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.