Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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Ahead to the Past

Last November I did my best to work through my NaNoWriMo novel. By the end of November I was just this side of disgusted with it, put it away, and decided not to take the February pledge to finish it. That was a first for me; I’ve always pushed ahead to finish my NaNo books before even when I felt they were only so-so.

Last night I pulled up the pages on Scrivener, chose a random chapter, and started reading. Guess what? I thought it was pretty damn good after all. The problem with the novel isn’t the story itself, it’s the story-within-a-story framing that doesn’t seem to work. I can take the inside story and write that by itself, and I do believe it will be a nifty little murder mystery. Once that’s done I can go back and revisit the framing and see if it needs the modern-day layer or if the 1940s story is better off on its own.

I started the novel from a single concept: a long-dead actress is destined to rest uneasily, unless she can convince a seemingly unrelated group of people to put their heads together to solve her murder. Some pieces of the modern-day story are lovely, but I might be able to weave those in without the extra complication of three sets of year 2000 characters converging.

I like ghost stories. Actually I love them, and love writing ghosts. Now that I’m warming up to revising this one, though, I might leave the ghost angle out (for the most part, I can’t make any promises about doing it for good because ghosts are too much fun to write). I can always save that part for another day.

To work! Signing off now, with much love to one and all.


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Death is like that.

“Dead?” said Sophie. She had a silly impulse to add, But she was alive just an hour ago! And she stopped herself, because death is like that: people are alive until they die.

–Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle

A lot of people like to make mother-in-law jokes. I’ve heard a few good ones: What’s the definition of “mixed emotions?” Watching your mother-in-law back off a cliff in your brand new Mercedes. That one was probably my favorite. My mother-in-law Molly liked that joke.

I didn’t have the mixed emotions about her. She lived five minutes away and I visited her nearly every day. She told me stories and secrets and gave me the details of her life she never shared with either of her sons, and I loved her. She passed away in her sleep this weekend at the age of 96. I hope she’s in a place free of pain and concern, and that she knows we love and miss her.


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Shaking Things Up

Today I took a long look at one of the ways I’ve been defining myself and decided it’s time to drop a self-imposed restriction.

For a long time I’ve been defining myself as not liking fantasy as a genre. But when I look at what I enjoy most I realize I’ve read all of A Song of Ice and Fire and will read the rest of the books whenever GRRM writes them, and I’ve watched all of Game of Thrones and April 24 can’t come soon enough: there’s some hardcore fantasy.

What am I in the middle of in my downtime: Dragon Age: Inquisition and Heroes of Dragon Age. Guess what? Fantasy.

What was my first favorite book series? The Lord of the Rings. More fantasy!

It’s time to come to terms with this. I admit it now. Fantasy is an awesome genre. My intention when I started this post was to say it’s a great genre, but I can’t write it. Wrong! Which stories have I had published? Both fantasy.

Also, almost all the scifi I love best has elements of fantasy woven into it. There’s a slim line, actually, between a lot of fantasy elements and a lot of SF elements. Think Cylons as an army of Orcs, or Last Exile’s Silvana as Galactica or the Enterprise… things intertwine in so many ways. This is probably patently obvious to everyone already. About time I threw off the shackles of thinking of fantasy as something it isn’t and embracing it on an intellectual level for everything it is.

I could probably write for pages and pages about romance-as-fantasy, but I’ll quit while I’m ahead. You’re welcome.


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The Road to Writer’s Block

I spend a fair amount of time wondering about this blog: who reads it, how useful it is, what I want to get out of it. I started it so I could have a space online to talk about my writing. I’d just been published in my first anthology and thought haha, I have made it! Now I have something worth saying! A few years later, neither anthology with my work is in print (although you can still find Dragonthology around and about on the net, either used or new, even if Happily Ever Afterlife seems to have vanished). I guess that makes me an unpublished published author? I don’t know.

It’s taken me a few years to admit it, but I don’t know that I have a whole lot of knowledge to impart that anyone who wants to be a writer can’t figure out for themselves except for this one simple truth: if you write, then you get more words. The more you write, the more words automagically appear. If you don’t write, guess what you get? Nothing. The more nothing I have, the more nothing I’m likely to have.

I call this my own personal road to writer’s block. It’s not a place I want to visit. When I’ve traveled there I sit and think about all the words I could be writing, but actually sitting down to do it starts to look like as faraway a goal as my elusive desire to be published used to. What a sad place to find myself!

Fortunately, the remedy is easy: just write. That’s it. It’s simple. Just write. The more I write, the more I want to write. The more I write, the more ideas I have for even more writing. The more I write, the better I feel. If you take one thing from this blog, make it this little gem of advice.

Does anyone else have writerly words of wisdom to impart? Chime in!


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Reply Like No One’s Watching (Writer Q&A)

It’s been a long time since I was tagged for a writer Q&A. This one comes courtesy of my writing friend Jessica (@thatfatauthor on Twitter and tumblr) – go check out her blog. She also has a weekly podcast on the writing life on Soundcloud.

I’ll wait so you can check it out.

dancing girl

Good! Thanks, Jessica. Now, onto the questions and answers.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in the shower or having to eat the same thing every time you write)?
I think of good ideas in the shower, but don’t really write there. My biggest writing quirk is having to make sure the kitchen is cleaned up and tidy before I start to write. Otherwise I’m back and forth doing that before I can focus on writing.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
This is one of my favorite questions! Thanks to the magic of the internet, I know people all over the world. Right now I’d love to have the ability to teleport, so I could bop around the planet visiting my friends.

That’s the selfish answer. What I should really say is the ability to help create world peace.

If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
Welsh. Then my accent would match my name.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
Just one? I want to go everywhere. I guess if I have to narrow it down, I’ll say Paris. At midnight. In the rain.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve Googled for a book?
The one most likely to get me on some sort of watch list is weapons schematics. My favorite is the detailed analysis of Jupiter’s moons.

If you could only choose one, would you go back to the past or go to the future in your lifetime?
My first reaction was oh, I’m never one to look back. I guess the real question is whether I’d choose to relive part of my past or just visit it. Yes, there are things I would do differently, but I don’t really have any regrets. If it was just a question of visiting, I’d visit the future. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to shift permanently to either but I guess if I had to pick, I’d go back. There are always ways to improve on what I did (or to make different and hopefully smarter choices).

What is the closest thing to you on the left side of your keyboard?
My phone.

What punctuation mark best describes your personality and why?
To find out, I took this quiz (sorry if that’s cheating). Apparently I’m a dash. It says: You are always full of new ideas and fun thoughts. Inventive and resourceful, you know how to keep yourself and those around you entertained.

I’ll go with that!

If you could be a character in any story you’ve ever written, who would you be and why?
This is a really tough question! Most of the characters I write are full of both flaws and secrets, so it’s hard to pick just one out of that wonderful bunch. I think, though, that I would either be Charlie, the shape-shifting dragon woman from The Case of the Bloodstone Dragon because she’s so damn enigmatic and surprising… or Jesse from my as-yet-unpublished rock & roll romance, because she gets to live the dream… although not in ways you might expect.

What is your best scar? Tell the story of how you got it.
I’m going with surgical-scars-don’t-count because their stories are rarely exciting. Instead, I’ll go with the nice thick crescent moon scar on my left leg, which I got from actually slamming a car door into my leg back when the corners of doors were sharp little affairs. I didn’t even notice at the time, until I looked down and saw my calf and shin bathed in blood. It’s one of those wounds I probably should have had stitched up but never did.

It either happened that way, or I got it from the blade of a katana that time I was being chased by samurai back in Edo-era Japan, and I brought it with me when I was reincarnated. Take your pick.

This concludes the Q&A portion of the night’s entertainment! Thank you, Jessica!


Tag, You’re It:
@ep_birdsall
@kadiebleu
@stormowl7
@Blondewritemore
@jennyleeSD
@sharischwarz
@EveMessenger
…and anyone else who’d like to play along.

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog and Twitter in your post.
2. Answer the questions that the blogger who nominated you has provided.
3. Nominate up to 10 other bloggers or Twitter followers
4. Create ten questions for your nominees and notify them of their nominations.

My questions for you:
1. It’s the old stranded on a desert island question! Which three books do you take with you?
2. Which author or authors would you cite as your inspiration?
3. What are some of your other creative pursuits beyond writing?
4. Tell me about the last TV show you binge-watched. What did you think?
5. How did you get your start in writing?
6. Do you remember the first story you wrote? Can you recap it?
7. Fast-forward 60 years into the future. What does society look like to you? (This is a big question, so feel free to narrow it down as you like.)
8. What’s your go-to guilty-pleasure genre to read?
9. Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert or an introvert?
10. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers?

Thank you for reading and for playing along. Write well, write often, and have fun!


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It’s so easy to get distracted!

When I look at my twitter feed right now, I see:

#p2p16
#PitchMadness
#sonofapitch

Like any good writer who uses twitter, I’ve considered all these contests. They’re all great, all different, all run by the loveliest of lovely people, all gone about with wonderful sentiment. I’ve participated in some of them before, but…

…not this time around.

See, I’ve learned a few things from twitter pitch contests. These are strictly my own opinion, so take them with a grain of salt if you’re so inclined.

  • I see a lot of the same people entering the same works in these contests.

    To my mind, this is both good and bad. It’s good because people aren’t giving up! I assume they’ve been working on their manuscripts, taking the feedback received from earlier entries, and refining. It’s bad because as these manuscripts get accepted into all the contests over and over, there’s less room for the ones who haven’t been through the wringer before.

  • I am not good at distilling the essence of my story down into 140 characters (minus character space for the contest name and genre hashtags).

    I am, however, filled with admiration for people who can do it well. I’m actually fairly adept at doing this for other people, but hell if I can do it effectively for my own work.

  • In my heart of heart I believe there’s something to be said for not saturating the decision-making market with one of my books over and over.

    I don’t have any problem doing things the old-fashioned way: querying, using all the connections I have, pulling any and all strings, and making sure my letter and synopsis are water-tight.

I’m happy for everyone entering these contests. Blessed be, best of luck, go conquer, live long and prosper. I’m trying to stay on top of what my twitter friends are doing, but I’m also trying hard to finish my editing and rewriting, tighten up my query, finish getting my beta feedback, and moving forward independently.

Who knows? I might make the exact opposite decision next time around. Good luck! As always, if there’s anything I can do for any of you, just ask.

And before I go: what are you working on, and how do you feel about pitch contests? Leave a comment and let me know so I can cheer you on, no matter which path you’re taking.

 


You can find me on twitter at @gwynnejackson and occasionally under the hashtags #amwriting and #amediting.


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“I’m a writer.”

I spend a lot of time thinking about my answer when someone asks me what I do.

“I’m a writer.”

Does that hold true when I’m not writing? I mean… since my dad died in July I’ve been at such a creative low. I hate to blame it on emotional impact from Dad’s passing. Maybe I’ve just been lazy. Maybe I’ve been lacking in inspiration. Sure, I forced my way through NaNoWriMo just to say I did it, but I pretty much hated what I wrote and for the first time never promised to revise a NaNo novel.

I’m not afraid of hard work. I do it all the time. Excuse me while I delve off into the personal here but calling oneself a writer sooner or later involves baring who and what you are to the world. When I think of what keeps me busiest during the day inevitably I fall back on being the primary social contact for an often lovely (but sometimes not) 96-year-old, who I try to visit at least five times a week. Zing, there goes my day. I also try to stay moderately heart-healthy by getting cardio exercise every other day and by cooking vegetarian food, which is a labor of love but also a time-consuming one. (Q: how many ways can you prepare vegetables? A: so many.) I have other artistic pursuits besides writing: drawing, photography, beadwork, needlework. They are all solitary pursuits that can’t be done simultaneously.

I need a clone.

As far as writing goes, it hasn’t been something I’ve been able to simply squeeze into the nooks and crannies of my life. I do it best when I set aside dedicated time to do it. It also works best for me when I do it first thing during the day. Guess what else works best for me when I do it first thing during the day? Exercise. If only I could do both at the same time, but I can’t. I can read when I ride the stationary bike, so I make a point of doing that.

Today I set aside everything else for working on my book. I didn’t know that would be today’s plan, but it has been. I woke up, got my computer, and sat down to work on the thorny action scene I’ve been avoiding. The avoidance wasn’t because I don’t know how to write action scenes–this book is filled with them. It had just become, in my mind, that one more thing that needed doing and I started resenting it.

It really wasn’t that bad. I sat in my favorite most productive writing spot in the sun surrounded by cats and simply went for it.

Now I can pat myself on the back because I got it done, and fixed up the rest of the manuscript to reflect the changes I’d made. For the first time in almost a year I’m starting to get the motivation to query again. I’ve got a letter and a good synopsis, but I need a few brand-new readers first because now I’m sworn to querying only when I believe this book is really, truly ready.

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