Sunday, August 25, 2013

Writing and Writing and Writing

I'm keeping it brief today because I'm trying to finish the WIP. Progress is slow. I'm close to being done with the first draft. And, yes, internal conflict is still giving me fits. I'm determined to slog through though, finish, and then step back and see what needs fixing.

In the meantime, here's a brief scene from PeeWee's Big Adventure that comes to mind as I turn over plot points and stare at my computer screen, occasionally talking to myself. Skip to 2:25 for the "knitting" line, akin to my writing and writing. Sigh.

Looking forward to my tequila celebration dance when this draft is done. You will all be invited. :)

Happy Writing!

P.S. My admiration for writers continues to grow, not that I ever thought it was an easy thing to do. But, seriously.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Home Stretch, Ha!

Must...finish...this...draft. So I've been staring down the last few thousand words, struggling a bit with character motivations at the first part of the month. I believe I have that figured out, at least to the point where I can, eventually, type The End.

I thought I'd share some brief updates since people learn in different ways. As you may know, I participated in JuNoWriMo this summer and was able to make excellent progress on the WIP. This was such a lovely feeling of accomplishment. One of the things I noticed in looking back on my wordcounts for June was that I had several zeros (12!), which made me think I had stared down the daily wordcount goal and decided not to write at all. Silly writer.

So I wanted to change it up for July and see what that would accomplish. My plan for July was to write every day. And I did that. No zeros. My total wordcount for July was around what I'd been able to write in June, but without the guilt. There were clear advantages to pushing towards a larger wordcount goal over a month's time, but staying in my story for so long, even if it was briefly some days in July, prevented guilt. And that's always a good thing.

Heading into August I knew would be rough, mostly for personal reasons, like back to school prep and increased childcare demands. That added up to less overall time and energy to write. So, August, despite my fab progress in the J-months of summer, has been a bit of a bust, other than on the weekends. And, to the surprise of no one, once I got off-track with my daily writing, my wordcounts went downhill. A writerly snail's pace. Sigh.

But, I look back because I want to learn and I hope I can set myself up to do better next time.

I am within spitting distance of finishing, with scenes in the absolute middle and then the very end to complete. And as my kids are all back to school by tomorrow, at least, I have realized that I have to put butt in chair and write every day until I finish. I am that close and this is quite doable. (And fun and exciting!)

I wish I had a little gem to end on but really one thing I've learned about my summer writing is that I can try different things, make adjustments, and (al-freaking-most) get there. There's always more to learn. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get it. This is where I am, this summer, with this WIP.

What have you learned about yourself this summer?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Helicopter Writer: Falling in Love With Conflict

I've often thought it would be interesting to interview characters from my favorite romance novels at different points in their stories. (And I've used this as a technique for my writing when I get stuck.) One of the things that stands out to me is, how at varying stages, if the character asked me what I thought about their relationship, I would probably tell them to get the hell out of there. That's certainly not true about every romance novel, but there is something about putting two people who are so different into a story and having them fall in love. Their ability to overcome obstacles is part of what makes the story so thrilling and their inevitable (but nail biting!) HEA so rewarding. And while external conflict needs to be worked out, it is the internal conflict, to me, that should be equally, if not more compelling.

But having a lot of conflict between characters is one of the differences between relationships in Romancelandia vs Real Life. In real life, relationships shouldn't be that difficult, particularly at the beginning of a relationship. That's the easy part, when everyone puts in a lot of effort, both in terms of manners and appearance, among other aspects of just getting to know someone. Early stages of dating (courtship) should be fun and exciting, not angsty. But who wants to read about that?

And that's the issue I've been chewing over the past two weeks since I write fiction and not a relationship how-to: conflict that is both exciting and realistic (mostly). I don't want to write about Real Life, or write some sort of "this is how healthy relationships should look" book. Although, to be fair, I believe that the genre can be particularly empowering in terms of showing healthy, communicative, respectful, sexually gratifying, etc. relationships.

What I began worrying about in my own writing was that I wasn't going to allow my characters to be that bad to each other. As I mull over certain scenes between my hero and heroine, I'd find myself pulling back on what I'd let them do or say to each other. In essence, behaving like a helicopter-mom. (A term I detest, btw.) Though one could discuss the parallels between parenting and writing, I know that my job as a writer is to drop-kick my characters into conflict. Boom. Fly out of the nest. And when it comes to internal conflict as it relates to the romantic relationship, that is HARD for me as I write, for a few reasons.

It is funny that characters in Romancelandia fight falling in love more than anyone would in Real Life. They go to great lengths of avoidance and denial to prevent something that lots of people would run towards. That is one quality that has tripped me up as I explore (and create) the internal conflict between my characters.

What I also started to realize, strangely, is that I am afraid of what I'll put out there, between them. I've given myself and my characters a set of parameters that might just be too narrow. Maybe it's a struggle for likability and that has me worrying that my heroine is too nice. It may also be because I want to create some ideal, so my hero is too perfect. Ack! Who wants to read a story about that couple? I'll be okay if they get there in the end, but not through the whole story.

Another aspect I've been staring down in my WIP, is the idea that I want to put something out there--conflict, resolution, character growth--that doesn't make me say "Oh, dear, no. Absolutely, not." More than just "that's terrible," I am worrying, a bit, that some underlying message in my own writing will make me recoil. I am scratching my head trying to remember if I've ever had that reaction to someone else's work. I don't really think so. So, again, I'm finding that my Inner Editor can be pre-emptively judgy and fear has had me stuck at a certain wordcount.

Perhaps it is inexperience or inadequately developed characters that has me stuck? So much to learn. Again, I've come back to the idea of making authorial decisions, putting them out there, stepping back, and making revisions. Sigh. Kind of obvious, but clearly I believe in an examined life.

Those are the ideas that I wrestle with as I close in on the final few (some at the middle and some at the end) chapters to write.

Here's to first drafts, exciting scenes, and loads of conflict. And, yes, I am comforting myself with the plan that whatever trouble my characters get into, they'll be able to get themselves out of.

What are your thoughts about dating in Real Life vs Romancelandia?