Second Book Stall-out

June 4, 2008 at 9:19 am | Posted in Bria, editing, Fast Draft, inspiration, writing | 3 Comments

Every once in awhile we all have an “ah-ha” moment. I’m always jealous of writers who seem to get at least one big thing from every book, every speaker, ever workshop. Often, I feel my head nodding in agreement without the actual big moment coming. Lots of little, ‘yup. I got that’s’ but not a lot of epiphanies.

So, here I am, stalled out on the second book, and looking for an epiphany. A big AH-HA to get me moving again, when ironically enough, a discussion starts on the diva board last evening about first book fear.

I didn’t have that. I had no idea about all the ‘rules’ I was supposed to be following until the story was on the page. It was poorly written, but had great a great story and characters I connected with.

It took 5 weeks to write.

It took almost a year to re-write and edit.

Book two is obviously a completely different story (literally and figuratively) – I couldn’t grasp a strong desire to start book two.

Until last weeks blog.

Looking at the first pages of the first draft of my first manuscript truly opened my eyes. It was horrible. It didn’t flow, had errors all over the place, the world rules were in consistent, my sentence structure was blah, etc.

Book one, my beloved book one, was horrible.

Suddenly my metaphorical eyes opened. I could write horrible.

You see, all this time I thought I needed to write book two to the standard I had attempted to edit book one to. That is not going to happen because that took ten months.

We all repeat it again and again, but it’s apparently my turn to mis-quote the words of La Nora. “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.”

And so, Fast Draft is alive and well again. I’m FDing book two as we speak. It has its own challenges.

I’m doing less writing straight through because of chapters moved from the end of book one to the middle of book two. I’m having to go ‘back in time’ in a way to when my characters were younger, less evolved than where those moved chapters left them. I’m fighting against shifting directions because I like some of those moved chapters so much.

But still, I’m writing. I’m getting my 20 pages a day down and moving toward an extremely bad fast draft.

Just like book one.

Hearing the truth – Writing is Re-Writing – and knowing the truth are two different things, but it’s an ah-ha moment I won’t forget when it’s time to write book four. Or book five. Or. . .you get the point.
So, set aside your doubts, insecurities, annoyances and Go Write.

Look back and Laugh

October 31, 2007 at 9:07 am | Posted in Bria, character, creativity, dialogue, Fast Draft, format, hero, inspiration, self-editing, writing | 2 Comments

I’m away at a week long writer’s retreat and so this week’s blog is my top ten of my own posts – feels like cheating, except I’m looking over my own stuff, so it’s a good review for me, right?

1.        The Grand Gesture
I love this post. The childhood story really happened, I love to think about what makes a good hero and, best of all, Elizabeth Boyle commented – I mean, seriously.
Which brings me directly to #2

2.     Too Perfect
It takes a look at how having a perfect hero isn’t perfect, it’s annoying and a little weak. A quick shout out to Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages helps to look at creating a more realistic character – especially the hero or heroine.
Sticking with heros and men is #3

3.   Sexy is as Sexy Does
Let’s take a look at what’s attractive AND what isn’t.

4.     Where the HECK is my Blog
Yet another reference to my own quirky-luck and self competitiveness.

5.     Dialogue and Punctuation
A writer’s rant turned into a public resource. LSU linked to us as a resource for how to punctuate dialogue — I’m so glad it was helpful to people. The basics should be what slow your writing down.

6.     My Blog Crush
More of my quirky look at life – I took the idea of a new inspiration and turned it into, apparently, a running joke online. The poet really is very good and one of the places I go when I need to re-think how I’m using words.  Right now that place is Tamara Pierce – how does she squeeze those stories in 55K words?

7.     The World In My Head
Yes, I’m one of those people who can be alone in a crowded room creating my own world. Especially during Fast Draft time such as this post fell into.  I KNOW some of you are doing NaNoWrMo, so you must know how I feel forced to focus all my energy in that one story for 2 weeks straight. 20 pages a day, what was I thinking – Thanks Candy Havers!

8.     What I Can’t/Won’t Write
This post got a lot of attention from people commenting off the blog about my willingness to throw this idea out there. Thanks for supporting my stand with my own personal values.

9.     Story Serendipity
Thank goodness for it!  That’s all I have to say.

10. Formatting Your Baby
It caused controversy in the comments and the FlanTastic chat, but the info there was checked by two print editors so I’m standing by it.
Well, this was fun. Hopefully right now I’m at the retreat writing a masterpiece — or at least not embarrassing myself too badly. 

Let me know your thoughts — I always love to hear feedback, positive and negative (yes, I said negative screw the “constructive.”)

Go Write


October 29, 2007 at 8:54 am | Posted in Fast Draft, Jessica, NaNoWriMo, writing | 6 Comments

How’s your inner critic? If she’s as active and well-honed as my own, I am guessing you may struggle with how to be productive without her launching those destructive grenades from atop your left shoulder.

One way to fight back against that critic is to blindly write with reckless abandon . . . with little care for style or form, wit or grace . . . then worry about those much-needed edits once the words are down on paper.

Bria often talks about the Fast Drafting workshops she takes with Candace Havens. Another blitzkreig writing alternative comes around every November . . . the annual juggernaut otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.

Affectionately called NaNoWriMo, the test is to write a 50,000 word novel throughout the month of November. What started out as a challenge between 20 friends in the Bay Area has turned into a phenomenon that attracts over 60,000 people worldwide. (Update: This year there are over 90,000!)

This writing marathon-sprint was started by Chris Baty, author of the book, No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.

Participants ‘win’ when they reach the 50,000 word goal by November 30. I did NaNo last year, and although I didn’t ‘win’ I did make some significant progress on my book that I otherwise wouldn’t have achieved. The month-long experience is a tiring, fast-paced race but well worth the exercise for having gone through it.

There is an Excel spreadsheet, created by NaNo participant Erik Benson, that is an amazing tool to help you track your progress throughout the month. If you choose to participate in any writer’s challenge, I highly recommend using this tool. (If you have difficulty linking to this web site, please post a comment here and I will send the file to you as an attachment.)

For more information on NaNo madness, read this interview with Chris or hop on his blog for a while . . . or check out this other blog post that shares insight on the Five Must Have Resources for NaNoWriMo.  This How to Participate in NaNoWriMo wiki is also a good resource.

If you’ve ever struggled with getting your wip off the ground, I recommend giving NaNo a try at least once. It’s crazy, it’s demanding, but it’s a lot of fun.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, starts in three days. Happy NaNo-ing!


Story Serendipity

October 3, 2007 at 6:40 pm | Posted in Bria, Fast Draft, story, storytelling, writing, young adult | 3 Comments

I did a read-through of my YA Fantasy and shocked myself. There were moments of brilliance that had nothing to do with my conscious brain — moments of Story Serendipity.  

The final page of the manuscript is concerned with the return of the heroine (lots of under-story there, so bear with me.) In a show of humility, she kneels before the prince submitting herself for punishment or forgiveness. 

I remembered writing the scene. I love the scene. I love the end of my manuscript, it ties a lot together. It shows her growth as well as his new knowledge of himself.  

What I didn’t remember, even though I was consciously trying to run their lives in parallels, was the prince, when he rebelled against his bounds, returned home to ask for forgiveness and acceptance. He did this, in the same room, during the same meal by kneeling before the king. 

I knew I wanted the two stories to echo one another. I knew having similar experiences was the only thing that was going to over come the hurdles the two characters faced. 

What I expected to happen was to write two scenes and — with my luck — fall in love with both of them. Then, in attempt to weave continuity, I would pick the one that worked the best and throw away most of the other. 

But then I did my read through and thought “Wow! This is going to work.” One is a Prodigal Son story and one is a Coming of Age story. They are told in different ways — one we’re there and one we’re told about —  but they work together perfectly. 

I’m a huge believer in playing the “What did I learn” game. And here is what I learned writing my story AND plot: I live it. It’s in my head and it’s so real that things I didn’t know existed come to the surface – especially when Fast Drafting (Candy said it would, but hey, I doubt me not her.) The telling becomes something close to recounting a trip to a friend – I was there, I know what happened. 

So, Story Serendipity — it happens to all of us.  When did it happen to you? Let me know, then Go Write


The Color of Superstitions

September 5, 2007 at 9:52 am | Posted in Bria, creativity, Fast Draft, writing | 3 Comments

I love new beginnings. The beginning of a new project is no different then any other new relationship.Every year when school started, I would have to get organized just so. I loved it.

I shared my locker with my 3 closest friends (it was in the premier location) and so I color coordinated my things to be able to find everything quickly:

English: Blue notebook, folder and book cover

History: Yellow notebook, folder and book cover

Math: Red notebook, folder and book cover

You get the idea. At first, everyone laughed at me, but they slowly noticed how quickly I could grab my stuff, have time to chat and get to class. And I always had the right things for the right class.The concept stuck with me.

I currently have three WIPs – and, while they’ve overlapped a little, they all start with their own colors.

YA Fantasy – Red. Red accordion folder, red notebook, red (ok pink) post its.

Historical Romance is all about Blue.

Short tongue-in-cheek contempt is a Green work all the way.

But the colors don’t stop there.  My editing pen colors are very specific as well, and this superstition has a tight hold on me. I once had to stop editing when my purple pen died to buy another one – a different color just wouldn’t do.The first run through of my Fast Draft work is in green. I love green pens and I know the FD is going to have a lot of edits, so I might as well love the color. Second run through edits are printed on the other side of the green edits and are purple.

With the two colored pens I know I’m always being consistent on which copy I’m looking at. I never grab the wrong set of edits.And then a new sheet of red pen edits – hopefully close to the final draft.

Now I can’t start a new project without it being assigned a color. I hadn’t realized this until a co-worker pointed it out, but it’s absolutely true.

I know superstitions are silly but growing up around a very superstitious Irish grandmother can definitely make you hold on to things. It works for me and it’s practical, so I choose to just call it organizing.

Go get organized and then, Go Write.


The World In My Head

August 15, 2007 at 11:30 am | Posted in Bria, creativity, Fast Draft, inspiration, writing | Leave a comment

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright.

Where do I write? If you want to know where to physically find me as I type away, I’m generally at the Barnes and Noble two towns over. They have an overstuffed chair section squeezed up against the windows between biography and sports – typically a quiet place to do my thing. But if you want to know where I write, that’s a little harder.

As Fast Draft begins again, I live in my head as I walk through the world.

My dreams have returned. I dream of Brennid and Faela in Technicolor reality, something that I cannot even reach for in my waking hours. I walk with them and feel their emotions and smell the dankness of a cavern or the smoke from the fire. The moonrise ritual each night dances before my eyes, as the water hits the ground and seeps through the sand.

Walking down the street this morning, Faela and I had a conversation about why she cannot align her duty with her desire. I asked her if it was not duty, isn’t it what she would have been looking for all along???

She had some choice things to say about my ‘dominating attitude.’ I tried to remind her I was the writer. . . that didn’t go so well.

Later, as I was cooking dinner, Brennid stood over my shoulder pointing out how bland my meal was. With his typical “In Seria we make everything an art to the senses. . .” statement, I finally tried opening that ‘new’ spice rack a friend gave me.

Thinking to escape them in the quiet of the shower, I let the water soothe me as I focused on anything that didn’t have to do with getting my 20 pages a day done. The headache that I’d been nursing all day needed some quiet to dissipate.

Yeah, did I mention that water is one of the two symbolic entities? The headache isn’t gone, but my central temple ritual is outlined.

So where do I write? I think the better question – if I’m truly chasing – is where don’t I write. Around us the world spins with Truths we bring to our work. Don’t let those moments and ideas slip by without capturing them.

So, Go Write!


PS – a Fast Draft team member asked me what I learned last time I Fast Drafted. Here’s what I told her.

The Goal before the goals

June 20, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Bria, Fast Draft, goal setting, goals, writing | Leave a comment

I live by goals and I teach others to live by them as well.

The Big Goal is instrumental in driving your goals. One thing people often forget to do is the pre-work that goes into creating the Big Goal itself.

BUT, before we get going, I highly recommend that you read Jessica’s post about actually writing goals before moving forward. . . . . . . .OK, welcome back from Jessica’s Post.

I’m that person. You know – the one your boss tells you to go see when it’s time to move to the ‘next level.’

Good Luck! – Bria

The conversation often goes something painfully close to this:

Jane Manger:  Hi Bria. Mr. Boss told me to come see you about my goals for 2007. 

Bria:  Great! I love goals. Let’s talk about where you want to go.

JM:  Well, he says it’s time for me to move my group to the next level.

B:  Ok. What does that look like?

JM:  *blank stare*

B:  The next level. What is it? What does it look like?

JM:  A level above where I am now.

B:  Ok. Where are you now?

JM:  *extended blank stare*

And the work begins.

Before you can set goals, you need to know a couple of things first.

  1. Where are you now
  2. Where are you trying to get to
  3. How will you get there
  4. Is it possible (attainable)

Let’s try a run through:

I’d like to be a published author. That’s a Big Goal. BUT:

  1. I know I’m ½ through a fast draft (click here for more on Fast Draft)
  2. I need to  complete a manuscript and submit it to editors/agents
  3. I need to write the book
  4. Yes. It is attainable.

Jane Manager: So we’re done, right?

Not quite, my friend. Now we break this down into the goals.  The Big Goal sets the goals and the goals set the tasks.

For example, my current Big Goal breaks down like this for the month:

Write the Book

     Have a first draft of my first 8 chapters by July 9th

          Rip and Repair 74 pages between now and then

               R&R 3 per day week 1

               R&R 5 per day week 2

               R&R 7 per day week 3 (click here to check out my current goal sheet)

Everything after that becomes a task. A task being the actual work – write or edit.

What’s you’re Big Goal? How much pre-work have you done? What do your goals and tasks look like?  Once you break these things down (and done them the SMART way) it’s smooth sailing to success.

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