Tag Archives: waxing philosophical

In which I try to determine the true meaning of life.

Why I love pantsing. Why you should do it, too.

For those of you not familiar with the term, “pantsing” refers to writing “by the seat of your pants” or “winging it.”  Some writers, like me, use a rough outline while others will not use one at all.  I actually considered myself a hybrid between pantser and outliner because some of my outlines can get detailed, whereas sometimes I’ll just have a vague idea of where I’m headed but nothing is EVER in stone.  EVER.  If a change I come up with on the fly serves the story better, than I’m all for it.

The thing with pantsing is that there’s so much discovery.  In my first drafts — especially those — I discover, literally, the story as I’m writing it.  Sure, I might have a rough outline that says “Susie gets married” and “Jenni goes to the store and meets someone there” but then maybe it’ll mutate and become something different, but something similar.  Usually, when I’m doing this, I’ll subconsciously (almost magically) combine things differently than the outline, but the result is usually pretty close.  Other times, it’s completely different, and that’s okay.  Now alot of writers need an outline.  They have to have that security — and that’s okay.  Hell, I feel pretty solid if I have some ideas of what I’m doing.  For Broken, I’ve got a pack of notecards with possible scenes on them that aren’t even in order.  They’re just ideas.  I might use them, I might veer off.  But I would hesitate to call it an outline.  And that’s okay, because sometimes, that’s the way I like it.

My characters work best as they hit the page.  I’ve done alot of prework on characters in the past, and in Survivor, that prework was invaluable.  However, I consider that to be the exception.  Because with all my other projects, nothing I did ahead of time stuck.  Alisia in Pirouette was supposed to hate her magic and herself.  Huh?  She doesn’t, although she does take pains to conceal it from everyone for different reasons.  I’m not entirely certain how it would have worked if I’d forced that part in.

So my characters show me who they are as we go.  The reason for this post is part of a revelation about Claire.  The main one touched down a few days ago and it left me stunned.  But today, going about my day, the reason why — which had eluded me so far — hit me.  And it made perfect sense.  As if I’d friggin planned it.  And that, my friends, is the power of pantsing.

I believe that the Muse (or subconscious) knows all.  She may not let you in right away, or never, or she might toss up hints here and there and then lightning will strike.  I learned about this in Holly Lisle’s How To Think Sideways class and I am a total believer.  In one of her lessons, she talks about things that you’ll be compelled to write that you don’t understand at the time but then later, it all makes sense.  It’s kind of like that.  My muse knew what the deal was, and tossed me that clue, and BAM! Today it came together beautifully.  I couldn’t have planned it better.

So now I know something fundamental about Claire, an elusive, enigmatic character.  And I didn’t have to do up any character sheets, or questionnaires, or anything.  Not that that’s wrong or bad, but as I’ve said, my process doesn’t seem to work that way.  And it worked well and almost too perfectly.  i can’t recommend this method enough.

If you’re an outliner, and you’re stuck, try this.  If it doesn’t work, fine, but maybe you’ll discover something you never knew before.  Maybe you’ll find out that this works, too.  And no one says to give up outlining — but sometimes writers need to be open to new things.  Hell, the idea of having a conversation with a character stuck me as odd, but now?  It’s one of the first things I do when I’m stuck.  Or freewriting.  That’s another cool trick I discovered just by being open to new things, new ideas. 

So that’s why I love pantsing.  Broken is at 9k currently and there’s very little that I know for sure, but for me, that’s where the magic is.  Where the story lies and where it leads.  It may take some twists and turns and detours, but I’m always amazed at what I can come up with on the fly.  It’s really amazing. 

So, pants it.  You’ll be glad you did.  😉

Muse Fail

It was slow at work, so I brainstormed some ideas on how to condense the first few scenes of Pirouette the Third.  Because, yanno, it’s at minimum 21k too long.  So my muse gave me this idea, and I thought about it most of the day.  Sat down to write it and BAM.  Stone. Walled.  I was able to eke out a pitiful 44 words (and half of that came from PR3) and then…..it just died on the vine.  Why?  I have no idea.  I haven’t been feeling 100% today, but not so much that it interferes with my writing (says the Inner Slave Driver with a crack of her famous whip) so I’m mystified.

My only guess is that the idea has to simmer a bit more.  The imagery just wouldn’t come.  Yeah, Alisia is dancing, but to what music?  Where is she (in her practice studio at home)? What is she feeling?  What are her feet doing?  Her arms?  And how am I going to introduce the ghost?  While I’m pretty good at making shit up on the fly, this one just wouldn’t happen.  Soooooo muse, you fail me.

As for Broken, I managed 275 words today.  Those were hard won.  I don’t know what it is about today.  Just can’t get into the groove.  Oh well, made my minimum (200 words) so tomorrow’s another day.

A girl named Eowyn…..

is poking me to tell her story.  I know, I know.  I’ve got 3 projects in various stages of completion, and I don’t need another one.  But the siren call of a conspiracy involving quantum mechanics and a girl who has rare magic just won’t leave me alone.  I know very little right now — just her name (and I know the Lord of the Rings connection, although I didn’t when the name just popped into my head).  I know that she’s going to be a regular person, or so she thinks, in the beginning, but then stumble onto the conspiracy and such like.  I’ll admit it: this is partially Lost’s fault.  Obviously, I won’t be copying any of the ideas in it, but it has inspired me to do something with the idea of alternate universes and maybe even time travel.  One of those, ‘here’s what could happen in one universe, and see how it affects the others’  kind of thing.  It’s still really nebulous. And it is making me crazy.

Pirouette the Third is coming along.  I’ve had to rewrite a few scenes due to getting better ideas after the fact.  The Muse seems to be a bit slow on the uptake.  I have one more scene to fix, then I’m back in business.  My goal is to finish this draft by the end of June.

Flamebound‘s revision is also coming along, a bit slow as well, but that’s okay.  Going to try to finish lesson 7 this weekend if I can so I can move on.

And finally, I have the shimmers of a possible next scene for Broken.  One thing I’ve decided: I can break a bit and work on something else a bit if it doesn’t interfere with the others.  Just to help me feel like I’m making progress and while I’ve got these ideas, it’s best to use them, right?  Right. 

So all in all, for a very lean month for new words, I think I’m doing okay. 4,561 words on April Fools as of today.  Less than 500 to my goal of 5k.

Strength.

I’m into the type-in now, and it’s been killing me.  Sounded like the easiest part, just type in the changes, right?  Wrong!  Not when you’re still not sure if your scenes have enough conflict, or if some scenes don’t do anything for the story (yes, I’m still finding those this late in the game) or if you’re questioning everything from characters to plot to descriptions.  In short, I’m having second (third?) thoughts.

What’s weird is that I was fine through the 2nd pass, and fine through chapter 3.  Then I hit a wall that I can’t seem to get over.  I had a filler scene that was, plot-wise, useless, so out it went.  Then I started thinking.  One part of it was a revelation for the male lead (one teeny tiny part — like, three sentences) so I decided to add a scene where he has this revelation, and ramp up the conflict.  Unfortunately, that scene led to some changes, and I’m not sure I want to go that far.  And, I’ve rewritten the thing at least 4 times.  Just ain’t working.

Since this is my first time doing this, I have no idea if it’s normal.  I’m trying to stop my Inner Editor from tearing me to shreds.  It hasn’t been easy.  I haven’t been feeling very well for the past week and that’s colored my opinions.  But I’ve been staying strong, and trying to be positive–that no matter what, I WILL end up with a better story.  Granted, it may take more time, possibly, but it WILL happen and I WILL start submitting it.  It’s just been a looooong time since I wrote first draft words, and I’m starting to really feel it.  And rewriting, for my purposes, doesn’t count.  😦  Sooooo soon I’ll be starting on Survivor again.

So that’s where I’m at.  Desperately trying to keep my head above water and sane while I finish this type in.  I’m hoping this is it, save for one final edit.  But time will tell.

Strength.  Gotta have strength.  All along, I’ve been saying that  believe, with everything in me, that I can make this happen.  That I can make my dream come true.  That belief has kept me from giving it up, or taking long breaks.  It’s what makes me produce so consistantly.  I HAVE to do this.  Otherwise, I’m just not myself, and I feel it deeply.

Soooooo I’m working on it.  Things might get tough, but that’s okay.  What doesn’t kill you to write makes you a stronger writer.  You heard it here first.  😉

Living poetry

For the past few days, I’ve been digging through my chapbook manuscript, Life as a Moving Target.  I wrote it 5 years ago (??!) after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and intractable vertigo.  Originally, it was just to cope with the changes in my life, but it grew beyond that.  So I decided to try to write a chapbook.  I ended up with about 40 pages.

Over time, I tried to get it published, but no luck so far.  That’s why I’ve decided to renew my efforts.  I want to educate people about fibro and intractable vertigo.  I’ve been made fun of, judged, and treated unfairly because of my health.  Most of it is simply ignorance.  And that was understandable 6 years ago.  Now, with medication out and commercials and stuff, people should be more aware.  But I still encounter ignorance, and it stings.

I feel that the poems in the chapbook are some of my very best.  They’re also a bit different from my other work.  They are grittier, more in-your-face.  I tell it like it is.  I think that suits the subject matter, because fibro and vertigo aren’t exactly light subjects.

So I hope to find a publisher for it. 

I wrote two poems late last year for the chapbook, and I noticed a difference in the feel.  Like, I’d changed.  And it’s true — I’ve made peace with it, am happier than I’ve ever been, and I’m almost pain-free.  I’d made some changes in my life, all for the better, and it has really helped.  I did include them, because they are pretty good.  But it’s interesting to note the difference.

And I’ve found that I really can’t go back and find my voice from when I wrote the bulk of the manuscript.  It’s like I’ve changed so much that my voice changed, too.  And that’s okay.

I also noticed, when editing the manuscript, I used alot of the techniques I use with writing.  Parts needed to be rewritten, and I found it tough to get back into the poetry mode.  It’s been years, folks, years.  I remember when I was younger, all I did was write poetry.  Got alot published, too.  But as fiction took hold of me, I began to write poetry less and less.  I did write a good amount of poems around the time I broke up with my ex-spouse, again as a way to cope, but that’s the last “poetry binge” I’ve been on.  Kind of sad, really, how life changes and your goals change. 

I thought about trying to get back into it, and I think I will, gradually.  I don’t want to put pressure on myself — I’m already a perfectionist — but I’d like to give it a shot.  Like, devote a few hours a week to it or something.  I have another chapbook, Love Letters, that I never did finish.

So, viva la poetry.  It’s time.

2008 in Review

Happy New Year to everyone.  I thought I’d reflect back on this year and talk about what I accomplished. 

The biggie of the year was finishing the Pirouette Rewrite on June 14th, which made it just under a year since I started it.  I managed to do that amid severe tendonitis, back-to-back surgeries (parents, not me, but still), learning and training and using voice recognition, and health issues.  For me, finishing it in 11 months was a bit of a miracle.  Starting tomorrow, I will be revising and polishing it.

I wrote just under 50k new words on Survivor.  I’d wanted to finish the first draft, but that didn’t happen.  Even so, Survivor is getting very close to the end.  My second priority in the new year is to finish it, give it the attention it deserves.  It’s been languishing waaay too long.

I wrote (and rewrote) Flamebound, the novella.  It, too, needs a revision and polish.  I hope to get that out the door in the new year, too.

I started my first contemporary romance, Like Summer, based on a short story I wrote many moons ago.  It’s on hold at the moment, because I’m not sure if contemporary romance is my thing.  We’ll see. 

I participated in NaNoWriMo, even though I didn’t plan on it, and ended with 54k.  And attempted to write a comedy, but being me, that just ain’t happening, but the book is quite unique and dark.  Just like me.  😉  It’s kind of my experimental draft for an e-course I’ve been in since July.  It’s called “How to Think Sideways” given by the talented and wonderful Holly Lisle.  What a course!!!!!  It’s funny, I’d worked up a few ideas for the course and had one set to go…..and then the one for Hereafter hit me upside the head after a stressful day at work.  It turned out waaay different than I could have imagined, and that’s okay, because damn it, I like surprises.

I beat my previous writing record for one week.  The record was 12,000, and I wrote it while on vacation using my Alphasmart Dana.  This year, I had to stay home due to severe burstitis, and I ended up with 17k.  I also pretty much began and finished Flamebound’s first draft that week.

I survived severe tendonitis and severe burstitis, both of which threatened to screw with my writing.  Not so.  I managed to produce despite all of that, and I’m damn proud of that.

Lastly, I’m finishing out the year with approximately 290k.  Could have made 300k, but this month has been rough for me in terms of time and motivation (yes, even I am sometimes unproductive.  Go fig).  But 290k is spectacular!!!!  Especially considering everything that happened this year.

Oh, and I moved into an apartment with my fiance.  That was another thing that halted the writing (and caused the burstitis, grrrr). 

I critted a few great novels, and I’m working on a few more. 

I discovered the shininess that is the band Nightwish, and I LOVE them.  And I’m still in love with Queensryche, fyi.

So alot has happened.  Alot has gotten done.  I’ve survived some big challenges, and I thank God for my intense drive to succeed and my motivation.  That’s one thing that I have that lot of people don’t: I’m driven to the point of obcession.  I have to do well, if not be the best.  I have to make my dreams reality.  Because if I don’t, what is life really worth?  Sure, I have family and friends and a wonderful fiance, but I would always wonder what if?  And yearn for what I didn’t have, what I didn’t try to attain.  I can’t imagine going through life never reaching for my dreams, never accomplishing anything of value.  It just isn’t in my makeup.

True immortality: writing.  I hope to God that I will get published and have my writing read by generations of people for many years to come.  If I keep working hard, it will be a reality.

See ya on the other side.

On magic.

Yeah.  Magic.

So what have I been up to lately?  Thinking.  Alot.  About. Pirouette.  I have a lot of the kinks worked out, and the muse is actually cooperating (go Muse!) so I actually have something to show for 2-3 days of no writing and thinking.  Let’s hear it for deep thinking.

Okay, all silliness aside, I think I’ve got it figured out.  Got a new type of demon, a Big Bad Demon, who’s hell-bent (no pun intended) on ruling the world.  Well, at least the alternate world where the otherworldly folks live.  And maybe ours, too.

I have a neat twist, which I’m not divulging, and a neat climax.  As with all of my books, it’s subject to change and prolly will.   I also have a few themes figured out, too: Love redeems, and Alisia’s personal theme: silencing the ghosts.  But what she silences and how are two very different things.  😉

What else?  Worked on the Plot of Doom after lunch.  Missed a few things, but got the bones.  Just need the meat.  Lots of it.  Will be going back to Create a Plot Clinic to see what the muse has for me. 

And the magic rules….are coming together.  It’s always been said that you need to have limits and consequences for your magic, that it’s not just a fancy plot device.  I was guilty of that a bit in Pirouette 1.0.  Now, I’m giving my folks limits.  Some of the magic has limits built in, but what about the new magic?  It needs limits, and it should be affected by death magic, as it involves the death of ….something.  Not tellin.’  😉  And overflow.  Yes, in my world, you can have too much magic.  Or not enough.  This is alot of fun.  It’s going to create a richer world I think, and nice conflict, especially when magic-things go wrong.

Yes.

I’m happy.  I’m always happiest when I’m weaving words, inhabiting my world for a short time.  It makes life so much more than what it is…..I have this world of my own.  And it rocks.  And I love Alisia and Lucien.  They’re my supercouple.  Kind of like Terry Goodkind’s Richard and Kahlan (now there’s an awesome couple, because their love endures EVERYTHING imaginable — if I can do something remotely like this, I’d be delighted).  Goodkind rocks.  He actually inspired me to start writing fantasy and weaving fantasy elements into my horror/vamp books.  Darkweaver is the result of those attempts.

Anyhoo, I’m off to go weave some more.  Also I have another blog, a “virtual notebook” as it were.  It’s primarily private, but I will post things there publically from time to time.  Mostly plot stuff, language stuff, worldbuilding…..just so it’s in one place and somewhere besides on my hard drive or scribbled on paper.  I’m paranoid that way.  Anyhoo, check in from time to time, you might find something cool.

 It’s called Flogging the Muse.  How appropriate, huh? 

Hypergraphia

I encountered this peculiar condition on another forum that I frequent, April Fools.  Hypergraphia is the compulsive need to write…basically.  I find this not only fascinating, but extraordinary.

I don’t think I have this, even though I am pretty obcessive-compulsive about writing.  I mean, I pretty much write all the time whether it’s in my head (when writing is not possible or appropriate) or on paper.  I am always making notes, constantly, so I won’t forget anything.  Hey, I’m 31, and my memory is starting to slip.  I also spend alot of time thinking about plots, plot bunnies, directions of my stories, dialogue, and visuals.  If I were to put a timeframe on it, I’d say that I spend about 90% of my waking hours doing something related to writing.

And then there’s the actual writing itself.  Well, I used to write each and every day, whether I wanted to or not.  This went on from November 2005 (NanoWriMo) up till I finished the first draft of Pirouette on Dec. 27, 2006.  Yes, I do remember that, as it was a milestone.  Pirouette, by the way, weighed in at a whopping 399, 915 words.  Less than 100 words shy of 400k.  ‘Scuse me while I faint.

Anyhoo, I’d gotten into this rhythm and routine so much that when I decided to take 2 weeks off writing, I was at total lose ends.  I had no idea what to do with myself.  I ended up working on something else (Lord knows I can’t even recall what it was now…) and thought alot about the edits, rewrite, and all that other stuff that I think about.

So now I’m not writing daily.  I’m editing, but even that’s not daily.  I started Requiem in Blue for the sole purpose of not going nuts during this period.  Why?  Because I literally feel twitchy when I haven’t written.  It’s like an out-of-sorts, Twilight Zone kind of feeling.  And the words are threatening to drown me.  They bleed into my life, as thoughts, character voices, etc, and even into my dreams.  Yeah.  So to relieve that…feeling…I write new words.  Not editing.  New words.  First draft stuff.  Requiem is not only a project just for that, but it’s experimental in that I am not pursuing publication with it.  Well, I tell myself that.  I might eventually, if it flies.  Anyhoo, that’s the deal. 

Some people have mentioned that it sucks to take something like creativity and prolific writing and apply a psychological label to it.  To me, it demystifies it — writing is an artform, a gift, and thus to me is meant to be mysterious.  Who knows where my ideas come from?  Who knows what cool new plot twist I’ll dream up tomorrow?  Who knows where Alisia came from, or Lucien, or my truly evil characters like the Bossman?  Is it merely a compulsion, like gambling, or porn, or is it more mystical?

I take mystical any day of the week.  It might sound bizarre, but I almost feel special.  Like God picked me (among others) to impart my words, my wisdom, my creation to the world, something so rare and so pure that I can’t imagine trying to live without it.  Actually, I would prolly go truly insane.  Because writing does something, nurtures me, in ways I can’t comprehend.  It brings me back to center.  It reminds me to be humble, that life is not a sum collection of events, but a journey — no matter what the destination.  Writing itself is a journey in that in every step, you put your heart and soul into it, and you keep walking, walking, towards that elusive thing — publication, a perfect final draft, etc– knowing full well that you may never make it there, but you believe with everything in your being that you will make it there.  You will make this happen.  It’s really the only way to fly.

 So.  I might have hypergraphia.  I might not.  But you know what?  Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

That that, Sigmund Freud.