Saturday, June 25, 2011

First 212 words of Gateway

I'm participating in a contest sponsored by Shelly Watters and featuring literary agent, Victoria Marini. Without further ado, here are the opening 212 words of my YA Urban Fantasy novel, Gateway. Total word count for the novel is 59,000.

In the end, only the Voice remained.
I told you it would be better this way…
I was drifting, floating on something too silky to be water. It was warm, and it penetrated the deepest parts of me.
The Voice was right. It was always right. Everything finally felt soft. My sharpest edges were being worn away, melting into oblivion. I felt like candle wax before it cooled; nothing to do but let the remaining drops of consciousness slide down— 
Pain. Where did that come from? How could I feel pain when I didn't have a body anymore?
My throat. It was my throat, being stabbed, or— 
Shh… let it go. Let all the pain go. Rest easy…
For a moment I was comforted, the gentle motion of the not-quite water lulling me, pulling me back to safety.
But I was heaving. Huge, uncontrollable spasms. And then I was vomiting, although that word isn’t strong enough. I was erupting. The contents of my stomach spewed from my mouth, my nose. The wetness hit my chest, then my belly, and finally dribbled down my chin. My mouth tasted of charcoal. The warmth receded. The peace went with it.  And I knew.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Formatting Woes

So frustrated… Even after paying for formatting of my novel, Gateway, I recently discovered that a handful of my italicized phrases didn’t end up italicized. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that my heroine hears a “Voice” and I used the italics to differentiate between her thoughts, and Its thoughts. I've fixed the problem, but the book has been on sale for a month, so scores of people got a version that I’m sure is confusing. Heartbreaking… Anyone who thinks self-publishing is easy, either hasn't done it or doesn’t care about putting out a quality product.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Outlining Versus Winging It

It's an age old debate among writers: Is it better to plot out the details of a novel before actually writing it, or start with a solid idea and maybe some character sketches and see where the story takes you?

I've definitely done the "no outline" approach. When I completed the first draft of my novel, Gateway, I was participating in NaNoWriMo, which is the absolute definition of winging it. I plotted as I went, going with the flow and getting those words down. At the end of it, I certainly felt accomplished--I'd finished draft one of my first novel! I also had a feeling that half of what I'd written was a steaming pile of crap. And it was. Which doesn't mean I'm not profoundly grateful for my NaNoWriMo experience. Half of it might have been crap, but the other half varied from meh to pretty good. The core of the story remained the same in subsequent rewrites, though several plot points changed and became stronger.

I came to realize that I had the same issue with writing my novel that I had with writing screenplays. My characters and dialogue were good, but my plotting, specifically in the middle of my book, needed vast improvement. The beginning and the end were strong, but the middle portion fell flat. There was a raising of stakes, but not enough.

In draft 2 I made lateral moves, changing plot elements, but not necessarily strengthening them. Between the 2nd and 3rd drafts I read some books that really enlightened me. One was Plot and Structure. Another was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. The first was very helpful. The second was demoralizing, but also helpful. What a blessing and a curse to see all the cliche, amateur mistakes I'd made! Having written multiple screenplays, even having been paid for one, I didn't consider myself an amateur, but I sure had made some of the mistakes of one. Having an editor read the 2nd draft and give me excellent notes was also invaluable. Needless to say, draft 3 was much stronger.

So, what does this have to do with outlining?

Well, last year I picked up another book: First Draft in 30 Days. Unlike the NanoWriMo method, (which, again, I take no issue with) this book advises outlining, and I find myself being won over. Here's why: My main issue is with plotting. I did some major re-writes during drafts 2 and 3 that I think I could have saved myself with a very detailed outline. In essence, this outline replaces the first draft. It will be 30+ pages  by the time I've finished, with every scene mapped out, including objectives, character points of view, etc... Just today I came up with two plot points I'd like to incorporate that I think will strengthen the novel and propel the story to book 3. Had I simply started writing, I'd have to go back and alter all of the scenes which pertained to said plot point changes. (Dialogue, actions, reactions) Now I just need to change a few sentences of an outline.

All this isn't to say that outlining is better than not outlining. I think it depends on what genre you are writing and what you know your writing strengths and weaknesses to be. If you aren't sure yet, just go with whatever feels right for you, and then re-evaluate once you've read the results. I'm very glad I did the freeform NaNoWriMo way. I don't think I'd have finished my novel without that quick first draft. I haven't ruled out doing NanoWriMo again this year, in fact. For book 2 in The Gateway Series, however, I'm trying the detailed outline method. Once I've done it both ways I can make an informed decision on what works best for me.

How about you? Do you like outlining, winging it, or a combination of both?


While I'm immersed in writing book 2 of The Gateway Series (no title as of yet!) I find myself with less time to blog. I'll continue to post essays and share info that I find helpful to indie authors, but in case I start slacking, I've set up a Tumblr account. Tumblr seems perfect for short, to the point messages--kind of a cross between Blogger and Twitter. Please come by and say hi!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interview on The Book Butterfly!

The first interview for my YA Urban Fantasy, Gateway, is up on TheBookButterfly. Check it out!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beautiful Mess

I penned the following essay a few years ago:

Sharon emailed me today.  She was full of praise for an essay I read her.  She told me told me how cool it was that I let her laugh at how twisted it was, and she thought, that’s my great friend, she’s genius and such a beautiful mess.  I wrote her back to thank her, not just for the praise, although she’s one of those friends from whom it means the most, but for giving me the name of my book.

Beautiful Mess.

I couldn’t have described my life more perfectly.  There have been times when things were a real fucking mess.  (See my essays on Grease, the nuthouse, et al.)  But there have also been moments of exquisite beauty, and I’ll write about those, too.  Sitting on a rooftop in Greece drinking ouzo with Manjeet, the full moon so close we could…(I refuse to finish that sentence with “touch it,” its just so cliché, albeit really, really accurate.)  Laying in bed one night and thinking how I’d been waiting for my “moment” in life—the one that would redeem all of my suffering—and asking, what if this is it?  What if this is the moment?  And looking over at my beautiful dog sleeping in his bed and answering, if this is the moment, it’s enough.

It was only last year that I fully took on my life.  To the outside observer, I really lived: traveled, moved cross-country, was a risk taker.  But I knew the truth.  I was a ghost.  Half in and half out of this life.  I’ve lived through some really dark times, and always I took it as a given that I could choose to check out anytime I needed to.  I don’t mean “check out” as a euphemism for ignoring something, ie: “My fiancé always checks out when I talk about the bridesmaids’ dresses.”  I mean check out. 

In high school it served a purpose.  The only way I could get myself to go was by counting all the pain pills I had leftover from a couple of surgeries.  They were my insurance policy.  If things got any worse, I could come home and end it.  As I look back on it now, I realize it gave me a feeling of power.  This one thing, during an incredibly turbulent time, I could control.  And nothing—not my mother, my sister, or the kids at school—could trump it.  Royal-fucking-pain-pill-Flush, baby.  I was waiting for my moment to go all in.

But last year I realized something.  I’m getting too old to take comfort in my potential.  It was always my solace growing up.  You’ll see, I’ll do great things and you’ll realize you should have been nicer to me.  I was just deep, not crazy.  But where were these great works of art, these accolades, these fuck yous to my former peers?  (Inferiors)

I really got that as long I had a half-assed commitment to Life, Life would have a half-assed commitment to me.  And really, I’m a whole-assed kind of girl.  I searched for something I could connect to, something I could be fully committed to.  Not my family or friends.  I love them dearly, but relationships evolve, change, and sometimes disappear.  Not an event in the future, nor a goal to keep me hungry, but never satisfied.  And let’s face it: my F.U. goal wasn’t exactly working anyway…

After weeks of crying, meditating, questioning…I got my answer one night as I lay in bed, one hand over my heart.  I thought, what if I just commit to follow this heart for as long as it beats?  Because I will never be me again.  I will never have this face: with it’s crooked nose and what-color-are-they-today eyes; this body: with its flexibility and tendency to illness and injury; this life.  This beautiful, beautiful, mess of a life.

Which is why last week, while I cried for two hours for no reason I knew, kneeling on my dirty pergot, head to the floor, wailing and raw, I never thought of checking out.  Not literally or figuratively.  It was the most honest thing I did that day, and I’m really, really glad I was here to experience it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Indie Snippets

An opportunity for all indie authors--check out the snippet for Gateway, then submit your own work!

Indie Snippets