Monday, March 26, 2012

Writing Vulnerably

Image mine, edited on Picnik
I tell people that sharing your work gets easier. That's partially true. I need to start telling them that it gets easier, but not really. You get used to it, not immune to it. That would be the real truth.

Even with that, though, I was surprised at a nigh-on panic attack I had when about to read something to my very awesome critique group, the Rivendell Platypi (yes, it's a long story).

I've mostly shared Quintessence with the Platypi. Actually, that's where my first scenes aired, before I had even officially started the book I was sharing it with them. It was also with them that I first did the horrifying read-aloud sharing, and, surprisingly, lived to tell about it.

Point being: I love these people. I trust these people. I know these people aren't going to rip me to shreds, though I expect them to give me advice on my work. Not only that, but I have given them my work before and received that advice.

And yet, I was shaking. I had to hold my knees down, one of my legs was doing that weird, very bobbly (that's not a word...hmm...) shaking movement, my heart was thudding, and it took me about thirty seconds before I could make myself start reading it.

One thing I said in those thirty seconds was: "This book is terrible!" which I quickly followed with: "that's not what I mean. It's just, so much about it."

My awesome peers assured me that that was exactly what the deal was. (They also then didn't critique hardly anything about the excerpt, so apparently I went through that agony for nothing...)

Not surprisingly, the excerpt was from Forest of Lies.

I had said something the day before on Facebook about trying to pick an excerpt. After some discussion, I said this:

It's not that I was looking for the most polished or worried that it was all bad. You guys have convinced me to go with the more emotionally vulnerable, however. ‎(Like all of FoL isn't emotionally vulnerable. *eye roll*)

Aha! Bingo. There it is. VULNERABLE.

There are few things closer to my heart than Forest of Lies, if ANYTHING is.

I think that is what has made it so resonate with readers. Reading draft III, you see a lot of my heart as a 15 and 16-year-old. Reading draft IV, you're going to see my heart as an eighteen-year-old. Forest of Lies is my heart story.

Awhile back, I posted a link to a blog post called The Honest Stain of Truth. Though in a slightly different vein, it also talks about honest writing--vulnerable writing.

There's a quote by someone (sorry, someone), that goes something like this: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."

What am I trying to say with this long and rambling post?

You can write well without bearing your heart. But I think your readers will know. They'll also know when you're being honest with them--and I think those kind of stories are the ones that stay in your heart--because they came from the heart of another.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing Romance as a Christian & Teen

From one of my medieval history books. All together now: "ewwwww..."
How did I end up here?

Fact no. 1: A few years ago, I was strongly averse to any kind of romance. I blame BBC Robin Hood for starting my serious breakdown (note: BBC Robin Hood came AFTER I wrote Forest of Lies).

Fact no. 2: I originally didn't want to write Forest of Lies when I brought the idea together (fall 2008) because I knew I was young (15!) and didn't feel I could write it yet. The book wouldn't leave me alone. I voiced those concerns to my writing teacher and he told me to write it anyway. I cried I was so happy. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

Fact no. 3: Forest of Lies isn't a traditional romance by any stretch of the imagination. At least I don't think so. I haven't really read romances.But hey, it's no Romeo & Juliet. Or BBC Robin Hood. Or Rose & Doctor.


Fact no. 5: Christian publishing is basically known/stereotyped for its fluffy romances. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO...

Fact no. 6: Not to mention the (deserved) stereotype of teens writing romance. DOUBLE NO NO NO NO NO NO NO...

Get the picture?

I honestly don't know how I got here.

Or why in the world I'm enjoying it. (OYAN forum status this morning: "Nothing quite like characters who are hopelessly attracted to one another and trying to ignore it." No, no one has responded to that...)

But I figure since I say that God's responsible for this book, I guess He has me writing it for a reason. Romance and all.

In an attempt to make this post somewhat helpful (and not just a "I've gone to the dark side help meeee" rant it really is), my advice for other young writers who have fallen down the slippery hole:

1. Realize how little you know. Don't assume you know anything about romantic love. Because honestly, chances are very high that don't, if you're my age. That's why I didn't want to write this book, and I imagine it saved me from much embarrassment.

2. Then study. I don't mean go out and read as many sappy romances as possible--in fact, I'd say avoid that. Watch married couples. Read the Bible. Try to figure out what love IS. Love is something you probably DO get, even if you don't understand romance. Why? Because love is more universal. You love your friends. God loves you. Figure out what LOVE is--because love is the deep well that romance should grow on if it hopes to last.

3. Avoid the mush. Thankfully, I've never liked mush, so this was easy. Reasons I don't employ it and suggest others don't either: 1) this is likely the part you don't have a chance of understanding, 2) am I the only one who feels extraordinarily silly writing it? yes? okay, moving on...3) sheesh, these characters thought the were alone and now I do that to them? I mean really.

Anyone else experienced the "oh crud, they're falling in love" moment? Have advice to add? Don't like my advice? Thoughts on romance + young'uns + Christians?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Forest of Lies Update!

Forest of Lies: Draft IV: Phase 1: Chapter New 6

I'm currently part way into New Chapter 6--that is, the second half of Chapter 5, which I split because I added a few ginormous scenes to it. Good thing, too, or now chapter 5 would be pushing 9,000 words.

I have further named Phase 1 and Phase 2 of this editing process--Phase 1 is going to consist of going over the story aspect, adding and deleting scenes, changing stuff around, all of that big picture type of thing. Phase 2 is where I'm going to go more into the prose, editing the new scenes I've added (rough draft in the middle of draft IV stuff....ayi), working on continuity, and fixing historical accuracy components.

Because of the split process draft IV is taking, I am currently only releasing bits and pieces of the new draft, and those only to certain people and only because I feel like I might explode with all this new material and the way the story is going. I'm LOVING it.

Some stats (can you tell I like stats?):
Completely New Scenes: 7
Word Count of New Scenes: 5,836 (with around 3,600 of that coming from chapter 5)
Total Word Count of Novel: around 61,000
Net Word Gain: around 5,100

The novel word count and net word gain bounces up and down a lot, because I've also deleted large chunks of text as well as expanded other scenes already in existence. I'm hoping for a final count of around 70,000--we'll see how that goes for me.

So, what is contained within these mysterious new scenes and additions?

-Jacqueline has regained entrance to the novel prior to Old Chapter 6 (now 7), as part of the SAVE ALAN campaign
-Ralph Murdoc is more charming (and young. and handsome.)
-Chapter 4 has managed to become one of my favourite chapters, despite the fact that pre-Old 7 (now 8) chapters usually get slammed by myself.
-Much has yelled. Yes, Much can yell. In anger. Me: O.o
-Will o' th' Green has gained entrance. Robin's band has shrunk and the dynamic has changed. I like it.
-[cheesy advertisement voice] AND MUCH MUCH MORE!

And now, a new sentence or two from each chapter so far: 

Chapter 1: I about made up my mind to like him.

Chapter 2: I looped the fabric of my left sleeve around my left arm and tied it. I had often done that, in secret, after the incident where I’d almost gone up in flames.

Chapter 3: It took me about two and a half heartbeats for me to lift my skirts and tear after him.

Chapter 4: Robin whirled. “Excuse me, your grace,” he said. “But I turn my back on you for your own protection.”

Chapter 5: “You can’t help,” he said. “No one can. So stop trying. I’m just a sick heretic, why should you care anyway?”

Chapter New 6: That day, and Ralph, and the peasants’ dirty homes, and the outlaw’s blue eyes all tumbled in my head. I put one fist against it. I should sleep. I was exhausted.


I am reaching a anniversary of sorts--March 13th, 2009 is the day I turned in the last three chapters of Forest of Lies, Draft I to my creative writing teacher. Considering I turned in the first three chapters on January 9th, 2009, my Draft IV editing journeying is actually sort of mirroring my draft I writing experience, except for the obvious fact that I am much slower this time. Still, pretty cool.

Some people tell me how impressed they are with my dedication to this story. I don't really find this praise due, because it's not really a choice I've made...this story took me by the heart a long time ago and it has refused to let go, even when I tried to let go of it.

I didn't know when I finished that first draft that it would it would all be just as thrilling three years later, or possibly even more so. It's so strange when I think of how long this story has been a part of my life--and a huge part, at that.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beautiful People: Marian

First, I apologize for dropping off the edge of the earth. The world of COLLEGE has opened its oped its ponderous and marble jaws to cast thee up--hold on. Sorry, that's Hamlet.

Anyway, college is not playing nice currently, though I am managing to get some editing done, so that's good!

I'm going with Marian again this month, because now that Forest of Lies is under construction, I'm getting back into her head (she remarks that that makes is more crowded even than usual) and she really is a great character, which I attempt to say with no conceit. Writerly types probably know what I mean.

Without further ado, Beautiful People:

1. If your character could be played by an actor, who would it be?
Actually, Lucy Griffiths of BBC Robin Hood renown would be an actress I could see playing Marian, except for two problems:

1. My character is quite different from the BBC one.

2. It's hard for me to seperate Lucy from Jonas and no, he would not be my choice for Robin.

Anyway...but she has the hair. And she's gorgeous.

2. Does your character have a specific theme song?
Yes! From the same Michael W. Smith CD album as Much's song (Hibernia) is The Giving, Marian's. Basically this entire album screams Forest of Lies at me.

3. What's their worst childhood memory?
Marian: There's not really one single thing. I suppose my childhood was actually pretty decent. My nurse dying was pretty traumatic, but...I don't know. I would guess it's more the end of my childhood that is my worst memory--when I realized that I had a father and he didn't care for me. Or not even that--but he didn't know me. And I didn't know him.

4. If your character had a superpower, what would it be?
Marian: I do have an superpower! It's called Extreme Sarcasm. I'm also good at Talking to Myself. If I could pick one, I'd go with healing.

5. If your character crashed on an island with a bunch of other people, how could your character help the group survive?
Marian: Um. Well, I could probably make some useful things with my ridiculous sleeves. I know a decent amount about herbs, too. I suppose that could help.
Me: Sarcasm could either keep people or laughing (laughing is good for you!) or make them all throw you in the ocean, too.
Marian: There is that.

6. Are they married? If not, do they someday wish to be?
Marian: I believe that's classified information.

7. What is a cause they would die for?
Marian: No specific cause...more high-flung ideals like justice and truth and love and also for all the people who are precious to me.

8. Would they rather die fighting valiantly, or quietly at home?
Marian: It depends. I like the idea of "fighting valiantly" for some noble cause (I'm contradicting my previous answer), and I also like the idea of going peacefully among the people I love. And really, I think you can do both to some extent. In any rate, I hope I don't die anytime soon.

9. If a stranger walked up to them and told them they were the child of the prophesy, would they believe them?
Marian: Nope.

10. Do they prefer the country, or the city?
Marian: The forest.

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