It’s coming! Queen’s Lament is one of my long time favorite projects, which is actually an extreme deviation from one of my first completed novels. I’m excited to get this novel finished and edited this spring.
I first drafted QL for NaNoWriMo 2015. It was a random idea, sprouting from a scene that hasn’t made it past that first horrible draft. I’ve plotted and planned, written and rewritten multiple times since then. Each draft got a bit closer to what I envisioned, but never quite there.
This novel, this final version, is the culmination of hundreds of hours of work plotting, planning, writing, imagining, probably a few hundred cups of coffee and espresso went into this book.
Readers, I’m happy to share this brief teaser. There will be more to come.
One of the main topics up for discussion in writer’s groups is “what do you do when the ideas dry up?”
I know some writers who stress over the idea of inspiration–that writing can’t happen unless the muse is present and actively whispering sweet nothing plot devices into your ear. I’m not saying it’s wrong…but if you always depend on an active muse, you might sometimes find yourself lacking in the ideas department and hit the dreaded Slump.
And this is where the question comes from. Dried up ideas. A silent muse. Uncooperative characters. Dropping middle. Meandering plot. Whatever you want to call it, you and your novel have come to a screeching halt.
In all my years of writing, I’ve found myself falling into this trap. Depending on the muse. Depending on inspiration. In that time, I’ve also learned a few things. One, I keep idea notebooks. When lacking for an idea, I pop open a notebook and use it as a generator by turning to a random page and closing my eyes. Another method I’ve found is pulling away from my work for a day or two. The brain is always working, but I’m actively doing something, anything else.
The simple act of stepping back for a minute and letting the ideas simmer in your subconscious with new knowledge or through a new activity or skill can help bring your story new life. You’ll come back with fresh eyes, new twists.
Sometimes, however, it’s not as simple as stepping back. Sometimes you need to actively push yourself into something new for a while. When my YA novel, Blood Song, stalled about 30% in, I spent an afternoon with a competition archer. Between the knowledge I gained and a touch of practical experience, I came back to Blood Song with an idea for the next scene and I was able to move forward. I was able to jump right back in and push through to the end.
Stepping away helped me. It can help you too. When you find yourself lost and adrift in your personal sea or words, step back. Learn something new. Knit a scarf. Paint a picture. Do something for you, for your creativity, and you’ll find your words flying across the page.
I’ve been writing a long time. Back when I was in high school, I made a serious commitment to myself that I was going to write a novel before I graduated and I did. From beginning to end, I wrote a novel using characters based off people I knew set in a dystopian world back before dystopian YA was in vogue. (We’re talking pre-Hunger Games, pre-Divergent, right in the middle of desperately hoping Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince wasn’t going to gut us like OotP did. Ahem.)
Needless to say, it was a horrible mess and for most of the obvious reasons. It hasn’t seen the light of day in over a decade and I’ve written many drafts of novels since. Almost all of those have been relegated to the same drawer in my desk, hidden from view. Occasionally, I’ll pull them out, take a look at how far I’ve come in terms of skill, plotting, and not basing all my characters off people in my life.
Then sometimes I come across something completely different. Years ago I began working on a novel that would consume at least a month of my life for the next ten years. I plotted and rewrote, tweaked, and tried in horrible desperation to find some way to make it work, but it never has. I made the ultimate decision two years ago to file all versions of the novel and all notes away. I tried not to think of it. Tried not to wonder how I could make it work if only I had more time, more experience, more…something.
Alas. Some projects are not meant to be. Some novels aren’t meant to be written. Some stories just can’t be told…or can they?
At the core of that novel was the story of a woman coming to terms with the fact that her father betrayed her to a madman. I explored what she felt, how she would deal with it, but it was never enough. The story and her feelings just didn’t play well together.
A few days ago, while plotting out character arcs for Queen’s Lament, I realized something. Kethra and Sylvain’s non-relationship is exactly the same from the novel I agonized over for so long. When I realized this (mind you, I’ve been drafting and plotting this novel for over a year at this point), I was shocked at how well this dynamic was actually working. A subplot I loved so much was finally in a novel and, bonus, it fits.
I now feel like this novel, this odd expansive spec-fic world I’ve created was meant to be, tying one of those old projects into something I will publish later this year. It feels like coming full circle in a way.
Regardless, I’m happy to finally see how this relationship will play out in Queen’s Lament and I’m excited for what’s to come.
I’ve had a computer for more than 20 years. My dad was the type who had to have the latest and greatest technology, so we had a home computer early on. Later, once laptops became affordable, I had one of those, too and was writing on it constantly. I always had projects going. During high school alone I probably typed five or six novels worth of manuscripts on that thing, none of which will ever see the light of day.
Recently, however, I’ve hit a bit of a snag while typing stories. They just don’t come as easily as they once did. No matter what I did, nothing brought the ideas flowing like they once did.
Now, as much as I type and live on the computer, I also (like many writers, I’m sure) collect a few dozen journals each year. Most go unused. In December I decided to change that and began working on the latest draft of my novel Queen’s Lament. Everything for this book has been written longhand in a TUL notebook with a fountain pen. I’ve written and completed short companion stories in one of those many unused journals. I’ve written emotionally changed PTSD scenes, battle scenes, scenes I usually ignore until the last possible second. It’s like my writing has been given new life. Most days when I go out to fulfill my daily quota, I’m leaving my MacBook at home taking only my notebooks, pens, and a jar of ink.
I’m not sure how long this energy will last, but you can be sure I’m going to ride it out to the end.
As some of you may know, I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) for a long time. Since 2004, to be exact. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people speak about the detriments of participation because you don’t get a publishable novel at the end of November.
They’re right. You don’t get a publishable novel. What you get instead is a zero draft. It’s your skeleton. You get to know your characters and you plot and you’re given time to find the holes in your story. You get to figure out what settings work best and if you really needed to kill off those characters. You get a framework to base all future drafts on. You get a chance to experiment and explore your world with unrelated tangents and find things you didn’t know you would need when you started this crazy adventure.
In my years of doing NaNoWriMo (and CampNaNoWriMo) I’ve completed 8 zero drafts. Several of these will never see public view, but some will. Some have come off my writing drive and are being replotted, replanned, and built up in preparation for a rewrite. The zero draft is my test run. It tells me the story will work and that is why NaNoWriMo is important. You’re not writing to publish. The zero draft is for you. It will tell you if a story will work, if it’s worthy of seeing the light of day after December 1st.
The zero draft will tell you if you have real story to tell of just a bunch of unconnected ramblings.