Friendship is Magic (And Not Just For Ponies)

Why yes, yes I did just make a My Little Pony Reference.

Disclaimer: SJ Noir has no claim over anypony. As far as I know, they belong to Hasbro.

Don’t you look at me like that. Those ponies are charming as hell. But I’m actually not here to talk about them.

I’m here to talk about the importance of having a sounding board. Call them what you want: Critique/Brainstorm partners, Beta Readers, Accountability Buddies, Mistress/Master….what? I’m not here to judge. Hell, if your muse is anything like mine, it could use the occasional reining in.

What’s with all the horse references? I dunno, I’m probably going through withdrawal. The HUB, for some diabolical reason, decided not to air the two-part Season 2 Premiere of MLP: FIM  back to back. Rather, they opted to air Part One, and then air Part Two the following Saturday

..And then they decided not to show another new episode for two weeks after Part Two aired. Seriously HUB? All of my rage.

But um…I’m spinning wildly off topic here.

Truth is, even though I’ve been trying to “get my act together” for years when it comes to taking my writing seriously, I’m still new to all of this. And by that I mean, don’t have a finished manuscript, so I’m still in the “novice/rookie” phase and more often than not…I don’t feel qualified to give advice. I haven’t “earned” that rite. That’s why you don’t see a lot of blog posts from me, because I feel like I don’t really know anything and I should just shut the hell up and write. But I’ve been in this phase for awhile, and I have learned things, so why not share them?

Writing is by and large a solitary act, and when you’re new to the game…this can be overwhelming. Especially in the plotting stages. Sometimes, I can’t see the forest for the trees. This is when having someone to bounce ideas off of is essential. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life to have friends who share my passion for writing. I’m even more fortunate that we share similar influences and mindsets, which makes “getting” each other’s work painless on both sides. There’s a sort of magic that happens when you’re brainstorming with someone (especially if they are smarter than you) who knows the right questions to ask.

Oddly enough, it will be the times when I disagree with something my partners suggest that I get the best results. Instead of being so overwhelmed by “the big picture” that I have difficulty moving forward, their questions really help me to focus on the character or situation at hand. “No, she wouldn’t do that, but she might do this!”

As I mentioned in Letting Go, I’m starting a new project that I’ve been itching to write and that I feel I can do more justice than Dirge right now. I’m doing some very light plotting on it before I charge full speed ahead, but I have a big cast to contend with. So I sat down, went through my How to Think Sideways and How to Write a Series courses and got to the point where I needed to figure out the main casts’ motivations…

Only three characters really “spoke” to me, and they were the three that I knew pretty well already. The others? They didn’t want to tell me anything. Considering the nature of the story, I can’t say I blame them. They’d basically be volunteering for me to make their lives a living hell. Then I had the brilliant idea of asking my friend Raye to brainstorm with me and, gem that she is, she agreed.

In the space of an afternoon, and after her asking lots of pointed questions, we managed to pin point the underlying motivations for the majority of my cast. I only have three more to figure out and then I can move on. And I would not have been able to do it without her.

But if you don’t have any writer friends or people you trust to be both nurturing and objective…

I’ve found Forward Motion for Writers to be a fantastic community. I have had the pleasure of meeting lots of lovely writer folk there and all of different backgrounds and parts of the world. Whether you’re double-checking research, or need a quickie critique, there’s always someone around to offer a helping hand. Also, membership is free!

Dear Princess Celestia,

Just kidding.

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Letting Go

Perhaps one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned (and am constantly re-learning) is how to let go. Of the past, the present, the future. Grudges. Goals that for one reason or another have no way of coming to fruition. Plans that I’d like to set in motion but have to put on hold for “the opportune moment”… Anything really. I still haven’t figured out the “process” of letting go. I only know that one day, I’ll wake up and find that I don’t want to hold on to certain things anymore, and then I actively go about re-programming my brain to not automatically leap to the worst possible conclusion. Or not to automatically drudge up old woulds to re-salt. It’s a task that takes constant effort, but I find it’s getting easier.Or, at the very least, I’m recognizing ways to make it easier.

What does this have to do with writing?

I haven’t done any. For awhile.  I can sit here and rationalize perfectly good reasons why I haven’t, but that would be a waste of everyone’s time. Including my own. The truth is, I’ve been holding on to past resentment and toxic ways of thinking. I’ve also been trying to write a story that I’ve broken too many times to think straight about anymore. All novice writers are told not to give up on their first project. To stick with it, to prove to yourself that you can finish something. So, for a really long time, I stuck with Dirge, constantly fighting back the suspicion that it wasn’t going to work. There are a lot of problems with the plot and honestly…I’ve tried to “fix” it so many times that I think I made the problems worse instead of better, and try as I might, I’m just not equipped to fix them just yet.

So I’m “shelfing” Dirge for the time being, and moving on to a project that I’m excited and most importantly, passionate about, and looking forward to sharing concepts (including artwork!) soon.

Speaking of artwork, you can see two of my pieces featured on Joely Sue Burkhart’s website here, and promotional cards for her latest release Golden. For details on obtaining the cards, you can contact the lovely Ms. Burkhart or myself, or leave a comment expressing interest and I will contact you.

For any authors looking for an artist to do promotional images featuring your characters? I will have price listings and sample work up within the next few weeks. Stay Tuned!