Sunday, July 20, 2008

At last...

After days on end of making zero progress, I finally got some traction yesterday and moved forward. Whew, those are the hardest days, I think. Last weekend I advanced my story a grand total of 4 paragraphs. And they weren't even good paragraphs. I wrote more on my blog than I did on my book.

But yesterday I hammered out 13 pages so I'm feeling much better. Those pages took me past that sticking point and now I'm hitting the home stretch. My goal has been to have my first draft completed before I go to RWA in San Fran. I may not make it, but I think I'll come in close.

I'm really looking forward to the trip. I have lots of friends who are going to be there and my CP and friend, Lynn, is coming as well. We both really need a brainstorming session and she surpasses all for that. Of course there will be copious amounts of alcohol consumed and probably queasy stomachs and headaches the morning after, but it will be fun. :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Focus, or lack of....

I've been out of focus lately. Mostly because I'm on that first draft and it's just plain draining. I think one of the hardest parts is keeping the focus on creation and not perfection. While I'm creating, I often feel surges of emotion, of ecstasy, of brilliance. You know it when you feel it--those moments when you've just unlocked some great mystery hidden inside your story--something you didn't even know was lurking there beneath the text. Or you hit the nail on the head with the chemistry which up to that point in the draft you'd been penciling in, but never capturing. Those times are amazing.

But for the other countless moments, it's hard, grueling work. Conceiving an entire, well thought out book from a few random ideas or images is difficult at best, impossible at worst. A lot of the time it feels like you're writing cover copy for the back of a cereal box. The characters are place holders because you don't know them yet, the story structure is flimsy, the details painfully vague. And it's hard to get up and at it day after day when this is what you're faced with. Don't forget there's generally a devil on your shoulder telling you that you're a one-book wonder. Or your readers are all going to flock to someone better as soon as they start this drivel.

But to get to the second draft, you have to get through the first one. And in the second draft, things become more coherent. You discover that those places when the words felt wooden are actually pretty good and with a little polish and a little foreshadow, they could be great.

It's all a process. Very few things are created perfectly the first time. There's always room for revision. Even when a book is sold, there are revisions. A book an editor absolutely LOVED and couldn't wait to buy, will still get edits. It's the nature of the beast.

So I'm going to get back to it. Focus, Erin, focus...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The first draft...

The first draft of a novel is different for every writer. Some of us plot out extensive details, line by line and they have answered every story question before they ever put fingers to keyboard for the first page. Others start writing and see where it goes--generally they have an idea of what the story is about, but everything that happens between the very shadowy sign posts along the way is a mystery. In the business, these two factions are called plotters and pantsers.

I used to be a pantser. I would fixate on an opening scenario--more than a scene--a situation, I suppose. It would be very vivid for me and this would be my starting point. Sometimes I had a goal or ending in mind and a few, "I want this to happen" ideas. I wrote my first 3 books this way and I'm told they are very good. The received critical acclaim and awards and I was happy with the finished product, so I'm going to accept that as truth. (Though the artist in me will always doubt this). Bu the problem with these books is that it took me a very long time to write them because I didn't know where I was going.

When I started my 4th book, HAUNTING BEAUTY, I wanted the entire process to be better. I didn't want to hit page 200 and have a melt down because I had no idea what came next. I didn't want to go back and rewrite 20 of 30 scenes because the focus had changed. I wanted to write the book in a reasonable amount of time and do it with a process that could be repeated.

The last was the revelation I needed. A process that could be repeated. See, when you pants it, you go where the whim takes you and since a whim is just that, it can't be duplicated. But I knew that plotting was not in my genetic build. I'd tried it before, written copious outlines only to get bored with the story by the time I began to write and to discard all those notes and ideas. I needed a process that would embrace my creative needs but also channel that creativity in a more productive way.

My solution was to plot the arc of the story instead of the action. What this means in layman's terms, is this: I look at the story I want to write and instead of plotting

I. Chapter One
a. Hero goes to store and buys a candy bar.
b. candy bar has golden ticket to Wonka Land in it
c. Hero invites grandpa joe to go with him

I would plot this way:

I. Chapter One
a. Hero in ordinary world where everything is out of his reach
b. Hero is invited to leave his world but is afraid.
c. Hero takes an advisor along

In this way, I leave the door open for my creativity to figure out what ordinary means and what the world of my story is going to be. But I know there are very definite stops on hero's journey, trials that he will have to overcome and successes he will achieve. I know where in my story these need to be revealed--but the WHAT is all a mystery so I still get the fun of putting it all together.

If you're a new writer and trying to sort through all the methods that popular authors use and you're getting lost, try it this way. More information on the hero's journey can be found in Joseph Campbell's HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES or in countless books written about this book. I may be the help you need.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Nala the yellow lab...

So I love animals. Cats, dogs, fluffy little bunnies. They are all adorable in my book. I have 3 dogs--no cats only because my husband doesn't like them--and they all 3 follow me wherever I go. Sometimes I feel like a parade leader. The smallest of the dogs, Pixie, is the alpha. It's funny, because she is old, only has a dozen teeth left, and she weighs about 7 pounds.

Next comes Buttercup, who made her debut in my new book, HAUNTING BEAUTY. Buttercup is a chunky little terrier mix who doesn't resemble a dog too much, but somehow is one. She is devoted to me above everything else and is always at my feet, in my lap or somewhere nearby just watching me to make sure I don't need her for something.

Last is Nala, the yellow lab. She's the newest member of our family and only about 16 months old. Still a baby though she outweighs the other animals by 70 pounds. I've never had a big dog before--and I understand from others that I don't really have a big dog now. Danes are big dogs. Anyway, I think it's so funny how different they are from little ones--and I'm not talking about appearance. Big dogs are so easy to train because they are ruled entirely by their stomachs.

Little dogs can be left alone in the house with a dish full of food which they will ignore until you return. Big dogs? They'll eat the varnish off your table if appeals to them. My Nala can hardly wait for breakfast. IN fact, who needs an alarm clock when there's a big yellow muzzle laying on the bed beside your head and a sound like a warped siren coming out of it? She knows she doesn't get to eat until 7:30, but that doesn't stop her from crying an earlier, just so she's sure you have time to wake up, have coffee and not forget her.

And when 4:30 rolls around, we'll play it all again. She's start with the siren moan to let us know dinner is coming. At five, she'll really start playing it up, flopping listlessly on the ground, acting like she's weak from hunger. By the time 5:30 is here, she's in a full throttle distress, moaning and groaning like the world will end if a morsel doesn't make it to her lips soon.

Gotta love her for being so passionate about it, I guess. But it sure makes it hard to write when she's laying at my feet telling me her woes.

Hope you have a great 4th!