Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Inconvenient Muse

(X-posted on the Tri Mu Blog.)

I had my eyes closed. I’d recently gotten back from a strenuous two hours of hooping, and now I was lying on three inches of memory foam. My brain had already begun drifting on the waves of sleep, and then there were words.

Initially I ignored these words, but they had changed the current of the waves, dragging me closer to consciousness. I was tired. I was comfortable. It had been a long day.

But there were words.

So, after the words charged through my mind a second time, I peeled back my eyelids, rolled over, and fumbled for a pen. Once captured on paper, the insistent words were trapped, unable to bug me, and I slept.

That is how my muse chooses to show herself sometimes. At inconvenient moments—close to sleep, in the shower, operating a vehicle—my muse will appear, dangling a clever snatch of dialogue, the perfect description, or the missing piece of plot. Not all the time, mind you, but every once in a while. It’s why I keep something to write with near my bed. Because, while the muse might have been kicking me in the head last night, when I woke this morning, I’d not only forgotten what the words were, I’d forgotten I wrote them at all until I stumbled over the handful of paragraphs this afternoon.

It happens like that sometimes.

Typically, the muse comes to those who are at the keyboard, already working. But, once in a blue moon, she shows up with no warning at all. Often she picks what seems like random and inconvenient moments, but take heed of the words she leaves in her wake. Write them down. They are not all gold, but they tend to be slippery suckers. If you ignore the words, they may drift back where they came from, leading to a frustrating, and many times fruitless, search.

Ever know you thought of something, figured something out, stumbled on the perfect idea/phrase, but not be able to remember what it was? Terribly frustrating. So, bad timing or not, record the words.

Anyone else have an ill-timed visit from the muse recently? Did she leave you with good words?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Interesting buzz on Twitter.

The agents over at the BookEnds literary agency have an interesting 'pitching' contest on twitter right now. Similar to the Knight Agency's Book in a Nutshell contest and Colleen Lindsay's Query in 140 characters or less contest, Jessica and Kim at BookEnds are inviting writers to submit short "Twitches". (Tweet + Pitch = Twitch)

It is a cute idea, and includes a chance to win a three chapter MS review. If nothing else, trying to boil a pitch down to 140 characters (including @agentname) is a good exercise for creating 'elevator' pitches (as I've heard short pitches called.)

If you want to find out more, check out the rules on the BookEnds Blog. Several of the Tri Mu have already tried their hand at pitching. Good luck to everyone who enters!

Monday, June 15, 2009

What was your name again?

Typically I know a lot more about every person who walks onto the page of one of my stories than the reader ever needs to know. For minor, repeating characters I like to have at least a general idea of the character's back story because it influences how the character acts and reacts to what is happening in the story. For major characters, this is, of course, a necessity, but I also like to know at least a little information about every character who has a name.

As I'm digging through my rough draft and starting my revision process, I'm finding myself bogged down with keeping up with characters. Not that there are all that many characters, but by chapter seven, I no longer remember what color a minor character's hair was in chapter two or if I spelled a name with an 'e' or an 'i'. Trying to keep up this information between two books is even more complicated.

A system is definitely called for.

At some point while working on Once Bitten, I created separate documents for every character (some who haven't even been given names yet in the series) with everything I know about the character and their history written down. The issue with this is system is that some of the information is no longer correct (and some of it isn't filled out at all.)

For my side project, I took a different approach and created a spreadsheet with all my characters and their pertinent information listed in rows and columns. I think this approach worked a little better, as I don't have to pull up multiple documents to look at different characters, but I still have to be diligent about changing the information when I change it in the book. One of the issues I'm running into with my spreadsheet is that I can't use it inside scrivner.

Nothing is perfect, but I'm still looking for a better way to say organized. If you are a writer, how do you keep up with your characters? Any organization tips?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Digging Back In

After a couple days pursuing shinies, knocking books off my TBR, and controlling the lives of computer animated people (SIMS 3,) I am finally ready to dig into revisions. I'm reading over my words, and I don't completely hate them (or at least, not all of them) so that is a good thing.

I'm trying something new this revision session. Instead of tackling the book in a large word document, I've broken it up in Scrinver and will be using the program's organizational tools to see if it helps me in my second draft. This program includes neat little things like a cork board view of the story (chapters or scenes listed on note cards,) a keyword tracker, and a place to keep notes and research in the same file. I'm looking forward to trying it out. So far so good, but I've only just scratched the surface. We will see how it goes.

While breaking up the book into scenes and chapters, I noticed something strange: Chapter twelve appeared twice in my numbering system (different content--same title) and there was no chapter 6 at all. I got a good laugh out of that one. Ever have a silly mistake like that show up in your first draft?

Well, there is a lot to do, so it's time to get serious. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eyes Open: Characters

(X-Posted on the Tri Mu Blog.)

This is one of those “Where do you get your ideas” posts. I write on this topic once in a while because this is honestly the question I hear most. Again I would like to mention that ideas are everywhere, and writers should always pour what they see into that churning pot of plot soup in the back of their heads. Today I would like to highlight a couple ‘characters’ I encountered in the last twenty-four hours.

I saw the most interesting chef/waiter yesterday. He seemed almost a caricature of a person—or maybe like a muppet. His nose was large, the size further exaggerated by a thin, dark mustache, but his head was almost bare, just a few wisps of hair over his ears and around the back of his skull. He wore dark dress pants and shoes with a long white apron that started at his waist and fell to his ankles. His shoulders slumped slightly, his head craned forward as he carried a silver tray over the brick walk. He was, in a word, fascinating—not in a I-wonder-who-he-is-and-about-his-life kind of way, but in an eccentric extra in a movie kind of way. He just didn’t seem quite real.

Later, I saw two boys dressed like they were headed for the gym. They found a spot on the grass and proceeded to practice stage fighting. They were clearly working on a set routine, and were quite good. While it looked like the blows hit, that was an illusion caused more by the person reacting to the punches/kicks/tosses than the guy acting as the aggressor. Very interesting. Who were they? What were they practicing for? How did they get started?

Walkers often carry ‘weapons’ to either defend themselves or scare off muggers. Walking sticks, long umbrellas with metal tips, and golf clubs are all items I regularly see walkers carrying. This morning, while driving in traffic, I saw a gentleman in his late fifties carrying nunchucks. That was a first. I really wanted to stop and talk to him. Was he actually trained in martial arts? How long he had been studying? I of course didn’t, so I guess I’ll have to make it up myself.

In the stairway to my office, I ended up behind a woman in her early twenties. She was dressed for success in a cut-for-corporate skirt, sleeveless silk blouse, and power pumps. But, as she climbed, she rubbed her palms down the front of the skirt and tugged at the collar of the blouse. Her ankles wobbled with each step, as if she wasn’t sure of her balance and didn’t wear heels often. Interview? First day on the job? Defending her thesis? I’m not sure, but she was nervous and though she looked great, she was out of her element.

These are just a handful of people I observed recently. Strangers are fascinating and are both a good source for characters, and a source for picking up mannerisms and action tags. Sometimes writers get stuck in their own heads, imagining their own worlds, but we need to remember to look around once in a while. A fun exercise to do is to take a notebook, head to a public place (park, restaurant, ect.,) and jot down short notes on the people you see. Explore the ‘why’ and ‘what if’ about people you know nothing about beyond what they are currently doing/saying/wearing. You might pick up something interesting.

What interesting characters have you encountered recently?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I've been Interviewed!

I have been interviewed over at the Midnight Moon Cafe as part of their 'Midnight Brew' interviews. There will be a drawing for signed copies of Once Bitten, so head over there and comment before midnight tonight to enter.

Thanks and good luck!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Almost There

Well, this is the goal day for the completion of HB2's first draft. I'm happy to say I will definitely cross 90k today. Unfortunately, 90k was a projected number of words, and at this point, I am quite confident in saying that this draft will run over that projection. I still hope to hit those magic words tonight ("The End" for those unsure which magic words I'm referring to) but I honestly have no idea how long this draft will run. Usually my first drafts are short with lots of filling in of details to do and a serious need for secondary characters and subplots. Not so much with this draft.

I must run away and write now. A lot to accomplish tonight.

HB2 Progress:

89004 / 90000 words. 99% done!

[Aside: I had a wonderful time at ConCarolinas this weekend. I will post more about the Con in the coming days.]