Something Completely Different

And now for something completely different.

Dragons.

A steampunk Lunar colony.

A question of where the man ends and the machine begins.

In other words, my story for NaNoWriMo 2012.

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, in my never-ending pursuit of literary abandon I’m going to shoot for writing 50,000 words in one month. Or even 100k. It happens.

In preparation, I’ve stocked up on coffee, hot chocolate, and frozen dinners. I’ve backed up my computer. Reorganized my scene cards. Made playlists, one for each day in November, labeled by date and mood.

And I composed a letter to my main character, Teragus Swansong, warning him of my impending assault on his story. Here is what I wrote:

October 28, 2012 The Eleventh Hour

Whispering Pines Writing Retreat

Dear esteemed Lord Swansong,

Though I know it is late, I am writing to request your assistance in chronicling the early years of the Luna colony, as well as your involvement in its development. You might recall that last year I made a similar entreaty as I prepared to write the story of your daughter and future son-in-law, and I am still in your debt with regards to your efforts. However, once again I find myself in the difficult position of attempting to write your entire story in the period of one month.

I must confess that I wish you had you been more forthcoming with your involvement in the emergence of the DRAGN technology so that I might have written your story first. Fortunately, though I have been able to reconfigure my story to put Cerule and Rigel’s story second in the trilogy.

I hope you are not overly concerned that I will be delving deeper into the story of how you came to meet Avery, and why you decided to return to Luna, despite Luna’s betrayal and subterfuge. I understand why you chose as you did and will be sure to represent the story fairly. As far as your dalliance with Daphne is concerned, now that you understand how sparing her life led to a bright future for the DRAGN transports, I’m sure you will have no objections about my revealing the details to my readers.

And was that a hologram of you I saw as I was walking in the park the other day? You seemed so real, though I was surprised you’d chosen to visit me covered with oil and wearing your grey jumpsuit. I saw your eyes for the first time, and I think you were as surprised to see me as I was to see you. I would almost swear it was really you, and not a hologram, except that you were much younger than you are now.

I am still working through the intricacies of your inventions, and am amazed and impressed by your achievements, especially given that you did much of your work underground away from the supervision of the Lunar regime. If you might further elucidate how you managed that I would be grateful.

I hope my missive finds you well, and that I am able to do your story justice in the coming month.

With my regards,

Lady Larke

 

Tune in next week for Lord Swansong’s reply!

And, how about you? Have you ever written your characters a letter or an email? What do you do to prepare for NaNoWriMo?

The Next Big Thing

Exciting news from the scenic route today!

Those of you familiar with the How to Revise Your Novel course by Holly Lisle will be pleased to hear that I have finished my second pass through the Lesson Seventeen Block Revision. I’m exhilarated, exhausted, but most of all I just want to give my manuscript a big hug! After everything it’s been through in this revision, I think it deserves one. Finally, I feel like I’ve written a real book, instead of just a collection of loosely related scenes.

To commemorate this occasion, I’ve  decided to pull over to the side of the road and let you guys check out the view. Thank you Jamie Ayres for tagging me with The Next Big Thing Blog hop and giving me an excuse to talk about my story!

Yay, questions! Ten in all. Ready?

  • 1. What is the title of the book?

The Tempest’s Serenade.

  • 2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

It took a bit of writing for me to even decide this was a book, and that I would have to be the one to write it, but once I started it, I couldn’t stop!

My idea was to write about a musician with a prodigious talent who didn’t live long enough to express it fully. I was inspired by the sad stories of musicians who died in their prime: Jeff Buckley, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison… and I asked the question:

What happens to the music if someone never has a chance to fully realize their talent? So I wrote about that, and more than a hundred thousand words later I had the makings of a book.

  • 3. What genre does your book fall under?

It has elements of mainstream, but there’s also a big helping of magical realism alongside a bit of paranormal with a side dish of romance.

  • 4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For Nick Moore, my lead character, I would start with  Adrian Grenier’s easygoing charm, then mix in the athletic grace of Brandon Lee, add the brooding menace of Trent Reznor and I think I would have him.

For Libra Duvall, after much debate I finally settled on Avril Lavigne, in one of her quieter moments.

For Stuart Livingston, I’d borrow David Beckham for a soccer season, but put curly hair on him.

  • 5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Disillusioned by the Los Angeles music scene and frustrated by a lead singer hell-bent on self-destruction, a gifted guitarist pursues the angel who haunts him to find the songs he left behind, and the soul he borrowed to escape his past.

  • 6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Published? As in hordes of strangers descending upon my unsuspecting story? Pardon me while I take a moment to compose myself!

Let’s just say that right now I’d prefer to navigate the treacherous waters of publication with an agent at my side!

  • 7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started writing in February of 2009, but only recognized a few months later that I might have to write a book to get this story told. After that, it took me four more months to finish all 126k words of the first draft. However, the first draft was nowhere close to where the revision has taken me. I’ve been revising it for almost three years now!

  • 8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

My story is inspired by books like The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Lovely Bones. 

If movies are your thing, it’s as if The Crow met Sid and Nancy.

  • 9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Any musician or artist who battles obstacles that stand in the way of their creativity is an inspiration. As I revised the story, I realized it was also about my own creativity, a reflection about where it had gone and why it had suddenly returned with such force.

  • 10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll … with magic!

Now comes the moment we’ve been waiting for. Tags! I get five for this blog hop. These fabulous novelists are working hard on stories that could very well be The Next Big Thing!

Nancy H. Doyle

Anushka Dhanapala

Armchairauthor

Peter Cruikshank

Katherine Checkley

How about you? Can you describe your story in one sentence? What actors would play the roles in your favorite books?

If It Makes You Happy …

He paces outside my morning words, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, a scowl on his face. I dread confronting him, but now that morning words have been procrastinated into evening words, I venture inside and type my first question.

“Are you mad at me?”

He looks up, and the darkness doesn’t leave his face.

I knew it. I should never have let him out of my fingers. I should never have posted any of my chapters for anyone to see. He should have stayed exclusively mine.

“I’m sorry,” I sputter. “I shouldn’t have done that. I fluffed your lines and had you saying things no rock ‘n’ roller should ever say. I’ll fix it, I promise—pronto. I was wrong and you were right.”

“You thought I was mad about that?” His scowl splits into a grin. “Nah, I’m just wondering why it took you so long to get to these words today. What’s with watering the grass, and the blog posts, and that other writer who keeps asking for help?” He shrugs one of his all too frequent shrugs, and pulls his hands from his pockets to spread them wide in a gesture of dismay.

If he was the hugging type …

But I remember in time— he’s not. He’s a rocker.

“You bet I am, sister,” he agrees. “So don’t forget it next time.”

I breathe a huge sigh of relief, and settle into some normal typing. “I have questions for you.” Still the tentative writer, I add, “Would you mind?”

He shakes his head. “It’s about time, so fire away.”

“I liked your words last night,” I type. “Thanks for getting me going again. I was having a lot of doubts about that scene.”

He looks surprised and stares at me from behind the lock of hair that falls into his eyes. “Why? It’s just me, except before. Same guy, remember?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s the idea. But you look different, so I thought I might have to write you differently.”

He grins so that his eyes narrow with mirth. “Now you know what Libby feels like.”

“Are you going to call her Libby too?”

“Thought I’d try it out for size,” he says and shrugs again as I try to think of a new gesture besides shrugging for my dialogue beats.

“Sure, call her Libby then, if it makes you happy,” I type.

“My happiness isn’t what’s at stake here, you know.” He lets his gaze fall from mine as I turn back to my computer screen. “It’s the story that matters.”

“If you’re not happy there is no story, Nick. Happiness is what you want, and why you do what you do.”

“Isn’t that everyone’s need?”

“Depends,” I reply. “Some people are only happy when other people around them are miserable.”

“Lucky for you, that’s not what I’m about.”

He stops pacing to gaze out my window. I don’t know what he’s looking for since it’s twilight and too early for lightning bugs. “But you said you had questions for me?” he asks.

“I might not be able to continue your scene today. I’m going to put chapter four and maybe chapter five up for critique.”

“So?” he asks with a nonchalant smirk.

“I want to know what you think about that.”

He draws a heavy sigh. “Did you do your best with them?”

I’m biting my lips as I type. “I think I did. But I’m just not very good at this.”

“You’re getting better. I can tell.” By the sound of his voice, determined as waves crashing on the shore, strong as the tide in the moonlight, I’m forced to agree that at least I’m getting better at pleasing myself.

“You might be right,” I type.

“I know I’m right. When you read me back, sometimes you laugh out loud. I hear that you know.”

“And sometimes I want to cry …”

“But those are happy tears. I see them. I’m not here to make you sad.” He pauses. “Have I ever made you sad?”

Because I detect worry in his tone, I hasten to assure him, “Of all the people I’ve ever known, Nick, you must be the only one who has never made me sad.”

“See–” His stride lengthens to a strut, as if he’s preparing for a show. He stops look at the dark sky outside. “And writer?”

“What?”

“You kick ass.”

How about you? Do your characters pace outside your words? Do they approve of what you’re writing about them?

IWSG: My Hook Needs a Tune-Up

 I did it! I’m in the final lap of revision number two of this blasted novel and am finally seeing some pieces fall nicely into place. My scenes are clicking right along, my characters are cooperating, and my critiques are complimentary. That’s great, right?

Wrong! I worry about every little thing, and that’s why I belong to one of the most prestigious writing outfits on the world-wide web, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group hosted by the fabulous Alex J. Cavanaugh. We hobnob on the first Wednesday of every month when we give each other big virtual group hug. If you want to join us, cruise on over to Alex’s blog hop on this here linky.

So what’s my hangup this month?

I’ve hit roadblock when I try to revise this all-important  opening scene.

They call it a hook. Those crucial five hundred, or three hundred, or even two hundred and fifty words, are supposed to hook my readers so firmly that their fingers are twitching to grab their credit cards and buy this fine story. These words need to impress an agent so much that she sends a corporate jet to pick up this manuscript before anybody else gets their hands on it.

Instead, I have this.

Would you want to take a ride in this beater? Would you trust it to get you to your final destination all in one piece, without making pit stops for tire changes and stopping to fill up the radiator?

I don’t think so!

But this is how the first few hundred words of my novel feel to me. All my clumsiness is on display for the world to see: clunky sentences, odd bits of dialogue, passive voice, awkward description, even an insidious info dump or two.

In contrast, consider the clean cool lines of an opening like this:

‘It was a pleasure to burn.’ ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Or check out the classic invitation to enter the world of Captain Ahab and his quest to confront the great white whale:

‘Call me Ishmael’ ~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick

How about the sheer fuel-injected horsepower of:

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.’  ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Okay, so I’m not writing the next classic here, but I would rather the beginning of my novel be a sports car, sleek, trim and whizzing past like a bat out of hell. I want my readers to get behind the wheel and grab that stick, and not stop until they get to the end, wheezing and panting for more.

Something like the sinister invitation of:

‘“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

“Do the dead frighten you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.’  ~ George R.R. Martin,  A Game of Thrones

Or how about something more straightforward, but also a best-seller:

‘When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress.’ ~ Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games 

The thing is, once you get into my jalopy, I think the novel picks up nicely. The engine runs smoothly; the seats are comfy, and it’s got a rockin’ stereo with a CD player.  I just seem to have trouble backing it out of the driveway and into the street.

I need my words to grab my readers by the throat and show them how great the rest of the story is going to be, and I have no idea how to fix this. Have I started in the wrong place? Do I need to polish my sentences? Is it bad to start a novel with dialogue? With the weather? With internal monologue? Or am I just making this all up to avoid getting on with the critiquing phase?

Where do I turn to get this novel opening a tune-up?

So, insecure and secure writers alike, I ask you, how might I tackle this revision debacle? How might I trade this clunker in for a modern, fuel-efficient, speedster?