Scrivener vs. The Inner Critic

And you thought you were rid of me for the whole month!
No such luck. Besides, I have something kinda cool to share.
I’ve been struggling with keeping track of multiple projects. It seems I like to jump around from project to project, a characteristic of the Muse I’ve come to love and accept. This does however lead to a very convoluted to-do list, especially because every time I change course I have to rearrange the list. Not only is it hard to measure progress spread across so many places, but it is also difficult to keep track of where I left off with each project. Worst of all, every time I take the top item off the list to replace it with something else my self-esteem takes a hit.
And my Inner Critic screams, “Failure!”
Just for fun, I opened a Scrivener document on my To-Do file and tried to list every single thing I want to work on in the next year or so: All the stories I want to write, the stories I want to revise, the works in progress, the chapters I want to post for critique, the books I want to read (and I like switch off between several at once; doesn’t everyone do that?) and even little projects like fixing up Ye Olde Blogge. Everything.Sigurd Decroos @ Stock.xchng
The list was twenty-one items long.
As I stared at it, I was struck by an idea.
How about treating each project as its own Scrivener document, turning it into an index card and keeping track of progress inside the document? And then how about color coding each one according to project?
The Muse loves colors!
CategoriesI decided blue would be good for The Tempest’s Serenade (my revised novel), yellow for The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles, red for my other first draft stories, purple for writing craft stuff, orange for reading.
It didn’t take long before I had a pretty cork board with everything I want to do spread out in neat color-coded rows. I’ve sorted them into the order I want to work on things, starting at the top left corner. First: Finish posting chapters of The Tempest’s Serenade at Critique Circle. After that: Finish the first draft of The Way of Wolves.
I can keep track of where I’m at on the document part of the card and I can add images or links there as well. Making a new project is easy too. When I decided that I really don’t want to work on something as epic as the third book of my trilogy for NaNoWriMo, and work on a lighthearted romantic comedy called Karma’s Dragon set in the real world instead, I just make a new card and slide it into the queue in the order I want to do it.
No failure here. Just a rearrangement of priorities.Scrivener Index Cards
How about you? How do you appease the Inner Critic? And do you read one book at a time, or switch off between several?

Colored hearts image courtesy of Sigurd Decroos @ Stock.xchng

IWSG: Intervention

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, I now have an excuse to expound upon my self-doubt without fear of reprisals! If you’d like to join us at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, click on this linky, and prepare to meet some of the nicest writers on the web. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

Today, I’m going to share something I’m worried I will never overcome. It’s this: I’m a horrible plotter, and even my characters are getting tired of my haphazard plotting. So fed up …well, how about I show you how fed up they are? Here’s how it went down …

***

Image courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez @ stock.xchng

My footsteps echo in the front hall of the Muse’s palace. “Muse?” I call. “You in here?”

“Over here.” His voice resounds on the stone walls. He’s in the library. Of course.

As I near the room, I hear whispered conversations, snatches of phrases like, “… tears of stars … walk in dreams … rock god …”

Then a loud ‘shhh.’

“What’s going on?” I ask as I enter. The lights come on.

Omigosh. The room is full of people I know, although I’ve never met them in real life. These are the people in my stories. Nick Moore from The Tempest’s Serenade stands near the front of the group, his arms crossed over his chest, watching my reaction with concern. On the opposite side of the group towers Teragus Swansong from The Whole of the Moon. The implacable steadiness of his golden eyes makes me shudder.

“Nick?” I ask, because he’s still the one I talk to most. “What’s going on?”

Image courtesy of 'miamiamia' @ stock.xchngNick takes a deep breath. The rest of the crowd has gone back to conversing amongst themselves. Rafael from Lost Wax, with Abigale wrapped in his arms, is exchanging Italian phrases with Noelle, the lithe ballet dancer from Constants, while Aiden, the numbers-addicted protagonist of the same story is immersed in conversation with Griffin of March, the gem collector and heir to the crown from Bridge of Light. Dr. Andria Morgan from my latest story–which doesn’t even have a proper title yet– looks forlorn as she stands off to the side. Despite the ill-fitting black Regulation uniform disguising her tiny frame, she has managed to attract the roving eye of Stuart Livingston.

“Who’s the new chick?” Stuart, Nick’s sidekick from Tempest’s Serenade, asks me.

Andria, with her as-yet-uncolored-eyes narrowed, faces him and answers, “I’m from her latest project— one that actually has a plot and an ending, I might add.”

“That’s what our Writer told me too when she started,” Rigel Mondryan from A Crown of Thorns sneers. “Just wait until she gets to the middle section. You’ll see. It’ll all fall apart just like it always does.”

Andria gives me a furtive look.“Hey, that can’t be true, our Writer has an outline this time—”

“Silence!” bellows Lord Swansong. He steps in front of the melee, his arms stretched wide. His son-in-law Rigel continues to bicker with Griffin of March until they come to some sort of agreement and break out in guffaws.

I spot the Muse sitting on a bookshelf high above the fray and hope he knew what he was doing when he put this gathering together. This many alpha males in one room can only lead to trouble.

Nick nods in acknowledgment as Teragus Swansong begins. “Writer, (because, to avoid confusion, all my characters simply call me Writer.) We’re here to stage an intervention.”Image courtesy of 'deafstar' @ stock.xchng

“An intervention?” I stammer. “For what? The hardest drug I do is coffee.”

I hear Stuart Livingston snicker. He jumps as his girlfriend elbows him in the gut.

Lord Swansong continues, “It has come to our attention that you are seriously deficient in the plotting department. We fear that you will never tell our stories properly.”

“I’m trying, really I am,” I reply. “I’m taking a revision course. I write every day. I read blogs.”

Rigel disentangles himself from his wife Cerule’s arms and stands. He’s wearing his crown, so I know I need to be careful what I say or he’ll be inside my head reading all my wicked thoughts. “Nick over there—” Rigel indicates the dark-haired, steely eyed protagonist of Tempest’s—  “Tells me you’ve been agonizing over his story for years now. Don’t you think it’s time you figure out how to get it right and get on with it?”

“I would if I could, but a novel is so big, it’s hard to keep track of everything. I’m doing my best. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a novelist— ”

Nick holds up his hand to stop Rigel from perturbing me any further. “I think she gets the point.”

Cerule Swansong, silent up to now, stands. She smiles at me. With her silver blonde hair and her graceful yet powerful motions, I can see why Rigel fell in love with her. “We only want to help you, Writer. It’s not just about us. It’s about you. We want to see you successful, perhaps even published.”

“That’s what everyone tells me.” I sink onto the chair that Nick has pulled next to me. “I just don’t know how to stop writing and plan something. You guys just spill out onto the page and I write and write and can’t stop–”

“Which is why we’re staging this intervention.” Libra Duvall, Nick’s mysterious Muse, has left her window seat to stand next to him. “We want to be read, Writer,” she says as Nick absent-mindedly strokes her long blonde hair. “It’s why we exist. But your stories need to make sense.”

Nick continues, “We have some ideas for you. To get you back on track.”

I scan the faces before me. Teragus, Rigel, Cerule, Stuart, Libra, Nick and all the rest stare back at me expectantly. Their fate lies in my hands. I feel so helpless.

41GtFMuVhWL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_“I don’t want to let you down,” I say. “But the only book about writing I’ve read is No Plot, No Problem.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered,” Nick says. “We picked out a few craft books for you.”

Aiden chimes in and stands, holding a stack of paperback books. “Here are a few to get you started. Writing the Breakout Novel , Story Engineering,” He winks. “A personal favorite.”

“Well, you’re the numbers guy, after all,” I agree.41zE6Pp83tL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

“There’s more though,” Cerule says. “Techniques of the Selling Writer, Save the Cat.

41KYQst9aIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Abigale chimes in, “You’re going to love Bird by Bird!”

“And this one,” Rigel offers, “The Art of War for Writers. And Nail Your Novel. You loved Memories of My Future Life so I’m certain you’ll appreciate Roz Morris’s advice.

I hold the books in my hands, quite a stack, and see the concerned looks on their faces. “Wow, you guys are the best. I really hope I don’t let you down. Wish me luck.”

***

So, writers, any other suggestions to help me with my plotting woes? What’s your favorite writing craft book?

Images: rainbow of books courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez, talk bubbles courtesy of ‘miamiamia’, chairs courtesy of ‘deafstar’, all @ 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

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

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?

NaNoWriMo or Bust?

This is a first for me, so I thought I’d share this.

I like to set up deadlines and goals in my writing to give myself an idea of when I might finish a particular stage of a project. These goals can be word counts, (500 words a day on the work-in-progress, 50k words in a month) or number of scenes planned, or pages and scenes of revision.  The thing is, this being my first revision ever, it has been really hard to set goals because I have no idea how long things take. I’m tearing my story into scenes, reordering them, keeping old ones, writing new ones, all while doing research and critiques. I’ve had some scenes take me almost a week to get through after I wrote and rewrote them several times until I finally had them close to where I wanted them.

In other words, it’s hard to know when I’ll arrive if I don’t know how fast I’m going.

But now that I am more than halfway through this revision pass I had decided that 15k words per month was a realistic goal. With this in mind, my goal for September 30 was to get to 85k words edited, then by October 31 reach 100k, and by November 30 finish all 115k. I even gave up on NaNoWriMo so that I could finish this pass of my revision.

Well, guess what?

Today I crossed the 85k mark! Check your calendars, folks. It’s September 12!

So, now what? I guess I can reconfigure the goals, but in some ways that doesn’t feel like much of an incentive. I could take a few days off, but I love working on this, so that’s not much of a reward either.

I’ve settled on shooting for 90k by the end of September. And getting eight hours of sleep once in a while.

After that? Not sure, maybe, just maybe … NaNoWriMo?

How about you? Do you set intermediate goals for your writing? How do you reward yourself for achieving them?