What's Your Process Blogfest!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As we all (hopefully) know, today is the What’s Your Process Blogfest! over at Shallee’s blog Life, the Universe, and Writing. If you just found out, I’m sure it’s not too late to sign up and share your process.

Shallee mentioned some fancy ways to use Word (which probably aren’t really that fancy, but I still hadn’t heard about them until today. Useful stuff!) I’ve only written one first draft so I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ll still let you know how I went about it.

Firstly, I thought I would be a pantser, but it turned out I’m a plotter. A relatively detailed plotter. Either that, or maybe it’s the fact that I write so much slower than I plot that by the third chapter I had a detailed plot. Which worked for me, because something about not knowing how the novel would end, or what will happen next, or if it will all turn out okay made me really anxious and paralyzed my writing, so I had to figure it out before I could go on.

Abby Annis wrote a post about using post-its to help plan your chapters so I started out doing that, but the sticky notes kept falling off my dresser, and I moved onto fancier technology—PowerPoint. Very handy. I recommend it. You can move your slides around, and add new ones wherever you need them, and they don’t get lost under your dresser.

So after I transferred my sticky notes to PowerPoint slides, I arranged them around to my satisfaction. Each slide was a scene, and I moved them around till I got chapters. I found it really helpful to be able to see all the slides in front of me so I could “read” though my novel in a few minutes and check for pacing, and whether I’m missing something, and make sure there’s enough variety between the types of scenes (not too many action scenes right beside each other because they desensitize the reader, and not too many non-action scenes because they lead to snoozing).

As for how I actually write, I usually don’t write linearly because it becomes tedious for me. But I do write semi-linearly, as in I write up to a point, skip forward to write one or two scenes, and then come back to that first point, and continue. Writing a scene towards the end of the novel sometimes helps with fleshing scenes that happen earlier, especially if you need to add detail or foreshadowing to those earlier scenes. (If you already know what the later scenes sound like, it’s easy to slip in a few things here and there when you go back to write the earlier scenes.)

And that’s how I wrote my first draft. It’s at about 95,000 words right now, and I’m revising it, and trying not to freak out because it feels like it’s going to be just as difficult as writing it from scratch.

How about you? Is your process similar? Any revision tips are greatly appreciated : ) I look forward to reading everybody else’s entries!

How to Get an Agent: Dream Version

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photo by dotcompals via Flickr

No, I don't mean like a daydream, where you hope that you'll write one query letter to the one perfect agent, and they'll call you right back the very next day, begging you to sign with them. I mean a dream while you're sleeping.

Some time ago, I was reading a lot about how to get an agent, how to make your query really stand out, etc (not so much now, I’m trying to concentrate on revisions), and I guess all that psyching myself out finally seeped into my subconscious.

My dream:

The agent is hosting a birthday party, kind of Great Gatsby style, but the dresses aren’t as fancy and there are pets. Everywhere. Because it’s a “Bring Your Pet Party.” So there are all these cats and dogs, and other furry animals running around knocking the furniture over, but nobody seems to mind. Because they have a goal: to woo the agent.

That’s right. The party consists mostly of writers who are looking for an agent, myself included. So I’m not surprised when I walk into a room and a hoard of admirers is clustering around the agent. She’s sitting in front of a piano, and I can’t see it from all the people, but I know it’s there. (Remember: it’s a dream.) I have no idea how I’m going to make myself stand out or even get her to see me, but I still approach them. And then it gets even more dream-like.

The people decide to wander away, and it’s just me facing the agent one-on-one. It’s my chance! Now or never. And I don’t remember now, but somehow (maybe from a comment I had just overheard before everybody left) I know that the agent has a cat and loves cats. I have a cat, too (see photo). And as I stare at the agent, my elevator pitch totally forgotten, I know one thing: my cat will get me an agent.

That’s it. The key. It’s simple, and quite logical, really. I have a cat. Agent has a cat (a very similar one, too). It’s meant to be. I wave my hands around telling the agent to stay there, and that I would be right back. Because I know she would understand as soon as she saw my cat. Conveniently, I’ve brought it to the party, because it’s a pet party, duh. But as I weave in and out of the crowds, looking for my cat, more hopeful than ever that I will get an agent, my dream fades.

Yup. I just woke up after that. Kind of a bummer, but I was still so elated after the dream, and only half logical that I stayed happy. I mean, dreams like this must be a good sign, right?

Anyways, when I woke up and became my only slightly more logical and realistic self, all I could do was think back of the dream wishfully. A pet party? That’s one cool agent. Pets that get you an agent? Even more awesome.

How about you? What kind of dreams do you have about getting an agent (daydreams included)? Do they involve pets?

The Hottest New Idea

Monday, January 10, 2011

Photo "Idea Bulb" by Ramunas Geciauskas from Flickr

Some people have said that vampires are getting old, and aliens will be the next big trend, but I disagree. The newest trend is… that there is no new trend, or novel idea. At least I don’t think so. It’s mostly the same old, basic ones that we recycle over and over again.

Before I even started writing, I just sat around discarding story ideas because they were all too similar to ones I’ve read and I really, really wanted to come up with a novel idea, something that would shake the world up. And this was both frustrating and discouraging, because everything seemed to have already been written about, and I wished I could go back in time when fewer things had been written and there had been fewer writers so that I could write something for the first time.

So I was kind of stuck and not writing anything, until finally I got my mind around to the fact that it didn’t matter. At all. And it wasn’t about the idea, but about how you write it, the spin you give it. It’s not as if I’ll wake up tomorrow and write something and say to you:

“Hey, I have a book with a totally new concept, I’ve decided to call it love. It’s a little elusive, but I’m hoping to fix that during revision, maybe my crit buddies will help.”

And that’s okay. And maybe it’s even better that way because all the important things have been written about—love, friendship, fitting in, finding yourself, etc. As writers we always strive to come up with new stuff and I think we’re often scared that it won’t be new enough, it won’t be different enough, why are we even bothering, but really, it should make us feel better. Because 1) in the end the important things are all the same, so really we shouldn’t worry so much about coming up with something because it’s already been done, we should concentrate on expressing it, and 2) that means that there’s a lot of other people out there trying to say the same things as us so even if our unique viewpoint on them doesn’t reach that many people, theirs might.

Just a thought.

What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Thank You!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Image by vistamommy from Flickr

I was going to write a gushy and rambling post about how delighted I am by the warm welcome from the writing and blogging community, but I have a headache (I don’t know why) so I’m going to keep it short and sweet.

Thank you so much to everybody who stopped by my blog (the lurkers and the commenters), thank you for the encouraging comments and the warm welcome. And an especially big THANK YOU to my crit buddy, Abby Annis, for being so thoughtful and mentioning my new blog on hers. I really doubted my post would reach anybody I didn’t know, but it did and made me super happy! It definitely made my week day!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the What’s Your Process Blogfest Shallee is hosting. I already signed up, and it sounds like a great opportunity to talk about your writing process, and maybe even learn something new.

Starting at the Beginning

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Old newspaper

Photo "Old Newspaper" by ShironekoEuro, available under a Creative Commons Generic license.

When I started writing my very first WiP back in May 2010, I promised myself I would start a blog after I finished it. Middle of December 2010, I finished it. And since then I’ve been twiddling around trying to start a blog.

While I was writing my WiP, I read a ton of blogs, learned a lot, was sure I had gotten the hang of it. Many times I went to bed with possible blog entries I could write rolling around in my head. But when I finally set my blog up a few days ago, all I could do was keep changing the background, tweaking the colours of the letters. As if that would help me have a good blog. As if getting that shade of green a tad darker would make everybody like me.

I knew that if I could just write those first few entries, I would be fine, but I couldn’t come up with anything. So I didn’t.

Not until I saw this:
http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html on http://skateorbate.blogspot.com/

I clicked on it just to see what it was about, and almost stopped right away when I saw it was twenty minutes long. Twenty minutes? I had so many other things to do. Like finding the perfect background of my blog. But I was hooked after only a few seconds, and ended up watching the whole thing and rewinding over several parts. Brene Brown made a great speech, pausing at the right moments, inserting a joke here and there. And she said cool things like “shame is the fear of disconnection” and “vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.” And that to deal with the discomfort associated with vulnerability, you have to believe you are worthy of love, belonging, connection.

Her speech touched me. Not in a creepy way, in a good way. Like I’ve rediscovered the world, or somebody had given me a special pair of glasses that made everything clearer. And while she was talking about being worthy, a memory resurfaced in my mind about when I used to take the subway to high school and college. There was a newspaper (I’m pretty sure there still is, I don’t know why I’m talking like it was decades ago, it was only a few year back) called metro, and most people read it since it was free. Having something free definitely shoots its popularity way up, and it doesn’t matter so much if it’s any good or not because, hey, you’re not losing any money on it. And metro was decent, and helped to pass the crowded, sweaty, rush hour subway ride to work, or school, or wherever you were going. But I didn’t pick it up for years.

I’m not sure why I thought I shouldn’t get one for myself. Maybe not to waste it because somebody else might like to have it? I liked to read it. I read it after one of my friends in high school was done reading it, a way of recycling it. But it took me three, if not even four years to get one. One day I walked past the stacks of newspapers that were almost my height and wished I could read the newspaper, but it was too bad that none of my friends were around to get it from them. And then it hit me: I could get one myself. Right now it’s laughable how long it took me to come up with that, but it wasn’t because I didn’t already know that. Technically, I knew I could. I never really felt worthy to get one, I guess. But if anybody else could have one, why couldn’t I? Sure, somebody else might like to have it, but I had as much right to it. And so I backtracked, grabbed one, and walked away with it like it was a thick wad of money, because it wasn’t about the newspaper, it was about the sense that I was worthy, as good as anybody else, and that, even though in only a tiny way, I had owned up to it.

As soon as I remembered this, I knew the problem I was having with my first blog entry was similar. It wasn’t that there was too much pink in my back ground (even though there might be). And it wasn’t that I had to keep changing it till I get the right one (even though I probably will keep changing them, it’s kind of fun). It was because I couldn’t own it, be who I am, believe I was as good as anybody else who blogged, and had just as much right to be liked.

But the funny thing is, as soon as I pinpointed my fear, it shrank and was almost gone. I say almost because it’s still there, but as long as I know what it is, I can keep my eye on it and keep going. It doesn’t paralyze me anymore. And so here I am. Starting a blog. Starting at the beginning.

How about you? Were you nervous about writing your first blog entry? Did it take you a lot of time or did you just dive right in?