Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘novel’

This post goes out to all my fellow struggling writers out there…

Sometimes it happens. Authors find their creativity, sense of purpose, and vision has stalled out. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) And so I’ll devote this installment of the Jessie Mae Hodsdon Writing Guidebook to that very thing. How to win back excitement when writing has taken on a monotonous or overwhelming quality.

Blog Bonus Feature: I consider creativity a gift. A treasure of immeasurable price. And so, when it threatens to disappear–being swallowed up by the busyness of life or the pressure of deadlines–I fight back. Because I refuse to let imagination slip out of my life. Don’t give up, struggling, starving, drained artists. Please. Don’t give up.

#63: Recognize that the Halfway Point is Hard.

Anticipate that inspiration will dry up around the 1/3 or 1/2 mark of your novel. The initial excitement over the characters has run its course; you have established your setting; and the basic plot is well in hand. Now what? Whether or not you outline, there comes a point of uncertainty. The best way to deal with it is to expect it. Then you won’t be discouraged when it arrives.

#47: There is Value in a Break.

I want to start this entry by offering a warning. Just as breaks have the potential to bless, they also have the potential to curse. If you make them purposeless (ie not writing, reading, or daydreaming anything), they could destroy your rhythm. Instead, take a purposeful break from your story by reading multiple novels, watching movies, and doing something unrelated but creative. (Your probably already know what that creative thing is. Maybe you like to cook or play guitar or draw. You get my drift…) This will stimulate new creativity inside of you and, before long, you will find the old passion for your story returning

#81: Minor Characters have the Potential to be Awesome.

I’ll assume you are familiar with Frozen. Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff are incredible main characters, but really… where would the movie have been without the trolls? Not far. Kristoff would have been a little less loveable. Anna wouldn’t have gotten the push to accept her feelings. And the essential clue/moral of the movie would have been lost. Not to mention the trolls (especially Grand Pabbie) added flair and spice to the story. The minor characters gave background to a major character (Kristoff), direction to the writer, plot clues to the movie watcher, and color to the story.

I’m a big fan of secondary characters. (And I’ll admit, sometimes I carry them a little too far.) But minor characters, being able to sustain eccentric personalities you could never get away with for main characters, have limitless potential. When your writing has stalled, turn your focus from the main characters you know so well and let your mind tool on the minor characters. Perhaps you will discover background, direction, plot clues, and color too.

If you have other ways to deal with the stall-out point of a novel, let me know in the comments! Best wishes in your writing endeavors,

Jessie Mae

(See my previous posts about the Guidebook here and here.)

Read Full Post »

It’s Thursday. How did this week fly by so fast? Tomorrow, already, is my sacred day of rest. But with my niece stirring softly in her sleep beside me and Matt Maher reminding me in the background that Chris is risen from the dead and Easter service almost planned, it feels rather like Thursday has its own kind of rest.

This week held a special landmark. After around twenty seven classes and countless hours of intense feedback and sweat-breaking assignments, my student has finished her novel! This teacher is doing a happy dance of pride. There are always times when writing a novel seems impossible–when writers block hits or characters keep secrets from their author or scenes refuse to bend to that author’s will. (I am of the belief that books have a mind of their own–or at least the good books do.) But my student has waded her way through the various swamps and FINISHED HER NOVEL.

So, one last encouragement, Camp NaNoWriMo started yesterday. If you want to write and are intimidated by the process, take the plunge today. Check out the site, grab yourself a private cabin, and start that book already. The minimum word count is only 10,000 for the month. Believe me. You can write 333 words a day. And it is immensely good for the soul to write–whether or not you finish your story. 🙂

In closing (and because the baby is stirring, so don’t judge my grammar–I don’t have time to edit) and in anticipation of Easter, I am reminded by Maher’s Christ is Risen:

O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? O church, come stand in the light. The glory of God has defeated the night.

Hallelujah. Amen.

Read Full Post »

I’ve got a song about a zebra stuck in my head. (Thanks, Francesca.) Unusual, like the other songs on her album, is just that catchy. And believe it or not, I am actually making progress on my novel this rainy day. Despite the distractions. Of which there are plenty. Francesca Battistelli’s new album included.

I would like to be as profound as I was yesterday or as informative as I was about hipsters last year or even as funny as I was last month when I discussed bloopers, but, alas, all my creativity is being funneled into my novel today. You will have to take me as I am, rugged and raw and overtired from seasonal allergies that suffocate me nightly. I feel a little like Dug (from Up), my brain constantly shouting “Squirrel!” (or, in this case, “Zebra!”). Then again, creativity is often born out of insanity. For proof of that concept, just check out this video, featuring one man, twenty-one Disney/Pixar voices, and the deserved hit: Let It Go (from Frozen).

To return to the subject of the novel… My new character–Otis–is shaping up, finally filling in giant gaps that would make Maine’s frost heaves jealous. And if you’re not from Maine, those frost heaves are really, really, really, really big. Thank you, Otis. Your love of cheeseburgers, your beret-wearing head, and your healthy fear of Russian-spouting computer hacker Tasya are just what I needed to get back into my writing rhythm.

Until tomorrow, friends, I remain your overly-creative and slightly-zany author,

Jessie Mae

Read Full Post »

Dear Friends,

Life continues to astound me. Despite my perpetual and utter uselessness when it comes to my novel, I’m in a downright peppy mood as I jam out to Francesca Battistelli’s new album: If We’re Honest (Deluxe). “Sometimes it feels like Starbucks is my permanent address,” she sings in I am Home, a song that describes home as so much more than an building and contentment as so much more than reaching goals. With lyrics of longing while fulfilling her dreams loaded into her last work, I am encouraged and thrilled to hear her choice to be happy right where she is. And that happiness doesn’t come from dreams. It is Paul’s ‘secret of contentment’ found in Philippians 4:12b, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” and in 1st Timothy 6:6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Oh, what gain!

10245289_10203033352971455_4028926361156906554_nI am still amazed that I chose not to attend grad school and remain in complete loss as to what the future holds. Yet, as I slug my way through the mire of same-old-same-old and the maze that is The Lure of Lemons, my life is getting downright exciting. It is more than my favorite coffee filling up the kitchen or the flowers I was given yesterday for Administrative Assistants’ Week. It is more, even, than the gratitude I feel for being asked to teach a mini-writing camp this summer as well as to take on a writing student for the fall semester. Truth is, whatever is coming, its certain to be good. Because God is the Author of my story.

Sure, there will be crashes when everything will fall apart. Honestly, they happen more than I want to admit. Yet, I am learning, that good is not the absence of tragedy. My future is bright because it is controlled by Someone a whole lot more intelligent and creative than I am. He is not fumbling around wondering what’s going to happen, like I am in The Lure of Lemons. He is beauty and mercy and power and crazy in love with me and in absolute control. In that knowledge, there is contentment. Poor or rich, successful or failure, author or not. Contentment.

To close, some lyrics from Battistelli’s He knows my name:

“I don’t need my name in lights. I’m famous in my Father’s eyes. Make no mistake. He knows my name.”

Read Full Post »

Starbucks got pretty fun yesterday. A few of us pulled out the ear-buds and acted like real people, trading jokes, stories, and turns watching laptops. It was pretty awesome. It filled a need in my heart for community–something I feared I was sacrificing when I decided not to attend grad school in Virginia.

And after I had returned home, Sister Kate showed up. We went for an unexpected walk, catching up in about twenty minutes. All of it strengthens me. And I needed some strengthening.

Last night I also attended a Good Friday service. Contrary to the somber affairs I had been accustomed to, this one was lively. It was full of upbeat music and positive thoughts–focusing on the glorious words, “It is finished.” Rescued. Christ’s death rescued me. Living a story full of heartbreak, thrill, adventure, danger, and success that would make a novel jealous, I am fully grateful for that rescue. Christ is my knight in shining armor. The One Who says I never have to be alone. Hallelujah.

Read Full Post »

I’m working on the final stages of my novel. So–to make sure everything ties together with a little bow–I find myself doing nearly constant research with my previous books. And today I had a good laugh, because I discovered a document entitled Bloopers. All I can figure is that during the backbreaking work of editing Xsardis, my mother/editor and I went a little bit crazy. We created a Blooper Reel of editing mishaps, misunderstandings, mis-writing, and snarky (albeit well-meaning and well-received) comments.

Take, for example, this comment from my editor and chief: “Doesn’t this person have a name? Call him a small elephant if you want, but give him a name!”

Or this one: “Why did coloring help her use a slingshot?”

Or this encouraging word: “It’s probably written right. You just can’t read.”

Or how about these completely random and I-can’t-quite-see-how-they-are-relevant comments: “Pant girl!” and “I think you need a chicken in this story” and “Put a skirt on a continent.”

Hmm… What does it all mean? I can see how I could mis-write “asked us to flee” as “accessed a flea.” I can even see how my poor description of someone’s downcast eyes as “his eyes fell down” could leave my mother with the impression that the eyeballs “rolled out and dropped onto her shoes.” But the rest? Well… Let’s just say that what happens in the editing room should probably stay there.

In the pursuit of a refined novel we’ve pinned each other to the wall to discover how to break free; we’ve chucked paper at each other to get out angst; we’ve drank too much coffee; arm-wrestled for who is going to read; and had some minor mental breakdowns when I need to get a sentence just right and she wants to discover if a character lives or dies (really, why is she so impatient?). But, all in all, as evidence by the Blooper Reel, my editor and I have had a glowing good time doing it. So I’m looking forward to round 5 with the Lure of Lemons… That editing process will come sooner than I think.

Ps. If you can’t tell that I absolutely ADORE my mother and that we have a fabulous working relationship, you really need to read this blog more often and get to know me better… She’s awesome.

Read Full Post »

As I was working on the novel yesterday, I came across the following note from my old self:

Insert random details about the building and city of your choice. Yes, you skimped the last time you were writing, but, hey, it was 2:34AM, so you were understandably exhausted and had poor judgment.

Reading this was highly amusing to me. Sanity and logic truly are not my strong points when writing in the early hours of the morning. Yet, I still contest that some of my best work is done there. When perfection fades in sleepiness, when everything gleams as bigger and deeper than it might otherwise appear, when the creativity of childhood still beats within my heart.

It was 10:30 when I put the laptop aside last night, with another thousand words in my favor. And as soon as I could pry my groggy eyes open this morning I wrote again. It is dedication more than inspiration, but words–and some of them very good–are falling from my mind into the realm of reality. So be it.

Read Full Post »

I spent about five days trying to get myself out of the latest writing jam. Reviewing where my characters had gone and would go, writing notes and outlines, chatting with said characters at all hours, re-reading relevant parts of my last novel. And finally there was only one place to go. So I wrote the section and am picking up speed again. Let’s hope the road blocks get fewer and farther between.

Have you heard that phrase, “Make your job your dream and you’ll never work a day in your life”? Personally, I think that is a statement full of lies, with more potential to discourage discerning hopefuls than to encourage them. See, marriage is a dream but one I know will be full of hard, hard work and occasional hurt. Friendships are worthwhile, but I’ll cry over every one that matters. Kids–oh my, they do make life fulfilling, but they take a crazy amount of work. Why should a dream job be any different?

There are days and weeks when doing my job feels like the sweet dream it was meant to be. But there are many more days. Days of plot line hurdles and writers block and negative reviews. Days of staying up late to meet a deadline and saying no to going out with friends to meet yet another deadline. Days to rewrite blocks of work and sore backs from leaning over a laptop. Days of doing law homework in-between speaking engagements and friends never knowing where in the world you are. Days of scraping together fifty cents for a hot apple cider and of wondering where the money will come. Days of cold calls. Days of facing fears. Days of failure.

See, little does the statement about the dream job know: success would not feel like success without those days. Without the days when I applied for other jobs because the dream just wasn’t panning out. Days when I nearly quit. Days when I chose to stick to the dream because it was worth the hurt.

Next time you think about your dream job and consider all the work that will go into it, remember: it is that hard work which makes the dream sweet. It’s not a dream, it’s not a life, if it’s not worth fighting for.

Read Full Post »

For four days I have left you. Four days for a more noble cause than usual. I have been writing. Back to the drawing board with my novel, a fresh Word document before me. I keep from the first, failed, half-finished draft only that which makes the story soar. My novel and my soul are better for it. For four days I have written, indulged in the Psalms as a refuge from the swirling words of the Lure of Lemons, been rigorous about taking all medicines (new and old, prescription and supplemental), and tackled my wild life into submission.

Patient friends who sought me out through mid-November to mid-January are finally getting a little more of the attention they deserve. Precious family members are finally the confidants they ought to have always been. Life, slowly, is beginning to make sense. As if I am coming out of the fog of illness that was my life.

But my room already begins to show signs of sickness again. An unkempt desk, a chair that houses lost objects, and a dryer sheet too far down on the floor to bear picking up. This time, it’s not the bitter surges of Babesiosis that strikes me. Just a common cold. The kind that makes you drink too much tea and turns your nose raw. It’s quite the relief to feel normal sick. My head might seem a little fuzzy, but its the physical kind of fuzzy that is not nearly so alarming.

Sister Kate and I pulled into the mall parking lot today and just sat for a long time. She shared Jeremiah 29:11, a verse we all have heard too much (if that’s even possible when it comes to Scripture). But instead of focusing on the ‘prosper’ part, she highlighted, “For I know the plans I have for you…” (ESV). God knows the plan. It’s in His mighty, wondrous, talented hands. So sick with Babesious or sick with the common cold or starkly healthy, I’m in the book that He is writing.

And it is far better than any story I could ever craft.

Read Full Post »

It’s 10:00 in the morning. I’m flipping through the chapters I have already written, trying not to grimace at their epic badness as I make the plot line shifts necessary for forward movement. Honestly, the condition of this novel is grave. Thankfully, I have eight years of training in salvaging lost causes, so I press on.

I’ve got the playlist entitled ‘Thinking Music’ on in the background. It is a desperate attempt to reach the contemplative, artistic state that used to be so easily attained. Man. The relapse of Babesiousis that crept up on me in December really forced me out of good habits. Time to get back into my craft.

So with a rugged determination, I’m back to the novel. I will ignore the urge to edit, refuse to despair at the faultiness of my words, and finish this difficult catch-up so that I may free-write once more. Yes. Back to work I go.

For small or big tasks, for high or low moments, Philippians 3:12 (NIV, 1984) keeps summing me up:

“Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »