Friday, March 25, 2011

Follow Your Own Path. (Someone Else's Might Have Potholes.)

There is a difference between writers and artists who like the idea of being one, and those who are the genuine article. Genuine articles are true to themselves first, and put the pretension aside. They simply have nothing to prove. They know they're an artist or a writer because art or writing comes as naturally to them as breathing air. It's in their blood. It's not something they have to struggle with. It's not something they have to strain over. It's a joy. And that's how it should be.

My personal belief is that, if you're trying too hard on a certain path, and it seems as if everything you're doing is wrong - when you're just not "getting it" - then that path is not right for you. Maybe you aren't meant to be a professional artist. Maybe deadlines and critiques are too much for you to deal with. It doesn't mean that you should give it up entirely, but that you should appreciate it for what it is, and stop trying to force yourself into a mold you don't fit.

When you find the path that fits you, your steps along it shouldn't be difficult. Sure, life will put some obstacles in your way, but you shouldn't be hanging on by your fingernails on a semi-regular basis. We all have those doors in our life that open for us, and some that we have to open ourselves (maybe with a crowbar). Sometimes we end up closing a door we thought would lead us to our path, but ended up leading away from what we really wanted.

If you stick to what you know, are good at, and what you love, you should find a career that's fulfilling and productive. But it's good to remember, the more doors you try, the more things you will find to love. We can either be freed or limited by our choices.

Once we find our path, the only thing that can really shake us is ourselves. For me, comparing myself to others can be my downfall. Watching someone else who writes, or someone else who illustrates too closely usually affects me negatively. I wonder "Is that what I should be doing? Am I not doing this right?" All the while the little voice inside says "Trust your instincts" and it's right, because only I know what's right for me in my own path. If someone uses a different style than me and is popular because of it, that doesn't mean I should adopt that style. If someone uses a different method to edit their novel and a lot of people agree with them, it doesn't mean that I should use it. Their novel is not the same as my novel. Their style is not the same as my style, and their methods might not work for me. Everyone thinks differently, and while it's good to listen to tips and mimic techniques, you don't come into your own until you rely on your own judgment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Much Revising Is Enough?

This is a big question for me right now. I've been procrastinating editing my first novel because I'm afraid I won't be revising the 'right' way unless I scrap virtually everything I wrote the first time and rewrite it all. This is a pretty extreme viewpoint, but it's the impression I get from some writers when I hear they're revising their manuscripts. I always wonder if it's really as bad as they think it is. Do they really have to scrap it all and basically write a whole new book from bits and pieces? It seems like such a tall order, and such a waste of time. I'm all for cut and paste, and playing Dr. Frankenstein when it feels right, but this baffles me.

One of the blogs I'm following is Dawn Brazil's Brilliant Babbles about Books. She has this entry on revision that I found helpful. Feel free to share your own opinions and tips about editing and revision. I'm always interested in hearing more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's in a Name? A Lot!

In the process of revising - which is taking longer the more I procrastinate - I came across something shocking. After laboring over a name for my faerie world, after thinking up cool words that meant something interesting, after finally deciding and falling in love with the word I chose... I discovered someone else had already used it. They didn't use it as the name for a world, though. It's the name of a character (a main character) and the title of The Books of Umber series by P.W. Catanese. Umber. Who would've thought? I know about the City of Ember and the other books in that series, but somehow this had passed under my radar! I feel terribly ignorant and foolish for not doing my homework this time.

The worst part is, these books are recent! The first was published in 2009 and somehow I missed it! I emailed my agent to ask if I'll be in trouble using it as the name of my world as long as I don't use it in the title of the books. I'm hoping the answer is yes. I really am attached to the name and what it conveys for me - the atmosphere of the place, the mystery, the shadowy abyssal quality I want to lurk in readers' minds.

This is a rotten predicament, and I know other authors have had the same thing happen to them. I was trying very hard not to fall into this situation, but it looks like it happened anyway.

Advice I'd have for anyone who is worried about the same thing - google everything you think you might want to use, check on associations and connections (because readers will draw them, whether you like it or not) between your book and others with the same names. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Busy, Dizzy, and Beaten by the Muse.

I've started into a second part-time job lately. I really like it, and it's utilizing a lot more of my skills. It's not in my field, but it's closer! I'm doing online advertising, and posting teasers for mymobilecars.com. It's a new business that's taking off, and it looks pretty slick so far.

Tuesday in the early morning I got horribly sick, so dizzy that every time I moved my head it felt as if it was caught in the spin cycle. First I couldn't leave the bathroom, then I couldn't leave the couch (except to go to the bathroom). I slept as much as I could, and hardly ate anything. Wednesday, I was finally able to eat, move around without much dizziness, and go to work. I worked six hours one job, and two hours of the other, so together they equaled an average workday.

Wednesday night, I got inspired to give the Strawman a pixie companion. Her personality came on almost immediately, and soon I'd thought up a name and style for her. I sketched and researched her look until 3 am! My muse was riding my back and beating me with one of those nasty little riding crops - but I loved every minute of it! (at least until Thursday morning when I had to go to work at 7am.)

So far that has been my week. No revision, but a lot of future planning, sketching, and recovery. My publishing research will be to read City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I love that kind of research!

Monday, March 14, 2011

And now for something completely different!

So, tonight I imagined the Strawman making off with the Grim Reaper's scythe, cackling like a gleeful child. And the Reaper chasing him, looking very put-out. Interestingly, the Reaper in my mind's eye is played by Grim from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (which I love).

This isn't too far-fetched when I think that the Strawman's backstory has something to do with cheating Death and stealing from him.

Now, if I can only work a bit of the wacky into my main villain, it would be awesome. But how to make something utterly chilling have a lighter side? I always have trouble balancing the serious and the silly. It's hard to have both at the same time.

I'm also wondering if I should incorporate some form of the Grim Reaper concept into my novel series as a character, or even a series of characters. A Reaper, or Reapers, for instance. I already have Sandmen and Boogeymen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cliffhangers?

One of my beta readers told me today that he thinks the ending of my story is going to 'make people mad'. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, I'll admit, but there isn't much I can do about it. The entire book is leading up to that point, and the only thing I can do is add on another chapter to lessen the blow. Perhaps a cushion is in order, but I'm really not sure.

Has anyone else had trouble with this? You feel as though you're done with an ending, you like it, and you get the inkling (or someone tells you) that readers might be disappointed. I'll have to think this over awhile. He just read the last bit today and met me with a big grin saying how very angry my readers will be that I'm leaving it like that. He even suggested I write the second book and publish that one first, keeping this book for a prequel to publish later!

It's a lot to take in tonight. I'll just let it simmer awhile, and consider it as I revise. I am going to publish this book. I just might have to add one more chapter so that I don't feel the wrath of rabid fans later on.

How should I handle this, do you think?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

First Novel Done! Time for Pretty Pictures!

This past week, I've been quite busy, and quite productive, but not with writing. I got all that finished over the weekend. Other things have called my attention this week, so I'm glad I finished in time for it all.

So *holds breath* I finished a semi-polished draft of my first novel! Yay! I'm excited, and yet I know there's still a lot to be done. I have to revise the bulk of text which hasn't been revised yet. Then I need to do up sketches for chapter header illustrations. Then I need to do ink versions of those illustrations. And inside the book there will be a few larger (full page or quarter page) illustrations. Finally, I will do a mockup of the layout to show how it should be printed.

I am taking a short break before I dive into the revisions and the illustrations. But it's going to be a lot of fun when I start. The little chapter headers are going to be a joy to draw, I think. Simple and fun little ink drawings.

Looking forward to keeping everyone posted on how this goes. I emailed Michelle Andelman again and she's said she'll help with titling the books after I send in the manuscript. I have a working title, but I'm not satisfied with it, or any I've come up with so far. I've done quite a lot myself, but the title is the cherry on top, so it has to sparkle!
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