Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Missing The Mark (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

I'm assuming that, by now, you're all familiar with this group, but if you're looking for more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's co-hosts are: Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?"

And true to form, I'm kind of answering this question and kind of not. Because I'm me, and this is what I do.

So I know I don't have a very deep title list, or a title list of any kind (I'm not sure one title can be counted as a list), but all five of my readers will know that I don't exactly write happy love stories. All of my characters are pretty miserable at the end of the first book, and should the second book ever see the light of day (Ha! she scoffed) those five readers will see that no one's getting any happier. It's not looking good for the third book, either (either for the characters, or me writing it...).

Because I am a horrible person who likes to do horrible things to her characters.

But that's another blog post for another day maybe.

Despite my penchant for making characters miserable, this past July, I set out to write a romance novel. Like, a real, actual romance novel with characters who like each other and aren't endlessly tortured, and who maybe have something that kind of sort of resembles a happy ending.

I hit my word count goal on this project (65,000 word) and scored myself a Camp NaNoWriMo win in the process, but the book is far from being finished. Mostly because the story is missing one vital component: THE FREAKING ROMANCE.

Which somehow surprises me. I didn't expect that first draft to be perfect, of course (not that I can really consider it a finished draft, considering that it's, you know, not finished) but I am surprised that I missed the mark so badly. I read the how-to books. I took copious notes on crafting characters and plot. I read real, actual romance novels.

And then I wrote a hot mess featuring two characters no readers would actually want to be together.

Including me.

Which makes me wonder if I'm just not cut out to write a romance novel. I may not be. I may have to take those two characters and put them in another story in another genre. Or I may need more time away from it to give me the necessary perspective to figure out where I went wrong (for example, THERE'S NO FREAKING ROMANCE IN THE ROMANCE NOVEL) and how I could fix it. Or I may need to abandon the entire damn thing in some aligator-infested swamp somewhere (those exist in Florida, right?).

Only time will tell, I suppose.

Thanks for stopping by today. Take care, everyone.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Interacting With Readers and a Camp NaNoWriMo Update

This has been mentioned on this blog before—and will certainly be mentioned again, I'm sure—but I am one of those authors who's really not all that comfortable being an author in public. (Or just being in public in general, truth be told.)

I pretty much live in fear of being asked about my book. Or hearing that someone is reading my book. Or hearing that someone has read my book and now can't wait to talk to me about said book.

But when these things happen (which they occasionally do), I try to act like a somewhat normal human being capable of putting words into sentence doing (Name! That! Reference!) and, occasionally, I am somewhat successful.

But most of the time, I am just a big, blithering idiot who probably leaves every reader wondering how it is I managed to write a book at all.

Anyway, I recently had a pair of reader interactions I thought I would share with you. To my credit, I neither ran away nor hid under any tables at any point during these experiences.

—A gentleman—in front of a group, mind you—provided a passionate (and mostly accurate) recap of Effigy's plot—being sure to hit all of the darkest plot points, of course—during which I imagine I turned about a million shades of red. Upon finishing, this gentleman turned to me and asked, "How did such a sweet, quiet, little thing like you write such a dark book?" To which I responded, "If you think that book was dark, you really shouldn't read its sequel." (Also, it should be noted that I am not, in any way, shape, or form, a sweet, quiet, little thing.)

—A reader told me that she recently acquired a copy of Effigy and was really enjoying it. In fact, she was finding it rather difficult to put it down, and even read until 3am one night, because she didn't want to stop reading. Which, for me and all of my gross dysfunction, is just the highest compliment. As I wrote in a blog post a few years back, one of my goals was to write a book that make people (or person, as the case may be) want to stay up all night to read. So I am incredibly humbled that she feels that way about my book, and took the time to tell me so. Even though I was my usual social doofus self when she did.

—This conversation:

Potential Reader: I should really read your book.
Me: Oh, don't. It's terrible.
Potential Reader: Huh?

—And this conversation:

—Potential Reader: What's your book about?
—Me: Uh, well...there's this girl, and she's trying know, not die.
—Potential Reader: Well...that's a good goal to have.

I'll keep working on that 'normal human being' thing...

Camp NaNoWriMo Update

Goal: 65,000 words

Words Written: 42,321

Words Remaining: 22,679

Days Remaining: 13

Biggest Issue: I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. There are 42,000 words in this damn thing, and I have yet to write the actual romance part. Methinks I am doing this all wrong.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

You Know What You Should Do (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group!

(I'm assuming that, by now, anyone coming to this blog will know all about the IWSG, but if you're new and you'd like more information, or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.)

This month's fabulous co-hosts are Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan.

This month's question asks, "What is one valuable lesson you have learned since you started writing?"

Which I'm kind of answering. Or might be answering. I'm not sure yet. We'll have to see how the post goes.

All right, so, back in New England, I belonged to a writers group. And, for a while, there was a member of this group with whom I would constantly butt heads. If we both attended a meeting, there was a better-than-excellent chance that we would end up having an argument. There was one very simple reason for this:

He thought he knew what every writer should be doing.

Every writer, he would say, should want an agent and a big six (or is it five now? Wasn't there a merge in there somewhere?) publisher. Every writer should want to be on a bestsellers' list somewhere. Every writer should want a movie deal. Every writer should want fame and fortune.

"Otherwise," he would say, "what's the point in being a writer?"

Well, I took great offense at this. Because not every writer is the same. Not every writer wants the same things. In that particular group, we had a few members interested in publishing, but more weren't. It was just the composition of that particular group. There was a woman who composed poetry simply because she liked it, and quite a few members who were writing their memoirs and/or family histories because they wanted their children or grandchildren to have them. They weren't interested in publishing. They wrote for the joy of writing.

And that man just couldn't comprehend it. So we fought a lot. Because he would make these writers feel bad about what they wanted. He would make them feel like something was wrong with them because their goals weren't his goals.

And that pissed me off. So I told him. Loudly. And frequently.

Because I am a firm believer that all writers are different and, therefore, may want different things. And no one gets to decide what those things are but you, the writer.

Because it's your work.

Want to keep everything you've written in a box under your bed? Okay. Want to get yourself an agent and a big six (five?) publisher? Good for you. Want to self-publish your masterpiece? Great. Want to have a bunch of photocopies made at your local Staples to hand out on street corners? Wear sunscreen. Don't know what you want to do? Do the research, talk to the people who have been through it, and then decide.

But always remember that the decision belongs to you. There may be people who don't like it, wouldn't have chosen it for themselves, and think you're crazy, but who cares? As my good friend, Tina Fey, would say...

But that's my opinion. We welcome yours.

Monday, July 3, 2017

In Which I Review Books

I always mean to write a post at the start of every month reviewing the books I had read the previous month, and for a while, I actually managed to do that. For whatever reason, however, I haven't done of these in quite a while.

But that changes today! Which you probably guessed from the title.

So here now, for your reading pleasure, is a recap of what I've read recently, and what I thought of it:

Right Behind You—Lisa Gardner—I was disappointed by this novel. I like her D.D. Warren series a lot, but this...I did not like this one. It was supposed to be a Quincy and Raine story, but they felt like secondary characters to me who really didn't have a whole lot to do. Also, it was repetitive. repetitive. And dull. And repetitive. It's hot, and did you know that Cal makes cheese? I do. It was mentioned twelve hundred times in each of his POV scenes and occasionally in other scenes. But I struggled through the book, only to get to the Epilogue, which summed up everything I'd already read. At least the German shepherd survives.

Empire of Storms—Sarah J. Maas—The latest installment in her Throne of Glass series. The second book in this series, Crown of Midnight, I thought was very good, and every book since then (in this series, I mean) has failed to live up to that, in my humble opinion. But yes, despite that, I keep reading them. (I alway seem to hope that there will be a return to the heights of that second book.) Anyway, in this installment...okay, just...I felt like I was reading about a completely different set of characters that just happened to share names with characters from earlier installments. Like, Dorian? Is he still possessed? Did he have a personality transplant in between the last book and this book (one that makes him really into bondage, perhaps?) because he's not the guy that I kind of liked in the first two books. There's also the very convenient romantic pairing-off of all the characters, like Oprah stopped by and did a giveaway (YOU get a soulmate! YOU get a soulmate! EVERYBODY gets a soulmate!), which lead some kind of ridiculous sex scenes. And can I just say...when you're some kind of magical being who bursts into flames at the, you know, height of pleasure, you probably should consider refraining from having relations on a wooden boat in the middle of the ocean. But maybe that's just me. The end felt rather deus ex machina to me (Aelin can certainly coordinate a lot of things without the use of any form of instantaneous communication/transportation), and my favorite character wasn't in the book at all. But considering what happened to the other characters, this was, perhaps, for the best.

The One Memory of Flora Banks—Emily Barr—A story about a seventeen-year-old girl whose memory resets itself every hour, or couple of hours, or every few hours, or whatever was most convenient for the plot. This book was just sooooo repetitive. Yes, I understand that a large part of that was because the main character had no short-term memory (due to a supposed brain tumor—more on that in a moment), but it made for a very tedious read. Especially when the one memory she does develop is her having kissed a boy. Not only does she remember it, but she decides she's in love with the boy, and she has to do whatever it takes to be with him. (Translation: goes by herself to the Arctic Circle to find him) There's a brother we never actually get to meet and a magic email from him that explains everything, but leads to an ending that's more unbelievable than the rest of the novel.

Into The Woods—Tana French— A story about the murder of a young girl and the completely incompetent detective with a mysterious past assigned to solve the case. Seriously, I had this thing solved on, like, page 137, but the detectives required a few hundred pages more to get it done. And then there's this paragraph toward the end of the novel where the narrator was all, like, (to the reader), "Well, the villain fooled you, too!" Which, she didn't. You're just stupid, dude. And a note on his mysterious past...that's a mystery that's never solved in this book. I wanted it to be solved, and I kept reading, hoping it would be solved, but it never is. And yes, in real life, there are mysteries that are never solved, but this isn't real life. This is a mystery novel in which a central mystery goes unsolved. I personally would have preferred the opposite.

A Season Of Daring Greatly—Ellen Emerson White—A novel about an eighteen-year-old girl who is drafted by a major league baseball team. I really enjoyed this story. You were probably thinking that I hate everything I read, but I didn't hate this book. I liked it very much. I thought it had a great character voice. It made me laugh, and it made me worry about the main character, which I find is always the mark of a good book. She doesn't have an easy time of it, which she shouldn't, and I was sincerely concerned for her. It made it hard to put this book down. My only real quibble is that I didn't like where it ended. I wasn't ready for it to end, and I hope there's another installment in the near future.

The Hate U Give—Angie Thomas—I loved, loved, loved this book. Seriously, I loved it. And this will be my shortest review, which sounds odd, I know, given the extent of my love for it, but I don't want to give anything away. Just know that it made me feel all the things, and I spent a good amount of time wiping away tears while reading this book. I found it to be an incredibly moving story.

Camp NaNoWriMo Update:

Goal: 65,000 words

Current word count: 8062

Words remaining: 56,938

Biggest Plot Issue: My MC gets fired, but I haven't worked out the hows or whys of it all yet.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Plan

As you have perhaps deduced from this post's title, I have a plan.

I know I don't exactly have the best track record with plans, or following through with them, or sometimes even starting them, but this time shall be different.

I know there's no real reason to think that this time shall be different from any other time because this blog is nothing if not a well-documented account of each and every one of my failed plans, but somehow that never seems to stop me from creating a new one.

I have only failed on the day I stop trying. Right, Nathan Fillion?


So. The Plan. Next week, maybe, I shall tell you the inspiration behind The Plan (it'll depend on my mood), but today is all about The Plan itself. It's probably going to look just like one of my monthly goal lists, but here we go:

The Plan

1. Stick Full Circle (Book #3 in my fantasy series) on the shelf.

After a fast and furious start, I've kind of stalled out on this project. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. I have to do some thinking and revising of the plot to try to reconcile a few issues I've been having with it, and I believe I shall have greater luck with this if this project is not my main focus (And if you're currently thinking, "Gee, M.J., you know you haven't published Book #2 yet, right?" the answer is yes, I do know this, and I am working on it. It may not be reflected in this particular plan, but I am working on it. I swear.). So it's going on the shelf. For now. It won't stay there indefinitely. There are two characters with whose story line I'm pretty obsessed. This book will be finished if for no other reason than those two.

2. Find an illustrator.

I've mentioned before my desire to one day publish a book of the work-themed, somewhat sarcastic haiku I wrote during my job at The Store. And I am currently inspired to try to accomplish this goal sooner rather than later. So, I have half a plan for it (a plan within the plan, if you will), and that half a plan requires an illustrator. I've started to do some preliminary research for this, and I'm excited by the prospect. I think it could be fun.

3. Write a new novel.

As I mentioned in part one of The Plan, Full Circle can't be my main focus, which means I need something else on which to focus, and that is a new novel. Well, an old half-finished project that I've been essentially ignoring since 2009. Essentially the same thing, right? Anyway, I've pulled it out of the archives and will be attempting to whip it into shape. It was supposed to be a romance novel, but it turned out that I am about as good as writing a happy love story as I am on following through with plans. One of my critique partners said she didn't want my hero and heroine to spend anymore time together, which (and correct me if I'm wrong) is probably not the feedback one wants when one is striving to write a romance. But I still really like the characters, so I'm going to give their story another go.

4. Write this new novel in a month.

Which means it's time for another action-packed installment of...

That's right—in order to help me reach my new-novel goal (or at least give it a nice kick-start), I shall be participating in next month's Camp NaNoWriMo session. It's been a while since I've done NaNoWriMo in any way, shape, or form, and it's always a good time. (Almost always...) I'm really looking forward to giving it another go.

So that's The Plan. We'll see how long it lasts. Let's just hope that this:

doesn't turn into any kind of Jessie Spano-type meltdown.

But I'm sure that'll be fun too.

So, what's going on in your neck of the woods? Any romance authors out there have any tips for me?

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. See y'all next time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

You Call It Quitting, I Call It Stopping (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Once again, I am assuming that all who visit this blog are already familiar with the IWSG and all that it does, but for anyone needing or wanting for information, including a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's amazing co-hosts are: JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner.

This month's (optional) question asks, "Did you ever say 'I quit'? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?"

I quit a lot. Yearly. Monthly. Weekly. Daily. Even hourly, on occasion.

Because there are days when I can't remember how to construct a sentence. There are days when any sentence I do construct would make a Dick and Jane story look sophisticated. Yesterday, it took me eight hours to write a single paragraph that was only two lines long. There are days when I can't even manage that much. And there are a lot of days when I can't stop thinking that I simply cannot do this writing thing.

So I quit.

I plan to run away and join the circus (even though I have absolutely no skills that could be useful in a circus environment). I plan to be a tap dancer (even though I can't dance). I plan to go back to retail. I plan to do anything other than be a writer (even if my only even remotely marketable skill involves precision folding).

But then—and this is the most important part, I think—I pick up my pen and go back to work.

Because, love it or hate it, writing is what I do.

For anyone who wondered, the title of today's post came from an episode of Survivor. I don't remember the season, but there was this one contestant who decided to quit the game. I think he was the first contestant to just outright quit the game. When pressed by Jeff Probst about his decision, the contestant replied, "You call it quitting, I call it stopping." Which, for some reason, became an oft-quoted line in our household. It just seemed to fit this post.

Of course, it's possible that no one wondered where the title of today's post came from. If that's the case, sorry—my bad.

So what about you? Are you a quitter (or a stopper)? What do you do afterward?

Thanks for stopping by today!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Curious Case of the Missing Character

I mentioned this on social media a while ago—because apparently, this is Stuff I've Already Posted On Social Media week on My Pet Blog—so some of you may already be aware of this, but I seem to have lost a character.

Somewhere in between the end of Second Nature and the start of Full Circle, this character just...disappeared.

And not some random, background player, either, but a POV character. A character who has played a pretty significant role in the first two books.

It's weird.

I'm just under 50k in Full Circle's word count (I was over 50k, but deleted a bunch of stuff because I'm me, and that's what I do), and while scrolling through the document, it occurred to me that in those nearly 50k words that this character just...wasn't there.

No scenes. No lines. He's barely even mentioned. I think he's only mentioned once. In the first chapter. Oh no—twice. He's mentioned twice. The second time, in a later chapter, because two other characters are wondering where he went, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that he's gone missing, but missing he is.

And it worries me. I don't quite know what it means. If anything. Maybe it means absolutely nothing. I honestly don't know. I just find it strange that he's gone.

I would be less concerned with his absence if I had any idea at all about where he went and what he was doing there. I had such a careful(ish) plan for Full Circle way back when before I actually had finished writing Second Nature. And when the ending of that book obliterated said plan, I developed a new plan for Full Circle, or at the very least, part of a new plan (I admit Act Three is currently lacking), but here's the thing about those plans— my missing character didn't figure in to either one.

The character the plot forgot.

So where did he go? Did he take a look at the plot I have figured out and decide it was time for an extended vacation? Did I kill him off and just forget (which, as it was pointed out, would be a total MJ thing to do)? Is he off working behind the scenes in this book and just hasn't yet revealed to me there wheres and whys of it all?

I'm hoping for Door #3.

Of course, Full Circle is deep within First Draft territory, and will be languishing there for a good long while, so all this worry and fussing may be for nothing. Hell, because I'm talking about it here, I'll probably realize right where that character is and then have to kick myself repeatedly because it was so obvious.

Which, I would totally be okay with.

In the meantime, however, let's just hope no other characters decide to join him.

Have you ever lost a character? If so, how did you go about finding him/her/it?