Monday, May 28, 2012

The Social Writer

This year I'm partcipating in Camp Nanowrimo! Yay for me! I'm using the challenge to complete the rewrite (or at least make major headway) of Tails.

 Yay! Camper Badge.
Getting ready for camp has reminded me of something I really enjoy as a writer - being social.

Once upon a time, writers were these mythical creatures who carried moleskin notebooks, smoked lots of cigarettes, and hid in dark corners of the world to practice their craft. They talked about the lonely nights of being a writer that non-writers just couldn't understand. It almost seemed as if socializing with other writers would ruin their craft.

Then, something changed. Social media developed and suddenly writers were connecting in more ways then ever. Connecting with readers, agents, publisher, and other writers.

So just maybe, this solitary writing thing is just a myth.

I have always been a social writer. In fact, my NOCCA writing teacher made a comment to me about it. She commented, neither negative nor positive but rather curiously, on how much I interacted with the other students, and how my interaction build a sort of camaraderie. We smiled together, chatted, and met outside of class. Our noses weren't stuck in books or notebooks, but rather talking and observing each other. All of us did just as well as previous classes who secluded themselves.

Perhaps that's why I fell in love with Nanowrimo - I felt connected again.

Having a writing friends is essential to my process. I take comfort in knowing that others are going through the same issues as me. Writer's block? Let's lament over cocktails. Self-pub or traditional pub? Let's debate the pros and cons over coffee. Celebrating finishing that chapter? Doughnuts and critique. Keeping me on track? Peer pressue works better than deadlines.

Throughout collage and when I got back into writing, I did it alone. I had no one to share ideas with or talk plot points out. (My husband often stands proxy, but he is not a writer. Answering if I should use 1st person or 3rd is just something he answers with a blank look.) It was hard. It was lonely. I felt very frustrated.

Then in 2010, I got out of my house and went to a Nanowrimo write-in. In less than two years, I have made some solid friends - friends who won't stare at my clueless when I talk about POVs. Friends that I go to the movies with. Friends that I will ask to critique something when I finally get to that point. It's these people who get me through the tough times. That keep me from giving up. I know that I wouldn't be where I am now without them.

Writing does not have to be a solitary thing (It can be, if that's how you roll.). There are tons of ways to connect: twitter, blogs, Nanowrimo, or local writer's groups. Find one that works for you.

Speaking of connecting, I'll be cross blogging over at the Cabin of the Good Blog - my Camp Nanowrimo Cabin Blog. Check out my specifically Camp vlogs over there.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wishes Come True: The Writer's Office

Something essential to writing is carving out a space or place to work on your craft, especially if you're trying to take it professionally. Some people steal their kitchen table and let the kids run around. Some people have an expensive habit of going to coffee shops. Most of us take what we can get. The lucky ones get her own office.

I live in a house of people coming and going. There's usually three to five people (residents or otherwise) and a puppy in my house at any given minute. It's a buzz of activity and creativity. Sometimes, this can be really frustrating to certain creative processes, such as. oh, writing.

It's not so much the noise, but rather, space. For a long while, I had a mini-writing desk/bookshelf/cheap piece of old furniture about three feet in length that was designated "Shannon's writing area." It was a sweet gesture by my husband to carve out a piece of the chaotic filmmaking/arting/writing/editing/acting world that is our house. It worked wonderfully for about...a month. Then it became the place to put all of Shannon's stuff/books/papers/jewelry, and it didn't take long before it was a piece of furniture piled under (more or less) important things of Shannon's.

At the beginning of the year I asked to have the unused upstairs bedroom/unofficially Max's room during the semister. I wanted to make it an office - a place for me to write when the chaos of the house got to be too much. And a place to put my shoes/jewelry/papers/books/craft supplies. I made the request that what I really wanted for my birthday was to have my office set up so I had a place to work on my novel revisions and a place to write for Script Frenzy. My mom came over on weekend to clear out the remaining estate crap in the room (I'm sharing my house with the remaining stuff of my grandmother's - 2.5 rooms of junque). Then, eventually, I bought a can of paint and started painting.

Color Choice: Cheap 80s Sea Foam Green to Plum
So, I offered beer, and many helped pitch in to paint the room and start the journey to having a writing space.

Huzzah! New Color, and all crap in the center of the room!
Next was a new desk and to move the bed out of the room and the futon back up. Then it fell into a lull. I started working up here around the piles of crap that needed to be moved/sorted/put away. I struggled to find time between finishing Script Frenzy and editing my library videos to finish straightening up my new office space. So I made a wish to twitter:

"@Secretly_Samus: Can magical office faires and/or elves come and make my office pretty?? #iflifewereafairytale"

Turns out, they were listening.

I come home after a very long day at the 9 to 5 and find this:

And this

Very excitedly, I called all my friends to gush about my awesome new office, which everyone answered with: "About time."

Has having an office been good for my writing? Absolutely. Having my own space (even if it resembles my high school bedroom) has given me a place to focus, to build a routine, and to inform everyone to leave me alone. I've written over 4,000 words in my new space, done a read through of Tails, and created a timeline for my WIP.

Having a space to be yourself and just create is invaluable to any writer, something I knew, but didn't realize until I finally had it. For me, this space is a room dedicated to corkboards and mermaids...

Awesome Mermaid #1 by Jessica Cox

...has really made a difference in my work, my happiness, and my sanity.

So, every writer out there, carve out your writing space and make it yours, wherever that may be. It really makes a difference. And to all of you that already knew this, take a moment to realize how awesome it is to have your own space.

So, I'm going to finish this with some more mermaid painting from my new office:

Jessica Cox Mermaid Number 2 (had to have, cuz I love Angler Fishes so much)

 Painting I bough from a friend of the family upon completion of Tails in 2009

Monday, May 14, 2012

RIP: Kailyn

So, I'm 1 chapter deep into the new revision of Tails, and I'm already super excited about something. The death of my former female protagonist: Kailyn.

Kailyn, Kailyn, Kailyn, let me count the ways I detest you.

From page 1 of my first draft of Tails (though, it was more like page 5 because Kailyn wasn't in the first page) I detested my romantic interest and female protagonist: Kailyn. She was vapid, whiney, meek, and more a plot device than person. There were things I wanted her to be: smart, resourceful, responsible. Then there was her - a waste of space.

In my numerous drunken rambles about my novel, I would often drone on about how I was going to fix Kailyn. But, really, couldn't figure out how. 'Can you cut her?' No, she's my Male protag's motivation. How can I get rid of her? 'Can you make her less annoying?' If only. I thought, maybe I could minimize her. I'll make her a secondary character, instead of a primary.

I knew the best thing for my novel was to slice off the first 3 chapters and start the book where Kailyn finds a nearly dead Damarion on the beach. One problem - it might lead the focus of the book to be Kailyn instead of Damarion, and I couldn't stand that. So I fussed over the first 3 useless chapters for two months and shelved the WIP.

So, as I sat my my computer throwing bits of 1st draft around like confetti, I started thinking. I have to start the story at that previously mentioned point. Which means I have to deal with my issues with my FMC. But first, a little procrastination. I'm do so much changing (like, solidifing the setting), I thought some characters deserved name changes. And you know what? I never really liked Kailyn for a name anyway.

Five minutes of name research and a list of 10 potential names, and popular vote had a new name for my Female protagonist - Cora. Ah, it brings up thoughts of femme fatales and Lana Turner.
A young Lana Turner would totally make a great Steampunk Princess.

So I started writing, and Cora was doing things. She was smart and quick thinking and a touch rebellious... Before I knew it, I had a new chapter 1 that I was excited about. Then I started thinking about it. Why was it so much easier to write this new chapter 1?

Because Cora is not Kailyn. Cora is everything I wanted Kailyn to be.

Then it came to me - I just cut Kailyn out of the book. But didn't delete the spot, I delted the character, and replaced her with someone better.

So, there's a few lessons I learned from this. 1.) Everything is in a name, and 2.) You can delete a character without deleting a character's role. When I started writing about Cora, I didn't think of her as Kailyn with a new name. Even a new image came to my mind as I was writing. Everything about the character just clicked in my head. Immeadately, I started referring to Kailyn as Cora. The act of changing her name allowed me to change the character because I was no longer thinking of that character. I was thinking of someone new.

And I solved one of my biggest issues with the manuscript by deleting that character I hated withouth deleting the role I assigned her.

So I think a really good trick when you're stuck with a flat character is to change up a name. It worked perfectly for me!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What I did During Script Frenzy: Library Videos

So, while working on my adaptations for Script Frenzy, I did manage to write, and film 2 short promo videos for the Summer Reading Program at the library I work at. One I finished editing during April, but one didn't get finished until the beginning of May.

I think they're fantastic, considering they were done in about 2 weeks during the Frenzy, and by pretty much me. Those other people, just taking credit. ;)

So, since they're loaded to Vimeo, Blogger won't let me embed them. So here are the links:

Children's Magical Fantasy
Teen's Monster Movie

Monday, May 7, 2012


Anyone following this blog knows that I have been dilligently working on the revision of my 2011 Nanowrimo Novel The Flamingo Princess. Anyone who knows me personally will remember my 1st Nanowrimo when I wouldn't shut up about the mermaid novel I wrote, Tails.
The image from my mermaid writing shirt!
Sometime in 2010, Tails and I "broke-up" because I wasn't ready to edit it. I was having so much trouble with the revision (even though I knew I need to chop the first 3 chapters (11,000 words)). Then there was the little fact that in early 2010 no one would have looked twice at a mermaid/fairy tale retelling/steampunk novel. Shelving it seemed like the best idea.

Now, it's time to re-evaluate. I'm seeing a trend forming, for both steampunk and mermaid. I've developed and itch to return to this novel I wrote 3 years ago. But, a part of me really wants to stick it out and finish my WIP.

So, after much dilberation, I've decided to shelve The Flamingo Princess and pick Tails back up. I'll apply my knowledge of revision I've learned this year.

Starting with the read-through.


I knew that Tails was a bit of a trainwreck. Three years later, a trainwreck is an understatement. It's basically 50,000 words of me talking out a concept. Info dumps run rampant; characters devoid of personality; and a pacing that would make snails cry. So far the only thing I'm keeping from the draft is the line: The silence between them was heavy like iron. I'm ready to just stop reading, throw the whole draft in the trash, and just start writing from strach.

That would not be the writely thing to do. One thing I've learned from my newly sheleved WIP is the read through is essential.

So, I'm not quiting. My husband has made a very helpful suggestion: record the rest of the book as an audio book, so I can listen to it and stop looking at how awful the writing is. (He's under the mistaken impression that it's not as bad as I say it is.) So, I'm trying that (while secretly rewriting the 1st scene.)

Once it's finished recording, I'll see if I can post some of it here, and report if it was a successful tool for getting me through this first read-through.