Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Happy Accidents

Happy accident is a phrase one of my art teachers in college used constantly. He was a rather unlikeable guy, and we mocked him for it, but now I use the phrase (idiom?) Isn't it awful how that happens--you hear something often enough, and it stops sounding strange or unusual. That's how slang catches on, but I digress. "Happy accident" is not something I say about art often, but a phrase I find myself applying to parts of my writing.

I'm a planner, for the most part. I tried the 'pantzer' thing for years, but I never finished a novel until I began outlining. I may have very detailed plans for myself with complete summaries of scenes and bits of dialogue, but the bulk of any given outline tends to contain terribly vague sentences like "xxx will find the bad guy somehow and be injured in the subsequent fight." (Okay, usually I'm not that bad...) The very detailed parts of the outline are usually 'candy' scenes. The scenes that won't leave me alone and I can't wait to get them down on the page. The rest tends to be vague enough that I have plenty of wiggle room without diverting from the outline--which I'm not opposed to doing--while still giving me enough structure to know where I need to be headed next.

The wiggle room is where happy accidents tend to occur. I know I need to get from point A to point B, and I have a general idea how I want to do it, but then somewhere between the outline, my brain, and the keyboard, something new pops up. It might be a character I didn't know existed, a shiny way to work in a plot point, or a bit of a twist I didn't see coming. (And people think writers are in the driving seat...ha! Not this one,) Case in point: the other day I was writing a scene, and a few hundred words in, I stopped because I was afraid it was rehashing what I'd already established the scene before. A minor character had popped up, and his conversation with my main character, while interesting didn't further the plot any. So, I cut the scene, tossed it in my scrap folder, and back tracked to where the plot was supposed to be. No problem right? Wrong. I was stuck. I knew where I wanted to go, but I couldn't figure out why my character would put herself in the middle of the messy situation I needed to get her to. After accomplishing nothing for awhile, I pulled the deleted scene back out of the scrap folder, pasted it where it had been, tightened the dialogue, and just let it play out. Darned if that silly minor character didn't get my MC where she needed to go. It doesn't always work that way, and in subsequent drafts that scene might get cut again if I think of a better way to do it, but for now it tied point A to point B.

Does anyone else find yourself writing in things you don't plan, but that unplanned element ends up adding something exciting to the story or tying plots together in interesting new ways? A happy accident, if you will?


Current progress:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
52,142 / 95,000
(54.9%)



My goal is to reach 60k by the end of the week, so I really need to start pushing (it's Wednesday already, geesh.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Perils of Research

Has anyone else ever noticed that research can be a very dangerous distraction?

Case in point: yesterday I spent around four hours researching a subject that I used in two lines of dialogue and a couple hundred words of description. Was it good material? Yeah. But four hours? I don't know about that. If I would have left myself a note to come back to it, would it have effected to story in any major way?

Nope. I was stuck and research presented itself as a procrastination tool I wouldn't feel guilty indulging.

Does anyone else find themselves falling into that trap?


Today's progress:

HA!... 0

Yup, that's right. Zilch.

At least yesterday when I didn't hit my goal I could blame it on research. Today was one of those days nothing clicked for me. Terrible day for it too because the web has been quiet. Practically no one blogged today, and only spam hit the email box. I spent large portions of today staring at the blinking cursor in my word document, then pulling up the net and visiting the blogs of those people commenting on the blogs I actually frequent. It was sad really.

But, today isn't over yet. I usually have two writing peaks: one mid afternoon when the room fills with sunlight, and one in the late hours of the night. With any luck, my wings are dry now and I'll be able to catch the late wind out of this block.

UPDATE: Well, a terrible writing day turned into a wonderful writing night. I met my goal for the day, and I am well on my way to making my goal for the week.

Current Progress:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
48,230 / 95,000
(50.8%)


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Comments and Progress

Earlier today, Rachel Vincent posted an entry about the comment feature in word. The post generated a lot of talk among writers about how they mark up their work during first drafts, ranging from people who use comments, those who leave notes in bold/parentheses/carrots, and those who stop all together to go back and think about it. Really, it is fascinating to hear about how other people go through the process of getting stories on the page.

Rachel is a comments writer, and I have to say, she makes a good argument for it. I'm a parentheses writer myself, simply because I get annoyed with the fact I have to use the mouse and a drop down menu to add a comment. As the conversation continued, it was mentioned that other people wished there was a comments hotkey as well. That got me thinking, and as I was sick of researching how cases make it to the supreme court, I looked into hotkeys for word and learned making a macro wasn't too hard. I posted the instructions in the comments on Rachel's blog, but she suggested I post them here as well.

So, for anyone who is interested, here is how to make a comments hotkey:

-Under "Tools" go to "macro" and click "Record New Macro"
A little box will pop up asking you to name the macro and pick if you want either toolbar or keyboard.
-click "Keyboard"
The new box that pops up reads 'customize keyboard' and the cursor should be blinking in a box that says "Press new shortcut key:" I used "alt q"
because it was unassigned, but feel free to use anything. (Under the box it will
tell you if the combination you key is already a short cut)
-After you key your short cut, hit the "Assign" button on the bottom. Then hit "Close"
A very tiny box with a stop (square) and pause button should appear. Leave it alone for now.
-Insert a comment as per normal (but don't type anything in it)
-Now hit the "stop" (square) button.

That's it. (not so hard.) Since making the hotkey earlier this afternoon, I've already added six comments to CD. We will see how it goes. So far I'm enjoying the comment option--if nothing else, they are definitely easier to spot than my notes to self in parentheses.

Today is not quite over yet, but here is my current progress:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
44,787 / 95,000
(47.1%)




It is mildly annoying seeing my wordcount bar and knowing it was over 50k during nano but I cut 10k off it. I plan to be over 50k again by the end of the week, so then I should really start feeling like I'm making progress.
Well, I must go write if I want to add another thousand before bed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hit the road Muse

Probably anyone who has written a book will agree that you can't wait around for the muse to come. "Sit down and bleed" they tell us. "Those who are ready and working will find their muse." Honestly, I have found that to be true advice (if not particularly welcome.)

No, my problem is not a missing muse. She goes on vacation often enough, I've learned to work without her. My problem is a distracted muse. She's always been this way, you would think I'd be used to it. How it happens: I'll be working on a project (or in need of working on a project) and all of a sudden something shiny catches her eye. Then, next thing I know, she's off chasing it into unknown and bizarre places. Maybe I should call her Alice.

You would think my muse would be ready to get back to work. She had a vacation from CD the whole time I was editing and most of the holidays. Plus, I fed her very well recently. But, no. Remember that question I asked last week? The one about consistency of rules in separate worlds but in the same genre? That was stemmed from an idea that's begging to be explored, and my muse is obsessed with it. I have been sitting in front of my computer, trying my hardest to work on CD, but I constantly find myself dazing out and thinking about a story that doesn't exist.

Why not follow the idea and see where it goes?

Because I know myself.

I started my first novel when I was twelve. It took me ten years and dozens of ideas that died halfway through before I finished a novel. From start to finish that novel only took me three months to write, but it was the first time I finished because I didn't let myself get sidetracked. This is the third pressing story idea I've come up with while writing CD (I really don't think my muse wants me to finish it) the first two I managed to shift to the back-burner, but this idea is much more resilient. (Of course, I was doing Nano when the other ideas surfaced, and I just didn't have time to so much as think about them.)

Since my muse refuses to leave it alone, I'm kicking her out. Yup, that's the plan. I think I'll do better on my own than with her trying to drag me into a completely different world.

Meet Sammy. He has kindly volunteered to take the place of my muse while she is in time out. (Don't I wish it were that easy) Sammy is very disappointed that the story I'm working on has neither pirates nor leopards in it, but he decided he would lend a hand anyways. We will see how that goes. Actually, Sammy was a Christmas present from my hubby. I've always wanted a build-a-bear, but have never been able to cajole anyone into making one for me, so this year he did. The hubby said it was the most embarrassing thing he's ever done, but isn't Sammy cute?

Well, back to work. My word count for the day is at a dismal 500 words. (eeps!) I need to concentrate and get some serious typing done.

Update: Well, I'm ending the day at 1700 words. Much better, but not quite my goal (which is currently 2.5k a day.) It is time for bed though.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What I'm Reading

My revised version of DH is wherever packages go between being dropped off at the post office and arriving at their destination, so to reward myself for finally finishing, I've been binge reading.

According to Amazon, Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs is street-dated for January 30th, but BAM had it on the shelf today when I was there. I just finished it, and I have to say it was absolutely amazing. I think Ms Brigg's 'Mercy' (MC) books are now competing for one of the top spots as my favorite urban fantasy series. (Blood Bound is the second book, Moon Called being the first) If you read UF and haven't picked up these books yet, you have no idea what your missing. I closed the book feeling a mix of awe and depression because I don't think I will ever write a book at this level. I highly recommend this series.

Hell to Pay by Simon R. Green is the seventh book in the Nightside novels. This series is full of macabre humor and layers of storytelling. I honestly thought the sixth book in the series was the last as it wrapped up a storyline that Mr Green had been laying trails to since the first book, so I was thrilled to find this book on the shelf the other day. It felt like half the world was destroyed after the last story arc, so I'm very excited to see where he takes it from here. This book brought back some favorite characters that were left standing after the last battle and introduced some new ones. If you like dark twisted humor, this a good series.

On the flip side of dark humor, I also read Sleeping with the Fishes by Mary Janice Davidson, which was a very light, fun read. She approached this book saying she wanted to turn the mermaid myth on its head, and I think she did a wonderful job. It's fun, it's quick, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but I have to say, I've read several of Ms Davidson's books, and she likes to write disagreeable main characters. They are fun and sassy, but really, I can never figure out what the men see in them. At the same time, I think thats what makes them so amusing to read about.

Okay, that was a pretty diverse group to feed my muse. I should be ready to dive back into work on Monday. I hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A penny for your thoughts

I have a question to ask the fantasy readers/writers out there, but let me give a little background first.

A brand new character popped up in my mind today and auditioned for the chance to have her story written one of these days. She is terribly interesting, and even packed her own plot idea (which gets her extra points because plot usually is something I have to work very hard to find) but, while her world would share some of the qualities of other things I'm working on, lots of the mythology and world building I've used in the past wouldn't work in her world.

So my question is this: (pretending for a moment that the series I'm writing now gets published one day, and this new idea pans out and also gets published) can an author successfully release books in the same genre that follow different rules? For instance, lets say both books have vampires, but one book has vamps with the classical Stoker weaknesses, and the other book has Ann Rice type vampires. (This isn't the actual issue, but the point being the myths and rules for the supernaturals would be different.) Would readers accept that the same way they do when reading different writers, or because both books were by the same person, would people go "Hey, I thought the vamps couldn't cross running water..." even if the worlds were clearly different and defined?

What do people think? Would you rather an author use consistent rules if they use the same race in different series, or are new rules okay?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sniffles and progress

It was 78° on Monday. Tonight they are predicting sleet and ice. All and all, a big case of the sniffles is going around. Maybe winter has finally decided to grace us with her presence?

In other news, the end if is finally insight for DH's edit. It's about time. I really underestimated how long this would take me--I'll have to keep that in mind in the future. Well, back to work now! The sooner I finish, to sooner I can ship this thing out and get on with newer projects (and get that word meter moving. Geesh it's depressing sitting there in a stasis, especially since I cut so much off it after Nano)

How is everyone else doing today?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where it hurts

Be warned, this is a bit of a rant:

I think I burnt out.

I have been spending around 14 hours a day for the last week (or two) trying to pound out and polish that draft of DH. I finally finished, printed the thing out, and now I can hardly stand to look at it. The hard part is done, I even thoroughly enjoyed the hard parts of the re-write (the manuscript ended at just above 95k words, but about 15k were brand new shiny words because I deleted a good deal and it was only 85k before.) What I have left a monkey could do. I just need to read the draft on paper to find the typing errors and keep an eye out for awkward sentences. But every time I sit down with the pages, my mind rebels and I can only make it through a few chapters at a time. I get easily distracted, what was funny before is boring now, the description is dull…all and all I want to burn the darn MS. (Which I can’t do because I told my agent I would have it in the mail in the next few days)

I think I’ve just looked at it too much. Since the beginning of the year I’ve read it from start to finish more times than I can count because I would have this great idea in the middle or near the end, then have to go back and make sure everything leading up to it worked.

This is why I usually put a story down between edits. I know, somewhere in the back of my head, that it can’t be as bad as I think it is right now. My agent liked the previous version, and I sent her a very detailed list of my revisions and she was excited about them, so it’s probably not terrible. (Though I suppose I’ll know once I send it out. Did you know today was a mail holiday? I didn’t until a couple days ago, but I was kind of happy, it gave me one more day to look everything over.)

Does anyone else absolutely hate their work from time to time? What do you do when that happens?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Weekend Art update

The first weekend art update of the new year! (I didn't have a camera last week.) If you haven’t been following the progression of this painting but would like to see the earlier posts on it, you can find them here and here.

Okay, so let’s look at what I’ve been doing recently.

(click for larger image)
Today’s palette included: Terre verte , sap green, cadmium yellow, burnt umber, and indian yellow. (leaves and bushes) I also used a little red ochre because I moved the male tree’s arm over probably about half an inch.

I’ll be honest, I’m not much for meticulous, repetitive details, like painting a gazillion leaves. I don’t mind spending days getting one leaf perfect, but it better be the only one I do for the painting. *only a small exaggeration* (don’t ask why I decided on an image with an all foliage background) So, I am currently trying to cheat and make it look like bushes and leaves and such without actually defining anything. We will see how that works.

Starting next week I'll probably have to use close-up photos because, for the most part, I'm past the point of radical change. i.e. I have the forms well blocked out in paint and it's time to start tackling details (which won't be as apparent from the distance I have to stand to photo the entire canvas.)This marks the begining of the hardest stage of any painting (for me at least.) Up until this point, I've worked in 3 to 5 hour blocks of time on the painting and changes have been very obvious, so when I put down my brushes, I feel accomplished. But, from this point on, hours upon hours of work will make very little noticeable difference to the painting. That can get very discouraging. (I would estimate I’ve put between 20 and 30 hours into this painting thus far. I probably have at least that, if not double that, amount of time left to put into it before I finish) The painting will gradually become more and more finished, but there are no chapter ends or word counts to mark my progress like in writing.

Well, I hope you stop back by for the next installment!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ever notice a cat's head splits open 180° when they yawn?

Um, yeah. This post actually has nothing to do with cats.

I dropped and email to my agent with a summery of my revisions. She was very excited and told me to ship her several copies. Time to go buy more paper. I told her I’d have a couple copies in the mail by the end of the week. That gives me two more days to write a new (or at least amend my original) synopsis. I should also print out a hard copy of DH and read over it. I’m absolutely incapable of noticing missing words (or extra words) on a computer screen.

Does anyone know a good way to ship multiple manuscripts? A single manuscript ships well in a padded envelop, but I’ve yet to find a good box to ship say four manuscripts. (Which was what I shipped out last time.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Editing woes

I’m an editing addict. Think they have a support group for that?

Even I know it’s time to leave some of my older work alone to sink or swim so I can focus on new stuff. Really, I know that, and I understand—I’m just incapable of doing it. In the last four months I’ve written over 100k words on various projects and short stories, and as I’ve accomplished that, I’ve learned more about myself as a writer. It’s so tempting to go back and “fix” the older stuff, but it is time to stop.

I didn’t finish my edit of DH this weekend. The breakthrough I had Friday meant I had to go back through it again to iron out the plot wrinkles. Not a problem, but time consuming, so I didn’t finish by the deadline I set. My adjusted deadline is Wednesday night. After that, I’m sending it out and promising myself not to touch it again unless an editor asks for changes.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

CRW

I attended my second CRW meeting today, paid my dues, and am now a member! I’m so excited. Everyone has been really nice to me, but it’s so strange to meet women whose books I’ve read. Authors have always been ten feet tall in my mind, so it’s absolutely bizarre to be treated as a peer. I guess authors actually are real people too (a fact so easy to forget when I’m caught up with their characters and feeling like I could never spin a tale so well.)

I received a membership pin for joining. It’s shiny. I’ll take a picture and post it once I get my hands on a digital camera. (No, I don’t own one; it’s on my wishlist.) I’m trying to decide if I should put it on my bag (I’m a messenger bag junky. I carry one instead of a purse) or if I should wear it like it’s supposed to be worn—on a lapel. Both present potential problems. Pins on my bag have been known to fall off and get lost forever, but I’m not very likely to remember to ever pin it to my clothes. *shrugs* Maybe I’ll put it on the bag and superglue the back on. Of course, when I attend a conference, I’ll probably want to pin it to a name tag. (That’s what I’ve seen other people do.) Okay, time to get off this tangent.

*Note: No weekend art update because, as mentioned above, I am not currently borrowing a camera. I’ll try to get my hands on one in the next couple days.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Breakthrough

The day started on the wrong foot when I finally managed to fall asleep in the early morning light and proceeded to have a nightmare. A cup of tea later, I stared out at the grey sky and wished it would either rain or the sun would come out. The morning dragged as light showers passed by silently.

Around noon the sun finally chose to show his and I decided to take a break from the writing I wasn’t doing. Grabbing a book from the stack of soon-to-be overdue library books, I headed out to enjoy the 70 degree weather. I probably sat in my porch-swing idly scanning a writing-craft book for an hour.

Then, in the middle of a chapter that held no relevance at all to the situation, something clicked in my brain. A problem in the story that I’ve been trying to fix forever suddenly whispered its solution.

The issue stemmed from a certain event that occurs early in the story. I’ve tried removing it completely, but then the rest of the plot doesn’t work. I've altered the scene a dozen times, but the issue has always remained. The solution that hit me today was so simple, I immediately doubted it would work. It took me thirty minutes of pacing (yes I pace when I am lost in thought. I really should get a treadmill or something) before I finally put all the pieces together.

Still, I doubted I could make it work outside my head, so I called my beta reader and ran it past her. She thought it was a great idea, so I spent the rest of the afternoon writing the new scene and ironing the seams (I still have more to work out, but I don’t foresee any problems.)

Funny how you can go from dragging, to ridding waves of inspiration in a single day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Getting back in the swing of things

If I needed any proof that writing ties my life and sanity together, the past two weeks should offer a hint. While I enjoyed visiting relatives, watching movies and playing games with the hubbie, and trips to all kinds of places, I was practically buzzing with excitement before my hubbie’s alarm went off yesterday morning. I was thrilled, even anxious, to dive back into my work. My ‘morning’ shower got pushed off with, “let me edit one more chapter,” and “I’ll just work on this scene first” until the hubbie came home and found me still in my PJs.

If everything goes as planned, I should be sending a summery of revisions to my agent tonight and tucking the new ms in the mail soon after. *Crosses fingers* I must be the slowest and most indecisive editor ever. This probably puts edits to DH in the mid-teens. I’m really happy with this one, but I was happy with the version before it too, at the time sent it to my agent. (This is the second version of the ms that my agent will see. I talk about editing a lot, but I have yet to send her any of the changes. I’m trying to make sure it really is the best I can do, and to incorporate the feedback we have been getting from editors.)

I started reading over my nano project. *cringe* The sifting has started, and I knocked close to 8k off it. All and all it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be for a speedy first draft but…it needs some TLC. It also needs some pacing help, I must have fallen into quite a mood the last couple weeks of November, the last 20k is literally nothing but action and heart-string tugging scenes. I’ll be tackling that issue soon and I should be putting up a new wordcount meter by the end of the week.

How is everyone else doing out there? Have you recovered from the holidays yet?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Another year gone forever. It's hard to believe. Hopefully 2007 will be my year and an editor will take interest in my work, but that's really out of my hands, so not something I can make a New Years resolution of.


Okay, my goals for this year:

• Finish the draft of CD and get it polished.
• Write and at least begin to polish a second manuscript
• Begin a third manuscript

Last year I think I devoted far too much down time to editing. I took months out of writing to edit when I should have been doing both at the same time. This year I plan to do better.

Also, the smaller step goals. I plan to:
• Write a minimum of 10-15k words a week
• Paint at least once a week
• Find and become active in a critique group.

Well, I think that’s it. I’d resolve to start exercising regularly or such, but I know I can’t keep a goal like that. I don’t fully remember all my goals from last year. I know I met some of them (I edited DH, sent it out, and even snagged my very own agent; and I got a painting into a show) but I think I also planned to have a new manuscript by the end of the year, and I only have half of one. (half of two?) Maybe writing down this year’s goals (and making myself accountable by publishing them out here for the world to see) will help me keep them.

Well here goes. The year is starting, and superstition says that what you do today is a predictor of how and what your year will be!