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Day Twenty

I added this picture because it looks like I'm laughing. Writing is fun. I hope you have as much fun writing as I do. I’m not sure if other writers are like me, but I suspect they are, especially if they’re pantsers. I can’t count how many times I mentioned listening to the voices when I write a story. I think I’ve told you more than once that the voices are always telling me things. While I’m writing, I can also see the scene unfolding. There’s so much happening in my brain that anytime someone in my family tries to interrupt me, I hear them but can’t make out the words and by the time I look up, they’re long gone because they didn’t get a reply from me.

Depending on the kind of novel I’m writing, the process gets a little more harrying. Since I’m writing a historical this go around, I’m making sure to include milieu and historical mentions that will take my readers for this book back in time. One of the things I wish the voices would do is give more details. For example, the voices don't tell me Edouard's age. One page Edouard is twelve, on another page he's about fifteen or sixteen. Edouard's age is something I have to figure out and include on my own. The voices also don't tell me a character's name. Because I have to figure some things out, although I can see scenes unfolding, I might contradict myself in the rough draft from one page to another when it comes to minor details. I usually wait until I'm certain about these details, then fix them. It's not knowing all of the details that sometimes gets me in trouble.

So this is what happened today. I like playing music softly in the background, music that falls in line with the genre I’m writing. For some reason, the soundtrack for the movie “Cold Mountain” is helping me hit all the right keys, so I have it on repeat. I sit down and my friends (the voices) start talking. Their telling me that this person is over there. This other person is angry because… That’s happening over there because... This poor character just need a little love and for someone to understand her because this happened in her past. And while they’re talking, I’m justa typing away, clickety, click, click. Then I got up because my coffee has run out. I come back a few minutes later (only a few minutes mind you). I sit down and just that quickly I have all of these new ideas for my story.

For some reason, whenever I walk away from my laptop all kinds of ideas come to me. If not new ideas, my brain is actually telling me my next sentence, and the next sentence after that and I'm trying to remember it just like I heard it in my brain, which in turn makes me hurry with what I'm doing so I can sit behind the laptop again. Sometimes the reason my brain is going into overload is simply because I love writing and creating a new storyline. Another reason is because I’m anxious to make the book spectacular.

When I start getting new ideas, sometimes I stop and throw down the red flag like a referee in a football game, because I know I'm just as dramatic as some of my characters are. I'm a highly suspicious person by nature. Once when my daughter (she was about 23 at the time) went out with a new guy I had never met, when she didn't come back when I thought she should, I had all the family on high alert that this guy could have been a kidnapper and had tricked my daughter to go out with him to involve her in some sinister plot. Thankfully for me, my daughter is just as dramatic as I am, so when I sent her a text that read, "Are you alive? Do I need to contact the FBI?" She sent me a text right back that put me at ease and made me splutter with laughter. "Yep, still alive. Don't send the police. I'm having fun. This guy is as crazy as I am. If the police showed up now, they might take us both in on a 51/50."

Just so you fully understand the kind of person I am, I often tell people I suffer from OCD. I don't so much obsess over physical routine habits and more over my many thoughts. I bet you find that surprising, especially since my books sell at times even when I'm not promoting them. So if I can write a book, and can achieve success from it, so can you! You have no excuse.

Y'all, at the start of this book, I, Shelley Young, duly swear that I knew who my antagonists and protagonists were. But y'all, my OCD sometimes gets in the way! I have found out through this blog project that I'm not only suspicious of people, I'm suspicious of characters in my book! This isn't something new. It's just something I've become aware of now that I pay attention to each day I write. And I'm not only suspicious of newly mentioned characters. Child, I'm suspicious of some of the ones that are mentioned in the first book in this series.

Now mind you, I'm a very animated person when I speak. My voice gets higher; my hands are flailing the air making gestures; I'm either laughing or the expression on my face is saying, 'Uh-uh. I do not approve.' Usually when I'm with a group of friends, I'm talking and everyone is laughing hysterically. And I sometimes say something that makes my eyes grow big, because it's only after I say it that I realize I probably shouldn't have said that. But my friends are never offended. We are all very comfortable with each other and know we can be ourselves. And just to give you a bigger picture, I have friends of all races. I think I might have Asian, Hispanic, white friends as much as I do black ones. They're a good group of people and I love them very much.

But mind you, I have friends no one can see, and these friends are the characters telling me the story I'm writing. Have you ever been in a room by yourself and found yourself doing something that if someone had seen you do it, you would get highly embarrassed? Y'all, I swear I am sane, but I found myself getting all worked up with my invisible friends that I had to stop and look over my shoulder to make sure no one saw me. I was writing a chapter, and in it, Jenna, a visitor to the plantation, and one of the plantation slaves were doing something that made me highly suspicious. I literally spoke out loud and said, 'Uh-uh! What is y'all up to?!?' Then I worked my face into a smirk and screwed up my brows, stared at my laptop and spoke to it like Jenna could hear what I'm saying. I said, "Mhmmm...y'all is evil and up to more mischief!" I get a few more paragraphs done when Sarah does something that makes me stop typing and pull back from my laptop with bugged out eyes. Then I stared at my laptop and spoke to Sarah. I said, 'Bitch, you keeping secrets from me?'

I know using the b word is harsh, but understand where I'm coming from. I mean...I thought I knew this woman. I thought I knew everything about her, after all, although I listen to the voices, all of the characters in my books are derived from my imagination. If that's true, why is Sarah doing things that has me shocked? When I realized I spoke to my computer twice, I got embarrassed thinking about someone walking into my office and finding me giving attitude while talking to my laptop.

I mean, after what I wrote, I couldn't even start writing again, because it made me go into detective mode to figure out what Sarah is up to. I don't know about other writers, but I've learned sometimes you have to go into detective mode while you're writing a story. Y'all, I was totally baffled, because this woman has been keeping secrets from me. But then I had to sit back and think about what she did. 'Okay,' I tell myself. Sarah did steal her sister's husband and she did have seven children by this man, so she ain't no saint. But remember in book one, she was kind of nice about it? She tried to work things out with her sister, but Jenna wasn't having any parts of that. So now I'm thinking maybe she's gotten over the guilt and feels entitled to her sister's husband. What nerve, right? And don't forget that she and Jenna are cut from the same cloth. So I guess it's only right that she can be just as vindictive as her sister can be.

Two sisters, one man, and all three living on the same land?

Y'all, I got stirred up. I started typing again, telling myself this is going to be good. I don't like drama in real life, but I love drama in fiction. The next thing I know, my mind is popping with all kinds of new ideas. My dark side came out. I got so busy writing all of the things I saw happening that before I knew it, some of my characters were 'acting crazy,' including Pierre. Before I knew it, I had even killed off a character that has no business dying in this book. Although these scenes were well written, after I got up to fix myself another cup of coffee, when I sat back down and read over several paragraphs, I can see my plot getting distorted and I had to tell myself to chill.

Now don’t take what you just read and think back to my previous post and tell yourself, “See! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. A book doesn’t need that much tension and conflict.”

Yes, a good book needs plenty of both. I know you might be asking, 'Then why are you mentioning any of this?' I'm going to tell you.

A good idea, one you didn't see coming, may come along after you get so far into your story. These new ideas can be good and vital to your plot. What you have to be careful about is not getting carried away with a new idea that it takes your story into a totally different direction of your original plot. I saw myself getting slightly carried away. You may not have this problem. This post is for writers that do. You know you've gotten carried away when instead of having one plot idea, you have several, and before you know it, your story seems like it's all over the place, because you're trying to make your new idea work with the original one. To fix this problem, this is what I do. I add a subplot to the original plot, but only if the subplot works

A subplot doesn't take precedence in the story. It should be minor, meaning it shouldn't be the reader's true focus in the storyline. By writing my new idea as a subplot, I can stay with it, then weave its storyline to the original plot, so when the path of my plot and subplot collide and come together closer toward the end of the book, readers will have an aha! moment of satisfaction. But to achieve that moment, my subplot can't be given all at once and more like mysterious hints. Take the game of 'Clue" for instance. In the game, we know someone inside the house is responsible, and that they used an item inside the house to commit the murder, and that the murder was committed in one of the home's rooms. Each player has to figure out, who, what and where. Their suspicions are roused because of the cards they're holding, but it's not until enough questions have been asked before they discover that Colonel Mustard did it in the library with the candlestick. I know that's a stretch, but you get what I mean, don't you? When the subplot and plot collide, it's the same as finding out who, what and where. Until readers reach this point, they are suspicious and questioning a character's motives, and when the collision occurs, they either tell themselves that they knew this character was up to no good or they might say they didn't see that coming. But keep this in mind. Readers like feeling like detectives. From page one, they're trying to figure out the plot. It doesn't matter if the story isn't a mystery. Readers are intelligent. They've read enough books and know how to pick up on clues. If an author can drop clues in their story without giving the secret away too soon, it makes readers become interactive with the storyline. And that's always a good thing. They love to be proven right and they love to be proven wrong, but some of the best written books made readers for like an experienced sleuth!

I love these moments in fiction. I'm experienced and know when I have a new idea or when I'm adding a subplot (new idea and subplot can be two different things), I have to be careful how I construct the story, so that the plot stays as the reader's focus.

I’m mentioning all of this because you might find yourself experiencing the same thing. It may seem like your scenes are not connecting and your plot is becoming twisted. Reread over what you have and untwist it. If you can add a subplot, do it, but never get to a point that you want to give up on writing. My advice is don't stop writing.

Whenever someone sits down to write a story, new ideas starts flooding their minds. It’s not until I’m plugging away at a new idea, and after I’ve written several pages that I realize my new idea might not work. There's another firm rule I write by. Never alter my original plot, because it’s that plot that motivated me to write the story. It's normal for beginner writers to think what they've written is all over the place. Here's a good way to fix this when it happens. Walk away from your computer for a few minutes, then sit back down and think about the dilemma your book opened with. Stay with that dilemma. Flesh it out. If your new ideas take you off course of your dilemma, don't include it. This includes new characters. Maybe some of the characters you want to include in your story doesn't particularly belong in this one. Unless you can weave a new idea in without it reading like its been forced into your story, don't add it and stick with the original idea you had. Because let's face it. We're writers. We have brilliant ideas and we want to show those ideas through our writing to readers. We just have to be careful that we're giving a story that has a beginning, middle and end, and a good plot. Sounds simple enough, right?

Truthfully speaking, many authors often write themselves into a corner that’s hard to get out of. It's good to catch ourselves before we make this kind of mistake, because there's no sense in writing sixty pages of a story that you feel you have no way of finishing. When the voices start contradicting themselves, I stop and start questioning what's happening, like I did today. I had to ask myself what I wrote about Sarah, did it belong in the book or was I getting carried away? Thankfully, it belonged in the book, but some of the things my minor characters were doing, I can take that out and my plot doesn't suffer.

The reason I tell myself to chill sometimes is because my brain is often running a hundred miles an hour. I then focus on the dilemma I've already mentioned, and start writing again with the plot moving in a straight line rather than a twisting curve.

Until next time, keep writing! Trust me, when you finish that manuscript, you’ll find it was all worth the effort. *sorry for any typos. I didn't have time to reread over this post.*

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