April 26

Sidetracks, Figures, & Alter-Egos

I got a bit sidetracked last week when I decided to go back through the draft of the first book in the young-adventurer series I’m writing. My intention was just to read through, reacquaint myself with the character and worlds, and then be able to start writing the next book (it’s been over a year since I wrote in that world). Problem is, when I started reading, I started editing, which takes a lot longer than just reading through. Before I knew it, the week was over, and I’d written nothing…and I still hadn’t finished reading through the draft (it’s only 26k – that’s inexcusable for someone who can read a romance novel in two hours, tops).

Needless to say, that was…well, not a waste of time, exactly, but less productive than I’d hoped. I finally just emailed the draft to my editor, asked her to go through it and decided to just read the last chapter and start writing from there. Since that first book isn’t published yet (and I plan to hold it until the second book is done, and maybe the third as well…publishing around Christmas, methinks), I can always go back and edit both drafts to “fit” once I’m done with the second. I’m probably going to add about 4k words to the first, and I’d like the second to grow a little (mirroring the age of both readers and my main character) to 40k words. We’ll see how it all ends up – I don’t need to pad the word count for a publisher, so it just depends on how the story goes.

So last night I re-read the final chapter, noted a few questions to look up later, and started off on the next book. Feels good to be starting a new draft again (excerpt below).

Sydney Pointer
Sydney Pointer

I even have a likeness of Sydney, my main character for the kid books keeping me company at my writing booth now. I found her this past weekend while perusing the local miniatures & dollhouse shop. I’d gone in for a small porcelain doll I’d seen the week before, who spurred another series idea for me, and just happened to find Sydney while I was at it. I do believe I might have to make a few miniature scenes from Sydney’s adventures to hang on my wall…I love miniatures, and just walking through that shop and looking at all the little vignettes is incredibly inspiring for me. I think I might ask the store owner if they make this particular figure in other poses…how fun would that be?!

I also registered a couple more domain names this past weekend…one for each new alter-ego that my current drafts will be published under. The kid’s books will be under Marie Yoch, and the speculative fiction under J.D. Corsair. Those websites won’t be set up for awhile yet, but I feel good having the domains purchased so no one else can grab ’em. They won’t be terribly dynamic sites, just placeholders for book info from each name, unless one name happens to take off at some point. Guess we’ll see how these books turn out, eh?

If I get my writing butt in gear, I can finish the second book in eighty days (or roughly two and a half months). That’s only 500 words per day. Five hundred words is totally doable, so there’s no reason not to just get over my bad-habit-ridden self and just *do it*…

This week’s excerpt is from yesterday’s 500 word sprint. Onward!

Longest. Ten. Minutes. Ever.

The clock on the wall ticked in perfect time to the drone of Ms. Ellison’s voice. Even with the windows open the classroom was warm and muggy, and Sydney could swear the minute hand was moving backward, not forward. Ten more minutes and she’d be free for the summer, and more importantly, free to look for the second stone on the list her grandfather had given her the year before.

Or at least figure out how to get to Hawaii, which is where she thought the stone might be.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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April 19

Back on Track

Last week went much better than it has in awhile, even though I didn’t actually end up with all that many new words. Somewhere around 500 or so, but I did a lot of editing, deleting and rewriting while I was floundering around in my origin story draft. It was a very good thing, because not only did I actually write four nights last week, I made good progress on that story, and I also clarified how I want to write these stories (there will be five to go with the longer novels), and it also started clarifying things in my mind as they pertain to both the story that’s already written, and those I’ve yet to write.

More importantly, it got me excited about writing again, and about what I’m working on. In turn, I spent a fair amount of time this weekend looking for promo items to go with this particular series, thinking about putting together miniature scenes for some books, and thinking through the plot premise of the next book.

And as an added bonus, shopping for promo items (even ordered a few) gave me some ideas about the cover art for this series – a format that should work for all the books and make it fairly easy to get my covers done without too much effort. I’ve been thinking about the best way to launch these and how many I could write to be ready for back-to-back releases later this year…

Which brings me back to the actual writing. I wrote four nights out of five last week, and I intend to do so again this week. Now that I know which direction to take these origin stories in, I should finish the one I’m working on and the second this week too, and then next week, I can start working on the next book in the series.

I’m also going to get back to work on my steampunk dragon novel. And I’m going to get to work on some writing deadlines, along with deadlines for the other steps necessary to get a book published. It’s time to get all this moving again. I’m ready. Finally.

One more excerpt from the origin story this week:

In a fit of whimsical irony, he placed the sundial on the window sill beside him. The light of a full moon cast a shadow across it’s face that told the incorrect time, of course. Putting pen to paper, he began to write. But somehow the letters didn’t look…like letters. He started over, but it happened again, and one more time after. The characters always came out as tiny symbols – not like Egyptian, but more Cyrillic in nature. When he looked closer, he saw that his second and third attempts matched the first. That was something, anyway.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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April 12

Crackin’ the Whip

Sitting down to write this post, I thought back on last week and tried to remember how many days I actually wrote something. The answer is a really, really annoying “one”. And I didn’t even get my 250 words. It was 150. A good 150, with a lot of editing past words, but still. This is just ridiculous.

So I got to thinking about what I’m doing instead of writing. I mean, I have a very specific hour set aside every single night in which I have nothing to do *but* write. And every night at (or a little after – another problem) 11pm, I’m sitting in my writing booth with a snack and a cup of tea and my dogs beside me, laptop open. So what’s the problem?

Whoa…no need to shout all at once! I hear you, and I know you sympathize. I mean, this whole Facebook/social media addiction is a very real thing, isn’t it? And a very stupid thing, honestly. Not that social media is stupid – it’s not at all, and I think it’s a very valuable tool for introverts like me to keep up with things and be social on our own terms. However – when I’m just staring at it like some reality-show trainwreck *when I have other things to do* – well, it’s time to give myself an intervention.

Sometimes I get back to the office late – but that’s because I’m lazy in the evenings and don’t get up right at ten to clean the kitchen. If I did, I could conceivably even be back in the office closer to 10:30pm, which would give me even more time to write. I’m thinking maybe I need to set a kitchen timer a couple of hours before 10pm that will just go off at 10, and I’ll have to actually get up and go to the kitchen to turn it off. Yes, I really am that lazy. Alarms are my friends. Noisy, seriously annoying friends.

Although I could just set an alarm on my cell that tells me exactly what will happen if I don’t get my butt out to the kitchen. Something like “If you don’t get up now, you’ll start writing late, and then you won’t find out what happens to ___, and you’ll feel like crap when it’s time to go to bed and you’ve done nothing.” Nothing like a little reality check to get one moving, right?

As for the Facebook thing, the easiest way to stop that is simply to not use my laptop to write. I have an Alphasmart that works perfectly well, it’s just uncomfortable to use in my writing booth due to the difference between the table height and the bench height (my wrists are in the wrong position). But I could sit sideways in the booth (yes, I have pillows) and type on my lap, and that fixes that little problem. Or I could sit on the floor with the dogs…I’m sure they’d like that, and I have a cozy new rug to sit on. So…options.

Or I could just buck up and shut my browsers down, open my writing program and get to work like a well-disciplined writer. Which would make me feel a whole lot better, honestly (though the Neo is much easier on my eyes, so I may still revert to that for awhile – my eyes have been bugging me again lately).

This week’s goal is just to write. No Facebook/Instagram/Twitter (I lurk) after 10pm. I didn’t get started until nearly 11:30pm last night, but I still got a bunch of editing done (changed my mind about how I wanted the first part to go) and a few new sentences down on the origin draft I’m working on. I feel pretty good about that.

Here’s an excerpt from last night’s session:

Aaron Pointer adjusted his battered field hat and wiped his brow with a sweat-stained handkerchief. Stuffing the dirty cloth back into his pocket, he chose a soft paintbrush from the wooden toolbox nearby and bent over the small object still half-buried in the dirt. He’d sent the rest of his team back to the boats, so he could make this one last extraction alone. There would be no official documentation to mark the find, only what he chose to write in the brown leather field journal in his knapsack. The piece was too valuable, too powerful for the discovery to be made public.

 


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books


 

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April 5

Building Momentum

I think I missed one day of writing my two sentences last week. Which is pathetic, but it’s also not bad considering just how insanely out of shape my “writing muscles” are. The fact is, I got more writing in last week than I have in the six weeks before that, so…a small win, but a win, nonetheless.

Trust me on this – if you have a daily writing habit established, do whatever you can to keep it going. It’s worth gold. Gold, I tell ya. My husband and I were just talking about how we never should have stopped weight lifting, because it’s so very much harder to get back into both the habit and the shape we used to be in. Same goes for writing – so easy to let drop, so very hard to build back up again.

I wrote the first novel I finished in nightly 250 word sessions, and that also helped me establish a great daily writing habit. And I did that while I was watching TV at night…which just sounds crazy to me now, because I much prefer quiet for writing. I have the time, I just need to buckle down.

So this week, back to that original 250 words per night thing. It’s really not a lot at all – especially considering I used to write 800 words in a night without even thinking much about it. 250 words, switching off drafts nightly or bi-nightly. It’ll feel good to finally make some real writing progress again.

For tonight’s excerpt, a bit from the yet-untitled origin story I’m working on:

A deep, steady beat throbbed over the dense green canopy, giving pause to the natural cacophony that normally filled the spaces below. The sun was just rising over the jungle, its rays not quite strong enough to penetrate the blanket of mist that hovered between tall mountain peaks on either side of the long valley that Kalika Meloran gazed upon for what she knew would be the last time.

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March 29

An Assignment

Sometimes, you just have to wait for things to get back to normal before you can move forward. With the adoption of another dog last Thursday, things are feeling much more normal for me – two dogs + two humans makes it a complete “pack” again, even with the “new dog issues” we’ll be sorting through for awhile. And with the return of normalcy, I find myself gravitating back to writing again. Slowly but surely.

As I said last week, part of my problem is a lack of deadlines due to not serializing stories any longer. I’m going to stick with that decision, but I *am* going to start a blog series about my dogs (which seems fitting, since I’ve been fixating on dog stuff for the majority of this year so far), written from the dogs’ point of view (creative non-fiction?). These posts will be due every Friday, so it will be both deadline-driven, and written in voices I create for my dear pups, much like writing from the point of view of a character. I don’t generally write fiction in first person (because I just don’t like it for either reading or writing – personal preference), but this will be a good exercise for me, in terms of discipline, viewpoint and creativity. I think I need that to sort of prime the fiction pump again, so to speak.

The blog series will be called Gone to the Dogs with Murphy & Mica, and will start this Friday – April 1st (no joke!). I’ll be posting it on my main blog, The Variety Pages, for those interested in following along.

I’m also setting a word count goal & deadline for “any other fiction” that is insanely easy to meet (and if I don’t meet it, seriously, I should just turn in my writer-card and go home). It has no other purpose than just to get me to *start* working on one of my drafts again – any draft I can hook into with this (I have two waiting at the moment). The idea, of course, is to start and then keep going, but this is a daily minimum, required to be completed before 11:45pm every night.

Ready? This is my ridiculously easy jump-start writing plan:

Write one sentence for each open draft before 11:45pm every day this week.

That’s it. That’s all I’m requiring of myself for this week. Just one sentence each for two drafts at some point before it’s time to get ready for bed. Length doesn’t matter, but content does, of course – the sentences have to work with what comes before, and also move that particular section of prose forward in some way. Which isn’t unreasonable, I don’t think.

The thing is, once you write one sentence, it’s easier to write another. Once you write two, it’s normally pretty easy to keep going. But most days, that first sentence is the hardest one to write. So that’s what I’m focusing on this week.

I thought about making consequences or rewards for if I fail or succeed, but…I’m doing this because I want to write, so the rewards/punishments are inherent. Writing is a reward for me – I’m really not one of those people who wants to “have written” – I enjoy the actual first draft/discovery process more than any other part of writing…when I’m in the habit. Not writing makes me twitchy, and that’s as it should be for someone who loves to write.

And yes, I did write Monday’s sentences. One day down!

As for this week’s excerpt, here’s a bit from where I left off in Donteneoux’s (pronounced: don-ten-no) Dragon:

“Son, you were born with one purpose, and that was to get our lands back. You tried to do it their way, follow their rules. Now it’s time to find another way. I’m sure you can manage that before this old woman takes her last breath.”

He stared at her for a long moment, one eyebrow quirked up at her command. “And if I can’t?”

“Then I’ll haunt you for the rest of your life, alongside your other ancestors.” Taking the pan off the stove, she slammed it down on the table, the pan’s contents popping high above its surface. “Eat, and then leave. Don’t come back until you’ve secured what’s ours.”

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March 22

Illusive Words

It’s been awhile, again. It’s been a rough year in general so far, and I knew that when I stopped serializing my drafts on the blog, it would be hard to stay motivated to write daily. But I also didn’t count on getting so completely out of the habit of writing that even sitting down to put down a few random words here and there would be an extreme exercise in willpower.

And yet, here I am.

I suppose you could say I’m in a “growth cycle” of sorts, but that would really just be an excuse. The fact is, I’ve let the habit slip, and while I want to write, there are about a million things that seem more important to focus on right now. So I haven’t buckled down and made writing a habit again.

I’m even having a hard time writing this blog post, partially because I’m out of practice, and partially because all I have are excuses that seem lame even to my own ears. But what if we look at this a different way?

I don’t have to write, which means I don’t need excuses when I don’t write. What if I just decide not to feel guilty about not writing, and instead just be confident in the fact that I’ve been writing on and off since high school, and no matter how long of a “break” I had to take for various detours, I always, always come back to the words. I lost a dog to cancer earlier this year, and it was kind of a traumatic, drawn out experience. Then we kind of had a hole in our pack, work just kept on being super-busy, and our remaining dog started revisiting old bad habits.

Now we’re on the cusp of adopting another dog to eventually be a companion to our current dog (as well as us, of course), and the new dog has some issues he’s working through as well. It took two weeks to determine whether the dogs would eventually be able to get along, and it’ll be at least another three before they find equilibrium after the new dog moves in.

Work is still busy, busy, busy. It leaves me satisfied, but somewhat brain-dead at the end of the day.

All that said…I will get back to my stories soon. I can feel my life slowly finding a balance again after everything that’s happened, and I think when I finally find that point again, I’ll slip back into the writing habit as if I never let it slide.

Or that’s what I hope, anyway. We’ll see in a few weeks. Hopefully less.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt of something I wrote a few weeks ago, just playing around in my “scratch-pad” file. Whether anything will ever come of it is anyone’s guess, but I think there’s an interesting premise here, I think.

She didn’t know what she was thinking, buying the orange and green abstract monstrosity. It wasn’t pretty…or ugly, or even what she’d consider particularly intriguing. But the moment she’d seen it, it had claimed her, and now she couldn’t even fathom not taking it home.

“How will you be paying, Miss?” The wizened old gentleman stood dapper in his tux behind a linen-draped card table serving as a cash register for the evening. Everything about him was a cliche, save for the look in his eye. It wasn’t the look of a white-haired has-been, but rather one of those tall, dark, silent-predator types that every girl wanted to be caught by when she was young and naive. A cliche within a cliche.

She handed over her credit card with a wan smile, not sure whether her attraction to him was more or less embarrassing than the purchase she was making. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but it was every bit as certain to her as gravity and oxygen that he knew of her inner struggle. Even more perplexing, he seemed to approve.

“I knew who that was for the minute you walked through the door, my dear.”

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February 16

Musings on Voice & Genre

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past six months or so about the genres I write in, and my personal writing voice. Part of the reason I’m giving up romantic suspense, at least for a little while, is because when I look at my version of the genre, it’s…different than what I think people are expecting. Different than what most readers of the genre want, but not different enough to be distinctive and forge a new trend.

A writer’s “voice” is an all encompassing thing…not just how we write, but how we see and filter the world and then translate that onto the page. I’m very independent (often accused of being too much so), but I also love men, and get along with them better than I do with most women. So that comes across on the page, and I’m often harder on my female characters than males…which, I’m afraid, is exactly opposite what most women want to read about (not all – there are people of both genders who’ve enjoyed my books thus far, and I appreciate them more than I can say).

Until I started thinking about this in terms of voice, I really kind of felt like this made me a bad writer. My books never really caught on no matter how much marketing I did (which has been admittedly less than I should). One would think that keeping on writing, studying the craft and working to improve things like descriptions and plots would make me improve, but I wasn’t getting anywhere, and after a really long, frustrating year last year, I finally realized that there may not be much more I can do to become “good” in that genre without changing my overall voice.

I could do that, I suppose, but honestly, I don’t think it would come out right on the page. And writers with similar perspectives (it seems) to mine seem to be writing mostly romantic comedy. Though I can be funny at times, it’s a dry wit, and while I do occasionally give it to a character here and there, it’s often misunderstood and causes problems.

In any case, this year I’m focusing on three genres – young adult, speculative fiction, and horror. And I have to say, while the young adult is a bit of a stretch (to put it mildly), the other two are more like putting on a comfy pair of shoes. I use a different writing style for each and the cadence between spec fic and horror occasionally bleed into each other (no pun intended), but the young adult is teaching me a lot about range and alternate cadence and character arcs and growth.

Basically, even though it was hard to make the decision, I’m glad I left romance behind. I’ll keep reading it, of course, but I think I’m finally on the right track to really use my natural voice – which will hopefully resonate with readers as well.

I’ve had a rough start to writing this year, but I’m slowly working my way back into it. Next week, I’ll have an excerpt or two to share.

Until then…

Related Reading:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on “Serious Writer Voice”

Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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September 23

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 23, 2015

Daily Stats for Mon & Tues
Word count: 252/241
Drafts worked on: Live With Me
Writing Time: 20 min./20 min.

I only sort of know where this story is headed from here on out…I thought I knew, but it turns out we’re taking a detour. Which is my own fault for not feeling like writing what was supposed to happen when it was supposed to happen, so now…here we are, in the hospital with rough waters ahead. I might finish this before Christmas…if I’m lucky…

Excerpt

“I can’t believe you can joke around at a time like this,” she said, blinking back the glassy sheen from her eyes. “This is all your fault, you know. If you hadn’t been so hell-bent on taking a shower before your appointment…”


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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September 18

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 17, 2015

Daily Stats
Word count: 156
Drafts worked on: Double Blind
Writing Time: 20 min.

Slow going today, mostly because I sort of think I know where this is going, but maybe not, and it’s been hard for me to get on board with this story from the start. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be in a better “writing groove”. We all have those days…

Excerpt

“I do want something…with you. I just need to figure out where or how Jasper fits in. Thanks for being patient.”


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

 

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September 16

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 16, 2015

Daily Stats
Word count: 505
Drafts worked on: The Dry Rain
Writing time: 30 minutes

I know a lot of writers who need to know the end of the story before they even start writing. To me, that completely takes the fun out of the whole process. I need to get to the end through the journey my characters take, and I can’t know that until I write it, which means I never know the ending of a story until I start getting close to writing it.

Today, two endings for this story came to mind. I’m certainly leaning toward one more than the other, but the only way to figure out which one will truly “fit” is to just keep writing. But it’s still exciting to know I’m getting close to “the end”…

Excerpt: 

A woman in green scrubs stood at a counter just through another narrow doorway, with a tray of syringes in front of her, an array of tiny bottles to the right, and a box of empty syringes just next to those. As he watched, she filled syringe after syringe with a clear liquid, capping the needles and laying them on the tray.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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