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writing in hibernation mode

I’m so tired these days. It’s hard to wake up. I think I’m missing the sun. Maybe my body wants to hibernate. This sleep-walking state seems to be good for my writing though. Probably because my brain is left out of it and my subconscious has full reign of my fingers as I type.

The following is the beginning of an idea that I have carried in my heart for years. I was always afraid to work on it. This morning I woke with a song in my mind, the song that is the inspiration to that idea. And these words flowed out. If you have any comments or feedback… you know the drill.


I’m writing this to you. You know who you are. You are the one who destroyed my life.

I remember when I saw you the first time. You were standing at the edge of the crowd on the afternoon of the poetry reading in honor of the prize we’d recently won at the department. I noticed you because you were so still, standing like a statue – or no, not a statue. A statue is dead. And you were alive. The whole chattering, laughing, excited crowd seemed dead next to you as you stood there. You were the center of the world spinning around you. And your eyes… Your eyes were fixed on Norma.

I pointed you out to her. How ironic is that?

Actually, it isn’t. It’s a bad joke, that’s all.

I wonder now… If I hadn’t pointed you out, if I hadn’t bent my head to her as we sat at the side of the stage, and whispered “Hey, I think you’ve got an admirer!” and she hadn’t smiled up at me and said “Only one?” and then followed my little nod in your direction and she hadn’t met your eyes over the crowd assembled to hear the poetry of our students… Had none of that happened, would I be writing this letter now? Would she be here with me at this moment, instead of…

I hate you.

But I cannot blame you.

The blame rests with me. Or maybe not. Maybe there is noone to blame. Maybe it had to happen like this. Maybe this was always meant to be, right from the beginning.

The beginning… I don’t even know when it began. I seems there is no beginning. Was it that our grandfathers worked side by side in the factory? That they went off to fight in the same regiment and returned home badly wounded within three months of each other? That their wives had forged a close friendship in their absence and the couples bought neighboring houses? That our fathers and uncles and aunts grew up side by side? That our fathers, in turn, moved into neighboring houses when they each married? Was that the beginning?

Or was it that we were born in the same year, six months apart – the winter child and the summer child. Mike and Norma.



plotlove or: why it’s good to have a sister around

I *love* the word ‘plot’.

You can do so much with it.

You can plot a murder. You can loose it. You can use one to overthrow an evil dictator. If you’re not careful, you can miss it. You can employ it against someone or something. Best of all, they are messy and you can fling in whatever events, occurrences, mad inspiration or evil twists you want. It’s complete freedom. It’s the stage where you just happily imagine making your characters walk through fire. Or push them into boiling oil, as the amazing Holly Lisle expressed it.

Your main character (MC) needs to leave town, so that her car can break down, and she will be able to meet the guy, who will later ruin her life? Cue: the unexpected arrival of the  crazy spinster aunt, who embarrasses her so deeply that she is forced to leave.

You MC is mortally afraid of fish? Make him be the only one around when a child falls into a lake, forcing him to jump in and swim through all the fish to save the golden-haired infant from drowning, and coming out, he’s so empowered that he asks out the child’s mother, who wasn’t irresponsible at all, but instead was distracted from looking after the kid because the detective was asking her uncomfortable questions about the murder. Oh! OH! You could have the guy stub his toe on the murder weapon as he comes wading out of the fish-infested lake, glistening heroically in the sun. Or rather, dripping and blinking out from under the algae that cover him. And while the mother tearfully embraces the child and its rescuer, the detective realizes that it could of course only have been your main character, who found this ingenious way of suddenly ‘finding’ the murder weapon. Hm. Not sure I like where this is going…

Apart from my insane imagination going on the rampage here, the point is: plotting is FUN! It’s figuring out how to get from introducing your MC (or MCs) to having them either happily married to each other, or dead, or broken but wiser, or saving the world, or the murder, or … whatever ending fits in with the genre your write in.

This is what my plotting session last night looked like:

Me – lying in the middle of the living room floor.

My sister – lounging on the couch.

The floor – covered in my notebook, several pieces of paper with mind-maps, post-its, a pair of scissors, coloured pens, coloured paper, my computer for quick research, my sister’s computer for the music (the sound is better on hers!), several books to see how real authors do it, several used mugs half-full with tea, two half-eaten bowls of soup.

… and this bit of conversation is representative of about four hours of work:

Me: … but how does he [= the evil antagonist] try to force them [= my MC and her friends] to give up the shop?

Sis: Well, he could… well…. okay, he could spread evil rumours about them.

Me: Like what?

Sis: Like … *concentrated silence*

Me: Oh! Maybe he pretends to be a customer and says things like ‘I’ve seen this book a lot cheaper at this other bookshop!’ to customers? OOOOOOR, he could spread the rumour that the shop is infested with rats! Ha! That’s good, isn’t it?

Sis: Maybe. Maybe. Or he could kidnap N [= on of the side characters].

Me: I’m not sure he would do that.

Sis: Maybe not. But I think he should. It would be cool. Then the MC can rescue her.

Me: Okay, okay, let’s see. Maybe. I’ll keep it in mind. Back to the rumours. He could also pretend to be a building inspector and…

Sis: … and gain N’s trust and then kidnap her?!? *hopeful look*

Me: *banging my head slowly on the floor*

the perfect idea – take two

After bragging about finding the perfect idea last night, I got to thinking about what makes my idea so perfect? And I decided to have a look at what professional writers, or at any rate, writers with any experience at all, think makes an idea perfect. Here are the results of my research:

Alexandra Sokoloff, a very successful writer of thrillers and movie scripts who also runs an AWESOME blog, insists that you have to be “excited enough to spend a year (or most likely more) of your life completely immersed in it” and, if you want to be a professional writer, other people have to be excited enough about it to want to buy it. Which makes absolute sense to me. Read the full article to see how she suggests finding that perfect idea.

What author and writing instructor Larry Brooks has to say about it in his super-interesting storyfixer blog sounds similar: to fall in love with your idea. To make it one that matters to you and that “you’d read if someone else wrote about it”. The whole series about how to prepare for NaNo is chock-full of tips and ideas and encouragement. Definitely something I’ll go back to in the next days and weeks.

… I’m cutting this short. I’ve been patient enough, going through hundreds of tips. Now my head is pounding with new knowledge or reminders about things I should have known, and ah, what the heck. I’ll give you the short version:

The unanimous opinion seems to be to choose the idea you love, that excites you, that you feel like spending at least a month of your life with and maybe, if you’re interested in that, to choose one that others can be excited about as well.

For me, what makes my idea so perfect in my head, is the character, which I care deeply, deeply, deeply about and how is as alive as can be, as well as the setting, which I just adore and wish I lived right smack in the middle of. And seriously, the falling-in-love-bit is not the problem with me, I do it all the time with every new idea. But I think I must have a bit of a commitment problem, because usually I abandon my ideas as soon as the relationships starts getting a bit tougher. First fight and I’m off.

(Note to self:  *must*NOT*let*this*happen*with*NaNo*project*)

Off to start the *serious* planning while I still have all these tips fresh in my mind. I’m relying on this to help me stick with this perfect beginning through the rough times.

the perfect idea

I set out to find the perfect idea for my NaNo project. And secretly I didn’t think I would find it because, well… I’m really bad at being creative on command. Then suddenly, while I was jotting down the working titles for all my beginnings and vague plot ideas (often just called ‘Jack’s story’, ‘Macy’s story’, ‘Devlin’s story’, … you get the drift?), the perfect idea popped up and made me gasp and jump up and hit my forehead with my palm and generally behave like a madwoman.

I mean, it was so OBVIOUS! It’s actually an idea for which I started a fiction blog more than two years ago and then didn’t get past six or so posts because too many things suddenly started happening in the story to keep track of, and also, because I started is as a sort of running diary, without an overarching plot. But the setting in itself and the main characters are absolutely perfect. Of course, in accordance with the NaNo ‘law’ (or guidelines or rather, game rules), I will not use a single word of those blog posts! It’ll be all shiny and fresh. 🙂

So, you fought through these self-complimentary and triumphant ramblings because you want to know what the story will actually be about? Hm. Well. Okay. Just to please you, some hints: it will feature a bookshop where not everything is as it at first seems. It will have a leading lady that suffers from an over-exuberant family. There will probably be some romantic elements. There will be some laughs and lots of surprises. And I really cannot tell you more. Why? Truth be told, because I really don’t know anything more myself.

I think I have a lot of planning to do.