Tag Archives: writing

When the end is not the end

In my last post, I said I was worried that people hated the ending of the A to Z story [link to beginning] posted here on my blog. If you’ve been reading the comments, you know some of us have been discussing the issue. I’ve also been discussing it privately with a few people.

Truth is, regardless of what anyone else thought, I hated that ending. Just took me a while to realize I did. And why. Here’s part of one comment I made:

“I’m honestly feeling very undecided about the whole VR thing right now. The classic Hero’s Journey begins in the normal world, adventure ensues, and ends by returning to the normal world with the character somehow changed. This story didn’t do that. It finished in a world the reader didn’t know existed. There’s a difference between a plot twist and a betrayal of story premise. After a lot of thinking, I realize the latter is what I did here.”

So, due to the power of editing, that ending no longer exists. Didn’t happen. That entire “Z” post — POOF! Gone from the book. The story does not end that way and does not happen in a VR game. Never did. It was a figment of your imagination. Or mine. Whatever.

You make mistakes, you fix them.

Not that I have anything against VR games or stories about them — I still think that’s a cool concept — but that’s not what this story is. This is a story set entirely in a world where there are dragons and magic. Period.

Interestingly enough, once I made that decision, new stories and new adventures in this world started to tumble around in my brain. In fact, even while I’m refining and fleshing out Zoey and Anton’s story, I’m having to pause occasionally to take notes about the next story pushing its way up into my consciousness. It’s pretty exciting.

But for those of you who LOVED the original ending, no problem. You can still believe that was how it ended. Just, um, maybe don’t ever read the final version I’ll be publishing. Or only read up to the last chapter or two. You’ll be fine.

As for me, lesson learned.

This is the real reason you shouldn’t write fiction, in real time, on your blog. Not because you’re worried about what people might think of your rough unedited writing. Not because people might think your unvetted ideas are ridiculous or that you’re being unprofessional and taking stupid risks. And certainly not because it makes you feel uncertain and vulnerable and afraid– those are good things for a writer to feel.

No, the real reason you shouldn’t do this is because most readers don’t realize just how drastic the editing process can be. Frankly, they shouldn’t have to. Readers get vested in a story and its characters, and that’s good. You want that to happen. Sure, you can go back and change minor details, add a few things here and there. But change the entire ending? That’s a problem.

Once you tell a story, it’s damn near impossible to convince someone it didn’t happen that way.

With that in mind, I’m going to delete most of the “Z” post over here. Not the entire thing, as I don’t want to also delete the comments, but most of the text. Believe it or not, I’m still getting new blog followers every day [hello and welcome!] and it occurs to me it might be a good idea to limit the damage to those few who have already read the story with the crappy regrettable ending. So, I’ll be doing that.

Never fear, I’m hard at work on the final version. I’ve written most of the new ending and I think it’s a vast improvement. I hope you all will agree.

Also, I have an online appointment with a cover artist in a couple weeks. She is amazingly talented and I’m excited about working with her. Except . . . we all know how well I do with anything related to arts and crafts. Probably I should hurry up and finish the story before then. In case she decides to reduce me to ashes.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Anton and Zoey, reader opinion, writing

It always matters to someone. Always.

I just heard that today, April 27, is Tell a Story Day. So, in honour of that, here’s a little story-within-a-story.

Some of you reading this blog are writers and know how it feels to tell a story. For those of you who are not writers, this is a pretty accurate representation:

11225339_1125676360812690_3504765168724891999_n

It’s difficult to know, when you’re in the process of writing, whether a story is any good. It’s actually pretty easy to believe that no one will want to read it, or that people who do read it will wonder what you were even thinking when you decided you could do that. And sometimes, all that self-doubt becomes overwhelming and you begin to suspect you’ve lost the ability to tell a story at all. If you ever had it.

When I started writing this A to Z Challenge story, I said I was doing it to kick-start myself out of a creative slump. And that’s true. But the full truth is that I’d managed to convince myself I couldn’t write fiction. That any ability I had to tell a story had disappeared. It’s a scary feeling.

So I decided to write something this month that “didn’t matter.” Something completely outrageous and ridiculous and out of the ordinary, something I’d never done before. So, if I failed, I could shrug and say, “Oh well, it was ridiculous anyway.” My expectations for it to even make sense were very low.

I didn’t expect it to be so much fun. And I certainly didn’t expect all the lovely comments or the “likes” or the new blog followers I’ve gathered along the way. Every single one has been a delightful gift.

So, while I still have your attention, I wanted to say thank you. I’ve had a blast rediscovering my ability to tell a story, and it has been a privilege to have you all along for the ride on this unlikely adventure.

Several people have encouraged me to publish this story (someplace other than my blog) once it’s done. And probably I will. I can’t imagine this story is the kind of thing an agent or publisher would be interested in taking on, so most likely I’ll go the self-pub route again. [Did you know I have other books? They’re listed here.]

That will only happen after I complete the edit/re-write process, during which the story will no doubt get longer. Maybe even more ridiculous. Who knows.

If any of you are interested in hearing that news — and I totally understand if you’re not — I’ll announce it first via my mailing list. You should sign up! My intention is to only send out notices when new fiction is available, so you won’t be signing up for spammy ramblings of what I ate for breakfast or how the cat is doing. I limit that kind of stuff to my blog.

10337704_646102568798398_769018499078298916_n

Okay, so that’s it for my small contribution on Tell a Story Day. Now on to the bigger task of telling a story during the month of April.

I think I’ve almost decided on a word for the letter X and probably should start writing that post. I wonder what’s going to happen next . . .

 

2 Comments

Filed under A to Z Challenge, creativity, writing

To a Year of Living Selfishly

I’ve been feeling reflective for the last week or so. No, not the kind of reflective that makes you all shiny and highly visible so you won’t get hit by a car while you’re out doing questionable things in the dark. The kind where you look back on the past several years and realize how many significant events you’ve experienced in that time. I was going to say “endured,” but that implies they were all bad and they certainly were not. But neither were they all good.

When I say they were significant, I mean they were significantly distracting or required significant amounts of time and energy from me. Many of them I haven’t talked about over here, or anywhere else, because, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, I am a very private person. There are things I’m just never going to talk about in public spaces. Or even in semi-private ones.

But holy guacamole, it’s been one hell of a few years. Sometimes to the point where I wanted to yell, “STOP IT. I CAN’T EVEN THINK ANYMORE WITH ALL THIS. JUST. FUCKING. STOP.” It all has taken a toll, that’s for sure.

And now, suddenly, there’s nothing significant on the horizon. Not that there won’t be, because of course there will. Life happens. “It’s never nothing,” as my dad used to say. But there’s nothing scheduled or looming and I’m feeling gloriously free for the first time in a very long time. And determined.

I don’t make resolutions at the New Year, never have. So it’s sort of a weird coincidence that I’m feeling all resolute here in early January.

I was talking to my daughter about this when she and her husband were here visiting during the last week of December and it was difficult to articulate without sounding like I didn’t enjoy the hell out of many of those events. Because I did. Especially my children’s weddings, which were wonderful. But at the same time, I’m glad they’re done.

I’m delighted beyond words that my calendar is clear. The sheer relief of having no upcoming obligations is staggering.

I really hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this, but I feel like I’ve done my time. For a while, anyway. I’ve given so much of myself to others — sometimes eagerly and with great joy and pleasure, sometimes not — but now it’s my turn.

I anticipate– no, I am determined that this year is going to be epically, gleefully selfish. I am resolved to focusing on what I want, and what I want is to write fiction. I’m going to concentrate on that pretty much to the exclusion of all else.

10988529_10153345700969523_8893770574599071562_n

So don’t anyone plan on having any dramas or crises or grand celebrations, okay? At least, not any that require my participation or attention. I’m gonna be busy over here, learning how to say “no” more often and taking care of my own needs for a change.

Who knows, maybe a few of you will conclude that’s of benefit to you as well. It’s a new year, anything’s possible.

 

Oh, by the way, if any of you want to be notified when I’ve completed said works of fiction and they’re available for purchase, you might want to sign up for my mailing list, which you can do HERE.

6 Comments

Filed under goals, health and well-being, writing

Stepping back to move forward

I’ve heard people say that when you have a big job to do, it helps to break it down into smaller parts or steps. This makes it feel less overwhelming and also gives you a more immediate sense of accomplishment as you complete each step. It’s good advice. I’ve utilized this reasoning myself, more than once.

But sometimes it backfires. Or maybe that’s just me. Probably just me.

I read a post the other day over on Bob Mayer’s blog that talked about wanting things. As I was reading along I thought, Yeah, I want to finish this damn book already. And then I read this part and it made me stop and really think:

“Studies have shown that wanting something produces one set of chemical reactions in the brain, while actually getting it, produces a different one. In fact, once you get it, you can’t want it any more. That takes a second for me to wrap my brain around. That means you actually feel differently between the wanting and the having. It’s chemical. I think we often forget that chemistry is science and it does rule, affecting how we literally feel and think.”

Took me more than a second. This was daunting when I applied it to myself. Once I get what I want — to finish writing this book — then what? I’ll have a finished book and no more desire? My motivation will just . . . disappear? There was a brief moment of something that felt like panic until I realized, no, silly, of course not. Because what I want is more than just that one thing.

Pretty sure this wasn’t the intention of the post, but credit where it’s due. It made me realize I was so focused on one part, one small frustrating step, I’d lost track of the big picture. Since I couldn’t see past the current roadblock, everything seemed impossible. It was as if I’d gotten stuck on Hayakawa’s Ladder of Abstraction, clinging myopically to a lower rung, right alongside good ol’ Bessie the cow.

120719_1

I still think that ladder is missing a step and should’ve included something smaller than a cow. Like maybe a meatball or veal chop or something.

Anyway.

A comparison that seems more apt for my situation is that of creating a mosaic. I’ve been so focused recently on one little tile, trying to make sure all the edges were beveled and the surface was polished, positioning it just so, worrying that the colour perhaps wasn’t quite the same exact hue as the others. No longer seeing it as just a small piece of the whole.

More important, I’d forgotten that not only are imperfections inevitable, they are what give character to a piece of art and make the whole more interesting.

And I had to ask myself– am I really going to let this one small piece stop me from achieving the whole? Seriously? This tiny little piece that isn’t even the hard part of what I want?

Hell no, I’m not.

So I took a step back. A big step back. Yes, I want to finish this damn book. After that I want to finish the third book in this series. And then I want to write more books, more series, under this pen name and another. Books I’ve already started and some I haven’t, books in different genres, with possibly different audiences. My head is full of stories, waiting to escape.

The whole of what I want is a career as a writer.

It’s the kind of “wanting” that will never quite be realized, as defined in the quote above. That motivating chemical reaction will always be there, never fully satisfied, because a writing career lasts as long as the writer is willing and able to write. And can avoid getting bogged down in minutiae.

Slowly, reluctantly, I’ve come to realize that in order to accomplish the whole, I need to accept that some of the individual pieces will be imperfect. I don’t like that feeling. It’s so . . . vulnerable. But it’s true. There will be flawed tiles, whether those are not-quite-right words, awkward sentences, clumsy scenes, or books that don’t quite fit a series. At first, up close, some of those pieces might look a little weird or scrawny or pitiful.

IMG_0154

But eventually they’ll all fit, in their own way, and be pieces of the whole. Some people won’t notice the flaws. Other people won’t be able to see anything but, and will be dismayed (sometimes — okay, a lot of the time — that will be me). With any luck, there will also be a few people who not only see the flaws but decide those are what make the whole interesting and unique and give it character.

eb0951a1c7ed0c897f792178462cc474

So I’ve expanded my focus, renewed my perspective and determination– for what seems like the millionth time. But I guess that’s my struggle, balancing self-doubt and confidence. Probably always will be. Oh, and that pesky little tile, er, scene that was giving me so much trouble? I deleted it. And wrote something else, something better. Sometimes I forget I can do that, can magically make things NOT happen. Another symptom of getting too close.

I’m back at work, quietly making my own mistakes, polishing my flaws as best I can and then letting go, setting pieces in place, moving on to the next. Envisioning a larger composite only I can see, that only I can create. Wanting what I want.

11 Comments

Filed under deep thoughts, writing

Reassessment. Recalibration.

Ahhhh, yes, we’ve finally turned the corner into fall. Autumn, for you purists out there. I love this time of year, when the temperatures drop along with the humidity and the leaves. The heat of summer in the south never fails to sap my patience and energy. It seems like a feat of endurance just to let the days go by. But we’ve made it to October and, now that our epic bout of rain and gloom has moved out, life in general will be more pleasant. Cooler, anyway. We’ve had clear skies for two whole entire days and I’m giddy with it.

Our leaves haven’t started to change yet, so I’m sharing a picture my daughter took in Boston last week. I suspect she’s trying to stave off winter by documenting the landscape sans snow. Can’t say I blame her, after last winter.

I feel somewhat guilty that I haven’t posted for a while, but I’ve been busy. Sometimes I’m quiet over here because I don’t really have anything to say, other times because there’s too much. It’s been the latter, these past couple months. Frankly, I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with things that are not particularly blog-appropriate. Nothing earth shattering, just the normal stuff we all have to deal with and tend not to discuss in public. Proliferation of cat hairballs, neighbours vs. trees, family drama, ongoing physical therapy. The return of the goddamn raccoons to the attic. You know, the usual.

I also seem to have been in a state of re-evaluation. Thinking deep thoughts about how I spend my time and looking seriously at the things that suck up not just time, but also my attention and energy. Deciding whether they’re worth it. Some are, some are not. Debating changes in my life and how to be more productive.

And of course, there’s the writing. That’s been a big part of my deliberation and I’ve been struggling with it. Writing, deleting, writing some more and not liking that either. There have been days, weeks lately when I wonder why I’m doing this and whether I should just stop. But the prospect of not writing is more terrifying than the struggle to write is frustrating. So quitting isn’t really an option, even though I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and am doing it poorly. Feeling like a giant fraud.

Yeah, I know, supposedly this is normal and all writers feel this way, from time to time. Or always. So I guess that’s comforting. But it’s not really much help when you’re the one feeling it.

My brain keeps replaying a conversation with my older sister after she read the novella I published. There was a note of surprise in her voice when she said, “It was really pretty good. There were parts when I forgot you were the one who wrote it.”

“You mean like it was written by someone who knew what they were doing?”

“YES. EXACTLY.”

So, clearly, not me.

*sigh*

That has got to be the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever received. Well, about writing anyway. She didn’t mean it that way. My older sister has been nothing but supportive of my writing efforts. One might even say she’s been bossy about it. But I can’t help remembering her saying that — even though it’s not the only thing or even the biggest thing chipping away at my confidence lately, not by a long shot — and it reinforces this feeling that I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. And after all these years of effort, of learning and practicing, that’s disheartening.

So I was hesitant, to say the least, when an unpublished writer friend asked me to give her feedback on a manuscript. Although . . . now that I stop and think about it, she didn’t ask. I pretty much insisted she let me read it once she was done editing.

Geez. Talk about bossy. This was back at the start of summer and probably I was high on prescription pain meds at the time. That’s my excuse anyway.

But by the time she sent it to me a couple weeks ago, all that hubris had disappeared and I was in the midst of feeling worthless and fraudulent and talentless. And pitiful, let’s not forget pitiful. [cue tiny violin] I doubted whether I’d have anything remotely useful or insightful to say. It took me almost an entire week to even open the document.

Then I started reading. And let me tell you, while she might be at the early stage of writing where you inevitably make a few minor rookie mistakes, this friend of mine can write. Honestly, that was a small part of my reluctance, the concern that maybe she wasn’t very good after all and I wouldn’t know what to say. A very small part, because I’ve known this woman for years and, even though she only recently admitted she was writing fiction, I could tell she was a writer. A terrific writer with a voice that’s perfect for historical romance, which is what she’s writing.

But I also realized something else, while reading her manuscript. I DO know something about writing fiction. I know quite a lot about writing fiction. I was able to tell her what was working and what wasn’t, and specifically why. I think I gave her some coherent feedback that will help make a good story stronger. She might not agree with me, and that’s fine. It’s her story.

So I’m relieved by that realization, but also frustrated. Why does it have to be so fucking impossible to have this kind of clarity about my own writing? Why does it take reading someone else’s manuscript to see my own mistakes and strengths, to be reminded of what I know and realize that I might not be totally screwing things up in my own writing? Does this ever get easier?

Probably not.

There’s a huge difference between reading for pleasure and reading with the intent of giving feedback. If you’re a writer, I suggest you give it a try, if you haven’t. Provided you can find a willing victim. You’ll pretty quickly figure out what you know and don’t know, based on the type of feedback you’re able to offer. You might even realize you know more than you thought you did.

But there’s also a difference between being able to see what is or isn’t working in a story and being able to put that into practice. A difference between being a good reader and a good writer. It’s all about the execution.

So, I’m struggling, with all sorts of things, and I imagine I’ll continue to do so. But I will try to get back to blogging more regularly. Now that fall is here and I’m feeling more human. Perhaps The White Ninja will cooperate and do something blog-worthy.

IMG_0137

Or perhaps not. Don’t anyone hold your breath.

 

9 Comments

Filed under deep thoughts, health and well-being, writing