Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Writing Tricks

Writing Tricks

There are a couple things that I think help a writer actually do the work -- attitude and focus. I talk about attitude on the FM boards quite a bit. Attitude can be a huge factor in how you work and how hard it is to get work done. If you go into something convinced that it is horrible, difficult, impossible work and everything you create will be crap ... well, guess what? You have just created your own expectations. That's what you're going to do, and you're going to suffer for every word of it.

If you go into writing expecting it to be work but exciting, and that you are going to tell a great story that will likely need additional work later, but is still going to be a good first draft to work with, then you're more likely to write something that will fit those expectations.

In fact, in both cases the story may be very much the same, but since you've already convinced yourself of what you're going to get, you aren't going to look at it with any hope. I see this happen all the time. The person convinces themselves that what they're writing is horrible and there is no hope for it, so they never even try to improve it.

It's back to that Puritan ethic problem : If something isn't hard work and miserable, it isn't real work. If it isn't real work, then it isn't important. So writers will do their best to prove that they are working hard and that they couldn't possibly enjoy this, because we all know that no one enjoys real work, either.

My suggestion, seriously, is to get over it. It's still going to be very hard work. You are allowed to enjoy the work of creating stories, though. And you're allowed to write things that are going to take more work later to make them right.

That brings me to a second thing I think writers need: Focus. If you continually let yourself get sidetracked by everything that comes along (new stories, email, laundry), then you're not going to get much actual work done. There are times when you have to do some outside things, but not all the time. Once you commit yourself to focusing on a story and actually writing, it starts becoming easier to do it again and again. Focus has another side benefit: once you train yourself to focus on the work at hand, it's actually far easier to fall back into the work each time. That not only means you're likely to get more work done, but you're going to stay more connected to the story and it will be more coherent.

There are so many little tricks outside of learning to write well that can help sometimes. I've found that something as simple as changing the font now and then can make a difference because the material stops all looking alike. You can always format back to standard submission guidelines in about five minutes.

Anyway, time for me to get back to work! Below is the first draft start to a little story I'm working on and that I hope to have done tonight or tomorrow. Not much here, but I think it's a good start!

The Last of the Bad Luck Porters

There wasn't much to see the day Rabbit left the village and he didn't go looking for an adventure. He left to save his life, hoping to find a place where no one knew him or his family. He hoped for a job -- just enough to pay him for a cheap meal now and again. He'd given up hope of anything better years ago.

Lucky to be alive, he supposed, considering the fate of his late --and very much unlamented -- uncle. He would not go to the hanging. Instead, while everyone else in the village gathered in the green, he grabbed the small bag that contained his clothing (and a couple of Uncle Dirk's better things) and prepared to walk away, and get clear of the family name.

No one thought good of the Porters, and with good cause. His father had died in forced labor to pay off gambling debts. His mother had run off with another man, and they'd both died when the man's brother-in-law caught up with them.

Today they would hang his Uncle Dirk for killing Lord Willis's middle son in a drunken brawl.

A fourteen year old with a family background like that had to wonder about his own future. He wondered if he could, maybe, get away from here and the trouble that followed the Porters.

He slipped out of the room he'd lived in with his uncle for the last three years, a fetid little corner on the lower level of a block house too near the tannery. It always stank. But it had been a roof and solid walls to protect against the weather and the shadow men at night.

Rabbit found Sara sitting on the steps out front and chewing on a stick as she watched a bug on the street. Her belly pressed tight against her skirt -- his uncle's child, he thought, though she never said. He wondered if that wasn't why she didn't go to the hanging.

"Get to the room and take what you want before the others get to it," he said.

She nodded. He turned and walked away.

He hoped that getting away from Williston Keep would give him a better chance at making a life. He didn't exactly know what better might be, having seen so little of it in his own life. But he left looking for it anyway.

But he didn't walk away fast enough. He heard the cry go up, a wordless shout followed by a moment of silence; the stillness as a life ended on the gallows.

He hurried faster.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Draw the Line

I almost forgot it was Wednesday! This will be a quick post!

Draw the Line is now over 102,000 words. Unfortunately, I am not really near the end, though I think I am beginning to visualize it a little better. I do have notes for several upcoming chapters, but nothing for the exact ending. Hmmmm.

Oh. Maybe... (Let me go make a note!)

There. That gives me a little hint of what to aim at. And it will be something fun and exciting which is as it should be. I had an idea of the ending but I didn't know where the focus should be. Now I know. I think.

There's going to be a lot of reworking on Draw the Line, though it's going to sit for a while. Rat Pirates, on the other hand, is going very well -- about 70k now -- and so much fun that I'm going to regret finishing it.

Here, for today is a little bit of Draw the Line:

It did not look good. In fact, the sight of the Norishi lining up and plainly meaning to come at them got him to back up even before Ardhi started his way.

"This is a mess," Ardhi said with a shake of his head. He didn't look all that tired at the moment, but Morgan thought that might be adrenaline pushing him. He didn't say so.

"They heard about the incoming ship and started moving?" Morgan asked, wondering if they'd pushed the wrong way.

"No. They were already on the move before they heard," he said. He glanced back at them. "We caught the blip of info passed, so we know when they got the information. They are more agitated now, but I think they would have been anyway. There's no way we're going to get to the other ship. And they have to wonder what the hell is going on since they know there's no other ship out there."

"The Captain is smart enough to catch on."

"Yes. True." He looked back, startled by sudden movement along the Norishi line. They did not, however, move any closer and he gave a sigh of relief. "There is something unsettling about seeing them all lined up like that. It makes them... less human, I think."

Morgan didn't think the line would make a difference -- but when he looked back out at them he felt a chill. There was something just in the way they stood and moved -- they swayed now and then, in a sinewy motion that seemed to echo up and down the lines. Necks, which had always seemed a little too long to Morgan, twisted and turned in ways that were not human-normal. In small numbers, you didn't notice such things. Now, in a group of a couple hundred, they struck him as being ... wrong.

And that made him want to retreat even farther.

"This is going to be a problem," he said softly. "Our people are going to be unsettled before we even get to a battle."

"Unless the Norishi hold off long enough for people to get used to them like this," Ardhi said. He turned and looked, as though to force himself to watch.

"Do you think you can get used to it?"

"I sure as hell hope so. The only thing that might save us, if it goes that far, is that they can't stay in a line if they try to get into the Human Enclave. We can deal with them, I think, if we don't have to fight them out here."

"I don't want them in there. They look --" He stopped and looked around Ardhi and back out to the group again. "Ah. They look like people used to fighting as a group and in a line. They'll have to break up into smaller groups. That might help as well."

"Excellent point. I hope it doesn't go that far. I really do. "

Morgan agreed with a nod, but he said nothing. It looked bad out there. Norishi looked their way and he thought they looked half wild. He had expected civilized people. He had expected them to be more like the Ksa, and now that he knew they weren't, he wondered if he should trust the Ksa as well.

It was a dark, insidious thought that could, if he let it go too far, either save or his life or put him in more danger. The Ksa were helping the humans. Not to trust them could well put him outside their protection when he most needed it, and that by his own actions.

Trust. Don't link the Ksa and the Norishi. They were not the same. The Norishi had never been friendly, and now he suspected he saw more of their true colors. He forced himself to stand there by Ardhi and watch them. Analyze what he saw. The movements seemed to be linked. He could hear their words, a rush of sounds that rose and fell in some pattern. For a moment, he even found himself fascinated by something so totally alien -- and that helped. He could divorce them from the look of humanity when he watched this group.

Something triggered them. He reached for his pocket comp, but then realized he didn't want the Norishi, who were watching their way, to see him make any notes or do any readings.

"I'm going to take some readings," he told Ardhi. "Behind you, in the archway where they won't see me do it. There is definitely something going on here, and if I can find some link, maybe we can break the behavior pattern, or at least disrupt it."

"Ah. That would be good. Step back. Conner! Come here!"

Conner was a tall, short-haired woman who moved up beside the two. The Norishi did watch her. She was like a beacon to them.

"Dr. Doreet needs to do some readings, without the Norishi noticing," Ardhi explained. "So you just stand here and talk to me for a little bit while he stands behind us and gets the data."

"I'll be as quick as I can," Morgan said, already pulling out the pocket comp.

"Take your time," Conner said. She had a Tempest accent. "I'll keep the bitches entertained for a little while. Shall I sing and dance?"

"Not yet. We're reserving that for a time of true need. It's too dangerous a weapon to let loose early."

Morgan found it hard to concentrate with the show the two of them put on, but in other ways, it helped. It was good to find that they could still joke, even at a time like this.

He turned the readings toward the Norishi and spread the collection net out past the humans. Full spectrum -- he couldn't take it all in as the data began to collect, and he knew, if nothing else, this was going to keep him busy for a while. He thought he saw a couple interesting spikes in some of the readings, but he wasn't fast enough to catch what they were.

Interesting things.

The comp indicated repetition in many of the readings after a few minutes. He finally put the comp back into his pocket.

"Thanks. Got it." He shoved the comp back into his pocket. "I can't be certain, but I think there are some readings that are far off the scale from what we've had before. We'll see if we can use them."
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I actually have a few queries out right now, which is something I rarely do. I tend to send one at a time, wait, send that one elsewhere. This is, I know, not the way people normally do the work and it does slow everything down. So I have been putting more queries out. I try not to send to an agent more than once a month, even after a rejection. That means slowly working up both the number of queries I have out and the number of books I have written queries for. Right now, I'm mostly concentrating on three novels -- Glory, Kat Among the Pigeons, and Ada Nish Pura. I need to work on the queries for Vita's Vengeance, Paid in Gold and Blood and Summer Storm.

I have every faith that eventually one of them will 'catch' with an agent.

Draw the Line is up to about 98k and I suspect it's going to reach at least 120k. Interesting things going on. I've finally started to better understand two of the alien races in ways that I hadn't when I started. OH! Just right this moment came up with an idea that I need to drop into my notes!

It's going to be interesting when I have this one done and look it back over. I can see a lot of structural changes that I need to make, along with some plot 'corrections.' However, I also see some really good stuff that I've written that is going to make this a fascinating book in the end.

I keep wondering about Twittering a story, which kind of sounds like fun -- besides being an interesting exercise in limiting the way I write. 140 characters per entry, maybe no more than five entries a day? It's own Twitter page? I have been playing with a new story to see how it might work, and even if I don't do it, I think it is fascinating to play with.

Right now, however, I need to get back to work on the DAZ newsletter.

Here is a short scene from Rat Pirates. I'm about 40k into the rewrite of this one, and it's been a wonderful, fun experience. Sometimes just doing something for fun makes the work easy and the story often turns out the better for it. Still have quite a ways to go on this one.


Tia wandered up to the Control Deck before retiring -- and felt no surprise at all to find Angel still here, intent upon the computer. What did amaze him was seeing Ashur standing at the Rat's shoulder, totally engrossed in Angel's work. Neither even noticed Tia's approach until Tia put a hand on Ashur's shoulder, winning the Lindy's startled attention.

"What's going on?" Tia asked, though he couldn't be certain he really wanted to know the answer.

"I'm watching Angel do the impossible," Ashur answered with a bright smile. "And it's damned impressive, too."

Tia glanced at the screen where Angel worked. He wasn't a qualified computer tech, and it looked like any other screen of programming codes to him. Angel's fingers moved almost without pause, his face intent on the screen. Line after line of code ran up and off the screen -- which looked impressive enough, even if he didn't know what was going on.

However, he could see Angel looked pale and even this little work seemed to be leaving him slightly breathless.

"I hope you're almost done, Angelito," Tia said. "Because if Carmen or Lucia find out you're still here working, we're both dead."

"Almost done," Angel said, repeating the key words. He had a parroting ability that made some people think he might actually be listening sometimes.

Tia knew better, but despite his worry and questions about what was going on, he still stepped away from the two. He trusted Ashur wouldn't let the Rat do something that would put them in dangers. Besides, even if he could drag Angel away (probably not -- he still had his knife in the sheath on his belt), he didn't think it would be wise to stop him in whatever work he had begun. There was no use trying to reason with him; once Angel interfaced with a computer, even Carmen had trouble reaching him.
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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Busy Days

Oh, it's been a busy last couple days, not at all helped by storms last night and a real inability to sleep. Then today I found that something I should have had days ago for work only now got to me -- just one of those things where it got lost in the email. Then a second of the same type of thing, but a different set of people. If the first hadn't seemed to get to no one on the list, I would have thought it a problem on my end. Instead, it was just one of those odd coincidences.

I have the first part of one done, none of the second done, and very little writing done for the day.

I did jump into the JulNoWriMo stuff a few days ago, just as something fun. I wish I had more time to drop into writing and run with it, but I'm still doing okay. I have not added yesterday's count yet because of the storms.

With luck, I'll get a bit more done tonight.

Here is a little bit from Draw the Line. Yes, it is still moving along. Doing quite well, in fact. I've added quite a few outline notes to the end and I'm working my way through them. It's helping to focus the story again. In this, Etinon is an alien and only recently came to be in human company so much. The Norishi are another group of aliens who are acting quite oddly at the moment. (I have not reworked the Ksa lines to take out the p,b and m sounds. I'm looking at a new way to indicate this, like a replacement of one letter with another. I think it might make it easier to read.)

Morgan, Ritter and Ardhi left, leaving Rafe, Etinon and Doc behind. Doc stood at the edge of the door, looking worried. "If there is trouble, I'll treat the injured elsewhere -- we'll say it is specifically because no one should be around you --"

"I could go to my room," Rafe suggested.

"No. Stay here where the others can come without being too obvious, and where you are closer to the control stations. Everyone is staying close, you know. It doesn't look odd, especially since you spend so much time here already."

"You can trust me, you know."

"No, I can't," Doc said. Rafe saw the way Etinon looked shocked by the words. "I cannot trust you to take care of yourself. And I can't trust others -- except Etinon, Morgan and Ardhi -- to keep watch over you. They may not be enough if the Norishi come in for you."

"If they come for me -- if they really come in fighting -- then I need to go with them."

"No," Etinon said. He should have realized that Etinon would be a problem in this. He looked back at his guard, ready to argue the situation, but Etinon leaned down and looked him straight in the face, startling him. "No. You will not go with the Norishi. They do not hold honor with prisoners."

"You know this?" Rafael asked.

"They kill all prisoners they take, unless they happen to be important females of the race. They may want you because they think you are important and a link to the station. That would, perhaps, save you for a while. Or they may have decided that a male link to the station is something they must destroy. You will not go with them."

"I need to talk to Neva and make certain no one surrenders," Doc said. He hurried out to the comm equipment.

"That's something we needed to know. Humans will sometimes surrender if they think that continuing a battle will lead to inevitable destruction, or that it might harm others."

"It is so?" he said. "Then good that they know it is not an answer."

"Yes," Rafe replied. He looked back at the computer. "Let's see if we can figure out anything else in this information."

Etinon nodded and moved closer. Rafe waved him toward the chair.

"It is not proper for a guard to sit."

"There are things that are far more important going on than you guarding me, Etinon. It's not that I don't appreciate your work, but we need your help to save others. That's more important."

"You do not understand your own importance."

"Then explain it to me -- but it had better be good to make my life worth risking the lives of others rather than help me find answers."

Etinon blinked several times. Then he looked at the chair. It took him a moment, but he finally took hold of it and pulled it over. He sat down, stood, moved it again, and sat down once more.

"None can get past me to reach you," he said with a nod. "Let us see what we can learn."
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

On to Rat Pirates

The end of June was far too busy for me! Vision, FM, DAZ stuff.... but I got it all done and up, and I'm happy with how the new look for FM turned out. It still needs a little bit of work here and there, but I can fix things as they come up.

I did well with writing last month, too. I did manage to finish one short story along with a lot of other stuff that came to a bit over 100k in words. So things are going very well in the rewriting world. Draw the Line is up to 90k and finally turning that corner towards the end. I even wrote out a few notes to start directing myself toward it. Still working at 500 words a day on it. If I ever do this kind of experiment again, it will not be with a novel. Short stories and maybe research -- but I need to run with novels and let them flow at the rate they want. The book is downright boring in some places, and it's going to be a lot of work to figure out the problems and rewrite it.

I've started the rewrite of Rat Pirates, a book that unites characters from two previous books -- Vita's Vengeance and Badlands. It's going well, in fact, so I'm happy. I'm also considering some experimentation with where this series of books go when I'm done with them. We'll see. I have time to think about it.

Here is a short passage from Rat Pirates where someone is explaining the politics of Caliente to a couple people :

"They don't want us here?" Page asked. Avrial thought there might be a hint of hope in his voice.

"They're divided on the question," Palman answered. "They're divvied on everything; it's nothing new. The altos -- they're the tech-trained elite -- decided policy for Caliente before the last war. Now the Rats demand their own say and are getting it. There are two main groups of Rats. Those who live in the Inner Pueblo, close to the church, are settled and conservative. The other sector, the gangs, are generally younger and radical. There are four gangs: Rojo, Cuchillo, Peligro and Calle. There was a fifth, but the floods virtually destroyed the Noche. That doesn't mean there won't be a Noche resurrection. The gangs fight each other and everyone else."

"These gangs are the trouble then?" Avrial asked.

"Sounds that way, doesn't it?" she said and shook her head. "Well, that's what most of the Altos and Inner Pueblo Rats want to believe. They are trouble, beyond a doubt. They have their own ways, and they can defend them really well. However, the Altos, my friends, are the real problem. They want control of Caliente again, and you are a threat to them. Don't be quick to judge the gangs. In fact, I'm hoping because of who you are and your own reputation, that you might come into this with an open mind.

"Who is the authority on this world? Whom do we deal with?" Page asked.

"There is a general Council, newly formed, with twelve members: six Altos, an Inner Pueblo Rat and one Rat from each gang. And Padre Julius -- he's the Rat's Catholic Priest. Put all twelve of them in the same room, and they won't agree on which way to set up the table. However, individually, they are all people of note."

"If this Council is so useless, how does anything get done?" Avrial asked, feeling more and more like this had to be a mistake.

"By necessity. The colony faced starvation until the Lindy brought in supplies three weeks ago. Everyone cooperated for distribution and getting food prepared. They cooperated to bury the dead after the flood when they faced the risk of serious epidemic. Now they're managing to get one of the grow domes up and functioning again."

"As long as they're faced with an emergency, they can cooperate," Avrial said. "What happens when the world goes back to normal?"

"The Altos retire up to the Spires, the Inner Pueblo Rats hide behind their walls, and the gangs have a go at each other and anything else that wanders their way. "
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