Words Pour Like Rain

Ideas roll like thunder,
Miles deep
And full of wonder.

Inspiration strikes like lightning,
All at once
My vision’s blinding.

Words pour like rain,
Down my throat
And through my veins.

I love nature, whether it brings sunny days or raging storms.  This past weekend it has brought both to me.  On Sunday it reached 80°F (27°C).  This was rather startling considering two weeks ago it was still snowing/blizzarding. And then Sunday night there was a huge, raging thunder and lightning storm.  For at least a half hour it was averaging 10+ lightning strikes per minute.  The storm lasted several hours.

Yesterday, Monday, it was again 80°F, and again, last night brought a fantastic thunder and lightning show.  Today isn’t quite as hot, however tonight there is scheduled….you guessed it…Thunder and lightning!   And do you know what’s supposed to happen tomorrow night?  THUNDER AND LIGHTNING!

Have I mentioned how much I love this weather?

The downpour of rain always helps me feel creative.  Maybe that’s because I grew up in the rainy, drizzly, Pacific Northwest.  Or maybe it’s because my mothers name is Raeni.   Or maybe I’m just a little odd.

At any rate, the universe seems to have aligned to promote inspiration for me to write.  Who am I to argue?

What helps inspire you guys?  Is there a certain environment your writing thrives better in?

(For those of you who follow, and posted such kind words in regards to my fathers health: He’s doing much better, and is now out of the hospital and back home with my mom.  Thank you all, again, for the concern and well wishes.)

A Guest Post and An Update

I am thrilled to announce that my very first Guest Post has gone live today!  I am deeply honored to be hosted by Rebecca T. Dickinson on A Word or More.   Be sure to check out her warm & welcoming blog, as well as my guest post, Our Personal Lenses.

Fantastic news aside, my writing, blogging, and twittering has taken a seat on the back burner for the past few days.  (I promise I’ll get to everyone’s comments on my previous post in the near future!)  Mostly this is due to a little thing called Life.  Of which, I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say, I’m busy.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before I’ll be back in the swing of things in regards to my blog.  At least I plan on it in time for the Sunday Versus.   But in the meantime, here are a few noteworthy things:

  • Sara Flower(who is currently doing a blog tour for her book By the Sword) is hosting an Amazon Gift Card Give-away here.  Submissions are free and they close April 8th, so there’s still time left to enter!
  • I’m considering updating my layout to something…more welcoming.  I love this layout because it’s very clean and easy to navigate.   I like the grey scale because it reminds me of the grey, cloud covered, rainy, dreary place I used to call home.  But I wonder if it seems too “cold” and unwelcoming.  Thoughts?
  • Also, I’ve seen a few people with ‘signatures’ at the bottom of their posts, and I thought it was really fun.  A great way to leave a more lasting/unique impression.  So here I am, trying it out.  What do you guys think?  Is it too cheesy, or just cheesy enough? 🙂

Happy writing, everyone!

And Down Goes My Sinking Heart

As some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted much of my fiction lately, which is mostly due to me throwing myself headlong into a new novel concept. I’ve been so excited that I haven’t even talked about it to anyone!

The premise is that a daughter and her recently divorced mom move from Nebraska to Otter Rock, a small, unincorporated community on the Oregon Coast.  They buy and start to run a Bed and Breakfast there, in hopes of starting fresh.  It explores coming to terms with your past, and who you’ve become, as well as the intricacies of relationships, especially between a mother and daughter.  The oceanic setting weighs heavily within the book.  Tentatively titled “We Are The Tide”.

I was just browsing books on my kindle and came across an upcoming book that’s on pre-order called The Inn of Rose Harbor.  Here’s what the description says:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start.  Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast- the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn-ready to begin her life anew.  Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine…

There is more to the description on amazon, so I know our novels start to differ quite a bit after that. So I guess it is a bit comforting knowing that only the beginnings are similar.  Still, I had this moment of woe, and if my boyfriend wasn’t sleeping I’m sure I would have cried out, “SAY IT AIN’T SO!!!”

They’re both set in a small Pacific Northwest town on the coast, and a woman buys a B&B to try to get over her former husband, and start afresh.

I realize there are plenty of similar genre-books out there, and things like this just can’t be helped.  Characters, writing style, and the mood of the books will always be different and unique to the writer.  But it’s still so disheartening to see it for the first time when you’re completely gung-ho about the new project.

But you know what? I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  I’m confidant in our differences, and if my gut tells me to write a story, then you can bet I’m going to damn well write that story!  I won’t even touch that other book until I finish my novel.  I would hate to see it influence me, or dissuade me from certain elements in my writing.

So tell me, have you guys ever encountered an eerily similar idea to yours?  How did you handle it, and did you end up tweaking your idea to differentiate yours?

 

Planning vs Stalling

Some people plan their stories for years and years and years before finally putting it down on paper.  Others start from nothing and build their way up through words on the page.

I like at least a little bit of planning before writing.  Sure, sometimes I’ll do a free-write to get the juices flowing, although rarely do those turn into more than just snippets of plots.   But when you plan so thoroughly ahead and map it all out, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself, is it still planning or are you now stalling?

The snowflake method of writing (if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a link to a more in depth talk on WritersCafe.org ) is all about planning.  You start off with a one sentence premise, then branch it out into a summary, then go more in depth with the summary, and branch out into chapters, and scenes.  With each level you write more details.

For me, I feel like that takes away a lot of the flow from my writing.  Even if you don’t follow the snowflake method as in depth as it can go, you’re still taking the time to completely map out the novel.  I would be itching to just write before I even finished expanding on the summary!

Which makes me think that perhaps too much planning can lead to stalling.

There did come a point when mapping out my current WiP, that I realized I was suddenly just stalling the writing process.  I tried and tried to plan out the novel, but I kept changing things, and became very indecisive.  To that, I had only one solution.  Just start writing it out. There was no way I could plan the details until I got my hands dirty and experienced them.

But of course, every writer is different.  We all use different methods, and get into our own unique writing rhythms.  We just have to keep being aware of what is working, and what isn’t working with our own writing processes.  What was stalling me, may be beneficial to another.

So I have to ask, would the snowflake method help or hinder you guys?  And have you ever found yourself stalling at some point in the writing process?  How did you change your process after that?

Creating vs. Using

When writing sci-fi or fantasy, there’s a great freedom you have in way of creating the details of the world you’re writing in.  You can modify the world around you, into what you want it to be.

With fiction, however, there are more limitations to what you can and cannot have the world around you do. (At least, before it starts to turn into sci-fi or fantasy.)  Yet, you still have the ability to create certain, fictional, things to place within your story.

So, the question is, when writing fiction should you invent things within your world, or should you use what real life has to offer?

For such a seemingly simple part of writing, there are so many questions to ask.  Sometimes you make a decision without even realizing it, and in that way, it is natural to the story.  For example, when flipping through DVD’s to watch, my character goes through Moulin Rouge, Boondock Saints, and The Princess Bride.  I didn’t even have to think about whether or not to make up movies.  I was just writing, that’s how the story came out, and I like it.

But when it comes to deciding something as big as the setting and the town your story takes place in, your choice can greatly affect the story.  This is especially true if the town/setting is a big part of the story.

Ask yourself how you want the setting to affect the story and the characters.  Think about the pros and cons of each, and consider how the places you’ve lived in influence the setting you write about.

Naturally, setting doesn’t always have such a huge affect, but perhaps your main character is really into music.  Or movies.  Or books.  Do you want your readers to be able to associate with pop culture references you can throw in?  Or perhaps you want to do a satirical take and create your own reality tv show that the characters make fun of.

Again, I find myself facing these very same questions, and am still considering them.  Some things come easily, and naturally to the story, but when you find yourself stalled on certain details, be sure to consider why, and how it will affect your story.  I find this is especially helpful in the editing stage.

So what do you guys do?  Do you prefer to create your own fictional places/media/products, or do you like to keep things strictly realistic with things that exist in our current world?  Or if you balance the two, how do you decide which will serve you best?

What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?

Recently I’ve been running into this advice more and more often.   You ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen to your character?  And then you make that happen.

People love this!  They use this advice at every turn possible.  While not terrible advice, I don’t really agree with it.

I blame the snarky little girl in me that wants to retort with “Well…an asteroid could hit the planet and annihilate all life, and since this isn’t a sci-fi story, then there would be nothing else to tell.”   Really though, that’s a little much.

I know they don’t mean to completely destroy your character, making them plunge deeper into darkness without having any positive things.  Even if your character spirals into an abyss and dies there, you at least need to give them hope for something better.

But no, my problem with this age-old advice, is that it’s too expected.  As a reader (and perhaps this is magnified by also being a writer), I often think about what will happen next to the characters I’m reading about.  I’ll sit there and ponder, “how terrible would it be if this happened !”  And then, of course, it does happen, and it is the terrible!  Yet, it’s still predictable.

I will admit, sometimes it is best to throw the worst at your characters, but I think it’s vital to mix up the formula.  If your story needs some extra malevolence, try throwing in a twist for your characters.  They got the promotion and raise so they can afford the rent (finally)?  That’s great!  But what if their workplace nemesis did too, and now they have to work together?   Or maybe it isn’t one big thing that goes wrong, but a lot of little things that add up.

While it’s definitely good to put your characters through tough trials, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ruthlessly torture them with the worst that life has to throw at them.  Switch things up!  And try to do what best fits the story you want to tell.  It’s our job to tell the story in its entirety, relating both the ups and downs.

Happy writing!

Riding the Crazy Train to Breakdown Town

…And How to Make it a Productive Trip.

See this girl? Her name is Aly and she is full of crazy.

Yesterday I was in a mood.  I was in a eat-the-entire-box-of-Girl-Scout-cookies, cry-over-old-pictures, listen-to-Matchbox-20-on-repeat, and bury-my-face-in-tissues-while-watching-Pride&Prejudice kind of mood.  Let me clarify that girls are indeed crazy.  We can’t help it.

And while we’re on that topic, writers and creatives in general, also suffer from a crazy streak or two.  Known for suffering from a multitude of illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disease, alcoholism and drug addiction, we’re not the most stable of groups.  Philip K. Dick, Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, anyone? Of course, some of us are more sane, grounded, and normal than others.

However, as people, we all have our ups and downs.  And as writers, it’s our job to capture those moments.

We write about the state of society, the intricacies of relationships, and about the past, present, and future. We write about our world or others, with happy endings or sad.  Through our writing, no matter the genre, we examine what connects us, what does, or doesn’t, make us human.

And perhaps that is what makes us crazy.  With every new experience and emotion, we remember it, save it.  We relive our anger, embarrassment, and disappointment every time our characters do.

At least, that’s how I am.  When I’m in a less than chipper mood, I sit down and write.  I write what I’m thinking and how I feel.  It doesn’t even have to be part of a story or for a character, but it’s something I can reference and go back to when I do need to write about a darker theme.  After all, even if we all act out differently, we still feel the same emotions.  Although my characters react differently than I would, their actions are still based on familiar emotions.

So, if you’re in a dark place, or in a mood, as I say, use it.  Maybe writing is the only thing you want to do, or maybe it’s the last.  But at least try.  Not only does it act as a release, but you can use it as a starting point for remembering and feeling what your characters should be feeling.

This also applies to happier of times, or hell, even average ones.  What’s important is that our characters have feelings too.  They’re living beings, if only from a two-dimensional world.  And it’s our job to breathe life and feeling into them.

So how do you guys deal with emotional swings, especially if they get in the way of writing?  Have you ever dealt with a character experiencing emotions you’ve never felt?  How did you write about that?

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