Friday, March 19, 2010

Phriday phun day: the evolution of a nickname

The outlaws rode in last night to see the new secret lair for the first time, which really meant just one thing: I had to clean. But, now the lair is devoid of random crowns and doubloons lying about, so that's good. It was also the first time they met our getaway dog, Scout. We were discussing how good she'd become at commands like "sit" and "tap on the glass if the fuzz arrives." At which point the partner-in-crime mentioned that he's surprised she responds to anything at all given the quantity of names I use to address her.

Here's my bag: I get bored with names. I mean, think of how often you use a person's (or a getaway dog's) name in a day. Now imagine you said it that same way Every. Single. Time. No, no, go ahead, hit that snooze button, I'll wait.

There's a reason why we have names like Peg, Matt, Tom, Bob, Bobby, Bobbaroonie, etc. Regular names are booooooooooooooring. You think no one ever referred to the great Robert Frost as Bobby Frost when he was a kid? Yeah, you know they did. Now, to be fair, I've taken Scout's nicknamery a little to the extreme.

As soon as we apprehended Scout I began to think of aliases for her. As any good getaway dog knows, everyone needs to get their stories straight. We started with the basics - The Scout Master, Scouty Pippen, The Scout of Monte Cristo, Scoutarella, and Scoutaruby Tuesday. Then the P-i-C started calling her Scouty Two Times. For me this naturally evolved into Two Tone (much like Michael Jackson, she's black and white), which devolved into Chucho, which led to Chuchie, which has now opened the door for a host of punny nicknames.

As it stands, she is now Chuch, Chuchies, Scouty Chuchenegger, Prime Minister Vladimir Chuchkin, Chuch's Chicken, The Chucharuch, and so on. I kind of invent new ones every day, and really her greatest talent is responding to all of them. Although, if you have a treat, I'm pretty sure she would respond to Barbara.

So see, Phriday phun with words day. Happy Phriday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aw, somebody loves/likes/hates me!

First off, an enormous congrats to Beth Revis who just signed a book deal with  Razorbill! I found her blog via Elana Johnson and I'm excited to get into the archives! Also, she's having a giveaway in honor of the announcement, which you can read about here.

The lovely Laurel of Laurel's Leaves has tagged me in a blogging meme, my first! It's the love/like/hate thing, and to be honest I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do. However, rather than look it up and actually figure out the rules, I'm going to wing it like that guy who refuses to read the instructions and ends up building the IKEA bed backwards.

Me gusta coffee - I definitely have a love/hate relationship with cafe, but I can't deny the allure of it's caffeinated wantonness
Me gustan dreams - not the sleepy kinds, although those are fun, too. I like the hopes of something greater coming in life, always
Me gusta a really. Really. Good joke.
Me gusta warmth. I'll take a 100 degree day over a 40 degree one any time (can you tell I'm from Texas?)
Me gusta the hedonistic experience of food

No me gusta wasting my time
No me gusta not knowing something, especially if it's necessary to do my job
No me gusta alfredo sauce - that stuff is blech
No me gusta letting people down, although I do it all the time. Such is life.

And now, for the brief list of things I truly love:
My walks with the partner-in-crime and our trusty getaway dog, Scout
People who I've known so long that I don't have to be anyone but myself with them
Words - oh, come on, I'm a writer, what do you expect? But I love the subtle differences. Por ejemplo, yesterday I was concocting character descriptions and I had to choose between "austere," "reserved," and "stoic." Loves it.

So thanks, Laurel! I think I'm supposed to tag other people, but I'll hold off on that for now. Happy St. Patty's Day, everyone! Or, as my partner-in-crime calls it, "New Years for Irish people."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tell the truth Tuesday-ish

So the partner-in-crime has an obnoxious way of pointing out very obnoxious truths. Case in point:

Me: Hey, read a few pages of my story.
P-i-C: Sure thing, babycakes (my P-i-C does not, in fact, talk like this, but I'm taking artistic license). Reads pages. Uh, I don't really know what's going on here, I think I'm just going to have to read the whole thing.
Me: You can't.
P-i-C: Why not?
Me: Because I don't want you to. It's not a genre you're familiar with, and it's told from the perspective of a seventeen year old girl. I don't think you'll like it.
P-i-C: Babycakes, you've already explained the plot to me and it sounds awesome. (A brief lull in which he describes the plotline which I won't share here for top secret's sake). What's not to love?

Annoying truth number one. Because he's totally right. In fact, the last story I wrote was told from the perspective of a much younger girl and he loved it. So then I have to ask myself, as his obnoxious questions often make me, why don't I really want him reading it? And then it hit me this morning: I know it's not good. It's an awesome idea, and with a lot of work I have the potential to make it an awesome book, but it's not good enough right now. But it's so haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard to write, I don't want to do it again. I want it to come out awesome the first time, like making a souffle (which is totally easy, right? Right?!?)

Which brings me to obnoxious truth number two:

Me: Look, I'm a seat of the pantser, I can't be held down to preconceived outlines. I figure out the story as I go along. Now I've got the whole thing figured out (mind you, I'm only halfway or so through the written WIP) I'll just finish it up, go back and write an outline of what I really want, and then rewrite it.
P-i-C: That sounds like an awful lot of work. Why don't you just outline it now and rework the parts that don't work?
Me: Because that's stupid. And you're stupid. And this whole courtroom is out of order.
P-i-C: I'm not sure about that last part, but if you want my two cents, I think it would be a lot easier to outline it now than to finish something you think you won't use.

You see how sneaky he is? I don't know why I put up with it. Especially when he's probably right (look, I know he's right, okay? I'm just not ready to admit it yet). I'm still struggling with that last thing because I'm such a pantser. I get antsy and bored and feel like time is rushing away from me when I'm outlining and not actually writing. And yeah, okay, I get that the outline will help my writing tremendously, but I don't want to dooooooooooo it. Which concludes our tell the truth Tuesday-ish blog with his third, and possibly most obnoxious, truth:

P-i-C: You said you just wanted to tell the best possible story you could, right? Well, won't this help you do that?


Monday, March 8, 2010

I love it when things work out

First off, thanks to everyone who gave me such great comments on Friday, I love the writerly blogging community. Everyone is so supportive, it just grows my little grinch heart.

Second of all, due to your encouragement and the mensa-level quality of my genius, I've come up with the middle of my story! Is that worthy of an entire blog post? Probably not. But will it be an entire blog post because I said so? I think we all know that answer.

"JEM, what's the secret to your success?" you ask. Well, gentle readers, I'll tell you: the current WIP is book one of an intended three book series (a la Hunger Games if I haven't fangirl squealed enough), and in examining the long arc of the storyline I realized I could shuffle some information gathering around without damaging the overall trajectory of the story. It also helps set up the impetus for the movement in the next two stories AND gives my characters a reason to do stuff. So, I mean, once I actually stopped being drunk long enough to think about it, the change made perfect sense.

My lesson from all of this: if you're feeling a lag in your story, bump the major plot milestones up and see where it takes you. Otherwise you're most likely adding fluff filler, and that only works for duvets.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why the crap doesn't this WIP come with a map?

So I've got a good story idea, a great ending, an idea for two sequels, and about 30K words under my belt. The problem? I don't know what to do with the next 40K words. I know where I'm going, but I haven't figured out how to get there without boring myself and my reader. The first 30K words have kept up a pretty good pace, and I (hope) I've done a good job of dropping in bits of backstory without the info deluge we're all afraid of, but I don't know where to go from here. And since I'm the writer, no one else can really help me out.

The problem with stories is that logically thinking through what your characters would do next will only get you so far. Even in the admittedly dramatic and bizarre circumstances I've put them in, I think normal people would probably give up. And that would make for a pretty craptastic book. And more than that, I need things to happen to them to keep the story rolling. I've sat on it for a week now, mulling it over, and I've still got zip.

So I turn it over to you guys. What exercises/techniques do you use to inspire future plot points? How do you keep your stories from slagging in the middle?

Happy Friday!