It’s a Matter of Focus

So lately, I’ve been having trouble focusing. Not in all areas, mind you: I’m doing well keeping up with the elliptical and my daily walks. My daily installment of Hellblazer is coming along without much fuss. The husband and I have dropped both DirecTV and our land line, and we’ve been using Netflix like it’s going out of style — I’m just now getting to watch Arrested Development for the first time, and we’re working through House of Cards too. Great stuff. Also, movies: World War Z was this past weekend, and Man of Steel the weekend before.

So it’s not like I don’t have plenty to do outside of my day job. But I haven’t been able to focus on reading. I read a page or two, get distracted and do something else. Even if I’m wanting to read the book, my brain is still churning a million miles an hour, thinking of other things.

Namely writing. But instead of THINKING about writing, my brain is pre-writing: in the past week-and-a-half my brain has been swimming in the world-building of Telepathic Soulmates***, working out details for future fixes of that draft while also trying to find the real story in the sequel, Prison Planet, for which I now have a promising arc for, thanks to my good friend Michele. And lastly, I’m writing (yes, writing) a page-a-day, but it’s what I’m calling Not a Prequel Novel. Because I’m not going into it with any sort of real STORY in mind. Rather, I want to take two characters who are supporting characters in Telepathic Soulmates and tell their story. Their story takes place chronologically before Telepathic Soulmates, so it gives me the opportunity I need and want to really explore the world-building in ways I won’t get to do in revision. So it’s fun. I think.

It is funny: when I’m REALLY into whatever I’m writing, I don’t have much brainpower for reading. Which goes a long way in explaining how, when I was book-blogging and reading all the time, I didn’t have any brainpower for writing. The book blog has been closed for month now, and I’m just now able to pore my energies into creating my own fiction instead of absorbing the fiction of others.

Don’t get me wrong: writers have to do both. I’m just trying to find the balance.

*** = as always, these titles are actually aliases for the novels I’m working on, not their REAL titles. Except for Not a Prequel Novel, because it doesn’t have a title and what I would call it would make no sense to anyone who hasn’t read Telepathic Soulmates

Decisions, Decisions

So I’ve STILL been thinking about writing lately. A LOT. But rather than coming up with new projects, my brain seems content to chew on Telepathic Soulmates*** while I wait for some final commentary/critique from a friend. We’ve been chatting about themes in my work, and I’ve been asking her to look for certain things that I worry are issues, and it’s been a very useful thing. And when I get the manuscript back, I’m going to take her comments and another friend’s and start going through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. I’ve already started a list of things to cut and things to reinforce, but one thing I’ll definitely be focusing on is character and motivation, and whether or not the characters are, if not likable, at least relatable and understandable. I’ve got three POVs, and it seems one’s in good shape. It’s the other two that fight for likability during the book, and those two definitely need focus. And the ironic thing is this: on a first read, those two characters are really frustrating. But once you get the ending and understand what’s happening, re-reading makes the characters seem so much more sensical. You get where they’re coming from and why, but it’s not something I can reveal at the start of the novel.

What I have to do in revision, however, is curb my instinct to write WHOLE NEW SCENES that somehow make these characters more likable/understandable from the get-go. While I suspect a new scene or two may be in order, what I really want to be able to do is read through the POVs of those characters and find ways to tweak reactions. A line here, an observation there. Maybe acting slightly differently in certain situations. And to do that, I discovered my next writing project, so to speak.

Character vignettes.

In other words, I’m going to sit down and write out the backstories of the three POV characters of my novel. It’s their history. Their origin story (sort of). It’s stuff that’s touched on in the novel proper but not fleshed out in flashbacks, which — in the novel — is exactly what it needs to be.

The vignettes won’t end up in the novel, but they’ll allow me to take a focused look at each of my POV characters and examine who they are, where they came from, and what they wanted out of life years before the novel took place. It’ll put me back into the frame of mind of Telepathic Soulmates, which will allow me, during the editing/polishing process, to make the tweaks I need rather than resort to my default rewriting. Better still, it’ll gear me up for the sequel, Prison Planet, something I’ve already given a lot of thought and outlining too, but realize I still have a ways to go, because I’m not quite happy with the over-arcing plot as it stands (it has logic problems, especially when compounded with my vague plans for a third book).

The trick is, now, to decide how many to write and how I’m going to hold myself accountable. I already know I need an “audience” for my work: immediate feedback keeps the warm fuzzies going and allows me to continue (sue me, I’m a performer at heart, and no, I’m not kidding: I majored in Vocal Performance in undergrad). I suspect what I’ll do is send them to my reading/crit partners even though the vignettes aren’t novellas or short stories or anything like that. They’re free-writing. Pre-writing.

But it’s still writing. And that’s what I need to do.

*** = As always, titles used here are aliases for the REAL working titles I’m using. To find out why, click here.

What’s in a Name?

So before I start really blogging in earnest, I wanted to get some technical things out of the way. While I’ve talked about how my identity will be Calico and nothing but Calico until I decide what to name my bad-ass author self, I need to talk about the names of other things.

Namely, the books I’m working on.

I don’t always have a title when I start on a project. Also, because I don’t know what name I want to publish under, I don’t want to give away the titles willy-nilly, simply because one day, an agent will Google me, discover the title of the manuscript in question on this blog and will start browsing on this blog, and while I have no intention of being grossly inappropriate, still, you know? Also, I know I don’t come up with the most original or ground-breaking titles in the world (seriously, I don’t. I envy writers with poetic titles), I’m paranoid about finally getting something and there being onslaught of other books under the same name.

Also, if I do get published, my editor might veto the original title and make me change it anyway. So there’s that.

However, when I want to talk about my writing and various projects, I need something to refer to them by, right? So here’s the deal:

I’m going to use generic descriptors. The descriptors will be SO generic that you can probably think of a dozen books that my descriptor would also describe. The descriptors might be so generic that it turns you off of the project, but I’ll make you a deal: should said manuscript get picked up and I’m allowed to make the announcement (or if I give up and go self-published), I’ll reveal the real title and the REAL blurb, and I promise, the blurb of the novel will be far more interesting. 🙂

Now that I’ve bored you with all this talk of generic descriptors, would you like to know what I’ll be talking about?

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