Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 the year we all die

So the Mayans say we're all going to die this year, but for tradition sake I decided to write up goals just in case the Mayans were wrong.

So I present my goals for 2012:

1) Read. A lot.
I was able to get 57 read this year and I hope to come close to that again in '12. I don't think I'm going to try and top 57 though. If I do, fine, but I'm not going to kill myself (see goal #8). I just want to try and read some every day.

2) Finish edits for Beneath a Broken Sky.

This one is actually very achievable, because I'm almost done. I just wasn't able to get it done in December. This makes a nice easy thing for my list too :-) I like easy.

3) Edit Dagen's story and get it out to beta readers

I really need to come up with a title for this story. The first draft of it is done. Hopefully in the revisions I can find the perfect title.

4) Finish writing 1 1/2 - 2 more novels

I've already got an idea for a sequel to Dagen's story and I possibly have another I can finish. I don't want to commit to getting 2 novel length stories done because I always seem to run into NaNoWriMo and it breaks my stride.

5) Survive NaNoWriMo

And speaking of NaNoWriMo, unless thing's change, 2012 will be my last NaNoWriMo. Both as an ML and as a participant. I love NaNo. I think it's a wonderful idea and it attracts lovely people, but to tell you the truth I think I've out grown it. I've written a couple novels outside of November, I know I have the discipline to write everyday on my own. I don't need the pressure of NaNo to get me to the finish.
I also like my pattern of writing/editing. I write book B while book A is sitting cooling. Then when book B is done, I go back and edit book A. Then I write a new book and the cycle starts all over again. In the last two years NaNo has fallen out of step with my cycle. I really don't like writing two books back to back. I find it draining. I like going back and forth between editing and writing. To do that I need to be on my own schedule, and November just doesn't fit.

6) Stop fussing over the &@^! blog
I like this blog, but it's driving me a little crazy. Sometimes I just can't come up with two or three posts a week to put up here. And I refuse to put up "filler" stuff. I'm sick of fretting over that. It's just not with the time I spend fussing over it (see goal #8). Especially when I could be spending that creative energy working on my next story.
So I'll be putting up posts when I feel like it. My tentative goal is two or three times a month. I might do more. I might do less.

7) Clean the house more then once every three months
Actually my house isn't quite that bad (mostly). This is more of a balance related goal. I tend to get so focused on one thing that I totally forget everything else. So this year I want to try and keep my life more balanced. I've already started doing this, but I want to continue it through the next year.

8) No Stress (This should really be #1)
This is my over all goal. If a certain activity/person stresses me out, I really need to evaluate if it/they are worth my time and mental energy. The answer will probably be no. Life is just too short to put up with people and things that stress me out and drain my energy.

And I think that's about it. I'm sure I'll come up with something else later, but this is enough for now.

Happy New Years everyone!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The good kind of tired and the power of boredom

Yes, there is such a thing as a "good" kind of tired. There's something about being tired after a good workout, or after scrubbing the bathtub or weeding the garden (I'll have to wait for spring for that one, sadly). You get to the end of your work and you've accomplished something. This is the time that I love to work on my writing.

I've recently started revving up to write another story. Yes, another *rolls eyes*. I'm plotting this one out like I did the last and it seems to be going well, but I find that my best writing comes right after a good workout (now a days that means yoga or a nice long treadmill walk). I finish and have that "ah, I'm done I can sit down now" moment.

As soon as I do sit, all those thoughts that had been churning around in my head start to spill out. This is especially true after a couple miles of walking on the treadmill. Seriously, there nothing to do when you're walking on a treadmill but stare at the wall in front of you. I love walking outside (when it isn't 10 °F) and I find it relaxing and generally inspiring. It's also too interesting and distracting to work on a specific idea. Normally my thoughts follow this kind of pattern:

"Hmm, should I make the heroine stronger in the second act or- Ooo! Look! Was that a bird? Wait. What was I thinking about?"

But inside, that's a different story. Even if I don't feel like working on that particular story, I will, sooner or later, just to relieve the boredom. I do keep a note book next to the treadmill, but I find it's better to hold in the ideas. Then when I'm done walking I'm almost ready to burst.

Then in that wonderful state when your body is tired and your mind is itching to go, I can settle down with my note book and scribble everything I thought of while I was walking. Once you get the flow going, everything else will fall into place.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Distractions

Yesterday the internet at my house went out. Not just slow or off and on. Completely and utterly off. For the ENTIRE day. You don’t realize how often you check your email until all of a sudden you can’t.

My thought process went like this:

“Well, all right, I can’t check the email. This is so annoying. I should tweet about it. Damn can’t do that either. *sigh* maybe I can get those long blog articles read… Can’t do that either. Fine. I’ll just download a new book onto my Kindle… Ahhh! Can’t do that either! Nooooo.”

It got more and more desperate and incoherent after that.

Several weeks ago I slashed the number of TV shows I watch, so all I had recorded on my DVR was the nightly news. I finished watching that, turned off the TV and sat there for a long time. Now what? (I believe my eye was twitching spasmodically at this point).

There was nothing better to do, so I decided to get some extra word count down on my story. I had already gotten my quota for the day, but without the distractions and time sucks of the internet and all its shinyness, I found myself drawn to my writing again.

So what’s the moral of this story? That the internet is evil? Maybe Not really. We all have different distractions. I’m not talking about family or friends (though both of those are very distracting). I’m talking about that fluff stuff that we spend so much time in. Watching reruns on TV (hint: the story hasn’t changed, it’s the same as it was last time you watched it), playing addictive games online (angry birds, bubble shooter, [insert game of choice here]) or checking our email every five minutes.

Whenever I chose to indulge in one of theses I say to myself “just for a minute here then I’ll get back to writing.” … Three hours later, I’m still messing with whatever I was trying to do.

If you want to carve out time for yourself and your writing, computers and the internet are two really good places to start chipping at first. Everyone always wants to be so “connected” with Facebook or Twitter or email, but in truth they can all wait a while. None of them are THAT important that you can’t put it off for a while to write. The trick is getting your priorities straight.
Do you want to finish your novel, or do you want to watch Dancing with the Stars?

Do you want to finish your novel, or do you want to get to that next level on your video game?

Do you want to finish your novel, or do you want to Tweet about how hard it is to find time to write?

If your answer is yes to Dancing with the Stars or video games or Twitter, that’s fine. Just don’t lie to yourself and say that your writing is everything. That you just don’t have the time. You do. You just chose to do something else. This is the ultimate choice that makes or breaks a writer.

I’m not going to tell you what to do about this. You have to make up your own mind. But my plan for the future is to time my internet hours. Only x amount of time in the morning or in the evening and that’s it. Anything I don’t get done can wait another day. My writing is what comes first.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Point: True Warrior

This week I don't have a common writing mistake as much as an observation I've made.

There are different kinds of fighters out there (especially when it comes to fencing).

There are those who look at fencing as a sport. They rarely bother to learn any historical facts about fencing (outside of the sport field or some tidbit of knowledge to impress a non-fencer if they ask) and they don't concern themselves much with learning anatomy or why the places they are aiming at are "on target".

Then there are those who focus tightly on one particular style or school of fencing. They learn a certain number of moves that apply to that style, but they don't bother to learn WHY those moves work. WHY they are effective, or perhaps aren't. All they can do is parrot those moves over and over again. They may get very good at them, but if you through something new at them, they don't know what to do. This is as far as many Classical fencers get.

And finally there are true warriors. Those who look at a certain style and figure out what makes it work. They take it apart, piece by piece, trying everything. If it doesn't work, they toss it, "historically accurate" or not. If it does, they keep it and maybe try to make it better. Theses are people who learn how to fight, not how to recreate some old historical document.

Yes, some of those old historical documents have good ideas, but some of them are incomplete and you know they didn't write EVERYTHING down. You have to allow yourself to make adjustments, not be tied down to "historical accuracy."

Of all the kinds of fighters, the true warrior is the only one who can quickly adapt. The only one who can actually use their knowledge outside of a class room or dueling circle if they need to. Those are the ones I'm most interested in studying and, hopefully, one day becoming.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Making a book trailer, please pass the skill saw

Truth be told, I know nothing about this guy's book, but his trailer is hilarious!



I don't look around at all that many book trailers. Or the ones I look at are for books I already want to buy. So I'm wondering how effective they really are.

Have any of you ever decide to pick up a book after watching the trailer?

Friday, September 30, 2011

The color of fantasy

I found this quote by George R.R. Martin the other day and really loved it:



"The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as
dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic
moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with
gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and
olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red
meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the
end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a
parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient
stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of
Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller
when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong
spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in
fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that
one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow
hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of
Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle
Earth. "

— George R.R. Martin


This expresses well why I love Fantasy so much and (I believe) the thing that non-fantasy readers don't understand. The biggest thing I hear them say is that "Fantasy is just a bunch of make believe. It's not real."

No. It's not real. And that's why I love it. It's not how the world is, it's how it should be. How it could be. Not necessarily the dragons and elves (though that would be cool). It's the courage and the love and the chance for anyone to make a difference. Those are the things that should be. Just because theses stories have wizards and magic doesn't make their meaning any less important.

Like G.K. Chesterton said:



“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons
exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Hope you all have a happy Friday and a great weekend!




Picture from SXC.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Point: Mastering swordsmanship alone

We've all seen or read the stories. An unskilled Hero must learn how to fight. So he seeks out the master swordsman/Kung fu/Jedi/whatever and finds him cloistered away in the mountains/remote temple/far off planet. Once the Hero finds them and proves that he would make a worthy student, the master teaches him and he return to kick the antagonist’s butt. I can't say about the Jedi, but I know for swordsmanship (and just about any martial art) it isn't as simple as that.


Yes, training directly with a master is one of the best ways to learn, but it's only part of the equation. Someone who trains only with his master would be better then an untrained opponent, but he wouldn't be as good as you would think.


Just because you can spar with and perhaps even beat one master doesn't mean you can beat everyone who isn't as skilled as that master. Real fighting isn't like levels in a video game. There are hundreds of fighting styles and ways people use them. That is why it is important, even necessary, to spar with as many opponents as possible.


If you're opponent knows one trick that you don't then that could give them the upper hand. There's no way for any one person to know all the different forms of fencing. That is why a fencer’s best tool is adaptability. If you can read your opponent and adapt to them, you have a huge advantage.

Back when I was still sport fencing I started going to a saber class. Our club was small and before I started coming there had only been one gal in the class. She had been fencing for a while and could go toe to toe with our coach and, if not beat him, at least make him work for his win.

Then I come along. I've never done saber before. At the time I only had limited experience with foil. Since I had such limited experience my body signals were all over the place. She thought I was feinting an attack when I was just shifting my grip on this new, unfamiliar weapon. One of the first times she came in for an attack I parried and thwak got her right in the side of the head. We were both surprised I got that shot in. She came in for another attack in the same spot, parry, thwak again. It took her several more tries before she found the right counter to my attack.

But why did my attack land in the first place? She was better then me. Much better. But she had only sparred with our coach. She was trying to fence me like she fenced him, expecting me to make a cretin counter attack or fall for a cretin feint. If I had been a better fencer, I might have, she was very skilled in that, but since I wasn't good, I didn't know exactly what to do, so I just did whatever. I was random. That is very hard to fight unless you can quickly adapt.

You can't learn to adapt without having a wide range of opponents to practice on. You can't learn that alone.






Picture from SXC.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Creativity feeds creativity

Last Friday I ran across a post by Ava Jae "Can you lose the ability to write?" I like what she says and to a point I do agree with her solution of pushing through and just do it. She writes:



"If you really want to write, if you really want to see your dreams come
true, you have to go out there and do it yourself. Fulfilled dreams don’t just
land on some lucky person’s lap—they’re chased down and snatched up by the ones
who aren’t afraid to put in the extra work and won’t stop until they see them
realized."


I agree that you need to go out and chase down your dreams. If I waited for inspiration to strike me before I started, my writing sessions would be few and far between. You have to have the self control and dedication to sit down and write.

That said, when I get stuck in a rut, or am having difficulties with a story, I find there are some things I need to do that don't necessarily involve pushing through with the writing.

Without fail, every time I come to a dry spot it's because my creative well is empty. I've been working on this novel so long I haven't had time to read a book just for enjoyment or watch my favorite movie again (I've already seen it before, why do I need to watch it again?). The only books I do read are on the craft of writing, or something about the publishing industry (there's a cheery read for you). I don't have time to have fun. I need to write, but nothing is coming.

Is writing always fun?

No.

But when I hit the point where none of what I was writing was fun, I realized that I had lost sight of why I really wanted to be a writer in the first place (Hint: it wasn't for the tweed suit, smoldering cigarette and half drunk bottle of wine... well, maybe the wine ;) ). I started writing because there was something about it that I love. Something that caught my eye and drew me in.
I started writing for the magic. That part of the writing that resonates deep within your soul. That connects with you. I see this in my favorite books and movies. The part that makes me cry. Makes me believe in true love. Opens my eyes to the world around me. Shows me the darkest parts of my own soul. Those are stories that I come back to and watch again and again. Because, even after seeing them a hundred times, I still feel that connection.

So what does this have to do with "writers block" (or whatever you want to call it)? The only way I've been able to break out of that staleness is to reconnect with things that inspire me. Not just stories. I love working in my garden. Watching my finches flutter and squabble over the bath when I put it in. Walking the dog on the back roads where there's nothing but bushes and squirrels to bother me. All theses things are important to filling that well. All of them. And sometimes we have to allow ourselves to indulge in them. That why I love Lani Diane Rich's classes and podcast so much. Those are the things she talks about and teaches. How to love the magic of your story.

Now here's the hard part. Having the self-knowledge to know when you've filled your well and should get back to work. Sometimes it's hard to tell if you need just a little more time or if you've moved on to stalling or have some kind of fear of finishing. Only you can decide that. You have to know yourself. Know what you love. Know what you fear. Know what you are and what you want to be.

It's hard. But no one ever said it would be easy.

So to come full circle, once your well is full you need to push and force yourself to find the time and write. I love how Ava put it:


"Don’t have the time? Make time. No one else is going to do it for
you."


And at the same time, force yourself to make time to do things that you enjoy. Writers have a tendency to feel guilty if they spend three hours looking for just the right songs for the soundtrack of your story or gluing little pictures onto a piece of mat board to make a collage. It's not waisted time. You're thinking about your story. You really are working. Then when you go to write, that creativity that you have been 'indulging' in will feed the creativity of your writing.

One thing flows into the other, we just have to keep the current moving.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Scrivy love



I love the things that I love. And since I love them, I shall tell you about them.


This week: Scrivener for Windows.



I'd heard about Scrivener from other writing friends before, but since I don't have a Mac (and don't plan on getting one) I didn't bother looking at it. Then I heard that they were making a version for Windows. I was still sceptical. I haven't been all that into writing programs. I've been using a plane old Word doc for years. But last month a new story idea hit me, one that will need more organization then others I've done. So I decided to check out this new Scrivener thingy.


OMG. It is so cool.


Not only does it have all the standard scene and chapter file organization (nothing particularly special there), but it has a way to split the screen so you can view two files at the same time (actually you can split it in a number of different ways). My favorite use for this feature is to have the top part the text I'm working on and the bottom to show pictures of the place holders I have chosen for each character (if you don't know what I'm talking about check out this post). So I'm essentially looking at the characters as I'm writing about them. Very cool feature that I didn't expect, but am really enjoying.


Another thing I like is the ability to see the manuscript in broken up scenes or as one long document. This is reminiscent of my single Word doc days, but it's much easier to rearrange scenes (drag and drop).


The cork board feature is cool, seeing the scene descriptions on little cards on the screen. I doubt I will use it that much. If I do write out scene cards I like to feel them and touch them and pin them on a board by hand. That's just me. If I weren't so neurotic about it, the ones on the screen would probably work just fine.


Scrivener also has a full screen mode with all kinds of adjustments (width of the typing space, opacity of the background, size of the text, etc.) That's nice when I want to block everything else out and type. There's also a setting that keeps the text your typing in the middle of the page so you're not looking at the bottom. I like that for typing new stuff, but not for editing because as soon as you type something it snaps it to the middle of the page. The text moving around like that I find a little disorienting, but it's not the big of an issue because I can just exit full screen and it doesn't do that.


Over all, really cool program and I'm still playing with all the buttons to see what else it can do. This is just the beta version that I have, but I haven't run into any problems with it yet. They are going to have the beta version up until September 30th. So if you want to try it out you better get over there.


I don't know when I will be for sale, but as soon as it is, I'm buying it! And as an added bonus they're giving a 50% discount to those who won NaNoWriMo last year (which I did ^_^).


Picture from SXC.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I have buttons! (and they can crow)

I recently got a pair of Button Quail, probably the cutest little birds out there. At first I thought I had two females, but recently one of them has started making a strange warbling kind of crow. So I'm really not sure now.

In honor of my little cuties and because it's Monday (seriously, everyone can use a dose of cute on Monday). I found this clip of a group of little Quail crowing.



Enjoy and good luck surviving Monday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Point: Bloody Sheath

I love Brandon Sanderson. I really do. But a scene in Warbreaker where one of the characters sheathes a bloody sword seriously made me twitch. All though I may give him the benefit of the doubt, because it was a bad guy who did it. Maybe Sanderson did it on purpose, because only a really bad guy would treat their sword like that....

Or maybe I'm the only one who noticed.

I have scene the same sort of thing from other books as well (but of course none of those books were as awesome as Sanderson's). The victorious hero will be standing above the bad guy's slain minions, bloody sword in hand. The battle is over so the hero takes his bloody sword and sheathes it. Now, before I start screaming and ranting, lets think about this. You have a sword that is covered in blood. A piece of metal covered in a liquid. Moisture is the enemy of metal. Dirt and debris on the blade will scratch it. Getting a scratch on your blade in the middle of battle is one thing, marking up your blade because you're too lazy to take proper care of it is another. Something as small as the oil from a finger print can leave rust marks.

If you want to take good and proper care of your sword (The sword that, by the way, your life will depend on in the middle of a battle) clean it off! My sword master wipes down his blades with 3 in 1, but the first step is to get all the blood and dirt off.

Keep my eye from twitching, have your characters clean their blades!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Smoke, Water and Fire

If people start to find out that you are a writer, sooner or later you will be asked the big question: Where do you get your ideas?

(by the way, my standard response to that is "Wal-mart".)

You can be as snarky or as in depth as you would like with answering that question. This post isn't about what non-writers think or want to know about our proses. Let's face it, even if we do try to explain it to them they probably won't get it.

How I see it, inspiration is all about paying attention. When I go for a walk, sometimes I'll notice how the wind feels as it blows by. The sound of it as it sweeps through the dried skeletons of grass along side the road. Another day I'll notice deer hoof prints along side the road and follow them until they disappear back into the bushes. Or when I blow out a candle, I love watching the smoke twist and curl in the air before disappearing into nothing.

It's not big things that feed my creative soul, it the little things. Not the rolling field, but the line of ants on the path in front of me.

Sometimes I find my creative well is getting low and I'm feeling drained. I find it helps me to fill it by looking for some of these little things. I surround myself and my writing space with things that inspire me. Three of my favorite things are smoke, water and fire. So on my desk I have several candles and an incense stick holders. As of yet I don't have a water element, but I'm still looking for just the right thing (probably going to be a fountain of some sort).

When I sit down to write and I feel like I need something to focus on and draw from I lite those candles and incense. It brings my mind back to where I need to be to write.

Everyone is different and each of us will have something different that inspires. Look for those things and try to bring at least some part of that into your writing space. And never stop looking for those little things that bring joy or make you think. You never know what will inspire.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Journals: Why I can't use them

(Lucy & Alastair, this is for you)

Journals. Those wonderful bundles of beautiful pages wrapped in leather, moleskin, plastic or cardboard (depending on how cheep you are).

I love journals. Particularly those fabulous leather bound ones with textured natural paper. I love them. LOVE. The problem... I just can't bring myself to use them.

It's the same every time. I go to the store, ogle and fondle each book. My fingers caress that one special journal and I clutch it to my chest as I make my way to the cash register. Then I get home, sit down ready to put my brilliant words onto theses beautiful pages. My pen hovers over the paper and... and... all those brilliant words suddenly seem dull and stupid. I can't put THAT on the first page! I need something poignant. Something inspirational. Something... better then what I can come up with.

Defeated, I put the journal on the shelf to wait for that striking bolt of inspiration. After a year or two I began to realize that I would never be able to use them. I was just too scared to make a 'mistake'. Of course the whole point of a idea notebook or journal is to jot down silly weird ideas that maybe you can use later. It's not supposed to be perfect, but I could never get over the fact that I paid $10, $15 or more for this @#&%! journal and I better damn well put something good in it to justify spending that much.

Soon I realized that all my best (and worst) ideas were written on the back of napkins, junk mail envelopes and wrinkled scraps of paper. Why was it so easy for me to write on those and not my fancy journal? Because they were cheep. I didn't feel pressured to write anything good, so I just wrote what I felt like. I let my creative juices flow because it's just a piece of junk mail, it's not like I can make it worse.

The next time I went to the store, instead of picking up a shiny leather bound beauty, I found the cheapest 5" x 8" notebook I could get. I got a three pack and brought it home. That was a couple years ago and as you can see from the picture, it's worked quite well for me. Each of those notebooks is filled with scribbles (and I mean FILLED). Some brilliant. Some, well, less so. But you can't get to the good stuff until you get the bad stuff out of your head. If you feel the pressure to put only good stuff in your beautiful journal, then maybe going simpler (and cheaper, I'm always for the cheep) will work better for you. I carry one with me everywhere now.

It's only a few dollars to give it a try (that's the beauty of it).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Try, try again

I love trying new things. Kissing the frog and finding a prince... or just another slimy amphibian. Trying and trying and trying. It's an adventure each time, but sometimes you need to go back to those first princes you found and smooch them again.

This past week or two I've been having trouble focusing on my writing. I sit down to write and I know the story is there, but my mind is a jumble. It takes me a few moments just to remember what I was doing with this scene, then I start and after just a few paragraphs I've forgotten again what I was doing. Distractions abound. Did I change the laundry? Damn, I forgot to wash the dishes yesterday. Did I answer that email? It's hot again today, I really need to water the garden. And on and on and on.

This isn't the first time I've had trouble like this. It's a fairly common problem for me. In the past I've used music to tune everything out, but it wasn't working this time. So now what? Look for another way to focus? What can I try that I haven't done already?

Then I realized that I don't have to find something new. I needed to go back to something old.

When I first started looking for ways to focus myself during my writing time I would light a candle (actually I would light nearly a dozen candles) and pull out an incense stick with one of my favorite scents. I haven't lit a candle while writing for... oh dear, over a year now. I only seem to need them when I'm having trouble, so one I get into the flow of a story I fall out of the habit of using them. I was starting to think that I had "out grown" them entirely.

Then last night, on a whim, I pulled out an incense stick and lit it. As soon as I stuck the stick in the little holder and watched the first curls of smoke twist and drift in the air I remembered why I love watching incense sticks burn. Smoke is to fluid and ethereal. It moves and turns and dances, but you can never actually touch it. All the little voices in the back of my mind quieted and I just sat for a moment watching the smoke drift, familiar scents bringing me back to the joy I had writing in those early years. It was exactly what I needed.

So next I pulled out the box of candles that I had packed into the closet, set up all my little dancing flames around the computer, just like I used to years ago. Then I started to write. Almost immediately I fell into "the Zone". There’s something relaxing about telling time by how short your incense stick has become. When the stick was all burnt up (that's about an hour) I found that I had finished my day with 2k new words and some really good scenes. I felt refreshed, revived. I had accomplished more then I had meant to and I went to bed happy.

So if you try something and it works for one story then stops working for the next, don't throw that idea away. Keep a box of ideas (or at least a mental list) and periodically go back and try things again. Who knows, something that didn't work for you before might just be the very thing you need now.

Never stop trying. Never stop experimenting. You might be surprised at the results.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dear Story

Dear Story,

You know I love you, my story, but I do wish you would have told me that where I started writing was actually chapter two and not the beginning. That is kind of something that would have been nice to know before I change the beginning and am then forced to change what I have written already.

But that's all right, my story. I still love you in your beauty. I realize now that my first impressions of you were shallow. Now I am starting to understand your depths and just how complex this project is going to be. I will admit, my story, you're starting to scare me a little, but we'll keep pressing through.

Hopefully all theses knots will untangle as we go.

Still you sincere, if a little intimidated, admirer,
Writer

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dear Story

Dear Shiny New Story,

Oh, how I love thee, my story, in all your shiny newness. Your sparkling ideas. Your youthful hope. Gone are all my thoughts of those "other" stories. I thought I loved them, but none of those loves can compare to you, my Shiny New Story.

Even though I've only known you for 13k words, I know it was fate that brought us together. As soon as I laid thoughts on you I knew you were the One. I hope you do not think me rash, my Shiny New Story, but I've already started practicing writing my name below your title (or I would if I actually knew what your title will be).

You are so witty, my Story. Your prose are flawless (at least the ones I remember, I haven't actually gone back to read them). Not a plot hole in sight.

I know people will say that our love wont last, that I'm ignoring your flaws, but they are all wrong. We are different then all the others. Together we will dance into the sunset, hand in hand, and right onto the NYT Best Seller list.

With you at my side, my Shiny New Story, nothing can stop us.

Adoringly yours,
Author



To be continued...

Picture from SXC.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kissing the Frog: Reading Backwards

I'm still working on editing Beneath a Broken Sky, but as I'm doing that I'm also getting critiques back from my different readers for In the Twilight Between. It made me realize that I have a lot of errors in this particular manuscript and I know why.

As I've stated before, I'm dyslexic. Over the years I've tried several different methods to combat this (btw, nothing really works, but I still try). One thing I tried was a dictation program. My hope was that I could edit my story, print it out, then read it back into the computer and weed out all my spelling errors.

Unfortunately it didn't work out like I had hoped. The dictation program did pretty good, but it miss heard me fairly often. Things like my heroine's name "Nadya" it would write "not yet a". I never got it to recognize that name and started calling her Jane, then find and replaced it later.

So in the end it created more problems then it helped.

Now I have to go through and try to find all the errors. The problem is I've read this MS fifteen billion times. When I start reading my eyes gloss right over the words (or I start quoting it from memory, followed by twitching and the urge to poke my eyes out with my pen).

I had heard of reading your story backwards as a trick for proof copies and I decided to give it a try. I have to say it works slick.

You start with the last page, go to the last paragraph and read through it. Then you go to the second to the last paragraph and so forth all the way through the book. By reading a paragraph at a time you still get the sentence structure, but your mind doesn't get engaged in the story. Every time you change paragraphs it brakes up the monotony and helps you focus on just that one part.

So far it's really been helping me and I would encourage anyone trying to proof edit their work to give it a try.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To live or to die

Earlier this week I opened up my email and found a brand new rejection letter to one of my agent queries. Now I'm not new to rejections (I have nearly 30 of them so far), but this morning I have to admit it got to me and I gave in to the despair for a little while.

As writers we strive and struggle to write the first draft, then we continue the battle into the edits, revisions and rewrites. After that we move to the next battle with writing the query letter and synopsis. Then finding the right agent to query, organizing everything and sending it off.

You would think after a solid year (or much much longer) of fighting we would be on the down hill slope.

You would be wrong.

This is where the real battle begins. When those rejection letters rolls in, we need to really make a decision. That diction will put your writing life on the line.

If you've done your homework then you'll probably be braced for the first ten maybe twenty rejections, but of course you hope that you'll be the exception and be accepted the first try.

One rejection arrives after another. Five, your still ok, a little disappointed, but ok. Ten, you start to have doubts, was it really that bad? Maybe I should rewrite the query. Fifteen, this has gone on way longer then you had expected, but you stick with it. Twenty, despair is hovering over your head, landing whenever you even glance at your email and you are scared to look at the mail box.

Now is the time that you make your decision. You really only have two choices, to live or to die:

You can look at your pile of rejections and let the despair sink deeper. Like a slow acting poison it will seep into you and take hold. You'll start writing less and less. That new idea probably sucks just as much as the last one. Why bother? It will just be rejected too. Soon you'll stop writing all together. And just like a plant with no sunlight your writing self will die.

Or you look at your pile of rejections, maybe cry a little, maybe buy a bottle of wine and pretend they don't exist for a day or two. But then you shake it off. You don't let the despair take root. Maybe this story doesn't work. That doesn't mean the next one wont. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. You sit down and start the battle all over again.

This is the difference between "writers" and those who have written a novel. A writer will keep going because that is what is in us. The love that will weather the darkest storm. I have a friend I talked to last week who has written a novel. He has come up against the wave of rejections and some poor choices. He confessed to me that he was frustrated and hadn't written anything in months. I fear that his writer self is already dyeing.

Being a writer is a battle and a joy. It's a pain and a relief. It will drive you crazy and sometimes it's the only thing that keeps us sane. That is the duality of writing. Of being a writer. It's not easy, but nothing worth fighting for is.

On another note, I've started a new story. 7k words so far. I'll have to put up a little word count widget to show my progress over the next few months.



Picture from SXC.com

Friday, July 8, 2011

Done! (well, not really)

I finished the first round of edits for Beneath a Broken Sky Wednesday (yay!). In that round I went through and cut big scenes, added new ones and made sure everything was where it was supposed to be. Big stuff. I didn't bother with too much line editing at this point. If I saw something then I would fix it, but I didn't allow myself to obsess.

Now(proving how it's time for the paper edits/line edits. For this I like to print the whole thing out and slap it in a binder. There's just something different about having the fiscal paper to look at that makes you see things that you missed before. It's also cool to have tangible proof of all your hard work. On the computer you can look at the file size, but that doesn't have the same impact as slamming down 301 pages of solid story on your kitchen table.

As I move into this new round of edits I'm going to be focusing on my description. I'm one of those writers who (if she isn't careful) has characters talking in a white room. I don't like going on and on about the furniture or the trees or whatever else is surrounding them, but of course I need to have something there. So that's what I'm going to be focusing on.

I've found that it helps to pick one main thing to look for when going through a round of edits. If I try to fix everything all at once, I'll go crazy and the book will never be done. But if I just pick one, there's a much better chance that I'll actually fix that one thing and at the same time I won't go completely insane. Pick your battles and fight them to your fullest.


On another note, my desk is a mess again (well, messy for me at least). Scraps of paper, scissors, little pictures, note book pages with scribbles on them, a half drank cup of tea and sticky notes. That can only mean one thing... I'm almost ready to start writing a new story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Point: "Run him through!"

Running a sword all the way through someone and out their back looks cool and sounds like a cool death for your villain or a neat description to throw into your Hero's fight, but there are some things to keep in mind.

First the human body sucks... no really, it does. When a body is pierced it sucks around the wound, essentially trying to close back up. That's why we (students of swordsmanship) are taught to rotate the blade while we're making a thrust. This not only does a lot more damage (think cork screw instead of a straight in and out stab) but it also prevents the body from sucking around that wound.

What does sucky bodies have to do with running someone through? Well, the body will suck around the sword as well, making it very difficult to pull it back out again. You don't need to get stuck on a bone for your sword to stick in the body. The best way to understand this is to imagine walking in mud. You put your foot down and it sinks pretty easily, then when you try to pull your foot back out again the suction tries to hold on to you. The deeper the mud (the deeper you stab into the human body) the harder it is to get out.

If you go all the way through someone, there's a good chance that you will have to plant your foot on the person to get enough leverage to get the word out again.

This brings me to my second point, if you're fighting multiple opponents you don't have time to be yanking and pulling at your sword trying to get it free (unless of course that's an element you want to use in your scene, but make sure the actions match the consequences).

You don't need to run a sword completely through someone to kill them. All the vital organs you are aiming for are within three inches of the skin.

So watch how deep you have your sword blows penetrate and make sure the consequences match.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fear of Finishing

There are lots of different kinds of fear. Some are obvious and visceral (like spiders) others are more subtle. One of the craftiest fears I've come across in my own writing experience is the fear of finishing. This is different then fear of success (that's a whole different can of worms).

Fear of finishing begins for me in two different places in my writing process. The first is near the end of the first draft. I'm coming up to the climax. I know exactly what to do and where to go. And my writing drops to a crawl. 50 words one day. 100 the next. 20 the day after that.

Why? It's not writer's block. I know what to write. I can see all the way to the end. At first I tried to tell myself I just loved the story so much that I didn't want to stop writing it. I was lingering in the story like two lovers unwilling to part.

That's a bunch of $&#@.

I was afraid. If I finished the story then I would have to actually look at it and see if it was any good. Even if I think it's a good story, there's always that little voice in the back of my head that says that I'm just fooling myself. The story actually sucks and I'm one of those poor schmucks that just can't tell that they're writing is rubbish.

But(!) if I never finish that first draft, then I don't have to look back over what I've written. And even if I do I can justify any bad parts that I find because "I'm still working on it". You don't judge a sculpture before it's done, so I don't have to really look at this until it's done... which will be never if I'm not careful.

The second time I'm struck with fear of finishing is after I've trudged through the desolate mire of rewrites. I'm going over the whole book with a fine toothed, adverb sensitive, comb. I've rooted out all the flat parts, killed my darlings and fleshed out my characters nicely. I'm almost done... and it strikes again. There’s just one more thing that needs fixed. One more check through that I need to do. When people ask if I'm done I can tell them "Almost, but I need to fix one more thing...". And even if I do let someone see it, if they don't like something about it I can pull out my shield of "Well, I'm not quite done with it. I was going to fix that part."

It's a cheep excuse, but one that is easier to cling to then facing the fact that maybe someone wont like what I've written. Maybe I've made a mistake. Maybe I'll fail.

But(!) if I keep finding one more thing, if I keep stalling and putting off then I'll never have to face rejection.

The problem: if you never take the chance at being rejected, you will never be accepted. The fear of finishing is really the fear of messing up, the fear of someone not liking our story (and, in extension, us).
"It's better to hide." The fear it will tell you. Better to wallow in unfinished pages. "It's too dangerous out there. Don't even try. You'll regret it."

The thing is, that's a lie. I've spent months (if not years) stuck in an "almost finished" Purgatory. I will argue that it's worse then out right rejection. The fear will latch on to you, sucking with a thousand tiny mouths until it drains you of all the confidence you had or will have. Then you become susceptible to the bigger lies.
"This really does suck."
"It's not worth it. Just toss it in the corner and forget you ever tried."
"You’re always going to fail. Go back you your grey little life and never try to achieve anything ever again."

The only way to break this cycle is to face our fear head on. Face it down, open the curtains and let in the sun. I won’t say that facing the fear will make it go away. It won’t. It will growl and bare its teeth and you'll have to hit it over the head with a stick. But that is the only way to break free. You have to put yourself out there. Take some of the blows. It's the only way that you will ever reach any kind of success. Any kind of completion.

Once you break free of that fear for the first time it's like seeing the sun after a cold dark winter. The first time someone says they really enjoyed reading your story. The first good review (from someone who isn't blood related). Then you understand that all that pain of pushing through the fear was worth it. And all that hiding you did was really killing you.

Now all that being said, there is wisdom to getting your story the best it can be before sending it out to the world, but make sure you are really bettering the book and not just stalling. If you catch yourself saying things like "Just one more rewrite" or "Just one last thing needs fixed." Think back, have you said that before? If so then you're stalling and letting the fear win. Set yourself a deadline and stick to it. Tell a friend and make yourself accountable to them. Then when the time comes, send your story out. Be brave. Don't back down.

There is a sun above the clouds if we can just push our way through the storm.




Stock photos: hisks, robby_m - sxc.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Point: Looong fights

The long drawn out fight is a staple of movies everywhere. Whether it's swords, guns or fists. Five minutes of Wham! Pow! Bang!

It's flashy. It's cool. It also never hapens in a real fight.

Guns sooner or later run out of ammo or someone gets hit. If you've got that much led flying around in the air, it's going to hit something. That's just the rules of statistics.

When it comes to swords the fight can actually be faster. The first thing to remember about movie swordsmanship is that they are not using actual rules of combat. They are not actually fighting. They are performing stage combat. I'm not saying stage combat is inferior. It has a different aim then actual combat (literally). The whole point of stage combat is NOT to hurt your opponent. Though I think movies would be more interesting if they used live (i.e. sharp) blades and real blood, we would go through actors rather quickly. The problem arises when people start thinking that stage combat is what actual combat looks like.

After watching the Saber competition in the Olympics last year a friend commented to me that the bouts were really fast and a little anticlimactic (I didn't bother to mention that Olympic/Sport fencing isn't real combat either, but I digress). If you're used to watching movie fights, then yes, a real fight is going to look like a blur and then it's over.

I actually consider this a blessing as a writer. I don't have to come up with some long complicated fight scene. It's very hard to make an interesting fight last for pages and pages. In my opinion a fight shouldn't last more then a page (at the very most!).

Everything in a fight comes down to timing. The closer matched two opponents are, the narrower that timing becomes, but it still depends on timing. If you’re only a split second off, you’re dead. Quickly.

Most fights are finished in 1-3 moves. Attack, parry, attack in return. End of fight. If your opponent can counter your attack after a parry they're very good. My suggestion in a fight like that: run away.

Of course there are a few exceptions to the quick rule (though I emphasis the ‘few’, as in, theses are the only two I’ve heard of). One duel was between two master swordsmen. Both men kept catching and ripping holes in each others clothes, but neither could get close enough to cut the other. After going back and forth like this for a while, both men stopped, realizing that this wasn't going to end well for either of them. They took the money they had been fighting over, split it and went out for drinks.

Another was a master fencer who was challenged by a total idiot to a duel. The master didn't want to kill the man, so as they fought the only attacks he would make were to snip off the buttons of his opponent’s shirt. Finally the judge residing over the duel called a halt, it was too obvious who had won this duel.

But like I said, those are exceptions. Real fights fought by real people are dirty, bloody and quick. When you're writing a duel or any fight, don't get fancy. Get in, get out, go home alive (hopefully).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kissing the Frog: Note Cards

Note cards. Almost every book on writing that I’ve looked at says to use note cards when planning your book. I tried it once… it wasn’t pretty. But now I am moving into the land of revision where the laws of the first draft no longer apply. After a little experimenting I think I found a really cool way to use note cards for editing.

Last time I revised a novel I wrote the scenes on sticky notes and put them up on the wall. That actually worked really well, but even the best stick note only stays sticky for so long. It was right about that time that I had wished for note cards and a decent board.

Lesson learned. I am now revising my newest novel and I’m using note cards, but I’m doing it a little differently.

First let me say that I’m… oh, what’s the right word? Cheap? Thrifty would sound nicer, but cheap is more accurate. I HATE spending money on something if I can make it myself for nothing. That’s why my writing desk is made from a couple short bookshelves I got at a yard sale and a piece of counter top found on the side of the road.

So it won’t come as a surprise to anyone when I tell you that I didn’t want to go out and buy a huge cork board to tack all my note cards too. My solution: Cardboard.

Being a taxidermist we get in a lot of big packages, many of them are made of nice double thick cardboard. At the time these boxes came in I didn’t know why I would need a huge slab of double thick card board, but it was just too cool to throw away (I’m not hording, I’m just planning ahead).

So with the cardboard and a bunch of tacks I “borrowed” from my mother, I had myself a handy little board for my note cards. Don’t think my cheapness stopped there. Years ago I got a pack of 4x6 note cards, but I really don’t need that big of a card to write scene descriptions on. So I cut them in half. Now I have twice as many 3X4 cards and they are just the right size.

Now that I have all my supplies together, time to get down to business.

I took the first note card and wrote the name of the POV character for that scene and colored it in (each POV character has their own color). Next line I put where the scene took place and beneath that I wrote a short description of what happens in the scene. Easy as that.

I could write who was in the scene, what their goals are, escalation of conflict, blah, blah, blah, but I really don’t see the point in that. At least for me. I use the cards as quick reminders of what happened in that scene. All that other stuff I deal with in a separate note book.

Over a couple days I went through the book scene by scene and made cards for each. Not only that (and this is the cool part I cam up with) as I wrote each scene card I made notes on a colored sticky note then stuck the note on the back of the card, the bottom edge hanging over so I could see it after I tacked it up on my board. The notes are color coded. A blue sticky note meant that the scene only needed some minor changes, pink, a major part needs rewritten and yellow was for a totally new scene. I also used small purple notes for quick thoughts that I came up with later. Now I can look at the board and see just how much work I need to do to this novel (which I’m happy to say, isn’t nearly as much as I feared).

So now, when I go to work on a scene, I just take the card down and pull off the sticky notes to see what I need to do.

So far it’s been working like a charm.

Here's a picture of my board:



Scene card (The pink in the corner means it in my Heroine's POV, my Hero is blue, Villain green. The pink sticky note means I need to rewrite a large part of the scene.):


Back of the scene card:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Revisions

The time of revisions is upon me. I wrote the first draft of this book last summer. It’s titled “Beneath a Broken Sky”. I’m very proud of this one because it’s the first whole book that I’ve finished outside of NaNoWriMo. It’s been sitting patiently in the back of my hard drive, cooling and waiting for me to revise it.

Now, being the planning freak that I am, I’ve set myself a goal. I want to be finished revising this thing in less then two months. That means I should be sending it out to Beta readers at the end of July (hopefully sooner). I want to see how quickly I can charge through theses edits. I already know who long it took me to write the book (5 months, which was longer then it should have taken because I “strayed from the path” a few times in the middle).

My attack plan is set. This weekend I’m going to finish the last of my world building and map drawing (I think I’ve drawn more maps for this book then for all my other books combined >_<). Next week I start biting into the actual text. I’ll have to make a widget to mark my progress with.

Beneath a Broken Sky is officially on the editing chopping block. Time to make it bleed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Evil Computer

I've decided that computers are devices that promise you everything, lull you into the illusion of safety then crush your very soul...

Did I mention that my computer crashed? Actually it got a virus and deleted all my files (I had backups, fortunately, so I didn't lose everything). After hours of hair pulling I finally cleaned out the virus, but(!) when I try to reload my backed up files, the computer says that they are still there... I just can't see them or open them or delete them. In other words I can't do anything. My main tech guy is going to look at it tomorrow. I'm probably going to have to wipe the whole thing and start from scratch.

So if you see a nuclear mushroom cloud rising above the mountains of North Idaho, don't worry, that's just my head exploding. (and with my luck I'll finally get the computer fixed and then the world will end at 6:00 PM *rolls eyes*).

Hope everyone else's month has been better then mine >_<

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cool stuff I can't do

In my Internet spelunking I come across cool writing challenges and classes that I would love to take, but can't. Some times it due to money limits, mostly it's my limited time and mental energy that can't handle doing more then I already am. But that doesn't stop me from spreading the word about them :-)

So without further adue:


This is such a cool idea. They also have 500 and 250 words a day chalanges.

___________________


DIY MFA

Gabi (and Iggi) have some cool Do It Yourself projects and a group that I see chatting on twitter all the time. It might be too late to join this group, but it's well worth looking at and Gabi's blog is a good read as well.

___________________



Lani Diane Rich is teaching another of her fabulous classes on discovery and all the stuff you do before the actually write the book. I took her Discovery class, she's updated and improved the class since then and I really wish I could take it, but the timing is just off for me right now. Hopefully later in the year I can slip it in. Seriously though, this class is fabulous. Worth every penny.

Done!

My goal at the beginning of the month was to write 60k words. Today I hit 60,162 words (yay!).

Once I get the last two chapters finished for my critique group meeting tomorrow I'll be done for the month and I can collapse(!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Dry Well

A little late for my word count weigh in this week. I'm on track with 52,640 words so far. A couple thousand a day and I should hit 60k right on time. I'm starting to see the end of the story as well, so hopefully it won’t need much more then 60k to be done.

Then after this story is done I'm going to be taking a little vacation from writing. not a long one. I'm not running away, but I have realized with this book that I'm not a super human fiction creating machine.

I started off the year with a plan. I was so excited about this that I leapt right into it and made my first goals with no problem at all. I then did the next logical thing, I doubled my goals. In stead of getting one book edited and two more written, let's try to get two books edited and four written!

Now I'm paying the price.

At first it was fine. I was humming along, keeping right to my schedule. Then things started happening. My mom got sick and I had to go take care of her, still I got my word count done. I've had to change/increase my hours at work, still I got my allotted pages edited for that day.

Thing is, to get those pages edited and that word count goal met I had to give up other things, like watching tv (I've had the same Netflix movies sitting on my DVD player for nearly a month now), knitting and reading. All those things that are fun to do and relaxing. More then that, all those things fill my creative well.

At the beginning of my grand plan for the year I started with a full creative well that was brimming with ideas. But then I stopped filling it and now it's running dry. I'm still stubbornly typing out the last of this story, but the heart isn't there. I can feel the difference. I don't think the writing itself is all that bad, but the joy of forming it there has faded. Without that full creative well, everything gets dry and cracked. It loses its luster and shine.

So as soon as this story is done, I'm going to postpone the next project for a several week or a month and take a good long vacation. I've got a brand new Kindle and I want to make a good chunk in the list of books I've downloaded (as if I don't have enough physical books sitting on my shelf to be read). I'm going to watch as many movies as I can and finally finish knitting that sweater that I keep putting off.

Then, after I'm good and rested, I'll come back to writing, full and ready to dive in again. Sometimes not writing isn’t lazy, it’s necessary.

Friday, April 15, 2011

There is no easy way

I haven't blogged much about this, but over the past 7 or 8 months I've been working at losing weight. So far I've lost about 40 lbs. I keep running into old friends who are impressed with the changes I've made and all of them, without fail, ask me one question:


"How did you do it?"


Two things. The first is called a treadmill. Second, I learned to like salads. Yep, that's right. I'm exercising and learning to eat right.


"Oh." They reply with a disappointed sigh.


The turning point for me, when I first started trying to lose weight, was realizing that there is no "easy" way. I know people want me to tell them that I just took magic pill #53, then sat back and ate potato chips as I lost weight. That doesn't work (and for the record, I have not even tasted a potato chip in over four months now. Hopefully the twitching will go away in time ;-) ).


The same thing happens with writers. I finish a novel or complete X number of words in a day/week/month and they all ask me:


"How did you do it?"


I sat my butt in the chair and pounded on the keyboard for three or four hours every day, that's how. Just like when I'd get home from work then turn around and walk three miles on the treadmill, I made myself do it. I didn't let myself make the excuse of saying "well I just don't feel like it." Seriously, who actually LIKES getting all sweaty and nasty and out of breath? Not me. Who LIKES sitting in front of a computer for hours trying to mend a plot hole without ripping three new ones open? Not me. I would much rather have the story magically come to me and write it perfectly the first time. I'd also like to eat a whole bag of potato chips in one sitting. None of theses are realistic or healthy.


Writers are good at trying to make everything "just right". They have rituals and lucky items and special paper. I've seem people pay enormous amounts of money on computer programs that say they if you buy them then you can finally get that novel written. Like it will somehow magically do the hard stuff for you. Theses programs my help some people, but you still have to put in the work. And believe me, writing a novel is a lot of work. If anyone tells you otherwise they're a) More delusional then is healthy (even for a writer) or b) Lying through their teeth. But if you accept the fact that, at times, writing isn't going to be bliss and sunshine, that you're actually going to sweat a little, then it makes things a lot easier. You will know that when you come to a hard part and have to push through it that it's OK. That's just a natural part of writing. There's nothing wrong with you. You're not doing something wrong. You don't need that fancy new program or shiny new pill to make it all better.


Pain and struggle are just part of the proses. Push through it and keep going. Never give up. Then one day you'll go to the store and realize that you can ware pants that are three sizes smaller then the ones you wore last year or you'll look down and see the completed manuscript on your desk.


It's not magical. It's sweat and tears and some paper cuts and more then a few blisters.


Like they say: No pain no gain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weigh In

We're in week two now of my 50k Challange. According to my chart I should have 28,000 words. As of this moment I have 26,507 words. Considering the weekend I had, that's not too bad.



The story is going well. I've almost reached the end of the rewritten part of the story. I was surprised at how much I actually kept from the first version. I changed around the location and the time line, but a good number of those early ideas fit right back in with minimal reworking. It's good to get back into writing again after a long spell at editing with my last book. It's nice to be able to just put my head down and type without worrying about all that.



Next week I'll be back (hopefully) with 42k.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Challenge

In a fit of arrogance I made a challenge to Alastair Stephens (co host of the Story Wonk Podcast). If he did Script Frenzy then I would do NaNoWriMo (50k words) in April.

Of course he accepted and I had a brief flash of "$%#@ you weren't supposed to say yes!" Then I remembered that I'm a superhuman writer and can do anything ;-) (including dyeing my hair red this weekend :-P I'll post a picture soon).

This is actually perfect timing for me. I just started rewriting "What the Night Keeps" last week. I've got all my immersion/discovery stuff done for it (see previous posts), so all I need to do is to write it. That sounds so easy until you start. This is when writing challenges can be really handy. They give you the deadlines and the structure (sadly something a lot of writers lack) to get that first draft down on paper. It also gives you someone to be accountable to. I don't know about you, but when I'm the only one who knows I'm working on some project I tend to let things slide.

And to put my word count where my mouth is, I'll be posting weekly word count updates here. If I don't you have full permission to scold me ;-)

Immersion Week Three- Collage

Ok, so I'm a little late putting this up. I got caught up in back story writing (that's week four stuff) and totally forgot. So without further adieu, the collage for "What the Night Keeps" (click on the picture to see it bigger).





And a close up shot (note: if you're wondering about the phrases here and there, those are all parts of song lyrics):





As I said, I've already tackled a good chunk of back story, so I've already started writing. So far I've got 12,642 word (woot!). I'm hoping to reach 60k by the end of April (more on this later ^_^ ).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Immersion Week Two- Casting

Week two is done and I've found actors/place holders for nearly all of my characters (at least the more important ones). I love looking for place holders, not only because I get to look back at movies I loved, but also because this is the part where the characters really start to come together. Once I have a face to attach ideas to it makes it easier to round that character out. Look into their eyes and see what they love. What they hate. What they are afraid of. I'm not going to post all of my characters, but I will put up my main people:



My Hero:




This one is funny because he was actually one of my main villains in my last book, but for some reason he seems like a good guy to me now.



My Heroine:




I was really excited when I found pictures of Olivia Wilde. She fits my Heroine perfectly (except for the eyes and the hair, but as you can see I "fixed" that in photoshop).



My Hero and Heroine's son:





When I was first thinking about my Hero and Heroine's son I thought he would just be a side character, but he's really blossomed into a full main character now. Even more so than his mother I think.



My Villain (#1):





It just makes me laugh to have "James Bond" as my Villain ;-)



Villain (#2):





This is my Heroine's direct antagonist.



Villain (#3):





Yep, you probably guessed it. This is the Son's main antagonist.




So those are my Main Characters. Now it's on to week three: The Collage.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Just when I was starting to have hope for humanity…

People are actually doing this on purpose.



"Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling 2009 video highlights from http://www.soglos.com - filmed on Monday 25 May 2009. Every year daring competitors throw themselves down a death-defyingly steep hill in Gloucestershire, England, in a bid to win a coveted Double Gloucester cheese, and this year's event was no different - with a number of competitors incurring injuries. Local cheese rolling legend Chris Anderson won 2 of the 5 races on the day, and can be seen in the video sporting his usual bright green top and flying past the camera."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Immersion Week One- Soundtrack

Now that I'm almost done with the edits for "In the Twilight Between" I'm looking ahead to my next project. Instead of going into another marathon editing proses, I've decided to take a break and write something new. Well, actually it will be rewriting a really old story. Even though it's an old idea, it's going to need major over halls, so I'm pretty much starting from scratch.

I'm going to start with my newly dubbed Immersion process. I learn some of this from taking Lani Diane Rich's Discovery Class, and now I'm tweaking it a bit to fit me. The idea is to take a simple little idea and Immerse yourself in it and really fill the creative well. Then once Immersion is done, I'm going to do a month or two typing furiously (think NaNoWriMo in March, April and probably May).

How I'm planning to do this is every week I'm going to gather something more that I need for my story. Week one is the soundtrack. I'm actually a little ahead because I found part of the old soundtrack for the story I'm going to be working on. I've added a good half dozen songs to it now and it think it's rounding out well (and by 'rounding out' I mean it's a little on the schizophrenic/bipolar side, but so are my range of characters).

I've got three main characters picked out so far. My Hero, my Heroine and their son. My Hero is very even tempered and sensible. My Heroine, on the other hand, is a hot tempered warrior who tends to kill first and ask questions later. She also caries around a lot of regret from her past that she doesn't want to deal with. Their son is more like his father.

Here's what the line up looks like:

Bylar - Lisa Gerrard
The Diary of Jane
- Breaking Benjamin
Atlantia - Secret Garden (this is the theme song for the son)
Forgiven - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack
So Cold - Breaking Benjamin
A Good Lighter - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack
Two Funerals - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack
The Shape of Things to Come - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack
Blow Me Away - Breaking Benjamin (I'm thinking of making this my Antagonist's song)
Main Title [UK Version] - Battlestar Galactica Soundtrack
Forest Veil - Lisa Gerrard (This is my Hero's theme)
The Comforter - Lisa Gerrard
The Circulation Of Shadows - Lisa Gerrard
Bullet With Butterfly Wings - Smashing Pumpkins (This is my Heroine's theme and though I don't care for all the lyrics, the feel of this song fits her perfectly. At least for the beginning of the story)
Sorrow - Gladiator Soundtrack (This one is actually the Heroine's too)
Scars Remain - Disciple
Reunion - Gladiator Soundtrack
Elysium - Gladiator Soundtrack

Now on to Week Two - Casting ^_^

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vulnerability

This is a really good talk I found by Brene Brown about vulnerability.


I like what she says about the "whole hearted". That's something I'm trying to learn myself this year. Learning to put myself out there, even if it might hurt. Even if it does hurt.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kissing the Frog: White Noise

The nice thing about living alone is that I can have silence whenever I want... unless of course the dog sees the neighbors cat, or a squirrel, or a bird, or she thinks she hears something when there's really nothing there at all. But I digress.

Silence can be nice when I'm writing, but sometimes I need to have something else. Something to fill the void without distracting me. In the past that has been music, normally the soundtrack of whatever story I'm working on. But with my latest editing project, I've found the songs to be distracting. So I searched the vast expanses of the net and found this site:

http://www.simplynoise.com/

It's a free (at least online) white, pink, and brown noise generator. I'm a fan of brown noise myself.

They also have a free thunderstorm soundscape that I LOVE. I've started playing the thunderstorm on my computer player with the brown noise in the background. It's awesome. It's there without demanding my attention or tempting me to stop and sing along.

Another thing it's useful for is blocking out other noises (like my washing machine that's going right now). I haven't tried it against children, but I imagine it would work for that too ;-)

So if you're looking to fill the silence with something that wont distract you (or block out things that do distract you), I would definitely give white noise or soundscapes a try.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Point: Muscles, bones, and tendons

We've all seen the story climax where the Bad Guy and the Hero are fighting. The Bad Guy strikes and lands a deep cut to the Hero's sword arm and Hero drops his weapon crying out in pain. Bad Guy cackles in his victory as Hero sinks to his knees in despair. But then(!) at the last minute, as Bad Guy gloats our Hero pushes past the pane, picks up his sword, and runs Bad Guy through. Yay! *dancing in the streets and Hero gets the girl*

Only one problem with that. It's called reality.

Harken back with me to basic biology. Bones are the frame of the body, muscles and tendons are what makes them move. A muscle, basically, is like a bunch of strings all clumped together. When the brain wants them to move, they contract. Simple.

Now lets look back at our story scene. Bad Guy has just cut Hero's arm. Let's say just below the elbow. All the muscles in the forearm are what control the hand. A deep cut to the arm will sever any of the muscle groups in its way.

A good way to feel this is to hold out your right arm, take your left hand and grip it around your forearm just below the elbow (you'll feel it more if you grip from the underside of your arm). Now make a tight fist with your right hand, then spread your fingers wide. Keep opening and closing your hand and you should feel the muscles flex under your left hand. Those are the strings that control your movements.

Now imagine that your arm has just been cut. Still gripping your arm with your left hand, try to pick something up and hold it tight without moving those muscles. Hard, isn't it? Cutting a tendon is even worse. There are tendons all through your wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees. All of theses are very vulnerable targets. If Hero gets a nasty slash in the shoulder, that whole arm will be useless.

The biggest misconception I see is that it's the pain that is keeping you from using that arm or that leg. If you can just "push past the pain" then you can keep fighting. The truth is, pain has nothing to do with it. If the muscles and tendons are gone then it's like trying to control a marionette puppet with its strings cut. That's why my teacher calls it "de-animating" the limb. There simply aren't any strings/tendons/muscles there to use.

This fact is used in tactics all the time. You want to aim for the tendons and the large muscle groups because, in the heat of a fight, the opponent might not feel pain. But if you've cut all the tendons in the hand, then it doesn't matter. They can't grip the sword to fight back with, no mater how much they want to.

So next time you have a character get a bad slash or stab, be sure to think of what that would actually do to the human body. Use the same technique that we did gripping the forearm and try it on other places. Does he get cut in the leg? Hold the part of the leg that you want to have get injured and then move around. What things can you do without moving that muscle? What things won't work?

Doing this kind of thinking will add a whole new depth to your fight scenes and your story (and will keep my eye from twitching when I read it).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why you should never argue with a critique partner

Critiques are tricky things to both give and receive, but there are some problems that can be avoided from the start.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make (especially those new to the critiquing process) is arguing with their critique partner or their critique group. I know it's tempting to frown at someone who just gave you a less then stellar review and tell them why they are totally wrong. You're not helping yourself or you story if you do this. It's also rude to the person doing the critique. They have spent their precious time reading and rereading your story. Thinking about it and trying to come up with something helpful to say. Instead of a 'thank you' they get a 'you're wrong'. Not a good way to encourage them to come back and read more.

The thing with critiques is that they are opinions (with perhaps the exception of spelling and grammar). Someone can look at a scene and say they don't like it because it feels boring and another will say that they like it because they thinks it's contemplative. Which one of those views is 'correct'?

So you really can't tell someone that their opinion is 'wrong' because that is their opinion. It may be different then yours, but that doesn't automatically make it wrong.

Now you can take that negative opinion and dismiss it (they really didn't get what you were trying to say anyway), but remember one thing: A normal reader (or agent or editor) is not going to email you and ask what you meant. Their going to take your book, put it back on the shelf and walk away.

As writers we have one shot to get the point across. If you need to explain to someone why they are wrong about what they think of this chapter or that character then, to put it bluntly, you've failed as a story teller.

Go back to writing craft 101 and learn how to make people understand what you're saying the first time, don't blame people who are trying to help you see it this time.

To look at a critique the right way you need to take it, thank the person who gave it and look it over. If you see something you don't agree with, take the critique and set it aside for a few days. Cool down and look at it again. Keep an open mind. What is the point they are trying to make? What would the story look like if I changed that? Is the problem they point out the real problem, or is it something deeper that needs to be fixed? Don't get so fixated over your love of an idea that you refuse to listen to someone who's trying to tell you it doesn't work.

If only one critique partner points out a problem, you do have some latitude on what you want to do about it, but if two or more people point out the same problem you NEED to fix it.

Really think about what your critique partners say. They are trying to help you and your story (and if they're not then you shouldn't have them as partners). So don't dismiss the things they point out, because if one critique partner sees it, then readers will see it too and they are not nearly as forgiving.