Friday, January 29, 2010

What Happens When You Put Two Authors Together on IM

Justine Larbalestier posted an IM conversation the other day, with "The Demon's Lexicon" author, Sarah Rees Brennan.

I'd advise writers to go read the conversation. One, it's funny and entertaining. Two, it's interesting to see how two YA authors' processes differ. I am one of those people always quick to point out that what works for one writer may not for another, because we are different people with different ways of thinking, and thus different ways of writing and planning out a book. [Different, different, different. :P] Larbalestier's post is a nice way of depicting these variations, because the pair seem to be on almost opposite sides of the issue when it comes to talking about one's book in its earliest stages. Whether to talk about your story in its zero draft, opening yourself to brainstorming and to critique, or to keep it to yourself until that first draft is complete.

I think some of my own problems lately may be because I fall on Larbalestier's end of the spectrum, but don't necessarily act in the best way for that process. I especially like this metaphor of Larbalestier's:

"JL: But someone criticising a zero draft is kind of like someone criticising a souffle on the basis of a few of the ingredients laid out on a table, but not yet made into a, you know, souffle.
I can’t stand people weighing in before I know what it is I’m doing. Before I can see the souffle. Because then they’ll try and make it into a cheesecake or, I don’t know, an aardvark or something."

The whole thing is fun to read, but it really jived with me after that point (as well as taking a strange-humorous turn).

I don't want to post all the great quotes and ideas in there, because there are a lot of nice lines, so anyone intrigued should read it in its entirety.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Steampunk and Linkage

I've been calling my newest idea a steampunk (well, clockwork) ghost story. I have never written steampunk before, have (hanging my head in shame) not read much, but I see the images and watch the shows and films, and fall in love every time. So I wanted to try my hand at it.

First off, I wanted to try a different approach compared to my write-by-the-seats-of-my-pants leanings. I wanted to be more organized before I started writing the story itself (as I've mentioned in recent blogs). Some writers, like me, start with a single image or idea and just fly as far as they can. Eventually we (read: I) have to take a bit of time to figure where the story should actually end up, but the detailing pre-thought of specific scenes, not so much. Other writers outline a lot before writing a word, some to the point of detailing every scene.

Every new story I begin, I try to move forward, learn something new, try a new technique or method. And every writer works differently, but I'm a believer in playing around with what you think works for you. Sometimes you find a habit that works even better.

For this clockwork story, I wanted to know where I was going in a more structured way. I knew I'd have to do a lot of resarch into the Victorian Era and the steampunk genre. But then the story just grabbed me and refused to let go. So I started writing, rambling a bit as I'm wont to do. Long story short(ish), the past few days I've been a bit discouraged after receiving some very early critiques. They were right, but it was too much, too early--I'm still finding the story.

It was a really nice then to stubble onto this post of Writtenwyrdd's, reposted today (originally from 2006): "The Inner Critic as Muse." It starts off talking about writers falling prey to their own self-doubts, not only the unpubbed noobs like myself, but even the pre-publication jitters of authors like Lillith Saint Crow--"Ah, the Scylla of insecurity and the Charybdis of self-hatred. Iwish I could lash myself to the mast and sail throughthese rocks." Writtenwyrrd goes to offer the advice that whenever the fear looms, turn it around. Stretch as far out into the realm of the fantasic as it will go, and you may find yourself wondering about this person who is no longer, being dragged through a mysterious doorway, a hand clamped over your mouth.

The whole post is really interesting, and I found it helpful. I was already clawing my way out of the gaping hole of discouragement, but this gave me that last boost to propel me out and back into the story. With a few more steampunk images to inspire me, and some Abney Park playing near at hand, I'm ready to get back to work.

Happy writing everyone,

*The photo is from Jim Mullan, genked from Google Images. I just love the details and color. Looks like he's made a whole series of them, and the crows were originally hunting decoys. Lovely.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First post of the 2010, and it only took 13 days

Sorry for the silence. Mostly, I've been job-hunting and writing, or rather, job-hunting and figuring out this story, interspersed with writing.

With each story I begin, I try to do a little more work before I put pen to paper, try to research more, try to plot out more. When I was younger, I just opened a new word doc, or slipped paper into my typewriter, and just whoosh. An image or a character comes to mind and I just ramble on, seeing where they take me. About fifty or eighty pages in, I hit a snag because I can't seem to go further without knowing where the story should end up. Two of those are still waiting for me to give them another look, another, the latest of the three, was completed as my undergraduate Honors project.

As I went along, I tried to wait. Just that spark, but don't write anything just yet, force it to percolate.

Now, I tend to jot down some notes, or speak them into a tape recorder by my bed, but for this newest story, well, I tried to hold off because it's steampunk and I knew it needed more research into clockwork, steam engines and the Victorian era, all things I know something about, but not enough. So I held off on writing the story itself, but finally the characters were clamouring so much I had to begin writing. I'm now trying to catch up in research to the story as it's progressing.

In fact, I'm off to write some more now. Tonight is my writer's group (sometime this fall/winter, my sister and I started going back, ut we skipped last week because it was La Befana), and I want to bring some good pages, strong, descriptive, active. No rambling first draft. Which means I have a lot to do.

Happy writing, everyone,