Saturday, March 29, 2014

Setbacks Don't Mean Give Up

It's been an interesting time for me as a writer recently. I was so full of optimism when I set out on my editing journey, and visions of book contracts danced in my dreams. I still feel good about novel 6, but the doubt has begun to creep in. It's slower going than I expected. I'm itching to start something new. I am dreading trying to query. I haven't had any great insights in how to fix a character that maybe isn't working.

I read this post yesterday about whether or not I'm publishable, and I closed the tab with the unshakable feeling that the tea leaves were definitely not in my favor. I was in a really down place. This anxiety over my dead-end future in writing combined with my current looming unemployment to make me feel like a complete loser. But then my boyfriend came home, and after lots of hugs and crying into his shoulder, I began to see things in a better light. So maybe none of my queries have been successful. That's just a problem with my queries. It doesn't say shit about my book, because no one actually read the book. I ended up knocking out another couple scenes and reaching the halfway point of this edit.

Yes, it's been 2 months and I'm only halfway. It's frustrating. I gave myself a 3 month deadline, and obviously I am not on track for that. It's tempting to give up. It's like when you're trying to eat healthy, and you end up having a piece of cake, so then you think "Well, I already fucked up," and go on and eat the entire cake (I'm not the only one that does that, right? RIGHT?!). But eating a whole cake is way worse than eating a piece, and giving up on something because I'm behind is way worse than just finishing late. So it's time to gird my loins, buckle down, and finish what I've started. And maybe eat some cake.

I'm not kidding about the cake. This was mine and my boyfriend's Saturday night last month!

Hell, it's not even too late for me to make a good push and still meet my end-of-April deadline!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fun With Numbers

I know, I know, some of you might not think numbers are very fun. I suppose I'm sort of an odd kind of writer who gets all excited about the right side of the brain, but I also suspect I'm not all that much of an outlier.

I have always loved writing. Seriously, I cannot remember a time in which I did not write. In parallel, I have always loved math. I was homeschooled until 3rd grade, and I used to work ahead in my math homework because I just thought it was fun. I had a sign on my bedroom door that said "Fractions rule!" when I was in grade school. One of my favorite classes I ever took was Partial Differential Equations (I took it during summer school basically just because I could), and I'm not too humble to admit I kicked that class's ass. I even got a special write up from my professor.

Basically, what I am saying, is that I am a nerd of both the number and letter type. So, numbers!

I joined Goodreads back in 2011. Initially, I made a pretty good effort at adding a lot of books that I had read. I went through both of the bookshelves in my apartment, for example, as well as adding other books that had stuck in my mind. But let's face it, I've read SO many books that there is no way that I got even close to all of them. Which means the overall numbers on my shelves aren't necessarily indicative. But since I joined, I have been meticulous about logging all of my reading. I would be surprised if I've missed more than 2 books I read in that time. So my recent stats are definitely accurate, and I decided to play with my 2013 books.

Total books read: 63
Non-fiction: 0
Fantasy: 37
Science Fiction: 22
General Fiction: 4

Ha! Well I think there is a definite trend here. I even made a pie chart to illustrate this.

it took me a shamefully long time to decide on a color scheme
For the record, I had way too much fun doing this.

So I find myself thinking a few things. One, I can't believe I didn't read a single non-fiction book last year. Okay, I read half of one, but I haven't touched it in months. Two, clearly I have little interest in non-genre fiction. Although this set of statistics doesn't show quite the whole picture.

I gave 9 5-star ratings during 2013, and the breakdown for those was 1 general fiction, 4 fantasy, and 4 science fiction. I'm not going to bother with a whole pie chart for that, but that's an 11/44/44 percentage breakdown, compared to the overall 6/35/59. So while I'm reading a whole lot more fantasy than anything else, I'm not liking it quite as much. (Also worth pointing out is that those 3 of those fantasy 5-star ratings are to the same author for books in the same series.) And while I may not seek out general fiction, I often like it when I read it.

What this all means for me going forward--besides that I like Excel far more than anyone ought to--is that I should make more of an effort to broaden my horizons. I've done that in other areas before (like trying to read more female authors, but that is definitely for another post), and I know it can only result in more, better reading for me. I'll try to revisit this once 2014 bites the dust and see if I managed to break out of my comfort zone a little bit!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Clubs: A Good Thing

I need to start keeping a list of ideas for blog posts. During the week, I find myself thinking "Oh, I should write a blog post about that!" all the time, but then when Saturday rolls around (nominally the day that I blog), I can't think of anything to write about.

Case in point, I saved the above as a draft last Sunday and have several times since then thought about what I should write about, but when I sat down to finish it this morning, I still had no clue what I was going to write about! As someone who is a pretty meticulous writer in my fiction, perhaps I just need to adopt a similar planning style for blogging.

Anyway, last night I went to a book club meeting for one of the two book clubs I belong to. Both of these book clubs are based from Meet Up and I have been a member of both for years. Yet I didn't actually start going to any of the meet ups until the past couple months.

Partly this was a logistics issue, because it's hard for me to know my schedule very far in advance with duty and underways and such. Probably the lion's share of it was that I am very introverted and getting me to leave my apartment can be like pulling teeth. Seriously.

Now that I've started to go, I'm kicking myself for not going sooner. For one thing, it gets me to read things outside my comfort zone. 99% of the books I read are SFF and that is also what I write. Sometimes I get so immersed in the world of genre fiction that I forget there are a million other fantastic books out there. Case in point, I have had my Kindle for over 3 years. Currently I have 42 books under Sci Fi, 71 under Fantasy, and only 4 under Fiction and 3 Non-Fiction. (Plus 9 Sherlock Holmes and 8 Anne of Green Gables and 15 Classics). Actually, that breakdown is interesting and I'm going to go ahead and stick a pin in it for a later post. So one of my book clubs is SFF and one is not, which helps me widen my horizons.

I also find it helpful for me as a writer. Being able to see how a wide variety of people respond to a book, the things that stick with them, both good and bad, helps me identify weaknesses in my own writing. For example, last night we were discussing Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job. Everyone liked it overall, and found his writing to be funny, but many of us mentioned the abrupt ending as off-putting. The falling action was minuscule and the resolution mostly delegated to an epilogue. His racist caricatures were mostly distasteful rather than funny. His main character was whiny and hard to relate to at times. His writing was hard to stop reading, his tone was delightful.

So. I'm glad that I came out of my shell a little and started to actually attend book events of these book clubs. Good for me as a reader and a writer and a person, so really, it's a shame I can't attend next month because of an underway. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hit Submit!

It is such a scary moment to hit "submit" on anything, but when it is writing-related that anxiousness just gets ratcheted up a notch or two (hundred). At least for me! I think because it has been a goal in my life for so long that it has way more import than it probably ought to.

Anyway, that said, I did go ahead and hit submit on my Clarion application! I know that with only 18 accepted entrants, my chances of acceptance are slim. But the timing really works out for me, as I am searching for a job to start in June right now and I could just push my search back to August if I am accepted. Plus, I feel like my writing is really at the point where I could use some sort of push to get to that next level.

I thought about writing new short stories just for my application, but I didn't want to divert so much attention from my current editing project. (Writing and editing are totally different mindsets for me.) So I submitted two short stories I've written in the past couple years. I think they are both solid stories and representative of my current writing ability, although only one is genre. Short stories are the only time I ever write non-genre, funny enough. Not that I write short stories all that often, which is another reason I would love to do Clarion. I work so much on novel writing that it would be good to get another skill to add to my repertoire.

So. Now I get to sit and wait. Luckily since I procrastinated so much on my application (the deadline is March 1), I won't have to wait quite so long! Plus, I have a lot of editing to keep my mind off things.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Writing is Rewriting...

...or so the saying goes.

I think that the consensus among writers is that editing sucks. Rewriting sucks. Polishing sucks. While there are certainly some frustrating aspects to it, I actually rather enjoy it. Covering clean printed pages with scribbles of brightly colored ink is almost cathartic. I can look at the edited pages and feel like I'm really doing something. Not to mention that it isn't nearly as long of a process. It took me about 13 months to write the first draft of novel 6! Two months of editing is right now looking completely doable. I'm still sticking with my end of April goal.

Of course, I'm still in the early sections of my manuscript. I know that it probably needs a lot more work towards the end, as some of the structural and plot difficulties come to a head. But for now, I'm still in the beginning, falling in love with my characters and my story all over again. Right now, I feel like this could be the real thing for me.

A typical page from my editing.

And maybe that's optimistic. Maybe I said that about my last one too (hint: I did). But that's okay! There's nothing wrong with believing in myself, and I'm going to keep on doing what I do.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Midnight in Paris

While watching Diane Keaton accept Woody Allen's award at the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I had never seen a single Woody Allen movie. I knew who he was, with the thick glasses and the marriage to his sorta step-daughter, but as the clips of all his most famous works played, none seemed familiar. I checked his filmography and, sure enough, I had never seen a single one.

A little while after this, as the whole media furor began to build, I mentioned the fact to my boyfriend. He is more of a movie buff than I am, and he has seen a couple, so he recommended Midnight in Paris as one I might enjoy. Turns out my boyfriend must know me pretty well!

Maybe it's the writer in me, but how can you not just gasp when you realize that is the Zelda Fitzgerald? Watching Gill discover his literary idols in all their glory and vanity and humanity was amazing. Gertrude Stein as a beta reader?? Where do I sign up?!

Not to mention that Inez was one of the most delightfully horrid characters I've met.

It made me think a lot about my writing. Hemingway on having another writer beta your work: "If it's bad, I'll hate it. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it even more. You don't want the opinion of another writer." Do I think that's 100% true? No. But it is something to keep in mind. We should want the opinion of readers, not other writers. At least, that is why I write. Not to impress other writers or to hobnob around in Paris bars trying to steal lovers from Pablo Picasso, but to make people feel when they read my work. To be astounded and grieved and amused and every possible thing in between. I want people to hate my Inezs and to shake their heads at my Gills and to laugh at my Dalis.

Anyway. The movie in itself was nothing all that special, but for me as a writer, it was nothing short of magical.

[Also, I've been learning French for the past year, and I am dying to go to Paris! Maybe it can rejuvenate my writing. (Said every writer ever, it seems like!)]

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Editing Embarkation

Well, I've been saying it for weeks. Now it's time to pay up or shut up, and since I've never been particularly good at shutting up, I guess I better just do it.

I write pretty slowly, and I outline thoroughly prior to writing. While I write, I also maintain an Excel spreadsheet with all the scenes being updated as I write them. All of this combines into what I consider a pretty passable first draft. I never call them "rough drafts" because they really aren't that rough. They are usually internally consistent, grammatically correct, and wholly complete. That doesn't mean they are done, but it means they need a hell of a lot less work than they could. (Does this save me time overall? No, probably not. Like I said, I write sloooowly!)

Which is my little pep talk for gearing myself up for an edit. It can't be that bad...right?

I am planning to basically do my own version of Holly Lisle's one-pass revision method. I've got my printed copy all ready to go, and I am preparing my nerves. After a brief (BRIEF, self, BRIEF!) Target run to get some shiny new pens, I'll be butt-in-chair, ready to go. Kill my darlings, or breathe more life into them, or whatever it takes to make novel 6 a ready-to-submit gem of a work.

And, just for funsies, a wordcloud of the 200 most common words in my first draft.

My favorite are the random letters from contractions—ll is a top 200?!

Hm, wonder who the main character is? (There is a reason the working title for novel 6 is "Anna in Space"! Also, I need a new title. =\)