Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dam Dragon

I have been editing, revising, slashing, adding, rewording and reworking my WIP for several months now, and my deadline to have it 'finished' is October 25th. As I get closer to that date, it seems the fine tuning, getting the details 'just right', is the most difficult part of the entire process for me.  I have lived in the 1931 desert for almost two years, at least on paper, and I am so familiar with it, that I have become lost in the intimacy. 

Time for a change of scenery.

I often talk about moving my 'writing desk' to different places.  In the past year, I've written at the lake, in the desert, on a boat, in a plane, at a boxing match, in a hospital cafeteria, etc.  But, I'm not talking about that kind of change of scenery.  I'm talking about getting out of my world and spending some time in another.

Recently, Ciara Ballintyne, a twitter friend, asked if anyone would critique a short story she had written. I knew that Ciara wrote in the fantasy genre, and although I do read a lot while I'm writing, I tend to stay within my time period, or read authors whose styles are similar to my own.  At the time Ciara offered her story up for review, I was tired of beating my head against a wall with my own WIP and agreed to read it.  I needed to step out of my routine.

It was a beautifully written fantasy piece with dragons and fire and sirens, not at all what you would find in my current WIP.  It took me, temporarily, to a different place: a different world.

Since I was critiquing and not just reading for pleasure, I had to dive into that world for a bit. I had to analyze it, critically.  I had to be the thief, the dragon, the demon half-breed and the priest in order to see what they saw.  I enjoyed the story and the diversion, but when I went back to my own WIP, I discovered something else. 

Going to a different world for a bit forced me to see my own work with new eyes.  Eyes that now hungered for the color, the fear and the magic of other worlds.  Granted, I can't have a dragon swoop down on the Hoover Dam and set everything afire, but there were other formidable dangers that were just as daunting to my characters.  I can't really insert a magic-slinging evil fairy, but my villain could sling a few things of his own.  I went back through the first half of my manuscript and added more color and more fear.  It took only a few words, a few sentences here and there to heighten the drama and add that little extra bit of magic.  

As a writer, you do have to immerse yourself in your work and at times become the character and see what they see.  But it's also important to step out of that world and view it as a whole.  Sure, I could assume the role of a bystander atop a mountain looking down into the Black Canyon.  But thanks to a temporary vacation to another world, instead, I flew through the canyon on the back of a scaly red dragon. 

What a view.

Visit Ciara Ballintyne's website at: http://ciaraballintyne.com/


Michael A Tate said...

Another thing you want to make sure you do is read outside your genre every once in a while. Reading mystery, literary, non-fiction, historical fiction, and even erotica will help you really broaden your base.

But yea, amazing what happens when you put on those critique glasses :)

Raine Thomas said...

Beautifully written! I absolutely love reading different genres. You're right that they offer you glimpses of other "worlds" that can help you infuse your own writing with more life. Looking forward to checking out your WIP in the near future!

Stephen Moran said...

I like this post a lot. It makes me want to read both your novel and her story. running to her blog now.
nicely done!!!

Erica Lucke Dean said...

I totally want to see a dragon swoop down over the Hoover Dam and light everything on fire! I mean...maybe in a dream sequence? Surely the Freudian implications would be interesting to explore. But alas...I fear there will be no dragons. Still, I get what you're saying about stepping back and seeing things with new eyes. I wouldn't mind having a dragon set my current WIP on fire so I can find something new amongst the ashes. I will be checking my WIP with new eyes tonight. Thanks for the reminder.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I am touched that the favour you did me has also helped you. I've recently been involved in a number of conversations about why we write, and the conclusion seems to be it's sure not for money. I've always said I write for the love of it, but being touched by your experiences has left me with a tantalising glimpse of what might be the real reason we write; to touch, influence and move people. To make a difference, or change something, to leave an impression. To know someone read our words, and they mattered. Even if I never make a cent out of my writing, I will always have the memory of the dragon over the Hoover Dam. Thank you.

Kellianne Sweeney said...

Excellent advice. I love being lost in my own imagination, but that is a good point that we need to go get lost in someone elses even when we are focusing on a deadline (either inner driven or outer driven.) It keeps our ideas fresh and introduces new flavors and spices. I was realizing myself that I haven't been reading in quite a while. You have kicked my butt to makes sure I work that into my day as well. Afterall, the reading is what it is really all about. Writing must be read. Love your post.

P.S.You are totally lined up to pop out in my stream in 13 hours!! yay Go Tribe!

Kellianne Sweeney said...

I have to add that I love Ciara's comment. Beautiful :)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog, Kelly! This article accomplished a few things for me. For one, it made me very interested in Ciara's work (not that I wouldn't already be), it made me think of how my own work could improve, and it lightened my mood. This, to me, is a perfect blog. Thanks so much for writing it!


Helen said...

A really good blog post. I am only an aspiring writer, but I do read all sorts of genres. In my flash fiction I write in different genres, from horror, to fantasy to noir and humour. I try my hand at different things. My finished novel however is fantasy and the new one is also fantasy, but it is taking a step into those other areas that helps me visualise another world.

Loved the post thanks for sharing.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I do read in different genres, but I do that for pleasure, and typically don't analyze the text. The critiquing in a different genre forced me to really look at the words. I haven't had the time lately to critique as much as I used to, and I had forgotten what a great experience it is for a writer.

Loree Huebner said...

It's amazing how just reading someone elses work can help us see more clearly in our own writing.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that Ciara’s work helped you hone your story. You have peaked my interest in both WIP’s with this beautifully written piece. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes all you really need is to simply step back, take a break and soak in a different scene for a while? It’s clearing your mind so that you can come back at it and see it all from a new. Thank you for sharing Kelly! And thank you Ciara for sharing your inspiring story with Kelly.


Damyanti said...

"As a writer, you do have to immerse yourself in your work and at times become the character and see what they see. But it's also important to step out of that world and view it as a whole."

I read that story too, and it took me to a different place. I love Ciara's writing.


Join me at the Rule of Three Writers' Blogfest!

-RWWGreene said...

Let me know when you are ready to do a guest lecture for my Creative Writing classes. The first one meets at 7:20 a.m. ...

I was drinking (surprise) with some Marvel Comic editors and writers in New York many years ago, and we got on the subject of who reads what. None of the guys read comics for fun, as it turned out. They read Shakespeare, and history, and chick lit, and SF, and nonfiction, and so on, so they'd have new things to bring to their jobs. Otherwise, it's like being a cook with access to only one ingredient.

Your book will be complete the day before I turn 40. Happy birthday to me!

Amberr Meadows said...

Fantastic post, and a lovely tribute to the talents of the lovely Ciara.

It is very important to step into other worlds, and through blogs and books that I enjoy, I "travel" everyday. On days that I don't, I feel like I've missed out. I'm also a strange person, though, but what writer isn't a bit "touched"?

Have a fantastic trip and congrats again to your awesome son. You must be incredibly proud. ox

Jeff Bennington said...

HI Kelly, I definitely immerse myself into the "role" but I pull out between revisions and read a book on writing or another genre fiction to clear my head and study. That works for me. Reading fantasy would be a stretch for me, but perhaps I should branch out into other genres. Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I loooooooved this blog! Absolutely! It's so true, too. When I find myself having writer's block with one of my narrative plays, I'll write an experimental one instead- they're completely different in every way possible and a lot of fun to put together. When I turn back to my narrative play, it somehow becomes more fluid and I'm better able to dive in and accomplish what was previously frustrating me. This post was beautifully written. I love your blogs so much!