Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why's the Title the Hardest Part?

You know what sucks? Titles. No matter what, the title I pick for a novel once I complete it never seems to work. I read other books with titles that seem perfect and wonder why it has to be so difficult for me to chose one. When I first started writing seriously (middle school, as you'll recall, or not...very few people read this blog, so...), I used to decide on a title right away and then attempt to craft a story to go along with it. This didn't seem to work very well, so I decided to flip the process, which would work fine if only I could figure out a decent title once I've gathered together 100,000 or so words. I don't have this problem with short stories. The titles come somewhat easily after I finish writing them, but naming a novel length project is like pulling an impacted wisdom tooth sans a local anesthetic. Not pleasant. Either the title that seems right is too damned long or it just feels forced. I can never come up with one of those catchy single word titles that seem to be super popular amongst every third writer nowadays. If I can't keep my novel south of 100k, there's no way in hell I can come up with a one word title to describe it. I just can't help but think that this shouldn't be so difficult. I just finished writing thousands of words. I of all people should be able to come up with a snappy, appropriate, awesome sounding title to describe the work I've just done. But damned if I can. I mean, I do. I have to. It's hard to write a query letter when your novel is title-less. But I rarely like the titles I choose. They have to grow on me, and that's a slow process. I do occasionally come up with a name easy-peasy, but the last time that happened, I did a quick scan of Amazon to see if another novel came up with that same moniker and there were two. Yes, not one, but TWO. Balls. So I high-stepped it back to the drawing board, eventually coming up with a name that isn't perfect but will do in a pinch.

Good news: the current WIP (hovering at an oh-so-lovely 61k) might not suffer from the same fate as every other novel length project I've ever written. I think I might already know the name. Shit. Probably just jinxed it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lasting Lessons From NaNoWriMo

From the time I decided to treat this writing thing like a job, not a hobby, I've been sitting my ass in a chair for sprawling hours at a time and forcing my fingers onto the keyboard with decent results. I quickly got into a groove of sorts: editing whatever I wrote the day before and then starting on new material, usually working from a detailed outline. Thanks to this process, I've found that writer's block is mostly a prettied up way of saying 'plain old loss of focus'--the cure is keeping that ass in that seat. But what about quality of work, not just quantity? I used to worry a great deal about this because I got into the habit of forcing myself through tougher scenes to get to ones I was actually excited about or had plans for. Whatever, right? I was getting words on the page and was mostly happy with the results. But, honestly, I didn't feel satisfied with my groove until NaNoWriMo. That's when I gave my inner editor a swift kick in the balls and wrote so furiously, I didn't have time to contemplate the the how and why. I thought it would be a serious train wreck--think fiery, lots of casualties, only Bruce Willis survives--but I wrote on. Turns out, less of a tragedy, more of an eye opener. Something just clicked for me. I was having 5 to 6k days on the regular (yes, I said 'on the regular', ha!) and chugging through my outline like I was connecting dots with one of those fat toddler crayons. NaNo flipped a switch I didn't know I had. I can honestly say it changed the way I write. I briefly considered never editing a thing as I moved through a WIP and just saving it all for the end, but I'm a little too anal retentive for that. Also, that daily review session helps me to get back into whatever project I'm working on, so that has to stay (inner editor: 1; me: 0). This isn't to say I'm looking to finish a novel a month from now on. That's crazy talk. But 2 novels a year? 3? That's entirely doable. Plus some short stories and all the editing that comes along with the act of writing. And being the anal retentive writer that I am, I keep track of all my daily progress on a desk calendar that I plan to keep forever.

What am I working on now, you ask? Well, a novel that mixes vampires and ghosts that has been sitting at 35k words for a few years. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but no clue as to what the story would really be about and where it needed to go. But a nice long brainstorming session, a few pages of handwritten notes, and a typed outline later, I got the direction I needed. Now I'm sitting pretty at 52,000 words with an ending about 40k words down the road. I can see it in the distance. It looks like a mirage. That's a peek into my head, ladies and gents. It's busy in there...

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Worst Day of the Year

According to the news, this is the worst day of the year. Not that I needed the media to tell me. Christmas vacation is over, kiddos go back to school, grown folks go back to work, we strip all the holiday fun out of our lives, and it's cold as fuck. I spent the day taking down holiday decorations, hustling Zoey to the vet, taking the car to the mechanic to receive a hefty estimate for future repairs ('future' meaning Wednesday), and running other crappy errands. Got some reading in too, so not a total loss, but no writing. Tomorrow's the day for that, although it's also the day Kiddo's school starts 2 hours late due to record low temperatures (low teens...why?!). Thanks to bone-chilling temperatures, I won't be running at 5. I can do mid-twenties, but teens? Uh, hell no. So, I'll have to run later when it's sunny and 25 degrees at the hottest part of the day. This morning it was 55 degrees and I ran in shorts and a tank top. Tomorrow it will be about 15 with 5 mph winds. WTF?! This makes me loathe the end of Xmas break even more. I just spent a lovely 2 weeks in 70 to 80 degree weather in the tropical wonderland that is Florida. Skirts, shorts, sandals, sunshine, happiness. Now back to reality. Bitter, cold reality.

It is exciting to get back to writing after so many weeks of lazy, nonproductive vacation. I'm still not sure what to work on first. I just know I need to get back to work. My fingers are itching to get some words on the page. Original words, so an editing project is out. Oh, the possibilities. I tried to explain the fiction writing process to Kiddo on our drive home from Florida, how magical it feels, how liberating. You can make up any-fucking-thing you want. How cool is that? She just gave me a strange look and went back to tapping away on her iPod Touch. Whatevs. I know what's cool. Making shit up. And I'll be getting back to it on the morrow.