Friday, April 30, 2010

Unexpected Plot Lines, and Items of Conflict

I really do love it when an unexpected plot line pops up. I'll be chugging along, then begin to worry that things aren't exciting enough, that's there's not enough tension or conflict to carry the book all the way through, and then something wonderful pops up. More to the point, this is something my MC Jacky can barrel into full tilt, and either come out on top or get her ass kicked. Either way, she'll be doing something, and learning things, and that's important in urban fantasy.

Another item of love is... well, items that have the potential to create conflicts for later story lines. (Or this one, if things get boring enough. It might be a great way to end the book and set up the possibility of a sequel, which I'll be writing whether Book 1 gets published or not.) In this case, a couple books that Jacky, as a human, shouldn't have been able to get her hands on. How did she come by these books? What exactly is in them that make them bad for a human to have? Well, I've got some ideas I can play around with.

I like having things to play with. They make me happy.

For the first time in a long time, I'm not suffering from a mid-book crisis. I know where I'm going. I know what needs to happen. I even have a general idea of how to tie everything together. Book 1 is coming along nicely, and I have high hopes of getting it done before the Backspace Writer's Conference in May.

Now I just have to decide on a title for the damn thing, and start working on a query letter, and I'll be good to go!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Women in Urban Fantasy

Women protagonists are a huge trend in urban fantasy literature. Most all of them are bad ass, wise ass, kick ass women who don't wait for the men to come riding in on their white horses. More often than not, it's the woman riding in to rescue the man.

My critique and writing buddy has told, whenever I'm bouncing ideas off her, that Jacky is too passive. That things happen to her, but she doesn't really do anything for herself. Last night, I finished a book by an author I truly enjoy, who writers female protagonists, but now, I'm sure she writes strong women.

For example, the main character was ambushed by the evil villains and taken far from anyplace where people could get to her, rescue her. The evil villains tortured her, and finally, the men come riding in to the rescue. The thing that bothered me is that in her purse, which the evil villains had conveniently taken with them, were the means for her to save herself. But she didn't even try. She just laid there and let them do horrible things to her, waiting for someone to come save her.

In so many books written by this author, the main character has changed, as characters will. However, I think in that one crucial point, she missed a big chance for a huge change. This character has always relied on others to help her fight her battles, has always waited for others to come save her. Except for one memorable book where she did the saving all by herself. By not trying to save herself, with her purse there in the same room with her and her torturers, by letting them do really awful things to her, the author placed this character in a position for personal conflict. How is she going to deal with recovering? How is she going to cope surviving something so horrible?

Yeah, okay, that's all well and good, but honestly? I find it disappointing. Because that's what happens to her all the time. For once, I want to see her crawl over to the life saving purse and kick some ass. I want her conflict to be something other than coping. It'd be nice to see this character realize she's stronger than she thinks she is, that she doesn't have to wait for her knight in shining armor to come save her every time she's in trouble.

Jacky, you and me girl. We've got some growing to do, and some bad spots to get into. But most of all, we've got some learning to do. We're going to learn how to be stronger.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Writer's Conference To-Do List

I'll be attending the Backspace Writer's Conference this May. I'm so excited it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. Especially when I think of all the things I still need to do, and time is quickly running out.

So, here's what all I need to get done.

Finish first Draft of Insertbooknamehere (I still haven't decided what to call this thing.) Roughly 40,000 words
Prepare a pitch
Write an excellent query letter
Polish the first two pages (double spaced, 12pt font, Times New Roman) of Insertbooknamehere until they shine like a super polished diamond
Print copies of query letter
Print copies of polished 1st two pages
Remain sane

That last one is really important, but I think it's going to be the hardest to pull off. Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot to get done in over a month. Unless you're one of those insane types that's tried writing anything of length, or even more insane types that's actively worked on writing a good query letter.

One month. I can do it. Sure I can. *whimper*

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chapters from Hell

It seems like in every book--every draft--there's a chapter from a Hell. A chapter that starts off as a brilliant idea, and you dive in with enthusiasm. Then you release just how hard pulling off this master piece is going to be. Work slows down. Things don't feel quite right. Should you stop and go back? Finish it and revise? Yes. Finish it. Then you can go back and hack at it.

But, no matter how many times you go over it, it's never quite right.

The last time I ran into one of these chapters, I finished it, pushed on, and wound up scrapping 14,000 words. There's no way in Hell I'm going to let that happen.

The problem now is that this chapter is very surreal, and I don't do surreal very well. I could, once upon a time, when I didn't know much about the rules of writing. Now, it's harder for. What's worse is this is supposed to be the mid-point big climax of the book. This is where the shit really starts hitting the fan for Jacky. I've got to face up to it, though. I suck ass when it comes to writing big climax scenes of any kind.

Well, time to stop complaining and start writing. That's the only way I know of to get better at something.

Jennifer vs. Chapter from Hell: Round one! *ding*

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reading and Writing: How One Feeds the Other

Sometimes I pick up a book, read it, and think "My god, this writing is horrible. I'm pretty sure I write better than this." It gives me hope for the future of my book. The one that I'd really like to get published.

Then I read a book, like Jim Butcher's Changes, and think "This is a master of the craft. God, I want to be able to write like him."

So then I dive into writing with fresh vigor, trying to create a work of writing that brings me closer to being a master.

It takes time, it takes a lot of effort. And it takes years of practice, of writing, revising, rewriting, editing, and more writing. At least for me. Wish I were one of those brilliant writers that could pull a best selling novel out my ass on my first try, but I'm not. Still, I love the process of writing, I love tearing things down and building them back up, making them better.

Though this is the last time I'm rewriting this damn book. I swear to God, if I have to rewrite the whole damn thing one more time, I will disown Jacky and move on to a different book.

Anyway, reading, for me, is a great inspiration, and gives me hope. It can also make me feel like a lousy writer, if I let it. I try not too. Cling to the excitement, the determination to get better, but most importantly, cling to the love the writing.

Eventually, maybe, hopefully, I'll to where I'm going, and I'll be able to count myself a good writer like any of the dozen or more authors I absolutely adore.