Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


What Are You Up To?

Every time I hear that question, I mentally add the words my Juanita and think of Lowell George and Little Feat and their song Fat Man in the Bathtub. It’s off the excellent live album Waiting for Columbus, in case you’re looking for something to listen to.

I haven’t heard it for a while, but I can fix that. Hold please…there. Now I’m listening to it. I do best with music most of the time, but curiously not really when I’m writing a first draft. There, I don’t want anyone else’s words filtering into my subconscious.

I haven’t been writing a first draft. After a fairly epic NaNoWriMo where I churned out some 90,000 words of first draft, I took December off. I don’t like to edit too quickly after drafting–the work needs to sit for a while. In fact, I wrote a blog post over at All the Kissing about keeping on with your NaNo novel, and another one about being kind to yourself during the editing process. Every now and again, it’s good to take a break. Honestly, I’d reread my NaNo draft so many times that I couldn’t see the words on the page any more. I knew the MMC (that’s “male main character” for those of you who don’t write romance) needed a better arc and I decided to reorder a lot of what happened in the book, although overall I was pretty pleased with my first/zero/garbage draft. But I also knew I needed some breathing space.

Instead of working on that book, I went back and re-read my Pitch Wars manuscript and decided that needs work too, although nothing as extensive as a complete rewrite. Having worked on two more books in the series, there are little characterization tidbits I need to go in and firm up. Otherwise, it’s still pretty good.

Thumbs up!

I will say that going back and rereading something I wrote over a year ago leads me to appreciate how much I’ve grown as a writer since then. I suppose no work of fiction is ever really done. There are always things about it that can be finessed and improved. I also suppose that part of learning to be a writer is knowing when to let go and say enough. Time to let it go, send it off, send it to bed, shelve it–whatever the right thing is to do in the moment.

I reached that point with Book 2 in the series at the beginning of November. I’m pleased with it. It’s ready. I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement, because go up a paragraph. There’s always room for improvement. But at some point we have to let our babies leave the nest, right?

During December, though, I did a few things that weren’t writing. I visited family. I got back into my favorite art and crafts. I read, re-read, but didn’t touch my NaNo novel. I read a few books. I woke up to snow on Christmas morning, just in time to get to the Seattle airport (that was a fun trip; there wasn’t enough de-icing equipment at SeaTac but I made it to Arizona and my mom eventually). Mostly, I lived like a normal person, whatever that is. A normal person who didn’t churn out a 90k book in 30 days.

I’m so proud of myself.

Now I’m reading a manuscript for a critique partner. I’ll be reading a book sent to me for a review next, and finally getting back to my own series (oh, I decided on a SERIES TITLE for it too, which was fun, because it’s a theme common to all the books in it). I told people I wanted to wait to revise Book 3 until the ideas were so overflowing I could no longer contain them. I’m getting to that point. Dreaming about the characters, thinking about their story arcs, creating ways to improve them and make them more multidimensional than they already are.

So that’s what I’ve been up to, my Juanita, my sweet chiquita. Here, have some Little Feat.


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O Content, My Content

I’ve been doing a lot of blogging about writing over at All The Kissing. That leads me to think about what I’d like to do with this blog. I don’t really want to be redundant–nothing bores me more than people who link and cross-link everything to one account and never include original content.

But I will take a moment to talk about All The Kissing (ATK for short). It’s a website a bunch of us co-founded. We call it for romance writers by romance writers, but the information there is applicable to people writing all genres, really. I would love to invite everyone reading this to surf on over and check it out. Since I know a lot of you invested in NaNoWriMo, I invite you to read my post on Keeping Strong with your NaNoWriMo Novel – Editing. It’s of interest to me, and not just because I wrote it, but because I’m about to embark on a first round of revision. I’ve been following my own advice and have taken December off from touching my novel. It’s been a great thing for my objectivity.

To be honest, it’s also made me want to set fire to the whole thing and start from scratch. But there’s some very good writing in it, and with thoughtful layering and characterization I’ll be able to turn it into something delicious.

But back to this blog! I’ve been writing book reviews. Good Reads no longer supports cross-blogging, but I’m thinking rather strongly about repurposing this as a book review blog and as a place to showcase other writers.

Maybe a poll is in order. At least it will show me if anyone’s still reading here!

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Then the magic happens.

I remember writing a book outline where I had a beginning and ending. You know what words sat between those two things?

Then the magic happens.

Yeah. I know. But it’s true. As creators and writers we reach this point where we are or have become our characters, at least to the point that the person looking out through our eyes is colored by the personality of the character. It’s writing as method acting. It’s inhabiting the character so much that their thoughts are either first or rivaling ours for first. This phase can last for months. Years. A lifetime. Writers are tricky that way.

I’d fallen out of this lovely phase for a while, but now I think I have it back. The magic is ready to happen again. I can feel it in my face, the tips of my fingers, the expressions I make.

This is the part of writing that’s about giving up control and letting the people living in my brain have their turn in the spotlight. This might be what industry professionals mean when they talk about voice and how it’s so difficult to define.

That’s because it’s magic, and there are no words in our language to define what can’t be explained. I’m ready to rock & roll.


On Writing and Competitiveness

This post has nothing to do with entering contests. Many of them are wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences with them.

Today, I’m here to talk about competitiveness, not competition. There’s a difference. We can all enter writing competitions. I did and have and will again. The writing adrenaline junkie in me loves to get the feedback, to see how I did, to see who wins and why. Writing contests are a great way to receive input on our stories from people who’ve never read our work. Of course the feedback is subjective; of course it’s varied. That’s a good thing, because when our works are published and out there in the world, the reading audience will be varied and subjective. Fasten that suit of armor! Get used to it.

Here, have a nice relaxing picture I took in Mexico. Breathe deeply. Smell the salt air, feel the sand under your feet. It’s good to slow down once in a while, isn’t it?

Competitiveness in writing is a whole separate beast. It’s my firmly-held belief that writing is not a competitive sport. Say that with me one more time: writing is not a competitive sport. We don’t write to finish faster or with more words in ten minutes than our sprint partners. We don’t write because it’s a race to the end. We write because we have stories to tell–full stop. Stories inside our heads that we want to put out on the page, worlds to build, people to invent. These unique creations are ours and ours alone. No one else can write the stories I imagine, nor can I write the stories you imagine.

So why are we so competitive as writers? We sprint (“how many words did you get?”). We query (“how many full requests did you get? How many partials?”). We attract an agent’s interest (“how many offers did you get? How many did you have to turn down?”). On and on it goes, as if comparing our successes and failures will make us better at writing.

The only person I want to compete with on this writing journey is myself. I can set word count goals and if they’re too low, challenge myself to write more. I can set reading goals (Goodreads practically forces us to do so). I can set editing goals…but I don’t want to compete with my fellow writers on these things. The truth as I see it is this: we can only do what we can do. Just because one of my writing buddies might have daily word counts in the 5k range and mine level out around 3k or their query netted a 20% positive response rate and mine sits at 14%, it doesn’t matter. I write because I have stories to tell. Unique, personal creations living in my brain that want out on the page, and in that there is no competition.

Only creation.

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Making the words sing

After my last post where I waxed poetic about some of the things I’d learned about writing, I went ahead and finished the novel I’ve been working on.

If you’re into stats…

– Started on February 13, 2017
– Daily word count goal was officially 2000 (but I like to push that)
– Finished the last scene on April 8, 2017
– I wrote measurable words 32 out of those 54 days (you can check my math, I think that’s 54 days)
– Ended up with my goal of 85,000 words, give or take a few depending on what tool I used to count them
– That makes an average of 2,656 words per day
– Highest one-day word count was 4,550
– Lowest one-day word count was 920

This is what it looks like for those like me who think graphs are awesome (not including the days I didn’t write):

But NOW!
I read the book all the way through on my tablet, made my notes, and now my favorite part: turning into something smooth, seductive, sweet, sexy, and satisfying. I already know what I need to do to turn this thing into the book I envisioned (although the characters always surprise me along the way).

And I ask myself: is this the sequel, or is my Pitch Wars book the prequel? I think this one’s even better, because I had all that experience during Pitch Wars and am now aware of some of my crutches and tendencies. That makes for a cleaner first draft, although it’s nowhere near ready to be shared.

But I know what I need to do, and I can’t wait to get started. A lot of people dread revision, but I love it to pieces. It’s where I can take the words and make them shine. And flow. And sing.


Giving Up on a Book

This has nothing to do with Pitch Wars. I want to set that straight right off the bat. I love my PW manuscript with the fiery passion of a thousand supernovas, even though I’ve read it and rewritten it so many times I’ve lost track. No, this is the story of another book I wrote, and it’s about self-analysis and having reasonable expectations. Continue reading

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My Very Pitch Wars Month

So… it’s been a month now, give or take, since the Pitch Wars results were announced and I started kicking into gear. I’m going to wait until it’s over to give you my overview of the whole experience, but I thought a check-in was in order.

It’s important to say right up front I’m convinced I have one helluva mentoring team. We seem to have similar perspectives on what we want for my story (hugely important) and similar taste in so many things unrelated to the story. Pitch Wars is stressful enough, so I feel extremely fortunate to have mentors who are a good fit with my temperament and personality. They’re making it easy, and they’re making it fun. That stated…

…oh man, what a lot of work this contest is! I’m learning to love parts of the book-writing process I never loved (and in some cases, never heard of) before. For someone who’s always been a confirmed pantser, I can now see the value of putting in time planning and organizing. Because I only had a month to rework my novel, incorporating feedback from my mentors and moving it into its shiny newly-outlined direction. (Oh, I also beefed it up by 20,000 words or so.) I don’t know if I’ll be able to face NaNoWriMo this year without an outline in hand!

One of my first thoughts after we got started was that despite my initial attitude last year when my manuscript wasn’t chosen, I’m glad I didn’t make it in then. I wouldn’t have been ready, either as a writer or as a recipient of critique and suggestion. I’ve never been one to write THE END and ship a book off for querying immediately. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that all the advice about letting a manuscript sit for a while before querying was right. (Also, I’m terribly shy about my writing and have a hard time sending it out… or at least, I used to.) I’ve never been in a rush to get something out the door.

That’s proved incredibly useful during this whole process. Last year I wouldn’t have had the patience to make the necessary changes. I might have fought them tooth and nail. Instead, I sat on the manuscript for most of a year, rewrote it with all the drastic changes I could muster, and guess what? I’ve rewritten it again with even more drastic changes.

Now I wait for feedback. Will it be good? Will it be horrible? Will I have to rewrite it again? I don’t know, but I’ll find out. For me, one of the joys of Pitch Wars is that it’s unpredictably predictable. I have to be on my toes. I have to be ready and willing to write, rewrite, finesse. I also have to cast off the shackles of claiming I detest the “other” pieces of writing (pitch, synopsis, query) and delve into those with an open mind and open heart.

I might have been quiet here this past month, but it’s because I’ve been busy. I’m ready for PW Part II. Whatever happens in the end will happen, but I can already say I’ve learned more about being a writer since August 25 than I had the past few years trying to work out this whole novelist thing on my own. And another unexpected bonus? I know how to use gif files with reckless abandon now. See?