Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Year of Trying

At the end of the year, I can safely say that 2015 was better than 2014.  Granted, considering everything I wrote about in last year's final entry, 2015 would have had to work damn hard to be as bad as 2014 was.  But all the same, it's worth saying.

To say I went through some changes this year would be a mild understatement.  I packed up my entire life and left New Mexico, drove myself halfway across the country, and arrived here in Washington on the first of March.  I then spent nearly six months unemployed before landing an awesome job.  (Totally worth it.)  And somewhere in between, I wrote two books.

I am very, very happy to say that neither of those books sucked.

One of them, which I've only referred to as the crazy dream book, was an experiment that didn't work out.  At its heart, and as I've mentioned before, it was an attempt to take a piece of fanfiction I wrote many years ago and make it legit.  I tried rewriting the plot several months later, but determined it wasn't going to work.  Despite that, some part of me still wants this to happen, and odds are good I'll hold onto the idea in my head for a long time.

That's why I've never told anyone the book's title.  For some reason, it feels like the magic of this mad little story would disappear if I told anyone what it's meant to be called.  So I won't, not until I can make it work and let other people read it.  It might never happen, but I can accept that; I've been at this too long to think that I'll get to tell every story I have in my head.

The other book I wrote this year was THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES.  This one means a lot to me, not just for all the work I've put into it but because of the people it's about.  At least half of the books I've written have starred Shiloh & Alexi in one incarnation or another.  I feel like I do better writing them than anyone else, and with this book, I feel like I've come closer to getting down who they're supposed to be than ever before.

And that is the book I'm currently querying.

The query process is no less nerve-wracking for having confidence in the book.  But no matter what problems I see with BoLR, when I read it, I know that it's a good story and worth trying to get published.  And something has happened with this book that's never happened before - I'm actually getting some interest from agents.  Nothing definite yet, but a few nibbles, enough to reassure me that I'm doing something right.  I've paused my agent search for the holidays, but once the new year starts, I'll be right back at it.

Because, of course, the best thing to do when an agent wants to read some of your book is to query even more agents.  In case they want to read some of it too.  ^_^

As for 2016, I'm not sure.  I'd like to write another two books, as that seems like a good plan and it worked out well for me this year.  I'd also like to have some stories that I'm sure about writing, as that seems like an even better plan and not doing that is part of why 2014 sucked so much.  >_<  I have one plot that's complete and has been for many months; I figured out the one thing that was wrong with it a while back and it's been sitting ready since then.

I also have three or four different plots-in-progress I'm trying like all hell to figure out so I can turn them into actual stories.  Would that everything worked out smoothly when I'm trying to get it out of my head and onto the page.

But I'll keep trying, because that's the only thing I can do.  And knowing that things are working a little bit better now is excellent motivation.

Next week: the first IWSG of 2016.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In the Snow

(Story deleted because I reread it and found it not up to my standards.)

I was shot for ideas for this week's blog entry, so I figured I'd give this a try.  This could be the opening for one of the stories I'm working on.  The image of the young woman walking through the snow with a bloodied blade in her hand is what got me started on this plot again, and helped me realize that I'd had some crucial things backward about it since the beginning.

It's not much, but it beats the hell out of another entry about me having trouble with... everything.  >_<

No entry next week, as I'll be in California with family for Christmas.  Hope everyone's holidays are happy.  I'll be back on the 30th for a 2015 year in review.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Stall.

No, this isn't a post about writing in a public bathroom.  Which, now that I think about it, is something I've never heard of anyone doing.  There's probably a good reason for that.

Writing on a bathroom is different, and doesn't count.  Under most circumstances.

And by starting my blog entry with an image I had to look for, I've provided a demonstration of what I'm writing about today: sometimes, it's incredibly easy to do anything but write.

A friend recently told me about how she has trouble getting to bed at a reasonable hour, because - to sum it up - she keeps doing everything she wants to do that's not going to sleep.  I told her she should look into setting herself on a strict schedule, because that's mostly what I do and it works, but it got me thinking.

I like to think of myself as pretty disciplined, and I can be.  When it comes time to sit down and write - when I'm actually working on a book - my ass is in the chair at a certain time every night and I hammer away at the keyboard until it's time to stop.  (Usually when that book's CD is over, though I sometimes start the music again and keep going.)  I do this every single night until that first draft is done.

But when I'm plotting?  Everything in the world is easier than opening up that document and trying again to figure out that story.  >_<

This is true whether things are going well or not.  The thing I'm working on right now - under the abbreviation S7, and I'm kind of hoping there's at least one longtime reader of this blog who knows what that refers to - is going well.  It's going well enough to reinforce my weird-ass ideas from two entries ago.  Hell, it's going well enough that I'm getting upset at my characters, and I have maybe three paragraphs on most of them.

After struggling with this idea for so long, it's wonderful and amazing to sit down with the plotting document and have this story, this world, these people just sort of spill out onto the page, with me hoping I can type fast enough to keep up.

So why is it usually so damn hard to sit down and get to work?

I think a lot of it is the simple fear of failure.  Over the years, I've had more plots crash and burn than I really want to think about.  Few things in my writing world suck more than sitting down to a plot that's not working out and hoping that tonight, against all odds, I can figure it out.  And I don't want that to happen with this one.  I really, really don't.  I already love how this story is going and I don't even have three pages' worth of plot.  I think it will keep going well, but there's no way to be sure.

So when it comes time to sit down and plot, I stall.  I check my e-mail half a dozen times.  I check Twitter and the WoW site I frequent in case someone's said something interesting.  I'd wash the dog if I had one.  And by the time I do start working, it's an hour later, and I barely have time to tap out a few paragraphs about the world or refine a few plot points before it's time to go to bed.

If I keep up like this, I will get nothing done.  And I can't work with nothing.  I've tried setting a stricter schedule for myself, I've tried changing the order I do things after I get home from work, but nothing prevents the stall.  It's enough to make me wish I had deadlines, as the one time I did, it was excellent motivation and I found a sense of personal pride in getting my work done well before it was due.

So here's where I ask for advice: how do you make sure you get your writing work done?  What do you do to keep yourself from stalling?  And most importantly, does it work?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

IWSG: A Worthwhile Madness

I've had a remarkably rough past few weeks.

The query process is, well and truly, not for the faint of heart.  There's a kind of joyous and dreadful anticipation that comes now whenever I open my e-mail.  Will what I'm hoping for happen?  Was today the day that someone somewhere across the country opened their e-mail and read my words and decided they might want to take a chance on me?  Has my time finally come?

As yet, no.  Rejections ring eternal, it seems, when there's a ringing at all - there's an interesting kind of melancholy that comes with noting down that the silence from an agent has stretched on long enough that it's become a rejection - and I'm seeing new variations on the same words now.  They try to be supportive and helpful even as they say, no, I don't see it.  What you're saying doesn't reach me.  I'm not the one to help carry your dream.  But please do keep trying.

As though I could do anything else.

On the creative front, things go less steadily than usual, which can be saying quite a lot when I'm in the plotting phase.  One set of ideas seems dead-set on not working together, and remains a collection of nothing but images and moments, without anything that feels right to tie them together.  If there's a way to feel what a story and a world should be but not have anything you write for it work toward that end, I've found it.

Another would-be plot seems to be fighting with itself every step of the way, trying to turn sideways into an idea I had long ago that makes the inspiration that started me back on this story impossible to fit into the story itself, and alternately taunting me with either interesting characters or fascinating settings that don't suit each other and don't seem to fit into the story together.  There's so much want there.  It seems like this could be a good two-thirds of everything I'd love to write if I could only figure out what and how it's all supposed to be, but I can't get a hold of that no matter what I try.

It's said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and weeks like these are when it hits me, we writers are all crazy.  It's a worthwhile and useful kind of madness, this throwing ideas at the page again and again to see what sticks and what falls away and what splatters together to blend into something greater than its parts.

But we keep going, because when it works, it's magic.

I spent too much of this past Monday when I should have been working taking down notes for a story that's dwelled at the back of my head for years, as I realized one character's supposed fate was intended for another, and so much fell into place and I had to make sure I scribbled it down before I forgot it.  When I returned home, I hacked away at the half-a-plot I thought I had, and found that everything worked together as though it had always been that way, and with one simple change, I'd found the story.

There's still so much to do.  There's always so much to do.  I feel like I've done the magic, and now comes the practice, the preparation, the gathering of materials and training of lovely assistants and learning how to play for the crowd that may, in fact, never arrive.  Odds are good that there will never be a crowd - odds are incredibly good that this will turn out to be another story that few people, if any, ever read.

But there is nothing else in the world I want to do more than tell these stories, and I'll keep going because there's always the chance that one will work for more than just me and a few friends, and someone out there will say yes, I want to help you reach the world.