Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Project: Top Secret

I’ve recently started a new project! I’m so excited about writing this novel and I’d love to tell you all about it.

But I can’t.

240_f_68272941_rxnsim3egcbifodhee0zurtw1d95ido0I’m writing in a shared setting, and like working with any licensed material, I can’t share anything about what I’m working on without approval from the owner of the IP. So I will now commence vague-blogging for the next [REDACTED] months. Assuming I remember to update, I mean. My track record is a little shaky.

I really like the setting, though. It reminds me of [REDACTED] crossed with [REDACTED]. It has that whiz-bang adventure feeling of old pulp magazines, where anything can happen (and usually does). I’m doing my best to write something wacky and fun to suit that paradigm.

So hang onto your hats, adventurers! As we get closer to the release date I should be able to share more about what I’m working on.

For the time being, might I direct you to Onder Librum? There are exciting things happening over there! *nudge, nudge* *wink, wink*

Evil Plots and Diabolical Plans

Whee, watch me dive into this rock!

Watch me dive straight into this rock! WHEE!

Of course I’m only calling this plot evil because it’s currently eating my brain. Yes, that’s right, it’s project planning time again!

Please note that I’ve never managed to complete this step in the writing process. I usually manage a few vague character notes, way more time devoted to setting than I can afford, and then a sketchy outline before I can’t stand the suspense and just leap headfirst into writing.

Or headfirst into a brick wall. Same thing, really.

I get over-excited when writing. Overstimulated by the cool whiz-bang ideas floating around in my brain. Then comes the reality of sitting down and writing every day:

  • No, you can’t play that game.
  • No, you don’t have time to go out with those friends.
  • Laundry is for wimps.
  • Who needs clean floors?
  • Surely the kids have figured out the microwave by now!

Or maybe that’s just me? Anyway, combined with the difficult-to-interpret nature of my usual outlines and a tendency to get carried away chasing shiny plot will-o-wisps (and we all know where those lead), my first drafts so far have a tendency to meander off course in small ways that eventually add up to a giant, chaotic mess.

But not this time! No matter how much it feels like I’m banging my head against a brick wall before I’ve even started, I’m going to complete this planning process. There will be notes on critical plot points, on important conflicts between characters, on the critical scenes that must occur to move the story to the desired ending.

If anything, it just makes me more eager to get to the fun part. Really, really eager.

Project: The Last Necromancer | Status: Planning and Plotting

Writer’s Boot Camp

So I’ve been working my way through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course. I’ve previously found that her methods mesh well with the way I think, and this big “survival school for writers” course is no different. Most importantly I’ve discovered some key issues with my past process. Wanting to stay safely in my comfort zone, or have the end product turn out perfect, for example. Both hamstring the creative process, and keep me from completing projects. Or worse, I turn out stories that I’m not proud of and no one wants to buy–or read.

I also have a habit of leaping at the first vague concept that enters my head and trying to write it out by the seat of my pants without really questioning where the idea is going or what makes it special. Surprising to perhaps no one other than myself, it’s difficult to write a story about “somebody who’s special because something and saves the world or crap, I dunno, good stuff goes here.”

Ooh, shiny!

Ooh, shiny! Isn’t my setting beautiful? Let me tell you the story of Ixmitplatl, the God of Flatulence and Rainbows. No really, it’s kind of a funny story…

Occasionally I have the related-but-not-quite-opposite problem of getting so lost in an orgy of world-building that the actual story never materializes. Or, should a story spontaneously develop, it’s so weighed down with chunks of exposition to show off the Shiny Cool Setting that no one can read it without passing out from boredom.

So I’m taking it slower, trying to refine ideas before I commit to writing them, weeding out the ones that aren’t going to go anywhere, and locking in on the necessary  details that make a story extraordinary without detailing the cultural significance of what Character A ate for lunch. Honing ideas in preparation for writing is probably a much better use of my time than flailing around creating three pantheons of gods with six related languages and a plethora of weird social conventions.

Not that I’ve ever done that. I mean, come on, how much of a nerd do you have to be to actually make up verb conjugations for fun? Or write up a ten page essay on how the Great God Jahir of the Squin Empire differs from his aspect as The Highfather Johar of the Tentarin Archipelago. Ha ha, no sir, that’s not something I would do!

Ahem.

Striking that balance between the too loose, generalized story concept and the over-planned story bible without a plot is getting easier. At least I’m recognizing those tendencies, and locking that shit down before it gets out of control. This is a learning process, and a very necessary one.

I mean, would you like to read about a girl who happens to have some cool powers who is going to save the world because the cool Macguffin chose her?

OR

Would you rather read about the last necromancer’s reluctant apprentice who defies the law and sacrifices her standing as a reputable mage in order to restore Nature’s balance before the wall between Life and Death crumbles forever?

Yeah, me too.

 

Of Sheds and Routines

I have to admit that this shed is pretty cute, though.

I have to admit that this shed is pretty cute, though.


So I’ve been over at Terrible Minds envying admiring Chuck Wendig’s Murder Writing Shed. Not so much that I want a shed, per se, but the idea of a dedicated work space does have some appeal.

Which sounds ridiculous, since of course I have a desk and chair and computer and all. But that’s where I play games. That association is strong enough that I used to hang a sign off my monitor that read “WORKING” when I was writing. Not to keep anyone else from bothering me–most often I was the only one in the media room–but to remind myself that I was, in fact, working. Not playing an MMO. Or The Sims. Or Peggle.

That plan met with limited success. My dear loving husband’s solution was brilliant: If I couldn’t concentrate because the computer itself was a distraction, then he’d get me a different computer! Thus I was gifted a lovely Macbook with a copy of Scrivener, and released into the wild to write wherever the whim might take me.

Trouble is, mostly it only takes me as far as the kitchen table. That’s on a good day, when I’m feeling professional. The table is at least desk-like. On particularly lazy days, I get no farther than the couch. Even with a cup of a coffee, I’m more than likely to pass out after about three paragraphs.

Some part of my brain looks at solutions like the Wendig Murder Writing Shed and says, “Hey! It would be just like going to work. That’d be a great way to keep yourself on task!”

A more practical part of my brain says, “You’d end up storing flower pots in it. Or something equally boring.”

The loudest part of my brain screams, “OMG I just had the best idea! Guys! Guys! GUYS! Seriously, it’s the awesomest! What if there was this family, and they hunt dragons, and then there’s this wizard, and and and hahahaha, squirrel!”

Maybe I just need to work on that part of my brain and stick to drinking my coffee at the table.

State of the Writer

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

See this? It is your nemesis. Fear it.

I’m still alive and kicking, despite being constantly sore due to a harebrained “get in shape” scheme called going to the gym. By the way, if somebody hands you a kettlebell and says “deadlift this fifty times,” hit them with it and run for your life. However, if the word “windmills” enters the conversation, you’re probably already too far gone to escape. Just accept the inevitable suffering as the price of your past sins.

Aside from the pain of healthy living, I’ve been dealing with the pain of creative drought. Not that I was lacking in ideas. I just haven’t had the time and/or energy (sometimes I have one or the other, but rarely both) to pursue any of those ideas since school started for my boys. Ironic, eh? For years I’ve been repeating the mantra, “I’ll have time to write when both boys are in school.”

Sure, right. The first month of school is a one-way ticket to Crazytown.

Surprisingly, it’s not actually twice as difficult to get two boys dressed, fed, teeth brushed, and out the door with two packed lunches, all their assorted homework, permission slips, fundraising forms, and remember special days.

It’s purple day! But you don’t have a purple shirt, so…here’s a purple sticker. Look, kid, I’m trying.

It’s actually three times as difficult. Plus the bonus extra credit difficulty of riding our bikes every morning, no matter how sore Mommy is, and perhaps it becomes clear why I’ve been lagging on the creative end.

Now that things are settling down a bit, I have a short story out on submission. So far it’s racked up four rejections. I like to tell myself that story submissions are like house hunting: You don’t always find your home on the first try. So I bundled it up with love and sent it off to a new place this morning. Godspeed, little story.

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

Could this be a city in our new project? Maybe!

This past week I started on a joint project with my husband. He had the idea to work together on a world-building project with an eye toward creating a setting for use across multiple media: Stories, tabletop RPG modules, maybe even some form of app (an area he’s been dying to get into). It’s interesting how the creative process changes when you’re working with a partner. Especially when their process is nothing like your own.

For me, creating a setting is like lighting a string of firecrackers. I have an idea, which sparks another idea, and another, and “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if” and “Oh, I know how to explain that!” Pop-pop-pop, one loosely-related idea after another until I’m exhausted and have to put it away. His brain goes over things much more slowly, and he tends to focus on one subject at a time. Between the two of us, I have a feeling we’re going to produce something pretty cool.

Or we’ll reach the point where we can’t stand the project and throw it all away. Either way, it’s fun for now!

 

“Woman with kettlebell” image courtesy of Ambro at freedigitalphotos.net.

Phoenix Comicon 2014: Holy Crazy Authors, Batman!

So, Phoenix Comicon. Let me explain–no, there is too much to explain. Let me sum up:

It was fantastacular.

(Which is fantastic and spectacular, for those who don’t speak portmanteau.)

My dear friend, author Beth Cato, is anxiously awaiting the release of her debut novel, The Clockwork Dagger, on September 16, 2014. In the meantime, she had the brilliant idea of attending Phoenix Comicon to promote it–when she asked me to come along, how could I say no?

Sam Sykes, molester of bearded men. Not that Chuck Wendig seems to mind.

So, this happened. I didn’t ask.

That’s a trick question, as obviously I couldn’t. So I packed up my comfortable shoes, my steampunk gear, and my inner glee for all things geek and flew my giddy little self out to Phoenix, AZ.

Most of the fun I had wouldn’t make sense if you weren’t there, so I’m just going to hit the highlights here. Thursday started with a trip to the local art museum to appreciate some culture (jazz hands!). The jazz hands, you see, are how we differentiate culture from the pop culture we planned to indulge in for the rest of the weekend. Or something. Just go with it.

Afterward, we picked up some passengers and headed off to an excellent meal at Taco Guild, along with many members of the Holy Taco Church: Kevin Hearne, Chuck Wendig, Delilah S. Dawson, Sam Sykes, Leanna Renee Hieber, Brian McLellan, Stephen Blackmoore, Jason Hough, Django Wexler, and Wesley Chu–as well as not-actually-official-members-but-happy-to-eat-tacos-anyway folks like Myke Cole, Ty Franck, Priscilla Spencer, Jamie Wyman, and Olivia Kelly. Apologies if I missed anyone! If you think that sounds like a ton of people, you’re right. And yes, we took up half the restaurant. Many tacos and drinks were consumed, inappropriate jokes were made, much fun was had by all. Sam apparently enjoys a very affectionate relationship with other men’s beards. Beth may or may not have challenged Wes to a push-up contest. There was also an incident with a daisy-wheeled Volkswagen Beetle which lead to a new driving term.

Pulling a Daisy: Turning right from the center lane regardless of cars traveling forward in the right lane.

On the way back to the hotel, Olivia taught everyone in our car the proper pronunciation of “challah” and inadvertently signed herself up for a new greeting for the rest of the weekend.

Friday Beth and I split our time between casing the joint checking out the exhibitor hall and attending literary track panels. I picked up as many books as I thought I could pack back home (only a tiny fraction of what I wanted). We escaped before shenanigans got underway that night, so I sadly have no incriminating photos to share.

Saturday kicked off with a panel on speculative poetry that was entertaining but oddly confrontational (odd audience member is odd). Then we learned about the secret passages of the Phoenix Convention Center. That was where Beth and I met up with the always-entertaining Jaye Wells, and the three of us came face to face with Adam West and Julie Newmar as we exited one of the hidden elevators.

Biggest celebrity sighting at PHXCC was when I got off an elevator and Adam West and Julie Newmar were standing there with Chewbacca.

— Jaye Wells (@jayewells) June 9, 2014

After that we were all off to the ridiculously-named “Fantasy That Defies Description” panel, which would have made for a really short discussion had it been accurate. Thankfully the members of the panel were all hilarious and managed to point out the difference between defying description and defying the artificial construct of genre.

This panel, however, defies description. Left to Right: Django Wexler, Zachary Jernigan, Brian T. McClellan, Beth Cato, Myke Cole, Jaye Wells

This panel, however, defies description.
Left to Right: Django Wexler, Zachary Jernigan, Brian T. McClellan, Beth Cato, Myke Cole, Jaye Wells

Now, realize that we started the day with two goals: 1) Get Beth to both her panels on time, and 2) Stalk Nathan Fillion. Not in a creepy face-wearing kind of way. I just mean that we planned to show up early for his spotlight to camp some seats and didn’t care if we missed other cool panels in the meantime.

However, we also had to eat. I get hangry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry. So, with saving time in mind, we made good use of the hidden hallways (catching a few minutes of Bruce Campbell’s spotlight from backstage) and made a quick round of author alley to invite some people out for lunch. The adorable Lela Gwenn joined us for delicious pizza at La Piazza Locale a few blocks from the convention center, which was great fun but a tactical error: By the time we returned, staff members were already turning people away from the ballroom where Nathan Fillion would be appearing an hour later. Silly us. Apparently there had been people camping the ballroom from the time the con opened on Saturday, waiting to see him.

Scalzi feeding Rothfuss salsa. Like you do.

Scalzi feeding Rothfuss salsa. Like you do.
Leanna is not amused.

Which brings us to Author Batsu.

Clearly, when you’ve been denied Nathan Fillion, you go watch a bunch of authors torture each other for fun. This game was a Sam Sykes brainchild, and as such, guaranteed to be weird, funny, and potentially dangerous. It exceeded everyone’s expectations. There was only one rule: No matter what kind of goofiness Sam, the audience, and the other authors get up to, Don’t Laugh. There was also only one punishment: Taking a shot of salsa.

Easier said than done. Over the course of the game we discovered that Patrick Rothfuss makes both a damn fine wizard and a decent goat; Myke Cole has no tolerance for salsa; John Scalzi is amused by everything; and Aprilynn Pike is amused by nothing, ever. Delilah S. Dawson and Leanna Renee Hieber also managed to stay stone-faced for much of the proceedings, proving that they are either inherently less humorous (not bloody likely) or that women are just generally better at this sort of thing. Which doesn’t explain how Chuck Wendig managed to escape punishment for so much of the game. I suspect that his beard may have something to do with it, though that rumor has been neither confirmed nor denied.

We finished up both the night and our Phoenix Comicon experience with the Drinks with Authors party. There were themed drinks, book giveaways, and as promised, lots of authors. Beth seemed sort of shocked when people wanted to stop and talk with her, until I pointed out that she is also an author. Good times. Now, since I really need about a week’s worth of naps and a foot massage, I’ll wrap this up. Just one last photo. No context for you!

And then this happened.

And then this happened.

Slogging Through Faerieland

Photo by bogenfreund, used under Creative Commons license.

Photo by bogenfreund, used under Creative Commons license.

So how is everyone else faring in this post-Mayan-Apocalypse world? I have to say I’m pretty pleased the world didn’t end in December. The holidays were good to me, aside from the inevitable fifteen pounds I gained from “things I really shouldn’t eat but family made them, so I’ll just have a taste.” Oh, and immediately after New Year’s everyone in our family got sick. That made it a tad difficult to get back on the work-out wagon, but there’s always tomorrow. Or next month. Pass the Girl Scout cookies.

In the meantime, I’m starting over on my revisions with Palace of Bone. I’ve started the “How To Revise Your Novel” course by author Holly Lisle, and while the process is difficult for me (hello analytical brain, nice to know you’re still in there) it makes so much more sense than what I was doing, which basically amounted to agonizing over individual word choices while covering my ears and yelling “LA LA LA, I can’t hear you!” at the glaring plot holes and inconsistencies.

There’s something about reading your manuscript on paper that makes it look more real. Suddenly I can’t just wipe out an embarrassing typo with two clicks of the mouse. Nor can I delete the three sentences of redundant dialogue that make my protagonist sound like a babbling idiot and blithely pretend I never wrote that drivel in the first place. I have to face my drivel. It’s humbling, and it’s hard to get through it without wanting to give up.

I have faith that the story will emerge from this process stronger and better. Or, at the very least, I will have learned a few things about crafting a story without plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Hopefully. Wish me luck, won’t you?

Or send cookies.

Writing Goals:

  • Complete revision on Palace of Bone by the end of June 2013
  • Rework unnamed Earth Warden story for submission by Feb 28
  • Finish draft of “To Eat Dragon” by March 10?
  • Attend Dreamin’ in Dallas Conference March 29 – 30
  • Re-do outline for “Dancer” story, still not working

Goodbye, Summer!

Photo: Running With Seagulls by Ed Schipul

Photo by Ed Schipul, used under Creative Commons License

I know it’s still actually summer. And for large swathes of the country, it’s even still summer vacation. Not here, baby! Yeehaw!

L went back to school on Monday, M is in preschool three days a week, and all the crazy running-around-to-visit-family is behind us for a while. Not that I don’t love visiting. It just plays merry hell with any attempt at scheduling, routine, and writing.

This has left me a little depressed, to be honest. I feel like I’m falling behind (weird, since I have no deadlines as such). There’s a sort of pressure that builds up inside when I’m not actively working on anything, and it tends to come out as…crazy. Yeah. So, time to let off some steam!

So, with that in mind, here are my goals for September:

  • Finish revisions on unnamed Bell Hunter story.
  • Complete current revision pass on Palace of Bone through at least chapter 10.
  • Rough draft of “dancer” story.
  • Use more unordered lists on the blog because I love those cute little spirals!

Seriously?

Yesterday, I asked my brain to get serious about this whole “editing and revising” thing we’re supposed to be doing. Instead, my brain flashed a shiny new 4000 word short story at me.

So we went with that. Now I have two things to edit and revise. I ask you, brain, what the hell was the point of that little detour, hmm?

Still, it did let me work out some world building and details for a character who’s been kicking around the back of my head for a while. Once my brain has recovered from its current puddingy consistency (don’t ask), I’ll write up a bit about Bell. I think you’re going to like her.

Well, I like her, anyway. That’s good enough for now.

WTB: +5 Shears of Editing, PST

Yeah, I totally geeked out on the title there, sorry. Still, some +5 Shears of Editing would come in really handy right about now.

This particular novel wanted to be Young Adult, whatever I thought about that plan (I’m actually quite enjoying it). The average length on a YA novel tends to be on the lower. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 40,000 to 80,000 words with the caveat that only books with speculative fiction elements should be at the higher end of that range.

When I pitched this at Desert Dreams 2012, I couldn’t remember my exact word count after the latest revisions. I guesstimated that it was around 90,000 words–too high, but not ridiculously outside the realm of possibility, especially for fantasy.

Imagine my surprise when I finally sat down to work on further revisions this week and saw the actual word count: 94,000. Whoopsie!

Thankfully I already had plans to axe a couple of scenes. That brought me down to about 90,000 words yesterday. Today I condensed three more scenes, so I was feeling pretty good about my progress. Then I checked my current word count: 90,500.

I’ll be damned if the thing is getting shorter, but it’s definitely getting better.