Developing the Character’s Journey

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As you may remember from last week, I recently tore apart an old MG and began making a new draft from the remains. So there I was, 14,000 words into this draft, when I realized the first few chapters didn’t really mesh with where the story seemed to be wanting to head.

So I went back and tried to re-write the beginning. Then I did it again. And again. And then a fourth time, because apparently I’m a slow learner.

Finally I realized, it wasn’t the story’s opening that wasn’t working, it was something deeper.

What could it be? I had a gripping plot. Characters I loved. Fleshed out villains with believable motivation. But…maybe my MC’s journey wasn’t as strong as it could be. She wasn’t changing enough over the course of the story, and the one obstacle she did have to overcome wasn’t exactly a major, life-changing one.

Great. All I had to do was fix that, and I’d be on my way.

After a few hours of alternating between staring at a blank screen and checking in on Twitter, I finally decided to start reading some writing blogs to see if they could steer me in the right direction. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Seriously.

I’m not sure what Google gods got me to this page, but if you’re a writer, I seriously suggest you check out K.M. Welland’s Creating Stunning Character Arcs series starting here. It really helped me figure out my character and how she needed to grow, as well as figuring out the plot of the story.

I’m super excited to be writing away again, and I’m already at over 8,000 words in less than a week (with two P.D./holidays in there to slow me down). I don’t normally plot my stories out this thoroughly before writing (I’m a plotter-pantser combo), but this time erring more on the side of plotter definitely seems to be the way to go.

Fixing Up a Turkey

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The very first novel-length story I ever wrote was also the very first story I ever queried. After a bunch of (well-deserved) rejections, I filed it away on the computer, and vowed never to look at it again.

But something about that story stuck with me. Sometimes, at night, the characters would still speak to me, asking for their story to be told. So last week, when I decided to walk away from the contemporary fantasy I was writing in favor of something less realistic, I decided to take a new look at my old tale.

In some ways, it wasn’t too bad. The actual prose wasn’t nearly as cringeworthy as I expected. But the story…wow, did it drag.

So I started pulling out the things I liked about the story: the characters (especially the antagonists), the setting, the general world/plot set-up, my MC’s voice. And then I got rid of the things I didn’t: certain relationships, character ages, pesky, nonsensical sub-plots.

And I was left with the pretty decent bones for a story.

I’m really glad I kept my old copy, rather than deleting it out of embarrassment. Because you never know when you can reuse an old an idea (or part of an old idea). I’ve also started files for all the scenes I need to cut when editing.

What about you? Ever reused an old idea? Dusted off an old story? Or do you believe old stories should stay dead? Let me know in the comments.

Frozen in Time

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Last week I wrote about how 2017 changed my social media habits. This week, I thought I’d talk about how it’s affecting my writing.

First of all, there’s the obvious: how do you write when the world is imploding around you? I’m not going to lie, it’s a struggle to not sit glued to the news and Twitter 24 hours a day, watching the world burn.

But writing is how I make sense of the insensible, how I bring order to the chaos of my world, and hopefully, one day, the world of my readers. It’s how I fight back. So I’ve had to force myself to walk away from social media and write.

But what to write? Pre-January 20th I was working on a nice little contemporary fantasy MG about a kid with superpowers. But after the 20th it just didn’t feel relevant anymore. Not only that, but as another writer pointed out: “how do you write contemporary when you don’t know what contemporary life is anymore?”

Daily life is changing so quickly, and publishing moves so slowly. Who knows what the world will look like in two to three years (the approximate time it takes to get a book published) when three weeks ago we couldn’t have predicted the reality of today? Massive protests at airports. High school walkouts. Women on strike.

Add to this the extra barriers I face as a Canadian, writing for an American audience, already removed from the subjects of my novel, and I just couldn’t…connect.

So I walked away from the superhero book. (Will I come back? Maybe, it depends on how the future plays out.)

Instead I’ve switched over to a fantasy, something that takes place in alternate universe, and a story whose themes are really resonating with my current state of mind.

So that’s where I’m at. It’s been a week and I’m already 10,000 words in, which feels pretty good. What about you? How has 2017 changed your work? Let me know in the comments.

Taking a Beating

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When I took a break from the blog three weeks ago, I mentioned it was because 2017 was trying to outdo the horribleness of 2016. Man, I had no idea how bad things would get.

Personally, I’m doing better. The stuff that kept me off the blog is settled, and I’m back. I even got some good news: my Fraggles Threadcake won 4th place in the 2D division of this year’s Threadcakes contest! I’m super excited because I’ve been entering for five years now, and it’s the first time I’ve placed (although I’ve been named a finalist twice) and it’s probably the last year the contest will run. Go here to check out all the jaw-dropping entries (seriously, it’s hard to believe some of them are even cake.)

But aside from that, 2017 has been filled with hate and injustice and fear, and in a lot of ways, the whole world has changed.

As a result, the way I use social media has changed.

I’ll still be here on the blog, talking about my writing journey, with the occasional personal essay about some of the topics contained in the books I’m working on. If the current political atmosphere affects my writing, well, then, it’ll probably at least get a mention, like it is today.

My Facebook will still mostly deal with baking and caking, although it may expand to other crafting as I try and get my family to eat a bit healthier.

Where you’ll see the most change is Twitter. In fact, if you’re on Twitter (whether you follow me or not) you’ve probably already noticed the change. Gone are the light-hearted posts about my kids’ latest antics (I never even got to tweet about how they collectively answer to the name “Weasleys” now) or posts about new children’s books (I’m trying to make some exceptions for books by authors from marginalized demographics or those with themes of inclusion). Those posts don’t feel like they belong anymore. Instead, now most of my tweets (let’s be real, retweets) are political in nature.

At first I tried to hold off. I told myself, it wasn’t my country, wasn’t my president, wasn’t my battle. But as the injustices added up, I found myself sitting glued to my Twitter feed much as I had sat glued to the news reports on 9/11, watching the terror unfold, feeling powerless, and wondering how long until it reached my country, too.

But the more I read, the more I realized:

I cannot be silent.

I will not silent.

I may not be as loud as others, but if I can amplify thoughts even a bit, then I’m doing my part. I’m trying to keep my posts away from insults and name-calling, and more on historical comparisons and calls to action. And I’m doing my best to check sources before retweeting.

And sure, it may lose me readers or followers, but to be honest, if you can’t handle me speaking out against hate, then you probably wouldn’t like any of my fiction anyway.

So there you have it. A new game plan for a new world. I’ll continue to adapt as the world adapts, and most of all, I’ll continue to write, because more than ever we need stories.