When It Comes To Writing, Don’t Overdo It

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Writing a book teaches you a lot of things. You think you know, but you don’t know, and writing a book is quite an experience.

Writing a sequel is the same thing, only more. You continue to grow as a writer, while also learning tons about writing a follow-up.

Click here for original image on Jim Delorey’s website

One thing I am learning about writing a sequel is, don’t overdo it.

Heck, you shouldn’t overdo it when you write a first or stand-alone book.

But as I write my sequel, I realize there are times when I lose focus and I start to overdo it with my storytelling. Writing a sequel means picking up where you left off with the first book, and carrying on into another story or extending with the first book’s story. It is not as easy as it sounds. Especially when you realize there were some things that could’ve gone into the first book, and now you’re mentioning it in the second book.

And then you realize others things could be brought up. It’s like opening a can of worms when you write.

As I mentioned in my post about writing about vampires, world building is so much fun. But at times, it can be too much fun, and you might lose direction. That was a problem I had writing my sequel; I was having too much fun exploring the vampire world that I lost track of what I wanted the story to be about. When I revisited my work recently, I saw this and had to delete or re-arrange a few things.

Writing a story is so much fun. Writing a book is such a delight. But don’t try too hard. Don’t overdo anything. You can lose track and overwhelm yourself, your characters and the story altogether.

 

You’re All Going to Think I’m Crazy…

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Seriously, you are.

And I’m pretty sure you know what I am talking about.

It had been on my mind for a little while, and took a good butt kicking to get the drive going again. But I am glad that engine is roaring once more, and I doubt I am going to look back.

I am once again working on the sequel to The Dark Proposal.

Yeah. I’m certain some of you are rolling your eyes now.

After stopping, restarting and stopping again, I am giving it another go. And this time I am going to go all the way with it.

The last time I stopped was, as I explained, mainly for financial reasons. As much as I wanted to keep working on the sequel, I was concerned about how expensive it is to self-publish. But after doing a little research, I found it is not that unusual for writers to do crowd-source funding for their work. And that is what I plan to do. By the time I am done with the first draft of this book, I will start a campaign to raise money to get my book edited, get the cover made, and a few other promotional things to get the word out about it. But that won’t be until the fall, perhaps.

Some of you might be thinking that I am struggling with the main character, Claire McCormick, because I portrayed her as insecure, naive and kind of foolish, which is not easy to follow-up to in the sequel. While my intention was never to make her a strong, kick-ass female, I am finding ways to develop her strengths as well as have her face her weaknesses. Claire’s story is about personal responsibility, which ties in with the vampires’ story.

Some of you may also be wondering about my other WIP, “The Cats”. That I am setting aside until I complete my vampire trilogy. I may work on it from time to time, but my priority is my vampire stories, so once I complete them, then I’ll continue on with “The Cats”.

Yeah, being an author can be a mindboggling thing. You have to weigh-in writing what you want versus what makes since business-wise. After all, writing books is a business, whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. Money talks, and you have consider how you’re going to spend your money, or obtain the funds, to get your work out to the world. But sometimes passion talks to, and if it’s in your gut to write something, or finish something, than there are times when you have to give in. Besides, going with your gut works all the time.

So, without any further ado – onward with the sequel to The Dark Proposal.

BTW, I’ve already given it a working title: “A Light in the Darkness”.

The Theme of My Female Characters

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As I work on my WIP “The Cats”, I notice that I seem to be repeating a familiar characterization of my main character, which happens to be female. Instead of writing a kick-ass, strong female, I’ve made mine, once again, timid and unable to fully stand-up for herself. Am I starting a trend in my stories?

It seems as if the best liked female characters, especially those that are the main characters, are tough and take no crap from anyone. But the main characters in my two books – “The Dark Proposal” and the WIP, “The Cats” – are the opposite. Granted, with my current project, the main character has to be because she is bullied. Bullied people aren’t usually strong, confident people anyway. The same goes for some people who get into abusive relationships, like Claire did in “The Dark Proposal”. I also have some story ideas where the female character is either timid or troubled. Very few of my story ideas have a strong, tough female character.

What does this mean? Am I against strong women?

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

Far from it. As I once mentioned before when I discussed this topic, I prefer a kind of character who’s like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Personally, I find kick-ass, strong characters to be very boring. Especially since, in the case of the female character, they are almost perfect and not complex enough. It seems like female characters are not allowed to be complex, with strengths and weaknesses like all other human beings. Male characters are allowed to be flawed, but not females.

I also have story ideas where the female character is done right evil and does terrible things. Does that make me an anti-feminist? Again, far from it! I just believe in capturing the human race as it is. Women can be awful just like men, or be spineless as anyone else. That doesn’t mean that I am against women being strong or good. I just know from life’s experiences that women can be weak or evil, just like men.

I’m aware that many readers prefer strong characters, especially when it comes to women. I know that means I may lose readers or not have a huge bestseller if I stick to my formula for female characters. Hey, I may not even get a book deal with a major publisher that way. But I truly believe writers should write what is in their heart’s desire, rather than what is popular. I’m also someone who cannot write what is in my system, so I cannot write something that is trendy or would be a worthy bestseller. It just wouldn’t come natural, and I would be bored writing the story.

So, writing not-so-strong female characters looks to be the norm for me. Maybe that would be the theme for my characters during my authorship, as in, it would be something I would be known for. And I like that 🙂

 

 

The Cat That Inspired My WIP

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As mentioned in my previous post, I am working on a book about a teen girl who is horrendously bullied at school because of her lack of confidence and timidity. Things start to change when black cats start to turn up in her life almost everywhere she looks.

Where did I get the idea of black cats hanging out on someone’s porch or crossing their path on the way home from school?

I initially came up with the idea nearly 20 years ago, when I was 15 and living in a small town outside of Albany, New York. I was living in that place for a couple of years, and towards the end of my time there, there was this black cat that used to hang around in our backyard.

I remember when I first saw it. I was sitting in the den, watching TV one evening, when something caught my eye. I turned to look at the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard, and saw this beautiful, plump black cat sitting at the door, peering into the house.

At first I was surprised, because who expects to find a cat being all nosy by looking into someone’s house? But I softened up when I saw how the cat looked curious about what was going on in our house. Seriously, it looked genuinely interested in the happenings inside! It also had these big greenish-yellow eyes that looked so gentle. It seemed like a very friendly cat.

Image via Flickr. Click for original photo.

Image via Flickr. Click for original photo.

I didn’t open the door to pet the cat because I didn’t want to scare it away, nor have it think it was allowed inside our house. Besides, the cat seemed quite at peace watching me watching TV.

Over the next few weeks, the cat came back a couple more times. It was a house cat with a collar. So clearly, its owner was allowing it to wander the area, and be true to a cat’s hunting ways.

About a month later, my parents and I moved back to Staten Island, and I obviously never saw that cat again. But I never forgot it. I actually was inspired to write a piece about a girl who lived in the foster care system who was rescued by the magical cats – who actually shapeshifted into gorgeous boys, lol!

I thought about writing such a story as a full length novel, but I figured one about a teen girl abused and passed from one foster home to another was a little too depressing. In addition, my first book is about relationship violence and I don’t want it to seem like abuse is the theme for all my books (although bullying is a form of abuse, but that’s a different topic).

So I chose instead to write about bullying because it is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed. And black cats are the perfect star for this book, tentatively called, “The Cats”. After all, black cats had been tormented for centuries for being associated with witchcraft and bad luck. Even today, black cats are less likely to be adopted compared to other cats, and supposedly, they are still tormented for satanic rituals these days.

But black cats are also associated with good luck. In the U.K., if a black cat crosses your path, it gives you good luck. Sailors used such cats for a good voyage. Even the Japanese see these beautiful cats as carriers of good luck.

It seems like black cats are a good symbol of things not being so bad as they seem. Which gives good prelude to what “The Cats” will be about!

 

Happy 2017! My Latest Updates

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Happy New Year everyone!

I know,  it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. I hope to keep up with blogging, but life calls sometimes. Being an adjunct professor, tutor and freelance reporter/writer does take up a lot of time. I know, lame excuses, but I honestly have been overwhelmed this past month.

Even so, I have been able to do some writing. I was able to finish the first draft of my first chapter to my new WIP. I am now moving on to the second chapter. I cannot predict when I will finish this WIP, but the main thing is not to rush anything. Rush writing a book, and you get a lousy book. I’m sure we’ve all read books where the author wrote something too quickly, only to produce a not-so-great book.

Anyway, I am just glad I completed the first chapter and now moving deeper into the book.

Oh, did I tell you what my WIP is?

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

I did briefly touch on it in my last blog post. It is about a high school girl who is mercilessly bullied by her peers. She has no friends and her family is unsupportive. But things changed when she starts to notice black cats turning up on her way home from school, or sitting on her back patio.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the working title of this book is, “The Cats”. Maybe it will change, maybe it won’t. Right now, my focus is on writing the story.

The story will explore bullying and social structures. In other words, what makes a someone a target for bullying? Why do some get bullied and others don’t? Why do mean people – in this case, mean teens – get to be popular, while the nicer kids are scorned? I’m sure it is a question everyone wonders, and I hope to successfully explore that.

And don’t worry, the main character of this story has a happy ending 🙂

I’ll continue to blog twice a month: every 1st and 15th of the month. I’ll update on my writing progress, discuss bullying and black cats. I’ll talk about the inspiration behind “The Cats”, and why specifically chose black cats to be the stars of my book.

I’ll also talk about writing in general, publishing, TV shows, books I’ll be reading. And now and then, I’ll write about my old baby, “The Dark Proposal”. I have some plans about this book, which I hope to tell you all either later this month, or early in February.

Either way, I am still here and I’m here to stay!

Pause, Reflect, Rewind…and Start Again

I know its been a while since I posted here. I still intend to post twice a month for the time being. But I also intend to do something different with my authorship.

In September, when I posted my two posts on the sequel to The Dark Proposal, I felt the surge of doubt rise once again. During this whole year of writing the sequel to my vampire novel, I had a wild ride and enjoyed very much creating the vampire world, and delving into the characters that made up that world. I also was anxious over what would become of Claire as she found herself trapped in a world she never wanted to be in.

But at the same time, I had doubts. Not over the story and the direction it was going toward. But doubts over the book’s future. In other words, self-publishing. I had self-published The Dark Proposal when I released it four years ago. That means I used my own money to pay for an editor to make sure everything was grammatically OK, and all-right story-wise. I also used my own money to pay for a graphic designer to create that beautiful cover, as well as money to pay blog tours and advertisers to get the word out about my book. It was all out of my pocket. That’s what self-publishing is about.

But that was four years ago. This time around, I was asking myself if I really wanted to self-publish again.

Honestly, there’s no other way to get the sequel out. I had tried to get The Dark Proposal picked up by small publishers, but since it was not a big hit, it was not picked up. It doesn’t make much sense to self-publish one part of a series, and then use a small publishing house to release the others. It also simply does not work that way.

Realizing the daunting task of having to spend money to get my book out, I began to ask myself what I really wanted this time around. That’s when small epiphanies came forward.

And here they are:

SELF-PUBLISHING ISN’T THE BEST OPTION:
When I self-published four years ago, I was not as fiscally wise as I am now. Looking back, I can’t help but think I could’ve used that money for other things. Sure, it takes money to make money, and I was really gung-ho for releasing my first book. But now that I am older and have been on my own in the expensive city of New York for over three years, I see that money is not something to be fickle about. Even if you are investing it to start a business (because that is what self-publishing is: a business), you really have to ask yourself if it is worth it, no pun intended. Money needs to be spent as wisely as possible.

In case you are wondering, I invested nearly $1000 into The Dark Proposal – from the editing to the promotions. The editing was the most expensive part because you get what you pay for, and most editors wouldn’t work for peanuts. Imagine what else I could’ve done with that $1000? It could’ve gone to savings or retirement or a memorable vacation. The cost of living is high, especially in NYC. So  money cannot be thrown around like it will always be there.

But, at the time, I was gung-ho about The Dark Proposal. I loved it and wanted the whole world to see it. I still love it, and I am still proud of how I write a book and got it out to the world. And it will always be out for the world to read because I am never unpublishing it. It will always be there.

That being said…

I NO LONGER HAVE THE WILLPOWER TO WRITE MORE:
Again, don’t get me wrong. I love my characters and I still want to find out what happens to them. I want to explore their worlds more, their histories and their futures. Even though they are fictional, they are in a special place in my heart. Literally!

But I was a much different person when I wrote my book nearly five years ago. Back then, I was reeling from a series of bad relationships, and wanted to get the notion of abusive relationships out of my system. Writing The Dark Proposal was like a cathartic experience for me.

But now, the notion of abusive relationships are no longer in my system. I’ve had better dates and relationships since, and I’ve grown healthier and wiser. My self-esteem is much better. And I got my fears and rage out of my system when I completed The Dark Proposal. Now, four years later, I am not that same person and abuse is not something I want nor can explore anymore. I’ve healed. And that’s a good thing.

SO NOW WHAT DO I DO? NOW WHAT DO I WANT?
So I am fiscally unable to self-publish, and I no longer have the drive to write about abusive relationships. Now what do I do?

As much as I hate to give up on my sequel (again), it is best. It kinda sucks because I do adore my characters. But that is not to say I will never ever write The Dark Proposal’s sequel. Maybe someday when I have a few bucks to spare (like, when I’m a millionaire or so), I will self-publish the sequel. I’ll still work on it, but more out of love for my characters rather than a desperate need to get the sequel out. And I still want to find out what happens to Claire. She has a lot of potential for growth and being an amazing young woman. It will just take a long time for readers to find out.

Anyway, so what do I do now? Well, I have other story ideas that I am now taking notes on, scribbling scenes on, and even working on. I plan to publish my next book traditionally, either by a major publisher or a smaller one.

Which leads to my next ponder…

Should I use my real name for my next book?

Megan Cashman isn’t really my name. Cashman is another form of my mother’s maiden name. Megan is my first name, though. I originally chose to use a pseudonym in order to keep my fiction writing separate from my journalism (I used to work for a major newspaper, and now I freelance while also being an adjunct professor and tutor). After all, would I be taken seriously as a journalist if I wrote a book on vampires?

But now I am considering using my real name for all my future books, including the paranormal ones. I used to think I would use my pen name for the paranormal books, but use my birth name for the more historical and modern settings. However, I no longer care. I want my name on all my books. Because I have something to say, and if it comes in the form of a book on witches, dystopic societies or whatever, then so be it. There are plenty of journalists who write fiction. Among my favorite authors is Sarah Dunant. She goes back and forth between working for the BBC to writing historical fiction on the Italian Renaissance. As far as I know, she had not changed her name at all.

I get that branding is an important issue to consider. But as of now, I am leaning towards using my real name for my future books. I can’t predict what will come first: being a known journalist or a known author. Who knows? We can’t control or predict the future. Either way, one would benefit the other. And I think the two will go hand in hand, believe it or not.

So that is me going forward…

I will not stop with The Dark Proposal. I will continue to talk about it, though eventually, I will start chatting about my latest work (more about that later). I have plans to make it into an audiobook, and even revamp its book trailers.

But slowly and surely, I will start to talk about my upcoming work and what my plans would be as an author of fictional work. And I’ll start right here…

I have just begun work on what could be a YA novel. It is about a teenage girl who is mercilessly teased and bullied by just about everyone in high school. Things aren’t looking up, until she notices some black cats as she walks home…

More about that, as we go on 🙂

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Choosing a Sequel’s Title…Plus an Excerpt!

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Yesterday marked the four year anniversary that I self-published The Dark Proposal. Since then, I’ve been taking my sweet time writing its sequel. It’s been a long road working on it, with a lot of doubt mixed in. But I’m happy to say that I’m finally getting somewhere with it, and even have a title in mind!

Actually, I have two in mind. I am split between the two prospective titles, because they both represent the story.

One of them is, Blood Ties, which illustrates how torn Claire is between the vampire world and the human world. She now has vampire blood in her, yet she is trying to hold on to her humanity. As the vampire world becomes more and more troubled, where would her loyalties lie?

The other is Between Light and Dark, which also illustrates how torn Claire is. But in this case, she is also haunted by the mistakes she made that led her to become a vampire and is seeking some hope, hence the light. Furthermore, this title goes hand in hand with its predecessor – light, dark.

The more I write, the more I will figure out the title. Who knows, I might come up with something totally different.

In the meantime, check out this excerpt! Enjoy!

She grabbed her bathrobe, and went to the bathroom. She first started a shower, but switched to the bath once she realized Daniel would want to know why she was doing that. She was a vampire, no need to cleanse herself of anything, including him. So, her bubble baths would have to do. This was something she had begun doing since returning from Paris, and was one of the rare freedoms Daniel allowed for her. These baths weren’t just moments of indulgence for her. They made her feel clean, physically and mentally.

As she stripped off her bathrobe, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. Did she recognize that person looking back at her? That person was a young woman with eyes that seemed as dead as the body she inhabited. Did she know she was staring back at herself?

Repulsion rose again and Claire had to calm down before she smashed the mirror. She let the tidal wave come, and it poured out in silent sobs. The blood tears came and flooded down her face onto the pristine sink. She didn’t care if the tears were really the blood of her victims or not. She just wanted a release.

After a few moments, she gathered herself enough to step into the tub. As she lied in the rosewood scented bubbles, the tears flowed more and she even choked a bit on her sobs. She made sure she did this quietly enough with the faucet running and the shower doors shut, so Daniel’s sharp hearing wouldn’t alert him. Luckily, he probably wasn’t even thinking about her right then.

Tilting her head back against the tub, Claire sighed and shook her head to herself. Her friends and family had no idea what she had become. She had rarely spoke to them since moving in with Daniel. The last time she spoke to her mother was on the phone two weeks ago. It was to wish her a happy birthday while explaining that she was too busy to visit. Her mother sounded frustrated, as she lately had been. But Claire also heard something else: helplessness. Her family had no clue on what was going on with her. It had to be agony for them to be lost like this. But if they ever found out, that agony would be replaced by outrage. She had put them in danger and she was now a monster. That would be it.

The same reaction would come from her two former best friends. Samantha would sound off obscenities while jabbing a finger at her, and Monica would storm off without saying a word. Claire would be left with only to turn to the vampire world she despised.

And she had to accept being a vampire.

She closed her eyes as a sob shook her. There was no way out of this. She had to be a vampire. She had to accept and live what she was now. No use in trying to maintain her humanity. Daniel was painfully right.

Claire’s body tightened. She could still feel him inside of her, using her like a masturbation device.

And she was attached to him for eternity. No matter what, he would be a big part of her life. The mere thought sickened her right to the bone, and she wanted to vomit.

A single blood tear rolled down her face, and she roughly brushed it away. Opening her eyes, she saw the bubbles and the water were tainted with blood. Blood from her tears.

Stunned, Claire stared at the bubbles and water around her. The blood was like ink, with its redness swirling around in the water, or relaxing to dye it faint red. Some of that inky crimson hue was caught in the bubbles. A large one rested near her left knee and it had that thick redness inside. It looked trapped, stuck in endless whirling, with no way of getting out, unless the bubble would burst.

Claire blinked a few times to rid herself of the shock. Even her cherished baths were blood stained. Her life was now bound by blood. Blood would be everywhere for her. Her very existence will be consumed by blood, and she will consume it, too. Blood and her were forever entwined. There was no more room for denial.

She gritted her teeth. There was no way she was going to live her life like that. She was so much better than this. She was not the sadistic killer Daniel wanted her to believe. She was not going to relish in human blood, no matter how much her new nature insisted. She was not going to embrace her vampire self.

Claire unplugged the drainer and stood to turn on the shower. Using her supernatural speed, she rinsed herself off of the ugly bubbles and water. Not only didn’t she want Daniel to hear the shower and get curious, but she also wanted to be rid of the redness as soon as she could. Claire’s anger began to crash down her regret and gain more steam. She was angry at Daniel and herself, and that anger was getting stronger with each rough stroke of her skin.

Once relieved of the bloody filth, she turned off the faucet. Glancing down at the floor of the tub, she saw the remaining bubbles and water were not fully rid of their redness. Worse, the tub’s porcelain now had a faint pink hue and might need some cleaning to be white again.

An ache suddenly came from her upper arms and torso. When she looked, she saw she had scratched herself while rubbing her skin in super-quick speed. Thin lines of blood had formed on her arms, stomach and chest.

Claire’s anger disappeared as quickly as the water going down the drain.

Letting out a sigh, she hung her head.

She was unsure of what to do that very minute, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year…

The only thing she was certain about was to lower herself onto the floor of the tub, pull her knees up, bury her forehead on them, and lose herself in her thoughts.

Blood had bound her to this world is more ways than one. She didn’t want either, but had no other choice. Only she didn’t want to follow through on that choice.

But what else could she do? There was no way out of this. It was permanent, and likely eternal, whatever that meant. She would never again be human, no matter how much she wished she still was.

All she could really do was get used to it.

But how?

 

 

 

Choosing the Name for My Vampire Trilogy

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Happy End of Summer, everyone!

Yes, isn’t sad that summer is over? For me, it went by too fast and I barely had time to enjoy it. But unfortunately, this year’s summer was far too hot and humid, so that experience has me looking forward to the much cooler fall. Seriously, some seasons aren’t worth getting ill over.

In the meantime, I am still working on my sequel. It is a long and hard journey, mainly because of my crazy schedule that has me working hard in an expensive city. But I am making headway, and I believe by this time next year – or maybe sooner – I will be celebrating its release, five years after the first book, The Dark Proposal, was published.

I know, it’s a long time to go between releasing books in a series. In this case, I am writing a trilogy which is quite ambitious and pretty far fetched for someone who has a busy schedule. But I am determined to keep my word and keep on writing. I know I am pulling a George R R Martin here, but it is what it is. I am not a full time writer and it will be eons before I reach that point. I do what I can and I hope the results will be at least descent.

Later this month, I will be revealing the two possible names for my sequel. I’m split on the two, but I’ll reveal them anyway to mark the 4-year anniversary of The Dark Proposal’s release. But before I do that, I want to discuss the name of my books’ trilogy.

I am calling my trilogy The End of Eternity. It may seem odd that I am not calling my books The Dark Proposal trilogy. After all, many books and movies go by the first name of their series. They include The Twilight Series or the Star Wars trilogy. But I see The End of Eternity as fitting, and my apologies if it seems like I am giving away the story.

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

When I started writing The Dark Proposal, I not only was exploring abusive relationships, but I was also asking the question: how could vampires survive today with so much technology and surveillance? I would imagine it would be far from easy and would be a problem unlike any other for vampires. I would imagine through the centuries, vampires would have dealt with the witch hunts, the Inquisition and other atrocities due to superstition and fear. But crime scene technology, social media, surveillance, and other modern technology would make it difficult for a vampire to get by. It’d be like the supernatural versus science. Who wins?

I originally wrote a story about all of this, but struggled with it because the characters were boring and no real backstory to them, no matter how hard I tried. Writing about Claire and Daniel’s relationship help add some color to the technology vs. vampire issue nicely.

So, The End of Eternity trilogy will answer the question of modern technology vs. vampire, along with what would happen if a young woman found herself in a relationship with a man who turned out to a murderous vampire. See, that’s the fun thing about vampires. There are so many issues and stories to explore with them. The possibilities are endless, and I think there are many good stories still waiting to be written about vampires. Maybe mine will set off a trend!

So, my trilogy is called The End of Eternity. 🙂

Writing and Editing at the Same Time

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Some say when you write a novel, you should write first and save the editing for later. After all, if you do both, you’ll become distracted from the real goal of finishing the story’s first draft.

Well, I happen to be one of those people who edits as she writes. Meaning, I don’t save the editing for after I am through with the first draft; it is my priority alongside my writing.

Image by Nic McPhee via Flickr

Image by Nic McPhee via Flickr

Usually what I do before I write is that I read over the previous scene or two. Often I do this in order to get a feel for what is going on, so I could get into the ‘mode’, if you will. As I read over the scene, or scenes, I notice grammar or spelling errors. I also notice wordy paragraphs, redundant sentences, and things not well explained. So I edit these parts instead of saving them for later. I believe it is best to polish your work while you are creating it.

To best illustrate this, think of a sculptor. As the sculptor chips or carves away, some leftover pieces of the clay or stone remain on the artwork. This could be dust or pieces not yet brushed away. A sculptor has to brush away those pieces in order to continue with its work.

In other words, when I write, I edit in order to move on. The previous step – in this case, a previous scene – needs to be sharpened as much as possible before I move on. Of course, the actual sharpening comes much later, but I am all for sharpening all the way. It is a way of perfecting your work, and possibly making the editing easier in the end. It is also a good warm-up for the writing you are about to do.

How about you? What is your take on editing as a novelist writes? Do you support it or believe it hinders a writer rather than helps? What is your method of writing and editing?

Fire away!

Writing the Theme of Your Story

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Themes are a big part of a story, any story – especially the good ones. They’re as important as, say, character arcs, plot development and so on. They’re the heart and soul of the story.

As author K.M. Weiland explained on her website:

Why are you writing this story? Why are you writing about these characters? What is it about their journey that has drawn your heart? What is the core of the tale? Justice, mercy, love, revenge, self-discovery? Whatever it is that’s moving the characters is what’s also moving your story. That’s your theme.

Supposedly, theme cannot be planned or forced, but instead come naturally. Theme appears in the story as you write your arcs and developments. It blossoms on its own, an echo of your subconscious. It is the fuel for your story. It is the reason why a writer writes in the first place.

Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire to explore death, mortality and losing God. The Kite Runner is look at the complicated relationship between fathers and sons. Love in the Time of Cholera‘s theme is love in all its variations.

So, why did I write The Dark Proposal? And why am I writing its sequel?

The reason why I wrote my first book is because I wanted to explore abusive relationships. Having been in difficult ones – though no where near as Claire did with Daniel – I felt like I needed a release. I also wanted to write a vampire story where the vampires were once again evil and deadly – the exact opposite of what was popular four years ago.

But did I succeed with theme? What was the theme of my story?

Chuck Wendig describes theme on his blog as:

Every story’s trying to say something. It’s trying to beam an idea, a message, into the minds of the readers. In this way, every story is an argument. It’s the writer making a case. It’s the writer saying, “All of life is suffering.” Or, “Man will be undone by his prideful reach.” Or “Love blows.” Or, “If you dance with the Devil Wombat, you get cornholed by the Devil Wombat.” This argument is the story’s theme.

A friend of mine says the central idea of The Dark Proposal was “be careful what you wish for”. He explains that Claire so wanted to have a rich lifestyle, that she was blind to Daniel’s abusive ways, and then later, used it as escapism for the vampire life she was about to enter. That’s one way to look at the argument.

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

I have grown so much as a writer during the four years since I wrote my first book. Today, I am focused on going deep with my stories and being more honest with myself when I write. I don’t think I was very honest as a writer when I wrote The Dark Proposal. Part of me cringes when I admit that. But as one musician friend told me, if you do that, then it means you are growing as an artist.

Writing from the heart is not easy. You are literally exposing yourself as a human to hundreds, thousands and maybe even more to judge and tear apart. It is scary enough to produce a book that you poured your heart and soul into. And by that, I don’t mean every part of your mind. The best artworks come from the very essence of the person, their heart.

So as I seek to be more honest as a writer, what theme do I hope will come out of The Dark Proposal’s sequel? I know I cannot force it, but I really hope redemption and healing would be one or both. Actually, I hope it will be the theme for the whole trilogy (yes, my book was meant to be the first of three). I also like the whole “be careful what you wish for” theme will come into play. I’m sure there’s always more than one theme in a story, or different ways to figure out the theme.

Or rather, what kind of redemption and healing do my characters need in order to fuel that theme?

Claire needs to heal and be redeemed from her mistakes and naivete. Daniel needs to be redeemed from being so evil. There is room for redemption and healing for Hilde, the Five Brothers and even The Black Roses. Even Samantha and Monica need to heal. There’s a lot of pain in The Dark Proposal, and everyone has a lot of coming to terms to do.

Which raises another question: what kind of writer do I intend to be? Sure, I want to be one that goes deep with questions and the human experience. But will be the regular theme in my stories? Will there always be a re-occurring one? Who knows? But since themes come from the heart of the writer, maybe the themes of my stories will be similar, just written differently. Or not. It also depends on the perspective of the reader.

The key here is to keep on writing, and get more to the heart of what I’m trying to say, or express. But I obviously cannot force myself to expose my heart in a story, just like a theme cannot be forced.

I’ll let Chuck Wendig finish off the meaning of theme:

A writer can engineer the theme — building it into the work. Or a writer can unearth it — discovering its tendrils after the work is written.