Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exorcise the Demons!

I've been toying with different types of internal conflict with my characters, and it can be kind of a sticky wicket sometimes.

How does my main character deal with this stuff? How does he work it out in relationship to the other characters? I've been working on writing a variety of different scenes to try and resolve some of the major beefs my main character has as I truck toward the ending of this thing.

Since I'm writing from the first-person point of view, it's been fun to write about the confusion my main character has with his perceptions and what's really going on with those around him.

But I'm all about conflict. I can come up with all kinds of problems and bumps along the road for characters, but wrapping them up and coming up with realistic and interesting ways to do it isn't always easy.

The trick is to make sure the problems get resolved without just dropping some deus ex machina into the works. That's also the fun part, too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Testing dedication

Sorry for the lack of blog posts lately, but I have been on a mini-vacation.

I never knew how much I relied on a routine for writing the book when I was at home, until I took off from home. When surrounded by friends and family that you rarely get to see, it's hard to find time to yourself for writing (and updating your blog).

I know what you're thinking. You may remember a previous post on this blog about not letting life get in the way. What I'm going through with this lil' trip is a test of exactly that.

I have stuck to my guns, and I have churned out 1,000 words per day, but I had been used to getting at least 2,000 per day for a couple of weeks. I'm still comfortably on pace to have the first draft finished by the end of October, but the volume of words I've been writing has slowed over the past few days.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing. If anything, this has allowed me to take a step back and look at some of the stuff I've written. I've learned that a lot of words doesn't always mean a lot of good words. I'm still pretty happy with what I've accomplished so far, but I think that now I've learned that sometimes you have to slow down to get another burst of momentum rolling again.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Tough Get Going

This is hard.

I'm getting down to the nitty gritty with this novel, and I'm having a hard time wrapping it up. I'm still knocking out words at the same nifty pace that I always have, but my last two writing sessions weren't loaded with the same confidence.

I know I'm going to have to redo some of the stuff that I've written lately, just from how I felt after I read it when I was done writing. I wasn't completely sold on what I had done. I'm happy with the prose and the dialogue and all that stuff, but I think that part of the story needs to be stronger.

I'm setting my standards pretty high when it comes down to the ending, because I want it to be strong. How one's book ends is how good of a taste you leave in their mouth. I want the reader to be rewarded and feel refreshed when they finish the book.

So I'm racking my brain trying to figure out a good, clean way to finish this. Or maybe I need a good, messy way. Whatever way I find, I just don't want it to be a bad way. Obviously, I'm new at this, and this is a big hurdle to clear.

I'm sitting around 66,000 words on my work in progress, and I've gotten through a lot of the story that I wanted to tell. That's a good thing.

People say that it's always hard to say good bye. I'm really feeling that lately. This ending business is a head-scratcher. I'll figure it out, but it's going to take a few tries.

So I'm going to come up with a bunch of different options and then hope I have to bang my head against the wall trying to decide from two or three great options. Having too much is always better than not having enough.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Life isn't a distraction

Sometimes, I've heard, that life gets in the way of writing. I don't know if I really buy this.

Life might get in the way of the actual, physical process of writing, but it's those "drop everything!" moments that sometimes help out your writing. And when you miss out on a writing session, doesn't it make you want to get back to that darn project even faster? It does for me.

My latest example, and the inspiration for this post, happened with work today at the newspaper. I was able to break a story last night, and had to spend a good chunk of today chasing down follow-up stuff. That axed out my first of two writing sessions that I've grown accustomed to during the day. It was a rewarding day at work, but it made me appreciate my passion for my novel even more.

Now I can't wait for work to be done, so I can get to, well, work on what I really want to be writing. Usually when I'm at the point where I'm twitching and itching to get to work on the thing, I crank out a lot of words in a short amount of time, and I'm usually happy with the result. This might not be the case with everyone, but that's how it's worked for me.

I know this example isn't something a lot of people can relate to, but I'm sure people all have things pop up during some days that gets them away from their writing. Sometimes, those experiences make for great stuff to use in your writing.

When it's time to get back to the writing, don't curse life for stalling you, use it as a motivator. It's really worked for me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sit down and don't move

I am fully convinced that a good chunk of the writing process is actually getting your tushy in the seat in front of the computer.

Lots of people have said that you can't wait for the mood to strike, since you could be waiting for years, and I'm a firm believer in that. If you just sit down to do it, that damn blinking cursor is going to goad you into writing something, anything, and then you're on your way.

If I miss a session, or feel like I'm not in the mood to write, I start to feel fidgety - like some heroin addict in the fourth day of a seven-day detox. I've found that I just have to sit my butt down and get to work, and everything usually works out.

The hardest part of any trip is getting there, and this also goes for my computer. I don't know why it's hard to just sit down and do that stuff, but sometimes it is.

I mean, that laptop is just sitting there, begging for me to write. But be careful. That same laptop has Twitter and Facebook and all those other things made by the devil.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To the victor go the spoils

There is nothing more rewarding than a super-duper writing session, and I had two of those today. I don't like tooting my own horn, but I feel pretty darn good right now, so I had to write about it.

Since this morning, I conquered a HUGE (in importance, not necessarily in size) chapter in which there is a giant conflict between a few characters, and it was one that had taken me some time (and a few fingernails) to get through. I had been struggling with it, and had typed up a few different options for it.

Finally, the trees became the forest, and everything came into view. I was able to plow through the chapter, and I went over 60,000 words on my work in progress along the way. To stick with the forest metaphor, I'm not longer on the way into the woods, I know really, really feel like I'm on my way out. There are a few more important scenes and whatnot left to write, and things might get tinkered with in editing, but confidence right now is over the moon.

I'm not published. I don't know what it feels like to get 'The Call' from an agent or that first check from a publisher or any of that good stuff. But that's not why I started writing a novel.

I started writing this novel because I love writing. I continue writing this novel for the feelings of accomplishment like I have bubbling through me right now.

I was going to go to bed, but I just can't.

Write it all down...All of it

I'm going crazy lately. That may not come as a surprise to people that actually know me, but bear with me, please.

A bunch of different ideas have been flowing for the novel. Some for the ending, but some for the meat in the middle, too. I don't know if they will fit better or worse or just the same, so I didn't know what to do at first with all of these wonderful new friends that decided to stroll into my consciousness.

Instead of hemming and hawing over them, I have decided on a cure-all for this dilemma. I'm writing everything down. If they fit, they fit. If they don't work, well, I know where the delete key is on my keyboard.

I have no qualms about editing my work. Spending nearly two decades at newspapers has shown me that editing is more of a friend of yours than it is an enemy. Besides, who doesn't like options? I'm sure many of you have been used to writing alternate scenes for parts of your book or whatever it is you are writing.

When I started this process, I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go, and I had a decent outline in place. But I'm flexible. I'm going to use as much of my creative process as it's willing to give me, even if some of it is going to end up getting wiped out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rhythm is gonna get you

With all due respect to Gloria Estefan and her fans, her music stinks. But that lady knew how to put together a catchy tune.

There's something to be said for rhythm in writing, as getting into a good flow while you're writing can be important. I've found myself reading the stuff I've written out loud, and if it doesn't sound good - if it's choppy or rambling or incoherent - I hammer the backspace button and rework the darn thing. This technique is proving to be very helpful. If my ear hates it, so will a bunch of readers.

I'm not saying I have to write in iambic pentameter or anything, but words that don't sound good probably don't read very well, either.

The actual act of writing should also be done with good rhythm, too, I've found. I'm closing in on finishing my first draft, I can feel it. I'm probably a week or two away. Now is not the time for me to slack off.

I have gotten into a groove of writing right away when I get up, and usually once more in the evening. I missed one of those sessions yesterday, as I didn't write in the morning. It threw me all out of whack, and I spent valuable time today scratching my head while trying to get back into the old routine.

I was shocked at how used to this my brain had gotten, but I learned a valuable lesson from all this: Write every day. No days off. Stephen King said in his great book On Writing that he never takes a day off when he's in the middle of something. Not Christmas. Not his birthday. Not his wedding anniversary.

Now I know what King was talking about. And he might know a thing or two about writing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happily ever after

As I'm closing in on the, well, closing of the book, a bunch of questions are rattling around in my head.

The main one is "How in the heck am I going to finish this thing?" Of course, I have a few ideas, but I don't know what the right one is just yet. How a book wraps up is such a huge thing, but when is it done? Will I know what the right ending is when it shows up? What if I come up with 30 different ways to end my book, and I hate them all. Or worse, what happens if I come up with 30 different ways to end my book, and I like them all.

I've always told myself that it will be finished when it is finished, but there are times I get so worried about it that I think I'm just going to wind up writing and writing and writing and writing. And then it won't get finished.

That's silly, of course, since I know I'm going to finish it. But as of right now, I just don't know how.

There is still some writing to do before I really have to face this dilemma, but I would be kidding if I said I wasn't thinking about this a bunch.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fighting temptation

I'm coming down the home stretch in my book, and I'm pretty happy with what I've had so far. But one thing that's tough for me to do is resisting the urge to go back and change things.

I know there are some things I need to rearrange and change with the words I've already written. That's inevitable. But I feel like I've got a lot of good momentum going with my story, and I want to get it all out there before I start tinkering, or I might lose some of that beloved momentum.

When talking about it with one of my friends today, someone who edits while they write, I likened my process to dumping a bunch of Legos onto the living room floor. I'll figure out exactly what I've got once they're all spread out and out there. I know I've got a bunch of good things, but what I have, exactly, won't be certain until I get them all in the right place.

It's not that I just have a bunch of ramblings jumbled together into one long file with no chapters or anything. I have it organized, I just don't know if it's organized exactly how I like it. I'll delete some words. I'll add some words.

I'm sure there are plenty of different ways to go about writing a novel. I might even do it differently if I start another book after this one. Right now, the ideas are flowing. I'm not going to turn off that faucet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Boy Scouts were right

Ever get a great idea for your writing at an inopportune time? Like when you're standing in line at the grocery store? Or when you're sitting at a red light? Or when you're walking to your car?

Don't let those fleeting moments go away. When those fireworks are going off, don't just ooh and aah, dang it. Take a picture! I've let some of these thoughts slip away, either because I was unprepared for them or because I thought I would remember them later on.

I've learned to come prepared, and now I carry a notebook every single place I go. This may seem like some very basic stuff we're dealing with here, but this is something that you have to do everywhere. I don't go anywhere without a little notebook in my back pocket.

If I'm just walking up to the gas station a block from my house for whatever, I bring it with. I bring it downstairs into the laundry room, even though I know the laptop is right upstairs. The best thing about the notebook is that it gives you a running start when you hit the laptop to write at your next session.

Multi-tasking is not fun

I feel like I can do quite a few things at once. I mean, even as I type: I'm breathing, my heart is beating, my fingers are moving, my brain is trying to spell words correctly, and my eyes are watching this. Voila! Multi-tasking!

But seriously, folks (koff, koff). Writing a novel is tough because of all of the extra stuff that goes along with it. I'm not only pounding out a bunch of words into my novel each day, but I'm also dedicating a bunch of necessary networking time into things like Twitter. And there's also time that goes into this blog. I try to post at least twice per day so it doesn't get stale.

On top of that, I'm reading as much as ever, and that has only helped my writing. Oh, I also have a job where I write for a living. And I cover sports, so it's not a very busy time there at all.

But hey, it's all worth it to me. This whole process - the writing, the meeting people on Twitter, the creation of this blog - has been one of the most rewarding things I've done for myself already. And I'm not even done with the book yet.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mix and match

I hit 50,000 words on my work in progress tonight, and I would've gotten more words in if it weren't for a revelation of sorts.

Now that I have a pretty substantial work rolling here, I'm finding that some chapters fit better in other places than the spots I initially wrote them in. So there was some copying and pasting, and some rough edits in spots I knew there would be inconsistencies in the story, but I'm pretty happy overall.

Everything isn't ironed out yet, but that's what revision is for. This might make the editing process a little more painstaking - making sure there aren't confusing bits from the moves and things like that. It's going to cause some head-scratching moments in the editing process, for sure, but I'm a smart cat. I also have notes to fall back on (thank the heavens).

This might make one of the steps later on take a little longer. But this is about making my work the best it can be, and this is as excited as I've been about the whole thing for awhile. It's actually coming together, and that's pretty cool.

More Help!

Holy moley, did I stumble across a great blog for aspiring authors.

The blog is a bunch of tips, rattled off in quick, concise fashion that will help anybody in the pursuit of becoming published. AuthorTech is also on Twitter, and it is a valuable resource, since getting published is no longer about just the writing any more.

Of course, my free blogger blog pops up in No. 6 of today's post, but I'm workin' on it.

Check it out. Here's the link.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Treading water

This week's writing is going swimmingly, at least in the word department. However, there are times where I feel like I'm really not going anywhere with the story, and that sucks.

When I read things over, they read just fine, and I know that I'll be getting back to some stuff later on, but it doesn't feel like it's moving as quickly as I would like it to right now.

I realize that I'm as an impatient as my dog when he's ready to go for a walk, and that not every single paragraph is going to be jam-packed with prose that readers want to underline and show all of their friends. But I feel bogged down now at times.

Understand that I still love the writing aspect, and my time to write is the time I look forward to most each day. Maybe I'm being too careful with where I'm trying to go, or maybe I'm too worried that I'm going to leave somebody behind, or maybe I'm worried that the directions I'm choosing to go aren't going to be the right ones (or should I say, the best ones).

Any way you chop it, I know the cure. I have to just sit down and write and not think about all that other stuff that may or may not be slowing me down. I know I've built up good characters. I know I have a good handle on the setting. I have to trust that they'll take me in the right direction.

And if they don't, I can always cut 'em out in the editing process.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guest? Me?

It's nothing major, but I actually got to be a guest poster on another blog. This is encouraging because it actually means that one other person is following On the Write Foot.

My take isn't about novel writing (there's enough of that on here), but about novel reading. And this time I get to ramble on about a book that has helped change my life (so to speak).

You can check out my post on Steph Bowe's great blog about writing and reading and fiction and other fun stuff called "Hey! Teenager of the Year."

Follow this link right here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Consistency is the key

Now that I'm at least halfway through my novel, it's time to really sit up and pay attention.

I mean, I know what the heck is going on in the novel, but there are a few things I have to make sure I don't forget about or lose in the shuffle. Those things I'm talking about are how characters react to each other, and making sure that the main characters are growing in the direction I want them to without me repeating myself. Or keeping the symbolism and foreshadowing consistent. I don't want to hint that something is going to happen and then never go back to it.

Of course, a lot of that ironing out will happen in the editing process and subsequent drafts. Still, the more of those things I pay attention to now, the easier that editing process becomes.

It's easier to lose track of some of that stuff than you think. There's a lot of darn words in there.

My outline is skeletal at best, but I have a pretty extensive file with character traits and their relationships to each other and all that business. It's a necessity, at least for me. There is so much going on in there now, I've got to have a crutch to lean on.

It's not cheating, because it's my book. That means it's my rules (at least for now anyway).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Word up, homey

Sorry for no blog post yesterday. When you're a sports reporter, and it's September, Fridays can be a little wacky.


I hit the 40,000 word mark yesterday with the novel, and that got me to thinkin' again. How many words is enough? How many words are too many? Not enough?

Well, not enough words is easy. If you're story's not done yet, you probably don't have enough words. If your story's done, and it's not very many words, you probably don't have a novel. Maybe it's a short story or novella, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Too much is probably around six figures. I've read that unpublished authors that are trying to submit a novel over 100,000 words will get shot down faster than a bald 40-year-old at a singles bar. So save your War and Peace until you've got a couple advance checks under your belt.

As for me, I'm probably around halfway or just past halfway finished. I feel like there are still things I need to do, but I also feel like I'm coming out of the woods instead of going in. I don't know.

Either way, I'm at the point where this thing seems real -- like it's actually going to get finished somewhere in the near future. Another month of 1,000 words per day, and I'm sitting at 70,000 words. That doesn't seem like that much time at all.

Maybe this is something I can actually do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where on earth are you?

I've talked a lot about characters and character development on this blog, but there is one thing that's just as important as any of that stuff: Setting.

One thing I've been conscious about through this whole writing process is where all this stuff is going on. If setting wasn't important, why in the world did you pick it to be where you did? There has to be a reason for it, and it better be a darn good one.

To me, where the story is taking place is just as important, and sometimes more important, as the people that are walking around in there. I'm trying to make where it takes place into one of the whos.

It's a living, breathing thing that affects how the people in the book react to each other. I plan on using it to the fullest.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Catching up

One of the beauties of any novel is how the different characters and their stories mingle with each other, but it's easy to leave one (or more) characters in the dust.

While stretching out the story of one dude may get you on something of a roll, I can't forget to let the other guys (and gals, for that matter) catch up with their stories, too. I'm writing in the first person, so that takes some of the sting away, but there are still things going on.

You can't set up a meeting that has to happen quickly between two characters, and then return to it 15 chapters later. Well you can, but that's not something I want to do. Readers aren't stupid, and they're not going to forget things, but if one character says "I can't wait to talk to you about" something, then he/she really can't wait. You gotta make it happen while all the other stuff is going on around them.

As a newspaper guy, the 'Point A to Point B' has been my business for the better part of the last two decades. One story. One string. With the novel, now I have a lot of strings. I'm pulling them all in the right direction (I hope), but I gotta make sure I'm pulling all of them. I don't want to accidentally drop one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I didn't mean to ignore you

While I feel like I've been on quite a roll with the novel lately, there is part of me that is feeling like I'm neglecting some of the characters.

I've been spending a lot of time on one main thing, and it's made some stuff I've already done obsolete. There is a character I really like, and think is a good idea for a character, but I don't really know if he's fitting in with the direction my book is going. Because of that, I don't know how long that guy will be hanging around.

It won't take that much to cut him out of the novel (a snip, snip here and there, and he would be gone), but it's tough to do. He's one of my guys. I took the time to come up with him, and he was important enough for me to put him in there in the first place.

But that is part of the process - cutting out the riffraff to keep the project on track. If there is anything more annoying than extraneous stuff in a novel that doesn't keep the story moving forward, I don't know what it is. It's my story, and I'm sticking to it, even if it means letting go of some stuff I like.

This has happened to me before, with some of the other short stories and things I've written in the past. Sometimes you come up with a character that doesn't fit in with what you're working on. I just toss 'em in the back of my brain and let them hang out until I come up with something that fits them.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Double time

I'm getting into the real guts of the novel now, and I've been trying something a little different as of late with the writing sessions.

It's no secret to my loyal blog readers (the two or three of you out there) that I shoot for at least 1,000 words per day. I usually try to get my writing out in one big session, and I try to get that session in during the morning.

The past few days, I've really been writing with a lot of confidence, and I've tacked on another writing session, this time right before I go to bed. The result? I've cranked out more than 6,000 words the last three days (and counting). I don't know if I can keep that pace up, but if I can, that would translate into 60,000 words per month. That's not too shabby.

I blogged earlier about how I like to stop when I'm on a roll, setting myself up for a running start when I get going the next day. I've found it invigorating and motivating when there isn't much time between my writing sessions, and my ideas have really been flowing.

I don't know if I'll be able to keep up this pace (being that work is picking up a little more as the school year has started), but I'm going to ride the wave as long as I can. The main thing this has shown me is that there is room for growth with my writing sessions.

The only drawback? Sometimes, the later session has ended late. I'm usually so jacked up after writing that I can't get to sleep right away. But is that a bad thing?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stare straight ahead

Days like today are the reason why writing rooms need as few windows as possible.

It's 82 degrees with neither wind nor cloud in the sky, but I've got to get cranking on the book before heading to work. This is why I write with nothing in front of me but the computer screen and a wall that has been painted some shade of tan.

What I'm talking about here is distractions, and they're all over the place - especially for the sometimes-scatterbrained souls like myself. (You know who you are...Ooh! Something shiny!)

I have to stay dedicated, or this thing will get away from me. To do that, I have to be trapped in a room all by myself. The dog is allowed, too, but only if he's quiet. He knows the deal. I want no distractions. No TV. No radio. No nothing.

I don't want to look out the window and see people grilling and playing catch with a football. Of course I want to do that stuff. But mom creeps in here: You can do that stuff when you get your work done.

Priorities, mister! Priorities!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Quit while you're ahead

I've unearthed an interesting technique in the last few days of writing. I've stopped when I'm on a roll.

When I get in a groove and I'm already well over my goal for the day, I have found that it helps out extremely in subsequent days if I just plain quit. That's different from when I started. At the outset of typing this novel, I would write and write and write until I had completely wrung out the sponge.

Now I shoot for my goal, write past it if I'm on a little bit of a roll, and then stop. If I still have fuel left in the tank, that's great. It keeps the ideas churning in my noggin until my next writing session. Some days, that turns into another writing session later on in the day. Other days, I just hit the ground running when I start rolling the next day. I'm not tapping my fingers thinking 'Where the heck do I go next?'

But what if I lose it? What if I forget where I was? Well, if I forget where I was when I sit back down at the computer, I have bigger mental problems than just coming up with believeable characters. That's why you write every day, so it stays fresh.

Everybody talks about making sure you leave your readers wanting more - making it so they're turning pages. Well, I'm discovering this for the first time, too, so I might as well leave myself itching to get to the next part.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jaws was a sardine

I'm not at the point of writing a query letter yet. Not even close. I'm only a third of my way through the first draft, and haven't even carved up anything with revision yet.

But that doesn't mean I'm not already terrified of the querying process. Alas, there is a life raft out there, and I'm more than happy to share.

If you're an aspiring author that wants to get published you MUST check out this blog: Bookmark it. Follow it. Love it.

The queryshark is a relentless agent that will slice and dice your query so you don't look like a knob when you send yours off.

I'm a big fan of brutal honesty, so this is right up my alley. Do yourself a solid and get this blog up your alley, too.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First and foremost

My novel is in the first person, and it's tricky.

I know what's going on in the world around my main character, but that doesn't mean I can describe what I know is going on. I have to describe what's going on through his eyes, and as he sees it.

I started the novel in the third person, and then switched over midstream when I discovered that one character was in every scene. He's easily been the focus from the start, so it just seemed to make more sense. I don't know if that's common or uncommon, but that's the hand I've dealt myself.

Just because the first-person narrator of the story thinks somebody's a jerk and talks about him that way, doesn't necessarily mean that person is a jerk. But that jerk is going to be described as one through that first-person narrator's eyes, you can be darn sure.

This has caused for some editing on the fly, since I catch myself holding down the backspace button uttering "No, no, no. He wouldn't say that, especially about that guy." Or things to that effect.

One thing I really love about writing in the first person is that it allows me to dive into another character. It's up to me to transform and grow along with him, or he's not going to come off as realistic. Of course that means drawing on personal experiences and having that main guy do things I would've done (when I was his age, of course, since he's 17) in a few instances. The fun part is writing his reactions to other characters, and deciding what I want those reactions to be.

As usual, I'm learning as I go. Characters are great, and I think I've got a few good ones, but putting that much emphasis on one character in my first crack at a novel is a bit intimidating.

Switching gears

I'm a newspaper reporter by day. That can cause some problems on the fiction writing front. Not only do I get burned out some days on writing, but they are also two distinctly different styles of writing.

For the newspaper, the emphasis is tell the story. Tell everything. Tell them all the gory details and leave nothing to the imagination that could lead to a different interpretation from the truth. In newspaper writing, the reader is an assumed idiot, so we have to tell them everything, leaving no stone unturned.

For my book, telling the story isn't good enough. In the book, you're supposed to show the story. Leave things for the imagination, and guide the reader into filling in the holes on his/her own. In novel writing, the readers are not idiots. We know they are smart. I don't have to describe the every detail of the inside of my character's house, since you know what a house looks like.

Both are fun for me, but different kinds of fun. The hard part is shifting from one to the next quickly after a shift at the ol' ink-stained paragraph factory.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just a darn minute

Every writer is different, I've said that a million times in my 20-some posts on this blog. But something different happened to me during my writing today.

Before I even started writing today, I had a revelation about something that could happen much earlier in the story from where I am currently plodding through. I went back and cranked out about 1,300 words on the brand-spanking new chapter, and it was like a handful of light bulbs went on.

That new blurb (which isn't yet finished) has opened the doors to a new idea with the main conflict, and even more character development. I'm always worried about my characters and whether or not they're cardboard cutouts or not. Making just one or two of them look a little more flawed and normal is a step in the right direction.

But the moral of this story is with my writing. I had always stayed pretty linear during my writing, going straight through from one chapter to the next. It had worked best for me, and I would worry about making any major adjustments in editing or in a subsequent draft.

This told me that it's all right to go back if I am so moved, and that it's probably a good idea. This might not be some world-breaking revelation, but it helped me out for today - and with my future writing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't forget the others

A big help in this whole writing process has been with other people have written. But this time, I'm not talking about the links I've made to other blogs or web sites or all that good stuff.

Read other books. It's tough when I want to write, write, write all the time, but when I'm not writing, some of that time has been spent reading. I'm reading whatever I can get my hands on, and pretty much everything I've read since going gung-ho with this book at the beginning of August has helped me.

Don't forget all those fantastic words that have been written before your fantastic words. They're a big help. After all, those dudes and dudettes got published, so why not follow their lead? Well, sort of. We're not talking stealing their goods here.

The biggest things I've learned, from my reading are these three nuggets:

1) You don't have to describe everything. Yes, we all can write wonderfully descriptive flowery stuff about how a garden looks or how a school needs a fresh coat of paint. People know what that stuff looks like, you don't have to tell them. Leave in only the stuff important to the story. I've been in a bar. So have you, or you've seen one on TV. I don't need to tell you about every stool and neon light on the walls.

2) Talk the talk. People don't speak in perfect English. Not even people in England. Nervous kids stutter. Drunk guys slur. High school kids swear and say stupid phrases that don't make sense to older people. Make it real.

3) Backstory is important, but keep it tight. A lot of books tell you what got so-and-so to this point, but they don't waste a lot of time on it. Readers want to know where the heck Capt. Protagonist is headed and why. Where he's been? If it was so important to spend gobs of time on, wouldn't we have written a book about that stuff? Stick to the basics when talking about the past. It keeps things moving.