Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

Ack! I’ve lost it! September 28, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 8:04 pm

Okay, got a new tentative outline for my rewrite. But as I’m starting to write it, I suddenly find I’ve lost it. You know, it. The magical it. The sense that tells you what works and doesn’t work in a story.

Used to be I could just listen, or think about my story, and I’d get excited as I’d feel the suspense building as scene after scene takes the reader toward some conclusion. Or I’d feel the symmetry of my parallel story lines. I’d know instinctively when to write in this person’s POV or the other person’s, when to speed up or light the fire, and when to let it cool. I can’t do that any more.

The thing is, I’m unhappy about it, but I’m not scared. I suppose it’s because in part I’ve lost “it” before; it will come back. But I’m also beginning to feel that when I lose my grip on these things it’s because I’m learning. I’ve shed the old ways of thinking and feeling, but I haven’t yet developed my new sense. At these times I feel the urge to read and fill the gaps with good stuff. So for now, I’ll begrudgingly put aside my story, but happily take up a book.


Plot plot plot! September 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 1:40 pm

Taking inspiration and much needed (and generously given) assistance from Jade Park, I decided to work on plotting my magnum opus. I studied several books, including Martha Alderson’s Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple, Nancy Kress’s Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. Then I pulled out a stack of large newsprint, and started plotting.

I worried at first it might be awkward using this gigantic piece of paper. On the contrary, the new format was liberating, and the ball-point slid along the newsprint deliciously. I potted one of my character arcs. I made a list of scenes. I scribbled down notes. Now I’m contemplating writing a whole short story on a sheet. It’s simply fantastic, because it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. I never realized how constricting a computer screen could feel, or how limiting a keyboard is. With a keyboard, you can only type letters. Pen in hand, you can make all kinds of marks.


Uh… you mean like Lord of the Flies? September 18, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 8:29 pm

Okay, I know it’s slightly unethical, and frankly I can’t imagine what sort of waivers the parents signed, but as a writer of speculative fiction, I’m really curious about the new cbs show Kid Nation. 40 kids in Bonanza, Colorado, making their own town.

It’s the psychology I find fascinating. What sort of emotions will these poor kids show? How will they adapt? Like I said, it’s unethical, but what a unique insight into human nature.


Ambiguity September 17, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 2:38 pm

I’m getting the message from folk that are kind enough to critique my stuff that they don’t like ambiguity. This is a problem–I do. Almost everything I write has some level of ambiguity. There are no good or bad guys. There’s no evil. This is a bigger problem in fantasy, especially, where for the most part people expect no grey (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars). While this tendency is changing (George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series) the expectation, and the want, is still there. People want to know whether something is good or bad, whether they should root for it or curse it.

I’ve always challenged the notion of evil and will continue to do so. Stories of black and white tend to bore me–yes, it’s nice to have such clear distinctions, but in reality, few, if any thing, will be evil or good. Sorry, but in my stories, something just _are_, and you’ll be on your own to figure out right from wrong.


A new tool September 14, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 5:07 pm

I nay-said (that’s a word, right?) the writing program Scrivener on Fluent. Well, I checked it out anyway, largely because I have a Mac book without any word processor (except TextEdit). I’m two days into the 30-day trial and I have to say, I’m liking it. For someone as scattered as me, it’s nice to have everything in one program. No need to open multiple word documents, Scrivener does it all. Filling out index cards and reordering them to rethink scenes or story outline is a snap.

I hesitated because I love brainstorming in my notebooks, but I realized, I don’t have to give that up. It felt a little awkward at first, since it requires a slightly different creative process. While not perfect, I like that this program ventures out of the limiting linear structure of Word, and once I get more used to it I think it will be very freeing. Anyway, I’d suggest checking it out if you find yourself frustrated with traditional word processing programs.

And you back up your stuff, right? Right?? I use Jungle Disk which links to Amazon Web Services, and charges to your Amazon account. You can set the program to work automatically, and you can store gigabytes for cents a month.


I lost my voice! September 12, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 6:59 pm

I suppose this is the danger of working on multiple stories at once? I’d been working on draft in first person POV–what drew me to the story was the character’s voice, which I heard as if she were whispering in my ear. I put the draft on hold for a bit because I’d reached a roadblock. Now I’ve cleared the roadblock, plotted a course using an outline, but when I sit down to write, the voice is gone! Will she come back? I certainly hope so.

I blame this on the outline. I’ve started using outlines because several people recommended doing so, and because writing without one can be done, but it takes a terribly long time.  And there’s a lot of heartache and anguish involved. But with an outline, I just can’t feel my characters the same way. We’re not discovering their story together; I’ve already told them where to go.  A large part of the reason a particular plot works or not is because of how it’s written; when I outline, I’m not taking that into account.

I’m sure there’s a happy medium, somewhere, somehow. Its just a matter of finding it, maybe loosening my grip on the outline.


Full circle September 11, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 10:57 pm

In the last three years I’ve gone from writing with abandon, then scrutinizing every aspect of my writing and trying to apply lessons from those writing books, to going back to writing with abandon. And I have to say, it feels damn good.

My attitude change was the result of a new draft I’m working on. I mulled over it, I took a writing class and decided I was starting the story too soon, based on the professor’s opinion.  But his recommendation would mean I was writing an entirely different story, not one that I’d thought of before. I tried to do it–I sat down and wrote out outline after outline, but I just couldn’t get excited about it, so I put it away, thinking I’d deal with it later. Well, recently I pulled out the stuff I’d written prior to the class, and reread it. And fell in love with the story again.

So here’s the thing. To me, there’s no point in writing if I’m not writing what I want. I want to do this more than I want to be published. I’ve educated myself about writing, how to show not tell, and all that. I hope I’ve absorbed them somehow. But in the end, I just want to write with that wonderful, freeing abandon.