Clarion Write-A-Thon: Day 4

Target goal: 25,000 words

Target daily goal: 775 words

Today’s word count: 1,036

Total words written: 3,007

Today was a slow writing day, even though I wrote more than my daily quota. Mainly because I was gone most of the day, but also because the story is taking me in a different direction, and I don’t quite know what that direction is yet.

It’s exciting, yet scary, when a story tells you where it wants to go–which is sometimes a direction other than which you planned. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a first draft, and just to get everything down and sort it out later in the second and subsequent drafts. This contest is less about finishing a saleable product, than proving to myself that I can write a viable sci fi/speculative fiction story.

In charting this new direction, I had to throw out a lot of what I’d done in the original version of the story, written seven years ago. I will say this: it was crap. There were some nuggets of good stuff there, and that is the stuff upon which I’m building for the Clarion workshop. But 95% of the story needs to be chucked in the garbage because I was trying too hard to be someone else. This is a rookie writing mistake in general, but it hits closer to home for me because I have never written sci fi/spec fict before. I wanted to be like those authors whom I admire and read:  Octavia Butler, Anne McCaffrey, Samuel Delaney, Charles Saunders, etc. However, I am not them, and I need to find my own way.

One of those paths of self-discovery revolves around my characters. In the original version of the story, my character was 25 years old. It is very difficult for me to write than young; even when I started this story seven years ago, I wasn’t 25.  Perhaps that’s part of why I am having some difficulty getting in the Zone today: I can’t get inside my character’s head. I can’t think like a 25-year-old anymore, and I’m glad I can’t. You couldn’t pay me to go back to my twenties.  My solution is to write an older character, in my age bracket. That makes it a bit easier, and can better navigate the story.

Anyway, I’m glad that I pushed through and managed to write 1,036 words today. I’m getting a bit clearer on where the story is going. Plus, I got some exciting news about my upcoming book release, so I admit to having a somewhat scattered focus today. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Exciting, scary, fun.

Thanks for stopping by.




The Creative Flow: How I Figure Out What to Write

For the past couple of weeks, you’ve graciously listened to my brain droppings about various aspects of the publishing industry (thank you!), and books I’ve read. It hit me the other day that, since my blog is primarily about my writing life, then perhaps I should actually write about my writing life.

One of the questions I get the most is, “How do you think up these things?” In addition to having an extremely vivid imagination (a must for fiction writers) and a slightly cynical view of the world, it’s not hard to come up with plots.

(Writing them is the hard part…but that’s another post for another day. :D)

Seriously: I get my inspiration from the news, random comments from people, Facebook memes…whatever works. I also dig in the crates for classics, and think about how they would be refashioned in this modern age (I’m a fan of Shakespeare, so he provides endless fodder). Then I start kicking around the “what ifs”. Once I hit upon a theme that resonates within, I start plotting it out. Characters, their backstories, how I want the story to end, is it a one-off novel or a series…things like that.

Oh, I also figure out the genre. Some stories are very obvious in how they should be written; others can go different ways, so I need to figure out the best way. Depending on my mood, I may go for the sure shot (a genre in which I’m strong, like fiction or thrillers) or try to challenge myself in a genre in which I’m not (science fiction/speculative fiction).

The format is important too. The late, great Octavia Butler once said in an interview that some stories are meant to be books, and some are meant to be short stories. I didn’t realize that until I started revisiting some earlier, half-done stuff and figured out that I was blocked on some of them because of this very principle: some novels should have been short stories, and some short stories should become novels. Since I like to write and expound upon a broad canvas, it’s easy for me to write a novel. Writing a short story, however, takes a talent I have not yet mastered.

Finally, I start writing the first draft. More on that in an upcoming post.

Thanks for stopping by.