Draft One of ??? Complete

I actually have a complete first draft of a novel! I wasn’t sure it would ever happen. Hang on while I savour it for a moment…

…Ok. About the draft:

1) Title TBD. The story has the same main character and universe that I created in one of my short stories, but I may or may not keep the original title. I’m currently thinking not, the story has changed a lot, but I am yet to think of a good alternative so we’ll see. 2) It’s a mess. It is a first draft as Joanne Fedler describes here: The first draft and the rewriteVomit in a bucket. An apt, if gross, metaphor. But, all the pieces to the puzzle are there. What remains is for me to go back and decide which pieces to keep, which to throw away, and what needs reshaping for a better fit.   Continue reading

What You Can Get

I was reading an article the other day. The details of the article are not important, but as I was reading there was a line that stood out to me:

“Are you focused on what you want, or what you think you can get?”

From the outside, it may appear that I’m doing pretty well going for what I want. I’ve given up not one, but two possible career paths with which I had every reason to think I could be successful—and which would likely have given me long-term financial stability—to pursue writing . Why? Because I want to (not a satisfactory answer to the many raised eyebrows out there).

I want to know what it’s like to make my own Continue reading

Graphite and Ink

Elementary school was all about the pencil. When it wasn’t about the crayon, that is. In that stage of learning the technical fine points of printing and cursive writing, the ability to erase was crucial. But somewhere along the way, in junior high or high school, the pencil became inferior to the pen. Erasers were for wussies. Much cooler to put up with the noxious fumes of whiteout for those (few) mistakes.

Continue reading

Quiet House = Perfect Procrastinating Environment.

Hubby is away this week. Not an unusual event, being apart is something we’re quite used to. A few days away is hardly a blip on the radar. In fact, part of me thought, hmm maybe I’ll get more done while he’s away. Quiet house, no distractions, perfect writing environment.

Not that Hubby does anything specific to impede my writing when he’s home, but like most couples (I hope) we like spending time together. I’m both more likely to stop working when he gets off work 4-5pm, and to stay up late watching a movie or something—leading to sleeping in and a less productive morning—when he’s home. Now that I don’t have a day job forcing my ass out of bed at 6 in the morning, that is. We also don’t have kids yet, as you may have guessed.

So here I am, in a quiet house with all the time in the world. Yep, just me, my computer, and the cats.20131107_124159[1]

Just me and, oh look the gingerbread latte is back at Starbucks! Better go get me one of those.

Me, my computer, my tasty coffee by my side…twitter…facebook…email…other people’s blogs to read. Hmm, haven’t played that piano in while. Maybe today’s the day I’ll learn page two of that song I bought last year.

Maybe not.

My procrastination expands to fill the space available. For all the times I try to blame any force outside of myself for my lack of productivity, how lucky I am to have these reminders that it all comes down to me.

Yay! An almost-300-word blog post. Maybe the day won’t be a total waste after all. As I categorize this post under ‘writing’, I consider adding one called ‘not writing’. I’m soooo clever.

How Not to Write a Novel – Review

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To all aspiring novelists out there—to all writers period—I highly recommend reading How Not to Write a Novel, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. Between them, these two authors have lots of experience with writing, editing, teaching, and reviewing. They’ve seen a lot of good and bad writing come and go.

Rather than try to explain what makes good writing good, as most writing how-to books do, this book explains instead what makes bad writing bad. Going through the major points of plot, character, and style, it gives detailed examples demonstrating the various traps most new writers fall into, send their precious manuscripts to the trash can—sorry, recycle bin.

Some of the tips you will have seen before, though probably worded somewhat differently, if you’ve ever read anything on writing. And yet, you probably still make these mistakes from time to time, and another reminder wouldn’t hurt. For example: “Fuck You!” He Said Profanely: Where the author uses adverbs to no purpose.

Others will be new, at least they were to me, like: The Joan Rivers Pre-Novel Special: Where clothing is given too much prominence.

Though written with the novel in mind, the majority of these blunders are not unique to novel writing. The examples are often woefully exaggerated for humour’s sake, but also clearly make their point. As essential as examples of the ‘right thing’ are, examples of the ‘wrong thing’ are valuable too. It’s a lot easier to find mistakes in your writing when you know what the mistakes look like.

Also, the book was simply fun to read. Not a hint of textbookiness to be found. I will warn you, however, unless you are most impeccable writer in existence (in which case, what are you doing on my blog?) it will at times be painful when you see hints of your own writing peeking out from the what‑not‑to-do pile.

Though I’d like to think none of my writing is quite as bad as the comical passages in this book depict, there was lots of ‘yeah, ok, I might do that sometimes.’, and ‘Crap, I’ve definitely done that.’, going through my mind as I came across the traps most applicable to me. I’d list them all, but there are too many (feel free to read any of my writing and I’m sure you’ll find a few on your own).

Here and there, I got to think ‘Phew, I know I’ve never done that.’ Usually when the error described in no way applied to the kind of writing I do, like: Gibberish for Art’s Sake: Wherein indecipherable lyricism baffles the reader. I have been accused of confusing my readers in the past (Dosterra Chapter one), but certainly not with lyricism.

How Not to Write a Novel also includes: The Crepitating Parasol; The Whatchamcallit; and “Yo, Charlemagne, how dost thy big war?”, to name a few more intriguing subtitles that make it impossible not to wonder, ‘What’s that about?’ If you’d like to know, pay a visit to Amazon, or your local Chapters.

What to do, What to do…Tug-of-War

I’ve got a few things on my writing to-do list right now: I’m working on a novel–aside from Dosterra, which is also a work in progress–I have a flash-fiction piece set aside for future editing before I decide where to submit it, and of course there’s Letter From Your Girl, which requires tweaking, but as I mentioned yesterday I’m giving it a few days, maybe longer, for my maturity and professional detachment to kick back in after the critique I received set off all of my defensive alarms.  There was a time when I didn’t take feedback personally…before I became a writer. 

Anyway, I decided I should work on my novel.  It’s been a few days since I’ve tackled it, and leaving it for too long can cause me to lose the flow. Problem, I’ve hit a little wall as far as what I think should happen next. There is no magic solution to this. Normally it’s just a matter of sitting down and starting, and eventually something comes even if it’s only a place holder until a better idea replaces it. This time when I sat down, I was overcome with a very persistent urge to go back to the beginning and edit what I’ve already written. My rationale being, by the time I finish doing that I’ll know what I want to have happen next.

Sounds logical. The thing is, any site where you can find writing tips advises against this. They say ‘write first, edit later’ for the very simple, and true, reason that the write-edit-write-edit cycle can become an endless, inescapable loop. I know this. Still, half of my brain wanted to progress the story, the other half wanted to edit.

The tug-of-war came out a tie. Result: neither story progression, nor editing occurred. I wondered over to youtube for a while, played my guitar a little–yes my life is very tough these days–made some lunch, played with the cats, and the curser on the page didn’t budge.      20131030_231920[1] 20131030_232020[1]

Finally, in danger of wasting the entire day, I gave up on the novel and abandoned the official to-do list all together. Instead, I went to my unfinished-stories folder and picked out another piece I had started a while ago, but abandoned, and managed to move that story forward by a few hundred words. Not much, and I have no plans for what I’ll do with it when it’s finished, but some writing got done and that makes for a good day.

 

 

Too much information…or too little?

Perhaps this issue is less relevant in the science fiction realms, where I spend most of my time, than other genres, but it’s still something that requires consideration. The question of accuracy in the details when writing. When to do research, and when to make it up. Or, leave it out all together.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of being irked when reading a book or watching a TV show that gets the facts or details wrong…or just makes you shutter thinking, Come on, seriously? For me there is one in particular that comes up over and over again in just about any show or book that depicts anyone in uniform. Military, cops, fictional freedom-fighting force from another planet, it doesn’t seem to matter.

This major pet peeve of mine is a fictional senior officer of any kind emphasizing their command by saying…you’ve all heard it…”That’s an order!” or worse “That’s an order, soldier!”

Blech!

Every time I hear those words I cringe. It’s like someone scraping the bottom of a dinner plate repeatedly with their steak knife seemingly unaware that they have already successfully sliced the meat. Perhaps it’s because my military experience is Canadian (and Navy/Air Force at that), but never, in four years at military college or in five years of service afterward, do I ever recall hearing anyone say those words (and I was called a lot of things but never soldier)–except maybe in jest. If I did hear such I thing, I would fear the individual who spoke was at high risk of finding shaving cream in their shoes.

That said, it would appear from most of what I’ve read (and watched on television) that most writers are ok with filling the gaps in their knowledge with believable-ish jargon from their imaginations, or copied clichés that they know the majority of us have been brainwashed to accept as whatever they are trying to represent–like a take-no-bullshit officer let’s say. And does it really matter? Obviously I continue to watch these shows and read these books despite the momentary break in the illusion.

As Stephen King says: I want a little bit, but not the whole thing. Don’t confuse me with the facts. I want to know just enough so that I can lie colorfully. Actually, it was one of his characters who said it and I think the character was quoting someone else, but the character was a writer (I’ve noticed a lot of writers like to write protagonists who are also writers. Write what ya know and all that, I suppose). Anyway, this passage brings to the forefront that magic balance between leaving the reader dizzyingly confused and making them grind their teeth with irritation at the writer’s ignorance.

I am still struggling with this one. Though I’m sure I have been, and will be in the future, guilty of the latter, I tend more toward the former–so I’m told–especially when the topic I’m writing about is of particular interest to me. If I’m interested the reader will be too, right? Not necessarily. Take the early chapters of Dosterra for example where I try to combine my understanding of quantum physics with the possibilities my imagination leaps to based on that knowledge, mostly to the confusion of everyone but my husband who loves the geekiest of hard science fiction more than most.

Part of the problem, of course, is that when it comes to these topics ‘I know just enough to be dangerous’, as they say. I do have a fairly strong science background, but when it comes to quantum physics and cosmology (good Sci Fi material) I am mostly self taught. I think I understand what I read as well as the next person, but I don’t always pass the Richard Feynamn litmus test: Could I explain it to a guy standing at the bus stop? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you have a firm grasp on the concept, if the answer is ‘no’…well…maybe keep your thoughts to yourself, or do some more research.

Even when I do pass this test, how much does the reader really care? Usually not as much as they care about the experiences of the characters themselves. The other stuff is mainly there to make the experience feel real. Beyond that the details can get in the way, or simply bore the reader. The danger is, however, if you gloss over the details too much then the reader feels cheated or patronized, and that’s no good either. Confused yet?

My latest food for thought for other aspiring writers out there.