Friday, July 30, 2010

Around the bend...

I took the whole day to myself to write or plot or putter on Divas... whatever the heck I felt like doing, so long as it was somewhat writing related. Still, writing was calling my name, and I was determined to spew out a chunk of words on Touch today.

I had high hopes at the start of the day, with my pot of coffee and background-noise play list. Then I went back to review comments on the WaW excerpts, thinking to integrate the ideas (where applicable).

Total brain freeze.

I wrote NOTHING today. Well, except this blog post and a whole lotta posting on Divas. Lets face it - while Divas is fun, educational and feels like a family most days... participating in the threads does NOT increase the wordcount in my WsIP.

Still, I can't help feeling like I turned a corner today in both my story, Touch, as well as in my skills as a writer.

First, I participated in a fun exercise yesterday meant to flex my 'underpainting' skills. This is a term used to describe the process of description. Painting that picture in the reader's mind of the people and places in your story by using BODY, ENVIRONMENT, IDEAS and EXPERIENCE.

The facilitator gave a few lines of pretty stilted dialogue between a man and woman, and I was to take that dialogue and build a world and characters around it.

It was a lot of fun, and I have to admit I was pretty happy with the way mine came out. The other folks did a fab job as well, and although I knew that this was something that was required to bring a story to life, it's an entirely different matter to define the concept into something my brain can process.

As such, I feel like a whole new writer today. Like I know what I'm doing, even as my storyline for Touch fell completely apart...

And that, my friend, brings me to the reason why I got absolutely nothing actually written today. I spent a lot of time pondering, sorting, and discarding ideas on heightening the conflict with this little story.

I've been struggling with the balance between the motivation/conflict/actual story and the naughty, fun, sex stuff.

I *think* I've worked it out :D but, and it's a BIG BUT (no, I'm not talking about my big butt!) it involves a whole lotta deleting and rewriting.

Upwards and Onwards, right?!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Instinct or Learning?

I'm involved in an industry that relies heavily on understanding instinct.

Horses are creatures driven by it. In the wild, they herd to confuse and confound predators, move constantly to find better grazing and water, and the mares know to stick with the biggest, baddest stallion. Out there in the big scary, when confronted by danger, they have one basic decision: flight or fight.

These drivers are still prevalent in domesticated horses, and training methods revolve around them. It's a struggle, sometimes, to overcome that flight or fight instinct. Something as simple as stepping into a puddle of water becomes a battle of wits - we all know who would win if it came down to strength!

In turn, I firmly believe that there are individuals who have an instinct for working with horses. We call it 'feel', and IMO, it's not something that can be taught.

There are varying degrees of feel, but one can always see the riders without that natural ability - 15 years of steady lessons and their elbows are still flapping like chicken wings, or they still balance on the horse's mouth via reins and bit instead of using their seat. They don't ever 'get' the timing of leg pressure or learn to read their horse's body signals that they're about to leap sideways because there's a mouse rustling in the grass.

Sure, a coach can help hone it, and it takes practice to bring it to the forefront sometimes, but that innate ability to read body language, time your own movements and give reward has to be there from the get-go.

It's this instinct that makes a talented horse-person. They ride better. The horses perform better because their handler is speaking the same language. They win in the show pen. And they can make a living in an industry that's just a huge money-suck for the majority of participants.

It's usually these folks who make the best coaches, although that's a special talent all on it's own. A good coach will focus on the natural abilities of a rider and make the rider think about them in a way that brings acute awareness. That awareness usually leads to another epiphany.

Every light-bulb moment illuminates another point of instinct, and those pinpricks of light accumulate until the person is one big ball of glowing talent.

Yeah, yeah. A little dramatic, I know.

You're probably wondering why I'm rambling on about horses when this is supposed to be a blog about writing, right?

I do have a point. No, really. I do!

It is the following:

I believe that great writers must have natural instinct.

Okay, maybe it's not exactly the same as seeing a horse's ear stick out sideways and know they're about to bolt. But knowing when to go into deep point of view, when to end a scene, or even when to have the hero and heroine meet is instinctual.

Again, there are varying degrees of this special talent, and it translates into different aspects of writing: dialogue, sex scenes, conflict, flow. All the stuff that makes a great story. Some writers can do humor, some gut-wrenching emotional journeys. Others make you want to chew your nails off in suspense.

A naturally talented writer can make a heroine sitting alone in her car during 5 o'clock traffic completely enthralling.

They'll also have the ability to know what isn't working, admit "that's crap" and clip, trim, and shuffle words until it does work without losing the original intent.

Let's use me as an example, because I like to talk about me. (kidding! sort of)

I do not have a natural talent for dialogue. I struggle with it. I can make it work, but it's not something that just writes itself onto the page for me. No one will be able to teach me to write dialogue, because it's one of those things that will never be the same. It comes down to the author's voice, the setting, and the characters' personalities.

Telling me to make conversation "engaging" and "interesting" doesn't tell me WHAT people find engaging and interesting. That part's instinct.

Um, you may have already noticed that grammar isn't a particular talent, either. I lubs my commas.

I do think I have flow, though. That ability to order a sentence, scene or entire story, even, into a smooth entity that keeps your eyes and thoughts moving forward.

Based on feedback from others, this has pretty much always been the case - from personal emails to work correspondence and now in fiction. I developed this skill as a young'un, and have been honing it ever since.

I'm proud of my flow. Yo.

I've worked with people, training them to write (not fiction, which I'm still new to, myself), and have noticed time and time again this phenomenon of natural ability. I can give 5 people the exact same (precise) outline of how to write a piece of correspondence, and 3 out of the 5 will get it wrong. Every. Single. Time.

I can see it. They're reading what they just typed out, and their eye stops. Backs up. Travels over the paragraph again. There's a pause. And then a mental shrug because they can't pinpoint what makes it read weird. Then they continue.

To me, that's an obvious stumble in flow that needs fixin', but they plow ahead regardless.

Oh, I'm sure a lot of folks will argue with my theories and beliefs about this subject, citing that one can learn to write.

Sure. Coaching will help, and some will learn to fake it, mimicking other writers who get fabulous results. They'll do good. But the ones who have that "je ne sais quoi" will be GREAT writers.

I believe it's really important to always work at improving craft skills, to bring those natural abilities to the surface so they can be nurtured. Workshops, craft books and most importantly, reading other people's work are all pivotal to sparking one of those light-bulb moments.

There's nothing wrong with basking in the glow of a really great talent, as long as you're using their light to take an inward look at your own strengths and abilities.

Maybe, if I keep working at it, I'll learn that, while I don't have talent for dialogue, I can write mind-blowing emotional discovery.

What's your instinct?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Expansion of the mind

As I've mentioned, I'm working towards a first submission with my story, Touch.

What a lot of folks, myself included, never realize is the almost overwhelming amount of work that's needed AFTER the birth of a story.

Sure, writing the darn thing is of utmost importance; however, I've discovered that I needed to have a publisher in mind almost before I'd started that process.

Do I want to aim for ePublishing? Submit for actual paper publishing? Do I reach for the stars, and sit on my hands for up to a year, by sending my manuscript to a BIGNAME publisher, or dip my toes into the industry with a smaller one where I have a better chance of getting accepted?

Then, I have to make a list, based on the order I want to submit to, of all the publishers, and read their guidelines to make sure the formatting is right, etc.

Writing a synopsis is high on the to-do list, too. This is a complete summary of the story - opener to 'The End' - but has to be written in a way that grabs the editor immediately. Boring synop = no reading of the MS.

Before they even GET to the synopsis though, you have to grab them with your query/blurb (that's the part you read on the back of the book before you buy it at the store).

Some places will accept simultaneous submissions from authors, some I can sub to them, and only them, until they get around to reading it.

Once I've got that all done, providing I still have hair left and a functioning brain, I've got to consider the fact that I'm most likely going to get an "REJECT" notice. This may take anywhere from a couple of days up to a year, depending on the publisher, but apparently most are within 4-6 weeks.

Commence gnawing on the fingernails.

There's a possibility that they'll send an "R&R" though, which is a Rewrite and Resubmit. Cause for joy! They like the premise enough to want to consider it, but there are parts that don't jive so they have to be redone. Like the ending. Or the entire middle section...

If, by utter dumb luck, I've gotten the blurb, synopsis and actual book right, I may get accepted.

This part will involve lots of jumping, screaming in happiness and public announcements, so Don't Worry; you'll know if I ever get accepted.

But then I'll have to think about contracts. And promo. And a cover, and editing! *gulp*

Promo might mean trailers, will definitely mean pimping the upcoming release on websites/blogs and will require me to get a website set up - not just this modest little blog.

After it's released, and hopefully some sales happen, I'm going to have to think about income tax ramifications, and all that sort of stuff.

*deep breath in, deep breath out*

And then write my next story.

So... wanna know what part I'm at?

Step 1: Picking a Publisher

Um. yah. Going to write now.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sneaky Peeks

Sometimes, when I'm just about to fall asleep for the night, I have flashes of a scene from the stories I'm working on. If I'm lucky, I'm still coherent enough to switch on my bedside lamp and scribble down the details in my ever-present notebook so I remember it in the morning.

This is one such excerpt of a scene from Touch, which I thought I'd share because it makes ME giggle every time I read it.

Call me over-confident, but I just love this story. :)


Cripes, she was waffling.

Do it. Don’t do it.

She’d never been a waffler. Quick decisions were her specialty. She did like waffles though, and now that she was being one, she couldn’t help but wonder if Finn liked maple syrup with his waffles or would chocolate do? Because they didn’t have any maple on the bedside table.

Or, maybe he’d rather whipped cream. Scratch that, they only had spray cheese.

An image of herself, laid out on a giant plate like an offering, while a tall, broad, faceless man blasted her nude body with goopy cheese in a can flitted through her brain. She bit her lip, hard, but the breathy, slightly crazy sounding giggle escaped anyway.

Holy shit, she was going insane. What was wrong with her?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mystery of time.

You know, I often wonder why it is that when I'm dying to do something, it's never at a convenient time.

And when the minutes or hours ARE there, they aren't available at the RIGHT time - I have to be doing something else entirely. Like laundry.

Case in point, I want to write. NOW. So I'm sitting here wishing I could delve into my fictional worlds of Karma and naughtiness. But alas, I must be off to work for 8 hours of writing not what I'd like.

What divine creature orchestrates this, anyway? Because, IMO, it occurs way too often to be happenstance.

Or, maybe, in a twisted way, I did get my wish?

If so, I obviously need to be more specific when I make my wishes, and let the great divine know it's FICTION I'd prefer to be writing, not answering people's questions at work... yes?

Although, I must admit that there's a distinct possibility that I'm procrastinating on going to work, and my mind is frantically making up lists of things I'd rather be doing instead.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Well, the first couple of days are behind me with the WAW round-robin critique, and I've stopped dreaming about it.

I was on Diva Chat talking about it, and I mentioned that I'd dreamed about getting a ton of warm and fuzzy crits. Someone (Hi Em, even though I highly doubt you'd ever read my tiny little blog!) said that it may not all be warm and fuzzy, but I'd at least get petted. She assured me there'd be no slapping.

My first crit was no such a happy occurance. There was definitely no petting... but no slapping. So, Karma remains my un-petted, yet un-slapped WIP.

The comments were helpful to the extreme though. It's abundantly clear that I need to outline that this is NOT a guardian angel story from the prologue. And come up with a name for what the heck the hero is.

And then I experienced some heavy petting. It was loverly.

I have had a mixed review on Touch, and a positive one. Again, all of the comments were useful to me - I have visions of how to strengthen the story, even if I have no time to apply them this week *pout*

Two happy readers with DiD, for which I'm both grateful and guilty about.

See, the thing is... I have no plot.

Well, let me qualify that. There is a plot. But it's totally transparent, the ending sucks, and there are so many holes it would sink in about 2 seconds flat. What it does have is a wonderful heroine, IMO.

Kari is... a spitfire.

Ok, she doesn't like that word. How about... highly opinionated and self-sufficient with little-to-no filter on her mouth.


She doesn't like that description either.

To which I reply, "Suck it up, yappy-face. I'm writing the damned story."

Friday, July 2, 2010

I haz a happy! and a nervous.

Wow, I'm neglecting this blog already. Bad me.

I've been working pretty steadily on Touch, and am quite pleased with how things are going on it! I'm probably the worlds slowest writer, so adding a couple of thousand words over the past week is really good for me. I'm feeling more confident with the dialogue, which I struggled with for quite a while, and my segues into the different parts of the story are meshing much better. Flow is so important for a smooth reading story, IMO. So, yay for happys!

In the meantime, RD is having a We All Win workshop, which is a round-robin critique. I anonymously enter up to 3 snips of 1,000 words each, and in exchange of having folks crit them (aka publicly shred my self-confidence) I crit 6 other snips. At the end of the month, I can claim my snips.

I picked a section from Touch, DiD and Karma. They're such completely different stories that I doubt anyone will connect them, so MAYBE I'll just claim the best received one? LOL


I'm looking forward to having opinions on what's good an bad about each of the stories... although, I get almost sick to my stomach the first couple of read throughs... sometimes, what's being pointed out is SO OBVIOUS that I'm utterly humiliated that I hadn't picked up on it before.

You know me, Miss Perfection.

So, that's the nervous part. I'm hoping I don't get laughed off the forum.

Wish me luck!


In the meantime, I've been reading up a storm with my new eReader. Inez Kelley's Salome at Sunrise was beautifully written, and such a fabulous story. *insert song of joy* <- that's me singing it's praises!

I'm also eating up Kate Pearce's Simply series. Whoa, hawt. hothothothot. Not for the faint of heart, though. You've gots to like menage and some m/m.

Disappointed with Lora Leigh's Breeds series. They're meh IMO.

I've also read Gena Showalter's The Darkest Passion - I found the heroine not to my liking so the story didn't jive well with me. I'm reading her latest The Darkest Lie now, but just started. I can only hope that Scarlet doesn't annoy the snot out of me like Olivia.