Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where did the year go?

Wow! How is it New Years Eve already? Where did this past year go?

Now, I could write everything that's happened in my personal life this year, but I won't... to be honest, my memory sucks, I'd be lucky to tell you what I did last week... I could blog about how much my son has grown as he is about to turn 2 on the 12th of January. I could reminisce about times spent with friends and family, but I won't. This blog is about one thing, my journey into writing my novel, so here goes...

I know where the year has went since August. It's been sucked into my laptop in the form of an ever-expanding novel. At last count I had over 81,000 words written. Eighty-one THOUSAND words! I still can't believe that I've written so much. And if I think about all of the chunks of outline that I've removed to add in the actual chapters, I've written a whole heck of a lot more than that. Not to mention all of the other documents that go along with the story: character development exercises, setting descriptions, extended backstories, etc.

Then there's this blog. I don't even want to know how many words I've written in this blog, I know that I get long-winded when I start typing. (long winded? Doesn't sound right for typing, but oh well...) I also know that it's exponentially worse when I'm talking about my book and characters. So, I guess part of me apologizes for making such epic posts... but then part of me sticks my tongue out like a five year old and says, "deal with it, I'm a writer..."

I've been really lucky with this story though. I have wonderful friends and family that are willing to read parts of it for me and help me through rough patches. I have a husband that is super supportive and understanding when I have to write, not want to write, have to. I have in-laws that support me and even give me good suggestions when I'm having a difficult time writing something.

I have an overzealous writing gremlin, who is rarely short on ideas or creativity. And if he has an off day, now his girlfriend is staying with us too, and she likes writing a good story as well.

I've also found a really great writing forum. I've been reading the public posts for a while, but just recently joined. The members all seem to be top-notch people who sincerely want to help each other.
The Writer' s Beat. Check it out!

Then there's my main beta reader. She has gotten me through many a rough patch and her enthusiasm and addiction for my characters keeps me writing at an insane pace (50,000+ words since the beginning of November...) She's my own personal cheering section, but she also doesn't hesitate to tell me if something just doesn't sound right to her. She is great for helping me work through plot holes and letting me know when something doesn't seem right for a character to say or do (i.e. - I'm trying to force the scene to go an unnatural direction.). So thank you for all of your continued help and support.

Okay, I've thought about the past year (check), made a few thank you-s (check), yay, I guess now I get to make a few of those pesky resolutions...

1. To finish writing Instinct. As it's currently about 70-75% written, this shouldn't be too difficult.
2. To begin, if not complete, all necessary revisions, rewrites, and editing. As I do some editing as I go along, I'm not sure how long this step will take, but I want to at least start the polishing process so that I can...
3. Research and possibly start sending queries to agents. I've considered trying to just send queries directly to publishers, but I think having an agent would be really helpful. I don't even pretend to imagine that I could do what a good agent can, and definitely would prefer to have one help me. If I can find one interested in me and my stories that is.
4. Continue reading and researching the industry so that I continue to grow as a writer, and...
5. Keep writing! I have so many stories outlined that I could write for years and not run out of ideas.

I guess in my "perfect world- fate decides to stop kicking me" reality, my goals would be:
1. Finish book
2. Edit/polish book
3. Find Agent / Agent finds me (hey this is a dream world... it could happen...)
4. Sell book to big publisher
5. Be that one-in-a-million author who's book takes over the literary world and sell millions of copies worldwide.

But, I won't hold my breath on the fantasy resolutions.

Well, if I'm going to finish this book, I'd better get back to it.

Until I blog again,
Talk 2ya later...


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas is over, Now back to work...

Well, the holidays were really nice. We traveled up to the northern part of the state to spend them with my husband's family. Unfortunately, we were only able to visit everyone for a few days, driving up on Christmas Eve and coming back today. Luckily, we were able to see almost all of the family we would normally see on the holidays. But sadly, we weren't able to hang out with all of our friends up there though. We were only able to see one friend during our visit and it was because we went to torment him while he was at work. I really can't wait until we can move up there. Not only do I absolutely adore his family, but it'll be nice to live so close to the friends that Erich has known since high school.

I won't lie, this particular group of friends is comprised of quite a few interesting characters. And, I'm not ashamed to admit that I've borrowed various quirks and characteristics from these individuals to help create characters in my writing. Never copying them exactly onto the page, mind you... just taking various unique qualities and infusing them into my pre-existing characters in order to make them more realistic. My husband laughs when we spend longer hanging out with these friends then planned, and I say that it's for research, so we shouldn't feel guilty.

Speaking about the book, it's going pretty well. I think my writing gremlin took Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. He was giving me all kinds of inspiration into the wee hours early Christmas Eve morning, and then *POOF* he disappeared. I guess I don't blame him for wanting the holidays off, but it felt so weird not having him there for inspiration for a couple of days there. But, bright and way too early on December 26th he woke me up and was itching to get writing again.

We spent all morning re-outlining the one chapter that my beta reader had been confused by when she first read the outlines for it. I had originally thought that it was confusing because it's a very short outline and I figured that the story just wasn't explained sufficiently enough to make it easy to understand. Boy, was I wrong! My Writing Gremlin presented me with a few new ideas for the chapter and, of course I loved them. The new minor characters that the chapter introduces are more believable and the experience does a better job showing why Casey values normalcy so much. I'm able to keep a couple of good bits of dialogue and internal monologue, but don't have to write up a lot of useless stuff now. By simply reworking one character, not only am I able to get through the important parts of this chapter faster, but I'm able to do it without being bogged down with useless information that only created an unbelievable character anyway.

Then, later that evening, inspiration struck again. I've been pretty nervous about writing one particular section of the story. It's a pretty big event, but nothing so big that I want to use several chapters to explain. I wasn't sure how I could get across all of the necessary emotions in just one chapter, so I was worried. I know everything that happens during this specific week in Casey's life but didn't know how to express it without having to explain everything. This would have easily taken three or four chapters and would have really slowed down the main story line with a lot of useless information. Now, I'm new to this novel-writing business, but even I know that allowing that to happen is a big no-no.

Well, while waiting for Erich's father to get home from work, it hit me. Well, not exactly "hit" me, more like gradually crept up on me. The beginning of the scene started playing in my head and I found myself in awe, thinking, "of course!" I exiled myself into a darkened room an let it play itself out and slowly the rest of the scene began unraveling itself, piece-by-piece. Within my outline, all of the necessary emotions are able to be portrayed realistically and yet somehow it all fits in one, normal-sized chapter. Oh, and thanks to this scene working itself out, I now know the catalyst that helps Casey work through a difficult situation later on, and it works out wonderfully.

I'm really excited to get to write this chapter out, not only because of getting to write a really emotional Casey flipping out, but also because of all of the other scenes that this one will inspire me to finish. I already know at least one other scene that is directly inspired from this one that is very eager to be written now.

So, now it's full speed ahead again. My Writing Gremlin and I took the necessary time off for the traditional holidays and now we're back and ready to get this book written. The number of scenes that are simply outlined is getting smaller and smaller every day as the blue, italic text continues shrinking.

What does blue, italic text have to do with anything you might ask? Well, I compiled all of my chapters and outlines into one big document a while ago. To differentiate between outlines and finished chapters, I decided to edit the outlines into blue, italicized text. It's worked really well and gives me a real sense of accomplishment watching the color fading to black. So, for anyone doing any form of long writing from an outline, I highly recommend this method. Having a visual representation of what you've accomplished compared to what you have remaining is proving really helpful.

Oh, and I've discovered a new way to do my writing late at night. If you've read this blog before, then you've read about my countless nights, hand-writing into a notebook by cell phone light or small night-light. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking this practice and will continue it when I'm writing out full dialogue and scenes, but for random notes and outlines I'm going to use something new from now on. For these quick notes, I've found that using my Palm Pilot is amazingly useful. Not only is it naturally back-lit, so no need for an external light source, but getting the information onto the computer is as easy as syncing the PDA to the laptop.

I'm fast enough using the special PDA alphabet to get basic thoughts down, so this is a nice alternative, and if I'm having a tough time writing this way, there's also a pop-up keyboard that I can use. Ultimately, I think that I'm still going to hand write any full scenes with dialogue that I come up with if I'm too lazy to get out of bed and make my way to the laptop. I just don't think that I'll be able to input scenes that full onto the PDA quick enough, with the correct formatting. My brain just seems to work too fast when I'm writing these types of scenes and I'm not sure if I'd be able to keep up while being able to format everything correctly. But for random notes, that don't need proper formatting or capitalization to be useful, this will be invaluable.

Well, it's getting late and I still need to reformat some notes that I just synced from the PDA... Yeah, I admit that I forgot the USB cable for it when we packed...but in my defense, I had no idea that I was going to use it for this purpose. We only packed the PDA because my husband has been using it to read e-Books lately...

But anywho, the Writing Gremlin calls...

Until I Blog Again,
Talk 2ya later...


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sick Toddlers and Declining Word Counts...

Well, it finally happened this year. The little guy and I are both sick. I'm pretty sure that all I have is my typical sinus issues because of the crazy weather changes we've been having here, but the little guy has been a bit sicker than that. Took him to the pediatrician and was told that he seems to have a mild sinus infection and a mild case of pneumonia in his left lung. We were just thinking that he had an ear infection!

So, as I've been helping nurse us both back to health the past few days, my writing has slowed down a little bit. When you're up until 3 or 4 a.m. with a cranky, sick toddler and then spend all day cuddling under blankies with him on the couch, the word count totals take a nose-dive.

Not that I'm not getting at least some work on the novel done, just not much actual scene writing. I think that I went from writing about 2,000+ words a day to about 1000, so it's not horrible. I'm doing random editing and trying to map out the series and see if there's anything I need to include in the first book to set things up for the later ones. I have one thing that I'm going to introduce in this book as a hobby of one of my characters that will play a big part on the second book, but I'm going to wait until the entire thing is done before I go back and implement it.

Why wait? Well, I've also been doing a little bit of research on how series books are published. Instinct can very easily be a stand-alone book, but it has the possibilities to expand on into three more books afterwords should a perspective publisher be willing to buy the rights to them. I figure that I'll type up the stand-alone version first, take out anything that is solely there to set up the later books and have that be my first version of it. Then, I'll use a copy of the manuscript and edit it with everything that's needed to set up the series to have a second version.

Who knows? Maybe the fact that I have everything done to publish the book either way will set me apart when I start sending out query letters. I can market it as a stand-alone novel initially, but mention that, should an editor or publisher want this book to be made into a series, not only do I have another version of the story that sets everything up, but I have the next three books outlined. The story definitely ends after the fourth book though, it's a really good place to stop.

If by some miracle, my books became a success and people would want it, I have notes for a prequel of sorts. More of a collection of past scenes that are mentioned in Instinct that helped make the main characters who they are. Instinct doesn't need these scenes/flashbacks in order to make the story work, but if people liked the stories and the characters, maybe they'd like a glimpse into how these characters grew up. It's just a thought...

On another literary note... after Instinct I may try writing my first book with a male protagonist. I came up with this story idea where a race of people are descendants of mythical creatures. Originally, I outlined it from a female perspective. Upon researching the idea a little bit I suddenly realized that my main character would work so much better as a man. The main internal conflict seems so male-oriented anyway. My husband loves the idea and thinks that it could become a series of sorts. Not necessarily one where the same characters appear in each book, but where each book would follow the story of a different person in the same world. I'm liking the possibilities that this idea presents and it could very easily take the slot as the next story I write.

I'm glad that I found a new story idea to keep on the back burner. My Hollywood story just isn't turning out how I'd like to in my head. I can't seem to come up with some big, main conflict for my characters to overcome. It has my two main characters own internal conflicts but the only real external one is how the world perceives them as a couple. It just doesn't seem like enough for a story though. I love the characters and I like the scenes that I've seen in my head, but something's still missing. Maybe if I put it away for a while it will become clearer next time I pick it up... With how descriptive my outlines are, I shouldn't have any problems remembering the scenes later on.

Oh yeah, I've also realized something new about my personal writing style. From what I can tell so far, I seem to write entire plots out at once. The best way that I can describe this would be to have you imagine how a soap opera is set up, several sub plots all mixed together. If you imagine a writer writing out the entire story line for couple A, and then moving on to the story for couple B, then C, etc. then that's how I'm writing. I know that in the end, everything has to be mixed together, but as I can't write chronologically- this will have to do for now.

In Instinct I have subplots for Casey's relationships with the other characters. All of these subplots tie in nicely with the main plot and are only there to help further the story, since I'm against adding scenes that have no intrinsic value.

At first I wrote a lot of the scenes that were mostly just about Casey and the ones that introduced the other main characters. Now, I've found myself writing all of the scenes pertaining to her relationships with specific characters.

- First I wrote up pretty much her entire storyline with one of her suitors. I'd say 90% of those scenes are complete now with the remaining 10% needing me to write other scenes before I can write them.

- Then, I started writing up the scenes leading up to Casey's friendship with another main character. I was about 30% through writing this storyline when we all got sick, so that kind of threw off my writing process. But fear not! As I'm beginning to feel better and after a fun evening with friends last night, I'm pretty eager to get writing these scenes right where I left off.

While I've been sick, I've found myself writing and outlining new scenes for Casey's relationship with a second suitor. Originally, I hadn't planned on writing this many scenes with him, but I like the idea of this love triangle of sorts. This character was always just supposed to kind of be in the background, but his motivations at the end of the story just didn't seem strong enough with the scenes that I had originally planned. By adding in these scenes, it really rounds out the character and shows the reader why he does what he does in the end. (was that vague enough?)

I'm also loving placing all sorts of red herrings for the reader to throw them off and keep them wondering who Casey should end up with in the end. This is really easy with her main character flaw. She has a problem interpreting situations in her personal life. She can see things clearly that are going on at school or work or even with her friends' lives, but just has a blind spot within her own life.

For example: With Casey's past experiences with men, or lack thereof, she can't always tell when they're flirting with her. She'll see the flirting actions and those around her will say that a guy was flirting with her, but she never sees it for what it really is. She's completely oblivious when it comes to such things.

Having this flaw makes it really easy for her to not pick up or focus on the important things. When she tries to overcome this problem, she starts latching on to the wrong things in situations. Instead of noticing the important parts of a conversation, she'll get stuck on another part and pick it apart. I almost feel like I'm writing a whodunit book and having to place good and bad clues everywhere and it's fun!

It's also really fun to see my beta reader react to these interactions. While the book is from Casey's point-of-view and you see and hear everything from her perspective, it's funny to see how different people read the situations differently. Seeing your beta reader act like she wants to reach into the manuscript and smack your main character to knock some sense into her is a funny thing to witness. I guess that means that my characters are believable enough that people really connect with them, so that's a good thing.

Well, I think I'm going to see if I can write up a scene that I had begun before we all got sick... wish me luck!

Until I Blog Again,
Talk 2ya later...


P.S. - Here's some basic stats on where the novel is at:
- 72,790 Words
- 260 pages (1.5x spacing, 12 pt. Arial font, 1 inch margins)
- I'd estimate that it's approximately 70% complete, 30% outlines

Oh yeah, I have a progress meter bar on right of the page that keeps a running total of my word count if anyone's interested in seeing how much progress I've made on any given day. I try to update it daily to show my current word count compared to my minimum goal of 100,000 words.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I figured it out! I know why my focus has been split between two different stories that I want to write! I really should've seen it coming... it makes perfect sense to me now...

First a little bit of background...

Not long ago I sent my writing gremlin home to find another gremlin who would want to work with my friend Jason as he makes his way through his proposal and dissertation for his PhD. He was gone for a couple of days, but eventually came back and he and I resumed writing.

The weird thing is that another story began popping into my head off and on. A decent enough story, I wrote down a synopsis and seriously planned on writing it once I finished this story.

Well, this story keeps getting more and more insistent in its desire to be written. The story for it isn't quite as polished as the series for Instinct, but it's really getting there. It's holding my interest, so that's a good start I guess.

I just couldn't figure out why my writing gremlin was doing this. The scenes weren't coming to me the same way that the ones from Instinct did. It's almost as if someone else is telling me this story... then I figured it out. The proverbial light bulb went off over my head and it all made sense.

My writing gremlin didn't just bring back a buddy to work with my friend. He also brought back his wife or girlfriend or whatever she is considered to him in the writing gremlin world. This "new voice" giving me this story isn't my original writing gremlin at all! She must have gotten bored and decided that my poor brain could handle her story at the same time too...

All right, no problem... I'll just focus on Instinct and write up rough outlines of whatever she tells me and I'll be all set to start that story later on... My life can't be that simple to fix...

I guess my original writing gremlin got jealous and decided that I needed more incentive to keep living in the fictional world of Instinct. Knowing how badly I wanted to write a story from the perspective of my villain, he is now danging a new book in the series in front of me. It's completely from the point-of-view of the villain, but can't be written until I finish books 1, 2, and 3 for the series...

Oh, and if that wasn't tempting enough... he's presented me an idea to write a prequel of sorts for the series. It shows some of the key story lines from the character's pasts that laid the groundwork for what happens in Instinct and the rest of the series...

So now, to clear up any confusion, here are the things playing in my head and fighting for dominance:
- Instinct (probably 5 scenes fighting to be written at once)
- 2nd, 3rd, and now 4th books in the Instinct series
- Prequel for the Instinct series
- Hollywood Romance type story (female gremlin's project)
- a random Sci-Fi story that popped into my head while my gremlin was out of town... oh crap! What type of creature inspired that!

Well, I guess I'm off to ponder that thought and try to wade through my house full of muses... Wish me Luck!

Until I Blog Again,
Talk 2ya later...


Monday, December 15, 2008

Way too real...

I've written over 66,000 words of my novel. It's amazing to watch this story that began with a simple "What if..." question enfold into such an elaborate story. Having all of these characters and plots and subplots running through my head is mind-boggling at times.

Everything is so real to me, I constantly find myself talking about my characters as if they're real people. I swear my husband must think I'm going crazy, especially when my beta reader comes over to talk about the book. It's awesome to see someone else connect with this story the way that I have. I've lost count of how many Gmail chats we've spent discussing which famous people most remind us of the characters. Eerily enough, we naturally seem to picture the characters the same way.

Oh, and speaking of eerie... we went to visit a couple of friends this past weekend. Well, like most of our friends who live around here, they've heard quite a bit about the book and have even read a couple of chapters. I was talking about the setting of the story (Boston, Massachusetts) and one of them said that he thought he knew which part of the town I was talking about. He had done a campus visit out there a couple of years back and said that the streets and basic setting of part of the book sounded a lot like Harvard Square.

Myself, having never been anywhere near Massachusetts, replied with a simple, "huh?" He proceeded to open up Google Maps and brought up this really cool street-view image of Harvard Square. Well, it only took a couple of minutes of navigating through the virtual tour before things started getting weird. He turned down a street and everything looked familiar! Everything- down to the brick planters around the trees lining the streets, to the cobblestone sidewalks, to the old style street lamps, hell, even the architecture of some of the buildings was familiar...

Then, a little farther down the street, we came upon a boarded up alleyway. If you were to take the boards down, then it looks exactly like one that appears in my story. I had to get up and walk around at this point in the evening... I was really weirded out.

All of these coincidences keep popping up where I find things in real life in the Boston area that are near exact replicas of places in my story. Is this normal? My beta reader is half convinced that I'm somehow channeling someone real and telling their story. Or that I'm reliving some past life and substituting modern-day equivalents of music, clothing, and cars to make it more up-to-date in my head.

I began looking up coffee shops in the Harvard Square area and had yet another weird moment. I stumbled across one, that I won't mention the name of, that had various pictures of the interior on their website. Common enough, right? How about the fact that the front counter and menu board were EXACTLY like the image I saw in my head, down to the color scheme? This isn't a chain shop either, from what the website says, it's only found in Boston...

I'm really enjoying writing this book and how real everything is in my head, but... is it normal to have everything be this real? To visualize areas that I know I've never seen before, exactly how they are in real life? Or am I going crazy? I know they say writing is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia, but this is just insane! (okay... bad pun there, but you get the idea...)

So, here's a recap of my writing progress:
234 pages (1.5x spacing, 1 inch margins, 12 pt arial font)
66,662 words (as of an hour ago)
~53 scenes (number of chapters is unknown until I finish writing them)
13 weirdness factor (on a scale of 1-10)

I guess I could say that "technically" the book is almost done with it's first draft, I just have large chunks here and there that are written in the wrong POV. There are only going to be two different POVs for this story and one of them is only for a few chapters towards the end because it makes sense to do so given the circumstances.

Right now, I have almost all of the second POV written out in chapter form and a good portion of the Casey POV chapters done. The rest of my file is filled with extremely detailed outlines. Did I emphasize "extremely" well enough there? Maybe I should find a way to make it blink...

My "outlines," if you want to call them that, are basically large blocks of text that tell that part of the story from a type of third-person narrative perspective. My approach to outlining is very stream-of-consciousness. I type up everything that pops into my head, exactly how it pops into my head. My beta reader says that it's almost as if the story changes over to someone else telling the story when she reads over a section of this text. All of the, "She goes home to visit her father and while she's there... this happens, then this happens... blah, blah, blah..."

I only write up the outlines this way because I'm afraid that I'm going to forget something. Early on in the outlining process everything rushes through my head so fast that I struggle to keep up. Writing without an outline is simply out of the question for me. Taking dictation of my thought processes seems to be the only way that I can preserve these early inspirations. Sure the detailed outlines sometimes change quite a bit when I sit down and let just that scene replay itself in my head, but at least I have the basic important things written down for future reference.

But anyway... winding down... Thanks to everyone to reads this blog. When I started typing this post tonight, the current stats (according to the MySpace version of this blog) said that I've had a total of 395 views for my blog posts. I never thought that anyone would actually be interested in my ramblings and random epiphanies as I write this book, so it's amazing to think that my little blog has been viewed almost 400 times now (Just on the MySpace side of it). And yet somehow I only have very few comments and of the few that I do have, I'd say that at least half of them are me responding to what other people say... So, feel free to leave me a comment. Any advice or encouragement would be amazing, even to just see who's so interested in my journey would be cool.

Well, until I blog again...
Talk 2ya later...


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writing Gremlin, Inc

At the insistence of my husband. I feel compelled to share the body of an email that I sent a friend today. He is working on the proposal for his PhD and had requested a Writing Gremlin after hearing about the success my friend had once I gave her one. He already knows about how much mine helps me. But anyway, my other friend was also writing the proposal for her PhD and right after receiving her gremlin had a crazy 3-day writing marathon. Well, long-story-short, not only did she finish her proposal, but it was accepted and she gets to defend next week.

This is how I responded to his request (I actually filled out the personal information for him):

Greetings [ Insert Name ]!

After a lengthy interview process, I am proud to announce that your Writing Gremlin has been selected. There was quite a stack of applications as many of the little buggers really want to work with [ Insert Job ], so many apologies for the delay. We here at Writing Gremlin Inc. hand select the best possible gremlin and won't settle for anything but a perfect match. We hope that you enjoy your new muse and that you are able to form a lasting friendship with him or her that will keep you inspired for years to come!

Here's a pic of your new Writing Gremlin:

Here's the steps that you'll need to complete in order to meet your Gremlin and introduce them to your work:
  1. Print up a copy of it's picture.
    Determine in your mind if it's a boy or girl and anything else unique about it. You have to really get to know your Gremlin if you want a good working relationship with them. You wouldn't feel comfortable working closely with someone who didn't know a single thing about you, would you?

  2. Leave your data out for your Gremlin to peruse.
    Open up your files on your computer and leave out any other research materials overnight with the picture either taped backwards to the monitor or sitting nearby to allow your Gremlin time to become familiar with your work. You didn't expect them to just automatically know what you're writing about, did you?

  3. Prepare yourself for feeling the presence of your new partner.
    Whether they perch lightly on your shoulder, or drape themselves across the top of your head... Your Writing Gremlin will find a comfortable position for them when they are inspiring you. The sooner you adapt and adjust to this, the sooner you can move on to step 4...

  4. Bond with your Gremlin.
    Eventually, as you bond with your gremlin, they will become more in tuned with your writing style and needs. You will notice that, as time passes, you both begin to work really well together once you adjust to each others individual quirks and moods.

  5. Marvel at the work you're accomplishing.
    - Writing Gremlins do not mess around. Once you start truly working with one, they'll do whatever they can to keep you writing.
    - Don't expect every idea they give you to pan out as they aren't miracle workers. If they were, do you think they'd be volunteering their time to help us measly humans write?
    - They will wake you up at all hours of the night, so keep a notebook by the bed. You will NOT remember what they tell you at 2 a.m. later that morning.
    - It's important to remember that they won't necessarily give you inspiration on the part of your paper or project that you want to work on. Iit's part of their charm and you'll learn to love them for it eventually.

  6. Turn in your finished project.
    Don't forget to leave a cookie or two out for your Gremlin to thank them for all of their hard work.

We here at Writing Gremlin, Inc. sincerely hope that you enjoy your new writing partner.
Good Luck and Keep Writing!

~ Bobbi Kilbarger
President, Writing Gremlin, Inc.

- We here at Writing Gremlin, Inc. in no way, shape, or form guarantee a successful project based on working with one of our clients. Remember that the writing is all in you, a Writing Gremlin can only bring out what you already have inside of you.
- Writing Gremlin image originally found at:


See why it's bad for a Willow to be stuck on part of a chapter? I start writing goofy stuff like this!

Well, Until I Blog Again,
Talk 2ya later...


Bitten By Books Rocks!

All right, I know I've mentioned this before but... Bitten By Books Rocks!
( ) This is the website that I won my iPod Shuffle from a little bit ago during a contest.

Well, I just found out today that I won another contest! They had a live interview with self-published author, Jennifer Turner.
( )

To be honest, I didn't even realize there was a contest until after I had posted, asking her a question. I just got on for an opportunity to chat with another author, she was really cool by the way for all of you that didn't catch the interview. Well apparently by posting my questions/comments I earned an entry into a contest to win a copy of her current book and advanced copies of her next two about a month or two before they're released. I am so excited!

So, for any of you who haven't checked out Bitten By Books, ( ) You really should consider it. They have contests all the time, sometimes several going on at once. The people are really cool and it's just a nice website. But, if for some reason you don't like winning free stuff for doing easy stuff... oh well, more goodies for me!

After the last couple of days, I really needed cheering up. I've been in a slight slump, writing-wise for a couple of days now. I had been writing so much that I started getting into a rhythm of writing every morning, always getting done around 1 p.m.

Well, the other morning, my husband was using the computer to look some stuff up online and I didn't have the heart to ask him to let me use it to get my work done, figuring that I could always start later. I've also been feeling pretty guilty for hogging it non-stop lately.

Now, I don't know if I broke my rhythm and have to work my way back up to it again or if my brain and Writing Gremlin just need a couple of days off to catch up, but I can hardly type up anything for this story right now. I had been typing 8-10 pages a day for several days in a row there, usually within 2-3 hours time. But now I'm stuck, it took me all day to write up part of one scene... and I only got as far as I did thanks to a pep talk from one of my reviewers via Gmail messenger.

She thinks that, knowing my writing style, that I just need to take a couple of days to recharge and I'll be writing like crazy again. I must be overworking my Writing Gremlin or something... She's probably right though, I don't see how missing one morning shift of writing could throw everything out of whack like this. Maybe it's "Chapter 2-itis" all over again... Maybe I've written all I'm supposed to for this scene right now and I'm just forcing myself now... Maybe... I can use more ellipsis in this sentence...

Oh yeah, did I mention, my reviewer tried to name my Writing Gremlin, saying he seems like a Jasper to her. I keep trying to picture him with the name, but my love of the Twilight series of books and the new movie keep holding me up... my Writing Gremlin looks nothing like Jasper... but, oh well... at least she didn't try to name him Edward, lol!

Well, until I Blog Again,
Thanks Bitten By Books!


P.S. - I actually figured out what was up with my Writing Gremlin. I forgot I had sent him to find another gremlin to give to a friend of mine who's working on the proposal for his dissertation. Being as my gremlin is from the London area, he had to go back there to find a friend for the job. No wonder I couldn't type worth anything, I was going it alone!

But fear not, he returned last night, hopped onto my shoulder and excitedly said, "Let's get writing!" And we did, writing up a good 8 pages of text, keeping me up until... well too late, lol. Now that he's been home for a visit, I have a feeling that it'll take a bit for him to adjust back to this time zone again... oh well, who needs sleep?

Moral of the story: Never underestimate the power of your personal muses...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh yeah... one more thing...

While writing and proofreading my last post I had something else happen to me that I'd like to share. When I'm writing, I tend to have iTunes running in the background, playing all of my songs on shuffle so that some random song can pop up and inspire me.

Well, as some people know, I have a mental playlist of songs that go with this story, it's own soundtrack if you will. One song in particular that is never mentioned in any of the chapters in any way, shape, or form has always had a major impact on me when I hear it. I first heard it in the background of my brain when I was typing during the "week of emotional scenes" over our Thanksgiving holiday. I was writing a lot of mushy relationship scenes between Casey and one of my male main characters and this song started playing in my head.

Now, this isn't a current song at all, I think that it was at it's most popular back in the '90s during the time when shows like Dawson's Creek were "the" show to watch. (I know this because this song debuted on a season finale of the show.)

This song has come to be the song that represents the true love between these characters. Being that it represents such a strong emotion and me being such an emotional person, yes I cry when I hear it. But it's worse than that! Whenever I hear it now, I have to completely stop working until the song is over, no matter what I'm doing at the time. I sit there and scenes from the story flash through my head while I hold back the tears. Now, the easy solution would be to skip past the song and continue working... Now what in my life is ever easy? I can't even bring myself to skip this song. It's like my brain freezes up and I get sucked into the emotions of my characters until the song is over.

Now I have over 4 playlists of various songs for this book but no other songs on any of them have this affect on me. Now, granted this song is an emotional song in and of itself, but this is crazy. I used to listen to this song randomly before, but it never had this affect on me.

So, I've come to a conclusion... I'm addicted to my own book. Over the months that I've spent getting this far, I've developed a strong emotional connection with my characters. So strong is this emotion, that I lose sleep after writing a scene that would cause them to lose sleep. I cry with them when they're sad. I celebrate with them when they are happy. Hell, I even get that butterfly-in-your-stomach feeling right along with them as they fall in love. So if you think that the emotions you feel on a daily basis are intense... imagine feeling at least three other people's emotions along with yours almost all of the time! You wanna talk intense!

So everyone cross your fingers that I can somehow get these emotions onto the page. One of my reviewers seems to have the same reactions to scenes that I do so far, so I just have to hope that I can keep it up!

Now to play that song again so I can go spend some more time in my fantasy world...

Until I blog again (and it shouldn't be again tonight...)
Talk 2ya later...


Currently listening to:
I'll Be
By Edwin McCain


Don't you love it when you have an epiphany? When realizing one tiny thing starts a chain reaction in your brain and you finally understand a problem that you've been facing? I just had one of those tonight!

I have a chapter where one of my characters is sent to therapy because of an incident that occurs to them. They're sent as a precautionary measure, but what comes out of this visit leads to a whole subplot and eventually leads to the introduction of one of my other main characters.

As a person who's been in therapy before, when I heard that my character was being sent to talk to someone about how an event affected her, my mind immediately flew to the realms of therapy, psychiatrists, the stereotypical couch, and the "how do you feel about that..." nonsense.

Running with this idea, I went so far as to ask a friend who is working on his Ph.D. on this topic to ask for help. I want the scene to be as realistic as possible so it won't "rip the reader out of the story" as some authors describe it. I don't want anyone associated with the mental health field who would read it to stop and say, "What was she thinking when she wrote this?"

Well, anyway... he came over for dinner last night and we discussed this therapist character. I've been having a lot of trouble picturing him, so we were trying to figure out what type of psychiatrist he is. Sounds simple enough... yeah right! Everything that I "know" about this guy just didn't seem to fit with what a psychiatrist is. The night ended with me planning on just writing the scene and hoping for the best. Then I would send the draft to my friend and he'd tell me what changes I needed to make to make it realistic. And if that didn't work, he was going to stage a mock-therapy session with me pretending to be the character in question. Now while I can write from the perspective and personality of Casey, actually vocalizing and acting like her would have been difficult.

Well today, while researching the types and wording of possible questions that could appear in an initial visit with a therapist, I stumbled across something that made everything "click" in my head. I happened to scroll past a heading that read, "The differences between therapists and counselors," or something like that. It was at this point that I realized that my "therapist" isn't a therapist at all! He's a counselor! I read information on the role of a counselor and my guy fits it perfectly.

It even makes more sense in the grand scheme of things for him to be a counselor. This character works for a police academy in the story. It just makes more sense that a counselor would work in this setting than a psychiatrist. And a counselor probably wouldn't have any problems with giving advice during an initial visit because sometimes that's all they ever see of the person.

Now, right now I'd love to put my hand up in the good old girl scout salute and vow to never make assumptions about new characters ever again. To allow them to take whatever time and means necessary to introduce themselves to me so I avoid all of this confusion next time. While I'd love to say this... I know that it's not going to happen. Sure, it sounds good on paper (or the screen in this instance), but I know that I'll keep doing this. You know that I'll keep doing this. So I'll just save myself the trouble of making a post in a month starting off with, "You know a little bit ago when I said..."

So no, I won't promise to never ever do this again. But I will promise to always trust my gut feelings on my characters. I won't change them to fit some preconceived notion that I've created for them. I write character-driven stories. If I start ignoring my characters and try to force them to do things "my way" then I will lose what I think makes my stories good. I love the personal feelings that character-driven stories present. They seem so realistic and you're really able to connect with the characters on a personal level. This connection is an important thing for a book to possess in order to become one of my favorites and I hope that someday the fact that I write in this style will make my book(s) favorites for others.

Well, until I blog again!
Talk 2ya Later...


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another chapter nearly done!

Wow! I am tearing through chapters like crazy lately.

Yesterday I wrote up almost all of chapter 8, I just have the very beginning and a couple of small additions to add and it'll be done.

Today I woke up and wrote almost all of chapter 9! I have the very beginning to write on it too, hmmm... I wonder why I have this fear of starting a chapter at the beginning when I write... oh well..

I even got to write up an action scene in this chapter- Not that type of action! *shocked gasp* My characters just met each other... You! Go wash your filthy mind out with soap!

Back? Okay...

Anyway, since my main character is a police cadet there is going to be a criminal undercurrent going on throughout the book. I don't really describe most of the crimes, except through her hearing third-party descriptions of incidents if they're necessary to carry the plot along, but this crime was important. Not only does it happen to Casey, but it affects her emotionally for a while in the story.

I was so nervous about writing this incident. I think I do an all right job writing the sappy parts of the story, but I've never actually written out anything like this before. I guess my saving grace is that everything happens from Casey's perspective so I can get away with not knowing a lot of the specifics. She's really trapped in her thoughts, squeezing her eyes shut in fear during the most violent parts of the scene, so that helped out a lot too. I hope I did an okay job writing it, I guess I'll just have to wait until I hear from my reviewers.

I love seeing her react like this because it's pretty uncharacteristic for how you'd expect a police cadet to behave. But, after hearing her thoughts throughout the evening, it should make sense for her to act the way she does.

I feel so bad for the guy she is with during this time though. Her decision at the end of the chapter is really going to hurt him, and after what he did for her it'll hurt even worse. I just have to resign myself into moving on, knowing that this is all necessary... Without this early conflict, Casey wouldn't be able to grow emotionally the way that she needs to in order to face what's just around the corner...

I have a slight concern in how I wrote my characters behaving in chapter 8 as well, but I can't explain the problem without giving away plot details, grrr.... so...

But anyway, I'd say adding ~18 pages to the manuscript in two days isn't too shabby. I have a lot of new ideas that I'm going to add to a couple of short, early chapters that will really help set the stage for later stuff nicely too. I guess an anxious reviewer is better motivation than I thought!

Let's see, what else... Oh yeah, last night I found a wonderful set of articles written by an author who also happens to be a cop. She wrote them to show how many authors misrepresent the police in their works and offers examples of what it's really like. I found a couple of instances where I had made mistakes in terminology, so I'm really glad that I found these articles.

I still have a few questions about a couple of scenes that I've written though. If I can't find a good source online I'm considering sending an email to my local police station, asking if it would be possible to email some interview questions to an officer. I just want to double check some terminology and procedures that I want to write up accurately. The questions are basic enough though, that I think that I'll be able to find a reliable source online.

Well, I think I'll try and finish up chapter 8 and 9 this afternoon before we have some friends over for dinner later tonight. I swear this inspiration is just bubbling up inside of me! I'm at over 50,000 words now and I'm showing no sign of slowing down! In fact, everything seems to be speeding up!

Well, until I blog again,
I'll talk 2ya later...


Friday, December 5, 2008

I feel like I’m possessed...

Well, as the title says, I'm feeling possessed right now. I've been writing up a storm the past few days, adding around 15 pages to my manuscript rough draft file.

I think this all came about starting Wednesday. One of my reviewers came over for dinner. We had worked together a couple of years ago and had recently just started catching up again. Well, she had read my blogs and kept asking about my book and I decided that I needed a good female perspective on the story, so I sent her the first chapter. She devoured it and immediately started asking for more. I ended up sending her the outlines for chapters 2-4 and the completed chapters 5-7 before she came over on Wednesday. I'm happy to say that I think I have her sufficiently hooked on the story. Well if all of the emails with the subtle "How's the book coming?" and "Anxiously waiting on the next chapter..." lines sprinkled throughout them are any indication that is...

But anyway, we spent a good portion of the evening talking about the story. Going over characters, the plot, looking at my collections of pictures and files... having a great time. And probably alienating my husband and his cousin who had come over to do laundry. They seemed to hide out in the kitchen while we sat, oblivious in the living room... oh well!

She had begun begging to know more about the story and where it was going, and I, feeling bad that I have so little of the first half of the book actually written out, made her a deal. Once she had read through a certain point, I would answer any questions she threw at me. Well, she came prepared on Wednesday, having read to that point and the chapter after. I mostly wanted to see her reaction once both of Casey's potential suitors had been introduced, to gauge which way the reader would initially lean. Well, she reacted to the whole story exactly how I had intended the reader to! Yay me!

We spent the next couple of hours with me explaining the whole story, all of the twists and turns, the ups and downs... it was really nice having a female to share this with. She definitely understood exactly where the characters were coming from. We eventually shifted to what was going on in our regular lives and had a great evening and dinner catching up.

Now, I had spent a good portion of Wednesday morning typing in nervous anticipation of hearing what she thought of the last chapters I had sent. Well, actually the night before as well.. I kinda, sorta stayed up until 5 a.m. typing up scenes... what can I say my little writing gremlin is a slave driver!

I then proceeded to wake up Thursday morning with an indescribable desire to get writing. And write is what I did... ALL DAY LONG! I think I took short breaks to eat those pesky meals and to make trips to the bathroom, but the rest of the day was spent typing.

I wrote up at 15 page scene-by-scene summary of the story to help me keep track of the storyline easier. It takes a little while to scroll through an ~180 page document to figure out when something happens. I'm going to use this new summary to determine where I want to add in elements of foreshadowing and to plot out the slow degradation of my villain's character. I want all of the signs to be subtle enough that the reader can explain them away, but in the end when they are revealed, I want the reader to smack themselves on the forehead and say, "Of course!"

I'll also need something like this when I get done and am ready to send it off to publishers. I'll need a chapter-by-chapter summary that's anywhere from 2-20 pages to send in with my query letters from what I've read so far. Now, I'll just have to update this file and put it in the correct format. Two birds.... One stone... Oh yeah!

I also wrote up most of the rest of another scene in the middle of the story. I have a small block of dialogue left to write for it, but it's nearly done.

Now the really fun part! I stayed up until around 3 a.m. last night reading various articles about writing. I decided that I wanted to write chapter 8 as it's been kind of in the back of my head for a day or two now and my new reviewer is dying to read what happens next.

I opened up a new document and copied over all of my notes and outlines for the chapter and read them over several times, hoping to plant the information in my subconscious and allow it to grow into a beautiful chapter over night. I think I wrote up about one page of early dialogue that had been brewing in my head, but then I left it. I left the document open on the screen in hopes that my writing gremlin would look it over during the night and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, there it was- the scene, nearly in its entirety, playing in my head. Have I mentioned how much I love my writing gremlin?

In between feeding, changing, and playing with my son I ended up writing up 12 pages for the chapter! I still have a phone conversation to write up for the beginning and the very end of the chapter to write up, but... 12 pages! I can't believe I wrote that much in 3 hours while doing everything else. I guess it helped that my son decided to eat his meals incredibly slowly today and that he's in one of those, "don't look at me when I'm playing and don't you dare come try and touch my toys," moods too.

I sent the chapter off to my anxious reviewer and am laughing at the thought of her working in her office today, staring at the computer and trying to force herself to work faster so she can let herself read it. I'm not selfishly using her to critique my story, I'm providing a motivation to get her work done quickly, lol! Really! ...that was believable, right? lol But really, I'm really glad that she, and all of my reviewers, are so wonderful to read over this story as I'm writing it. Your input is really invaluable. Thanks guys!

In a funny twist of fate, two of my other reviewers are coming over for dinner tomorrow night. Now to see what they think of the chapters they've received so far... It'll be interesting to get a male perspective of it as my husband doesn't want to read outlines and is patiently waiting until I can finish chapter 2 to read anything else. He'll sit and listen to me vocalize my thoughts on where the story is going, but doesn't want to read anything but fully written chapters. Go figure?

Well, I think it's time to do some research for the beginning of chapter 8. I have to figure out what type of car a certain character drives. I know what color it is, but have no clue what make/model/year it is. Then I have to decide how much of this information Casey would actually know by just looking at it. I also need to decide what they are wearing in this scene, it's actually important to what they're talking about... So, off to farm some pictures up..

Until I blog again, Talk 2ya later...


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Love Writing!

I love writing my characters so much. They've become so vibrant, so life-like to me, I find myself almost believing that they could really be real and living out there somewhere.

Today, while writing an email to one of my reviewers, I found myself inspired to write an earlier scene in the book. I'm really happy about this because I've spent quite some time lately working on the last half of it. I was telling her that a character she mentioned was one of my top 5 favorites as well and that I hope she likes the others too, once she meets them in later chapters.

This got me thinking about how Casey is supposed to meet this character. Thinking about this, I suddenly could feel the pressure of a little writing gremlin perching himself on my shoulder. For the moment he was silent, with a very thoughtful look on his face. I decided to let him be and finished my email. He'd let me know when he was ready for me to write, no sense rushing him.

I put my son down for his nap and the scene started playing in my head. Well not the scene that I thought he was thinking about, but the one immediately before it. Just happy to be writing something in the first half of the book, I shrugged and started typing. I typed the last sentence of that scene and *POOF* he was gone. I can still feel him nearby though, maybe later tonight I'll be able to continue on with the next couple scenes as I'm still feeling inspired by them.

Now, when I was typing, I really wasn't thinking too deeply about deeper meaning in anything my characters were doing or saying, or that maybe I should be foreshadowing future events, but in re-reading it I was amazed. Amongst everything else going on, I had laid the first clues of what lies ahead for Casey and the man she falls for. Go subconscious mind!

Writing this scene was also fun because it contained a lot of dialogue between roommates, Casey and Heather. These characters couldn't be more different if they tried, and people often wonder how they are such good friends. But when you hear them talk to each other, in their sisterly banter, it's so obvious that they really are best friends. They pick on each other, they fight... but at the end of the day, they're friends. Being an only child, this is how I imagine older sisters treating each other. Guess I'll just have to wait until my reviewers get to this part of the story to see how believable their interactions are.

With this scene, I'm up to 160 pages now. I can't believe how much I've written since August. I'm having such a blast writing this that, at this point, I can't imagine how people are able to quit writing a book- to be able to give up. I've read that only 3% of books that are begun actually get finished. Doesn't everyone feel this amazing rush when writing? The indescribable drive to record their characters forever in print... The joy that comes just thinking about their story and where it's going... The intense sadness that comes when you aren't able to write...

I can't wait to finish this story and hear what people think about it. I can't describe it, but I have such a good feeling about the possibilities of it being published. I know the odds of an author having their first work published, but it doesn't affect my optimism for some reason, which is weird. I'm usually a worrier that, while typically optimistic, is able to dwell on all of the possible negative outcomes in a situation. I guess I'd say I'm a realist. I know the reality behind me getting this published isn't necessarily that great, but for some reason it doesn't bother me. Maybe I'm spending so much time living in fantasy worlds that I'm losing touch with reality? Who knows? All I know is that just finishing this story will be one of the proudest days of my life, up there with my wedding and the birth of my son.


Let's see, what else... I did some research on local writing groups today. I found one that meets once a month about twenty minutes from my house. They have a membership fee if you want a chance to be published in their yearly anthology or get other perks, but the meetings are free and open to the public. Better yet, the meetings are on Thursdays, a day that my husband always has off of work. Starting in January I think I'm going to check out the group as they don't hold meetings in December. If I like the group, I'll most likely officially join it too. Not only will this give me one night a month where I can get out of the house to interact with other people, but I'll also be able to connect with other local writers.

Looking at the group's schedule for the past year, it looks like they have various authors come and speak to the group, local English instructors come and give workshops, and they have three critique nights a year. So, not only can I network with other published authors, but I can also bring in my work and ideas and get their input too! I'm sold! Maybe some of them would be willing to do a manuscript swap once I finish this book. I give them my honest opinion of their work and they do the same for me. I can only hope!

In case it isn't obvious, I'm reveling in this whole writing thing. With everything I've done in the past in my jobs or in school, I've never felt so... alive, as cliche as that sounds.


A lot of people don't know this, but writing really has helped my mental health status. Shortly after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with post-pardum depression and put on medication, sent to a shrink- the whole she-bang. I quickly realized that the psychiatrist wasn't helping me any, so I stopped those sessions. I've been treated for depression before, when my father died, and therapy was a godsend then. This time, not so much.

I struggled with the depression for over a year before I felt strong enough to wean myself off of the Zoloft. I had a hard time transitioning to life without the meds and was about to call my doctor and ask them to re-prescribe them when I found writing again. I had written quite a bit in high school and junior college, but as my courses got more demanding, I slowly left it behind. But anyway, I started reading fan fiction. Not necessarily great literature, but it was free and some of it was actually pretty good. Slowly I began coming up with my own story ideas. I never actually took any of these ideas beyond a basic outline, but it was a starting point.

It began with me picking the underdog from various shows and creating a happily ever after for them. Then, slowly I noticed that my main characters weren't dependent on the constraints of their original creator's world anymore. Pretty soon my ideas were entirely my own, no longer using other people's characters or settings to tell my stories.

At some point during these months I started trying to write poetry again, as I had enjoyed doing that in high school. I dug out all my old journals and cringed at some of the stuff that I had written (so young and naive...). I did research on how to get back into writing, at this point mostly focusing on poetry and songs since I used to enjoy writing them so much before. I'll admit I wrote a few poems and a song or two during this time, but nothing great. It was fun, but it just didn't flow out of me like it used to.

Poetry felt more like work than I ever remembered it being, so I dug out my old short stories. I think I was maybe 10-14ish when I wrote these stories, so they're not great, but I remember how much I loved writing them. Being the avid researcher, I did research on how to write a good short story. What elements do writer's consider important for a successful story? At what point are short stories considered too long for that term anymore? etc.

Before I knew it, I found myself writing up outlines and synopses for various stories and characters. I still have these, even though they never made it past the outlining stage. They also seemed like they would be too long to be considered a short story. I researched novel writing, never thinking that I'd ever be able to (a) come up with an idea for a story that long or (b) have the discipline to see a project that large to its end. (I'm a true Gemini and get distracted easily...)

Then, while on vacation, it hit me. The idea that has grown to 160 pages and is still going strong. The idea that reintroduced me to my own inner writing gremlin. The characters and story that keep me up late at night and wake me up early in the morning, writing their story and not caring about the lost sleep.

I'm not sure where along this path that I completely overcame my depression, but I know that it's gone. Replaced by something so wonderful, so fulfilling, that I sincerely hope that I can keep writing like this the rest of my life. I can't imagine ever wanting to give up on this story or any of the others that keep popping into my head. My brain is so full of other ideas that I think have a lot of potential that at times I feel like I could burst. Every dream and daydream morphs itself into a full story right before my eyes. Right now I'm resigning myself to simply writing up outlines of these other stories that present themselves to me because I don't think I'm ready to try and write multiple stories simultaneously.

At this point in time I just want to finish Instinct, not because I'm tired of writing it, but so I can share it with others and move on to the next story. The relationships that I see forming between my characters are so touching to me, I just want to see if they affect others the same way. I guess, to make a long story short, I just want to write...