Monday, September 26, 2016

Back From a Week at Sea.

Hello, everyone.  Not only did I manage to survive a week without falling off the boat, but the 2016 Writing Excuses retreat went better than I could have hoped.  There's a lot to unpack here, and since I don't want to ramble on too much, I'll try to sum it up.

First and foremost: everyone there was awesome.  There's something very special about being among an entire group of fellow writers.  I'm too used to having to explain how my mind works when someone brings up a situation and I talk about how something strange could happen, so being around people who not only understood that but built on it was kind of amazing.  The people there who weren't writers - supportive spouses, mostly - were also very cool, and I could tell they were used to the eccentricity that comes with living with a writer.  ^_^

I got to talk to all of the hosts, though some of them only a little, but they were all great people and easy to talk to.  (I also didn't go full fanboy on anyone, which I consider a minor accomplishment.)  Furthermore, I came back with a list of new books to read, two of which are books the hosts have written, so I can get more familiar with their work and read some new stuff from other people I'd never heard of.

The hosts recorded a bunch of podcast episodes while on the cruise, and I went to all of them.  It was very encouraging, as some of the episodes covered working with an ensemble cast, and STARWIND is all about its ensemble.  I listened to them and felt like I'd been doing everything right.

My critique time with a published author went better than I could have hoped.  She read the first three pages of STARWIND and, to my utter and complete surprise, really enjoyed it and didn't suggest anything for me to fix.  We went over the entire plot and she liked where it was going.  She said she could tell I'd been writing for a while, and generally gave me a lot of good feedback and encouraged me to query it when it's ready.  This completely floored me, as I went in there nervous as hell, ready to have my work torn apart.  But it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

At night, my bed was decorated with three different instances of towel origami.

An agent gave a seminar on how to pitch your novel, and had us give our pitches at the end.  I gave my pitch from this tweet, and he said it started great, but got too general toward the end.  He recommended I make it more specific, and I can do that.  He also loved my comparison titles (Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Amazing Race), so I'll definitely query him when that time comes.

I was incredibly nervous about the whole pitch thing, and managed to get through it without screwing up, but I was shaking so bad I tripped myself when I was nearly back to my chair.  Nobody I talked to seemed to remember that, though.  O_o

There were some minor disappointments - two out of the three excursions I went on weren't great due to various circumstances ("Rainbow Reef" was anything but rainbow-ish, and it's hard to have a yacht race with winds at 4-5 MPH), and I still don't do well among large groups of people at parties or similar situations.  And some of the desserts were way too small.  But all the writing-based stuff - everything that really mattered?  That was excellent.

Taking this trip was one of the best decisions I've made since I moved to Washington.  I would highly recommend it for anyone who's looking for an amazing writing workshop and a pretty damn fancy vacation.  Signups for next year start in January, I believe, and they're going to the Mediterranean.

Next week: IWSG: This Month's Work.

PS: If anyone I met on the cruise finds this, hello!  Leave me a link for your blog or Twitter (I don't do Facebook) if you wish.  ^_^

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'm on a Boat

As I said in last week's entry, I'm currently on the Writing Excuses Out of Excuses 2016 Writing Workshop and Retreat.

See y'all when I get back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

At This Moment: an Unfiltered Blog Entry

At this moment, I am preparing for the writing workshop/cruise that I'm flying off to on Friday.  My brain is largely scrambled because of everything this involves, so all I'm good for this week is an extended, scattered ramble about everything going through my head right now.  I'll understand if you pass on reading this.

At this moment, I am freaked the hell out because the thing I signed up for means a published author is going to read a little bit of STARWIND and give me advice on it.  I've never heard of this author and haven't read anything they've written; I put them on my list because I thought they sounded like they might like my work.  I have no idea how to handle this.

At this moment, I am fully aware that no matter how long a list I make or how much I try to prepare for the trip, I'm going to forget something or screw something up.

At this moment, I am kicking myself and have been for many days, because I thought we got to sign up for more than one critique thing on the cruise and we only got one.  This is what I get for not reading carefully enough.  I thought I'd get a group/peer critique of book stuff along with the author read.  I was wrong.  I'm not sure which of the two would be more helpful, but it's not like I'll find out now.

At this moment, I am suffering from one of the worst colds I've ever had.  I've been beating it down with medicine since Saturday and I hope it'll go away by the time I have to leave the house on Friday morning.

At this moment, I am wishing I'd never listened to a new song by someone whose music I usually enjoy, because it reminded me of everything I feel when I'm depressed and have completely lost faith in my work and am wishing I could quit writing.  A song shouldn't make me feel like quitting, like all the work I've done will never amount to anything.  But it did.  No, I'm not naming the artist, and I'm damn well not linking the song - I'm trying to forget I ever heard it.

At this moment, I am debating whether to buy the wi-fi package on the cruise ship.  It would be nice to keep a connection, but there's some appeal to being largely unplugged for a week.  But some of the cruise-goers are saying they've found having constant internet access on board to be helpful for communicating and all that, so I probably will.

At this moment, I am deliberately not taking out that piece of small paper that has story notes on a new version of the tale that's been frustrating me for months that I've talked about before.  It's a weird thing to not want to work on a story and still hope it works out somehow.

At this moment, I am really wishing tomorrow's therapy appointment hadn't been canceled.

At this moment, I am trying to figure out a story that started as one thing and developed an entirely new thing as I did some world-building.  I'm wondering if it's all going to end up compatible or if this will be yet another damn plot I end up ditching no matter how much I want to write it because I just couldn't make everything I created work together.

At this moment, I am more than ready to make some tea and then get to bed.  I've been exhausted since I got back from DragonCon and no amount of sleep has helped.

At this moment, I am done with this and wishing I'd come up with something else to write this week.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG: When to Let Go

This isn't the first time I've talked about this sort of thing, and it won't be the last.

As much as I don't like blanket statements, I think it's safe to say that we writers get attached to the things we're working on.  (Unless we're just doing it for the money, in which case we're attached to getting paid, and there's nothing wrong with that.)  That attachment can come in many forms; for me, it's always been the characters and who they are together that gets me hooked.  I've struggled more with finding stories for characters to exist in than any other part of the writing process.  It's far too easy to love these people who show up in my head and get fixated on telling their story above everything else.

Which too often makes it very difficult to recognize when their story just isn't working.

I've talked here about a plot-in-progress that was incredibly personal, something that could turn out to be deeper and darker than anything I've worked on before.  I devoted a lot of time (and a few off-kilter tweets) to working on this.  The plotting document for it is seventeen pages long, including cut text.  It's one of those things that came pouring out of my head in the early planning stages, complete with two characters showing up and saying no, the story was about them.

It's the sort of thing I hope for as a plotter, which is why it crushed me when everything started to fall apart.  The book was a way for me to tell the kind of tale I've wanted to tell for a long time - a school story.  It started off being about the teachers, but it was two students who took it over.  I spent a great deal of time trying to bend it into shape, making myself more and more miserable with every attempt.

I should have known when I sat down to write and could hardly make myself open up the document that it was time to set the story aside.  But I was so determined to get it right.  I wanted it so much.  But it was driving me mad.

It took spending most of a therapy session talking about the trouble I was having with that plot to get me to realize just how badly it was affecting me.  I hadn't felt genuinely depressed for weeks, but that plot brought me right the hell down.  So that night, I took one last look through it, and accepted that it was time to let it go.  It wasn't easy, but when something I'm plotting has me so torn up that I can't even read it, I'm defeating my own purpose by trying to make it work.  Call me crazy, but I think it's hard to be a writer when your own work keeps you from writing.

Things have been much better since then.  I have two plots I'm working on; one is revealing new depths to me as I delve into how its magic works and how that would affect the people living in that world, while the other is just plain insane and will likely have people accusing me of being on drugs if anyone ever reads it.  Both of them are shaping up to be the sort of stories they're meant to be, and I'm figuring them out a little at a time.

It's slow going sometimes, but I'll take slow going over the full stop.