I’d be the first to admit that I sometimes don’t write every day. In fact, I can go for weeks at times without writing. But then I’ll suddenly start and the words will flow and stopping becomes quite difficult. Even when I’m superbly busy and should be doing other things.
Those spaces in between aren’t procrastination. Merely a different part of my process. I am planning, thinking, wondering. I am turning ideas around inside my head and waiting to know which one is worth pursuing. And once I know, I begin and I write with certainty.
What keeps me writing? I love it. It is a part of me. Every word given life upon the page and worked over and over again.
Yes, it is tiring. Yes, it is distracting from all the other things I could be doing. Yes, sometimes it keeps me away from things I want to do. But clearly I don’t want sleep or to do any of those other things as much as writing. And for as long as that is true, I will write.
Right now, I haven’t had the time to write properly (without distraction) for two days. My MC was left hanging underneath a rock ledge, fighting for grip on slippery rock in a scene that will undoubtably be cut from the next draft. I am currently pursuing a random thought that crossed my mind earlier in the week and I shoved the MC over the edge just to see what would happen. It is entertaining but really unhelpful to the plot so in the next rewrite she might be saved the effort of rescuing herself.
If I don’t write, she’ll hang there forever. I’ll always wonder what she would have done next. I’ll never see the story through and I’ll never get to the rewrite where I remove the useless scene (or find a use for it). Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. It isn’t as if this story that I’m working on will ever change the world. But I want to write it.
That is my motivation.
What is yours?
I wasn’t supposed to have a love triangle in my current WIP. I’ve gone back through all my ideas and plans and nowhere in it does it suggest that character B likes the protagonist. Yet while I’ve been writing, certain things have been developing.
Character A and the protagonist are getting along swimmingly and things are right on schedule for them but Character B is just so rugged and wild and tempting that I’ve definitely been seeing some sparkage between him and the protagonist. The question becomes do I figure out what this means for the story, develop the relationship properly and then have a full love triangle, or do I try to steer the story back to its original course? Given that the original romance was really just a side plot to a quest story with a little bit of horror thrown in for fun.
It is a question I’ll have to answer soon because otherwise I’ll be too far along one path to easily change without a lot of rewrites and I try not to rewrite until after I’ve finished the first draft. Otherwise I just keep rewriting and the draft never finishes.
So – advantages of going with the love triangle scenario:
1. It is going to add tension between the characters and it will help flesh out character B’s role which in the original plan was clearly not well defined.
2. It will help slow down Character A and protagonists relationship which is going a bit too well at the moment.
3. It makes sense. It wouldn’t make sense for the protagonist to utterly ignore the fact that there are sparks between her and Character B, even if she only acknowledges it long enough to end it.
4. It will be easier to edit out a subplot that doesn’t work later than it will be to add it in after the fact.
1. I don’t like love triangles. I find them a little cliché.
You’re opinion? Are you for or against love triangles? Have you ever created one in a story?
Very short post today.
We are finally in 2010.
That means I am really starting the 100+ Reading Challenge. I have my first book ready to go. Given I know that I’m going to fall short of this challenge I am hoping that I can at least pretend that I might make the target for a few weeks. It might make me feel better about the whole thing.
As far as writing, I am just going to wait until after the move and then I am going to finally start a new project for real (not just dabble in bits and pieces like I have been in between editing) and I am going to fix an old draft that has been lying around for a year now. I think I finally figured out how to fix it. Throw half the characters out of the story, refocus on the character who is actually most interesting, and stop trying to give equal space to all the subplots. After I rewrite the entire thing with that in mind I’ll see how it goes but I think it will have to be better.
Things to read, things to write, houses to move. Busy, busy, busy. Here is hoping for a fun and productive year for myself and for everyone else. Best of luck in 2010.
Research is one of the essential tools of any writer, regardless of what they are writing. Direct observation of people and places is one form of research that we all undertake every day but for most of us, this is only the beginning of the lengthy researching process.
I write fantasy and I don’t actually mind too much when someone tells me that fantasy isn’t real writing. Mostly because when someone tells me that it tells me more about the person than about what I am writing. I do mind when people tell me that fantasy writing must be easy because ‘you can just make stuff up’. I can just make stuff up? Why didn’t someone tell me that sooner?
Admittedly I do have a lot of leeway with facts and even after the research process if I haven’t come across something suitable I can create something new, but I have to do it in such a way that people believe it. That means there are basic rules and preconceptions that have to be met or the reader is just going to roll their eyes. How do I know what rules and preconceptions there are? I research.
My reference collection is a bit on the odd side but it has steadily been growing over the years. Lots of books on mythology, all kinds of mythology. The latest addition was a book on Japanese fairy tales. This gives me a chance to look at similarities between mythical creatures across the world as well as the differences. Dragons turn up in every single mythology but the differences are extraordinary. So, when I say there is a dragon in front of my protagonist, people instantly get the image they are most familiar with, unless I give them more information to go on and I best not say it is a wyrm if it isn’t (learnt that lesson the hard way – one critique of a short story ended up being a five page list of types of dragons and why mine didn’t fit into any of them).
Mythological creatures however is only a tiny fraction of the research. The online research is generally extensive. If you have a knight carrying a sword, what kind of sword is he carrying? Does he swing it? Thrust with it? Stab? Could he chop through a log with it or would that just dent the blade? Some readers are extremely picky about their swords. To me, a sword is a long shiny thing you hit stuff with. I don’t focus on sword fights in my stories but being fantasy, it is fairly inevitable that swords will come into them, even if just in passing. I don’t want to make a passing comment and have a reader throw the book down in disgust and then send me a lengthy email explaining why I haven’t got a clue.
Then we have styles of dress and construction and various landscapes and on and on and on the research goes. It is a good thing I am curious by nature and that I like keeping trivia files of random facts. It means that usually I have some information on a given topic close at hand but other times I need to go a little further in my research.
How do you go about your research and how much do you do before writing the story?
This is a sensible question really. Knowing I’m in the middle of editing one book and getting it ready to be published and that I already have two wip’s that need a lot of polish, I’ve decided to not start drafting any other stories until after I move in January. This means getting familiar again with a work in progress that I thought I had put aside for the time being.
There are a lot of problems with this work in progress but the one I’m trying to sort out first goes by the name Derrick. Derrick is a ridiculous name and I know it isn’t right but that is his name for the time being and that is the least of this particular characters problems.
See, Derrick starts out in the very opening scene as a very impressive and strong, if emotionally immature, young man. It is a great scene where he lords his power as a mage over a group of commoners (or non-magic users). It really sets the tone for how the world works and all and all that particular scene works.
Jump a half-dozen chapters further a long. Oh. What is Derrick doing? He is playing a childish prank on someone a lot stronger than him and then running away. If you are wondering why the scene actually serves to show the other character’s explosive temper which is kind of an important part of the plot later on but Derrick’s actions do not make sense. Not if he is the same Derrick who appeared back in chapter one.
Skip ahead again. Now what is he doing? He’s giving the best friend, morale boosting speech to someone who was about to collapse. He is thoughtful and well-spoken and considerate. No. It can’t be the same character.
And so on.
Poor Derrick is facing an identity crisis. More importantly, I am facing a crisis. All of these scenes are important to the plot but the character makes no sense at all and his progression is random. Actually, his progression is simple. I need a character to do this to cause that. Throw him in. That seems to be how he has gone along and that does not work. Yes, he is a minor character in the grand scheme of things but that is no excuse for not plotting out a logical character arc. I’m either going to have to figure a way for Derrick to do all the things he needs to do, in a way that allows him to stay true to his character, or I’m going to have to find someone else to fill the spot in the scene, someone who makes sense.
At the moment I have seven notebooks on my desk – and many bits of paper with various things scribbled on them. Beside my bed I know I have at least three notebooks and on the table and fridge I have several more. Most of them are old and tattered with pages falling out because I’ve torn so many pages free. One of those pages is now floating loose across my desk and has quite a good outline for a new writing project on it.
I possibly should file these things but strangely enough things put in my filing cabinet tend to stay there and they never actually get acted upon. Bits of paper floating across my desk are far more likely to float to the surface and should they do that just when I’m ready for an idea… More importantly, I know when I’m looking for something it is on my desk and I will find it if I just turn over enough pages.
One of these notes that floated to the surface today has a couple of things written on it. On one side I have a list of names, some with meanings attached to them. Beside that, but written upside down, I have a list of rankings that I was thinking of using in a story. Turn the paper over and I have another list of names, most of which are crossed out and underneath that I have the very useful note: Arrives, Fights, Flash-back, End of Fight, Move on. Fantastically useful.
Actually it is a fairly important bit of paper and now that I have found it again I’m going stick it in my dictionary so I don’t lose it. The notes were written over a two day period as I was working on other things and I just pulled the paper out of my pocket and scribbled down the ideas as they came to mind. They all relate to one of my WIP’s that wasn’t really working the way I needed it to. I was mulling things over in my mind and random ideas kept popping out so I was just adding them wherever there was space on the paper.
Should I have all my notes for one project together? Probably but I’d rather spend my time writing the draft then filling the paperwork and if I desperately need one of my notes I know I will find it sooner or later. Besides, just by writing it down I tend to remember the most important parts.
Question to the writer’s out there: Do you organise your notes or do you let them float across the desk?
I love magic.
I love it when reading. Barbara Hambly’s ‘Sorcerer’s Ward’ completely captivated me and pretty much any book that involves witches, wizards, mages, sorcerers, etc will be read eagerly.
When I play an RPG I almost always choose a magic user rather than a warrior. I usually regret this about halfway through the first area as the magic users usually start out as extremely weak characters and you tend to die a lot until you develop some strong magic, but I still do it. As much fun as having my video character hit things with an axe might be, I’d rather set fire to things with my mind. Or cause them to disintegrate. And once your character has levelled up some, the warrior doesn’t stand a chance against the magic user.
As a teenager I followed all the appropriate television shows (Buffy, Angel, Charmed, etc). Magic works for me.
That said, my first MS doesn’t really use magic. There are gods and a few powers floating around, but not really magic. I had to rectify this situation.
Cue the draft from hell that has been sitting in printed form on my desk for the better part of the year and is still mostly terrible. I have mentioned it on my previous blog but as I get through editing my first MS and getting it ready for publishing, this second one is really starting to annoy me.
There is an abundance of magic. It is set in a world run by Mages and they are as arrogant and horrible as you would expect a group of people who can kill all non-magic users with a look to be. Hence we have a setting and conflict already exists and it doesn’t take much imagination to build a central problem from this.
I have an ensemble of characters ranging in strength and position within the society. Each has backstory (some of it scribbled in notebooks as it never made the draft) and a goal and they are all provided with motivation and the relationships are established between them, etc, etc.
The setting works. The characters work. The plot works. The draft stinks. While magic is present within my draft, there is very little that is magical about it.
Obviously I’ve worked on other projects but I keep coming back to this one because I want it to work. I love the ideas and I spent a lot of time on it. However I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to just break it all down into its basic components and start over. The thought makes me appreciate editing again.