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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

No writing yesterday. I have had trouble settling in to write today because I liked that book I read so much that I'd rather be reading it again than working on my own stuff. It transported me in a way my WIP is unlikely to do today. However, I must try to work myself back into a WIP state of mind.

I'm not sure what to do. I need to find something halfway dramatic to work on, to have a chance of forgetting about what I just read in lieu of this ms. But I already wrote the dramatic death scene. Maybe I'll jot down a list of scenes I have, and see if some kind of arc comes to mind. Or hooks to work on, or something.

Hmm, I have 26 pages written. How did that happen? Most of it is in bits and pieces, I'm sure. Better not look too closely, or I'll see that it's not really 26 pages and be disappointed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Got some writing in this morning; just sketching out a scene and trying to figure out what it can do and not do, what is needed and not needed. Got a little sidetracked by looking up names and checking some info, but not too much. The main thing that has thrown today off is that I finally started reading a book a writer friend sent a couple of weeks ago, and it's right up my alley and I don't want to put it down. It's very rare that YA fiction makes me feel this way; mostly I am too messed up by constant writing and rewriting to be able to lose myself in fiction, especially YA. Plus, I don't have time to read books in large enough chunks of time to enjoy fiction. Nonfiction is much easier to enjoy in snippets of reading time here and there.

I may try to gallop through the rest of this book tonight, even though that means skimming, because I've got a lot of stuff I have to do tomorrow, and if I indulge myself by reading "just a little bit more" tomorrow morning, I'll either be late or not get everything finished.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Again, a productive day. Again, school closings. I do need to go to tutoring tonight, though. If a car smashes into mine and hurls me through the windshield into the icy gutter, I'll drag myself to a hospital and then back home because I'm going to finish this book and see it published if it's the last thing I do.

Today was a little surprising. I started off with boring description, but it developed into something else fairly quickly, somehow showing character, backstory, and--this is the good part--touching on setting, background, story, and character for book #3, which isn't even a gleam in my eye yet. Although I guess it is now. So, that was fun.

Now, off to other, non-writing stuff.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A very productive day. A fortunate combination of hitting a good writing zone...and winter weather. I started off with a turnpoint emotional scene that drives the story--and I didn't have to stop for carpool and tutoring because the roads are icing over. I got nearly 2400 words written. When I go back over it may not look good, but at this moment it feels great. I killed off the dad and got the body pathetically home and I don't know what all. Now I remember why I like to write.
Thinking, here. Yesterday I wrote mostly dialogue, but--looking back--a lot of it is informational. It's getting in stuff the reader needs to understand. One writer friend insists that dialogue is action, but to me--when I write it--it can feel unsatisfying. I need to go back and least make this part do double duty by letting the characters show who they are and letting the reader absorb their personalities a little. However, I don't want to do that today. I was thinking that there will necessarily be conversations setting up some of the story in these first chapters,but I need to maybe focus on the scenes that drive change, the scenes of conflict and emotion. And then let the milder setting-up scenes fall into place around them. That might help me a) not waste time writing out conversations that don't need to take place yet or at all, and b) keep my eyes on the prize, which is keeping myself moving forward and not getting lost in a sea of backstory and set-up.

I was going to say, "keeping the reader moving forward," but that's not right. I need to keep myself focused and in motion, or I will peter out into a fog of uncertainty, and so will the ms.

Yesterday I spent entirely too much time trying to explain and describe farming practices and choices, and the interior of a peasant's cottage. I was trying to write in order, figuring I would get these scenes out on paper, then go back and hook them together with transitions. That's making me feel foggy and like I'm losing momentum. So today I am going to try to leap out of order, to find a scene where something important happens, something that changes the story, and write that. Because I don't like the feeling I'm getting, of slowly getting mired in a morass of details that bring me to a grinding halt.

I have several choices re. what to work on, but must figure out which one might be ready to be written. I hope at least one of them is.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Problem of the moment: If you have a bad guy who's not important to the story, but is only a backstory sort of villain, is it okay to kill him off and use his death as an instrument to set off a plot thread? Or does it mislead the reader to introduce him at all?

If you have to kill somebody in order to set off other events, should it be somebody the readers could care about a little? Or somebody they never heard of, sort of a red-shirt guy like in the old Star Trek? What does it mean, if the killed-off character is somebody the reader doesn't like?

Don't know. Must think.
Yow, did not realize until yesterday that this is ALA time. Writer friends mentioned BBYA, but I didn't think about the Printz announcements till that was mentioned, too. The reason is that I have a very vivid mental image associated with BBYA, from the only time I sat in on it. It was in San Antonio years ago, and the horror of seeing books discussed so casually--some only got a word here or there ("Eh, it was okay."), no comments at all sometimes, and sometimes the covers were discussed rather than the books (!)--was like being punched in the gut with a lead balloon, to mix metaphors. I can still see the room in my head, and the feeling of walking out into the open air of the Riverwalk, sick to my stomach. I guess that was with my first book (whose discussion I was not present for, hooray!), so maybe it wouldn't be so bad now. Maybe it wouldn't bother me at all. But once you get sick from eating something, like, say, macaroni salad, you are very reluctant to ever taste it again.

So anyway, I was thinking about BBYA, and didn't realize the P. announcements were today, and therefore the winners had likely gotten their phone calls yesterday morning. When I did, I was like, Whoa, what a big change from a year ago. A year ago, that was me! And this year I'm cleaning the gerbil cage, with nothing on my mind but what I'm going to work on WIP-wise today.

I cannot believe how lucky I was. I was at a writer-type thing this past year, and one of the students said something, I forget what, along the lines of "Well, that award was confirmation that your book really was a cut above." But no, it wasn't. Repossessed was dead, until that committee brought it out into the light. Repo got no stars, no buzz, and from the straw vote I saw, it wasn't even going to get on BBYA until the P. honor forced it on.* By the luck of the draw, that book came out in a year when the committee members happened to be people who appreciated it, rather than any of the masses of other people who couldn't have cared less. All those masses of other people had other books in mind that would have been "a cut above." The lesson here is that the inherent value of a book is a whole different ball of wax from notice/acclaim.

I wonder if I only get one miracle in my lifetime. If so, that was definitely it. In the nature of writers everywhere, though, I sure would like another one.

And now, off to WIP.

*In deference to my publisher, I won't even discuss sales.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did get some of my own writing in tonight, of course at the expense of something else--in this case, tutoring paperwork. But I also got my latest w-f-h project turned in. It was a little alarming how I suddenly went blank on how to write these little pieces, but I guess since I've come up with 20 or so new ideas in the past few weeks and worked them out to specs, maybe it's not a sign of impending senility that my brain froze. I usually don't think like that at all; I'm more of a long-distance writer, a marathoner who chews on one idea for years, rather than a sprinter with lots of short little creative bursts.

It's weird, though, to stare at paper and suddenly not know how to start, although you've done it 20 times already.

Anyway, in my own WIP I sort of sketched out a full scene today--it was a bunch of loose ends, but I pulled some of them together and moved the leftovers back down the storyline with notes as to where they can fit in, re. the next couple of chapters. So, forward progress. Just, you know, no money on the very immediate horizon and nothing done on tutoring. So really, from a practical, bird-in-the-hand point of view, today was actually a bust. However, I refuse to think about that.

My g*d, I hope some of my forward progress on my WIP will stick. I'm so tired of writing and then months later having to chunk it all. However, I won't think about that right now. Instead, I will go clean the gerbil cage.
No writing today. Maybe if I had been more organized and stricter with myself...but then, I guess it's possible I still could get some writing in, if I can get this other stuff done.

Today I caught some of the end of Unforgiven (the movie with Clint Eastwood), which--I think this is probably accurate--sparked my ability to write novels. I saw that movie when it came out (1992), and it opened the door as far as thinking, "Hey, now I understand what you need to write a whole novel, rather than short stories or picture books." The movie sparked a driving question, and characters soon followed, and suddenly I knew I had enough to work on and explore for many pages and a lengthy period of time. Before that it was always, "How could I ever write a book? What on earth can anybody write about for that long?"

That was the first book I ever wrote. Much rejected, never published--but I still feel there's something to it, and I am still determined to work it out. I have not seen Unforgiven since then, but seeing that bit today made me think I might be able to start to figure this out. What I have is characters and a situation, but not much of a problem--at least, not an interesting one with anything at stake. I think that if I look at the situation--which involves one of the adults in the story--and consider how it might parallel the MC's situation, bearing in mind working toward problems rather than playing with character--I might come up with a book that works.

Someday. Not today, though. I am feeling a bit discouraged because I was also thinking that it is likely to be a good long while before I have anything finished. Six months, a year. More. Both my WIPs are in early stages--both after years of work and multiple "finished" versions. I feel rather wheel-spin-ery today, very...oh, what's the guy rolling the boulder up the mountain. Sisyphus. That's it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No writing yesterday. I did some w-f-h and turned it in. Now I'm supposed to be doing a second "quick" project, but the w-f-h side of my brain is bone dry of ideas. So I'm going to be bad and work on my own stuff, then tonight I'll try to do the w-f-h. This is stupid, because it means I probably won't finish the w-f-h, when I said I'd have it in today, and because w-f-h pays while my stuff doesn't, at least not in the short run (or in the medium run either, ha!). But I don't care. Anyway, the editors are way behind on their end; they already have a bunch of my stuff sitting on their desks that they haven't had a chance to get to, bless their overworked little hearts.

I saw somebody used the word "polishing" re. a ms recently. I hate that word. I loathe that word. It's a wimpy-ass, delicate little word that bears NO resemblance to what writing is really about. "I just need to give my ms a quick polish, then it's ready to go!" No, it's not, and no, you don't. To me, "polishing" means proofreading, copyediting, and tweaking little things like awkward wording or extra words that are getting in the way and therefore diluting the meanings their sentences and paragraphs are trying to get across.

To me, "polishing" is something you're doing all along. It's second nature; as you rewrite and rethink, you are automatically fixing these things. Your real energy is being used on the important stuff--like not boring the reader, for example. I can't even wrap my mind around "polishing" being an actual step, much less the only one mentioned as writing process.

Thinking about it, probably the reason it bugs me is the way it's usually used. Nobody ever says, "Oh my gawd, I have to sit down and polish this thing before I can get it out." To me it usually has this air of "La-di-dah, I shall polish my ms and then send it out. Look on my polishing, ye poor unwashed masses, and despair."

Okay, yeah, that's it. To me, "polishing" has an aftertaste of "Writing is easy, if you've got the magic." You just write it, polish it, and send it out to acclaim. It's easy to tell people you're polishing--"polishing," after all, is just making something a little prettier. But the truth is, writing for publication is hard and painful, if not devastating. The road to publication is littered with the corpses of writers who were done in either before they sold anything, or after they experienced the debut and aftermath of their first book. So I think the word offends me because it's so light and dainty. When it's the only part of writing mentioned--which it often is, by people who use it--it implies that writing a book is light and dainty work. Which is a big fat effin' lie.

And the lie wouldn't be so bad, except that other writers believe it. They believe that they are the only ones struggling, the only ones doubting, the only ones who can't get it right, the only ones who don't have what it takes.

It's amazing that I can infer so much from one dinky word. But I do it all the time. One word can send me into a ranting frenzy, if it's the right one.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My e-mail is broken. Apparently it is very difficult for me to write at all unless I can check e-mail first. It took me a good 2-3 hours to settle in, where normally I can get to it pretty quickly in the morning.

Anyway, I fleshed out some of the beginning, rearranged a few things, and thought of a couple of points to make that will provide structure and tension. It also occurred to me as I jotted down a snippet of dialogue, that if I go that direction (the direction the snippet leads in), at least part of the MC's inner journey will parallel one of the other character's journey, and there's tension, conflict and change all set up, from the first chapter. I don't know if this will work out, but it would be nice if it did.

Off to tutor.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Looks like there will be no writing today. I have to get caught up on my tutoring paperwork.

Was thinking about editors. It has always been my very firm belief that when an editor gives advice, any writer worth his/her salt is going to identify the problem that drove the advice first--what is the problem that drove the editor to try to think of a solution?-- then consider whether the editor's fix is the right one. Editors don't care how it's fixed, so long as it's fixed. And since most editors are not writers, their offered solutions are sometimes wrong. I get annoyed when writers blindly start flinging editors' fixes at their mss, figuring it must be right because an editor said it. And then when their ms gets rejected, they're like, "But I did everything I was told to do!"

I was thinking about this, because you've got to wonder what kinds of writers editors are used to working with. They sure do seem surprised when there are overwhelming problems with a ms, yet later the writer resubmits and the big problems are solved and the ms even has a nice spark to it. It's like magic! How did that happen?

Are writers who are willing to take their ms aside and overhaul on their own from the ground up so painfully rare?

Hmm, maybe it's the focus on selling. Could be...a lot of writers, myself included, get into the trap of just trying to get something good enough to sell. It's such hard work to write a book, and the thought of somebody relieving you of the burden of identifying ms problems and solving them is like a carrot dangling in front of a weary writer's nose.

It's just funny, because several times now I have had, and have heard of other writers having, editors gingerly--tentatively--asking about certain changes they think would improve a ms. They seem to be expecting a monumental arteestic hissy fit in reply. But dude, there are some of us who have been at this a while. What you're asking is a mere peanut of change compared to the Mount Everest of change I've already made. I crushed my own writerly ego to a formless pulp about four rewrites ago. All that's left is story and characters.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today, wrote some more beginning stuff--providing some setting, presenting some characters. I think I went off on a tangent toward the end, but eventually it will all come round.

I don't know how much time I'll have to write tomorrow, but next time I sit down to it I probably need to establish the MC's current goal. I bet I'll forget that, though. Better write a sticky note.

There, done. Now we'll see if I remember to read the sticky note.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today, worked on new beginning of swordfighting ms. I'm just sketching things out, trying to figure out what to ease into after the first 300 or so words. Lots of info, plenty of characters, so there are innumerable ways to dive in.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Today I took the first chapters of my swordfighting ms (18 single-spaced pages) and stuck in comments to demonstrate where exactly trying to write from plot has derailed the story and made it not work. I'm going to keep this on file in case it comes in handy later.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Am waiting for dinner to cook.

Off to what feels like an excellent start. First line of the book, for today anyway: "The cut appeared slowly, a welling red line of blood against Father’s white sleeve." The first scene is done, and it's not any of the ones I had written down on my list. But--for today, anyway--it feels right.

Will see if I can do more later. But first, family must eat.

300 or so words down, probably 50-60K to go.

clean slate

Yesterday I scribbled a bunch of thoughts re. the swordfighting ms in various spirals throughout the house. I made notes about the MC's motivations and feelings and worked out what probably happened to set him off, and I made a list of some scenes that would show a lot of the stuff that I merely inserted here and there as backstory in older versions. I still can't see how the book starts, or what order these beginning scenes would have to go in to make sense. But I am trying now to pay attention to how I feel. Now I want to try not to push this ms according to what makes sense, but to use the momentum of whatever is calling strongly to me. Of course a story needs to make sense and you have to use a little brain power to write--you can't write by gut all the time, or your book will never be readable. But I think I need to learn how to balance those two approaches better and with more awareness.

Maybe I am working out my own way to plot. For me--with this project, anyway--it doesn't seem to work to start from a strictly plotting standpoint. By that I mean I figured out the story first, step by step, chapter by chapter; I figured it out and it all made perfect sense, down to the chapter hooks. Then I went back to try to figure out how to show the reader the characterization I knew was already there, underneath. That approach has not worked.

I still have the storyline in my head (more completely and in more detail than I usually do), but now I am going to try integrating my usual scattered messy process of writing bits that appeal to me and organizing them later. Having the storyline in my head may be my own way to plot. Usually I have only the vaguest idea what's going to happen, and a lot of the scenes are more like mood pieces that I adapt and shift around till they work. This ms has story. It could be that, for me, knowing what happens and to whom and when and where and why serves as the superorganized straightforward writing process that some plot-driven authors use. Maybe this is how I can do it.

Anyway, I don't know what I'm going to write today, exactly. I have pulled up the swordfighting ms, and I renamed the file bestdamnbookever.doc. I put the old version away in a folder with the 26 other old versions (I'm not kidding; 26, and that's not including the character sketches, outlines, and assorted bits). I went back to the renamed file, hit "Select all," and then "Delete." 263 pages went to one blank page in an instant.

So, what to write? What calls to me? What sounds fun? Time to try and find out. Fingers crossed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

this is all very boring, but it's helpful to me

"Somehow all his grief got channeled into rage that drives him through the book. Whatever happened, it is something that he can't examine too closely."

Okay, there's more to this. To be driven that strongly, I'm thinking something else has to be at issue. (Is that right? "at issue"? Anyway.) Maybe the MC blames himself for what happened to his dad.

Nah, that doesn't interest me. What interests me is having to admit that there is no way to fix what happened or bring his dad back or balance things out. No, our hero has encountered the nihilistic humanist "fact" that life has no inherent fairness or balance and sometimes there are no answers and sometimes stupid, awful things happen for petty or no particular reasons. And, that being a given, what do you do now, buddy? What you do now says who you are. Who are you, when the motivation that has driven you through all these pages is taken away?

As soon as this kid's quest is fulfilled or his question answered--or his desire for vengeance nullified--what remains is, hmm, well, the rest of his life. Maybe that's something that drives him, too. He doesn't want to face all those days without his father. As long as he's consumed with anger and his supposedly noble purpose, he doesn't have to face the very big hole that will accompany him for the rest of his life.

So, do I need to think about what happens when he faces that hole at the end of the story? Do I need to know that before I can figure out what exactly happened in the beginning? I'm not sure. Perhaps not. Will think some more.

I can tell you this, though. What happens is that he grows up.
Have turned in all first drafts of w-f-h, am waiting for rewrites. My brain is mostly dead, but the wee part that is not turns to my swordfighting WIP.

I haven't got a clue what to do. Or rather, I know what to do--basically I am starting over, and hopefully* eventually the new stuff will hook up with the old stuff timeline-wise and I'll know how to proceed from there. But I don't know what to write. I think I have forgotten how to start writing a book. I must spend, like, 99.9999% of my time rewriting. The last book I started was the former GN, and it sort of came out on its own in a non-book-like way that's not helpful to me right now. It was more like scribbling lines in a notebook than starting a novel. Before that, I wrote the Hallowmere book, and I had an outline to follow for that. Before that...I think the last book I started before that was Repossessed. With that, I had an idea, and the first line may have just popped into my head. The beginning of Night Road is lost in the murky mists of memory.

So, what to do? Maybe I should try to think about the conflicts that set up what I already have and see if any call to be fleshed out? Maybe just start writing a scene and see what happens? Maybe think carefully about how it feels to write something just because I know the plot calls for it, and memorize that feeling so that I don't repeat it?

My mind is sort of drifting toward the dad in the story--who dies early on, before the book even starts in the current version--and perhaps pinpointing something awful that set the events of the story on their course. In the back of my mind it's just a foggy blur of "dad got sick and died." But, thinking about it, something concrete happened to the dad to ignite anger in the MC. Somehow all his grief got channeled into rage that drives him through the book. Whatever happened, it is something that he can't examine too closely. Throughout the book, he refuses to listen to anyone or to consider the ramifications of anything he's choosing to do. He just continues to charge blindly ahead with his stupid, shallow, ill-thought-out plan that is not going to fix anything that's upsetting him. I suppose that in the end he'll have to see that

(I could think a lot better if the f*cking kids down the street would ride their mini-bike someplace else. They have been driving back and forth down our one-block cul-de-sac for hours. One block. A mini-bike motor. Up and down, up and down. For hours. If it was one continuous buzz it wouldn't be so bad, but the Doppler effect makes it crescendo every few moments. Then there's a pause while they switch riders. Then it starts again.)

Okay, back to WIP.

(Hey, maybe they'll run out of gas.)

(F*ck it, I put in earplugs.)

Okay, so the MC spends the book pursuing...the wrong goal? Willfully refusing to see...what? What does he need to see, by the end of the book? What happens to his dad? It would be nice if somebody killed him rather than him dying from a disease, because that would certainly provoke the kind of rage that would carry a not-very-bright action-oriented doggedly stubborn boy through a series of blindly stupid actions. Maybe the rage is directed at the wrong person, and the MC discovers (or admits it) at the end? So, who killed the dad, and why? And why would the MC misread the situation?

H*ll if I know. Will try to think.

*I know that's not correct usage, but it should be. I am determined to do my part to make it correct usage by repeating it over and over till the world agrees with me.

Same with double, triple, and quadruple negatives. And "y'all."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

There will be no writing today. None tomorrow, either, as far as I can see. When I do get to work on my own stuff, it will probably be the swordfighting ms.

"I have not had any ideas for it," says the writer. "But it will make me happy. It will feel good. I can use any words I want. I can use as many words as I want. Yes, it will be fun to work on my own stuff."

48 words, reading level 1.8

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No writing yesterday. None today. None tomorrow. Thursday looks doubtful.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Okay, I think I've got it. The problem with my swordfighting WIP is that I started right smack dab in the middle of action. I thought that was a good thing to do with a plot-driven ms. However, it f*cked everything up. I got the plot side of the story rolling, thinking that because I knew all the emotional side of the story, it would come out naturally and I could work it in here and there.

What I need to do is start with the emotional side of the story. Of course something needs to be happening and there needs to be some kind of tension right off the bat. But because I didn't set up the emotional stakes or establish the MC's inner conflict or what is driving him, the emotional side of the story never jelled and I for one can't get invested. I feel like I'm skimming along as I read it. It reads okay, it's halfway interesting. That's not enough. The difference between what this is now and what I want it to do is like the difference between fastening something with Elmer's glue and nailing it down.

Right now all the emotional story is backstory. What I need to do is back up and start with a scene that puts us in the MC's corner right from the get-go. I need to take some of that info and backstory and let it come out in scene. There are plenty of cross-motivations and tension that will arise on their own if I put some of the characters together and throw them a couple of curve balls and see what they do. Most of the curve balls are even there ready to be thrown.

When I say I didn't set up the emotional stakes or establish conflict and drive, what I mean is that I told about it during other stuff happening. Those stakes and conflict and drive need to be shown clearly, in their own scenes, as the main point for the scenes existing. Not mentioned in passing while something else is going on, like hair color or what the MC ate for breakfast.

So I have to figure out how far to back up, what scenes are necessary, and above all, what is the opening of the book? I'll have to mull it over, probably mostly in the back of my mind because I've got to haul @ss on this w-f-h now.

It looks to me like most of the book will probably end up being trashed, but at least I can pick through it and use some of what's there. At this moment I actually don't feel bad about having to start over, because I may finally have a chance to make it work. Before I was going to make it work, come hell or high water, but now maybe it will cooperate with me instead of fighting every step of the way.

I ought to try to think what other books do--if they start with emotion or plot--but there's no time for that. The only thing that comes to mind right off the bat is the very first Alex Rider book, which is as plot-driven as you can get, and I believe it does indeed start with Alex's uncle's death.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I need to start work on the next set of w-f-h. Really need to, to have a better chance of staying on schedule. It would be the responsible thing to do. A responsible breadwinner would certainly do it.

However, I'm going to be deliciously bad and not do it, and I'm not going to work on my own stuff, either. I think I might like to work on my swordfighting WIP--I would like to sit down and write something fun and loose, just for pleasure--but I have the whole thing so straitjacketed by plot/outline that I don't know what would be fun and pleasurable to write about it.* So I'm not going to write at all today. A writer friend sent me some DVDs and books, and I'm either going to watch a movie or read. Like, sit down and do these things rather than snatch a moment while scarfing down a quick meal before I get back to work.

And I'm going to try not to feel bad about this, because I have spent every spare second this week sitting at the computer working as hard as I can, as long as I can.

*It's starting to seem very possible (perhaps even likely) that I may be working myself around to chunking most of what I have--many tens of thousands of words on paper, hundreds of thousands more written and revised, I'm guessing three+ years worth of labor--and starting from scratch. If it must be, it must be. If that's what the ms requires, whining and denial will only delay the inevitable and waste months or years. But I don't know yet if that's really what I'm facing. If I get some kind of spark about the ms, if I get some little bit of fire driving me to put something on paper, that would give me a clue. We shall see.
No writing yet today. Don't know if I'll get to it or not. I need to take a deep breath and plunge into the next phase of this w-f-h project, not spend time on my own stuff.

I picked out some nice meaty research books for Christmas and have been reading them in drips and drabs. By "meaty" I mean dry and factual. I suppose that's not what most people mean by "meaty," and maybe I don't usually, either, but in this case dry and factual is great because it tells me exactly what I need to know. As a bonus, these books have pictures, maps, plans, etc.

There have been mostly two ways to approach this (former) GN so far. One would be to set the story in a vaguely legendary/mythological world and concentrate on the characters and the emotional side of it--which would probably be more accessible, and would require less research. The other way would be to set it in classical Greece, which would probably feel deeper and help world-building. There's a ton of information on that time and culture, and that's what most people think when they think Ancient Greece.

So far I've cherry-picked from the two approaches, using whatever suits my agenda (the author admits frankly). I have also been pulling whatever I feel like pulling from the actual time of the Trojan War, which was probably around (not googling here, so I may be off) 125o-1180 B.C.

It's harder to get details on that time period than it is on classical Greece. Knowledge seems spotty and some of the people writing about it seem to have their own agendas. I have to track down and special order books about it, and even then a good portion of the info has to be taken with a grain of salt.

But anyway, the point is that after a small rash of meaty factual books re. that time period, I feel like backing off for a sec and rethinking one facet of my WIP. I have blithely blown off any aspects of the Mycenaean period (or of mythology or of classical culture) that don't fall into line with what I want to do. However, it's time to admit that what looks from a distance like noble warfare was probably actually violent, petty raiding--attacking settlements and killing the men, in order to steal the cattle and the women. The raiders enslaved the women (in every possible way), and I guess they eventually ate the cattle. This is what made a man admired and valued, in that society. This is what brought him wealth, fame, property, and respect.

Where I come from (TX), cattle rustlers and horse thieves are historically the lowest of the low. There is a tree less than a mile from my house where horse thieves were allegedly hanged. Without trial, because in those days you didn't need a trial to hang anyone who stole stock. It's hard to see the nearly-immortal Achilles, and Odysseus, and Ajax--and Helen's brother Castor--as raiders swooping down to steal cows and women and children. I hope Hector, at least, wasn't into that, since he lived in a different part of the world. But we'll see. Maybe he was.

Friday, January 9, 2009

No writing (of my own) yesterday or today. My brain is fried.

It was interesting yesterday, though, because I am not an idea person, and I have been a bit concerned about coming up with enough ideas for this w-f-h project, which involves a lot of little pieces of writing. Yesterday morning while I was still asleep, right before I woke up, I was having some dream (don't remember what). I think I was working towards waking up, and in the dream my brain started tossing words at me, just single words that could be developed into ideas. Cave. Shark. Twins. Sloppy. Etc. I knew I had to remember the words, and I did remember a lot of them. Sure enough, after I was up, the words sparked enough ideas to come up with this current batch of pieces.

Now it just needs to happen again. However, it has never ever happened before in my life, so I won't hold my breath.

This morning I dreamed I went to a game shop with the Jonas Brothers to buy the game of Go. Interesting, but not helpful.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

No writing (when I say that lately, I mean no writing of my own).

W-f-h specs have changed again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No writing today. The only thought I had about my own writing was this: I have been working under fairly tight (albeit self-inflicted) constraints on my former GN, and now I'm working under ungodly rigid constraints for these w-f-h pieces, so it may be that when I have a chance to stop and breathe, I'll be compelled to pick up the swordfighting ms just because it's regular prose and I can sprawl and scrawl and spend pages sloppily writing words that don't do anything at all but flow and settle on the paper wherever they want, and damn the consequences.

Whoa, that is almost all one sentence. Talk about Freudian.

Monday, January 5, 2009

No writing today. It looks like I'll be full speed ahead on w-f-h for the next week or so. I'm going to try to at least think about my WIP every day, but I don't know if it'll really happen.

I'm looking at the deadlines for this w-f-h and I'm going, Whoa. I know that the editors (or whatever they're called at this place) are working nearly 24/7, weekends, holiday, nights. They need this stuff fast. And they need it right. I'm really going to have to step up to the plate.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Worked on other stuff (w-f-h, chores, errands) most of the day. At the last moment, just so I could say I wrote today, I pulled up my WIP and entered some of the changes I figured out yesterday. However, I'm too tired to work out any specifics on tweaking the slightly bigger threads that I wanted to reorganize and hone. My brain just can't grasp an idea beyond fixing a phrase or sentence, or transcribing something I scribbled in a margin yesterday.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I did work on w-f-h today, and also worked on my own stuff. When I pulled up my own stuff, I was stricken with a strong urge to try to tidy up the first section where it dwindles off, where I lose track of what I'm doing and where the story's going. The urge was like that feeling you sometimes get (me more rarely than most) where you have to have something around you in order before you can proceed, like your car cleaned out or a list made or your desk organized.

I was afraid trying to tidy up would not only fail, but lead me to clueless confusion and frustration. But--surprisingly--I was able to move a couple of things around, and then I tried to sharpen a few bits. Then I printed out and read the ms from the beginning to page 56, and lo and behold, it makes sense. It's perhaps a little slow in the unfolding, but I wasn't bored and I didn't get confused. I was even able to see some threads from later that I need to pull in, and I saw how I was undercutting myself by not letting one of those threads build properly with clear differences in how the MC perceives things as the story progresses. That was nice.

I'm not sure it's so terrible to be a little slow in the unfolding, anyway, with the speed at which this can be read. Page 56 for this book will be like page 14 for a regular novel. I'm going to say it's okay for the ms to be that way, for now.
Hmm, I'm not working hard enough. I did some w-f-h yesterday, but I could have gotten some of my own writing in if I'd set my mind to it. I did not.

However, I'm not going to be hard on myself just yet. For some reason having part-time outside work can throw me off, and I know it. When I was tutoring just sixteen hours a week, I was able to do a little writing of my own--until administrative hassles starting coming down. Then, even though the hours were the same, I suddenly wasn't writing anymore. Some outside work (including w-f-h) can leech over and mess up my ability to write, although I'm not sure how or why. Some outside work does not leech over--I'm not sure how or why on that, either.

Right now I'm tutoring and doing w-f-h, and--this may actually be the key, who knows--I have not had the house to myself for weeks and weeks. Nobody's bugging me, but there are people in the house making noise and messing things up and needing at least basic care like laundry and food.

Still, I need to try harder, because otherwise down the road I'm going to end up with zero work done on my WIP, and the whole point of living hand-to-mouth and not having a regular job is so I can work on my own writing. If I don't try harder to work every day, I'm going to feel like sh*t at some point not so far down the road. And rightfully so.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ended up not doing any actual writing yesterday. However, I think it was a productive day because as I was scrolling through the ms file to get to the place I'm working on (about a hundred pages in) I saw the section I've mostly skipped because I don't know what to do with it. That's the part right after the traumatic event. All I have there is a tiny piece that has little to do with the story, but that rings true to me and feels very right. As I passed over that piece, I suddenly saw that the point of it is actually a thematic thread that runs through the entire book. It may even be the entire point of the story in a nutshell. So it could be that I now have the idea that I've been needing, to keep me focused and to keep the first hundred pages from veering off course and petering out, the way they're doing right now.

We'll see, but it looks very hopeful. Anyhow, that's what I did yesterday instead of write; I took notes and wrote a long e-mail to writer friends* explaining in excruciating detail what I thought about this nutshell/idea and why it was important.

Today I was thinking about Repossessed, because in the speech I gave in Anaheim I said that to me the book (Repo) is about rejection. Because I was talking to librarians rather than writers, and had other, more important points I wanted to make, I left it at that. But leaving it at that was misleading. It made me sound like I knew what I was doing the whole time I was working on the book. Really, knowing what a book is about only comes (for me) well into the writing process. Sometimes very, very late into the writing process. Sometimes I'm ready to pull the book together but can't because I haven't nailed down in my mind what it's truly about. And even after I get it nailed down, a lot of the stuff that's in the book is still subliminal. For the speech in Anaheim, I said that every character in Repo has to deal with rejection in some form. That is true--but I only realized it when I was trying to figure how what to say in the speech. I already knew that the demon had been rejected, because that's what was driving me to write the story, and I knew that the little brother Jason had been rejected because that was driving me, too. But it wasn't until the book had been out for a year and I had to give a talk about it that I took a close look and saw that that particular theme really did run through the whole book.

I think if you get saturated with an idea, it naturally comes out in a book. I think this goes for research, too--if you want to build a world, you can't just look up each detail you need to know and then go write it. You have to be saturated in the world yourself. Then it naturally comes out on the page and feels real to the reader.

But anyway. Blah blah. I was also thinking (Tyson and I walked four miles today. That's why I was thinking so much; Hobo is not so conducive to thinking because he's neurotic and also doesn't walk as far) about whether I can use any of this to help me when I pick up the swordfighting ms again. I was thinking about that feeling of strong certitude and rightness I have with that tiny piece in the problematic section--which may turn out to be the subliminal key to the entire book (or not; who knows). I was thinking that maybe I need to start that story (swordfighting) someplace else. Right now it starts smack in the middle of action, because that's how you're supposed to write a book. But I was thinking, maybe starting it in a technically perfect place is throwing me off. Maybe I ought to see if there's any other scene I feel compelled to write, that establishes something important to me that's not about plot. Because the whole thing just seems like a grind, from where I sit now. That's not right, is it? Should a ms feel like a grind when you step back from it and look with a little perspective? Any ms can feel like a grind while you're in the middle of it, but what if it still seems flat and pludge-y after you've laid off it for a few months? Isn't that an indicator that something's wrong?

I think it may be. But we'll see. It doesn't look like I'll be working on it for a while, so there should be plenty of time to consider.

*That's what writers friends are for. You can write them long excruciating e-mails about esoteric cr*p that is utterly confusing and means nothing to anyone but you, and they pay attention and even try to help you sort it out.

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