Not abandoned!

I haven’t abandoned this blog, despite the gaps between posts. Since a few days after the previous post announcing a new novel, a series of extremely difficult life events (including the death of one of my beloved cats) have made it impossible to concentrate on writing anything at all. Normally, writing is my best way of coping with stress, but too much at once can overwhelm that particular mechanism.

Fortunately, it’s normally self-repairing, for me. There’s a delicate balance between giving myself some time to recover and letting it go on too long. Thus, I’m trying sporadically, without pushing too hard. This one involves hitting subjects that currently make me deeply sad; that one involves frustrating flaws that need to be hammered out before I can get any further… they get put aside until a better time.

Why do I bother with anything but playing, when the audience for my writing is as small as it is? (Combining downloads via this site and my non-WP-hosted one, there’ve been a total of about 40 downloads of Yin-Yang and less than 10 each of the new Jordans one, Moonblood stories, Lamia, and BlackWolf – with only a small percentage of those ever leading to any feedback.) Because, despite all logic, I do. 🙂  But then, I did a recent post on that whole subject, so there’s no point repeating it. I would like to have more readers, obviously, but not at the current prices.

For the moment, I’ll let my mind rest a little the way I’d let my body rest after repeated injuries, and be back to writing something in no time.

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About Steph Shangraw

More often known as prysma-kitty, prysmcat, or variations thereof, than by my "real" name of Steph Shangraw. I'm a crazy cat lady, indie fantasy writer, and admin of Cheezland.org, in no particular order. When not writing, I'm generally maintaining a lolanimals website for my friends, serving my three feline overlords Trick-or-Treat and Cory-Bear and Freya, making cat toys for friends all over the world or for Spay Neuter Kingston Initiative (TNVR and then some) as fundraising, and occasionally eating and sleeping. Anything writing-related, including my blog about the process and my serial fantasy Moonblood, can be found via my author site, apart from my old collection of shorts. Since I tend not to say something simply for the sake of saying something, that blog and my cats-and-life one are updated irregularly. A series of major household disruptions beginning in mid-2015 has caused some serious delays in everything, including novel releases and writing, but I'm hoping to resume all around as soon as possible.

Posted on 24 April 2014, in writing. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hi, Prysma. I’m afraid I’ve been so deep in my Work in Revision I haven’t been keeping up with the Cheezfrens pages and sites. So I didn’t hear about your kitteh. My condolences to you, and beemz tor you and all your household. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{Prysma}}}}}}}}}}}}

    Were you wanting feedback/critique on the Jordans novel? Or is it done-done? If I can get out of my own work for a second I can do that for you.

    And if I can get off the WritingForums page. They run contests (fame [limited] and glory [even more limited] only) over there, and I’ve been trying my hand at some flash fiction, especially since the chapters I’m working on in my novel aren’t cooperating much.

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    • There are only so many hours in the day. I’m woefully behind on what’s going on with anyone unless they actually say it on Cheezland – being admin means I see everything there. Otherwise, it’s a lost cause.

      Thanks for the condolences. It was rather sudden, and she was only 10. But most of that she spent loved and safe, unlike her first year or so, so at least she had that.

      The Jordans novel is part of my Resurrection Project, and while it’s fun and fascinating to see what I can do with ideas I had way back when I started writing, and while I was pleased and surprised by how well that one worked, I’m not inclined to put as much super-intense revision into it as I do into the more “serious” works. While I’d love to hear what someone else thinks of it beyond the two opinions I’ve had so far, it’s more a matter of general what-worked-what-doesn’t feedback for future reference than any plans to specifically give that one a further re-write. Does that make sense?

      I can understand the frustration of a novel not cooperating, believe me. My usual strategy is to switch and work on a different project, but then, not everyone is comfortable having so many ongoing projects that they need a list to keep track! And obviously even that doesn’t always work. If you can do flash fiction, I envy you. I can’t seem to get an idea usefully down to much under 100k words! 😆 Characters keep running away with the storyline on me… Anyway, I tend to avoid writing forums and such, for reasons mentioned elsewhere, but I can see it being useful if you can find a place you feel comfortable. Any kind of recognition, even brief and local, is rather addictive, isn’t it?

      If you think it might help, I’d be happy to read anything you have done and see if I can come up with questions that might prompt things into motion again (that often works for me, when I start bouncing stuff off Jackie), or just listen to you ramble about ideas. Sorry, I’ve forgotten which genre, but I can probably come up with something reasonably relevant in most. 🙂

      BTW, switching projects MAY have worked. I bounced an older idea I’d largely given up on off Jackie, and she agrees that it’s quite different from my usual work but thinks it has potential. Because it’s so different, I think I might be able to get into it, where the rest are just not clicking. We’ll see. 🙂

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  2. I’m finding flash fiction to be healthy for me, since I tend to be verbose. It’s teaching me to do more with less. My second go at it is here: http://writingforums.org/threads/flash-fiction-contest-4-not-again.131995/. Mine’s the one entitled “Encore.” ‘Taint perfect, but I’m happily surprised I could make it in under the word limit.

    The WIR is, like your Jordans novel, a piece I wrote many moons ago and decided to post on my writer’s blog just to see what happens (had no mind to publish it physically, so that’s ok). It’s a romance-thriller, but as written the romance plot was untenable. There was NO WAY that guy was going to fall in love with that girl.

    So in an attempt to make that all more feasible, I’m developing that side of it and hoping the thriller plot doesn’t get plowed under in the process. The problem chapters have to do with her reflecting on a traumatic experience in her past and worrying about how that might screw up her developing relationship with the hero. I posted them and the members on the WritingForum have been very helpful at showing me how my writing comes across to a reader, vs. how it affects me in my own head. The MC is a Christian who’s trying to figure out how to proceed re: work and love (not to mention, re: dealing with the villain), so it was very sporting of the WF critiquers to say, “OK, I don’t believe in that, but fine, that’s important to her,” and get on with whether I was showing her inner struggle effectively given her experiences, etc. (No, my MC does NOT say a quick prayer and Instantly Everything Is Wonderful. Sry.) I think I’m about ready to post the chapters as revised and get more feedback.

    I’m all over the place when it comes to genre. Two projects I have going are what you might call psychological horror, one with a little cryptozoology thrown in, and with no romance at all, except in memory. Got another idea I may or may not write that’s the story of a family conflict between a woman and her mother-in-law back in the early 20th century. Then there’s the one where the businesswoman steps in dog poo on the way to an important meeting, but I’m not sure where I want that one to go . . .

    I read fantasy, but when I do I read it for the characters and the story rather than for the world-building. And if there’s magic and wizards and so on there’d better be a damn good reason for them. (I don’t count the special everyday properties of the fantasy world inhabitants as magic.) So if I critique your novel I’ll be looking for people behaving in a logical fashion given the requirements and pressures and so on of their world.

    Good on ya that switching to another project has helped. I hope doing the short-shorts was worked that way for me.

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    • Everything I write is character-driven – the rest of the novel is generally there for the sake of giving the characters a place to express themselves. (Which mostly is why they tend to run a lil long.) It’s all fantasy, but it’s all about the people involved. Magic and non-humanity tend to be there primarily so I can break everyday rules and see what the effects are on the characters and their interactions or turn up the contrast to make something more visible. Black Wolf, Lamia, and Yin-Yang each cover something like a two year period, because they’re so emphatically about the development of the characters between the beginning and the end. Renegade (the Jordan one that’s finished – there will be more about the family) is largely much more compact, but early on there are several scenes that occurred roughly a decade ago that shaped the present. Renegade is set in another world; the other three are all urban fantasy, so the greater framework is modern society with, especially for BW and YY, a subculture within it. More complicated and simpler both, in different ways. The one I’m working on now is quite condensed – while some earlier events played a pivotal role in creating the present, it’s extremely focused and the MC is going to be figuring some things out fairly quickly, in a matter of days. I’m finding that a little disorienting in ways, and keep wondering if I’m including too much detail.

      Writing in any genre bores me if it’s all wrapped up in clever ideas but doesn’t make the characters live and breathe and give me a way to live inside their heads for a while. I frequently read things and wish that it had been edited a little less ruthlessly – the obsession with removing absolutely any trace that doesn’t directly contribute to the central plot, to me, tends to sacrifice some character development, or at least allowing us to see the character from more angles and in more depth. There’s a fine line there somewhere between too much rambling and excessively focused.

      Actually, creating characters that come to life and become 3D and take off running comes fairly naturally to me. It was learning how to channel and shape that into a coherent plot of some kind and how to edit out the drastically unnecessary bits that took most of the work.

      You can make characters do what you want? 😆 Jackie hears me ranting at moments because I just cannot convince Character A that it’s necessary for the overall storyline for them to do something that only they have the ability to do. I usually give up and look for a workaround or just change the storyline, rather than have a character do something that’s, well, out of character.

      I tend to be cautious about asking anyone specifically how something comes across to others while it’s still in formative stages. To me, it becomes far too easy to warp the story that wants to be told in order to try to meet someone else’s standards. They’re only looking at a part of it, not the whole picture.

      As for other ideas, I tend to figure, even if it doesn’t work out, it’s worth sitting down and exploring it. It’s the only way to know whether it WILL work, right? And even if it doesn’t, you can learn something from it… or at least have some fun. 🙂

      Fingers crossed that you can get those chapters sorted out! Let me know and I’ll take a peek when you post them, if you like.

      Okay, it’s late and I’m rambling and one of my cats is getting twitchy because I should be doing Bedtime Routine. LOL

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  3. My characters do what I want? Well, yes and no. Since they generally start out with strong basic motivations I can get them to the foreseen end without them running off the tracks.

    Now my WIR MC as previously written would not (or should not) have gotten there. But for the plot’s sake I had to have her doing basically the same things as in the original draft. So back I’ve gone to give her a history and experiences and so on that will justify her doing what she does, while endowing her with the potential to move forward. E,g., instead of having her be a nerdy girl who you’d think had never had a date in her life, I’ve transformed her into a young woman who’s had a series of unsatisfactory relationships. Gets her to the same point of being uncertain where it comes to the hero, but it also makes it more likely that she would attract his notice. Not because her previous relationships were bad– lol– but because she had relationships at all.

    The cool thing has been when I’ve been able to develop strands– throwaway lines, actually– that were latent in the original novella and make something stronger out of them.

    The only place so far where the characters have threatened to run away with the story was with this one past boyfriend I wrote for her whom I ended up really liking. You can read about him and my struggles with him here: http://thewritersits.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/the-helplessness-of-a-small-g-god/

    You say

    “I frequently read things and wish that it had been edited a little less ruthlessly – the obsession with removing absolutely any trace that doesn’t directly contribute to the central plot, to me, tends to sacrifice some character development, or at least allowing us to see the character from more angles and in more depth. There’s a fine line there somewhere between too much rambling and excessively focused.”

    I wonder if that’s in the same vein as the currently-popular “close third person” POV. Me, I’d never heard of it before last December or so, but it seems to be de rigueur on the WF site these days (if you’re not doing 1st P, that is). The result is that I’m having a difference of opinion with one critiquer who objects to my writing things like “She picked up the photo of her parents that sat on the bookcase opposite the sofa.” “She wouldn’t be thinking about the layout of her apartment,” the critter says. “Like hell she wouldn’t,” I’m trying to tell him or her in the nicest possible way. “My MC is an architect.” And even if she weren’t, if we look at objects in our environment, don’t we notice where they are? And isn’t it considerate of the writer to let the reader know where they are? Is it really necessary to put blinders on the POV character and not give any detail about their environment?

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    • That kind of “help” is part of the reason I avoid writing groups.

      Seriously, even third-person, there’s got to be a certain amount of info filled in for the sake of the reader so the reader can see what the character sees and know what they know. And while we may not consciously think some things, we are nonetheless aware of them.

      I was referring more to content, however. If every single scene and every single utterance is focused absolutely around a single core plot-line, then in most cases, I tend to find it harder to relate to the character – they feel 2D to me, like trying to talk to someone who will only ever talk about a single subject and will steer every conversation back towards it. I’m a minority, I believe (though I’ve had readers tell me this is something they like in mine), but I think there’s value in having a bit of material in there that exists purely to flesh out the character and show that they do have an existence and are capable of thought about something other than this single issue/situation/whatever. The current trend and advice is all about making it “tight” and slashing out anything that isn’t directly “relevant”. To me, that’s plot-obsessed at the expense of the characters. A very few writers can pull it off, but most of the time, I end up wanting just a little “fluff” to help me connect to the character. There’s a balance in there somewhere between excessive “fluff” wandering all over the map, and enough to fill out the character. But, like I said, as far as I know I’m in a small minority on that one.

      Maybe it’s a reflection of our whole cultural obsession with thin, streamlined, small, compact, efficient, skinny, tight, sleek, fast…

      Hmm… you do have more control than I do, in some ways. To me (and this is just me, not claiming it’s more right), those changes would have led to essentially a whole new character, who would then have objected to various things she was meant to do through the rest of the novel, resulting in tossing everything from that point on and re-writing it with this new character. I could probably steer it through the major landmarks and get to the ultimate goal, but the details along the way would change, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in larger ones. If I’m working on something new, I generally haven’t the foggiest idea where it’s going to go until it gets there, so there’s no tracks to try to keep them on. *shrug* Different methods. 🙂

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