IWSG: That Whooshing Sound

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for the insecure writers of the world-wide web to get together and commiserate via the wonderful Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you’d like to join us, click the linky, where you’ll find the Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and some of the nicest writers on the web.

Let’s talk about deadlines. I’m sure everyone has read this little gem:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by. Douglas Adams

Kriss Szkurlatowski @ stock.xchngI can appreciate a solid deadline too. I deal with them all the time at my day job because in the lab our customers like their results delivered on time, often ASAP–if not sooner. I sometimes joke and ask them if they might prefer their results before the samples actually arrive in the lab! Deadlines met mean money made though, so I rarely fail to turn my workload around on time.

I’m the same way with my personal writing deadlines. If NaNoWriMo challenges me to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, I churn out at least a hundred thousand. If I resolve to free write seven hundred and fifty words every morning, I write my words no matter what, even if I can’t get to them until eleven thirty at night. If a short story contest ends on March 30, I hit send on March 29 to make sure the story is received in plenty of time. When I resolved to finish the How to Revise Your Novel course sometime in June, I finished it on May 26. If I sign up to post on the first Wednesday of every month about my insecurities, I start writing my post weeks ahead of time and haven’t missed a post. (Not yet anyway!)

I used to think deadlines were no problem for me. Then I tried to write and, more importantly, revise this book. For the life of me, I can’t seem to set a deadline to finish it. (For those of you who are counting, this is the draft I finished in September of 2009.)

I tell myself that it’s because I’ve never written books before, so I don’t know how long it will take to produce one that’s actually good. Besides, how can I set a deadline to finish my book if I keep running into potholes in the writing of it? It’s not as if my book is a batch of cookies, where all I’d have to do is look inside the oven and pull them out when they’re brown around the edges.Dominic Morel @ Stock.xchng

How will I know when my book is done?

When the critiques all come back glowing? When I’m finally able to summarize my story in a snappy query letter? Will angels sing and stars float over my head announcing that I have finally created the masterpiece I am hoping for?

Or will I hear a faint but rapidly approaching whooshing sound as a deadline hurtles towards me?

I don’t know. But I think I need to figure it out if I ever want writing stories to turn into a paying gig.

So I’m turning to the insecure writers–and the secure ones as well. What kind of signs do you look for to decide if the book is well and truly finished? Or do you simply set a deadline, and stick to it no matter what?

Microscope image courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski, cookies image courtesy of Dominic Morel, both @ Stock.xchng

1967

Hi there. I haven’t forgotten about ye olde blogge, it’s just that I’m writing. A lot!

To prove it, here’s some of what’s been going on in the land of revision, where I converse early and often with the story’s main character, Nick Moore. In fact, something eerie and magical happened the other day while I was writing an outline and I was excited to tell him all about it …

“Something kind of cool happened last night,” I type, hoping Nick isn’t too far away to hear me.

Image courtesy of Cema Graphics @ stock.xchngHe stumbles out of the bathroom, sleepy-eyed and unshaven. “It’s early,” he says.

“These are morning words– they’re supposed to be early. And besides, it’s Saturday. This isn’t as early as I usually get up.”

He cracks his knuckles and yawns. “Yeah, I suppose, but still …”

“I’m going to look up knuckle cracking. If it’s bad for you, you’re going to have to stop,” I type.

He grins. “Make me.”

I’m beginning to have misgivings about making him more bad@ss. So far, though, I think I can manage him. “I was going to tell you the cool thing that happened last night.”

“I’m listening.” Nick leans against the door frame, stretching his arms in front of him with his fingers entwined. “But you’re taking an awfully long time to get to the point.”

“I know, but this is morning words, and the point, I think, is to get a lot of words in a short period of time. Besides this will make me laugh when I read it over later.”

“Well, I think you’ve got that down pat then.” He raises his upper lip in a smirk. “But you had a point?” He’s done stretching and is fiddling with the tie on his sweatpants. Libra is right. He never stands still.

“Yeah. I was working on my Editor Outline last night.”

Nick holds up his hand, palm towards me. “Wait. Isn’t that part of Lesson Eleven of How to Think Sideways? And aren’t you on Lesson Twenty-One of How to Revise Your Novel?”

“Yeah, but remember our story is full of holes …”

He grins again and chuckles. “Did you ever think I might be messing up your story just so I can stick around? To keep you from moving on to other stories?”

“Yeah, I’ve worried about losing you. But the thing is, as a writer, I can conjure you up long after the story is over. It’s like my own personal fan fiction. I will finish this course though, even if I keep getting sidetracked.”

“Speaking of sidetracked …” He glances out the window and I notice the hyacinths have blossomed in the yard. Image courtesy of Claudia Meyer @ stock.xchng“Pretty,” he observes.

“And I’m in here with you. Working on an Editor Outline because I think it’s fun. Crazy, I know. ”

“So, how’s that going?”

“Splendidly, actually,” I write as my adverb alert spikes into the red. “I’m starting to see exactly where the holes in my story are. Do you want me to tell you about them?”

“Not particularly, but I have a feeling I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“No, you don’t, but I’m going to tell you about the cool thing first. I was tired last night—“

“You don’t say?” He rolls his eyes and finds a spot on the bed, then pulls his feet up and leans against the wall with his head resting against his hands.

“Could you stop interrupting me?”

“Sure, but could you get to the point?”

“I will. I was tired so I stopped where you and Libby are in the apartment and you’re about to take her to the Hacienda.”

Nick raises his eyebrows. “Why’d you stop there? That was the good part, I finally get to kiss her.” His eyes turn dreamy.

“I told you. I was tired.”

“Okay, I suppose.”

“But anyway, as I was closing Scrivener I glanced at the word count, and noticed that I had exactly 1,967 words.”Screenshot 1967 words

“So?” Nick eyebrows rise again.

“Well, let me read you the first sentences of my outline. They’re about you and Milo:

They called it the Summer of Love. 

In 1967, Nick Moore packed up his guitar and joined his buddy Milo Young on a trek to the west coast …

“Okay, that is cool,” he agrees.

“Sometimes, Nick, it feels as if a ghost is watching over my shoulder. A good ghost, but still something bigger than I am, something that speaks through my fingers and guides me to what needs to be written.”

He cracks his knuckles again. Suddenly I know why. “It’s because you don’t smoke anymore, isn’t it?”

“What?” It’s when he looks innocent that I love him most. 

“Cracking your knuckles. You always need to be inflicting pain upon yourself, whether you’re ingesting nicotine and tar into your lungs, or cracking the bones in your precious hands.”

He looks stricken and I feel wistful because I love that word and have decided I simply must use it in the next thing I write. “What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Nothing. It’s just that you know me so well, it scares me sometimes.”

Silly man. It’s because I wrote you.

Have you ever had weird coincidences happen in your writing? Do you have a hard time letting go of your characters?

And, is cracking your knuckles really bad for your hands?

Alarm clock courtesy of Cema Graphics, hyacinths courtesy of Claudia Meyer, both @ stock.xchng

Pardon the Tumbleweeds

Image courtesy Chris Dodutch @ BigStock.comDon’t mind me, I’ll just clear away these tumbleweeds that are blowing over the scenic route. I’m still writing, but it seems I took on too much again and left the blog to gather dust for a while.

What is it this time, you ask?

I’m writing a short story! Well, actually it’s done now and awaiting revision.

Usually not a big deal, as sometimes short stories ambush me and I bash them out in one big two thousand word rush to get them out of my head and onto the page. But in this case I wanted to try to get it right.

Holly Lisle, along with the forum moderators at the revision course I’m currently plodding through is putting together an anthology of stories by her students. Not only that, but there are prizes! Anyone who has taken a Holly Lisle course, from the Plot Clinic (short courses) to the How To Revise Your Novel course is eligible, so if you’re in that category I’m looking at you! The stories must be less than 2500 words long and the anthology even has a theme: Adventures in Creativity.

The thing is, I don’t really know how to write a short story. I write really, really long ones …

Image courtesy of ilker @ Stock.xchngSo I took the same approach I always do and threw up my hands and just started writing. I wrote three hundred words setting the scene for my idea, which was: What if a mysterious character who goes by the name of Dr. M were able to dispense inspiration and ideas, and what if he made house calls? I knew that I was saving what ‘M’ stands for until the very end of the story. I’ll give you a clue though: It’s very hard to pronounce.

I set up the main character and what she is facing, but did it in the form of a narrative. Then I stopped writing, and waited, turning the idea over in my head for a day, then sat down to write again. The idea grew.

A cat wandered onto the set. The name of the cat became an important turning point in the story.

I wrote four hundred more words and put the story away.

Dr. M changed from a man to a woman. She carried a suitcase full of feathers and a metal box marked Tea.Image courtesy of gyvulius @ stock.xchn

Four hundred words later, my main character was a costume designer at a fancy garden party.

Her husband arrived.

I did this for a few days in a row and by the time I was at fifteen hundred words, my ending came into focus. Four hundred more words and I summarized the rest of the story in eight or so sentences. I wanted to pace myself but from there a quick seven hundred fifty word session and I was done!

The coolest thing had to be looking down at my Scrivener word count and seeing that my story had skidded to a halt at 2460 words, forty words below the upper limit of 2500 words! Since the entries are paid in proportion to word count, and being of the wordy persuasion, I had decided to push that envelope as far as I could.

The beginning doesn’t quite match the end anymore, but that’s what revision is for and fortunately, I know a bit about how to do that. I have until March 30 to get that in. Wish me luck!

How do you approach writing a short story? Do your beginnings match your endings?

And, did I give too much of my story away?

Images courtesy Chris DoDutch @ BigStock.com, ilker  and ‘gyvulius’ @ Stock.xchng

So Obvious in Hindsight

Me again, talking about my revision. This is so big, I just have to share.

I was not expecting much today, because I’m managing a minor Muse meltdown. He is going all Monastery on me, shaved his head and took a vow of silence. He refuses to eat anything but broth, has his wings hanging on a hook next to him in the cellar … and writes only one word at a time on a slate with a piece of chalk.Little black chalkboard, isolated

I know—what a melodramatic pain in the butt. But, he’s worth it.

Only ten minutes into my revision session, (I’ve slowed down to two chapters a night to preserve the Muse’s sanity. The rest of the night will be devoted to downloading new music, watching Jimi Hendrix videos and looking up cool sixties quotes) I asked the HTRYN lesson 19 question: What is the credible problem in this scene?

Let’s just say, the answer knocked my socks off. Turns out, some of my characters have something in common that I didn’t see before. They are living on borrowed time, just like my main character. You’d have to read it to see. But Wow. The best revelations usually seem so obvious in hindsight.

My notes look something like this:Roman Malyshev/Big Stock

BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG

Credible problem: Nick is putting together the pieces of his strange waking dreams.

… (Spoilers ahead, sorry) …

Is this a major Eureka? But I just started writing tonight! What’s next, complete writing nirvana?!

BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG

I love revision.

How do you manage your Muse? What is your writing nirvana? Roman Malyshev/Big Stock

Images courtesy of Marinic Borislav and Roman Malyshev @ BigStock.com

Making It Sing

Image courtesy of 'Kimberlee Kessler Design'So, you ask, how is that novel coming along?

I kinda figured my novel-writing journey wouldn’t be an expressway, but sometimes it feels like I’m on a bus headed to the wrong side of town.

I always thought writing a novel would be like wandering from the Shire to Rivendell, but mine often feels like it has ended up on top of Mt. Doom.

And it seems that most writers’ story-writing sewer pipe leads straight to the street, but mine stops in the garden, then shimmies under the driveway and even takes a turn or two around some tree roots.

What am I trying to say with all these awkward metaphors?

Writing my first book is taking a really long time. How long?

Okay, I’ll come clean.Image courtesy of Barry Meyer @ stock.xchng

The first draft- and I use the term ‘draft’ loosely here, being the first story I ever wrote, long, short, or otherwise- was completed in September of 2009.

Yes, you read that right.

Two Thousand and Nine.

Why is it taking so long to share this story with the world?

Revision, my friend, revision …

Here is a picture of where I’m at with it:Lesson 18-Chapter 35

Chapter Thirty-Five, you say. What’s the problem? That’s pretty far along in a forty-three chapter novel, isn’t it?

Not really.

I started this pass of my revision (line editing for usage, self-indulgence, and commas) near the end of the story because I couldn’t stand to look at Chapter One anymore! I’m seriously starting to wonder if I will ever finish this story.

This is not my inner editor talking here. This is the voice of reason. I look at my words and I know they are not ready. Some of them are, and that’s how I know that I’m being realistic. I think I’m close, but there are quite a few sections that need some more work.

It probably doesn’t help that I keep scampering off to write other novel first drafts, five in all (finished) since I started Image courtesy of Irina Tischenko @ Big Stockrevision on The Tempest’s Serenade. I like to stretch my storytelling wings once in a while and it feels so good!

I’m here to announce that I’ve made a decision about my direction. After the second pass of block revision, (I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a third) I’m going to try to sprint— all right mosey, this is the scenic route after all— to the end of the How To Revise Your Novel course, whether or not the final result ends up being a publishable draft.

I’m on Lesson Eighteen of Twenty-Two. At the rate I work, it is conceivable that I could get through them all by summer. Maybe even in time for the Create Space offer for NaNoWriMo winners?

Someday, perhaps The Tempest’s Serenade will take the world by storm … but for now, I want to do my very best to make it sing.

How long do you think it should it take to write a novel? And what do you do to stretch your wings?Image courtesy Kate Childers @ stock.xchng

Images courtesy of ‘Kimberlee Kessler Design’, Kate Childers and Barry Meyer @ stock.xchng, and Irina Tischenko @ Big Stock

IWSG: My Blogging Blooper Reel

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome to 2013, Insecure Writers! If you’re not already part of the Insecure Writer movement that is—thanks to the inimitable Alex J. Cavanaugh— taking the Internet by storm, click this linky to add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web. The first Wednesday of each month is the day we post about our trials and traumas, supporting each other as we overcome our writing troubles.

A new year is always an opportunity to look back upon what was and what could have been. In my case, a lot of ‘could have been’ never gets past the gatekeeper of, “Would anybody really want to read this crap stuff?!” But then sometimes, I think maybe I should have given it a shot. Hence, fellow Insecure Writers, I present for your amusement: A glimpse of the posts that didn’t make the cut for the year 2012: My Blogging Blooper Reel

Take for instance the unfinished post: Building the Perfect Hero

He’s handsome, of course, but with scars.'Lucretious'

Okay, but describe handsome. Handsome starts with the eyes, deep-set, probing, intelligent, thoughtful. Not sharp, unkind, or darting about the room while I’m talking, but looking directly into mine without fear, with curiosity. They can be any color. Blue is overdone, but green will work, and in my hero’s case they’re brown with auburn highlights …

Another post was about how a trip to the E.R. ended up nudging the Muse to whisper the name of a main character in The Whole of the Moon. The post was tentatively titled Stranger than Fiction.

I had asked the Muse a week ago but had given up on getting an answer. The heroine’s father was in need of a name. And since he is a god, it needs to be a good one. I can see what he looks like, bushy white eyebrows, aquiline nose, and a stern, disapproving set to his mouth, weathered skin framed by a cloud of white hair. His frame is aging, but every bit as powerful as it was in his youth. A name worthy of such a man would not be an easy assignment.

Then, as the darkness of sleep crept upon me, I heard a name whispered inside my head.

Teragus Swansong.

I had a mind to post a character sketch for Danny DeVries- a minor character in The Tempest’s Serenade:

Christy ThompsonHi Danny. Got a minute? I know you’re busy tonight, but if you could just…okay, I’ll sit back with my margarita and speculate. Thanks for the drink, by the way. I know they are mostly for the tourists so I really appreciate you sending one my way even though I’m a regular.

So, I’m trying to get what you look like onto my page.

What? You hate your looks? Who doesn’t. Getting older stinks, especially in self-conscious, self-absorbed SoCal. There are a lot of nice people in Los Angeles though, you just have to be open to them …

There was a short post about a pivotal scene that came to me on a rainy afternoon: Caught in the Rain

A sudden shower, a dusty gem of a song, and a burst of inspiration written on the back of an airline ticket was all it took to give my story another nudge in the direction of the book I set out to write.

My mind’s eye saw a newspaper article announcing the tragic death of an emerging musician by drug overdose tacked on a bulletin board. Beside it were lyrics and some chord charts hastily Billy Alexanderscribbled in dark pencil.

My female lead, insisting, “Because I’m a ghost” when I am desperately trying to keep her from disappearing off the page. She has unfinished business she left behind. She haunts him.

I had some interviews with Rigel, the protagonist of Book Two of The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles:

He gets up early, like me, before the rest of the world wakes up. It gives him time to think, time to let his defenses down. I’m not even sure if I should bother him.

“You again.” He tries to appear angry, but I can tell that he is glad to see me.

“Just a few more visits. I have some things on my mind.”

“Okay, I suppose so,” he says, but I know that the word ‘okay’ might not even fit into my fantasy world, even though it is set in our world.

“Can you tell me more about the girl you loved?” I ask him.

“You want to know her name, don’t you?”

“I do.”

I had an interview with the love interest in The Tempest’s Serenade all cued up, before I backed out. It went something like this:

Chrissi Nerantzi“Libra?” I ask.

I try to be calm and soothing. She’s a nervous girl, and very shy. She looks around the room the way my cat would, always prepared with an escape route. I don’t describe her blue eyes, but choose instead the fragile bones beneath her cheeks. Her lips part in a tremulous smile.

“You don’t usually ask for me,” she says. “It’s always Nick.”

“Does that bother you?”

“A little.”

Nick was angry with me once:

“You know why it is taking so long on this revision, don’t you?”

I sigh, and keep typing. I know what is coming without even thinking about it too much. “You were meant for this,” he says, “Why do you always try to deny it?”

“I can’t bring myself to let it go.”

“You are hiding. Why?” His eyes are gentle, his anger gone. “Why?” he reiterates.

“Said bookism,” I accuse him weakly. Why is he beating on me, when I am so tired?

And then, I was going to post the scene when Nick got his guitar at twelve years old: Nick and the Black Strat

Image courtesy of 'RockNRollP' @ stock.xchngA long-haired dude saunters up to the two of them and addresses Nick’s father. “What can I do you for?”

His father looks him over, and tries not to judge him. The guy can probably play the pants off Eddie Van Halen. Erik used to listen to rock music himself, but now music makes it hard for him to think.

“It’s for my son.”

The long-haired dude looks down at Nick, who can’t disguise his fervent admiration for anyone who plays the instrument he loves so much.

Nick looks up at him and smiles. “Can you play Van Halen?”

The dude grins and rolls up the sleeves of his flannel shirt to reveal tattoos up his elbows. “‘Course I can play Eddie, and I can play Jimi and …Satriani. ” The young man plucks a guitar from the upper row, bright red with black hardware. Nick grins in anticipation, but it is all Erik could do to keep himself from rolling his eyes.

Most recently, there was the post about my story having a shape:

Alaa HamedSometimes writers talk about writing with intention. For me, it is the unintended, those moments where I discover what my subconscious is weaving into my words, that gives me a glimpse of my soul.

One of my favorite aspects of drafting a novel at the accelerated pace of NaNoWriMo is when a pattern begins to emerge in the tapestry of my story. Halfway through The Whole of the Moon I was struck by a theme that keeps popping up. My story has a shape. That shape is a circle …

There are more, but that’s enough for today, don’t you think?

How about you, Insecure Writers? Do you ever toss posts back into the bin because it’s just too scary to put them up there? Do you have a blogging blooper reel?

Images courtesy of Antony Ruggiero, Chrissi Nerantzi, ‘Lucretious’, ‘RockNRollP’, Billy Alexander, and Alaa Hamed, Christy Thompson @ stock.xchng

Permission To Be Brave

For the first day of National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo, I have a special treat today. Fellow coffee aficionado, blogger, and How To Revise Your Novel classmate Anushka Dhanapala is joining us today all the way from Melbourne, Australia with a few words of encouragement about how it’s okay to write something … um … less than stellar in pursuit of a finished story.

Take it away, Anushka!

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong” –  Joseph Chilton Pearce

Growing up as a child I was terrified of many things. Monsters, zombies, soggy jeans, the devil living in my closet, people who never blink, and goldfish (don’t ask). Little did I know then a far more terrible thing would come to haunt me.

The first draft of anything is a scary beast, especially when you come face-to-face with that mirror of insecurity – the blank page. Every imperfection you have about yourself, including that ginormous zit that arrives three seconds before a first date, is reflected back at you in all its glory.

It mocks you. It laughs. It gossips about you with the other blank pages. You on the other hand now contemplate having your coffee Irish styled just to get through, or better still, begin cleaning the house. Doing the laundry is just riveting isn’t it?

There have been many times I would rather have faced a zombie apocalypse, even a plague of hairy black spiders than face that page. Yes, the probability of a premature death would be high, after all I am one of the most uncoordinated people on the planet, but the laughable attempt of wielding a sword and possibly a stiletto is far more bearable than staring into a blank page. You know, the one I am meant to miraculously transform into gleaming prose? In my head I must also accomplish that feat in one go. Talk about unnecessary pressure.

That blank page knows everything, my thoughts, the insecurities that reside within me and probably the name of my first crush. What I hate about it the most is that it knows I suck.

The. Blank. Page. Knows. Everything. 

My story sucks…

I haven’t planned enough.

My characters aren’t engaging.

I don’t know what comes next.

I have no arcs.

My beginning is rubbish.

I don’t know my ending.

Everyone is going to laugh at it, including that man and his pet llama that died three centuries ago. (Did I mention the llama had offspring? Just in case you were wondering they would be laughing too.)

However there is something beautiful about that blank page. It gives you the opportunity to fall royally flat on your face.  The first draft after all is meant to be the worst version of the story you have written. In fact, it cannot possibly get any more dreadful – the greatest blessing.

It’s meant to be disjointed and rubbish with bits – normally important bits – like say, conflict, missing from it. Characters disappear, the middle sags, storylines flicker and die, random subplots of no importance make an entrance, dialogue is awkward and so bad you wish you could blame the writing on the cat (or the man with the llama)… the list goes on and on. From my experience, if you have encountered all of these problems you are doing something right. You have conquered the page and put something down. This is where the whole bravery thing comes in.

By allowing yourself to be brave you give yourself permission to make mistakes. Letting yourself submerge completely into a cave of literary abandon truly is a wonderful thing. You should never deny yourself from experiencing that.

The first draft is your precious gift to yourself. I believe a lot of writers, between procrastinating  and not having the courage to put down any words at all, forget this sometimes, including myself, and I love getting into the first draft. But the fear of failure will always be there if I let it.

My first drafts are broken, underwritten and more often than not slapped together with a lazy ending. They are in dire need of CPR and intensive surgery, but that’s the beauty of revision. It brings everything you have put down to life.

So be brave. Write badly. Write well.

Put something down.

Writing is a relentless rollercoaster of emotions and as you face each new blank page remember this.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar

Good luck to all of you doing NaNoWriMo, I’ll be cheering right alongside of you. You can find me under findingmycreature where I will be wrestling with the blank pages and winning. Well, until I see that zit. To the rest of you tackling your story, no matter what stage you are at, be brave and I’ll be cheering wildly for you too as I furiously write through my first draft in the hopes of uncovering those unexpected gems.

Have you discovered any beautiful first draft gems?

Love and light,

Anushka xx

Anushka Dhanapala blogs at Finding My Creature where she shares beautiful vistas and encouraging words about her own writing journey.

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?