Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Author in Search of Six* Characters (*six not required)

I've been blogging a lot lately. Given my tribulations with the DMV, it's probably healthier that I deal with my frustration using my writing rather than use, say, physical violence. That's the nice thing about writing. It's such a great outlet. Of course, it's also nice to unleash a torrent of frustration on a listening ear- I have a few of those and am grateful for all of them- but there's something nice about pouring your heart out about how you really feel. As you've probably noticed from my Stephanie Meyer rants, I tend to be slightly opinionated about...certain topics, particularly books.

I also love to blog because it's like a daily writing exercise. My writing has been at a bit of a standstill lately. I sent out queries to agents and haven't heard a word back, not even a rejection. Since I made a promise to myself that I'd try much harder to actually do something with my novels before I started another one, that promise seems to be buried in my subconcious and putting up a wall whenever I think about starting a new novel. I have a couple of ideas but none which are leaping to the front of the queue. So I've been doing little writing exercises to get myself over the hurdle of not writing.

When I write, music is of the utmost importance. In all honesty, every one of my novels has been inspired by a song that I've heard that's caused my mind to create a story around it. Sometimes the story is influenced by the song. Green Day's American Idiot album inspired a whole novel. I never stole from Green Day but I let their music weave a story in my mind using phrases from the songs to create a framework. I still love that novel because whenever I listen to American Idiot, Jimmy DeLeon, my main character, is suddenly in my mind again.

That's what I've been doing lately. I've been listening to songs and then writing based on that song. Last week, I did a short piece based on The Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight." It's an awesome song, romantic, yearning, full of heartbreak and sadness and nostalgia. So that's the short story I wrote. I have no idea if it's legal or not to do that. I'm not plagarizing the song, just letting it tell me what to write. Now I'm doing one for Coldplay's "Viva la Vida." That one is harder because there are so many possibilities.

Whether or not it is legal, I don't care. I do care that I'm getting over my mental block. I don't consider it writer's block because I am still writing and I figure if I refuse to believe in writer's block, I won't ever suffer from it. I might have writer's 'obstacles' but not writer's block. It's the same thing as when I am in the middle of a novel and I get stuck. One of my tricks is to 'go out' with a character. I suppose that sounds insane to anyone who doesn't write but it's a really great way to get over being stuck. When I go out with my characters, I usually pick a location that suits the character. For example, in my romantic drama about a skateboarder and his unattainable crush, I was having trouble getting inside the skateboarder's mind. His name is Jamey. So I decided we needed to go to the beach (much easier in California than it would be now in Ohio). I packed up my bag, took my notebook and headed out. It turned out to be a rainy, cloudy day but it also ended up being perfect. What I do is 'interview' the characters, just let them talk to me. Sometimes, I'll ask questions, sometimes I'll just let them tell me their history.

It does sound crazy when I type it out but, I'm telling you, it's never failed to work. It's not like I'm actually talking out loud to them. I only do that in places where I know people won't see me. No, I just let it be a thought process between us. I've learned some fascinating things about my characters that way.

I suppose to a non-writer, that really does sound a little mental. After all, if I create a character, I should know everything about him/her already, right?

Not for me. I think I've explained before that I never really feel like I create the characters. They just sort of find me and they're the ones that guide my story. I tried hard to steer my last novel but my main character just didn't change the way he was supposed to and I ended up with a different version of my novel than the one I'd originally planned. The one that I did finish was better, it was twistier, darker but also ended much differently than the novel I'd set out write. I think that was the moment when I truly did realize that I don't control my novels, the characters do. I like that.

So, the question is, do I still keep up the ever-necessary quest to find an agent, stalling future writing in hopes that my past writing will get notice or do I take a break and write something new, riding out the storm of this nasty economy and hope that publishing takes an upswing and agents are more willing to read unpublished author's work?

I think I'll see what happens. I'll keep my mind open to new characters, new music, new ideas and, when I'm ready, I'll start a new novel. I think that's the best I can do. I'd say I was holding out to win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award but, as I've said, that's a crapshoot, something for me to do with a finished novel rather than a place to truly pin my hopes and dreams. It's just another unanswered question like those queries I sent to agents; I never thought I'd want to be rejected but better that than no response at all, I suppose. I always was a creature who liked closure.

You know, I am starting to get an idea for a novel about the DMV so maybe I will start something new.

Happy Tuesday.

1 comment:

Samantha Elliott said...

I don't know if you read agent blogs, of if you've been reading them lately, but they are all abuzz about the upswing in the number of queries they're receiving. I've not been having much luck with getting responses lately either, and I think The Great Query Flood of 09 is the reason why.

ABNA was my attempt to break my stalemate on the agent front. So far it's paying off in ways I hadn't foreseen, so I'm grateful. For what it's worth, I'm dabbling with my next novel for now, but I've self-imposed a 1-year rule for my last. If it's not going somewhere by June, then it'll be shelved until I've completed my next novel. At some point, I'll have to redirect my energies, and that's the point I've picked.