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.

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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

Writing a First Novel is Painful!

I wrote a quick Facebook post this morning saying that I was not in the writing mode today and it’s torturous writing a novel. In fact, I am feeling pretty tortured the last couple of days. Trying to write a novel can sometimes be like like trying to pull out my hair one strand at a time. So very painful. Other times, when things are seemingly flowing smoothly, it’s very exhilarating.

Lately, I have been trying to get the MC, Branwen, to her destination, but I know I need some action and some strife intermixed with the plot line. I work on this and come up with some nice subplots that start to take good shape. All is well, right? Wrong!!

I wake up in the wee hours of the morning and start thinking about why Branwen would believe that a spirit would come to her and expect her, a single young woman, to change the world. Then I start worrying whether my scenery is well-defined enough to help readers understand where the characters are and what they are seeing. I used to think that writing dialogue was difficult. Not so. Having come from a technical background, I don’t often think about the finer details like lighting, or the color of the walls, or the shapes of windows. I think about the meat of the story rather than the potatoes.

So, I suppose I’m wondering if I can go back, after finishing the meat, and add the potatoes. Then, I realize, this is my novel and I can write it however I want, in whatever order I want.  I don’t think there’s a specific order in which to write a novel, is there? It’s pretty much up to the writer how s/he gets the work from beginning to end.

I think I’m just so frustrated with the amount time it is taking to work on this project and I feel like I should be so much further along — like done already!! I beat myself up for getting stuck and it’s difficult to stay motivated. And maybe, just maybe, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, I can go back and write more of this novel?

-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

Differing Writing Styles

I am one of those people who writes for different venues.  I have been a technical writer of manuals and policy docs, a poet, a prose writer of fiction and non-fiction.  Each style of writing has different conventions and requirements.

I write about this now because I am struggling with switching between styles and how this affects my writing projects.  Because I am writing two different projects right now (a new article and my novel) I am having trouble shifting.  I also have such a long history in technical writing that the conventions of that style leak into all my prose.

As I write my novel, I notice my prose can become quite succinct.  This style is great for a manual or a procedure, but it doesn’t lend itself to creating the space in which the plot is taking place. So, I find myself adding more scenery and more action to the chapters as I go back to reread them.  I think this is one of the reasons it is taking me so long to write it.

As I work on my article I shift between writing the hard facts and setting the scene so the reader can get the feel of the place while understanding the subject.  While my background lends itself to writing the facts, I continually struggle with setting the scene.  I wonder if I am getting to poetic or vivid in my descriptions and if that takes away from the facts.  I have so much to learn about writing articles.

I know there are others out there who write for different venues.  How do you handle the switch between styles?

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Characters Must Grow

Sometimes, rather than writing, I allow myself to get caught up in the visuals.  I am doing that now.  Changing the look of my blog sites, adding widgets, changing themes.  It’s another way that I express my creative side. But I also think it’s important to allow my blog site to reveal who I am, as a writer, as a human being.  I change, I am not static. So, my blog sites change.

As I think about real life change, I realize that story characters change also.  I received a new issue of WRITER’S DIGEST the other day and one of the titles struck me: “The Science of Character Change.” The caption reads “If your protagonist doesn’t evolve, your story will die on the page.” Oh my gosh! How scary is that?

So, of course, I start to wonder if my heroine is too bland.  How can she grow and “evolve” during the course of the story?  And all sorts of scenarios start to spill out.  Then, there’s the antagonist.  I have struggled with his outcome.  But I realize I have a few different ways he can change also. So I begin to relax a bit.

Once calmed down again, I remember that I know that characters have to change in some way during the course of the story. It’s the natural course of events.  Of course, there are those characters that won’t change, but the main characters must.  Their development makes the story real, plausible.

There are so many facets to writing a good story that others want to read.  It’s a wonder that any of us write at all. Character growth and plot development, sub plots, continuity, tying up loose ends, editing, re-editing.  A good story idea is not easily put to the page.  The thought and planning that goes into the story idea to manifest it on the page is daunting, phenomenal, exciting, gratifying, and enjoyable.  We writers love what we do and it’s so worth the effort. Keep on writing!

-AH

(also posted on http://andreahunter313.com)