Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review and Looking Forward

It really feels like this was a year of good and bad, writing-wise.  The first book I wrote, I deliberately plowed through it in a month because I had this strange idea that I had to write as fast as possible.  It sucked.  The second book I wrote turned out much better, and I'll begin the publishing attempt process in 2014.  Of course, the only reason I wrote that book was because I decided to put SKYBORNE to rest after nearly a year of failing at the publishing attempt process.

So, yeah.  Roller coaster and all that.  @_@

I also started blogging more regularly in 2013, and it's starting to feel more natural.  It still seems more like a duty than something I really enjoy, but as the writing process goes on, I think I'm getting more used to it.  I also participated in my first Follow Fest, and met a bunch of nifty people that way; it's been great to reach out to the wider writing community.  I'm hoping we all find success in the next year, one way or another.

As for looking forward, I'm pleased to say I have two plots that I'll do my damndest to make into two new books next year.  I'm going to try something Rena suggested -- write one book, then write another, then go edit the first one.  I've never done that before because I've never had two fully prepared plots at once, so this will be a new experience.  Sadly, neither of those plots is the one I blogged about back in October; while I've spent time fleshing that one out and working on character development, something about it just doesn't interest me as much anymore.  I think there's too much there for one book, and it needs to be pared down.  As much as I overwrite, this is no surprise, but still.  I've set it aside for now, and hope to return to it later.

As for what I do have, I gotta say, I'm really excited.

The first one is an interplanar adventure story I tweeted about as sort of a combination of three shows I love.  I'm still hashing this one out, as I ran into a problem in the second act that meant I had to re-plot much of the first act.  But the re-working is going well, and I'm not getting frustrated.  (Yay!)  Very much hoping I break through this plot wall tomorrow and pull the whole thing together.  And anything that involves an intellectual lamia, a foulmouthed goblin with opposable toes, and a shotgun-wielding faceless wargolem should be fun.

The other is the kind of story I've wanted to write for a long time.  It's dark fantasy with a healthy dose of cosmic horror thrown in, inspired by equal parts Marvel Comics and H.P. Lovecraft, and seriously, this thing was just about pulling itself out of my head as I plotted it.  It still needs revision, but everything was working perfectly.  I can't wait to polish this plot until it shines.

To everyone reading this: happy new year.  May 2014 bring you what you want and what you need, whether you find these to be the same thing or not.  ^_^

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Post-Pitch Wars: Editing and Considering

I participated in Pitch Wars earlier this month, and THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK wasn't chosen - trust me, y'all would have heard about it at length (and at volume) if it was.  ^_^  But on the plus side, I heard back from all four mentors I submitted to, and got some useful critique of my first few pages.

One of the things I heard was something I'd wondered about and now wish I'd fixed before submitting - Shiloh, the main character, came off as harsh and/or arrogant, and hard to relate to.  The thing is, in the book's initial first chapter, she was way too passive; I realized this and some of my pre-readers said the same thing.  But when I rewrote the chapter, I went way too far in the other direction.

After tonight's work, though, I can say it wasn't too difficult to fix.  The book starts off in a library, and it's easy to capture Shiloh's love for the place when it's a feeling I share.  She's there to find a book she's seen in her dreams, so she's determined, but more full of wonder at what this could mean and why she's dreamed of finding the book than dead sure that the book will be there and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

I have to admit, I'm really glad I took care of this before anyone else read it.  I don't know if I would have known how to fix it without getting the mentors' feedback.

Another point was that there wasn't much world-building.  I'm honestly not certain how much world-building I can get into less than three single-spaced pages, but I went through and tried to fit as many little details as I could.  Not the easiest thing without resorting to "As you know" infodumps, especially since neither of the two characters talking would tell the other something like that.  We learn about the world as the story goes on, and I think that's a better way.

And, as with any critique, there were things the mentors said that I just don't understand.  I thought about writing back to the mentors and asking for clarification, but instead I've looked closer at the book and tried to figure out why they said what they said.  Some of it I can sort of understand, some of it I just have to shrug off. I know this isn't a new issue; I'm sure everyone's gotten back critique that made them blink and make weird expressions as they tried to figure out what the reader was thinking.  And I am grateful for the critique despite this.  Ah, well.

With that in mind, I will be looking for critique partners after the holidays; I've bookmarked a few recommended sites that I heard about via Twitter, so I'm hoping for the best with that.  If anyone reading this wants to swap books-in-progress, let me know.  TAW is YA fantasy; here's a general description.  I tend to like fantasy and sci-fi, but I'm willing to give just about anything a try, though I'm not much interested in contemporary romance.

Next entry: this year's over, time to look forward to another.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

They're Going to Hate Her.

This entry comes from The Girl Myth in YA Fiction (And Beyond) at Bookriot and Writing for Girls by Courtney Summers.  I read these two articles, did a lot of thinking and a lot of swearing, and knew I had to write this.  Go read the articles first, else this won't make as much sense.

Back?  Good.  I'd like to issue a general statement to people who people who believe in the girl binary as detailed in the first article: "Fuck off.  I will never listen to you.  I write female characters with their own minds and lives, and I will never try to box them into your narrow ideas of likability and 'proper' behavior.  Don't like that?  I don't care."

THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK has two female leads, aged seventeen and somewhere around eighteen to twenty.  As I read 'The Girl Myth' for the first time, I kept thinking about how people would react to Shiloh and Alexi, and how much they don't fit into this idiotic myth of how girls should be.  Neither of them could be considered the secondary players in their own stories, both go after what they want, both look to solve their problems instead of wallowing in despair or whatever else.  I made them as real as I could, and never gave a thought to expectations about what girls should be, because I was trying to write people.

As for the romance and purity issues that the article touches on, ye gods, that's going to start a shitstorm.  While Shiloh lacks experience in this area, Alexi most certainly does not; the culture she's from is very open about love and sex and all things intimate.  I can see the reviews already, calling Alexi all kinds of horrible things because she dared to be with other people before meeting Shiloh.  And that's bullshit.  The fact that the two of them getting together could cause problems with their families' business deals will only make things worse, despite that they both acknowledge this issue and try to make things work.  No, I'm sure they'll both be called selfish for putting their own desires first.

<sarcasm>Because of course, nobody ever does that.</sarcasm>  And I don't even want to get into how different the reaction would be if one of them was male.

It's a rough thing to look at my work and know that some people are going to hate the main characters because they don't match up to expectations, stereotypes, and other foolishness.  But I'm going forward with it because I know it's right.  Because as 'Writing for Girls' shows, I know there are people out there who will see themselves in these characters.  And if my stories can really reach someone, make them feel that there's someone out there who understands, and help them in some way, then I know I've done my job right.

Because I'm not writing to fit some impossible ideal.  I'm writing for myself, and for everyone who loves these kinds of stories.  I'm writing for people.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Worst. Rejection. Ever.

There would have been an entry here last week, but I got caught up in Pitch Wars, so I've spent the past week pounding on THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK and making sure everything's as good as I can get it.  And polishing my query letter, which is always . . . fun.  @_@  I do have a much more serious blog entry planned, but that's not for today.

Today, in the spirit of sending off submissions, I want to talk about the worst rejection I ever got.

I think every single writer ever knows what it means to deal with rejection letters.  So what, you might ask, made this one so bad?

This happened back in 2003, when I lived in Vermont.  (I'm originally from Southern California, so living in Vermont taught me what winter really means, but that's another story.)  I'd written a book I thought was pretty damn good (it wasn't), and I was submitting to agents, just me and a crappy query letter and a "Writer's Market" book thick enough to double as insulation.  Despite over a dozen rejections, I was still ridiculously optimistic that this book would get published (it never would, trust me).  And then . . . a letter arrived.

Not just any letter.  This self-addressed stamped envelope (nothing like paying postage to get rejected) was stuffed with a lot more paper than the standard rejection.  And as I looked at the envelope before opening it, I saw lines.  Blank lines.  Like the kind you're expected to fill in before sending something back.

I opened the envelope so quickly it might have spontaneously combusted.  Surely, this was a contract!  I'd found an agent!  This had something for me to fill out, and--

NO!  Not only was there a rejection letter, there was an order form for - I swear I'm not making this up - the agency's book on how to be your own literary agent.  They weren't going to represent me, but they wanted to sell me a book on how to not need them.  Insult, injury, and idiocy all in one.

I've never actually burned a rejection letter, but damn, that one came close.

Next entry, not related to Pitch Wars but to some people who read books with female leads: They're Going to Hate Her.