Friday, December 25, 2009

Seasonal Update

black amidst dark green
wild hunter awaiting prey
the cat's in the tree

She likes the christmas tree, and doesn't care a wit that it's plastic. Silly beast.

The project mentioned before got slowed down a lot by other writerly concerns, but I still have hopes that it will be done before January 1. I do want to start the new year with a clean-er plate than it currently is.

Any things that you're in the middle of finishing?

Oh, and by the way, Season's Greetings from us to you. :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

A New Game Plan to Avoid Moral Victories

Now some of you may know that I'm a football fan. A huge watch-whatever-game-is-on football fan. I've watched a lot of not-so-good football teams play tough against really good teams. The fans and the commentators always say "Well, they played tough. The [INSERT LOSING TEAM HERE] can grow and learn from this. That was a real moral victory."

Bah, I say. A loss is a loss is a loss is a loss. And losing is no fun. It is hateful. It makes you want to cry and pout. Although I do not recommend doing it on national TV. The commentators will make fun of you. See this poor guy as an example.

How does this relate to writing? Funny you should ask. I've had too many moral victories as a writer. I've got to stop saying "At least, I wrote today. That's something." Or "I've got two first drafts. That is more than I had before." This is not the kind of thinking that a successful writer has. I've been writing "seriously" for three years, but I've not sent out a single query letter. I have had the "Wait until next year mentality" for far too long.

No longer will this be the case. I'm changing my game plan.

I'm giving myself deadlines and am making myself publicly accountable for those deadlines.. I'm stating here that this is what I have to do this year. Look for regular scoring updates throughout the coming year.

Game Plan for This week: Write 6,000 new words.

Game Plan for the Rest of the Season:

  1. Finish a 90,000 word first draft of TDC by the end of January
  2. Plot MLTM – World War II short during the first week in February
  3. Write a 10,000 -15,000 word first draft of MLTM by the end of February
  4. Read and EDITS the first draft of TDC by the end of February. Make Notes
  5. Plot GL in April..
  6. Complete the first pass of Revisions on TDC by the end of May
  7. Submit TDC into the Maggies and other contests as time permits.
  8. Read and EDITS the first draft of MLTM during the first week of June. Make notes.
  9. Complete first pass of revisions on MLTM by end of June
  10. Complete second pass of revisions on MLTM by the middle of July
  11. Query MLTM by the beginning of August.
  12. Complete a first draft of GL by mid October.
  13. Complete second pass of revision for TDC by the end of September.
  14. Cry and send my second born novel into the big bad world. Query TDC during the month of October.
  15. Plot as yet unidentified novel during October.
  16. November 1st – NANO BEGINS!!!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pre-emptive seasonal haiku

hyacinths in snow
spring's head eating winter's tail
an icy blue sky

It's coming down to the end of the year. I have a project that I'm trying to finish, and amorphous projects politely waiting in the wings for brain space to be freed.

What about y'all? Is there productivity, or a frenetic spinning of wheels?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Revision Game, Part one--2nd drafts: The Big Picture

(x-posted from my blog)

On my blog last month, Cher asked me to go into more specifics about how I revise novels. I didn't get a chance to post on the topic during the NaNo challenge, so I thought I'd delve into it now. In parts. Yes, I'm breaking it down that much.

Those of you who won NaNo last month are hopefully still racing toward those magical words "The End" (or maybe some of you have hit them already). But what do you do after you reach those words?

Personally, I close the file. Then I don't open it again for at least two weeks (if at all possible). During that down time I work on other projects, write a short story, talk to my neglected husband, read as many books as I can without my eyes rolling out of my head, whatever--the point is to let the dust settle on the story I just finished. (**Note: I highly recommend still writing something while letting a first draft sit. It takes about 3 weeks to form a habit, so if you slip out of the habit of writing, you have to force yourself to the keyboard again.)

After letting the first draft sit a while, I've found I can return to it with much more objective eyes. Once the dust has settled, I read the draft in its entirety, just to see what is on the page. I also make notes as I'm going along. Not in-line, nit-picky notes, but big picture notes. Reading a first draft can be painful, and it's sometimes hard not to jump in and start fixing stuff right away, but it is important to read through the whole book. I usually run into some scenes that make me cringe with how bad they are, but I also run into scenes that go unexpectedly well, or where I laid a foundation for a plot element I didn't even plan to work with but now I see where it could fit and make the story so much stronger.

By the time I finish reading, I typically have a lot of notes. Things like: Such-and-such character is flat or goes through an abrupt personality change in chapter X; ABC plot line totally dropped; XYZ scene lacks tension; and so on. For the most part, everything I list in my notes affects the book as a whole or at least several scenes. So, my second draft is focused on fixing the issues in my notes.

This is the big stuff. I'm not going to slow down and make sure all the dialogue and descriptions are perfect at this point. I'm just going to work on the big issues.

Mostly fixing these issues are about asking myself questions and implementing the answers. Character has a personality problem? What is their motivation through out the book? What are they thinking? What do they need/want? Plot line was dropped? How can I weave it back into the chapters? Scene not working? How else can I get from point A to point B? What is the worst possible thing that could happen at this time? Can it happen? (ect.)

If I didn't work this way, if say, I polished chapter 1 until it was 'perfect' and then I got to chapter 11 and realized 'hey this is a cool plot element, let me work it in early to set this up better' or 'huh, this character doesn't work. She hasn't been acting at all in character' I would have to go back to the beginning and I would lose a lot of the work I did. So, big stuff first. Second draft (for me) is all about making sure the story is being told.

Okay, I think I've rambled on enough for one post. Check my blog later for part two (3rd drafts: Scene by Scene).

Happy Hump day everyone!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Making Up For Lost Time

Deadlines are a tricky thing. You set them, you remind yourself of them, and hopefully you meet them. But life is complicated and tries to derail you. You have to prioritize and reprioritize and pick and choose your battles with the calendar.

Time management can sometimes feel kind of like balancing a ball on your nose while juggling knives and dancing on a balance beam.

On occasion, you drop a knife. (Hopefully said knife does not land on your foot or end up clipping an innocent spectator . . .) Falling a little behind in your time management is okay; mistakes happen and life gets in the way. You buckle down, devote a day or a week or whatever you need to really focusing, and get back on track.

Sometimes, though, you drop all the knives, the ball bounces right off your nose mid-step and lands under your foot, and the next thing you know you're down on the mat, staring up at the ceiling.

You're so far behind that you can't catch up with a little extra diligence. It's just not physically possible. Crap! What do you do now?

My answer: you catch up with a lot of extra diligence.

I'm in this position now. I have this glorious three-book-a-year plan with writing timelines and revising timelines and querying timelines and everything designed to overlap beautifully. A key component of that plan, however, is that I get the first 50,000 words of my winter project written during NaNoWriMo.

The problem: I did not win NaNoWriMo this year, and I'm not even keeping the 36,000 words I did write. I'm scrapping it and moving on to a whole different project. So now I'm 50,000 words behind schedule. That's not something I can make up in a day or two.

I suppose I could shift my deadline. It is my deadline, after all. One of the benefits of being an unpublished, unagented, aspiring novelist is that the only person I report to is me. But because all of the timelines are wrapped around each other, moving one deadline means moving them all. And I don't want to derail my whole year just because I spent November working on an idea that turned out to be a dud. Dud ideas are bound to happen and I need to work around them.

So instead of a few days or weeks of extra focus, I'm going to try to spend the next few months making up for that lost time. I spent the morning going through my goal tracking spreadsheet, tweaking the next three months. I cut out a few of my days off. I raised the bar on my daily goals by 1000 more words on writing days and 5 more pages on revising days. If all goes according to plan, I'll be back on track by the end of March.

It'll be harder. It'll take more dedication and effort. But I'm creating time here. That ain't easy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday Morning at the BookaPlex

The 'ping' was either Mom's breakfast toast or a new email. Anteriyuma Snapdragon Cooper, just "Snap" to her classmates, swiped her thumb across the fingerprint-resistant screen on her ComPlex cellphone. "Wicked-nova!" she stared at the bright display. The five-star review for the newest Zombie Paradox book had just zipped to her Inbox. "Marra Thneed's book got front line POD billing!"

"I take it you're off to the BookaPlex this morning," Mom said, scraping a healthy measure of grape jam over a piece of hot sourdough. "Vampire's Den Eleventeen?"

Snap rolled her eyes. "Zombies, Mom. Zombies. Vamps are SO 21st century." She sniffed the air and shifted from foot to foot. The smell of roasting caffeine was tempting, but Mom didn't have the caramel flavoring in the cabinet like the BookaPlex's café. "I saved up for the paperback. And I figure I'll grab some coffee with friends."

Mom spun around, butter knife still in hand, and a drop of jelly oozed into a pockmark in the beige linoleum at her feet. "Your father and I make sure you have perfectly good coffee at home. Why do you insist on squandering your allowance over there?"

"For the third time this week, Mom. It's not the coffee, it's the company." Snap waved her cellphone at Mom and snagged her Plastic from the holder by the back door. Shoving the card into her back jeans pocket, she added, "I'll be back for dinner." Snap bounded down the back stairs and onto the sidewalk, hiding a grin at the lingering image of her disgruntled mother with her hands on her hips, hair sticking up like she'd shoved the knife in the toaster instead of just the bread. Mornings.

The BookaPlex was bustling with activity, and Snap spotted her usual crowd by the periodicals. "Mere!" Snap waved her phone and the little plastic cartoon doll hanging from the phone's keyring lit up as she approached. Mere's friendship doll lit up in response and Snap's best friend barreled across the café area with arms outstretched and twin braids bouncing over her shoulders.

"It's out! Have you read the reviews? Oran42 said it's the best one Marra Thneed's ever written! Ever! How do you beat that?"

"I know!" Snap's sneakers squelched against the polished floor as she jumped into the air for a high-five. "You get your copy for the signin'?"

"Five more minutes. I've been nursing my hot chocolate and checking out the mags." Mere pointed to where two of their other friends were sitting, thumbing through the latest news on the BookaPlex's rental touchscreens.

Only Sasha waved in their direction; Toby had his headphones on, his eyes closed, and bobbed his head to the latest issue of what Snap knew had to be Music World.

"Be back, Mere." Snap scampered onto the thick pile carpet that filled a good third of the rest of the BookaPlex. She weaved past the bargain table, stepped around shelves of hardcovers and audiobooks, and made a direct line for the PODs. Two were empty, and she dove for the door, slipping inside with a quiet 'snick' of the latch.

"Good morning," the machine chirped at her with a friendly sort of voice.
Snap loved that voice. It meant she was going to get a brand new, hot-off-the-presses book before she'd even finished her cup of coffee.

"Will you be using paper or Plastic today?"

Snap swiped her card through the reader and tabbed through the printing and shipping options on the screen. "Not electronic, not mailed to my doorstep, I just want plain old . . . " she mashed the button with a grin, "paperback."

"Please make your selection."

Snap typed in the title and wiggled her fingers in the air before pressing down on the cover image with barely restrained glee. A preview of the text sprang to the screen and she thumbed through it, already more than happy with the book about to be in her hand.

"Would you like to make any other purchases today?" A list of related titles came to the forefront of the screen, each sporting their own preview. The list based itself on publisher marketing and her own previous purchases.

Snap thought about it. She 'could' print off a copy of Nosereaper. And maybe get something for her brother. She stared down at the card in her hand. Not today. The holidays were around the corner and she would have them all shipped instead, pick up a stack of hardbacks her parents had been drooling over. Besides, the new Ed Riley wasn't even out yet and Mom would want that for sure.

"Leticia McEllen's Faeries and Peacocks is 20% off today with your purchase of Zombie Paradox Four."

Snap thought harder. She chewed on her bottom lip, sighed once, and finally pressed "No."

"Please verify your identity by placing your thumb on the scanner," the machine chirped. When she did, it said, "Thank you," adding in her own voice, "Anteriyuma Cooper."

Snap's cellphone pinged as the receipt hit her Inbox. "Wicked-nova! Zombie Paradox Four is so mine!"

"Your book will be ready in - 30 - minutes at the front desk. Please be aware that if you do not pick up your purchase in the next 24 hours, it will be shipped to your home address. Have a book-tastic day!"

Snap grinned and stepped down from the POD. Already a line had formed for the machines, most of them teens like her. Someone asked, "Printing?"

"Printing!" Snap waved the receipt still gleaming on her cellphone screen at the boy in line. "Coffee time," she murmured to herself and trotted off to join her friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Coffeehouse Ramblings

Ok, I should have probably entitled this post "observations of a 31 year old in a college coffeehouse while feeling old", but that seemed like a really long title so I backed off of it. Tonight was the last night of the National Novel Writing Month and I hosted a Write to the Finish Line Write-in. I finished my 50K at around 9ish and didn't leave the coffeehouse until 11ish. That left me nearly two hours to people watch. Now as you know, I'm a writer. Some of you may not know that the word writer is a synonym for an "observer of life." It is also a synonym for nosy, but I like "observer of life" better.

Below are the things that I learned.

  • According to the two twenty year-olds sitting next to me, Isn't it Ironic by Alanis Morisette is now an oldie. This made me sad…mostly because they're right. Jagged Little Pill is still one of my favorite albums and it is one of the first CDs that I purchased for myself. I remember buying it with my hard-earned baby-sitting money and driving to myself and my brother to tennis lessons while the songs from that album climbed the chart. Those kids in the coffee shop were probably 5 years old while I was listening to that album. SAD!!!!
  • Some people think they can plan out their lives. Sitting directly across from me (conveniently enough for observation purposes) were two boy wonder medical students or would be medical students. I'm not sure which. One of them proceeded to describe to the other in detail the life that he wanted to have. My favorite quote. "I told my girlfriend that if we were still together in my second year. We should just go ahead and get married and then we'll have a few years together before we have a kid if she wants to." He wins for least romantic proposal ever.
  • Same medical students. Another great quote. "One of my classmates is 39 years old. I don't want to be old like that before I find my passion." Deluded, deluded boys. I say better late than never.

That concludes my coffee shop observations for this evening. I think I will go grab my cane, my Ensure, and my arthritis medicine, and go to bed now. Good night!