I love you, and I forgive you…

On February 24, I had the rare pleasure of listening to Neil Gaiman speak (the event was free, but required tickets and it “sold” out in under a minute). Fortunately, I have a Mark who loves me and managed to get us two tickets. You know it’s true love, because he gave me the first one.

I’d never heard Neil speak before, except on videos on the internet, and I was impressed at both how good a speaker/reader he is, and how funny he is. He read three short stories and three poems, all with a rhythm and fluidity that made me want to listen to nothing else forever (if only his stories weren’t so far onto the side of creepy, I would happily listen to him reading me bedtime stories every night). It’s a style that I aspire to at some point in the future, because it was very easy to listen to.

That being said, some of the best parts were not what he had prepared, but his reaction to audience questions. The one I enjoyed the most was about the second best question he’d ever been asked (the first being “did you ever burp so hard that it hurt?”) by a young child a few days previously. I don’t really remember his answer (it was over a month ago), because I was laughing so hard at the burping. A great deal of what he said had me nearly in stitches, and I wish that there was a recording so I could re-live the event.

Something else that he said resonated with me, though. He had stumbled across some poetry that he had written when he was sixteen, and told us how laughably bad it was. He didn’t share it, but he did say something that stuck with me. He said: “I love you, sixteen-year old Neil. I love you, and I forgive you.”

It came up today at a meeting of our critique group, in relation to something that I started writing around that age, and how much it has changed and grown since then. And I kind of chuckled and self-depracatingly told sixteen-year old Candice that I love her and forgive her.

And it felt good.

It helped that the critique group agreed with me (nearly everything we do as a teenager that we think is great turns out to be laughably terrible), but it made me want to put that phrase on a poster somewhere that I will see it all the time. Because I’m unusually hard on myself, especially regarding past mistakes, but without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. And that’s worth remembering, because (most of the time), I like who I am and who I have become. So why should I be so hard on the person who I used to be? She’s me too, if a less experienced version of me.

Candice - 18

 

And I love her.

I love you, past Candice. I love you, and I forgive you.

Ooh! Something shiny…

Lately, I’ve found it hard to write in public.  Which is funny, because historically I am at my most productive in public. But apparently I’m not that focused on writing at the moment, because every person that walks by me right now (I drafted this post in an airport while I waited for our plane to arrive) is someone to watch. Not even in the clever, writerly way of trying to guess their life story or looking for something unique to put into my next story… I just stare at them absently. Even writing from our vacation house, in the beautiful backyard, was difficult, because all I wanted to do was stare at the plants, birds, bees, and sky. Because anything has to be better than staring at my characters who seem so bent on disobeying.

I go through creative phases and this seems to be one of them.  Sometimes, the writing comes easily and I can focus completely upon the task that I’m doing to the exclusion of everything else. This is especially true if I enjoy the story, know where it’s going, and can’t wait to get there. But if it’s a story that I feel like I’m pushing, or that isn’t very good, or isn’t coming along so well, then it’s a lot harder to focus.

Right now, I’m pushing this novel along.

Pushing isn’t such a bad thing. Not every day is going to be a day of inspiration, and if I don’t push past those days and write anyway, I’ll rarely write. And after nine years of NaNoWriMo, I’m not even that phased by writing thousands of words of crap that I know I will have to edit or cut. But I’m forcing a story that I’m editing right now and apparently my mind would rather be anywhere but in that world.

I think it’s largely to do with the fact that there’s still a lot I need to fix on the story, and I’m getting overwhelmed. My critique partners have provided a long list of things that still need to/should be worked on.  And they’re right (they’re always right – I only surround myself with people who are smarter than I am, though I’m not sure what they get out of the relationship :) ), but I think that’s part of what’s overwhelming me.  There’s so much that I can do with this story and world that I’m finding it both hard to choose and hard to get everything in. Not only that, but the current forecast has my novel coming in about 10,000 words longer than I would like, before I add in all this stuff.  Not a crisis, yet, but every time I look at the file, it starts to stress me out.

Clearly I need to focus my efforts on just one thing per pass.  Probably plot/characterization (they’re interconnected) for this go-round, followed by a (series of) pass(es) where I shorten/cut scenes and add the details my critiquers are clamoring for. On the plus side, the feedback that I’m getting on the first few chapters indicates that the major plot overhaul I’m in the middle of has been a success.  So that’s something! But I’ll probably have to plot along for a little while longer until this story becomes something that I’m truly happy with. And, as annoying as that is, apparently that’s part of writing.

Recently, a member of my critique group referred to writing a novel as putting together a puzzle, except that the puzzle is completely different for everyone who tries to put it together. I’m still in the process of figuring out where all my pieces go, but I think I’ve got (most of) the edge ones in now!

What do you do when you’re having trouble focusing?

Rebirth

Hi there, Internet.  It’s been a while since we spoke last.  Several months, actually, and the last time was really only because of a book promotion that I was a part of. But I’m back now, with a little bit more focus on this blog, and a lot more to talk about.

A while ago, I had started to get burned out on writing in this space weekly. There wasn’t enough writing-related things in my life to talk about, and the day job was really quite boring. It still is, but I’ve decided to focus this blog on all of my creative endeavours, not just writing. So there should be something a little more engaging for me to write about regularly. Not weekly, I don’t have that kind of time right now, but definitely more often than never.

Between writing, reading, knitting, music, and various and sundry things around the house, I’m sure I can find something more creative to talk about than how tired I am, so cross your fingers for a bit of a more exciting blog in the near future.

So this is just a quick note to say hello again and that I’ll see you back here soon.  I have missed you!

FREE Writing Feedback During the WHW Amazing Race!

Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse) have added two more books to their Descriptive Thesaurus Collection: The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws.

I’ve had their Emotion Thesaurus for a while now, and cannot tell you just how much I love it.  I’m so excited to see their two new books, and I hope you are too!  Besides, to celebrate, they are hosting a race, and not just any old race, either. It’s the…

 

Writing is hard, isn’t it? Create the perfect hook. Make your first page compelling. Craft an amazing 25 word pitch. Knock out a query that will blow an agent’s mind. On and on it goes. And sometimes, well, you just wish someone would help.

WISH NO MORE!

From October 21st until October 27th, Writers Helping Writers is posting an OPEN CALL for writers. You can fill out a form, requesting help with critiques, book visibility, social media sharing, blog diagnostics, advice and more.

An army of Amazing Racers are standing by (ME INCLUDED!) waiting to help with your submissions. How many people can we help in a week? Let’s find out! Did I mention there are Celebrity Racers too–amazing authors and editors who know their way around a first page. Maybe one of them will pick your submission to help with!

Each day this week, there’s an AMAZING giveaway, too. So stop in at Angela & Becca’s new Writers Helping Writers website and find out how to take advantage of this unique, pay-it-forward event for writers.

I’ll see you there!

 

It’s Coming…

Winter NaNoWriMo is Coming!!!

4428b634ae0abb5b60e6ae528ac3a557

 

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  I’ve even been spending more of my daily commute on NaNoWriMo.org than on Twitter/Facebook.  I’ve probably already used up all my data for the month.

 

I guess this means that it’s time to get planning.  I’m worried about NaNo this year, purely because I have been working so much lately.  I have no time for this crazy writing thing.  And we’ve planned even more pre-NaNo events this year to prep for.  Fortunately, I think I know how I want to handle at least some of them.

 

As always, we’re going to try some new things with the region this year.  I’m optimistic that they’re going to work well and make my job easier.

*pause for laughter*

No, seriously!  Okay, we’re experimenting.  But that’s what we do, to see what works for our region and what doesn’t.  I have to be positive!

 

In positive news, we’re in the process of confirming venues and dates and times and such.  It looks like it’s going to be a good turnout this year, and some of the veterans are really stepping up to the plate.  So I’m trying not to worry.

 

I just need to carve out time to work on my novel planning.  Lest I have to write this year’s novel by the seat of my pants.  That could prove interesting…

On Confidence

I seem to write about self-confidence a lot.  I guess that’s to be expected from a writer: we all struggle with it.  I’ve struggled with it for a long time, both as a writer and at my day job, and more so now that I’m done with tangible goals.

 

“Tangible goals?”  You might ask.  ”What are those?”

 

Let me ‘splain:

 

When I was in school, my goals were easy: get good grades, pass this year, move on to next.  Life was (relatively) uncomplicated, and I could always find ways to push myself.  Get a better grade on this paper.  Get an A on that test.  etc.  I never had to struggle to find ways to push myself to do better, to be better.  After that came work, where I had many new things to learn and a P.Eng. designation to apply for.  I got that three years ago.  And now, I sometimes wonder what I do it all for.

 

There’s the obvious: money, prestige, awesome suits, a bigger house, a faster car.  But those have never been my goals (except money.  Future Candice has a lot of expensive goals for her life and wants to retire at 45.  50 tops).  But now, I suppose, they have to be.  I don’t plan on becoming super materialistic; I want nice things, but things that will last.  A solid wooden desk, leather furniture that my kids can spill things on and I won’t freak out, a bigger kitchen where Mark and I don’t step on each other’s toes…  Nothing much.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I need a goal of some kind, to keep me pushing to be a better person.  And now, I need to find my own goals, rather than having them thrust upon me.

 

Lately, my day job has been… interesting.  I’ve been handling a lot of corporate issues, rather than project ones, and learning a lot/being exposed to the Vice President/President.  Not only that, but my mentor keeps saying that, sooner than I had ever thought possible, I’ll probably be managing some super big project and on my way to the CEO of a huge company.  Now, this particular mentor tends towards exaggeration, but the way that he talks about me, I’m starting to believe that I can do it.  That I can be one of the few women CEOs and make millions and drive fancy cars and write many books in my spare (hah!) time and still manage to be the kind of involved and supportive, but not hovering, parent I want to be, should Mark and I ever become parents.

 

I may be slightly deranged (you probably all knew that, didn’t you?).  But I’m also inspired.  Every new job that I take on (writing or day job) teaches me something.  Every task that I do or time I push my boundaries, I learn something.  I probably do have the ability to go to that level of leadership, if that’s what I decide that I want.  It just takes time, persistence, and a lot of fancy suits (and maybe a fast car).  And that thought, the knowledge that if I wanted to go the distance: I could, has me a little more fired up about the day job than usual.  And that can’t possibly be a bad thing.

 

What inspires you?

And… Done

Well, it took months, so long that I can’t even remember how long it’s been, but I’ve finally completed the re-plotting of Fighter One and the four potential sequels.  Now that I know where the story might go, I can be sure to leave just the right foreshadowing in the first story (the only one I’m likely to write, unless it’s as good as I hope/think it is).  I’m actually very pleased with the way that it turned out, and the plot even surprised me until the very end.  My subconscious and I are apparently a very good team.

 

Now all that’s left (hah) is to update my list of scenes and edit the novel.  It’s in pretty good shape already, but there are a few minor changes that I need to make and some things that I want to add/show.  All told, I’ll probably add 10,000 words.  Which brings it up to well over the length of a typical YA novel, but then I’ll cut it back down.  Or I might just leave it as it is – I’m starting to think the story is more NA than YA, though it would probably fit each category fine.  I guess I’m going to have to do some research!  (Boo hoo, I have to read a lot of books in the name of research, how sad).

 

Next on the list though, is sending what I’ve prepared to my critique group to make sure the plot is as solid as I think it is.  I hope it won’t be a huge blow to the ego!

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Normally, I’m pretty good at computer shortcuts.  I use them all the time, both for writing and for work.  It’s one of the reason my more… ‘senior’ coworkers think I’m so fast on the computer.  I’m pretty good at realizing when I’ve made a mistake and fixing it.  Control-Z is my friend.

 

Sometimes, I admit, I do struggle to switch from my work (Windows) machine to my home (Macbook) one.  Usually I try to hit control instead of command (or alt instead of control, depending on where I am and how hard I’ve been working).  It usually doesn’t work but doesn’t screw anything up, so I laugh and move on.

 

This weekend, I screwed up.

 

It wasn’t funny.

 

I had just spent two hours working through the plot summary (step 6 of the Snowflake method, if you’re curious) for my novel’s potential sequel.  It was brilliant, it was witty, it was even charming.  And I promptly accidentally deleted it (I won’t go into cutting versus copying and why I should have done one and not the other).  And my trusty command-Z apparently doesn’t work on Scrivener.

 

I was crushed.  Just ask poor Mark.  Weirdly, I was more angry with myself than sad, which is a nice change over crying in the corner for a few hours, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant.  It was hard to admit that I’d made that kind of a boneheaded mistake.  But I did.  And now I know that cutting in Scrivener (at least my version) can’t be undone.  So LEARN FROM ME PEOPLE!  DON’T FOLLOW IN MY TRAGIC FOOTSTEPS!

 

All it will do is keep you up to 2 am re-writing what you lost.

 

[Which, oddly, only took about 25 minutes.  Apparently there's something to re-writing it right away.  It lost some of the sparkle, but the function is all still there.]

 

What’s the silliest computer mistake you’ve ever made?

Big Enough to Drive a Truck Through…

I think I mentioned that I’ve been working on re-plotting Fighter One.  It’s a good storyline, I just needed to do some major surgery to make it all work the way that I wanted it to.  I’ve switched events around, moved the whole thing further forward in the timeline, and played with point of view.  I actually finished the latest write-through during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

And promptly returned to my Snowflake.  You see, although this is a standalone novel, there’s the potential for a five book series, and I wanted to plot that series out before I went much further.  A lot can happen over four additional books, and I want to ensure that I leave the cornerstones of the plot and story world that I will need for those books.

 

I knew from the beginning of the process that there was a problem with the last two books, but not what exactly.  I had a vague idea that the last two books would reveal a sweeping and epic problem that would lead to an awesome climax and end the series with a metaphorical (and possibly literal) bang. I just didn’t know what this problem was.

 

I figured it out on Saturday, at what I would have thought to be both the most and least likely of places.

 

Saturday I attended When Words Collide, which is a local writers/readers con.  I learned a lot, like I fully expected, but I was sitting in a panel that I thought would be relevant to my main character(s) when somebody said something that made me think about my own story.

 

And then I realized exactly what the central crux of the whole series was about, and it wasn’t what I thought.  The plot hole wasn’t big enough to drive a truck through, that’s an exaggeration, but it was quite large and it had been bothering me for a month or so.  To have it sorted out was both a relief and exhilarating.

 

Of course, it totally changed the course of the books, so I have a little bit of re-plotting to do now.  But it’s totally worth the extra work to get everything figured out!!