28 October 2012

Come Follow me to Wordpress

So because I really can't stand the hell that is Captcha, I've decided to swap over to Wordpress.

Come see my latest post: Exposed Sunday: Birthdays Are Not Just A Number

Every Wednesday and Sunday! No waiting. Okay. Not much waiting, at least.

24 October 2012

Wednesday in Progress: My Complications to My MC

I've been reading Roz Morris' Nail Your Novel, well her book actually. Trying to get things in my own novel sorted out from her examples. One thing I noticed right away is that I don't nearly have enough plot/subplots to float the entire story arc. I have the main one covered and a few minor ones, but I'm now noticing how hollow it is - there's just not enough meat.

In fact, her post on Sunday was exactly about this topic. She brings up the insanely wonderful website TV Tropes and you best be careful because you can lose days just going from link to link! It's dangerous time-suckage if you don't stay focused on why you're there in the first place. Visitor beware!

So now I've managed to take out some extraneous stuff regarding my main character, Gillian, and decided that she really needed a bully. In fact, it was the realisation/creation of the bully that helped further clarify what she looks like/how she dresses. I guess I'm taking the scenic route, but I'm learning that my characters can't possibly be boring. Real life is boring enough. If I want my reader invested, I really have to pull them into the world I have in my head.

There are other things I'm quickly learning about my characters and I'm trying not to overwhelm my novel with too many characters. However, that's what I say this week. Next week I could totally figure out that I have too few characters and need to make a few more. The joys of creating. Good times.

Still optimistic about this story, despite finding more problems with the story in general. I think the reason for my optimism is that I'm also finding solutions instead of just feeling like I'm drowning in quicksand. I can see a way out of this, even if it's not entirely clear. I have hope. I just have to complicate things for my characters a bit more so there's a fuller story. I may care for these fictional people because I have all this in my head, so I know them better - but if I don't share that with the rest of you, why would you?

Your turn! After writing your drafts, did you realise that your characters didn't suffer enough? Have you read stories where you just didn't care about those people in it? Have you done a Joss*? Do you aim to do a Joss?

*The reference is to Joss Whedon - brilliant writer/director who is notorious for killing off his characters in the most horrific ways and when you think all is safe, he ruins it by killing off more. He's an evil bastard and I wish my brain worked like his. I'm hoping "do/doing/done a Joss" will become A Thing.

21 October 2012

Exposed Sunday: NaNoWriMo - When You Gotta Write!

I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2003.

I have failed to write 50,000 words for the month since 2004. (yes, I won my first NaNo, only to lose every single year thereafter)

Yet, this still hasn't deterred me from writing/competing every year, though in the last few, I tend to bow out after my first week. I have other writing to do, usually, and I use the manic writing sessions to work on that, shelving my NaNo story idea for another day. Just as long as I write down my notes, I don't feel bad for it.

In fact, it was all because of NaNo I got a lot of my story ideas - ones that I'm using to actually springboard into a proper writing career. My ultimate goal is to get published, after all. It's that insane mindset of "don't think, just write" that seems to light that fire within me. Apparently, I need deadlines and quotas to function.

Once I thought I was a pantser. A dreamy, doe-eyed pantser that waited for inspiration to strike when the Muse was feeling generous. Of course, that was also before I realised just how much work writing a novel involves. This is really not an occupation for the faint of heart. It takes stamina and you really have to shove your Inner Critic in a sound-proof box and leave them there until you've done your first or second draft, at least.

Outlines are my friends. Actually, they are (quite literally) my road maps. I don't have to keep to them - because wandering about here and there is good and you may find a nice place to eat - but having the map means I don't have to be lost forever. It means I can wander without ending up with 100 rambling pages of crap without any sort of hope to fixing that.

However, NaNo is okay with that. It's just NaNo, after all. Not only that, but amazing people like Roz Morris have tools that can help revive the mess that is your "novel" (NaNo or otherwise) into something that resembles a proper story structure! Maybe even publishable! I love her book, for sure.

If you're looking at options, Plotting for a Pantsers by Jamie Gold sounds like oodles of awesome!

Not everyone is cut out to do NaNo, although they may be hardcore writers, like Kait Nolan - she's not doing NaNo in the traditional sense, but she keeps her finger on the pulse and uses it.

This will probably be my first year not doing NaNo "in the traditional sense" either. I have several books in the planning/plotting stage and in six months I'm hoping to be shopping around for my first book. I will definitely use the deadlines/manic typing energy to keep myself in-line and on course. I have a lot to write and a social life to keep cultivated, too.

The main thing for me is that, through NaNo, I learned that I have to write. Whether I participate, win, lose or never even get published is really not the point. I've awakened a (writing) monster. NaNo just helped give me the first solid kick in the pants to do it.

Remember to rest, too. Good advice.

Your turn! You have 11 days before it starts. Go! Or don't. Are you a pantser or a plotter? What are you doing for the month of November? I'll be writing. Of course.

17 October 2012

Wednesday In Progress: Excuses...Oooh Shiny!

our kitchen, our hell
This week has started off less than stellar. After our personal kitchen nightmare (water heater rusted completely out, manager of our apartment complex refused to do anything about it until 5 months after the fact - where our floor was about as thin as paper in some parts), the past 2 weeks most of our kitchen is sitting in our living room. I work in our living room, now surrounded by kitchen appliances and animals, all freaking out that there are strangers in our space, making crazy noise and we can't cook/live properly.

At least we didn't have dry rot or mold (which is what you fear here in Oregon).

One of our ancient cats seems to have caught the sniffles (worried since we can't afford to get her to a vet, either). To say that I've been distracted with household stuff is an understatement. Our I'm also dealing with a laptop that's given me trouble since Monday night. The plan is to get this looked at, but that won't happen until Saturday and the kitchen won't be sorted out until the end of this week (I hope).

So I'm really not sure what I will do for writing this week and I don't know how much I care. I'm sort of annoyed with myself for that, but there we are. Of course, this is also why I'm writing this blog post in the dead of night (when I really should be asleep). I finally have some peace and quiet.

I think I've done about two lines of text for my WIP this week, but I've started working on a short story that I had been thinking about for a while. I don't know how short it will be necessarily, but I know I don't want to drag it out for too long. I'd like to have it ready for viewing soon-ish, warts an' all. We'll see.

Right now, I'd just like to get my kitchen done and people out of my space!

I'm having a mini-meltdown, excuse me.

Your turn! How do you deal with outside/non-writing distractions? What do you do to keep writing/focused - or do you?

14 October 2012

Exposed Sunday: The Trouble With Pen-names - or...Who Am I, Anyway?

Hi, my name is C.E. Schwilk and I'll be your blogger for this...well, for this blog. Forever.

Seriously, though, how do you feel about pseudonyms? They all worked for O. Henry, Mark Twain, Stan Lee, Grace Monroe, Acton Bell - and there's just so many actors/performers who've hacked off bits, swapped names about, adopted family ones, or chucked out everything but a few letters, i.e., moi. (and a boat-load of other folks I'm sure we can all rattle off without much thought...)

Although I tried to get my Facebook to cooperate, I'm listed as Carlee E Schwilk, there - the "C.E." part of my name. This is also my pen name. The name I use in my non-writing life (the rest of my life) is my married name - completely different and removed from this and I like that. Lately, both my names are getting uncomfortably close for my liking, but I'm trying to not let that bother me too much. Does it matter? Not really. C.E. Schwilk is the one I've chosen to write under, at least for the science-fiction/fantasy work.

autograph currently in progress
I don't just write that one genre, however, and I don't plan to use the same name. This decision has been long-standing and reinforced by other authors who've had ranging success in their own name-change-no-name-change - the most current one being J.K. Rowling's attempt at an adult book.

So, was it a good idea to use the "J.K. Rowling brand" for something utterly different from the only other books she's known for? I don't think so, personally. I haven't read the book (yet), but the reviews are mixed. Many have given her a great thumbs up despite being associated with Harry Potter and some have panned her completely, because it wasn't as good as Harry Potter.

Never mind all the rants and raves on Goodreads. You get the point. She set out to do a completely different type of novel. She had a different story to tell and what does everyone do? Compare it to her other work. I wonder if she had used a different name - a variant spelling, at the very least - would they (the reviewers, public in general) have tried to let the story stand on its own merit?

Although everyone knows Stephen King's seventy-five different names (O! hyperbole, how I love thee!) and that hasn't hurt him, has it?

Related to this, Kristen Lamb had a great blog post: When Do Writers Need Multiple Blogs? The whole concept of having a complete and separate identity (with blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) for each does seem horribly daunting. You'd need an army of personal assistants to keep up with that and that's just a little too insane for my taste. However, if I am extremely fortunate enough to get multiple books published, I'm still a fan of the idea of changing the name to fit the genre.

Elizabeth S. Craig agrees with me, too. I also agree with advertising both names - give folks that option if they happen to like cozy mystery and hardcore cyber-punk (and you happen to write both), they can hunt all your books down! Win-win!

Lastly, I give you the Pen Name Generator (for humor-purposes only)! You're welcome.

Your turn! Do you go by a pen-name? Did you ever consider it? What are your thoughts about authors who do it - or go by multiple names, depending on the genre/whatever?

10 October 2012

Wednesday in Progress: Welcoming the Monsters In

Meaning my writing, not welcoming you, the reader. Of course, I am welcoming you to read. Boy, that's getting confusing...

I like writing about monsters, particularly ones that (I hope) readers will like. I'm also intrigued by the monsters inside people. I even call myself a monster (but that's for another post).

So, here we are. Welcome.

All excerpts within this blog are unedited, unpolished pieces of poo. I have no idea how much of it will be in the final draft, but the work is still mine - so I would like a polite and respectful request if you'd like to reprint something from here. Please ask first. I'm pretty accommodating.

Secondly, as real as I'm trying to write this, it is still a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to those persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Lastly, feel free to give your opinions, critiques, accolades, and fangirl/boy'ing - I'll take it all. However, I reserve the right to delete any comments as I see fit. Mainly, if you're rude and vulgar without any good reason, you will not be welcome here. Keep your shirts on and we'll all be good.

Okay! Onwards!

 Summary: A rash of kidnappings. A race of magical creatures existing in secret. A young girl discovers the connection between them and aligns herself to save her fellow humans.

my monsters hide in daylight's plain view - waiting
Initially, this was going to be a YA novel - but after the second book, my main character is going to be well past her teens. She does start off at the "tender age" of 14.

I don't necessarily think adults want to read about teen girls, either, but I don't want to get trendy and try and pitch this as "New Adult".

Of course, the words ring in my ears, Just write it. So I shall.

Currently, I have no title (and my working title drives me up the wall) but I have a lot of notes and snippets of the book already written. My first act has structure, but it needs a hell of a lot of work and I'm trying to duct tape the mouth of my Inner Critic shut so I can do that.

The plan is that on Wednesdays, I'll let you into my brain (scary!) as I'm writing - share some notes and insight, maybe how I go about creating my characters and scenes, etc., etc. Whatever puzzle I'm working out in my WIP, I will share. One Wednesday a month, I intend to give folks a bit of the actual manuscript - in highly unpolished form. It should be fun, eh?

Your turn! In this case, I would love your feedback or even just a "keep writing" sort of cheer. I'm not picky. If you like, please share your own work/links so I can have a gander at what you write!

07 October 2012

Exposed Sunday: Switching Gears for the Art

You can thank paranormal romance writer, Jami Gold for this one.

Last Wednesday, she did a wonderful guest post (for PW Creighton) regarding when writers get The Block: Creative Outlets - Giving Our Muse a Different Playground to Play In

This is something I've been doing for a long time. Some might say (particularly my husband) that I've been distracted with Other Things (always the capitals for such a monumental avoidance), but really, this is clearly just another trick to get my muse to think about Writing, once more.

"Raining Joy" mixed media
As a child, I remember having a corkboard littered with sketches and free-handed copies of comic strips I liked (Peanuts and Cathy being my favourites, but I seemed to like the detailed illustrations of children's books the best; I was particularly proud of drawing I did of the giraffe on the cover of this book when I was nine or ten. I wish I had saved it). In school, I was the only girl in my grade who was known as the "artist" (normally, it was only the boys who drew). I sculpted with clay, once I learned how to sew I made doll clothes (poorly!), despite my serious lack of fashion sense, I rocked the 70's Fashion Plates like nobody's business. (I would later join the SCA and make decent garb, huzzah!) I also sang, did backstage theatre work since college and I still putz around with photography.

Years ago, I learned how to knit and I love knitting socks - nearly obsessed at one time. I suppose I could return to that obsession easily, if I weren't up to my eyeballs in Other Things.

My latest craze in other a-MUSE-ments (see what I did there?) is Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs for short. It's another medium that I can turn to when I'm not feeling particularly wordy. I actually stopped writing (gasp!) for years and kept to my knitting and ATCs, thinking I was never going to make anything out of it, so why bother? I could still be creative and do something.

Funny thing when you tell yourself "I'll never do that (again)" - sometimes you have to eat your words. If you're lucky, it's something that you should be doing and the Universe slaps you around a bit until you drag out your notebook(s) and pen(s) and story ideas start bubbling up inside your brain, demanding to be paid attention to.

"Two by Two" collage/mixed
When I couldn't write, however, dragging out my coloured pencils, fancy paper, random scraps (called ephemera by the ATC pros I traded with), beads and whatever else I had lying about to create "pocket-sized art" for my own entertainment was the way to go. They are simply cards made out of old playing cards, regular card stock, fabric, Plexiglass, wood - you name it - that are sized 2 ½ X 3 ½ inch (64 X 89 mm). They should fit this as close as possible, but I have cards that go over a bit, due to the embellishments added. The standard to keep them this size is to make them easy to store (like in baseball/collector sleeves). They are meant to be portable, of course.

They are trading cards, which means there are groups all over the place who are willing - in some cases desperate - to trade with other ATC makers. A quick Google search gives you access to groups galore, explaining how to go about trading and what folks were looking for, etc., etc. It's great fun and I have a binder filled will cards I've traded with fellow artists from all over the United States, Canada and even some from Scotland.

"Better World" I'm also a Firefly fan - Ni hao!
Long gone are my drawing days, but I do make the attempt every so often, as you can see. I mainly do collages/mixed media - anything to avoid drawing. I have done origami and abstract images, cutting and pasting pieces of paper with glitter and feathers and who knows what else! Somehow, words would creep into my ATCs and I would be moved by words, first - either as inspiration for the ATC I was working on or something to enhance the ATC overall.

I have a series that I've been toying with for a few months (!) where I considered writing some flash-fiction on the ATC, itself. I'm not sure how far I'll get with those, particularly now with my focus being on actually writing, but I'm still interested in the idea. I just have to find that slice of time to allow for it to happen.

The magic of this is that while I'm doing these Other Things, stories start to bloom in my mind and then I'm rushing to find me some paper and a pen before I lose the idea!

Your turn! What other non-writing hobbies do you have? How do you tease your muse out of Writer's Block? Have you learned how to channel your creativity down other paths? Has it helped and inspired your stories at all?

03 October 2012

Wednesday In Progress: Late Nights, Open Windows

Last week I lost my job. Y'know, the one I always complain about on Twitter. I no longer have that problem, but a host of new and shiny ones - like, getting another straight job (preferably not in hell). I'm not homeless just yet - but I would like to avoid that scenario as much as possible.

Strangely enough, this has given me ample amounts of free time to write (of course). What have I been doing? Well, household chores and job hunting - and very little writing. I am not as shocked with this revelation as I thought I'd be. Sad that I haven't made the time to write for the past week and a half, but not shocked.

What I've also noticed is that I am less a morning person and much more geared to write during the nighttime. Then it's mostly quiet (the interstate is basically right outside my balcony, so there's always that subtle roar which - in my best attempts - I can turn into the sea crashing) and I don't have animals meowing in my face or whinging to get taken out to pee. Everyone (including the spouse) is asleep and I have the place to myself. Finally.

Oh, I'm tired. I've still tried to keep my schedule to what it was - up at five every morning, breakfast and lunch taken care of for both of us and then the rest of my day, whatever that means. Mostly, it means tending to our pets, making sure I job-hunt, and keeping up on the laundry and other cleaning so we don't look like we live in a hovel. Don't anyone ever believe the lie "housework isn't real work" because it's worse than that - it's demanding physical labour and you don't even get paid for it and vacation/sick leave is non-existent.

I wouldn't mind an open window to this; Trillium Lake at OMG o'clock

My husband told me Tuesday night that he wants me published. He wants me happy to fulfill my dreams. This is my chance - my open window - and not to waste it. I'm a little afraid as to what it's going to do to my sleep schedule (especially as I'm still trying to get a straight job) but I'm being productive, at least.

So, here I am. Got my window open, listening to my faux-seaside and typing out my tale as fast as my fingers can fly across my keyboard. (now say that three times fast)

Your turn! When do you feel most productive? Have you been able to adjust your schedule or do you have a work-around? Did you learn how to change your schedule to fit your life/pursuits?