"Welcome to Japan, folks. The local time is . . . tomorrow."
- from 30 Minutes Over Tokyo, The Simpsons, Season 10

Friday, September 19, 2008

Writer's Block, Part 2

This is cross-posted from the Den of Shadows message board.

As to writer's block in general, I tend to get stuck for a couple reasons.

1. I took the easy way out while writing something. Meaning rather than writing what would be better for the characters and plot, I wrote what was easier or what came to me first without giving it some extra thought. Then I usually can't figure out where to go from there, so I "delete" (meaning I just copy it into a new document) what I wrote (sometimes it'll be a paragraph and sometimes it'll be an entire chapter) and start over. I get stuck this way the most during the actual writing process.

2. This is also during the writing process, where I can look at my outline and know what I need to write, I just have no idea how to go about doing it. (This is probably my problem with my new chapter 1.) This block is the hardest to fix since it pretty much forces me to become a better writer than I am now, or I have to rework my plot to make a different scene fit.

3. I have no idea where the story is going or needs to go. This can happen during either the outlining stage or while I'm writing, since I tend to write a lot of things that weren't included in my outline (especially in the middle of the book). To get past this, I usually need to do a lot of brainstorming either by writing down all the ideas I can think of myself, or by talking to my husband.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sentence Sunday

This is mostly cross-posted from Fangs, Fur, & Fey.

This week's Sentence Sunday was to pick a paragraph that reflects your feelings for a setting you loved.

This is from a non-fiction piece titled "Things I do not Think About", but I want to incorporate many of the sensory details from this piece into my YA WIP, No Leaf Clover.

The second thing I do not think about as I bow is the rectangular room that we are in. I do not think about the smell of sweat and sweating bodies that is soaked into the walls and floor, or that the smell no longer bothers me. Except on test days, like today. This room has been crammed with people for four hours, with large men and other martial artists pushing our bodies past our limit, sweating profusely, and adding to the ambient smell of sweat in the room. I do not think about the first time I entered the tae kwon do building, that the more stairs I climbed, the stronger the stench of sweat became, until I entered the room at the top where the stench was so unbearable I thought I’d never be able to return.

I like this because this includes my very first impression of tae kwon do, and I really thought I wouldn't be able to go back. But I went back, and the more I did, the less the smell bothered me. Anyway, I really like this because tae kwon do had such a huge impact on my life when I was in high school. And even though I'm not in tae kwon do now, I hope that by writing about it, I'll be able to share my good memories with other people.

Also, the location and many of the students have changed since I went to tae kwon do in high school, but by writing about it, I can always go back to the way things were.

My Valuable Husband, Part 2

This is cross-posted from the AW message board.

When I'm stuck, I usually can't figure out exactly why I'm stuck, so I will talk to my husband. I try to talk about my current problem, because that's the only thing I'm stuck on, right? Though usually just by talking to him, I'm able to figure out a lot more about the story, the characters, their backstories, the world, etc. just by talking to him. And yeah, sometimes the conversations are a bit one-sided, but usually just voicing ideas helps. Besides, I figure if an idea sounds really stupid when I'm trying to explain it to my husband, even if he isn't listening to me, then it'll probably sound stupid to everyone else.

Being Sick, Goals, and Research

I posted this at the Den of Shadows a day or two ago.

I didn't get any writing done at all last week. Mostly it was because I became extremely sick and had to miss two and a half days of work. I only went the half day on the first day I was sick because my boss made me and I don't think he realized how sick I was. But I finally went to the doctor's yesterday, and while I'm not completely better, I'm starting to feel better.

I'd probably try to get some work done today, but I have an English test to write, and besides, I don't think my brain's really functioning at full strength right now, so I'd probably just end up with a bunch of stuff that needs to be scrapped anyway.

Plus, I just got Supernatural, Season 3 in the mail yesterday, so I'm probably not going to get much writing done until I've finished watching that.

As to my weak spot, I'd say it's not actually finishing a project before starting the next one. My plots or my characters may not be that great, but with discussing problems I'm having with my husband, I can usually figure those out. It's the knowing what needs to be revised and fixed, and then not actually fixing it that I have a problem with. I think part of it is that I don't have an external deadline to keep me in line and to keep me working on one thing at a time, so I've considered sending off a query to agents, but then I've read some horror stories that happened to other people and I don't think that's the wisest idea either. So I don't know.

Though I do want to have Kitsune ready to submit by October 31, then maybe I can work on her book 2 (assuming I get the printout of it while I'm in MN in October) or I can work on some of the characters' history that happens in the distant past of Kitsu's time, but in the near future (I think) of our time. I think that history is really important to figure out too before I start doing too much work on book 2. Plus, the history should be fairly short, so I should be able to finish that for NaNo even if I don't make the 50,000 words.

Whenever I go to the library, I say I'm going to get one or two books on this one topic that I want to research, and then I come home with two bags full of books. Okay, so most of the books I get are children's books, but that's just because I find them easier to understand, at least for certain topics. But still, when I was living with my husband's parents, whenever I got home from the library, his dad would always say, "I thought you were going to get just two books." And I always say, "I was."

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Peek at my Writing Process

This is cross-posted from the Den of Shadows.

I don't think I really have candy bar scenes. Because I write out my entire story longhand first, I like to write the order that I think it should go. Usually I have two or three outlines I try to follow. One outline will be for the entire book, one will be for the chapter, and then sometimes one will be for the scene. I usually write scene outlines when either I think of a really great scene (or at least I think it's really great at the time), but it won't be happening in my story for quite some time. So I write a scene outline that I tuck into my notes to come back to when I finally get to that scene. I also write scene outlines when I can't figure out how to do the scene I'm currently working on, since writing the scene outline gives me more leeway to go off on random tangents that writing the actual scene wouldn't allow.

Even though I try to work from an outline, it's still just a starting point to the whole writing process. I think my brain's kind of chaotic, so having an outline helps me bring some order to my thoughts. Usually, my story has changed from the initial outline I wrote for it, with plenty of scenes and character emotions and reactions that I never planned out beforehand.

Though I suppose with Kitsune/Butterfly Mask, I have more of a candy bar character. I have this character whom I love working with and love the way he and my main character interact with each other, so I'm always excited when a scene with him is coming up. Plus, over the weekend, my husband helped me figure out some more of his background, so I have a bit more of a character goal/character arc for him for this book. So I'm looking forward to working on the next draft of me book just to work with him some more.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Valuable Husband

This is cross-posted from the Den of Shadows message board.

EverStar wrote:
yttar, I envy the partnership you have with your husband. It must be nice to have someone whom you can share your work with and receive feedback from. :wink:

It's kind of two-fold actually. He's really good with helping me with ideas. Which I decided to scratch the new idea I got because he figured it was too far of a stretch and it probably was which was why I stopped working on that idea, and he tried helping me fix the first couple of ideas I had. That also led to a new idea for another character's backstory and room for character growth for that character, which is always good, plus it makes one of my villains seem so much more evil, not that people will really see that right away.

But when it comes to actually reading and critiquing stories, well, he's not so good. I mean, he can point out logic and continuity errors or things that just don't make sense, but he's kind of slow at reading the story. And I don't really want to be that whole nagging wife with, "Have you read my story yet? Huh? Have you? Why aren't you reading it?"

In college we took a couple creative writing classes together and during the critique of one of my stories, there was a part that was just really bad and no one else in the class mentioned it, but he did, so he said so. Of course all the girls were outraged that my husband would say something so mean about his wife. And the two of us were like, "What? If he always tells me how great and wonderful my writing is [which it usually isn't], than how am I ever supposed to learn anything as a writer? How am I supposed to get better?" But I guess most of the girls in that class would probably dump a guy if he said anything bad about her writing.

The only downside is that he's not really considered a "fresh set of eyes". So he can catch most of the mistakes in the story, but when I finally finish editing it and before I try submitting it to an agent, I'll need to find someone else to read through it for me. I have another friend who's really good with critiques, but he's going to be starting up school again, so he'll probably be busy with his own creative writing. But with how slow I work, I probably won't have my story finished until winter break anyway.

Another Excerpt From Butterfly Mask (Kitsune)

This scene's from my WIP Butterfly Mask.

* * *

I was seven years old.

Cristao stood across from me in the middle of the training room, his emerald eyes focused on my jade ones. He bowed; I followed. “You have the skill,” he said, “you just need to use it.”

“What if I don’t want to kill?” I slapped my hands over my mouth. As if that could take away what I said.

“This isn’t about killing,” he said. “This isn’t about what you want; or what I want. This is about survival.” He assumed a fighting stance. “Now hit me.”

I stared at him; I couldn’t hurt my brother.

“If you don’t attack,” he said, circling me, forcing me to move to keep him in sight, “I will.”

He punched. I backed up. His front two knuckles grazed my upper lip. He kicked. I spun to the side.

My brother punched. I dodged. He kicked. I dodged. He forced me to move so fast, I couldn’t breathe. My brother wasn’t even sweating.

Cristao reached for something in his in the folds of his martial arts uniform. He punched. I stood there, too exhausted to move. He threw three darts.

Two whizzed past my ear. The third dart pierced my chest. As I pulled it free, I sniffed its poison. “Serentis Moss.”

He smiled, proud. “It’s good to see you studied hard, Izabel.”

I glared at him. I didn’t correct him that my knowledge of the galaxy’s deadliest poison didn’t come from my studies. Or that the dosage in a single dart wasn’t enough to kill me. But it was enough to know he was serious.

“You can have the antidote,” he said. Then he smiled. “But only if you can beat me.”

My brother reached inside his sleeve. I crouched so low I almost touched the hardwood floor. With a fox’s speed, I pounced and pinned him. I wrenched the darts from his fingers, and threw them across the room.

My brother flipped us, pinned me and slammed my head into the floor.

It was act now, or not at all.

With all my power, I kicked. Cristao flew into the wall. I looked at my brother with two solid black orbs. For the only time in my life, I saw true fear in his eyes. He knew I would kill him if I wanted to.

I crouched, growled, and pounced. As I pinned my brother, my fingernails and toenails lengthened into claws that pierced his skin. His deep crimson blood welled up under my nails, but I didn’t care. He tried to throw me off; I dug in deeper.

My canines elongated into fangs, which I sank into his throat and tore at his flesh. His screams encouraged me. I didn’t stop until his throat was nothing more than shredded flesh and blood.

Oh, God. I jumped back from my brother’s still body and screamed. It was the only mourning I was allowed before his body disappeared.

The applauding started then. From the one person hiding in the shadows. He smelled of musk over a light sheen of sweat. His scent was as familiar to me as my own.


He stepped out of the shadows, wearing his white mask with the red scorpion whose tail was ready to strike. I should have known. Why fight your own sister when you can program a Holo to do it?

“You should be more careful whom you reveal your secret to,” he said, smiling and simultaneously looking like my caring older brother and the Scorpio he was soon to be. “You never know who’ll want to use it.”

* * *

I like this scene because it's the first time my main character reveals her supernatural abilities to anyone, including herself. And I think much of the plot of Butterfly Mask directly results from this scene.