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?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's probably just a phase

First I wrote the thing. Next my wife, my alpha reader, read it and pointed out the worst of the suck, which I then removed. Then I went through and chopped a third of my wordcount off--first by pulling out scenes and finding ways to make other scenes do their work, and then by going through and looking for sentences or paragraphs full of self-indulgent or boring writing I could cut. (I've got a blog for boring and self-indulgent writing; it doesn't need to go in my book!) Then I went through looking for amateurish writing. Over-reliance on the verb to be, overuse of the gerund form, overuse of my protagonist's name, overuse of garbage words like just and garbage constructions like he found himself . . . . And then I went through looking of ways not to take the suck out, but to put some good stuff in: more sensory details (but not in overwhelming quantities), the occasional bit of figurative language, and so forth.

And you know what? I'm starting to like this thing.

I'm starting to like it a lot.

I've certainly gone through periods of hating it. Times when I felt sure this was an unbelievably stupid story, that nobody would want to publish--let alone read--it, and that it would just become another trunk novel. And I've read enough writers' blogs to know that loving and hating your MS are just phases you go through. But I don't want to hear that. Right now I feel like I've got something people will enjoy. I feel like I've got something sellable. I feel like all the time I've put in revising and revising and revising are paying off.

I didn't do anything like this for Prototype. I finished my first draft, looked at my wife's comments, maybe did another read-through and touch-up myself, and sent it on its merry way.


I've posted before about my feeling that I'm pretty proficient with the nuts and bolts of the language, but that I was frustrated at still detecting something amateurish in my writing that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I wasn't finding that level of polish I see in the books I like to read. Well I may be delusional, but I'm starting to see it.

(Yes, this is a terribly self-congratulatory post. That's why it's my blog. Read until you find you nausea point and then feel free to stop. This is where I put all those natterings I don't want to inflict on any unwilling victims.)

All my MS needed was a little lot of work.

Go figure.

(Say, anybody wanna beta-read?)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

And as the plane crashed down, I thought, Well isn't *this* nice.

Last night I finished the first draft of my five page synopsis.

It's twelve pages long.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

News that makes me feel hopeful

From Kristin Nelson's blog, last week:

I was at a couple of other children’s publishers yesterday and let me tell you, all the editors eagerly asked if I had anything for middle grade right now (which, sadly, I don’t). Lots and lots of room in the MG world.

My book's not MG, but my impression of YA is that it's a spectrum, and my book's near the younger end of it. I see my target readers as being in the twelve- to thirteen-year-old range.

From Kristin Nelson's blog, tonight:

Because I promised to share my notes (and I only have about 10 minutes to blog), here is what I have scribbled down from the children’s editors I talked to. In no particular order:

--Looking for contemporary stories with a paranormal element. Contemporary main story with just a touch of paranormal.


--voice and character driven fiction (isn’t that what all editors want?)

--a family-oriented story with complicated relationship between main character and parents or main character and siblings etc.

Check, I'd say.

--MG fantasy

Again, borderline check.

--MG or YA with boy protagonists

Big time check.

Man, I've got to finish revising and get my MS out there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ever notice that your odometer doesn't change when you drive in reverse?

The rest of my darlings are safe . . . I'm done cutting for now.

I've gone from 120,084 words to 84,210, for a decrease of 35,874 words. Of course, the word count will continue to change as I continue to revise, but this is a good point to stop and take stock.

It took me about six months to write 120,000 words. It took four or five months to cut 35,000. The implication would seem to be that cutting is a lot harder than creating. I'll tell you what--it's a hell of a lot less fun. What's frustrating is that everyone focuses on how many words you've written as a way of measuring your accomplishment. Clarke said you had, what, 500,000 words of crap in you? What about the words you excise--don't those count toward your growth?A lot of people have a hard time grasping that I've been productive at all for the last five months, since my word count hasn't increased.

On the other hand, it really is a lot better now. So much of the stuff I cut was just crap. Stuff that, in hindsight, I'm not entirely sure why I wrote in the first place. Details, details, details. I am a detail-oriented person, but one thing I've learned is the difference between the telling detail and overwhelming the reader with minutae. Writing clichés be damned: sometimes you need to tell and not show.

I don't imagine I'm done by any stretch, but I'm finally down to a wordcount that is not totally unreasonable for YA, and that's something to celebrate.

Tomorrow, I hope to polish off my synopsis. I've got the bones of it done, but right now it's just a dry plot summary. I need to have it capture the feel of the book. After that, I'll focus on the material that agents are going to want to see in their partials. First thirty pages, first three chapters, whatever. I've got a week off coming up, so I should be in good shape to get that done. I'll also be trolling for beta readers, hopefully in the next week or so.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blargety blarg

You've been warned.

Tomorrow is the awards ceremony for the award Lisa and I are both finalists for (different categories, so no marital competition issues). I've mentioned it here, but I don't think I've mentioned it elsewhere.

I am excited about this. Maybe I'm silly for that. It's not some famous national award, and even if I win it, I'll still be an unpublished nobody. But if I win or place, it will still be validation. It will mean maybe I'm not being stupid to think that I'm talented enough to find success as a writer. It will mean that, given a small enough pond, I can be a fish of note. (Which is not to say that not winning will mean the converse; it will just mean that two or three people were better. But winning would still be nice.)

I wish I had people sharing my excitement. I wish I had people who were excited for me, and pulling for me to win. But I've hardly told anyone. I don't know a classy way to say, "Hey! I'm a finalist in a literary contest!" I don't like how egocentric that would make me feel. I don't want to appear to be a braggart. I haven't found a smooth way to bring it up, so almost nobody knows.

Ironically . . . or, um, something . . . someone in a forum I frequent pretty much implied last week, not for the first time, that I'm a narcissist who makes everything about me. So either I'm a really horrible egomaniac, given that I come off as one even when I'm trying to keep things to myself . . . or I should just go ahead and brag all I want, since I'm damned whether I do or I don't.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Ooh, shiny!

Know what that is? That's this blog. Or it was, anyway, before I went and posted this. Want to make one of your own? Look here:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weird milestones

I just crossed 90,000 words.

On my way *down*.

If you've been following this blog you know I've been struggling to chop down my bloated MS, but to anybody else, the idea of milestones that are *lower* than your current wordcount must seem odd at the least. F'rinstance, I can't help but notice that Writertopia doesn't have any counter doodads for *reducing* wordcounts.

80,000 may not be reachable, but for now, I'll take a moment to enjoy the accomplishment of deleting 25% of a draft.

On looking back and realizing how stupid I was

It took me about six months to write Vanishing Act. I've now spent the better part of five months polishing it, and I'm not done. I don't remember how long I spent writing Prototype, but I spent next to no time polishing it before I began sending it out to agents and publishers alike. One read-through by my wife, another by me, and it was out the door. What are the odds that back then I made none of the same mistakes I've made in VA? One of these days maybe I'll pick it up and look, but I'll tell you the truth--I'm more than a bit scared of what cringe-worthy crap I'll find.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It was somewhere around chapter eight or nine that I learned to write

I finally got through shortening that monstrous chapter seven. If it isn't tight yet, then at least it's tighter. It took a couple of passes or so and at least a week of work, though.

Then I looked through the next couple of chapters, and found some stuff that actually seems pretty good to me. I've felt for some time that my writing by the end of the book was tons better than it was at the beginning, but it was still nice to come to some prose and think, you know, I'm not particularly ashamed of any of this.