I’ve been trying to write as methodically as I can lately. When I wrote Four Corners I had no real plan and basically had no idea what I was doing. I just sat down and wrote. When I was done I printed out my first draft and went about editing it for content, consistency, and grammar. It was a mild disaster.
My lack of a game plan was evident. Some chapters rambled while others ended abruptly. Characters were introduced never to be heard from again. In short, I had a lot of work to do.
And work I did. A lot. And so did a lot of wonderful people who helped polish, shape, and suggest it into the form it takes today.
So when I embarked on writing a sequel I was determined to learn from my rookie mistakes. I outlined, I made character bios, I wrote note cards on story points I wanted to cover. I dutifully checked boxes and made sure it was trucking along in the linear fashion I had outlined for it. Everything was going fine until the other night.
The story took a bit of a 90 degree turn from where I thought it was going and instead of fighting it back to the path, I decided to let it meander and see where it would go.
Unexpectedly, and wholly unwittingly, I think I’ve turned my humble little sequel into a trilogy. I groaned inwardly. I wrote a line that quite simply is an end of act two cliffhanger. It sets up the next book beautifully, there is only one problem, there wasn’t supposed to be a next book. Two, two and done. I am already planning out my next series (because as we see planning is going so well with this one…) and getting really excited about starting it, but wanted to finish this one first, and wham! I think I may have just created a lot more work for myself.
I still need to flesh it out and see where this story will go, maybe it won’t be as long as I think and I will be able to just keep my story at two books (albeit one much longer than the other), but I have a sneaking suspicion that my characters aren’t quite done telling their story yet.
So much for outlines.
But it is interesting too to see my story evolve and become a creature and character onto itself. And who knows, maybe the "deepest cut of all" is the one an author makes when she halts her characters before they are ready for it.
Maybe they just have one more story left in them.
I am a chronic multi-tasker. I also like to take on new challenges and sometimes I get a little intense with them.
A few years ago I decided to get back into running. I ran a little off an on for years, but I never really found my rhythm in it. I was a little overweight and not feeling that great about myself when I decided to sign up for a 5K. For some reason I had in my head that if I ran this 5k, it would be a good indication that I should train for a marathon. Yup, that’s how my brain works. Being able to run 3.1 miles translated somehow in my head that 26.2 would be no biggie. This is also a good time to let you know that I tend to be a little impressionable, and I had read one too many books that basically said anyone can run a marathon. I bought into it hard-core.
So 10 months after running my 5k, I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. It was amazing. Literally. I can’t even describe to you the feeling that you get. I would highly suggest you doing it. After each one I’ve done I’ve sworn it’s my last. After #4 I had the forethought to stop telling my husband it was the last one, I don’t think he believed me anyway.
I also have ridden horses for more than 20 years. I was your typical horse crazy girl growing up and never let it go. While I have not been blessed to own my own horse yet, I have ridden and leased some amazing ones in my life. I try to get out a few times a week with a girlfriend and enjoy every second of it as much as I did when I started all those years ago. It will be an even sweeter endeavor when I actually do have a horse to call my own ;)
I got seriously back into writing a few years ago as well. I always dabbled in story telling, jotting down beginnings and ends and never really getting around to filling out the middle. I wrote poetry, some pretty decent, most embarrassingly bad, throughout high school and college, but the idea of a longer story started appealing to me. Around Thanksgiving of 2009 I started writing Four Corners. I had some of the characters in my head, but it blossomed into something greater than I ever thought it would. After years and tons of editing, someone else finally saw the promise that it has. Now the sequel is eating up some of my free time, and any time I am not sitting in front of the computer getting the story out, I find my mind wandering over to it. It is hard to shut off at times and still focus on the other things that interest me in life.
In the middle of all of this just to give myself something else to do (because naturally I needed something else to do), I started taking some classes at the gym.
I thought I was a good dancer. So I decided to do Zumba. If Zumba taught me one thing it is this: I am a terrible dancer. Though it did teach me an important lesson, sometimes you can get the best ab workout just from laughing at yourself. To spare the world, I quit Zumba.
Next up was yoga. Now, if all of this gives you any insight into my personality, you may have realized that I am a busy person. I run marathons, ride horses, swim, like to travel, spend time with my husband, friends, and family, work a full time job, and write novels (OK, maybe I sound more crazy than busy now that it’s all out there in list form), anyway, yoga. So yoga is supposed to stretch and relax, two things I felt I needed in life. So I went to my first class, ready to be calm, breathe, and listen to my body and all that crap. I hated yoga.
And by hate, I mean I watched the clock the entire 60 minutes of class. And it was hard, and yet somehow boring all at the same time. I complained to my friend that the whole time I was just thinking of the million other things I could have been doing that hour instead of taking a nap (I later learned the term is Savasana). What she said in response changed my whole perspective on it: if that’s how you feel, that you can’t relax and your brain is going a million miles a minute, don’t you think that means that you really need yoga?
Hmm…had I become so jam-packed in my life I was incapable of taking a step back and actually enjoying my life? I have so many things that interest me; it is hard to give them all attention and focus. I love running, but I don’t want to miss the days that I horseback ride. Writing is a passion of mine, but I also want to spend time with my husband. Maybe I did need to give yoga another shot.
And you know what? I really like yoga, I may even be toeing the love line. My friend was right, maybe I did need an hour to myself once a week to calm it all down. Most Monday nights you can find me laying down on a mat after a tough class (it really can be hard!) with a towel over my eyes listening to myself breathing. I let my mind be calm and sometimes even drift off a bit. It is a wonderful way to start the week.
And every now and then, a move the instructor tries to get us to do is so insanely complicated, I get a great ab workout just from laughing at my attempts to do it.
I get asked this a lot now with the announcement that my first novel is set to be published in the coming months. It makes sense. It’s the first question I would ask to someone. It’s the first question I ask someone when they say they’ve read a book that they love. It’s a question I fail miserably at.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
Person “Oh my gosh! I didn’t know you were a writer! How cool! So what’s your story about?”
Me: “Oh yeah, thanks. Well, um. There’s a Queen? And a boy. And um, another world? Well our world too, but then another world. And a dragon. And magic. And. Well, it’s really good! You will love it!”
This is usually met with blank stares as I laugh apologetically and vow to come up with a better explanation. Because it is really good! And I’m not just saying that because I have poured my heart and soul into it. It’s an awesome story, and while yes there is a Queen, and a boy, and another world, and a dragon and magic, there is so much more!
How do I quickly explain the complexity of the story? Of the fear of a 16-year-old girl who is suddenly the ruler of a land? Or an 18-year-old boy brought into the mix only to have his life at stake? Or an outlaw, a witch, and the boy’s cousin, all struggling with how they can help? There is drama and fear and love and being asked to do something for the greater good that’s bigger than oneself and it may be hard and terrifying. It’s all those things. It’s also funny and sad, and I have no idea how to explain that to someone without sounding like a desperate crazy person.
“Really you’ll love it! You should buy ten copies for yourself and everyone you know!”
I spent so long getting my story down that it’s hard to compress all that work and pages and effort into a two-minute summary that would make anyone anywhere want to read it. Who would have ever thought that 6 or 7 sentences would make me come unglued! I don’t want to let my story down, but I struggle with how to explain the nuances of relationships without setting up everything I know about the characters, because they are great characters. They are also flawed and they doubt themselves, but they try anyway. Well, here is what I do know, in hopefully the most simplest of terms that will make you want to read it and encourange others to as well: It is about love, and friendship, and heroes, and doing the right thing even when it’s the scariest thing.
Oh and did I mention that there is a dragon? She is pretty cool, too.
We are told growing up to do what you love. Find that one thing that makes you happy and put forth all (reasonable) effort to obtain it. Love science? There are lots of avenues to pursue your craft. Does art or math drive you? Let your passion open up new worlds for you.
So why is reading an exception to this rule? I just finished reading an article by Ruth Graham “Against YA: Adults Should be Embarrassed to Read Children’s books” (the full article can be found by going to http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html ) (I should note I found the article while reading a response to it by Kat Kinsman found here http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/06/living/ya-adult-readers-embarassed/index.html?hpt=hp_c3 ). I am a lover of books, it if it well written, pulls me in, and makes me feel something, I am all for it. Do I care what genre that book is? To dismiss an entire repertoire of stories just because you may feel shameful that it is “below you”, to me, is ridiculous.
At 24 years old I proudly camped out for the last Harry Potter book so I could be one of the first to crack it open promptly at 12:00. There was a magic (ah, again with the puns!) of being surrounded by people as passionate as I was about a set of characters. I am not sure if something like that will ever happen again, though possibly my book will do that (shameful plug ;). Those characters have stayed with me just as much, if not sometimes more, than more “adult” books I have read in recent years. This is not to say there are not amazing things being written there either. I love the complicated sweeping epics written by Ken Follett and the hard, grimy dramas by Dennis Lehane, but just as I don’t always want to watch every movie nominated for an Oscar, I don’t always want to read intense books. There is a time and a place for them sure, but there is also a time and a place for everything.
I don’t seem to hear this argument being made for adults who loved the movie Frozen as much, or sometimes even more, than their kids. It is a given that cartoons are going to have an adult side to them because adults are expected to watch these movies alongside the kids in their lives. Why should reading be any different? To say “To Kill a Mockingbird” shouldn’t be read by anyone over 30 because it is aimed at middle school readers is to cut an entire realm of classics off to those who may have never experienced the grace and nuances of those books in their youth. Yes, they may be more simply written, but just because I know how to use a thesaurus doesn’t naturally make me a smarter person. The same can be said for writers of this day. I have read some truly terrible adult fiction where it is clear the authors are more interested in saying this one-brilliant-thing than actually getting any point across. They are more concerned with seeming intelligent than actually writing anything intelligent. YA doesn’t seem to be falling into this trap.
To this day I think of the books I read in my youth with a nostalgia often reserved for long summer days, but to think that just because I have gotten older those characters would have lost some of their hold or meaning to me undermines their impact. To this day Watership Down by Richard Adams remains my favorite book of all time. I like to go back once every year or so and revisit it. There is a comfort is having that book on my shelf and knowing that Hazel and Fiver and all the others are just a page away from me. Just because I grasp more of the English language than I did when I first read that book twenty some years ago doesn’t make me love them any less.
In an age where computers and social media dominate our surroundings and our schedules are as jam-packed as ever, we should be applauding anyone that wants to read, regardless of what kind of book it may be. I would love to hear from you, what books from your youth have stayed with you all these years? Are they still your favorite? Have you re-read them again now that you are older? Did this change or strengthen your emotion?
As always, happy reading.
Happy national running day! I decided to celebrate by going on a 4 mile run with the folks at Track Shack in Orlando. It was hot and humid, which is to be expected for Florida this time of year, but it was still great getting out. I’ve been slacking on my running and trying to get back in a routine. I had a pretty full racing season this winter/spring and really needed a bit of time off, but with a race coming up in the middle of July, I need to start getting my butt back in gear!
It’s so easy when things are going on in life to let “frills” go by the way side. There are times when running and writing seem like a luxury to me. My days seem so busy at times that I almost feel torn between my “wants” and “haves”. I get that I don’t have to go for a run or write a chapter or two and that I really have to mop my floors, but when the weather is nice and there is a whole day dedicated to it, a little spot cleaning will do.
I feel the same way about writing. I’ll be in the middle of a million things and sometimes it makes sitting at my computer a bit of a chore, but just as I feel amazing after getting a few miles in, I always feel a sense of peace and accomplishment after I’ve sat and written for a little.
There are even times when my running and writing worlds collide, and it can be tricky. My mind tends to wander when I get into my groove and I find Levi, Aura, and all the other characters of my book popping into my head to say hello and give their opinion on where my story should go next. I can spend whole runs thinking about them and I just have to try to keep those thoughts in my head so when I get home I can write them down. Sometimes it works, but more often than not the thought slips out of my head just as suddenly as it came in and I am left slightly frustrated and hoping that it will comeback to me next time I sit to write. Maybe I should start running with my phone more so I can at least dictate my brilliant (well, they are least seem brilliant when I am trying to recollect them) thoughts, but maybe that is what makes them so sweet. They are fleeting and maybe some of them are meant just for me, little secrets my characters whisper that aren’t for the rest of the world. But at least when I get home, I can feel my muscles warm with happy exhaustion and my brain buzzing with anticipation, and I feel the gentle tug to write.
Ok maybe my floors can go without spot cleaning too…