The worst kind of writing

Yesterday I decided I should upload A Lonely Magic to NetGalley. For some reason — oh, wait, I think the reason is that I’m an obsessive perfectionist who should never be allowed to look at anything she’s previously written, ever — I started editing it again. Again. *sigh*. It was because I found a typo, early on — a comma that should have been a period and a related missing capital letter.

It wasn’t the worst thing ever. I made a bunch of changes, including some lines where the formal Sia Mara spoke too colloquially. I had Cyntha saying that something “made sense” and when I read that it was like it was written in glaring neon letters. That just didn’t feel like the right phrasing at all. This is, of course, why it’s good to give yourself plenty of time to edit, but whatever, it’s also the joy of self-publishing. The changes aren’t so major that they affect the plot or descriptions, so I’m not going to worry about them. I did wind up taking out a ton of Fen’s swear words, largely because I’m sick of reviews that comment on it.That might change who she is — she probably comes across as less aggressive, less hostile. Maybe that’s good, maybe that’s bad, but if I decide it doesn’t work for me, I can always change it back.

I do find it sort of ironic that the fact that Fen uses the word ‘fuck’ seems to make people think the book is mature. In Twilight, Bella has bed-breaking sex with a guy who’s a hundred years old, and that’s apparently deemed okay for pubescent girls. In The Hunger Games, children kill children in bloody and horrible ways, and that’s fine for your average 14-year old. In Harry Potter, people die right and left and the violence is a massacre by the end, but sure, it’s YA. A non-virgin heroine who says fuck and is comfortable with her own sexuality, though — well, that’s clearly not for teenagers. It’s weird. But I am just going to call the book YA Fantasy in its book description now and declare it such and see how that goes.

Yes, I’m also trying to revise the book description. Wow, I hate writing book descriptions. Really, truly hate it. It’s so hard. Just a few sentences, what could be difficult about that? And yet I’ve rewritten this book description probably a dozen times and it’s never made me happy. I initially, last spring, worked with a copy-writer on it. Possibly I should go back to that first description. But I kept tweaking it all summer long, worked with my marketing intern on it, and have continued to tweak. The version on Amazon is from early January, when I dropped the price.

Side note: never make two changes at once. Is it a better book description or a better price or am I still seeing the lingering results of the promo I did on it in December? I have no idea, but ALM sold 48 copies this month which makes this month (relatively-speaking) a good month. Relatively speaking, because of course that earns me about $100 which, while nice, does not a sustainable income make.

Back to the main topic, I am definitely revising the book description again, but I’m taking a step back and trying to decide what the key points are that I want to include in it. Should it mention Fen’s age? I sort of think it should, even though it feels awkward to work it in there, but it will establish it better as YA(ish) and let my other readers know that this is not the same genre as previous books. Should I mention her mother? I never have, but her mother’s death — well, her mother’s existence — is an important element of the story. I’ve tried over and over again to keep the word “enchanting” in there, because I feel like it’s the best descriptor for what I was aiming for, but maybe I should just give it up. But what other adjectives would work? Do I need to say that Luke is a teenager? I always do, but maybe I shouldn’t bother. Does it make sense to call Malik gorgeous? I feel as if the adjective is a signifier of his importance, but maybe it muddies the issue.

Ugh, I hate writing book descriptions. The current version — with no tag line — is:

When a gorgeous guy tries to murder her, 21-year-old Fen is rescued by a teenage boy, Luke, and his sexy older brother, Kaio. But escape might not be so easy. A killer is after her and she’s got no place to run. Or does she?

The brothers offer her a safe haven, whisking her off to a glamorous Caribbean island, but the island’s atmosphere simmers with unnerving undercurrents. The brothers have secrets and Fen has questions. Who are they? How did they know she was in trouble? And why has she been targeted for death anyway?

The answers she comes up with are as unexpected as they are wrong but the truth is more enchanting than she imagined when she discovers that the brothers come from a magical underwater city. Every enchantment has dark edges, though and before long, Fen is caught in tides of romance, magic, and political machinations. With her life and the lives of millions of human beings on the line, Fen must look deep within herself to find the strength and courage she needs to stay afloat in an amazing new world.

A Lonely Magic is a young adult fantasy, suitable for readers of Twilight, The Hunger Games, and the later books in the Harry Potter series. There are no explicit scenes or graphic violence, but Fen’s not shy about swearing when she’s under stress. And she’s always under stress!

Suggestions for tag line or other comments very welcome. Thanks!

Wrong POV

So last week — oh, dear, was it really already that long ago? — I was asked if I wanted to participate in a boxed set of short stories or novellas, to be titled, “Magical Weddings.” As soon as I saw the title, ideas started flowing.

By yesterday, I was totally stalled again. I had a character. I had a setting. I had some isolated incidents. But I had nothing that came anywhere close to a plot or that even felt like a story I’d like to live in a for a while. I’d written about 1000 words that had gotten eaten in a computer incident, which of course made me feel tragic, like I’d written the best thing ever and now it was gone, gone, GONE. Lost words always seem like they were much better than they probably were.

So I tried to go back to A Gift of Grace for a while and got nowhere with that, then started thinking about Fen again and wishing I could be in her voice for a while, then remembered my Akira honeymoon novella and wondered if I could tweak it to include the wedding, then got really annoyed with myself. I have got to start actually finishing things. Four works in progress, six if you count the two that are totally unrelated to anything I’ve written before, seven if you count the Maggie short story that is ostensibly done but somehow not satisfying to me… I’m committing the grave mistake of the novice writer, not finishing what I start. That has to end.

Plus, now I’ve made a promise and it has a deadline attached, so I actually have to write the wedding story. I can’t just ignore it as the time trickles away. This morning, therefore, I decided to meditate. I wasn’t going to think about the story, I was going to clear my mind, sending well wishes to a sick friend of a friend. This is the only kind of meditation I can ever manage to do for more than a few minutes. Every time your mind wanders, you bring it back to the person you’re wishing well for, and send them wishes — May you be well, may you be healthy, may you be happy, may you have good doctors, etc. I think it works for me because the freedom of being able to create the wishes gives my mind a little room to roam, which is probably why it’s not really meditation. Ahem, but I digress.

Anyway, while I’m “meditating,” my mind wanders, of course. I pull it back, again and again, but every time it drifts back to the story, it’s clearer to me that my problem is my narrator. I want the story to be her love story, but her perspective is much too limited. There are other things that I want the reader to see that just can’t be seen from the inside of her head. In fact, the magic of the story is that the magic is unseen by the main character. She can only be vaguely aware of any of it. But the reader should get to see the magic. The reader should understand what’s happening under the surface.

Okay, so maybe I should write in an omniscient POV? But I never have and it’s a weird POV these days and ideally, some of the people reading this story won’t know how I write already so I don’t want to mislead them about my style.

Back to meditating. May K be well. May she be healthy. May the drugs be quickly effective. May she … maybe I should pull a Nora Roberts and jump from viewpoint to viewpoint? She gets away with it and it works for her. I could do the transitions smoothly, I think. I can even see how that would work — except this is a short story, maybe a novella, and the more POV characters I write, the longer it needs to be. Those transitions have to give enough context to work, to really reveal the mind of the person you’re in, which means establishing a lot of characters. Not just the two main romantic characters, but Akira, maybe Zane, maybe others. Sigh.

Back to meditating. May K be strong. May her immune system work with her. May her nurses be kind and careful. I need a God-character, all-seeing, all-knowing… oh.

Oh.

I’m tossing everything I’ve already written and starting over today. With Rose as the narrator. Yay!

Stuck, stuck, stuck

By the time I finish writing this post, it will be 2PM on Wednesday of the first full work week in 2015 and I won’t have written a word of story that I’ve wanted to keep at the end of the day. That is not good.

Back in November, I had all sorts of ideas about where this story was going. Over the past few weeks, they all seem to have disappeared, like fog burning off in the midday sun. Wisps of scenes linger, but they’re just wisps. Why were they at the bed and breakfast? What was that character’s role supposed to be? Why is it that my characters only seem to want to have conversations and not do anything?

I stare at the file and try to solve the single problem in front of me — is Dillon trapped or not? how much detail do I need to set up the problem? — but I wind up playing with the individual words, arranging and rearranging the same sentences, the same phrases, the same actions. It is getting really damn annoying.

I know all the ways to overcome writer’s block. Most of them boil down to “sit down in the chair and stare at the page and do not leave the chair until words are written.” But sometimes it does help — me, at least! — to warm up the fingers and write words, any words, any thing, dumb or not, just to shut off the critic in my head and remind myself that this is how the process works. So this is me, doing that, and now I’m going to go back to staring at my file and shuffling around the deck chairs.

The one good idea I had today, though, was to treat my two interweaving stories as separate stories for now. Write the scenes that belong to Grace and Noah, and then the scenes that belong to Dillon and Rose (or vice versa) and worry about how they flow together later. The problem with that approach — which I realized as soon as I opened up the file — is that setting is important and I can’t know where the ghosts are unless I know where the humans are. Perhaps I will head into Powerpoint — an old favorite workflow tool — and start noodling around with the various scenes that I know I have in mind and see if I can fit them together. Instead of words leading to structure, I can see if some structure can lead me to words.

And if not… well, there’s always taxes to do. Or insurance paperwork. Writing ought to be more important than either of those things (at the moment — I’m not exactly worried about deadlines yet), but at least it would be getting something done.

Edited to add: instead I went off and checked out my RSS feed and this post from Patricia Wrede was both timely and relevant.