How to dream your way to a great story at DIY MFA

There’s this thing I do over at DIY MFA. It’s a semi-regular column called Speculations all about fantasy and science fiction.

dreams

 

This is my third column, on sleep and dreaming. Come on over and visit. There are a lot of great columnists on lots of different genres and topics. Plus, Gabriela has a tonne of great resources, a podcast, courses, and other tasty writerly goodness for you to check out.

I have a little anecdote to share with respect to dreams and writing.

It has to do with this little tip:

  • Sleep on a creative problem. Similarly, if you’re stuck on a scene or a plot point, ruminate calmly on it before you sleep. Even if you don’t dream up a solution, your mind will be working on the problem and when you head back to the page, the answer might just appear. Like magic.

So it happened, just the other night.

I’d just finished writing and posting my Next chapter update and went to bed thinking about the short story I’m hoping to write this month. I had an idea that’s been simmering since January.

That night I had a dream that, taken at face value, had nothing to do with my story idea. Except that it did in that weird way dreams have. And now I have three quarters of the story sketched out in my moleskine. I just have to figure out an ending that will work.

It makes me furiously happy when my dreams cooperate with the muse. Or maybe they’re scheming. Whatever they’re doing, it works. Like magic.

 

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Oct 16-22, 2016

Let’s get that mental corn a-poppin’!

Carol Mulligan explores the lore of the pour. The Sudbury Star

What are dreams? Drake Baer shares five of humanity’s best explanations for dreams. Science of Us

Anna Lovind: the shameless introvert.

Suzanne Lucas to employers: please stop punishing your employees for being introverted. Inc.

UpWorthy recommends Marzi’s cartoons to help others relate to intorversion and anxiety.

The Born Again Minimalist examines the gaslighting of the millennial generation.

Transgender rights bill passes key commons vote and heads to committee. The Globe and Mail

Too sweet, or too shrill? The double bind for women. Shankar Vedantam hosts the Hidden Brain podcast for NPR.

The transformative power of Moko. Michelle Duff for Broadly/Vice.

Cath Pound considers the great women artists that history forgot. BBC

Artist Toby Allen, who suffers from anxiety, illustrates mental illnesses as monsters. Bored Panda

Regina activists place warning labels on indigenous Hallowe’en costumes. CBC

I’m just going to leave this here. To the new culture cops, everything is appropriation. Cathy Young for the Washington Post.

Avaneesh Pandey: self-awareness may be a side effect of the brain trying to maximize entropy. International Business Times

Ben Paynter shares news about how the world is slowly winning the fight against Malaria. Fast Company

Sarah Knapton reports on how tool-making monkeys are prompting scientists to reconsider human evolution. The Telegraph

Bec Crew: scientists accidentally discover the process that turns CO2 into ethanol. This could change the world. Science Alert

Ross Pomeroy explains why Bill Nye changed his mind about GMOs. Real Clear Science

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved . . . by meteorology. Cory Charlton for The New York Post.

Loren Grush explains how the ExoMars spacecraft will make its way to the surface of Mars. The Verge

Catch Space.com’s coverage of the landing and other astro-news.

Maddie Stone: Pluto’s skies look more Earth-like than we’d imagined. Gizmodo

A spiral galaxy defies the cosmic flow. In an expanding universe, it’s actually getting closer to us. Also: how big is Proxima Centauri’s planet? Later in the week, we learn that the Schiaparelli lander (crash) site can be seen from orbit. Phil Plait for Slate.

Can the multiverse explain the course of human history? Andrew Crummey for Aeon.

Puppers! Buzzfeed

Alex and Jumpy, the parkour dog 🙂

 

Just a reminder, this is your penultimate thoughty Thursday prior to my #NaNoWriMo break.

I’ll see you next Thursday, but after that, you won’t get your weekly dose of thoughty until December.

Respect your priorities.

Be well.

All my (virtual) love.

Mel

Thoughty Thursday

Feeding my creativity

Here’s the prompt Gabriela sent this week for the DIYMFA launch team:

“Coming up with ideas takes practice. You have to train your brain to get creative on demand. You can’t sit around waiting for your muse to show up because she might take her sweet time. Instead, you have to go after your muse. Hunt her down and show her who’s boss. One writer told me he “keeps his muse chained to his desk.”

While I find that mental image of the muse-prisoner hilarious, I prefer to think of it a little differently. I have a shrine to my muse, a small box I call the ORACLE. (Like most things in DIY MFA, ORACLE is an acronym that stands for outrageous ridiculously awesome creative literary exercises.) Just like the ancient Greeks made pilgrimages to oracle temples so they could get guidance and wisdom from their gods, I visit my ORACLE whenever I feel the creative well going dry.

These contents have changed over time, but a few things have stayed constant:

  • Dice: I use dice for writing exercises whenever I need to leave something up to chance. I’ll assign each number an option, and then do whatever the roll decides.
  • Word Box: This small box contains slips of paper with words on them. I pull a few words out of the box at random, and then write a short piece that uses all those words.
  • Image Box: I keep an old chocolate tin filled with photos I clipped from magazines or postcards I picked up at museums. Whenever I’m stuck for ideas, I use those images to spark a story.

These are just a few things I keep in my ORACLE. I also have a paper prototype of the Writer Igniter app, a Writer Igniter deck of cards (also an early prototype for the app), a stack of fortune cookie fortunes, and a pocket-sized book of prompts.

Do you have an ORACLE? If not, treat yourself and start putting one together this week. It took me several years to refine and build my ORACLE, so don’t feel like you have to fill it overnight. Go out, get a nifty container, and start assembling materials to put in it.”

Muse-inks

I don’t have an oracle. I’ve bought decks of story cards, but, I have to confess that I don’t use them. I’m not fond of prompts, honestly, though the idea for one of my novels did result from a prompt. It was a Natalie Goldberg prompt, though, so that may have had an impact on how things turned out 😉

A lot of my story ideas come from my dreams, which, when I can remember them, are quite theatrical/cinematic in scope.

Other ideas come from articles that I read that trigger interesting connections in my head. I talked about the reasons I started my Thoughty Thursday curation a couple of weeks ago. I keep this curation going for myself as much as for others.

I share the posts and articles that make me think, start the mental corn a-popping. Some of those pops ignite story ideas.

I’ve always had story ideas, and more ideas than I knew how to write, especially when I was young. I used to write my stories (so-called) in Hilroy exercise books. I still have them. I still have most of the stories I wrote for school, too.

When I had an idea that I wasn’t sure how to write, I’d write as much as I could about it in one of those notebooks. Eventually, spiral bound notebooks and loose leaf paper replaced the exercise books.

That was the beginning of my idea file.

I mentioned last week as well was that when I was in university, I started making those thoughty connections with all the things I was learning in my classes. Psychology fed into sociology fed into Taoism fed into Old English fed into genetics fed into astronomy.

I started keeping my first journal in those years.

I have a stack of them now.

I keep one beside my bed to capture dream ideas.

I carry one in my purse so I can write down ideas that occur at work or when I’m otherwise away from other means of capturing them. I could use my smart(er than me) phone, but I like the feel of pen on paper. I take all my conference and convention session notes by hand as well.

Also during my university years, I worked in libraries. I learned a lot about research in those years, and, in the course of processing books and magazines to put on the shelves, if I came across an article that elicited a pop, I’d copy it. I called it being a clip rat.

These, too, went into my idea file.

I once clipped an entire series from a newspaper on families living on welfare. I also copied articles on the future of economics. And yes, both of these have story ideas that go along with them.

When the library’s collection was culled, I bought whatever books I could afford from the resulting sale. I accumulated a number of interesting, if slightly out of date, reference books, including an etymological dictionary (in two volumes), a name dictionary, and a couple of collections of popular quotations.

Currently, I read a number of blogs using Feedly. Before Feedly, I used Google Reader (when they announced the end of Google Reader, I was in a panic until Michael Hyatt mentioned Feedly in one of his blog posts).

Things that inspire an idea for a story, I clip to Evernote.

When I start working on a story, outlining, drafting, revising, I do my research in dribs and drabs. I use Evernote to capture online research as well.

Finally, my husband is a great source of ideas. We watch a lot of science fiction, fantasy, historical, and anime series. We have discussions about them. Because my man is Mr. Science, he’ll often have a few things to say about the poor science in a science fiction series. One of my stories was inspired by a discussion we had about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

He’s also very critical of story/plot quality. We can have animated conversations about what writers do and fail to do in the series we like to watch.

I can also fact check some of my SF ideas with him. He’s awesome that way 😀

So, I have lots of ideas and a lot of the resources I need to refine them.

I find that the best way to come up with story ideas is to be present, pay attention, and capture them however you can.

I like to keep things simple.

Tomorrow: It’s next chapter update time 🙂

Next week: DIYMFA will be out on the 10th! I’ll be posting my review to Amazon and Goodreads, and posting it to Writerly Goodness on Saturday.

Have a great weekend!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, October 4-10, 2015

I must have been a little light-headed last week . . .

Last week, Margaret Atwood had her say. This week, Joseph Boyden takes on Stephen Harper. MacLean’s.

A real nation would not let this happen. Why we need to care more about our First Nations. MacLean’s.

The rise of the teaching class: how the learning landscape is changing, by Simona Chiose for The Globe and Mail.

Arthur B. MacDonald shares the Nobel Prize for his work on neutrinos (done right here in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory – SNO)! CBC.

People can do some crazy things when they’re asleep. Psychiatric Times.

Tommy Walker explains why hope is not a valid social media strategy. ConversionXL.

What Dylan Thomas’s seminal poem can teach us about resilience. Forbes.

i09 shares the ten most excellent nicknames in history.

This song was just on Quantico this evening, and there I was, boogying in my seat. Beck – Dreams:

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Muse-inks: The dream vs. reality (check)

On my way to London in August, I was listening to the radio when I heard Beck’s “Dreams.” It’s been on my playlist since.

I don’t know if it’s the driving foot-drum or the grunge-y guitar. I love this song.

Dreams have always been a BIG part of my process. I get ideas from them. I percolate writing ideas into concepts through daydreaming. I studied shamanism for a few years wherein the primary mystic delivery system is dream.

Not incidentally, my characters often receive insight from dreams.

I have dreams for my writing career, too. I may have mentioned them a few times on this blog.

Particularly since “winning” NaNoWriMo my first time out in 2013 and subsequently joining the (some would say) cult of word count tracking, I’ve learned that I’m capable of more than I thought in terms of writing productivity.

I share my productivity, or lack thereof, with you each month on my Next chapter updates.

If you look closely, though. I don’t write a heck of a lot.

My daily drafting would probably average about 250-300 words, or around a page. Sometimes I have a good day and I write 500 or a 1000 words, but some days I don’t write at all. I fit it in where I can around work, blogging, television, and the stuff of life like laundry, gardening, family dinners, and housework.

I’d like to think that if I had the opportunity to write “full time” I’d jump at it. But I *know* I wouldn’t be writing for 7.5 hours a day, five days a week. I’d probably write in the afternoons, primarily. I could still get a shit-load of writing done in that time, though.

I think.

A friend of mine shared that she’d written a thousand words in an hour on her current work in progress. That’s impressive. Other authors I follow report similar results, or better. Several of them with much more demanding lives than I have.

Catherine Ryan Howard recently blogged about her year of amazing productivity (watch Tipsday for that post) and I’ve shared a past post by Kameron Hurley, in which she wrote marathon 10k weekends because that was the only time her day job and life allowed her to have uninterrupted writing time.

Can I do that? I honestly don’t know. I’ve never had to.

A couple of other authors I follow (Marie Bilodeau and Jim C. Hines) have recently made the brave leap into full time writing. It takes more dedication than you think it will to make the writing life work.

I’ve been thinking about this again because I’m querying Initiate of Stone right now. If an agent decided to offer me representation at this point, I wouldn’t be able to leave the day job and focus on writing. If my agent was so lucky as to get me a deal contingent on additional novels, I’d have to find a way to bull my way through everything, including my resistance, to get the work done.

Right now, I make the choice to spend Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) mornings with my mom. On my days off, I generally do that, too. It’s not a duty. It’s something I want to do. Tomorrow, I’ll be taking her out shopping. She’s my best bud as well as my mom.

All the social media stuff that backs up during the week falls into the weekend as well. And preparing my weekly curation posts.

I let this happen.

Part of me says this is the way it is. Another part of me says that the day job gives me the excuse/luxury/lack of urgency to be lazy. I don’t need to grind out words to meet a deadline and pay this month’s (or heaven forbid, last month’s) bills.

I’m also thinking about my potential productivity as I head into another NaNoWriMo while I’m working, and travelling for work, during November. My only goal for this year is to beat last year’s 28,355 word effort.

In August, due to my two and a half week trip delivering training, I gave up posting on the weekends. I think I’m going to do that in November, too, even though I’ll have Can-Con sessions to report on. Y’all will just have to be patient 🙂

I continue to discover that I can do more than I think I can when I have the proper motivation.

If nothing else, I’ll try and see what happens.

The dream is still alive despite the reality check.

What about you, dear reader? Will your dreams survive the reality check?

Until next week! *waves*

Muse-inks

Bits and pieces

A.K.A. catching up on a bunch of stuff.

First of all, happy Valentine’s Day, to all of you lovely people out there!

Work

They say you’re not learning unless you’re failing. I must be learning BIG TIME at work these days.

That’s all I’m going to day about that.

Spirit

On February 1st, St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, I attended Wooing the Soul, a day-long workshop and storytelling session intended to help women connect with their inner goddess. I enjoyed the storytelling, which was based on The Wooing of Etain. We danced, we sang, we invoked the spirit of Brigid, saint and goddess, and we shared food and experience.

I reconnected with a few friends whose circles I’ve moved away from in the past years.

While it was a good day, I found it was a bit long. I kept finding myself thinking, I could be writing, which is, incidentally, how I connect with my inner goddess. It’s a problem I have. Instead of talking about something, or listening to others talk about it, I’d rather be doing it 😛

I won’t write more about the day because others have done a better job than I could, namely, my friend Kim Fahner on her Republic of Poetry blog, and the facilitator herself, Ann Kathleen McLaughlin, on her blog, SophiAwakens.

Training of a different sort

On February 3rd, I delivered a workshop on getting published for the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) as part of their Arts Intensive art education week.

I haven’t delivered a creative workshop in some time and I was looking forward to it. I’d love the opportunity to do more of these in the future. *hint, hint, universe*

I was far more nervous than I usually am before a training gig, which is to say I was a bit of a wreck, but the class was an intimate group.

The workshop was only two hours, and I had trouble keeping things on track, because the training I deliver for work is rarely less than a day. It wasn’t too bad, however, as the class was largely not at the querying stage yet, so the fact that I wasn’t able to discuss that aspect of getting published at length wasn’t a huge issue.

I also shared my notes and PowerPoint after the class, so everyone received all the bits I wasn’t able to discuss at length in the class.

I’m quite happy with how things turned out.

There are always lessons learned attached to any learning event, though, and I’ve got those tucked away for next time 🙂

The writing life

In writing news, I received my second rejection of a short story this year. I try to take the view that I am one more rejection closer to ‘yes,’ but honestly, things that been going so poorly in general of late that it’s been a little difficult to maintain a positive outlook.

Still, I continue to forge ahead with writing, revising, and submitting. It’s what we writers do.

Pupdate

Nuala had another glucose curve back in January and the result is that we increased her insulin by four units a day and tried reducing her prednisone.

The former is working well (we think) but we had to resume her previous dosage of pred as her ears were beginning to close up again.

Otherwise, our pup-child is doing well and we’ll return to the vet in March for another glucose curve and general checkup.

A clarification on the dream thing

I just wanted to be clear that I have ‘normal’ dreams, too.

The other night, for example, I dreamed that my sister-in-law invited herself over to our house for a sleepover, which was to take place, at her request, in the storage area of our unfinished basement, which barely has room for us to stand or move around in, let alone three adults and camping gear—oh, didn’t I mention, the sleepover was actually a camp-out, in the middle of one of the coldest winters we’ve had recently, in an uninsulated basement with a drafty window . . .

I’ve also had work-related dreams in which the office has moved into a shopping mall and I’m there, after hours, with Phil, moving my own office furniture. I’m wearing a power suit, have short, dark hair, and I’m skinny in that way only women who spend several hours a day working out are skinny. But I’m still me. No one else is there.

Or, I’ve dreamed that my boss gets a promotion, and she invites me along for the ride, literally, as she’s boarding a Lear jet and I’ve been summoned to the runway on the assumption that, of course, I’ll want to drop everything and go.

Inside the jet, she lounges like Cleopatra, a platoon of virile, young military men seeing to her every desire. I wish her well and get the heck out of Dodge, happy to have escaped the ‘trap.’ Oh yes. Hellish trap, that would be . . .

I’ve had stress dreams, falling dreams, chase dreams, abandonment dreams, and nightmares I’m not going to repeat, because, while they are all perfectly clear in my memory, I don’t want to feed those particular beasts.

It’s just those rare few per year that are well developed stories in their own rights that have little, if anything, to do with my waking life.

Just so you know. I’m mostly normal. Mostly (she says in a voice like Newt’s in Aliens).

So that’s it for this week. My mom’s coming over for supper in a bit, and then I’m going to throw my hat in the ring of another writing contest.

Break a pencil in all of your creative endeavours this week!

Muse-inks

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Yes, it’s actually happening!

I had a bit of a false start back in April when Gemma Hawdon originally tagged me, and now that Claudette Young, A.K.A. Claudsy has tagged me for a second time, I actually found a couple of fellow bloggers who hadn’t already done it 🙂

First, I must thank my nominators:

Gemma Hawdon and familyGemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. She writes articles, short stories and web content for clients. She’s just completed the first book in a two-part children’s fantasy series and writes a blog http://topoftheslushpile.com/ about – funnily enough – trying to get to the top of the slush pile. She loves hot coffee, long walks and sneaking off to the movies when everyone else is at work.

Public Contact Details:
Twitter: @gemmaleehawdon
Facebook: facebook.com/topoftheslushpile
Email: gemmaleehawdon@gmail.com


 

Claudette J. Young began writing seriously in 2008 and continues to write in multiple Claudette J. Younggenres. She strives to learn something new each day—a new poetry form, new writing technique, new foreign word, or whatever strikes her fancy. Her primary genres are poetry, science fiction/fantasy, flash fiction, children’s literature, women’s fiction, along with creative non-fiction, essay, and memoir. She tries to cover all of her bases by writing for audiences that range from young children to senior citizens.

Claudette has been published in numerous online publications for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as print magazines and two international poetry anthologies. She continues to hone her craft by working on multiple projects, including book-length ones. Her regular work can be viewed on her collaborative website and blogs at: http://2voices1song.com/ as well as www.claudettejyoung.com/


 

Now for the hard part

I have to answer four questions all about—you guessed it—my WIPs and process. I’ll apologize to my followers, for whom some of this will be a repeat of my Next Chapter posts, but I hope there will be some new, tasty stuff in the mix for you too.

What am I working on?

Several projects. This year, I decided, inspired in part by Rochelle (one of my nominees – see below) to attempt working on multiple projects at once.

First is my epic fantasy, Initiate of Stone.

An aspirant mage is betrayed by those she trusts most, but when war razes her village, she loses family, friends, and the possibility of initiation. The secrets kept from her may be the keys to stopping the mad god intent on enslaving her world and her quest for power leads to a confrontation with the man who tore her life apart.

Yeah, still needs work.

It’s currently out with betas. I have a couple who are very thorough/detail oriented, and that’s just fine with me, because I’ve been able to use the time to make some major decisions about the novel, remap it, make editing notes, a beat sheet, and reverse engineer the plot. When I hear back from my peeps, I’ll be ready for one more massive rewrite, and then it’s onto querying.

Second is a young adult urban fantasy titled, Figments.

Her father’s murder sends a girl spiralling into depression, and, she fears, delusion. As her figments turn out to be real, she learns that everything else she thought she knew is a lie, opening the door to the terrifying possibility that her father was a modern-day Frankenstein, and she is his apocalyptic monster.

Figments was last year’s NaNoWriMo project and I am currently mapping it out, then I’ll get to the beat sheet, edit notes, and reverse engineering. This one has a few revisions ahead.

My third project is Gerod and the Lions, a middle grade, traditional fantasy.

A boy’s father sells his little sister to the Child Merchants and he sets off, alone, to rescue her. Clever, but small, he fails his first attempt and finds shelter in a circus where he discovers a talent for talking to lions and allies who help him track the Child Merchants to the capital, where a royal encounter and a daring rescue bring the boy face to face with his sister and her new owners.

I’m still drafting this one, but I expect to be finished by the end of this year.

Finally, there’s Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series.

She’s come into her power through an act of murder and now a rogue sourceress (it’s not a typo), in the company of the half-brother she never knew and the avatar of the goddess, must defend the king’s city and then race to battle the mad god. If she can’t become powerful enough to defeat him, her life and her world will be destroyed.

The draft has been assembled and mapped, but will require substantial rewriting because of the revisions to IoS.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

What’s that saying? There’s nothing new under the sun.

The only thing that distinguishes my work from other fantasy novels being written and published is me. It’s my writing and my voice that will set them apart.

The epic series is pretty standard fare, but I have what I hope is a truly strong heroine who drives the plot and some compelling secondary characters all of whom I torture mercilessly. None of the characters is purely good or evil—except the mad god, he’s just psychotic—so it’s complex and dark and unrelenting. And there’s a lot of vomiting, or so I’ve been told by at least one reader 😉

The YA novel features a gargoyle, but I think in the search for “original” beasties, this ground has already been trod, as has the Frankenstein angle, but not, perhaps, in the way I have approached it.

The MG might be fairly original, a young lion tamer who takes down a child slavery ring? I might have something there.

Why do I write what I do?

The main reason is that fantasy and science fiction were what I started reading: C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Madeline L’engle, Ursula K. Le Guin. It was also what I started watching: Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

As I read or watched, I imagined myself as a character in the story. Sometimes I’d even dream about it. These derivative, or fan-based, works were some of my earlier stories. When I grew older, I understood that I wanted to help other people feel what I felt as the consumer of these creative works.

How does my writing process work?

Sweet Jebus.

The thing about my process is that it is . . . a process. It’s what happens between my head and the page. The two words I might choose to characterize my writing process are organic and evolving.

I generally shoot from the hip. I write first and ask questions later, but I’m also addicted to learning. With every writing craft book or blog post I read, or workshop I take, I learn something, and I incorporate bits and pieces of everything into my process. How do I choose which bits and pieces? It feels good or right. It fits.

I’m an unapologetic pantser, but I generally outline after the first draft, and even though I may not have a formal outline to write by, I always know where my story is going. I know the end and major events before I begin. I may even have sketched out scenes and characters before I get to the actual drafting. I do a lot of preliminary work in my head (read, incubating).

According to some coaches, that’s a form of outlining. *bats eyelashes endearingly*

I’ve tried alpha readers (who read an early draft), beta readers (who read later drafts), professional editors, reviews of the first X pages, first act (some of this done with Jenny – see nominees, below) . . . I generally give everything a try once and decide by the results I get whether I’ll do it the same way next time or not.

In this moment, here’s how my process works:

Ideas:

Ideas emerge from dreams. I, like many writers, dream in story. It may be a bit surreal, but they’re full-colour movies, sometimes even in three acts. This used to happen a lot when I was a kid, but now, I might get one or two story dreams a year. Still, that’s a fair backlog of ideas.

Ideas emerge from journaling. I started keeping a journal in university when knowledge from different disciplines kept colliding in my skull. Now, I find that my curation is taking the place of journaling. I share the articles and posts that make me think or feel and that becomes a kind of record. I also use Evernote.

Ideas emerge from reading. I’m a “clip-rat.” If I read something physical that makes me think, I clip it, or make a copy and save it in my idea file.

Ideas emerge from exercises or prompts. This is not as frequent as I’m not keen on exercises and prompts, but on a few occasions, it’s worked. Gerod and the Lions resulted from a Natalie Goldberg prompt.

Drafting:

I used to draft long hand because that was the tool I had most easily available to me. The idea that became Initiate of Stone filled two large spiral-bound notebooks.

Then, I started to type.

That gave way to word processing when I got my first computer. Those were the DOS days of black screens and orange text.

Now, I rely mostly on Word, and though I have purchased Scrivener, I’ve found that the process of importing and formatting is a bit cumbersome. I’d rather be writing. But I have enrolled in a course, so that may change.

Revisions:

After drafting, I let things sit for a while and move onto other projects, or work on short stories, or do something completely unrelated like home renovation or gardening.

I print out my draft as economically as possible and read it through.

I “map” my novels out. It’s an outline of sorts and I can easily rearrange, cut, and rewrite based on my map. Mapping is done long hand and then transcribed into a computer document.

Beat sheets and edit notes are generally long hand as well. I usually relocate to the living room or some other place than my office to make these notes.

Once I have all my structural work and edit notes completed, I’ll launch into editing the draft, copying each chapter into a new document and rewriting/editing it fully before moving on to the next.

This process repeats until I’m satisfied.

Alpha or beta readers, or editors might come in around the third or fourth version.

And that’s pretty much how it’s gone to this point.

My process is continually subject to change.

And finally, my nominoms (da-doo-da-do-doo – yes, I’m a Muppet at heart).

Jenny Madore (writing as JL Madore)

JL MadoreJL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. www.jlmadore.ca


 

Rochelle Sharpe (writing as R.L. Sharpe)

I’m many things: A reader; a writer; a mother of 2; a wife of 1; Christian; Australian.Rochelle Sharpe

I’ve been telling stories since I could talk and started writing them down when I was 8. It will take an awful lot to stop me – like death. Some say I’m a dreamer, and I have my head in the clouds, but I say that’s better than having two feet planted firmly on the ground.

I define myself as a storyteller. Writing is my life. Through writing I get to record all the worlds I have been blessed with discovering, worlds I would love to share with you fully one day, as soon as I can convince a publisher my worlds are worth sharing 🙂

I spend most of my time in fantastical worlds with fantastical people, both I have created and those created by others, and there is no other way I’d rather spend my time.

I work hard on making my dreams come true. And I believe in myself, because if I don’t, who else will?

http://rlsharpe.wordpress.com/

Writing Process Blog Hop

Review of K.M. Weiland’s Dreamlander

I’d been meaning to get K.M. Weiland’s Dreamlander and read it for a while now.  Well, not long ago, Katie posted on Wordplay about Story Cartel, where readers can get free books in exchange for an honest interview.

I missed the deadline for her challenge, which might have won me an Amazon gift certificate (moar books!), but since I always intended to write the review up anyway, I figured I’d just carry on and post when I actually finished the book.

I don’t read as fast as I used to.  I blame it on the day job, but I have a feeling that even if I wasn’t working I wouldn’t be consuming a book a day like I used to. Besides, I wanted to savour Dreamlander.  If that doesn’t give away the nature of my review, I don’t know what will 😉

One of the reasons I was so keen was the concept: a man goes to sleep in this world and wakes up in a parallel world.

Any of you who have followed my blog for any length of time will know about my tonsillectomy trauma and the dream that I had upon my return from my second visit to the hospital.

For those of you who haven’t seen the post and don’t want to take the time to read it, here’s the short version: I had a near-death experience, and as a result, I dreamed that I had, in fact, died.  I fell asleep in one world and woke up a new person in another world.

So you can see how Dreamlander kind of fed into my life-long fascination with dreams and dreaming.

DreamlanderThe Amazon blurb:

What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds?

What if the dreams you awaken from are the fading memories of that second life?

What if one day you woke up in the wrong world?

Only one person in a generation may cross the barrier of dreams to reach the other world—a world of war-scarred countries and fallen faiths. When a Chicago-born journalist finds himself on the far side of his dreams, he must hurl himself into battle to save a princess from her own people, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.

My thoughts:

I loved Dreamlander (did you see that one coming?).  Weiland has created a flawed protagonist in Chris Redston who wins our hearts over as he attempts to undo the damage caused by the mistakes he’s made.

Having lost his mother and one sister in a car accident he survived, and having subsequently lost his father to alcoholism, Chris is done with alternately lending his father money and bailing him out of jail.  He can’t find his focus though.  Once a talented writer, Chris finds himself blocked and unable to support himself.  Then there are these bizarre dreams he keeps having…

Chris turns out to be The Gifted, a rare man who can cross over into the land of his dreams, a very real world where he lives an alternate life.

Allara Katadin, princess of Lael and Searcher, is equally damaged.  The last Gifted who crossed over sent her world spiralling into chaos and she feels it was her fault.  She can’t trust Chris not to be the man his predecessor was, and when he initially proves her right, she shuts Chris out, not understanding that life is about taking chances and about giving second ones when it matters most.

Dreamlander is true epic fantasy, with not just one, but two worlds in jeopardy.  Chris and Allara must work together and sacrifice everything to do the right thing, even as Allara’s own people cry for her blood and that of the Gifted.

The denouement was both heart wrenching and satisfying, Weiland proving that the writer must be cruel to her characters to be kind to her readers.

My highest recommendation.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars.

About the author:

K.M. Weiland grew up chasing Billy the Kid and Jesse James on horseback through the hills of western Nebraska, where she still lives. A lifelong fan of history and the power of the written word, she enjoys sharing both through her novels and short stories. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, where she mentors other authors and shares the ups and downs of the writing life.

Now I’m off to post my review to Story Cartel, Amazon, and Goodreads 🙂

Later, ‘taters!

Caturday Quickies: On inspiration

Place as inspiration

As I mentioned in the first of today’s (not-so) quickies, I was in Chatham this week.

The place I stayed in was an amazing hotel called the Retro Suites.  If you’re ever in Chatham, I’d recommend it, just for the fabulous quirk factor.

The owner restored classic cars for years and you can see a lot of that material  has made its way into the hotel.  Fenders turned into benches, tools turned into sculpture and art.

retro7

A “school” of vice-grips 🙂

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An assemblage of dispirate art and antiques

The owner is a massive collector as well.  Throughout the suites, framed classic movie posters, old microphones (including one from Elvis and one from the Voice of America) and radios, vintage furniture, tables made out of the tail-pieces of WWII bombs, authentic Turkish samovars, and paintings by one of the owners’ family members grace the walls.  He even has a couple of the FAO Schwartz tin soldiers in there.  You can spend hours just wandering around the joint.

A pair of FAO Schwartz tin soldiers with automotive-part furniture

A pair of FAO Schwartz tin soldiers with automotive-part furniture

Each suite is decorated in theme.  My suite was the “Chrom-e-delic.”  I’m sure you can see the mod 70s influence 🙂  Go to the site (linked above) and see some of the other suites for yourselves.

retro8retro9

The hotel is actually a block of converted and renovated buildings.  It’s a wonderful maze in there and inspired an idea for my third (of thirteen) original short stories for Kasie Whitener’s Just Write: 2013 Short Story Challenge.

Books as inspiration

I started reading Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest this past week.  Just previous, I finished Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, which features as its MacGuffin, a palimpsest, or book within a book.  Picking up Valente’s book next just seemed the logical extension in my mind 🙂

I was struck by Valente’s lyrical style of writing.  It reminded me of a couple of other books I’ve read: Kathryn Davis’s The Thin Place, and Richard Grant’s Views from the Oldest House.  I’m not sure why I associate them, but I think that, once again, it has to be the quirk factor.

This too, is feeding into my new story 🙂

Dreams as inspiration

I’ve often mentioned that I, like many other authors, draw inspiration from my dreams.  I’ve had a couple this week that I’m going to keep in the idea file.

One, though I think I’m going to play with the particulars a bit, is about a family of vampires (hence the playing, I don’t think another book about vampires could be published any time in the next few decades), who hire a human investigator to discover why their fellow creatures want to kill them.

The dream was more detailed, of course, but this is just to give you the basics.

The second dream is a little more bizarre.  A group of refugees (what they’re running from was not clear in the dream) take refuge in what looks like the ruins of a castle, but turns out to be sentient.  Not only that, but as they explore the castle, they come across indications that at least one of them has travelled to the past, and left messages for them to find around the castle.

Definition of inspiration (courtesy of the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

1
a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

2
: the act of drawing in; specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs

3
a : the quality or state of being inspired
b : something that is inspired <a scheme that was pure inspiration>

4
: an inspiring agent or influence

in·spi·ra·tion·al adjective

in·spi·ra·tion·al·ly adverb

What inspires you?

A life sentence with mortal punctuation: part 2

Last week: An early encounter with death.

The year I had my tonsils out

Tonsillitis is hell.  The true infection, the one that leaves your four-year-old self screaming, the monster pain in your ears reaching back into your brain, your throat, latching on with needle-like claws, and shredding.

I remember that.

I remember trying to lie still on my side on the couch while Mom administered oil-based ear medication into my ears, one after the other.  This would hopefully happen before the screaming started, was intended to pre-empt it.   I’d squirm and whine while the medication slowly dripped into my ears, swallowed doses of liquid antibiotics and Tempra (a liquid painkiller for children).

I remember once heading out in the car with my parents and maternal grandparents.  I’m not sure whether it was just for a picnic, or if it was a day trip to a camp site, but it was a ways out of town.  Mom hadn’t thought to bring my medication and just to spite her, my tonsillitis decided to act up.  Big time.

Mom and Nanny (I had to have a different name for this other older lady who wasn’t the same as Grandma, my paternal grandmother) tried to calm me down in the back seat, but I was howling by the time we reached our destination and we couldn’t stay.  I had to be returned home and dosed.

It quickly became apparent that surgery was in order.  Though this was the time during which doctors tried not to perform tonsillectomies, my situation was serious enough that everyone felt there was no other choice.

I don’t remember anything about the surgery itself.  I believe it went off without a hitch.  After the operation, all seemed well, and I returned home enjoying ice cream, popsicles, and TLC.

In the middle of the night, I woke, coughing, had trouble breathing, the air moving in and out of me with a rattling slurp, the sound of milk bubbling through a straw.  The next cough shot a black spatter onto my pyjamas and sheets.  I couldn’t summon the breath to call for my mom right away, my first attempt emerged a thready burble.

Each stuttering breath and cough produced a little more noise, until I was shouting, “Mom!

The light switch flicked on, momentarily blinding me, but one look at the blood and I yelled again, despite the jagged burning in my throat, tried to crawl back from it, but it followed.  I was covered in blood.

My stitches had burst.

A frantic ride to the hospital and the doctor ordered me back into surgery and my parents were ordered out of the examination room, the male nurse assuring them that he could handle getting the intravenous inserted.

He sent Mom away.  It was abandonment, pure and simple.  A four-year old doesn’t distinguish between her parents leaving her and her parents being forced to leave her.

Worse, the nurse tried to stab me.  I showed him.

Mom and Dad were brought back in, allowed to hold my hand, held my legs down, while the newly bandaged nurse taped my arm to a block of wood and did his worst.  In the moment, I hated my parents for that, for letting the nurse hurt me.

I didn’t die, but I came close.

I don’t remember any of the iconic images typical of near-death experiences (NDEs).  No long tunnels.  No doorways of brilliant light.  No voices of lost loved ones calling to me.  No angels; no voice of God.

The road back from that second surgery was a long one.  I’d ingested so much blood, I became incontinent in the most embarrassing way, my family doctor plucked clots of blood out of my ears, and nothing, not even ice cream, tasted good for weeks.  More courses of liquid antibiotics followed, which stained my teeth indelibly and made me self-conscious for years.

I have a picture of myself right after the surgery, pale, skinny.  It was Christmas, but I couldn’t smile.

Mellie after the operation

Mellie after the operation

What’s stayed with me the most was the dream.

My first night home after the second surgery, I dreamed of my bed, empty.  The cheery yellow and white striped flannel sheets, the blue wool blanket turned down, the dark wood frame with the toy cupboard built in.  Just the bed in a kind of spot light, the rest of the room dark.  The image of the bed receded into the darkness and finally disappeared.

The feeling that I woke up with was that I had died, not that I really understood what that meant, but that I had ceased to exist and that the world I woke up in was a new one.  I had a new life, too.  A second chance.

Now, I’d say that I dreamed of one of those moments at which the infinite iterations of parallel universes converge.  I turned left.  The sensation was profound.

I started to have nightmares about falling, or being abandoned, that troubled me for years,

Deutsch: Engel holt die Seele eines Sterbenden

Deutsch: Engel holt die Seele eines Sterbenden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and am firmly convinced that I had spontaneous out-of-body experiences (OBEs) at night.  During the latter, I felt like a helium balloon in a wind storm, flung, sometimes painfully, to the furthest reaches of my tether but always yanked back.  The ‘string’ was attached to my navel.

Try an experiment for me.  Poke your finger into your belly-button.  Press in hard and wriggle it around.  That will give you some idea what having a string attached to it and being hauled around by it feels like.

I’ve heard that the navel is supposed to be an erogenous zone (thanks for that one, Dr. Oz).  Sadly, I’ve never found that to be true.  It’s always been a slightly disturbing feeling for me.  I figure that’s just me.  My wiring isn’t quite what other people might feel is normal.  I’m cool with that.

I’ve written a short story about this experience for my thesis called “Tonsillitis Blues.”  I’ve written short fiction and poetry about it.

This experience is still in me and claws its way out from time to time, like it has today.

Next week, I’ll be delving into the period of my life that I refer to as ‘friend wars.’  These were my first experiences of bullying.  I think I did pretty well, even though I had no idea what it was I was dealing with.  This was also the period when I developed my first defenses against bullying, several of which resulted in my further isolation, and one of which meant that I became a bully myself.

I see the ‘friend war’ years as the time when my predisposition to depression was first anchored in my psyche.  It destroyed my self-confidence.

Have any of you had a non-traditional near-death experience?  A youthful trauma that resulted in years of nightmares?  How about out-of-body experiences?  When were you able to understand what happened to you and how it affected you?  What creativity has emerged from these experiences?

I’ll be posting my interview with Brian Braden shortly.

Talk to you soon!