Archive for the 'Day In the Life' Category

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Why I Won’t Be Digging Out My Trunk Novels Any Time Soon

I have three trunk novels that I sometimes talk about.  These are the three novels I wrote, revised, polished, and sent out to try to get them published, before actually selling my fourth.  I stopped sending them out fairly quickly, after just a few rejections each.  I was always working on something new, I could see how much better my writing was getting, and I knew the newer work had a better chance of selling.  In hindsight, I think I probably could have sold them, if I’d kept sending them out and cast my net wider than the major publishers.  But I’m really glad I didn’t.

I get asked sometimes if I’d ever dig up those novels and try to get them published now, and the answer is. . .maybe.  Because I do think about those early novels sometimes, and I still like the characters and stories.  There’s something worthwhile in them, or wouldn’t have spent as much time working on them as I did.  But I wouldn’t want to publish them as is.  They need a lot of work — there’s a reason they were rejected.  I really want to go over them, beef up the plots, polish the writing, make them the best they absolutely can be.  And I just don’t have time for that right now because I’d rather move forward and work on all the ideas that I’m getting now, that are super exciting and make sitting down at the computer worthwhile.  Did I mention I’m a much better writer now?  As interesting as it would be to apply the ten-plus years of writing experience I’ve accumulated since setting aside my trunk novels, and as nostalgic as I am for those stories, I think it’s much more worth my time to work on new stories.

I don’t consider those trunk novels wasted time that I ought to try to salvage.  After all, they taught me how to write novels.  They taught me that I could write novels.  More than one, even, and I didn’t know how valuable that knowledge was until later.  When I sold my first novel and suddenly had a two-book contract and had to write that sequel right now, I knew I could do it.  No qualms at all.  I didn’t have to contend with that second novel anxiety that strikes some authors who sell their first novel and suddenly have to confront, under deadline and with money on the line, the issue of whether they can do it again.

And there’s no better compliment you can get in a review of your first novel than hearing that it doesn’t read like a first novel.  When people tell you you have more skill than they expect to see in a first novel.  That your first book isn’t just good “for a first novel,” but that it’s, you know, good.  Because it isn’t your first, really.  But you don’t have to tell them that.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no shame in having unpublished trunk novels lying around.  They’re my million words of crap (well, more like that last 300,000 of the million words of crap), and they served me very well indeed.

Monday, October 1st, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Yup, it’s kind of like that right now

Happy October!  This is the day I start the mad dash to the end of the year.

Right now I’m working on the big climactic scene in the current novel draft.  Two points of view, a cast of thousands, a battle for the soul of a city, that sort of thing.  If you follow me on Facebook or read my blog you’ve already seen this, but I wanted to share it anyway.  And I’m not much good for writing a serious post this week.

So yeah, I blocked the final battle out with action figures. Too much fun, really.

Monday, September 24th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
A week in the life

Here’s some of what I did last week:

Read a book for a potential blurb, and another in my role as a member of this year’s jury for the Andre Norton Award for YA science fiction and fantasy.  (I have about ten more on my current stack of Norton reading, plus a list of others to track down.  Yeah, I’m going to be doing a lot of reading for the remainder of the year.)

Asked for and received permission to blog about the cover for the next Kitty book, Kitty Rocks the House.  (Woo!) Isn’t it pretty?

Blogged and Facebooked and tweeted, but not very much.

Friday I met with a local high school’s book club to talk about being a writer.

Email.  The email never ends.  On Twitter this week, editor John Joseph Adams observed, “Some days, you get email, and you’re like, “Ooh, new email!” Other days, every new message makes you want to scream “F*** YOU” at it.”   (I edited that one word a bit…)  Most weeks are like that for me.  I’ve been known to put off answering e-mails for, well, way too long.  My work e-mails fall into three basic categories:  mail from readers, good news (reprint request, award nomination, etc.), and mail asking me for something.  It’s this latter category that can get. . .frustrating.  Sometimes the request is for something I’m happy to do (be a guest of honor at a convention, write a story for an anthology), sometimes it’s. . .not (send free books to someone I don’t know, some complicated request I don’t have time for, write a story for an anthology).  E-mail is surprisingly time consuming, often because I simply spend too much time stewing over how to gracefully say, “No.”  Or even, “Hell no.”  Or I’ll often wait until I’m in a better mood entirely to answer email at all.  Hence, the delay. . .

I wrote more than I expected to.  Current work in progress hit 75,000 words, and I’m still setting up the climax.  75,000 is about the average length of a Kitty novel, so being at this length and still not finished is kind of new territory for me.  I think this one might actually approach 100,000, which would make it my longest published work to date, once it gets out in the wild.

Next week:  much of the same, most likely!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
Falling in love again

Lately I’ve really been inspired by Paperbackwriter‘s (aka Lynn Viehl) series on coming back to writing after a break. She reminded me of the importance of thinking small, with writing prompts and exercises instead of, say, coming back to just carry on writing whole novels as if the interruption hadn’t happened. I took time off to go deal with a difficult pregnancy and then a difficult newborn and kept trying to restart as if I could just pick up where I left off. Or as if I could pick up the work schedule and work style that used to fit, forgetting that the life it worked around doesn’t exist anymore.

The writing life that I had with two kids can’t be the same with three. Especially when one of those three is an infant, with wildly different needs and a totally different schedule from the older two. Amazing how long it took me to realize that. But what writing life fits now?

I’ve been reading The Creativity Cure in hopes of some clues, and there again I got reminded of the importance of thinking small. Tiny bits of creativity feed the creative self and lead to a happier, healthier more balanced life. Like maybe those people who talk about writing a page a day which adds up to a book a year are onto something. Doing the creative work doesn’t have to mean doing it eight hours a day.

Really what’s been brought home to me is the importance of falling in love again. Why did I want to be a writer in the first place? The love of stories, of getting lost in fantastic worlds and amazing adventures with fascinating characters. The sounds of words; lugubrious. Gibbous. There’s a joy in particular words, words that capture the imagination, that say something in precisely one way that no other word can. There’s the beauty of a clean sentence or a convoluted one, a string of words painting a picture and meandering or rushing to paint it.

The one thing I know for certain is that I’ll never find the creative life that fits the life I’m living now unless I fall in love with tiny things. Words. Sentences. Tiny bursts of creativity. It’s okay to celebrate the small instead of focusing on and being overwhelmed by the huge.

Monday, September 10th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
In Which I Answer Sasha’s Questions

This week, Sasha’s cooked up a set of interview questions for all of us to answer over the course of the week.  My prediction is you’re going to see a bunch of different answers for these — which is exactly how it should be.  You know how we keep saying the process is different for everyone, and do what works best for you?  Yeah, that.

1) Do you write every day? 5 days a week? Only on weekends?

I write every day.  Every.  Day.  However, my definition of “write” is very broad, and also includes substantial revising, outlining, brain storming, and journaling.  Partly because those are necessary steps in my process, and counting them as “writing” for the day encourages me to actually do them, and makes me feel like I’ve done work.  But it also means I can always do something, even when I’m tired and cranky and can’t haul myself to the keyboard for anything more productive.

2)What comes first for you, usually. the character, or the story idea?

It varies.  Often, it’s the idea, but the character who best illustrates the idea usually comes along pretty quickly after that.  By the time I’m done, the two are so tied together I sometimes don’t remember what came first.  But I probably have to say it’s the idea, usually, or a particular situation.

3) Do you/can you work on more than one project/idea at a time?

I do!  I like working on many things at once.  It drives me crazy sometimes, but it also ties into my writing every day policy.  If I get stuck on one thing, I always have another project to work on.  I’m usually working on a novel and several short stories in various states of completion.  Also taking notes and outlining the next novel or two.  I’m beginning to think this may be the key to being prolific — or at least appearing prolific.

4) Favorite mode of getting the words down…desktop, laptop, Alphasmart, pen and paper?

Desktop computer mostly.  But I also do quite a bit of outlining and brainstorming with pen and paper, because it’s more organic and seems to target a different part of my brain, a more mechanical part.  If I’m stuck, switching modes is a great way of getting unstuck.

5) What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?

I might have to say “work ethic” after everything I’ve already said.  In terms of craft, I’ve about decided that character is a pretty big strength — primarily because other people say it’s my strength, and I have no idea how to explain what I do to create characters.  It just kind of happens.  Unlike plotting, which I can explain in great detail, because it’s never come naturally to me and I’ve really had to pick it apart and work at it.

6) Do you have a Dream Project or idea that’s sitting in the back of your mind that you hold there as a “someday I’ll write that” sort of thing?

I have dozens.  Dozens of dream projects.  I will never get to them all.  So many projects.  It would take me pages to describe them.  I occasionally get e-mails asking for advice that say, “I want to be a writer but I don’t know what to write about, how do I get ideas?” And I kind of want to reply ARE YOU INSANE?  I write because I have all these ideas, not the other way around.  So.  Many.  Projects.

Monday, August 13th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
The Long Haul

I had a great signing at a local store yesterday for Kitty Steals the Show, along with science fiction author Steven Gould and mystery author Rebecca Hale.  Came home exhausted like I always do after these events — I love doing them, but I’m a classic introvert, so I end up expending a lot of energy.  Back home, I landed on the sofa just in time to watch the Olympic closing ceremonies (which won me over with Madness and the Pet Shop Boys, but I really covet Annie Lennox’s grand entrance).

I love the Olympics.  I love all the stories behind the faces, the grand accomplishments that push the human body to the limits of what’s possible, and the magical and beautiful things humanity produces when it isn’t so busy destroying itself from the inside out.

The thing I have trouble wrapping my head around when I try to put myself in the heads of the athletes is how their dreams of winning an Olympic medal come down to just a few seconds, or a single dive, or jump, or a routine, or a race that often lasts just a few seconds or minutes.  All that preparation, and success or failure happens in the blink of an eye.  I get stressed out just thinking of it, never mind being there myself.

I’m not at all competitive.  I tried running track in high school, came in dead last in my first and only race, thought “screw this” and quit.  Let the other person win, they obviously want it so badly.  So yeah, I’m not exactly Olympic material.

If writing was a race, I’d be screwed.

Fortunately, it isn’t.  I’ve got plenty of time, and my writing dreams don’t live or die by a few seconds on the clock, but by the ongoing work I’ve already put in, and that I continue to put in.  Thank goodness.  (And I don’t have to worry about my knees giving out.  Though I do have to make sure I take care of my hands.)

Monday, July 23rd, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Experience and Hope

It’s been a rough couple of months for my home state of Colorado.  Last month, two of the state’s worst, most destructive wildfires in its history happened — at the same time.  And now the mass shooting in Aurora.  It’s been a lot of heartbreak and feeling helpless and wanting to make things better for people, but knowing there’s absolutely nothing I can do to assuage the grief after someone’s lost their home in a fire or a loved one in an act of terrible violence.  We offer condolences and make donations.  Try to build our community.

My writer self becomes conflicted during these times.  I feel like a horrible scavenger, because I can’t stop myself from picking apart what’s happening, from observing my own reactions, my friends’ reactions, details from the event itself, and filing them away in the part of my brain labeled “maybe I can use this in a story.”  It’s reflexive at this point, and so mercenary.  But it also feels necessary.  These details may never become part of a story, but if the story does come along, at least the details I have will be real and true.  It’s not journalistic — I’m not recording or reporting facts.  I’m a fiction writer, and it’s about recreating experiences, and the best way to do that is through details.  So I continue to observe and collect.

The other thing my writer self does is empathize.  It’s a natural part of developing character — you put yourself in the scene, you imagine what it’s like to be in that situation, you imagine what people are going through — both the perpetrator and the victims.  I want to understand, so I play the scenes over in my mind from all points of view, again and again.  And again, it feels mercenary and exploitative.  I get more emotionally involved than is probably good for me, and it certainly doesn’t help the situation at all.

As a fiction writer, I don’t think it’s fair or useful for me to write directly about these events, and I don’t want to.  But I still want to gather the experiences, file them away, and let them ripen.  If I ever write about something like this, maybe I can make it feel more true by paying attention, by being respectful now.  I want to acknowledge the tragedies, sympathize, help when I can, and respect the experiences of the people directly involved.  And I hug my friends and tell my family I love them.  Try to keep hope and remember the good times.