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, October 30, 2008

Realized there aren't two sequences causing me trouble. No, there are at least four. Hmm.

I don't want to try moving any of this to the first "chapter," because that flows so nice and smooth right now. I scribbled a potential outline on the back of a grade report at breakfast this morning, and will dig a little deeper into that thought.

This is familiar territory for me, having a bunch of scenes and no clue what order they go in. It hasn't become any easier to fix, but it's not a new problem. At least this time I can move things around without as much hassle as if it were normal prose; I f*cking hate having to move things around over and over after between-scene transitions are set up. Even thinking about it gives me a sour feeling--you've got all this nice smooth lead-in to a scene that makes sense and you've spent a lot of time describing interim stuff so it's not choppy. And then you have to chunk it all, rethink the time frame, maybe forget what you realized about one of the characters or try to work it in elsewhere, and of course you have to go back and make ten bazillion little changes all up and down the ms because now everything's different. But there's no way around it because you didn't know it wasn't going to work until you put it together and smoothed the transitions and then saw that it sucked.

Thank G*d that's not what I'm doing here. Shudder.

The weird thing is, I think I do better writing like this. Sometimes when the ms seems to dictate that I write in a certain order because it makes sense, I feel like I'm on a leash, or in a harness pulling a plow down the rows. This is probably part of the problem with the swordfighting ms; I get frustrated because I know certain things have to happen in a certain order and I feel like an old mule whose day is going to end with a mouthful of hay and a barn wall to stare at.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Squeaked in a wee bit of writing yesterday, just enough to be able to say I did. Now today's almost over, but I'm turning my attention to figuring out what I want to chip away at next. I've lost all sense of what I was doing a few days ago, or whenever it was that I got good long satisfying hours of work in.

I think I want to look at fitting some of these bits together in a different order. With the way it's currently set up--every page is a discrete idea or scene; in other words, I'm doing the page breaks--time may flow a little differently than it does in a normal prose ms. Here there are no transitions except for page breaks and chapter headings, so maybe it's okay to split one sequence of events up and sprinkle it around in a way that would be confusing in regular prose. Perhaps here that will give a sense of time passing, because each page will clearly be a different day. I have an uneasy feeling about this area I'm working on right now, and today's theory is that this is caused by cramming a storyline about my MC's brothers going on a journey together in one long sequence of scenes, and a storyline about the MC leaving her bounded area together in one long sequence of scenes. I have moved these things around in the story for a while because I don't like where either of them is. So now I'm going to try breaking them up and interspersing them.

That may end up being as confusing as it would be in regular prose. There's no way to know till I try it and look at it on the paper.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Got a very little writing in. The sexual issues in this ms are going to have to be gone over with a fine-toothed comb from every possible viewpoint, to catch inadvertent subtext. And even that won't catch it all, because people bring their own baggage to a story and read whatever they want into it. Egad.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No writing yesterday; too busy. However, I am now determined to squeeze at least a little bit of WIP work in every single day. Every. Single. Day. Whether I have time or not, whether I'm overwhelmed with other stuff or not.

I have noticed that not getting in writing time markedly affects my mood and ability to cope with the non-writing side of life. Stress of one kind or another is fairly constant chez Jenkins, and it's very clear that something about delving into a creative inner life has a vaguely prozac-y effect. I don't know if this is something that had to be built up by writing nearly every day for years, or if it's my mind's pathetic last-ditch reaction to stress. Either way, the difference is marked, and has been for some time, and so by god I'm going to pry writing time in every day, even if it's just rewording one paragraph on the way to bed at night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Very good writing day, despite not getting started till late. It's going so well that I need to cut back, budget my time, because I'm working straight through and not getting around to other obligations. It just seems a shame to toss aside such rare gifts as marked forward progress and consistent absorption in the ms. Those don't come a writer's way very often.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good writing day, and I'm not even finished yet.

Talked to a writer friend--will meet this weekend to discuss our WIPs and whatnot. There is nothing like digging into a good writing discussion with a kindred spirit.

As I was working through these scenes today, I began to step outside myself and see how it might look to an unsuspecting reader--and I felt little bubbles of semi-hysterical laughter rising inside. The poor reader is going to be reading along, and here's this midgrade historical young girl who just wants to have the same freedom the boys do. She's tired of being confined and suppressed, and she watches longingly as they practice with sword and spear, wishing she could try that in lieu of the incessant drudgery of spinning and weaving. And then this sweet old man appears, surprising her what follows naturally is that he sees her potential and becomes her mentor and secretly teaches her the way of the warrior, and in the end she shows her skill and saves the day and is accepted by all as an empowered role model.

Except in my ms, the old man molests her and she learns her lesson: this is what happens if you step outside your place in a male-dominated society that regards females as property.

I swear, I've put a good bit of sex and violence up front to warn people. But I'm not sure it's enough. I really think I need a title that warns people, too. I don't like to blindside readers. I want them to be aware of what they might be getting into. I'm not trying to trick anybody.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Was hoping to work alllll day, but unfortunately life interfered. As life is wont to do. However, I did get some good work done--shifted the formatting around and smoothed everything out from the beginning on, getting well past some of the parts I'd left undone because there were too many loose pieces to sort out. It was like ramming a car into a snowbank, because I hit it at high speed, got nice and deeply in, then the life interference killed my engine before I could get all the way through. So now I face tomorrow with a wall of snow before me, a cold dead engine and no momentum. I have no idea if I'll start from there tomorrow, or just skip it again.

The beginning has a flow to it now, and I think it begins to make sense as a story. Like, you pick it up and can get into it and understand what you're reading (at least, you can up till the wall of snow in your face). I don't think that has been the case thus far.

I feel pretty good. I'm nearly flat broke, jobless, and sinking into invisibility in the book world again, with no re-visibility in sight. Bad for the ego, but excellent for getting down to what's important about writing: finding the ideal this particular ms wants to strive for. Nothing to lose, nothing to gain, just me and the ms, alone and pure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No writing time yet today, but I'm going to get some in tonight. I hope. Still thinking about format. Saw a snide comment re. Beating Heart, saying that apparently the only reason for the format was a desire to waste trees. Yeah, that's why my next book will only have one word per page. The book will be 60,000 pages thick. With any luck, I can devastate an entire forest in one go.

Picked up Fable II and a player's guide today. I don't have time to get hooked on a video game, but boy, if I did, this is probably the one I'd play. I like the idea of creating a character over time through decisions and actions. I leafed through the beginning of the guide whilst between errands, and thought the distinction between morality and purity was interesting. Morality refers to choices that affect others; purity to choices that affect only yourself. And all your choices, of every kind, reverberate down the game, changing your options as you become more good or more evil.

The first Fable (or maybe the expansion pack?) had brothels to visit, and you could get married, but this seems to go a step farther because you also have a choice about wearing a condom or not (I don't think that was in the first one). The guide says that if you have unprotected sex with your spouse, you may have a baby instantly--no pregnancy, the kid's just there. That means you must continue to provide money for it, visit it, and bring it gifts.

If you have unprotected sex at a brothel, you can get a disease--no idea what happens after that, if it takes away health or kills you or makes you pay through the nose for a cure or what. But...this is interesting, and I'm not sure what I think about it--if you use a condom at a brothel, you get a purity bonus that can exceed the corruption points earned for doing the deed with for-pay partners in the first place.

Needless to say, this is rated M. However, I expect many, many young teens will be playing it. Perhaps even while their parents are out picking on librarians for having a book with the word "scrotum" in it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Got some decent headway made in the middle part w/Menelaus. This area was conceived and written as GN scenes, so as I translate them back to prose the story's not flowing the same as it did in previous parts. The parts that originated as stand-alone prose are stronger and clearer, with sharper wording--sort of like snapshots made of words. The parts conceived as GN scenes are more fluid like movie scenes, spreading over pages as well as (I think) backing off editorially. I'll have to keep an eye on this and be prepared to rethink.

I heard again today about some writer saying they're jealous of another person's writing. Every time I hear this, I either don't believe it, or think, Man, that is one twisted writer. It's easy--and, from what I've seen, almost universal--to have flashes of envy about another writer's money, fame, critical acclaim, or apparent ease of process. But why would you want to write like anybody else? That's like wanting to wear their underwear. Blech.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oh, hmm, I like that (see previous entry re. paragraphing). It'll have to be used at the right moment, a big moment before the last section where things start opening up again. I'm thinking it fits exactly where the MC's husband hits her and she suddenly comprehends the consequences of not guarding her words and behavior. But we'll see.
Worked a couple of hours. I need to get some other stuff done now, but it occurs to me that I need to see how the ms will feel if the story switches from spaces-between-paragraphs to indenting-for-paragraphs. In other words, go from a business letter format to a regular ms format. Since the margins have been squeezing gradually inward all along, by this point the words should be noticeably limited to the middle of the page, and I'm thinking this additional change will give a claustrophobic feel. But I want to give it a try before I put the ms away for today; it may just be too intrusive.

So, back for a quick peek. If it doesn't look right, will have to rethink.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I did not do enough writing yesterday. I got sidetracked looking up stuff on the internet, and then reading. It was all WIP-related, but I let it get out of hand. No research allowed today. If I need any, I'll leave a blank space and skip that part of the ms.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Decent writing day, amidst other stuff that had to be done.

Talked to a writer friend on the phone. WF had a good idea re. swordfighting ms. Specifically, since it's in third person, why not put a short teaser at the very beginning, from an unknown person's pov? Let us know somebody is watching the hero, but we don't know who. Periodically put little bits like this between chapters, where they seem to fit. Voila!--instant tension and raised stakes. It also lets us know up front there's a villain, where otherwise you wouldn't know till well into the book.

I noticed I had a bear of a time trying to explain the story line to WF. It's so confusing to me, I can't even describe it over the phone. Not good.

I worked on the used-to-be-GN. Did one of the, er, raw scenes, one of those that are going to get me in trouble and prevent this from selling. Also started developing other bits that seemed quick and simple, but when I got started, I realized they're threads that go all the way through the book. This really is a novel, even though it's not going to read like one.

Also thought about formatting. At the moment I'm going with no indentations and an extra space between paragraphs. Then when the first thing happens to limit the MC, the margins shift in. I don't know how this will work as I progress and her world gets smaller and tighter, but it's a good place to start.

I don't have the dialog form down yet, though. I don't like what I have, and don't even stick to it as I write. Will have to see what happens with that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writing is going swimmingly. Happy as a pig in sh*t.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I pulled all the myth/slant sections out and put them into their own document, so I could play around with them and see them more clearly. Immediately they started taking on a snarky, vitriolic tone that almost addresses the reader directly. Then I had to stop and go pick up a kid from school and I was thinking along the way that maybe the way to tie the whole thing together is to switch the Helen parts to third person present rather than first person present.

At first glance this seems like a promising fit, because the main thing that bothered me about doing this particular novel in this experimental format--one of the things that made me think GN in the first place--was that Helen's voice feels smarmy to me. I did half of Beating Heart in a floaty kind of lyrical first person, but that has always felt wrong here, like more of the same, like the inside of my head is turning into a cute Disney ride and I need to go take apart a car engine and get grime under my fingernails and grease in the creases of my knuckles.

The irony is that I've been comparing Helen's voice to the dead girl's voice in Beating Heart and feeling icky about it, when now it looks like I should have been thinking of the other viewpoint character in Beating Heart, the living guy.

Because his parts of BH had the same d*mn problem. The exact same! I couldn't figure out how to do his parts because they felt smarmy and icky compared to dead Cora's lyricism, so--I swear, I did this--I wrote all his parts out as a GN. That gave me a foot in the door to start thinking about his half of the story in a different way. The GN was a step that I had to go through to get my head going in a new direction. It led me to trying his half as a very flat, matter-of-fact, third-person present that in no way competed with Cora's evocative voice.

I can't believe I didn't notice this before.

The thing is, even just working on this revamped Helen idea for a little over a day, I can tell that the whole project is forcibly trying to take a strong 90 degree turn and become about the issue that drives me, which is not Helen's story (that's why I have zero interest in world-building for this ms, and why it has never wanted to have traditionally set scenes; the fictional world doesn't interest me much and I don't care about drawing the reader into it).

The issue that propels me with this ms is unfairness; the way people rewrite history and situations to make themselves look better by scapegoating others. The unfairness comes in because traditionally it's the ones who do the writing who get to set the stories down in stone--which for the most part means white men of property and education. Everybody else in history pretty much gets badmouthed, condescended to, and blamed.

I think for now I'm going to let it proceed with the vitriolic snarky tone, and let Helen's parts fall into a neutral third person, and see where that goes. This is not my usual kind of thing, because (I was just telling some students this a couple of days ago, ironically) most of the time I don't like to make a big moral deal out of a book and tell people what to think. Most of the time I like to ask questions and leave them hanging, and the reader can either extrapolate from the rest of the book what my own opinion is...or not.

So if the ms continues this way, it will be a far cry from my other books, and perhaps more like my private e-mails to friends, in which I am vitriolic and snarky a goodly portion of the time. Of course, what with all the sex and violence and the lack of good role models and the weird form, that means this ms will be a tough sell. However, I work better that way. I work better out on a limb that's half sawed off, especially when the work means turning around to saw that limb the rest of the way through.
Worked yesterday on no-longer-GN. I immediately ran into a big problem, the same one the GN had. The story starts too slowly, and it starts misleadingly, as if it's a sweet little historical midgrade. The kind where the spunky but cute girl is suppressed because she is female, and we know she's going to spunkily decide to put on boy clothes and fight just like the boys do. I can't let it stay this way, because a good number of pages in molestation appears out of nowhere and some reader is gonna have a heart attack. Another thing appears around the same time, but I don't know how to put it because I don't want the word on my blog for search engines to find. Suffice to say, the beginning must be revamped to alert readers so they can put the book down right away if this sort of subject matter isn't their thing.

Yesterday I took a page of quotes I had, and strung them out, one per chapter heading. The very first words of the ms right now are a quote from Euripedes, "...Helen was a sl*t...". However, it's still not enough, IMO. So today I'm going to try my idea for reworking the beginning of the GN, which is to take a scene from the destruction of Troy and use that for the very first scene. This puts me smack dab in the middle of the biggest challenge, which is switching up viewpoints and voices and timeframes. The main part of the ms is Helen's pov, first person present. I also want to dip in and out of a folkloric/mythic-retelling third-person-voice, which will usually be followed by "the truth," which is going to have my slant, which is outraged and p*ssed. I had figured out a way to do this visually, but now I've got to figure out how to do it in words. If "the truth" is in my voice, this ms will read like a blog in places. That just doesn't seem right, since Helen's parts are pseudo-historical. OTOH, I think maybe the one thing that has any chance of making this ms connect with any readers is the passion I feel about it.

I'll have to think hard about this.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Back from trip. Caught up on laundry. Dogs home and bathed. Groceries shopped for; we have food.

I'm going to set the swordfighting ms aside and piddle around with my GN to un-GN it. I have to job hunt right now anyway, and that is not conducive to concentrating on the flow of a regular novel--the plotlines, character arcs, scene-setting, and transitions. However, it is conducive to playing with the bits and pieces of a GN-becoming-something-else.

Right now I'm going to work with each page being one separate idea. I want to play with the shape of the words on the page--or maybe it's just the margins I'm talking about; the character gets more and more boxed in as the story progresses. I'm not sure how the beginning should be, though. Also have no clue what to do with dialog. I'm thinking the myth stories will be just regular prose.

Maybe I need to think of the white space as a character, or as a mood. As oppression, maybe? And the words (or the space they take up on the page) represent my MC?

I have chapter headings somewhere; must pull them out and try to organize my thinking. One idea per page, but the chapter headings split the book into bigger ideas. I like the thought of a chapter heading on one page, stark in the middle all alone (no numbers, no "chapter," just the title of the section). I like the way that makes a reader quickly regroup; for some reason (IMO) it enables the reader to shift gears in an instant. It's sort of like a palate cleanser; you don't even have to think because the page preps you for the next course.

Monday, October 6, 2008

First off, here is one of the most striking illustrations I've ever seen of a spark flying between artist and the piece s/he's working on. This is a portrait by John Everett Millais of his teenage sister-in-law, Sophie Gray:

But to appreciate how clearly inspired and connected he was to this work (or to Sophie!?!), you have to see the companion piece he did of Sophie's younger sister Alice around the same time:

Yowsa. That is the difference between "feeling it" and "not feeling it."

No writing yesterday, and I know there won't be for the rest of the week at least. And then next week things have to change around here, so I don't know what's going to happen to writing time. However, I have been thinking about GNs, and my GN, and have been feeling more and more agitated and restricted about the whole thing.

I feel that the GN format fits this ms well because the storytelling isn't exactly linear; I mean, the main story is, but it's intercut with myths and there are scenes that take place far away from the MC or in the past when she wasn't there. PLUS--this is a biggie--this ms has never wanted to have traditionally set scenes. It has never even peeked over its shoulder in that direction. Which as far as I can see leaves me with either an experimental-format-type-ms, or a GN. I didn't want to do experimental format, because I was really wanting to make it accessible. There are things I want to say, and it would be nice if people were able to understand it.

However, I'm really feeling frustrated at the whole GN thing, because it brings the market and business and all that other stuff smack dab into the middle of my writing process. I'm not an artist, and I'm not that knowledgeable about comic format; I can only get so far on it without some kind of collaboration. But you can't get the collaboration unless you can get market interest in the ms (don't even get me started on the publishers' end of the GN market right now). And you can't get market interest in it till you make it good enough, and you can't make it good enough without collaboration. So there my ms sits, readable and interesting but just not quite up to the mark.

So I'm trying to think: What does the GN format do when it solves problems like non-linear intercuts? It gives the reader clues that they understand, letting them know that this is not part of the regular story. There's no blip at all for the reader, who knows the clues so well that s/he doesn't even have to stop and regroup, the way you sometimes have to when a non-linear novel shifts gears. That's where a non-linear novel loses readers, because sometimes they just give up. But in a GN, the clues are non-verbal, like maybe the color palette dims, or the framing changes, or the illustration style is different for the duration of the intercut.

So what I'm doing now is thinking how to do this in a novel: how can you tell the various story parts or put them on the page so that the reader knows some of it is in real-time, some of it is taking place far away, some of it is in the past--yet make it all fit and flow so that it doesn't drive the reader away in frustration?

And now, back to the tons of sh*t I have to do that have nothing to do with writing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

No writing, but I did print out and mail the first seven or so chapters to offline friend. That counts as getting something done.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No writing today. There's just too much other stuff that has to be done.

I am getting very antsy and restless. I feel wrapped too tight, like a snake that needs to shed its skin. Like I need to break out creatively--stretch creatively--but I don't have the craft or skill to do it. My needs have outpaced my ability to learn. My learning may catch up (or it may not), but even if it eventually does, I feel sure I'm in for a fairly long spell of writing that falls short of what it could be.

I was even thinking about taking the GN out of GN format and playing with it. I don't know that this would be productive as far as the ms is concerned. But boy, does the idea of trying to filter a piece down to purity appeal to me right now.

I decided I'm going to try to mail what I have of the swordfighting ms to offline writer friend tomorrow, if it's not totally horrendously offputting and unreadable. It's probably better to send just this bit anyway because it's got to pull the reader through chapter by chapter. I don't know what I was thinking, with all that "I've got to get through the turning point before I send it." That wouldn't be as helpful. The beginning has to stand on its own, not on stuff the reader doesn't even know is coming. Duh!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

No writing today. It's going to be busy for at least the next couple of weeks. I don't know if I'll get to write tomorrow, but I'm going to try.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Worked early this morning; got through another chapter or two. I vaguely speculate that yes, the character would say what he does a couple of chapters down the road--but I'll go through another chapter to be sure no red flags pop up.

I wanted to get all the way to the first turning point so that I could print out and mail the beginning to an offline writer friend who agreed to look at it so we could discuss--said WF has never seen any of the ms, and knows nothing about it, so this is a precious resource. But I can't send it till it's at least readable so we can try to figure out what's not working. If it's first-draft* clunky and unpruned, that will majorly get in the way of WF seeing it with clear eyes.

Since I'm not ready to go to the post office yet, college son will have to wait for his package of Skittles, growing-skeleton-and-mummy, and money. And Other Writer Friend will have to wait for delivery of two books, one of which I'm lending, one of which I'm returning after roughly five years (!). And Offline Writer Friend probably thinks I just said I'd send my WIP but lied. All these people cannot get their stuff until I do my job and get this ms moving. Sigh.

*Ha ha! "First draft"--I'm cracking myself up. How many first drafts has this thing had? Too f*cking many. I should quit and just go live under an interstate right now. I could use my computer as a pillow, or burn it for fuel.

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