Monday, November 29, 2010

#AmWriting

Well, it's Endo-NaNoWriMo Eve. I've put out a plate of cookies and glass of absinthe for the NaNo Fairy, though I don't think she'll make it to my house this year. For, you see, I am not a winner. I cannot haz a little patchwork sign of success.

And I'm alright with that.

I knew going in that I wouldn't have enough time during the august month of November to generate 50,000 of the right kind of words. I think my goal was something like 25,000. I had a solid outline, and now stand right around 28,000.

Shortly after I acquired an agent, I developed a deepseated terror of revisions. I can do them, mind you, and they inevitably make the story delightfully bettah. But my first reaction upon receiving notes is to sprint for a (metaphorical) knife so that I can commit (metaphorical) seppuku stat.

So I took my time this year. I cranked through Act I, then stopped. I backtracked, chopping excess words with the editorial machete in my right hand and tweaking characters and phrasing with the polishing wrench in my left. I've written about 45,000 words to date in this manuscript, and currently stand at 28,000. But they're a good 28,000, and they're going to roll me into another good 28,000. And, hopefully, by the time I get the last third of the story set, I'll have a draft 1.5. No zero drafts for this girl.

So, my dears, how are you going to be celebrating Endo-Nano? With a bang, or with a whimper?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When I Love It...I Set It Free

I went to the bookstore tonight. You know, a brick and mortar store in which they sell...Nooks. And board games, greeting cards and calenders. And, way back behind those, some books.

I went to pick up Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, which I sampled on my kindle after hearing wonderful things about it from many people, most recently the lovely Margo. And, while I was there, I picked up a book I had ordered.

I am now faced with an odd situation. A couple of weeks ago I downloaded Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim on my kindle. It was free (LEGALLY SO), presumably part of the publisher's marketing of the sequel, Kill the Dead. I really liked the book. Nay, I loved it. I loved it so much I drove to a bookstore to buy it. And, when it wasn't on the shelf, I was so determined to show my appreciation to the author by buying it that I ordered it.

So, now I've got it in my hand, a book that I love, that I recommend to anyone I think might enjoy it, and a few people who might not, but should. And I don't want to read it. I mean, I just finished it and I've got other books stacking up on my nightstand at an industrious rate, including the oddly-sized sequel, plus I own another version.

So, what am I to do?

I think I'll give this copy away in one-a-them new-fangled contest thingamajiggers. I might actually drive back down to the bookstore (not tonight - we have a second glass law in my house), purchase a few other books that have delighted me over the years, and then give them away to blog followers. Probably I'll limit it to U.S. states, territories and possessions because my local post office is staffed by two hard-working ladies and one Gorg. I always end up with the Gorg, and the Gorg doesn't know shit. (No offense, Jim Henson)

So, stay tuned...contest a-coming.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving (or November 25th, if you don't partake)

I'm thankful for good health, entertaining family and friends, the people in the world who are better than me (you know who you are - give yourselves a hand!), the people of the past with their fantastic fashion and wordsmithing, and excellent food, which makes me go like this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Looking Forward

Thursday I'll be focusing on things I'm thankful for. I like to think I do that more often than a single, designated Thursday per annum, but on Thursday especially. Today, however, I'll focus on things I'm looking forward to.

MOVIE
Sucker Punch Blimps and dragons and swords, oh my! Showgirls and mental hospitals and isolation, oh no! March 25, 2011

SPORT
UFC 124 St-Pierre vs. Koschek. If you're not into it, that's fine. If you are, this should be a good one. December 11, 2010

BOOK
Angel Town by Lilith Saintcrow. I'm looking forward to dozens of books in the coming year, some of which I haven't even heard of yet, but Angel Town will be the finally installment of Saintcrow's Jill Kismet series. The series has been a beautiful, raw challenge of a read, and Saintcrow ended the fifth book, Heaven's Spite, with an actual to be continued... followed by the most amazing snippet.

So tell me, readers and passers-by, what are you looking forward to in the coming months or years?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Do You Do When the Love is Gone?

You loved it. It consumed your thoughts, got you up in the morning before the sun rose and kept you up at night. You'd sit down to your favorite t.v. show and realize with both embarrassment and excitement that you preferred your own characters, maybe even your own story, to the beautiful people and emotional travails that used to keep you riveted.

But that was last month.

This month you can barely get the document/notebook open before your attention slides off to this forum or that blog, before you finds yourself scanning for atmospheric music or fighting/geographically-specific landscape/dramatic chipmunk videos.

So, what do you do when the love is gone? When you've lost the spark that drew you back to your story at every conscious moment and a few surreal, unconscious ones.

1. Think About Time. Like, in a cosmic sense. You have a limited number of years on this planet. Do you want to spend them watching sitcom reruns or wearing a barstool smooth? Do you want to pour all your sweat and soul into your employer's bottom line? Do you want your years to drift by in a haze of Playdough in your hair and toes stubbed on floors full of children's toys? Do you want to achieve the highest post count on your favorite online forum? Is that how you want to mark the passage of precious time? Or do you want a handful of hours a week to be dedicated to creating something? Something that is all yours. Something that, in spite of being seemingly limited to flat paper and plain, black ink, can live and breathe inside of the mind?

2. Think About Hard Work. After the age of about four, very little in life is easy. You have to work to feed yourself. You have to work to keep your home sanitary. You have to work to keep relationships healthy. You have to work your ass off to keep house plants alive/put up drywall/or make a really good paella.

Sometimes writing isn't easy. Sometimes you have to write through distraction or sickness. Sometimes you have to write scenes that are intensely emotional or technically difficult. Sometimes the muse doesn't leave the perfect line of dialogue or plot twist under your pillow and you have to tear the thing out. Extracting a tooth with pliers and no painkiller would be more pleasant. But you'll feel a damn sight better when it's out.

3. Think About The Scene. I used to hike with my dad and at some point, usually about 1/2 way in, I started hating it. Dad can hike for 13 hours with a Cliff bar and 12 oz bottle of water. He won't even finish the water. I'm pretty sure he's part machine. I am not part machine. I am short-legged, easily distracted, and adamantly opposed to sweat.

When I got tired, he had me focus on the next hill. Or that copper-stained boulder in the middle of the ridge, not the pile of them at the end. The moral of this ramble? Don't stand up in the middle of chapter four and look for the end of the book. It's obscured by clouds. Do look for the start of chapter five. It's just around the bend, and there's a refreshing creek there.

4. Cut Yourself Some Slack. Nobody wakes up a great writer and, even if they do, that doesn't make them a great storyteller. Practice might not make perfect, but it will make you a whole lot better. So you've written three novels and nobody wants to represent them. So what? Stick them in a shoe box under the bed. Start on number four. Use the lessons you learned writing the first three.

(ASIDE: I'm assuming that you had other people read the first three novels, and that those people weren't related to you. Or, if they were, that they know what makes a good story and can clearly articulate things. I'm assuming that you spent time polishing those stories. I'm assuming, in other words, that you did the work beyond merely hitting a word count. If you're finishing NaNo novels, spell-checking them and querying them, then maybe you need to take some time off from writing and learn a bit about how to write for publication, if that's your goal. END ASIDE)

So, to sum up:
Decide that writing is something you want to do. For some, there is no decision; it's a fundamental need. Either way, make the time.

Admit that it's not always going to be flowers and double-rainbows, that you will not astound yourself with your own closet genius every day.

Set achievable goals, and recognize that sometimes even small progress is a big success. And, when the going gets tough, feel free to take a break. Writing is hard, but it shouldn't be miserable. Having to take "me" time from the characters you've invented seems odd, but sometimes you even need separation from the fictional people. Don't tell non-writers this. They will not understand, and might to try to commit you. Maybe just tell them your wrists or eyes are tired, or something.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Freakshows

The place: Urban Chain Grocery Store
The time: 5:10 pm, on a Tuesday

Me: (internal monologue) Should I buy regular sour cream or Mexican sour cream? What's the difference? Or should I buy low-fat sour cream? Maybe that's the question I should be asking.

Guy: (stomps up to the dairy case, stops beside me) Really?

Me: (looks up, then around to be sure he's talking to me. apparently, he is)

Guy: I told you this was my store.

Me: What? (internal monologue) What the fuck, you short, skinny lumberjack-looking psycho? Am I going to have to take you out using nothing but this Mexican sour cream?

Guy: (looking perplexed) Oh, I thought you were my ex-wife. (looks me up and down) But if you were, you'd look sluttier.

Me: Awesome. (walks away, muttering to self about how, when I put my hair up into a hot-librarian bun, I seem to attract all the weirdos)


Monday, November 15, 2010

What I Can See From Here

I have an entire thumb drive filled with ideas that are too large or too subtle for me to confidently write. It's a strange thing to conceive of something you don't have the skill or finesse to create.

When I finished my first novel-length manuscript, I felt like I'd created something singular and phenomenal. (My bookshelves advised otherwise, but I was juiced and a little amazed at my accomplishment, so I didn't listen.) It was an urban fantasy with a reluctant heroine and a beta male as the leads. It was poorly paced, occasionally risky, and decidedly unlovely. Also, I believe I mentioned Funyuns. It was not what the market was looking for in late 2009. A couple of scenes will likely reincarnate in other works, but I doubt I'll ever try to resurrect the thing. I still love it, but for what it was (my beloved first), not for what it has the potential to be.

When I stopped three-quarters of the way through my second novel-length manuscript (75,000 words in) because the story wasn't coming together, I felt okay. I told myself I'd circle back to it when I figured out what was wrong. What was wrong was that I was stringing words together and forming, instead of a novel, a really long piece of crap riddled with clich├ęs. I'd tried to fit it closer to the accepted (and well-selling) tropes of paranormal romance, and failed miserably. Or maybe I was succeeding. Anyway, I didn't like it.

My third manuscript landed me an agent. I tried to execute a certain style, found it really couldn't be sustained for the length required of a contemporary novel, re-envisioned it, and came out with something unexpected. The story still makes me laugh out loud on the eleventy-billionth reading, and my heart actually beats faster through a couple of chapters. In previous incarnations it was more disturbing, more philosophical, sexier, and flatter than champagne left out in the rain. My agent believes she can sell it, and I believe in her ability to.

I love these characters, in this world. I want to write them through adventures and losses, surprises and betrayals, and that one failure that I'm pretty sure will earn me a slap from an angry reader one day.

But more than that, I'm writing now so that I can one day be the writer capable of doing justice to those worlds that are too bold and too tragic for me to fully realize now. I want to grow and innovate, to become capable of nuance and wordplay that I haven't yet mastered. It was only a few years ago, after all, that I wasn't even able to finish a novel.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Twitter Speak

An odd tendency has slipped into my spoken communication lately: the desire to add a punchline in the form of a hashtag. For those of you who don’t use/don’t pay attention to/hate with a burning passion all things Twitter, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

A hashtag is this: # (the sign formerly known as “pound”). It’s a way to unite tweets in the twitterverse. For instance, the hashtag #followfriday (or #FF) is a way for people (on Fridays) to suggest that other tweeps follow the same people they follow. #moviesinmypants was a trending topic in which people could take movie titles, add the phrase “in my pants” to it, and laugh until they peed themselves. I think the movie Shaft (in my pants) was the frontrunner, but personally I preferred my entry Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (in my pants).

The hashtag has evolved, though, into a way for individuals to punch up a joke or reveal irony in their tweets. Remember you’ve only got 140 characters, and sometimes you have to condense your thoughts to convey them in a single tweet. A couple examples:

@NicolePeeler (Author of the awesome Jane True series from @orbitbooks)

I feel like my sex scene lacks rhythm #whitegirlscanthump

@michaelianblack (Comedian and author of several acclaimed children’s books, including A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea)

I have no cash on me so I stole one of my daughter's dollars to put under her pillow after she lost a tooth last night. #true #shithead

So now I find myself in conversations where I have something funny to say, but it will only be really funny with a hashtag ending. However, unlike “air quotes”, hashtags don’t yet have an off-the-page equivalent. At least, nothing that doesn’t resemble throwing out gang signs, which are frowned upon at our office.

I assume that, somewhere out there, a university is in the process of applying for a grant to study this phenomenon (the etymology of hashtag humor, not my ignorant and probably offensive use of gang signs). I look forward to the results of the study.

For the time being, I will clasp my hands firmly in front of me while speaking, and work on my comic timing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

AW Blog Chain - A Dear John Letter

This month's AbsoluteWrite blog chain was a challenge. The theme was not a theme so much as a concept: a drabble. A story in a hundred words. I am generally not known for my brevity, but I hope you can pull a story out of these few words. I give you:
~~~
DEAR JOHN~a drabble
~~~

“I’m not good with art,” John says, squinting at the note.

I look down at the crisp white paper, the even black script.

“It’s not art.” I point to the three distinct words. How can he not see? “It says…”

He makes an impatient sound, a sound of finality. The world is suddenly blurry and I blink to clear my eyes.

“Sorry. You know I can’t find the meaning in this creative shit.” He scuffs out of the room, drops into his ergo-set and links into the feeds.

The words droop, the ink bleeding away. “It says ‘I love you’.”


Please check out the other fine and varied participants:

Bettedra direct link to her post.
FreshHell direct link to her post
CScottMorris direct link to his post
AuburnAssassin direct link to her post
Aheila direct link to her post
Bibbo direct link to his post
YOU ARE HERE.
Orion_mk3 http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com/
Proach http://desstories.blogspot.com
jonbon.benjamin http://jonbonbenjamin.blogspot.com/
rmgil04 http://writersinprogresswip.blogspot.com/
Madelein.Erwein http://madeleineirwen.blogspot.com/
PASeasholtz http://paseasholtz.com/

Regypsy http://regypsy.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Bettedra for hosting!



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some of My Favorite Things

I'm a little light on easily imparted intelligence these days, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite lines. Some of these I've read recently, so they're sparkling on the old brain. Others are classics, permanently ingrained. I hope you enjoy.
~~~
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. - Percy Bysshe Shelley, To a Skylark

He had a face like a collapsed lung. ~ Raymond Chandler, The Long Good-Bye

Clean of living things. ~ Robin McKinley, Sunshine

One part of me wanted to puke quietly, but thoroughly, in a far corner of the room. ~ Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim
~~~
Out of the context of their killer stories (or poem, in the one case), these might not mean much to you. To me, they were unexpected, clever, or simply and perfectly suited to the moment. The impudent hatchlings that climbed into my ear, subtle as a song, and then just never left.

But I've saved the best for last. Here, dear readers is my favorite knuckle-cracking, one-sided grin of a line:

And now I'm going to tell you something really cool. ~ Attributed to Stephen Brust (A storyteller's creed)

So tell me, dahlings, what are your favorites?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Didn't Know It Would Be So Hard/I Didn't Know I Would Love It So Much

I just finished cleaning my office (read: spare bedroom). And by "finished" I mean I became equal parts distracted and frustrated and gave up.

Twice this week I’ve put laundry in the dryer and then walked away without starting it. This is an obvious (to me) sign that I’m overtaxed. Stretched to the point of being rice-paper thin. I used to lock my keys in the car when I was in such a state…while it was running. I don’t do that anymore, but only because my current car does not allow it.

It’s November. My work is gearing up because we’re busiest at year-end. I’ll be traveling later in the month, so I’m trying to get ahead. I have to pull out my ever-expanding Christmas shopping list and get my shop on. I hate getting my shop on.


Coworkers and friends have noticed my frazzled distraction and, in an effort to help, suggested that I pull out of NaNo. Inside my head, this sends me off into peals of hysterical laughter. In the real world, I plaster on a sincere smile and say: “Oh, that’s not the problem.”

Because, what they don’t understand is that I was writing almost every night and weekend before NaNo. I didn’t have as high a daily word count. Sometimes I counted making it into the chair and staying awake while the laptop whirred to life as a success.

Quick Aside: In Defense of NaNo

I’ve heard NaNo decried as a self-glorifying way for a bunch of talentless hacks to crank out loads of crap. Believe me, talentless hacks don’t need to be encouraged to crank out the crap; it comes naturally and inexorably.

NaNo gives people who toil alone a chance to be part of an energetic, enthusiastic community. It gives the writers who haven’t been able to get past the 10K, 20K or 40K mark just enough positive pressure that, this time, they might make it.

Will NaNo2010 result in a lot of very bad stories? Of course. Most will die unfinished deaths, or wither from the writer’s priority list during the revision process, the beta reading process, or the query process. That’s the natural order of things. Some beautiful novels have come out of NaNo. I’ve seen the sales of two intriguing novels within the last year, and I’m sure there are many more I’m unaware of.

End Aside.

My problem isn’t that NaNo is wearing me out. It’s that life is getting in my way. My employer, like many others, is pushing higher profits without providing more shoulders on which to balance the work. My child is fully aware of the time his mother spends away from him, so I’m trying to shift more of that to his sleeping hours. I’m also trying to add two hours of workout time to my week since coming to realize that, despite all the science fiction I read, this is likely the only body I’m going to be allowed.

So, where does this leave me? In a half-clean office but, more importantly, sitting at my computer, about to start writing again. Because, you know what? I have to. I have to go to work because I have bills to pay. I have to clean because, even in the far north, we get vermin in unsanitary environments. But I have to write because, if I don’t, I will go stark-raving mad. It’s my escape and my entertainment, and the effort I put into it is returned tenfold in satisfaction. It is, dear readers, worth it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Worst Nightmare, Light

I just spilled champagne on my computer, and now I'm terrified that this might happen.

I don't want a life full of malevolent electronics, bad hair, weird speech cadence, musical montages and dot matrix printers.

Also, why the hell do people fall down and make out so much (not necessarily in that order) in that trailer?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

5 Tips To Be a Better NaNo-er (or Writer in General)

It's November; you can't expect much from me.

1. Stop eating all the time. You're not even hungry! (That's a life lesson. You're welcome.)

2. Make sure all your characters want things and do things. Existing for the sole purpose of engaging in clever dialog does not count. (It's not as clever as you think it is anyway.)

3. Don't spend your time watching other writers' vlogs (unless it's this one or this one). They make them in order to distract you so that, on a universal level, they will be better than you because they focused while you were gawking and giggling over their vlog. (Not sure how I feel about the created-word "vlog".)

4. Stop searching the interwebs for startling and amazing photos of yakuza tattoos. (This might just be a personal issue. Note how I didn't include a link, so that now YOU will be forced to search for them. See point #3. Mwaahahaha.)

5. Do not reenact classic battles from the days of yore (like the hatchet gang ambush from Drunken Master II) using army men, live cats (the army men were little, green and plastic-not live), and emery boards. Just...just don't.

Good Night, and Good Luck.