Thursday, December 31, 2009
Flash Fiction: 0
Short Story: 1
(My focus this month has been to complete my novel. January should have more here as I'm starting to focus on my other pieces/outlines starting tomorrow.)
Current Story Progress:
In Progress: 4
Completed: 2 (1 novel, 1 short story)
(I think I could've lost a few short stories and outlines in progress or halted in the "Flash Drive incident" but since they're gone I'm just not going to fret.)
Queries: 2 still out (1 sent in December)
Request for Partials: 0
Revise & Resubmit: 0
Waiting Response: 9
Okay folks, that's all she wrote (literally). Good writing all!
Monday, December 28, 2009
After I restarted my heart, I thanked my blessings and my online writing group for kick starting my online backup habit. I easily retrieved everything but the last week's worth of work (about 2 chapters).
So today's writing update will seem like a lot more than usual, mainly because it's a little bit catch up from my recovery work.
Words Cut: 640
Words Added (above the cut amount): 5830
Chapters to Go: 4 (I merged two)
Estimated Time to Completion: 1 Week (hard goal but I'm determined to finish it during my vacation this week)
So, there ya go. Good writing all!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
The post below is one from September 30th. I thought it would be a great opportunity to revisit, seeing at 2010 is drawing close.
"I’m breaking from novel progress reporting to discuss a topic that affects all writers at one time or another.
The greatest strengths a writer can contain. Without focus, a writer has nothing but daydreams and visions. It takes focus to grab those creative thoughts and transfer them into words, then to edit those initial words into a clear and concise story. And finally, to push the finished product towards publication.
This entry will be on the big picture focus. Every writer as a lifetime goal – to be a published author. This may vary on level, ranging from small potatoes to the big time. But it’s there, in the back of every writer’s mind. “I want to be published.”
It’s a great and lofty goal, however, reality has to reach us at some point. To achieve this goal, you have to find the story, write the story, then finish the story.
For me, the tactic was to break down that life goal of publication into manageable milestones and tasks. Yes, I’ve approached this as a project manager. I am a project manager in my day job, so it’s allowed.
The following is the methodology I suggest to you.
First, break up your lifetime goal into incremental milestones. It could be year, two, or five year increments…you’re the boss here. At those milestone points outline a statement of where you want to be in your writing career. Example: In two years, I want to be published in at least one magazine and two anthologies.
Second, break your milestones into actual activities and tasks. This could include blocking writing time, completing grammar or other educational courses, and/or the research and industry knowledge you’ll need to gain.
Now, from this point, you can break it down as far as you need. There are times when my workload gets so heavy, I have to pause and actually define daily goals until I get back on track.
Okay, so you’re ready to try this. Where to start? Two options: paper or pc.
Below are several great articles on focus.
Good writing all and wishing the best for your goals in 2010!
Monday, December 21, 2009
The book isn't quite what I was hoping for, unfortunately. I'm not sure if I placed my expectations too high, or the book didn't live up to the expectation it set up in the packaging. Nevertheless, there were several areas that bogged it down for me.
I knew there was going to be a problem when the prologue dragged on for nineteen pages. The worst part of those pages? It could've been written in about one-third of that...if McDermott wouldn't drag on and overdose his reader with useless description. One sniper assassination seriously took several pages to write out. A whole paragraph to describe night goggles! Thanks to Bond and Bourne everybody and their mother knows about night goggles. You don't need five sentences to describe them.
This wasn't an issue with just the prologue either, the whole book is plagued with boring descriptions. I kept getting painfully sucked into pages of minor, useless aspects that I had to go back just to figure out what the point of the scene was supposed to be.
Most disappointing to me was that the actual journey to find the Hercules tomb didn't even start until almost the end of the darn book. The first two-thirds was spent in a muddled intrigue plot that I think was trying to add complexity to the story. To make matters worse, they only stayed in the tomb for, I believe, one chapter (possibly a chapter and a half...no more than that), then were out and back in the odd world domination plot.
The protagonists motives were cliche, cardboard, and ultimately unbelievable. I was frustrated with the smothering of stereotypes in this story and the dry dialogue and interaction between characters. The main female character was supposed to be an experienced archaeologist but acted more like a prissy city girl instead. The main male character was just a jerk with a bad mouth and no unique characteristics.
My assumption is that the author was attempting to mix Indiana Jones with James Bond. For me, it clearly missed the mark. I love the concept he's built and done right it would be a fantastic story. I will not be reading any other book in the series to see if they hit their objective better then this one.
Dud may be a bit harsh but I will say sluggish.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Okay, off to enter the world of Galileo.
Good writing all!
Friday, December 18, 2009
There are many resources available to improve your writing and your odds to getting published. I found one of the best resources I reached out to was an online writing group. Today I’d like to share this journey.
In 2008 I decided to take the next step and become a published author. The world would not know what hit them. My writing would rock the foundation of the publishing industry. I researched the general process, hurried through a query letter, and blasted the agents with my greatness.
The first rejection came pretty quick, 3 days. What?! How could they just deny my talent without seeing the manuscript of the century? What kind of political crap-conspiracy was this?
Several (numerous) rejections later my ego bubble was burst not with a needle but a samurai sword.
Okay, okay. I can fix this, I thought. Obviously my query is not representing my wonderful writing skills. I searched to find query help and came across the Critique Circle online writing group. I joined and the first thing I did was upload my query letter in the forum.
Not even a response. Well, geez, what the heck? Maybe they just wanted to see my work before they commented. I hurried to upload the first chapter and waited eagerly for the week I was up in the newbie queue.
The response was not what I expected, but not the worst it could be either. My basic summary, I was an okay writer and a horrible editor. What a reality moment for me, my pride, and my dreams.
At that moment I paused to reflect. I was a writer, albeit not a wonderful writer, and I wanted to be published. Did I just come to terms with this state and let the dream go?
I spent almost a decade scrapping up the ranks of my career with grit and determination. I learned what I didn’t know and enhanced what I did know. I could do the same with my dream career. No way were my current mediocre skills going to stop me.
So I worked, struggled, and found that each story was a little better. Each chapter of the novel had less technical mistakes and less weak writing. By my third short story, I got an acceptance.
Reality taught me – with a whip, baseball bat, and a gang of lethal ninjas in a dark foreboding alley – that with practice and focus I’m just as good as all the other thousands of writers out there and my odds are just as slim.
The critique group has become a haven to learn and commune with other great writers and aspiring authors. They’re honest to the point of brutal but always with the intention of making you work harder for your dream.
(I’ve also realized I’m no Isaac Asimov…but who wants the sideburns anyways?)
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
But for those of you who are in this to eventually get published and have progressed enough to realize manuscripts have to be completed, you realize it's going to happen.
Eventually your draft will be as complete as possible. Your beta readers will still be in disagreement over plot, character, and word choice...but they'll catch no more technical errors. You, yourself, have gone through and can only change a word choice here or there. The title page is complete, formatted, and has your correct email address (not the personal one that starts with hotmama12).
Still excited, you put together the cover/query letter and paste it into your email. The excitement starts to turn to manic psychosis about here...You double, triple, million times check it for errors or weird sentences. You attach the manuscript, remove it and reattach to make sure you've got the right file. Remove it, change the name of the file to something you feel is more professional. Reattach. Remove and reattach to ensure you have the right file.
This can take anywhere from 1 to 5 hours.
Then with nervous, sweaty brow and your heart about to explode....you hit send.
At this point, you completely freak out. Going straight to your sent file, you reopen to check for errors, file mistake, anything. You sit for the next 1 to 3 days hitting the refresh button, waiting for the confirmation and acknowledgement response. Often throughout this phase you log out and then back in...just in case the refresh feature is broken.
Once you receive the acknowledgement the little crazy writer inside of you needs a mental jacket. You spend the next 90 days (yes, most responses take 90 days) obsessed with your email and your submission tracker.
Now, the little realistic writer inside of you tries to tell the crazy writer to calm down. But we all know what telling someone to calm down does. Eventually the realistic writer does manage to tie up and muffle the little crazy writer and gets to work on writing, editing, or outlining the next story...but it takes a while.
Usually by this time, within a few days, you get the response from the editor and it's time to start all over again either with the same story or another completed story. The good news is the more times you've done this, the faster and easier it is for the little realistic writer to take control and the more productive you'll be during the waiting torture phase. It really does just take practice and a built up resistance to the neurotic tendencies.
Good writing all!
Merriam describes a flashback as "an interruption of the chronological sequence (as of a film or literary work) of an event of earlier occurrence". This is probably why I don't like them. They are really just a mechanism for an info dump and I don't like info dumps. I want the information to flow out during the course of the story.
In my reading adventures - and I am a reader of vast material - info dumps side track you from the point and make it difficult to follow the storyline or keep engaged with the characters.
I know the pro argument for flashbacks. They provide pertinent information to the current situation, including character motivation, relationship dynamics, and conflict. My response is always, "Maybe you're starting the story at the wrong place then". Or maybe you're putting too much into the "pertinent information".
Now if there's parts of the characters "past life" (pre-novel) that is important, you can work those concepts in to the current storyline by their reaction to certain situations and dialogue. Take Under the Dome by Stephen King, since I just did the review and all. He worked the character's past life into the modern story without info dumping or flashback scenes. He did it with tasteful glimpses through thoughts and conversations in the moment.
Well, imagine my surprise when I realized that my Galileo dream sequences were actually flashbacks? Groan and curse...dang it! Then imagine my chagrin when I realized that my like of dream sequences have faded the more I learn my writing style.
Now dream sequences I've seen done really well in regards to the characters internal conflict and foreshadowing events to come. I just don't think that I am the kind of writer to do them well and all mine reference past events and relationships.
Now I have these ugly things in my story and I have to find a way to work the core point of the content in better ways.
Time to be a dream killer...good writing all!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
First, the man. What else could be said about Stephen King. He's an offbeat legend with a odd thought process and warped view of the world and its story. That's the only way I can sum him up. I was hooked by the short story Different Seasons and soaked up all that I could find from him after that.
One of the best things I like about him is his ability to create a very realistic, human antagonist that you can still hate. Many authors over dramatize their villain, almost putting them in a surreal existence.
Nope, not Mr. King.
His villain in Under the Dome is any a-hole politician given the right situational ingredients. The fact that he brought down the infrastructure of the town with this character in about a week and got the reader to believe it, is amazing. Before reading Under the Dome, my estimation of societal breakdown would've been...say....several months. Stephen King outlined in his creative way how it could be done in virtually the snap of the fingers.
The protagonist is essentially an imperfect nobody who's dodging the memories of his past life. In any other writers hands, the character's disinterest in leading the hero role would've been ham-ish. Mr. King builds the back story in a smooth, non-info dump sort of way that makes you understand why the character is hesitant. Not only that, he makes you empathetic to him, even with his past misdeeds unravelled before you.
And just when the story is leading you to the inevitable conspiracy theory...he takes the snow globe of your mind and shakes it. The flakes that reign down on you are completely speculative fiction. You are left dumbfounded and in awe of his storytelling talent.
My only qualm, if it could be counted that, is in regards to the main female character. I felt, especially with her involvement of the conclusion, she should've been given something more. She was three dimensional but a tiny bit too stereotypical liberal press woman for me.
Stephen King, I know you'd never reach a small blog like mine to see it, but I bow to you and your writing gift.
Monday, December 14, 2009
There are millions of writing tips that can be given. Millions...yes, I can allow myself too hyperbole. I'm a writer after all.
Okay, of the million tips, which do I want to talk about today? Hmmm...editing. Or rather, not editing. With my recent frustrations of Sorcerer's Carnival and the editing of two short stories I think it's appropriate. Not to mention - which is a weird sentence introduction as I'm about to mention - my online writing circle had a forum discussion about this very topic.
Many writers, especially new writers, want to edit as they write out their first draft. My tip: don't worry about editing when your laying out the first draft of your story. By trying to edit as you unveil the story in your mind, you're limiting your creative juice from the gate.
Let your muse do his or her thing. Don't restrict them. Don't slow them down. Don't stop them. Your muse runs on an underlying level of thought that your conscious doesn't recognize or see. Basically, you don't know all the thoughts you're thinking. Your muse, however, can see everything and cruise all the avenues.
By definition your draft is suppose to suck. It's suppose to have grammar errors, sentence mayhem, and confusing paragraphs. The climax of the story will be in an odd spot and your characters will conflict with their core characteristics.
After your muse exhausts himself or herself and crawls into his or her mental bed to sleep off the creative hangover, your Nazi Editor can march out and straighten up the mess. They are systematic, organized, and ruthless.
I guess the core of what I'm saying? The Muse and the Editor don't play well on the playground, so don't have them out at the same time. You're just begging for the Muse to go all bitch on you and risking your Editor having a meltdown.
Then where will you be? Screwed, that's where.
That's my writing tip for the day. Good writing all (and editing too)!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I thought that their adaption of the story was brilliant. Their twists on the character, the world, and the storyline was absolutely unique and interesting. I, as the watcher, was treated to a grown up version of a childhood favorite.
I was so excited after the original airing that I hurried onto the Syfy forum to post a comment and was a little surprised. There was plenty of praise and lots of "I loved it", which was not the surprise. My surprise came from the negative. It was completely polar. I didn't expect such a dramatic gap of either loved it or hated it.
Why are you talking about a movie on a writing blog? I know you're asking it. Hang with me here, I'm heading to a writing point....well, meandering to it I guess.
I wondered if this reaction was from the viewpoint of Lewis loyalty or, in fact, they didn't like the story. Had they felt the original Looking Glass books were tarnished by this new approach? Stemming that question, did they feel the story should remain in its pure form?
At this point, my parallel thoughts could no longer remain focused on their individual tasks. I stopped my editing and wondered: how far can you take a traditional story and make it your own? I know there will always be naysayers, but can you judge the success of the masses and should you even try?
My latest story (still untitled...its own irky situation) stems off a Native American oral story of creation. That is, stems off by a very large margin. How will the response of this be when - yes, think positive with when, not if - this gets published? Will I offend the Navajo people? Native Americans in total? Or will they see it as the respect and admiration of their wonderful history, as I launched the idea with?
Here are two key boundaries I followed in writing the Navajo story. From my interpretation of the Alice movie, they seemed to have kept along this line too.
- Keep the core meaning of the story. Alice to a majority of readers is the need to stay grounded and face reality as it is. (I know it's a VERY generalized statement and there's arguments for and against it being this.)
- Try to keep the core of the characters purpose within the story. Alice's White Rabbit was to kick off the story and lead Alice to Wonderland and along her journey throughout the story.
Good writing all!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Any-who, moving on.
Last night was a very good writing session for my Indian story. I cut 300 words and added 500 better words, thereby fleshing out about 90% of the scenes. Then I pondered over my ending. Many of you know, I'm horrible with endings. Horrible, horrible, horrible. I either rush them, drag them out, put the wrong ending, or leave too much untied.
I mean, the concept doesn't seem that hard: chose either the good, bad, or ugly. Whoa-la! Should be easy-peasy.
- Good ending: The two species work it out and all is blissful in the land of my story.
- Bad ending: The two species fight and destroy their homes, land, and ultimately their world.
- Ugly ending: One of the species has to win over the other, killing off part of what makes their world...well, theirs.
But there's just so much more to it. To solve this, I wrote out each ending in turn and tried to focus on the point of the story and results from that particular angle. Then I went back and checked that each one's pacing timed well with the rest of the content. I know I'll have to tighten and clean a couple of times but first I'll finish the revisions and editing of the main story then test drive each one and see what fits best. Then I'll go from there.
Once I was happily done figuring this out I started thinking about a title. I've never started a story without one before. Usually it comes with the idea or I find it during the outlining phase. Titles are important, specifically in regards to stories submitted to anthologies and magazines. For these markets, your story has to be as complete as possible. With novels, it's quite common to have the publishing house change the title (or so the rumor goes).
I have 4, count 'em, 4 titles in mind and I can't decide. This probably means none of them are right. Each one is missing some aspect or "feel" of the story. They're just a little off course. Last night I decided to shelf them and return after each draft to see if one starts calling to me. It's the best I can do without going insane.
And now we arrive at names. After I complete my first drafts I always go back through and review the names I've selected for my characters, my species, and my locations (be it planet, country, or town). They can't overlap, sound too similar, evoke odd images, or clash with their characteristics. This one is actually easier for me than the others and I completed it fairly quick.
So, that's my progress and semi-tip for the day.
Good writing all!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A new story?
Yes, I know what you're thinking. "Whip that muse into shape and get to work on the Galileo as you planned," right?
But, well...I didn't want too. There, I said it. I. didn't. Want. To. And seeing as my muse was very accommodating with Sorcerer's Carnival I felt she needed time to go wherever she wanted.
I haven't named the story yet, but it's loosely (loosely in it's true meaning) based on the Navajo Creation story. Being raised in Colorado, I was given a very unique experience. That region has a great respect for American history, the whole American history.
Growing up, my step dad made sure to take us to the Native American sites, to many of the traditional Pow Wows, and to all the Settler museums he could find. I've met many great people who have worked to pass down their heritage...including the oral stories told by their ancestors.
I don't remember when I first heard the creation story, but I remember it stayed with me. It wasn't until a couple months ago that I ran into the story again, this time on-line. Many happy memories flooded through me as I read it. I know it's corny, but I felt those memories in every one of my senses.
I haven't been back to Colorado since I left it sixteen years ago (minus a midnight pass-through for my Grandma's funeral in Kansas). Even so, I smelled the grass of the plains, I felt the summer heat of the mile high, I could hear the whistling wind of the foothills.
I wasn't looking for a writing idea when I read it but all you writers know, everything you read, see, and hear is packed away for some future use. Sunday night I just couldn't focus on Galileo. Instead, I went to bed and let my mind rest.
And I dreamed of Indians.
But not just Indians, the first Indians. The people who came from the underworld through the magic reed and created the Earth as we know it. This dream was so vivid, so tangible, I woke up sad that I had to leave it. Childishly, I even tried to go back to sleep and dream myself there again.
Revved up, Monday and yesterday I did the needed foundational research. Excited at the prospect of bringing this vision to paper. Last night, after the younger kids went to bed I pulled out my laptop and typed. It was only when my husband walked in for bedtime I realized it was after 11 pm.
I had written almost 3500 words in little over 2 hours. I had the framework for my story, and the start of the ending.
Re-reading it, I was impressed with myself. I'm a humble writer and recognize I'll never be a Stephen King or Isaac Asimov. But looking over my rough work, I saw my dream in words. It needs to be shined and fleshed out still, but I am happy with this first draft.
It's as close to the dream I'll ever get again...and that's okay.
Good writing all!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I can't say I woke up in excitement as I rarely wake up excited (I'm not a morning person by nature). But once I had several large glasses of caffeine in my system I was ready to tackle the story and reintegrate the vision I originally had for it.
It's now the end of the day and aside from mommy duty, I dedicated my energy and day to Sorcerer's Carnival. I'm now feeling the rewards of accomplishment as the draft is done and the story is how I wanted it. In fact, I've managed to also get through the first round of editing and it's pretty clean.
Writing wise it was a great day. Looking back at the fiasco of the last few days I realize that I was not really following the plan I outlined earlier in the week. I was trying to fix as I reread the original version instead of just soaking in the original story. This was blocking me from feeling the spark of creativity that started the story in the first place.
Now I just have to remember this the next time I face a similar dilemma.
Good writing all!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I want to take Barabin, my sorcerer in Sorcerer's Carnival, and heave him over after beating the living...sigh. Two deep breaths. One long shoulder roll. Unclench teeth.
I am trying the strategy I laid out in the previous post. As you can tell. It isn't working. I am so frustrated, I'm seeing red. (Yes cliche...it's my writing journal and I'll use them if I want)
Okay, okay. Enough with this attitude. I must get back on track here. Somehow.
Am I forcing this story? I've heard that some stories end up being duds. I've have a couple in my time. It's just that I was soooo excited about this one. And the anthology it's slated for sounds very interesting.
I don't know. I feel stuck. I feel that if I don't stick to my guns I will be taking a step back in my "writing-as-a-secondary-career" development. Is it that the story does in fact suck? Or is it that my writing is just sucking in reference to this story right now?
Something to think about.
Good writing all! (Hopefully better then mine right now)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This morning, I sat back to review why I've been having so much trouble with Sorcerer's Carnival. There are several factors playing into this story. First, this is my first serious fantasy story. Second, this genre - while great to read - is not easy for me to write. And Lastly, I don't think I liked the original revisions I made based on critique feedback.
Let's address each core piece and figure out how it's affecting my progress:
First: First Fantasy Draft
I had to delve into a lot of research prior to outlining and drafting this story. It was exciting for me and the first version was a bit sentimental for me. I was so excited about it. I love new opportunities for creative outlet. I don't this this is the core issue for further development.
Second: Difficult Genre for Me to Write
That first draft came out like a rushing waterfall. The editing and revisions have been more like water boarding torture. You wouldn't think fantasy would have so many boundaries and rules. But there are many. This is more apparent with the subject matter of sorcery and powers. Trying to be consistent with industry and reader expectations has been very difficult, aggravating, and stressful. Not too mention I hate rules and unlike sci-fi where the more implausible the farther out in the future I go...sorcery rules are bound by a historical and sometimes religious constraints. This is a definite issue to my progress on this story.
Okay, keep this going...
Third: Unhappy Critique-based Revisions
Because my weakness in the previous area, I relied heavily on the critique suggestions. Too heavily. By the time I was done changing what all the reviewers thought needed to be changed, both my Muse and I seemed pretty cut out. It didn't feel like my story anymore. This is unacceptable to me and my writing ethics.
Well, enough whining. I've come to the core of my problem and really laid out my issues. To fix this and get back on track I think I need to do the following:
- Reread the original draft
- Go through the critiques again and mark which ones fit with who I am as a writer
- Outline a balanced plan of action
- Stick with my instinct
- Put the story that I feel is right out there and hope for the best
Okay, feeling much better. Good writing all!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Working in the business side of healthcare I’ve learned that the depth and breadth of your services is important to your patients (or potential patients). In looking at business development I have to see what services we have and how we can change, mold, and expand on them to realize our full potential as an organization.
This concept can be applied to your manuscript as well. ‘Cause let’s face it, all we have right now is a manuscript. It’s in the development stage and is not a novel quite yet. So how can we get that depth and breadth to our manuscript, thereby completing it to its full potential?
Here are some factors I’m looking at myself with my work. See if it helps you.
First and foremost – as with business – who is your customer, end user, or client? That is, who is the reader that you want or need to interest? Know your audience and what they want. You may be a great writer but if no ones interested in your work…well, you’ll never be a published author.
After you find that out, you need to compare it to your manuscript, outline, work in progress.
Focus and evolve your idea/purpose to match industry, genre, and audience trends. Don’t write a novel for the purpose of showcasing the potential of time travel when your readers are primarily into new life forms on other planets. Don’t write a story that pits adversaries fighting for oil on other planets 400 years in the future when human evolution is trending towards green alternatives. It won’t stand the test of time (not to mention it’s flashback to 1980).
Now that you have your audience and idea aligned, it’s time to write your story. But wait, now you have to worry about how you’re writing out your idea. Pesky little details like narrative voice, word choice, and transitions. Is the voice and word choice matching the tone and mood of your story? Are you writing more formal than the brash heroine calls for? Are the transitions between scenes too choppy for your romantic space opera?
When all these details are developed and integrated into your end product (your novel), you then have to go back through and check the mechanics. You have to put on your editor hat and make sure you grammar and structure are up to snuff.
Only when these things are cleaned out can you put your product out there to potential agents and publishers. At least you know that if you check through all these things you’ll have the highest potential pumped into your story.
Good writing all!