31 December 2009
24 December 2009
22 December 2009
13 December 2009
07 December 2009
Clayton is my writing partner as well as my emotional support. He's dyslexic and can't read, but he loves books as much as I do. I read most things aloud to him, including blogs, and, with the rise of text-to-speech software and audiobooks, which he can listen to while painting, he's becoming more well-read than me. I still haven't gotten to the Time Traveller's Wife.
He doesn't understand the first thing about punctuation, but he has an ear for the sound of words, and he's insanely creative. We brainstorm ideas off each other, discuss characters, backstory... Sometimes he comes up with the inciting idea or a plot point, or vice versa. We both realize when something isn't working, and he'll often wake up from a dream with a solution for me. I do the nitty gritty work of putting words on the page, but he helps make them something better. I haven't joined a critique group yet, but I'm not writing alone, and that helps get me through the tough spots.
What about you? Do you work with a writing partner? Or, is there someone in your life who supports and inspires you? How do they affect your writing?
03 December 2009
- 1. I was once socially oblivious. For years, whenever someone asked me about my weekend, I'd tell them. After much practice, I learned to ask, "And how was your weekend?" I've improved so much that now I can listen to my friends, offer support, and not bring up my own self-involved worries until asked.
- I like to use Lorel Clayton as my writing identity rather than Lorel Colgin, because if you google my real name you get 10 pages of mostly science-related mumbo-jumbo.
- I've lived in Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Sydney Australia.
- I have 2 passports, which is very 'James Bond' and cool.
- I'm almost ambidextrous (can do everything except write with my left)
- I'm not afraid of heights, love 'em actually. But boats make me nauseous and eventually comatose.
- I audited Ancient Greek as a break from molecular biology in grad school (does that put me at the top of every nerd-ometer or what?)
- I'm a sucker for romance and action movies, though I usually don't like the subjects mixed. Also, I played with both Barbie and GI Joe as a child. I wonder if this is related to my pseudo-ambidexterity?
- I have a level 80 human rogue in World of Warcraft and not by choice. It's the only way I've been able to stay in touch with my video-game obsessed brother over the last couple of years.
- I own a monographed pool cue :)
Now, the hard part. Who can I pass the award along to that doesn't already have it (I'm thinking of you Elizabeth)? I need to get out there in cyberspace more.
- Justine Larbalestier's blog--She writes YA, but she's honest, entertaining and her book 'Liar' is so good I wish I'd written it.
- The Kill Zone--The musings of these thriller writers can be educational and make you paranoid about a career in writing, even if you're on the NY Times Bestseller list.
- Terry's Place--Interesting anecdotes, writing advice, and her storyboards are awesome. She's inspired me to give it a try.
- John August--It's screenplays and not novels, but there are some great thoughts about storytelling in general. It's also where I heard about Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (I think. My brain is melting so I'm not sure)
- Query Shark--THE place to learn about writing queries. It's enough to frighten you away from ever approaching an agent.
That's it. Like I said, I need to read more blogs and make more cyber-friends...and ask them about their weekend :)
- I'm less patient. Once able to endure chapters of description, I now prefer stuff to happen!
- Character is key. The books I remember decades later are the ones with unique, powerful characters. I identify with different aspects of them now, but I still identify.
- My interests have broadened. Used to be I had obsessions where I'd read only Nancy Drew, or Dean Koontz, or only sci-fi or fantasy. Now I'm willing to read anything that's good.
- Story isn't as important. I used to equate 'good' with an interesting story, but that's only part of it. I want the experience along the way to be enjoyable, every word, every scene. I want it to draw me in.
What does this mean for my own writing? I'm reading more and maturing faster. And I get harder on myself everyday. I thought my first manuscript was great. I had outside readers who loved it, and I gave myself a few weeks to cool off before editing. Voila done! Right. Another finished manuscript later, I go back to the first and cringe. I can do so much better than even a year ago. Fiddling and improving could go on forever, I know. So, I'm setting a deadline. Once I've written 5 'practice' manuscripts, I'm going to actively push the best towards publication and keep 'practicing' in the mean time. Two down, three to go.
Now, how have your tastes changed and what's your Bachelor Party?
01 December 2009
“You have to be careful, Shawn. You remember what I said? You’re special.”
23 November 2009
She liked his straight, black hair, a raven’s wing, which was just a little too
long but nicely framed his handsome features. She liked his dark brown eyes too,
how they magnetically drew her in.
She liked his raven’s wing of hair, a little too long, which fell shyly
over dark eyes.
20 November 2009
15 November 2009
12 November 2009
08 November 2009
01 November 2009
26 October 2009
This brings up another conundrum I encounter when writing: spelling. I work on two different computers, one set to American English the other to Australian. I'm constantly getting my wires crossed and mish-mashing words. I wrote some screenplays for practice with the BBC writer's room in mind, so those were obviously done with British spelling. "Seer" was done in American, the whole Nevada thing made it simpler to stay in that mindset, but my latest book is the mish mash. I suppose I'll have to do two versions and make sure I send the right one to whoever (if anyone) is interested--America, Australia or the UK.
You should hear my messed up accent (Southern parents, raised all over the Western U.S., college in Seattle where I picked up some Canadianisms, now 12 years in Australia)--I'm even worse off than my manuscript.
18 October 2009
There's more editing to be done, plus I'm going back to work on the last manuscript now that I've a learned a bit more from my reading, but for the moment I'm savoring the accomplishment.
Now that I'm no longer looking at the keyboard, I see that Halloween is almost here. My favorite holiday! There are decorations to go up, pumpkins to be bought and cookies to be baked. Off I go to live a little.
23 September 2009
Of course this year there was a freak dust storm carrying red dirt from the Outback across the entire city. At dawn the sky was orange and the air so choked with dust, I had to shut the windows. I couldn't even see the neighbor's houses across the street! Thus, my plans for the day were revised, and we watched a stack of rented DVDs instead. The standout of the batch was "7 Pounds".
I'm a big fan of Will Smith, and that movie was probably his best. My husband and I have been studying writing too much lately--in the first two minutes of the film, he figured out the plot and I figured out the backstory. My husband and I really are a great team. It's not that it was obvious, but it was so brilliant we hoped we were right. I'm glad we were. Even though we guessed what was happening, it didn't detract from our enjoyment one bit. If anything, each scene carried an extra significance; we understood the subtext. As a consequence, I was in tears most of the time.
The point I want to make is that it's important to have a great story, an original plot, a twist...but, just in case your audience is spoiled or guesses what's going to happen, make the journey, the telling of that story so good they don't care that they're not surprised. Quality throughout--don't rely on gimmicks.
One day, thinking about how I've reached the pinnacle of my current career in science (as far as I'm willing to go anyway) and how frustrated I am with it overall, I started thinking about what else I could do with my life. What would give me my enthusiasm back? I ran across an inspirational article that asked, "What have you always wanted to do? Maybe that's why you've been put on this earth." I instantly knew, for me, the answer was writing. Yet, I had half a dozen stories stalled at the 10-30 page mark, one overly long sci-fi novel written in my teens that was justifiably rejected dozens of times, and I didn't know how I was going to turn that 'calling' into a reality.
My other love is movies and television (not just any television:I'm a DVD watcher and, unable to endure commercials, haven't sat through normal programming for about ten years). Then I had an honest to god epiphany--people write for movies and TV don't they? This inspired me to write a couple of fan fics in teleplay format. I starting reading more on the subject and heard mention of "The Screenwriter's Bible." I devoured it, and the book turned my whole story telling life around. I wrote a movie length screenplay, three episodes of a series of my own conception...and even though I haven't tried to sell any of it yet, considering them all writing exercises, I discovered that I had learned about plotting and telling a complete story. I now applied this to a manuscript that had been sitting around for years and finished it. Admittedly, the novel took a lot longer to complete than a screenplay (I can write an hour long drama episode in a week), but I now had the confidence to keep at it.
Since then, I've read dozens of books on writing everything from novels to plays, as well as screenplays, and I truly believe that someday, with practice and persistence, I will have a novel published. I may even get a screenplay optioned, who knows? Thank you "Screenwriter's Bible"!
Some people start with short stories, but for me it was screenplays. They taught me to focus on visuals, on story in its purest form, uncluttered by prose, and that practice has also helped make dialogue one of my personal strong points. In screenwriting, brevity and clarity and story are everything, and dialogue is the only place where the author's actual words will be conveyed to an audience. Therefore, dialogue has to have a punch, but it has to further the story, chracterizations, etc or be cut. It's wonderful.
Now that I'm focused on novels, I'm learning to flesh out my prose and to take advantage of the ability to hear a character's thoughts, to convey sensations such as smell and touch, areas where screenplays are limited. There is so much to learn and try and do, and I really feel that I'm on the right path.
24 August 2009
There's the whole debate among fans (and this question is prominent in the books as well) as to whether Sookie's feelings for Eric are false, because they originated after drinking his blood. I must weigh in, saying, first of all, there were some good sparks before the whole bullet sucking scene, and finally--it doesn't matter. As Eric said, 'It's done'. No closing Pandora's box, no going back; the feelings are there irrelevant of where they originated.
I think this is a good point to make when talking about character motivations. Sometimes, things just are, and it has nothing to do with how someone was treated by their mother, a need for attention or whatever. Shit happens. Chaos, random chance, whatever, is a huge factor in the world and is commonly overlooked in our need for meaning. Life is static without change, mutation...and moments of unintelligible upheaval can provide powerful moments in drama: the car crash, the freak storm, the terrorist attack...These chaotic elements mould our characters and make them more interesting, as long as we don't over-analyse and take away their power. These moments show us another aspect of reality: the scary, uncontrollable one. And truly seeing reality through fiction = good.
I have digressed from my digression, so I want to end with one last huff about True Blood. For all those 'it's only the blood talking!' anti-Eric naysayers, ponder this: Sookie's attraction to Bill was influenced by drinking his blood (though there was some sparks even before that); ditto with Eric; more importantly, if the TV series follows the books, Sookie is a faerie and her very presence, let alone her blood, is an aphrodesiac to vampires. She is 'artificially' influencing them as much as they are her! (I put 'artificially' in quotes because it's not: it's only one aspect of her physical charm, same as being a vampire is for the men)
Thus, my conclusion is that Sookie, Eric and Bill are all on a level playing field; they're all using supernatural lures, which cancels that factor out. The chaotic bit is irrelevant, and, in the end, it will come down to each of the characters' choices. Fooled you, huh? We do have free will.
20 August 2009
In order to let my subconscious do its work, I've plowed ahead with my second book and I'm now 70 pages in. Almost 1/3 of the way through the first draft, wow. Sometimes I think it's writing itself. It's very different from my first book, which was supernatural suspense. This one's fantasy detective, with a man-hating/man-loving heroine, and I'm reveling in the snappy dialogue, fast pace and custom built world. There's elves and dwarfs and a few other recognisable species--to make it fun--but all with my own twist. I even have some scenes in mind for another, very different, epic fantasy to follow this one.
I've read that, on average, it is an author's 5th or 6th book that finally gets published. I'm not just going to spew out crap to meet that quota, though--I want everything I write to be the best it can be. It's the only way to learn. Nose going back to the grindstone now...
28 July 2009
I'm getting excited about the new book (and yet another one I plan to write afterwards). It's a departure from 'Seer', which is a dark, suspenseful story with a poignant mixture of hope and despair. The new book [title to be determined] will be a fast, savvy mystery full of humor--and rude, hairy elves. It's a fantasy-detective story with a sassy heroine. It's gonna be heaps of fun! The 'world' is built, most of the characters even have names, and the outline is 75% done. I'm giddily anticipating writing the first draft: there's nothing better than when you let the creativity flow unchecked.
20 July 2009
Oh well, I shall return to compiling lists of agents to contact, prime criteria being that they haven't seen my previous stinking pile of a query. In my own defense, queries and novels are very different. I was thinking a query was all Hollywood loglines, but it's supposed to be more like a mini synopsis with personal voice and pizzaaz.
I am now giving myself a crash course in 'How to Hook Literary Agents (aka Fishing for Form Letters)' , and I hope and pray and wish to any higher power that is listening that I get it right this time and end up with a good agent. Or any agent.
19 July 2009
She had a couple of suggestions (I took them out with '...' so nothing is given away), but I didn't need that box of tissues after all! Yes!!!
I felt on top of the world for a whole day. But, that was two days ago. As I was writing query letters to agents yesterday, fear set into my belly with a sickening motion far exceeding the mere fluttering of butterflies--it was bats. Fear bats in my belly. I felt like begging for mercy in those queries, or turning round and running... But I did neither. I faced my fear and I mailed out two of them today. The other two queries in this round I will email tomorrow... or when I've determined the stellar alignments are auspicious.
07 July 2009
14 June 2009
Then hint of joy! Julie said she's enjoying it: hating the evil characters, while other characters she wants to see more of in other books; so many scenes are "very visual" and she keeps picturing them... OMG I'm so happy that she's liking it!
I want my readers to feel emotion, to visualise the scenes, to live it, and to see that it's working with Julie is such a thrill. I'm surprised how important it is to me that the book be experienced. Getting it published will be just the icing on the cake, allowing more people out there to read it.
I already have a gazillion ideas for more books. I need time to write! Darn this needing a day job.
Of course, Julie hasn't finished the whole book. Now, I'm really terrified that she'll hate that reversal thing in the middle when everything changes. Oh no, I'm back to being on pins and needles again...
08 June 2009
Julie, as I planned, got a copy. She said, "Yes! I was hoping to read this. I saw you working on it in the library." I had no idea she was a regular Julie Bond, spying without my knowing. Guess I should have hidden what I was doing better when using the library computer to write during my lunch and tea breaks. Oh well, it was great not to have to twist her arm. Julie is very cool by the way (mild mannered scientist by day--punk/beatnik/hippie by night) and I'm excited to hear her opinion.
The other copy went to a friend of my writing partner (aka my husband) named Maz. She's an actual writer and critic who reviews books, movies etc for websites. I'm utterly terrified to hear what she says. I'm out of Kleenexes and need to buy a few boxes, best to be prepared.
I've also written a query letter and I'm halfway through a synopsis of the book that I can send to agents. It's better if I keep working, rather than worrying about what my test readers will say. Well, I'm worrying too--worrying and working. Excited and terrified too. This is great!
25 May 2009
The "fun" part is nearly over. Soon the slog to find an agent will begin, but not quite yet. I think the book is great (except on rainy Tuesdays when it's utter trash and I'm crazy for attempting this). I still want to polish the beginning and ending some more--the most crucial bits--because my test audience (aka my husband) thinks it's only 90% perfect when I should aim for 110%, matching the standard of the rest of the book. "You think the rest is 110%?" "Yes." and I beam. I know he's my husband and should be expected to say nice things, but he's actually a cruel, uncompromising critic, and I know he's not being soft on me. Maybe it's his way of retaliating for being asked to do the dishes? Anyway, those final changes will be made this week.
What's next? I'm going to take my baby (aka the manuscript) out of the warm, protective environment in which it was created and send it out into the harsh cold world to stand on its own four legs (I'm thinking of it like a colt, which actually has a chance of surviving in such conditions, unlike a human baby). Am I sending it off to an agent already you wonder? No, no, no. I'm going to give it to Julie and a few other friends to read. Julie first. She's nice and has similar tastes. If it passes muster (oops, wrong analogy, if it stands up without wobbling too much) then I'll give it to one of my other friends, who are mean and cruel like my husband and whose opinions I'll ignore anyway. What am I saying? I'll listen and do yet another re-write!
Why did I suddenly decide blogs were for me? Well, first of all, I read a few and figured out what they were. Secondly, I'm a writer so why not write?
Ok, here I go! ....Still revving up after all. NOW here I go....