Not In the Mood to Edit

>> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Editing is one of those inevitable things with writing, where you go back and fix and polish your work. I've talked about reading things out loud and about letting it set a bit. What I haven't done is tell you when you shouldn't be editing.

See, when writing is ready to come out, you can't stop it. And, at least in my case, when it's not in me, I can't write. There's no right or wrong time. I write because I have to.

But editing is something else. It's hard to look at your own work with fresh eyes and try to figure out what's wrong with it. Even if you've managed to detach yourself enough to be (fairly) objective, you know what you were trying to convey, why the characters act the way they do, what you meant to say. Many times I miss whole words I'd forgotten to write in the heat of writing it down the first time and my mind automatically supplies them when I edit. Very embarrassing, some of those slips are.

It's necessary, time-consuming, and rarely fun, at least for me. But, no matter the urge to get it over with, I've discovered there are two times I should leave it be a bit longer:

(a) When it sounds perfect
(b) When it sounds like unadulterated crap

If I feel either way when I start, where everything is perfect or everything sucks royally, I'll know I'm too close to it for whatever reason. I'll need perspective or what editing I do will be warped.

'Cause, in the end, it's not about feeling good about it; it's about making something good.


Simmering on the back burner

>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You ever have that feeling that somethings gelling in your subconscious, that your brain is putting this or that together, cooking, percolating, building until, when it's ready, you'll be able to sit in front of the computer and have gorgeous prose just bust out of you?

I do. I get that a great deal.

Unfortunately, because of the way my brain works, my conscious mind has no insight into what wonders my subconscious might be working. I know I'm working on something; I can feel it, feel inspired.

The problem is that I have no idea what work is going on. I don't even know which of the eight or so projects I have in hand I'm working on. That's right, folks, I have no idea which novel I'll be working on.


On the other hand, what fun it is to see it in print for the first time, reading it like it was for the first time 'cause, hey, it will all be new to me. Crazy again, but kind of cool, too.


True Romance

>> Thursday, March 25, 2010

A surprisingly large portion of my favorite books, from classics to all genres, involve a measure of romance. Not just romance, but romance the way that I define it.

Sadly, in my opinion, many romances, at least today, have lost sight of that same romance.

See, when I speak of romance, I mean loving someone more than yourself. Not letting yourself be destroyed by them, but willing to sacrifice yourself on their behalf, which is something different.

Most of today's romances have heroes that demonstrate their love by losing control of their lust, even raping, with a woman, no matter what the consequences to her and/or tossing her aside with prejudice at the first hint (however meager) of infidelity or betrayal. Female protagonists seem to either be a male version of such a scumbag or a limp doormat ready and willing to be kicked around by the hero because she's set on fire by his touch (no matter how intractable she is otherwise).


The notion, central in my opinion to true romance, of making sacrifices or adaptations for the well-being of another, including restraining one's own lustful urges if they will do harm (as they frequently do in romances) seem very much the exception and not the rule in today's romance...and more's the pity. Romance means trust. Romance means working for their happiness rather than obsessing on your own jealousy. Jealousy is not romantic. I will note that at least two of the most successful romance authors ever write true romance the way I see it.

That should say something, if only I'm not the only one out there who is more enchanted by love between partners, where sex is friendly, consensual, and even foregone if it will do the other harm than I am "love" that is basically unstoppable, even brutal, sex in graphic detail between two people who do nothing but hate each other when not in the sheets together (and sometimes there, too).

I love love, believe in it, live it. Nothing makes me fall in love with a character like being truly romantic (per my own definition). Nothing makes me shut a book faster than sacrificing your lover to your own selfish interests.

There, I said it.

Now I feel better.


Well, That's Gratifying

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So, I'm in a good mood. Something cool happened to me, writing-wise.

See, at one time I put two items on, thinking that was a writing haven to pursue. lets readers read and compare stories with the same "topic" so works can move toward the top. I was cool with the notion until I found out that you can't remove them, take them down, or, in fact, have any control of them. One was a short story I'd already had published (currently ranked 3 out of 92 so that's not bad).

The other was a long rhyme and rhythm poem (The Siren) that I have completely ignored for years, currently ranked 1 of 8. Which is kind of cool since my type of poetry is terribly old-fashioned. I have no illusions on the sale-ability of my poetry in general.

So, I was gratified to find that someone was trying to contact me to use that Siren poem. She did a google search for siren songs or something, found my Siren poem and then apparently did a google search on me that took me to my blog Ask Me Anything. And asked if she could use it.

Turns out, she's a clothing designer in Europe who wants to use the poem in an ad campaign. True, I won't make any money from it, but isn't that COOL?

I thought it was.


That Special Something

>> Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I like characters. I make no bones about it. They're a favorite. It's what I read for, what I write for.

One thing that amazes me is how even bad books can have good characters, how characters you like don't have to be perfect (in fact, the best aren't), can make mistakes, have (very) checkered pasts, be funny, taciturn or whatever. But they have that special something, that spark that appeals to readers or audiences alike.

Take The Princess and the Frog. My world-weary teenager didn't want to watch it but, as a cruel parent, I made her. She fell in love with one of the characters and nearly cried late in the movie. I won't tell you why she cried, but the character was a little bug, a firefly with a huge glowing butt.

And I totally understand why she loved him. So did I. Only Disney and/or Pixar can make bugs that appealing.

In the Twilight books, I totally get Edward. Actually, I find the large number of teenage characters (Bella, Jacob, etc.) irksome and all teenagery, but Edward is 109 year old and I can completely understand where he's coming from. I get him. I don't care what the critics say. People who read those novels do so because they get some character or another.

That's the key. People have to "get" your character, identify with him or her. You do that, you put that in words, and they'll follow your character anywhere.

And that's why I write the way I do.


Something I Can't Express

>> Monday, March 22, 2010

In general, I'm pretty confident in my ability to express things with words.

I feel like I can paint a scene with words so that most of us can conjure an image, can evoke the brilliant depths of the jungle in shades of emerald and ruby and sapphire teaming with insect life, or oppressive heat and faded landscape of the desert, shimmering in the noonday sun.

I feel I can call to mind the tink tink of rain on a window pane when one is trying to sleep or the warm rumble of a cat's purr curled up against one's neck.

I feel I can capture the sharp scent of lemon or the itchy feel of bark against one's back.

I can, and have, evoked laughter and sorry, fear and loathing, tenderness and surprise.

I've brought voices to life in dialog that many have claimed to hear.

The one thing I can't seem to figure out when it comes to writing is music. Oh, I've tried (Windrider), but it's not the same. Music, I think, has to be experienced, not just because the range of emotions and music is so vast, but because it becomes personal to each one who hears it, who experiences it. The most I could give is what I experience and that's a far cry from the music itself.

I thought about this this past week as we watched the movie we bought my children, The Princess and the Frog. I'm by no means a connoisseur of jazz and cajun music, but I found it all compelling (more so since the speakers and singers were the same), from the clear and powerful voice of the main character, to the dark and mesmerizing song of the villain to the lullaby of the firefly, Ray, to his far-off love to the snappy music of the old voodoo woman. Charming.

I guess I'll know I'm really good when I can describe it and you'll be able to hear what I'm singin'.



>> Sunday, March 21, 2010

I've mentioned before that I love dialog. Well, I do. I think it's the sarcastic streak I have in me. I read something snarky, write something sarcastic and I tickle myself terribly.

If you glance at my favorite authors at the blog posts I did on all three blogs a few days back, you'll probably note more than my fair share of humor and sarcasm. There's a reason for that.

I love it.

I love clever comebacks and cruel wit. I love sarcasm and irony and humor. I love people who aren't afraid to say what they think in a clever way. I like when pretensions are squelched or people predisposed to prejudge have their expectations turned on end.

Heck, I live for that.

I read some of that today (Georgette Heyer) and read more reading through one of my own novels, looking for flaws.

Good stuff, if I say so myself.


Finally, Moving Back Into My Groove

>> Thursday, March 18, 2010

Well, that was fun and it got me to thinking. Time to get to work on more writing. I have a bunch of novels in the hopper. What to do next?

My husband has a pet product that would probably be a good idea to pursue. This was one of his ideas and he seems to have finally settled on a plot. Now, Lee is the gadget guy, and he has this fabulous space ship envisioned with fabric drive and hydroponics and, well, everything.

And Phoenix, the artificial brain that drives this craft and its eclectic command crew. He has armor and little fighter craft and weapons all picked out. That's what he does best. He had the crew, of course, when I got there.

But I'm the one that fleshes 'em out, gives them voice and history, makes them work together. I've written probably twenty chapters on these folks already, but he kept changing the story he wanted to tell. Time at last to put all these interesting folks together, from the ugly amphibious alien deathly afraid of cats to the tiny Captain, leader by default.

Can't wait.


Answers for Yesterday

>> Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Most did better on the classics than on the others. Here are the few remaining answers for those that missed 'em.

  1. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
  2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
  3. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
  4. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Again, I was surprised; admittedly, I could have ensured it by naming Mowgli.
  5. The Scarlet Pimpernel by the Baroness Orczy
  6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, my personal favorite of that talented family.
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (which I would not have figured out myself)
  8. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Hopefully, I'm not the only one who thinks of it as a classic.
  9. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I could, of course, said Dorian Gray, but that made it too easy.
  10. "A Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Alan Poe (I know it's a story; sue me)
So, now you know the kinds of classics I favor. Kudos to Roy and The Mother for getting so many of these.


Carrying on the List From Yesterday

>> Tuesday, March 16, 2010

See, you all probably thought I'd give you all the answers today. Haha, not so fast. I'll be the first to say that I would have struggled to determine some of these books from the first line, but I do know my characters. And, besides, I got the idea from Relax Max. Again. So, for all the ones not guessed, I'm going to provide character names and let you try again. If there was a character mentioned in the first line, I'll assume it wasn't enough and add a second character.

  1. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
  2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
  3. Hank Morgan
  4. Father Wolf and Akela
  5. Marguerite St. Juste
  6. Catherine Earnshaw
  7. Pierre Arronax
  8. Time Traveler and Weena
  9. Basil Hallward
  10. Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Alan Poe (I know it's a story; sue me)
And, yes, I'll be doing the same on my other blogs, Ask Me Anything and Rocket Scientist.


Ten Lines from Ten Classics

>> Monday, March 15, 2010

Relax Max did this on his blog and I enjoyed it, even though I did poorly guessing the classics. A large part of that is that I have very eclectic tastes in books (not necessarily the "classics"). However, I do like a number of classic books and stories. So, this is my take on the same exercise, using classics I love (and you know because I took the lines directly from my own ebook reader):

  1. Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'
  2. On the 24th of February, 1810, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.
  3. It was in Warwick Castle that I came across the curious stranger whom I am going to talk about.
  4. It was seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself, yawned and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips.
  5. A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.
  6. I have just returned from a visit to my landlord--the solitary neighbur that I shall be troubled with.
  7. The year 1866 was signalised by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzling phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.
  8. The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.
  9. The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate scent of the pink-flowering thorn.
  10. The thousand injuries of Fortunato I have borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.
So, work and author, if possible. Note I will doing the same thing for my favorite (not necessarily classic) science fiction/fantasy works on Rocket Scientist and my favorite books-that-don't-qualify-as-either on Ask Me Anything. I think this is fun.

Oh, and I'm back.


I Will Be Back

>> Friday, March 12, 2010

Sorry, folks, work overwhelmed me and I've been putting in the hours at home the last two nights. More blogging will have to wait until Monday because I'm going out of town to dial-in land and I'm not dedicated enough to try to do the blogs from there. So, come Monday, I hope to be back in the swing of things now that my paper is DONE and my work stuff is finally tapering off.



>> Sunday, March 7, 2010

Swamped at work and it's spilling over into home. Until I get my upcoming paper done, I'm going to have to step back a bit from some of the blogs. Hopefully, that will happen this week.

I'll be out of town next weekend, though, so it may be a bit before I can get back into the groove.

Bear with me.


Keep Your Details Straight

>> Thursday, March 4, 2010

When I write a short story, I frequently write it in one sitting. Maybe a couple. If I can't remember the color of a character's eyes or what I called her pet tiger, it's only a few "page ups" away. Keeping track of characteristics and familiars and skills, etc. generally isn't that difficult.

That can change when you write a book, especially if, like me, you have large casts of characters. I can remember their characteristics, of course, what makes them characters. But, over the course of the weeks, months, even years it takes me to write them down, I can forget eye colors or ages or even names. Actually, I have a real problem with names. It's a considerable failing.

Few things jar an interested reader like having a familiar change from Wistful to Weapon (or worse, back again) before the book is over. Someone left-handed should bloody well stay left handed. Scars and limps should stay where first described. Short people should stay short and old people should stay old.

With my first novel, which had a substantial ensemble cast, I actually wrote up a who's who, which kept familiar names straight and who was married to whom - very important when having a group of mates off to rescue their other halves. I'm including it with the book because, on the very few times I've run into things like that in a book, I've appreciated it, especially if, as I did with Curse of the Jenri, the book bounces from one character's part of the story to the other.

With only a few characters, of course, it's less important. But I have cheat sheets for the ones with big casts, including height, gender, talents and alter animal for my shapechangers in Beast Within and special skill in the group of characters in The Guardian.

I suspect, for those who favor plot-driven books, rather than character oriented novels, especially those with a tight plot, similar notes might be used to keep all the threads carefully groomed, leaving no strands dangling in the end.

Details matter.


Finding Time

>> Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Of all the challenges I face as a writer, there is nothing that stands in my way more than a general lack of time.

I love writing, can edit on the fly, am always cooking up some new twist, some new take on something. I love characters and research and dialog and the whole bit.

But when to do it? I work full time, as many writers do, have three children, down to the ankle-biter size, have a labor-intensive husband who needs a modicum of attention, a busy blog presence, a reading habit and more than my fair share of hobbies, including jewelry-making, crocheting and embroidery. Finding a few hours where no one's demanding anything of me, where I don't have something that *needs* to be done or where no one will *need* my attention is, well, challenging.

And, with my writing, I tend to get immersed. That can mean being sucked in where thirty minutes just won't cut it. I rarely sit down to write and get up after doing less than a few thousand words. And, if I do, I either got interrupted too soon or I wasn't really ready to put it on paper.

Blocks of time, of course, are hard to come by. The only advantage I have is that I'm a night owl, rarely in bed before midnight, and frequently much later. Of course, I have to get up before six.

Which means I write at the expense of sleep.

But at least I'm writing.


Do Your Research

>> Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Now, I'll admit, I love research. History, science, engineering, psychology, medicine, weaponry, architecture, I love it all. I love to find out stuff. It's great. One of the good things about loving to learn and writing is that one fits tidily into the other.

Ironically, since I mostly write fantasy and science fiction, I need very little for my writing. Having said that, if I use science, it's sound. If I describe weapons, I can visualize the weapon and know how it's used (if I haven't used it myself). I understand the basics of combat. I understand geography and geology. If I have armor, I know what type it is and its limitations.


Because nothing yanks you out of a story like stumbling across something that's patently untrue. Even fantasy. Definitely science fiction. Absolutely history. If you write a novel set in the past, you'd better know your period and well. Know the clothing and the terminology, the customs and mores. Knowing historical facts is not enough.

Now, a writer could say, oh, well, what are the odds. . .

Well, see, readers know the darnedest things, particularly voracious readers. What's more, the same people prone to read fantasy are the ones most likely to know weaponry and terms and magical mores. People reading science fiction probably know more than their fair share of at least basic science. These are the folks you want to read more of your books. Yanking them out of your story, however clever it is, with mistakes that a little research could prevent is not a good way to build an audience.

Heck, I closed the door on Tom Clancy not two chapters into Patriot Games because he had a fact (with no real purpose I could see) wrong and I happened to know it off the top of my head. Also the book was bothering me, but that's another story. Haven't been tempted to read him since. Note, however, that he's managed to be successful without me. But it's not the sort of thing one can count on.

Of course, to minimize your research, if it doesn't give you the same thrill it does me, you can keep things general, no specifics, no details. Still, many readers are put off by the lack. But, in my opinion, better to keep it vague than to fill the book with glaringly inaccurate details that set the knowing's teeth on edge.

Take a few minutes. If you don't know if the word "allergic" existed in Regency England, look it up. You can find that data (Dictionary says it became part of the language in 1910, so no). If you think you can have a geostationary satellite hovering over the north pole, look up orbital mechanics (you can't). You want to use nuclear fuel in your space ship? Make sure you have a good cooling system and the right fuel.


Back 'Er Up

>> Monday, March 1, 2010

Apparently, this week, I'm going through some of those niggly little details that aren't so much a part of writing except that, if you don't do these things, your writing may suffer. My plan is to get the bulk of these out, at least the ones I know, this week and dive back into writing on Monday.

Why? Wel,l because I was reminded yesterday why this is so important.

See, I was happily messing around on my computer when it started to lag, bad. I rebooted. When it came back up, I had a near coronary because it was making ugly sounds, grinding sounds, sounds like the hard drive was dying in an ugly way.

And I didn't have the hard drive backed up because, well, the backup software won't work unless I can make a "startup diskette" which is irksome because this computer has never had a diskette drive. But I digress.

I was frantically looking for another backup program, wondering how long it's going to last when the computer grinding moves up and adds a growling, then a loud bang following by and ominous rattling.

But my computer is still going. I can't shut it down fast enough. My husband pulls it apart as we try to find whatever failed and realize, happily, that my CD drive has killed my Diablo II disc inside. Shattered it. Happily because that's readily replaced.

What it reminds me, however, is that writing demands backing up well and often. And multiple places. When I had my *$*#^&@ Vista computer, I was using Office 2003 which was, unfortunately, not compatible. At one point, Word crashed and not only did I lose the work I was working on right then, it erased it from my hard drive. Ten chapters, gone. I had to rebuild the first few chapters with bits I'd put on line for friends to review. The rest I pulled together over months because it was so disheartening.

Take a moment to take that in. Ten chapters.

Even before that software nightmare. I've managed to accidentally copy old files over new ones, failed to save so that a day's work (if not more) was lost. I'm absentminded, but I'm also aware that there are software vagaries, hard drives that can fail, jump drives computers don't read any more. At any given time, the bulk of my writing is on four different drives, two jump, two hard. All the work I do day to day is on two jump drives. Every so often (every few days) , I coordinate them so they're in sync, then I back the files on both hard drives.


All the inconvenience of backing up and having your work in multiple places is, believe me, far less irksome than losing a file you were working on once and for all.



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