Separating Plot Lines

It’s no big surprise that I am still struggling with the middle of my WIP.  It seems no matter where I go with it, I dislike it, scrap it, then write something else (usually some maudlin poetry) just to keep the fires lit.  This vicious cycle has gone on for a few months now.  Needless to say, I am tired of it.

Angel Orchids

Being the determined person that I am, though, I refuse to give up.  I’m fully invested int his project and I cannot just let it go.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading and I think I may have come up with a solution.  I generally write in a linear fashion, creating the manuscript as I go. (Even though I have already know the ending, I haven’t written it yet.  It’s only documented in long-hand notes.)  I do this because it gives me a sense of clarity.  One day, I discovered this nice little feature of Scrivener which I never fully utilized before:  You can write out a chapter entirely in scenes.  Okay, admittedly, I have paid more attention to the writing than the finer points of the software I use, but that’s for another post.

This nifty feature, when selected in the compilation, will print the scenes in the chapter AND it allows for easy reorganizing.  Earlier this week, while rewriting a recent scene, the lightbulb went on: write the plot lines separately, then worry about weaving them together later!  What I’ve come up with is simple.  I created a folder called Plots.  Within this folder are the sub folders containing the main plot and the subplots.  Within those will be the scenes that formulate the individual plot lines.

I think, after all is written out, these scenes can be moved into chapters and weaved together more effectively.  I can also fine tune each plot without having to search for it within the chapters.  I’m hoping that this approach will offer me the clarity I need to survive the middle of my WIP and bring the project to fruition.

I have high hopes that this will get me back on track!  I’ll keep you posted.

-AH

Post Writers’ Conference Hitch

Oh my goodness.  How am I supposed to get back to normal?  Attending my first writers’ conference in early May was a dream come true.  Really.  I learned so much more than I ever thought I would.  There is one little hitch though.  Now, I over-analyze everything I write.  Every sentence, practically every word.  It’s starting to get in the way of the plot because I am focussing too much on the words and structure.

So, exactly how am I supposed to get back to normal?  I mean, every time I write a few sentences, I start to think that they aren;t punchy enough or I have used the same word too many times or the structure isn’t right.  I am even finding myself fixing previously written text to accommodate what I learned at the conference.

Am I just over-editing?  Will I return to normal soon?  What am I supposed to do if all I think about is how mundane my writing must be?  Oh the conundrum!

As usual, writing things out, especially issues I have, seems to help me come up with solutions.  My first thought is to get back to writing and worry about the editing later.  Somehow I have to trust that my story is more important right now than which words I choose and how many times I use a word.  This has always been difficult for me, but now, trying to add in the nuances I learned about at the conference, is making me crazy!  Not to mention, the “Doubt Monster” is really tearing at what little confidence I have in my own writing abilities.  I almost feel as though I cannot write at all.

OK, ok, stop whining and practice not editing. See how that works out.  Hopefully I can return to some normalcy in my writing soon.

(also posted on She Writes)

Perfectly Placed Eye Lashes

I have a distinct appreciation for make-up, eye make-up to be exact.  I can get drawn in by the flawless application of color and lashes.  I look closely at the details. I focus on the closeups to see how the color was applied, where the shadows are, and how the lashes blend into the eyeliner.

smokeyeye1What has all this talk about eye make-up got to do with writing?  Nothing, on the surface; but if you think about it, it’s the same as writing a great story.  You draw your readers in with the flawless application of plot and characters.  Your readers will fall into the perfection of the scenes.  As a writer, I read other authors closely.  I scour the details, focus on the events, how the action is applied, and how the subplots blend into the main theme.  The meat of the story is in the details. It’s how I learn to write better.  It’s how I understand the structure.  The finishing touches, the satisfaction of the ending, reminds me of perfectly placed eyelashes.

Kaua`i Writers’ Conference – A Retrospect

This past week-end, I was thrilled to be attending my first writers’ conference!  I’ve been to many conferences, but never one devoted to writing, my craft of choice since I was a child penning my first poem.  I looked forward to three full days of talks from authors, agents, and editors.  Not knowing what to expect, I just wanted to learn from these people who had somehow successfully navigated the process of writing and publishing their work.  I wanted to know everything.

Because I live on Kaua`i, it’s difficult to find anything more beautiful than being on the beach here.  Unless you want to take in the gigantic rugged mountains, or the lush valleys.  But, it really doesn’t matter to me where a conference might be held as long as the presentations are relevant.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the beach is a close view from the conference room and the tropical breezes are wafting through the open air dining room at lunch. It’s what people expect in Hawai`i.

I can’t say enough about the organizers and hotel staff.  From start to finish, the service was seamless, and the presentations were definitely relevant.  I am amazed at the amount of information I absorbed.  I had an excellent first experience.  I never imagined I would have all my questions answered or that so many others had the same questions that I had!  Writing is a solitary business up until the time you set out to publish, so we forget there are others out there creating their own works of art.  That in itself makes attending a writers’ conference worthwhile.  But having first class presenters talking about everything you ever wanted to know but didn’t know HOW to ask, well, all I can say is, “Priceless.”  Yes, that may be cliché, but it is certainly true.

While much of the information is still percolating, I have to say that I took so much more away from the conference than I could have anticipated.  I am inspired to continue my journey writing my first novel.  Thanking everyone involved for such a lovely and educational three days is a must, and I do!  I look forward to next year’s conference and hope that I will have something to share then.

Mahalo nui loa!

AH

Conundrum: A While vs Awhile

While writing today, I came across a conundrum of word usage.  What’s the difference between “a while” and “awhile”? This type of issue rarely happens to me, since I was an English teacher in a previous life, but I just couldn’t get it, so I looked it up.  QuestionGirl

Here’s what I found on Dictionary.com:

The noun phrase a while can and often does follow a preposition, such as for or in: “He said he would be home in a while.” The adverb awhile cannot follow a preposition, a rule that makes sense if you revisit the definition of the term and drop it into a sentence such as the one above: “He said he would be home in for a short time or period.” However, if we omit the preposition and rewrite it as “He said he would be home awhile,” the sentence works with a slightly altered meaning.

So, when you have that burning need to know the correct usage of a word, look it up.  I went right on writing, satisfied that I was using the proper version!

Write More!

AH

Fear Factor

I read a lot of tweets and posts about the fears we writers have — blank pages, writer’s block, inner critics (aka monsters), lack of ideas, rejection, etc.  I think about these things and I think I fall more into the fear of finishing group.  I fear finishing my novel because I not only have the usual fears noted above, but I’m really not sure what to do after I finish it.  Editing and all being obvious, what do I do afterwards? Do I get an agent? Do I submit to publishers?  Do I self-publish (and that option opens up a whole new set of questions)?  What do I do?

Then there’s that question that looms in my mind…what if I am such a bad writer that I will never publish and the book will be a total embarrassment?  You know, like those poor young people on American Idol who can’t carry a tune, but get up there and mortify themselves because their family has always told them they sounded terrific.   Oh heavens, yet another fear to handle.

Fear is a great paralyzer, the root of much procrastination, especially as a writer.  It’s a wonder any one gets the words on a page, much less published.  The big FEAR is always standing in our way.  We all have general fears in life, it’s human nature.  But as writers, there are so many fears directly related to our craft that breaking free of them can be an insurmountable task.

How do we trudge on?  For me, it takes a lot of pushing, a lot of will power.  I push myself to get up early, to open the computer, to actually write.  I will myself to forget all the “what ifs” for the time I’m on the computer writing.  I will myself to just write and not think about the monster in my head screaming at me that I am not good enough.

In the end, I hope to be published and, more importantly, read by many.  I don’t need a bestseller, but it would be nice. Then there’s the other “what if” that I fear. What if I can’t get published and/or no one reads my book, will I continue to write? I suppose I’ll find out soon enough; but the longer it takes to finish, the longer I can live in my dream world of being published someday.  And there’s the catch.

Happy writing!!

-AH

Sunday Synopsis – Moving Forward

Another month has passed and I am so involved in this hula conference that I had, again, stalled in working on my novel. Of course, I am beating myself up about it and so my husband — bless his heart — reaches out to a friend of ours who is a published author, asking for any advice she might impart to help me get back and stay on track with my project. After all, I have been working on this project on and (mostly) off for a few years now.

Anyway, our husbands are band mates and a week ago, after a gig, everyone went over to their place for a small celebration of her husband’s birthday. During that little soiree, she and I had a nice talk and she told me that she had worked for 8 years on her début novel. She was having a difficult time writing during the day because they were running their business and she was just overwhelmed with interruptions. Finally, she decided enough was enough and she started a new routine. She got up at 4 am and wrote for two hours every morning, seven days a week, until she finally finished her book. By 6 am, she was ready to prepare for her work day.

She saw the look of horror on my face and quickly explained that, for her, it was the best time of the day because there was no distraction. Nothing going on. No phone calls, no email, nothing.  In that time, her mind was fresh and her characters talked to her and began revealing their story to her.  There was no struggle getting the words down.  After a while, she would wake up automatically, right at 4 am, looking forward to her time with her characters.

So, I resolved to give it a whirl.  I mean, what could it hurt, right?  It’s not like I’m doing anything but sleeping that time of the morning.  Last Monday, I awoke at 5 am — no need to get up as early as 4am because my workday starts later than hers — got out my computer, and in the darkness, started to write.  The first morning yielded about 300 words, the next 600, the 3rd day I wrote more than 800 words!  It has been seven days now and I have added an astounding 3500 words and 9 pages to my novel!  The last two mornings, I have awakened at 4:43 — same time both mornings — before my alarm goes off at 5am.

When I arise, I get the cats fed, my hot tea ready and turn on the computer.  By 5:20, I am writing.  This new routine is amazing and deeply gratifying.  Of course, I need to readjust my day a little and I usually take about an hour nap late in the afternoon, but the point is that I am fresh and ready to write in the early hours of the morning, every morning.  And my novel is progressing.

Wonderful what a little willingness to make a change and create a new routine can do.  I am forever grateful for the advice I received from my friend.  We are celebrating another birthday this evening after the band plays their gig and I look forward to telling her just how much of a positive impact this new routine has made for me!

-AH

(Also posted on my blog at http://andreahunter313.com)

Subplot Frustrations

I’ve been working on my novel this week. Yay!!  It feels really great to be writing and getting so much done.  However, it can be very frustrating writing 2 or 3 plot lines that must somehow coincide and be resolved at the end of the story.  This frustration likely stems from me fighting with myself.  But it is still very real.

I start writing about the main characters and forget that I have a couple of subplots going that are important to the story. Then I feel like I am back-tracking when I focus on writing the subplots. I know they are necessary to further the story and create a more rich novel. But I feel like I will never move forward. This feeling is ridiculous, of course, because each word written furthers the storyline. Nevertheless, I feel that way.

So, I thought about writing each plot line separately, then weaving them together. Not wanting to spend too much time on it if it is a crazy idea, I still thought it might be worth a try. Well, let me tell you, as soon as I started that tack, I knew I shouldn’t. There’s way too much to remember and trying to weave them together after the fact would be even more frustrating. These plot lines happen concurrently, so writing them separately is foolish.

I will just have to realize that, as frustrating as it might be, I am not losing ground when I return to a chapter or scene and add in subplot storyline. Either that, or I will have to learn to write the plotlines concurrently. Truth is, this experience of writing my first novel is a major learning experience. And, overall, I am having so much fun doing it.

-AH

Initially published on my concurrent blog site at andreahunter313.wordpress.com

Beat Yourself Bloody Writing, Plot Resolutions Will Come

I have been struggling with the “middle” part of my book for some time.  Spending a lot of time reworking the outline time and again.  Differing plot lines, subplots, new characters.  Nothing seemed to work.   Then, yesterday morning, I woke up and there it was: a new subplot that weaves in nicely, adds tension and suspense, resolves the forward movement of the main plot, and is perfectly legitimate to the story line.  Wow.  I emitted a sigh of relief and felt the surge of refreshed excitement.

As writers, we can be battered by our stories.  It’s no wonder that first novel is often never finished. You hit a wall and bang your head against it over and over till the blood is streaming down your face and you writhe in pain.  Then, without notice or ceremony, the wall just suddenly crumbles and the view beyond opens up new possibilities and resolutions! Graphic, yes; true, for me it’s a resounding YES! Fortunately, I have some great support and I am not one to give up.

Of course, you have to go through all this pain to allow the resolution to formulate. For me, some of this new subplot contains small elements of some ideas I came up with while outlining, repeatedly. So all that battering is not futile.  Just painful. You think you’re never going to come up with another decent idea, then wham! The idea hits you over the head and you feel better!  At least I do.  I know that all the work is worthwhile and not every idea will be great.  But it does keep your juices flowing so you can get to the good ideas.

So, be battered, be in pain, but don’t give up.  The writing is important and necessary.  The book is important and necessary.  So, stick with it and reap the benefits.  No matter what, continuing the writing keeps the idea mill working and the rewards will pay out!

-AH

(Also posted on my other blog: https://andreahunter313.wordpress.com)

Thursday Thoughts

Sometimes I think I will never have another idea for another novel or story or poem once I finish this project.  I understand this is a common thought among new writers. But a lack of ideas is not possible for writers or any creative artist, unless you wallow in your doubts and fears.

Have you ever noticed that when you are writing your mind begins to explore and more ideas follow?  Creativity is like you body, it needs exercise.  Unfortunately, I can go for long periods of time without writing anything, so I really notice that when I do get back on track, the ideas just begin to flow, and I write more and more.  For me, the trick is creating time to write.  I get so caught up in other life stuff that I don’t get to it every day.  I need to stop allowing that and make a promise to myself to carve out writing time, no matter what.  I know writers who work on their projects late at night or early in the morning (I do that on occasion) and they are prolific writers.  Then I see tweets from other writers who worry about the same thing as I do — will they ever have another idea?

Well, I think the amount of ideas you have is directly related to the amount of writing you do.  These prolific writers never seem to run out of ideas.  Creativity need exercise.  Case in point — this blog post.  I started with a kernel of an idea about 8 minutes ago, thinking I would finish this by tomorrow (Friday)  and now I am up to 272 words. I wrote almost 1200 words yesterday in a couple of hours. So, exercise pays off.

Now I do have to keep up with household and life things, but the lessons of creating time to create are well-learned.  In addition to the creative muscle getting stronger and more prolific, those endorphins kick in too and create happiness within.  Just like physical exercise. Hmmm. Could be on to something here?

More writing equals more creativity.  Let creativity overflow!

-AH

Note: This post also appears on my other blog site: https://andreahunter313.wordpress.com