Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Because you have to love it

[Be warned, this turned into a very long post.]

If there is one benefit to being unpublished, it is the lack of a deadline. This frees a writer to experiment a little--to take chances she might not have time to take later in her career. (Not that time is ever overly abundant.)

This year (all five months of it thus far) has been full of exploration for me. The Tri Mu has had writing challenges most months which have ranged from writing in different genres to including very specific elements in scenes/short stories. Besides these short challenges, I've been working off and on a literary YA, but I haven't managed to really sink my teeth into the story for an extended amount of time. This project is an interesting one, and a big stretch for be because the story includes neither fantasy nor mystery elements, the two genres I'm most familiar and comfortable with. But, I was urged to write it by a non-writer who is very important to me, so I gave it a shot, and it will probably continue to come out in disconnected scenes.

I also took on another project which I thought would be tough but not a huge stretch. Tori, a fellow Tri Mu, challenged me to write a short story targeted at a certain romance line. No problem, right? I write UF and all the books I’ve completed contain romance subplots. How hard can it be to make that subplot the main plot?

I've struggled through a draft and a half of the story, and it has been a battle. Not because on any lack of ideas, but because while writing I felt confined. The story kept heading off in really fun directions, but I'd have to pull it back in line and remind the muse what we were writing (or trying to write.) All in all, it was a frustrating and exhausting experience.

Framing this struggle is the full length novel I’ve been working on. I finished the first draft of GW in March and began editing in May. Now I’m not going to say everything was rainbows and sunshine while I wrote the draft, or that there haven’t been days I dragged myself to the keyboard and then bashed my head against the scene after scene, but I’ll admit, GW has some sort of magic to it that the other challenges lacked.

What is that magic? Well, quite frankly, the fact I love this story.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m editing right now and some days I declare it the worst drudge ever committed to the page—and thank goodness for critique partners willing to help talk out the icks—but most days, I know this story is what I want to be writing.

The other projects I’ve been dabbling in have/had points of attraction, but I entered them halfheartedly. They weren’t the types of stories I love to read, and I knew starting out, they weren’t what I really wanted to write.

I was at a workshop recently given by Madeline Hunter called “The Romance that Writes Itself” and at the time I was still in the throws of battle with Tori’s romance challenge. I’d already tossed the first draft because I realized it had several glaring errors that made it a ‘sickly excuse for a romance’. I had started the second, and was getting closer, but as Tori and I sat there, listening and jotting notes on the worksheet, I finally looked at her and whispered “I know what’s wrong…I’m still not writing a romance.” Oh, I had a heavy romance plot in there, but the adventure plot was still the forefront.

This was a frustrating realization. After all, I read romance. I’m a member of RWA. I’ve been to dozens of romance workshops. Shouldn’t I be able to write one simple romance short story?

During the question and answer, Madeline said something that really stuck with me. Someone asked her which of her books was her favorite and she said “All of them. If I didn’t absolute love each and every one of them, I wouldn’t have been able to write them.”

I think she was dead on. It takes a lot of love to sit in front of the keyboard day after day. It also takes a lot of time, so you might as well be working on something you really love, really believe in.

By the end of the workshop (about 4 hours) I’d decided I loved my characters, I loved my world, and I loved my plot. I hated putting it in a romance box. So, this November (if not sooner) I’ll be recycling all I love about that story into an Urban Fantasy. It won’t be all that big a change, it kept trying to break in that direction anyway.

There is no wasted time in writing, because I honestly believe every word you write makes you a stronger writer, but I probably haven’t been the most productive. At the same time, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want to write. I’m glad I had the time to dabble in other things, and there are a couple other stories I’d like to try my hand at while I still have time. But I’ve learned something really important. Writing is just too hard (or really too easy to not do) to not love what you are working on. You won’t love every word and some days nothing will work, but its important to find the subject/genre/characters you love, and hang on for the ride.

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