Friday, June 28, 2013

Where's the Love?

I'm 20k into my current project and it feels stagnant. I've brought the story forward, outlined as much as someone like me can, and yet it's not a growing story. I couldn't put my finger on the problem, so just kept writing forward. I knew something was wrong with the meat of what I'd written so far -- that's been the case every time my writing sort of devolved into rambling, but I had no idea what to fix.

I was meeting with my fabulous critique partner going over scenes that I will undoubtedly cut in the final draft because they don't further the story, when she asked when Gillian and Liam were going to get together.

Ummmm... eventually?

WRONG ANSWER. And thus, I discovered the fatal flaw of my work in progress. I wasn't writing a romance. I was writing an interesting story about sentient trees and elemental powers with some romance sauce. Every other story* I've written started with the romance and the story built around it. Touching the Past started with the forest and the idea of coming home at last. The spark was missing and that wasn't something I could just build up in a well placed sentence here and there.

This week I've been starting over again and it hurts. After many starts and stops, yesterday I finally started making progress and the tension in my shoulders relaxed. I'll be able to use a lot of what I've written so far, but it's a new story. I had to revise Gillian's history entirely, create new personal conflict, and reexamine the woman life has made her and the way Liam will respond. A lot of work, but it will be a much better story in the long run. I'm just glad I was able to figure it out now before wasting more time writing in the wrong direction.

*With exception of my under-the-bed book, Courtly Love, which was more writing therapy about depression.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I'm Allergic to Correction

Actually, I'm not allergic to correction. Grass, cats, dust mites, yes -- but I actually assume everything I do is wrong, so correction doesn't surprise me.

We have a natural defense mechanism whenever someone corrects us, even if they're in the right. While I like to know if I have spinach on my teeth or my zipper is down, my immediate response is defensive. I have quickly reprogram my knee jerk reaction to one of gratitude, after all, I don't want to walk around all day with a verdant smile. When there's class difference (employee to boss, student to teacher, etc...) it makes the correction even more awkward for both parties. People need to remember that the

This is even worse is more subtle, personal areas. How do you tell the diabetic you love that they're killing themselves? You do it once, get snapped at, and realize nothing you say will make a difference. I was once at my hair salon and got a gag-inducing whiff of one of the other stylists. I mentioned it to my hairdresser and she said that it was driving away customers, but no one knew how to tell the woman without hurting her feelings.

It's all about communication and the understanding the correction is not directed to hurt, but to help. Correction can be annoying, but, if it is well meant, it shouldn't be treated as an attack. It was probably really hard for the person to tell you that your behavior is damaging your relationships. They wouldn't tell you if it wasn't true, at least to them; chances are that whatever they're saying directly affects them, so give it credibility. If your friends always smiled and nodded while secretly being annoyed when you brought them your trash and called them gifts or tried to redecorate their house, that would end up as a very one sided friendship. I like to think that my husband's input, while not always appreciated, keeps my crazy in check. Active relationships help keep people accountable.

This is equally true in literary critique. I once spent several hours over many days on a difficult piece, unsure how to say that it had no central idea, no clear character, and was written more for the writer than the reader. But, since I was asked to give honest feedback, I did. Part of that included deleting the first seventeen pages -- hey, I was being honest. I gave reasons for all my edits, I made sure to note the positives along with giving suggestions to fix the problems. I sent it, my heart in my throat, afraid I was going to ruin a friendship and.... nothing. Not even acknowledgement that they received it. I've received negative critiques that I didn't always agree with, but at least I said thank you (and usually, after I've had a day or so to fume about implied disrespect to my baby, I'm able to think about what was said more objectively and find it helpful).

Critique is a gift. Honest communication about problems is an attempt to keep a relationship healthy. Don't take either as an attack.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cold Sweats, Shopping, and Beauty

Eighty's music filtered through the open roof of my mirrored dressing room. Silks, satins, and chiffons billowed around me in the air conditioned, gardenia scented space. I rejected gown after gown with the entitlement of the most aristocratic shoppers, and still the young sales assistant smiled and brought me more. Finally, I found one that both flattered the good and concealed the bad. I felt classically elegant, not at  all matronly, and well represented by my curves. Even more importantly, I would be done shopping for evening gowns for years. The relief that came with that thought was almost like an adrenaline crash.

I enjoy shopping (the exception always being bathing suits and bras). Yesterday, it was horrible and I couldn't wait to be done with the whole mess. I was in a cold sweat the entire time. I was ashamed to have the young girl help me zip because she would feel notice how clammy my fat was.  I thought I was at peace with my figure -- I guess I'm not. I'm womanly, which is a good thing given that I find feminine curves attractive even if it is not the socially accepted standard of beauty. Yes, I would be happy to lose two or three dress sizes, but don't feel unattractive.

It all started with my size twelve bridesmaid dress from a friend's wedding ten years ago not fitting. My daughters were ecstatic to go dress shopping with me and, frankly, were the best part of the whole experience. They were awed by the princess imagery around them and loved everything. If it was floor length and included something sparkly, they thought I looked beautiful. The dress I ended up buying was their least favorite (for lack of sparkles), but didn't make me feel like a sausage or a Samoan grandmother. In spite of the high stress sweats throughout the entire experience, I liked the dress until I got home and looked up pictures online to show my husband. Now I actively dislike it and am kicking myself for spending the money. I guess I'll have to wait until my order arrives for the fitting to see it again and confirm that I chose wisely.

My dress is the center gown, only in amethyst (deep plum -- oh, and that blingy bauble at the center is added embellishment). The model does less for the dress than a clothes hanger. I understand that high fashion models are supposed to be emaciated, but looking at this picture implies that this is how the dress is supposed to look on the wearer and the way it looks on me must be very wrong. I will say that she has very healthy looking hair for someone so lacking in any body fat.

What's the point of this post? Venting, perhaps? It clearly doesn't have to do with writing, though the shopping was in preparation for the RWA convention rapidly approaching. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gillian, What's Your Sign?

As I flesh out my characters, one of the tools I use to keep myself from making them archetypal is an astrological chart. I give my characters a birthday and accept the random character traits astrology lists. I already know the basics. For example, as a Leo, Gillian is confident and a little pushy. She is comfortable performing and enjoys the recognition for her talents. This is currently causing her some grief in her academic studies because her British professor has discounted her as a dumb American. Her chart added some traits that balance out her drive to succeed. Her moon in Jupiter gives her "great optimism and an ability to bounce back easily from negative experiences" -- which is important given that her husband died of Leukemia and she's uprooted her life to follow her dreams.  Her Mercury being in Virgo helps in her research with the University of Cork College in that she has "a fine mind and a great appetite for detail. [She] appreciate minute differences and distinctions and take a very surgical approach to your operations." True to her Leonine traits, her Mercury squares Mars making her a forceful and dynamic communicator who sometimes can be too aggressive. Luckily her sun is in the 12th house, making her serious and ready to sacrifice herself for the needs of other.

Whether or not you think astrology is bunk, the character traits have been really useful. I need to run my male lead's chart. I know that Sergeant Liam Hurley of Glangashaboy garda is an Aries and very compatible with a Leo, but would find more information helpful in developing him further.

For more detail on Gillian's astrological chart or, more importantly, to look at the various facets of a cahrt, continue reading. For those of you who don't care (and hey, I get that), don't continue reading.

Happy writing.

Note: I used the astrological chart generator linked above. For those of you that might really be into this as a religion/science and have thoughts on the accuracy of the chart generator, I don't really care. Since Gillian is not a real person, it's only important as a tool for me.
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