Monday, March 26, 2012

Still Looking South: Not Seeing The Antarctic For the Snow


Last time around we talked about finding the conflict in your story. But if you're stuck and staring at blank pages with no idea where to go next, me telling you to find some kind of conflict probably has you thinking, "I wish she'd shut the hell up." (Or something more violent but I don't want to give anyone ideas. *hides the ice picks*)

This is where we take a side road and talk about another "c" word. (NOT THAT ONE!)

Commitment.

Don't go running off. This is not a pep talk about writing every day or setting big goals. This is about too much commitment. About commitment getting in the way.

Whether a plotter or a pantser, writers often have a clear idea in their mind of the story they want to write. The opening has to be here. The turning point has to be this. Her reason for being here is clearly that. We get locked in and forget that stories can be organic and flexible. And characters have a habit of withholding information.

I was several chapters into my first MS before my heroine bothered to mention she had a sister. I was writing her as an only child. So much for that. If I'd been "committed" to her being an only child, I would have missed out on an excellent character who was bound for her only HEA in a later book.

I'm not a fan of those giant group brainstorming sessions where total strangers throw out story ideas without knowing anything about each others' work. I'm sure it works for some, but I've actually witnessed the following:

"My heroine is a lawyer."
"Maybe she could be a reporter."
*blinks* "No, she's a lawyer."

Same session:

"Mine is a road trip story but I need a good reason for them to take the road trip."
"Are there aliens?!"
"No, I don't write aliens."
"But what if they're being chased by aliens?"

All suggestions were well intended, but throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks isn't always productive. However…

Being open is a good thing. You don't necessarily have to include aliens (unless you're Chance) but maybe she's not who you think. Maybe he's not as nice as he seems. Maybe your story starts here instead of there. Don't get too committed to what you have on the page. Keep your options open. (Cliché much?)

Do you have a commitment issue? Too committed or can't seem to commit to anything? (This is in writing. I'm not about to talk about my real commitment issues.) Have you loosened your grip on the story and ended up with something better than what you had before? For the readers, are you too committed to one kind of book? Picked up a new genre lately and been pleasantly surprised?

42 comments:

MsHellion said...

I have all sorts of commitment issues. I'm committed to the stories I'm writing, how it will unfold, how it will end, who will be groveling, and if by some miracle I finish it, who I will pitch it to and who I will publish it with.

I have very narrow dreams, what can I say?

Maureen said...

I'm probably more guilty of the opposite of this... For the most part, I often have no particular idea where I'm going or the details regarding my characters. I don't start without any ideas, but there is no straight and narrow when it comes to being committed to any particular...well, anything!

*looks sheepish

Yes, I'm on an alien kick right now. Or tentacles. Or aliens with tentacles.

I don't think it's about being a pantser, but maybe. I do come up with ideas regarding the directions things will go, but if it changes, it changes.

My current alien involved WIP, not sure of the ending, as I explained to Terrio last night. It might go one way, it might go the other. I'm just not certain, but I have faith I'll figure it out when I get there...

I guess I don't do well with committment, but I do well with faith!

quantum said...

As Maureen says, when you have faith who needs commitment. In all walks of life including fiction, rigidity is not good. Flexibility should be your guide.

From the fundamental laws of nature ( Quantum theory), almost anything is possible and only probabilities restrict the future. So you must be flexible enough to embrace uncertainty and adapt as you write.

Heaven forbid that I mention couches today, but a little meditation can clear your mind of junk and enable the vision to see through the uncertainty in your plot.

If you replace brainstorming sessions with meditation sessions you might get somewhere interesting. If the pirates could meditate in the horizontal position, then I suggest a circular configuration with feet at the centre or heads at the centre.Or you might prefer to align with the poles and lie North-South.

Either way I wanna take a picture! LOL

Beautiful thoughts Terri!

Marnee Bailey said...

I actually love brainstorming sessions. I love to hear all the options. Well, unless they were completely out of the genre. Ie, I'm writing straight Regency and someone wants to vamp it up.

I'm not overly-committed, I don't think. I think it depends though. Usually I can feel if there's something missing. Something that doesn't fit just right. Or something that I'm just not seeing. And those are the times when brainstorming helps me. I don't know how many times someone has shaken something loose in my brain just by throwing things around. Maybe it wouldn't even be their suggestion, but sometimes their suggestions set off my own imagination. Sort of my brain's version of one-upping. ("I'll get there before they do!")

As to being committed to a genre? Nah. I'd been on a Historical bender but I just read Suz Brockmann's new paranormal. (Big recommend people. Born of Darkness. Very good.)

TerriOsburn said...

And we're off and running this morning! Good Monday, everyone. LOL!

Hellie - We need to stretch your horizons a bit. There are too many options out there to keep things so narrow.

And right now I'm having trouble typing because I'm shaking. I FINALED IN THE FREAKING GOLDEN HEART!!!!

Janga said...

I'm with Hellie, although I prefer to think of it as being faithful to my vision rather than narrow in my dreams. :) Perhaps I could have written a half dozen other novels in the time I've spent working on the Home trilogy, but I am committed to these characters. I keep seeing a spot of lint to brush away, a stubborn cowlick that must be smoothed, a hem that needs a quick stitch before I open the door and set them free.

TerriOsburn said...

Chance - I'm betting you're a bit more committed now than you were before we pushed plotting on you. LOL! But I admire your independent spirit and incredible imagination. With creativity like that, of course you can't be boxed in!

Janga said...

Some would call me a narrow reader too. For the most part, my experimental reading has ended. Each year I read a few literary fiction titles, a smattering of essays, memoirs, history, and biography, a good bit of poetry, some general and historical fiction, a couple of science fiction titles, many mysteries, and lots and lots and lots of romances--heavy on historicals and contemporaries with a sprinkle of romantic suspense and a pinch of paranormals. That's my recipe for a good reading year. I'm committed to it and, except for adding a few new authors to the mix, unlikely to change it.

TerriOsburn said...

Q - I watched a show with Oprah last night on transcendental meditation. Looked very interesting. I agree that meditation could really help us focus on the writing and find the story that's hiding behind all the noise.

A pirate meditating circle. That would be fun. Though most would think we're just all passed out from rum consumption. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Wow, Janga. If you call that narrow reading, then I'm beyond narrow. I'm a straight line. LOL!

I don't mean not to be committed to your books. Not at all. I mean exactly what you've done. I know you've changed up a character or moved from this approach to that one. That's the flexibility I mean.

I know for me I get too committed to an opening scene usually. Even if it's not working I think I can make it work. But it's not until I open to more possibilities that it comes together.

TerriOsburn said...

Marn - I know what you mean. That whole "shaken something loose" moment happened for me last night while emailing with Mo about my book. I think I finally know exactly how to change one scene at the end of the book that was nagging at me. I hate when the giant conflict is solved too easily and that's exactly what I did.

But I think I know how to fix it. Thanks to talking it through with another writer.

Scapegoat said...

Terri!!!! I just saw on twitter before I even had a chance to get to the blog today!!!! Whoopie!!!!!!!


So freaking awesome!

Okay - now I need to read the blog... :)

Marnee Bailey said...

Wait wait wait....

And right now I'm having trouble typing because I'm shaking. I FINALED IN THE FREAKING GOLDEN HEART!!!!

What what what!?!?!?

Marnee Bailey said...

COngratulations!!! Oh my god oh my god!!!! I'm sooo excited for you!!!

TerriOsburn said...

It's on twitter??! LOL!

Marnee Bailey said...

Your name is on RWA's site!!!

Donna Cummings said...

Congrats, Terri! It's an awesome achievement. :)

MsHellion said...

I'm privileged, I got a phone call while she was shaking and freaking out! Congratulations!!!

You totally have to put that on the class! Then the students will see that at least one of us knows what she's talking about.

P.S. Am I way off but I thought the Arctic was in the North...not the South? So if you're not seeing the Arctic for the snow, you're not even looking south... *scratches head* I don't remember.

Scapegoat said...

Okay still haven't read the blog - Terri get thee to Twitter and Facebook, etc and ride the wave for the next few days!

You'll pick up more followers who want to check you out. :) Plus, it's like a party there right now!

Okay - really off to read the blog.

TerriOsburn said...

It's the ANTarctic. FINE! I'll fix it. LOL! I figured I probably had that wrong last night but was too lazy to check.

It's on the RWA site??? Wow. This is all happening so fast I can't keep up. I have a feeling that's how the next four months is going to feel.

Marnee Bailey said...

Your name is on the RWA site! I was like, I know her!! Well, it says Theresa but whatever. :) LOL!!

MsHellion said...

Sorry, sorry. You know my disease!

It's on RWA site! And twitter! And Elizabeth Hoyt and Eloisa James both finaled for RITAs...so to me, that's like the same thing. You're in great company!

Sin said...

OMG !!! Terri!! Holy freakin' crap!! Congrats! A huge huge congrats!!

Melissa Johnson said...

Congrats, Terri! That's so awesome. :)

Janga said...

It's WONDERFUL! I love seeing Terri's name everywhere, although I don't think I even knew your name was Theresa with an h, Ter.

Loretta Chase got a Rita nom too and Jane Graves and Deeanns Raybourne--and Nora, of course. Lots of double noms.

TerriOsburn said...

I have too many sites going at one time! This is all so crazy. And I doubt we're going to talk much about commitment today. LOL! But that's okay.

Forget the rum. Virtual champagne for everyone!

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - I'm named after St. Theresa the little flower. Talk about a name not fitting at all. LOL!

P. Kirby said...

*Does dance of happy for Terri.* CONGRATULATIONS!! That is so awesome!

Regarding commitment, as a reader: I get nearly all my books from the library. And while a peek at my Goodreads account shows a definite skew toward SF/F, I frequently experiment with other genres. The drawback to the library is that I rarely read the latest releases, but I have the freedom to expand my horizons, which, frankly, I think does wonders for my own writing.

Brainstorming is helpful if the person(s) understands what you're trying to do with your story. If you're writing a contemporary romance, then suggestions to add zombies, aliens or Cthulhu, aren't helpful (I might even call them "obnoxious").

My level of commitment varies. I need some kind of plan, a destination to move toward; but, I'm flaky; if something better comes along, off I go.

Just this weekend, with the WIP, I found that the heroine's motivations had changed on me. I let it happen and I think the story will be better for it. But...I'm only 23K into the story (target 90 -100K). Had this happened at the 80K mark, or later, I might not have been so willing to let it change.

Anyway, congrats, again, Terri. I'm so happy for you.

Maureen said...

And my bloody sucking smart phone didn't ring to tell me I had a phone call! No, not from the RWA, from Terri!

Anaheim is gonna ro-ock! Whoohoooooooooooooooooo!

TerriOsburn said...

At least you can't yell at me for not calling. And I waited a whole HOUR to make sure I didn't wake you at the butt crack of dawn. LOL!

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - I would have been VERY put out with that character if she waited 80K words to let me know that sort of thing. LOL!

I don't vary in my reading choices much, but a couple years ago I picked up a vampire romance because I loved the opening excerpt so much. Still the only vampire book I've read and I'm happy I did. Now I need to get the next in the series, which was recently released.

If you get a chance, look up Barbara Monajem. Not your typical take on vampires. And no sparkles in sight. LOL!

Maureen said...

So, my husband just asked me if I was gonna make you a button... ;-)

Maureen said...

I know everyone is off celebrating at twitter island and Facebook peninsula...but when they get back... I have the big bottle of champagne out!

TerriOsburn said...

Yes! I need a button. LOL! The celebration seems to be winding down in some areas. I'm just now catching my breath. Can't even imagine what's ahead of me.

And I really liked this blog too. LOL! Oh well. Who am I to waylay a party?

Scapegoat said...

Great idea Chance! We need a Rocking Revenge Party in honor of Terri and all the other pirates who put themselves out there and entered. Taking that step is worth celebrating call or no call and I feel it in my bones you'll all get that GH or Rita call one day!

TerriOsburn said...

That's the attitude, Scape. I'm HONORED and overwhelmed to be nominated, but there are RITA finalists announced today who never won or even finaled in the GH. I'm looking forward to the crazy ride over the next few months, but this is no golden ticket to a contract. I know that.

quantum said...

This sounds like getting the call to play for England!
I googled '2012 golden heart finalists' and its there as a contemp sigle title:
Meant To Be by Terri Osborn

Very appropriate title Terri. Definitely meant to be!
Well Done!!!!

I don't twitter or twatter or whatever but I do drink champers!

Come on Chance, jump to it and Fill those glasses. This sort of thing gives a man a thirst! ..... by the way, are you Maureen or Chance now?

Maureen said...

Okay, let's plan a party for Friday...see if the Assassin will play along...

quantum said...

Excellent plan, shows real commitment.

Also gives me time to prepare a suitable toast.
Hey I heard that groan! LOL

TerriOsburn said...

Hey Q! I have no idea why they have my last name spelled wrong but I'm guessing it was a bit crazy in the RWA offices today. LOL! Yep, that's me! I can't wait to hear your toast!!! I'll even bring the oldest bottle of scotch I can find. :)

irisheyes said...

This is sooooo freaking awesome, Ter! I was at work all day and decided to play around on the internet for a while before having to figure out dinner. Stumbled upon the list over at The Romance Dish and literally screamed when I saw your name. Congrats, this is very, very cool!

TerriOsburn said...

Thanks, Irish. Today feels like the start of a very interesting time in my life. :)