Saturday, November 21, 2020
Saturday, November 14, 2020
It's not enough we're facing problems with the pandemic with even more social distancing, lights out during snowstorm, and that old blank page that afflicts writers sometimes, but Blogger won't put my new SIGNUP PAGE on the above navigation bar . . . and I have a big promotion next week. Aargh!
So, please do sign up for my newsletter if you want to know about the special deals coming just before Thanksgiving (to say thank you!) and in December.
Thank you! And Happy Reading!
Monday, November 09, 2020
I still remember falling in love with science fiction when I was a teenager. I was staying with a family and discovered boxes -- yes, boxes of science fiction paperbacks. Aliens! Space ships! Intergalactic battles! I used to stare at the stars and moon and wonder if someday we would travel far beyond our universe.
I’ll have an idea. A story spark, or a character idea, or I’ll hear a snippet of conversation, or a song, or something will jump out at me in a newspaper article, or I’ll see a photograph or a piece of artwork or read a poem that just stirs something creative in me.
I’ll feel an urge to write. I’ll ask myself “what if?” and I’m off and writing. Sometimes, it’s a sentence, sometimes it’s pages.
Then, I stop. I read over a few paragraphs. I decide to follow up with the story idea or shelve it, or just wait on it. I keep journals of story ideas and if I’m feeling dry, even if I’m mid-project, I’ll open up a story journal and either read over old ideas or work on something new and completely different to loosen up my imagination. I use writing prompts sometimes, and sometimes I have something swirling around in my head.
So, in the beginning, I am always a pantser.
With any project I decide to work with, I sketch out five to nine plot points in notation style writing. Lately, I’ve been coming up with a more specific plot outline, up to twenty-six points, all falling within nine overarching plot areas: introduction, inciting incident, the plot thickens, muddy middles and mirror moments, dark night, climax, falling action, reward/justice, and horizons. In many ways, this follows a plot pyramid or a story circle, with a little Save the Cat! Writes a Novel thrown in for extra, if I need to work out details.
I don’t like to spend too much time on outlines, plot points, and scene lists, so after a few days of that, I start writing. I adjust the outline or the draft, as needed to get to the main nine points, always asking myself: Is my heroine/hero being active enough?
The first draft has always been my favorite part, but I’ve been enjoying the second and third drafts more this last year, especially with the help of trustworthy beta readers and a great editor, Chrys Fey.
I felt like the story was done before I sent a draft to my editor, but she asked so many good questions, I realized it needed a few more chapters and about 8K more words. The novella continued to feel new to me, until one day it didn’t. Then, I knew it was “done” after another edit for proofreading.
Wednesday, November 04, 2020
This morning, the day after the election, and given our current reality of living with the pandemic and its assorted disasters, that challenge of so many years ago is hard to consider, even under the umbrella of being a writer.
This month's question from the Insecure Writer's Study Group: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?
So, even if I'd rather write about magical unicorns and flying hearts, I write gritty historical fiction.
A class back in college called "The Economic History of Great Britain," introduced me to the devastating impact of the Industrial Revolution on the average person. How was I, the oldest daughter of a former Hollywood starlet, with a series of stepfathers, even going to college? I struggled and scrapped my way through with part- and full-time jobs. No scholarships. Perseverance.
My fiction deals with issues of abandonment, class warfare, and the struggle of individuals to face down the challenges surrounding them to build a new and 'better' life. For example, imagine a love story set against the backdrop of prison life in 1840's Australia (that's Years of Stone). I know that 'real' life doesn't always result in that HEA (happy ever after) ending.
Even today, when I begin a story about a mystery (most recently, an art crime mystery), and intend to write a romantic suspense, somehow, my working class background reshapes the story to bring in that historical underpinning and a desire to right what is wrong or to try to make that life better.
I can't change what I write, almost as if the words appear on the blank page, echoing my experience and love of writing -- to offer hope for others, perhaps a moral lesson that happiness of a sort can be achieved, or perhaps an understanding of what others have actually experienced. But I don't trust fate or the good will of others, especially those in power, and I don't aspire to save civilization.
Just maybe, some of my stories show readers that despite sometimes horrific realities and this complex world, we can create our own, yes, fragile, happy ever after.