Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March Madness Check-In — Day # 25

With all the distractions and disappointments the day job has brought me in the last year, I have had to double up on creative outlet time whenever I had the chance. Photography has been my outlet and my jell-time. That is when I take off at sunrise and scout around the nature parks for creative inspiration and gratification, take pictures, and think about whatever WIP I'm working on. It seems as if I have two endeavors competing for my time:  photography and writing. My hope is that they will find harmony together.  At the very least, I am finding my voice in two places now.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win first place in the last art show I entered. The piece was not a technical tour de force. I could have deepened my depth of field a little, sharpened my focus a touch more. Nor was it some dramatically compelling subject like that of a pulitzer prize-winning journalistic picture. What it did have was attitude.

Yes, I lined up some tiny (I'm talking size-of-my-pinkie-nail tiny) chocolate Santas and played with the depth of field to focus on one imperfect specimen who was second in line. He had a little hole in him and he was far from perfectly sculpted. I titled the piece, The Line-Up. Ghost Hunk calls that my wry sense of humor.

How does this relate to my writing? Well, in both places, I am searching for my voice, and I'm never sure where I stand. This photograph is not perfect, but it has some spunk. It has a voice that says, "Look at me. Yes, it's okay to have a little chuckle. This is who I am."

Our last few check-ins have brought up the issues of comparison and jealousy and that urge to quit. Every time I enter an art show, I see how everyone else is doing and focus on why they are better than I am. Inevitably, I have no sense of the good work I am doing. The same goes for my writing. The only way to handle this is to get lost in whatever dream I'm dreaming when I write or when I take pictures and listen to that inner voice. I have to embrace my WIP without editing or comparing my work as I go or surely I will drown.

So, for my last post of madness, I encourage you to club that green monster in the head and stuff him in a box and tape it up tightly. Then demand a serious hug from your WIP, because once you feel those arms around you again, you will want more. Only you can tell your story. So tell it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March Madness Day #18—Attack of the Plot Bunnies

How goes the madness, Wipsters? Here we are on the other side of the halfway mark, and I've had another epiphany. My current WIP is much more character-centered than my last ms, but as a graphic novel, the action needs to be solid and clear and dynamic. No, it doesn't have to be like a superhero comic or anything, with a POW! KABOOM! kind of action, but there is less room for long, introspective passages. While the plot bunnies were biting my butt last week, my brain was trying to get a firmer grasp of my plot, and it just kept coming back to the 5-act structure of a Shakespearean play.

Of course, much of what we see in the visual media of television and movies seems to rely on a 3-act structure (which is why much of it sucks), so I was struggling. Which way do I approach this? My gut said go with the 5-act structure, but it didn't offer any details or confirmation that I was right. So, I googled it.

Holy cow! I found several conversations about plot structure, but very few about the 5-act structure. Mostly it was the same little mountain graphic we all learned in grade school about conflict and rising action, yada yada yada.  Until I hit a certain foul-mouthed but ingenious HULK. As I read his rant about the Myth of the 3-Act Structure, bells were going off everywhere. Yes! Yes! That's exactly what I was thinking but couldn't put into words! He is talking about movies, but the same principle holds for any good story telling really.

After taking notes and creating a fabulous chart for myself (because visuals/storyboards rock!), I decided to relieve myself of the burden of finishing one or two chapters this month and focus on getting the structure more concrete so I can actually complete the journey with a clear path in mind.

So have any of you made a sharp turn on your goals this month thanks to an epiphany? If you have, dance in the magic of it. Even if it turns out to be the wrong direction later, it will lead you somewhere. And somewhere can show you amazing things that nowhere can't.

So onward we go, Wipsters! May the plot bunnies be kind to you, and may you all have a good dog to herd them in the right direction!

We'll see you at the check-in tomorrow with Carol Garvin.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Madness Check-In #11

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It's funny how we got onto visualization in the last few March Madness posts, but absolutely on point for me. One of the hardest elements of this whole graphic novel adventure is giving up control of a significant element of expression in my writing. My literary heroes include people like George Orwell, who was a master of description, and Neil Gaiman who can build amazing worlds that, no matter how terrifying or strange, transport us and make us glad to be on that ride.

On this WIP, I have to trust someone else to read my creation and accept it but also give him the opportunity to explore his own image (literally) of the story. In the long run, I will have to prepare myself for whatever deviation from my own vision might arise when the artist takes my script and runs with it.

Of course, this doesn't just pertain to an illustrator. All of us will need to face the disfigurement of our manuscripts at the hands of an editor or an agent. For the most part, it is probably for the better, however devastating it might seem at that moment we get that evil editorial email.

I am still in the initial crafting of my manuscript, but I have already spent ages on the original novel version, so it feels vibrant and real. Ironically, I am the one with the cleaver right now. Hacking off this and that. Remodeling these and crushing those. Somewhere in there, is that bright clean soul that will still emerge from the rubble.

What is harder for you? Drafting or revising? I have to say, this time it is a harder call.

No matter what, keep searching and keep creating. She will rise.

Now, I hope you are still reading, because it is time to announce another prize. And the winner is:


CONGRATULATIONS!  Pop on over to Denise's blog for a list of prizes and email Denise with your choice at d(at)denisejaden (dot)com.

And don't forget to check in with  Carol Garvin tomorrow for more Madness!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

March Madness Day Four — I'll Take the High Dive

Welcome to the Day 4 Check-in!

As a writer, I’ve always had lots of stories swimming around in my head, and with a little luck, they eventually splash onto the page, imperfect and wet behind the ears. That is the hardest part—getting that first draft out there. Then comes revision, that fabulous stage where I have some wet clay in my hands and I can shape it and get it ready for its final big show.  

Something strange has happened this time around, however. After writing 16 chapters, my poor little WIP felt stagnant. I had fallen into a bog and I wasn’t sure how to pull myself out. Eventually, I started climbing, higher and higher, past what I thought was my best work yet, until I reached the epiphany. My dear little WIP needed a transformation. And so...I’m going to write a graphic novel. 

Holy crap! Yes. I actually said graphic novel. Now, I am standing on a springboard 10 meters in the air and I’m about to jump. 1-2-3...GO!

March Madness Wipsters, are any of you venturing into new territory this time around? What brought you there?

I’ve taken the leap and at the moment, I’m still suspended in mid-air. Free falling.  Once I get this first chapter done, I’ll consider it breaking the surface and then I’ll be swimming. 

If you are just joining us for March Madness, don't forget to stop by Denise Jaden's blog to post your goals for the month and see the list of Prizes. And tomorrow, Carol Garvin continues the madness!

Write on, Wipsters!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Reinvention of a WIP

After a month of reading and researching and immersing myself in the world of a different medium, I am trembling at the precipice of new adventure and I'm terrified to put the first word on paper. As my GoodReads bookshelf will reveal, I have been exploring the world of graphic novels/comics in preparation for reimagining my current WIP as a graphic novel (Yikes! I said it...please don't jinx it.)

The first thing I did when I decided to write for a YA audience was to read a ton of YA fiction. It makes sense, then, that I would begin to devour graphic novels and comics and books about writing graphic novels and comics as I begin this transition to my next incarnation as a writer. Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is absolutely brilliant. He breaks down the magic of storytelling in pictures and words by using the medium itself to demonstrate it. His book is a dissertation accessible to everyone who wants to truly understand how comics work and why they are such a complex and beautiful way to tell stories. I hope someday I get the chance to meet him at a comic con or conference.

After that, I devoured Brian Michael Bendis' book Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels. He has some excellent interviews, Q&A's, and FAQ's with some of the best artists and writers in the business along with examples of different scripts and art. Again, I would love to meet this guy.

Behind all of this, I've been reading Saga and Revival and Blankets and The Road to Perdition as well as other examples so I can get a range of experiences with the medium before I begin.

So, here I am.

The scariest part, aside from utterly failing, is giving up some control of my story to an unknown artist. I am a very visual/sensory writer who spends a lot of time on description. Now, much of that description will be left up to an artist's pen and brush instead of my words. This requires trust. Absolute, blind trust. Of course, it also requires that I communicate my vision effectively to the artist without hogtying him/her completely. I know that picture book writers experience this as well, but it does some even broader in the case of a graphic novel. Not because of the length, but because of the immense detail that goes into scenes for an older audience. Somehow, I will do this. I will transform Ripley's tale into something awesome.

There is nothing to do now but dive in. So, if you see me and I have turned bright blue, it's only because I'm still holding my breath...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Filling in a Rut.

The last six months have been a pretty big dry spell for me. A sweeping injustice at work really knocked the motivation and confidence out of me, and it has taken me a while to recover. As the year draws to a close, I have been mulling over the other reasons I've avoided making much progress in my WIP. Frankly, I've been in a rut. My voice seems to be a bit ragged and I find myself covering too much of the same old ground I wrote before.

Over a quiet breakfast with Ghost Hunk, I finally had an epiphany. That epiphany launched the two of us on a 90-minute drive to Columbus (because we live in a wasteland and the kids were still in school) for the nearest Barnes & Noble store to get some research. Thankfully, Ghost Hunk is not only an expert in this new foray, but he's completely supportive and ready to help me redesign my project and maybe even my career.

I've not shared this epiphany for fear I would jinx its progress, but I'm only slightly superstitious so I'll offer this little hint. I've decided to take my YA novel to a more visual context. It sounds simple, but there is so much to learn and it is forcing me to rethink more than just the format of my story. The medium requires a very different approach to plot and characterization. I'm both excited and terrified, but I am finally inspired again.

So there will be no New Year's resolutions this year. Just a new road to follow and lots of hope that I will reach one of many shiny new destinations.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Has it really been 6 months! It's time to revive my poor, neglected blog and share a little of my writing process. I was tagged in the Writing Process Blog Tour by one of my Blue Board buddies, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (  Jennifer loves a good mystery and her middle grade mystery The Mystery of the Séance Swap is coming out in 2016 followed by the second book in her Book Scavenger series. 

So, here we go...

What are you currently working on?

My current project is a contemporary coming-of-age/ghost story. It won the 2013 SCBWI  Work-in-Progress grant, so I’m eager to finish it and get it out there. I am about halfway finished and hope to pick up some momentum through the summer months before school picks up again.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have written mostly historical ghost fiction, so this a jump into the modern pond and I’ve given it a twist. It is not a romantic ghost story or a grim tale of horror. It introduces us to a girl who is thrice gifted, though she considers most of her talents a curse. She is extremely bright, which puts her ahead in school, but she has a cognitive processing issue that knocks her back socially. Add clairvoyance to her list of talents and you have this protagonist waging more than the usual war on adolescence.

Why do I write what I write?

I have always been fascinated by ghost stories. Maybe it’s the idea that we are never really finished. There is always more to learn, more to do, more love. My previous novels have involved a lot of research into history, which I adore because it is so interesting to look back into another time and see people, even fictional people, as deeply human. To ask the same questions modern teens face and imagine what sort of answers would crop up in a different context. Since I have shifted into a modern setting for this book, I have looked to people and situations I know for inspiration, and I found the mother lode. I hope it will help YA readers see their situation from a new perspective. 

How does my Individual writing process work?

The original story concept often comes from a “what if?” in response to something I read or something I see, or even something deeply personal that I would like to reshape. I have both outlined and totally pants-ed it, but the primary element that stays the same is journaling. I guess it’s a sort of pre-writing, but I journal through every book I write. That is where I ask questions and ruminate on the possible answers, critique my concept and consider what works and doesn’t work, and think about what in my own life is influencing my writing, whether it is good or bad. My biggest stumbling block is my inescapable urge to perfect everything as I go. That is why it takes me so long to get through the first draft. I’m starting to let go a little more and give myself permission to suck so I can get that first draft knocked out. Old habits die hard, though. 

Now it's time to tag a few friends.  

Pat Esden is a writer I've known online and finally met in person last fall in the gorgeous mountains of Montreat, NC. She has a knack for some fabulously twisted and gothic tales for YA readers. She writes fantasy, suspense, and historical fiction for teens.  Follow her on twitter—@patesden! 

Lora Rivera is another writer I've known online and hope to meet someday. She writes literary fiction and middle grade novels. Like me, she loves the ghosties, but she also delves into urban fantasy.  Follow her on twitter — @lroseriver!