Just Make It Happen

The last couple of mornings I’ve woken up feeling less than stellar.  Tired, sore, and generally blah are really good excuses to use for not biking to work.  Wednesday I figured that part of the problem was that I’d had poor sleep and hadn’t really exercised while my sister was here.  Today I know the fault lays entirely with my dog (who was incredibly irritating last night and kept waking me up).  It was incredibly tempting to just take the excuse and hop into my car.

I didn’t.  On both days I forced myself to get out of bed and onto my bike.  Do you know what happened?

I felt better when I got to work.

Why does this relate to writing?  Easy.  Sometimes things come up and your habit of writing a scene or two every day gets interrupted.  After a few days or even a week of not writing, your mind doesn’t want to do it anymore.  It seems useless and perhaps even painful to sit down and force yourself to write.

Guess what?  You’ll feel better if you do.

The longer you let yourself slide into not writing, especially without deadlines or readers or any other impetus, the longer you’ll end up going without writing.

So, if you find yourself without motivation, make it happen anyway.  Push through the struggle.  The stuff you produce might not be up to your usual quality and you may have to trash it, but who cares?  The point is to find the rhythm of daily writing again.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Ambivalence of Completion

I recently discovered that I had been using the word “ambivalent” incorrectly.  I was using it as “having no opinion or strong feeling one way or the other,” which is an interesting (albeit wrong) definition.  Now that I know it really means “having simultaneous and conflicting emotions” I’ve been using it even more!

A common time for ambivalence is when you finish something.

I both love and hate when I read the last page of a book.  There is a deep satisfaction that comes at the conclusion of a story.  Things are resolved, characters’ lives are once again calm and quiet (hopefully!) and there is nothing left to say.  There is also a strange void that arrives at the end of a novel.  I get very attached to characters, and it feels like I’ve lost a friend when I leave their world.  I typically fill that void by jumping into another novel, but that is only a small comfort.

The same ambivalence happens when I finish a project of any kind.  Yesterday I finished knitting a little monster chunk.  He’s super cute and I’m glad he’s done (his first foot gave me fits) but now I have the challenge of finding another project to knit.

Writing is like that, as well.  I’m so glad that Dragon is done, and there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from knowing that I am capable of writing more than one novel.  Truth be told, I’m also enjoying a few days of not having story growing in my head.  I do enjoy the guaranteed mental activity of working on a novel, though, and I kind of miss it.  And that challenge of picking a new project?  That applies here, too.

Ah, ambivalence.  Such an interesting place to be.

Comparing Dragon and Butterflies

Early on in the writing of Dragon I created a post comparing my two novels.  Now that the first draft of Dragon is complete, it might be fun to do anothercomparison.

To be totally fair, I’m comparing both first drafts: Butterflies has gone through a major revision, which increased the word count and changed the chapter numbering.  As Dragon is just barely finished, it will have to wait a bit for a revision.  (I like to give it a few months so I can look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, as well as feedback from First Readers.)

Without further ado, here is a fun comparison of the two manuscripts!

Word Count (rounded)
Butterflies: 102,000
Dragon: 49,000

Random side note: I was curious to see if Dragon would count as a novel, with its low word count.  It turns out that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America classify anything with more than 40,000 words as a novel.  Yay!  That means I’ve completed two novel manuscripts!  🙂  Now, let’s continue the comparison.

Number of Pages (single spaced, hard returns at the end of each chapter)
Butterflies: 201
Dragon: 98

Number of Chapters
Butterflies: 50
Dragon: 29 and a prologue

Writing Time (actual, from the start of really working on the story)
Butterflies: 8 months
Dragon: 2 months

Thinking Time (starting with the original concept in my head)
Butterflies: 2 years
Dragon: 8 years

Dragon is shorter, as I thought it might be, but it also has a lot fewer characters and only a couple of sub-plots, whereas Butterflies has at least 6 intertwining storylines (depending on how you count them) and a huge cast.  Butterflies already has 3 related short stories and potential for another, as well as a likely sequel.  Dragon has two possible short stories and an excerpt from a scientific paper.

The reality is that both were fun for me to write, and I am glad to be finished with both.  Look for a synopsis of Dragon soon!

Epic Dragon Fight!

For the last week I’ve been complaining (here and in real life) about the “stupid dragon fight” that was all that remained of writing Dragon.  Even with my beanie baby stand-ins, I was having trouble with the physical action.

Thanks to a visit from my sister, the battle is done!

She’s a great choreographer and actress who’s not afraid to act silly in a swimming pool.  Taking advantage of her knowledge of physical movement, her mental GOTE sheets (an acting thing), and an hour in the water, we managed to come up with some really neat physical action for the climax of Dragon as well as motivation for the antagonist.  Her lack of knowledge of how magic works in the world of the book also helped with perspective, since the character who is giving us a view of the fight is not a magic user.

Now I have one more helpful act to credit to my sister when it comes to my writing!

My sister’s in town, and in my writing

My sister is here for a visit this weekend, which makes it a fun time to reflect on her influence in my writing.

I searched my blog posts to see what I had said about her before, and made the observation that I write about her a lot on the blog.

Her reply, in a teasing tone: “Well, I am the coolest.”

Really, though, my sister influences me in my writing.  Many of my characters have traits in common with her.  I love her feedback on my stories, and I know she’s already a fan.

There are even some sister relationships based loosely on ours in my writing.  (They do say to write what you know.)  The fun thing about writing is that you can take certain pieces of a person or a relationship from real life and change everything else.

The main character of Dragon has a perfectly put-together older sister who is a lawyer.  There are many things that are different, but she’s still partly based on Whitney.  The younger princess in Butterflies is silly, vain, and loves it when boys fight over her.  Again, not the same, but still partly based on Whitney.  The confident sister who adds a contrast to the shy Belinda in Bonded?  Whitney.  The wise and level-headed sister elf who really is a sister to everyone in Dragon? Whitney.  Liza’s little sister, who’s happy to be a little lady and behaves so differently than her tomboy big sister?  Whitney.  The sister in Burden who comes to court to be the confidant of the Queen?  Whitney.

Maybe it’s not the characters that are based on Whitney.  Rather, their relationships with their sisters are built based on my knowledge of what a sister is and does.  That knowledge comes from only two places: observations of others and what I know of my relationship with my own sister.

“Write what you know” doesn’t always have to mean plot and details.  It can mean people and relationships, too.

Map Difficulties

I made a mistake in trying to photograph the map I drew for my book.  I used the original.

Why am I photographing the map?  It seems like the easiest way to get a jpg for inclusion in the e-book.  The only scanner I have easy access to is the one at work, which only makes pdf files.

The problem with using the original map, rather than a photocopy, is that the cities are mostly labeled with pencil.  It’s not really dark enough to photograph well.  I tried to use a pen to darken some of the names, but I wrote them in very small.  A photocopy will be all ink, making it dark enough to show up, hopefully.

There is a photocopy of the map with one of the two manuscripts, and I’ll have access to it on Monday.  (I could also run to a copy place and either make a copy or use their scanner.  It’s not likely, but it is a possibility.)

Once the map is in jpg form, I’ll put it in the manuscript (which seems tricky but possible) and then my part of getting the e-book ready will be done.  🙂

The Sister Speaks Up

An interesting thing happens when I give a character a voice: sometimes they use it.

I’ve mentioned before that I write in third-person subjective voice, meaning that we know everything that is going on from one character’s point of view.  In Dragon I was more attentive to this, even using terms and names that were appropriate in the non-dialog part of the story.  For example, the dragons in my book refer to themselves as Khai.  When the main character is scolded for calling herself a dragon (it’s considered close to a derogatory term), I quit using the word dragon in any scene that was from her perspective.

For the big fight scene that I am still writing, I wanted to use “dragon” again.  This meant picking a character who would use that word, and the main character’s (human) sister seemed like a good choice.  We hadn’t seen her point of view much at all in the story, so I hadn’t really gotten into her personality much.  Surprise, surprise: once I started watching the fight through her eyes, she spoke up.  She’s added an interesting twist to the fight scene along with the possibility of her own short story, sequel-style.

I really should learn to keep my characters in line.

No News Is No Thank You

We’ve reached the eight week mark for my last active query letter.

What does this mean, you ask?

It means that the agent in question is not interested in my novel.

Part of the system I used to decide who to query had to do with how they respond.  I gave preference to agents who actually respond, interested or not.  While I understand it, I’m not a huge fan of the “I will only reply if interested” concept.  That kind of leaves me wondering, you know?  Fortunately, the agent in question has an automated response to queries (which means I know she got it) and a deadline for responding (which means I know it’s a “no”) so I guess no response technically counts as a response in this case.

The only other agent on my current list was not accepting queries as of the end of April.  I’m debating if I should continue to query agents at all or maybe switch to publishers.  The turn-around time is much longer, but you never know.  A direct approach may work for me.

For now I’m hoping that the e-book will do reasonably well, and sales numbers might give a boost to my query letter.  I think I’ll focus on getting that up and available before I start querying again.

Just because agents don’t enjoy the book shouldn’t mean it’s not available to interested readers!

So What Do I Write Now?

For the last several months, I’ve had either a persistent story demanding to be written or a serial with a looming deadline (or both) on my plate.  I’ve finished my short stories and Dragon is nearly done.  (I know, I know, it doesn’t count as done until it’s actually complete, and there’s that pesky fight scene left.  It’s close enough to ask the next question, though.) 

So what do I write now?

There are a multitude of possibilities.  One that I considered and then dismissed is “nothing;” writing has become a habit of sorts and if I quit, even temporarily, I’ll lose the habit.  This blog would also get kind of boring if I wasn’t actively writing.  That said, here are the likely candidates:

 – Chasing Butterflies : I could start working on the sequel to The Queen’s Butterflies.  I know a lot of people who would vote for this in a heartbeat; they want to know what happens to all of those characters!  One of the other positives of this is that I already have the basics of the plot outlined, and I know most of the characters pretty well.

A Dragon Short : Much like with Butterflies, there are several back stories that I know from Dragon that didn’t make it into the novel.  It might be fun to stay with these characters for a bit.  This would also provide another serial I could post for you!

 – A Butterflies Short : There are still several stories from the original Butterflies that I’d like to write.  Again, this could be a serial or become part of the short story collection I’m planning to put on Smashwords.

 – Something Entirely New : As of this moment, I don’t have anything new forming in my head.  I do have a new character that I can investigate, however, and I’m sure that if I decided to create something new it wouldn’t be long before my brain found some inspiration.

I also need to complete the e-book of Butterflies, although that’s not really a creative process so much as a formatting process.  Dragon also needs an excerpt from a scientific paper as an appendix.  Neither of these tasks will keep my writing mind busy for long.

So, now I’m going to turn this over to you, my lovely readers.  As you get to read about my adventures in the creative process, which one interests you the most? 

Knowing my brain, it probably won’t be the story I plan to work on that appears.  After all, Dragon was shelved for Butterflies short stories and sequel, but it decided that wasn’t going to happen.  The best I can do is start with a plan!

Don’t Force It

The only thing left to do for Dragon, besides revising the last few chapters, is one big fight scene.  As much as I love this book and have enjoyed writing it, I am ready to be done.

Unfortunately, while I know what happens in the plot and how the fight ends, I don’t have a clear picture of the battle.  No matter what I try, I can’t envision it.  This makes it very challenging to write.

As I learned writing With Honor, forcing the writing to come is never a good idea.  No matter how much I want to be done with this novel (and no matter how much my First Readers want to finish reading it) I need to let my mind stew on this fight scene before I try to write it. 

Writing With Honor, it was working on the preliminary stuff for Dragon that got the juices flowing.  Maybe  a little foray back into the world of Butterflies or investigating the new girl who randomly appeared will help the Dragon fight flow!

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