Tuesday’s Fire

[Hands on Keyboard: June 5, 2012]

I feel like I’m in this magical secret cave where only good and giddy things happen to me. I wrote 14696 words this week and I’m not including the 1600 words I wrote on Friday because I threw them out and replaced them with better, more special words.

I don’t have much to say, except that I’m really excited about new!Chrysalis. If I continue at the pace I’m going, I’ll have a new book done by June 15. That’s two weeks ahead of schedule. Last week I stressed about my June 30 deadline. I didn’t think I was going to make it. Tonight I’m going to hit 55,000 words. It kind of blows my mind.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m doing to build this fire within me and I’ve come to the conclusion that even at this beginning phase, having a sounding board is indispensable. When I first wrote Chrysalis, everyday I would sit and tell the story to my friend, Adi. I would talk about what I wrote the day before and then tell the story of where I was going. It worked well and I finished a complete book.

This time, I’ve been reading my daily pages to my youngest sister. She’s loved the book from the beginning and is an editor at heart. I don’t know how to sing her praises enough. She is excited about the changes and the new material. If something doesn’t make sense, she doesn’t trust her knowledge of the previous draft to just fill it in for her, and she calls me on anything that might be out of place. We even had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: I’m really worried about the pacing in this one part.
Her: Good. You should be. Stop lingering.
Me: Okay.

That’s when I cut 1600 words. Best decision I’ve made this week.

So, HoKers, find people to put into your circle of trust and don’t be afraid to use them.


Slaying Tuesday’s Blocks

[Hands on Keyboard: May 29, 2012]

Remember how a month ago I couldn’t do anything but whine about how pathetic it was that Chrysalis was kicking my butt? You probably blocked it out because whiny Gwynne was whiny.

15,356. That’s my word count this week. Excuse me while I take a moment to bask in my awesomeness. Okay, maybe two moments.

Writer’s Block Slain.

Ahem. I don’t think next week will have as high of a death body word count, not because this week was a fluke, but because I exercised a great deal of control over my social life and three day weekend. This week I’m testing for my next stripe in Kung Fu, so I’ll be practicing more and sharing my focus with things other than Chrysalis. Unlike this past weekend where I wrote for seven to eight hours a day.

By the way, those are all new words. Back when I was still a little naive about the writing process, I listened to Brandon Sanderson talk about the twelve novels he wrote before he got published. Once, I heard him break it down and basically say he wrote Mistborn three times and counted it as three different books. I’ll admit I was a bit dismissive when I heard that. I didn’t think you should count each draft separately because I couldn’t imagine the work needed to rewrite a book three times.

The more I work on Chrysalis, the clearer it is that I’m writing a completely different book. Each time I write new material (and 95% of what I write is new), I take a bite out of some humble pie and silently apologize to Brandon Sanderson for doubting his twelve books. Editing a draft is not the same as rewriting a draft.

Right now I’m at 37,000 words and currently am on track to finish this draft at 75,000 words before I go back and add another 10,000 words of description. This is close to the halfway mark and leaves me with 38,000 words to write before June 30. That’s around 1200 words a day. I was worried that it wasn’t doable because it was crazy to think I could write a book in two months.

But HoKers, I can totally do it. I’ve slain my writer’s block. This week I encourage you to look at your successes and bask in them.


Once Upon a Tuesday

[Hands on Keyboard: May 22, 2012]

Contains spoilers for ABC’s Once Upon a Time

Also, a bit of a rant

Fellow HoKers, I had a majorly productive week. I wrote everyday but Sunday and my word count came to 7890 words, all of it in Chrysalis Book 1 even! However, while it was productive, I’m finding that the changes, (which I thought were slight until l spent five hours writing), mean I’m writing completely new content. It is a bit disappointing not to be able to use old material. My previous draft is an excellent outline, but my narrative and pacing are different enough that practically all my words are new.

It hit me this weekend that I am, for reals, writing a new book. I’m also not withholding as much plot information as I did before. It’s kind of killing me. The result has my characters taking risks which up the tension and create new problems for me to solve.

Which brings me to the topic of taking risks in your writing. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the season finale of ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

I need to preface this with how much I enjoy this show. It is not the best written show out there but there is something fun watching Disney give permissions that allow us to see someone’s Alternate Reality Dual World Fanfiction on Sundays. It is also one of the few shows out there where the three main characters are all women–The Evil Queen/Regina, Snow White/Mary Margaret, and the Savior/Emma.

The costumes are beautiful.

However, Once Upon a Time, is not necessary a show that takes risks. The plot is fairly typical and while the characters are interesting and everyone is given time to be the hero of their fairy tale, there are been few legitimate twists over the course of the season. Then, the week before the finale, the advertisements, the writers, the producers started promising that the finale would CHANGE EVERYTHING.

I got excited, especially after the previous episode’s cliffhanger–the son that Regina and Emma shared ate a poisoned apple turnover and went into a coma. After 21 episodes, they pounded into us how powerful True Love’s Kiss was and that Emma and Regina both had access to magic. I told everyone that if the writers really meant that everything would change, then it would be Regina, not Emma, to break the spell on the boy.

Imagine having the Evil Queen show that she actually loved her adopted son enough to break her own curse. Wouldn’t that create some problems for our heroine? Wouldn’t that be an excellent risk that would CHANGE EVERYTHING?

This is not how it went down. I cannot describe how many dragons plot holes happened in this episode. The writers and produces had to get online and explain what happened because it was that confusing. They needed another edit and an extra episode. They needed to take a risk and give us a bigger twist. What they did with Rumpelstiltskin does not count, especially since they had to explain it.

With my irritation regarding this in mind, along with my desire to be surprising yet inevitable as a writer, I’ve been forcing my characters to take risks and deviate for the path I wrote them before. They are surprising agreeable but it does mean my risks have consequences and I’m suffering through a lot of problem solving.

So, lovely HoKers, what are some examples where you felt the writer took risks that paid off? Or, an example like mine, where there was a glaring opportunity and the writer took the road most traveled?


Avenging Tuesday

Hands on Keyboard: May 8, 2012

It’s probably too soon to say I’ve conquered my block with Chrysalis, but I’m into chapter 5 and I I wrote over 8000 words this week. I forced myself to write inside Book 1 and not Book 6 although I did do some prewriting for Book 4 but it was only 1000 words I promise and I’m sure my writing soul has been better for it. One interesting thing I’m doing is to type out every single word regardless of whether or not it’s new or if I’m pulling it from the previous draft. This way I made sure that every word is in line with my revisions and new characterizations of my heroine and hero. I’m kind of proud of myself for doing it this way.

Now. I want to talk about The Avengers. I promise not to be spoilery or too fangirly.

Specifically, I want to talk about Black Widow. When it comes to superhero movies, I feel it’s really easy to love the heroes and expect very little out of their girlfriends women. They tend to get captured, hurt, or do a lot of fretting while the hero is in danger. It’s gotten better recently but when I heard Black Widow was going to be part of the Avenger team, I’ll admit I was worried.

I was less worried when I heard Joss Whedon wrote the script and was directing the movie but still worried. It’s no secret how much I worship him as a writer, director, and creator, especially when it comes to depicting women in his work. I love Buffy with a psychotic passion. I really liked River, Kaylee, and Zoe from Firefly. I was not the biggest fan of Dollhouse’s Echo but he can’t be right all the time.

But Avenger’s is a superhero movie, which means men doing male things with other men. Don’t get me wrong, I like action movies. Just, unusually, if there is a girl and she has “masculine” strength, her gender is remarked upon repeatedly, and she’s highly sexual with the camera shots to prove it. If she has “feminine” strength, she becomes an object to protect, does lots of screaming, and is highly sexual with the camera shots to prove it. Or she’s a girlfriend object to be won and used at the end of the fight.

But Joss was in charge-ish, so I paid attention to Black Widow and her characterization. Joss did not let me down. Her introduction scene is marvelously played, revealing her entire skill set, which she uses against the villain later on in the movie. She’s treated with respect by her coworkers (and her gender or her relative strength is never commented on) and is trusted to take care of herself in battle. Strengths balanced by weaknesses. Not perfect but trying to be something better. Something normally only the male heroes get to do.

She had layers. Like a parfait.

Things are not perfect in the movie making industry and I’m not saying Black Widow’s characterization was perfect but it’s nice not to be let down by one of your own heroes. For me, it hit most of my soap box points.

So, my fellow HoKers, what movie or book has impressed you lately?


Filtering Tuesday’s Feedback

[Hands on Keyboard: March 6, 2012]

Not going to talk about the amount of Not!Writing I did this week. I don’t think it put me behind too much so I’m not going to restructure my goals. April 1st, here I come.

However, this last week I’ve had several amazing opportunities to practice my zen approach to giving and receiving feedback. I got to practice giving feedback with my youngest sister and my dad, both of whom are writing and wanting to become professionals, much like us HoKers.

Feedback is a hard beast to manage. On the one hand, as a creator you need it if your creation is going to get better and be more awesome. On the other hand, it sucks because it usually comes in such a hopeless way.

Learning to filter the feedback you receive and attempt to clean it up so you can hear the truth is painful. One of the more complicated parts of this process is understanding that when you do something right, it is invisible to the audience. They don’t remark upon it because they don’t notice it. But when something causes them to hiccup, it is all they can see and it is all they can talk about. The result can be disheartening to the creator because all they hear is that something is wrong.

Once I realized this, listening to criticism got a bit easier. I knew that what worked wouldn’t be mentioned and what didn’t could be fixed. I started paying more attention to the person giving the critique. I looked into what I knew about them, their opinions, their bias, and their experiences and applied it to the feedback they were giving me.

Because what it came down to was a lack of communication from the creator to the audience. In paying attention to what I failed to communicate, I was able to revise and tighten my communication. Having gone through this process several times, I’ve developed my own approach to giving feedback. It comes in two parts:

  • Start looking at the invisible and tell the creator what is working.

We work so hard on our projects and it is nice for someone to take a moment tell us that they noticed. I firmly believe if you can’t find a single thing to be nice about, then don’t offer a critique. It doesn’t matter if you’re right because anything you say will be unhelpfully buried in a sea of negativity.

  • Use “I” statements when discussing the project and not “It” or “You”

This is actually something they recommend in conflict mediation and it applies beautifully to critiquing because, in a sense, you are trying to resolve the communication conflict that comes with the critique. When asked, statements like, “I didn’t understand why…” or “I’m really unclear…” are better than, “You aren’t making any sense…” or “It was stupid to…” or “Obviously you didn’t consider…”

Also, tone of voice is really important.

Even taking this into consideration, the critique and feedback you receive are not going to be perfect. Reviewers aren’t always respectful of your tender heart, but you still need to have the information they’re trying to give you. I suggest guarding up your heart,accepting everything they say while they’re saying it, take some notes and start your filter.

I find that during this initial encounter I say a lot of “Okay. Okay. Alright. Okay. Alright. Okay. Okay.” It took me a lot time to be able to get to the point where I didn’t argue back or be defensive. Every once in a while, I slip, but that’s okay too.

Then, once you’ve considered the feedback and the source, refine what you want to communicate and try again. I recommend showing it to the same person and asking if the changes you’ve made have cleared up your vision. Eventually you’ll get better at receiving and giving feedback. This week I tried practicing these two little steps and I think it turned out well for all parties involved, but those stories are another blog post all together.

So, what do you lovely HoKers think? How do you manage filtering the feedback you get and the feedback you give?


Rewriting Tuesday’s History

[Hands on Keyboard: February 21]

I have become spoiled by my good health. Not too many years ago, I was constantly sick, which mean I was used to living in an uncomfortable world. When that changed, I was shocked at how wonderful just a normal level of health felt. Then I got used to it. So, this last week as I battled a cold, I became such a whiner and was convinced I was going to die.

My impending death did not deter me from mentally trying to work out what it is that I need to be doing for Chrysalis. This has been a battle in and of itself. Early in January I decided I would start submitting again on March 1st. Two weeks ago I was forced to admit that this is no longer feasible. A small part of me deflated. I had no idea how to wield my Editing Chainsaw in this situation. It wasn’t time for the Editing Scalpel yet (which will come after I have a few people read the new draft).

On Friday I realized I needed to delve into the history behind Chrysalis once again. There had been enough changes to characters that it would affect the entire manuscript. I needed to get back into Raquel’s and Brandon’s heads and play with them once more. Over the last year we’d become strangers and it was up to me to fix it. Brittany was kind enough to throw me some prompts and I began writing history.

Being sick, I did not write much, but I’m incredibly pleased with what I did write. Now that my cold is lingering gone, I need some concrete writing goals. I should know better by now that I work best with a clear and specific To-Do List:

  • February 28:  Every day write a new history scene for Raquel and Brandon averaging 500 words each. This means two scenes a day about their lives before they meet. This is completely within my realm of capabilities.
  • March 6: Start work on the principle manuscript. I’m currently in the middle of a scene at the beginning of chapter 3. Depending on how it goes with the Chainsaw, I want to work on a chapter a day.
  • March 13: Writing and Editing on the principle manuscript will continue, however, every day I will start working on my new query.
  • April 1 my birthday: Seriously close to submission.

This is a Hard Work Timeline, but I see no reason I can’t do it.


Obviously Tuesday

(Hands on Keyboard: January 31)

Every once in a while I get smacked in the face with something so obvious, I’ve been blinded by it. It always makes me see stars. This week, my youngest sister did the smacking.

You’re awesome, she said, because no one is making you do this.

It never occurred to me that no one is making me write books, edit, or otherwise use metaphorical chainsaws on my manuscripts might be something to consider. I have no boss and no deadlines. Yet. There is no one counting on me to do well at this because their life depends on it. There is nothing external making me do this.

It’s all me. I do this because I want to be published. I do this because it’s my dream. I do this because I love it. Giving up has never really occurred to me.

So, my question this week, lovely HoKers, what is it in your life that has smacked you in the face with it’s obvious simplicity, and how awesome does that make you?

Also, I took 17,000 words and four chapters and shoved it into 5000 words and two chapters this week. Just saying.


Tuesday’s New Beginning

(Hands on Keyboard: January 24)

This week was a bit of a whirlwind. My struggle against the first few chapters of Chrysalis had not been going well. I’d attacked my notes and new outline but it wasn’t working. I was gradually coming to the conclusion that I needed to completely rewrite the beginning.

That is an awful place to be, by the way.

I had no idea how to do it. And goodness did that just suck.

Then I got a call from a friend. I’d given her a copy of my manuscript about a year ago and she had finally sat down and read it. In one sitting. After a few minutes, it was clear she had an older draft and a lot of the issues she had I had actually addressed in subsequent drafts. I still listened and accepted everything she said. I don’t want to be one of those authors that get defensive and won’t listen to feedback, so my responses were mostly, “Okay. Alright. Okay. Okay. Okay.”

Then she had questions, so I answered a few of them, and she offered suggestions on how to make things clearer. This was unbelievably helpful because I had to put complex plot and world building down into a few sentences. Unlike everyone else around me, she hadn’t been listening to me talk about the book for the last three years.

I got off the phone. I sat on my bed for about fifteen minutes. It took me two minutes after that to fix my problem. I took some notes and let it sit. Part of me was frightened of it. What if it wasn’t as wonderful and magical and beautiful as I thought it was?

Last night I talked to Brittany about it. She told me I wasn’t crazy and that it was an exciting hook. So after we got off the phone, I sat down and wrote 1200 words. They were mostly dialogue awesome and I think I caught the fire I’d been looking for.

So! Revised goals for the next few weeks:

  • January 31: Finish the new beginning. Preferably in less than 3000 5000 words.
  • February 7: Another hard edit of Chrysalis. This will be a clarifying and description edit. No more withholding everything. Just some things.
  • February 14: Edit that query thing. I’m leaving it until after LTUE. There are going to be some panels on it that should help.

Wish me luck! I very much need it…

 


Taking Control of Tuesday

(Hands on Keyboard: January 17, 2012)

I finally mapped out the Way of the Turtle. Take a look! and comment… >.>

Last week I challenged myself to read through the first five chapters of Chrysalis and take notes. I am happy to report that I did just that. I had to Turtle my way through it and it’s probably the hardest time I had just sitting myself down and Doing It since finishing The Ninth EventSeriously, meeting that deadline sucked. It was a great experience and reminded me of all that I’ve learned in the last year about editing and crafting your novel.

If it’s possible, I’m even more of a fan of the Power of Editing than I was before. And as such, my next goals for the next two weeks need to be revised to accommodate the knowledge I gained from working this week.

  • January 24: Reorganize chapters 1-4 according to the notes I took last week. There will be much ripping and sticking and reading and considering as I try to get four chapters down into two. I learned this week that chapter 5 is fine where it’s at but it needs to become chapter 3.
  • January 31: Soften the harsh lines of editing so the first three chapters flow smoothly together.
  • February 7: Gather gumption and critically read my query letter.

Other than editing, I’m working on a new project. Originally I wanted to write a short story. I wanted some place new to stick my head for a short time. I did this with 9thEvent. While I would never tell myself I’m incapable of writing something complete under 10,000 words, it does look that way. So I’m hoping for 50,000 words. I’m also telling myself that this is a throw away, unimportant, completely silly project. Also did this with 9thEvent.

We’ll see, but it really is fun to get to use all the skillz I learned while writing anime fanfiction. >.>

 


The Way of the Turtle

In life, there are many paths, all leading to far off destinations, so we must all find our own way. This is mine.

The Hare and the Tortoise as told by Aesop [1]

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race.

Then said the Tortoise: “Plodding wins the race.”

 

When I was young, my family had a beautifully illustrated book of Aesop’s Fables. My mother would read them to me and my sister while we looked at the pictures. Mom is a great teacher, so instead of telling us the lesson at the end, she would have us guess. Being smart daughters, rarely did we get it wrong. [2]

Over the last few years, I’ve really learned the importance of the Tortoise’s point. I’m a huge believer in dreaming big, but with big dreams come long struggles, and sometimes it is easier to give up than it is to figure it out. In the end, I’ve found the realized dream is found along the Way of the Turtle and not along the Cliff’s of the Rabbit.

The Way of the Turtle has three [3] main tenants:

  1. It is important to have dreams [4]: Wanting to be more than what we are is a basic human desire. We are here in this life to achieve and become something greater than what we are. The Tortoise, an animal not known for her speed or agility, wanted to win the race. For her, this was a huge, crazy dream. The animals–the Hare especially laughed at her for daring to dream. She was told she could not do it, but this did not stop her from trying.
  2. It is important to have a plan [5]: No dream is realized without a plan. What separates the Tortoises from the Hares is a plan. The Tortoise went into the race knowing exactly what route she would take and how she would take it. By mapping out our quest and figuring out our path, we turn our impossible dream into something achievable.
  3. It is important to work hard everyday [6]: Just having a plan is not enough. Plans must be executed to achieve anything. This involves continuous hard work . The Hare worked hard once. He sprinted once. He saw the end of the race but didn’t finish. He took a nap. The Tortoise not only completed the race but won because she took it a step at a time.

Life is a marathon and not a sprint. This goes for our goals and dreams. Right now, my biggest dream is to be published and turn my love of writing into a career. It’s not an easy dream. It’s going to take years.

But! I will accomplish it a day at a time because I know no amount of sprinting will make it happen tomorrow.

So, this is my way. I’ve used it before [7] and it’s done me well.

 

[1] Excerpt taken from Aesopfables.com
[2] I wish I could say that in hard times I thought back to Aesop’s simple life lessons, but I’m one, not a liar, and two, not that zen.
[3] Because two is too few and four is awkward . Three is a magical number. Look around in your world. It’s there more often then you think.
[4] Notice dreams are plural. You should never be limited to just one dream.
[5] A Zombie Plan is best. You can survive much with a solid Zombie Plan.
[6] Never give up. Never surrender.
[7] Running an actual marathon.