A Look Back at 2011

It’s once again time to take a look back at what the year has held.  (Where did the year go?)

This past year has been much better than the last one.   Let’s start with writing first.  In 2011 I wrote a blog every day but two (and I shake my fist at you, March 12 and December 9).  I finished a short story (With Honor) and two novels (Dragon Pendant and Life in Dreams), one of which was the result of my first successful NaNoWriMo!  I also e-published The Queen’s Butterflies, which has now sold at least 28 copies.  Not a bad year, as far as writing goes!

In my personal life, 2011 turned out to be a fun year.  I traveled to New York City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Arkansas, Minnesota, Illinois and East Texas, all in one year!  I learned to knit well enough to make Christmas gifts for my dad and sister (with one on the way for mom).  I read 35 books and National Geographics, which is lower than my average but understandable with all of the writing going on.  My social life expanded, too, as my circle of friends got a little more active, and I even started dating someone.  I also lost 20 pounds and won a weight-loss challenge at work, although a few of them have snuck back on in the last couple of months.

Work can also get a nod in my review of the year.  I attended three workshops for my favorite professional organization and presented at two of them.  I successfully nurtured two more major projects to fruition, and my department has stayed mostly intact and very stable.  I love my job, and it’s been a good year there.

There aren’t a lot of negatives to review, and they are small in their impact.  My divorce was finalized, which seems bad but was really a relief to have finished.  I’ve been really tired, probably because I’ve been so very busy, and I’ve had some small struggles with my finances.  (I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find a second job – apparently I’m overqualified and underqualified at the same time.)

All of these are minor compared to the positives in my life this year, and I am looking forward to another great year in 2012!

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Turning a Moment into a Spectacle

I’ve written several relationships in my stories, including three proposals of marriage, one each in Burden, Bonded, and With Honor.  (There is a fourth in Butterflies, but it is “off stage” if you will – we know it happens but don’t witness it directly.)  These have all been heartfelt, personal moments, usually with only the involved parties present.  One included a third person, but that’s the extent of it.   I liked writing these moments; I feel what my characters feel, and a powerful, emotional scene is one of the driving forces of my writing.

Recently it seems to have become a trend to make proposals into big spectacles.  It’s not enough for it to be an emotional moment between the couple, oh, no.  Now not only do friends and family need to bear witness, the rest of the world needs to see it, too.  I had to help arrange a big spectacle proposal at work, my sister’s roommate’s fiance flew all the way to Mexico to propose at a family reunion, and there are scores of elaborate proposals on the internet.  The Downtown Disney flash mob is one of my favorites, and this guy seemed to take the performance concept a bit too far.

Where did this trend come from?  It’s definitely been building for years – guys have hired sky writers, proposed at sporting events, and done any number of huge, embarrassing gestures for a while now.  Perhaps the advent of YouTube and other web video outlets has simply upped the ante.  Who knows.  Either way, it seems a bit much to me.  Isn’t love and joy the emotion you should go for with a proposal, rather than surprise and embarrassment?  And of course there is the ever-present question: what if she says no?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching the big performance proposal spectacles just as much as the next girl.  In fact, my friends sharing them on Facebook inspired this post!  But as for my writing, the heartfelt personal moment still seems the best choice.

A Plan (For Now)

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I’m not feeling too creative lately.  This means I haven’t been writing much beyond my blog entries.

I have a new plan.

Writing Chasing requires creativity.  Compiling short stories for a collection for Smashwords does not.

Bringing together Burden, Bonded, and With Honor will give me a writing-related task that I can do, and it will keep me in the world of Butterflies.  I’m not going to hold out hope that it sparks some new inspiration.  For now just having something to work on will make me happy.

Story Math… Again

It’s time for me to do some more story math.

You may recall that when I wrote With Honor, I had to do math to figure out the correct king for the story.  Since it was a prequel, I had to make the timeline match with Butterflies.

This time I need to decide how much time occurs between Butterflies and the sequel, Chasing.  I am a firm believer that if your characters have made it through the war, machinations, and other adventures of a novel, they deserve to have a few years of peace before it is time for some more harrowing adventures.  In fact, some of the sub-plots require at least some time to elapse between the books.  You can’t be worried that all of your babies are girls if you haven’t had any babies yet, now can you?

I need to look at the plot outline and where we left off so I can calculate the best number of years to leave between stories.  Yay for more story math!  At least this time it’s relatively simple.

Deciding What’s Next

The first draft of Dragon is done.  I have to let it sit without touching it or really thinking about it for a while, so I can do a major revision with fresh eyes in a couple of months.

The Queen’s Butterflies is now officially available for download from Smashwords.com.  Getting it ready is the other project that has been keeping me busy.

The new girl, while intriguing enough to keep my brain working while hiking, has proven to be part of the sequel to Butterflies.  This means that I can write parts of her story, but it won’t stand on its own.

The characters from Dragon have settled down, the characters from Butterfly are still a bit quiet.  This leaves me in a good place to officially choose what to work on next.  As is typical for me, I can’t do just one thing.

I’ve decided that I want to take the three short stories that are Butterfly related (Burden of Knowledge, Bonded, and With Honor) from Serial Central and turn them into a collection to sell on Smashwords.  Just like with Butterflies, this is a formatting and revising task that won’t tax the creative side of my brain.

On top of that, I think I’ve committed to working on a first draft of Chasing Butterflies.  Several of the interwoven stories of the sequel are intriguing to me, and I’m guessing that the number of people requesting the sequel is only going to grow as more people read Butterflies.  A friend at work told me to be careful and take my time; lots of authors rush the sequel and it ends up feeling forced.  I know that the overarching plot for Chasing is strong, and it has more than one tale to weave in.  I’m looking forward to playing in the world of Butterflies again, with old friends and new characters alike.

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!

Steps to a Story: In Conclusion

This series of posts started in October, when I started writing With Honor to post on Serial Central.  With the epilogue posted yesterday, the story is complete and so this series is as well.  Theoretically, you could now read the entire story and the entire Steps to a Story series and you could experience the short story and the process of creating it as well.

The series was a fun one for me.  It was often interesting to think about my process; how I created the story and characters, the struggles that I went through, and blogging about it kept me involved in that self-discovery.  I hope you enjoyed it as well.

For those of you who are dying to know what happens to Matthew and Charlotte after the story ends, I’ll share with you this.  It is the second paragraph of the prologue of The Queen’s Butterflies.

Matthew Lewis paced the front porch of his family’s farmhouse.  As his daughter’s first cries pierced the quiet of the country, he looked up at the sky.  The smile that had begun to spread across his face quickly turned to a look of concern as he realized that the moon was the color of blood.  Shaking off a quick shiver of fear, he raced into the house to ensure that this omen was not for him.  He opened the door with a sense of dread, but issued a sigh of relief instead as he saw his smiling, exhausted wife and new baby girl on the bed.  Matthew sat gingerly on the edge of the bed as Charlotte handed him the carefully wrapped child.  “Let’s call her Gretchen.”

A lot more happens to Gretchen (one of the main characters) and her family, but I’ll leave that for when you get to read The Queen’s Butterflies.  🙂

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