It’s a Blog Post about Nothing!

So, how did my weekend go?

I did no work on my fanfic and no work on the hubby’s Viking outfit. I did, however, (at the last minute and at great expense) put together my group’s newsletter (a needful thing, since it was due Monday) and I built the most awesome medieval house for my Sims ever!

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Now, you might legitimately ask, “How does building the most awesome medieval house ever further this month’s goals of making a Viking outfit and completing your fanfic?”

It doesn’t.

Of course, I could make the argument that I’ve been really busy lately and wasn’t recovered from last weekend’s demonstration and campout, and therefore I needed to sit on my ass and do mind-numbing tasks like scour The Sims Resource for blacksmith tools (found an anvil and hammer, but no forge) and laundry room supplies (found the mother-load!).

But that would sound like an excuse.

I could also make the argument that the Sims can actually be a great tool for writers because it allows you to design houses and other buildings that only exist in your head. Houses contained solely in the head are often vague and incorrectly proportioned; putting them “on paper” (if you will) allows you to correct design flaws and have an actual model to work from; your descriptions will be richer.

But the house I built doesn’t exist in any of my novels.

So, yeah, I totally goofed-off this weekend. And I don’t feel the least bit remorseful; it felt good to do a lot of nothing after doing a lot of everything; I wish I could have one more day of doing nothing. It was the ultimate in introvert recharging. Hopefully it will now give me the boost I need to knuckle down on my sewing and writing projects.

Speaking of which, I wasn’t totally unproductive on the writing front since my last post; Friday, during my lunch hour, I made a new…

Wait for it…

…Bloodsuckers episode!

Are you ready for the catch? (You know there’s a catch; if I had an episode ready, I would have posted it instead of this.)

It’s out of sequence. As is typical with me, I’ve written a scene in advance. I still have to go back and reread the series (because I’ve forgotten parts of it) and pick it back up with Scott meeting Josie’s parents for the first time at Hanukkah. The main reason why I stopped working on the story when I did was because I have no idea how to roll with that scene. It’s obviously going to be ugly, but it needs to be so ugly it’s good. I have high expectations, since I feel that the Halloween episode was the best one of the entire series; Scott meeting Josie’s parents should be no less great.

In other words, I’m paralyzed by my own sense of perfection.

But, if I can ever get over that hump, I’ll be good for a little while, because I’ve actually got several future episodes lined up and waiting in the wings.

With my fanfic hopefully off the table by the end of the month, we shall have to see if we can’t make December’s goal resurrecting The Bloodsuckers.

(You know, for a hare-brained idea born out of a concept for a sitcom based on the crazy stuff that happened in the law office where I worked, I’m really surprised at how well-received the series has been. People that I would have never expected to like something like that—like my mother and vampire-hating friend, Carla—frequently badger me for new episodes. People I barely know will randomly say, “I read your Bloodsuckers; when are you going to write more?”

People just like the idea of a real, blood-sucking lawyer. Or maybe they like the idea of a good guy who has been down on his luck, but is trying to make the best of life. Scott is a vampire, but he’s also an everyman.)

Oh, and because I know you’re reading this, Michelle, I did re-read Imminent Danger this weekend (between anvil and laundry basket downloads). All I can say is the next book better involve a trip to Rakor and I think a baby at some point would not be remiss, either. What better way to make Eris and Varrin even more hunted than if she was carrying the ultimate in royal bloodline corruption? Just sayin’.

(And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should check out Michelle Proulx’s book, Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It. It’s a fun, romantic science-fiction romp. Michelle’s really great at imagining (and describing) aliens and I’m envious of her ability to create a believable anti-hero.)

Getting Ready for NaNo

I sold an ebook on Amazon this weekend.

(One day, I’ll be happy to see 100 books sold… every day. But, for now, I’m happy when I sell one every two weeks.)

National Novel Writing Month is coming up (the month of November). If you’re planning on participating, or are already slogging your way through creating a novel, you might get some use out of this blog post: 25 Things You Should Do Before Starting Your Next Novel

I guess I should spend an hour cleaning up my desk and around it before I start on my NaNo project this year: that dystopian story of a world without creativity. (By the way, witch hazel on a Q-tip is a good way to clean gunk off your keyboard.)

Speaking of a world in which independent thought is crushed, here’s an article a friend shared on Facebook: A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn’t have access to the unusually tasty offerings.

Yes, you read that right. A lunch lady actually cooks food that kids like and gets them to eat more vegetables–and does it all on budget!–and she’s being told to stop because it’s not fair to kids who have sucky food.

Um, why wouldn’t you convene a lunch lady assembly and have her give workshops on how to implement her changes? Why wouldn’t you bring everyone else up to a better standard instead of pulling her (and her school) back down to mediocrity?

Because independent thought is a bad thing.

You must not deviate from the government’s menu plan, because a government committee can make decisions about children’s food better than any woman who is a professional cook and sees the results of her endeavors on the faces of children every day.

My dystopian story will definitely include cafeteria food organized by government committee. And my underground art community will secretly cook daring things! They’ll put pepper in vanilla ice cream and deep fry Snickers bars and pickles.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on how to overcome writer’s block, and while I was working on my long post about procrastination, it sort of flowed into beating writer’s block (because procrastination and writer’s block are often interrelated). So here is (hopefully) some help if you are a sufferer:

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill has a nice long article on procrastination and how to motivate yourself to write. They mean writing term papers, but it’s 100% applicable to writing and editing your novel or short stories.

One of the great things about National Novel Writing Month is the idea that the word count–not the quality of the writing–it what’s important. Editing is something for later. If you have trouble writing term papers or novels, try that approach: write x number of words or pages every day, no matter how sucky they are. I think you’ll be surprised, by the end, at how little of it is actually sucky. (At the very least, you’ll end up with a poor grade as opposed to the 0 you were going to get if you didn’t write it at all.)

Wait, I need to do more research!

No you don’t. There comes a point when more “research” actually translates into procrastination on the real task: writing. Trust, me, I know how you feel; I did the same thing with my senior history thesis. In fact, I knew so much about my subject going into my thesis, I had no idea how to condense it into one coherent idea.

Writing novels can be the same way; you may spend so much time researching that you can’t stand to waste all that info, so you cram unnecessary or boring information into your books. (I love Jean M. Auel, but I will confess I skip over her long paragraphs on flint napping all the time; I care only about the characters.)

While I do some research on the front-end for my novels, I do more on the back-end. For instance, while writing The Flames of Prague, I had no idea where my main character was living, other than it was a village a half-day’s ride from Prague. I also needed a small city which was within several hours’ ride of that place. When I needed to reference a city in the text, I just wrote __________ and highlighted it in yellow. After I got the story written, I went back and printed off a map of the area around Prague, plotted off a 15 mile radius around the city, and began researching the cities within the circle until I found one which most closely matched my hitherto fictional village. Then I also found a city which matched my needs for size and distance from my village. Now, when I do my edits, I will enter the place names and I will alter my compass directions (e.g. instead of riding east from Prague to go home, they will ride northwest).

I did the same thing in my trilogy. When I needed to know the name of a road, or school, or how long it takes to get from Knoxville to Israel by plane, or when Oak Ridge was founded, I either put in a blank line or wrote in what I thought was accurate and then highlighted it so I would know that I needed to go back and check my fact.

It takes less time to look for the information your story needs than it does to look at some of everything. It also saves time to do needed research in a large block of time as opposed to breaking your writing rhythm to look something up, then get distracted by blog articles (like this one–you know who you are!)

Likewise, do some general research prep for a term paper, then start it. There will be places where you are almost certain something is true, but you don’t have a source or quote to back you up. Just highlight your point and add a footnote and leave it blank. Then, once you have your first draft printed off, go back to the library and look for books or articles which are likely to contain the supporting material you need. If you have a good, general knowledge of a subject going into the paper, you are much more likely to find sources after the fact which support your position than you are to find out that your position is wrong and you need to rewrite.

If you’re stuck writing a novel–if your plot has stalled or your characters seem wooden and one-dimensional–try this trick: imagine you are being interviewed and think of questions someone might ask you (common questions asked of authors are: what was your source of inspiration? who do your characters resemble? where did you get the idea for x? what do you want your readers to take away from your story?) and answer them. You can speak them, as if you were being interviewed in person (something I will admit to doing when I’m alone on my commute to work), or you can write them. You can also look up interviews of authors online and copy some of the questions that were asked of them and answer them on paper.

Just trying to explain your plot, characters, and purpose to someone else (even if imaginary) will have you making plot connections and getting ideas.

While I didn’t write my character biographies until after I had the first draft of my first novel completed, some people do better if they put the character down on paper first, then write.

I also recommend writing a throw-away chapter. In this chapter, your main character will live a perfectly normal, boring day. What does your MC do? Where does your MC work? Where does your MC live? Can you draw a floor plan of the house (something that’s always handy to have in mind when you’re describing your character moving around the house)? What color is the bedroom? Does your MC have pets? What did your MC do before this book started?

I spend some time writing little snippets of background stories for my characters which will never appear in a book (although I might find a way to reference the incident) and this allows me to get to know them better–especially characters who are not my main character. It’s easy for secondary characters to be flat and without personality because you spend little or no time in their head and some or even most of the action doesn’t revolve around them. So spend some time in their head writing some of their life story, and you’ll find that they become much more lively on the pages of your actual novel. (For examples that I’ve done, see Joshua vs. McCarthy, Anselm and Micah Meet, Joshua’s Past) In fact, Joshua became so lively, I couldn’t bear to put him back into the background after the first book, so I specifically wrote him into the second book (not once, but twice) and he becomes one of my main characters in the third book.

Can Almost Taste The End….

After staying up to midnight last night, writing a difficult love scene, all I lack is a short transition scene (a few paragraphs) at the start of one chapter and I will have my newest book completed. As I ended up having about 10,000 words too many (and here I was worried about having enough!), December is going to be a month of editing. I know I got a bit long-winded in the second part of the book, so I don’t think I’ll have a problem cutting some parts and tightening up everything at the end.

You may have noticed that I have rearranged the blog. I like to change up the formatting/coloring from time to time, because I get tired of the same ol’, same ol’. But with branching into a new genre, I thought I needed to rework the entire blog to be about me as a writerr, as opposed to it being a showcase just for my vampire trilogy.

In the right-hand sidebar, you’ll notice that I have have links to genres, with information on my individual books as a drop down option. All of the information that I had before on my triology–my obsessive amounts of background and character info–is still available. Just click on “Accpetance Trilogy” and you will go to a page that has links to all the same info, plus book info.

Finishing Up

*Screams in horror* People are trying to spam my blog comments with links to “Justin Bieber and Selina Gomez naked on the beach” and “See how they made a baby.” Noooooooo!!!!!!

I have been working on my book at breakneck speeds. I can’t type fast enough to get it all out. With character list and historical notes, I am running at 73,000 words, so I’m going to hit my goal of 70,000-75,000 words for the actual story. I only lack writing a couple of chapters and finishing a couple more and I’ll be done. I expect to finish it over this long holiday weekend. Then the next month is going to spent editing, fact-checking, and doing some more research. I will probably order a printed proof, because they’re not expensive and it makes it so much easier for me to give it to my husband and friends to read.

I will probably set January aside for my readers to give me feedback and do some more editing based on their reviews (I want my husband, especially, to fact-check my class structure, weapons and fighting, since that is his medieval specialty), and then look at February as a start for querying publishers. If I’m lucky, I might get a response within a year and I’d be looking at a publishing date of a year after that at the earliest.

As I have said before, it takes longer to get published than it does to write a book.
And for all the Americans out there, at home and abroad, Happy Thanksgiving.

Getting Down and Dirty

My word output for my book has slowed (I’m right at 35,000 words now) as I have started having to spend more time researching Bohemian history, clothing, currency, and knighting rituals. I’ve also spent some time consulting my husband, who has a lot of knowledge of medieval arms, armor, and social structure among nobility.

And I have now added Prague to my list of “Places I want to visit someday.” It is a very beautiful city.

I am getting jiggy with the two-part story idea; I think it’s working. I just hope I can get away with killing the hero towards the end. I love killing off characters; I revel in building them up to complete and total awesomeness, only to let them die in bloody, gory ways. I want to rip my reader’s heart out and stomp on it. Because to me, I have not succeeded as a writer unless my readers love my characters so much, they cry over them.

Of course, killing my hero off definitely kills the buzz of a romance novel. My Acceptance trilogy is different because it’s not romance, and the tone from the beginning is dark. You can tell something is building in the background, so it’s hardly a shock when everything explodes and people start dropping like flies.

I might have trouble with editors/readers when I kill off Jakub–although I’m going to make sure he dies in a romantic, heroic way. And the story doesn’t end there; vengeance must be extracted! Villains must die in horrible ways! And Jakub’s Jewish daughter must find unexpected romance with a Christian knight and start the cycle all over again.