N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Writing Frustration!

I am frustrated by my writing. By the way I write, by the process in which my brain organizes these novels and processes them. By my own lack of work ethic when it comes to these damn novels.

I am trying to edit the novel I wrote last year, and it is proving very difficult. Why? Well, put simply it’s the way I write. I begin at the start, but when I hit a snag…when I can’t figure out what I want to say or how to say it…I skip to something else. Not just the next scene, but perhaps the next chapter or the one after that or even one that I haven’t decided on yet.

Ok, that may work fine while writing…and it has so far, I’ve gotten two rough drafts for novels out of it. Yet, when it comes to editing it makes my life hell. I really don’t like to edit…and I think the reason I don’t is that I have to organize the story from this chaos into a linear thing. If my writing were more organized perhaps I would like editing more than writing…then again perhaps it is a case of the grass being greener, but I doubt it.

Right now I am looking for a scene I know I have written. I remember it, I know what happens, and I know it is somewhere…but where???? I am usually very organized even in my chaos writing style. I break my writing into: part one-beginning, part two-middle, and part 3-ending. Inside those parts I try to write a linear story, but often leave huge gaps where I need to have something happen but don’t know what it’s going to be yet. Then when I am “finished” writing that part if I come across an idea I would like to stick in it I save it as an individual file and give it a unique name. Like, “Part 1 – Is he going to be a monster?” for the scene were a couple comes in to visit Harmony about their infected newborn.

Sounds like a good idea, huh? Yeah, but I said usually. I’m guessing this time was one of those “not so much” times. (Those actually occur quite a bit as I am prone to moving events around in my story…a LOT.) It’s just killing me, because I feel like I can’t go forward, like I won’t know what goes into this chapter until I get to edit this one scene. It’s important because we meet the 2nd dog, who will play a large role later.

I just can’t find it. I’m wondering if it is on another computer. *sigh* I’m telling you, this year…organized! And this year, if it is a problem I’ll write a line telling me what the scene should be or telling me that something needs to happen there and then move on from there…but NO skipping around! No playing pick a wildflower bouquet with my novel!

Yeah, I know pipedreams and rubber tree plants…but a girl can hope.

Find your peace and live it, but get organized…


Wagon Where Have You Gone?

I have fallen off the wagon.

Not the writing wagon, as you all would rightfully expect…no the blogging wagon.  It happens to the best of us, and it happens to me more often than that.  Still, I’m not upset.  No, I’m happily here to report that I have turned into a writing fiend!!!!

I’m nearly done with the zombie short story that had given me such trouble (what with turning into a novel and all).  I have started outlining the novel it spawned as my NANOWRIMO project.  I’ve finished and submitted Chapter 2 of “In Harm’s Way” to my writing group.  I’ve got Chapter 3 cooking like apples in the fall and am mentally organizing chapter 4.  I’ve also figured out that I want about 20 chapters at approximately 5,000 words each to complete “In Harm’s Way” (although it’s likely to be longer when I get done with it).  Let’s hope I can crank out chapters 5-20 by the time October 1st rolls around.

Why October 1st?  Well, Day and I have a bet.  If I get the novel edited by October 1st she buys me tickets to go see a local film festival…if I don’t make it by October 1st I don’t get to go.  Now keep in mind I’m going away from the 17-24th to Hawaii (woot!) with family and I doubt little if any editing is going to get done there.  So this means 3 weeks of editing like it is November. 🙂  I think I can do it!

As for Photo Sunday, it has become victim of illness and brain freeze.  I uploaded the pictures, but haven’t edited them and put my watermark on them…thus they sit trapped in the half state that is my compter’s hard drive.  I do have them and I’m hoping to slap them up tomorrow.  Tonight, though, is devoted to my recovery…

Did I mention I was sick?  Yeah, on my birthday no less!  (It was this past Sunday…HB to me!)  I thought my face was going to explode from the pressure and the only time I could breathe was when I was asleep…oh wait, no, now I remember, I just didn’t sleep.  Anyway, with me sick and the dog having issues with stairs I not only had to take care of myself but over the weekend I found myself lugging my 73lb dog up and down flights of stairs.  Oye, so now…tonight…my plan is to lay on the couch, apologize to Day for giving her the illness, and eat soup with her.  If we get really adventurous I may do some laundry or possibly pick up some of the mess that was left over from my 5 days of zombie-like catatonia.

Stay tuned, it’s a laugh a minute here!!!!

It’s official.

This weekend at Balticon (more on conventions and Balticon in particular later) I reached the 100,000th word on In Harm’s Way.


I found it sort of anti-climactic, honestly.  I know the story is not done and I know there is more work ahead of me than I expected.  It is just the way I write, just the way I work.  I’m ok with that. 

We all need to discover not only our muse, but our inner slave driver and work with him (instead of fighting him as I so often do) to get things done.  It isn’t just about the muse at the end of the day, I mean yeah she’s the flirt at the party making you grin like a goon…but that person back in your hotel room, your slave driver/internal editor/whatever, plays just as big a part when you come down to it.  Afterall, they are the one paying the bill at the end of the stay.

Still yet, I made my goal and in honor of that and to celebrate it, I purchased two masks made by Christine Yolan at the Balticon Art Show.  I wanted to track her down and get a signature on the works, but no such luck.  Oh well, perhaps I can track her down on the web, send the masks to her…get them signed…and then get them back.

Here’s the plan for the immediate future:  1)  Work on the three short stories that are done, save for some polishing 2) Leave In Harm’s Way alone for a month 3) re-launch the Unleaded-Fuel for Writers podcast on July 1st.

Yes, you heard it here first.  Unleaded is coming back, and better than ever.  Day has stepped down as co-host to instead concentrate on production, and I am more than happy to keep my fingers out of that side of it.  Instead I’ll be concentrating on the hosting/content of it.  Day will still contribute and you might still hear from her on occasion, but mostly you’re stuck with me.  We are also going to change the format a little to add some guest inspirations and writer interviews.

July 1st, be there or subscribe and listen later…as long as you listen, we don’t care.


-Find your peace and live it…even if it is anti-climactic. J


P.S. Adding the tags to this post I realized In Harm’s Way no longer belongs under “Works In Progress”, that did sort of give me a squee.

Playing Catch Up.

I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but don’t think I’ve stopped writing.

Actually, I’ve fallen off the face of the earth because I have been writing! I’ve got a deadline, I’ve got to finish 100,000 words on my novel, “In Harm’s Way” by Memorial Day (which is currently 7 days away)…thus all my energy and all my spare time have been poured into my novel.

Good, yes?

I do have pictures for all intervening Photo Sundays…so I haven’t really fallen off that bike, and I’ve written quite a bit on Hawaii. Thus my journaling has not really gone away, it has just been unsuitable for this forum.

So, here is the first of my new posts and if I can keep up my pace on the novel, perhaps you will see a few more before Balticon (currently 5 days away) and absolutely a few after. With Balticon having such a diverse and lively writers track I am sure to have quite a few things to say and people to report on. Well, without further ado:

The World’s Nicest Authors!

Sometimes it’s not the quality or the quantity that you write but who you are that will influence people to not only publish your work, but buy it as well. I know quite a few self-proclaimed “mid-list” writers that I am sure got their foot in the door by virtue of being who they are.

These people are charming, amusing, sweet, and seem to take an honest interest in the people around them. They look at fans, fellow writers, editors, agents, etc and while they may instantly think “what can they do for me” you will NEVER see it in their eyes and if they decide you are not going to be able to help them you will never suffer the brunt of that.

People like Carol Berg, Maria V. Synder, James Daniel Ross and Tee Morris will always earn my money the hard way and I will always gladly give it. Not because everything they turn out is a bestseller, they have misses just like everyone else. Not because I know everything they write will turn into the next Harry Potter, yeah right I could only wish that for them. Not because every book they churn out is a gem that will change my life and I will treasure it forever, come on people I’m being honest here very few books will ‘CHANGE’ my life no matter how much I wish they would.

BUT BECAUSE they are people worth supporting, they are the meat and potatoes that keep me sustained between this instant classic and that horrible dredge. They are people I can speak to, and compliment without believing that the words I speak go in one ear and out another without even creasing the overindulged mind in between…trust me I’ve met a few like that. They are just good people that not only deserve to make a living doing something they love, but they aren’t half bad at it as well.

So, next time you are walking around a conference or meeting an author (mid-list or not) just remember that what people see out of you may well influence how they feel about you when it is your turn in the spotlight. Don’t write people off because you haven’t heard of them…give them a chance and when they blow that chance just walk away. It’s not worth the hassle of fighting and it’ll make you look like the bigger person to everyone involved.

Back from the peace,


Character (and author) Development.

When I first started writing, all of my characters were beautiful women with power and no weaknesses. All of them. I guess this was because growing up I didn’t consider myself beautiful (how very few of us ever really do anyway?) nor powerful (because in high school beauty and power go hand in hand-and if I were being honest I’d say it was the confidence born from being attractive that is the real power and be closer to the heart of it, but that is a discussion or another time), and I had plenty of weaknesses. So it only makes sense these women I wrote about would be everything I could never be, or thought I could never be. Reading back through an old journal recently, besides being really embarrassed at the childish writing, I was stuck by how unapproachable these characters really were.
How do you connect with a goddess that never does wrong and had a cruel streak? How do you connect with an assassin that does not regret any hit she ever makes? How do you connect with a heroine who gets the guy in the first page? The worst part was the lack of development, the utter flatness, of these characters. Every move was predictable, every reaction without the burden of emotion. I hated these women re-reading them because there was no character arc. These women began and ended every story unchanged, perhaps with the addition of the king’s gratitude or the love interest in the end, but they themselves did not come to any grand realization. The goddess didn’t recognize the value of humanity, the assassin does not regret her choice of jobs, the heroine keeps the guy from the first page without effort or self-examination.
I won’t say this changed overnight. I was still drawn to the ‘perfection’ in these women, a perfection that as I aged I saw ever farther and farther away. Still I changed and because of that my writing changed. I started to see myself as having a beauty. I found power that fit me. And my weaknesses, well they were still there but not as raw as they had once been. Finding these things in myself was only the first step though, now I had to transfer it to my writing.
It was a little thing at first, teaching my characters one of my greatest assets…how to laugh. How to laugh at themselves and the things around them. I gave them a sense of humor. I gave them MY sense of humor and found I related to them in a whole new way. They were multi-dimensional beings worth exploring and developing! What a realization. I began making my characters into a rainbow of people, not just the same mannequin over and over. I gave my characters flaws. Short-tempered or fearful, vain or hopelessly innocent I gave them things I had inside that I never wanted to expose to the world, because it was not in my view of the story’s perfection.
My current character, Harmony Vasquez is a tender woman who works with kids. She is fearful when things get dangerous, but she digs inside for a courage we all secretly know we would find if our loved ones were in danger. Harmony has a mother who scolds her, and whom she tries to please. She has cases that break her heart and she has clients that infuriate her. She is plain. Harmony is as real as I can make her and as far away from my first perfect attempts as I can get. Ok, perhaps not, in the end she DOES get the love interest…I guess that is one thing I just can’t get rid of because I did it too.
Anyway, today is an admonishment for all of us to let go of perfection and just be ourselves. Put those pictures that are fun but not perfect on the web…talk about being broken hearted and sad…be up front about your joys and accomplishments…share your history, good and bad, and above all grow. Just be sure to take your writing with you when you do.

Peace out,


Writing Weasles and Plot Moles…

Personal pet peeve: Writing on two machines. Well not so much writing on two machines, but not having the most recent version of every file you tinker with on both machines.

UGH! I’ve been foiled lately in my attempts to write the “GRAND ESCAPE” in the final chapters of “In Harm’s Way”! How, you ask? It is much akin to the Keystone Cops where Renee opens a random file and begins to flesh it out and in doing so comes up with a great idea to be put into the chapter. She writes it, or at least begins to write it, and then must go home/go to work/go writing/go to the gym. Now the problem here is that I am not thinking with all the brain cells God has given me and I will not send this grand new addition to my email…thus blocking myself from working on it later from my work(during lunch and breaks)/home/Day’s machine.

SO, at home/work (during lunch and breaks)/writing/gym I open ANOTHER file, and begin to flesh this one out and figure out what is missing that needs to be added or come up with a great plan for getting my characters out of the lightless hole they are stuck in…with great joy I write furiously until my time is up. Feeling accomplished, or at least not so slackery (yes, I said slackery) as I have been lately I go back home/work/writing/gym only to sit down and discover that the accomplishment…the writing that was nagging at me to keep on…that wordcount that was teasing me to churn out more…is in a place I cannot retrieve it from.

*headdesk* (as a friend of mine would say)

Now, I know some of you technically savvy people out there are wondering why I don’t just get a flash drive. Well, I’ve got one and it was my constant companion (I’d even go so far as to say my fashion statement) during NANOWRIMO, but soon after that I loaned it to Day because she had misplaced hers. Now, loaning something to someone because they have misplaced theirs isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do…especially if you are loaning it to Day. She lost my flash drive. It is in the house or perhaps her office, but it is in a place I am unable to ferret it out from. Thus, tonight…if the roads are not as icy as they are already threatening to be…I am going to replace my flash drive and end this vicious cycle of writing block (not to be confused with writer’s block).

Peace to all of you.


Editing Styles

When it comes to editing there are two different types of people.

1) The putter inners and 2) The taker outers.

Having never really edited anything of length, I was never really sure which camp I was stationed in. I always assumed I was a taker outer, since I have a bad habit of putting in too many words…and having too many run on sentences…and generally talking too much. It was just a guess on my part, and a pretty good one, as most people who write like I do (with the “on at the mouth” disease) are taker outers.

At the same time I worried, because my chapters always seemed so much smaller than my fellow authors. I was struggling to make 2500 words per chapter, when others would easily make 4-5 thousand. For me, getting to 3 thousand meant dragging out the action…watering down the tension…and throwing in bits and bobs that were not only unnecessary but downright silly.

Well, having just finished editing Chapter 1 of “In Harm’s Way” I’ve figured it out. I am none of the above. I am firmly in the camp of the “tightener upper, putter inner”.

What is that you say?

Well, I started with 2300ish words. I ended with 3400ish words. During this 1000+ addition, I took out a ton of things that I saw as frivolous and tightened down the story into something primarily focused on the action going on around my main character. (I even had Day go over it for me, she helped tremendously! And although it is hard to listen to her criticisms, it really made this submission one of my best.  Thank you, Day!)

So now that I know where I stand, and I’m not going to worry so much if I run out of steam getting to 100,000 words on this novel. I’ll aim for 90thousand, and know in my heart that my internal editor will take care of the rest.

BTW, the response to Chapter 1 was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone liked the idea for the story, everyone liked the main character, and everyone liked the action. Of course, they had ideas for tightening the whole thing. Still, it won’t be hard to take those ideas and incorporate them which is a plus. I’m very lucky to have CVS on my side.

Peace to you.


Goal Oriented.

I am quickly realizing that the only thing that keeps me working on “In Harm’s Way” are the weekly goals I give to my writing group (CVS).   It seems a shame that a month ago I was consumed by writing and now…well, not so much.  Ugh, I know I keep writing about this or variations on this theme but it just keeps PLAGUING me.

I want to finish this so I can set it aside for a while and work on some shorter projects.  I’ve got a great idea for a railroad story and another one about a guy who plays Russian roulette with the one thing he knows will kill him and a third about a girl who goes off looking for her talisman but finds herself instead…but I can’t bring myself to work on them.  Not with Day and a deadline and weekly goals breathing down my neck.

Do you feel my pain?  Do you?

Hey, did I mention Hawaii?  Well, then let me take this moment to say that I have two weeks off this coming December and Day and I are discussing an out of country experience for that particular holiday.  I’m aiming for Venice again (seeing as we keep making plans but never actually go)…but perhaps we should go somewhere else…somewhere warmer, but without killer insects and snakes.  Any ideas?

Look at me…launched and everything.

There is a certain joy that comes with typing in ones name on the internet and having something come up, especially if it is something as beautiful and well done as my new website. (If you are seeing this on LJ, please feel free to run over and visit www.nrbrown.com )

I’ve still got tweaks I’d like to make, adding a greeting page and linking my title back to that page, oh and fixing the title, and adding pages for my projects. Naggy little things, that can be done in due time. No rush chaps, this is a perpetual work in progress.

Project update…

In Harm’s way is at 65 thousand and going strong. I’ve set another goal of 15 thousand words in 10 days. This is an increase over the 15 thousand words in 12 days that I had at set for myself at the end of NANOWRIMO. My super-uber-secret goal is to reach 100,000 words by the time I am done with this novel. That will allow me to cut anywhere from 10 to 20 thousand words when I edit in order to make this a tight novel.

I am submitting the first chapter of “In Harm’s Way” to CVS for review on December 27th and am hoping the reviews will be as positive as the snippet I had submitted previously of this same work.

This novel was a long time in coming, and has an interesting story behind it actually. I had an idea that was proving too big for the usual short story. The more I wrote on it the more it wanted to run away with itself, so I decided to use the story as the basis for my first attempt at NANOWRIMO. I wrote nearly 5 thousand words, in addition to the 3500 I’d written for the short story (which was going to be extracted and used in the novel in another form) when I sputtered out. Today 5 thousand doesn’t seem like much, but back then it was quite a chunk for me, especially since that chunk was not a self contained short story. I sputtered out because I felt like the plot was falling apart…I had a good solid idea, but it was too nebulous for me to spend NANO amounts of time on (doing that would have made the idea shred itself even further).

I gave up and lost NANO that year.

I revisited this story time and again over the next three years, finding it too interesting to let go and yet too flawed to continue with. Then one day, I took the thing that was causing me the most trouble (what superpower to give to my heroine) and got rid of it. I just removed it from the picture. She would be powerless.

The story resolved itself (well, mostly) after that. It just fell into place. The plot and characters took on a new vibrant and believable life. I decided it was time to write this puppy.

After spending three years with it banging around in my head I thought surely it would be the perfect project to work on in November. I was right. I felt good going into NANO this year, I felt like coming out of the other side…coming into December…I’d be set to keep writing and make this novel really a work to be edited and refined into something worth shopping around.

Still, you know what they say…it’s your 6th novel that will sell. Your first 5 are just training wheels.

Let’s hope I get famous some day and am able to put “In Harm’s Way” in the way of some readers, I really like it so far.

As soon as I get the page for it up (with the synopsis) I’ll let you guys know so you can take a look at the plot and let me know what you think.