Showing posts from 2008

Deep Cuts

One of the tricky things, I'm discovering, about revising a NaNo draft into presentable form is culling out the parts that I threw in simply for the sake of wordcount.  I've hacked out several scenes already and just tonight I decided that the story really ended about eight thousand words before I stopped typing.  So out they went.  The resultant ending is a touch abrupt, but further revisions should allow it to flow more naturally. The manuscript has dropped down to approximately 78,000 words in total.  I have a few other scenes in mind for the cutting room floor as well, and they can depart more easily now that the extended ending has been lopped off. It's almost like finding the statue in the block of marble--chipping away the extraneous material to get to the story I'm trying to tell.  I'm not sure if this is an optimal method for a working writer, but since I still remain in the ranks of hobbyists, I suppose it will have to do.  It at least feels better, as I t

In the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt

Sometimes I wonder what the heck I think I'm doing with this novel. Lots of people, of course, dream of being professional writers.  I've wanted to be one pretty much since childhood, when I discovered that people could write stories for a living.  My parents, avid readers themselves, encouraged me on this path, but suggested I have some useful talent in the back pocket to support myself whilst establishing myself as a fiction writer. Unfortunately, I didn't really put that advice to much use.  I graduated with my shiny Creative Writing degree into the 1992 recession and jounced madly from a vague attempt at a journalism degree to an even vaguer attempt at an MFA with a number of odd jobs in between. Since I spent a lot of time in science fiction geekdom, I moved in the circles of science fiction/fantasy/horror writers of varying levels of success.  The general expectation in that particular genre is that one starts with short stories and then gets published in enough place

Surviving NaNoWriMo

I did, in fact, make it.  Barely.  I was vexed by the fact that the site temporarily went down in my final stretch of Sunday afternoon wordcount, and when I resorted to what Word told me the wordcount was, it lied to me.  Or, at least, exaggerated a bit compared to what the NaNoWriMo site decreed. So I pasted what Word told me was 50,000 words and the robots counted and spat back the number 49,911.  Ouch.  And I had come to a pretty good line to end on, so I didn't want to drag it on beyond that.  Fortunately, we live in an age where backing up and inserting things is a matter of a few points of the mouse.  (How did people manage to write novels on typewriters?  What did they do when you needed to add a whole new paragraph on page 98?  I shudder to think of it.)  So I took a few scenes that had been written in haste (given that was, well, nearly all of them, it didn't take much digging to find such) and added some marginally more detailed descriptions.  I nudged the word count

I broke 10,000 . . .

. . . and it's only day four.  Not bad. I have a class tomorrow night, so I prolly won't get as much done.  But I've got a comfortable lead to fall back on. And I can sleep a little more soundly tonight, I think, for other reasons . . . 

Why, Yes, I Am Crazy . . .

I'd initially planned to sit out this year's NaNoWriMo, on the basis that I had a novel to revise and a number of other projects on my plate. Suffice to say that one such project got removed from my plate and left enough room that I figured, what the heck, let's give it another go. My current tally is over eight thousand words.  And, to make it even more ridiculous, it is a sequel to the very first NaNoWriMo I successfully completed.  So next year, I'll pretty much be stuck writing something new. I am enjoying it immensely.  It is light, fluffy, self-indulgent, utterly unpublishable and exactly what I needed to be doing. So the next month or so will be taken up with that.  I'll poke here periodically and let y'all know how it's coming along.


So yesterday evening, I decided to save a few ounces of gasoline and walk to the grocery store instead of driving.  It was a longish walk, but not impossible, and it gave me loads of time to think. And as I walked, I came up with two ways to rewrite two crucial scenes that made so much more sense.  I got so excited, I went ahead and plowed into one of those scenes and wound up staying well past my bedtime hashing it out. I'm still figuring it out exactly.  But one of the downsides is that all the subsequent scenes that refer back to that moment now have to be rewritten.  The little wrinkle it leaves has to be pushed all the way to the edge of the table. I think before I tackle the other rewritten scene, I should read through to keep track of what other parts refer back to it, so I'll know where I need to smooth things once I know what it's been changed to. But it's starting to get addictive again, which is a good thing at this point, I think.

The Wrong End

Once in a while, when I mention that I've finished a manuscript and I'm in the middle of revising it with the intent to submit it for publication, someone will suggest something along the lines of "Well, if that doesn't work out, you can always self-publish, right?" I sort of smile and shake my head when people say that. I think the digital printing revolution is a marvelous thing, I truly do.  My parents actually created their own small press, using Lulu as a printer, so my mother could create a simple and inexpensive textbook for clinical nursing instruction. And, of course, my years in the poetry scene have introduced me to many a traveling poet selling self-published chapbooks in order to have enough gas money to make it to the next gig. But for novel-length fiction, self-publishing is doing the hard work from the wrong end. My intent is to do the hard work at the front end--at grinding and polishing this chunk of prose into something that makes it to #14 on

More Scenes to Murder

I haven't had much time to work on the manuscript, because several other projects are demanding my attention, but the thing was in a pile on the floor for several days after the last time I did some work on it and I just tidied the stack a bit and put it in the bag I've been keeping it in. As I was going through the pages, I came across a note I'd scribbled at the bottom margin of a certain scene. Is there a point to any of this? It looks like I have many more darlings to kill. My plan of action at this point it to chop out the meandery and cringeworthy bits and then start adding all the details I glossed over in my race to the November 30 finish line.  Subtraction before addition.  We'll see how it works.

Taking the Gun Down

If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act. --Anton Chekhov The term Chekhov's Gun has its own Wikipedia entry, as I discovered as I was trying to track down the exact quote. (As it turns out, there is no exact quote, since Chekhov reiterated the point in a number of places--I used the quote from the footnotes to the entry.) The point being, if you introduce an element into a story, then you need to follow up on it. I just changed two lines in the novel, simply because they hinted at something that ended up not happening. At the time I wrote it, things were still in an open-ended state of flux and it was a distinct possibility, but ultimately there was no need for it to happen and it didn't. So I cut the line, replaced it with something that emphasized what did end up happening and I could feel the whole thing weaving together a little more tightly. There are still a lot of loose spots that need to be tightened (or cut!) but I

Killing a Darling

I just removed an extended scene from the manuscript that dropped the wordcount by some five thousand words. And you know what?  The two points between fit together seamlessly . There are some lovely bits in there, and I'll miss them, but I can always go back to the raw draft and revisit them if I really feel the need to.  But when I read over the pages, I realized that as much fun as it was to write and as clever as some of the lines were, the entire sequence served no purpose except to kill time.  Which is great when you're trying to hit the 50,000 mark by the end of November, but not so great when you're trying to shape it into something compelling. There's one bit I may have to extract and insert elsewhere.  I haven't decided yet. Right now, a lot of my energies are being taken up with some other projects of mine, but it felt good to sneak in and do that one simple thing.

Oh, yeah . . .

I just spent two hours with my manuscript and a pink pen, marking inconsistencies and designating entire scenes for the writerly equivalent of the cutting room floor. It felt great .

The Blue Shirt Theory

I've decided that what I really need to do is print this baby out so I can see it tangibly and scribble on it where I need to.  So I figured I'd get a bloggy posty thing in while I'm waiting for the pages to grind out of my little ink-jet printer. The critique group at Orbital was extremely helpful and quite encouraging.  And it gave me a certain insight into how to take constructive criticism that I wish to all heaven I had figured out ages ago. In my younger days as a writer, I dutifully took the short stories I wrote and ran them past a certain circle of writerly types in my acquaintance.  Some of them had actually been published and I made the fundamental error of assuming that since they had ascended to the ranks of the published, they knew more than I did about how I needed to be writing. I think part of the problem was, they were perfectly good writers, but not terribly good critiquers.  One in particular (won't name names) had a tendency to suggest things that w

Greetings from Orbital . . .

So I'm here at Orbital 2008 , which is this year's Eastercon. The Eastercon is apparently a long-running thing in the UK--it's a science fiction convention of a more literary bent, a bit like WorldCon, only not quite as enormous. It's held on Easter weekend, because that tends to be a slow weekend in the hotel industry, so it's easier to find a place to hold it for a reasonable rate. (Interestingly, there's a convention in Atlanta called Frolicon that likewise is held Easter weekend for much the same reason. A rather, um, different kind of convention, though.) I am here because one of the guests is a writer named Tanith Lee. There's also a writer named Neil Gaiman in attendance, and it's been groovy to see him, but I honestly wouldn't have come if it had just been him, since he actually shows up in America more often than not. Tanith Lee hasn't been to America in some time, so if I wanted to see her, the mountain had to come to Mohammed. My

"So, when do I get to read it?"

Not everybody asked that, of course, when I mentioned I just finished my draft, but quite a few people did.  Somebody even asked me that when I was still in the midst of burrowing through the tense-shifting rewrite. The answer is, at this point, "not yet." When I crossed the finish line in 2006, I did send out copies of the result for people to read.  Only one person managed to read it all the way through and tell me what he thought of it.  (He liked it, which was quite encouraging.)  That's sort of reason number one--I don't really feel like hanging on the edge of the "what did you think of it?" seat until the next step is figuring out what literary agents might be interested in it. When I crossed the finish line in 2007, I was even more reluctant to show the world the result, because there was a lot I put in there in haste that I feel downright embarrassed by.  So that's the other part of it--I need to clean up those bits so I'm not cringing when I

97,769 words . . .

It's a start.  I have now officially fused my past two NaNoWriMo efforts into a unified manuscript. For those of you wondering how 50,000-odd words plus another 50,000-odd words adds up to less than 100,000 words, allow me to clarify.  My NaNo 2006 effort ( Soft Places ) was written in the form of diary entries by the narrator.  (I even dated the entries contemporaneously, and threw in things that were happening at the time.)  The 2007 NaNo ( The Things Behind the Sun ) was written in first person present tense (though I did include references to the narrator continuing to write things down in her diary.) I decided, ultimately, to do the entire thing in first person present tense.  This meant I had to take the diary entries and rewrite them accordingly.  At first, I was trying too hard to rewrite and perfect everything as I go, then I decided it would be faster and more effective to just cut, paste, redo the verbs and do a little rewriting here and there to smooth the transitions.

What's This Thing About, Anyway?

So now that I've gone and told a couple of people that this blog exists, I might as well explain what it's about. This is the first blog I think I've done under my real name.  Googling me doesn't turn up anything about yours truly until page six, I think, and I felt I needed to rectify that. This blog is about me and writing.  I have another blog for the sort of 'had lunch' details of my day-to-day existence, this space is more for me to talk about the process of writing, and, eventually, the product that I hope will result. My qualifications to pontificate on such are not wildly impressive, but they're not utterly nonexistent.  I am one of the first graduates of the Creative Writing program at Emory University.  The leftover poems from my classes gave me enough material to make a minor name for myself on the Atlanta spoken word circuit in the mid-nineties.  I have a couple of poems in actual bound books (that I didn't have to pay for) and I've done

tap tap . . . is this on?

I decided I needed to get a blawg with my real name for my writerly endeavors . . . and here it is. More shall come later.  For now, I'm going back to working on my novel.