Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This year was better than last.

In December of 2012, we were living at my mother's house. We had scrimped and saved to buy a little bit of Christmas and then found out that our ward had donated a Christmas to us.

Nothing like finding out you're the poorest person in the church building the Sunday after Christmas, and that everybody knows it.

My husband had decided to start his own law firm, but didn't have an office or anything yet. So he was answering phone calls in the back room of the retail store he worked at to pay the few bills we had.

I was physically recovered from an especially long and drawn out miscarriage (I watched the baby die over the course of six weeks in a series of increasingly depressing ultrasounds and then waited three more weeks for my body to actual realize it wasn't pregnant and expel the fetus). I was also convincing myself that I was mentally recovered, but in reality it would be months before I was back to normal.

On New Year's Eve, 2012, I finished the first draft of my Snow White retelling and shipped it off to the most patient CPs ever.

I had no idea where we were going to live.
Or if the "law firm" (remember: at the time, the "law firm" was just a cell phone and some dreams) was going to take off.
I was broken and I was scared and I considered myself a complete hack, because that first draft of Snow White SUCKED.

This year?

I am sitting at my kitchen table in a beautiful home. We don't own it, but we pay for it every month, and at this stage of life, that's just as good.

My husband is not home because he is working very hard on a case and he wanted to give his two employees the holiday off to be with their families.

We're on a waiting list to adopt.

My Snow White novel is doing well on the query circuit. Multiple full requests, a couple of R&Rs from agents I respect very, very much. It's close. I can feel it.

I have a rough draft of a Sleeping Beauty retelling, and while it's definitely a first draft, it's about 600% better than Snow White was at this time last year. I also have a synopsis of the coolest story anyone has ever thought of. I'm sorry if you think your story is cool, because when you see this one, you will no longer think that.

I'm working on being humble, guys.

The point of this post is this:

Stuff changes. Sometimes it gets worse. If you had asked me on New Year's Eve 2012, I would have told you that things were going in the wrong direction. But they turned around. And they actually turned around really quickly after that night.

And now things are good. So good, in fact, that I feel like I'm finally stable enough to actually make goals for next year.

See you in 2014. When more stuff will change.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Writing Process Blog Tour

The lovely Ranee S. Clark tagged me in this fancy-dancy Writing Process Blog Tour. And since the title is self-explanatory, I'm going to jump right in. 

1. What am I working on?

I'm writing a series of fairy tales from the villain's perspective. Right now, WAKING BEAUTY (a flip on Sleeping Beauty) is resting before I dive into revisions. I also got an R&R on SNOW FALLING (a flip on Snow White), so I'm knee-deep in revisions on that bad girl. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I'm trying to justify a woman who poisoned her stepdaughter and tried to have her assassinated. What these villains do is truly horrifying (murder, or an attempt at murder, and usually of a young girl) and I am finding a way to make that horrible action seem reasonable. Believe or not, by the time you get to it in SNOW FALLING, you can totally understand why a woman would do that to a young girl. 

3. Why do I write what I do?

This is sort of an extension of the previous question, but by justifying the villain's actions, I'm shining a light on the reasons why we do things. Brandon Sanderson always says the villain is the hero of his own story, and that's what's happening in my fairy tales. 

Instead of writing these as horror tales, I dug deep and thought, "What could make a woman do this? What could make someone think this is okay?" and it turns out there are a whole lot of things that could happen in my life, making me resort to all sorts of evil behavior. 

4. How does your writing process work?
I've written two whole novels, and the third in in first-draft-status, so I feel like I'm still learning my process. But it basically goes like this: 

- Get a new shiny idea. Mine comes in the form of a concept, with the main character becoming clear very early on.  
- Stew about it for forever.  
- Do a little pre-plotting and world-building. I use Dan Wells' 7 Point System, and basically use it for character growth and development. I never have any idea what's actually going to happen in the story - I just know how it's going to affect my characters.  
- Think I'm the shiz for being prepared.  
- Draft. (I draft fast- easily cranking out 7-8k in a day.) I use #WriteClub on Friday nights to make this happen.  
- Let it sit.  
- Cut the first 10-15K words because I started in the wrong freaking place.  
- Revise, mostly for pacing and creating a series of events that makes sense. I use a beat sheet at this point.  
- Send to alpha readers and CPs.  
- Hate the world for hating me. 
- Revise again.  
- Repeat those last three steps a half-dozen times.  
- Cry to Darci Cole and ask her to help me fix all the things.  
- Send to betas. 
- Revise again. 

Now I tag Darci Cole. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Stepping Outside My Zone

I was approached recently to participate in SantaCLASH. Chynna-Blue Scott is hosting a countdown to Christmas in which authors write Christmas-related short stories.

One catch: You had to write in a genre that wasn't yours and you didn't get to pick.

I was assigned to write a thriller.

A thriller. The last thriller book I read was... never. I have never read a thriller, I don't think. The last thriller movie I watched was Jack Reacher and I can't remember being more mad about my $10 ticket in the last decade.

I asked twitter to recommend their favorite thrillers and Dan Brown was overwhelmingly recommended. I haven't read Dan Brown, but I watched The Da Vinci Code and was thoroughly underwhelmed. I don't "get" the genre, I don't enjoy it, it's just really and truly not my thing.

And writing a thriller piece was hard. Like, really HARD. And I'm still not sure I pulled it off.

(This is not a fishing-for-compliments thing, I promise)

But I learned something from the experience.

1. I'm not a short story writer.
2. I'm a speculative fiction novel writer.
3. Writing short stories is a good way to "cleanse the palette"
4. Writing stuff that has nothing to do with your "real" stuff is a good way to "cleanse the palette"

I've stepped away from my novels to write character bios, alternate POV scenes, backstory chunks, etc. I've used these exercises as mental breaks, the palette cleansers of the writing world. They help me get a break from the big project, but continue to write.

Writing this ridiculously bad little short story was even better than those exercises.

I explored new ways of introducing characters.
I came to understand what's really important in setting up tension, especially when space is limited.
I forced myself to create just for the sake of creating - there was nothing to "gain" from this project. It was just something for fun, to be part of the community, but it doesn't further my writing career. (In my husband's words... "Why are you doing this? Other than to make yourself mad?)

But there's a good reason for it.

It helped me clear away my NaNoWriMo hangover, it helped me refocus on storytelling elements without getting bogged down in the love-hate relationship I have with my characters.

And I'm grateful to Ms. Scott for including me in this project. I'm honored to be thought of as a part of this community and I'm grateful for the chance to stretch my literary legs, even if I did so in a very clumsy and ineffective way.

I'm also going to do this more often.