I wrote a novel and finished it well over a year-and-a-half ago.  I submitted it to Carina Press (cross your fingers for me–still haven’t heard anything*).  It was a stand-alone book, but I knew when I wrote it there were two related books to be written.  I jotted down notes as they came to me and even wrote a loose outline.

And then I moved on to the next story.  Because why write sequels to a book that may never be published?  Except, now that I’ve sucked it up and found some guts, I’m subbing it to agents and the previously mentioned publisher.  In my query, I mention the two other connected books.  Now, I feel an obligation to have a more formal (and fleshed out) synopsis prepared for the other two books.

I’ve mentioned this before: how difficult it is to walk away from a WIP and then try to pick it back up.  I write everything down.  I haven’t lost anything between then and now (and I consider myself quite lucky in that).  But it’s still difficult to find that thread, those characters, that plot and breathe life into it.

Because that’s what we do.  We give characters and stories a life of their own.  It’s why the characters talk to us (sometimes nag us and yell at us) and it’s why we know the story isn’t “right” even though we’re the ones “in control.”  (Yeah, right.)

I’m listening to music, which always inspires me to write and the old playlist brings me back to that place.  But how do you do it?  Do you switch between WIPs?  Do you put things that aren’t working away for a time so you can come back with a fresh view?  Tell me what works for you.

*Update: Finally heard from Carina Press, after 7 weeks.  My novel was placed with an editor for possible acquisition and my full read, but they decided against acquiring it.  While this was very disappointing I did get some very good feedback and important constructive criticism.  I’m very grateful they took the time to do so.

This is the first year I’ve participated in NaNo.  I’ve thought about it a couple of times.  Once I started but dropped out early, citing the reasoning that it just didn’t work with my “process.”  But, I think I get it now.

It’s sort of like when I actually became a writer instead of a person who wants to write.  At first, I wrote because it would be cool / financially gainful / fun (ha!) to write a book.  But then, it wasn’t all that fun–at least some of the time–and odds are not in anyone’s favor to actually sell a book or for it to be particularly financially gainful.  It is still cool.  That’s right.  I’m a writer, y’all.

And NaNo, I thought it was about winning.  About writing those fifty thousand words.  But it’s not.  It’s about writing.  Just writing for the love of it and with the abandon we deserve, the abandon to write badly, but to have written.

I probably won’t win.  I have three kids and a full time job and a husband who works a bajillion hours so a lot of the household responsibilities fall on me, after my 40.  That’s my life, and I like it, but it may mean I don’t get to 50k words in 30 days.  But I’ll write every day.  And I will write without analyzing what I’ve written for perfection and fretting over the way I don’t do description so much in a first draft or my characters seem to really be saying “really” a lot.  I will write for whatever small amount of time I can pull away and actually accomplish writing–I can thank Dr. Wicked for that. (Write Or Die.)  And I will revel in the fun of writing, the creation, the characters speaking to me, the excitement of watching my story unfold without once thinking, “I’m such a bad writer.”*

So NaNo is like what they teach us when we’re kids.  It’s not whether you win or lose (although you rock out loud if you win, go you!), it’s how we play the game.

*I’m not actually a “bad” writer.  My inner editor just likes saying so.   A lot.  You know how that is.

Image by ~leftnwrite08

Turns out, this whole “just write” strategy is actually very difficult for me.  I can’t seem to stop looking up the page and thinking, “Dude, this is crap,” which I always do and sometimes it’s not.

But, for me, that’s the whole point.  To learn to let go and let what I know, both learned and intuitively, about craft and my muse do what they do.

So, yesterday–a slow start.  Today?  It’s anybody’s ballgame, baby.

Also: Very awesome article about the costs of rewriting those sentences.

I mentioned (I think) that I’m working on a new manuscript. I’ve got several characters roughly sketched and about 35 pages of backstory (the setup for the now) written. I love this part, where there’s still so many things to do, and you can just pick and choose. Should I develop the characters more? Should I research jobs? Draw my town? Find pictures of their apartment? Jot down scene ideas?

Writing a novel is such a long and difficult process (duh), that I love the parts where it feels like you’re so on top of it, and options are limitless. It’s a lot better than banging your head on the keyboard and screaming, “That’s the stupidest thing ever written in the history of ever!”

I got my first no from an agent today.  It’s actually more frustrating than soul-crushing.  They didn’t say no to my writing or to my manuscript.  They said no to a one page description of my story.

I’m going to work some more on that one page description.  It’s only bad when everyone says no.

I decided to take my idea and run with it.  It ended up being more than a sentence.  But definitely no more than blurbs.  I’m too close to it right now to see if there’s anything useful there, but I promised to share, so here it is.

My current WIP character's one sentence stories.
my character's one sentence stories

So, I’m attempting to write my first synopsis. And it’s bringing back all these horrible memories of being paralyzed with fear–literally, can’t write a word, paralyzed–when I first started writing and I read all of these how-to books and web sites. Here’s what I’ve gathered, so far:

  1. It’s the opposite of show-not-tell.  Tell, tell, tell!  Okay, so do what I spent ages learning how not to do?)
  2. Tell your whole story, don’t leave unanswered questions.  But leave out the parts, like secondary characters and subplots, that aren’t important to the developing relationship.  (Well, if they’re not important, why are they in the book at all?)
  3. Focus on the developing relationship, not the external plot.  (Are they supposed to be that easily separable? )
  4. A page for every 10k words is acceptable, but an agent may only want 3…or 5… or anything that’s not what you’ve already done.  (So I have to condense it further?  Should I write the long one and then try to make it smaller or should I just do one for everyone?)
  5. Make sure your voice, the voice that should be strongly present in your story, is also in your synopsis.  (All that and I have to write it well?  And why is it harder to write naturally… because of the flipping rules, that’s why!)

I think you can see where I’m going here.  I can’t find anything good, solid, “Here’s how you do it,” or even an example of a book I’ve read.  That would be awesome.

And after this, I’m going to be crafting a query letter.  Which will be nifty since I have no writing credits to my name.  I did find this, which may help, I’ll let you know.  The Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters

Oh, and if I ever do figure out how to write a synopsis, I’ll share the wealth.

EDIT: This looks promising: Writing the Tight Synopsis. I’m going to try this, starting with the one page and building up. Will update on my progress.

I have finished the first rewrite on the first act of my fist novel. All those firsts, they just kind of sing disaster, don’t they?

And yet, oh my god. I felt the same rush I did finishing the thing. The first act, about 140 pages, needed a lot of work. It was mainly written back when I had little to no clue. At all. There was infodump! There were scenes with NO conflict! None. Just… here’s an event. And another. And another. They serve no purpose, but… there they are!

Most importantly, though, I was extremely intimidated by doing those rewrites. I just didn’t know if I could make it into anything better.

So, it’s still rough. It’s still a WIP. But it is no longer a piece of crap. It is a shiny, well-polished piece of crap.

I’m editing. Yes, still. And I’m having one of those moments, you know, when you want to smack yourself on the forehead, but instead of saying, “You could’ve had a V8!” you say, “How could you not have known that?!”

Backstory.

Oh, sure, I had backstory. I knew all about my heroine’s childhood, her parents, how she lost her virginity, and how she lost her true love. She’s 30. That’s up to about 20. I had even less for my hero.

See, here’s what got me: the story starts when the action begins. That’s one of those Rules. Notice the capital R? Rules. The Rules that cripple you.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good rule. I get it (now). But what the novice writer in me read was: nothing happens, except what is relevant to the story, until the story starts. Which is just silly.

First of all, who sits around doing nothing for ten years? Nobody I want to read about, that’s who. And really, once you get to know your characters and your story, it’s a lot easier to explore their history. But, take it from me, this is something you should do before you’ve written 400 pages and realize that the first 130 pages are going to need serious work, which means the rest will need serious work weaving in all the new things you’ve discovered.

Second, how do you know what’s relevant if you don’t just sit down with a pen and paper or a laptop or a wall and chalk, if you don’t dig in and find out? I don’t think you can make things up to fit your story. I mean, clearly, you’re writing fiction–you’re making it up. But, if you just comb through, pull this out, that out… and then you’re character says, “See! That’s how I got in this spot. And, you know, later, when that other thing happens? Think how that’s going to just rip me apart.”

Meh. I’m off to dig. And to write twenty times, “I will not blog in the second person.”

I’m editing. I have (once again) hit writer’s block and decided this would be the perfect time to edit… or totally rip apart… my first novel. Except, of course, I still don’t feel like writing. So I’m pushing my way through. And feeling like a petulant two-year-old: “But it’s hard!”

It’s so scary, looking at something like this again, something I spent years working on, something I was never really sure I would finish. And, it’s finished. Except it needs a lot of work.

I’ve learned so much, and I guess that’s good, but it makes it so much easier to see what I did wrong, especially in those scenes that I wrote when I first started. But, with this story, I don’t remember a piece of it I worked on that I didn’t think this is hard. This is scary. And then I would push through it, and I remember being a little in awe at myself, at the process, at writing because it was hard and scary, and I actually did it.

I guess this entry is a little pep talk for me, for whoever reads it. Writing is scary and hard. If it’s not, you’re not doing it right. Or, you’re definitely not doing it well. But, what a rush.