Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Category Archives: Work In Progress

Life Cycle of a Novel: Slow and Steady

There are a lot of approaches to writing a rough draft. Some do it in spurts, writing tends of thousands of words in a few days. I’m more of a slow and steady kind of writer. I set measured weekly goals that I break down into daily goals — although if I’m on a roll I try not to stop!

I don’t believe in racing to the finish. NaNoWriMo has become a phenomenon in this country, such that whether it’s November or not the general consensus is to write until a draft is done. To keep going, not looking back at the starting line, only looking forward at the finish line.

Again, that’s not me. I write in fits and starts, pushing forward only to take a few steps back. I may rewrite a chapter several times (like I did today) before moving on. I try not to sweat the little things, but I see the beginning of my story as a foundation for the rest, and I can’t write atop a crumbling foundation. Little cracks can be overlooked or patched later, but big ideas need to be fixed.

One thing I’ve noticed about going from draft to draft is that as true as it is that issues can be fixed in a revision, the fact of the matter is that the words I write first have a tendency to haunt me. Strangely, I’m not entirely about the words I write badly — it’s the ones I write well that I can’t shake in redrafts. It’s hard to let go of a brilliant paragraph, even if it no longer fits into what I’ve rewritten.

Now that I’m working hard on my 8th novel (well, that depends upon how you count — but I’m not counting the three in the novel graveyard), I feel less like listening to other writer’s “supposed to” stories with regards to drafting a novel. I don’t have to keep writing without looking back. Looking back is how I move forward. I’m definitely not passing that along as a “supposed to” for anyone else.

Trust your instincts, especially when it comes to rough drafts. This is usually the most fun part of the writing process. True creation is going on right now, and it’s YOUR creation. You own it. For me, it’s got to be slow and steady.

New Interview

A new interview went live today…this one with a few questions I haven’t already answered. 🙂 Check it out at Entropy Central.

Tips for Writers: Inspiration on Endings from Jim Butcher

Tuesday night, I attended a Q&A and book signing with Jim Butcher. I went as a fan, not a writer, and most of the questions he answered were fan-based questions about characters and plots. He received a surprising number of questions from people who seemed to want spoilers. (Really? Don’t you want to enjoy making discoveries as they happen?)

One person asked him an interesting question about how the series would eventually end. Apparently, this particular fan has had a lot of bad luck with disappointing endings, particularly in regards to sorcerers. I’m not sure I agreed with his premise, but I was very glad he asked the question, because Jim’s answer helped me figure out what’s been bugging me about the end to my urban fantasy series.

Basically, and please forgive the paraphrasing, by the end of a story, especially an epic journey, the main character should be uniquely qualified to overcome the final challenge.

I love it! Well, I hate that it means I’m going to have to rewrite the last two books in my series from the ground up, but hey, none of them have been published yet anyway. 🙂

It took me a couple of days of thinking to apply the advice to my own story. At first, I wanted to reject the idea because I’m not writing the kind of action/adventure/superhero story he’s been writing. My Cassie Scot series is about a woman coming to accept herself for who she is, and not who she thinks she should be. It’s a romance between her and a man her family hates. Each book is a mystery, and Cassie the detective.

Yet, in my original ending I had her taking on a “big bad guy” almost single-handedly. It doesn’t follow from who she is nor what she can do. It obliterates my points that not everyone has to be the biggest and the baddest thing out there to be a hero. I won’t tell you how I’ve changed the ending, because, as I already said, do you really want spoilers? Suffice to say, it’s better. I have that buzz going on that tells me I’m on the right path. (Or is that just me?)

The Joys of Quitting

It’s been many months since I last talked about what I’m working on now. As of Friday, the answer is, “Nothing!” and strangely, I find myself really wanting to talk about that. Much more so, in fact, than the project I’ve been struggling with for the past four months, which should tell you something about how exciting I found that project.

We live in a society in which “Quitter!” is considered a great insult. And there’s good reason for this, because any goal worth achieving takes hard word and dedication. The trouble is, sometimes quitting isn’t about something being too hard — it’s about being on the wrong path. Which tells me that we really need a new word, to describe the two distinctly different types of quitting.

I’ve been on the wrong path. About four or five months ago, I came up with a concept for a new novel that wasn’t awful. It might have been easier if it were. I would even say that I would read the book, if someone else wrote it. I’m just not the one who should write it. At least, not now. My heart isn’t in it.

So, I find myself in a strange situation. I am fully, completely, and unreservedly in between projects. I have no idea what I’m going to work on next. I have no set goals for next month. I don’t know if I’ll finish a book by the end of the year (which is what I hoped to do at the beginning of the year).

Oddly enough, I feel at peace. As of today, I began a new daily journal, which I’m calling my “Book of Mirrors.” It’s a stream of consciousness mess that I doubt I could even make sense of if I read it later on, but it’s helping me examine my inner self.

I’m also working through “The Artist’s Way” once again, skimming through the early weeks because they aren’t particularly applicable to me right now.

The last idea that truly excited me, Cassie Scot, came to me while I was busy doing other things. I wasn’t thinking about writing. Actually, I was on the floor playing with my baby. (Who is now 3!) Earlier this year, when I wanted to tackle a new project, I didn’t let the winds of fate steer me. I did extensive brainstorming, each day trying to seek the next great idea.

Clearly, it didn’t work. I have a working theory on why, too: Brainstorming is a highly internal process, unconnected to the world or the simple joy of living. True creativity, meanwhile, doesn’t make something out of nothing — it makes something out of something. The raw elements are all around us, if we’ll allow ourselves a moment to truly be a part of it all.

After that, creativity requires some faith. Not necessarily in religion, although that can help some people, but in the creative process, and in ourselves. It’s a form of surrender…to God, to the universe, to life, and to possibility.

It’s not easy, especially for someone like me, who always wants to be in control, but at the moment it feels right.

Writing Workshops

This month, I have been teaching a workshop on beginnings through an on-line chapter of the RWA. I teach workshops from time to time, usually at www.savvyauthors.com (in fact, I’m teaching Beginnings there in July, and a Scifi/Fantasy World Building workshop early next year), and I find I quite enjoy it. The young writers who take my workshops are usually more talented than they think, and they are taking fate in hand by learning and practicing their craft. One of the nice things about workshops (or at least the ones I teach), is that I provide opportunities to receive feedback. When it comes down to it, there are hundreds of perfectly good books on writing out there, and I’m not going to add significantly to that — but reading books on writing doesn’t necessarily help you figure out which bits of advice apply to you. Only feedback can do that. As I’ve said before, if you’re serious about being a writer, sooner or later you have to get up the nerve to show your work to others, and find a way to use what they have to say about it. A workshop is only one of many possible choices, but they can be good tools for focusing energy and creativity.

Cassie’s Story is Complete

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve spent the last year and nine months (since February of 2009, when inspiration struck), working on a series of books subtitled: A Paranormal Mystery.  (Yes, the “para” in paranormal is struck through, at least for the first two books in the series. I admit, this seemed cleverer before I had to figure out how to market it, so it may change. )

As of today, I have four complete novels, beginning with Cassie Scotstruggling to find her place in a world that doesn’t quit eaccept her and ending…well, no spoilers. Suffice to say that she’s had quit ea ride. There’s mystery, suspense, action, and most especially, romance. The final volume is still just a rough draft (sent to early readers), but the important thing is it exists.

This has been a fun journey, and even though I don’t have a publisher for this saga *yet*, I feel as if the ride itself has been invaluable. I’m finding my focus and discovering what it is that I really want to write…human relationships, particularly romance. I have romantic subplots in both Touch of Fate and The Immortality Virus, and I’m proud of both of these books, but moving forward I want to take the sub out of the romantic subplot.

What’s next for me? I honestly have no idea. Some writers swim so deeply in ideas that they carry around little notebooks to keep hold of them all when inspiration strikes. As soon as they finish one project, they know what the next will be. I’m not like that. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just me — I focus. I’ve been living with Cassie and Evan for almost 2 years, expending all my creative energy on them and their world.

I finished writing The Immortality VIrus in November of 2008 and, not sure what to write next, I did some journaling, some short stories, and read a lot. In February of 2009, as I played with my daughter on the floor of her bedroom one morning, I thought of Cassie and knew I needed to write her story. I plan to do the same thing now, waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ll know it when it gets here.

Maybe I’ll even update my blog more often.

Paranormal Series Moving Along

I finished a solid draft of “Songbird,” the second book in my Paranormal Mystery series. Since I Only came up with the concept about this time last year, I feel like I’m making excellent progress and best of all, I’m still excited about the story. (When I’m not having the usual author doubts….you know the ones I mean.) My biggest challenge right now is secret pacing. There are a lot of things I’m excited for the reader to learn but I need to find the right balance between revealing enough to keep the reader interested and revealing so much that there’s no longer any point to finishing. I’m beginning to think I’m not very good at keeping secrets because my bubbling tendency is to spill all.

While Songbird is getting its behind kicked by some kind peer reviewers, I am going agent shopping for its prequel, Kiss of Death. I’ll be querying a lot of agents, but what I really need is one who not only likes fantasy, but also mystery and romance.It may be a tough sell to the romance crowd since the love story takes all 4 books to resolve, but IMO, that is still its primary classification. It’s a love story. It’s also a fantasy, a mystery, and a coming of age story.

New Novels Update

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog and I apologize. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been so wrapped up in writing my new series that I can scarcely think of anything else. I can say without hesitation that what I’m writing now is the best work I’ve done. Book one in the planned 4-book series is complete and I will soon be on the lookout for an agent to represent it.

“Kiss of Death: A Paranormal Mystery”  is the full title of the book. It tells the story of Cassie Scot, the daughter of powerful sorcerers, who has no magical abilities of her own. She sets herself up as a private investigator and attempts to lead a normal life, but normal eludes her.

The book is cross-genre, with a strong mystery component and an equally strong romance component. The mystery will be solved in book 1, and new mysteries will frame each of the 4 books. The romance, on the other hand, will be ongoing throughout the series and be the glue that binds them together.

The mystery in book one does involve vampires, largely because this is an easy way to begin familiarizing the reader with the world I’ve created. This is *not* another vampire novel. The vampires are almost incidental and I have no plans to include them in any of the sequels (though anything is possible).

As far as romance goes….in book one, Cassie is trying to decide if she wants to take her relationship with her boyfriend to the next level and is disappointed when she finds out that his idea of “the next level” is moving in together. Meanwhile, she runs into an old friend that she hasn’t seen in years, one who has grown up a lot since she last saw him. She finds herself attracted to him, but he’s a sorcerer and she wants to live a normal life.

I wrote this book from start to finish in 7 months — the fastest yet. Before that, I did spend 2 months working on concept and series development, to make sure that book 1 properly set up the rest of the books and laid out the groundwork for some surprises coming up later on.

I began book 2 right around Halloween and have already finished my first rough draft. That’s right — 3 weeks. Fingers were flying and I was in flow once again, living this story as I wrote. I’m pretty sure I’ll have this book done by this summer and while it might be risky to work on sequels when the first book in a series hasn’t sold, this is what’s in me to write at the moment. The story is simply demanding that I tell it.

I’ll have more updates later.

The Immortality Virus

I realized today that I forgot to update my blog about the completion of my new science fiction novel, The Immortality Virus. I finished the book in November and am now shopping it around.

The Immortality Virus is set in a world in which humanity has stopped growing old thanks to an unknown change that occured in the mid-21st century. The world is overpopulated and warring factions have split the United States into local and regional city-states. No one has learned what caused The Change. Many cling to their near immortality and are unwilling to let anyone else find a way to undo it.

Grace Harper, a blacklisted PI, is among thsoe who feel The Change was a bad idea. There isn’t much she can do about this until one of the richest men in Kansas City, Matt Stanton, asks her to find the man he believes started it all.

I enjoyed writing this book a great deal. It’s more action-packed than anything I’ve written before and Grace will find herself in a great deal of danger. But I still like to write strong characters, and Grace is that. She is a lonely woman afraid to connect with others, who outwardly does not feel she needs anyone else. During this story, she finds herself reunitd with an old lover she has tried to forget and she meets a new man — someone else she might be able to love if she let herself. Which will she choose? I wasn’t sure myself until the final draft.

When I Have Time to Write…

I haven’t posted a lot about my current projects, mostly because past telling you that there are new novels forthcoming, it’s not interesting to talk about the day in, day out process of writing. But as I’m currently stuck and have nothing better to do, I thought I’d give you an update. :=)

I’m working on “The Immortality Virus,” which I’m sure I’ve described before. It’s a far-future science fiction novel set in a world where everyone has stopped aging. That is, they grow up but they never start going through the process of degenerating, which starts (according to modern theories) somewhere in the mid-twenties. (Yeah, I know, it’s kinda depressing.) The main character is a private investigator charged with finding the man who caused the human race to stop aging — assuming he’s still alive.

I have written an entire rough draft, had it critiqued, and am now doing a plot-level revision. I am adding a major subplot and rewriting the story to fit the new events. There are also a few chapters that are getting complete rewrites because my wonderful and honest readers said they sucked. Not usually in so many words — they’re pretty tactful!

It’s harder to concentrate on this project when my mind is preoccupied with the marketing of “Touch of Fate.” Nevertheless, it’s time for me to finish a second novel and get it out there on the market to see how it does. That is why I have set my goal to finish the novel (100% finished — edits, revisions, formatting, etc.) by May 2008. That still gives me plenty of time to work through the plot changes and then go back and make it sound good.