Tag Archives: The Dragon Blows Smoke

Cautionary Tales: *insert appropriate “jumping too soon” metaphor*

It seems the Midnight Types have been stuck at 11:59 for a really long time, so hopefully this post gets the old clock wound and ticking again. It’s been a busy season of writer-related goodness, between the RT convention in New Orleans, BEA in New York, and half a dozen other exciting things in the last few months, we’ve been having trouble keeping up. It’s exciting to get back to somewhat-normal. 🙂

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Yeah, I’ve been thinking about Salvador Dali a lot today. Sue me. It’s a good metaphor. Don’t look at me in that tone of voice. Shut up.

My cautionary tale for this week is something I’m still learning, nearly three years after sending out my first query letter. The scariest part of this story, at least for me, is that I was SURE I’d learned this lesson long ago. For all I know, I’ll still be learning it in another three years. Or another thirty. It’s that kind of lesson.

What chilling horror story could be so difficult to understand? Well, the very nature of horror stories gives the reader more information than the characters. That’s why they’re so terrifying to read. Surprise jump scares are scary for a split-second, but real terror builds up over pages and pages, and culminates with that awful-wonderful moment when the characters realize how deep in shit they are and how much worse their lives are about to get. THIS is the kind of intensity I’ve been hit with regarding my chosen topic. And here’s the words that strike panic into the hearts of anyone who’s ever handed their wordbaby over to an agent only to learn said wordbaby had a leaky diaper at the time. *insert Jamie Lee Curtis screaming*

During that first round of rejection, I kept writing. And I kept writing. Some agents showed interest, but asked for a rewrite. I rewrote, and resubmitted. Still, ultimate success was just out of reach. By this point, I had three novels in a series, and had rewritten the first novel twice. Well, I thought I’d rewritten it. Turns out, I sort of polished up the edges a bit, but I never understood what a real rewrite meant.

I’d always heard you should put the novel down for a while, then go back with a clear head to straighten out problems and catch plot holes, character issues, etc. I laughed at the idea of putting a novel away for an entire YEAR in order to get enough distance from it to be truly objective. I’d been waiting maybe a month between drafts, and during that time I wasn’t really distancing myself at all. I was still writing about the very same characters! It took a weird piece of advice, oddly coming to me from several different agents in the span of about a week, to go back to the beginning and write the main character’s backstory. I snort-laughed myself silly over that. Of course I can write her back story. I can write out her entire life story (pretty good for a 1900-year-old character), and it’s not even boring! She’s a warrior! She once fought Vlad Drakul! She bested the freaking Roman Empire! She’s awesome! The writing began.

It took four months of writing, researching, and rereading everything I’d written about her to realize how badly I’d treated her, writer to writee, in the first novel I wrote about her. She has this beautiful life story, and I’d reduced her to a 300 page caricature. In writing her grand history, I learned so much more about her, her abilities, her history, her personality, and what drives her to do what she does. And I learned that, dammit, I need to give her a better story.

What did I do with this revelation? I shoved everything– the entire 400k-plus words I’d ever written in that particular universe– into a box and then shoved said box under my bed.

For a year.

Does that mean I didn’t think about them? Of course not. I spent hours daydreaming new starts to her story. Days were wasted angsting about how to shuffle the major events of her life around to accommodate the story I’d already written. And I do mean wasted. Because I couldn’t rearrange her whole history to fit my already-written words. It took MONTHS to realize I had to rewrite my words to accommodate her story. It’s only fair, considering I dragged her into this world.

I’m just starting to pull everything back out again. The lengthy back story I wrote will be woven into the text. And as far as rewriting goes? Yup. Entirely rewriting. Every. Single. Word.

So now that summer is upon us, this Midnight Type will be burning midnight oil. It’s better for my scales than sitting out in the sunshine anyway.

The moral of this story is that I still might not have it right yet. I still might not be able to tell the best story for my characters yet. There might be a lot more work to do, even after essentially starting right back at the beginning again. The thing is, the only way for me to find out is to just sit down and do it. And that’s the scariest thing I’ve ever written.

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Inspire Me, Watson

It’s not something I try to hide, but it’s also not something I talk about constantly, but it’s relevant to my current inspiration levels, so here goes. I have bipolar disorder. Most of the time, I tend to the high-strung end of the spectrum (which comes in handy for marathon writing bursts), but this time of year often swings me to the dark side. Family obligations, stress, longer nights and shorter days, post-holiday disappointment, loss of my usual routine, cold and dismal weather, and a thousand other things tend to pile up like ashes squishing my little flame of joy into a sputtering ember. Yes, fireplace metaphor. Shut up, it’s like my one happy thing about miserable weather.

Some days I don’t even feel like turning on the computer. Even my twitter and tumblr lives (aka FUNSIES!)  have been flat lately. I just don’t have the energy.

The last thing I want to do is give myself a big inspirational kick in the pants. I can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps when I refuse to change out of my fuzzy slippers.

I haven’t been writing much lately. It’s both a cause and an effect of depression. It’s one of those lovely Catch-22 tricks the universe has played on my thinky-box.

This is when I have to remind myself, no matter how idiotic it sounds in the moment, it doesn’t last forever. *Reflexively grinds teeth, then takes deep cleansing breaths.* There are things I can do to help pull myself back into balance, to drag myself back to the keyboard and put words in rational order, to fan the sad little briquette of my soul back up into the RAGING INFERNO OF CREATION. *Obligatory fist-pump and dinosaur scream, followed by feelings of dorky humiliation.* OKAY. MOVING ON.

I’ve been dealing with this for years now. At least in my case (and everyone is obviously different), I’ve learned a few things that might help, if you’re also lost in the ashes.

While I can’t just “snap myself out of it,” or “cheer up,” I have learned that I can be a lot like Pavlov’s Dog. *Insert tongue joke here.* You know, do a thing enough times and eventually you get pretty consistent results. Ring a bell, I drool. Change up my routine in certain strategic ways, and BOOM what do you know? I’m writing again! I just can’t help it anymore.

Some of these may seem completely counter-intuitive, but hear me out, and then take what works for you.

Dress up. Or at least dress up compared to pajamas and my ratty bathrobe (which is totally what I’m wearing right now, so as usual, please make this advice part of your high-sodium diet, thanks). I don’t mean drag out your prom dress or rent a tux, when I look like a slugabed, I behave like a slugabed. Go figure. Sometimes I can trick my brain into paying more attention by paying more attention to my body.

On that note: Exercise. I get up and move. I make excuses to avoid working out. I haven’t done a full workout since around New Year’s. When I realized it earlier today, I had one of those stare-into-the-face-of-god moments. Like, YES. This is part of my problem! Slack-jawed drooling may have occurred during my moment of revelation. It may not have occurred. *It occurred.*

Sleep regularly. This is a big one for me. This time of year I generally go on reading binges. I figure if I’m not actively writing, I’ll read more. All writers should read lots. This is a good thing. This is what I convince myself of when I glance at the clock at it’s 4 am and I’m still reading. Reading is good, but sleep is also good.

Take care of business. Sometimes the Grand Pile O’ Crap That Keeps Us Living Indoors (aka, bills, paperwork, etc.) overflows my work space, and I spend more time fretting over the clutter. I catch glimpses of my notes mingled in with the junk of everyday life. It’s much easier to sit down first thing in the morning and succeed at a writing goal if the first thing I see is all my happy little notes smiling up at me unencumbered by the water bill, the passport I forgot to renew, the postcard from my dentist telling me it’s time for my biannual torture session, the last three grocery lists, five random books, and everything else that ends up tossed on the pile. I actually write more when the rest of the stuff, important or not, has been taken care of first.

Stare at the draft. Some days I don’t get any words written. I stare at the blinking cursor and imagine it’s trying to hypnotize me into becoming a lounge singer, or a chicken, or a potato. Or maybe a writer. Seems like a logical next step. But to get to that point, I have to close everything else on the computer and only work on that cursor. No research tabs to distract me. No twitter. Even if just for an hour. If nothing else, I get a good meditation out of it.

I guess this is getting sort of rambly now. I’ll shut up and let you get back to writing. Stupid thing is, I’m actually feeling more like writing again right now. Sometimes the easiest first step is to sit down and write up something like this. This is nothing like writing a novel, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than those grocery lists were.

Happy travels, and may you stay one step ahead of the dragon. 🙂

 

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Caption Fridays: Um, this is allowed, right?

Last Friday’s picture, courtesy of the Harpy, was this gem of a holiday crossover:

skeleton Reindeer

With only a few comments to pick from, I selected the very first one. I hope this doesn’t look like I’m sucking up to the boss here, since dragons don’t suck up TO people, more like choke people DOWN with a nice barbecue sauce. *cue drum roll*

The winner is Chynna-Blue, with the caption, “Rudolph had gone a little overboard with his post-Christmas diet.”

In lieu of an excerpt, I direct your attention (in case you missed it, but I’m sure you didn’t, because otherwise there would be…consequences) to THIS ANNOUNCEMENT where you can learn all about our little Vamp’s big news. BLOOD BORN has been picked up by Entranced Publishing! Don’t let me keep you here, go read. Champagne is being served.

ONE LAST THING BEFORE YOU GO: The new picture! Create a caption for a chance to rule over this space next Friday.

real camera shots through October 2013 139

 

Happy captioning! And don’t forget to make sure that your comments can be traced back to you, should you be declared the winner. Either link your email, web site, or simply leave a small piece of your soul (or your spleen) for us to hunt you down with at our convenience.

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Inspire Me, Watson

by Laura, aka The Dragon

Each Wednesday, the Midnight Types will share a bit of inspiration. I am humbled and delighted to be the first to light the fires of imagination beneath our collective derrieres. Sometimes, a little well placed heat is just the thing to ease you into something new. A beginning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings lately. They are all at once scary, invigorating, uncertain, and exciting. Every new thing brings equal measures of joy and fear. There’s no way to know what each beginning holds in store for us. Just committing ourselves to something new is huge, but without that first overwhelming step, we’d never get anywhere.

Midnight is itself a beginning. The clock ticks from one second to the next, and magically it’s a new day. It gives us a chance to start fresh every twenty-four hours. So what if I didn’t get everything done yesterday? I have today, and I won’t let it pass without significance.

The Midnight Type is a huge new beginning for me, personally. This amazing group of people, of writers, of talented and creepy and entertaining characters, has invited me to contribute to this effort. I’m honored and baffled, but I’m loving every minute of it. So here goes, my attempt at inspiration, whether you are starting your first writing project, about to query for the first (or second, or third) time, or releasing your first published work into the world. It all begins at the beginning.

I’ve been writing for several years. Writing is not new to me, yet I’m still constantly confronted with beginnings. Every day I am challenged to begin again. Some days are more challenging than others. Here are a few thoughts that keep me going when I start to despair that I’ll ever reach my goal. Sometimes I need a swift kick in my scaly, stubbornly dragon-like pants.

At the start of a new project (which is where I am right now), I begin with research. I tend to get bogged down a little here. I possess a possibly unhealthy love of information, if the number of tabs I have open in Chrome at the moment is any indicator. I swear, my browser has only crashed once this week under the weight of it all. Research (or outlining, or making notes, or whatever holds you back from actually sitting down and putting words on the page) is more like the stretching you do before running. It’s good, it’s healthy, but if you never stand up and run, you’ll never get anywhere. There will be time for more research as the story grows. Plots grow and change in strange ways as they work themselves out in ink or pixels. I’ve had mountains of research go unused (WASTED! says my twisted mind) when a story took a hard left turn in chapter three. I jogged right off the edge of the map, and into Officially Uncharted Territory. HERE BE DRAGONS! AND NEW BEGINNINGS! The moral of this story for me is: STOP IT ALREADY AND WRITE. *pants KICKED*

Editing is another stumbling block I’d prefer to think of as a new beginning. Sure, the story is all there, but looking at it from a new perspective–as a whole instead of as a series of scenes and characters and ideas–gives me a chance to start over. Like an artist looking at a big lump of plaster, or at a cauldron of molten metal, or whatever (I am so not aware of how artists do the art), editing is where the molding really begins. I’ve hacked thousands of words from stories, only to replace them with thousands of different words. Every time I take another pass, the story becomes tighter, the overall picture clearer, just as the artist’s sculpture is more refined each time they see it from a different angle.

Once you’ve edited and polished, run your story past your trusted writer friends, critique partners, and edited and polished again (and then again), it’s time for one of the most terrifying beginnings I’ve faced as a writer: querying. I’ve spent weeks crafting query letters, researching agents, and consuming enough ice cream to freeze my nerves up enough to hit send on a query email. This is the first new beginning for a writer that’s almost completely out of our control. Up to this point, it’s been up to us as individuals to ooze our stories out into something pleasing to ourselves, but then BLAMMO! It’s time to leave our dank and cozy writing caves and stretch our wings in the dazzling light of day. Luckily for me, dragons have beautiful glittering scales (not to mention threatening talons and impressive fangs). The manuscripts I send out are hopefully just as glittery after all that polishing.

There are so many other beginnings for a writer, but these are the big ones for me. No matter where you are, from thinking about your first story idea to gearing up for your first book release, it can be suffocating. Like my recurring nightmare of drowning in fire extinguisher foam, but let’s not speak of that. For me, the easiest way to keep going is to see every step as a fresh start. Every day when I sit down to write, I see a new beginning, a new pile of kindling to set ablaze.

What are your thoughts on beginnings? How do you kick your metaphorical pants into gear? Or your literal pants? I mean, maybe you’re some sort of robot with a transmission in your pants. That would actually be awesome. Or terrifying. Either way, I’d like to know about it.

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