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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Operation: Dark Angel -- The Outline


It can be a tedious process, writing a novel. This one is a bitch, quite simply because the story has a history. A rich history. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking down every avenue I can find. The distance between that side street and the main road can be as short or as long as I like. But it needs to feel like a journey for me. The dead end shouldn't come so easily, for even dead ends lead to somewhere. Its just usually not a place we'd like to go or think about. Kind of like the street a friend of mine used to live on. We'd play basketball outside his house. Bouncing the ball through the street was nice, none of the other cars drove passed us. At the end of the block was a dense, unwelcoming forest. It was the type kids would get lost in... and you only hoped they ended up on the other side of the woods and not on the evening news. 

When I write, I'm building the road as I go. There's the main street, where all of the action takes place. But then there are the alleyways and smaller avenues. You don't venture down those dark recesses alone... or at least you don't go down there without a weapon and a prayer. And then there is what lies beyond the darkness. It's a realm that cannot be merely looked at from the distance, but experienced. Some books will keep you on the main road. Some will veer you into the alleyways. And then there are those that force you through the fog, through the places you had not yet dreamed of. 

Operation Dark Angel has been rewritten many times over. The picture above is the preliminary outline - post-its on top of post-its in a binder filled with more post-its. Now I'm working on a longer, revised outline that includes new characters and new subplots. The main road has pretty much stayed the same. A young girl grows up not knowing her true identity until she becomes of age. The side alleys and avenues have been revamped; I've made them darker and more sinister. Definitely bring a weapon. Leave the loved ones at home. As for those foggy parts, those forests that have no road or path to follow, they leave open-ended answers. It is where more stories are waiting to be told - maybe novellas, or an entirely new novel. Hell, why not a web series?

This is by far the longest and laborious part of writing the novel. That's only because I'm mapping out its potential while fleshing out the story itself. I can understand why most authors aim not to write out an outline at all. Something about losing the creative juices when working on the actual manuscript. I believe that's all hogwash. If you're creative, then an outline doesn't suppress that urge. Some authors just don't need to make one. Good for them. My mind is not as organized. I tend to develop new ideas faster than I can put them on paper... or on a word processor, in this case. My only option, then, is to outline and to walk through the world that is my novel in progress. This month will take longer than most because so many other life events are getting in the way. But, I'm working. I'm writing. The road will eventually end.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Makes Me (The Author) Happy


My happy place. Reminds me of my boyfriend and I in Key Largo.
Yes! So happy to have found this when I did. I often don't look at articles I've subscribed to, particular Dr. John Yeoman's writing village. But, now that I'm parting through the proverbial clouds, trying to make something of the time I have while I've still got it, Dr. Yeoman's sage advice is finally starting to strike a chord with me. And this particular article is no exception.

Gamma Hawdon actually contributes her advice in this thoughtful blog post about the real ways authors can keep themselves happy. I'm reading it at a time when I've just had an interesting discussion with my boyfriend about the process of writing. I think I make it sound more agonizing than it truly is; but, to some degree it can be an arduous process. I compared it to something like rehearsing a song. The writing component is far less glamorous. You can co-author with someone if the company suits you, but I wouldn't do it because writing itself is so isolating. It has to be, at first. You have to filter some of your influences into the world you build. And for authors like me, trying to build a fantastic world, it really requires you to believe fully in that reality. I have to live it for my characters, so they can be as real as possible. And that takes time, thinking, getting lost in the process, and sometimes being a social kook.

And this takes me back to my original point: Gemma Hawdon's article.

Right off the bat she comes to terms with the outdated modes of thinking. In order to be a true writer, you have to:
  1. Live and/or breathe your work. 
  2. Become obsessed with your work.
  3. Live a tortured life where, without your work, you're unhappy and irritable
  4. Dilute your story with lyrical and superfluous words and statements (she gives an example)
For Hawdon, being a happy writer should look more like this:
  1. Don't feel bad if you don't write every day.
  2. Write when and how you like.
  3. Writing is only one part of you. 
  4. Inspiration comes from living. So whenever possible, live!
  5. Don't get burnt out. 
I definitely agree with some points. But are her happy points accommodating to all writers, particularly novelists like myself... particularly when you're just starting out?

It's easier to dispel pearls of wisdom when you've already accomplished your goal. But sometimes happiness looks different when you're somewhere in between being an experienced writer and a budding author. This is not my first attempt, but it's the first one I fight for.

Let's start with the basics. What's the end game? Is there one?

Personally, my goal is to push this book, and other succeeding books, out into the public mainstream and get paid for it. I believe it has potential to be as good, if not better than the current authors on the market. Somewhere between Charlaine Harris and Chuck Palahniuk. The former with regards to genre and the latter... dark, biting humor. Anywho, that's my goal. And my happiness is aligned with achieving that goal.

If you're not a novelist, then Hawdon's five paths to being a happy writer may work for you.

For someone like me, it can... with some minor adjustments:
  1. Don't feel bad if you don't write today, but do something that will shape your story tomorrow
  2. Find a routine and stick with it... until it no longer works. It's all about building achievable habits.
  3. Writing is a part of you. You should think of yourself as a holistic being.
  4. Get out there! But, balance that time wisely with the work of writing. 
  5. Don't get burnt out (needs no tweaking). 
I think sticking to #3 and #4 have been the hardest for me so far. When I'm creating worlds, I can't help but live inside of them. It's life taking a vacation, only it's up to me to create the roads, the beaches, the suburbs... Additionally, I do not want to spend too much time on a piece of work. It goes back to #2. Building healthy routines can help the story move along. It still may make some time, and that is why I know that the extra hours can mean a lot in the long run.

So here is a revised copy to address my happiness as an author:
  1. When I'm not writing, I'm reading. Or taking notes on something that inspires me. Or performing additional research to breathe more life into my story. 
  2. A big chunk of living my life is to complete this story. Based on my flaws as an author, it's important to put it first. (Money and whatnot a very, very close second)
  3. What wakes me up in the morning and puts me to bed at night is the sheer happiness of creating a story. I cannot deny that for anyone or anything.
  4. I should immerse myself more with the writing culture. I should get out more. Step away from the computer!
  5. And, of course, don't get burnt out. Try something new.
That's a pretty reasonable list of ways I can keep myself happy. Wouldn't you agree? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Got A Major Case of New Idea-itis & The Freelancers Flu


 Hello, my name is Christina, and I have new idea-itis.

Some of you may know what that means. But for those of you who have not been stricken with such a deadly writing disease, let me break it down for you.

I contracted this affliction years ago, before I decided whether or not I really wanted to complete a book. I came up with this amazing plot, outlined the crap out of it, wrote a few chapters...

Then one of these scenarios would occur:
  • Oh I have another idea! Let me just jot that down...
  • Wow, where is this going? How does this story end? This one's probably a dud so I'll just sit on it until I get another idea.
  • You know, I'm not a novelist. Clearly if I'm stumped on this story I have no business writing longer pieces. I'm just going to give it up and see if I can't write something else. 
And finito! The story is over before it ever truly began. 

It happens like clockwork. I have a ton of story ideas, but no story.

Of course, that's not true to some degree. I've been able to complete a few short stories. Hell, I've even published most of them myself. But, there are some ideas that are going to take a space. And the idea of commitment is frightening to me, and exciting at the same time. I eventually get cold feet and back down. 

That is the story of new idea-itis. For whatever reason, I dump one story indefinitely to start another. 

There's also another thought that comes into my head, particularly when I've made that stupid decision to leave a job to pursue writing... and maintain some sanity..
  • Ugh! I hate the 9-5! I'd be better off writing for money. Hell, at least I'm doing what I love.
  • I come up with great ideas all the time. I bet I can turn those into something a business might be able to use!
And voila! I've transformed myself into a freelancer. Achoo! Achoo! Ugh... achy wrists... constipated brain... dammit! Freelancers flu!

I stumble into it every time. Deep down I know I'm not a freelancer. As much as I want to be, I can't. At first I thought I was a literary failure. I searched the internet wondering if anyone else went through this problem. Lo and behold, I find this article about being an author and a freelancer, and how the two don't always mix. It struck me... she's talking about me!

Here are some cliff notes from that article (although it deserves a more thorough read):
  • Freelancing writing won't get you instant cash... matter how experienced of a writer you are
    • I knew this but I'm the stubborn type. My bad!
  • I spent most of my time learning how to build narrative for stories, not on freelance writing
  • I don't care too much about selling my freelancing content
    • Below is an example: 
I was hanging out with the other GTAs before our training commenced. We all started to talk about our projects. I discussed Operation Dark Angel.. and the more I talked about it, the more excited they became. They wanted to learn more about the characters and if this will be a series. It sparked something within my heart to see how eager they were to learn more about this world I built. And to think about writing for a product or a brand... if I tried, I'd only be faking it. They are my audience, the young women sitting at the table. They're the ones I want to imagine reading my stories. And to write anything else is a waste of time.

That's the thing about writing a novel. It could take months, years, etc. Some people have the time while others really have to carve out every single minute. For me, my life is sloppily sculpted to fit this craft. Emphasis on the word sloppily

Today, I can finally say with certainly that I'm over the freelancing flu. 

Now... how do I tackle that New Idea-itis?

So far creating a paranormal world where dark and light energies control everything we do is a full time job. I'm still in the outlining process, which I will discuss more in a separate post, but I'm happy to be in this stage. My last big manuscript that I was working on nearly took up an entire binder. It was fantasy, so I had to build an entirely new planet, with magical worlds and supernatural disasters shaping the outcome of the story to be. I had written up a few chapters, but the narrative was so complex that I had to put it on the back burner.*

Now I've learned from that experience. Operation Dark Angel involves world-building, but I'm taking more of my time with the history of the story's characters. And I'm allowing other influences to help fill in pockets of plot with a senseless scene. It's certainly finding its own voice. Now, when I give it the time and attention it deserves, jumping to that new idea doesn't seem like such an impulse.

*Proud to say that I'm resurrecting the fantasy story. It will be released as an adventurous serial. I'll have more details soon!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Selling My Body For The Greater Good Of Medicine.


During my GTA training, we all sat around and laughed thinking about times when we skipped out on events or took a rain check. We're natural introverts, myself included, but I also brought up the idea that it's hard for me to really remain engaged in party discussions if it's not about sex. Or writing, for that matter. The only exception is pondering philosophies about our culture, but that can be difficult since those types of conversations can sour pretty quickly.

What's great about being a GTA is that I am not only teaching medical students, but I'm naked too. And I'm not afraid to say that. Since I went to school for Forensic Psychology a couple of years ago, I've been antsy. This is the longest I've went without taking off my clothes or wielding my sexual power for professional reasons. Even now as I'm looking for a way to pay rent, everything else seems so dull. Don't get me wrong; I'm not big on stripping or any jobs where I have to be sexual with another client. It doesn't feel right for me, especially since I have a boyfriend now. But, if people can learn from looking at my body, then I'm a happy camper.

Going into porn is completely out of the question too. Right now the landscape is changing too much to really get a good grasp of how stable work could be. When I was in the industry, I didn't conform enough to really make a killing like the other girls. I didn't straighten my hair or got bigger boobs. I didn't want to. I grew up with idols like Annie Sprinkle, women with natural bodies who reveled in their exhibitionism and used it to both enlighten and entertain audiences and admirers alike. Nothing excites me more than showing my body... except for writing about sexuality.

I'm a natural exhibitionist. That's not to say I'm a nudist; I only enjoy showing my body on my own terms. When I'm not writing, I'm imagining myself dancing like a banshee in public or showing others the pleasure I gain from simply touching my body, and how they can learn from that. 

Soon I'll get to teach how the future doctors of America how to treat my body during times of discomfort and confusion. And I can't wait! Besides writing my stories, it is what I'm meant to do!

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Favorite Distraction Free Word Processor: Ommwriter



Like all writers, I get distracted easily. Working on the computer doesn't make it easy, what with the Facebook, email, Twitter, email, cell phone, etc...

I thought that by reducing my time on the Internet, well, I'd get more done. But, nope. When I couldn't remember a specific word or wanted to make sure I was using the right idiom, there I was googling away. Sure, were frequent visits to thesaurus.com. But, then I just had to compare its results to the merriam-webster dictionary online. Then, I might spot a couple of other search results that might be interesting... and, as you can see, I'm distracted all over again.

Researching every distraction free word processor available to me was a tiring and tedious endeavor. However, I boiled it down to two powerful options: Write or Die 2 and Ommwriter.

I couldn't stand Write or Die 2.

I hated that there were so many stupid options, none of which really helped with my writing. The punishment mode made me want to puke. I like to think while I write, and having to type just to keep WOD2 happy was annoying. I spent more time modifying my writing regime and less time on the actual writing.

So I deleted it.

Here are the quick and dirty reasons why I'm in favor of Ommwriter:
  1. Less options: A couple of fonts, beautiful backgrounds, and simple music is enough!
  2. No timer: I write faster when I know what I'm writing, not when I have to beat the clock!
  3. Soothing music: Not too new-agey, not too excitable... just the way I like it!
  4. Resizable writing canvas: You can make it wide enough to write across the computer monitor... or not. It's helpful when configuring the size of your font. 
  5. Save as a plain text file: Easier to save and paste into my Scrivener. 
  6. Not distracting: Everything has been designed to keep you focused on your story. I'm telling you, it's a beautiful processor. 
As for as cost is concerned, you donate as much as you can, with a minimum amount of $4.11. It's a pretty fair deal considering what you receive. I donated somewhere between $5-$10. As far as I know, the cost doesn't tamper with the features. 

What do you think? Have you tried it and found it to be effective?