Journal

Writing:

I’m stuck deep in the “I’m never going to finish” feeling. And it is SO tempting to chuck the whole novel before I fix it, because honestly it feels like there’s so much broken. But this is both a truth and a lie. The more you learn, the easier it gets to spot your mistakes. This time I’m spotting so many more ways each scene is broken, why the characters are broken, why the motivations fail… And that’s why this revision feels so daunting. But, being able to see it also means that I can fix it. Hopefully. Maybe. Still, I’m going to take a minute and cry about how much work there is left. I just need a sec.

Living:

So it goes: you can have it all, but not at the same time. That feels like the mantra of my life right now. Life’s busy between the day job and family. Some days I’m too tired to get any writing done. Sometimes I feel like I’ve failed at parenting, because I’ve got no emotional energy left after a tough day in the office. Some days I feel like super mom, because naps happen, the child is sweet, and meals get eaten. Some days I feel like I’m crawling in my skin because I’m trapped in the office. Some days the office feels like my only refuge. Some days I despair that I can’t get enough writing done. Movies, TV, showers without interruption, meals you can take your time at – what are those? I haven’t done book reviews for a while, because I have no mental bandwidth for them lately.

July involved a personal health issue that derailed part of the month, and it was hard to feel enthusiastic about anything at all. Then travel happened. This trip to France was our first real vacation together in more than 4 years. It was good to get away, but then there’s always your life to come back to and work to pick up and brush off and start over on. Momentum is fleeting.

How does anyone pursue writing + day job + kids + a life? The only answer I can think of is, failing all over the place, and sacrificing one thing for the other, on one day or another. Most days I’m just too busy to think about it much. You just survive, and keep on going the best you can.

P.S. Scenic highlights of our trip to France on  Insta.

Reading:

  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
  • Call on Me by Roni Loren
  • The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
  • A Lady at Midnight by Tessa Dare
  • Bring me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

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Journal, Writing Discussion

Writing:

Well it was back to the 3rd draft of my gothic novel. Draft 2 was a complete rewrite and I was a bit terrified to see what I had to work with this time around. It was a relief to find that the plot is mostly working, but it took more time than I expected to get back into the swing of it.

Momentum really is a thing. Taking 6 + months away from this story meant that it took almost all of June before my subconscious started cooperating on this story . By that I mean: random lines, dialog, and character improvements started coming to mind, and I was no longer preoccupied with the previous book I’d been working on.

But also it’s summer and I’ve got a bit of travel interruption coming up. I hope I don’t lose it.

Devouring:

Sometimes reading feels like eating vegetables (good for me, but I’m not always in the mood), but every once in a while you can find a streak of books that are  just what you needed at that time.

This month was heavy on the romance, so it’s time for some random craft analysis…

In terms of plot, romance can be a very powerful story tool: a way to raise the stakes, and make them more personal. Falling in love with another character, or beginning to care for another character deeply should always change something in both the external story, and the main character’s personal motivations.

Sometimes romance is just a B plot, but if it’s the A plot, then the two main characters should be thrown together in every chapter or think about one another in each chapter, because that is where the main tension comes from. Maybe they weren’t planning on running into each other, but they do (tension). Maybe they don’t want to see each other, but they do (tension). Maybe they do want to see each other, but they can’t (tension).

But how do you get people  to believe that two characters are made for one another? Wow romance writers do a lot of psychological heavy lifting. Translating a nebulous idea like compatibility into something concrete is difficult business, and I find that non-romance writers sometimes cheat and use physical attractiveness as a shorthand for compatibility. My favorite take is when it feels like something about the other character just does it for the other. When it’s combo of personality and physicality, and it feels like personal taste — that no other person could ever be a better fit for the other (Roni Loren is very good at this).

I’m not an expert, but I’ve observed three components that make character compatibility feel realistic:

A) Strong physical reactions and observations. For example, ‘his hand was hot on her back’, ‘she could almost feel his eyes tracing across her lips’. Even if the characters are confused, or perhaps may not realize their attraction to one another. (Alyssa Cole  and Stephanie Garber do this brilliantly.)

B) Complimentary character traits.  For example, he is a snob that only respects a superior mind, and she is clearly brilliant, willing to engage him in scientific or philosophical debate (A Hope Divided). Or they are both uncommitted flirts, who enjoy tormenting each other, but never ever plan to get together (Legendary). You know they’d be so good together if they just got over themselves (conflict).

C) Moments of intimacy / sharing / bonding / trust. For example, characters could be dealing with similar past traumas they haven’t quite gotten over (The Ones Who Got Away). A character confessing her fears of the future, because a fortune teller told her she’d never find love (Legendary). Or a character taking his love interest to see his ailing parents, when he never introduces them to anyone (Warcross).

Reading:

  • Warcross by Marie Lu
  • A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole
  • Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  • Archangel’s Viper by Nalini Singh
  • Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen  (Non-Fiction)
  • The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean
  • Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh
  • Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson

Wow June felt like it lasted forever… is it just me? I really don’t know how I managed to fit in that much reading.

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