It’s Not Porn

So I’ve been sidetracked from my conference prep by what I lovingly call my ‘porn’ notebook. No, don’t get excited. It’s not porn. Well, unless you like me thought of emotionally exploitative pointless words.
Whenever I start drafting a novel I sit down with my ‘porn’ notebook and write scenes. At least fifty percent of these scenes I’m aware from when I start them will never hit a book. They are all about getting to know my characters, their quirks, their fears, hell even their sexual tendencies. I’ve tried just thinking of these things and writing them down in neat lists, but it doesn’t work. Half the information ends up wrong…nope to get it right I need to ask the characters.
Thus the notebook.
Most of the scenes are just the characters saying quippy things to each other and being clever, drinking contests, bets, gossiping and yes, far more sex than will ever enter one of my books. But hey, I have to know before I start writing if some prissy-pants character likes threesomes or any number of proclivities that I won’t share with you because it would be invading their privacy.
But there is no writing more fun than ‘porn’ notebook writing. Because almost none of it ever sees the novel my inner critic really just shuts up and lets me write. I get to describe what the characters are wearing to my heart’s content, and let my babies talk in long soliloquies or argue over which is a better weapon a great ax or a great sword (I literally just wrote that scene…) or whine about daddy issues for five pages straight.
Of course at some point, I have to reign them and me in and tell them to stick to the plot…but not yet. I forgot how much I love this.
Though the most recent set of characters is refusing to cooperate romantically. I don’t know why they don’t just fall in love with who I tell them to…they are fictious. I made them up. They should do what I say! Right?
I think someone other than me should tell them that. They aren’t listening. Insisting they just want to be friends…
Now that I have made myself sound completely insane, I feel I’ve done my duty for the week. It’s too hot to be in my office anyway. I think I’ll go somewhere cooler and write a scene about a married couple telling each other how wonderful they think the other one is…maybe I’ll start the scene out in the bedroom just in case they get frisky 😉 Or maybe a plot relevant scene just to give my notebook some dignity.

Taglines and Editing

Who knew that writing twenty words could take a week? Well… most author’s doing this longer than me. This week my quest was to write my logline, and to a lesser extent my pitch. Read a couple articles, jumped in wrote it. Read a couple more, rewrote every word (well almost.) Then I shared it with people and those two words that remained from version one disappeared (along with most of version two.)

But after hours and hours of work, and embarrassing myself and imposing on everyone near me in my acquaintance. I have a logline I’m happy with (bets on how long it’ll last?)

On an intergalactic voyage, a devoted mercenary must protect her prince while unearthing dangerous secrets of the galaxies’ godlike rulers.

The pitch was easier in some ways because I had a query letter to draw from. Yay! How often does something turn out to be easier than you feared? Now I just have to memorize it… oh and say it in front of agents and editors… no sweat… right?

Elevator Pitch:
My book is about Taln an insecure mercenary whose greatest quandary in life is whether to sharpen her knives or spy on her beloved employer. That is until her employer is blackmailed into investigating eon old secrets on a voyage across the stars. As forgotten truths about genetic manipulation and slavery emerge, Taln must learn opening her heart can make greater changes than throwing her blade in order to push past prejudice and free a race who has only ever known slavery.

And now back to editing. Ah, the beauty of editing. When I started writing I never thought I’d enjoy ripping my baby apart but I honestly do relish the feeling of a major revision. It’s the little niggling edits that drive me crazy. It’s hard to put creativity and passion into double checking commas and question mark usage.

Anyhow, apologies for the belated and odd ramblings of the week. With fifteen chapters left to comb through I admit my mind is stuck in my novel.

And because I saw it, and its true:

Though I think the artist should try typing with a three year old trying to climb up the back of their chair.

PNWA Literary Contest

My novel has placed as a finalist in the PNWA literary contest.

Sorry, that deserved a paragraph of its own. No sharing for that sentence.

I’ve spent the time since I got the call oscillating between unreasoning joy/overwhelmed by emotion to the point of tears, and petrified with fear. When I decided to come back to writing, my first love, eight months ago I thought that choice was the most nerve wracking decision I’d ever make. Because trying again meant opening my soul to the world and begging for rejection.

Because as everyone is so wont to tell you, “It’s impossible to get published.”

Well, I’ve worked my tail off for the past eight months. My novel has gone through three full revisions and been ripped apart by crit partners who I sometimes swear are out for blood. I’ve been reading books on writing and publishing, reviewing books and teaching myself punctuation rules that make no sense what-so-ever. And from my vantage point now, publication isn’t impossible.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but the current situation is killing my nerves in ways my previous one did not. Suddenly, I have a possible shot…but it’s out of my hands. No amount of editing or improving my draft is going to change what those judges see. The entire process is moving without me. Even if I sat back and didn’t touch my draft…nothing about that entry would change (it would make a difference if I get lucky enough to have an agent want to look at my full novel.)

I’m a control freak. Not over everything but my sanity requires either to have no stake and no say in things or the first, middle and final decision. My lack of ability to choose a restaurant, or once we’re there choose a meal drives my hubby crazy. But the fact I won’t let him touch the TV remote seems to disturb him more (MINE.) I have way more at stake in my novel than in any TV show.

Judges have my precious (does every writer feel about their work like Gollum felt about that ring? Or is it just me?) and I get to wait a month to know if I get the amazing honor of putting PNWA finalist in my query or (dare I say it?) the earthshattering ability to type winner. Do I think that’s likely? No. It’s a one in eight chance though… which is better odds than I faced in the first round.

And… Thank God I found my perfect songs to repeat or I might literally go crazy. Simon & Garfunkel are sanity savers. With my headphones on, I can sit back and just smile, drink some coffee and enjoy the moment for itself.

Enjoying a moment

I am a Rock

Currently, I’m listening to Simon & Garfunkel on repeat, in specific I Am a Rock. I’ve never met anyone else who does this, that is, listens to a single song on repeat for hours at a time. But for me there is nothing better than finding that single song that speaks to your soul in its current form because when you find that one song that for whatever illogical reason just fits… it’s the most powerful catharsis I know of.

I couldn’t say why it’s one song or another, but I’ll hear a song and it’s like the world stands still, I often break into tears trying to sing along. Most recently it was Lord Huron’s She Lit a Fire and then respectively Ends of the Earth. Before that, Hozier’s Take me to Church and Bleacher’s Shadow.  But it can be all sorts of music, country songs, folk songs, pop songs, a few time numbers from Broadway musicals.

I’m stuck in my work, have been for weeks. I can’t seem to get past all this advice pouring in that basically comes to ‘you can’t succeed, it’s impossible and you aren’t that good.’ Which every writer who researches and works to get better hears. Mostly from well-meaning sources who are trying to stress how hard the publishing industry is.

To ward off disappointment?

But when you know how tough success is, being repeatedly told not to get your hopes up, that your not ready, that this or that or the other isn’t good enough…crushes something inside you.

You get trapped under the weight of everything you ‘need’ to do. Pinned under the doubts and the fear. The query letter, the synopsis, the pitch, the writing books, the constant reworking of your work (which even after revision you can still always find someone who thinks it’s godawful.) And occasionally into all this, the thought creeps ‘Maybe I should just give up. I’ll never do this.’

I’ve spent weeks teetering. Not able to give up or to get anything done. I knew I needed something, anything to lift me, to remind me that even if no one but me (and my mom and husband) believes in me, I can do this.

Getting Little Cracks published gave me that boost for a while, but getting published once feels like a fluke in my heart. Which I know is whiny and silly since so many authors try for so long and don’t even get that far. I read somewhere that the brain tends to disregard data that occurs once as extraneous. Your mind doesn’t let you believe until there is a pattern.

But you don’t need a metaphorical giant to free you from the crushing weight of doubts. A breeze can lift it, if you just happen on the right breeze.

So I’m sitting in this self-made hole of doubt and inaction…and Simon and Garfunkel comes on the radio. I’m singing along and my voice just fails and all these emotions bubble and I know I’m going to be okay. That I can be both a rock and an island. I know that pain won’t kill me…now I know that isn’t the point of the song…but it doesn’t matter what the point is. It only matters that at that moment, that song, that rhythm, those words broke the stasis.

mmm…point of this week’s little rant…music is beautiful and powerful because it touches emotions not logic. It moves past your guards and touches the tender places where even words fail to penetrate. And that I hope all of you find your ‘song’ when you desperately need it. Because no matter what the facts are in your life that make progress feel impossible, a course exists that will bring you to your destination.

And that sometimes it’s not our brains that need convincing but our hearts. I love what I’m doing and writing this for the first time in weeks I remember that. I don’t write this blog, or my novel or anything because I have to. I do this because it’s my music.