Characters, Craft, Fiction, Novel, Voice, Writing

This is the scary part

Yesterday, I forced myself to get serious about writing my next novel. (Yes, I was sick. Blame it on the caffeine in the chai I drank.) I’ve been making the preparations for this novel for months, even writing out several scenes. But this time, actually getting down that first chapter is tougher.

I’m struggling with voice, which is part of the problem. I know I haven’t locked into it yet for this main character, so my inner editor lurks in the background whispering, You’re going to have to rewrite all this, you know. Since I’m not a “shitty first draft” person, it’s difficult to ignore that voice and push myself to write on.

This character is a challenge in two ways. I know who she is as an adult because she was a second-tier character in my last novel, but this one starts with her at age twelve, so she hasn’t developed that adult personality yet. This maturing of a character is not something I’ve tried before. Also, this is the first time I’ve attempted to write a novel in first person.

Structure is another challenge. This novel will consist of three parts, portraying three different stages of her life. I will bracket each section with present tense narrative, while writing the majority of the book in past tense. Numerous times already, I’ve caught myself writing in present what should be in past tense. That’s weird because I normally write in past tense, though in third person, so maybe it’s the first person that’s throwing me off.

I deliberately chose these challenges to hone my craft, but this unfamiliar territory makes me uneasy. I’m getting quivers of fear I can’t pull it off this time, but I keep putting one word in front of the other. What else can I do?

Your turn: What are the writing challenges you’ve faced recently?

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Craft, Doubt, Editing, Fiction, My Books, Narrative, Novel, Revision, Tips, Writing

Spaghetti Gone Wild

Yesterday, in a Tweet to Kayla Olson, I described the state of my chapter-in-revision as spaghetti gone wild. Switching the order of the scenes had seemed a simple task. I had four scenes to deal with: one moves down, two move up, one stays in last place. No big deal. Next step: write/revise the narrative to link these scenes.

That’s when the mess began. I wrote words. I deleted them. I wrote different words. I deleted those too. Nothing felt right. Desperate, I thought maybe the fault lay within the scenes. Even though I’d loved them when I wrote them, I began to edit. I highlighted words, phrases, whole sentences I could improve, but I knew there was no sense working on those until I was sure they wouldn’t be cut. But then, the more I read the more I became dissatisfied. (If you’re a LOST fan, this is when I nicked the dural sac. :-))

Suddenly, none of it made sense to me. Everything was wrong. The writing was mediocre, the story silly, and I questioned why I wrote the chapter in the first place. When I realized I would rather play games than even open the file again, I knew I was in trouble. I now hated the chapter I once loved. Where had I gone wrong?

Without a clue, I gave up and played TextTwist, and as I did, I was reminded of way back when I first wrote about Jalal. I would write until I was out of words, and then I played Bejeweled. I don’t know why, but the background music brought Jalal’s voice to me, and I would play until I knew what to write next.

So, yesterday, as I sat there playing TextTwist, the fog lifted. This chapter was about Jalal, from his point of view, but I had ripped the heart out of it by trying to revise without him. I barged right in and started hacking away and shoving in more, without “getting into character” first. That’s how I totally screwed it up.

I must now step away (Or count to five? :-)) and listen until I hear Jalal’s voice. Then I’ll get this mess untangled.

Now, your turn: Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this.

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Photo credit: Susan at Timeless Gourmet

Advice, Characters, Craft, Dream, Fiction, Scene, Tips, Writing

Frigid Fiction

The beginning of this post is rather … unusual, and to lessen my chances of it getting search hits of the wrong sort, I will use creative spelling.


Let’s just say a woman had a s.e.x dream and in this dream, though aware the act was taking place, she felt none of the usual physical sensations. Then, at the moment of what should have been an exhilarating s.e.x.u.a.l orgasm, she felt her soul being pulled out through her entire upper body instead.

As a writer, I might see this dream as an illustration why a scene I struggled through editing yesterday did not have the desired impact. Although the scene is written in deep third pov, I failed to convey the intensity of the character’s thoughts and feelings. Though I wanted the reader right there in the scene, I kept them far away from feeling the emotion of it. In effect, I ripped the soul out of what should have been a powerful scene.

It’s okay, we’re all adults. Let’s talk openly. Do you ever discover passages of frigid fiction in your writing?

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Poetry, Writing

Goddess worthy?

I woke up the other morning with a poem tiptoeing in my head. I had spent part of the night in a delicious dream, from which few actual images remained, but the sense of power lingered. I’m not going to analyze this dream … I know, I know, you’re heartbroken. This time, I’m going to take it at face value. It was a Jalal dream.

For those of you who are new around here, Jalal is the main character in The Brevity of Roses, the novel I’ve just taken through another round of editing. He’s very sensual … and a poet. In my dream, he was trying to maneuver a little “alone time” with Renee, another character in the book. She was preoccupied and tried to ignore him, but finally deigned to give him the attention he sought. Her sense of power over him is what I retained after the cat so rudely woke me ten minutes before the alarm.

Since all I had left was the feeling, I shaped that into words and wrote a poem titled Goddess. And then, I laughed … because, if I changed the wording to Jalal’s point of view, this was surely a poem he would have written. Only, he would have misdirected it toward Meredith (the other woman in my novel) who did not possess the personal power of a true goddess. But his desire was in the right place. And though it took him a long time to figure it out, what he wanted was exactly what he needed: a woman who could have written this poem about herself.

Goddess

I am a goddess.
Let him approach my temple to kneel before me.
Let him drink his fill of my wine.

I am a goddess.
Let him rise to enter my holy of holies.
Let him prostrate and genuflect.

I am a goddess.
Let him utter prayers to grace my ears with praise.
Let him cry out in joy and debt.

Let his spirit flow into me.
Let him acknowledge, at the moment of his death,
I am a goddess.