IWSG October

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Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

What? You mean like hair color? Previous work experience? Conversations? Isn’t that what research is?

Here’s a counter-question: How do you write a story with believable characters if you DON’T?

An example:

The character is described as “loved to swim.” We are given scenes in which the character is swimming. We are given dialogue in which the character says “I love swimming.”

But you can tell it wasn’t written by a swimmer. A true swimmer. One who actually loves to swim. There’s missing descriptors: We don’t get too feel the water slip by; the air pushed through the nose at a controlled rate to keep the water out; the effortless less twist of the body to flip from front crawl to backstroke that you can’t quite describe but you just know how to do; the realization that you think differently, more relaxed yet focused when in the water.

Research will get you to a good place, and imagination can sometimes take you the rest of the way, but some things you just have to experience to really be able to get it across to the reader. A reader with a dance background can spot an author with no experience at all writing about dance.

Sometimes we give the author a pass because we can tell that they tried. Other times, not so much.

Or even more mundane window dressing:

Some of the best one-liners and situations I’ve written about actually happened to me. Genuine “no-shit-there-I-was” stories that no one believes real, but think it’s absolutely fabulous addition to a story. Turning up the radio and blasting a song made entirely of a chorus of children psychotically singing “B-I-N-G-O!” in response to the neighboring car at a stop light blaring hate rap at full volume (the look of confusion and fear on that guy’s face as he peeled away the MOMENT the light turned green is one I’ll treasure forever) is a great bit in the story that I plugged it into, and adds a little more to the characters.

And then there was the time – no shit, there I was…

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just genera merinthophobia.

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2017 School Year Resolution

*This s a long and perhaps self-pitying post. If you choose to skip it, I wouldn’t blame you.*

Starting at around spring break, this summer has been 4 Iron Man competitions and an Olympic Pentathlon crammed into the course of a full marathon, run at a sprint while juggling live squid. Occasionally a clown chases me while carrying a running chainsaw to make the course more “challenging.”

I’ll pause for a moment to let that visual sink in.

Impetigo, planning the eclipse viewing, braces consult, oral surgery, helping the hoarders in-laws pack and move, dance rehearsal, dance recital, end of season cub scouts meetings, spousal job change (twice), supervising weekly archery practice, car to the shop, house maintenance, return car to shop (three times) to fix a natural gas smell coming from the vents that hadn’t been there before they worked on it, find decent, affordable and one-man portable foam for the archery program to continue outdoors, help the in-laws move furniture and largish items about their new house, spouse getting laid off, fundraising for the archery foam, take the car to a different shop because the first refused to acknowledge the problem (twice – the second shop had to repair everything the first shop did, and then a second visit to figure out what/how the natural gas smell was occurring through my vents), spouse getting new job (third one in six months), father in hospital (thrice – once for emergency surgery, others for fevers and infections after said surgery), summer dance lessons, gearing up as Cub Scouts Den Leader (because I’m stuck with it after being made defacto Den Leader halfway through last year), putting together an archery event proposal for September 2018, discovering eclipse glasses purchased 4 months ago were fakes with 9 days left on the clock, tracking down budget materials to plan the next school year because I’m also Pack Treasurer in addition to Den Leader, running around trying to find new eclipse glasses or lose the viewing plans altogether, nailing down dates for summer 2018 plans with the grandparents and the husband wanting 2 entirely separate things, traveling to Wyoming (only took 5 hours), coming up with a school year schedule that allows me to deal with everything plus the workout requirements to keep my knees and back in functioning condition, traveling to the totality zone (2.5 hours as expected), traveling back from Wyoming (should have only taken 7.5 hours total but took 11 (we stopped for the night in Ft, Collins and then continued the next morning), crushing my homicidal desires towards my husband, fall dance lessons, 6 months of email to go through that I haven’t had time to check (power skimming The Passive Voice and Rocky Mountain Writer and the like are easy, I just have to have a few days in which I can sit down and just do it by sender (there’s a couple hundred between those 2 and Lee Lofland’s posts about real police work, but you can’t power skim Rusch’s weekly Wednesday Business Musings – those take time and brainpower to muscle through with comprehension. 1, maybe 2 a day, at most), 7 and a half HOURS of online BSA training to be a Den Leader and a Pack Committee member (4 hours of which were thinly disguised sales pitches – “If you would like more information, purchase these materials…”), trying to learn LibreOffice on my own…

It’s been a rather busy summer. I don’t have a brain left. I’m tired.

multitasking-2

I have done no writing. Zilch. I’d been planning on at least a little time, but that time did not happen. That time and energy wouldn’t fit in my schedule with a mallet and a pot of grease. Get up earlier than the kids? The kids took that as an invitation to get up earlier with mom. Go to bed later than the kids? I could barely see straight by the time we’d tucked them in for the night.

And now here we are at the Annual School Year Resolution post. Which is being posted much later than it was supposed to, because of the aforementioned activities.

Suck.

I don’t foresee getting a lot of writing done this year, either.

Did you know stress can be a total creativity killer? I’ve heard about people who get all creative when they’re stressed out. I’ve had someone tell me that I’m slacker because while she raised and home-schooled 7 kids, she was still able to push out a romance novel every year (not an exaggeration – someone actually told me that one, combined with a snide comment that I just didn’t have the dedication, desire and time-management skills to succeed).

No pressure, really.

While I was in Wyoming to see the eclipse (The drive back was horrible, but it was totally worth it, in my opinion.) I was able to do some thinking (being trapped in a car with 2 kids who can and do self-entertain and a husband who absolutely refuses to let you drive because – his reasons -, leaves you time and mental space to do such a thing, even when you are reading, writing or trying to do a small project) , and discovered *gasp* there are some things that I can get rid of, while many I feel I cannot (Short of a nasty divorce, I don’t see trimming out family very easily.).

Bottom line: There isn’t a lot of room for me AND them. It’s me OR them.

For some reason, you get a bad parenting/spouse certificate if you choose yourself over “them,” but you’re not a “whole person, treating yourself with respect and fulfilling your potential” if you choose “them.”

Same with “friends.” The Gods forbid you put your needs ahead of their own (I’m not talking about knifing someone in the back to get that promotion at work. More like “I’m not interested in doing activity X, I’ve made plans to do this other thing,” and the friend proceeds to make you feel as though you’ve chosen badly because it wasn’t what they wanted. Although, adult family tends to fall in this category as well.).

So this year’s School Year Resolutions will focus on survival. I will finish out my obligations for those activities/persons that don’t quite serve my needs (quietly, politely, pushing them off to the side to find someone else to nag), while maintaining those that I simply can’t trim out for one reason or another. By this time next year, I hope to be carrying a smaller load of excess crap, physically and emotionally.

Perhaps that will get my writing moving again.

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September IWSG

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Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

****This is quite rambly and doesn’t really have a conclusive point, so if you skip it, I’ll understand.****

I’m a bit of a slacker when it comes to writing. I’ve written about it ad nauseum on this blog – I don’t have a plan, outline the plan, write to the outline and then edit as needed. I’ve tried. I’ve failed miserably every time.

I think I’ve mentioned this, once or twice.

In fiction writing, up until 6 years ago, I always thought of myself as a one-trick pony – I write fantasy. Ta-da. Ever since middle school, that was what I was good at. Third person, multiple POV’s, big ol’ honkin’ swords and sorcery, dragons and elves, multi-generational saga fantasy.

Science fiction and I don’t get along so well. I like character driven SF, but I tend to slack on the sciencey part, so while the concepts have potential, they just don’t have enough “oomph” to really snag the reader. Or me, for that matter. Historical Fiction? I can tell you that I totally respect Turtledove because the man does some serious research, but I don’t really enjoy it (despite enjoying non-fictional history). Romance? No. Just no. Westerns? Nope. Murder-mystery? Meh (unless it’s about a REAL case, because those go in directions that just blow your mind). Horror? Perhaps it’s just me, but it’s either too much or it’s formulaic and boring.

There are probably several genres I’ve left out, just because I can’t think of them a the moment, but the point is: They say you should write what you know or at least what you like to read. Why would I look around for anything other than what I enjoy doing and feel that I do well?

Then I had a dream. Where I had, the conditions, the people around me, the dew point, temperature, blahblahblah, is unimportant.

 

I know the dream was partly spawned by some wicked conversation or other during the camping event I’d recently attended. With 20-30 tents and about 45-60 people in attendance, most of them adults, well… everyone has a naughty story that is by turns funny and impressive and usually begins with “No shit, there I was…”

The dream snippet stuck with me in that way that DEMANDS I at least sketch it out and save off the file, if for no other reason than to get it out of my head. THOU SHALT DOCUMENT THIS.

6 weeks later I’m told by friends that I have a passable rough draft of a contemporary romance novel written in first person, evenly divided between 2 POV’s. Some say it’s just fine as-is. Others say it needs more smut. But generally, everyone agrees that it does have potential. A little editing, some polishing, a halfway decent cover and it could certainly pass muster as a romance novel.

Understand, I don’t read romance novels. I’ve tried. They irritate me.

Now, I’ve got ideas for 3, possibly 4 ideas for others in the same neighborhood as the first one.

What the hell? I don’t write Romance. I don’t read Romance. I’ve tried since I’ve written the first rough draft and they all irritate me. I do NOT enjoy reading romance. And yet, I seem to have written one that I think is pretty good (which may be indicative that it is doomed to fail in sales, but that is a different post regarding targeting demographics and so forth).

A similar thing happened that got me into writing a steampunk-type novel. It was supposed to be a short “let’s write this idea down, save off the file and then we’ll see what happens” sort of thing.

6 weeks later, The idea has turned into a trilogy, plus one, plus a novella type thing AND at least 2 stories that happen 25 years later.

I don’t know ANYTHING about steampunk beyond the rough historical time period it’s supposed to be set in. And yet, a friend of mine and his wife (both of whom play in the live-action Steampunk events) think the stories have great potential (and both of these people have told me that they don’t really enjoy my fantasy stories, so there you go for honesty).

Again: What the hell? Is this a normal thing?

But the Romance and the Stemapunk won’t go away. They want to exist right alongside their Fantasy brother (or sister? Older sibling?).

AND I CAN’T LET THEM GO.

Now I have to take dance classes, because that’s a centerpiece in one of the Romance novels. Now I have to research the Victorian/Edwardian era, so at least I know where and what and how I want to deviate from the historical record. Now I have to get in shape so I can take classes at a trapeze school for the 25 years later SP plot. And coffee – Holy Shit I can’t taste the difference between one kind and the next but now I’ve got to at least learn the basics so I can pretend like I know what I’m talking about for a custom blend called “Bitch Slap.”

AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just genera anemophobia.

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IWSG August – Pet Peeves

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What are my pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

I may have mentioned my obsession with details in the past. Obsession almost to the point of freezing up. Obsession to the point of diving down rabbit holes filled with minutia. Posts written about this obsession to the point where you, my lovely readers, shriek with madness “WE GET IT, KATTY!!! YOU’VE GOT A THING ABOUT DETAILS. MOVE ON!”

So what can I add to this topic outside the phrase “detail oriented?”

I can’t stand reading a book and not knowing what the hell I’m reading. “I’ve read this paragraph 3 times, already. What the hell? It’s not like I’m reading Advanced Physics for Dummies” (although I would acquire that book if it was out, just because of the title).

Sometimes it’s because my mind wanders while I’m reading. I’m thinking about something my kids said, or the monumental to-do list for the house or a nifty story idea is just on the edge of my consciousness, tantalizing me with some shadowy suggestive movements but not quite revealing anything andIcanfeelitoutthereitjustneedstogetalittleclosersoIcancatchit…

Lately, my reading brain has been a little scattered. It’s hard to focus when you have so much else going on in your head at any one time. And that’s definitely a pet-peeve. I’m interested in the subject, I know I am, the book excited me when I acquired it, I put it on the “To-Do” reading list, but lately, picking up a book is far more work than it should be. Perhaps I’m tired – physically and mentally pooped. The gods know how much stand-up comedy I’ve been binge watching lately when given half a chance.

My writing muse is a different pet-peeve altogether. She either shows up and whisks me off for a whirlwind 6 weeks in which my feet never touch the ground but I’m giddy with all the work and ideas and I’m just drowning in them all…

Or the bitch never shows up at all. No calls. No flowers. Maybe a cryptic text written entirely in emoji, if I’m lucky, but don’t count on it. It’s a bit like being stranded in the middle of nowhere circa 1981 and finding a car that can take you back to “somewhere” but it’s a standard transmission and you only know how to drive an automatic.

I know I should try to write a little bit everyday anyway – that whole strength training for writing philosophy, but damn it if it isn’t a painful slog in which very little gets done. Writing a single new paragraph in a six hour period is actually a triumph when I try to write like that.

When my editing muse shows up for work, it’s the nit-noid details at which she raises an eyebrow that makes me cringe. “Well, it is a nice scene, Katty, but do you honestly believe a family would react that way? Let’s think this through a little more, shall we?” A slight grimace quickly hidden under the professional facade: “Oh, dear. I think you may have missed this on a spell check.” A delicate frown with pursed lips broken by one of the deadliest of all words: “Why?” A tiny whimper as her face drops into a tired hand. “You have heard of plagiarism, haven’t you, Sugarsticks?”

But I think my biggest pet-peeve for all three subjects is my family.

It never fails. I’ll sit down to read, to write, to edit, to research.

“Mom? I need help with the TV. Mom? Will you play with me?” Can we snuggle? Dear, have you seen the-Mom, can I have a- Can we go to- Can I? Did we? Can you? I’m hungry. We need. I want.

It. Never. Fails.

It’s a huge pet-peeve, one that I’m often accused of over-reacting when it occurs.

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just genera pogonophobia.

 

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