Friday, February 28, 2014

Planning an Event

So recently, I’ve been going through some of my writing notes.  I only took one creative writing class, and I used the opportunity to soak up as much as I could about writing and using my creative side.  (Yet, math-wise, I went all the way through 1 ½ years of calculus.  Go figure.)  I took very in-depth, detailed notes, and I’ve kept them for years.

Our teacher had us take a book (which I wish I could remember which book it was) and each of us had to present a chapter.  My chapter was specifically about writing, and I really wish that I’d kept it.  But I wanted to talk about a few of the notes that I took. 

One of the ones that I’ve really been thinking about recently is the fact that “books are events.”  In this idea, it’s the thought that says that a book is an event between the reader and writer.  As writers, we’re planning this event, hoping that the reader will enjoy it.  If we don’t prepare enough, food, entertainment or music, then how will our guests be able to sit back, relax and enjoy? 

Even if we’re missing the silverware, there’s going to be some awkward moments. 

I really enjoy planning activities, we’re evening having a ‘Thanksgiving dinner’ this Saturday.  It’s taken me days to prepare.  Things like buying a turkey with enough time to defrost, baking pies and rolls between work schedules, and finding enough chairs for everyone we’ve invited.  We also had to invite our guests with enough time for them to response.

A babyshower that I planned

With writing, there’s the same planning and preparation.  A writer can’t just put a few words on the page and expect it to be good enough.  There needs to be editing and revising.  If there’s something I don’t understand, like passive vs active then I need to look it up.  It’s like baking a turkey.  I can’t just hope I know enough to cook it the right amount and not give everyone salmonella. 

With writing, we’re inviting a large number of guests.  There’s even a chance of hundreds of guests, which means that there needs to be even more preparation.  That’s where revision, revision, revision comes in. 

So right now, I’m preparing for a big event.  I don’t know when the event will be, but trust me, I will be ready.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reading Reviews

I have a question for all of you reader-writers out there.

How much do you read reviews?  Especially before reading something? 

I’m finally through with the first two books in the Divergent series and just bought the third.  Unfortunately, I read a few of the reviews because I was curious.  And a lot of them were not positive, which was disappointing.  I hadn’t meant to do it, and I don’t think I’ve ever read reviews before reading a book.

Now that I’ve read the reviews, I feel like I’m going into the book with my perception already tainted.  I love reading reviews after reading a book or watching a movie because I enjoy comparing my own opinions to the opinions of others.  But knowing their opinions before reading makes me look for what the other readers pointed out. 

So my question is: Do you read reviews before reading a book?  Do you read reviews at all?  

Monday, February 24, 2014

The People in My Head

Every once in a while, I talk to my family about my writing and I forget that some of my comments may be considered ‘strange’. 

Last week, I mentioned how I hadn’t planned on writing the sequel to my Red WIP until two of my minor characters told me that they had a story that they wanted me to tell.  I got a strange look and the question:

Do Your Characters Talk to You?

I forget that this isn’t something that most people deal with.  As a writer, I’m always accompanied by a crowd of characters that are always trying to get my attention.  With four novels written, and three more waiting their turn, there’s dozens of characters that I know like best friends.  And the only way that I can get to know them is to talk to them.  I have to find out their stories so that I can accurately portray them.

These characters are a large and essential part of my life.  Not to sound like I’m lonely, but because I spend such a large amount of time with them, they’re often on my mind.  Though I do hear them in my head, usually they’re not talking to me, but to one another.  I love watching the way that they interact and the way that they behave around each other.  There’s always something new to learn.

Those are the people in my head.  I don’t know what I would do without them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gaining Momentum

I’m about 35,000 words into my new version of the Blue WIP, and I’ve reached the point that I’m wanting to write all the time.  I usually find that between words 0-10,000, I’m rushing to write, the ideas are fresh, and the story is just starting with so much potential.  But by about word 10,000, I lose a bit of momentum.  And this time, I had enough stuff going on in my own, personal life that writing wasn’t really a priority.

Yet, there’s always that desire to keep going.  To finish the story.  The characters become insistent, begging me to tell their story, to give them their happy ending.  And they deserve that.  We started out this journey together, and they can’t finish it on their own. 

So I continue.  I push through, and then once I reach about 30,000 words, I gain momentum again.  The story’s at its peak, the climax, and things are starting to get good.  There’s so much going on that it’s hard to pull away.  Just like reading a book, writing the book is the same.  The climax makes it hard to put it down and leave it be.  I find myself waking up early to spend more time writing, and using spare moments of time to get a few more words in. 

Whenever my husband or I get home, I can’t wait to tell him what happened.  Not during my day, but during my characters’ day.  They’re such a large part of my life that I feel like they’re real. 

And with the changes that I’ve made, I’m loving the story more and more.  There’s enough that I want to see how the changes effect the story.  I want to see if the changes pull through to the end.  I’ve got a good feeling about this, and it makes me happy despite the crazy things that are going on in my own life. 

So here’s to the next 10,000 words!  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Out of Control

A few weeks ago, my mom came to visit, and I decided to make a birthday cake for her, since we’d missed her birthday. 

Now, I’ve recently (over the past two years or so) been experimenting with cake making, and I’ve really learned to enjoy it.  I love the creating process and the ability to create something that people can enjoy.  Ironically, it’s very similar to writing, except the result is must faster.  I can make a cake and have someone eat it later that day.  With writing, I’m still waiting for the chance to share it with others.

However, one of the things that I struggle with when I create is the ability to give up control.  I like to make things perfect, so when something goes wrong, I have the tendency to get frustrated. 

With the cake that I made, I ran into more problems than I normally do, and I got incredibly frustrated.  The cake wouldn’t bake, and once it was finished, it was too crumbly and wouldn’t cut.  Even the whipped cream topping I had turned into some kind of runny, milky, mess.  Honestly, I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong.  Even though the cake was delicious and turned out okay, I was still frustrated with it.

I wish I could say I don’t do the same thing when I write, but I can’t.  The greatest thing about creating is knowing that there’s always the chance of losing control.  There’s always the chance that mistakes, or things that don’t turn out the way that you want can be the best thing that happens.  Sometimes the characters or the story itself can resist to what I’ve planned and prepared, not because it was a bad plan, but because that’s not how it’s supposed to turn out. 

So that’s my goal for now.  I’m trying to release some of that control and give it to the actual creative process.  How about you?  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Get Out of Your Character's Way

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written, I’m in the midst of processing a lot of stuff right now, but I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons.  Or maybe lemon cake out of lemons.  That sounds good. 

Lemon Cake

Anyway, I’ve finally gotten back to writing as well as what I hope is normal life.

And I’m struggling to write my main character.  Not necessarily because she’s difficult to write.  It’s because every one of her instincts is the opposite of mine.  I have a hard time because our personalities clash so much that I question every motive she has.  Not on purpose, just because that’s the kind of person I am.

It’s a challenge to turn me off.  As a writer, I know that my characters and I won’t always get along.  In fact, I’ve had arguments with characters when I try to get in their way.  But I’ve never had to throw out all of my common sense and let the character take the rein. 

Has anyone else had this experience?  And how do I get out of her way?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Author Interview with RS McCoy

Today, I'd like to welcome RS McCoy, author of Sparks.  I read her novel last week, and I couldn't put it down!  And since I'm not great at introductions, we'll just start with the interview!

Sparks is a fascinating story about children with special abilities or ‘sparks.’  Where did you come up with that idea?

I guess I can’t really take credit for the idea! Growing up, my dad always told us to find the job we were made for. We would know we were in the right position when we loved going to work, had an aptitude for the tasks and could solve problems and challenges with ease. I guess I’ve always had the idea that different people were born with different skills that helped them fit their particular roles in the world.

Sparks is a great commentary on how government and politics can corrupt even well intentioned of individuals.  Was that a theme you chose or one that came out while you wrote?

I knew from the get go that I wanted politics to play a role. Personally, having elements of political conflict, religious tension and other social pressures add a layer of complexity and intrigue, as well as better reflect actual societies. A population free of those issues would be a true fantasy!

Which character is most like you? 

Hmmm. Good question! I guess I have to go with Khea. On the exterior, I am a sweet-as-pie looking southern mom, a teacher and a wife. In reality, I enjoy many aspects of art outside the mainstream, including sexuality, language and violence in the books I read and write. People often expect less of me than I am capable, just like they do to Khea in Sparks.

And very different from the question before, who is your favorite character? 

I definitely love Avis, and loved writing him. In my mind’s eye, he is tall, dark and handsome in an untraditional way. He is wounded, complex and deeply caring, and writing him was a great challenge but also really rewarding!

Which part of this novel was hardest to write?  Easiest?

The ending was definitely the easiest. I was on such a roll from the first half of the book that it sort of jumped out of my fingers and managed to be something I am immensely proud of. For some reason, Chapter Two was my Achilles heel. It just would not work! No matter how many authors critiqued it and no matter how many times the editor combed through it, everyone ripped it to shreds over and over again. Eventually, I just had to make my peace with it and move on.

How do you write?  Are you a plotter or a pantser, and where do you start?

I like to think I utilize a happy mix of planning and winging it. For the most part, I start off with an outline of the story. Characters are hashed out, chapters are loosely structured and I get a general idea of where things will go. Then I start at the first chapter, and choose the details as I go. Since I already have the big picture, filling in the details goes pretty smoothly. My hope is that the characters come out truer and the dialogue more natural but the story still completes an arc.

Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?  What was the greatest challenge you faced with self-publishing?

I chose self-publishing because I wanted to have control over my product. Writing started as an outlet for personal crisis, so I wasn’t willing to let someone - like a publisher - challenge my ideas. The greatest challenge was realizing how much I had to learn. Ignorance is truly bliss, and realizing how ignorant I was of the publishing world was a splash of cold water to the face. Since the beginning, I like to think I’ve embraced the learning and research aspect of this job. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there!

What are your writing goals for the future?

Now that I’ve had a taste for writing and publishing, I think I’d ultimately like to pursue it as a career. That seems crazy, even to me! My husband moves around for his job every few years, so working from home just makes sense. I hope to be able to support my family on income from writing. I’d also like to see one of my books as #1 on Amazon, just to say I did it!

Any advice for those still working toward publishing?

Research! The internet is a wealth of information, including what to do, what not to do, and thousands of tales from other first timers. Find out what worked and what didn’t, and make sure those things don’t happen to you! No one knows everything and has all the secrets, but familiarizing yourself with the industry can only help you!

RS McCoy didn’t ever plan on being a writer. With a career teaching high school science, writing is the last thing she expected. But life never goes the way you think it will. While battling cancer, she picked up her laptop and let the words flow out. One year later, her first published fantasy novel has been released on Amazon and her second novel is in the works. She is a wife, mother of one with another on the way, a scientist, baker, gardener, and life-long science fiction and fantasy addict.

"Everyone in the world has a spark, a light inside that guides them, keeps them alive.”
Myxini School for Children specializes in training young men and women who have powerful sparks. Strikers are taught to manipulate fire. Trackers learn to find animals in the most formidable terrains. Handlers are instructed in communication with large predators. But forty years have passed since the last time they had a Reader – a student with the ability to read minds.
When Lark Davies enrolls at Myxini, he knows there aren’t many like him, but he doesn’t realize just how rare his abilities really are. He thinks nothing of being asked to keep his spark a secret; after all, he can barely control it. Thoughts and emotions flood unbidden into his mind until he can scarcely walk or hold a conversation. But just when he needs it most, his ability fails him.
Larks meets Khea, a small frightened girl who mysteriously insights his protective nature. He has no explanation for the curious strength of their relationship, and it doesn’t help that she is one of the few people in the world whose thoughts can’t be read. As he struggles to get to the root of their unique bond, Lark begins to unravel more power than even his mentor expected, but in the process makes himself a target to political leaders eager to take control.