Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Funky but Not in a Good Way...

I've been in a bit of a writing funk lately. After the craziness of November, working on edits for book 1 and dictating book 2, I've been burnt out. Add to that a lot of stress and not feeling well, and I've accomplished little during the month of December. Well, I got a short story edited and submitted, but that's about all.

Thanks to one of my fabulous friends from #amwritingparty on Twitter, the amazing L.K. Gardner-Griffie, I realized that I needed to get over this funk and put my butt in the writing chair. (BTW- please go to L.K.'s website here and read samples of her awesome work and buy her books!) In order to motivate myself, I realized that I needed a deadline. That's why I like NaNoWriMo so much- it keeps me accountable because I will not lose face with everyone by quitting! lol

So, I'm creating my own little "writing month" to get me out of this funk and get my butt in the writing chair. If I ever want to do this full-time (which I do), I have to get used to writing every day like it's my job. Even if it's only a page, I need to be consistent. Not having a set work schedule this year has been great for me in some ways but has really hurt me in other ways. It makes it so much easier to be lazy and procrastinate.

I love book 1, but now that I'm halfway through book 2, I realized that I want to change a few things in book 1. I know my characters and where I want the story to go better than I did when I started. I'm at 65,000 words now, but I'd like to be at 70,000. I think there's a lot of places where I can make the book stronger by increasing tension, adding some foreshadowing, and adding some scenes that give more "meat" to the story, including some that were originally going to be in book 2 but I feel will fit better if I move them to book 1.

So here's where I need help. I must have a deadline to keep me accountable. I need everyone to encourage and support me and (gently) kick me in the butt to meet my goal. By the end of the night on January 25, I will be done with additions, edits, and changes to book 1, including any comments from my critique people and beta readers. By the end of the night on January 31, the first batch of query letters to agents will go out.

I'm making these goals public so that I will force myself to meet them! lol Sometime in the next few days I'll be posting my overall writing goals for 2010, as well as a look back at the books I read this year. There will even be a contest in which I'll be giving away some of the books I read in 2009, new and old.

Here's to a great end to 2009 and start to 2010. It's gonna be a great year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Watch Where You're Going

The other day I saw a great post on creating visual tools to help you stay inspired as you move from that spark of an idea for a story to the finished product. You can read the post here.

This is a technique I've used for years for various things in my life. Call it visualization, The Secret, law of attraction... it really doesn't matter. I've used it to stay focused on my goals, such as saving money for a trip or getting through school, but I've also used it try to attract certain qualities into my life, like a job that has flexible hours or an apartment with both a fireplace and a safe place outside for my cats. The more I focus on the things I want, the better things always seem to go.

Since I've always used pictures, vision boards, or vision notebooks representing what I want in my life, when I began writing my first novel, it made sense to me to have some visual "representation" to keep my goal in mind. I did what I had always done when I had a big goal- made a vision board. I cut out pictures of people reading books and smiling, headings from review magazines, and witty sayings related to writing that I'd find in magazines like "Do You Have the Write Stuff". I taped them to posterboard along with handwritten cards saying "Welcome to our guest author, Jessica Capelle" or "Ascending Angel, the debut novel by Jessica Capelle, will be released in the Fall". This board was my dream for my writing life, showing people enjoying my writing, showing myself successful and published. And that was a great vision to focus on, but I just didn't know how to get to that dream without a visual picture of the book that I hoped would take me there someday.

Starting with a blank piece of paper and an idea, even an idea you've had for 8 years like mine, is a bit daunting. So of course I made an outline, but it wasn't visual enough for me to "see" the book. I then started collecting pictures that reminded me of my story or the characters and (poorly) drew pictures of key scenes in the book and items that were unique to my world. I found a beautiful picture (wish I could figure out the artist) that looked almost exactly like my main character and essentially summed her up perfectly. That picture became my desktop background on my laptop. While writing book 2, I even wore an ring shaped like angel wings (my story is about angels) that a friend gave me. When the ring went on, typing was on the book. If I'd veer over to Twitter or Facebook, I'd notice the ring and be reminded to head back into Word. All of these strategies helped me stay focused on where I wanted to go, who my characters were, and what I wanted in the world I'd created for them.

But I was writing a series, so I also needed to know where I was headed in the future, even though I was a ways away from that. I didn't want to have inconsistencies to deal with later, so I needed a plan. The brief outlines I'd written (like 2 paragraphs) for each future book were great, but I couldn't see the whole story arc at one time. Then I had the idea to put up a board for each book in my office. I'd be surrounded by my world (literally) and be able to see all the books at the same time, so I could change things easily. I used dark purple post-its for the big themes that ran through each book and light purple post-its for key plot points and action.

Everything I did served as a visual reminder of my goal and the fact that I need to be working towards it. Having the picture of the book to keep in front of me has been so valuable in making my writing stronger and more consistent. It has kept me focused on wrapping up loose ends and making sure if I don't explain something now that I sure know the answer for later. I believe that when (not if, but when) I become a successful writer, the hard work that went into creating the "visual book" will be a big part of what got me there.

You can see my initial boards for Book 1 and 2 in the picture below (there are a lot more purple post-its now!), as well as one of my notebooks for the series on the desk (how cool that my friend found a notebook that had a heart with angel wings on it?!)

Are there any visual representations you use for your book or characters?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What are YOU reading?

When people find out that I’ve written a book, one of the first questions I get is about what I’m reading. So, from time to time I’ll post a list of what I’m reading and what I’ve got in the pile that’s lined up next. Some are new, some old. A lot are YA or MG books. I read what I like, and my tastes vary wildly. I also read multiple books at the same time. :-) People are always lending or giving me books, I pick a lot up in the bargain bins at various bookstores, I buy some that I know I’ll want to keep at full price, and I get the rest from the library. I’ve even got readers on my iPhone and audiobooks, but nothing beats flipping the pages…

Didn’t get to post for November, mainly because I wasn’t reading much. I was working on edits for Book 1 and doing NaNoWriMo also, so November was a “read my own stuff” month! Lol

Here’s what I’m currently reading for December:

1) The Golden Compass(His Dark Materials book 1) by Philip Pullman: I have heard about this book for years but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Enter a $2.99 paperback copy from Borders, and the rest is history. I saw most of the movie but wasn’t in the right frame of mind to watch it so I was pretty confused. I’m thinking the book is a better intro to his world.

2) Paper Towns by John Green: I’m finally reading this after months of having my SAT students tell me I needed to because he had nailed YA language. And he definitely did. The characters sound very much like some of my students…

3) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor: alternate Alice in Wonderland story? I’m SO there! I rushed to get this as soon as I heard about it.

4) Tempted by P.C. and Kristen Cast: I’ve read the whole House of Night series, so of course this was on the list. Always love vamp books.

5) Go Ask Alice by Anonymous: Reading this as part of my Banned Books Challenge.

Just Finished:

- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- I have read this several times over the last couple months. It’s just SO good. It’s an amazing example of world-building. The details are fantastic, and her descriptions are vivid. I fell in love with Katniss, Prim, Gale, Peeta, and Rue. I’m holding off on reading Catching Fire (book 2) until I can let my anticipation die down a bit. I don’t want to be disappointed, and I’m so in love with THG that I fear I will be. If you haven’t read it, you must!

Some of the books coming up next:

- The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: One of the first genres I fell in love with was horror, and I’m finding myself drawn back to it a lot right now as I’m writing a series very grounded in the light that needs to touch on the darkness. Vampire virus run rampant? YES!!

- Angel Time: The Songs of the Seraphim by Anne Rice: I’ve always been a huge Anne Rice fan but haven’t read any of her recent work that’s focused on religious themes. Since I’m writing about angels in a VERY different way, I’m really curious to read her take.

- City of Bones (Mortal Instruments book 1) by Cassandra Clare: I’ve heard great things about this paranormal series and it’s been in the TBR pile for a while now.

So, there you go. I’m never without a book or twenty to read! I’d love to hear what other people are reading or want to read so comment or send me a message.