PUBLISHED TODAY IN THE GALACTIC HERALD

Technical Difficulties.

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PUBLISHED TODAY IN THE GALACTIC HERALD

PUBLISHERS’ GUIDELINES STIFLE CREATIVITY!

(What Really Suffers)

by B A Dreamer

Today, writers worldwide were saddened to discover the truth about writing guidelines imposed by the publishing community. Under the guise of a desire to help writers get published; agents, editors, and publishers alike have ruthlessly applied their demands. Many thought these guidelines to be “rules”, and followed them without question.

Don’t use the passive voice.

Don’t use adverbs (“ly” words)

Don’t use more than one semicolon in an entire manuscript. (What?)

Don’t use complex sentences.  (The average person is stymied.)

Don’t use sentences with more than 18 words.  (Again stymied.)

Don’t use the word “that” (even in a sentence THAT has to be read twice to be understood—avoid “that” at all costs).

And those are just a few of the “rules” harried writers have sworn to abide—giving up their talent, creativity, and…

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Creativity Postponed

When I was a schoolgirl, long ago, I prided myself on the ability to write an essay of any length required on any subject, no matter how obscure or silly, without having to think long about it. Not for me the agony of staring at a blank page and wondering what to put on it – my subconscious would supply words, almost as easily as water spouting out of a tap. Writing stories was just as easy, and more fun.

Sounds like I should have become a writer, right? Unfortunately there were serious obstacles. Family expectations urged me towards a supposedly more secure, prestigious career. I thought I could always come back to writing later. During the first years of full-time employment I wrote on the side, mostly stories and articles. When my career led me to Manhattan for three years, I submitted some of my works to editors. Like any other aspiring writer only just learning their craft, I received rejection letters – “would like to see more of your work” was the best I could do.  Meantime my job got ever more demanding, and then children came along.

But though there were years when I didn’t write fiction, except inside my head, I always kept reading. Thousands and thousands of books.

Now I have at last come to a point when I took a step back from the day job and bought two years of free time with my savings –  and finally settled down to write. Is it any wonder that all those repressed works now come shooting out at surprising speed? It turns out that you can postpone creation, but if you are lucky it is still there, patiently waiting.  Except that these are not exactly the same books I could or would have written decades ago; I look at my abandoned projects, for instance a  thriller parodying work inside the United Nations, and I could not for the life of me finish it in the spirit in which it began. On the other hand, what I write now draws on the experiences and insights of the past decades, and hopefully has gained some depth. I’m still working hard on improving the technical aspects.

Right now  I am completing a book I began in 1999 in Copenhagen, and find it is not easy to reconcile the older parts with the new. I have changed in fifteen years, and the characters I envisage today are not quite the same in consequence. While I am determined to rescue at least that favourite project from limbo,  it would be easier and faster to write something completely new.

Given the time pressure, self-publishing is the obvious choice for me. Receiving feedback from unknown readers all over the world within days of publication of an Ebook gives me a thrill, and to hear that someone enjoyed my writing is great motivation to carry on.  With traditional publishing, even in the best case, I would still be waiting for a release date of the first book.

Over the past few months I have concentrated on Regency Romance, and under the pen name of May Burnett have published three in June, August and September respectively. They form a series , the Amberley Chronicles, though each is self-contained. If all goes well, in the month of October two more will come out, the fourth of the series and a standalone regency, Lady Susan’s Bargain. When I have ten regencies under my belt, I may turn back to urban fantasy or YA, just as much fun to write but harder to sell. How long will I be able to keep up the pace of one short novel every month? Maybe with enough practice I can do even better…

The lesson, if any? Take your pick:  It’s never too late to make childhood dreams come true. When you have a gift, it should be used. If you wait long enough, the technology that will make your goals easier to achieve may come along.

Or simply, go and write NOW. Who knows if it will still be possible tomorrow.

 

 

Choosing POV: A New Writer’s Journey Through Rewrites

I’m a novice, I confess. While I’ve dabbled with writing since I was a kid, it wasn’t until recent years that I really put some effort into it. Even then my biggest goal was simply typing The End. Those were the most wonderful words to write. Then I learned some things. A lot of things. Things that make me itch the “fix” the previous sentence. My brain’s screaming “Active Tense!”

Sometimes all the knowledge that gets thrown at us as new writers is overwhelming. It can feel like slogging through sinking sand when you pick up your manuscript to… dun dun dun… revise it. From ironing out kinks in plot to completely restructuring, and then slashing big red X’s through entire pages of your novel.

Now, the elusive The End that I had quested for turns out to be just the f***ing beginning. I’ve fleshed out characters, given them pages and pages of lives that will never reach the final draft. I’ve busted up my plot until I know it better than myself.

One thing keeps nagging me going forward: POV. Naturally I’ve always written 3rd person limited. Then I played around with a 1st person limited novella. But how do you choose which will best suit your story? Is it okay to have two different 1st person POV’s? Because that seems unnatural to write for me. Is is okay for me to turn the dial on my character introspection? How deep is too deep?

Then there is past tense vs present tense. I’ve naturally always used past, but I have to admit there is something about present tense that I find alluring. What do you prefer to write vs what you prefer to read? How do you choose what tense and POV you will use? Is it natural? Do you change it up? Alter a couple scenes and decide?

Here is a big one, how many differing POV’s are just too damn much?

Research and Writing

Verisimilitude – Noun. Definition: The appearance or semblance or truth; likelihood; probability.  A word writer often throws around when we want to sound smart or writerly.

As writers our imagination takes us to many places, ideas flood our heads like a tsunami.  Some are good, some are so-so and some are downright MEH!

The Scale premise came pretty easy to me. It was personal and hit way too close to home. I lived it and I know many women who have as well. As I outlined Need You Now (Book 2 of the Martha’s Way Series) I wanted to get away from Minka and Jason and write about a different kind of heroine and hero with their own struggles and strengths. I tossed around many plots, but one kept sticking. Only, I knew nothing about drugs, addiction, child abuse, and murder.

So I did what every writer who wants to write a story that feels real with something unfamiliar to me.  I researched.

Thank goodness for Google, my mother who is a nurse, my mother in law, a retired psychiatric nurse, my lawyer cousin, and my family members who carry a badge. I asked questions and they answered, from gunshot wounds, treating addicts, and the law. They all helped me understand all the little details I needed to capture for my story to be believable and accurate. I took notes. A notebook full.

I admit at one point after reading so much on Google and going through images of drug paraphernalia, addicts, gunshot wounds, dead bodies, I walked away and hurled. It became too much, too consuming. So much so that I contemplated about changing the premise of the book. But my mind had already gone there. I was committed.

So I wrote a novel about things that are foreign to me. In turn I became acquainted with circumstances and a lifestyle that were once unknown. The pain, tragedy, despair, and hopelessness that come with the life we are sometime thrust into or the path we choose to travel.  The ramification from the choices we make and the downright spiral.

Fear not, Need You Now is still a love story. Just like The Scale there’s lots of passion, love and the eventual HEA. But it’s Lily and Adam’s journey. It’s dark and intense, just like Adam and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As writers, just because we are writing a fiction, do we have the right to make up whatever we want? The answer is absolutely yes. It’s our imagination. We create a fictional world to entertain, to engage. I just choose to write realistic fiction and oh boy that requires a lot of research.

Research is a word that fills many creative writers with dread. But I don’t want people reading my story to roll their eyes and say “that would never happen,” therefore, I did my due diligence.

There are plenty of ways to research your novel including the following:

  • Using the internet (obviously the quickest and most painless way)
  • Visiting the library (ah, check you out…the old school approach)
  • Traveling to locations where your story will take place (a bold move. Hell make a vacation out of it.)
  • Interviewing people who know about the things you are writing about (As I was writing a particular scene, I texted my cousin with some legal questions. He responded: Now I know you’ve gone nuts.)

Happy Writing!

Mika Jolie

Write

How Important Are Emotions in Driving a Character?

How important are emotions in driving a character?

I’ve been mulling this over this past week and had a few thoughts. Feel free to disagree, this is just what was going through my head:)
There are many driving forces behind a character’s behaviour. Needs. Wants. Desires. Revenge. Behind these, either tagging along like cans tied to a newlyweds car or compressing a person until they feel like they will explode, are emotions.

The first three (needs, wants, desires) are often stepping stones into the depth of emotion a person will attach to one of these. For example, the desire to share your life with someone can morph into a want, which then changes to a need. The initial desire comes with the feeling that it would be nice, pleasant, normal. If the desire goes unfulfilled, then the emotions deepen. If the ‘want’ goes unfulfilled, emotions go deeper, and often start to deceive us. A character can think, ‘Why am I the only one not married? Why am I the only one struggling financially?’ It’s easy to slip into thoughts that slowly lead down into a maelstrom of self-pity, anger, depression and fear. (At this point, can I just clarify that not everyone is like this, but it can help to see where a character can go emotionally due to an unfulfilled need.)

Need is often associated with desperation and fear. If I don’t have shelter I may die of cold. If I don’t have enough to eat I will starve. If I don’t find someone to love me I will stay alone. Suffer alone. Age alone. Die alone. If a person cannot meet their own needs, then helplessness, hopelessness and depression can follow.

Want (when not a ‘need’) can be associated with selfishness and inconsideration of others, an assumption that others don’t matter. Some people want to be rich, and will do anything to achieve that – even if it means stamping others down.

Desires can take many forms. In romance novels, sexual desires can often be the main driving force (at first) behind a character. In a thriller, the detective will have the desire to catch a thief or a murderer. When this desire is unfulfilled, then it becomes a want, a need. The passion behind increases, the driving force impels the character to perhaps take more risks.

So emotions drive us in many ways.

Consider yourself. When you wake up in the morning how do you feel? Tired? Buzzing? Still upset at something someone said yesterday? Still slightly drunk???

I know when I wake up tired it colours my whole day a darker shade of whatever hue I feel. Our emotions and reactions colour the way we think and act, likewise with our characters. If some trauma happened when a character was young, that will affect almost everything about them. Even if they shut it out, the fact that they have shut down a part of them means a part of them is missing, regardless how broken up that part is. When does a character learn fear? Love? Consequences of various actions?

In the current medieval novel I am working on, I have a sixteen year old girl who had a traumatic experience when she was about 9. She has shut this out, yet occasionally has nightmares. I have struggled with her character because it isn’t rounded. Part of her is hidden from me, and until she comes to terms with what happened and is willing to remember, it will stay hidden. She has fears, and anxieties which come from this hidden place and these affect her, yet her emotions are dampened because she pushes them down. So it has been difficult to write from her pov, and the novel has turned into one more about her mother while Annie remembers. When she has remembered, she will be much rounder; I will be better able to write her because I know where she is coming from.

Do you know what your characters are feeling in every scene? Do you ‘soul-hop’? I find if I know what a character is feeling, then the dialogue and actions flow easily and naturally. If I don’t know, then everything feels stilted and awkward.

Experiences affect characters differently. One might shrug off an insult, another might take a swing. Another might bear a grudge and nurse it until the tree of bitterness bears the fruit of hatred. Yet all will then adjust their behaviour accordingly. The one who shrugs the insult off may well avoid that person. The one who takes a swing might end up in jail; the one who nurses a grudge may end up sinking into paranoia. A seemingly insignificant detail can end up having pond-wide ripples, which is why, for me, it’s so important knowing how they feel. If I can identify with my own characters, then I have the hope readers will, too.
What do you think? How important are emotions in driving your characters? What do your characters first desire, then want, then need? Is the carrot that is being dangled before them always out of reach, or can they take a bite every now and then, thus increasing the fervency with which they seek more?

Battling my fear

 

Hi, my name’s ED and I’m a control freak. I hate stepping out of my comfort zone, which means there will be no meeting to help. Jokes aside, the fear has me holding on too tight. Knowing this doesn’t really change the outcome, until now.  

 

Looking around the task at hand, I need a distraction from being a feline maid. Since my brain doesn’t work in normal waves, I start wondering why I even have the cats. Well, this thought might be normal–no one likes cleaning a litter box.

 

The fur balls are cute, yes. The games of chase and bouncing off windows has been entertaining the last few years, but do I really have to show my appreciation this way? Shouldn’t it be the other way around for all the kibble, early morning purring (ON MY HEAD), little paw-shaped bruises, the boob kneading, near death stair tripping, and cat towers and pillows scattered around the house?

 

I’m actually being ignored as I walk back and forth ranting between the laundry room sink and where said litter box is set up. Rudy (the Himalayan) is sleeping through the fun getting hair all over my chair, and Mercedes (our black Norwegian Forest Cat with huge copper eyes) watches my every move; it’s a bit unnerving.

 

Elbow deep in cleaning (or hand on the shovel thingie and a scrub sponge on deck) I have a breakthrough in thought. {hands mimicking explosions near head} Two simple words: I know.

 

The difference between my stories and real life is that I know the outcome. I can see the whole plot in my mind. Sure, sometimes it’s only a glimmer of an idea, but they do come to life, eventually… in clear vivid pictures or an annoying movie running non-stop with crazy voices that don’t quit arguing with me until I get the story correct. I love it!

 

In reality, everything’s too unpredictable and I can only see so much. I can organize and plan my way through most things (I do love my checklists), but it’s the sudden phone calls that make me cringe. Too many gut checks (kick to the proverbial balls) over the years, but I can generally pick myself up (Aided with a pint of ice cream and sappy movies, or let’s be honest, a bottle of wine). What other choice do I have?

 

As a writer, I look at storylines and characters to weed out what doesn’t work. It’s almost therapeutic and a bit of a natural high when I’m done. I’m Queen of my domain!  I edit, tweak, rearrange, and push my characters over a cliff without a tear of remorse, but I’m able to do so because I know where the story needs to go.

 

Too bad I can’t do this with my life outside the pages (or computer screen). Or can I?

 

 My thoughts continue to roll around without any tangible grit as I sweep. After the highlight reel of Amnesia Lane (or hopeful forgetfulness of things better left in the past), thanks to a previous night’s discussion with my husband, some things start to make sense. A freeze in work, w-o-w moment. I always hold back. I didn’t say it’s a good realization.  

 

I’ve had jobs that I love and those, well, not so much. With my work self though, I always strive to do the best I can, no matter what. It’s everything else I haven’t. Maybe it has to do with anything I truly love or want getting taken away somehow. If I don’t care, then it won’t matter, right? I can float. I don’t expect rainbows and unicorns all the time, but a cute fuzzy something seems nice. Probably how I wound up cleaning a darn litter box.

 

My fear of the unknown has me second-guessing… everything (except work). Any time I came close to something I want I hold back enough, and in some cases choices have been taken away without any regard.

 

I’m not complaining about my life; I actually love it and don’t regret anything because of what I have now. What’s done is done, and I’ve made peace with it. I may have even bought the biatch a drink too. So, here I am at 40 with a daughter running full speed through the teen years. Talk about mind-blowing! If anyone said all those years ago how my life would turn out at this age, I’d have laughed my butt off asking what they were smoking.

 

With the quick jaunt through odd highlights of my childhood, I feel empty. My grandfather (who many times got the nickname ‘Grumpy’ for his “Don’t run with that pencil because you’ll poke your eye out” lectures-yes he used those exact words dozens of times) died a few years ago, December will be seven years to be exact.

 

I still feel as though a piece of me is missing; that safe place of retreat is gone. The ache to hear his bellowing laugh at times hurts enough to take my breath away. Heck, I’d give anything to just be in the same room again and not talk, maybe have an Indian’s game playing in the background. Many times I grab my cell when something good happens (like my kiddo hitting her first baseball out of the field at 6) only to remember no one would be on the other end (that truly understands).

 

Missing that voice of reason, advice, or odd corny joke has left a mark. During this avoidance of reality (yuck cleaning) I realize I’ve avoided and ignored that encouraging voice for far too long. I guess in a way I didn’t fully believe it– that I can do whatever I set my mind too. So now, taking a deep breath, I hold onto that faded voice and step out of the shadow.  

 

I’m putting myself out there. I need to know what can happen next.

 

No more hiding behind excuses or what ifs. No more ignoring my deep down whispering wants. No more fear. Well, I won’t lie, lots of anxiety, but I’ll push that aside long enough to hit the upload button. And if you’re reading this then I actually did! Yay me!

 

I’ve closed my eyes enough times, taken the needed deep breaths, and worked through enough panic attacks in the past to want to add a prescription to my daily vitamins at times like this. Letting go of the control enough to release something that’s apart of me ~ my baby. Not the dog, cats, or my daughter, but the musings in my head. That sounded way better a moment ago in my mind. Meaning the stories and scenes that keep me going when things aren’t so bright and sunny.

 

Although this sounds great, I’ve been hitting dead ends as of late. I think our recent move has something to do with the stupor. In a small part it does since I am a creature of habit (not having the same routine from before makes me want to growl), but it’s more than the four thousand mile road trip over the Alaska-Canada Highway and a good chunk of the lower-48. Don’t get me wrong, being trapped in a vehicle with a freaked out dog, two pissed cats, and a teenager for twelve days would be enough to throw anyone for a loop. The scenery made up for the camping, but I drew a line when we drove through a tornado on my birthday.

 

I’m now in a strange land that I didn’t really like (at least not yet-trying to be optimistic). It’s hot and I fell like I’m melting. It’s so different from the splendor that’s Alaska I almost don’t have words, which is how I got this problem to begin with.

 

Try as I might though, the blank page with the annoying curser blinking, mocking me, is too much. I want to shove my computer back into its case. I can ignore the glaring white screen while I unpack the hundred boxes in every room. At least I can see progress on the walls and in the rooms I physically live in. Seems like a fair trade off for a hot minute, but I miss a part of me in all this.

 

The encouragement and ideas from my fellow writing friends inspire me (with lots of pictures, words of wisdom, and jokes). I can’t ask for anything else or better people to associate with. Through the last few weeks I’ve been able to create fun, short pieces, it’s not a lot but something. At least I know I can still write; it didn’t brake during the drive. {Fist pump into the air}

 

But, I still have a huge block finishing anything I with a deadline. I can pull some non-publishable material and work on that with no trouble. Even had a few breakthroughs with the story, but I’m far from celebrating. In the long run it’s a win, but I have stories that need to be done — now.

 

On the brink of having to pull out of some publications I really want to be apart of and rethinking what I want in regards to writing, this litter box duty calls my name (screams really). Then the answer to what has been blocking my writing hit me… it’s me. {Insert a string of profanities and growling} The fear of what could happen if I follow through with what I want. Not exactly the place I thought I’d have an epiphany, scrubbing something disgusting, but there it is non-the-less. Big flashing lights and me freezing over the sink in shock.

 

If I do this (commit fully to writing) and fall flat on my face, then I’ll pick myself up, dust off, and keep plugging away. Sounds simple enough, right? Like everything else in my life, I’ll keep going because I have to (even if limping with a bruised ego).

 

I can do this. I have to do this!

 

How can I do anything else? Writing’s a part of me as much as my next breathe. The arguments with my characters (yes, I’m that person walking the dog mumbling) and trying to buy things on a character’s grocery list instead of my own are the norm in my world.

 

The future is unpredictable and that’s… thrilling… sure we’ll go with that. Ignore the heap on the ground as I fight to catch my breath as my hobbit helps (Humphrey the Pembroke Welsh Corgi also keeps my feet warm and steals my food off the coffee table when I’m writing). He’s helpful, shadows my every move, lends his radar ears as I grumble and hover fingers over the buttons on my computer (as I post this). He seems to think I’ll be fine. I asked and he keeps grinning at me while his stub is wagging, moving his whole butt back and forth.  

 

I work hard to finish the litter box and get it set up again all shiny and clean. If I put as much effort from everyday life into the follow through, I can get a happy ending like most of my characters. I might even be able to hit the submit button a few more times after finally tackling my block. Hey, I wrote this, edited, and finished before my first deadline.  Watch out!  

 

What will you do to get your happily ever after?

 

 

 

 

 

Flying by the seat of my pants

I only just opened my e-mail to discover I was up for a blog post today and nearly missed it altogether. I’m a bit of an airhead these days I’m afraid.  Ironically, that personality trait is a pet peeve of mine.  And so it is that in this season of my life I should begin to display such symptoms.  Rats!  Double Rats!  Ah well, even airheads deserve their dues, I suppose. Right? Of course right!

So, here I am up at bat, desperately wanting to wow the lot of you, who follow this blog, with my winning personality and skilled writing and … I’ve no clue what to write about. The timer is ticking; I can see the sand falling through the hourglass. It’s my time to shine and all I’ve got with me is a dim flashlight. Bullocks! Double bullocks! (It’s not a bad word if you’re not British, is it? *grin*) Therefore, I have decided to pants this posting–thus, the title and our topic. Quick, grab a cup of coffee and a popcorn ball (because, they’re just so grande and they remind me of being a kid) and lets have a go from inside the mind of an airheaded pantser. That sounds like jolly fun, doesn’t it? (I must confess, this entire thing is being written with a British accent, in my head. Reason being–that I’ve been on a bit of a Celebrity Big Brother binge of late and well, the show’s done in the U.K. now isn’t it? So, for the most part, the majority of people on it have lovely Brit accents–which are now stuck in my head! *another silly grin*)

There’s lots of opinions and ideas and discussion about plotting versus (not plottering verses, plotting as opposed to)–I guess they call it “pantsing”.   I’ve just learned that recently, the word for the way my wacked-out brain handles the stuff of creating when it comes to prose and even poetry.  I quite like the word–Pantsing!  In high school it meant something all together different, didn’t it?  Something you were not just scolded for doing, but punished for, yes?  And now, I can choose to pants all I want and it’s perfectly acceptable.  That is, to the other pantsers.  The plotters–eh, not so much sometimes.  But I’ve found a place where we pantsers and the plotters can all live together peacefully; where we can coexist, and give & take from each other’s creative styles. Isn’t that lovely?  Want to follow me into that world?  … The world of … a Pantsers mind? Let’s go!

First, let me define for you the word: Pantsing. Though, you may have been able to contextually surmise its meaning, I’ll set the record officially straight. Pantsing, is when an author approaches the creation of a piece without plot and outline. No official plot and outline, that is. Nothing on paper, (I know, what’s paper? Who even uses it any longer?) and nothing in a document–no outline of a plot, just vast nothingness. I’m pantsing right now! (Don’t you wish you could see that?! *wink, wink, nudge nudge*)

I can only speak for myself, which believe me is not only enough but something you should all be grateful for. Here is an example of my writing process:

Inspiration: I’m really a words person. Language romances me.  Some are won with a beautiful melody but I prefer the caress of prose. Frequently, my inspiration comes from dialogue. Something I hear in a television show, movie, real life conversation, or perhaps a phrase or sentence I’ve read (on a sign, billboard, in a periodical, or even a book) that grabs my attention. These words begin to formulate ideas that ping from every direction of my red-headed brain. The ideas ruminate until the strongest of them surfaces and begins to take root. (Pardon me, while I conjure the image of a spermatozoa’s journey to penetrate an egg leading to the creation of a baby; that’s pretty much what goes on in here.)

Idea: Let’s use one I’ve already done. Technically, this part is the inspiration but I’m leaving it here under “idea”, cuz I’m a rebel like that! So there I am all snuggled in for the night watching my favorite medical drama when this doctor begins to explain the process for the being on a transplant list, and receiveing an organ from one, to her patient. She explains that transplant patients are clocked in to the second, so when an organ becomes available, it goes to the person on the list clocked in first. In this case, her patient missed receiving the available organ by 17 seconds. Which meant the person ahead of him on the list was clocked in only 17 seconds sooner.

I started thinking about one of my favorite sayings: “It only takes a moment for everything to change.” Then I started rolling about short spans of time and all the moments that can, and do, occur in those little blips. I tossed around different lengths of seconds to see what seemed most plausible for a handful of normal life events to occur within. I came up with 11 seconds. This birthed the idea to write a short story about a young girl and all the significant moments in her life that occurred within an 11 second time-frame.

Writing:  I loathe the outlining process. I need to get in there while the idea is fresh and new and exciting and follow that little creative burst swirling around in my head.  If I have any research to do, I sort of pants it too, by Google-ing things as I go. I can’t get bogged down with research because I’m jonesing to get to the good stuff — which is the writing of the story that’s waiting impatiently to burst forth.

This is where the “pantsing” occurs. After an idea takes hold, and I know it’s one I want to pursue, I sit down and start writing. The story just comes together and the characters emerge kind of on their own. They start doing things and saying things and lord forbid I have an independent idea of my own, they pretty much override my decisions and do what they want.

Like this one time, (hahaha, you thought I was going to say “at band camp”, didn’t you?) I was writing a piece about an overweight teen. She was going to share anecdotes about her life as a “fat kid” and people’s different responses to her as a heavy person. I wanted her to be casual and funny and easy-going and … when she poked her head out, she was bitter, angry, and apparently in group counseling. Her attitude was rough and her feelings were raw and she made everyone in the group sessions uncomfortable. By the way, group therapy was HER design, not mine! I mean, she hated it but she’s the one who wrote the back-story about her parents forcing her to go, you know–the whole parents that don’t “get” the teen angsty sort of thing, … anyway  I would have spared her from it but like I said, I get vetoed quite a lot.

Finishing touches to the first draft: Once the idea is down in story form, that’s my first draft. Then, and only then, do the tiny little rebel plotters and outliners, that hide out in my grey matter, get to come out with their pickaxes and pencils and make some notes. Usually, the notes are solely to remind me of one thing or another as I go along, so I can keep my details straight. Or, sometimes my Indy-500 brain speeds ahead and writes the ending, or maybe a scene for later use. I let the plotters make notes of intentions because as I mentioned in the beginning of this little journey, I tend to be a bit of an airhead these days and I don’t want to forget my genius ideas! *laughs*

That’s it, basically. That’s my pantsing process. If it makes no sense to you, don’t despair, you’re not alone. I know it doesn’t make sense to the Plotters either!

*waves goodbye*

My Walk with Crazy: a tale of how I found my voice.

Lets face it, there are a million and one ways to tell a story.  (Probably more than that but lets just go with it.) Finding the right way can sometimes become a nightmare. Well, if you’re me anyway.

I’m on the second draft of my first novel, and about a month ago, I began to question everything. Sound familiar?  I hope so, because I’ve been told this happens to everyone.  Either I’m being lied to (I will find out and come after you), or I am human, and prone to self doubt. I’m choosing to believe the later. Anyway, I began to seriously doubt my story.  Specifically my chosen style of first person present tense. I’m not even sure where the doubt came from. Maybe it was when I read a friend’s story and fell in love with it. It was written in third person, and her descriptions were so good they made my mouth water. Or it could have been from another friend’s story that made me cry.  Literally. Tears falling from my eyes, with sniffles and everything. Of course, that was first person past tense.

Naturally, I began picking my story apart. That’s what any sane writer would do, right? Wait… is there such thing as a sane writer? Or is that an urban myth?  Regardless,  I began writing everything over again. I wrote a single chapter ten different ways. I’m not kidding. I wrote in past, in third, and changed from my male, to my female characters point of view, and back again.  I was obsessed.

It still wasn’t perfect. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I picked each style apart, analyzed each change for days, and now I will share my findings with all you lucky readers. Here goes.

Third Person: There are times when this is the obvious choice. If you are writing a novel where something life threatening happen to one of your main characters, and you want the suspense to remain of whether they live or die,  I think everyone would agree third is the best option.

When it comes to most romance however,  It’s just another way to tell the story. There were pros and cons for me with this method.  First, I could step away from the character a bit, which both allowed me to see the scene, and even the character a bit more. I’m not going to  say better because it wasn’t. It was just different. I knew things about them maybe they didn’t know themselves. Removing myself from their head revealed things I hadn’t known before. (Do I sound crazy yet?  ‘Cause these are real people with real pasts and real feelings, right?)

Setting the scene became easier. I could see it from above their heads, instead of through their eyes. This allowed some creative freedom that I really enjoyed. Third person also allowed a seamless transition from my female main character, to my male main character.  The reference to he/she never changes in third person, thus preventing the confusion some reader have with figuring out who *I* is in that chapter or scene. The transition can be so smooth you almost don’t feel it happening.

There was a downside for me though, which lead to my biggest concern with telling my story in third person narrative. Readers expect to hear both character’s point of view. Now in some stories, this is a given. In mine, I worried about revealing too much, too soon. It became a big fear, and I agonised over it. Do you see a pattern here?

Next comes first person past. Oh, how I love this style of narrative. After a long and thorough exploration of my kindle, I would say most of my all time favorite novels have been written in this style. Number one being “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. Yes, I’m watching the series on Stars, and falling in love all over again. Did you know Diana was told she was crazy for writing in first person? Yeah. I’m not even going to say more about that.

Now obviously, first person past is very close to my current method of first person present, but there is a bit of a difference. It’s a story being told about the past. (I know, I’m brilliant for figuring this out.) Because of this, even thoughts and feelings your characters weren’t aware of in the moment, can be explored. Kind of like when you’re in an argument, and you can’t think of a single thing to say until you walk out of the room. It’s like that. You’re telling the story once you left the room. You can have that little bit of reflection that only comes when you step away from the moment. Honestly, It’s kind of like a super power.

First person present: Again, I do love this narrative. I think that’s why I chose it in the first place. Many of my favorite novels have been written this way. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins being just one. This style allows you to walk with the character, feel everything they’re feeling, move as they do, and really become a part of them. I love that.  Similar to first person past, though in present tense things happen much faster. This can be both good and bad, depending on the story you want to tell.

Anyway, this went on for weeks. I agonized over every word, I talked to my writer friends who held my hand, listened, and shared their thoughts. I committed to one method, then flipped back to another. I’m sure I drove them crazy, but they kept listening. You know who you are, and I love you all!

After flipping at least ten different ways, I came to a conclusion. You may want to sit down for this…There is no right way to tell a story. There is only a way that feels right to you. Maybe it won’t ever be perfect. Honestly, I’m guessing it wont. If you’re chasing perfect, chances are, you’re never going to find it. When I think about it, the artistic side of writing is actually what drew me in.  Art will never be mastered, it will always have flaws, and that’s what makes it beautiful. Sometimes flaws are what make the story. The flaws in your characters, or even the flaws in the way it’s told. Sometimes being wrong, is what makes things right. I can think of a few authors who are torn apart repeatedly about their horrible writing, yet their novels make millions. Why?  Because something they did worked.  Because something others say is wrong is connecting with millions of readers.

I think my ‘Aha’ moment, came when a friend critiqued one of my chapters. It was one I shared before starting my walk with crazy, and it was written in first person present tense. When I read her critique, I was able to see the chapter through her eyes. I realized I loved it that way, that I would miss that connection I had with my protagonist. I would miss walking right by her side, and living each moment with her as it came. I was able to see that I enjoyed the story how it started. Is it perfect? No. Though I suspect it will never be.

Looking back, I can honestly tell you I don’t regret all the weeks I spent agonizing, I learned a lot from the experience. I learned about feelings my characters were having that I didn’t even realize. I was able to get into my male characters head, and it felt like I was meeting him for the first time. I learned about his past, which helps me understand why he does the things he does.

It turned out to be an great exercise, and I can see myself exploring it again in the future.  Maybe next time with a bit less hair pulling. I recommend it to you too. Try it. What you discover may surprise you.