Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Inspiration for Works In Progress

On Nathan Bransford's blog, he asked the question: How Did You Come Up With the Idea for Your Work-in-Progress?

I found the post interesting since my ideas pop up in the strangest of places. Like Nathan said, inspiration happens without conscious thought. For me, its like each idea is a fireplace waiting to be lit. I simply need one idea, or a piece of kindling, to get the fire started. As sub-plots form the fire builds.

I briefly blogged about how I store and build ideas, but I never went into how they came about. For me, ideas just pop in. And 90% of them start with the lead character. A year ago, my witch matchmaker popped into my head while watching the Bravo! television show The Millionaire Matchmaker. As I watched I was like, I wonder what would happen if she was witch with powers and had to match warlocks who were superficial about witches. And thus my story was born. Of course at that point of inspiration I didn't have the objective, conflict, or what her ultimate confrontation would be, but most books need a main character you want to sympathize with and follow.

For the past book I finished, the process began again with a character but it was based on an article about OCD from a medical journal and a book by Ronda Thompson called Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel. How did these two ideas come together? Well, I read the blurb about Ronda's book, which has great reviews by the way and I'm dying to read it, and the spark came. What if I had an OCD werewolf? And that's where it began. More research, more thinking about my character and how they would react to the world around them. Then I had to take it to the next level and come up with the conflict they face. (And it has to be more than what happens if she has a panic attack.) The whole process to me is about asking those what if questions. Ask them again and again whenever you see something cool. Write it down! The idea may not be sellable right now for a particular market, but it may be in the future. When inspiration hits, store it away for another day.

I've never had the entire plot of a book appear out of thin air. I either have the lead character or I have an interesting scene that grows into a plot. If you're one of those people who has the whole thing fall into your lap, you are so lucky!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Switching Mindsets: From Writing to Editing

Right now, I'm neck deep in edits before I send my next baby over to my agent. During all this mad deleting and rewriting, I noticed one thing in particular. My brain rewires itself while I edit my work. I outlined my process below:

Stage 1: Chapter 1 = What?
This is where stare at the screen and barely get out a word. The first chapter is my Achilles heel and takes the longest. But from what I've learned, this is an important place where your work needs to shine. It has to be just right. And well, you can't move on until you give it your all. I gave this part a stage of its own since its like placing a Wendy's Frosty in front of yourself and commanding yourself to simply stare at it. Go ahead, you see if you can hold back taking a bite. Yep, that's what chapter 1 feels like to me.

Stage 2: Write Like Mad
This is where I turn into a writing demon. This is the point where you let your characters take over. (Some at gunpoint if necessary.) I think this is a mindset for some writers. Where you turn off the internal editor and everything is about the words. Of course you may think about how you structure them and make sure your characters guide you and not you guiding them, but, all in all, its the point where I let it all go. If I spent time worrying if everything is right and all sparkly, happy I'd get nothing done! Whoever said writing is about rewriting hit the nail on the head with a resounding whack. *Thunk*

I've met writers who agonize over every word. (I even read an interview where the fabulous author Dean Koontz wrote that he doesn't advance to the next page until the previous one is perfected.) And then there are those like myself who have to get it out before they come back later to mop up the bodies after the word massacre occurred. But no matter how you approach writing, its about getting the words out so you can move on to editing. The whole process kind of reminds me of the song, "Let Go" by Frou Frou.

Stage 3: Edit This Sucker
Editing my work as I write it feels weird. I can do it as necessary but I notice my mindset is quite different when the book is done. I think this is due to the fact that my mind is focused on completing on the work. If I thought about what was wrong with the darn thing I wouldn't finish it so I could reach stage 3. Stage 2 takes the longest, but it would take longer for me if I dwelled on every weak verb and poor sentence structure.

I do meet with a critique group once a week and I check over my work with them, but like I said before my focus to edit isn't there. I wrote up a list when I know I'm livin' in editville:

1. When I'm reading published books, my mind scans sometimes as if I'll find an error. (Once in a blue moon I actually find something.)
2. Any sentence I thought was perfectly good after the first draft needs a complete overhaul.
3. As I read I'm constantly asking myself questions about the storyline.
a. Does my hero have the same eye color from beginning to end?
b. Did I really use a Nissan Altima for every single car in the first half of the book?
4. I feel a strong urge to refresh my memory on semi-colon usage. (No semi-colons were harmed in this blog post.)
5. Shiny, pretty new projects look so interesting right now. Stage 1 is looming down the road. Away with you new scenes! Leave me be while I lurk in the bowels of the bat cave.

All in all, writing is about finding the process that works for you and using it to your advantage. I only hope that as I finish this book, I will have perfected the process of completing and editing a manuscript.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Great Book - Life As We Knew It

This past weekend, I fell in love with a book by Susan Beth Pfeffer called Life as We Knew It. These days, I try my best to get in some reading between editing and writing. Well, once I picked up this book on Friday I couldn't put it down. (Ok, well the kids had to eat so I did have to stop.)

But the book is one of those where you keep saying to yourself--what happens next?

I have the next book in the series and I will let you know if its any good. Feel free to pass along any recommendations since I do not stick to one particular genre. A great book is a great book in my opinion.