Come to My New Blog!

If you followed a link here from a comment I made on somebody's google blog, I would love to have you visit my blog, but this is no longer it. While I may occasionally post things here again once in a long while, virtually all my content will be at from here on out. If you were curious enough to come this far, why not give me one more click?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Finished ten tonight

No more wordcounts in these posts; I'm just going to start using those writertopia icons. I can't actually join Writertopia, since I'm unpublished, but that's okay. I wouldn't want to be a part of any club that wouldn't have me anyhow.

It's always interesting when I don't write for several days and then pick it up again. There's this little fear in the back of my head that the muse won't be there when I return, and this palpable relief when the words start flowing again. It helps a lot that this wasn't a hard chapter to write. It was fixing to be, but then I was able to put some of the advice I got this weekend to good use. I basically saw that the reason I was unmotivated to begin this chapter was because there was no real conflict in the opening scene. Once I fixed that, I was on my way.

One of my main characters is a huge Atlanta Braves fan (I'm not; I'm a Yankees fan) and it's beginning to rub off on my protagonist. It's interesting to see them take on personalities of their own.

Before I hit chapter eleven, I plan to spend tomorrow, and maybe even part of tonight if I get ambitious, pulling up some of those old stories I stopped sending around and looking for homes for them. Now, unlike Vanishing Act, where I'm trying things I haven't tried before, sending these stories around is just a matter of going back on the slush piles, so I have no real reason to expect better results from this round of submissions. Except--you know?--I do think some of these are pretty decent stories. Sooner or later I'll find someone who agrees . . . right?

There is a cute fluffy dog in VA, and Cor, the dog lover, told me in no uncertain terms that nothing better happen to this dog. As if. I'm writing a warm and fuzzy YA thing. I'm not going to kill a dog! But now, just to tease her, I keep dropping off stuff for her to proof with "Lionel exploded" inserted in random spots, or other kinds of over-the-top obviously joking demises. I'm thinking I'll start looking for ways to put those in the real text, like "Lionel exploded into his arms" or some such. Hey, if you can't have fun, why write, neh?

So I finally crossed the big 50K today. It's only taken me, what, two months of solid work? And I'm, at best, halfway done. And to do it I've neglected everything in sight, pretty much. I try to imagine what it would be like to write 50,000 words in a month, as in nanowrimo, and I just can't. I'm glad that works for some people, but not for me. That whole "Give yourself permission to write crap" mentality doesn't work for me, because I don't find that I get anything salvageable when I "let myself" write crap. Usually, when something is hard to write, for me, it's for a good reason. There's something wrong with the way I've conceived a scene or something. And so if I bear down and just write it, I'll have to throw it away and rewrite it anyway. I think their whole philosophy lends itself to people who don't already enjoy writing, who need permission to write, who are inhibited in their writing. Or people who lack motivation. I'm neither of those. (I lack motivation to follow through, sometimes, but not motivation to write.)

I think that it's great that it works for some people. Different strokes and all that.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


This week that just ended was the last week of the quarter, over in my paying job, and grades were due Friday. So rather than writing, I spent the week revising. I'm off this week for Spring Break, so I plan to make up the ground now. But revising was less time-consuming and let me focus on the work I needed to do. Also, I was writing at such a fever pitch for about a month there that I was letting Cor's critiques just pile up; I was reading them, but not actually doing anything with them. Now I'm caught up with that.

I picked up another thousand words or so. I am a tiny bit worried that it's going to be too big. Not too worried yet--maybe I'll find that the later parts come up less wordy. I'm inclined to move away from describing it as YA--which I never set out for it to be--and just describe the plot when people ask, and let them decide for themselves what it sounds like. For one thing, if I should end up at 125,000 words or so, that seems too long for a YA.

Cor and I spent this weekend at an event for readers and writers in Mount Dora. Met a few romance novelists, and just lurked around picking up whatever nuggets of advice I could. I had a couple of duh moments, when I realized I had forgotten something I had once known or overlooked something obvious. Most notably, in the area of chapter hooks. When I wrote my first completed back-of-the-drawer novel, Prototype, for all its horrible problems, I knew about hooks. Intuitively, even. I don't remember being told, but I ended most of the chapters with hooks. Suddenly last night, I looked back over my current ms and realized that I generally wasn't. What's worse, I had hook moments near the end of every chapter, and I was blowing right past them, resolving them, and then ending the chapter on an insert-bookmark-here note. I actually even committed the worst hook sin of all: I literally had one chapter end with the protagonist going to sleep! Holy crap! Thank God someone pointed my attention in the right direction before I got around to submitting stuff!

The duh moment was also hook related. Of course you should try to hook your reader in all your chapters, but of all the chapter hooks, the one you damn sure better not miss is the one at the end of chapter three--because that's the last one in your novel proposal! I'd never thought of that, but . . . duh!

Other notable moments . . . Linnea Sinclair now calls Cor and me her "stalkers." Um, that's . . . *gulp* . . . um, okay. And yet, my weirdest moment came not with her, but when I asked Elizabeth Sinclair (no relation) if I could crawl under her car! See, she drives a minivan, and just that morning I had run into a realism question, about whether or not my protagonist could fit under a minivan without it being raised on a jack. (The answer: yes.) Oh, and then I very nearly underpaid her for one of her books because I couldn't find the checkbook and we didn't have very much cash between us, and she graciously suggested we could send her the difference later. Luckily, though, Cor found the checkbook. I had actually picked it up and tossed it aside while looking for it. One of my processing issues . . . it's like I have some sort of aphasia-like thing, where I look at things or people, but utterly don't process what they are.

Lessee, what else . . . you know, I really think this is going to be the book/story that finds a home. That's a big part of why I'm blogging it, of course. I want a record of the process. I'm not given to giddy enthusiasm or overconfidence, so it means something when I say I think I'm on the right track now. I remember when I finished writing Prototype feeling that I had learned so much through the process, that the next novel would really be helped by it. Well, it took a few more years, but I think a lot of those lessons are finally yielding tangible results with this book. It's not that I'm blown away by the quality of my own words, but that I think I've brought the bottom up, so maybe I used to find a paragraph or a page that would blow me away, but the differential between that and the worst of my writing was extreme. Also, I'm starting to learn a lot about how to approach getting published like a business. I think a lot of writers just hole up in their garrets and churn out their art and then wait for the world to beat a path to their door, and it just doesn't happen. Certainly that used to describe me. Now, I'm learning a lot more (through Linnea Sinclair and through Cor's correspondence with her) about finding your niche, finding out what's selling and how to position yourself against it, and how to get out there and meet the people in the business so that you're not just another ms in the slush pile.

It also helps my confidence that Cor is really enthusiastic about my current project. She's pretty honest about what doesn't work for her, so her confidence in it helps a lot when mine wavers.

Now all I want is to finish writing the damn thing, because nobody is interested in partial manuscripts from unpublished people.

In other news, the damn air conditioner is on the fritz again. *sigh* And some dingbat on suggested I was a right-wing religious homophobe because I objected to his off-topic rants about how anybody who belongs to a religion that believes homosexuality is a sin is a barbarian not fit to be spoken to. Which I find pretty funny, because I've voted democrat more often than republican, I support Obama, I don't believe in any organized religion (as much as I wish I could, actually), I have a personalized autographed poster of the Indigo Girls on my classroom wall, and, when deciding whom to support way back at the beginning of the primary season, and making a spreadsheet of all the candidates' stances relative to my own, I listed LGBT issues, and specifically the freedom to enter into same-sex marriages, as my number two issue. But I didn't tell this guy any of this, even though he asked me my views, because my whole point was that this had nothing in the world to do with whether or not YA SF is too graphic these days. But damn, it's hard to walk away and let an asshole have the last word. It's a lesson I need to learn, though, because the thing about assholes is that they will always have the last word . . . because assholes never. shut. up.

Huh. That's pretty much the first cursing on this blog. I guess I needed to get that off of my chest. This is also my bloggiest post so far, I think. Luckily, though, In just a day it will be buried under the "March" tag, and not staring out at people from the front page. :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Finished Nine Tonight

I toyed with the idea of making this title rhyme, just like the last one did. Be glad I resisted the urge.

Tonight I finished chapter nine. On Sunday even! Well, sort of. I haven't gone to bed yet, so it's still Sunday.

185 pages. 47083 words.

Nearly 200 pages! Not the first time I've hit it, but I'm excited nevertheless.

This chapter was hard to write at first. Chris is in a new setting, so a lot of description, and a lot of telling rather than showing, to avoid getting bogged down in minutia. It helps that Cor is really digging the story so far, to my great surprise, but still, I started to feel as though I was just churning stuff out, and it wasn't any good. Then today I caught a little bit of second wind. I wrote at least half of the chapter just today, and I was reasonably pleased with it.

I did cut the last scene much shorter than I had projected it to be, but I'm so ridiculously ahead of where I thought I'd be by this point in the story, that I'm not going to worry about it. I think I cut it because it was just going to give too much boring, unnecessary detail, and not simply because I was tired of writing. ;-) I got all the things I really wanted in there.

I'm just about a third of the way through my planned story. There are a few issues I'm tackling as I go, but otherwise I have a pretty good sense of where I'm going with this.

Today I thought about joining a critiquing group, such as Critters, OWW SF&F, Forward Motion, or Baen's Bar. Honestly, the difficulty of figuring out which of them, if any, would be best was a big part of why I haven't yet. The biggest, though, is the time commitment of having to write critiques for other people. Still, I don't want to be a freeloader, and I really do need to start seeking out some good critiques.

I noticed the other day that the hints at Blogger suggest that you make your posts nice and short. Hehehe . . . oh well. Hopefully there are people online who don't mind reading stuff that's not short.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Update: Chapter Eight

I just finished chapter eight. My current word count is 39611, and my current page count is 156, at 12 points Bookman Old Style. Those both seem ridiculously high given that I'm, I would guess, a little over a quarter of the way through my plot. But I'm not going to worry about it yet. For one thing, I know some writers, including OSC, indicate that their early chapters tend to be longer than their later ones. In a writing lesson column on story length, he specifically mentions often feeling that he has an absurdly high word count a quarter of the way into his story or so, and then feeling, around two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through, like he's not going to make it, and then finding at the end that he typically has 110,000 words or so. In any case, having too much material just seems like a much better problem to have than the alternative.

I think I'd find it extraordinarily difficult if I were told either to make up more material to make a work longer or to cut material to make it shorter. I tend to feel, rightly or wrongly, that every paragraph is the necessary bridge between the previous one and the next one. On the occasions when I realize I need to go back and plant some seed of foreshadowing earlier, I find it really hard to break apart the chain to insert a new link. It seems like it would be almost equally hard to remove links in the chain altogether.

Eight is my longest chapter so far, by far. Seven was my shortest (because six was my longest until I split it in two, but whatever). Hopefully readers won't balk at an 8000-word chapter since it's right after a 3200-word one. I can't really split this one . . . all of the story in it really belongs together, imho.

Eight was much easier to write than six and seven were. Six and seven were dark and painful. Eight is pretty light and upbeat. There are shadows on the horizon: my protagonist (Chris) knows he's about to profoundly hurt some good people who are only trying to do good for him. But that's in the future, and, other than his angst about that, things are going well for him at this specific moment. (Did I mention that I was choked up at the end of seven? Some good times/easier reading/easier writing are in order, I think.) The only reason it's so long is that Chris is in a new setting, with new people, so suddenly I need to provide a lot more description. There are a lot of minor details, stuff thrown in to flesh things out and make them more real--and to obscure the stuff that seems equally unimportant now but will be very important later. I hope it all works. I hope I'm not losing readers in the avalanche of details. When I get feedback on this chapter, I'll start to get a better sense.

Here's a minor (so far) dilemma I have. Chris is an avid reader. I have been establishing this as I go, talking about what he's reading. Much later in the novel, something he reads is going to cause him to have an important insight, and that's what I've been laying the groundwork for. The books I've had Chris reading are real books. One of them I will be spoiling the hell out of. Is that Seriously Uncool? Would it help if didn't explicitly name it (currently, I do) so that people who have read it would catch the reference and know what's going on, but people who haven't would just get its effect on Chris, but not have a famous novel spoiled for them?

Back on the topic of feedback, I decided it was time to start tentatively showing VA to some more readers besides Cor. I shared One with one couple last night, and I might invite another friend of mine to read it if I see her online tonight. I'm still not ready to do what Cor did, though, and announce at one of the forums I belong to that I'm looking for readers.

Speaking of forums, I've started reading (and posting to, natch) the blogs of some writers I like. You never know when somebody might share some insight that really helps me out. For instance, one of the things I've really started to become aware of lately is that for years I've really only focused on the artistic side of my craft. I write and I submit (a little) as if that's all there is to it. I haven't really thought much about the concrete aspect of getting published. I've been hoping to get discovered in the slush pile and it hasn't happened yet. I should be going to Cons and meeting with publishers and agents, making use of the contacts I have in this town, and generally focusing more than I have been on the selling.

I really need to start trying again to find publishers for some of my better stories. I know I've posted that before, but I need to nag myself. Stupid Challenging Destiny, never answering me one way or the other. I'm like some doomed young whaler's bride, waiting for news that will never come. Okay, that sounds gay. I'm so not good at figurative language. This weekend I guess I'll buy the latest N&SSWM. One of the things I'm picking up on from the blogs I've been reading is that there is so much more out there than just the three or four magazines people think of when it comes to short SF. The market shrinks in so many ways, but the market expands too.

That's all I can think of for now . . . time to catch up on some Spring Training games.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What I'm working on now

I have a few minutes I can spare and I'm not yet finished with my current chapter, so this seems like a good moment to post some general comments about what I'm currently working on. My current writing project is tentatively titled Vanishing Act. It is, apparently, a young-adult modern fantasy novel. At least, the protagonist is a kid, and that seems to make it a young-adult novel in most people's eyes. I worry about that, because I was not, when I came up with the story, targeting any particular age group of readers. Ditto the modern fantasy bit. I wasn't shooting for any particular genre. In its genesis, the story was actually fully realistic (when it comes to magic, anyway) and then the fantasy angle just came to me and hit me over the head. As a reader I'm most comfortable in speculative fiction, so I guess it's only natural that my stories don't tend to stay fully mundane, even when they start out that way.

I don't have my jump drive with me, but off the top of my head I'd say I'm at 30,000 words or so. That's roughly 130 pages or so in the typeface I'm using. I think, based on my admittedly limited past experience, once I hit a hundred pages or so I usually have enough momentum to finish, so, for better or worse, I'll be shopping this thing around this summer. Hopefully I'll have more success with this one than I've had before.

I feel really good about my writing in it so far. There are a few places where I'm waiting to see how I solve some problems when I get there, but most of the story is plotted out in my head (and on my jump drive). Mostly the places where the fantasy aspect of it changes things. But I feel like I've grown a lot as a writer--that's what I tell myself when I think about the projects I've shelved, anyway. They were growing experiences, writing exercises, blah blah blah. It may just about be time for me to invest in a new Writer's Market or guide to agents.

Everything has suffered while I write. Every other task gets left until a crisis looms, and then I put out the fire, more or less, and go back to writing. Last night I paid the bills. Last week I got nearly caught up on lesson plans. The dishes? Crap, I don't remember the last time I did dishes. Luckily, I have a lot. And a big sink. At least I manage to help the kids with their homework every night.

My goal for the last two months has been to complete a chapter a week, and so far, so good. I fell behind for a week when I got the flue, but I managed to get caught up again the week before last. I'm sort of behind now, in that I haven't quite finished chapter eight yet, and would like to have finished it last weekend, but as long as I finish it in the next couple of days I'll be satisfied.

Chapter seven was actually chapter six, but it just kept going and going, until I decided to split it into two chapters--one of which was still pretty long. It ended on a very emotional note. Frankly, I was pretty effed up myself after writing it. I was also worried, because it was a pivotal chapter--basically the first huge plot turn. If I couldn't pull it off, then I might as well quit. My First Reader, who happens to be my wife, had positive things to say about it, though. She'd generally tell me if it sucked, so hearing her say last night (when she finally got around to reading it) that it was good really lifted my spirits.

I'm almost at the point where I'm ready to stop keeping this in-house and start drafting some of my closer friends into reading it. I don't think I'm quite ready to really seek out a lot of readers yet, though. I've had critiques in the past that were not constructive, and while those do have their place, I think, I'm not ready to take them with the grain of salt they deserve until I'm much closer to done. So soon I'll look for people I trust a lot, who will tell me if something sucks but do it in such a way that it doesn't leave me wanting to quit.

Blogging . . . I haven't pointed any of my friends in the direction of this blog yet. I'm not sure who it's for at this point. Mostly it's for me. If people who don't know me stumble across it--does that really happen?--then cool. It will give me fresh perspectives on what I'm thinking about. But for now, it's for all those meta-thoughts about writing that I keep wanting to go on and on about until people just want me to shut the hell up. It's too presumptuous for an unpublished writer to carry on about the act and process of writing, so rather than be a boor in person, I figure I'll blog about it, and people who aren't interested will just move on. I think that's why I haven't pointed any of my friends to it . . . I don't want anybody to feel any sense of obligation when it comes to reading my blog. I sure don't feel a sense of obligation about reading those of other people, so at least I'm not being unfair about it. ;) But this is a place where I can talk about all the other tasks that sit undone so that I can indulge my unproven belief that I can write. Maybe I can talk about unrealistic wishes here without embarrassing myself too much either. I can talk about such narcissistic things as nearly crying because of how mean I've been to my protagonist, or about how much I notice writing taking over the rest of my thought processes, and I'm not boring anybody.

Yesterday I noticed that the stuff on my profile is clickable, and that when I click on stuff it takes me to lists of other bloggers who share the same characteristic. And then I realized that I was so specific in some things on my profile that people who know me in real life who happen to blog on Blogger and happen to go looking for other people might very easily stumble over my blog. That's a bit intimidating, but I reckon I won't change anything. Hey, if you stumble across this and you know me, say Hi or something so that I know you're there and don't feel all embarrassed later, kay?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Look at me!

Hey, I have a blog!

I've never seen the appeal of having an everyday blog. Maybe for a minute or two I'll think that sounds like fun, and then come to my senses. I guess my life's just not interesting enough for that. ;)

This won't be an everyday how-was-my-day-at-work, how-is-my-family blog. I've decided to create a blog specifically to chronicle and keep track of my writing and my attempts to get it published. I don't know if that will be of any interest to anybody, and if nobody else cares, well that's okay. But lately as I've been churning out material I've been wishing I had a way to record how I feel about the process, and about what I'm doing. A place to keep track of my progress, word counts, mood, meta-observations, etc.

Over the years, I've written dozens of short stories, begun several novels, completed one novel, and I'm currently well into another novel. I won a contest once, but other than that, none of my fiction has ever been published. I (now) think a lot of my earlier, unpublished stuff is dreadful--certainly including my first full novel. But I've learned a lot through those false starts, so I'm not ashamed of them. My only regret, I guess, is not writing faster, not writing more. I'm 35--nearly 36--and still basically trying to get started. (But my rant on the "Fallback Career" advice hopeful artists get is for another post on another day.)

Some of the stories I have not found a home for I think are actually publishable. I have an unfortunate tendency to stop shopping things around before I've exhausted all of my possibilities. I try not to run afoul of multiple submission restrictions, and it takes so freaking long to hear back from people that sometimes I just stop following up. This is especially likely when I don't hear back from a market at all, which happens all too often. This happened to my first novel, when an agent asked to see it after my proposal but never got back to me, and to my best short story. I don't plan to go back to submitting that first novel. I've come to realize that it's not very good, and it's better to chalk that one up to a learning experience and move on, but I really should start trying to push that story again. I guess I'm posting about it here to put a little pressure on myself to get on that.

You know, if (when!) I get my writing sold, hopefully this blog will make a nice record of the process.

Anyway, I guess I'll wait until another post to talk about my current project and stuff. This seems like a lengthy enough introduction.