Friday, December 16, 2016

From the Front Lines of a Failing Author

It’s raining today. Started last night around ten-ish. After leaving Boston and moving somewhere with abundant sunshine I not only appreciate rainy days, I kind of crave them now. And this winter Phoenix doesn’t seem to want to disappoint me.

Thanks weather patterns!

Rainy days bring out the melancholy, no matter how cliché that might sound it is 100% true. They let me access that place in my head where I sometimes need to swim around in order to pull out the emotions necessary to craft a realistic fiction story.

Speaking of which…

The last update here was all about my cranky attitude and NaNo.

Well, I failed. In grand fashion.

29k words. Just over halfway to a win.

But, as always, the experience/journey is what everything is really about. Right? That’s what I’m going with because it makes me feel better about losing the challenge.

I lost only this one battle though, not the war.

Not a single word of all 29k words I typed during November made it into this book. The one that’s still in-process. The one I plan to finish writing by the end of 2016 and publish in early 2017.

After failing the NaNo challenge you might be wondering how I can say I’m going to publish “this book” in the next couple months.

During the first week of December I pulled an empty journal off the shelf, gathered my arsenal of black ballpoint pens, and sprawled across the sofa to tuck in and write.

So far I’m over 10k words. All by hand.

And let me tell you all, this is how I’m going to write everything from now on. I got away from pen and paper in favor of the much faster keyboard. But there’s nothing personal about plucking away on keys.

My main character, Deb, had no face and no discernable characteristics when I was blindly typing thousands of useless words. Editing that mess of shit would have taken me until 2018. And I guarantee the book would have made a complete 180 anyway so I figured it was better to just go with it and start over from word one.

Now, her character, as well as the MMC, side characters, and the setting, are firmly entrenched in my head. I can see it all. See them, who they are, where they are, their motivations.

Why does that matter you might ask? Because no author can craft a believable story, where characters portray unique voices, without essentially living in that character’s world.


And I don’t care what kind of book you write. From a reader’s perspective, if you can’t insert yourself into identifying with at least one character in a book you likely won’t finish reading the thing.

The important shit that makes a character seem more real. Relatable. That’s why motivations matter.

So, once again, I failed at NaNo but won at the challenge of producing a book. Almost. Not quite there yet but well on the way. I know I will finish this story because they are all but jumping off the page now.

And, aside from putting the wheels in motion to finish this book, I accomplished a couple other things while handwriting that I didn’t expect.

First, I developed a basic formula for all the books to follow. Now, before you ugh and roll your eyes the only thing I plan to formulate is the pace and overall structure of the stories. Because that’s the second thing I figured out. Every book in my California Dreamin’ Series (for now) will be based around characters you already know.

So, let me explain. As a teenager I always wrote stories that revolved around the meet-cute (despite not knowing what the heck that even was at the time) and the initial falling in love of the two main characters.

In Carol + Chad 4-eva! Carol talks about her life and the lives of those close to her. A huge, almost endless pool of potential characters.

If the stories about Jess, Cherry, Lara, Deb, and maybe more, were to be the focus of this series, I needed to figure out what part of their life stories I wanted to tell.

I started handwriting Deb’s girl-meets-boy story and it all clicked.

Every one of the people in Carol’s life had a someone. They were all in different stages of their relationships – some having just met before the end of Carol’s book but others had been together for a while.

But all of those people had to meet their person at some point. And that point was the 1990s, in California.


The proverbial lightbulb clicked on and it all made sense.

They meet, experience some type of conflict, eventually realize they’re supposed to be together, end up in happily ever after. Like I said, formula for structure.

But, just like Carol, all of those characters will struggle to get their HEA ending.

The conflicts will change from character to character, but they will always be there and in roughly the same timing.

Because the bud eventually falls off the bloom, right? No matter how hot they may be for each other at first, at some point they’re going to see the real other person and face a struggle to overcome that defines if they can make it together or not.

Just like life.

So now I’m filling in the blanks of Deb Martin’s life. Who was she before she appeared in Carol’s diary? Who is that boyfriend Carol mentioned her friend moved in with? How did she meet him, where, when, etc.?

Failing is never failing in this life as a fiction author. It’s only a chance to start again. Build a new life for the character. One that fits who they are, where they came from and where they want to go. No matter how disrupted they end up after falling in love.

On this mellow, rainy Friday, I’m looking forward to getting more of Deb’s derailment onto the page.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

1 comment:

Launna said...

Jenn, I think what you write about writing your stories pertains so much to living life... we often think we fail when we don't achieve a challenge but it reality it is showing us a better way... Being open to the better way is our challenge to overcome xox