Things I Did Today, Or, I Haven’t Blogged in a Long Time. What’s Up?

It’s been a weird Monday, which I realize is redundant. Anywho, I haven’t blogged anything in quite some time, so here’s what I did today:

  1. Named my fists after Downton Abbey characters (Say hello to Mrs. Patmore and the Dowager Countess!)   dowager
  2. Wrote what I’m sure will be a Tony-award-winning musical about Mondays entitled “Eff It!”
  3. Discovered that my cat had deemed the comforter on the guest bed “bathroom-worthy.” Again. (Sorry guests.)
  4. Plotted out a scene in my current MS where the main character gets drunk and subsequently arrested.
  5. Decided on ordering pizza for dinner because…(see #2).

There was some actual work in there, as well. Fun, right? What did you do today?

The Awesomeness of Rewriting

Last time I mentioned that I’d been neglecting the blog due to rewrites. Rewrites that were about to be critiqued in ye ole writing workshoppe!! (<– see what I did there?) So, let’s just talk about how THAT went.

First off, let me say that I’m pretty comfortable with the folks in this workshop. We’re all at varying levels in our work, but all dedicated to helping each other get better. We are all encouragingly critical. I think that’s the best way to put it. We want to be helpful and provide guidance to each other without crushing that delicate writerly spirit. That said, it NEVER gets easier hitting the send button when it’s your turn to get critiqued! I mean, YIKES!

The rewrites I’d been working on were for the first couple of chapters of my MS that my class had already seen and commented on. I had taken the 1st two critiques I’d gotten from the class and really tried to rework the areas that people were struggling to understand. (Like I said, these people give excellent feedback!) And once I was able to look at the story through their collective lens, this thing really started flowing! My MC CAME. TO. LIFE. Where she had been TELLING the reader that she was all sullen and angsty, she now had ATTITUDE! She was snarky and resourceful, just like I’d always pictured her! The details that I originally belabored in paragraph after paragraph were now sprinkled throughout in more interesting and easily digestible bits. And she just seemed to write her own story.

We’d been discussing radical rewrites, and this was a pretty decent scrape and build. I nixed the entire original first chapter, made the MC more “in charge” of her situation, started things in the middle of my MC’s journey, added a new character (whom I ADORE, can I just say?), AND put the whole thing 70 years in the future. So, while I PERSONALLY felt awesome about where things were going, I was alive with the thought that all these changes would tank in critique and I wondered how I would deal with that.

And…….

They liked it! Everyone, including our teacher, felt that the changes worked. Things were clearer, my MC was way more relatable, the pace was better, the new character got good reviews! It’s not a one-off success. There were still some small things that needed fixing and/or additions to be made, but WHEW! Relief!

I say all this not because I want to be all “Yay, look how awesome I am!” I’m saying this because it’s the first time I’ve experienced real growth in my writing. I’ve been writing for  years, but only recently have I let anyone else READ my work, let alone critique it, and I see now just how important collaboration and critique are. I went from a chapter that was intriguing, but a little too confusing and overwhelming with details, to one that flowed naturally and spread the details out more organically. In short, I LEARNED something, and that’s always awesome.

Have you ever workshopped your writing?  What did you learn?

Rewriting…Like a Boss

I wasn’t kidding you guys when I said I was bad at keeping up with a blog! But, this time at least, there’s been good reason.

Reason 1: I had to fly out to Denver, CO to be maid of honor (I guess that’s matron, since I’m married? Whatevs.) for my best friend’s wedding! (P.S. It was awesome!)

Reason 2: I finally got down to business on some much needed rewrites for this story.

I’ve been critiqued twice now in my workshop, and the feedback has been immensely helpful and encouraging. Basically what I’m hearing is the action is flowing well and people are INTRIGUED, which is awesome. But I’m a little too back story-oriented and trying to explain things about my character’s history in one fell swoop as opposed to spreading it out a bit, and that leads to some pretty dry parts.

This is all very good to know. I knew from reading and re-reading (and re-re-reading) that something was keeping the story from moving at a good clip, but I couldn’t seem to figure it out on my own. Seriously, I can’t recommend a good writing workshop enough!

With that info under my hat, my main character is now getting a complete personality overhaul. During my first critique, I noticed that many people referred to her as “passive,” in that she’s telling the story, but she’s not really in control of it. That’s not how I saw her AT ALL. I think she’s very much in control of the story, and it’s HER story, after all.  But because she was a bit mousy and indecisive, yeah I see what they mean now.

Solution 1: Give MC some balls! (Not in the physical sense, mind you. She’s still very much female.)

Something else that was noted on that first (and if I’m honest, second) critique was there was that the reader doesn’t know the stakes for the MC soon enough. Or really at all by Chapter 3, which isn’t good. Truthfully, I think I’d been thinking too much about that first chapter. How to make it stand out. How to make it awesome. How to make people want to keep reading. In pondering too much over the Hows, I think I forgot to ask some Whys. Like “Why is my character in this situation?” and “Why should I care?”

Solution 2: Rewrite opening with more thought to the Whys instead of the Hows.

Still not sure if I’ve got this right yet, but the writing seemed to flow better and I feel like I KNOW my MC much better than I did in draft 1. Hopefully the stakes are apparent, but if not, I’m sure I’ll hear about it next week. That’s right, I’m up for my 3rd critique on Tuesday! SEND HAPPY THOUGHTS!

Book Movies FTW!

The husband has been reluctant to go to the movies lately, using curmudgeonly excuses like “It’s too expensive,” or “I’m not paying to see THAT,” or “But when it comes out on Netflix, we can watch it for free!” So, OK, yeah, movies are pricey these days. And yes, when we went to see Black Swan ages ago the two ladies behind us DID use their outside voices throughthewholedamnthing. But, sometimes ya just NEED to sit in a dark theater and get lost in a story. And when there are so many literary films out, I mean, come. on.

And I know everyone’s all “Meh, the movie never gets it right. The book is always better. Blah Bladda Blah.” Believe me, I get it. Books = Superior in my…err…book, too. BUT, since we all know this fact, can we just agree to stop complaining about it and just go ahead and enjoy the movies anyway? We can?!? Awesome! So, DH if you’re reading this, I’m putting my foot down for the following movie dates…

The Hunger Games

OK, this is an obvious one. We both loved the books AND the darn thing was FILMED here (Yay Asheville!) So, no backing out on this one!

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

DH has read this book and seemed to really enjoy it. But the MOVIE! It just looks so bad ass. And it’s Tim Burton, so…

The Hobbit

Yeah. I’d like to see you say no to this one. Bring it!

See? I’m not asking for much, just 3 awesome movies. Nary a chick-flick in site. I’m also willing to throw in The Avengers because I loves me some Downey, Jr.

(amiright, ladies?)

❤ Leigh-Ann

So…It’s Been A While…

*sweeps dust off blog*

Oh Hi! So, I’m going to beg whoever reads this blog not to look at the huge gaping hole in time between this post and the last one. You know, the one where I swore I was gonna spend more time on this blog? That one?

Right, so I struggle with blogging. I love blogs. I admire people who blog every day. But it’s always been hard for me to prioritize keeping a personal blog over the important things in life, like writing stories and mindlessly staring at Facebook and Twitter. And as you’re guessing by now, my life isn’t super blog-worthy. And that’s OK. I’m cool being low key.

At any rate, I’m working on taking my writing journey to the next level, and as such have started taking a class here in Asheville via the Great Smokies Writing Program. My class focuses on writing for children (in my case, YA) and it’s going great so far. Today I thought a lot about the lessons we went over last night about plot and setting the stakes for your characters, and it got me thinking about how I could actually use this blog.

I want to really retain what I’m learning here, and, being the kinesthetic learner that I am, it helps for me to write it all down. So I’ll be doing some reflections on some of our lessons and how the critique/workshop process works, and who knows, maybe you’ll get something out of it too. (And maybe I’ll throw some fun stuff in here too.) (Or maybe it’ll fall by the proverbial wayside again…it’s all a guessing game, my pretties.)

First, let’s talk about this critiquing thing. I’ve done it, prior to this class, in a couple of college creative writing classes, but I’ve never been particularly awesome at it. For one thing, I tend to focus too much on details as opposed to seeing the whole picture. I tend to want more of something (a scene, dialogue, etc) when, if I looked at the story from more of a bird’s eye view, I’d see that what I want more of might not even be working for the story as a whole. For example, in last night’s workshop, I encouraged a classmate to slow down in one scene and flesh out the descriptions because it seemed like a moment that could be illustrated so well with a few more words. (Confession: I’m big on being able to SEE the setting. Possibly TOO big on it. But that’s a lesson for another blog) Anywho, what I missed in telling my classmate that I wanted more description is that her characters had just embarked on this kick ass adventure and they really should have been in the thick of some action at that moment as opposed to doing this mundane thing that I was pushing her to describe.

It was so OBVIOUS when our teacher/workshop leader pointed it out, and I felt a little embarrassed that I didn’t pick up on it. But, I think it’s those slap-you-in-the-face moments that make a lesson stick. For me, I know now that I need to pull back and see the bigger picture more, not just when I’m critiquing but in my own writing as well.

Assignment Time! If you’re a writer (and even if you’re not) step back for a minute and look at your work from a different angle. Have you been too laser focused on a particular scene or character (for non-writers, sub in relationship or work problem or whatever might be bugging you) to realize that it’s not relevant to your story as a whole? Is it keeping you from moving the plot forward? Well, fix it, dammit!

And how do you go about doing that, exactly???

Simple enough, right?

Happy Writing, y’all!

An Open Letter to…My Blog

Dear Blog:

I know we haven’t been together that long but I just had to let you know, I’ve been feeling like there’s something weird between us. Your posts have been so short lately and I just don’t feel like they’re up to my standard as a writer. Shh…no no, let me finish. I’m trying to say this is my fault, Blog. I haven’t been giving you the time or the effort that you deserve, and I think that’s because I write blogs for a living, Blog, so when I get home…er…click on your bookmarked link…I just don’t have the energy to give you the good writing that you need. And then there’s Twitter and Facebook demanding my time too, Blog. But that’s no excuse. You let me type more characters than those two could ever dream of. You’re all the things a writer SHOULD want in a social media platform.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s me, not you. But not in the I-think-we-should-see-other-people kind of way, Blog, but in the Hey-girl-Imma-spend-more-time-with-you way.

I’m here for you, Blog. And even though this post has turned out a little creepier than I originally planned, I’m still gonna post it. That’s how committed I am to this relationship. When I stop writing blogs about marketing and home health care for the day, it’s all you, Blog.

Unless I’m working on my novel. Priorities, Blog. Priorities.

Love,
Leigh-Ann

The Spoils

So, I started this blog on a win (*suppresses regurgitative  Charlie Sheen joke*). I full on won a signed copy of Matched from Miss Ally Condie! Well, it came in a couple weeks ago and I completely forgot to mention it! Sadly, because I’ve been devoting so much time to my WIP and I’m in the middle of Across the Universe by Beth Revis (whichissuperawesome!) I haven’t gotten around to reading it just yet. Also Jedi, my ofttimes evil cat has claimed it for his own, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get it back…

(Don’t mind the flip-flopped cover it’s just the Macbook camera/mirror.)

BUT, Ally wrote such a sweet and encouraging message in it for me that I can’t wait to get to it SOON! Big thanks again to the gang at WordPlay podcast for picking lil ole me! Books are just the BEST prizes to win!

Love,
Leigh-Ann

Stuck. Yuck.

This. . .

This is how I’ve been feeling for, oh, the last week…week and a half? Just stuck in the proverbial rut. There I was, cruising along and, by all outward appearances, crushing it as far as my writing was going. Then came this icky sticky little transition scene to hold me up and keep me cowering under the covers whenever I even THINK of writing.

Do you have these days/weeks? You MUST! (Please tell me you do.) Those days when the all-powerful overwhelming self-doubt creeps in unnoticed and then pounces on you like so many jungle cats!

Self-doubt cat!

Awww…look how cute and sad he is! Ahem..no, self-doubt cat. This isn’t about you!

So anyway, it’s times like these when I say to myself: Hey self! You’ve come too far for this B.S. Roadblocks are inevitable. Get out of your sad car, get on your I-can-do-this bike, and go around it!

The point is, we’re writers and as such we’re prone to self doubt. But if we all let self-doubt cat win, sure, the world would be filled with cute little sad cats, but we’d have nothing good to read! And to me, that’s even sadder. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a novel to write for you good folks.

Firsts and Not So Firsts

This is my first time participating in YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday which just so happens to be about recurrences (a.k.a not-so-firsts). First, a little housekeeping:

This Week’s Topic:
What themes, settings, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find recurring in your work?

BAM!

*tosses hammer aside* Whew, now that that’s done…recurrences.  I have a thing for houses. Most of my stories have a house with something extraordinary about it — plain on the outside but fancy inside, hidden passageways or hidden rooms (yeah, I’d venture to say that all the houses in my stories have a hidden room in them), doors with intricate carvings that mean something, etc. I often dream about odd houses, so I think that’s why they are so abundant in my writing.

What else…Most of the parent/child relationships in my stories tend to be father/daughter. Hmm…we won’t delve into any subconscious issues, I just really like the complexities that arise when fathers and daughters try to relate to each other.

I’m sure there’s more, but I think those are the top 2. Well this was fun! See you next Wednesday?

Love,
Leigh-Ann

All Hail the Hufflepuffs

So, I was sorted into House Hufflepuff on Pottermore today. (Yeah, I’m an early Pottermore subscriber. Suck it!) Definitely not where I expected to end up and I maintain it was because the husband was looking over my shoulder during the sorting and he made me nervous. Whatever. I can rock it with the Badgers! Strangely, a couple of my Camp Nanowrimo buddies were sorted into Hufflepuff too, which begs the question, Are all writers Hufflepuffs? Should I ever meet Miss Rowling I am so asking about that.

Oh, and check out my wand. It’s Surprisingly Swishy!!

Speaking of writing, I also went to a write-in this evening with some fellow Asheville writers at the beloved French Broad Chocolate Lounge and put an extra thousand-plus words on my WIP. It feels awesome to see my word count climb into 30,000s, even if I know I’ve got some real work to do later on. Like, serious revisions, y’all.

And let me say this before I go: <rant> If you sign up to attend an event where you know everyone around you is going to be working hard on something (like writing, just for example) please, oh, please don’t yammer on and on and on, continually trying to engage the earbud-laden people around you in conversation. Seriously! Not. Cool.</rant>

Love,
Leigh-Ann