Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

It's my turn to post the topic for the blog chain. I asked: 

How important is setting when crafting a story? How do you choose where your stories take place? How do you research setting? Do you have to have been somewhere in order to write about it? What are some memorable settings from books you've read?

I posed this question because, as a reader, setting isn't something I'm particularly concerned about. Hearing a book beautifully captures the essence of a small southern town, or 1890's London, or any other particular time and place does not make me want to read it. If the best part of a book is its unique setting, then count me out. I'm not a fan of historical fiction.
In Kate's post, she mentioned the amazing setting in Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. I agree that she does a magnificent job of creating this odd little island full of magic and violence. But there are so many other reasons to love that book, I wouldn't think to list its setting when singing its praises.
photo source

As many of the posters before me in the chain have pointed out, setting can be extremely important in a story and almost serve as another character. I find this challenging as a writer. I'm not a fan of research so I tend to set my stories in familiar places. For my last book I changed the setting from Orange County, CA (where I grew up) to Houston, TX (where I lived at the time) on a whim. 

For my current book, I wanted an urban setting. I wanted my protagonist to use public transportation and be able to become lost in a big city. She's afraid of the dark and sees monsters in shadows. So I decided San Francisco with its blanket of fog was the perfect setting. 

Now I've never lived in San Francisco and only visited a handful of times, so I did have to do a fair amount of dreaded research. I spent hours zoomed in on google maps, following Jung, my main character's, bus route, deciding what street she lived in, and examining the building of her therapist's office. I used my small amount of personal experience along with countless maps, satellite images, and pictures found online to create a contemporary San Francisco setting. I hope I succeeded.

Check out Michelle's take on the topic from earlier today and read Cole's tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My goal for today is to take a shower...

Hello! Time for the blog chain again. Sandra chose the topic:

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), writers attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Do you set daily writing goals for yourself, either a certain word count or time spent on writing? Does this include other writing-related activities, like research, plotting, or revising? Do you focus on reaching the end of the journey (such as finishing your current project), or do you enjoy the writing process along the way?

I attempted NaNoWriMo once but found the pressure made me less productive. Or at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I have a full-time day job and find time to write in the evenings and on weekends. While drafting I usually set the goal for myself of 1,000 words per day. I can write a lot more than that, but I'm a slow typer and it's usually better if I set small goals and then become an over-achiever instead of constantly disappointing myself.

How am I supposed to get anything done when I have this face to look at?
When revising (which seems to be the majority of the writing process for me) it's harder to set goals. If I'm only making small changes, then I can revise 6 or 7 chapters in one sitting. If I'm stuck on a plot problem, then I might spend a few days on one chapter. Usually I set my revising goals one day at a time.

Now, though, I'm on maternity leave and my days are completely different. I have a 3-week-old baby and finding enough time to feed and clothe myself is challenging, let alone finding time to write. I just received revision notes from my agent and they're minor changes, something that I could normally knock out in a weekend. But now I have to squeak out time to write between the endless feedings, diaper changes, and loads of laundry. Although I'd love to get this revision done before Thanksgiving, setting any kind of goal for myself just seems unreasonable.

What about you? Any NaNoers out there?

Here is Michelle's take on the topic and you can see what Cole has to say tomorrow.