The internal writer paradox

For a few years, I was on a tight publishing schedule. One short or novella every month, with the occasional month off in between series.

This was a lot work. I don’t think anybody who isn’t a writer can truly understand how much work it was. I was writing stories 12 to 18 months before publishing them. Workshopping them for months, and then polishing and publishing. This includes making covers, formatting, and so, so much more.

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Then I stopped. I wanted to get back to my novels. I wanted less deadlines and more creativity.

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One year later, and I have written anything over a week. But I have been writing.

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None of it is being typed, but I’m writing and rewriting scenes in my head, like constantly. On the plus side, I’m still working. On the downside, no words on paper.

Also, I keep burning dinner, because my brain is in the Haven, not in the kitchen.

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So while I know, intellectually, that I’m writing, emotionally… that number counter isn’t going up and that chapter is still in pieces. Keeping up morale for the job is hard when I don’t have tangible things to focus on, yet I don’t see the point of writing the damn chapter until I’m sure of where it’s going.

I’m getting caught in my own paradox of working, but not writing.

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That endlessly blinking cursor can be a such a burden some days. And even though I know that when I get back to work I will likely have two or three chapters properly arranged and ready to go, I’m still not writing.

And there really isn’t anything to do, except keep working that dialogue and working through the brick walls of “but character A wouldn’t do that” and “Character B wouldn’t be there.”

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have every little thing worked out and can get some words on paper.

At very least, maybe that means I won’t burn dinner.

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***

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic, and you can follow her on twitter.

A Writer’s Life

“You look crazy.”

“Huh?” I say to my well-meaning husband. His  words, while amused and affectionate, have pulled me from my world. Doesn’t he know that I have dialogue to run?

“You’re talking to yourself. Your hands are even moving.” Full disclosure: my bio-mom’s family comes from Sicily, and people who study such things, know exactly which village by my hand motions.

I roll my eyes as I lose the thread. Edie had been talking smack, but it’ll have to wait. “Do you need something?”

“No.” He’s smiling at me.

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“Do the kids need something?”

“Nope.”

“Then why are you…” I don’t want to say “bothering me” but that’s the phrase that’s attempting to escape.

He smile at me. “You look crazy.”

“And?” My patience is wearing very thin at this point.

“Well, we’re at our son’s robotics competition and you’re walking around, talking to yourself.”

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I heave a huge sigh. “There are four teams ahead of him. I  know what’s going on.”

“How’s the scene going?” I can tell he’s trying not to laugh.

“Not well. I’m not exactly sure who’s POV to use, or if I should cut directly to the action. Right now, I’m contemplating a quiet scene, and I don’t know if that’s right for the overall story. So I’m trying out dialogue.” I glare at him. “Did you need something?”

He finally laughs, soft chuckles that don’t carry far. “Yes. You. In this moment. And not looking crazy.”

My fingers drum on my twitching leg as I stare blankly at the stage where a small cube with arms manipulates Legos.

(Full disclosure: This video does not feature my kids or their robot.)

Two seconds later, Marley is clutching his guitar and flirting with Brenda. I’m not sure if this scene will work either, but I’m enjoying the hell out of their banter. Those two are always good for lightening the mood. And the book has been fairly heavy so far…

“You’re doing it again.” He’s laughing out loud, now.

“I really don’t care.” I try to hold on to the scene, but talking banishes the image of Marley laughing on the beach.

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“Do you really wander around talking to yourself outside of the house? Don’t you realize how crazy you look?”

Our youngest, all of seven, though cynicism and emotional manipulation makes him seem at least two decades older, plops into my lap. He munches on a granola bar and flaps a hand at his father. “Yeah, but, dad, mom is crazy. How did you miss that when you married her?”

My husband loses it at this point, and his big-belly laugh echoes in the gym. My two oldest children glance around the makeshift divider that has been erected. We smile and wave before turning our attention back the robots.

I make it through the end of the round, but once the setup for the next round starts, my mind is, again, in the Haven. This time, I’m trying a fight practice scene with Barb and Matt.

“You really can’t help it, can you?” My husband heavy, warm arm slips around my shoulders.

“What can I say? I’m a writer. Also, still not sure what the next scene should be…”

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***
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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic, and you can follow her on twitter.

 

Happy NaNoWriMo!

For those not in the know, it’s National Novel Writing Month.

One month, 30 days, 50,ooo words… GO!

I really love NaNoWriMo. I’ve written several first drafts doing this, and actually won half the time I’ve done a WriMo. This year, I’m playing a bit of a NaNo Rebel.

I’ve not writing a novel, as much as a series of short stories for my newsletter.

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Because shame is for people without student loans!

Which kind of helps me feel more accomplished. Every day, I’ve writing one story, minimum, usually one and a half. So every single day I get that little thrill of not only hitting word goal, but also of finishing something. Not to mention, I’ll end up with about three years worth of material.

And it’s the little things that make live worth living.

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So little, so worth it…

I recommend NaNo for anyone looking to get into the habit of writing, for experienced authors who need a swift kick in the butt to get that draft written, and for people who just love a challenge.

Are there downsides to NaNo?

Does a bear poo in the woods?

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Charmin has told us that the answer to that question is YES.

Your draft will be messy and need extensive editing, but… for me, that’s any first draft. NaNo is basically how I normally write, but on a caffeine high. I bang out words until it’s done, then I refine. It’s just that once a year, a whole ton of people cheer me on.

And it feels good to know just how many people to see words on paper.

So yes, if you aren’t doing NaNo, I encourage you to give it a shot next year.

If you are doing NaNo, wanna do some word sprints?

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic, and you can follow her on twitter.

(un)Suprising Feminist Writing

I am a feminist. I make no bones about it.

This is reflected in my characters and storylines. Mina loves clothes AND hitting people, but more importantly, nobody finds that odd. Conversely, Rick and Sam are bad ass demon hunters who are also super caring, homey people. Sam does almost all the cooking, and Rick is, in universe, a calming, soothing presence. And, more importantly, nobody comments on these behaviors negatively.

On the other side, neither does anybody look down on the non-action characters, male or female. Jeff is a non-action oriented, male hero. He’s the cleric (if we want to get really geeky, and I usually do.), and is well respected by the monster hunting community.

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One of my big beefs, as a feminist, is the fact that male villains are almost inevitably rapists. Look, I know the stats on sexual assault, and I’m not saying that we should ban rape and sexual assault in media.

On the other hand, can we not also admit that making almost every villain a rapist is lazy writing? 1, it short-changes men and their emotional depth (as usual), but 2, it reduces rape and sexual assault to the mundane. A paltry banality that every captured female character “must” suffer.

And I realize that this is a fairly heavy topic for me, so let me explain where it’s coming from.

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I’m working on my novels these days. It’s a series, and I have this former couple, Edie and Randal.  She broke up with him and took a vow of abstinence. In Book One, Randal was pretty much the bad guy, sullen and uncooperative, usually ruining whatever team building Edie managed to do.

The books begin knowing that they broke up nearly a year before, but not what lead up to it. Now in Book Two, I’m getting into it. So to sum up, he’s angry, and she’s trying very hard to ignore it, because they work together, and if people think there is a chance she’ll break her vow of abstinence, they will kill Randal. Which she doesn’t want. Because his jerkass tendencies aside, he’s still important to her. It leads to this exchange:

“What happened the night Edie was invested?” Miguel asked.

The memory of Edie’s tear-streaked face as she ordered him out of her rooms haunted him for a moment. “Ask your sister,” Randal responded, unable to do anything but snarl and glare.

“I’m asking you.” Miguel’s rock-hard  tone demanded obedience.

“I’m not sure which version Edie prefers these days.” It was a cheap shot. But the truth would likely end in his exile, if not his death. Edie was keeping her mouth shut, and he’d do the same.

While reading this passage out loud to my husband, he stated that I needed to change it, because it sounded “rapey.”

Now, both of us know exactly what happened that night, and it was not rape. But to my husband, the implied sexual violence of the image combined with slightly ambiguous wording would damage my attempt to redeem Randal in this book.

My (feminist) argument for keeping this particular wording is that people shouldn’t jump to rape when reading this. Randal’s a jerk in the first book, but at no point do I ever, remotely  hint that Edie is afraid of him, or that he was ever, ever violent towards her in any manner.

The idea that our immediate assumption as readers would not be that a young man got in a fight with his girlfriend, said something that made her cry, and she told him to leave, is an insult to men. And it really is infuriating.

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As a feminist, I’m ready for men to have relationships with women that show depth and nuance. I’m ready for men in stories to engage with women on levels beyond the physical, be it romantic or violent.

Yes, Randal shoulders the role of antagonist for most of the first book. That shouldn’t mean that people automatically jump to rapist, but we do. It’s so universal that it’s a running gag on series about movie cliches.

As a feminist, I know I need to write more complicated men. Because keeping my men simple and one dimensional also limits my women. It reduces their interactions with male characters to shallow stereotypes.

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We need to challenge the idea of men as oversexed, under emotional, perpetual children that women must ‘tame’.

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This is not attractive… to most people. I swear I’m not trying to kink-shame here.

It’s not about conceiving a universe without sexual assault, or putting women above men. It’s about conceiving a male antagonist who doesn’t default to rapist. It’s about letting men and women interact with the richness and complexities of real people, good and bad.

In short, I’m a feminist writer, and I refuse to short change any of my characters based on gender.

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Penninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic.

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Bringing it Full Circle

I’ve said for a while now that I’m not so much a writer, as I am a storyteller.  Wordplay can be fun, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m far more concerned with character and plot than I am making my prose sparkle.

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Mainly because I know I’ll get better at writing as I go, and that improving my writing is a life long goal, never to attained. If you wait for your prose to be perfect, you’ll never publish anything.

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But understanding characters, plot, and pacing… That’s something you have to master right away. All manner of grammatical errors can be forgiven, if you can tell people a good story.

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And I’m thinking about that a lot more these days. See, I’m ending my Werewolves of Pittsburgh series. Three ‘books’ comprised of  seven stories, shorts and novellas, featuring a colorful cast of misfits and rogues.

Oh! This show!

The third and final cycle is written. The monsters and hunts are finalized. But I keep finding myself rereading the first two books. And I know why. I’m looking for the moments. The little things that brought the characters together. I want to remember them for this final journey to Pittsburgh, because I want to remind the reader of how these people came together.

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Yeah, what Crowley said!

Yes, I write Urban Fantasy, but the heart of this story has always been about family. Mina, Matty, Rick, and Sam are, above all, family. And this has always been about how they become family.

So, I’m searching for those moments, the times where they really bonded, so I can make sure I add in the echoes of that in the final series. Just subtle reminders of how and why they are where they are.

Because the end of a story should always take you back to the beginning.

Oh, you know Joss did it right!

A repeated line here, a mirrored scene there, and the reader will find themselves marveling at how much a character has changed.

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Katara is the poster girl for the Adrenaline Makeover.

The best endings are all about the beginning of the story. Showing you how far a character has come. Because, ultimately, all stories are about the journey, not the destination.

(Skip to 2:04!… Although really, this whole song is very appropriate to the subject at hand.)

So, while my fight scenes are written, and scrubbed pretty clean. I’m still finding those moments, those little pockets of raw emotion that shaped the characters, and I’m adding them in, a line here and a word there, to bring this story full circle.

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of Pennsylvania. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids and cats as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter now, too!

Guest Blogger: Like Hemingway, but the exact opposite!

Every writer as heard the advice of the great Hemingway: Write drunk; Edit sober. For me, though, I find I do it the other way. I write sober, and edit drunk.

Case in point, my twitter session last Monday.

Ashley is the artist who draws the web comic based on my Uncommon Animal stories. She was highly amused at my grousing and lamenting over editing.

This is nothing new for my writer friends. I’ve long been considered a bit of an oddity. I love drafting, but I hate revising.  I’ve said for a while that I’m not a writer, I’m a story-teller.

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You can actually *see* her accent.

So when it comes time for me to do the nitpicky, word choice, polishing my prose work… I tend to hit the booze.

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It helps me to let go of my story, and it relaxes me. I’m able to think around the problem, instead of being frustrated by it.  And every story needs this, as much as I dislike it. Nobody’s first drafts are perfect. At best, they are merely good. Regardless, they need to picked over and improved.

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And even I know that my story is better for the editing. That doesn’t make the work any easier, or more enjoyable.

So if a little booze eases the process, then that’s what I’ll do.

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They seriously do a LOT of drinking on Game of Thrones.

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of Pennsylvania. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids and cats as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters.

She has a newsletter now, too!

Guest Blog: Happy to Help a Friend

When DL asked for a guest blogger, I jumped up, waving my hand, metaphorically.

Me! Pick me!

Why?

Because of Romance, and supporting other writers.  I always lend a hand to my friends who write romance and erotica. And I have more than a few who do.

For one thing, they get worse questions than Urban Fantastists. People may ask me where I come up with my monsters, but I don’t get the ‘whys’.

Why do you write about sex?

Why do you write about romance?

I always want some of them to say, why the hell not?

My pride in my friend’s work aside, I’m not sure why writing romance is a bad thing. I do it. Sure, my sex scenes fade to black, and more than once Mina has put her burning sexual tension on hold to kill a vampire or two, but I know damn good and well that Mina and Rick’s relationship drama is just as important as how she snaps a spine.

More so, in some ways.

We action writers of supernatural occurrences need romance in our stories. They keep the characters relatable and grounded. You might not get why Mina has to kill a monster, but you definitely get why she wants to jump Rick.

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She’s very… lonely

Love and how people fall in love is universal, as opposed to blood lust. Most of us going about our normal day feeling no desire to behead the people threatening us.

Or staking them… whatever…

But falling in love? Having a crush? Drooling over a hottie? Even if you haven’t experienced it, romance transcends genre. Everybody knows the physical symptoms. You can’t catch your breath, racing heart, nervous energy, and dilated pupils.

We love to fall in love. And we like watching other people as well. So while Romance isn’t something I write often (because, like any genre fiction, it’s damned hard to do well), I have nothing but respect for those that do.

I don’t mind getting on their blog and gushing about how wonderful they are. Because they are wonderful, amazing authors, who work damn hard.

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of Pennsylvania. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids and cats as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters.

She has a newsletter now, too!