Saturday, June 4, 2011

Organic Writer

I've been thinking about the term Larry Brooks uses for the kind of writer I've been - organic. I like it better than "pantser". I became an organic writer because one day I decided that I could write a book. I didn't ask advice or read anything about it or even doubt myself. I just did it. Yeah, it was pretty disastrous, but I did get a personal reply from an editor at Harlequin. I didn't realize until years later how rare that is.

I learned some important things from that book. First - I could do it. I could sit down with an idea and carry it through to hea (happily ever after). Second - That I loved doing it. Third - I needed help before I did it again.

So started my quest to learn and absorb anything that would help me become a better writer. And it worked. I am better. I've written 1st drafts of  a dozen or so novels - (thank you nanowrimo).

I thought it would get easier. It hasn't.

Yes, that first draft comes flying out, and yes, my characters come alive and I have a great time spending the month of November with them, but after that what? After that, I let them sit, and I go back and read them, and I love them, but I know that they need to be revised and that the timing here isn't right and this conversation seems like it might be in the wrong place, and why did she do that? and would he ever do that? Then something comes up that takes me away from the manuscript for a day or two, I forget where I was, and either move on to a different story, or drown my sorrows in spider solitaire.

At least that's what I used to do.

I'm committing this year to a couple of things - no more computer games, write every day, and write my next three books using structure and at least some sort of outline. I figure 3 manuscripts will be enough to convince me that it is easier to start with a skeleton, than it is to try to insert the skeleton later. (Even though Temperance Brennan would probably find that scenario intriguing.)

 For now, I've got an organic manuscript that isn't quite where I want it to be. I'm hoping my commitment to write every day will get this story done and out to readers. Then I can start on the next one. And the next. Some days I think it would just be easier to open a new file and start writing the book all over again, now that I've discovered the story.

That's what it's all about after all - discovering the story. Whether through an outline, or through actually writing, until I know what I'm trying to say, I won't be able to say it the way I want.

What would a professional writer do? (I actually paused to scratch my forehead after I typed that).  I guess after I sign my first contract, I will just know these things, right?

I think I hear the sound of distant laughter . . .

Friday, June 3, 2011

Do reading and thinking count?

Today I spent 4 hours in the car and another 4 waiting in medical facilities while my husband underwent testing for a back problem. I ask you - how do they make those doctor's office chairs so comfy and accommodating?

I don't know who said that you should never go anywhere without two books - one to read and one to write in, but I live by that motto. I actually had six books in my bag, my Kelli's Promise notebook, my other journal, my goal journal, and my date book. (Yes, I have been a scout leader several times, thank you)

However, the two books I took to read blotted out the need for anything to write in. After finishing Courting Miss Lancaster, I paused, took a sip of water, and opened The Kiss of a Stranger. It is now 11:12 p.m. and I know I will not sleep until all is settled in the Cavratt household. And isn't Crispin the coolest name? Sarah M. Eden is a new favorite - hang the lack of sleep.

So, since I mentally plotted my own books as I drove to and from Billings, plus spent every spare moment in obvious research (I'm not sure how I'll fit the Ton or a pianoforte onto my Wyoming guest ranch, but I must try) I'm calling this my writing for today.

A duel - that's it. I'll include a duel . . .

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Scary Beginnings

No, you have not stumbled onto Stephen King's blog by mistake, it's just that this is my blog - my first blog - my first day of blogging, and to me, it's much scarier than an alien spaceship buried in the woods . . .

A month ago on the day before my birthday, I left for what would turn out to be one of the best trips of my life. Krista, Norma, Leah & I took off on Wednesday afternoon for the ldstorymaker's conference in Salt Lake. After a stay in Rock Springs, we drove into town the next morning, ate lunch, met our friend Sue, and  settled in for Boot Camp.

My romance group leader was Julie Bellon and at first I thought she was very tough, then I discovered that she was very good. Not only did she help calm my nerves, but because of her, I finally understand what a hook is and what it does for the first page of a story. Thank you Julie!

Since that day was my birthday, our group went to the Blue Lemon for dinner and then walked around temple square where the flowers looked and smelled wonderful. Even though we missed out on pie at the Lion House, it was a birthday to remember.

From the first moments of Sarah Eden's humor on Friday morning, to the last on Saturday afternoon, I loved every second of the conference. Because this is part of my record of the year I became a professional writer, I'm going to mention each class I went to, and the main thing I learned. If you're interested, okay, if not, maybe by the end of the year, I'll be better at holding your attention . . .

I started the morning right with Clint Johnson's class on Conflict and Mechanism of Story. I learned a couple of things from Clint - first, that sometimes really good things come from really bad things - like writing coming from debilitating insomnia, and second, how to take anything and make it into an interesting story. His method of increasing the stakes and getting us to help make the story more and more exciting, was like watching a master magician perform. Loved his class - and he's a nice guy, besides.

Jeff Savage & Deanne Blackhurst presented their class on creating a character bible. They taught me some valuable things about protagonists and what makes them the hero. Even, though I'm a fan, I very much enjoyed the jabs at Harry Potter, especially since I could have sworn JK Rowling was behind me, reacting to each zing. It was fun. My protags will know who they are from now on.

If I'm ever in a life and death crisis, I would like Dave Wolverton to be sent in to rescue me. His quiet voice is calming, yet authoritative and you just know he's got wisdom to spare. It's because of Dave that I decided to make this the year . . .He told me to get serious, and since this is life and death - I'm doing what he says.

Pause here for a mention of the food, entertainment, agents, publishers, authors, etc. that made the conference all that it was. If I'd won the do it yourself shrine kit, I'd have a pillow to bow down to you on. I bow to you anyway - what a great job! Oh, and best chocolate pie ever.

Little sleep - exhausted, but exhilarated - next day

I have lots of writing books - ask my friends - I mean, a lot of writing books. I now have the one that is going to get me a publishing contract. In Story Engineering - Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, Larry Brooks writes, just like he talks, which I like. In his class, the thing that grabbed me was his 4 part story structure - even though I didn't understand it. His books were sold out of the bookstore, so I had to wait until I got home and ordered from Amazon . . . but it was worth it. I read it through, then went back to the specific story structure parts and know that this is what I have needed to make my stories publishable. When I get published, it will be Larry Brooks' fault.

Eric Johnson taught me not to trust anyone. If you were there, you know what I'm talking about. Oh, and he was very funny.

I had submitted a query letter ahead of time for the Killer Query class with Elana Johnson and she gave me great suggestions and comments on that. Thanks Elana. Unfortunately, I had a coughing fit at the beginning of her class and spent the rest of the afternoon roaming the halls. She was kind enough to send the presentation by email the next day and that was great.

Because I was lurking in the halls, I got a chance to peek in on Sarah Eden's romance class and got to share a Colin Firth moment with her. Ahh . . .

After several minutes of picturing that look Darcy gives Elizabeth when she jumps to Georgianna's rescue at the piano . . . I'm back.

The last class I got in on, and the reason I decided to write this blog, was Sara Megibow's Acquiring a Literary Agent. Wow. High octane stuff. Content from beginning to end. When Larry Brooks makes my book publishable, I want someone like Sara to sell it. She is awesome!

So, the only thing left I guess, is that on Sunday morning, we drove the 9 hours home, each of the four of us discussing our works in progress and brainstorming on them. Don't get me wrong, I love my family a ton, but this was my idea of a greeeeeaaaaaat Mother's Day.

The last month, I have spent a lot of time writing and reading (including Courting Miss Lancaster which Krista gave me for my birthday and that I'm loving) and planning for this year of my life. I don't plan to post my specific goals here, I have them in front of me at home, but they are rather huge. I will report on my progress as I go. I plan to blog most days, and if you've stuck with me this far, I promise, they won't usually be this long.

Thanks for stopping by . . .