Friday, October 17, 2008

The Light Bulb

Time: Actually, I'm writing this Thursday night to post Friday, so it's 10:45pm
Dinner: In N Out..MMmmmmm, In N Out, that's what a hamburger's all about!
Music: Chet Atkins

Every writer gets asked the question, “Where do your ideas come from?” It’s expected, even if it’s not a question writers want to answer. Everyone gets ideas, right? It all depends on how you put them to paper, or IF you put them to paper.

What turns on the little light bulb over my head?

To be honest, I’ve had ideas that seem like the best in the world and either A) someone else came up with the basic idea first and probably executed it a hell of a lot better than I ever could, or B) the idea didn’t translate into a story once I sat down to write. In the long run, separating the good from the bad is the hard part. Knowing when something is working and when it’s not. Easier said than done, right?

I get ideas from everywhere. News stories (I have a folder where I keep articles I print or cut out), incidents that happen in my life, stories from friends, etc. They’re endless, but how many of those can I actually sit down and weave into a story people would want to read? Probably about 1%, and that’s being generous.

My current WIP, Lost and Found, came from watching an episode of Ellen one day, and then it bloomed into what it has manifested into from an episode of MTV’s True Life. I wasn't looking for story ideas or even thinking about writing (even though I probably should have been instead of sitting my butt in front of the television).

The weird moments are when ideas come out of the blue. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten an idea while shaving your legs…or how about washing your car? I have to admit; I’m raising my hand to the former, but would probably be the only one to do so (or maybe not?). How about right before you fall asleep? This seems to happen to me at least once a week and usually I’m conked out before I can do anything about it.

In the end, I guess writers just have to expect the unexpected, be prepared at all times for the light bulb to snap on. Carry around a pad of paper, a journal, heck, even a roll of toilet paper to jot down those ideas because you never know when one will pop up!

So, the dreaded question all the writers out there were hoping I wouldn't ask…where do your ideas come from?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creative Burn Out

My two passions are writing and theatre--two very creatively exhausting jobs. Most of my night are spent at the theatre, herding kids on stage, teaching acting work shops, directing, stage managing, building sets, acting, painting, house managing. I do a lot of stuff there and at the end of the day (or rather, night) I'm so exhausted that I usually just go home and conk out. NOT good for the book I have sitting on my computer, waiting to be finished. So what's a girl to do when she's got a book to write AND a show to put on?

In my case, flounder around for 2 months focusing on one passion more than the other. Which, let's face it, is irritating and unbalanced and for me, not good, because I like to write something every day. 

A person only has so much creative energy, and sometimes, no matter how much you want to write, you can just sit there in front of your computer and not one word you type will end up staying in that word document. The reasons for this can be so many different things, because while we are all writers, we also have the REST of our lives to handle as well.

Here are some things that help me when my creative energy is low and I can't seem to get into writing gear:

1) Take a bubble bath. Seriously. Light some candles. Don't bring a book with you! Play some music and while you're soaking, think about whatever project you're working on. I've solved several plot holes while in my bath tub.

2) Read. Reading always inspires me to write more. I have one book--A TOWN LIKE ALICE, by Nevile Shute--which, no matter how many times I read it, after I finish it, I always want to go back to my computer and write something beautiful. Or at least attempt to. Do any of you have a always-gonna-inspire me sort of book? 

3) Take your mind off your book. Even just for an hour or two. I usually do this by going kickboxing, because I have to pay attention otherwise I'll fall over/get hit.

4) Challenge another writer friend to a word count challenge for a month! It helps you to write every day and you have someone to whine to about how hard it is sometimes.

5) Work on something else creative. Take a painting class, play some music, write a song, try cake decorating or glass blowing. Variety is good! And you never know where you'll get your next book idea! 


Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Plot is Always Greener

Time: 2:22am (I know - I'm insane, but I also have a cold and can't sleep - it's so early this post says "Sunday" but I consider it "Monday", so there)
Breakfast: maple and brown sugar oatmeal and a few chocolate chip cookies (it's never too early for breakfast - or breakfast dessert)
Tonight’s exciting moment: hunter’s moon shining over the trees in the backyard.

A few months back I sold my first manuscript to a small New York epublisher, The Wild Rose Press, under my pen name, Judith Graves. At TWRP, all titles of a certain word count are also published in print (that'd be my book, too.) I was leery of going the epub route, but a vamp / werewolf tale is a hard sell to bigger publishers – the market is saturated with the little beasties. Also, I think I lucked out. TWRP is extremely professional.

TWRP is keen to develop their YA line, Climbing Rose. Climbing Rose is a relatively new venture for TWRP and they are in the process of generating more teen-friendly marketing – there’s talk of an author blog and other fun stuff – and they are actively seeking submissions. If you write YA or adult romance, check them out:

My editor, Susan Yates, is fantastic. I’m hoping to interview her for YAedge about this exciting time at TWRP. She's supportive and yet tough enough to have me sweating silver bullets over edits.

Which brings me to my actual topic for today’s post.

Edits. The word deserves to be blood red.

Edits are freaking brutal. You see your writing without soft lights and the blissful haze of someone-wants-to-buy-my-book afterglow. It isn’t pretty. It is, however, an invaluable learning experience.

"Under My Skin" is in the first round of edits with Susan and the result is a clearer story, richer imagery, deeper POVs and an overflowing paper recycle box under my desk. I changed the plot – tweaking each chapter just enough to cause a ripple effect – in both directions. Basically this edit is another draft of the story.

And I’m still not sure the plot has enough meat to keep the reader satisfied but wanting more (there are two other books in the series).


The point of today’s rant? The plot is always greener on the other side of the delete key.
---end of rant---

ASIDE: The sheep photo was a dream shot, an actual cliché come to life. My husband and I were visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia where history, farm animals and fog abound.