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?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Polish

I'm done with chapter 21--sort of. I ended up splitting Chapter 20 after all, because it was just so damn long. So not much new writing to report.

I do seem to have found my attention and motivation, though.

I was oddly emotional last night. I don't know if it was my emotions mirroring those of Chris, my protagonist, or if it was something else. It made it hard to write, though.

I finally got my hands on Dwight Swain's book that everyone swears by. It's almost thirty years old, hard to get, and written in a rather twee style. It also tends to spend a lot of time in generalities before getting down to specifics. But get down to specifics it does, eventually. I'm on chapter three and I found some good, concrete, practical advice that I've no doubt heard before, but here it was presented with explanations for why these techniques work. It may be that it was the right advice reaching me at the right time--maybe I'm ready to learn this now, and wasn't before.

I spent several hours editing chapters 20 and 21 with an eye toward the techniques I read about last night. I don't want to get too specific until I start to get feedback that notices the difference, because I'll feel silly if I make a big deal about it and it turns out to be nothing. But basically it's about making your writing more active and less passive . . . about the momentum of prose and how to keep it going.

I think I'm pretty proficient with words, and yet, I generally feel that there's some element of polish I can't put my hands on that the writers I love have that I lack. I've got a good vocabulary, a good grasp of grammar, a good ear for sentence variety, and yet somehow the passages that sing only come along occasionally, and I haven't figured out how to make those less of a minority. It may be that some of the things Swain talks about in the second chapter of his book are the pieces I'm missing. After reading this chapter, I was looking through my manuscript and seeing all sorts of places where I committed the sins that Swain says stop a narrative. Perhaps I've been writing a lot of passages that are technically sound, but I haven't grasped how to hook and keep readers. Maybe I just learned some of the keys I didn't even know were there.

I hope so.

I'll report back as I get more of a sense.

I just noticed that every paragraph in this post begins with "I." Huh.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Easily Distra--Hey, what's that?!

It's taken me nearly a week to finish my first draft of Chapter 20, and I've found myself really struggling to stay on task for some reason. Twenty was full of more logistical challenges. All my characters are converging on the same spot (Rome, GA, if you must know) and I've had to work out the timing--down to the hour now, and not just the day--and keep track of what everyone's doing at any given time. (Not to mention the weather!)

I passed a hundred thousand words. I wasn't sure what I should do with the graphic at that point. I didn't want it to say 100%, because I damn sure ain't done. On the other hand, I'm sure not aiming for 115,000 words. (Great. Now I need to stress about my novel being too long.) I know of some material I want to take out, so it will eventually get shorter, but for now I guess it's getting longer still.

I have two characters who are not detectives doing some amateur detective work, and that has made the writing a struggle, because it's one step further removed from the action. But sometimes this sort of thing must happen, no? I should go looking to see how writers of detective fiction deal with stake-outs and such.

I can't even call Chapter 20 done yet, because I started keeping a list of details to go back and add when I was done.

We live in a golden age, you know? For writers and for all of us. Chris, my protagonist, hitchhikes from Marietta to Rome, so what did I do? Used Google Street View to travel most of the area that he would have been walking between rides, to make sure I got it right. Meanwhile, my antagonists and some secondary characters all drive from Anderson, SC, to Rome, so I used Google Earth to plot a route and have it animated for me. Google Earth has gotten so smooth over the years that it really was like watching a view from a small plane or helicopter. (It also took half the morning to play the animation, but, whatever.) Isn't it amazing what we can do these days?

My wife is done with her draft. Color me green. Still, I'm not too far be--Is that a butterfly?!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Finally finished chapter 19, which I'd hoped to finish Wednesday. I've been catwaxing in a big way this week; I'm not sure why. It's always been my experience before that the writing gets easier down the stretch, and for the most part that's been the case this time too, but I struggled a bit with this chapter. A lot of that is the need for research. Research takes time. There were a lot of logistical challenges to be ironed out in this chapter as well. How does person 1 get from point A to point B, what time is it when he gets there, how will he overcome this obstacle, and so forth.

My protagonist is, for the moment, a runaway. I feel some unease at the possibility that I might be glamorizing running away, but we don't write stories about characters with happy lives in which nothing happens, neh? To expiate my guilt, I've worked in phone numbers, 1-800-RUNAWAY and 1-800-4-A-CHILD, but I'm not sure how smoothly that comes off, or if it's totally obvious that I'm trying to work a PSA into my novel. We'll see if that stays in.

As part of my catwaxing, I've discovered Yahoo Answers. I've long said that I love teaching so much I'd do it for free, if I didn't need to put food on the table. Now I get to prove it! I'm such a nerd.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On author blogs . . . in moderation

I finished another chapter! *bounce*

This was an important chapter, because it provides the motivations for what all the characters will be doing from here on out. I hope I pulled it off well.

I'm about ready to start working on my query letter. Not ready to begin querying, mind you, but to give some thought to the letter. The leader of my local writers' group asked me if I would lead a discussion/training/critique on query letters a month from now. What the hell do I know? Just what I read online. I'm not any kind of expert until I write a query that, you know, lands an agent or something. But I have a big mouth and love to point people to the resources I have found, so I guess I walked into that one.

I read something on a blog--I can't remember if it was Kristin Nelson's or Lucienne Diver's, and I think I was browsing old posts, so it could be hard to find out which--that talked about how you should not blog about your book once an agent starts shopping it around, because you'll undercut his or her bargaining position with editors if you blog about rejections, how long s/he's had it, and so forth. Makes sense, but it got me to thinking afterward that any blogging about a WIP--unless it was already sold and being written on deadline--had that potential. After all, if I finish writing it in June and get an agent who's still shopping it around in March, that will send the same message, no? Oh, well. She didn't mention blogging before you had an agent, so I guess I'll take my chances. It's not like it matters--my WIP will sell in a heartbeat and it won't be an issue, neh? ;)

Speaking of lost blog posts, I read a post by some guy about how he uses hypnagogia to tap into his creativity, and it resonated with me, because it reminded me a lot of what I do (though I didn't know there was a fancy name for it), but when I went to look for it again, I couldn't for the life of me remember where I'd read it. *sigh*

And then there's lost blog comments. I posted two comments on Lynn Viehl's blog today, one that was reasonably thought out and one that was a throwaway. She moderates her comments, so neither showed up right away. A few hours later, my second post, the brief one, showed up, but not my first one. Lost in the ether?

I'm not sure how I feel about the practice of moderating comments. There are two blogs I read that do this: Viehl's and SF Novelists. On SF Novelists, because they're several writers on a single blog, it can sometimes take days for a comment to show up. I find it very off-putting to wait for days for my expression of sympathy or whatever to be deemed worthy of appearing on the page. On other blogs I read, I see dialogues break out between the various different comment-writers, and hey, sometimes even between comment-writers and the blog author. Isn't that the point? A little back in forth, instead of the stream of thoughts only flowing in one direction? But how can any sort of dialogue break out when comments have to sit in a holding pattern waiting to be approved?

Of course, the luxury of being a complete unknown is that nobody is showing up on my blog just be be insulting. I've dealt with generic trolls on other internet forums, but never my very own stalker-troll. I can see where that would be hurtful, a drain on psychic resources, what have you. So who knows how I'd feel if I had that experience. I know Elizabeth Bear keeps threatening to shut down commenting, and Steven Gould has had at least one troll pop up on his site. Is the benefit of shutting down trolls worth the price of shutting down conversation, though?

My instinct is to feel that it isn't. We'll see how I feel about it if the shoe is ever on the other foot, though.

Say, where the heck does that expression come from?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling


I wrote about three thousand words today, and finished chapter 17. I'm really excited about where I am in the plot right now. Things are hurrying toward the climax, and there's some exciting stuff going on now--and in the coming chapters too.

I plan to spend tomorrow writing. It's my Father's Day gift to myself: time to write. I'd like to get a scene or so ahead of my pace so I feel like I can take a day off, maybe go out and have some fun, and not feel guilty about it.

For now, I'm Good Tired (a Harry Chapin reference) so I'm keeping this post short.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer, and the living is easy

So I can finally concentrate on writing without that pesky day job interzzzzzzzz . . . Uh? Oh, sorry.

After some much needed R&R, and some even more needed contemplation on Where The Hell My Plot Is Going, I'm making progress again. For the second time in as many weeks, I've re-outlined the rest of Vanishing Act. Or maybe I completed a drastic re-outlining that I was only halfway through last week, though I didn't realize it at the time. My stalkee (I don't know whether it's better to give credit where credit is due or to avoid the appearance of name-dropping but the name is elsewhere in this blog) was kind enough to point out about a half-dozen holes in my remaining plot, and rather than fix those, I came up with a way to streamline the ending, eliminating a lot of them in the process. It also improves some stuff she hadn't even commented on--the fact that my climax was being brought on by a very minor character, instead of by the actions of my principals. I wrote that minor character out of the story altogether, replotted the rest of it, and I feel like I've got something a lot tighter and more manageable now. I wrote a lot last night and this morning, and it's coming so much more easily now. I finished chapter 16 today, which is why I'm giving myself permission to spend time blogging. ;)

I'm actually looking forward to doing a big revising sweep once this draft is done . . . finding ways to make my language less clunky and to incorporate all the different good tips I've been getting from authors' blogs and from the online class I'm taking. I think I can be done with this draft in a little over three weeks without pushing too hard. Hopefully if I push just a bit harder, I can substantially decrease that. Then the challenge will be coming up with readers.

All of the various readers that Cor had--including her so-called crit group--have pretty much quit keeping up. There's nothing wrong with her novel--I think it's a hell of a lot more marketable than mine is--but people are busy. They have their lives to live and even those that see themselves as writers are not necessarily as devoted to the idea of getting stuff done now at all costs, with no excuses. So what are my chances of avoiding the same fate? I can probably get a dozen people or so to read the first chapter, but I'll be lucky if I have one (besides Cor, of course) still reading by the twelfth.

I got some exciting ideas for my short story nugget. I hope I have it in me to pull this together, and that I can find the time without sacrificing progress on Vanishing Act.

In other news, our air conditioner is crapping out. Florida in June without functional air conditioning . . . fun. I don't know where the money to fix it is going to come from. Hell, I don't know where the money for WorldCon is going to come from, and I very badly want to go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The calm before the storm . . .

In three minutes I give my first final of the spring. For now, though, all my grades are done. These stress-free moments are far too fleeting.

I've still been writing, though, even if I've been too busy to update here. Still, I'm embarrassed and reproached by the length of time between updates, lately. That should get better within a week, though.

I've spent my writing time this week doing tons of revisions on chapters twelve through fifteen--fifteen was actually more of a rewrite than a revision. I've also re-outlined the remainder of my novel to tighten it up a bit. Hopefully that compression won't cause narrative problems--as in, is enough time in the story passing for these events to take place?

My subconscious mind's tendency to not let me write scenes until I fix whatever is wrong with what I want to write is rapidly ceasing to be charming and becoming frustrating. I'm grateful that it helps me avoid some mistakes, but I wish it could point out solutions as well as problems. Grrrr . . .

I'm taking an online writing class (sponsored by the RWA, of all things, but taught by Linnea Sinclair) at the same time that I give and grade finals. I must be insane.

(You know, those romance writers are a cool bunch. I wish I had it in me to write in that genre--they're so supportive of each other. At least, that's the way it appears from the outside.)