The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Very tired. I knew I was going to have to sit in a waiting room for two hours today (as usual for Tues. and Thurs.), and suddenly could not bear the thought of another two potential writing hours frittered away while I tried to find something, anything, to do--including finishing that book I was reading. I know I can't do any real writing in a waiting room, but it hit me that I could work on my thingee, and that would be two hours of thingee-time freed up somewhere down the line for real writing. So I asked son #1 if I could borrow his laptop instead. He said yes (thank g*d) so I worked on the thingee. Laptops s*ck. They don't seem to really be made for laps, or at least not for my lap. My back is all knotted up. But I worked out some more background, stuff I didn't know, so that was good.

It's sobering to realize that in order to really do this properly, I probably ought to do a lot more pre-writing work. The way I envision this is as at least three books, each with a different MC. The thingee I'm working on now is for the character who would be the MC in book three. So every bit of work I'm doing now is necessary and will be used in full. It's not overdoing, and it's not just messing around.

However, the thought of having to do this--the background for three books at once, when I don't even have the proper feel for the first one--is overwhelming. I don't want to do all that right now. I want to write one book at a time, not spend four years or whatever putzing over the background for books that won't even start to exist unless I can sell the first one. I mean, anything could happen in the time it's going to take me to do this. I could get hit by a bus, or be forced to quit writing, or my house could burn down or my computer could explode.

I hate patience. I never wanted it. I don't even think it's a virtue. I think it's something other people tell you to have when they want you to behave in a way that's more convenient for them. But by g*d, if you want to be a writer, patience is forced upon you against your will. You have no choice. You'll be slowly covered in patience till you're smothered by it.

So. What must be done, must be done. To work. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wrote a little on the thingee, then transferred what I've figured out to the first scene where that character appears. Works like a charm; now the guy is talking and interacting and saying things to indicate his state of mind, where before he was silent, unknowable, and generally fuzzy and difficult for the reader to pin down.

Now all the chapter breaks are shifting and scenes are changing focus and length and will have to be cut differently. Everything will have to be repaced to fit this new angle of approach. This is clearly going to be a major, major overhaul. Not quite from the ground up yet, but it's close, and it will definitely be from the ground up by the time I get to the middle third. Boy, I'm dreading that! I wish that by some miracle I could have some clue what I'm doing by then, but honestly, I don't see it happening.

Well, best not to think about that right now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Did a page or so of thingee*. Then was thinking, while I mowed the back yard, about this book I was trying to read in a waiting room today. It's hard for me to finish reading published novels because writing has ruined me for reading. I'm pretty sure I won't be finishing this one, either. However, I was thinking, while mowing, about the thingee I started, and about how there's a page of it and almost all of that is internal blah blah about how the character feels. I had intended to sit down and actually set the scene and write it in scene. But no, it came out all feelings. Then (while mowing) I realized that the book I'd been trying to get through in the waiting room had almost no feelings in it. It's very internal--yet I read maybe half the book and I still have no clue how anybody felt. That's not necessarily a handicap for a book (especially if the book is plot-driven; this one wasn't), but it's generally not on my top ten list of things I enjoy reading. Or writing.

So I was thinking, maybe I need to go through my ms and consider in more detail how the two non-POV MCs (don't know what else to call them; they're not the MCs, but they're not minor characters) feel as the story unfolds. I hate to think the whole stinkin' book out step by step for two different characters (besides the one I've already done it for, the main MC), but maybe I should at least try. Sometimes I do think out scenes from non-POV characters' POV, but usually only for key scenes or to figure out what to do with bare-bones first draft dialog that I have to flesh out into a full scene. But with this book, since I'm working to stretch into a more plot-driven type of writing, maybe I'll have to go the extra mile. Otherwise, the story may not be "alive" like it should be.

Usually--maybe(?)--I start with feelings and work to let the story fall into place around them. With this ms, I'm trying to learn to start with story. I probably have to learn how to do feelings when they are set off or driven by what happens in the plot. I'm not at all sure how to approach this, or if I'm even on the right track. Will keep thinking.

No more writing today, though. Out of time.

*(my def. of "thingee"--pre-writing from any character's pov; usually helps flesh out and deepen ms; not often used in actual book although sometimes it can be cannibalized and pieces of it stuck in here and there)
Busy day; won't get much writing time in at all. I think I'll try sketching out a thingee for the MC's best friend. I'm foggy on him most of the time, so maybe this will help. I guess I'll start by sketching out the story from his POV, starting before he actually enters the ms. We'll see how far I get before I have to quit and do more house/family stuff.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Okay, read through agent's notes many times, read through writer friend's comments on first eight or so chapters. I think I'm going to try restructuring from chapter three on. This will be interesting, because what I'm going to do is attempt to add in a chase from chapter three through the rest of the book. I'm not sure how this will actually work. Do they have to be fleeing every single second? Is it better if there's a quiet moment here and there? And for cripe's sake, if they're fleeing all the time, how can I get any information in? They won't have time to stop and talk.

Heck if I know. I'm clueless. Nevertheless, I'm diving in.

So here goes another crappy version. If there's a finite number of crappy versions to go through before I get it right, this will at least put me farther along the path.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No actual writing today. Laying groundwork by doing something I have been avoiding and writing around in all previous versions, in hopes I would never have to do it: figuring out the agricultural system the farmers in my ms use and what might cause crop failure and famine. I'm not at all interested in agriculture or plants of any kind (except when they're on a plate and I have a fork in my hand). But until I can wrap my mind around a very basic idea of what's going on, my book has no spine, my bad guy remains vague and my MC's motivation is foggy. So I have spent I don't know how many hours wondering why all these people on the internet can't get it together and have the same facts. Thank g*d this isn't historical fiction, because I'd go crazy if it was. As it is, I've got a bunch of stuff to reread and organize in my head, and then, after I pull out the info that suits my purposes--no matter if it's from the 1315-17 famine in England rather than three or four centuries later in something sort of like France--I've got to try to find out real stuff like what fields look like in late spring if the winter wheat (or rye--who the h*ll knows, because all these internet people certainly don't agree!) crop is poor to nonexistent. Or maybe I need to move the whole story a month or two later in the year, if I have to establish that the spring barley crop is almost certainly doomed. Although I have the notion from all the mountains of stuff I've read today that I won't have to move the story timewise because these folks would have been using a three-field rotation system, which means (I think) that the wheat (or rye!) would have been finishing up in one field while the barley had already been sown in another.

Note to self: Never write historical. Always call it "fantasy."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Well, I'm gonna.

Did a little bit on the NR sequel, was getting depressed at the immediate darkly adult turn it started taking as soon as the backstory was brought in. Then agent's notes about the swordfighting ms popped up in e-mail. I'd much rather work on that.

Immediate impressions:

1. Lots of work ahead, on multiple, multiple, multiple fronts.
2. Yikes!
3. But yep, agent is mostly right.
4. Probably I'll pick a few major issues to address, then see if those are working out before I deliberately face the others. If the others are somehow accidentally fixed while I'm looking at those few majors, well, hooray. Sometimes that does happen.
5. I thought I had pushed myself to the limits of my plotting ability, but I'm going to have to go farther. This is terrifying, because what if I already reached my limits? What if I can't do any better?
6. Well, I'm gonna. Even if I can't do better, I'm gonna anyway.

That's one of my mantras: "Well, I'm gonna." Like, when I knew I couldn't write 80K words in two months. "Well, I'm gonna." Sometimes it's nice to have a stubborn, willful streak to pull out in times of need. It's not of much use in real life, but it sure helps in writing.

The immediate decision before me is whether to do a readthrough before I start, or to dig in cold, and not waste a potentially fresh eye. Having a fresh eye for a ms is a rare and precious thing after you've been working on a ms for months and years. I last saw this ms a month ago. No matter what I do, it ain't going to be that fresh. So the question is, do I want to use up what little freshness a month's layoff and a new font and new margins will give me? I'm not sure. Must consider.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Didn't get much writing time today. Still not sure about pacing. I was thinking about having a couple panels of quick backstory in the middle of this first scene, but I don't know if I can do that. In prose I would insert just a few lines to hint at something, bring it up briefly here so that I could go into more detail later when the reader is more firmly grounded in the story. But with visuals, I don't know. It feels like I'd be breaking completely away to a flashback, which would be a bad idea this early in a prose novel. Is it bad with a GN? I don't know. Could be it depends on how it's handled; could be it never works at all.

I guess I need to spend some time sitting down and looking at what needs to be in this first part, at what will give the reader the info needed to carry on, as well as raising enough questions to pull him/her along from page to page. Not to mention all the world-building that has to be done.

If I was an artist I bet I'd already have some ideas for how to juggle all this. But I'm not, and I don't.

Will try again tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hmm, this is interesting. Already I can tell I'm going to have to back off and look at what I have, pull it apart and rethink it as separate bits of info: the dialog, the inner commentary, the backstory, etc. Then I'll have to see whether I can put them back together differently. Perhaps the backstory will be like a separate little story with a "voice over" as one of the characters tells about it--that would take out most of the dialog. And what about the inner commentary that tells us the MC's current situation and his feelings about that situation? Maybe it can be hinted at in a single panel of, say, a framed photo, while the dialog is going on. I also see that the dialog can be juxtaposed with captions in the same frames, that would show us the MC's real, frantic thoughts belying his calm, screw-you words.

Who knows? Lots to think about, and my brain is fried. Today's been a long day.

I have to say, I've been very reluctant to try this route for business reasons that I won't go into, but that mean this story will probably be unsellable as a GN. I'd guess there's a 90% chance it can't sell as a GN. But if it does want to be a GN, that makes the project pure fun exploration on my part.

And that is actually quite freeing. You know, aside from the factors of starvation and foreclosure and my family living in a van down by the river. Aside from all that, it would be truly exciting if this wants to be a GN, because if it can't sell then there's no pressure at all to get it right. I guess we'll see. I could get stuck again as soon as I get through this first part. If that happens, I swear I'm gonna set it aside.
Settling in to keep trying this new tack again. I did a few pages yesterday, transferring over to GN format, and it went well. I'll hit a problem that was glaringly huge in the first version; so huge that I skipped over it and moved farther into the ms so that I wouldn't have to deal with it. It'll be very telling to see if I can solve it in this format or not. The problem was: a good 14+ pages (double-spaced) of dialog, all setting up and giving backstory.

For this story to work as a GN, it'll have to stand completely alone, even though it's a sequel. It's still in first person, but I think in a GN (this is one of the aspects of GNs that really appeals to me) I can skip around pov's without losing the reader. I think I can give backstory in real time, not in dialog or in thought, so it doesn't bring the story to a screeching halt. (I have no idea why a visual flashback doesn't throw the reader off the way a prose flashback does.)

One thing I don't have a feel for, though, is pacing. I know that 14+ pages went on waaaay too long in prose, because I can feel myself getting bored and impatient when I look at it. I don't have a good feeling for how to pace a GN. The only times I get bored or impatient with a GN-type thing are with some of the manga series where people are fighting interminably, or where there's a cute little interlude of a running gag about a character's personal quirks. Usually where people stomp each other's heads and it's supposed to be funny. But I don't think that bothers me because of pacing. I think it bothers me because I'm being forced to leave the story behind for something that's completely unnecessary, and often way out of line with the tone.

I don't see anything in the index of either of my Scott McCloud books (Understanding Comics, Making Comics) about pacing. I remember reading something; maybe it was when I was flipping through something in a bookstore. Most books about writing GNs or manga are all about drawing and have very little to do with storytelling structure or stuff like that. Maybe artists instinctively have a sense of pacing a visual story. I sure the heck don't. I just can't see this dialog going on for very long in this format either, because how many times can you look at pictures of two people talking before you get bored?

Although I swear Death Note had frames and frames and pages and pages of people thinking. Just thinking, either in thought bubbles or ostensibly out loud. They were thinking about what they were going to do next, what the other person might do next, what they should do to make the other person think they were going to do something they weren't really going to do next. That's the only manga that's ever taken me an hour per book to read--and that's because of all the thinking.

However, my characters' thoughts are not nearly that detailed or that involved. So. We'll see what happens as I work on it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I forgot to note that the movie Titanic was on the other night, and I watched part of it and was reminded that, at the end, Rose has to make a quick choice to leave tragedy behind and get moving. I'm thinking of this in terms of my transitional problems with the swordfighting ms. The MC has to quickly drop his trauma and move on--but it's not believable, the way I have it. Why is it believable when Rose does it? She dumps old Jack and starts swimming. Perhaps it's believable because the audience knows that death is right at her heels; that she has seconds to react or she will die. Also, the movie pretty much ends after that. We don't have to see her absorbing or not absorbing her losses. Instead, we get quick snips of her on the Carpathia. In my ms, I still have a lot of story to get through, step by step, and yet there's no time to absorb. I might somehow be able to ramp up the urgency in my ms. I don't know about the rest, all the scenes that come after. No point in thinking about it much until I'm ready to start the rewrite.
Not sure how it went today. Will keep on with it tomorrow.

Basically this is a format change. If the format was all that was wrong with it--if being in the wrong format was what kept the ms from progressing--then I ought to be able to work on it relatively steadily now ("relatively" in terms of writing, which really means "not steadily at all"). But if format isn't the problem, then I'll stall out again, and probably very quickly.

Of course, the problem could be external pressures keeping me from digging in. But usually I can write through those, at least to some extent. Sigh. I dunno, I dunno.
No writing yesterday. Family stuff, all day.

I'm wondering more and more if this ms isn't ready to be written yet. I can get a good day of writing in here and there, but I can't get any momentum going. This is worrisome.

Well, I think today I'm going to try a new tack. And if that doesn't get the ball rolling to where I'm able to at least feel like I have a grip on it, or can move forward without stalling out more than I'm actually moving forward, then I'll have to set this ms aside and pick up one of my other projects. I'm not going to beat myself up over this and make it into a hated chore. I've got enough hated chores, like scooping the cat litter and weedeating.

Monday, July 21, 2008


What a crappy writing day. I don't even know what I wrote; I think I just moved a bunch of stuff around. Blech, blah, argh. I have no clue what I'm doing.

But I know what I'm going to do now. I'm going to abandon this stinking computer and get my nice spiral hardback journal that a writer friend gave me, and a pen I have with an actual nib (although unfortunately the ink is purple) and I'm going to just write stuff, little thingees and snippets from my MC's pov. Just. For. Me. This computer has too much writerly pressure hanging over it, like a big old cloud of Write For Publication Doom.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not a bad writing day, post-hamburger. I thought about viewpoints and decided to try one of the newer characters, one of the ones I added most recently. It felt good, so that's something. We'll see how it feels tomorrow when I open the file.
No writing yesterday.

I'm in a rough spot right now, can't tell what to do. The backstory isn't coming out in the MC's voice. That means it's like a lot of little dead ends. I can't even use them in the ms, if they're like this. There's so much of it (backstory), and it has its own little arc, so I don't feel that I can cut it up and sprinkle it around to hide that it's a different voice and style.

But the backstory is part of this character's arc--his "journey" starts way in the past, and is completed in present day--so it's not like either the backstory or the regular story will stand alone as a book. Not sure what to do.

In the back of my head, I'd thought for a long time about trying this as a graphic novel script, because that's a way to give equal weight to present and past (and parallel unrelated storylines in the present) without worrying about losing the reader. And the idea of working on it as a GN really appeals to me; I think I might not have to worry so much about reining in the darker aspects of it. Plus I could really look forward to working through some of these scenes visually, if I let myself.

But I've already got a GN script that obviously isn't quite right, and the thought of having two crappy GN scripts sitting around is more than I can bear.

And anyway, then the MC's voice came on super strong, and that seemed to indicate the story needs to be told as a regular prose novel.

But now not all of it wants to go that way.

One thing that occurs to me is that this book may be about pov and how the MC's guilt and anger colors his perceptions. Maybe I need to figure out more about what I want to say about that. I think I do want to say something about that, because it's an important subject to me. I'm just not sure what I want to say, exactly. Is it enough to just have him see more clearly, at the end?

And if that's a big point the book is trying to make, then how should the backstory be presented? And what about the parallel story of the stray--I was going to cut that, but maybe it should be used. Should I rethink the whole thing in terms of this idea--and rethink format? Maybe be more open to how this story needs to present itself?

H*ll if I know. I'm totally confused. I'm going to go eat a hamburger.

Friday, July 18, 2008

This ms is so odd. Half of it is dark, over-the-top weird sh*t, and the other half is modern snarky snappy-paced attitude. I just don't see how the two can fit together without losing the reader completely.

Nevertheless, I press on.
I don't feel very pinned to the ms right now, so I think I'm going to try to skip around and do some little sensory-type bits from back in the MC's past, to see if I can get more connected. Bits meaning what the MC remembers about people, places, etc. from his backstory.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pulled a bit out of the old version and started putting it into the new MC's pov and voice. I had forgotten that one thing that helped me figure out what NR was about was writing out an entire (bad) sequel. Something like 50K words of mostly unrelated figuring-out. But--here's the pertinent point--I'd also forgotten that I'd cannibalized parts of the bad sequel and put them in NR. Now I have to make sure I don't try to reuse them as I work through this ms. The bits I want to reuse are strong in my head, so it feels like I've already used them even if I haven't. It all feels so familiar.

I wonder if it's too soon to be working on this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Depression, that's the fifth one. Jeez, you'd think I'd know that. And it's not the five stages of death, it's the five stages of grief. D'oh.

That's interesting, though, that my MC is grieving. Of course he is; I just hadn't realized it. And he's concentrated much of his anger on two people (one of whom is Cole, who is not in this book as far as I know). He's also focused some of it on the Colony in general.

Not a heck of a lot on himself, though. And he really is the one at fault.
Thinking out loud...

...if the MC's main deal is that he avoids responsibility and consequences, then how do these two new characters play into that? The MC is sort of a Peter Pan type, only snarky and negative and oppositional and profane. He's supposed to take things very seriously--his life depends on doing so--but he refuses to, because he doesn't like being told what to do or feeling that he has to follow other people's rules. He's pretty immature, for somebody who's over a hundred years old.

And at the end, I know he comes to accept that nobody can fix some things; some things are permanent and ugly, and pretending they don't exist doesn't make them go away. Sometimes (rarely, for most of us) if you do what you know you shouldn't--what you were told not to do--the consequences are tragic and permanent. No matter how he refuses to take things seriously, the evidence that things are serious is right there in a tiny room off a hallway in a house in the middle of empty flat plains.

He has to learn to let go, to accept what he already knows: he can't fix it. He's been holding this knowledge at bay, but now he faces the stark, sober truth. It's not a big plot moment, just a quiet moment of recognition and sudden maturity.

So, by the end, is acceptance enough? In a way, I think it's like the stages of death, and he's stuck in denial all through his life, up till the end of this book. Huh, I need to look those up and see what the stages are (bargaining, denial, anger, acceptance--what's the fifth?) and if they're supposed to come in a certain order.

This is hugely important, because until I know what the point is, I'm not sure what to do with these two new characters. I don't know what their conflicts with my MC are, or how they advance the story or what any of their scenes might be. So far all I have is dialog and a feel for who they are.

And then there's the stray, Royal. How does he fit into this?

Does any of this fit together? What is the climax of this book? What is the conflict? How can these four characters meet and clash and join together in ways that will drive the MC to his journey's end? Do some of the characters not belong in this puzzle?

H*ll if I know. Could all be a waste of paper and time; who knows?

Back to work.
Back from writing talk/reading. I am going to force myself to write now. I don't want to write. I have been job hunting most of the day and there is not a single atom of willingness to write in my entire body. I'm too cranky and depressed to write. Nevertheless, I'm going to write anyway. I'm not even going to let myself watch Project Runway, because I haven't written yet today.

And so. To write. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Blech. Snarl.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No writing today. Worked on talk/reading. Also am trying to get house/family ready since I have to go out of town again for a day or two.

I had some thoughts about my WIP this morning, but can't remember what they were.

Friday, July 11, 2008

No writing today. Spent the whole day working on the talk/reading I have to do on Monday. Plus, you know, laundry and family stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ended up going through the old version of the ms and deleting stuff I know I don't need--nearly a hundred pages worth. Then I started a nice bit that is fun and new, and I don't know where it's going, but it adds a couple of characters and some much needed lightness. I couldn't take all the darkness and death, which didn't feel right anyway. Cole required that; this MC doesn't.

Now, the last time I added in a couple of characters along these same lines (in the swordfighting ms) it was a humongous time-wasting detour that messed me up and bogged me down for a good while. But I feel better about this one. That other detour started out much more purposeless than this did; I think I might have been trying to flesh out a new setting by introducing characters and seeing where they led. This time I see how they could fit into the story, move it forward, and develop the MCs character arc. I think I see, anyway.

Anyhow, a decent writing day. I nearly burned the spaghetti while thinking about it all, before I could get to the computer to write it down.
I've been working on the very beginning of the NR sequel, and so far it's split into three chapters. But I feel pretty sure (today, anyway) that I'd better get out of this writing-in-order rut pretty quickly and skip around to more important scenes. Writing in order can be so mind-numbingly deadly dull: so-and-so happened, then what comes next? Well, what comes next is probably stupid and boring and mundane. Better to leap to a fun scene and write that, not knowing where it will end up in the ms. This will present its own problems later, but the point is that I'm supposed to enjoy writing this now. Nobody's holding a gun to my head and forcing me to develop a step-by-step itinerary for my characters' journey through the book.

And hopefully at some point I'll be able to look back and see that I can skip some of the mind-numbingly deadly dull itinerary by using a simple recap or brief line or two that will quickly carry the reader to the more interesting part. May I be so lucky.

And so to write.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Was thinking about the multiple viewpoint issue, and it hit me that one thing the character learns over the course of the book is that the people he hates have valid reasons for what they believe and do, unpleasant though those reasons may be. So it would be undercutting dramatic tension and his character arc to have multiple viewpoints--in other words, if the reader already knows what the MC doesn't, I've lost some great opportunities to reveal and surprise. At least, that's how I see it today.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Went to critique group today and read the first draft of the first chapter of the NR sequel. Bless their hearts, they managed not to bat an eye about being dropped without warning into the middle of a story that already has 63,000 words of world-building and explanation behind it.

I noticed right away when reading that yep, this chapter is way too long. I need to break it up, but I hate breaking one scene into two chapters. Must think about this. However, before I think about it, I have to prepare some more for the writer talk next week. I can't just write down what I want to say and read it aloud. Not for a lecture-type thing. I have to outline it and then somehow try to remember what to say from that. Not my strong point at all.

I don't know what tack to take on the Night Road sequel. I've got all those scenes from the previous version, the one with the wrong MC, that I could translate into the new MC's POV. Or I could try to outline a little bit, if I want to be daring and masochistic, since I don't really know how to get the story rolling.

I've got the MC and this other guy (not an MC) in a room, talking. I don't know what happens right after that. The story is set off by this first-chapter meeting/confrontation, but I'm not sure where to go as soon as the chapter is done. This is the plotting issue I'm blank on; this move from setup to story is one thing that's making me think multiple viewpoints and outlines. Also, in the the first version of this ms, the two MCs don't meet till late in the story. That may not be appropriate here. To me, the question of when they meet is not a plotting question but a thematic one, and it's also to do with the character arc. What do these two learn from each other, about each other, but about themselves as well, during the course of the book? How does their meeting change each of them?

But first, I have to work on this talk for next week.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hmm, well. A couple of issues present themselves. One, is this going to skew too far into adult territory? Methinks I'll eventually have to keep an eye on the violence and death bits, the way I usually do for sex scenes. There is no room for gratuitous sex in YA, not like in adult lit where you just stick some titillating stuff in because it's, well, titillating. Every word must have a job to do in a YA sex scene, or out it must go. I will have to keep the same mindset for violence, probably.

This MC is so unreliable, I'm tossing around the idea of multiple narrators. Usually when I toss this multiple-narrator idea around, it ends up being dead ends, thingees, and prewriting, all of which eventually fold back into the original single narrator I started with. But we'll see.

This is why it takes so freakin' long to write a book.

But I sort of feel that if there were multiple narrators, the other two would be third person past. While the MC is first person present. The only book that comes directly to mind that has done something similar is--or are--Tales of the Otori. Huh, let me check. Lian Hearn used first person past for Takeo and third person past for everything else, mostly Kaede, I think. Maybe all Kaede. I remember the first time I read Across the Nightingale Floor, I had to stop each time the voice changed, and reorient myself. That's not good--but it was well worth it, in Lian Hearn's case. However, I am no Lian Hearn.

I also want to take another look at Silence of the Lambs. I know it switched to the killer's pov at some point, but I don't know how far in. And now that I think about it, how did Thomas Harris keep my interest up till then? It's been so long since I've read it, I can't remember.

I also had the terrible thought today that I might have to have a plot in this book. I'm looking at the pieces I have, and thinking that yes, an actual plot may be what is needed to pull it together. The only problem being that I still don't know how to plot. I am making baby steps into figuring it out, but only baby steps, and not very good baby steps at that.
I should work on my writing talk--which is in less than a week, for cripes sake!--but I'm in a bad mood so I think I'll work on my MC, who is in a bad mood, too.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

No writing of my own today. I worked on a writing talk I'm supposed to give in about a week. I just realized last night that I also have to give a 30-minute reading while I'm there. I hope I don't bore everybody to death. I love talking about writing, but what I have now is mostly about my process and my struggles and mistakes, and it's kind of technical on top of that. Me, me, me--just like this blog, come to think of it.

I wrote over 8K words of what I want to say. Why can't I write that much on my novel mss? I may have hit 3K in one day, on a very rare occasion, maybe even 4K once--the period when I might have done it is all a blur, so I don't know--but never on my own projects. Yesterday was an excellent day at over 2K of new stuff, but there are days and days where I rewrite one paragraph for hours till I get it right, sometimes losing word count rather than gaining. And what's weird is I'm usually pleased about it, and feel that I've made good progress.

Anyhow. I think when I get back to work on my WIP, I want to write out some backstory. I suspect that writing out backstory will help me zero in on what the current story needs to accomplish. Fingers crossed, anyway.

I'm writing in first person present tense so far, so I wonder what I'm going to do with the backstory. His voice is very modern, but his backstory takes place in the second half of the nineteenth century. Not to mention he's Irish, and I'm sheer Texan through and through. Maybe he'll tell it in first past, but as if he's looking back--like he's narrating his own life. We'll just have to see how it wants to come out.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

don't think, just write

Very pleased with today's progress. I pulled up the old ms (this is the Night Road sequel) and renamed it, then wrote a new first chapter. It's pretty dark, unfortunately, and profane. Some people will tell you that writers put profanity or sex or whatever into a ms because they're money-grubbing types who want to titillate in order to make a buck. Nope. Having profanity in a ms cuts my audience from the get-go. I prefer not to have it. But I feel even more strongly about not censoring my characters or imposing other people's morality on them. I'm their one chance to speak and be heard, and it would be wrong to gag them in order to make a buck.

It's always wrong, IMO, to value how people speak over what they're trying to say.

But anyway. I wrote nine pages double-spaced, which is odd in itself because I always work single-spaced on a first draft. I do like this guy a lot. I know this chapter will look like sh*t on a real readthrough, but it's a good, strong start. I just wish I could write the whole book tonight, because if I think about how it's really going to take a couple of years of agony and mistakes and wrong turns to get this story told, I could get overwhelmed.

But there's no way around it. This first draft will s*ck, and I'll have to revise and rewrite ten million times. And then it still may not be any good, and even if it is any good, it may not get published. Them's just the breaks. The point is, today was good, and I like my MC and I like the story and I like some of the scenes coming up later. All in all, an excellent writing day for this stage of the game.

Friday, July 4, 2008


I don't want to say anything against Jacob Riis, because he obviously had a passion for reform and his work was very effective. But every time I look at his photos I'm struck by how many pictures he took of sleeping street urchins. Tons of them, usually huddled together in a pile in some dirty back alley corner, or on some wretched staircase, their angelic slumbering faces a very photogenic contrast to their ragged clothing. I just don't see how anybody could have stumbled on so many sleeping kids, especially with good lighting, and without waking them up. And I wonder how many boys would be sleeping like that, all cuddled up without poking and shoving and cursing each other. Maybe they were huddled together for warmth, but it seems to me that boys wouldn't want anybody touching them, and certainly not each other. However, I have never been a street urchin, so who knows.

But I do wonder if Riis posed some of his photos. And if so, I wonder if he paid the kids to drape themselves over each other and act like they were asleep. You'd think he would, being such a reformer and patron of the poor. And you'd think those kids were pretty tough and wouldn't curl up together just because some photographer told them to. It would be awful if Riis told the starving homeless kids to pose for him and then didn't give them a dime. Surely he did pay them. Surely he didn't just say, "Hey kids, lemme take your picture and you can be in a book!"
Spent entirely too much time poking around on the internet looking for stuff. I need to be working on a talk for writers, which I have to give in less than two weeks. 45 minutes worth of talk. I have no problem speaking about writing for 45 minutes, but I need to get my ideas organized and create some kind of outline to refer to, at the very least. I tend to blank out mid-thought when I'm speaking.

But noooo, today I've been thinking about the backstory I have for the NR sequel, which up till now has been barebones (the backstory has). But some of it is starting to click already (in my head, not on paper), in a very satisfying manner. Today I had the thought that I already did a bunch of research on NYC in the nineteenth century for NR. Well, not a bunch; mainly it was about setting. Most of which, now that I think about it, was distilled down to a paragraph of description in the book. Oh well.

I have had a thing for the Five Points area for a while--not a serious thing, but more than a passing interest. What draws me to it at this moment is that it's gone. It was pretty much wiped out in the reforms of the 1890's and built over. So the only way somebody can be pulled out of the story by me screwing up research is if they really, really know their Five Points history. Nobody's going to say, "Hey, I live there, and this is way off base."

Even better, I can set it in Five Points in my head but never use the words "Five Points" or any of the street names, and then there won't be any problem because nobody will know exactly where I'm talking about.

Problem: I did most of my NYC backstory research from the library, so the only helpful book I have on hand now is Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives. I need to own some of the books I'm thinking of, because this will likely take a couple of years, and I like to sticky note pages so I don't forget.

Some potentially good news; I started getting snippets of this guy's voice. Or I hope I did. You never know. But what's come to me so far is angry, rebellious, wry, cocky. If you tell this guy to do something, he'll do the opposite just to show you're not the boss of him.

I do wonder how much of this is me absorbing the four MCs from this manga series I've been reading, Saiyuki. I never read vampire books because I don't want to accidentally pick up somebody else's voice or mood. But now it occurs to me that I really like the four MCs in Saiyuki, especially Sanzo and Gojyo--although Gojyo seems to be softening a little as the series wears on, while Sanzo still seems as likely to blow somebody's head off as look at them.

Manga and anime characters (dare I say stereotypes? I forget what archetype means) do seem to heavily influence my writing these days. I always like the silent enemy/ally, the cold and heartless one who may have a secretly soft side, but nobody knows that for sure, and if you say anything about it he'll kill you on the spot, and never look back.

However, that's not my MC. My MC likes to have a good time. He's not silent, he's charming. And he doesn't kill.
Was thinking about the NR sequel. I don't know what the ending is. I don't have the greatest endings in the world, being a character-driven author who has zero problem leaving things hanging. In fact, I prefer to leave some things hanging. It's like real life, or like a Degas painting. It feels more honest to my characters, and I have a big hangup about being honest to my characters.

However, I sense that I am missing a huge chunk of this story, if I don't know what the final bit needs to be about. I know the MC has a problem with responsibility. He doesn't like it. He avoids and even hates people who represent responsibility and facing the consequences of your action. I know one big thing he avoids, and I already have the scene sketched out where he faces it. But I'm thinking that's not the ending. It doesn't feel like an ending, but a big step on the way to the ending.

I also have this plot thread involving the stray from NR. That's a plot thread, literally, and I am horrible with plotting. I'm trying to learn how to do it, but am struggling. The whole swordfighting thing was supposed to be me learning how to plot, but right now it (the swordfighting thing) is a hybrid of my usual character-thematic stuff and plotting. And it may not even be working. I may have failed at it.

So, is this thread about the stray the key point that builds to the ending of the new story? Is it a plotting device to keep the reader reading while I enjoy wallowing in character betweentimes? Or is it leftovers from NR that need to be cut? I don't know. I don't want to rehash the same old stuff from NR; been there, done that. But is it possible for me to learn to intertwine a plot thread with a character thread, and make a story work? Or does the plot thread have something to do with the theme of responsibility, something that I'm not seeing?

Is this thing even ready to be written?

H*ll if I know.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Back from Anaheim. Several people are looking at the swordfighting ms now, so I will take a break from it. I need one anyway.

The question is, what next? I have multiple projects going, so the choices are:

1. graphic novel script, first draft completed. This is a completely new format for me, and I have no artistic background, so I hesitate to move forward without at least some idea of what I need to do. There's no point in poking at it helplessly with a stick. A writer friend offered to look at it, so I'll send to her; maybe we can discuss it at some point and see if anything strikes her strongly about it.

2. midgrade semi-historical I started a billion years ago. I think I finally found the right voice and pov character for this, but I'm about midgraded out right now, after so much intensive work on the swordfighting ms.

3. sequel to swordfighting book. See above. Plus, what's the point? If I start it and then can't sell the first book anyhow, my heart with be doubly and triply broken. Why punish myself if I'm not driven to write this ms right now, above all else?

4. sequel to Night Road. This is what I'm leaning toward, maybe because I ended up talking about NR so much at ALA, and also because I'm ready for some darkness and angst for a change. I have some scenes already sketched out--in fact, I have an entire ms for the book. It's just all with the wrong MC. I know who the MC is now, and what he lacks and fears. I have an antagonist I really like, in a twisted way; I've never actually had a real antagonist before, one that I had no sympathy for. I understand him, but I have no sympathy for him. I don't know if that's good or not. It might not be; it might make him cardboardy. But no point in fretting about that right now--it's just something to keep in mind.

My main worry about the NR sequel is whether (in my head) I've pulled away from NR enough moodwise and characterwise to do right by a completely different story. Also, I can feel echoes of the MC from Repossessed in what I'm thinking about this new MC, and I don't think that's a good sign. This new guy has got to be his own person. But maybe if I take what I already have and start reworking it from his pov, and write this one brand new scene that I know is his alone--which I have been excited about for some time, even though it's not a big deal of a scene--I can start to get a stronger bead on what I'm doing.

One thing I must get straight in my head is how this guy (he's a heme) deals with omnis. Up till now, he's been confused with Cole in my mind. I've got to get him out on his own.

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