alone in my journey through the valley of the shadow of queries, and that by itself is a reason to be on Twitter.

2. INFORMATION. Twitter is a huge grapevine where information passes word-of-mouth rapid-fire. Information flows thick and fast as users in the writing community share links to blogs, videos, events, and contests, and they tweet good news like an author's NYT bestseller list debut, or upcoming books, or author signings. My understanding of writing, writers, the publishing business, libraries, conferences, awards, and much more has quadrupled since I started Tweeting. If somebody has something interesting or helpful, somebody else out there will retweet it, and then somebody else, and it gets passed on down the line until I see it.

Basically, Twitter gave me the tools to become a better, smarter, savvier writer.

3. SUPPORT. Twitter helped me find people who could help me, like agents who would answer my querying questions and beta readers who would help me edit MSS. With all those writer-related people connected to me, and with the ability to share information and blog posts and tweets and links, I've forged friendships. From these friendships come all kinds of benefits, like offers to trade and critique manuscripts, offers of help on synopses and queries, and just general support and encouragement.

I would have never met these people without Twitter.

In summary, Twitter can be extremely helpful to the aspiring writer. Yes, it is possible to fritter away all your writing time tweeting, but if you can practice some will-power (an important skill to learn anyway, if you want to write) you can keep that from taking over your life.

Twitter is a tool, and a darn good one in my opinion, that has proved invaluable to my personal growth as a writer over the last two years.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Does Anybody Care What You Had For Lunch? A Rambling Post

This is sort of a ramble, so bear with me.

I just picked a scab (I know, ew) and my face was bleeding. I was on Twitter, so I thought idly that maybe I should tweet "My face is bleeding." But instead I got up to dab it with a napkin and, as often happens to me, I started a conversation with someone in my head as I did so (not myself, because this imaginary person is way too negative to be me).

Me: * Thinking about tweeting about bleeding faces and wondering if that's TMI. *

Imaginary Person: Nobody wants to read about your bleeding face. Seriously?

Me: Oh, I don't know. Somebody might. It's just something to say. It's kind of funny. I could make it a joke about zombies or something. See?

IP: Nobody cares if your face is bleeding. Nobody cares if you just ate a sandwich. Why do you tweet about anything about your mundane life? Nobody cares! Nobody!

At this point the conversation ceased, because I'd seized upon a thought that surfaced after that last remark. I hear it ALL THE TIME, but . . .

That simply isn't true.

About the face and the sandwiches, I mean. Now at this point I figure the Imaginary Person is sort of mishmash of things I've heard many people say over many years that I repeat back to myself, not necessarily because I believe these people and the things they said, but because I like to argue with them and discuss their points and think about their reasoning in a safe setting (my brain).

Mind you, this isn't the part where I go "Of course people care, because we're all special little snowflakes blah blah blah snore." No. I mean, that's not what it is for me. I just know it's not true because:

I just LIKE knowing random facts about people. I like hearing what people think. I like knowing what they're up to and how they're like me and how they're different. It's interesting.

See, I'm sort of a harmless snoop. I WOULD feel bad admitting that because it sounds sort of weird/creepy, except it seems to be somewhat common among writer types. (Tawna Fenske wrote a post about it a few months ago, I remember. I was all HAHA I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE!). See. I care about crap like bleeding faces and what people had for lunch. Don't get me wrong--I don't want to have a 20 minute conversation with a stranger about these topics, that would be sort of intimidating, but I'm genuinely interested in the dumb little details people tweet about all the time.

I am always looking at people and wondering, "What do they see when they look at the world? What are they thinking about me as we're having this conversation? Are they as bored by the small talk as I am? Are they as shy as me? I wonder if they hate cats." And other kinds of random things. I people watch. I make up random stories about people in my head. If I know someone even in the most casual sense on Twitter, and they tweet "Going to the pool! Wearing my pink and red flip-flops!" I find that interesting. Usually it sets me daydreaming about a story idea or something like that. I'm not trying to be creepy. I'm just really into details, and I love it when people toss them around for me to graze on at my leisure. Hence one of the reasons I really like Twitter.

Mind you, I don't go around looking in windows or anything, but I love people watching and I love overhearing conversations. I love seeing little snippets of other people's lives. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE it when people dissect all the things they were thinking and feeling in a given situation. I blame the writer inside my head. She finds this stuff fantastic fodder for character motivation. They're always like, "This is probably so boring to you," and I'm like ... "It really isn't."

I mean, what is reading if not the chance to see things through somebody else's eyes for a little while?

Anyway, like I said before, this is a ramble! I just wanted to be able to say all this in response to all those times when people have declared "NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU HAD FOR LUNCH . . . Bunch of sad lonely people on Twitter, thinking anybody cares." And they mean it. They're being sincere and they think they're doing everyone a favor by saying so. I mean, I don't think some of these people are being douchenozzles about this. They really think it's true.

But I get so sick of that. Like one person can stand up and declare how every person in the world thinks. Usually the people bellowing loudly about how little they want to know about your pathetic, uninteresting life are the type to least know what other people are thinking, perhaps because they're so determined to focus only on themselves.

I say all that to say this. Don't feel guilty if you tweet about what you ate for lunch. Granted, if all you tweet is "Now I'm putting on my shoes." "Now I'm watching Law and Order" "Now I'm watering the plant" that might not make you an interesting follow and people might wonder other things about you, like what you think about the latest movie you saw, or what you're writing, or whatever. But don't feel like you have to be a link-spewing machine either. Or that you have to quit Twitter because some angry guy in a suit said nobody could possibly be interested in anything you have to say.

Lots of people are interested in the stuff you have to say.

That goes for writing books too, I guess.

Okay ... rant over.

PS ~ Gee, I sound like a psycho. Voices in my head, snooping ... lol. It's a writer thing.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WIPW: The Role of the Rough Draft

It's WIP Wednesday!

I have previously discussed (whined) about all the trouble I've been having with this WIP I'm currently working on.

Aside: I think this book needs a working title. I mean, it has a working title, but not one that I want to share. It's nothing naughty--don't think that! It's just boring. And this book is anything but boring, so it needs a fun title! Something random. Thoughts? Hmmm. * ponders *

ANYWAY the WIP isn't giving me fits any more. I feel downright calm about it. This magical transformation of attitude occurred after I realized something pretty imporant.

(Disheartening, but important.)

Sometimes rough drafts are just for practice.

Oh, my soul bleeds at that thought!That is a terrifying thing to contemplate. Ugh. I don't even like reading that sentence.

But it's true.

I really was dragged into this realization kicking and screaming, but once I warmed to it I found that it was comforting. Of course, all rough drafts don't have to be thrown away. The previous 2 MSS I've completed were acceptable after heavy editing and required no total rewrite. HOWEVER, every book is different.

Sometimes, you have to write to figure out what you want to write. Sometimes you have to write the book to understand the characters.

And then you have to start over.

Now, I'm not so willing to martyr the book yet. When I'm done, I'll take a good long look at it and determine if I can get away with just a really vicious edit. Maybe it can be done. I certainly hope so, anyway.

I say all that to say this. If you are despairing at the state of your current project, or if you think it's horrible and rambling and going nowhere, don't stress so much about it. Even if you have to throw it away and start again, you aren't wasting your time. If you write all that and discover your book really is about something else entirely--take heart. It's part of the journey. Sometimes you have to write it to know that it's wrong.

"I rewrote the ending of 'Farewell to Arms' 39 times before I was satisfied."- Ernest Hemingway

What he said ;-)

Monday, October 4, 2010


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