Yves Brown McClain: Literary Fierceness

Posts Tagged ‘Wild Oats’

RIP, Wild Oats?

Posted by Dahlia on November 19, 2011

CEMETERY © D2xed | Dreamstime.com

So, I know I’ve been MIA for a while. (I see your eyes rolling and I hear you sarcastically mutter, “A while? You’ve been off the grid for about three months!”) Allow me to take a few moments to explain.

I’ve been having moments of personal reflection lately. And during this period, I wasn’t able to blog like I should. I felt that my direction was wrong, so I stopped rather than continue down the wrong path. In regards to my writing aspirations, I knew the talent was there, I tried to stay on top of industry knowledge, I set up my blog and social media accounts to build this platform. I even have a novel and novella under my belt. But it felt all my effort was for naught because every step forward I took, I got knocked back several. My novel’s release had been pushed back an embarrassing number of times. So, I took my issues to God and waited for an answer.

After some time, this is what was revealed to me about the novel:

“Be original. This story’s been told already.”

And I’m like, “Okay, but I’ve been working on this story for years! I’ve invested time and money on this novel. I have a cover for crying out loud. Do I just toss out all those years of work and go back to the drawing board?”

Again, “Be original.”

So, I thought about it further and I had to admit that my novel was feeling like a combo of a few of favorite TV shows: “Sex and the city”, “Girlfriends”, and “Single Ladies”.  I had identified chick-lit as the genre and my writing steered in that direction. So, if chick-lit isn’t my thing and all the themes that lie therein, then what should I be writing?

“Who said you had to be in a box? Be original.”

So what does it mean for the story “I” had deemed to be my breakout? I really don’t know. It hasn’t been revealed yet. But I recognize that “I” was trying to force it through.

As I continued to meditate, I realized that my proudest and most humbling moments are when something I’ve written has encouraged, motivated, empowered, or inspired someone. Perhaps with my novel, I have focused too much on the (mis)adventures of my MC, the jokes, the shoes, the drinking, and yes, the sex, instead of what the core of what the story was about. What initially motivated me to even write the story to begin with.  Healing a broken heart. Or, how do you mend a broken heart? (I know, that’s Al Green)

So, I find myself at an impasse. I can put this story in a vault, never to be seen or heard from again. Or just set it aside for awhile as I have a few other ideas that could not only entertain, but also do those aforementioned things and return to the story once it has been revealed how it shall be told. Or do I wait?

Decisions, decisions…but I think that just may have been my problem all this time. I felt the need to hurry and make a choice. So this time I won’t force it. I will be patient.

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Posted in Books, Encouragement & Motivation, Purpose, Wild Oats, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Relax, Relate, Release…

Posted by Dahlia on July 27, 2011

I completed my novella’s draft about a few weeks ago (I’ve got an excerpt available here). I was a little tapped out creatively to jump right in and start revisions on it, so I decided to return to my other WIP that I’d placed on hold to write the novella.

However, I wasn’t able to flip out of one story into the other for a few days. My novella had taken on a more dramatic tone, whereas my novel is a bit more lighthearted. Two things helped me transition: One was an enlightening conversation about fear and vulnerability with a fellow writer friend. (I won’t name names 🙂 ). This conversation helped me see that I must see my novel through to the end, despite the internal and external obstacles. Second, I read the work of one of my favorite authors, Lolita Files. And I laughed. A lot. I won’t get into too many details, but I’ll never see a thunderstorm the same way again.

Then I went back to my WIP. I began to have an experience similar to Beyonce’s after she wrapped up Dreamgirls and started work on her second album, B-Day. She said in an interview that she’d been confined to her Dena character for so long that when she got into the studio, she was able to release and all this creativity just came out. I
had taken about a month to craft this novella that’s a bit out of the box for me because of the drama involved in it. I tend to like my writing lighthearted and fun. But, I needed to do something different because I was getting stagnant with the WIP. (When you’ve been working on it as long as I have, it can get that way sometimes). So, I took the challenge of being a drama writer and immersed myself in it completely. So, it was safe to say that when I finally got back to my WIP, I needed to release. And I did. Suddenly, I had all these ideas and ways to fill in the blanks of the chapters I needed to add and make adjustments to existing chapters. And for me, I found them to be not only lighthearted and fun, but funny. (I’ll find out soon if others agree with me on the funny stuff) I’d been through too much pretend drama in the past month. I
needed a good laugh.

So, you may not need to go as far as I did and write a completely different story to get a break from your current project. It just so happened that I had the idea and decided to run with it. Fortunately, it helped me return to my WIP with a fresh set of eyes and a bunch of ideas while at the same time, I was able to stretch out of my chick-lit comfort zone and dabble in drama for a bit. So, what do you do to release when you find that your WIP is getting a little stagnant?

Posted in Encouragement & Motivation, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s in a Name?

Posted by Dahlia on March 28, 2011

I’m baaaack! Did ya miss me?

I took a week off from the blog and twitter, but life still carried on as normal, including having my rewritten chapter one workshopped in my creative writing course. Quick refresher: I scrapped my prologue and did a complete rewrite of it as chapter one. I only retained about five percent of the prologue. I took the feedback from the CMIYC blogfest under consideration as I rewrote it. I then turned in the completed chapter for critique in class. It was a bit nerve-wracking because outside of the first 500 words, it hadn’t been read by anyone else and I was submitting it to people who didn’t know me. Therefore, there was no holding back the truth.

I’m happy to state it went very well in class. One classmate wouldn’t stop talking about it. My instructor said it “worked for her”. She gave me wonderful feedback, said the voice was great and that she could really see this MC until the last few lines when I finally reveal the MC’s name (which was intentional). It was when the name was revealed she was given a shock because up until that point, she was convinced my MC was female. I gave my MC (who is female) a name that is generally a man’s name. She had to go back and reread parts of it to make sure the MC was indeed a woman. She stated that the core of the story can be applied to either gender so I had either written some awesome chick lit or have ventured off into LGBT fiction. Guess I have not only a great female voice, but a pretty fabulous homosexual man’s voice in my writing. All of this came out of the MC’s name. Let me tell you, the name choice was the last thing I expected to get such a strong reaction out of.

Side note: When our work is being critiqued, the writer is anonymous until the end. So, I’m trying to keep my poker face on, but I’m screaming in my head “Not a dude, not a dude, girl parts, girl parts!”

I have been working on my WIP for a long time, so of course I was attached to the name. But to witness such a strong reaction is an indicator that perhaps her name wasn’t a wise choice (It’s like American Idol, choosing the wrong song, despite how well you sing, can get you voted off) If the reaction hadn’t been so strong, I probably would’ve never considered it. But when a few of my classmates agreed with her, I saw that I needed to at least consider changing it. Character names can be as significant to the story as the plot and while I knew I could incorporate into the remainder of the story the reason behind her name (and also set up some good dialogue about having a man’s name), I didn’t want there to be doubt from chapter one as to her gender.

I presented my dilemma to a few friends. One was a writer friend and two were good non-writer friends of mine – one is an avid reader, the second represents my ideal audience. There was the suggestion that I add a middle name that was more feminine (which I already had), but all could see the potential problem with her current name. For me, names are very important and just as in life, that name can have a story or reason behind it.

So, if I were going to change her name, the following factors needed to be considered:

  • It had to match her character — a young, educated, professional woman
  • It needed to be a surname – the backstory being she was given her mothers maiden name as a first name and I didn’t want to change that.
  • Since the MC’s first name is her mother’s maiden name, that name had to flow/sound good with the mother’s first name.
  • It did need to keep an element of androgyny (for a reason to be revealed later in the story)

At the end of the day, it is my story and the decision about what I do with criticism/feedback is mine as the writer. Not all feedback is good feedback. I can take it or leave it. However, in this situation, it was a pretty critical element to the character herself and I had to let go of my attachment to the original name. Was I willing to cause confusion and potentially lose reader interest because of a first name? I decided I wasn’t and therefore I changed it. The name came to me as I was waking up the next morning and I immediately texted all three friends my selection. They all loved it and my MC’s name was officially changed. Confirmation comes in threes.

Want to meet my MC? Here she is: Kendall Nelson: The daughter of Deborah Kendall and John Nelson. She’s young, attractive, educated, independent, single, and has an appreciation of all things fine — food, alcohol, shoes, and men, but not necessarily in that order.

Posted in Wild Oats, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

All your critics can’t be wrong…

Posted by Dahlia on March 9, 2011

Thanks to everyone who reviewed my WIP as part of the Catch Me if You Can Blogfest this past Monday and Tuesday. I received a ton of valuable feedback that I plan on incorporating into my rewrite. I’d like to point out some things about the WIP that were great and some that were not so great.

First, some back story. Solitude was originally a prologue. A long, drawn out prologue about the ex in question, their relationship, and how my MC got to where she is at the onset of the story. When I first completed it, a few people recommended that I get rid of it – it wasn’t necessary. It was also one of the 7 deadly sins of prologues (which is a really great piece, I highly recommend it to anyone with a prologue or thinking about using one). According to Kristen Lamb, the writer of the above-mentioned post, mine committed sins 1,3, and 4. So, I scrapped it and revised it as chapter 1. My back story on the history of Solitude is the perfect segue to…

What didn’t work in my WIP

Too much back story – I jumped too quickly into the history. In my defense, Solitude began as a prologue with nothing but back story. All things considered, a lot of cuts were made. But I understand that I do need to work on seamlessly weaving the backstory throughout.

Too much tell, not enough show – I am aware that this is a weakness of mine and something that I will constantly need to work on.

Dude, stick with one tense already – This is the one where I really didn’t realize I did it. I promise not only did I take English in elementary, middle, high school, and college. I passed. I promise. I’ve got transcripts to prove it. However, I realize that I could use a refresher on grammar, so I’ll be taking on some self study with the Little, Brown Handbook.

What did work with my WIP

Voice  – generally, everyone enjoyed this part of the WIP. Yaay…I like having a good voice. 🙂

Ameenah – the roommate/BFF of the MC was a hit with most reviewers. Who wouldn’t like a chick that rolls her eyes and tells you to stop all that “crying shit”? I wanted her to come off a bit brazen. I’m glad everyone picked up on it.

Dialogue – Dialogue is my strength when I write. I often have my dialogue first then I build everything else.

So now what? It’s back to revisions on my WIP. I do plan on reposting the first 550 words or so again, so I invite the reviewers back to see if there’s any improvement. Once again, thanks so much for your feedback.

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Take it down a notch…

Posted by Dahlia on March 6, 2011

When I first started this blog, I wasn’t really sure of what to do with it. I wanted to promote my book, but I didn’t want it to be a continuous marketing vehicle of the book. You can only push the product so far before folks get annoyed. So, I decided to document my process to getting published as well as promote the book. Then, I happened upon the Crusade. It sounded like a great opportunity to network with people just like me. I have to say that participating in this initiative has been a very positive experience. I have had many days with 100+ views, my twitter follows have nearly tripled, and my Fan page is showing an increase. Who knew all these people wanted to hear me ramble on about beta readers, dashboards, and getting over WIP-sharing fears? Certainly not me. I also didn’t know I had this much to discuss until I made a commitment to it. The thing about blogging is that content is king, so I would brainstorm over topics or just put together a post about something I’ve experienced. In the midst of beefing up my blog, I started to neglect the very thing that I created the blog for: my book.

I’ve shared that Wild Oats has been a years-long process. That’s mainly due to the fact that I would work at it, then stop for a while, life would present something to me (i.e. getting married, moving to a new state, job-searching, a baby) and I wouldn’t be able to put as much work on the book as I wanted, then I would start back at it again and then the cycle would repeat itself. Last year (shortly after my 30th birthday), I committed to finishing my novel and I started finding ways to get some writing done – early in the morning, late at night, on breaks, during lunch, when my son takes his nap, etc. There’s something about when you turn 30 that sparks a fire under your butt. Makes you realize that now is the time to start walking in your purpose and your gift. At least that’s what turning 30 did for me. I did not want my story to be a perpetual WIP that’s often talked about, but never finished.

So, in order to finally move this story of mine out of WIP to published novel, I’ll have to scale back on my blog posts. I have to in order to finish this novel, start on the next one, and maintain some semblance of balance in my life. However, I want to maintain a schedule so that there’s order. Therefore, this post will be the last of my daily posts and starting Monday, March 7, I will post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. As I get guest bloggers, I will try to schedule them in on days I don’t post. So, expect at least three new updates a week.

Thank you to all my new followers for staying on this journey with me. Your support is awesome. And for anyone that I’ve helped (or perhaps entertained) with my posts, I hope I can continue to do so.

Peace & Blessings, YBM

Posted in Announcements | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Crusade Follow Up & New Blogfest

Posted by Dahlia on February 23, 2011

Thank you to everyone who looked at my Challenge Entry to the Platform-Building Crusade. It was a ton of fun trying to come up with all that stuff, plus the random words – which were bloviate, fuliguline, blade, & rabbit – in 300 words or less. There were some really cool entries from the other Crusaders, so I’m sure Rachael and the judging crew have their work cut out for them.

I had several interesting guesses to my lie, but no one guessed it. However, some of the suggestions could be considered a half-truth or almost-truth…ok a lie. So, I have unintentionally managed to squeeze in more than what was required. But hey, I write fiction, it’s what we do — make s**t up. 🙂

1. I am not running a contest…at least not yet. Sorry, Vicki, I know you really wanted that Kindle! However, it is something I’m considering giving away as part of my promotion plan for my book. So, this statement is not currently true.

2. I do have a Facebook Fan page. (insert shameless plug now) It’s www.facebook.com/wildoatsnovel

3. I ♥ iced coffee! It’s one of my favorite things. Specifically, I like iced coffee with mocha swirl, extra cream, and extra sugar from Dunkin’ Donuts. Basically, I like coffee but just don’t want it to taste like coffee.

4. I actually have been working on my book for nearly eight years. I hope to be done and published before it’s over eight years, though. That was the secret that was asked of us. I’ve had several stops, starts, moves, career changes, family expansions, and revisions to the story which led to it taking as long as it has. I am however, determined to finish and publish this year.

5. Might as well reveal the annoying habit, if you haven’t already guessed: I’m addicted to my BlackBerry. I’m on it all day, every day…drives my husband nuts.

6. One of my best character traits is that I’m pretty level-headed and can remain calm in high-stress situations.

7. My quirk is that I know and like a lot of random, useless facts, such as in Michigan, it is illegal to chain your alligator to a fire hydrant. For starters, who would own an alligator in Michigan, and second, who would tie it up to a fire hydrant? But I digress…

8. Ok, here’s the lie. I stated in the scene that I or “we” live in Detroit. I am a Detroit native, born and raised, however I do not currently live there. I live in Tampa. 😀

Now that you all know me a little better, I will bloviate a little while longer and reveal the latest challenge I signed up for. It’s the Catch Me If You Can Blogfest, hosted by Kristina Fugate at KayKay’s Corner. Here’s how this one works: if you have a WIP, post the first 550 words on your blog. Everyone participating then will review all the WIPs for a critique. What a good opportunity to get some feedback on that story you’ve been working on…hopefully not for eight years. 😉

Posted in Blogfests, Platform-Building Crusade | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »