Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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It’s not over until it’s over

Hi! I remember blogging! I remember having time to sit down and compose well-planned and thoughtful blog posts! I knew one day I’d have the time to do it again.

Today is not that day. Fooled you! I’ve been more than knee-deep in Pitch Wars revision passes, refining, fine-tuning. Eradicating crutch words, erasing bad habits, spit-shining and polishing my manuscript. Writing the supplemental material: query letter, synopsis, pitch, and as one of my mentors put it, taking a chisel to my first page so that despite the fact there’s an entire novel to follow, it’s compelling all by itself.

Not too much to ask!

During the course of Pitch Wars I’ve learned:

  • how to survive on almost no sleep
  • potato chips are really not a great substitute for real food
  • the more you use “just a cup of coffee at Starbucks” as a reward for writing, the faster you qualify for more free drinks than you want
  • I can rewrite an entire novel in a very short period of time if I have to
  • When given the secret formula for supplemental material, I can take off my “I’m no good at marketing” hat and write those too
  • why scene maps are important
  • why outlining is a great idea
  • genre-specific story arcs exist for a reason and sure, I can be a rebel, but then I won’t have the type of book I want
  • this year’s mentees are a wonderful group of people and I’m so thankful to have taken this roller coaster ride with them
  • this year’s mentors are a wonderful group of people. I lucked out having two (thanks, Mary Ann and Jaime!)
  • It’s a real kick to find that people like my characters and stories and want more

GROUP HUG!

I could go on with haphazard lists, but I have to say that this has been an outstanding experience. Yes, my house isn’t as organized as it was two months ago and sure, I ate some of (okay, a lot of) the Halloween candy out of nerves and no, the agent showcase hasn’t started yet, but no matter what happens when the Adult/NA entries go up tomorrow, I’ve already “won” Pitch Wars. Just ask the friends I’ve made, the people I’ve met, the people I’m still planning on meeting. Look at the book I’ve written. This contest makes for great common ground. Whether my co-mentees have been writing Adult manuscripts like me, or New Adult or Young Adult or Middle Grade, we all have this shared experience. It’s humbled and enlightened me. It’s rejuvenated my love of writing. It’s taught me so much… you get the idea.

There will be a playlist post soon. In the meantime, I’ll be quiet.


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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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Gutting the Story, v2.0

Somewhere in here, a wonderful story that's been unfairly locked away is making a break for it!

Somewhere in here, a wonderful story that’s been unfairly locked away is making a break for it!

No wonder I hated my writing the other day. I kept trying and trying to make the novel work from the new starting point, but it just didn’t feel right to me. It felt like I was trying to craft it into someone else’s story which… well, that’s exactly what I was doing. The problem with starting it from the suggested point was that I had zero emotional investment in any of the characters that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did it! It was a great exercise and I have some valuable new stuff as a result. For the most part, though, starting a third of the way through meant I had so much to explain, and it changed my characters in ways I didn’t like and that didn’t work for the story I want to tell.

It’s back to the drawing board (or in this case, the printout) for me. I printed out all 300+ pages — I’m so sorry, trees, but I had to do it at least once — and am armed with my favorite red pen, my post-its, tape, and scissors. There’s something fun about working on things the old-fashioned way. I’m sure I’ll see so much that I missed on my computer screen, my tablet, my phone, and in my brain.

This is a story I really want to see through to the bitter end. I want it to be good, or even better than it is now. If I could give myself one piece of advice that I really need to learn to listen to well, it’s this: never be satisfied with a first draft. In my case, my weakness is always in adding enough conflict. That’s because I tend to genuinely like my characters. I know I need to throw them under the bus from time to time, both to make the story more interesting and to make them into stronger people. The first time around, I’m almost never able to do that.

Now I’m ready, though. I love realistic characters with all their warts, foibles, and flaws. I’ll probably overdo it on this draft just because I can, then have a good laugh over all the newly-introduced tropes and finally trim it back.

Then I’ll ask for a few new readers.