Tag Archives: Writing

NaNoEdMo Week 2: Your Story, Re-imagined

These days, it seems like remakes are everywhere. From comic book heroes to fairy tales to classic musicals and cult favorites, Hollywood is bringing plenty of re-imagined stories to the big screen. Sometimes these stay fairly close to the original material, other times only the bare bones of the familiar stories remain. And since people have been retelling old stories pretty much as long as stories have been told, I doubt that trend is ending any time soon.

Revision is just another form of this kind of adaptation. You take the story you originally wrote, and turn it into a fresher version of itself. You might introduce a whole new cast of supporting characters. Maybe you’ll move things to a new setting. In my current project, I’m drastically changing the plot. Glancing just at the series of events that occur in the book, my rewritten novel bears little resemblance to the first draft. Yet both are undeniably the same story at heart.

So how do you know what to keep when you know your story doesn’t work in draft form? Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where the answer depends on the story and the writer. It’s also why I don’t recommend taking a first draft to critique partners, even very good ones. Knowing what to cut and what to keep, which direction your new adaptation of your story should take, comes from within yourself as writer. What made you write the story in the first place? What is sacred to you within it? With PQ, my urban fantasy, I could not sacrifice Celtic mythology influences on the magical world I created, or my main character and her unique definition of beauty. In my current rewrite, I’m putting my focus on making sure the magical elements are present throughout the story, and on strengthening my characters. To do so, I’m tightening my plot and removing anything that detracts from the core of the story I want to tell.

One of my favorite things to do is play the “What if…” game. I do this most often in the pre-writing stage, when I’m brainstorming new story ideas, but it’s really helpful when I’m stuck on how to fix a problem draft as well. I ask myself questions like, “What if this happened in Spain instead of the US?” or “What if Bob isn’t the villain? What if it’s Suzy instead?” The more outrageous the question, the better the results. My writer friends are great at asking good questions when I’m stuck. I’ll give them a quick elevator pitch of what I’m working on, or break the problem down into a few sentences, and they’ll throw out awesome questions for me. Since change can be hard, one of the best things I’ve learned is to just roll with their questions or suggestions rather than dismissing things out of hand. They may not always know the best way to change my story, but they always give me a fresh perspective, which is just what this sort of re-imagining work needs.

If you’re feeling stuck in your revision, take a break from the manuscript and start asking yourself questions. You may feel like you’re losing your mind, but let’s face it, if you’re a writer you’re at least halfway there already. In addition to the “What if…” starter, other favorite questions are, “What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” and “What’s the last thing you would expect to happen next?” Both are great for building conflict and keeping the reader’s interest.

If you’re participating in NaNoEdMo or otherwise doing revision, I’d love to hear your own tricks for re-imagining your stories, as well as any stumbling blocks you’re hitting along the way. I’m behind on editing hours because I got an amazing writing opportunity with a looming deadline (more on this when I can share it later). I should be able to get caught up in the last half of the month, though. I’m really having fun adapting my rather wrecked first draft into a much better version of itself. This is one story that needed a remake, and I’m happy to see it shaping into something new.

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My Big, Fun, Scary Goals for 2015!

It probably says something about how my year is going so far when it’s nearly the end of January and I’m just now writing my first post of 2015. (Never mind for the moment the fact that I didn’t write anything for the interwebs for pretty much the entire second half of last year.) In truth, I’ve been using the month thus far to make progress on one very big goal. You see, I’ve decided to up my reading goal this year. My self-imposed challenge is to read 100 books in 2015. Clearly I’m insane.

To illustrate how crazy I am to take this challenge, let me tell you how last year went. I set a goal of thirty books, which felt like a stretch, but seemed reachable. I didn’t even come close. In a valiant push to the finish, I ended the year having finished a whopping ten books. And one of those was a picture book. (It was actually research for my NaNo novel, I swear.)

So far this year, though, I’m ahead of pace. I’ve finished six books already, and am nearly done with a seventh. I have the support of my local writing group, and we’ve even started a book club of sorts. I suspect this was created partially because they know I won’t get anywhere near my goal if I don’t have accountability, and my friends are awesome. We all decided to stretch our reading goals this year, so I may be insane, but at least I’m not alone.

In NaNoWriMo, there is a tradition of setting Big, Fun, Scary Goals after November ends each year. The reading challenge is just one of mine. Here are the others, in no particular order…

  • Take a trip for my 15th wedding anniversary in May (we’re thinking San Francisco)
  • Actively blog. Okay, so I’m already behind on my goals, which were bi-weekly posts here, and weekly posts on my new dog rescue blog. But I’ve got some good ideas, and should be caught up soon.
  • Finally get through revision of my urban fantasy from NaNo 2011 and send said project to readers for feedback (Eek!!!)
  • Take care of myself by exercising more and cooking at home more this year. I’ve broken this down into gradually increasing, tangible monthly goals, and I’m actually doing quite well so far.
  • Start planning next year’s NaNoWriMo project early, and shoot for 100k words total in the month of November. I have an early idea for this year’s story, but I don’t think it’s one I can get 100k out of, so I may try it for Camp instead and figure something else out for November.
  • Which brings me to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve never managed a win during Camp, so I would like to achieve that for at least one session this year. I’m planning a shorter goal, maybe just finish my FBK project from last year.

That’s pretty much it. Last year was turbulent, sometimes painful, sometimes amazing. There will be some posts eventually about the year that was, but right now I’m content to have come out on the other side, and to be on my way to a better year in 2015. I’d love to hear about your goals, and if you’re on Goodreads, why not join the challenge? You can set any goal you want, but if you’re crazy enough, join me in a #100bookyear. I figure even if I don’t make it to my goal, I’ve already read some fantastic books so far, and am getting excited about reading and writing again when I had lost some of my passion this past year. So a belated happy 2015, everyone!

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All That You Dreamed I Could

I’ve been resisting writing a post this week. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I told myself I needed to write, put it on my calendar and various to-do lists. Yet every day, something else seemed more important.

My revision hours are more of a priority, I thought. I should spend time with my manuscript. I don’t have anything to say right now, maybe if I spend a couple hours on Twitter and Facebook I’ll get some ideas. I need to brush the dogs. I need to clean my house. I need inspiration, maybe I should watch some more Doctor Who. (Okay, I don’t feel so bad about that one…)

All of these excuses flooded my mind. None had anything to do with why I didn’t want to post.

You see, last Saturday marked the 19th anniversary of my brother’s death. I was in high school when my nearest brother in age died in a car accident on icy roads in Minnesota. No matter how much time passes, no matter how okay I think I am, February rolls around and I feel an invisible force slowing me, drawing me into myself. Inevitably, I stop writing.

I’ve been able to put in my revision hours (though I am behind on those as well), because it’s easy for me to turn on the logical, critical part of my mind. My inner editor is very good at shutting out emotions. I’m still at the evaluation stage, so I’m not cutting or writing new material yet. But a blog post? That meant creating, and I knew that opening myself up–no matter the topic–would force me to feel.

So here I am, still feeling a bit broken after all these years. I’ve lived over half my life without my big brother’s teasing and advice, without his crooked grin and serious eyes. We used to joke that Brian was an old man when he was born. He could be my biggest supporter, but always thought he needed to be the voice of reason when I was pursuing creative activities like writing, music, and theater. He used to tell me to keep writing, but have a back-up plan.

Why as an adult do I let myself hear that in reverse? I tell myself that I need to pursue a more lucrative, supposedly stable career, and put my writing on the back burner. But that wasn’t what my brother meant, and it isn’t what I need to make myself happy. He always wanted me to succeed, and believed I could and should. He feared the rest of the world wouldn’t be as supportive of my dreams as he was, though. And like the great man he was, he wanted only the best for his baby sister.

Why am I telling you all this? Selfishly, because I just need to share. But also, because others might be fighting pain and grief and trying to live up to expectations of those they love. I may never achieve everything I want to, but then again, I just might. If I spend all my time worrying about whether my brother would be proud of my accomplishments (or lack thereof), I won’t create anything new, and won’t be able to move through this pain to find peace.

So that’s my rambling update. Here are the numbers for my month so far. I’m up to about seven hours of revision work for the month, have attended two write-ins, and this is my second blog post. I’ve also shed quite a few tears, prayed a lot, and spent time just connecting with my writer friends both online and in person. I’m so thankful for these connections. I’ve tried to keep up with my fellow Write Motivation writers’ posts, too. I’ve read nearly everyone’s posts at least once. You’re an amazing bunch! Thank you all for being so supportive of me and each other!

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Dreaming a Plotline

As NaNoWriMo approaches, I have been debating whether or not I can take the time away from revising last year’s novel to take on the challenge again this year. I had hoped to be finished with my revision, but a family crisis in August interfered with my progress. Not having completed it, I am not ready to write the second book in that series at this time.

So here I was, without any idea of a book to write, and without much motivation to start something new. Then I had a silly, strange dream. I saw pirates and a superhero, and a small boy who dreams of each and knows there is a connection between something that happened centuries before his birth and a city that would not be built for centuries more. The dream seemed strange, disconnected. But when I started thinking about the what ifs of history, it grew into a feasible plot.

This is the second year in a row that I have dreamed the inspiration for a novel. Last year’s piece, Phantom Queen, was inspired by a dream in which I was hiding in a park, trying to shoot a faerie, and became cursed by a banshee. It was so bizarre, I had to look into Irish myths. As I researched the legends, I also developed a very strong, stubbornly honest protagonist and a mysterious antagonist.

What I have learned from these experiences is that if we pay attention to the unusual in our dreams, we can catch a glimpse of the stories our Muses want us to tell. Our subconscious mind speaks in metaphors and images, so sometimes they are not literally the plots or characters that are perfect for us. But they can certainly be a starting point for discovering the novels within us.

Have you dreamed a character or a plot? Do you keep a dream journal? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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