Losing Heart

The past week was not a great one for me, as far as my writing is concerned. The issue with having to rewrite a chapter plus too many other things going on (work and personal) meant that I have fallen off my schedule for my rough-draft completion date. No, it’s not going to kill me if I’m a month late, it’s just not what I had hoped for. Still, I’m in control and I will work everything out in the best manner that I am able.

But on top of loosing two weeks of time, I also received my forth form rejection for the manuscript I’m currently circulating. While this isn’t a huge deal, because I’ve now only sent out fifteen queries and have only heard back from four, this one was disappointing because it was someone I thought would be a good fit.

Still, my goal is always to handle these things with grace, so I took a deep breath and closed the email. But then I started thinking. If someone I thought would be such a good fit for me didn’t like the story, then what am I doing wrong?

Unfortunately I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that there were some serious issues with the manuscript ever since I started sending it out. And the biggest of these is that I’m trying to sell this as YA, but the reality is that the story may just be too detached. The protagonist may be too reserved and calculating for a YA audience to relate to. And while that’s certainly a part of her persona, what I really think is that the story was worked on for so long, was worked over so many times, that maybe somewhere between drafts it lost its heart.

How difficult a balance it is to strike, between keeping the writing clean and polished, but also providing enough color for the audience to grasp. I think I probably was so focused on polishing, plus so embedded in the world, that I lost track of which details needed to stay, that I over-edited, and the resulting manuscript may seem a bit too cold.

I’m not sure if these are the reasons I’m being rejected. Maybe it is the fact that, though a steampunk work, it has too many dystopian elements. Maybe my writing just sucks. But I think that, since it has now been almost six months since I said “Done” that it might be the right time to go back and reevaluate what I’m sending out, since what I’ve been doing so far obviously hasn’t been working. But either way, I’m not losing heart, I’m not giving up. I will write until the day I die, and if I never get picked up by an agent, then so be it.

After all, there’s always self-publishing.

Restarting Before The Finish

First of all, happy Halloween guys! Second, I would just like to say that I feel surprisingly excellent today considering that I deadlifted more than my body weight for the first time last night. Perhaps being so exhausted led to excellent sleep, and that’s why I feel so chipper this morning. Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining!

This week I’m working on Chapter Ten of Don’t Leave and it has been a dramatic departure from the last four chapters which flowed from my fingertips to the computer screen as fast as I could type them. For a variety of reasons, this one has been just a little bit harder. I know what I want to do, and at this point I know how I want to do it, which usually results in speed-writing from me. But what I’m facing is a delicate balance of taking two previously antagonistic characters and forcing them to start warming up to one another, which is always tricky.

And then there’s the fact that I’m halfway through the chapter, and I already know that I’ve put the events in the wrong time and place.

When I write a rough draft, I tend to put down whatever comes into my head and push through as far as I can. Or at least that’s what I used to do. But now as I’m sitting and typing out the words, I can tell how forced and unnatural it feels. I know that this scene is not right.  And for approximately two thousand words, I ignored that feeling. Just get it out, I told myself. You can fix it later.

But what purpose does that really serve? While the events in the scenes aren’t going to change, I know they need to happen somewhere other than where the characters are currently located, and moreover that they need to happen a little bit later in the game.

So you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to stop and start over. Yes, maybe that means I won’t finish a chapter this week. But in the long run, I’m doing myself a favor. Because I know that it’s going to need to be fixed, I know that this will result in better progression of the storyline, and I know, in the end, that I am actually saving myself time and effort.

But I have to say, sometimes it doesn’t feel awesome to stop what you’re doing and restart from scratch, even when it’s the right choice.

The Sudden (and Unexpected) Appearance of Important Characters

For the majority of my fledgling writing career, I would suddenly get an idea and take off running with it. There was never any planning involved, very little coordination, and typically no over-arching plot or even a proper villain. That’s the problem with being character-centric. If all of your focus is on the people and their relationships, you end up with a story which doesn’t really go anywhere (most of the time. I’ve got one half-finished story from those days which might someday go somewhere, but that was pure luck).

That all changed after I got serious about writing and finished my first manuscript. I spent four years writing, rewriting and re-rewriting the same novel. I came to rely on knowing what was going to happen in the story, and so when it was finally complete and the next new idea hit me, I felt paralyzed. Because I had these lovely characters who I wanted so badly to bring to life. But for the first time ever, I didn’t feel comfortable diving head-first into a manuscript.

Oh, I tried to force myself. It resulted in my having a meltdown around Chapter Five where I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to get these characters to the end-goal. Luckily I’m married  to one of the greatest men on the planet, and he sat me down and started asking questions about what I was trying to do. Then we drew the map of the world, figured out where the characters were traveling to and why they were going there, and suddenly I had my plot. So I quickly rewrote those first five chapters, and in the last month I’ve written four more, and am still going strong. In this sense, having a plot has completely freed me. I’m no longer crippled by the unknown, by the endless possibilities of what could happen.

But even though all that is true, I still sometimes manage to surprise myself.

When I have a strong overall idea of what I want to do with the story, I frequently find myself banging out words on my keyboard as quickly as I can think them. Certainly I still have moments where I stare at the page, trying to find that one sentence which will make the whole chapter work. But then there are times when it feels as though the words are showing up on the screen before the idea even comes into my head.

That happened to me yesterday. Without meaning to I wrote myself the fourth most important character of the series, and before she was there I didn’t even know that I needed her.

So now I’m left with the question of what to do with her. I know what part she’s going to play in later books. What I don’t know is how much involvement I want her to have in this book. Should I leave her where she is, and have her patiently waiting for me when I truly need her? Or, if she is as important as I think she’s going to be, should I pull her into the plot of this book as well?

It comes down to a question of, what purpose would that serve? It would prepare the audience for her to become important later. And it could provide opportunities for some dramatic interaction. But as far as the plot is concerned, she’s not needed for the characters to achieve the goal of this book. I have to decide if it is better to build her up now, or hold her in reserve for book two. It’s something that I’m going to have to think about, something I’m going to have to discuss with my husband and my betas.

What I’m wondering is, how do you all deal with the unexpected coming to life in your writing? Do you simply wrestle it into place, stick strictly to your plan, and not let anything slow you down? Or do you pause and consider the benefits of switching things up? Obviously in our writing we are the ones in control, but how much do you allow yourself to deviate from The Plan (if you have one)?

Novel Progress – 10/21/2013

This past week was a great one for me. Writing-wise it may not look like much on paper, but I finished Chapter Eight more than twenty-four hours ahead of schedule. Because of that I was able to get a jump start on Chapter Nine, which was great! I’m at this really wonderful point in the story where I love what’s happening and everything is coming to me so clearly and easily. That’s the best when writing a rough draft. It’s obviously still going to require major revisions, but to at least get that rough done is such a joy.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown:

10/14/2013 -397
10/15/2013 – 1803
10/16/2013 – 654
10/17/2013 – 2167
10/18/2013 – 1253

Characters created – 3 minor
Characters killed – 0

In other exciting news, the weekend was exceedingly busy and fun. Friday night I saw Nine Inch Nails at the Verizon Center with my sister and two of my guy friends. Saturday was the Barbells for Boobs CrossFit event, to raise money to provide free mammograms to women who can’t afford them. Our gym raised $2,800, which was almost twice our goal. The workout we did was “Grace”, which is 30 Clean and Jerks. I did 65 lbs and finished in 4:51, which was hard, but I’m glad that I did it. It was my first benchmark workout, and it definitely shows that I am getting stronger which is, after all, the point of this whole thing.

Novel Progress – 10/14/2013

I keep promising myself that as soon as I finish a chapter, I’m going to update here about it. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be working out so far, because this is a couple of days late. Regardless, last week was a great writing week for me. After deciding to move a scene from last week’s Chapter Six into Chapter Five, I then re-completed Chapter Six, and wrote all of Chapter Seven. Here’s the breakdown of how it happened:

Words Written –

10/07/2013 – 2109
10/08/2013 – 1563
10/09/2013 – 1477
10/10/2013 – 247
10/11/2013 – 1773

Characters created – 0
Characters killed – 0

Considering that I work a full-time job, and do CrossFit every night, writing a chapter per week is awesome for me. Now here’s to hoping for another excellent writing week!

Novel Progress – 10/05/2013

So, because I am a writer, even though I’m trying to sell my existing manuscript, I’m obviously working on a new one. Last week I finished completely rewriting the first five Chapters of what I’m tentatively calling Don’t Leave, and this past week I completed the new Chapter Six. Here’s a breakdown of what I did:

Words written –

9/30/2013 – 954
10/02/2013 – 719
10/03/2013 – 1031
10/04/2013 – 2334
10/05/2013 – 248

Characters created – 4 (1 major, 3 minor)
Characters killed – 0

This was an important chapter for me because it’s essentially the turning point of the novel. Now, I know I’m going to have to go back and cut scenes to make sure that the turning point happens earlier, but that’s always the problem I face. I need to write out every aspect of the beginning, to fully feel-out my characters. I don’t think that’s surprising. But luckily for me it’s something I’m aware of and can focus on when I finish this thing up and then bring it back to the chopping block.

CrossFit Progress – October, 2013

I have mentioned before that when I’m not working my day job or writing that I like to engage in all sorts of other activities, and one of those happens to be CrossFit. Now, I haven’t been doing it for very long – just over a month – and at this point I’m still not very strong. But this week was 1RM week and boy did I see some improvements!

My 1 Rep Maxes came out as follows:

Back Squat – 123 lbs (up from 113 lbs)
Bench Press – 88 lbs (up from 75 lbs)
Dead Lift – 133 lbs (no previous 1RM)
Shoulder Press – 68 lbs (up from 55 lbs)

Is it bad that my Back Squat is almost the same as my Dead Lift? This is directly the result of spending years of doing nothing but sitting on a stationary bike and developing exactly zero other parts of my body other than my legs. Despite my Dead Lift being the highest of my numbers, it really should be higher, but my lower back is likely the weakest part of my body right now.

This month I didn’t get around to finding new Clean & Jerk or Snatch 1RMs, but it’s hard to do six days of CrossFit per week.  Especially considering that for the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing cardio in the morning as well as CrossFit at night. The result has been that I have been completely exhausted by the end of the week, and it has been killing my writing time. So, I think I’m going to take a week off from cardio and see how I do with just CrossFit. Hopefully both my body and my writing progress will thank me.