Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blog Chain - The F-Word

No! It's not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. Kat picked the topic this round and I must say, pretty appropriate as we near Halloween. She asked the question:

What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens or gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?

I think that this topic is a nice chaser to the last chain regarding physical and emotional journeys. In my first book, Aura, my MC battles her internal fear of losing control. She doesn't like the idea of not being in charge, and her developing abilities send her tightly woven life into a tailspin. I think that I used my own fears as a road map for this character. If you had a week I could list maybe half of the things that freak me out, but one of my major fears is change. I DO NOT like change. My personal fear of change holds me back, it keeps me from taking chances and at times keeps me from things that would make me happy or make my life a little easier. It's the fear of the unknown, and I like to KNOW what's going to happen. So did my MC. Her fear of change led to a strangle-hold of control and through the course of the story, she had to face her fear and learn to let go.

Now, in my new book, I decided to take a new approach and made my MC a fearless, ass-kicking tough girl. Fear isn't really a word in her vocabulary. Dark alleys, scary creatures, swords and fist fights are her cup of tea. And not even a big, nasty, drooling creature out for her blood could make her run the other way. Did I make her completely fearless? Of course not. This girl was afraid of love. I made her nice and damaged, emotionally closed off, and through the course of the story, the fear she had to face was her fear of being loved and opening her heart. The idea of being fearless on the outside and a puddle of vulnerable goo on the inside is very appealing to me. ;)

Fear is irrational and unyielding and I know a lot about fear. I'm afraid to fly. I almost drove home from the Salt Lake Airport once after a particularly dicey landing. I'm terrified of spiders (any size). And don't even get me started about the fear I feel when my daughter drives home from college or when my son drives his four-wheeler. I'm afraid of failure as well as success (remember, I hate change) and I'm the most afraid of letting the people I care about down. I'm afraid that my writing sucks and I'm wasting my time, and yes, I'll say it, I'm afraid that one day and agent will actually tell me that they want to represent me (again, that whole change thing).

I like to write about my characters overcoming their fears because it's great therapy. Through my writing, I can work on addressing my own insecurities and through my characters and my words I shed a little fear every day. I figure if I keep it up, I'll be a tough-as-nails, ass kicking heroine in no time!
Be sure to check out Michelle's post before mine, and Sandra's tomorrow to find out what freaks them out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo and Peer Pressure

Just when I thought my world was slowing down enough for me to focus on being a serious blogger (quit laughing Suzanne!) I was sucked into NaNo. Though I succumed to the peer pressure, I couldn't be more grateful. I am blessed to have a friend who pushes--in a good way--and she gave me the shove that I needed.

When I wrapped up the novel that I currently have out on submission I felt sated. Confident even. I had fallen in love with this project and was proud of my growth as a writer. The response to my queries was proof that I was becoming something more than I was but with that bliss came something altogether more frightening.

I think I'd lost some of my drive. Think of finishing your favorite meal. You've cleaned your plate, licked it even. You follow it up with the perfect dessert. You're full. Are you thinking about eating again any time soon? No way. That's how my project made me feel. Full. Content. It was literary triptophan for my soul. In my contentment, the idea of pursuing a new project soured on my pallet. I didn't have the fire to dive right back in. Like tomorrow's dinner recipe, a new story idea failed to spark.

Days became weeks and weeks, months. "I'm waiting to hear back on my subs," I told myself. "I have a sequel planned. I'll work on that when the time's right." Not until recently did the absence of my muse start to bother me. My excuses turned to worry, "Maybe I'm a one trick pony." "Maybe I won't have another idea to run with." "Maybe I'm done."

And at just the right moment, Suzanne decided to push. "Do NaNo with me!" she exclaimed with contagious enthusiasm. "I have an idea for a new story."

I was reluctant. I told her my idea fountain had run dry and rather than offer condolences for my drought, she talked me through it, helped me brainstorm and jumpstarted my beleagured creativity. Inspiration struck and I was once again full of passion, ready for a new recipe. I was hungry.

So here I come NaNo. I'm so sorry neglected blog and blog readers. I'll try to be a good poster between shiny new words. I'll keep you updated. See you on the other side of November!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Volleyball and Writing

I've been proscrastinating any and all blog posts lately.

It's not that I'm being lazy. I've been reading a lot of blogs (even if I don't always post a comment) and I've had my nose in everyone's business via Twitter (even if I don't always "tweet"). My volleyball season concluded on Tuesday and though it was the most enjoyable season I can remember, it was still a little rough and took up almost all of my spare time.

I like to compare writing to sports. At the beginning of the season we start with high hopes. The coaches get together, we set goals, we plan out our practices, we observe each girls' skills. In essence, we outline the sports season. Once my team is formed, I place girls on the court where they'll contribute most to the team. I replace weak servers with stronger ones and I always make sure to have a tall middle-blocker front and center. I form rotations and run systems that cover all of the "holes" on the court and consult my assistant coaches for input. When it's all said and done, I have a complete, ready-to-play team.

The team has practiced, our defense it tight and our serves are precise. We're ready to face our opponents.

Here's the kicker: you either win or you lose. There's no second place. There's no "let's try that again". There's no do-over. My team played this season one district higher than we should have. We played some tough teams; some TALL teams. We played with tenacious determination and even though we won a set or two, we didn't win any games this season.

Writing is a lot like volleyball. I start off with ideas, choose the best ideas and put them in some semblance of order. I replace weak words and descriptions with stronger ones and I try to make sure that my middle is nice and strong, with no lag, ready to hold up the rest of the story. I form chapters and place them in a smooth running order. Then I edit, and ask my crit partners (assistant coaches) to give their feedback and make sure to fill all of my story's "holes" along the way. When I'm done, I have a complete, ready-to-query novel.

The writing kicker? Same as volleyball. You either win or you lose. There's no second place. And even though I've had a couple of "let's try that agains", I haven't had any do-overs. The writing community is enormous. Instead of competing against six other people, you're competing against hundreds. I've queried with tenacious determination, and though I've had a few requests, I've yet to bring home any wins this year.

How can you not feel a little down? My team endured some pretty snarky comments this season, as I've endured some pretty snarky blog post comments. They've had doubts about their abilities as I've had doubts about my writing. But not one single girl quit. They came to practice every day with smiles on their faces. They cheered at games and gave many-a-high-five. They practiced hard, they played hard. MY TEAM DID NOT QUIT, and neither should I.

As writers we hone our skills with each completed project. Every queried novel gets us closer to a win. Every blog post is practice for the larger scale chapter. When our crit partners give us feedback, they're our assistant coaches, helping us to point out the flaws that we failed to catch. Writing is certainly a team sport, and I'm ready to start the season!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Chain - Journeys

I want to start off by saying that I officially hate being last. I'm the last link in the chain started by Sandra and this round's topic left me feeling like a very small fish in an ocean-sized pond.

The question for this round:

What kind of journeys do your characters make? What effects do they have on the characters and the plot? Also, if you wish, please tell us about one of your personal journeys and how it changed you.

As I read the posts before me I gulped down a golf ball sized knot. I'm as organic as it comes as far as my writing's concerned. Armed with nothing but a high school diploma and a decent grasp of grammar and the written word, I've always felt like I was a natural writer rather than trained at--well--anything. Ask my crit partners and they'll tell you, sometimes I need some leading.

Though my characters experience some sort of emotional journey, the journeys that they tend to take are physical. My characters actually experience a physical transformation by the end of the book. In my first book, Aura, the main character develops a super-human ability that by the end of the book changes her physically. She does, however, become a stronger woman emotionally as a result of the physical transformation and the journey she had to take to accept that change in her.

In my current "love" and novel that I have out on submission, the main character changes into a completely different creature by the end of the book, but during the course of her transformation she softens up emotionally, becoming a more caring person by the time her journey ends.

As I sit here, chiding myself for not being smarter, not being a better plotter, not being an outliner and a novel writing/character developing genius, I realize that I use the physical journey as a catalyst for the emotional journey. I also know that that there's probably something metaphorical about all of that, but as my brain is fried from a daunting volleyball season, it hurts too much to think about that. ;)

My own personal journey began with an extreme physical transformation. Pregnancy at 16 was not something my body was prepared for, let alone my psyche. I walked the high school halls, hyper-aware of my changed physical state while I showed emotional composure, never letting on that I knew I was different in any way, shape or form. But I was. My life was changing with each day and each growing inch. Flutters graduated to kicks while I graduated from student-without-a-care to soon-to-be-mom, responsible for another life. And with the birth of my daughter, that physical transformation brought about a permanent change emotionally. I had to grow up to a certain extent. I had to reassess my priorities. I would never again be that smiling, seemingly perky girl, who was good at sounding like she didn't have a clue.

I had become--me.

Check out Kate's post before mine, and please feel free to share your own personal or literary journeys with me. I love a dusty road!