Increasing Word Count and Training for #NaNoWriMo

Oct 19 2014, 4:09 pm in , , ,

Jackson on the treadmillI’m over at Word Whores talking about recovery time, what happens when your writing schedule goes to hell and how to get back on track!

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Finding the Formula Machine

Oct 17 2014, 4:55 pm in , , , , ,

Sunrise 10_16_2014 Santa FeI had a Twitter conversation yesterday that went like this. Because these gals crack me up, I’m sharing a bunch of it. It, of course, started because I was being a smart ass. Though you can see that Maisey Yates was snarky first.

Then Lexi Ryan chimed in.

 

We riffed for a while, with various gripes on this theme, then dwindled off. Lexi came back a few hours later.

The thing is, if you know these authors – or follow the links I thoughtfully provided :-) – you’ll recognize them as highly regarded, very prolific and bestselling authors. I know these gals and they work amazingly hard and produce wonderful books that, not incidentally, sell very well. And that saw about Harlequin providing its authors with the Magic Formula that Maisey references has been making the rounds for-fucking-ever. I remember my mom saying something to me along those lines when I was much younger and she thought romance were trashy literature that I shouldn’t be reading. No, Harlequin does not tell us the characters should kiss on X page and have sex on Y page. Yes, editors do give direction on story structure. However, the guideline that the first act climax should occur somewhere around the first 25% of the story and all the stakes should be set at that point applies to pretty much every entertainment genre. Maybe books in the Literary Genre don’t do that, but they’re arguably going for something other than storytelling and entertainment.

There’s a pervasive idea that writing a book takes a REALLY long time. And, in truth, writing a first novel CAN take years. Because of the learning curve. I wrote a post the other day about trying to be creative on deadline and a big piece of that is building the craft and skills to do it. However, the belief persists that quality writing should be a long, slow process. With the reverse assumption being that quickly produced work is shallow, low-quality and – yes – written to a formula. I saw a blog post by a writer the other day who championed the many virtues of writing his novels by hand, with pen and paper. He proudly stated that he could draft an entire novel this way in “only” 14 months. I also saw a tweet yesterday from a writer advising that everyone has their own process and you don’t HAVE to “churn out” 2 books a year.

While I respect both of their perspectives, I’m bothered by the implicit lack of respect for my process. It took me 84 days to write the 91,000 word first draft of The Tears of the Rose, which just received a Top Pick GOLD review from RT Magazine. I take that to mean it’s a pretty decently written book. I worked really hard on it. Yes, I structured the story about major plot points, with major events occurring at the act climaxes. Nobody gave me a formula.

It surprises me still when people call me a prolific or fast writer. It doesn’t feel that way. At the same time, taking 14 months to write out a novel long hand sounds excruciatingly slow to me. I had (or will have) five books come out in 2014 and I don’t feel like I’ve “churned out” anything. Every one has taken long hours of concentrated work, extensive crafting and pieces of my soul. I realize this is an enviable place to be and I count my blessings that I’m able to write fast.

That said, I’ve also put in a lot of effort to make sure I can. I keep my brain as uncluttered as possible. I remove all distractions, rather ruthlessly. I put in long hours. So do these other gals. They also manage to take care of small children at the same time, which I can’t even fathom.

This turned into more of a rant than I intended. I think my point is that I’d really love to see the end of this concept of the anguished author who spends years writing his magnum opus. It feels fueled to me by the sort of person who wants to be seen as someone artsy and glamorous – the Writer – rather than putting in the time to get the work done. I don’t see anything admirable about not getting the book written. We like to fetishize artists, but other kinds of work don’t get this shiny gloss on what is, ultimately, not doing the job. The grocery store checker who never quite manages to get all the groceries in the bag loses his job. The stockbrocker who just can’t overcome her personal agony to sell those stocks won’t be a stockbroker for long.

I blame the artist for this, really. We’re incredibly good at spinning convincing stories from our pain. That symphony we never delivered? IT WAS THE VOICES OF DEMONS! That studio full of blank canvases? THE BLEAK DESERT OF MY SOUL! That novel I spent ten years writing while I hung out in coffee shops and debated the shivering joy of the sound of a fountain pen on good paper? STILL NOT WRITTEN BUT LOOK HOW PROFOUND I AM.

Eh. Okay. I guess what I’m getting at is, don’t buy the song and dance, people. A creator creates. Buckle down and do the work. Don’t throw stones at people who do it faster. Don’t succumb to the temptation to glamorize what’s bogging you down. Solve the problem, take the stone out of your shoe, get to work.

Which I’m going to do now.

Happy weekend, everyone!

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Writing to Deadline – Keeping the Quality AND the Speed

Oct 14 2014, 6:39 pm in , , ,

RT Top Pick GOLDThe Tears of the RoseSo, this happened today.

And, yes, I’m totally over the moon about it. This Top Pick Gold is an even higher rating than RT Magazine gave The Mark of the Tala, the first book in The Twelve Kingdoms. Beyond the obvious thrill of having this sort of amazing compliment is the incredible validation of having the second book exceed the first. It’s hugely important to me to continue to grow and learn as a writer. This tells me I’m on the right track.

The review says this:

Although The Tears of the Rose picks up immediately after book one, new readers will have no trouble following along as the events surrounding Prince Hugh’s death – at the hands of Amelia’s sister – are quickly described. Amelia’s journey from pampered princess to empowered woman begins with sorrow and pain, until she begins to see her purpose and embraces her newfound strength and power. She is a surprising female character, as is the scarred and mysterious Ash. He shows Ami what passion and love truly mean in the sexiest way possible – loving her unconditionally even when it seems impossible for them to be together. One of the highlights of the Twelve Kingdom series so far is that the women are charged with saving themselves and creating their own happily-ever-after, with the men surrounding them just one part of the process.

It means even more that they love about this book exactly what I do. I couldn’t be happier!

Another reason to feel good about this love for book 2 is that I wrote it on deadline. See, I wrote book 1, The Mark of the Tala, before my agent sold it. I had plenty of time to write it (though I did hold myself accountable to my self-imposed schedule, which I strongly advise pre-pubbed writers to do). On The Tears of the Rose, however, all I had was a few paragraphs of concept and a looming deadline.

I had a conversation with a younger author about this the other day, where she lamented the difficulty of trying to stay on track with the book she’d sold on spec (like I did with The Tears of the Rose). She was having a lot more trouble getting the book to gel and feeling a lot more stressed, even though she’d written the first book in the series in the same amount of time. I commented that I think it has to do with trying to wedge a part of ourselves essentially without timelines – our creativity – into a schedule.

A few years back I read a book called My Stroke of Insight. It’s not a book one would typically pick up to learn about creativity, but it’s an amazing story that way. The book is an autobiographical recounting of a brain scientist who experienced a devastating stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Because of her training and knowledge, she was able to observe her own symptoms and the effects of the injury on her thought processes with detailed insight. We often talk about the left brain being in charge of math, logic and other linear concepts while the right brain is our creative, language and imagination-based side. What this very left-brained scientist discovered was that the loss of function on that logical, linear side freed her creative brain in a new way. She also found that she lost most sense of schedule, timelines and organization. As her left brain recovered, she improved. In the interim, however, she was terrible at being on time.

This is what we’re dealing with by writing to deadline. The left brain knows all about that schedule, but the creative side – our storyteller – is oblivious. It moves on its own time, which is in some ways no time at all.

I ended up telling this writer that for me it’s a lot like making pie crust. Good bakers can make a pie crust come out perfectly a lot of the time. I’m a better baker than I used to be, but I’m no pro. I am, however, getting to be more of a professional writer. A lot of that is building skill. Experience and knowledge make the professional. Another piece is having a good recipe. Choosing the recipe that works also comes from experience and taste. You have to know what works for you. The final component, as every cook knows, is a dollop of hope and black magic. Sometimes you do everything right and the pie crust turns out tough. Or falls apart. A good baker plans around this and can recover.

She also gives the blessings of the kitchen gods their due.

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A Brief History of Jeffe’s Online Presence

Oct 12 2014, 3:10 pm in ,

Chris BatyI’m over at Word Whores today, talking about the evolution of the Internet and how my online presence has changed and grown. Some surprising findings, and also parallels to the growth of NaNoWriMo and discussed with us by the founder, Chris Baty, in the pic above.

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Pitfalls of Writing Fantasy – Or Why Your Heroine Can’t Sleep So Much

Oct 11 2014, 2:17 pm in , , , ,

Moonset Santa Fe 10_9_2014I’m over at Here Be Magic today, talking about a possible pitfall in writing heroines in fantasy novels.

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