elomaran: (WriYe)
Actually, I have too many construction sites already to even think about touching the subject »How do you plan a new novel« - really, I don't want to get jumped by another idea. But I cannot resist a challenge, and I want to blog more often, so I joined the official WriYe Blogging Circle to write one themed blog entry a month. So what's a better question at the start of a new year but the question of how a writer tackles a new novel? So, to have it in writing: I'm not going to start another new novel, not even think about it. I'm very content with my current works in progress, thank you very much. But, hypothetically speaking … How do I plan a novel?

If I had it my way, I'd start every novel with a jump from a ten meter diving board, plummeting headfirst into writing it without wasting any time with plotting and planning. And I do that quite often, sometimes successfully, sometimes resulting in catastrophic failure - there really is no connection, since I can say the same about those novels that are fully plotted before starting to write and that have the same quote of successes and failures. Quite often, plot really comes with writing. But before that, there always is an idea, a concept, which tends to be rather complex. I get, to quote Astrid Lindgren, my ideas faster than a pig will wink, and I usually get them when there's no writing utensils around - in my sleep, when riding the bus, on the treadmill. I suppose that's a protective mechanism of my creativity, to force me to do a minimum of mental work before reaching for my pen. Thus, I usually do without all plotting tools except for my mind. Whiteboard, notebook, software? Brain power! But regarding that, I'm really, really fast.

I got the idea for »The Dolls' Room« when getting back home after work, a bus ride of some fifteen minutes. During that time, I got from »Hmm, why don't I write a mystery novel with a spooky old mansion in it?« via »And there's got to be dolls, because an old mansion full of dolls is the spookiest thing ever and I really would love to read a good mystery novel with dolls in it!« to »But the dolls are not really dolls, and the orphan girl isn't really an orphan girl, and there are fairies who steal human souls, and everything is totally different than how it seems.«  Well, I could have done without the last sentence, because this goes for all of my novels, but my first thing after getting home was writing down a treatment called »House of the Dolls« that was, in large parts, identical to the book as it was published in the end. But it took me over half a year before starting to write it, not because of lack of plot or ideas, but because I didn't dare to touch the historic material before doing some in-depth research on the time. After all, it was my first novel with a historical background.

But usually, writing down a treatment - without the middle part, because that's the last thing I plot - is all I do in preparation work for a new novel. Concerning that, I'm totally boring - I don't have a scrapbook to show around, no sketches, mind maps or time lines, only some brief notes of what is going to happen in which chapter, if I'm a afraid I can't keep it in my mind otherwise. The idea is alive within my head, brewing, brooding, growing, sometimes throwing some new features at me to nod them through, but it doesn't feel like I have a lot of thinking to do, I just let it happen. The more I have to mull over something, the less content I'm with the result, and I regard it as a harbinger of an enormous plot hole if I have to start thinking. The times when I really have to think is when sorting out the chronology if I work with parallel plot lines and have to answer the question what event happens at what time or place. But most of the work happens in my subconscious, maybe because my creativity knows I'm some lazy dog and that I should better spend my time with the actual writing. Maybe that's why I get so many new ideas from dreaming.

I'm totally notorious when it comes to asking other people for help with a plot issue. Usually this happens when I really have no idea of how to go on, so I go and ask some fellow writers or my husband, listen to all of their ideas, then go and write something completely different - not out of disrespect but because I experience a sudden aha effect and realize how it really has to be. Hearing all of the possibilities is important to me because it sets the mind machine in motion, but I'm afraid that my friends think I'm pulling their legs because I never go with one of their suggestions. I have to rely on outside help quite often, just like a motor on strike may need some heavy whacking to start working again. And if I manage to totally screw a novel, I finally have to make up my mind and write down the plot from beginning to end before being able to write one new scene. But my favourite plotting method is when the subconscious does all of the dirty work and all I have to do is writing it down.

Sometimes I think I don't like writing because it's too much work. And I don't like plotting because it can be exhausting. So why do I write at all? Because there's one thing I love: telling others about my ideads, and then being told that they are good ideads. Then, it's fun to spin the idea out. Likewise, it's more fun to read a finished scene to myself or an audience than having to write it, and it's more fun reading a couple of reviews than going through the process of revising a novel. And though I often don't like writing, it's such a great relief to have an idea out off my head so there's room for something new to grow. My imagination is like a garden. The stories grow on their own, there's no tearing and puling at them to make them come out faster. Still, I have to tend, and fertilize, and water, and weed, and sometimes even cut down an uncontrolled growth. And in the end, there's no day goes by without my loving what I do, with all my heart.
elomaran: (Default)
It's been a month and a day now since I wrote an entry about how I tried to contact an old penfriend via facebook. To make a long story short, she was the Julia I was looking for, she didn't reply to my message, and has since closed her profile from public viewing. I hope I didn't scare her or made her feel harassed. But it didn't work out the way I had imagined.

Now to make a short story long, today I got a message via facebook. It was from Julia - not the one I wrote to, but the real one. She is married now and has a different name, and she doesn't live either in New York or Washingston where I could place her, but in Massachusetts, so I had only little chance of finding her myself, but luckily I never changed my name, and it's an uncommon one, too, I believe I'm the only one there is, and if any old friend tries to locate me via the internet, it's quite an easy job that can well be done without facebook…

But that's not the point here. The point is, I'm online since 1998. Julia and me haven't had contact since about 1993. There would haven been plenty of time for one of us trying to get in touch - and still, my try and her try happened within one month of each other, without any cause except for me suddenly feeling a longing for my old friend - isn't that the strangest thing on earth? Or at least the strangest that has ever happened to me?

I gave her my mail address. I hope she'll write again. I'm so happy. And I found myself looking for that big old box of stationery I still have left from my old letter writing times. I feel this just might be to precious for plain e-mail. Something that deserves a stamp, and lots of love. This is the most special day since this year began, and I will cherish it.
elomaran: (Bipolar)
You can have lots of fun with the insane. For example, there's the website paraplush.com, where as a game, you can cure mentally ill cuddly toys. There's a depressive tortoise, an autistic hippo, a sheep with multiple personality disorder or a paranoid crocodile. In nice flash animations you can psychoanalyse the patient, drug it, do therapy with it, and in the end, watch it walk into the light. That's all very nice, very sweet, made with love, and it's fun to play. But is it good? No. It isn't.

The problem is not that it makes mentally illnesses into game content - if you ask me, you need to be able to laugh about everything, and I don't mind if it's about diseases that may lead to murder or suicide. The cuddly patients are not exposed, taken surprisingly serious and mostly cause compassion within the players. Only reluctantly you let the pet undergo the torture of electroshocks, as helpful as they may be, or inject them with bad anti-psychotics that instantly make them hallucinate. And when it's over, you know the cause of the disorder and the poor creature is cured, you're all happy and relieved.

But that's just the point. The game advocates the popular belief that all mental diseases origin from some traumatic experience and are, once that's worked out, curable. I once had a psychologist who was just like that, tried to blame everything on my mother who had obviously not given me enough love as a kid. But truth is, most mental illnesses have a genetic component and come with a disorder of brain metabolism. They are not conceited, no overreaction on a horrible experience, they are diseases. Just like diabetes, parkinson's, mucoviscidosis: There's something wrong with the patient, physically and not only mentally.

Wouldn't it be lovely if common belief were true! Just one session of psychoanalysis, and there's no more crazy people on earth. I've got to explain, though, before anyone gets angry with me for using that word, I as an affected person prefer the term 'crazy' or 'insane' over 'psychically ill', as it's called in Germany. There's nothing wrong with my soul, thank you very much. It's my brain that's in disorder. Still, in Germany it's considered politically incorrect to speak of a 'mental' illness… However, it's laudable that there's pages like Paraplush that try to take the stigma out off this type of illness and sensitise folks towards it. But they simplify it for themselves and hardify it for those affected. If we're so easy to be cured, with two or three sessions of conversational therapy and a little hypnosis, it's all our own fault if we still dare to be sick, isn't it?

Of course, Paraplush want to entertain, be fun, and in the end sell the patients as very real live cuddly toys, lifelike and made with love. The page belongs to a whisky retailer - a little cynical, regarding the fact that many mentally ill people take to drinking to ease their problems. Just add some bromide, pseudo-scientific forum entries, and all folks think that they are looking at a cutely trivialised image of the real black-and-white world of mental illnesses… No, they aren't. All they are seeing are the everyday prejudices you have to confront as a crazy person. And in the end, this is more harmful than letting it be at all.
elomaran: (Geigenzauber)
I'm more than glad to announce that I have finished writing a novel which I call Spellstrung in English. The original title is Geigenzauber, translating as Violin Spell, but I've got to admit that I prefer the English title. If one day I not only find a publisher for it but also sell a license to an English speaking country, I'll suggest they call it Spellstrung. But of course I've got to find that publisher first. The book was my nanowrimo novel this year, and between the first ideas on October 14th and finishing line on December 26th lie only about ten months, which is a new speed record for me, especially regarding the fact that it's got 355 pages or 92.359 words.

Today, I designed a cover for the book, not because I plan on self-publishing, but because as a nanowrimo-winner I received a voucher for one free copy with create space and I want that one to look as good as possible. I'm rather proud of the result, if not as proud as of the book, which was somewhat more work and feels better, more professional. After all, I'm a writer, not a graphic designer. But the cover combines the things most important for the story: A violin, of course, as it's one of the main characters in the book (or rather the one who plays it, Branwell the street musician faerie), and a surface of water, which is what Mia, our young heroine, spends lots of time staring at, since she's able to perceive the worlds that lie beneath…

I spell-checked the text and sent it to my agents. Of course there's editing to be done, but they can prepare a pitch based on the first draft, and if in some weeks or months time there's really a publishing house interested in my wonder violin, they can receive a revised edition. But I want 2011 to be my year, and I'm prepared to work hard for that. Even if it means finding less time for blogging…
elomaran: (Bipolar)
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elomaran: (Default)
I'm not a facebook person, definitely not. I've got an account, but it's mostly dead, and I have not and will not upload any photographs, be they old or new - I just do not know what that site is going to do with them, or with the rest of my data, and I don't want anyone to comment on my looks. Still, I've got that account, so I can't say I didn't feed the kraken…

Today, I used facebook for the first time in months. Luckily, my friends who are active there know I am not and have recently ceased sending me Farmville invitations or request to friend friends of friends of them, and I've more than once regretted ever creating that account. Not today. Today I sent a short message to a woman whom I believe to me my old pen-friend Julia, with whom I lost contact around 1993/94 when we both graduated from highschool and our lives changed to much there was no more room for things like pen-friendship in them. But before that, I was one hell of a letter-writer!

There was a company in Finland that, for a small fee, connected kids all around the world as pen-friends. Yes, that was before there was Internet, still it was a kind of social network. My English language skills skyrocketed when I started writing up to three letters a week to countries like Denmark, Ireland, Malaysia, Sweden, Finland, Tansania - wait, I wrote those in French, and I sucked in it, so that friendship was short-lived - Australia, Canada and the USA. I spent vast amounts of my monthly allowance on airmail stamps, and though we had been connected by a Finnish computer (yes, there already were computers, at least), I felt that these friends and I had a lot in common, more than the so-called friends I had in school.

Still, of all these friends, Julia was the most dear to me, a poet and environmentalist like myself, and I would have loved to have visited her or have her as my guest, but it never worked out, and somehow, we stopped writing as we grew up, as it goes with friendships. I know she moved to Washington state to go to college or university, and that's it. Now two days ago I had a very weird dream that involved me travelling into a snowy country (so at least I know it was on the northern hemiphere) to meet with Julia who had either been murdered or needed me to catch a killer - the dream, as I mentioned, was strange and involved lots of even stranger strangeness I can't really recall, it's lurking in some corner of my mind and makes silly faces at me, but it won't come out.

However, it ended up with me today looking up Julia's name in Facebook and, after finding one actually in Washington, sent her a request. She had pictures in her profile, and regarding to those she could just have been the cheeky girl who sent me a picture in 1989. I hope she's well, and I hope it's her, and I hope she won't mind me sending this PM to her. And I hope, damn I hope, she'll write back.
elomaran: (Death)
To help me with writing every day, without cheating - because if I fill out an excel-sheet, I can write down my words for any day I like to pretend I'm all in the green when it's actually already five days later and I'm bright red - I joined 750words.com.  That's beneath my daily goal, but I can still write more than 750 words if I like. Actually, it works very well. There are badges you earn for finishing days in a row - right now, I'm a penguin with five successful days, though I didn't wrote a word yesterday, but that's because I'm usually doing night shifts, and whilst I count a day until I dim the lights and go to sleep with a new day beginning in the morning, 750word.com begins a new day at midnight, so 750 words before midnight and 750 after do the trick, too.

But the website does not only count my words - they also interpret and evaluate them. So I can get stats that tell me not only which words I used the most, but also how I feel. Interesting. What does my writing tell about me? Well, it says I'm the most negative person one can ever imagine. Really. Here's what it says about me:

Feeling mostly… Upset. Concerned mostly about… Death

Yeah, that's what it says. True, I'm still concerned about my mental health. But actually what I've been writing these days is my lovely faerie story Spellstrung, with magic and butterflies and hot chocolate. Absolutely no one dies… Wait. Did I just say 'die'? And that's how I knew why 750words.com thinks me a negative aggressor: They can count my words. But they don't speak my language. Though I blog in English (at least in this blog - I've got four more in my mother tongue), I write my stories in my native German. And in German, there are two very, very common words that look exactly like two English words, but are not only pronounced differently but also mean something entirely different.

The first is 'die', It's got nothing to do with death, it's the female form of the article 'the' (in German, there's male, female and neutral words). As you can imagine, I use this word pretty often. That's where Death comes from. By the way, it's pronounced like 'dee', not like the English 'die'. The second word, the one which makes me seem upset, is 'war'. Again, that's got nothing to do with warfare. It's the 3rd person past tense of 'to be', equalling the English 'was', Again, a word used pretty often. Since the other words I use have no false friend in English or are not that common, these two words dominate my statistics. Every day. I have to live with being presented as a negative person. Rather than really being it, that's okay.

elomaran: (Default)

I've just watched the first episodes of Castle, a TV series about a writer who aids the police in solving crimes. I've always loved crime stories, both in books and on TV, and I'm a writer - so this looked like it were just the right combination for me. But I ended up rather disappointed. The characters are cardboard cutouts, and this not only applies to supporting characters but also to the main, everyone is granted exactly one character trait which is then blown up and repeated ad infinitum.

The writer is a narcissistic womanizer, the policewoman is your average tough-but-cute kind, the daughter is the lawful good model student, and the mother is the cheapest »All right, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up«-ripoff you can imagine, completely ignoring the fact that this type of actress died out when morphine war replaced by heroin and the only true TV nymphomaniac was
Golden Girl's Blanche. There's no character development (would have needed character to begin with!), and the murders are bizarre and implausible.

But that's okay. I watch a lot of bad TV. What really annoys me is the portrayal of the writer. It's not only he's wooden and stereotypical, but he's like Johnny Average would imagine a writer to be, not how writers really are. Now I understand that the same applies for the portrayal of policemen and doctors in TV series, but those are not written by doctors and policemen - but this series about a writer is written by, well, writers, so shouldn’t they now better? Are screen writers so different from novelists? Or do they just give the audience what they think the audience would like?

After all, I'd have liked it better if the series not centered on that super-successful bestseller writer but round a struggling novelist who is not friend with the mayor and the judge but has to make ends meet, work in some day job to earn his bread, and not go like »Oh, I'm suffering from writers block!« but worry about plot and character development, just like this series’s writers didn't.

elomaran: (Bipolar)
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January 2014

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