TODAY is the Day: Book Release Day!

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Winona Rising Release

More info at http://www.emmahogg.ca

 

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#100: A Farewell

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This is blog post #100. It will be my last.

Over the past two years, this has been a constant, sometimes challenging, often enlightening, always enjoyable project. By attempting to articulate my personal writing process, I learned a lot about myself–both as a writer struggling through the writing process, and as a person struggling through life. It is my hope that this blog was not purely a selfish accomplishment; that at some point it inspired someone to write, to experience a similar joy that writing brings me.

I will now dedicate my time to completing my next novel, in addition to starting a new writing project that has been brewing for quite some time.

It has been a pleasure talking to you. Perhaps one day I will have the pleasure of talking with you.

May your writing fuel your life in amazing ways.

I wish you great success.

Emma L. R. Hogg

 

Storage Bin Half Empty

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Within hours of starting work on Draft 3 of my current manuscript, I had gone from the high of having completed a second draft, to the disheartening realization that my manuscript was far from being a final draft. Five pages into Draft 3 and already I had crossed out, moved around, and re-written nearly every word, or so it seemed. My draft was covered in edit marks.

Discouraged, I complained to my husband how frustrated I was. In response, he asked, “How many storage bins of drafts are in the basement?”

I thought it was a strange question to pose at that particular moment, but I answered, “Five.” One bin for each of my five previous novels, each bin filled with multiple manuscript drafts.

He asked, “How full is the storage bin for Winona Rising?” Winona Rising is the working title for my current manuscript.

My answer: the bin was practically empty. Only two bundles of papers were inside–Draft 1 and Draft 2. I laughed. Perfectly, my husband had put my progress into perspective. My current manuscript didn’t yet have to be at the level of a final draft; there was still a lot of space in the storage bin to fill.

Attempting to accomplish a big, complex project with a grueling process and a lengthy timeline requires constantly checking in on your emotions and assessing their validity. It’s okay to have emotions (you’ll have lots during the process of writing a novel), but if you let your emotions own you, especially the ones that hold no validity, then your writing will suffer as a result.

It’s understandable to lose perspective, but it’s important to regain it, and to regain it quickly, so not to waste valuable time moaning when you could be writing. Admittedly, it helps to have someone in your life who understands your artistic process and is an avid supporter. Sometimes, we could all use a little reminder to be a little kinder to ourselves.

Characters

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I recently completed Draft 2 of my current manuscript.  Each draft I write, I learn more about my characters—that’s right, I learn.  In turn, the more I become attached and invested in their story.  Attachment and investment, I believe, are qualities of a passionate writer, and passion is the backbone of any goal.

But passion alone will not produce a strong novel.  Among many qualities, a writer must be humble in their role in a character’s growth.  When a character is ready, the writer must allow the character their freedom.

Typically when I create a character, it starts with a flash image (like a still photograph) and then a name (sometimes a name comes first, then the image).  Undefined at the character’s birth are their behaviours, their mannerisms, their fears, their dreams.  Traits like these take many drafts to develop.  I experiment with a character’s personality by putting them in different situations and testing various responses, emotions, reactions.  It’s a learning process where the character eventually becomes the teacher.

I am often surprised by who my characters end up becoming, the choices they make, the emotions they experience, the situations they find themselves in.  Strange perhaps to think of a character independent of its creator, but that’s what it often feels like, and I think that’s a positive.

The state of creativity, I think, is only partly conscious, that for a writer to write well, they must loosen their grasp on reality (while they’re writing).  After all, fiction by definition is not reality, though fiction sets out to mirror it (at least the fiction I write).  As characters become stronger (as their traits become defined), the writer’s control over them weakens; a good sign that your characters are becoming like real, believable, people.  These are the types of characters present in great books, and the types of characters I strive to have living within my own novels.

During the process of writing a novel, I get to the point where I have to write my characters in a certain way, not because I want to (in the sense of in that moment), but because that’s who they have become—fictionally breathing people with their own set of values, emotions, fears, and dreams.  As the writer, just because I have omnipotent power over my characters, it doesn’t mean it’s suitable for me to exercise it.  Better to let the character be who they have become through your hard work—a compliment to a writer who has created a character so defined and life-like that even free-will is bestowed.  An avant-garde concept, yes.

Create your characters, hone their traits through experimentation, and then free them from your omnipotent control.  Honour your relationship with your characters, and your novel will be better for it.

Surprising Connections

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While visiting my parents in the house I grew up in, I slipped away into my old bedroom to get some work done on my manuscript.  I am currently working my way through Draft 2 and was almost at the end.

As I sat on the bed, my legs stretched out, my laptop teetering on my thighs, I picked up where I had left off in my manuscript the day prior.  In the scene, my main character—a fifteen-year-old girl named Winona—had escaped into her bedroom.

As I worked on the scene, I suddenly looked up, took in my surroundings, and realized that I was not only sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, but I was sitting on Winona’s bed in her bedroom.

Not intentional, though obviously subconscious, Winona’s bedroom was an almost exact replica of my own when I was her age, minus the colourful posters that had covered my walls during my teenage years.  The layout of the room, however, was exactly the same.

The realization was slightly unsettling, as it hadn’t been my intention to share my childhood bedroom with anyone, not even with a character in a book.

It has never been my intention to bring my own personal experiences into my fictional writing, though intention aside, of course my personal experiences influence my writing.  Memories (experiences) and creativity come from the same place: my mind.

My novels are fiction, through and through, but little tidbits, small details, subtle quirks, have subconsciously found their way into my books.  Realizing the personal connections after the fact always surprises me and makes me a little uncomfortable.  I am an introvert, after all.  But I am also a writer, and so I must strive for fearlessness—for it takes bravery to create honest characters and passionate stories.

I will not change Winona’s bedroom.  After all, it’s just as much her bedroom now as it had been mine.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted anyone arbitrarily moving doors and windows around and rearranging furniture in my personal space.