Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Idea That Lives in my Bathroom

I talked about this on Twitter the other night, but it deserves it’s own post. You see, I have this book idea living in my bathroom. There’s all kinds of visual cues running from that specific location to this idea, and I have no hope of breaking them unless I move and/or change my grooming habits significantly.

The thing is, it’s a good idea. Really, really good. Like, every time I’m reminded it exists (which is every time I walk into the bathroom) I want to work on it. Working on it presents a problem though, because it’s Urban Fantasy and it’s the third or fourth Urban Fantasy idea I’ve had and they keep worming their way into the list, ahead of my other ideas. I never really thought of myself as a person who writes Urban Fantasy. I like the genre, but I always thought I would grow up into an Epic Fantasy writer. I’ve barely lived in cities (3 and a half months in New York in 2008), but I grew up on a farm. I have limited knowledge of the workings of adults in cities, but I am eminently experienced in the plucky courage of farm children. I don’t much care for the things that make up the minutia of modern life, but I can discuss or translate Homer, Arthur, or Tolkien off the top of my head.

Epic fantasy is a part of how I think of myself, but I haven’t really written any. Not since my aborted first NaNoWriMo novel in 2005. I can excuse it to some extent, citing NaNoWriMo’s silly insistence that discovery writing is the only way to fly, saying that Steamstress was a purposeful diversion, and I had to write A Thousand Years of Nightmares because I’d already pitched it. Those are all excuses, and they don’t mean much when I tally up my mental list of what I should do next. Looking at the at that list (the sidebar is woefully behind) and then looking at the rest of my life, I can’t help thinking that I’m not just avoiding Epic Fantasy in my writing.

I’ll read just about any Urban Fantasy that sparks my interest, but I still haven’t made time for In the Name of the Wind. I’ve  binge read my way though at least ten UF series (ranging from two to eleven books in length) in the last year while the second Codex Alera book has been on my shelf for 15 months. I dropped everything to read the last Soul Screamers book when it arrived on my Kindle from the library while Lies of Locke Lamora has sat there for three weeks and expired, twice. I left wondering if I may not be the reader or writer I always thought I was.

And I’m not really sure what to do with that.

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Best Worst Writing Retreat Ever!

Last week I didn’t write any blog posts, on purpose! You see every once in a while my Mom and I pack all our writing supplies and head off to a cabin Casino in the woods and write for a few days. It’s cool because the rooms are dirt cheap mid-week in the dead of winter, there’s free soda all the time, there are shiny things to distract us when we’ve been sitting at our computers for too many hours, I have a pool to jump into when I’m fed up with everything, we don’t have to argue about eating because there’s a buffet or three, and generally all kinds of good things.

This time we headed up to Black Bear, which is a beautiful building with really decent food located in one of my favorite places on earth (Lake Superior, specifically about 25 minutes outside Duluth, MN). If the people there had been a little more welcoming I would have been in hog heaven, but they were all a bit… unfriendly and it was an issue.

I can’t write in places where I feel unwelcome. It’s why I stick to coffee shops and libraries and my apartment for writing times. I pay to be in those places, whether through rent or taxes or by buying overpriced tea, so I have every right to be there. On the other hand, I can’t write at my parents’ house or Maddy’s family farm because I am a guest there, no matter that I’m family. The Erins that  are guests in other people’s homes are not the Erins who do the writing. Maybe they will be someday, but the Erins who write are still pretty sensitive artistic types and fear rejection from friends and family. That feeling of unwelcome made me less-than-disposed to write on my writing retreat, so I did what any good writer would: I started reading.

I read my own novel-in-progress, Steamstress, which was sometimes awful, sometimes good and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Then the next day I went for breakfast with the plan of reading Tim Buckley’s Great Games Bowl novella* after which I was exiled from the room by housekeeping so I wandered the resort, looking unsuccessfully for a place to work. In the end I wound up in the lobby, reading the Steampunk! anthlogy on my Kindle and pretending it was work (I’m writing steampunk, it kind of was) then I was sucked into it and then the third Soul Screamers* book came in at the library (oh Kindle library lending, how I do love thee, how I do love thy ability to deliver books to my Kindle anywhere) and then… I read the next three books in the series, plus the two novellas. Then my Kindle died, just as I was tweeting the completion of my sixth book of the day. I got a bit done the next day, but obviously not the glorious burst through the finish line bout of writing I’d been expecting on the outset.

So, was it a waste? Should I have stayed home?

No. Because as I was falling into bed last night I was thinking about the things that bugged me in the protagonists of the last two YA series I’ve inhaled (Soul Screamers and Jessica), namely that they proved competent time and again, but would revert to hiding behind their boyfriends until it became necessary to be competent again. That’s overstating it a bit for Soul Screamers, Jessica hangs a lantern on the problem and both resolve it in a way that I find acceptable, but I realized I’d done the same thing in my book, unintentionally. That’s not the story I want to tell and that sure as hell is not my grumpy protagonist (I love my grumpy protagonist).

In the midst of this epiphany/breakdown last night I realized (and affirmed said realization as not crazy with two sources) that I would have to excise large tracts of delightful gooey romance from the book. It not only allowed Grumpy Protagonist to learn things without earning that knowledge, because the Honorable Love Interest would tell her, but also was way too easy on the Honorable Love Interest. Things happened more or less according to his plan and as we all know, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, especially when the enemy is Grumpy Protagonist (also, I, as a writer, am morally obligated to make things as hard as possible for my favorite character, especially when he’s the Honorable Love Interest, those are my achilles heel) . So, that’s a lot of editing to do and some major changes to make, including new characters to add (Grumpy Protagonist gets a BFF whether she wants it or not! BFF is awesome and comes with Polar Bears!) all of which will make the novel much stronger because I no longer have an improbable romance dragging down my character progress.

It’s a major improvement to the novel, and I would never have spotted it if I hadn’t spent my writing retreat reading.

*This is the third comic I’ve seen branch into prose fiction in the last few years and I must say that it holds its own against the Fables and Girl Genius novels.

**Loved the series, entertaining as hell, fun, really great take on the paranormal YA thing. I was describing it to a 15-year-old boy and he wanted to try them out. I think the covers might scare him, but I may find a copy of the first book, “give” it to his sister and tell him to check it out.

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