22 July 2013

Work, Distractions, and Impending Good News

I know, I know, I haven't blogged in a week. Transitioning back into real life after vacation was rough. I think after spending so much time writing, I brought some of Jordan's sassy wit with me but you know, just being at work kind of squashed that out after about a day. And on Saturday I worked over 15 hours straight, just sitting down for about ten minutes to scarf down some food. So back to the usual exhaustion, really.

Anyway, I'll be brief here. Just a few goodies to share!

The good news is that I have managed to keep writing despite being back at work, which was exactly the sort of push I needed, so the vacation writing extravaganza continues to pay off. That's part of why I haven't been blogging--I wanted to fill my spare time with novel writing.

Want to know the BEST news??? I should have a complete first draft by the end of the week. I'll wait for you to do a double take and read that sentence again. Yes, that's right--a FINISHED first draft! Finally! Right now it's looking like I need to write about 1 1/2 chapters. Unfortunately, the last one is going to be the hardest, but I do have Wednesday and Thursday off to work on it.

So I may not be back to blog on Wednesday (since I'll be busy and whatnot), but hopefully on Friday I'll have some INCREDIBLE news!

15 July 2013

Final Vacation Stats!

Well, the day has finally come. The awful day where I have to go back to work. And the first thing I need to do is punch my manager for screwing up my schedule. But anyway, I suppose I should share my final results for what I got done over vacation.

And by now you should know that really only two of my goals made it to fruition. It's not really all that surprising...

Word Count: Drum roll please! The final word count is.......22,284! I know, I know, it's not the 25k I planned on, but it's pretty damn close. I was up until around 1 A.M. last night adding to the final count. So why am I up now? I have no idea.

Despite not reaching my goal, I did manage to knock out a HUGE chunk of my WIP. Four complete chapters written, and three almost complete ones, some of which I may finish today. I'm getting closer and closer to the end and it's getting kind of scary. But I'm really pleased with how it's turning out.

But every time I think that I'm almost done I remind myself that I still have to write the sex scene...so it really doesn't feel close to done at all. Oh well, I'll just keep writing until I get there.

Reading: This one's not so impressive, but at least it's something. I finished my reread of The Catcher in the Rye and read all of Don't Let Me Go. Then I thought I needed a reading break. Because I feel like finishing a book is like ending a relationship--you want to start a new one right away, but sometimes, you just can't. So no, I did not plow through my entire pile of new books. But they'll still be there.

Well, thanks to everyone for checking in on my progress. Hopefully within the next few weeks, I'll have some fantastic news to report. :)

12 July 2013

I Hate My Title and Playlists on Crack

It wasn't too long ago when I told you my working title for my WIP, The Formula, as well as shared my playlist for it. Well, I've sort of backtracked, because I hate my title again. So now I'm all alone and titleless. It's like standing in the rain without an umbrella.

Here's the thing--if it wasn't for that contest I entered a while back with the first five chapters, I probably wouldn't have picked a title at all. But since I had to, and had to live at least temporarily with that choice, it grew on me. But then I didn't even advance to the final round of the contest, so I realized I really didn't have to commit to this title at all. And when I didn't have to commit to it, I realized I really didn't like it as much as I thought.

I really think titles are the hardest part of writing a book. If you're trying to make a point in the story, you can spend pages drawing it out, using every word you could possibly think of to get that point across. With titles, you're much more limited. How are you supposed to sum up everything that your novel is about in one short phrase? That's why I realized I didn't like my title. What did it actually say about my book? What about it was going to draw readers into the story? Nothing, really. Because it's not good enough.

But how do I come up with a title that is good enough? Is it even possible? I've been trying to come up with one for over two years and I've got nothing to show for it. Ah, well, the struggle continues.

And for a little added bonus, I wanted to share a little playlist I made. This little story arch between Chapters 12 and 13 is one of my favorite parts of the book. So a lot of songs spoke to me when I wrote it. But I realized that if someone looked at this mini playlist without knowing the context, it probably looks like I was on crack when I made it. But of course, it makes perfect sense to me!

I know I should explain each song choice, but that would just take the fun out of it, wouldn't it? Plus I'd have to explain every detail of those chapters. So instead I decided on an emotion or mood (there can be a violent mood, right?)  that occurs in the book and sort of goes with why I chose that song. (Although I think 1 & 2 could also be swapped or mingled or...whatever!)

1. Lust
2. Insanity
3. Jealousy
4. Regret
5. Violence
6. Forgiveness

What do you think? Was I on crack? How do you choose your titles? Will I ever figure out which chapter is which?

More Vacations Stats:

Word Count: 14,017. Got through Chapter Fifteen. I know I want seventeen chapters when this is all done, and that eighteen should work for the first draft because of the Chapter Two cut, but I feel like I'd be rushing the story if I try to cram everything else in to only three more chapters. So I'm just gonna go with it for now and figure out how to restructure it when I go back and edit.
Poems: ....*crickets*
Blogs: Three. So, as usual, my plans to have blog posts written ahead of time never work.
Reading: I gave up on Tinkers (temporarily, I suppose) because I just had to attack my new stack of books. I couldn't really get into it. I started Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble, got almost halfway through in one day, and talked with the author on Twitter for a bit. Remind me never to fight my reading habits again.

10 July 2013

Blog Etiquette

Sometimes when you're starting out blogging, it can feel like you're all alone. Like there are tumbleweeds rolling along at the bottom of your posts. It takes a while to build followers and relationships with other bloggers. But there are certain things you can do that not only help you get more blog traffic, but also show that you're a courteous blogger who knows that you need other people to help you out. The following are just a few tips for being a friendly and successful blogger. They’re really just some basic ideas, and things that irk me when I notice them not happening.

Check out other blogs

This could probably go without saying, but there are some great reasons for checking out other blogs. How can you expect other people to visit your blog if you don’t put yourself out there? The best way to do that is to frequent other blogs that are similar to yours—leave comments, make virtual friends who will then check out your writing because you looked at theirs. I find myself looking forward to days when I know certain bloggers will write a new post. It’s not only a great way to network, but also to get information and advice. Who knows? You could be struggling on a certain aspect of your book, and then one of your blogger buddies writes a post that helps you figure it out. There’s oodles of information out there that can be useful to you.

Return the favor

Don’t you get excited when you see a new comment on your blog? Wouldn’t it be great to give other bloggers that feeling? If somebody took the time to read your blog, you should check out theirs as well. It’s just common courtesy. Where would you be if no one looked at your blog? If you have this constant back and forth between other bloggers, then you’ll create some great relationships and eventually a good reputation as a blogger. There’s a few ways to do this. If somebody leaves a comment on your blog, go to theirs and leave a comment on their latest post. Also, just following someone else’s blog is a great way to support them. You don’t have to read every single post they make, but they’ll get a great boost of self-esteem just by having you as a follower. So it’s a great idea to follow back anyone who follows your blog.

Reply to comments

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I always receive at least one comment on every blog post, so I like to reply to those who took the time not only to read my post, but consider their own thoughts on it and leave a comment. I didn’t always reply to comments because they were usually rare, and I was still in the awkward beginning phase of blogging where I felt like I had nothing to say. But it’s important to show your commenters that their time and thought is appreciated. Even if you don’t know exactly how to respond, even just a thank you or “thanks for stopping by” would be better than nothing. I’m sure most of you just leave a comment on other people’s blogs and that’s that. But I’m one of those psychos that need to keep checking to see if the author replies and what they have to say. And it’s not the end of the world if they don’t respond, but it is a bit of a letdown.

So those are just a few ideas for being a kind and courteous blogger. I’m sure I’ll come up with some more tips in the future and have a Part Two. Just remember how hard it is to start out blogging and the sort of things you would want other bloggers to do for you.

More Vacation Stats!

Word Count: 5,569. I finished Chapter Tweleven (Is it 12 or 11?? I still don’t know) the other night, and it’s AWESOME. Until I reread it next week; then it’ll be awful. I plan on getting another 5k done tonight. Yes, 5! I plan on having another 10k done by the next time I check in.
Poems: Yeah, uh…let’s just move on, shall we?
Blogs: Two! It’s going great, as you can see.
Reading: I finished The Catcher in the Rye this morning and started Tinkers by Paul Harding the other day. Because I’m some sort of masochist who likes to read Pulitzer winning books and try to figure out how my writing can be like that. But I want to finish it fast because MY BOOKS CAME YESTERDAY. I could probably read all four in four days. And by now I’ve probably convinced Amazon that I’m a gay man by my book selection. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

08 July 2013

Embrace Your Book

Or a better title, Keep Calm and Do What Your Muse Tells You to Do.

Have you ever panicked when you look over the bestseller lists or started to read some award winning book and you just didn't understand it? You look over the books that everyone is reading and you have no idea why--because clearly they're just books that everyone reads because everyone else is reading them. They're cranked out every other week by some famous author with armies of ghost writers. They're not even that good. And the books everyone says is good? It's like you can barely grasp at why these books get good reviews and win awards. You can understand that they're well written, but nothing clicks when you read them. You're bored. You might even feel stupid or that you just don't get it.

So where do you fit in, if you don't feel comfortable in either of these groups?

Everybody wants their book to be a mix of these things. A hot bestseller, but well-written and prestigious. But chances are, you can't have both. There's a good chance you won't have either, but let's not get too depressing here. There's an audience out there for your book, but the first step is knowing exactly what your book is, and not what you want it to be.

Chances are, you started your book with a simple idea, maybe even just a character. But somewhere along the way you had to ask yourself exactly what kind of book you wanted to write. An epic fantasy? A trashy romance? A coming-of-age story? It isn't just about genre, either. You had to choose a writing style, get into a groove with the voice, all the while considering exactly who would want to read your book.

You could get into trouble if your answer is, "everyone." There is no book that every single person is going to like. Even the popular books are hated by someone. So if you try to write your book and please everyone at the same time, the writing will seem disjointed. It won't have a set style. It'll be all over the place. And no matter how good a story it is, it will be bad.

Let your story speak to you. Let it be what it needs to be, not what you desperately want it to be. If you get distracted by long term goals, you could lose sight of the actual story. And you could lose what is great about it. Sure, everyone wants the bestseller list. Everyone wants a Pulitzer. And it's ok to dream. But you have to be realistic, too. When you're writing your first draft, the only person you should be trying to please is yourself. Because you know your story, and you know what it needs to be.

And now for something completely different...

Vacation Stats!

Word Count: 1,838. I would have pushed it to 2k, but I finished the scene I was working on. Plus it was 1 AM. I was sleepy. But the best part? I rewrote the horrible mess that was the hand job scene. And I'm probably experiencing post-scene adoration, but I LOVE it. I think because I managed to have some great subtle dialogue as well as not repeating the same actions over and over again. Plus, it's pretty damn sexy.
Poems: Nada.
Blogs: One, obviously.
Reading: Almost through with my 112th reread of The Catcher in the Rye (or maybe it's just my third, but who's counting? It feels like 112). Holden's definitely a big influence for Jordan's character, but it was one of those things I realized after the fact (psychic???). So reading it usually puts me in the right mindset to write. Also! My Amazon order shipped and should be here on Wednesday! Boooooooooooks!

05 July 2013

Vacation Goals!

Today is my last day of work before my 9 day vacation starts! And yes, this last workday is a double (of course), so I'll be brief. I'm not going anywhere (staycation!) and with only a few things planned so far, that leaves me lots and lots of time for writing!

So I've set a few goals for myself, and hopefully I'll get most of them done...

Word Count. It's time to crack down on the first draft. At first I was thinking something ridiculous like 50k, then I thought maybe 30 would be more realistic. But since the first five chapters are around 14k, I brought it down to 20. But then I thought that wasn't good enough. So! The final word count goal for vacation is 25,000. There. That's it. Final decision.

Poems! I don't really plan on writing any new poems unless inspiration strikes, since forcing them never turns out very well. But I have been working on organizing what I have already and getting them polished for submissions. So I'm going to do some more research on different literary magazines and figuring out what poems would work where. No real concrete goal here, just going to try to get a lot done.

Blogs. Obviously I'll still be posting next week, but I also want to write a lot of blog posts that I can save--for all of those times when I don't have the time or energy to get one done. Well, I'll already have them. So the plan is to write 20 blog posts.

Reading. Mmm...books. Finally ordered some books from Amazon and I want to read all of them! First I'll need to finish the books I'm already reading, though. You can check out my progress on Goodreads if you'd like, just find the link on the right of my page. We can be friends, too! Making friends on the internet is so much easier than real life, isn't it?

Do I think I'll get all of this done? Probably not. The word count is the most important goal. I'll be checking next week with what I've accomplished so far. Wish me luck!

03 July 2013

Bitch Stole My Plot!

It's that time again! The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. Check out Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog if you'd like to join!

First Wed of Every Month

I don't know if there's a word for a nightmare daydream, but have you ever had one where you're sitting in a movie theater watching the previews and suddenly you see a trailer for a movie that somehow is exactly like the book you're working on? No? Just me?

I think a lot of writers can be paranoid. It comes with the territory. If you have a great idea in your head, then you would be devastated if someone stole it. Especially for those of us who blog about their writing progress, there's always that little voice in the back of your head worrying about who is going to see your words and what they could do with them.

I was recently browsing books on Amazon and came across a novel that had a few similar elements to my WIP. And I proceeded to freak out. There's that moment where it feels like your whole life is over. You think all of your hard work has been for nothing because somebody has already done it. So what's the point in finishing?

You have to think of it this way: Everything's been done before. And yet, it hasn't. There are so many elements that go into a story that make it unique. Sure, there are only so many basic plot structures, and they've been used countless times. But you've got to factor in all of the details of a story--characters, plot twists, subplot. There's no way that you could accidentally write a story that's 100% been done before. Every element of a story makes it different. Like, if I changed my main character, if I swapped genders, changed to third person, or switched point of view. Each one of those changes would be an entirely different story. If I set it in the rural South instead of New York City. Different story. If my protagonist came from a nuclear family instead of a single parent household. Different story. Do you see how many things impact the story you're writing? And you come up with every single one of them.

As I read more about the book, I realized it really had barely anything in common with my WIP. Every story is unique and exists all on its own. In fact, after finally having some extra money, I bought the book and I'm looking forward to reading it. I love reading books in the genre I'm writing, because it helps inspire me. It's not that I look for ideas in these books, but that I wait for them to trigger ideas of my own.

And I know there's always the paranoia of theft. Sometimes we don't want to display any detail about our stories because we're afraid someone will steal it. But once again, it really comes down to all of those elements. Even if you gave just a basic summary and someone did steal it, what are the odds that they would end up writing the same story as you? They couldn't possibly guess every detail that you have planned. And chances are, if they are stealing, they probably aren't as good a writer as you and they won't be able to pull it off.

So write without fear! Your story is completely yours, and no one could write it quite like you.

01 July 2013

Jordan Takes Over: Forcing Your Characters

**The first Monday of every month, I let my muse take over the blog. I apologize in advance...**

First of all, I've gotta slap some people around. Not a single one of you signed up for the Muse Mondays blog hop. Pfft. Whatever. We don't need you bitches. But in case you have no freaking clue what I'm talking about, click here! It's pretty flexible, I mean just pick any Monday you want. We'll probably get stricter if MORE PEOPLE JOIN.

Anyway, we've been having some issues. And as usual, I'm the one to blame. Sure, blame the muse when you can't write. Take the easy way out. Well, ok. Chapter 12 is such a bitch. Especially because it’s actually Chapter 11. But that’s beside the point!

Ok, let me lay out the scene for you. I go to this party and there’s some girls there. It’s really boring, but somehow I end up talking to this chick Madison, and she totally wants to jump me. Why? Because I’m gorgeous, duh. No, really, it may or may not be to get revenge on this girl who I had a thing with at some point in ancient history and who pissed Madison off for whatever reason. (You don’t find out because I didn’t. Yay first person!) And so we almost do it. Almost?! you're probably wondering—I’ll get to it…

Anyway, the almighty writer doesn’t understand why this chapter is so hard to write. But guess what? I do!

Here’s the problem: I DON’T LIKE GIRLS. Well, maybe sometimes. I guess that’s why it’s confusing. But still, it’s out of character because I swore off girls in the very first sentence of the book. So that brings me to a bigger question—are you forcing your characters? Are you making them do something that they wouldn’t normally do?

So if you try to force your characters—like into a girl’s…OH SHE WON’T LET ME WRITE IT. PG-13 SHE SAYS. Wait, does that mean I only get one f-bomb? When did this rule start?!

What was I saying?! Oh yeah, so if you think you’re in control of your story (is that what you think?), you might try to shove your characters into places where they don’t fit. I mean figuratively! Geez.

Like, ok! An example. Let’s say your character’s really shy, and they see somebody getting picked on, and they just randomly stand up to the bully. Does it seem realistic? Or are you forcing your character to do something they would never actually do just for the sake of the story?

Hold on—What? Stop whispering in my ear, woman! Ok, so if your character overcoming something is part of the plot—like they need to get over their shyness in order to grow, then that’s ok. You just need a reason for it. And the character needs to be aware of how out of character it is for them (whoa). And you need a lot of aftermath and contemplation and all that stuff.

So if you don’t have a good reason for it, then WHY THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IT?

I guess what I’m saying is let your characters be themselves. It’s gonna be obvious if they’re doing something weird. So if you need that moment in the story, you need a reason for it. The whole me and Madison thing is super complicated. But there’s a reason for it happening, and that leads to something happening after that’s even more important. I don’t wanna give anything away…*ahem.* Oh, who am I kidding? I didn’t get laid that night. By anyone. So lame.

But to make it a little clearer—I end up finding Madison attractive because she’s basically the girl version of me and I’m in love with myself (I could be a shrink, I swear). She had a vibe that was different from other girls. Plus I’m just a sucker for attention. So there’s your reasoning for why we start going at it. For a few reasons (that I’m not going to tell you, la la la la la la), it doesn’t happen. BUT. It does put me in a mindset to make a few impulsive decisions that lead to one thing and that leads to another and another and—you get it? The things that happen because of this out-of-character moment end up being HUGE for the overall story. So, there’s reasoning and there’s aftermath.

Those two things are essential if you’re forcing your characters to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Otherwise you’re just pushing them around. They’re not gonna seem like a real person if they’re just doing random shit all the time. You need some consistency, people! Don’t bully your characters. We can bite back. And I’m not gentle.

I guess that’s it. Well. Fuck. Good day!