Author Archives: liserozenrood

Writing for Children

Yesterday, I went to a lecture on children’s books, organized by the local chapter of IBBY (http://www.ibby.org/) and the national museum for children’s books. It’s a yearly lecture, in which a locally famous author of children’s books  is given the opportunity to speak on something they greatly care about.

Most of my work is for adults, some for young adults, and rarely I write something intended for children. But academically, I am fascinated by books and stories targeting children. So even though I tend to feel like I am the only person that does not know everyone else in the room, I tend to attend this lecture almost every year. The lecture tends to be funny, interesting and it tends to make me think. This year’s lecture was no exception.

This year, the author spoke about the role of children and those that work for children in our society. She argued that children are not being taken serious enough, and by extension, people that work for children aren’t either. People blog on the negatives of baby’s, without paying attention to the positives, and tend to wave off things that are mayor discoveries for children as things that are given, because they already know them. A lot of people have forgotten what is was like to be a child. Because of all this, a lot of people do not see the value in working for children. They think it is easier, and less important. And this is a shame, since today’s children are tomorrows adults, and they can’t be successful adults without learning and exploring today. And working for children isn’t easier, it tends to require a similar skill set working for adults does, only it gives you less status and generally lower pay.

This is also true for writing. Writing for adults is allocated much more importance, while the skill set in writing for children is not that different of the skill set required to write for adults. Writers of children’s books, she indicated, are often asked why they write for children. As if it’s a strange choice to make.

Now this is not new information. I have known this pretty much since I first went to college, well over a decade and a half ago. It’s good to stand still and think about it every now and again, though.

In the end, to me, children are probably more important than adults, since they are quite literally our future. The lecture did make me look long and hard at my own behavior. As a mom of a young baby, talking about poo-explosions and vomit comes naturally, especially with a slightly wry humorous note. So does pausing at the marvels of a young being, though. The mesmerizing moments of acquiring and mastering something new. And I make sure I share both sides with those closest to me. But I must mind the balance. My baby is not a burden. To me, she is a gift, someone I get to show the world to. The stories I tell her matter, the books I read with her are important. Probably even more important than the stories I share with other adults.

On Outlines and Sequels

I have been writing pretty regularly again and have picked up working on the sequel of Obsidian. Ever since finishing the first draft, I realized Obsidian needed a sequel. I have long doubted as to whether two books or three books would complete Stella(my main character’s) story, and for now I am going with three. So I have been working on the outline of books two and three.

The advantage of such an outline for me is that I can start weaving in plot-hooks for later bits in the first draft, instead of in rewrites. Now, I always have to weave in stuff during the rewrites, but if you have a book published, you can not go back and do it. No more adding characters that have always been part of the story, no more foreshadowing, no more establishing a character or a location or whatever else for a later setup. So first off, I wanna be sure that essential things for books 2 and 3 are in Obsidian. Also, an outline will help me to keep the main plot-line of the story clear, will make sure I keep an eye on where the story is going, to try and prevent me from straying too much.

I have been working and changing my mind frequently with regards to the level of detail I want my outlines to include, though. Do I want to be super specific? Or more general? What will best help me write, without me feeling like it cramps my creativity? For now, I have settled on quite general and brief scene descriptions.

For those of you that write and are interested in chiming in, I will pose you the same question as I have asked my writing group:
How do you deal with outlines? What level of detail do you include, and what purpose do outlines serve for you?

Beta-readers

So. My current progress report is that I am at 69157 of 69157 words. Yes, the manuscript grew. This is normal for me when I edit, because my biggest bane is writing too condense.

Doubtlessly, if a professional editor would go over the text, there would be text cut from the manuscript. I have seen the pages of professional authors where they show pages with large red x’s through them. That doesn’t change that when I read through my own texts, I tend to find stuff I tried to discuss in a sentence for which I really should have taken a page. So I work hard to put more air into my manuscripts, so it’s a fun experience to read, instead of a heavy information overload.

I mostly write because I love to write. I love the process of working on, crafting and polishing a story. Of seeing my text and knowing I wrote that. But I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t like for other people to read my stories and enjoy them. Even though, that is the dream, it’s also something I am absolutely terrified off. It’s really scary showing people something so precious, something so deeply personal, something I made and am proud of in a sort of fragile way. Which makes asking people to be my beta reader for a novel-length manuscript one of the hardest and scariest things to do.

However, I feel that if I am going to send my manuscript out to a publishing-house and/or an agent, I should at least have one other human looking at my texts beforehand. Because you know what you are trying to say and you know how your story-world and your characters work. But it also needs to make sense to other people.

Fortunately, I have a partner I love and trust, even or maybe especially with something like this, even though it’s scarier to let the people closest to me read the text than for instance a total stranger. He will read and comment on it, in a useful way.

Maybe I will also approach a couple of friends that like to read in this genre, since while my partner is amazing, urban fantasy isn’t entirely his thing. If I can find the courage :-/ Cause letting my friends read my words…. it remains scary as all hell.

Progress report

So the last few weeks I have been busy editing. My daughter has started napping for one longer period a day, instead of mostly power napping for like 10 minutes at a time, and sleeping a bit earlier. So I am proud to announce that I am at: 48785/66237 words. That’s about 2/3’s done.

I feel proud. And motivated to edit on. So now, for the hardest, and least re-written bit of the book. I am editing on!

An Editing State of Mind

I just spend well over an hour organizing my e-mail. My brain is looking for structure and organization, and by imposing order on the world, it is easier to impose order on itself. A mindset that doesn’t lend itself overly well to writing new things, but which works perfectly well for editing. And reading. Which I have both been doing.

On reading, I have greatly enjoyed Anne Bishop’s new book, Lake Silence, which was set in the world of the Others, but featured a new set of characters. The book really shows off her world-building, something I believe she is one of the very best at of all the authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. The new story is interesting as always, and I like that she has a main character that is both a little older and damaged by the world. A lot of successful books in Urban Fantasy have a young and supremely attractive main character, so I greatly enjoy it when someone breaks this pattern.

Next, I also read the new book by Patricia Briggs, Burn Bright, in the Alpha and Omega series. Every time I wonder how she manages to keep building on her world, expanding the story and the characters evermore, while still drawing from her existing character-set. This is extra impressive because she is a master at information management. She provides her readers with the information relevant for the scene, slowly unfolding the story throughout her books, but generally little more. To the point that if what feels like a side-story or a side-note always ties back into the main story arch, and that I have started spotting upcoming plot-twists by the side-stories taking up too much space…

Outside of that I have gone back to Obsidian, once again. I want to send it to a publisher and an agent somewhere in the next month and a half. I have polished so often, that that should be enough time(I know, I have been intending to do this ‘soon’ ever since I started this blog – one day I will manage).

Afterwards, I want to take a stab at finishing one of my many unfinished novels. In the end, I am more of a novelist then a short story writer. If new stuff comes up, though, I may start on a submission to the Paul Harland-contest, a Dutch contest for speculative fiction. I have been intending to participate again. But I am getting ahead of myself. First thing on the menu: editing Obsidian. Once more into the breach 😉

Writing and the baby

Last year I was pregnant, and towards the end of the year, I became mother of a beautiful little girl. This, not surprisingly, has impacted writing.

During the second half of the pregnancy, there was a bit of time where I wrote a lot. Then my head was so full that playing games was a challenge, and the only new books that worked for me were Young Adult, with their less complicated plot-lines. Mostly I was comfort reading, rereading series that I know well and love deeply.

When my daughter Aurora was born late November, the first couple of weeks were surviving. All went well, but learning to take care of a baby is a lot of work. Mostly I was watching a lot of shows, not even reading. Slowly, as the new life is settling in, there are less things I need to figure out and she is sleeping for slightly longer stretches during the night, I am slowly writing again.

So far it’s a stolen 5 minutes here and there. I don’t expect for it to become much more, but with a little luck, I will be able to go to 15 minutes of writing every day in a week or two. Who knows, maybe I will be very lucky and will be able to expand those 15 minutes to an hour of writing a day in a few months. I’ll try and update the blog every now and again, when time allows and inspiration for blog posts (and not stories) strikes.

Different media, different voices

Outside of writing fiction, I play Larp. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a form of improvisational theatre without an audience. If you’re curious, more information can be found here, for instance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_action_role-playing_game. While my short story and novel writing was slowing down, I did write several characters for Larp, and some plot for Larp, for other people to encounter. It got me musing about the similarities and differences between both kinds of writing.

With both kinds of writing, I first write the backstory of the character(or imagine and fail to write down, sometimes, with short stories). How did the character end up there? What does the audience need to know about the character, and how does the character’s background influence their decisions. I try to make the character as realistic and vibrant as possible, without making the background so complex I can no longer work with it, either in the game or in the story.
Also, with both kinds of writing, I try to create as interesting a setup as I can. To put the starting condition so, that the characters have something interesting to deal with.

Which brings me to the major difference between the two. Players happen. So from the moment you send the setup into the game-world, how the players interact with it, solve the problem, is out of your hands. All you can do is hand them tools, if necessary, or try to put them on a path by what information you release when to them. Even still, if you come up with 5 or 6 possible solutions or courses of action, they will present you with a 7th. If you’re writing the entire story, you can steer your characters to the most interesting outcomes, determine exactly when what reaches them, and if the outcome is unsatisfactory, you can go back and tweak until it works better for you. You write the continuation of the story of the character you’ve created, and control all the aspects of the story. You are chained by your own imagination, though, if you are inventing all of it.

Thus, both have a lot in common, while they still differ significantly. They have their own challenges, but also a lot of potential to build synergy, the one helping you become more imaginative in the other. I am enjoying how doing both is expanding my horizons very much.

Achtergrond bomen Keukenhof