Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Step one is done

Over the last couple days, I put a novelette up on both the Nook and the Kindle site for $1. This was an attempt to see if I could get the formatting right for epub stuff and actually get it up on the sites without totally messing things up. I wanted to know before I went on with other, longer material.

Nook version:  and Kindle version:

No Beast so Fierce is the story of two shapeshifters in the far future as they battle a group of dangerous vampires. The story was originally published by Darwin's Evolutions.

The majority of material I have scheduled for the Nook and Kindle are previously published books, though I do intend to try a few new pieces as well. This is an attempt to pick up just a little bit more income to help in my private life as well as with Forward Motion and Vision. I might as well do this and have fun and still be writing new material. It's an experiment, and I have a couple other people watching on who are close to dropping into the ACOA game as well.

ACOA = A Conspiracy of Authors

This is an invitation only publisher, with an editor on staff and a block of ISBNs. There will be print and ebook versions of the work once things get ironed out -- and yes, I am doing the majority of the work to help get things moving. I'm also volunteering a lot of my work for the experiment before anyone else joins in. I can afford to play around with some of my books. I have books to spare, and even if I started publishing one a month it would be over five years before I would have to worry about running out -- and that's providing I never wrote another novel again. I do not plan to put out a book a month, by the way. I'm just saying I have enough books (and never mind the shorter work), that I can do this without fear of ruining any chance to submit to other publishers and agents.

A book a month. Zette's Book of the Month Club. Why does this make we want to laugh hysterically?

This is where being prolific actually starts to pay off in more than entertaining myself with tales. It is not, of course, quite where I saw myself going a decade ago -- but a decade ago, the market started to change so much that I started finding it harder to locate things I wanted to read. That meant, of course, that what I wrote wasn't really in line with what was being published. And now, over the last couple years, the changes in the publishing world have been so drastic that yeah -- I'm ready to try something new.

Very early on, I submitted to ebook publishers and ezines -- long before Kindles and such. I loved it. I still make sales on a number of those original novels, almost a decade later. I've never been afraid of trying something new in the writing world and this entire ACOA project is going to be my experiment for the year. It's something I probably should have considered before now, but I've just been so busy with Vision and Forward Motion that I let just about everything on my writing front go except for the writing itself.

Ah yes, writing. I am working on outlines for next year and finishing up my last little bit of work for this year. I am also working on Vision, which should be going to a Joomla! set up this year, if I get it all worked out. That will make back issues far easier to deal with once I get them all in hand. That's going to be a project from hell -- ten years of articles to copy over and tag. But I'll get there eventually!

My tea machine is beeping at me to let me know I have another wonderful pot of tea done. And it occurred to me that it was, in part, the triniTEA that pushed me into this little change in plans in my writing life. I bought the tea maker and felt guilty about it. (It has, actually, cut so far down on my Diet Pepsi consumption that it's good for both money and health reasons -- but that's something else.) Then, as I started getting used to it (addicted, probably), I realized that I want to be able to buy myself little things again and not have to worry. Not a lot of things, not big things -- but things now and then and not have to remind myself that I need to pay for websites, Vision articles, food, cat food, etc. None of these is all that expensive. I don't need a lot of money.

But I have something like 80 novels completed in at least the first draft. Why should they just be sitting there? There are people who like my writing. I hear from them now and then -- but since I don't put a lot out, I lose track of them and they forget about me.

Time to put stuff out and get back to work on marketing -- but do it professionally, so to speak. Nothing will go out that hasn't gone through at least one editor other than me. This doesn't mean perfection, of course, but I won't expect readers to have to report easily corrected mistakes at every turn. Problems with formatting -- yeah, I'll want to hear about those because the whole epub thing is new to me.

This also means, of course, that it's time to start submitting to other places again, too. Forward Motion and Vision will do fine without me hovering over them every moment, and if I do actually make a little extra money, then it will help even more.

But even more than the money, the idea that I might go out and find readers again pleases me. I've missed that these last few years while I fretted over home, work and FM/Vision. I have not fretted over writing. I refused to let that whole attitude slip into that part of my life.

Which means, of course, that I wrote over a million words again this year. Just so you know.

That includes seven novels.

Maybe that Zette Novel of the Month Club isn't so bad an idea after all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Into the Great Unknown

That's how I'm starting to view 2011. I have things I'm doing that are entirely different from my usual track. I'm excited about it in many ways, but in others -- well, it's not the path I was on, and the footing looks a bit treacherous out there.

But it is a path that is increasingly popular among previously published authors. I've been picking up wonderful books by favorite authors lately in self-published ebook editions. And, as I've pointed out a few times before this, I am not connecting with the current science fiction and fantasy book market. I'm not even sure I could if I wanted to because the material that is popular right now is just not what interests me. There's nothing wrong with that -- we aren't all required to like the same things.

Getting my end of the project ready is difficult, though. Not that I don't have things ready -- but that I don't have time to keep moving forward and I am running out of time if I want anything up and going on January 1, 2011 -- or at any time in January, for that matter. I need to get to work on a schedule. I've been working on a plan, but not really timing things out. I need to get the work linked to a timeframe now and make myself move on it.

Good idea.

So I am sitting here with a cut of Wild Strawberry tea from Adagio (heavenly!), giving Zaphod a bit of the Cheddar Cheese and Broccoli soup (also heavenly on a grey, dreary day -- and Zaphod agrees), and piling up notes and work lists and ideas for what I really need to do.

Running out of time, Zette. Get moving.

Or not. The tea is very nice. We're supposed to have snow tomorrow. Maybe that will get me moving on stuff and just get a few more things done. Maybe I need a couple days of just messing around with stuff.

I know it's going to get down to the last of the year and I'll still be looking around wondering why I haven't gotten things done! I think this year just wore me out for some reason. Maybe a little rest won't hurt. (As long as I don't look at the list of things I need to get done.)

I don't have much to worry about for writing over the next couple weeks. I don't have much to finish up this year. I am putting together an outline of something to start on January 1, if I can just get it to fall together right. So far -- a lot of bits and pieces, but not a huge big 'this is it' moment for me. Very odd, so that's going far too slowly -- I need to focus on it better. I also have Vision to get done, of course. And the DAZ newsletter, which I am a bit behind on today. Oops. Need to get to work on that one!

I also need a plan my writing for next year. I know part it will revolve around more Devlin books -- those have been great fun. I need to outline the next three, at least.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Tea Heaven

I am now, officially, in tea heaven.

I did something I probably shouldn't have done, not given the rounds of financial problems and such -- but sometimes a person needs something to cheer up. I bought myself a lovely tea maker. An expensive one, in fact:

I got the 'Flavor' sampler plus two other samplers and some packets of tea -- in all, sixteen new teas to try out. While I waited for the tea maker to warm up, I opened a few and had a wonderful time taking in all the scents.

By the time the tea maker was ready to go, I had a plan.

I decided that I would make a tea database in Access. So far, I have these things to enter:
Company (Adagio, Tevana, etc.)
Name of tea
Type (Black, Green, Oolong, White, Herbal)
Degree of flavor (Strong, subtle, weak)
Settings used on machine.

I am having my first cup of tea made with the triniTea. I am already quite happy. I chose A County Christmas:

This is a special blend made by one of the customers (a nice feature, I think!) made from Christmas, Apple and Cranberry (three other Adagio teas). I brewed it for 3 minutes on setting II on the TiriniTEA and it came out perfectly. It has a lovely, subtle scent and an excellent taste that blends the fruits and spices quite nicely. The taste of spices remains after a few sips with a very pleasant aftertaste. The only problem I had with this tea was that it made me want to go start baking things!

I always need my tea sweet, and because I'm having blood sugar problems, I've turned to Splenda. This has worked nicely. Unlike other sweetners, it doesn't have a bitter aftertaste (at least for me) and one little packet make the tea quite nice.

So the first pot of tea is a success. I hope for many more!
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The end of the 2010 NaNo Year

I did well this year, despite a lot of hell, including the death of my poor Willow kitty. And of course, the first of the major holidays came and went with me alone for the fourth year. So yes, of course I threw myself fully and completely into NaNo. It was fun, it was exciting -- and it took every single free moment I had. What more could I ask for?

I wrote three novels and one shorter, related piece that will be attached to one of the books in the series. The books are all in the Devlin Team Series -- Welcome to Forest, Farewell to Summer and Plague. The short piece recounts how Devlin became an IWCS agent and was just something that came out of nowhere and I knew I had to write. That one turned out to be considerable fun.

My end count for NaNo was 250,204 words

And to paraphrase Edgar Allen Poe:

THANK Heaven! the crisis—
The danger is past,
And the fever called 'NaNo'
Is conquer'd at last

I did not do a lot of posting during NaNo this year. The reason was that every time I started to, it seemed like something else was going wrong in Real Life and I just didn't want to talk about it. So I would go back and write some more on the novels instead -- and now I have three lovely new novels for the Devlin series.

Now it's back to all those things I dropped on November 1 -- Joomla! Being at the top of the list. I need to figure out more about it. I was doing well, but the month of intense writing has pretty much cleared everything else out of my thoughts. Time to get stuff lined up and going again!

This is a good month for me to do it. I want to be prepared for 2011. I have a novel idea for next year and I'm getting it worked out this month. And other things. And more things.

Just so long as I can keep busy and not really think much about the holidays, I'll be fine.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is it possible?

A million words in ten days? Is it possible?

I got an email today from someone writing to tell me how she had written one million words by the end of yesterday, and ha ha ha don’t we all feel dumb for being so slow and writing crap instead of working to her high standards. NaNo, plainly, is filled with losers.

Ummm. . . .

Well, first is the fact that I don't care if you've written a million words or a thousand for the first ten days. Are you writing something you wouldn't have done otherwise? Are you looking at the way you work and deciding if writing is something you want to do at all? Good for you. You're winning.

But let's look at Lady X's claim of one million words and do the math.

1,000,000 words divided by 10 is obviously 100,000 words a day

100,000 divided by 24 hours is about 4167 words and hour

Or about 69 words a minute. Doesn't look bad, right?

Except that no one can write for 24 hours straight for ten days. So we have to readjust there. Let's say that Lady X sleeps for only six hours a night. That drops it down to 18 hours a day to work. However, there are still the other little things that take time -- eating, showers or baths (we would hope) and using the bathroom -- things that can't be avoided. So let's say that only takes 2 more hours out of her day because she's driven to do this writing and doesn't have anything else to do. We are now down to 16 hours a day to write.

100,000 divided by 16 is 6250 words an hour

Divide that by 60 minutes and we have about 104 words a minute.

That still doesn't look bad, right?

Okay. Sit down and write 104 words every single minute for the next 18 hours. Then do the same for the next ten days.

I won't say it's impossible. People do things I would never dream could be done all the time. I will say that it doesn't look very probable, though. Hell, I would be hard pressed to copy/paste 104 words a minute for 18 hours, let alone write them, and I'm not exactly slow (I'll hit 100,000 words today on my NaNo). Even using a speech to text program like Dragon Speaking Naturally would be difficult if not impossible. Try talking for an hour straight and see how your voice is by the end.

So, if you see people making outrageous claims during NaNo, pay no attention to them. If they did manage it somehow, good for them and they have reason to be proud -- but it still has nothing to do with what you are doing. If they're just making the claims to show how superior they are and trying to make others feel badly about their work, then they're trolls. Simple answers.

Me -- I'm working on a set of novels I adore and I'm having so much fun that I have trouble stepping away from it. I haven't enjoyed NaNo this much in the last couple years and it's really fun to feel the wind in my face as I race through the words. They aren't perfect 'high standard' words and writing. The works are first drafts and they're going to go through a couple revisions before anyone sees them at all. But I am having a great deal of fun and I hope the rest of you are, too.

So you know, ignore the trolls. Enjoy your work. And remember that we're just over 1/3rd of the way through the month. We can do it and you know, we can have fun at it without making (apparently) outlandish claims.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ten days

The boys

This is the tenth day of NaNo. I have been having a remarkably good time this year. I'm not sure what happened that it finally clicked into place. I have finished the first draft of Team Work at a little over 82k and I'm working on the second book, Farewell to Summer, which is already almost 6k. Yeah, I'm having a wonderful time!

Work is kind of taking a beating -- but I do get it done eventually. I've finally worked out how to fit it into the writing this month. Who knows? Maybe this will even work in the future and I'll be able to write even more!

Yeah, like I need more first draft novels piling up to be edited. Okay, so next year I'll start implementing more editing time. I can do that. Good plan.

I found a very nice review of NaNo for the New and the Insane:

But this year -- I am very much enjoying the rush of writing in ways that I haven't done in months. Maybe in years. I know I fought my way through last year's NaNo, but I don't remember it being this fun, and I'm trying to figure out what the difference might be. I'm still depressed about Russ living on the East Coast and hardly getting to see him at all. I still have some serious issues with the house I am in and I know it's going to be a long miserable winter --

Let's not think about that right now. Instead, here is a fun little snippet from the second book. Remember -- First Draft, mistakes, bad wording, etc.:

Devlin took lunch at The View, a very popular restaurant with another expansive view of the dead Martian world. It appealed to her tonight, all that emptiness -- but even as she watched, a tourist shuttle trundled across the ground and disappeared down an incline, probably heading for the old mines.

Humans everywhere.

She turned back to her food and nibbled at more of the lasagna, made with ingredients from earth and real meat. She liked to make it last, this one extravagance she always tried to enjoy on Mars. It was done to perfection, and the garlic bread made her mouth water just to smell it.

She was not the only one in the restaurant. She clandestinely watched the others -- hey it was her job! -- and could name a few of the ambassadors who had wandered in after some meeting. She hoped that two of them didn't recognize her, though. She was surprised that one of them still held his post, in fact, considering what she had uncovered on him during a job four years ago.

Marquesa came in and sat at a table across the room from her. This one was Private Line's top reporter, a woman for a flair for finding scandals and bringing down fools in her own way. Marquesa gave Devlin a bow of her head in greeting -- oh yes, she did know Devlin was one of the top Inner World Council Security Agents. They'd come to an understanding though: Marquesa didn't report anything about Devlin when she came to the Mars HQ and Devlin didn't have her drugged and shipped off to the farthest reaches of the fringe without any ID. So far the arrangement had worked well.
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Friday, November 05, 2010

Negative Things

Hello NaNo people! Welcome to day . . . 5? I've lost track of time. I woke up this morning wondering if I was going to survive this year's NaNo. It's been harder for me than usual in many ways.

But let's talk about a different sort of NaNo thing -- the usual negativity within and without the NaNo community.

My goals are not the same as most of the people doing NaNo. For many people, being able to write 50k in one month is a very difficult, and finding the time, energy, and understanding how to create something of that length is difficult and challenging. Challenges are good.

And that's why I challenge myself to do more. I have taken NaNo at its name -- to write a full novel during the month of November. For me, and the genres in which I write, 50k would not be enough. My goal is always to write at least one novel during November and I am using it to kick start off a long series of works. I'm having a great time leaping into the work. I have outlines, of course. I couldn't write this much if I didn't have a good, solid map of where I want to go.

So, of course, there are always the people who are angry and accusing -- you're cheating, you're lying, you obviously don't have a life or a job, etc. What they don't accepts is that anyone is willing to dedicate more time to writing (whatever their situation) then they can, will or even want to. Yes, my situation allows me to write more often -- and because of that it would be cheating to say I'm going to write 50k and it will be oh so difficult for me.

Some people have higher word counts. That's their personal challenges and they're having fun. Why should you belittle it? They're working hard to get those counts because that is what challenges them in writing.

Which brings us to the outside negativity.

You know, if NaNo was a month long cheese eating marathon, no one would make much of it. But because we are taking part in something that uses our brains, we're being ridiculed by elitist snobs who think they have any right to tell anyone how to spend November.

For many people, NaNo is a test flight to find out if they want to spend the time to grow wings and fly through their stories all year round. Many people never do more than come and leap off the cliff with us each year, writing for one month of 'literary abandon' and then waiting for the next November to join in the fun again. Others discover that writing 'fast' is not for them, and they step back from that cliff and find other ways to explore creativity. Not a few find out that writing is a lot more work than they thought and not for them at all.

And because of this, some people will rant about what we're doing.

They're being stupid. Straight out, without any doubt, stupid. Let them rant and wave their pathetic little "I be a real writer" banners for their other snobs to gather around. But don't forget to point them to this list: (Hmmm... none of my works are on there. Should get those added), and this:

When you think about it, it's obvious that some of these people are just jealous. They will never allow themselves to stand on the midnight line and leap in with thousands and thousands of others from around the world, doing something creative just for the joy of it. They've bought into some college professor wannabe writer's idea of 'literature' and what it takes to be a real writer because it makes them feel oh-so-important when their own writing can't. For others, it's just a case of 'it's not what what I would do, so it can't be right.' They're being blind and judging an act and not the end result. Yeah, a lot of total crap is written during NaNo. It's never going to affect their lives. They'll never see it. It's unfortunate that some people writing during NaNo think they should send their first draft book off to the agent/publisher on December 1. But ya' know -- I read submissions for a while. The number may increase during November, but they're no worse than the majority of things from the rest of the year -- meaning badly written first drafts.

Let them have their little rants. It makes them feel smug and important.

To me, quite honestly, it is the negativity within the NaNo community that is worse -- the belief that if someone isn't doing exactly the same as the others, they shouldn't be allowed to take part.

This is my tenth year at NaNo. I have written (prior to this year) 22 NaNo novels and sold (or nearly sold -- one is pending) four of them, with several more almost ready to go out into the cold world of submissions. Three of those novels were just leap in and have fun with no intention of ever doing more with them. (Though, it turns out, one of those isn't half bad -- lol). The manuscripts from the later years are working through my long system of editing -- I don't rush anything but the first draft. I have written 1,614,217 words during November at the end of last year's NaNo. I have enjoyed every moment of it.

I hope the rest of you do, too. And I hope that you can realize we don't all have to be doing exactly the same thing to join in the fun.

And now -- yes, I'm going to go back to writing for a bit, then attack a pile'o'work -- and then write again. Because it is what I enjoy and I love flying with this first draft.

Current count? 38,748 and a little over 1/3rd of the way through the novel. Yay!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A little helpful tip

Good work and good luck to everyone!
Do you want a quick trick to help you get through a day's writing?
Write down five things that can next happen in your story. For instance:

1. Goes for walk in woods
2. Comes home to find house open
3. Goes to neighbor for help
4. Finds neighbor dead
5. Heads into the woods to hide

Now write 400 words for each of those little points. You'll have made your word count for the day. If you find that you make your word count total by #3 because what you're writing is more than you imagined, put #'s 4 and 5 on a list for tomorrow.

This kind of mini-outline is really flexible because you're never very far ahead of where you're working. Be sure to think in terms of description, too. Description can really help to fill out the story.
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

NaNo Day 2 -- 9015/22021 total

This was a more difficult day than yesterday, but I made the count I wanted, so I'm good. It will keep dropping down after this. I have work to get back to. I did a little bit today, but the NaNo novel kept pulling me in. That's good, of course.

Here is another short snipped. Remember: FIRST DRAFT

"Okay. So you trained and went into the ring when you were old enough? How old?"

"Started training at six. At ten, though, we had a choice to go into the ring or work somewhere else in the Camp. I knew that many died in the dance -- but that was years away. 21 sounds very old to a ten year old."

Damn. Damn them -- to use that against a child. To hold out what was, in truth, the only showy, exciting thing on this world and let children think that it was worth the price. He didn't speak, but Dancer must have seen the look in his face. He nodded. In this they both understood each other.

"Tell me the rest," Cha said. He sat his cup aside. He could hear distant sounds of people now -- the town coming awake, and he feared that Dancer might be right. If Devlin wasn't here, he would still try to hold on to Dancer, but he wasn't entirely sure he could.

"There were never more than ten chosen at a time. We trained in groups selected by age." A different sort of pain crossed is face this time, and Cha wasn't certain he wanted to hear the next part. He sat very still and Dancer didn't look at him. "There were nine in my group. Three opted to go to work in the camp when they turned 18, right after we started training with actual bears. Two died in training and two more died in the ring the first year we performed. Satin is the only other one left from my group, but he's very ill from Bear Poison he took a week ago. I don't think he'll survive. That makes me the last one still in the ring from my group."
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Nano Day 1: 14006

Hard day of work!

Here is a little snippet from the opening. I'll drop these in every now and then, but not likely every day, especially once real life work kicks back in again!


Devlin stood beneath the shadow of the high wooden benches that rose in tiers above her and tried not to wince every time she heard a creak or groan from the wood. It didn't help that she'd read the history and knew that the last set of bleachers had collapsed ten years ago, killing more than fifty people and maiming others. Safer, now, they told her, but she didn't believe it much. She didn't trust low tech work on backwater worlds.

And she didn't think much of Forest anyway.

Devlin hadn't intended to come to the Bear Dance today until she heard that their best dancer would perform tonight. The one Bear Dance she'd seen had been disgusting and it hadn't helped her attitude towards the locals. Pitting a human against a local animal was barbaric, and she didn't know how humans could even stand to watch.

This was not her favorite assignment and she still couldn't decide why anyone would send someone of her rank to such a backwater little world. Oh, she knew the major part of it -- Earthers' interest -- but anyone could have come in and filed the reports. She'd liked the work on Caliente better than she liked this one. Forest may be a lovely world, but she hated the people. Hated them all at this point -- and had to pull that feeling back and be objective. She couldn't let it interfere with her assignment.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Clearing the way and sailing in for NaNo

Before I forget -- remember that you can download the free 'NaNo for the New and the Insane' ebook at my site:

We are only days away from the start of the insanity. I still have far too much to get done -- Vision for Writers update for the new issue, Forward Motion update for the new month, the DAZ3d Newsletter for this week -- all in all, it looks like a difficult few days!

Vision is nearly completed, at least. FM doesn't have much left to do. I have not started the weekly newsletter because I still don't have all the info I need for it. Lucky for me that I've been doing these for years, and I don't anticipate having a lot of trouble with it when I do get the rest of the info. I hope.

I've been working at getting the house cleaned up, too. That's not all too difficult, except for the time factor.

So, it looks pretty much like I'm going to leap into the Devlin Books come 12:01 am November 1. I have five full outlines for books that should be at least 90k each -- that's far more than enough to see me through the month! I might have the sixth outline done as well, but I'm not worried about it. Even though these were based on earlier works, the new outlines are almost entirely new stories -- and, of course, I'll be recreating them all from scratch anyway. I'm looking forward to the work.

This is what happens when you look at something 20 years old and realize that you actually have a clue how to plot a story now and maybe it will even make sense. This is a project that is going to continue on into 2011, and likely editing until 2014 or so. I don't mind long term projects. Always having something on the list to work on is good for me, especially when I'm so busy.

I had hoped to do some cover art or at least a banner. That is looking less likely, but I might still get a chance before the end of the month.

As usual, I plan to go crazy for the first couple days of NaNo. I can afford to take that much time before I have to focus again on other work, especially if I try really hard to keep everything cleared off going into the month. Before long, though, I'll be back to work on the weekly newsletter and such. It's hard to say how much I'll get done this year. I do have good outlines, though, so that should help.

The work tonight is to finish up what I can and then sit down and list out everything that has still to be done. I'm going to get things done and start preparing to have all kinds of insane NaNo writing fun!
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Russ is home!

He's busy tonight, but we've been going like mad the last few days. I now own a slightly outdated, but wonderful laptop that we picked up new for $169. I am very happy to have it! This not only allows me to work away from my office now and then, but also to work away from home if I have a chance to go anywhere with Russ!

I'd been saving up money in hopes of finding something inexpensive. This was far more inexpensive than I had expected. I thought I'd have to spend at least $400 to handle even the small amount of absolute things I needed.

So I bought a Nook with the rest of the money.

Yes, I did. And I LOVE it.

I am reading one of the three books that was on it when I bought it -- Pride and Prejudice. I have never read it before. I think I might have read parts of it for school at some point back in the dark ages, but I really didn't remember much of it and I have never watched any of the shows or movies that have come out. It's exploring whole new territory for me.

And the one thing I have noticed is the almost total lack of description. Well, that and the Omni POV, of course, but I expected that one. I'm catching a lot of the humor, which I didn't expect. It often takes me a little while to get into the feel of a story.

My first actual purchase is a set of Andre Norton novels. She's the person who started me in my love of both science fiction and of writing. I'm looking forward to reading them all. My plan isn't to buy much of newer material at all, but to stock up on classics and historical material. It should work out wonderfully for me.

So it's been quite a week for me. We went to De Soto National Wildlife Refuge a couple days ago. I went to the zoo yesterday and took 577 pictures. Yes, it will be a while for me to sort those out, though many of them were sets of three bracketed shots.

I'm writing about 1k a day while Russ is here. I'm enjoying the slow pace and working my way up to NaNo.

So, that's it! The only real problem I have at all is that the DAZ people are VERY late with stuff this week. I need to get to work on it now!
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Russ will be home on Friday.

This pretty much means a round of insanity for the next couple days. I've started realizing there are all kinds of things I wanted to have done before he got here, and that's not even counting trying to get real work out of the way.

It is quite likely the last time I'll see him this year. We're about to head into winter, and the weather is too changeable to risk him coming home and getting snowed in. So I'll be heading into another winter (the fourth here alone), and we just have to have things ready this year.

This also means preparing for writing. NaNo is just a few weeks away (how did that happen!), but I am pretty much set there, if I have to be. I have 5 full Devlin outlines, and I can just start with #1 and see how far I get. I'm still writing the 6th outline now.

I did finish the edit of Glory. There's a little bit more work to do, but it's pretty close to ready to submit. Yay! I might even have that done before NaNo. That would be a nice goal. And it will give me something to do after Russ leaves again. I'll need goals and such then because it's not going to be much fun.

I'm about half way done with the sixth outline. That's probably going to be the last one I do before NaNo. I might do another one or two in December, depending on if I feel as though I want to invest that kind of time in it. Right now, I'm just looking at leaping into November and not coming back out until December. How much can I write? Probably around 200k again, but we'll see.

So, not a lot of interesting things to say today. Too much going on to stop and think out anything really interesting. (grin)

And now, back to work!
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Friday, October 01, 2010

Odd Things


From For Blog

I've been busy, and I fear that I am going to remain busy for a good long time. Maybe that's all right. Winter is coming and I really don't like the idea of being here through hip deep snows again (like the last two years). If I'm busy enough, maybe I won't notice the snow. Right? Maybe I should just plaster the windows with pictures of the mountains and oceans and just pretend I'm somewhere else.

About a week ago we were talking in FM chat about stories and how we see them. One of the things that seemed to be pretty common was the 'movie effect' version, where the author sees the story as a movie in her mind.

I do that. Except I didn't realize that my version is a bit different from the others.

They actually see the movie. I see the movie with a constant voice-over saying the words as they would be written, so even when I'm seeing a visual representation of what's going on, I'm also getting what should be the written version.

Very odd. I never thought about it until then.

I had to slow down on the Devlin Team books because of some outside work. That's okay. I'm on outline #6 out of 14. I should get it done soon and I might get one more in before November and NaNo. Or I might stop with 6 and work on other things that I need to clear up so that I can have a week in November for silly, fun writing. I'm not sure how much I'll do this year, but then I'm never really sure, so that's not a surprise! I have outlines. We'll see how far they take me.

What else?

Russ will be home in a week. He has classes to teach and will be very busy, but it's going to be great to see him again. We have to get me prepared for the dreaded coming of winter since it's very likely he won't make it back before it's over -- which would be February or March. He did make it home for the last week of December last year, but that was a fluke. And the weather was so iffy it was really risking him getting stuck here and in a lot of trouble with work.

I am using Word to write and post this, just to see how I like it. I'll have to go back in and add a picture afterwards because I can't quite see how to match them up yet. That shouldn't be too hard.
Of course, if there is no picture here, it's because I couldn't get one to load in at all.

So, let's give this a try, shall we? Since I normally write the blogs in Word anyway, and then copy/paste them in, this might just save me a step. Or it might prove to be even more work. You never know until you try! 

Note: Upload went fine.  Edited it to put in picture, no problem.  Need extra lines between paragraphs and consider the font size next time!  Changing that in edit mode!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The road ahead

Yes, that would be a curve you see . . . .

I'm down to the last edits of the Silky trilogy, which has been out in eBook form from two different publishers down through the years and is now going to a third and getting a print version. Actually, the third book of the trilogy hasn't been out before and it will also go to Holly's shop so that people there have a chance at it! This has been a lot of hard work, and the new editor has done a fantastic job with it. So many little things that just slipped through, as well as the work of making certain all three books remain consistent, especially since they were written over about a twenty year timeframe.

The publishing industry has gotten interesting. My current publisher is an experiment with other authors combining the strengths of traditional publishing (including an outside editor) with the power of the new world of publishing, which does include more control by the author. We'll see how well it works. I'm leading the way in the group of authors because -- well, because I am prolific and can afford to experiment with some of my work in a new enterprise. It's exciting. It will be at least another month, and possibly longer, before the publisher goes live. There's a lot of work to be done before then!

So I am dipping a bit more into the world of self-publishing in an odd, backwards sort of way. That suits me. I know the power of having outside people who can vet the work because authors can be blind to problems, especially after they've worked on something for so long. I also know that if I had done this when I first started writing (if there was such a thing back in those dark ages), I would have failed miserably because I wasn't a good writer. I thought I was, but after years of learning, I know how much I didn't know back then. I know that I can continue to learn, too.

I also know it's time to stop hording novels. I let a few out a year to go try their presentation to various publishers and agents. I have been working towards the high end for a while and not doing all that well. I know why. I often get notes back saying the writing is very good, but the story is not for them. It's what I've come to realize and said before -- I am writing for an Andre Norton audience in a Laurell K. Hamilton market. I don't fit what is selling right now. Will the market come back around? Maybe.

But I've written over 80 novels. Even taking just the top group of really good material, I still have more novels than I can get published in the rest of my life, even if I stopped writing today. Which, of course, I am not going to do. (The Devlin outlines are up to #6, by the way, and still going very well!) So, I am taking control. I am going to work through the new publisher and put out a number of them in both print and eBook format. We might do some shorter work as well. Then I'm going to be marketing like mad.

It's going to be a lot of work -- but for once, unlike Vision and Forward Motion, it is going to be work for me. That's probably not something people think much about. I know I don't consider it very often! I like FM and Vision (most of the time), but I spend far too much time trying to help others with their careers. I need to take an equal amount of time for my own. Well, maybe not an equal amount -- I don't have that much time just sitting around! LOL

Things are looking interesting. This might work. It might not. But at least it is something I can try.
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Adding Details

Helpful Zaphod
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This is just a quick post to show what I'm doing with one of the books.  It's really a novella and I'm expanding it into a novel.  This is made easier by the fact that it really is lacking in almost all details.  My first drafts are often that way.

Here are the original 337 words:

The Deervale cemetery sits up on the hillside, to the south and a bit lower than the AviTen HQ. It's full of gardens and wind chimes, benches and fountains -- but very few graves. Like everything else here, it's new, ornate, and refined. Mr. Kimura was the first person to be buried here whom I had known very well.

Akio sat alone under the canopy by the casket. Mr. Avigion had arrived just ahead of us, and there were a few more people from the office, gathered behind the empty chairs, watching as the minister pulled out his bible. Mr. Avigion sat on one of the chairs, though not beside Akio. She never looked up.

I wondered where Nadine was right now. Too busy to come to the funeral? Why did she show up in Deervale, then?

I thought about going and sitting by Akio. I didn't.

The minister spoke quickly about the shortness of life, about the need to hold on to what love we had, and remember all that is good in our world. He said we were blessed, here in Deerfield. I knew he was right, but I somehow felt worse for it, as though we had taken our blessings at the cost of the good life to others. I thought about going out and buying a new car, and about all the people who had trouble finding jobs because they couldn't afford a car to get to work. I thought about next year, going to college when some people couldn't even afford to finish high school. It wasn't my fault -- I knew that, and at the same time I thought there ought to be something I could do, like Akio and her no-kill animal shelter.

I hadn't expected Akio to speak. But she stood when the minister signaled her, and walked to his place. Dressed all in black, her head covered in a black hat, her eyes behind black sunglasses -- she looked like a ghost summoned unwilling out into the light.

Here is the new 440 word version:

The Deervale Cemetery sits on a gently sloping hillside to the south, and a bit lower than, the AviTen HQ. It's full of carefully tended gardens and wind chimes, trees, benches, fountains, ponds -- but very few graves. Like everything else in our secluded little world, it's new, ornate and refined. I hadn't really known anyone buried here before Mr. Kimura.

We left the car parked at the curb in line with the others and walked upward toward a pile of dirty and a canopy. I felt incredibly awkward in heels and a skirt. I'd even brushed my hair down and hid the odd colors beneath a scarf.

I felt like a fraud. My mouth went dry and I suddenly didn't want to be here, but I kept walking by my mother. Dad fell a few steps back, talking to someone from work, but I couldn't hear the words. Every sound seemed muted while the colors too bright. I looked down at my black shoes brushing through the perfectly clipped grass.

Akio sat alone under the wide, dark canopy by the casket. Someone had covered the lid with cherry blossoms, and I suspected the trees would be bare when next I went by the Kimura house. Mr. Avigion arrived a moment later and sat on one of the chairs, though not beside Akio. She never looked up.

Nadine hadn't shown up. Too busy to come to the funeral? Why did she show up in Deervale at all?

I thought about going and sitting by Akio. I didn't.

The minister spoke quickly about the shortness of life, about the need to hold on to what love we had, and remember all that is good in our world. He said we were blessed, here in Deerfield. I somehow felt worse for it, as though we had taken our blessings at the cost of the good life to others. I thought about going out and buying a new car, and about all the people who had trouble finding jobs because they couldn't afford a car to get to work. I thought about next year, going to college when some people couldn't even afford to finish high school. It wasn't my fault -- I knew that, and at the same time I thought there ought to be something I could do, like Akio and her no-kill animal shelter.

I hadn't expected Akio to speak. She stood when the minister signaled her, and walked to his place. Dressed all in black, her head covered in a black hat, her eyes behind black sunglasses -- she looked like a ghost summoned unwilling out into the light.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Reading Greek Plays for Inspiration

A couple years ago I started reading the Britannica Great Books and taking notes. Those first notes grew into the background material for Draw the Line, a science fiction novel I wrote back into 2009. It worked VERY well.

I stopped reading for a while, though. Part of that is because of an eye problem and the small print. But I picked it back up a few weeks ago. I had already started doing notes for a new fantasy book, so I read through those and then started moving on.

This is working really well for me. I choose a line that draws my attention in the play, comment on it and the play in general, and then warp that thought into some sort of inspiration for my new story. This is how it works:

August 23, 2010

I have been reading a play a night, basically. I'm not sure how long I can keep that up -- the print is so damned small and my sight is not good. The plays are short and, well -- I admit it -- they are fascinating. And that's good. I need to read more things like this. And apparently I will be for a while.

Quote 33:

Death hath oped his gates for him, and that this is his last look upon the light.

Euripides/Hippolytus Page 225, column 2

First, can I say how much I really disliked this particular play? The only good character, Phaedra, still does something despicable at her death. Yeah, yeah -- it's all because of the gods and everything, but still -- it's really hard to feel sorry for any of them by the end of the play. Hippolytus is a pain in the ass. The nurse is untrustworthy. Theseus is stupid for not even trying to find out the truth. Yes, yes, yes -- all of them set up by the Gods. And it probably felt more 'real' to the audience of the time. But it's really hard to like any of them.

But, okay, let's move on and apply this to the prince in my story. Have you noticed how almost all the Euripides' plays deal with death? Handy for me, but I suspect I'm going to have trouble with I get through Euripides and on to Aristophanes.

Okay, but this -- this has me wondering about something. If my prince has looked at death, can he see the real world again as it really is? Has it, in some ways, made him blind? I don't want him to be completely blind, but maybe there are 'things' in the way, making it difficult -- and dangerous -- for him?

But does that sight also bring him 'gifts' that helps him to fight an evil others can't see at all yet? Is that half the reason they think he's crazy?

You know, I am starting to see this as a first person POV, which surprises me. I'm not sure that would be right. I want the others. So maybe first person for him and third for others? I've read books like that and found them well done.

That's something for the future. But this has given me another piece to consider for the story. I wonder how much of this material I'll be able to fit in by the end.

So there is how it basically works for me. Just a little nudge of a thought, and see where it goes. It generally goes in ways I would not have thought of without the nudge, obviously. That makes it all the more interesting for me to work with. And the good thing is that you can use almost any kind of writing for this type of work. I happen to be reading Greek Plays, so those are what I'm using for the base. Eventually, I'll be reading something else. I hope to keep up this work even then, though.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Either ... Or

It doesn't have to be one or the other

I've talked a bit about how the world of publishing is changing. We see it all the time these days, in both good and bad ways. When I see lines like 'traditional publishing is over, traditional publishing is broken' and all the rest, I remember reading about two instances in the past where these same sorts of things were said about the book industry. The most recent occasion was at the advent of cheap paperback publishing. Prior to that addition to the shelves, publishing had been limited to hard bounds which made them rather elitist in their own ways. People were appalled at the idea of paperbacks for the masses, and the drop in quality of both the books and the writing that they saw in this new technology. It was the birth of the genres as we truly know them. It did change publishing and made it a far larger industry.

And the time before paperbacks where there was an upheaval? It was the birth of the printing press when books could be distributed in large numbers, rather than a few carefully copied manuscripts sitting on the shelves in the house of the rich or hidden away in holy houses. Now anyone could write and publish a book and the masses (more or less) could buy it. This was, they said, the downfall of scholarship and the end of the truly elitist antiquarian society.

But here is the point: in both cases it was not the end. Rather, it was change and the publishing world adapted to it. It wasn't an instant adaptation, and there was (as there always is in human nature) attempts to fight against the tide of change. That's inevitable in any long term project that suddenly faces drastic changes from the outside.

We are now in the midst of one of these drastic changes in publishing. We've all seen it coming and some of us have been taking advantage of publishing along the peripheral in ebook and small press companies.

The publishing industry is not broken; it is adapting. It will change and while a lot of what we accepted may fail in the change, something will survive and go on along with the other new forms of publishing. People are still selling books to the New York publishing houses and following their dreams. There is no reason not to try if that has always been what you wanted.

But here we come to the real point of my post (finally). People seem to think that this has become an either/or world for writers. Either you pursue traditional publishing or you self-publish. This isn't true -- at least if you have more than one book in your files. Many writers, including ones who have had long-time business relationships with big publishers, have now started offering items through self-publishing. Many of them offer backlist books when they have reacquired the rights. Others offer the rest of the series that a publisher never completed.

New writers don't have that backlist. They might, however, have several finished manuscripts and been unable to get a publisher interested in. There are small press and ebook publishers out there as well, but self-publishing is not as frowned on as it was ten years ago. It just has to be done very carefully. Why wasn't the book sold? Was it because of the story, or was it the quality of the writing? A self-published writer must have material that is as well written, and probably better edited, than what you'll find on shelves in stores. If the book is going to present you as a 'real' writer, than you better make certain it stands up to the test.

If you do self-publish (or publish with a small press or ebook company) that does not mean you can't still send work out to agents and publishers. There is no reason to cut yourself off from any venue of publishing, in fact. We are in the midst of a revolution but it's one of those rare revolutions where you don't have to choose sides. You can play on both sides of the field because the line is wavering at the moment. It is unlikely, now that the wall has been breached, that it will ever be formed up as solid as it had been before.

For some of us, this means instead of looking at the these changes as the demise of traditional publishing, we need to start looking at them as new opportunities.

If you are going to self-publish don't do it haphazardly. These books are going to be read (if you work hard at marketing) by people who will either become your fans or who will not buy another of your books no matter how it is published. Be prepared to do more marketing than anyone in any other form of publishing -- and that's a lot as it is.

Don't leap into any form of publishing without thinking it through. But also don't make a choice and think that's the end of any other choices. Take advantage of all the chances there are out there today. But do it wisely.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Why I don't fear middles

 I think the problem with most writers is that they think of the story as three parts -- beginning, middle and ending.

It isn't. It's a flowing story, and there should be no moment when you suddenly feel as though one part is done and you are entering into something different. That's just setting your brain up to think 'Oh, different. I'm not ready for different!'

Here, however, are some things to consider. Once you have gotten past the part where you have introduced your characters, world and the plot problem, you are in this nebulous 'middle' that everyone hates.

This is really the most fun area of the book
In the middle you get to do all kinds of things. Your characters can make serious mistakes and correct them. They can have a complete loss of faith in their cause and win it back by the time you head into the last chapters. Your antagonist can have big wins, making things all the more difficult for your main character.

The middle is the section where your characters face problems, come to terms with what they want, and move on to the ending where they resolve those problems and win or lose.

Don't let the middle daunt you.

I don't entirely agree with the idea of 'let the story veer' though. It can take different paths, but if you end up with a story that is not what you wanted to write, then it's not going to help. You have to keep the problems that you posed in the start of the book, and trouble along the way, in mind when you reach the final pages. The ending may not be exactly what you first imagined, but it should still link back to the problems that have not been solved from the start of the book, and anything that you left unresolved in that horrible middle section. (grin)

Even if you don't outline, it might help to jot down just a few notes to keep you focused on what you want. Pin or tape them where you can see them as you write. If you come up with an idea that seems to veer too far, check it over carefully. It's likely that it will work with a little tweaking.

Or you might have come up with a better idea than your original thoughts. That often happens while you write. In that case, you need to look back over your opening and see how you can tweak it to fit better, if it needs to be.

However, don't go wandering off on a new path without examining it and studying where it's going to lead. If you keep doing that, you're just going to end up with a lot of disjointed storylines and too much work to make something manageable out of them.

You have a story you want to tell. Write that story. Stick to it and go all the way to the end. Don't take an easy 'oh, I'll do this instead' answer because the easy answers aren't usually the best ones. If you have hit a spot in the story where you are confused or bored, then go back and find out why. Don't automatically scrap your storyline just because it's easier to go in a different direction. That's not going to help you in the long run. It's like all the people who write a few chapters, then hit a problem and leap off to start a different book instead of working the problem out. They aren't learning anything.

If you are writing a romance, your intro is going to bring the two together and set up obstacles for them that stops them from being together immediately. After that, you can introduce more troubles, moments of 'almost got together' only to have something ruin it, etc. Then, at the end, you have to look at everything they faced and find a reasonable way in which all of it can be resolved and the two get together.

In a fantasy or science fiction novel, you might start with an attack on a town. The main character and some companions are introduced through their actions. So might be one or more of the enemies, because faceless, nebulous enemies are not as interesting as someone the reader can see and name. The opening to the novel would likely cover all the actions your main group take in order to survive and get away from the town. After that, they might be on the run, trying to find a way to fight back. The enemy is still after them. This is the area where the main character can make mistakes that might get followers killed. He can have a loss of faith in his ability to help others. He can be pushed to the limits and finally finds that he will push back. After that, the story will start heading towards the ending section and the final confrontation in which everything the character has done, from the very opening until that moment when he faces the enemy again, will come into play. What did he learn when he lost the others? What did he learn when he was pushed too far?

So, my real suggestion is to stop thinking in terms of beginning, middle and ending. Focus instead on the next step in the story, no matter where that stop might fall. What, logically, can go wrong for your main character? What can push him into more trouble that is related to the situation, and how will he get out of it? How can he reach that ending you have in mind, or an ending that will take everything you learned along the way into account and give you (and the reader) something that connects back through the entire story.

Friday, July 30, 2010

On Being Prolific

Being prolific, at least to me, means far more than merely writing a lot of words. It also means making those first draft words into something I would be proud to show to others. No first draft is ever perfect, and the stories I've written over months and the ones I've written over weeks all need editing. I don't lie to myself and say that writing slower will make the story better and I won't have to edit.

I love the rush of writing a story or novel in a short time frame. I love the feel of being caught in the story and not letting go -- rushing from start to finish and living the story in a way that slower writing can't allow. I know because I have done both.

Living the story is wonderful. It's exciting and an adventure in ways that no other kind of writing can compare to. There's nothing wrong with slower writing if that's what works for you. Sometimes it works for me, too -- here's an important fact that many people overlook: You cannot judge the quality of someone's writing based merely on the amount of time it takes that person to write something. I've known people to spend years on first drafts and come away with a story that needs just as much editing as that of someone else who wrote the same amount of work in a few weeks.

Neither can you judge anything by a first draft.

But for an adventure -- for me -- the rush of living in the story is the important part. The faster I write it, the more 'in the story' I am from start to finish. It means that I will maintain the same style, remember more of the little bits and pieces, and overall not lose the 'feel' of the story.

Here is something a lot of people seem to misunderstand about me and being prolific. It's not about the numbers. Word count numbers are just a byproduct of what I do. Being prolific is about having many tales to write and no fear of putting an idea in concrete form and see if it works. I weed out the ideas that don't stand up to examination before I begin work. I often outline the longer ones and put the outlines aside for a little while. I still have more story ideas than I can devote time to.

I have stories I want to tell. I don't have time to waste.

I love living in the adventure when I write a story.

The combination of these two things means that I am going to write quickly. It's how I work. It's not how you work, and that's fine.

Now there is a second part to this that goes beyond the first draft writing. I love editing, and even rewriting sometimes. While I love the rush of first drafts, I also love the power of going through the story, line-by-line, and creating something that has more depth and character. The plot is there. The flavor is there -- editing is about adding the spices and rearranging the plate when it needs to be.

Being prolific also means having enough material that I can afford to experiment with story placement. I have ebooks that have been around for five years and more and are still bringing in a few sales. I also have short stories I've used as marketing fodder and placed in popular (sometimes non-paying) markets on line. There aren't a lot of those markets left that I really like, unfortunately. I'd still be doing it because I found it was a great, fun way to connect with readers.

Being prolific mostly means not being afraid to write.

There's something that I keep telling people. Don't be afraid of words. You don't have to show your work to anyone. You can write anything and erase, change, rework -- it doesn't matter. No one but you has to see it until you are ready.

And what if you're never ready?

Only you can make that decision. But if you really, truly want to be an author who is read by others, you have to realize one very important fact that many going into the writing world seem to ignore:

You cannot please everyone.

When it comes to writing, the first thing you have to do is please yourself. That means being honest and not an angst filled -- oh, poor me, this is all crap -- pretend artist. That's just an easy excuse not to do better and too many people use it as an excuse to get sympathy.

Sometimes such feelings are inevitable. Don't grab onto them like they're the only answer. You want to be a writer? You want to have readers? Then start looking at your work seriously and figuring out what you need to do to make it enjoyable for you to read.

Yes, for you. Never mind the rest of the world. If you can't please yourself with your writing, how can you hope to please anyone else? You are your own first reader. There are other people out there who will be interested in the same sorts of things that you are. Therefore, you have to write well and write something that you love in order to draw your audience.

If you are trying to write for the market, you better love what the market is offering. If you don't, then don't write something boring just to ape it. If the story bores you, it is going to show in the writing.

Is the current book market not the kind of thing you like to read? Then write what you do like to read and work to help make a new market for it. Yes, that's right -- create a market. It can happen. Several years ago, when the Internet was a fresh, wild place some people who loved Regency Romances lamented that they were no longer being published by places like Harlequin. Well, at least with these new ebook things they thought they could publish a few and enjoy them still, right?

And they did well.

Soon, Harlequin and others were back to publishing that dead market Regency book again because they found out they were wrong about the market having disappeared. It had disappeared because they were no longer offering the solid 'old-fashioned' regency tales that these people wanted to read.

So here we have the slightly different part of being prolific -- yes, it does all tie in together. If you are prolific you can afford (as I said earlier) to use stories as marketing fodder to draw readers. That means that if you are writing for a genre or sub-genre that is not quite as popular as it used to be, then you can still build up a readership and perhaps even draw in enough attention to get notice elsewhere.

But first, over everything else, you have to write. Then you have to edit, and edit again and make those words as wonderful and exciting as you can.

No excuses. No fear of words. Get out there and write.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Devlin's Team Book 3

I am now about a third of the way through the third Devlin outline. I've added things, removed a few boring bits and I'm getting some interesting interaction between the characters that wasn't there before. These books are going to be a joy to write. This outline is going to be LONG though! It's already over 200 phases and might go over 500. That's okay. It would make it a good 100k plus novel.

I wrote a great chapter (outline) with Dancer as the POV, but now I realize it's in the wrong spot. No problem. Easy to move stuff around in WriteItNow storyboard, though I will have to change the phase numbers. The joy of an outline is that everything like this is so easy to fix now, rather than later after the text is written. Most of my phases in this book are running about 20 to 50 words like this (Devlin's POV):

Get Dancer into a bed upstairs. Cha sent her off while he deals with the wounds. She's not squeamish -- but she does fret. Should stay and help with Dancer? No. Keri is one of them, too. Odd thought.

There's going to be a lot that goes with that -- getting Dancer up to the bed, descriptions of the place, and Devlin dealing with her worries about a case that is going from bad to worse. Oh yes, and her dealing with Keri. He's the IWC's top psi and they've worked together before. It wasn't pleasant for either of them.

You know, I've been thinking about people who say they can't do outlines because they then lose interest in the book. I wonder if they've tried writing an outline (just a short one, even) and then putting it aside and working on something else before they go back to write the story. I suppose many of them have tried that -- it would be silly not to. But for me, if I write a bunch of outlines, then by the time I'm done with the last one, the first is almost completely erased from my mind. It's fun to explore it while writing again.

It's much like putting a story aside after you're done and before you edit it. Get it out of your head so that when you look at it again, you don't see what you expect to see. I always write something else between finishing a draft and editing.

Not that I think everyone has to work with outlines. It's just that I sometimes hear people talking about problems that an outline could help with, but then say that they can't work with them. So I keep looking at different ideas and wondering what might help. It's what I do sometimes, when I'm not so deeply entrenched in my own work.

These books are fun.

That reminds me of something I wrote in my LJ earlier this week. I've come to realize that I'm writing for an Andre Norton audience in a Laurell K. Hamilton market. Yes, I really am a YA writer, and I know that, but even the YA market tends to move in directions that I don't write. Besides, I just don't write vampires. (grin)

I don't write to the market. I write the stories I want to tell. Devlin and her team are too old to be YA, but they're not sex-filled or gory, so they aren't fitting the modern market, either. (Yes, that's an overstatement -- and exaggeration of the market as it is today.) My audience is looking for adventure stories where if there is an alien invasion, the story is about how the aliens are dealt with, not how long it takes the ship's captain to get the pretty ambassador into bed with him. Not that the two won't end up in bed -- just that it's not the focus of the story.

That's a huge difference for me. My focus is always going to be on the adventure and danger, as well as interactions that are not always sexual. I am fascinated by friendship. I love those moments of commitment to do the right thing.

And always getting into more trouble for it. (grin)

I think I need to get back to work creating more trouble for Devlin and her 'boys.'
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Writers and NaNo

 First and foremost -- NaNo is not for everyone. It just isn't. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to take part in the madness. However, I've been seeing more negative material aimed at NaNo again and much of it based on misunderstandings. I can understand because people who don't take part, and who don't understand the basics, latch onto what they perceive as bad and forget that there might be an upside. That negative material gets spread from place-to-place because people are often quicker to write about a negative than a positive, especially when dealing with something like NaNo, which draws so much attention.

So, let's have a look at it and especially on how it is related to publishing. Sure, there are going to be people who haven't a clue about writing in the real world -- and aren't willing to listen to those of us who tell them that writing the words is the easy part. They don't want to know about editing, reworking poor plots and making their story into something worth reading. That's never going to happen for many of them because they just don't want to work that hard. This isn't a problem unless they convince themselves they need to send their poorly written first draft to some poor publisher or agent. If they self-publish, that's also not a problem because no one has to see it. So really, the trouble is just in a very small percentage of people who are convinced that they've written something worthwhile and send it right off and who believe that they can continue to work in this way all year round and turn out worthy material. They have first drafts and that's good enough because they know they're brilliant.

I've been part of Forward Motion for eleven years and owned it for the last six. Guess what? Those people are out there anyway. I see some of them every year, passing through FM. They are always convinced that their work is done once they have the words written -- whether it took them years or months. And, by the way, you can't judge the first draft by how long it takes to write it. I've seen people who spend years on a first draft and end up with something no better than someone who wrote 50k in one month. I've met people who edit as they go and who still have a lot of work that needs to be done at the end of the manuscript.

Ability to write a good first draft has nothing to do with speed, but rather with the willingness to learn and to practice -- and to understand if you write better if you write slower. That's not always the case. The problem is that there are many who think all they need do is write the words, send out the queries (if they even bother to learn that much about publishing), and publishers will grab up the manuscript. Parts that need fixed? Well that's the editor's job, not the writers -- right? I'm not joking: I've had more than one person tell me that they are not going to do the editor's job for them.

This kind of cluelessness often gathers in NaNo groups because the vast majority of these people have no other link to the writing world. But even so, it's still a very small percentage of the people who take part. Some of them are willing to learn what it takes to write a good book, edit it and present it to a publisher or agent. Others don't want to work that hard, but convince themselves that they're good enough anyway. In other words, they are much like people in the rest of the writing world.

What if someone decides, based on NaNo, that they can write five books in a year and have the work ready for the publisher? Well, that's unfortunate, but wasn't it Holly Lisle -- and long before NaNo -- whose first submission included a statement about turning out a book a month or something along that line? She didn't know any better back then. The same is true of these people. NaNo has nothing to do with it except to gather a lot of those people into one area. In some ways that's good. It's easier to go into the NaNo boards and address all of them. The ones who are willing to learn will actually listen.

Some people write fast first drafts. Most of them are wise enough never to show those first drafts to anyone. That, again, has less to do with NaNo than with the way the person works. After all, there were fast writers long before NaNo began (Rex Stout comes to mind). Editing is harder, longer -- and wonderful. But you can't edit something until you write that first draft, and if NaNo helps some people get a fast first draft to work on, then that's good.

So, what else is good about NaNo?

For many people, it is a push to try something they never thought they would do. A month? They can devote a month to writing and see what they get. NaNo has less pressure from the start because, outside of the word count (and that isn't even pushed -- do the best you can is the real motto), no one is going to tell you what you have to do and how you have to write. You can try it. You might not like it. You might not find a reason to write anything ever again, or you may not write outside of November and NaNoWriMo -- but there's no crime in giving it a try.

For those of us who already write, the lure is something else.

Think of it as a running marathon with thousands of people lined up. Sure, you could be off running by yourself, and maybe that suits you better. Many people find that NaNo is not for them. But for others, including me, there is something wondrous about standing there at the lineup and knowing that you are going to take part in an intellectual game that has spread across the world. Some of the participants will write better than others. Some will write faster than others. That's not the point. Everyone taking part is going to be using their brains, rather than sitting mind-numbed in front of the television or playing some video game. For some part of the day, they are going to have to think about what they're writing, even if that writing is fanfiction or the total silliness of the NaNo dares.

Why would anyone think this is a bad thing? Why would anyone discourage people from taking part in an intellectual marathon just because it doesn't suit them and because it is, really, kind of silly? Yes, there is going to be a lot of bad writing. That isn't going to affect others because the majority of the NaNo people never show their writing to anyone else. The ones who do send the material out are learning, year by year, that it's not a good idea. Some of us try to educate them on the NaNo boards -- much as we do the same thing year-round at places like Forward Motion.

There is another aspect of NaNo that a lot of people just don't understand at all. It's fun. Yes, really -- for some of us it's just plain fun. I try to clear the first week of November of all other work so that I can leap in, devote most of my time to novel and just fly with it. I get to bury myself in the story and not do much more than post word counts. What could be more fun than that? I can't do this kind of stuff year round, so I purposely set aside the time and take part in the November madness.

NaNo is an easy target because it's big, flashy and fun. There are people who don't understand and who just can't see the point. There are others who have become the self-proclaimed Door Guardians of All that is Worthy in Writing who rant and rave about how horrible it is -- as though it's any more their concern than if the person spent their free time in November standing on their head or knitting. If you don't like NaNo and don't want to take part, that's great. You understand what appeals to you and what doesn't. However, don't assume every bad thing in the writing community is the fault of NaNo and that nothing good has ever come of it.

If people can have fun writing, no matter how bad their prose may be, that's a good thing. If they are interested in writing for publication and willing to learn what it takes, all the better. Other than that -- don't worry about it. Encourage the interested people to be wiser. Leave the rest of them to their fun.

(Who has done well at NaNo? Check out the growing list of published work at the bottom of the NaNo FAQ board -- You'll see people published by Warner Books, Pinnacle and more. You'll see big name presses, small press and maybe self-published -- I haven't looked closely).