Thursday, March 31, 2011

First step: Ask yourself questions

A lot goes into making a really good plot. It's hard work and takes a great deal of reconsideration. When you spy your own work with a critical eye you get the closest glimpse you can get to what your reader will see. Even if they are the forgiving sort of reader that will bark just because you command them to, the back of their minds will still know when something is amiss or awry - when a plot hole opens or a decision hits air on that shark in a jetski. This is my method for developing stories; ask questions.

This works when helping others too. When I sit down with a writer friend who is having trouble with their story I start by asking questions. They're sometimes obvious questions, sometimes more specific, but in the process of figuring out the answers the friend comes to understand a little bit more about the world that lives in their head. I like it when other people ask me questions about my world or my characters... part of me knows everything there is to know about Threadcaster Land and sometimes the answers that come out of my mouth are news to me, too. Like someone asked "How does a Wind Curse die?" and I answered, "They're turning to air so they're wasting away." and the other asked "Does that make them short of breath?"

Hadn't considered that before... but yes, yes it would. If Water Curses have coughs because the water is filling their lungs then why shouldn't the Wind Curses have athezma and the Fire Curses have heartburn? There's no reason for them not to. Right now I'm asking myself the questions "Why don't Earth Curses spit rocks?" to which my mind answers, "I don't know, Jen, why DONT they spit rocks?" Look forward to seeing at least one person sneeze a cloud of dust when we get to Earth Town.

I decided to ramble about this question thing because I've hit a snag in the revising (I don't have time to do it) so instead i've been brainstorming the next couple steps in the story. We're rapidly approaching the end as far as outline is concerned, but the outline was written years ago and things need to be changed. To solve this, I got out the old pen and paper and started writing my steam of consciousness:

Where do we go next:? Why do we go into town when Cat knows it's dangerous there? What if they go straight to the Curses instead of going through town first? Weigh options: two columns Positive and Negative.
Positives: Excuses the fact I can't figure out a reason for them to go.
               Excuses the fact I can't figure out what to do with them once they get there
               Speeds the story up where it needs to go fast.
Negatives: Astonage is kind of an important location for our epic past, it'd be a shame not to see it
               We have a letter to deliver there - but is that important enough to send the whole party AND the      
                quest into danger? No, no it's not.

Thinking about this problem presented me with a solution; what if Cat goes in alone. She wouldn't risk everyone to deliver a letter... and a promise would be enough to get her in and out quickly. It also adds variety to the City-town combo we've done three times previously, and gives Cat a chance to choose to do something on her own as opposed to begging Pete to go along with her as she's done all the way to this point.

So there's a solution to that... which poses another query. I know what she'll find while she's there... but what will she get out of her visit? She shouldn't do anything if it doesn't move her toward her ultimate goal. She has to find something in town to help her. This leads me thinking about the next location, the kind of environment they're headed toward and who they will inevitably meet there. To spare anyone else my train of thought, I came up with a satisfactory solution through asking myself questions, making positive/negative columns for comparison and writing the word SOLUTION really big and cockeyed on the page. It's a system that works for me... maybe it will help you other writers out there as well.

Businesscard design - You like?

Well? Whatcha think? Swanky?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Promotionally Speaking

I know the manuscript isn't done yet, but that's not stopping me from pitching it to a couple agents two weekends from now. Hopefully they'll be interested enough to give me a second look... to help ensure that I'm making myself some Threadcaster Business Cards.

It'll basically be the blog template (lotsa mauve with that shot of Cat's chin and string) with the words Threadcaster: A Novel by Jennifer Stolzer written real big on the front. Then a photo and my contact information on the back. I'll post a pic of if up here for review when I'm done and share it with Facebook as well. The audience is larger over there for now.

Do you all think I should link this blog on the front of the card too? I've got the room.. I might as well, right. It'll be a great place to follow the book's progress and read up on it's world and characters (when I get around to making those posts. I'm planning one out very soon)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stumbling Block.. not a writer's block but close

I've already talked at length about how much I love revising. This remains true, but I've hit a bit of a snag. See I've changed a lot of stuff. I've taken out whole scenes, truncated others... now I'm facing a bit of a time misalignment. 

Originally they have a long day of talking and learning from the wisest people in the Valley, then go to bed and in the morning they hit the road again. Well, I've deleted half a day's worth of milling about. Do they go to bed at 3pm? 

Well.. I guess they do if I say so.  I could say something like "Maybe you all should turn in for the night?" "Turn in? But we just got up" "It seems like it, but while we've been talking the day has been waning. It's dusk already, you just can't see it out the window. You should get your rest." "Really? Wow... time does fly, and I guess I am sleepy."

Mneh... I'll put a layer of icing on it and it'll be fine.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Gift of Revision

Since this is a blog about the writing process, I wanted to share with everyone a great gift that I can only assume God himself has given me. The absolute Joy of revision.

Lots of people complain about how they hate to edit. They hate nitpicking, and they hate reading what they've written because they're ashamed or discouraged. I do not have this problem. For me, revision is like a key being wound in the back of a toy; you've got to twist and twist to get it nice and tight, then you let go and all the parts and pieces start moving together as a unit. There's a lot of satisfaction in seeing it work properly, and that's why I love revising.

Right now I'm powering through my second draft of Act2. It's not terrible, but there are definitely places where I can simplify and remove. I write a lot in redundancies, and I explain too much. Explanation is important of course, but generally it's good to assume your reader isn't stupid and doesn't need a review every couple chapters. Today while I was revising I cut out nearly half a page of useless and repetitive dialog and boy do I feel better! Revising is like a drug and once I start I can't get enough of it. I've had to put my manuscript down for nearly a week to get other work done and it's been torture. I can't wait to get back into it, and I'd be doing it right now if I didn't have to walk three needy dogs.

I guess my lesson to the masses is not to be scared of revising. Remembering the soul of your story is what's important and making the prose or sequence of events different to better portray it is key. Read through your stuff and don't be ashamed, see every page as an opportunity to do it again better. Pat yourself on the back for things that are well written, and don't tear yourself up over things that are not. We're only mortals, we are not perfect, and a story is as much a series of errors as anything else we make.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Penname Decision

Welp, I have consulted some writer friends of mine and I've come to the decision to nix the penname idea. I'll keep Jameson handy for a future pennames I need to use, like if I write competing books or something.

I'll always have Jameson. Maybe I'll couple it with my married name in the future (when I get married)... hopefully it'll flow better than Stolzer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another design-based post

The extensive rewrite is now turning to setting as well. There's a certain portion of this draft that is still "First Drafty". Most the first bit has been reevaluated and edited twice already, but the newest stuff is still raw and needs some serious consideration.

The change I've decided to make tonight is location based. The Runian Mansion where Joshua lives used to be a grand location showing its age.. a place that was once the richest and most extravagant building in the Valley having since fallen into disrepair by centuries of isolationism. It was a good image, and a great parallel to how God is suffering as well for want of a relationship to mankind, but it kind of muddied the line of Runians vs Sinners. The Runians are not perfect, but they're chosen and the few people left in the Valley that hold on to religion the way they were meant to. God is still with them.

What I've changed now is I've made the mansion straight up rich and extravagant with no strings. Everything is gold covered and painted and decorated to the nines, the clothes are all fine and expensive with hours and hours of embroidery work in every piece. The rationale? They're bored. They're all images of the Creator and desperate to improve and make stuff, so they've been turning that energy on their house for five hundred years. the thing is getting to the point of being ridiculous and it makes Cat and company (especially the Curses who are all deformed in one way or another) feel very out of place. Now its a contrast between the realm of man and the realm of God... hopefully it'll give the reader an image of goodness opposed to a perception of rich=bad.

i've even given Joshua a new "home" outfit that's super clean and fancy. I'll have to design it later. For now it's after 1 and I must sleep.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Penname Woes

In which blogger completely negates having a penname by wondering if she should use a penname.

I'm really torn up about this, you guys. Should I write under a pen name? I know I'm a ways off from being actually published, but knowing your identity is important. I want to keep Stolzer. Stars align I will be married some day and I want Stolzer to endure in some fashion. It's the Jameson vs Jennifer part that baffles me.

I just don't think Jameson Stolzer flows, and I don't know if maintaining an alias is worth all the extra paperwork. There's no guarantee I'll sell any or need to maintain anonymity of any kind, but better safe than sorry? Or as my mother puts it... is being true to myself more important than that? Being true and being proud? I can still be proud of myself under the penname Jameson can't I?

So here's a query for any readers, Penname Jameson Stolzer? Yes or no?

Friday, March 18, 2011

State of the Union

So yeah, it's 3am. I guess that kind of tells you how the writing is going.

The current state of the manuscript is "Incomplete retrospective procedural rewrite"

I'm not done with the narrative yet... there's a lot to cover, but I'm going back for rewrites for a very specific purpose: Character Development.

I've got a pretty big cast. I know the stars are Cat and Peter, but the supporting roles factor largely in the dynamic, especially in this second half of the book. Writing the later stuff where the character development is supposed to take place, I realized two characters - Lynn and Zephyr the Water and Wind Curses - have absolutely no personality. Lynn was pleasant and motherly. Zephyr was depressed. That was it. They had not quirks, no traits, no flaws, no interest. This could not stand. I had to do something.

I've come a long way in this quest within a quest. Currently as it stands Lynn is an optimistic girl functioning on fear. She's determined to believe that people are inherently good, because that means her parents abandoned her in Water Town for a good reason and not because they didn't want her. She has a deep-seated fear of being abandoned and unwanted and this drives most of her decisions. She's hospitable and welcoming because she wants you to stay, she's friendly because she doesn't want to be disliked, and she's shaken deeply by rejection or duplicity. Coming to terms with this trend in well as the fact that her parents DID abandon her on purpose... will help make up her character arc and bring her closer to Aiden who is struggling with something similar.

Zephyr is now mentally ill. I know I'm replacing one disorder with another, but it's a much stronger foundation. My grandmother (for whom I will be dedicating this book btw) has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's been a couple years now, and I've watched her deteriorate slowly over time. Zephyr is born of those observations. All the other Curses are losing the health of their bodies, Zephyr is too but moreso she's losing the health of her mind. She floats through life spacily with her eyes slightly out of focus getting words wrong and forgetting where she is or what she was doing. She has little to no opinion about anything and absolutely no sense of self-preservation. She still has the depression element, but now instead of sitting in a corner being antisocial and emo, she's disinterested in her own welfare and has no value. She also reacts violently to certain stimuli, fire and scissors for example because they summon traumatic memories for her. She'll change moods in a split second when confronted with these. She's short on inhibitions and can't process abstractions like what other people might be feeling, she sees life through her eyes only and that life is very bleak. She'll be an ever-evolving enigma graced from time to time with lucid moments where we learn a bit about who she really is and the real girl that's lost in this windy fog.

This is a great transition to the character we meet next; another Earth Curse named Jared. The same way you can plumb the depths of my grandmother's mind for subsurface information, his natural curiosity will draw up Zephyr's true self more often. When the Curses get really severe and death comes knocking on their door, we'll see all those steps forward evaporate and hopefully a loss will be felt by all.

I'm still working on what Zephyr will say in her lucid moments. I'd like to call back the character she was when I first conceived her way back five years ago. A hospice worker who was proactive in helping the dying when no one else would. It's amazing to think back on that... that was so long ago. That was before I got rid of Nell! Wow. I don't miss Nell at all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Post

Welcome to the Threadcaster Writer blog.

There's a lot of writing to be done, and a lot of ideas floating through my head.
If you're curious about the book or the characters don't worry, content is coming
for now though there's layout to be done... and layout I shall do.

First I gotta switch browsers.