Fiction, Novel, Writing

Self-sabotage

I suppose there are many ways to sabotage your writing. I’ve done it a couple of times. Ahem. Partly because of that, I’ve progressed with my current novel at about the same pace I could chisel it in stone.

Apparently, my latest obstacle was a scene I won’t get to for several chapters.

fast_type

This scene is a big moment. A black moment. My protagonist’s worst fear come true. I’ve been writing steadily toward it, laying the groundwork. No worries, right? Okay. Part of my brain has been preoccupied with it. Dreading it. Partially paralyzed with worry over it, evidently.

I didn’t realize that was my problem. I’ve been laying the blame on other things. Maybe the structure is off. Maybe the voice isn’t quite right. Maybe the story is just plain stupid.

And then this past Thursday night, as I was falling asleep, I thought about the three “frame” scenes that I wrote a year ago. The second one connects to this black moment. In this scene my protagonist tells her husband she no longer trusts him. That word trust seemed to jump up and down saying, “Me, me, pay attention to me.” I fell asleep thinking about trust.

The next morning, I opened my WIP to where I’d stopped writing the day before. I wrote a couple of sentences, and then checked email, Facebook, and my blog reader. I finished that paragraph, and then explored new blog themes, added notes for a few scenes to my WIP’s timeline file, and looked around on Goodreads. You get the picture. I squeezed out 142 words in all.

While I took a break for dinner, the word trust popped up in my mind again. I considered what it meant for my protagonist to trust someone. And POW! I heard her say: You destroyed the thing I needed most from you. And that was just the beginning of their conversation.

“I have to get this down,” I told my husband. I rushed to the keyboard and typed out 1,305 words in a non-stop frenzy. I sat looking at it, amazed. I even posted my accomplishment to my Facebook page. I couldn’t believe a scene I thought would be difficult to write had flowed so easily.

But the best thing is, after I got that scene out of the way, I went back to the point I left off in my manuscript and the words kept flowing. In all, since Friday evening, I’ve added 5,103 words to my novel draft.

So, yeah. I’m a happy writer this morning. And like I said on Facebook, this is another reminder not to curse your Muse when it seems she’s being stingy. She’s probably hard at work in the background. Possibly while you sleep.

Characters, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Publish, Query, Theme, Writing

What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?

Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”

Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.

Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.

In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.

But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?

I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.

Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?

Could you?

With a goat?

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

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?

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

Critique, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Words, Writing

You create it, you own it

I wrote my first novel ten years ago. It began life as a romance novel and died a horror novel. No joke. Like Barbara Cartland morphing into Stephen King.

In my defense (if stupidity can be considered so) I’d never read a romance Romance before, but this was about a man and a woman and sex and all that good stuff, so that’s a romance novel, right? So, I joined the local Romance Writers of America chapter. I attended meetings and learned much from the great Alicia Rasley who co-authors a great blog Edittorrent. I even entered my first 30 pages in a major contest and received some helpful feedback. So helpful, in fact, that I learned what I had written was NOT a romance. The judges told me quite politely—considering—that you can’t have the protagonist committing adultery with a younger woman, while his adoring—and quite possibly dying—wife carries on blindly, cooking healthy meals to keep his cholesterol down and reminiscing about how he stole her heart at first sight. Bad form, that.

But … but … but … I had 80,000 words written! Sooooo, there’s always revision. What if some evil entity—immortal, of course—searching for the loving couple who escaped his wrath 200 years ago, comes to town in the guise of a realtor, meets Philandering Husband and says, “Gotcha, boy, and now I’m gonna make you pay!” Oh, the transformation was marvelous. Suddenly, I had reincarnation, telepathy, demonic possession, mind control … just all sorts of goodies to work with. Not to mention, a vicious, bloody end to Younger Woman.

But here’s the thing, I’ve never forgotten this protagonist. Every so often, I get a wave of guilt for writing him into such a mess. I feel like I owe him a better novel. So, today I dared to open those long-shut files. I was prepared to cringe at the quality of writing, but you know, it really isn’t all that bad. And sure, I’d have to lose the supernatural elements, and the violence, and it might be nice to give Darling Wife a brain, but hey, it’s 90,000 words already written! Maybe … just maybe …

Dream, Fiction, Musings, My Books, Novel, Writing

In the Depths of Despair

The long, dark days of winter are hard on my mood, and the weather has been mostly gloom here. To add to that, I’ve been spending my time with a broken-hearted man, who doesn’t know yet that he will escape his present darkness.

This man is my protagonist Jalal. While I’m writing his scenes, I naturally reflect on the darkest times in my life when neither scripture nor platitude could reach me, when I despaired, and that which was, and is, and evermore shall be, could reach me only through my dreams. I had two years of the most detailed, archetypal dreams of my life. Recognizing their importance, I kept a diary, waking in the morning able to write in detail two or three lengthy dreams. To this day, I can look through that journal and the dreams replay in my mind. I learned a lot about myself during that time. Light dispels darkness.

Maybe I will give Jalal some dreams of his own to get him through.