Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Funny Tragic Shadowed Magic

It took me eight years to write my first four novels. In that time I had three kids, so I guess that makes sense.

 My fourth novel Funny Tragic Crazy Magic was the best novel I knew how to write at the time, and I published it. It did really well, especially for a first novel. It spent eight weeks in the top 10,000 on Amazon, the lowest it got was 3,450 something. And it's still selling, that's the exciting thing.

The number one feedback I heard from everyone who read it,  was my favorite question-- Are you going to write a sequel?

When I wrote it, I was very satisfied with the ending, and felt it was a stand alone book. However, publishing has taught me a lot, and the number one thing, is that if the reader isn't satisfied, then you can't be either.

So I looked into it, and they were so right. HOLY COW, THERE IS SO MUCH STORY THERE. I even started writing the sequel, got a few thousand words into it, but I knew it was the wrong path. It was stressful too, I guess. I didn't know how to write a sequel. I didn't want people to be disappointed, and I wanted a sequel I could be proud of, that FTCM deserved.

And I had different stories pounding on my head.

In the year and three months since publishing FTCM, I've written four novels. Granted I three of those novels were Prophecy Breakers, (whazup ladies!) so I didn't do it alone. But I've learned a lot in that time. I've learned from Sabrina and Melanie. I've learned from Waxling. I've learned from my amazing betas, and mostly I've learned from my  AWESOME readers. I love that feedback the very best. I love seeing what they want, what they need from the story. And I've studied, practiced, and written about 250,000 words all on my own. Kinda crazy when you add them all up. I've been working really hard this year.

About a week ago I was on Pintrest (obviously working hard) and one pin I pinned almost a year ago had a comment by a reader I've never met.  (Hi Madison!)

 Well, that comment got me thinking... just one more time. Since the last time I approached FTCM's sequel, I've written a sequel (with help). But I know more now. So now, Sheena, what are we going to do for the sequel?

Yes, I talk to myself in third person.

Anyway, an idea fell out.

Not just an idea, the right idea. I knew it the second I thought it. This was the idea I was waiting for.

Photo: Plotting the sequel to Funny Tragic Crazy Magic.  Yes the handwritten way on a credit card application envelope.

I tried to catch it on the closest piece of paper I could find (a junk mail envelope). My husband took a picture with his phone and then posted it on my author page, and people got excited. (I don't know why, it is not a flattering photo) I had more page views for that goofy picture than I've had in months, and a couple of my amazing readers started sending me private messages, responding, encouraging me.

The next day I was scrolling facebook (again being really productive) and one of my writer friends posted this link, a simple novel outline-9 questions for 25 chapters.

I could do nine questions. I could do simple outline. I know the idea, so I could totally do this.  I got out my envelope and opened a file, and started answering the questions and filled out my simple outline. It helped that I had figured out my 8-character-archetypes on that envelope, and that I knew my hero, and my hero's goal, and set up the whole story idea around those goals. It was easy, took maybe ten minutes to answer those questions and figure out all the chapter headings. Simple.

 At the bottom of that article, there was another link to an article,Quick Overview of The Heros Journey, and it said that this simple outline works really well with the Hero's Journey. SO... simple. Quick. Easy.  I could do that. I clicked the link, and made a few simple adjustments and amplifications of my simple outline so it fit within that Journey. This took another ten minutes, but it was fun and simple.

There was another link on the side of that blog about the snowflake method, but it wasn't super helpful to me, so I googled it, found this snowflake-method link, and before I knew it, (okay, so it took three days and several hours of work), I'd filled out the first eight steps of the snowflake method, until I knew the story backwards and forwards. I could fix story structure before I wrote. CRAZY CONCEPT for me, and I knew all the characters, and why they did everything they are about to do. I had a list of necessary scenes, and chapters. Before I knew I had done it, I wrote 10,000 words of a detailed outline.

So that's kinda crazy.

And my betas, my beautiful amazing betas haven't finished reading Pyromancy yet, so I can't really work on the next one, and Waxling is tricky because of story structure problems that an outline would have fixed, and I have stressful things coming up and needed to escape, so I kinda sorta started writing Funny Tragic Shadowed Magic. I'm five chapters in, and it's the right beginning. It's going to be awesome.

It's weird though writing from an outline. It's weird knowing all the details, and the twists and turns of the story that are coming up. But it's given me so much more confidence in the details of the story. I know these people already, and I know that their story line will make sense, so I get to sit behind their heads and play there. It's cool, because since I know all the settings, all the characters, I don't have to use my mental energy to create them at the time, so I find I can write more in a sitting, and really enjoy the language, and the voice of the character.

Outlining is actually fun. Who knew? I'm loving being able to create twists and turns without risk of failure. I can throw out any plot twist or do any twisted thing my broken brain can come up with and see where it leads. I know no one will ever read that outline, so I don't have to work on the language, don't have to work on making it sound pretty, or think about the weight of an audience on my shoulders while I make the major decisions, and it makes writing easier. There is no block, because I know what comes next. If I'm in the mood to write an action scene, or an angsty scene, or a kissing scene, I know right were they go, and I can just write what I want, and know where the characters are in their journey.

Which will be SO helpful to battle against the obsession that is the world of Prophecy Breakers. Once the betas get Pyromancy back to us, I can jump back in and play, and know exactly where to go next when I come back to it. All this work in one paper, so I won't forget it.

So this is what I've learned this week. I'm putting the pants away. Perhaps for good.

And one more thing...a sequel is coming. I'm working on it as we speak.

Thank you, Madison, for commenting. You never know the power of one kind word.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Progress Report!

We're about to send Pyromancy to the betas, and there's been an odd week here, where Melanie and I are done but we're waiting for Sabrina to give it a once over before we send it, so there's a vacancy of WIPs, for me.

 In some ways it's nice. I've read a bunch of amazing books, including Code Name Verity, which broke my brain and my heart at the same time. (I've since forced three separate women I know and love to READ this book.) But the absence has made me bring out Waxling again.

I've blogged about Waxling before. A few of you beautiful readers were even my betas for it.

I'll tell the rest of you what the betas came back with. It's a good story with major structural problems. And it took me a couple of months away to really digest the beta's comments, and figure out all the solutions.

So now, I'm applying the solutions and I'm happy with it. Sort of. The main problem, is that story tells two love stories, and it's a short book, and simply put-- that's too much love story into one book. One love story needs to be the star, so I've decided to back seat one of the love stories, which sounds dirtier than it is.

 Ha. I'm sorry, Mom. Anyway.

I'm getting to the point in the story where I have to delete stuff that I love, and I just don't want to and you can't make me.

 I keep thinking maybe I can just lose this paragraph, or chapter, or sentence, and the story will be just fine. I agree with my own thoughts, which is you know...helpful, and my mind and my outline all make sense, and I go to the text and highlight, and I just can't press delete. I created a separate file, so I can save it to put it in a later chapter, but I go to the file, highlight the words, press control c, and then can't do it.

They say you should kill your darlings. They say you shouldn't be so attached to any sentence or word that it hurts to cut them, or that you do whatever you can to serve the story and get the story out there, but I say, please don't make me cut this chapter. Please don't make me lose this line that I love, even if it makes the story better without it.

So it just sits there, in a file, waiting for me to be brave enough to break it.

Now the story has more structural problems than ever before. It's half way fixed, and half way broken. I love it and want everyone to read it, and it's broken and no one can read it until it's finished. I know how to finish it, but it means breaking my heart to do it, and no thank you. Let's watch cat videos instead.

So it's there. This story that I could finish and publish if I was just brave enough to lose a paragraph I love, or smart enough to find a reason to keep it.

I'm too close to the story now. It's too personal. It feels like taking my name off of it.

Writing is really hard work. It breaks your heart sometimes.

I'll take a breath.

 Kiss me, Hardy. Kiss me quick.

I just clicked delete.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Okay-- My Real Life Love Story-- Part Five

When my husband asked me out I almost said no.

I had a lot of reasons, but none of them were very good. I felt loyalty to my best friend, but by this time, she was married to the guy of her dreams and we hadn't spoken more than twice in a year. I was going on a mission, but not for a year, and no one said I should become a nun until then. But I had never ever said no to a guy brave enough to ask me out, and I wasn't going to start on this hot guy I had known forever, so after  "But don't you have a girlfriend?" (No, we broke up), and "Are you sure you know who it is you're speaking too?", (been burned by that one before) he repeated his question, and I said, "Okay."

Our first date was amazing.  I straightened my hair, (old habits die hard) but it rained and went curly anyway. In the car on the way from the restaurant he sang along to the radio.We went to go see Johnny English, and I've loved Rowan Atkinsen since I first had a crush on Chase. After the movie, I told a slightly inapproriate joke. (So there's a pirate with a steering wheel in his pants, and I walked up to him and said, "Hey...do you know that there's a steering wheel in your pants?", and the pirate said, "Aye, It's driving me nuts.") This is the kind of joke I find hilarious, because I'm still five years old, but we both relaxed after that.

The funny thing is, when you've known someone for years, the whole first date awkwardness isn't quite so awkward. Darren saw me fall out of a tree when I was sixteen. It was the side of his car I punched when I didn't win state for my drama competition. When I said that stupid joke, it made me forget my "enough" self, the only character I ever played on a date, and was just myself.

We went out for Jamba Juice after the movie, and he started talking about his mission, and I was so impressed. I always thought he was awesome, but the mission changed him to awesome+. At this point, it was like 10:00 and we still wanted to hang out, so we went to my parent's house, and after a few minutes of my mom and dad being chatty, we went downstairs to the T.V. room, and played on my guitar, singing goofy songs until my curfew. I walked him to my door (because...Feminism). I told him I was going on a mission, and he smiled and said, "Oh, Okay," like he took that as a personal challenge and then gave me a hug. After he left, I went back downstairs and picked up my guitar, and sat there, my fingers on the frets, staring off into space, this giant grin slowly seeping into my jazz hands.

You know the whole three days rule? That's a rule that never applied to me. Guys didn't ask me out for a second date, and the one guy who did, waited nine months between dates, so you could tell he was really into me. I had zero expectations of a second date, but Darren called me the next day and asked if I wanted to go to Walmart with him to go buy shirts. It was kind of a letdown, to be honest, to go from this awesome first date to Walmart, but I can tell you we've spent far more Saturday afternoons at Walmart than we have Friday nights at dinner and a movie. And it was really fun to go to Walmart and buy shirts with Darren.

And then he didn't call me, which was okay because I was working four jobs, but by Thursday I was like...Dude what's happening, and I called him, because...feminism. He'd gone camping with his brothers, and they all teased him in the background about this cute girl he kept talking about.

This was the time I had caught that he actually "liked" me, and this was, of course, foreign territory for me. So we made a plan to go out on another date, and I prepared for it as The Date With The Guy Who Liked Me, and I was more than slightly terrified that I'd mess everything up or say the wrong thing. So I dressed up really fancy, only to find that Darren had invited our friend Josh to go with us. Now you're probably thinking inviting another dude on a date would be a bad thing, but that's because you don't know Josh. Josh is exactly the same today as he was ten years ago, which is exactly the same as he was ten years before that, and he'll be exactly the same ten years from now. He is a character stuck in time, and the fact Darren wanted to bring him with us, made me like him more. So on our third date, we went antiquing (which we've never done since) with Josh. It was awesome. Darren and I both love old things, which is good, because we're poor and our house is full of old things.

Afterwards, Darren dropped Josh off,  drove me home,  gave me a hug, and then told me he LOVED me.

And I was like, "um.... Thank you?"

It's funny, I had been so impatient to fall in love, and for someone to fall in love with me, but when it happened, I was SO not ready for it. I was terrified.

We hung out like this for three weeks. Every spare second we had we spent together, and he kept saying he loved me, and I'd panic every time and say thank you. I was so dumb and he was very persistant. When he kissed me for the first time, I was like, Why is your heart pounding so loud?", and he was like, "Okay stop talking for a second", and I was like "I think you're having a heart attack." And he's like "Seriously stop talking, I want to kiss you," and I was like...um...head exploding...panicking..."Okay? I'll allow it."

 It was perfect. My own personal brand of perfect.

But then I had to go back to school. I loved school, lived for school, but after Darren, I dreaded it. I had the world's best roommates, and we were renting this awesome house with a real kitchen and a back yard, and a house across the street full of cute boys, and I've never been so lonely in my life. I'd watch a movie, and it's be something so stupid that I know Darren would have slept through, but I wanted to hear his snore. I'd be in the best theatre class ever, with amazing instructors, and awesome friends doing what I loved, and I wasn't satisfied. I never imagined I'd love someone more than theatre. Darren and I emailed each other all the time, like five or six times a day, and I'd call him every night.

That Friday, he drove up to drive me home. I showed him around the university, and we went into the arts office. The secretary was one of my friends, and she said, "And who's this?" I didn't know what to say. We had never talked about it. We had never made a label. So I said, "This is my...friend Darren." while Darren lowered his eyebrows and shook his head at me.

"So I'm your friend," he said as he held my hand. And I just said, "Yeah.''

That night we watched Meet Joe Black, which is an awesome movie Darren slept through, and at the end there this amazing version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World, and Darren asked me to dance with him. I'd often danced all alone to Louis Armstrong, and I didn't know I was rehearsing for the real thing. I didn't know all those heartbreaks were just a rehearsal for the real thing, that I wouldn't know where my heart was if I hadn't felt it break so often. As we danced, I was finally convinced of the thing I had known since our first date, maybe since the very first time I heard him sing that goofy solo, that I loved him. That we fit. He kissed me and I didn't panic, and I think he saw the change in my eye because he told me again that he loved me and this time I said it back.

Click play. This is the song. Our song.

It was magic in that moment. We were finally on the same page. I was in love, and I wasn't scared.

Then he got down on one knee.

And I punched him.

He said: Ow.
I said: Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh.
He looked up at me and took a breath.
I said: ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh.
He said: So...
I said: ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh
He said: Would you marry me?
I said: ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh
He fell on the ground and said: holycrapholycrapholycrap.

And then he looked at me like he was waiting for a response, and my mind had exploded, and I had forgotten what words were, and I wondered briefly if it'd be okay to say thank you and then go home. That had worked a lot when he kept telling me that he loved me and I wasn't ready for it. But I didn't think thank you would work in this circumstance. I mean it was honest. I was so grateful for this goofy handsome guy who loved me, and waited for me to not be so scared. Who was kneeling there with his head on my knee while he waited for me to tell him yes or no, knowing full well how terrified I was and that there was a good chance I'd bolt and not come back. But he looked at me with brave eyes, those same brave eyes that have told me I could do it when I was about to have our first kid or when I was about to click publish or anytime I climbed to the top of a slide and then panicked and froze at the top, and I knew that he was brave enough, and strong enough and loyal enough to trust my heart and my life to, and that this time enough mattered, because even if it failed in a burning  trail of glory, I loved him enough to risk it.

I opened my eyes, and said the bravest words I've ever said.