Outside the Library Window

On Tuesdays, I write at my local library.  I got into the habit during NaNo, and you have to admit, it’s a pretty good choice.  My nearest branch is open until 9pm; unlike a coffee shop, I don’t have to buy anything to sit here; and the chairs are pretty comfortable.

I come to the library after work, and food, and a change of clothes, so I usually arrive around 7pm or so.  The giant windows that I sit near have always looked out into a dark night, holding reflections of the well-lit building behind me.  I had spotted bushes near the window, but not much else.

Tonight is a different story.  With Daylight Saving Time and the arrival of “spring” (it snowed here today, so the scare quotes are legitimate), I now have a view of the scenery outside of the windows.  My preferred table is near a post, so my view is obstructed; still, a view is a view.

Our weather today is miserable and grey, and the aforementioned snow is still dusting everything.  There’s a small lawn leading to an odd little ravine.  Given the brown stalks of cattails and reeds, I suspect it holds water when the weather is warmer.  To my immediate right is a stand of about a dozen trees, all still starkly bare, with complicated trunks rising in clusters of three or four.

Beyond the ravine I can see the corner of a school, and beyond that a house.  If I lean forward to peer around the pillar, the playground of another school is visible.  There are other homes near that, which I can spot from my usual semi-reclined position.

Fortunately for me, the view just above my computer screen is that of chairs and tables inside the library.  The curve of the wall narrows what I can see of the windows, limiting them to indecipherable slices of glass between the black metal frames.

I like looking around when I need inspiration, but distraction in the midst of thought is not my friend.  When it warms up, and there is movement and life outside these windows, I will be thankful that the best views are outside my peripheral vision.

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Routine Reset

Last week’s technical challenge threw my writing routine off.  My brain had gotten ahead by several scenes, so I had lots to write, and then the opportunity slipped.  The scenes are still there, but cloudy.

Tonight, in addition to the cloudy scenes, I also had to work late (which meant a later start at the library).  Changes in the writing routine make writing more work, as anyone who’s been in the same boat will tell you.

Instead of giving up, or forcing the words to come, I gave myself a reset.  A few weeks ago I did a rough edit of the first section of the story.  Tonight I went back to where I left off with that, and did another rough edit.  It got my brain back in the story, fixed a few wording issues, and filled my writing time.

Here’s hoping I can get back on track and write a scene (or two!) next week!

World Building Details

When you write fantasy, you run into all kinds of details that require decisions and creativity.

In expanding the story that I’m currently working on, I’ve had to think of a variety of details that were glossed over in the first incarnation.  I changed where the girl was being kept, from an empty warehouse into a laundry.  That meant establishing the routine of the laundry, the layout, the technology (however primitive), and so on.

Then I had to find a way for her to get clothes once she escaped.

Now I’m working on currency.  There are many considerations with currency, from what it’s called to how it’s subdivided, how it’s used to who generally carries what.  If I use a real form of currency (whether or not it’s still in use), I add baggage and layers to the story that I might not want.  It’s been a bit more involved than I expected, but I think I have it figured out.

I’m sure there are more details that will end up posing similar challenges – that’s part of being a writer.

(On a side note, my tablet has quit talking to its external keyboard, and typing at my usual pace is very frustrating on a touch screen keyboard. There will be no story efforts tonight!)

The Trend Continues

On Tuesdays, I go to my local library to write.  After I finish with my section for the night, I often browse the adult non-fiction shelf to see if there is anything intriguing that I might want to read.  So far, I’ve had good luck, finding some very interesting books that I enjoyed a lot.  By coincidence, all three had female authors.

This habit was interrupted briefly by the arrival of a book I purchased with a Christmas gift card.  This book, too, is non-fiction and written by a woman.

I’ve recently read a couple of other books from the library that weren’t accidental finds.  One was a book that was mentioned in an internet article, which I specifically requested and which had to be sent from another library branch.  The other was from a Valentine’s Day event that our library system holds called “Blind Date with a Book” – you answer a few questions and a librarian picks out a book you might like.  Without any particular design, both of these non-fiction books were written by women.

I noticed the trend around book three.  I haven’t specifically set out to keep it going, and I haven’t rejected a possible book because it was written by a man, but I am curious to see how long it continues.

Tonight I stumbled across two more books that caught my eye while at the library.  One was completely random – I went into the stacks to find a reference book for help with a writing question (a benefit of being in a library) and this book was face-out on the shelf.  The other was on a display that I noticed as I was heading to the check out computers.  I didn’t want to choose, and I can read two books in three weeks, so I checked them both out.

You have probably figured out where this is going, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Both of the new books are non-fiction by female authors.

I’m kind of enjoying this trend, now that I think about it.  🙂

 

In case you’re curious, here are the books I’ve read so far in 2018:
Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon (library find)
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (library find)
Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb (ordered)
Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif (library find)
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (blind date)
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan (requested)

And I just picked up Bonk by Mary Roach (shelf) and Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt (display).

Image Search

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is describing people.

As I’ve worked to improve my writing, and had other people read my stuff, that’s one thing that has come up several times.  My visual friends – the ones who process the world in images – all complain that they don’t know what my characters look like.  Sure, I might mention green eyes or that someone is tall, but I never give enough description to create a complete image in their head.

This is because I am not a visual person.  When I’m reading and someone is describing a person, or a place, or even an item in great detail, I don’t get an image in my head.  I hear the description mentally, as if someone were reading an audiobook in my mind, but words don’t build pictures for me.

(Related but off-topic: my memories are more likely to be sounds, too.  I can hear my mom’s voice in my mind way better than I can picture her.)

In order to help myself with this challenge of describing characters, I’ve started making use of the internet.  By searching things like “black woman with braids” and “brown hair freckles kid” I’ve been able to find pictures of random, real people that look close enough to my characters that I can use them as reference.  I can describe things if I can see them, and now I can see my characters!

I had to pause in tonight’s writing for an image search.  Three kids have just appeared in the life of my main character, and they’ll be around long enough that my readers will want to know what they look like.  I already know how they act and sound; now I can make sure my friends have something to picture, too, as they read the story.

Without a Word

I’m trying something unusual with the current story I’m working on.

The character that I’m following right now is a little girl with a rough childhood.  She’s smart and tough, but has to be independent at a young age.   (Her mother sold her as an infant, and she was raised at a laundry that serves as a front for human trafficking.  She escapes and lives alone as a street urchin for a while before joining up with several other children.)

While she has the ability to talk, and certainly does so throughout her life, I’ve decided that she isn’t going to speak in the first scenes in which we encounter her.  She communicates just fine, with looks and nods, and no one questions her lack of words.  It’s made me think more about the dialogue around her, and how to describe her responses.

It didn’t start out as something intentional, but I noticed it after the first few scenes and decided to see if I could keep it going.  It’s worked so far, and I should now be at a section where she’ll need to say something.  The next chunk of story that I have planned is when she first encounters the group of kids she joins, and I have a great line in mind for the first time we hear her speak.

She’ll always be a character that listens and watches first and speaks only when necessary, and I think this is a great way to establish that personality trait with the readers (even if they may not realize that it’s been done intentionally).

More Words

My current project invites comparison.  The first novel I ever completed, The Queen’s Butterflies, has a lot of potential but mostly it just has a lot… of stories, of characters, of time, all crammed into one novel.  I am taking all of that and expanding it into a series of books.  Right now it looks like it will be a trilogy, but that has yet to be determined.

The good and bad of this project are basically the same thing.  I get to go into more detail with the characters and the stories, but that means I need to go into more detail.  It’s taken a lot for me to finally get the inspiration to do so.

The main story follows three girls who are all born at the same time, during a lunar eclipse, and who eventually end up training and working together.  In the original, we saw snippets of their childhoods – just enough to see the shape of their stories, but not much more.

I’m now working on telling their growing-up tales, in a book I’m calling Blood Moon Born.  I’ve started with the girl who is eventually called Mara, although I suspect she won’t be first in the book when all is said and done.  A significant event happens when she is six years old.  Beyond this point, I won’t be able to do much direct comparison between the new and old books.  I’m changing the timelines pretty significantly, to both better align them with one another and to make their ages more believable.  (Let’s face it; no matter how smart or strong or amazing, there are some things that an eight-year-old can’t realistically do.)

However, since the significant event is still happening at nearly the same age, I can compare the two books up to that point.  I pulled out all of the bits of Butterflies about Mara, up to and including the event, and copied them into their own document.  Total approximate word count: 2100.

Last week I finished the significant event in Blood Moon.  Total approximate word count now?  7200 words.

There are a few more words in Mara’s story now, and a lot more details.

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