Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rosetta Update

So... odds are good that I won't be finishing Rosetta this month. Last night I sat down and, in a fit of writer's block about chapter 22, wrote a scene from the final battle. It really was just a small scene, but it lasted 1000 words. At the 1000-word per day rate I'm going, I have just over 10,000 words to go until I hit my target for the month. That's ten of those small scenes. I think I have more to say than that.

I'm okay with this though. I've set a new goal (end of January), a new writing challenge (1000 words/day for the month of January), and I'll keep trudging along. I don't think it'll take me all of January to finish, because I do think I'm starting to circle in for a landing.

Sort of.

This story has taken some seriously weird twists in the last month. Peppered throughout my chapters now are notes for me to go back and fix. Some of them are specific notes, like, "The Author will think of something clever for me to say here." But some are incredibly vague, like, "Make Alec a more likable character," or, "There will be more unrest in the Pack." Which means my editing process is going to rock.

I'm actually really looking forward to starting my edits. I like the direction the story's gone, and I like the things I've come up with to explain the anomalies I created in the beginning. I know there are several chapters that will need to be completely rewritten, as well as many things that will need to be cut or added, but it actually sounds nice not to have to create anything new. I just get to play in the world I've already created.

I've never edited any of my novels before. This is usually where the wheels fall off the wagon. I made some half-hearted attempts with my first novel, but none of them could wipe the undercurrent of, "I wrote this when I was in elementary school," from it, so I ultimately stuck it in a metaphorical drawer.

I've also never written a query letter for a novel or a synopsis, but those are both included in my new year's writing resolutions (I'll put up the list later). I'd like to have Rosetta edited by the beginning of summer, maybe May or June, of 2012, and I want to begin sending letters to agents soon after that. Ideally, I'd love to have an agent by the end of next year, but I'm going to attempt to dream somewhere in reality's neighborhood. I can't control whether someone picks up my book, but I can control whether I have feelers out, so I'll do as much as I can and hope the rest falls into place.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


That's right, I did it. I completed my second National Novel Writing Month competition. And, perhaps even more unbelievably, I don't hate my novel after finishing it. I think that's because I didn't work on it exclusively this time. It gave me more time actually appreciate what I was writing.

And I'm not done. I finished on November 28, then I took a few days off (well, I severely decreased my writing amount at least. I think I wrote less than 500 words combined). Today I start my own personal mini-NaNo. My goal for the month of December is to write 31,000 more words. Hopefully most of them will be for Rosetta. My big goal is to have the first draft of Rosetta done by the end of the year, though that will take more than 31,000 words (it's currently at 35,000, so I need to double that at least). At the very least, I should be circling in for a landing by the time this month is over.

It's going pretty well, I think. The story's moving along. Kim and my mom both seem to like it. I think I'm finally figuring out how to go from where I am now to where I need the story to be. And I've even accepted that my characters are going to do things I don't like or approve of, and I'm learning to roll with the changes (except you, Ben. You need to stay in line).

This is the best I've felt about my writing in a long time. Here's hoping next month just gets better. You can track my progress (and mood) with the progress bar on the right side.

Congratulations to everyone else who participated in NaNoWriMo. Whether you won or not, embracing the desire to write is half the battle.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Word Wars and the Art of Speed Writing

As of this morning, I'm 5000 words from completing NaNoWriMo. In the last two days, I've written 6000 words, and I hope to write another 2000 or so tonight, which will hopefully lead to my finishing this weekend.

I accomplished this with a lot of help. For the last three Fridays, I met with a few other NaNo writers in my region. Together, we sat in Starbucks from 7:30 until close, writing away and occasionally pausing to chat and relieve some of the pressure. For all three of these days, I saw word counts at least over 2000. Yesterday, I wrote 4470 words.

And they weren't bad either. I know that, by its nature, NaNoWriMo encourages you to write a lot of crap in the hopes of finding something good amidst the wreckage. The idea is that putting something on the page, no matter how bad, is better than having nothing. But yesterday I wrote two short stories in the Rosetta universe which could, depending on how things fall into place, wind up at the end of book three (or maybe somewhere in four, if there is a four). They're certainly not ready-to-publish yet, but they're solid stories that are at least tangentially related to my main novel.

To spur each other on, we engaged in word wars. Basically, you set a time limit, and everyone writes as much as possible. Whoever writes the most words wins. We did three last night: two for 30 minutes and one for 20.

I strongly advocate word wars.

Nothing focuses me quite like a competition, especially when my competitor is sitting next to me, clacking away and making me think that she's racing along (turns out she was; I lost two of the three wars). So I just kept writing, never stopping, hardly thinking, and I wound up with something that can be trimmed down to something very nice. I already have the ideas. I just need the extra push to put them on paper.

I also strongly advocate writing in groups. I thought it would be distracting, that I'd want to talk more than type. And sometimes I did, but more often we egged each other on, scolding when we got too distracted. I worked harder on those days than any other, and I counted on them to help when I fell behind in the word count. As a result of last night's (and my increased motivation today) I'm currently 1700 words ahead of where I need to be. And this blog post will only add to that.

Anyway, the moral of this story is to consider writing with a buddy. Whether it's sending your chapters to a friend or getting together with other writers for a little good-natured competing. You might be surprised by the results you get.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Story Hints: How Much Is Too Much?

When I'm writing a novel, I often have many things about the ending planned in advance. I assume this is a common thing for writers, since ultimately the goal is to get to the end. In the case of Rosetta, I also have things planned for the next two books. Obviously, to get to these things, I need to build toward them gradually. In other words, I need to drop hints along the way, so it's not surprising when all of a sudden two characters sleep together in book two. But the question is: how big a hint is too big?

I have a tendency toward dropping too many hints too quickly. I don't want to leave the possibility that the reader might not pick up on it, or that it might be jarring. I have every intention of fixing this problem during editing. But I'm constantly worried that the reader, who is not inside my head and therefore has very little idea of what I'm thinking (though admittedly that problem may not be remedied if they were inside my head), will not understand the way my characters grow or change to fit the end game I have planned for them. So my hints tend to be heavy-handed, more of a smack in the face than a teasing caress.

On the other hand, my friend Kim trusts her readers much more, and she's very cautious about giving away too much. She relies on the reader to put the pieces together on their own, never wanting to give them too much information so they figure it out too early. She likes to give her readers more credit, believing they can reach the same conclusions she has. As a reader, I appreciate this quite a bit. As a writer, I find it incredibly difficult to do.

So maybe this is the question: is it better to err on the side of too much information or too little?

I've always liked those books where you don't pick up on the hints right away, but when you read them a second time (and I'm a chronic re-reader) you suddenly start to see them all for what they are. It's what I've aimed to do with Rosetta, especially with some of my main character's personality traits that I plan to develop more as the book and series go on. Yet I can't help feeling discouraged when I read a chapter back and realize I "casually mentioned" one such aspect four times in one chapter.

I have this problem when Quinn feels anxious about something as well. For example, in the first few chapters, she runs into her ex-boyfriend and spends the entire time thinking about how she acts like a lovesick teenager every time she sees him. Luckily, in the first round of edits, I sought and destroyed many instances of this, leaving just a few to acknowledge that she is, in fact, acting like a 13-year-old girl around him (a character trait that made me grind my teeth together and pray she grew out of it soon). It got so bad I actually broke the fourth wall and yelled at her through the page.

Now in chapters seven, eight and nine, she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing over a test she didn't believe she should have passed. This was done partly because I wanted to show her need to prove herself, but it exploded into her solitary focus for about 35 pages.

At what point do I start believing the reader will understand Quinn's insecurities without my harping on it any longer? At what point do I assume they'll understand a dropped hint or a secret smile that may show up several chapters later? And at what point do I trust that a few actions on her part will do more than a thousand long (internal) monologues? I'm just never sure.

Writing Prompts

So I spent the better part of this evening looking for ways to fill my NaNoWriMo word count. After running through my list of projects (Rosetta, Dash, YA, Long Live, and now my newest story Angels), I came up with... writing prompts. So I set about searching for writing prompts online to help get me started.

I have to tell you: they suck.

I don't know if it's just the websites I found, but there were a ton of one-word writing prompts (which can be fun when I'm in the mood for them) and a ton of prompts along the lines of, "Write about something you dislike about yourself." But there were very few longer prompts, containing things that might get your mind working if you're having trouble coming up with an idea of your own. It's all well and good to have the prompt, "Cinnamon," but if you're already a little burned out and not having luck coming up with a concept, sometimes you need a little more.

Maybe it was just the way I was searching. I typed "Writing prompt" into Google and went with the sites on the first page. Is there a better topic to search? Maybe "story starters" or something like that?

When I was in high school, I used to spend the first fifteen minutes of every morning doing free writing. Basically, I'd sit at my desk at 5:15 in the morning and write about whatever could possibly come to mind.

Needless to say, there were a lot of angry journal entries about how much I hated being awake that early.

I liked doing the free writing. I read about it in one of those "How to Be a Writer" books (maybe Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird), and the author talked about how it loosened up her mind for the rest of the day. I noticed a distinct uptick in my creativity whenever I did it. I felt more awake during the day (which was ironic because I woke up earlier), and I felt like my brain was firing on all synapses.

Unfortunately, like most things I did in high school, this faded away as I got older. Eventually, I valued the extra fifteen minutes of sleep more than the burst of energy and creativity I would get from free writing. Nowadays, I wake up and sit on my computer for a half hour before even attempting to move. I could use this time to write/free write.

Instead, I watch reruns of Boy Meets World or play games on Sporcle.

Part of the problem is that I'd rather write than free write, but I'm afraid whatever I wrote at six in the morning would be completely useless--and it probably would be. But I don't want to have to rewrite everything I do, and I don't want to waste time writing things that don't matter (aka stream-of-consciousness free writing), so instead I write nothing. And for some reason my brain is okay with this.

Anyway, at this point I'm just looking to fill my word count, but I will go back to the initial point and pose a question to all of you who are reading (so possibly just Kim): Does anyone out there have a tried-and-true writing prompt site they use?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NaNo Update

It's amazing. Ten days into National Novel Writing Month, and I'm still within spitting distance of being on schedule. In fact, until yesterday, I was actually over my word count, and I expect to get back to that level again this weekend. While I have actually managed to complete the challenge before (in 2009), this is still a minor miracle for me. What's even more important (and unbelievable) is that I'm still enjoying what I'm writing.

I've spoken at length already about the Novel-We-Speak-Not-Of and how, even though I technically won NaNoWriMo, I felt like I lost. Well, this year's been different so far. I'm doing a couple things differently. I already explained that I'm working on three different novels and possibly some short stories (I also count these blog posts... anything that involves words being written on a page). However, I've found myself focusing on Rosetta a lot in the past week, and I think this is still working because I've planned a lot more of this story than the NWSNO. Also, I don't expect to finish it this month. Removing the pressure is key.

This is actually doing something quite lovely for me: it's reminding me why I want to write in the first place. I know there are a lot of writers who have a love/hate relationship with the actual writing process. I think any task which asks you to put a piece of yourself into it can cause that type of reaction. But for awhile I was only writing because I felt like I ought to. Vaguely, I remembered it was something I liked to do, but it wasn't calling up the same feelings as before. It's been ages since I've reached anywhere near the middle of a story.

I just finished chapter 8 of Rosetta. This is maybe a little less than 1/4 of the book, and it's just now starting to get past the basic introduction and into the main plot. I just introduced Eli, a character whose very presence apparently makes all scenes flow better. And suddenly I went from really struggling to write anything coherent or worthwhile in chapters 5 and 6 to writing my favorite chapter to date in chapter 8.

I feel like I spend a lot of time talking about how I'm finally optimistic about my writing, but this seems to be more than that. I sit down every night to hit my word count and I'm not thinking about the millions of other things I could be doing. I don't turn on reruns of Boy Meets World to procrastinate. I don't even need to be on AIM with a few friends to break up the whole writing process. I wrote for a half hour while on my lunch break today just because I wanted to. It's a lot like being back in high school and carrying my notebook everywhere on the off-chance I had a few minutes to write... just because I liked it. Except now my notebook is Google Docs.

Anyway, this is a fairly meaningless blog post in the scheme of things, but I felt good about what I was doing so far and wanted to share. I hope NaNoWriMo is going well for everyone else, and I'm looking forward to seeing other's results.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I'm currently in the process of writing chapter 8 of Rosetta, the chapter which will introduce Eli, a 24-year-old werewolf who will become quite important throughout the rest of the book and future ones. Eli was probably the second or third character I created, and the first one I had actual expectations for. I know what I want him to do by the end of the book, and while a whole host of other things need to fall into place to make it work, the thing that frightens me most is the Eli won't be the character I need him to be to make those things happen.

This happened to me once before. I started a novel with the intention of the main character getting together with this one guy. And when I got to the part of the outline where they were supposed to get together... nothing. No sparks, no chemistry, no conceivable reason why these two people would ever see each other in a romantic light. He was her sons' principal; she was his students' mother. Nothing more, nothing less.

Instead of rolling with it and changing the plan, I panicked and shut down. This was the concept I'd built my whole story around. If it wasn't going to work, what point was there in continuing it?

I'd like to think I've grown from this, and that I can readjust if Eli is not ready to do what I need him to do at the end of the book. I'd like to think I'm a better writer now than I was when I was 18. And I'd like to think I'm more flexible now. But the problem with having expectations for a character is that then they have the potential to disappoint you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo - Day 1

I don't think this will become a daily update on how NaNoWriMo is going, but I finished my word count early today, so I figured I'd throw this in too.

So I'm at 1908 words, which is technically 241 words over what I needed to do today. This will become important in the future, I think, when I have less time to write (or less inclination). I wrote 365 words of Rosetta by hand, then switched to my untitled YA novel (which will henceforth be referred to as simply YA), of which I wrote 1543 words. I made an Excel spreadsheet which breaks this all down for me. It's an incredibly complex Excel spreadsheet. There are charts. I'm very proud of it (kind of stupid proud actually. Perhaps I could have better used that time elsewhere).

I actually thought I'd write more of Rosetta. There are a couple problems with that though. First, Rosetta is handwritten. I carry my notebook with me everywhere and write whenever I get a chance. It's something I started doing in high school, when I was working on my second novel Merry-Go-Round. Back then, I did it so I could write in class (we weren't allowed to use personal laptops in school... probably so kids didn't do exactly what I was doing. Or surf the internet). Now, it's still easier to carry around than my computer. Unfortunately, this means I have to transfer everything to the computer intermittently so I know what my word count is. Plus, it's a slower process in general. Sometimes I like this. During NaNoWriMo, it can become somewhat of a hindrance.

The other problem is that Rosetta is my (current) baby. 1667 words (the target word count per day) is almost a complete chapter. To write a chapter a day, when I've been writing a chapter every two weeks so far, is a big step up. And since I so desperately don't want to screw it up, I'm taking it much more slowly. If I can write a few hundred words per day, I think that's enough for that. Which puts a little more pressure on YA and Dash (of which I wrote nothing today), but I'm less afraid of writing crap for those stories.

I have a short story, tentatively titled Long Live, that I'd like to work on/finish in the next day or two, and I wrote the first sentence of Dash but was too lazy to go upstairs while I was writing and get it. Those are tomorrow's projects. That could all change if I wake up tomorrow and feel like writing anything else. The nice thing about the multiple projects system is that if I ever get bored... I move on.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Yeah, it's that time again: National Novel Writing Month. This will be my fourth entry in five years. I was unsuccessful in 2007 and 2008, and in 2009, I was able to complete my 50,000 word goal. This is the Novel-We-Speak-Not-Of.

There is a reason I don't normally talk about this novel. It was an idea I'd been rolling around for the better part of two or three years. Loosely based on Peter Pan, it's about five kids and their babysitter who set out to find a secret world in their house where no one ever grows up. It was supposed to be a story about the games only kids can play, where everyone can see the world you create without having to ask a lot of questions. It was supposed to be the kind of story where you couldn't tell if it was real or all in their heads. It was supposed to be fun and poignant and whimsical.

It was very few of those things. There were a few scenes that weren't completely terrible, and even a nice scene where the oldest boy, appropriately named Peter, can no longer see the world they've created because he grew up to much and has different priorities. It has pirates and ninjas and cowboys and plants that taste like candy and animals that can talk. It should have been a pretty great story.

I've always felt like the problem was that I rushed writing it, so when I got to the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo, I only wanted it done. There were parts, like the ending, that were rushed, and parts that were dragged out just so I could reach my word count. And I got sick of it. Really, really sick of it, to the point where I still can't read it without feeling some residual anxiety. I completely burned myself out.

But this year, I have a plan. Instead of going in attempting to write 50,000 words of one novel, I have two adult novels, a YA novel, and a short story or two on the agenda. Obviously, my main focus will be Rosetta, since this is the book I want to complete and publish. But I've been really excited about Dash and the currently Untitled YA novel as well. Plus, I've written about half of a really cute short story that I'd like to finish. The goal will just be to write 50,000 words this month. I'm not putting all my eggs in one book, which takes the pressure to complete something out of the mix. If I finish something, that's great, but I'll be able to meet my word count somewhere else. If I finish nothing, it's not because I didn't write fast enough or efficiently enough; it's because I was working on many projects.

And hopefully all this will reduce the likelihood that I'll hate whatever I end up with.

So good luck to everyone who's writing this month (both for NaNo and just for fun). I hope you get something really great out of it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One DV Rebel vs. The Plot Summary

The more I write, the more I realize something rather disheartening: I suck at plot development. Really suck. Like, can't-get-the-last-of-the-milkshake-through-the-straw suck. And I never knew this was my problem before. Because I can come up with ideas. Oh, baby, can I come up with ideas. I've got a list of story ideas a mile and a half long, and I'll still come up with a new one before I start writing something new.

At some point, though, I've started to understand that ideas and plots aren't the same thing. This was never more obvious that the other day when I came up with Dash, the tentative title for one of my NaNoWriMo projects (more about that in a future post). The idea was spawned from a text message to Kim: Can you think of a book that's not midway through a series where the main character starts the book and ends the book in the same relationship, and they don't break up and get together somewhere throughout?

We could not.

So the idea was: Book about a couple that doesn't break up. And they do some other stuff too.

See, that other stuff is where I have the problem. In the past, I've taken this idea, developed a couple characters (let's call them Ash and Em for this book because, well, those are their names), and started writing with nothing else to guide me. Sometimes I've developed an outline around this idea, where very little happens except the characters talk a lot (and, in this case, maybe flirt a lot). Then I write a few chapters, decide it sucks, and put it in a drawer.

I'm breaking the cycle.

I don't know if I've actually developed a plot yet, but I wrote the back-of-the-book blurb. I'm finding more and more that this is a much better jumping point than the idea is. At least this hints at conflict and obstacles to overcome. Plus, it makes me smile, because I would totally pick up this book if I read the summary:

It’s not that Emma Flamel likes to keep secrets. It’s just that she has no other choice. Sure, she could tell Ash, her boyfriend of almost a year, that she’s a witch with the power to make him do anything from swat imaginary flies to confess his darkest secrets... but who needs the hassle? It’s already the longest relationship she’s ever been in; why tempt fate by pushing it? But when her 16-year-old “Little Sister” turns up dead and reeking of magic, Em starts to suspect someone’s trying to tell her something. And Ash’s investigative skills may be just what she needs to get to the bottom of it.

Now I know several things I didn't before. I know Em is a witch, and Ash doesn't know that. I know Em hasn't been in a relationship for longer than a year. I know someone killed her Little Sister (as in, Big Brothers/Big Sisters). I know witches can smell/sense/taste/feel magic. I know Ash has investigative skills (cop? PI?). And I know Em is going to investigate this death, probably with Ash's help. These are all from six sentences, and suddenly... I have the beginning of a plot. And the more of a plot I have, the more excited I get about writing this, and the more details I'll fill in.

I know a lot of writers will swear by the outline system. Until recently, I was one of them. But you have to be flexible if you make an outline because things will change, and I find it difficult to do that. Instead, this plot summary and the notes I make from it give me the freedom to create the story as I go, as the characters develop, but also gives me some guidance. Sure, there are still many, many things I should probably know before diving in, like maybe Ash's last name, but it's only October 27, and I already feel like I'm in a way better place than I was the last time I did NaNoWriMo. Sure, my bipolar love affair with writing could swing back to depression at one wrong word or bout of writer's block. And, sure, I still have to worry about hitting 50,000 words by the end of November. But, hey, for now? I'm going to enjoy picturing what the back of my book will look like.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writer's ADD

I have what I affectionately refer to as Writer's ADD. Think of it as the polar opposite of Writer's Block. Instead of having no ideas, I have too many. And I want to write them all.

I don't remember this being such an issue when I was younger. Hell, I wrote two novels before I turned 17. I could sit and write for hours... on the same topic! Now, I've already been distracted twice while typing this blog post.

Part of the problem is that every idea I think of sounds amazing, until I start to write it. And this, I understand, has more to do with being my own toughest critic than anything else. Perhaps if I wasn't so hard on myself, I wouldn't think every idea sucks once it's on the page.

Another problem is that I like instant gratification. I can't write a romantic scene between two characters in Rosetta because those two characters aren't together yet. So instead of patiently waiting to build up to it, I thought of a new idea, where the main character is already in a relationship at the beginning of the story. Now I can write that romantic scene without having to wait.

Yes, that is the same logic I apply when I write fanfiction.

And perhaps part of the problem could be that I have a subconscious fear of success. If I never finish anything, I'll never be successful and then I won't have the pressures of living up to fans' expectations, publishers' expectations, friends' expectations, my family's expectations and my own expectations. This has the added bonus of being both really depressing and difficult to fix, so I'm hoping this is not the problem.

Most likely, it's what my 4th grade Reading/Language teacher told my mother--my brain goes faster than my hand. And I suppose having too many ideas is better than having none, though if none of them are ever written I guess it doesn't make a difference. That's why setting deadlines (and answering to someone else) is so important for me. Having someone else who's anticipating my chapters motivates me better than I could ever motivate myself.

The moral of today's story? Always write with a buddy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

So Much More Than You Want to Know

Welcome to the latest installment in the One DV Rebel series. This blog could alternately be titled Misadventures in Writing, as it will chronicle my journey through writing and completing the first novel in what will hopefully become a series.

Some background about me: When I was three years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a writer. A couple decades later, I'm still telling them that, and they're still encouraging me to follow my dreams. I work full-time for a publishing company (that sadly does not publish the type of books I hope to write), and I spend my free time watching TV. When I'm not coming up with new ways to procrastinate, I occasionally jot a few words down on a page.

I've completed three novels to date, and I don't believe any one of them is good enough to send for publication. The first was cute, but I finished it when I was twelve, and it reads like that. The second, my first serious novel, lacks basic plot elements, though it was enjoyable to write and probably isn't as bad as I think it is. After my second novel, I burned out on a project that went awry, and it took me a long time to get back into writing, so I'm proceeding with caution.

We don't talk about my third novel.

My friend Kim and I have an arrangement: every two weeks we exchange the next chapter of our books. Once every two months, we do an edit. I have focus issues, so this system is a godsend. For the first time, I feel confident that I can complete this book, and that it will be good enough to let other people read when I do.

This novel, tentatively titled Rosetta, is an urban fantasy book about a girl returning to her werewolf pack after being gone for five years. One of her brothers left a few months ago to live amongst humans, and she arrives home to find her only sister just left too. Tired of being abandoned, Quinn immerses herself in Pack life again, only to find that she's going to be much more involved than she thought she was.

I'm not sure what I want this blog to be yet (except a new way for me to waste time), so expect rants, musings, and occasionally long periods of silence (lets pretend I'm actually writing during those times). And, hey, if you have any interesting writing stories to share, let me know. I'm always looking for inspiration... or at least a good laugh.