Today, I decided this morning, is the day I start writing again.
Obviously I don’t just mean on my blog. I have a handful of work-in-progress fiction pieces sitting forlornly in my harddrive or in my notebooks, just waiting for me to come back and finish them. Which I haven’t, because I am an undisciplined writer. I only write when the mood strikes me. This is because I am a perfectionist and therefore I have a lot of trouble with the “just get something on the page, you can edit it later” approach. It’s also because I haven’t entertained aspirations of publication since high school.
Now, I may be rethinking those absent aspirations a little bit. I have a friend who has been published on a small press. I have another friend who works as a copy editor for a new publisher geared towards my genre and my audience (YA speculative fiction). A fellow blogger is ironing out the details of a contract with Harper Collins. The list goes on. Suddenly, becoming published seems a lot more plausible.
Hitting it big? That’s a different story. If I pursue publishing it will be with the knowledge that I will most likely not become rich and/or famous from writing.
My reason for putting aside my dreams of being a published author was mainly born of cynicism. I assumed it probably wouldn’t happen, mostly because I didn’t really understand how the process worked. There was no self-deprecation involved; it wasn’t that I didn’t think I was worthy of being published, because frankly even in high school I wrote more complex sentences than Stephanie Meyer. Like being cast in a movie, it was one of those things that just didn’t happen to people you actually knew. Except now it is happening to people I know, and it’s because they’re putting the work in and making it happen. Plus there is also a bit of right-time-right-place going on, but you always need some of that.
Of course, all this talk of pursuing publication is hypothetical until I have a finished draft.
My most extensive project is a young adult fantasy novel that I talked a little bit about and posted an excerpt from when I got the Lucky 7 Award. I’m about halfway through writing it, based on my plot outline, and I’ve been working on it since about tenth grade (which, for those counting, is about seven years). It’s been one of those that I put away for a long time and then pick up for a few weeks, then put away again. The bulk of it was written during NaNoWriMo in 2009 or 2010, and since then I’ve been pecking away at little chunks of it. Today I was able to write about seven pages for it, though, which is exciting.
The biggest issue I have with this particular one is that I’ve plotted it out so thoroughly and envisioned it so many times that I already know it so well, I don’t feel the need to write it down. I read over what I have written and then jump to the outline and my mind fills in all the blanks, the dialogue, the look of all the characters, etc. etc. etc. Then I remember that if I want to share this story with people, I need to get it out of my head and onto paper. And then I sit down to try. And it goes well until I can’t think of a word I want to use, and then I stop. It’s a cycle.
But no longer! I’m resolved to write at least a little bit every day, and probably write here about any issues that I come across. Hence, today’s secondary topic: the issue of characterization.
My characters all seem very different to me, but how can I tell if that’s coming across to the reader? I know, I really can’t until somebody else reads it and tells me. But the thing is, I worry that my characters are too similar. Most of them are female, and many of them are in positions of leadership, and all but two or three of them are protagonists rather than antagonists. (That’s the problem with having a disembodied, external evil.) Therefore, they all end up having some of the same qualities which I consider to be something a good leader should have: intelligence, an even temper, compassion, that kind of thing. Yet, I don’t want them to become too homogenous. To differentiate them, I try to always include descriptions of inflection and facial expression, as well as of course different styles of speaking. I write in third person limited, so there is also some room for internal monologue.
My question to you readers is this: when you read a book, what helps you get the best sense of a character? Is it direct or indirect characterization, dialogue or description, etc? Come, comment, be free and help a writer out!