Saturday, November 20, 2010

Being read

So I've got a beta reader reading my story - a first for me. I've been looking for readers to give me feedback. I'm too close to the story, to the mechanics of it, to each word on the page to see where it doesn't flow well, or if I've used a particular word too often or if it doesn't make any sense! So many people are afraid to give constructive feedback, but writers need to know that the story is readable. If its interesting to someone else, well that's great. If it's good, if it's enthralling to them - icing on the cake. No, it's an amazing, wonderful, darn right cool experience to have someone read your work and they like it enough to keep going. She likes the characters. She gets them the way I intended for them to be understood. What a relief that is! She doesn't hate my style of description. Awesome.

It's a learning process too - damn, that learning thing keeps happening no matter how much I think I already know. No matter how carefully I think I've read the book for grammatical errors, my beta reader is finding more of them. Not a lot, thank goodness. I learned I'm using the word 'because' too often. I already knew I used 'that' too much and incorrectly, but she's finding them too. I love that she is finding mistakes. Sounds weird but it's what I need - really good mistake finders who aren't afraid to say this is no good here! You didn't put a comma there. This name has been used before somewhere so you need to change it.

Speaking of being read, my son's language arts teacher is allowing him to bring the kindle to school so he can read one of the books that's on it. One day, I hope all the books ever written will be available in electronic form, including the 20 pounds of text books my kids have to lug around. I know there's still the controversy and some writers just won't let it happen, but you know, save the trees people.

I'm re-reading, or trying to re-read one of my favorite books, The Sword of the Lamb, by M.K. Wren, book one of the Phoenix Legacy. Been trying to get my daughter to read it but she's got so much reading to do for school, she can't read for fun. She's writing her own book, or actually has written her own book, finished it and is editing it while she's getting started on the second. Not bad for a 17-year-old. Maybe once she's graduated it'll be easier to find time for reading. Maybe not. I'm not finding much time for it either.

Speaking of time...chores are calling.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finished! But wait, there's more

I finished the massive rewrite I undertook on my YA Fantasy, bringing it in at 82K and 25 chapters. See before the rewrite I'd gone to this fabulous website called Absolute Write or AW, where the very best critiquers eat, sleep and live, who gently informed me that I didn't have a story. And after swallowing that one down with a little bit of ice cream and cake I determined that yes indeed, they were right. My main character didn't have a purpose. He didn't have something to do other than live through it and that just wasn't good enough. So I wrote him a shiny new story and gave him a huge purpose, a couple of obstacles to test his mettle and I managed to retain the original scope, themes and basic story line of the original while I toiled away.

Now onto the 'wait there's more' part. There's always more, isn't there?

The last two chapters were torture to write, probably because sleep deprivation makes it hard to think straight much less write well. Maybe it was the idea that I was almost finished that slowed me down. I got there after many days of staring at a blank page and eating more ice cream than is a good for me.

And now I have it comes....edit.

Cutting, trimming, tossing out the extraneous bs that ends up between the important stuff is not a lot of fun, but a necessary self-check. Editing is the polishing cloth you put to the silver to rub off the tarnish that's obscuring your brilliant prose. I'm going to try and keep that in mind as I juggle the day job, the kids, the house, the bills, pets who pee on the floor, life, etc., while I make this baby shine. I hope it's more fun than the last two chapters.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Working, working, working and not much writing

Life is getting in the way of making a book happen. The long drive home is inspirational, but by the time I arrive at the doorstep to my computer, I'm beat. Can't think. Have to fix dinner and do ordinary, every day things that can't be put off and then, the day is over.

Like today for instance, I've written a whopping 5 paragraphs. Better than no paragraphs I suppose but I was hoping for so many more. Pages in fact. Just when I get going with it and the words start to flow, the ideas are coming, I feel the inevitable drag of weariness pulling at my eyes, enticing me toward sleep and dreams. I'm fighting it off with this kind of writing, which is easier than book writing. Continuity is a pig! Especially when you can't remember yesterday much less what happened in a multi-character epic nightmare of a story.

I'm going to bed now.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Writing is learning

What makes writing so interesting and exciting and sometimes frustrating is in the act of creating, either on a discussion board, or blog or writing the next best selling novel, the discovery of what you don't know. Because of what I don't know, I've learned a lot about what I don't know. I've learned how to find where that information is and then learned about what I was looking for. My new mantra to my kids is google it. (sorry all you other search engines out there, google is it) I'm not sure how much they appreciate the ease of this knowledge gathering. It used to be you had to have an encyclopedia set and if you weren't lucky enough to own one, you had to go to the library and hope they had what you were looking for, if you could even get to the library - walking up hill both ways in the snow. I still have the World Book Encyclopedia set my parents bought back in the 60's. There's probably little in it that's accurate today since so much of the world has changed. Our knowledge of the universe has increased ten-fold.

Today I got into a discussion with a friend about immigration and because I knew very little about it, had to look quite a lot up, specifically about the Arizona immigration law that has so many people in an uproar. I wanted specifics because if I'm going to have a discussion I want to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of what I'm talking about. I learned that New York City, LA, and Chicago have roughly the population of the estimated number of illegal immigrants in this country, or about 20 million people. This led me to wonder how on earth do you deport that many people, especially since the deportation process takes so long - up to 6 months and sometimes even longer. So I learned a little something about immigration, just enough to know it's a huge, immensely difficult situation that we've managed to get ourselves into and I've little hope it'll get fixed to anyone's satisfaction. Such is the political climate we live in.

Another search for my writing involved mythology and religion, two subjects I thought I didn't know much about but turns out I have a kind of ingrained knowledge since I discovered I've been writing quite a bit about mythology without really knowing it. My that was a long sentence. Ought to look up grammar maybe. I was trying to find another name for demon and came up with Belial, also Belhor, Baalial, Beliar, Belias, Beliall, Beliel, Bilael and so on. I learned that Belial is one of the four crown princes of Hell - I didn't know Hell had crown princes to begin with, so that was a bonus learning moment. I found out that Belial is present across a number of religious beliefs. Also interesting. Not sure if I'm going to use the name or not because I don't want there to be religious comparisons between my story and Christianity even though there probably would be if anyone ever has the chance to read the thing. There is it turns out a lot of religious symbolism and reference in the story, which I didn't consciously mean to put in there, or be about religion at all. That is what sometimes happens with writing - it just goes where it wants.

That is the joy of writing - it goes where it wants and you, the writer, have only to follow and let it take you to places you've never been, where you learn what you didn't know.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's good to be writing again. Sometimes I think about giving it up, but then some idea or other will come and it's all I can do to wait to get to a place and time to write it all down, filling up the clean white space of a page, or the computer screen. Sometimes I still do write long hand in any old spiral notebook I can get my hands on if a computer isn't available. Technology is great, but it doesn't travel too well to the places I like to go, like the beach, for instance. Have you ever tried taking a laptop to the beach? Sand and sea salted air don't mix too well with electronic equipment! Pen and paper you can drop and not worry about, pick it up and brush it off. Not so with a laptop, ipad, kindle or anything electronic you might want to risk.

I'm handling the job/writing dichotomy a little better now, getting something of a schedule down. I'm still more likely to write at night than I am in the morning, though lately I've forced myself to do it. I'm just not awake enough in the morning. Of course I've not been awake enough at night either. There's got to be a happy medium. I wonder when others are at their most creative - morning, noon, or night? I don't like writing in the morning but I seem to do a better job of it then than at night when I'm tired from the day.

Wouldn't life be grand to get a job writing? Oh yes, yes it would. I'm not talking about being published though that would of course be the best of any world, but having a 'real' job that involved writing on a daily basis. Wish I knew how to get one of those, lemme tell ya.

Off to finish up a chapter....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fitting in writing

How do people write and work a 'real' job at the same time? Not having the best luck figuring that one out. There's no time! I get ideas in the middle of the day just when there's not a computer in sight. By the time I get home, poof! Gone! Maybe I should start taking a small notebook in to inconspicuously write this stuff down. Doubt that will work. And then there's the exhaustion factor, as in too tired to think straight much less string together coherent thoughts on paper.

Speaking of...It's time for bed.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Kindle

I know there are a couple of differing views out there about electronic books, authors getting paid properly and Amazon taking over the world of publishing right after google takes their cut, but - I do love my Kindle.

I'm a bit of a Star Trek geek and so when I saw the Kindle one day in an ad, I knew I had to have it. I have an iPhone too because these kind of gadgets make me feel like the idealized world of Star Trek with its hopeful world view is just around the corner. We have the cool tech stuff, so the rest is bound to come soon - the we're all in this together mentality the world could stand to hold to a little tighter.

I digress though. I've been trying to find a good book for my son to read since he has to keep a reading log for his language arts class. He's pretty picky about what he'll read. He's used to be more into comics and magazines than books. He got into the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and started reading books. (Thank you Mr. Horowitz) But it's still a challenge to find a book for him. There seems to be a dearth of good books for boys adding to the difficulty.

Enter the Kindle. I've got quite a few books and sample chapters downloaded for his perusal. He read the Devil's Kiss on Kindle. He downloaded an Alex Rider book to re-read on it because it's a gadget and it's cool. He just came in about ten minutes ago saying he needed a book to read. I handed over the Kindle and he found one on his own. About 30 seconds after I said buy it, my computer speakers alerted me to the fact that the download was coming through and presto, the new book was here. He's now in the tv room, reading.

The Kindle and other electronic book devices may pose financial challenges to authors in the near future what with pricing and royalties in question. It could be a huge boon to writers though if you stop and think about the ease of access to reading material that's now in the hands of a 14-year-old. I don't have time to take him to the bookstore as often as he's able to finish reading a book, and now I don't have to. He reads more because he can by pushing a button. The author gets more royalties as a result.

The ultimate bonus for me is that he can read my book while I'm writing and revising. It's simple to convert a word document over to text and upload it to Kindle. It also means I can take my book with me anywhere if I need to if I'd like to take a break from editing in front of the computer screen but keep reading for revision. Doesn't sound too thrilling but it's really quite nice to sit by the fire and read my book on a device filled with other published works.

Amazon, Google and soon Apple will hash out the financials with literary agents and publishers. In the mean time, the reader enjoys your story.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Non-Conformist

It’s the eve of meteorological spring. Thank the good Lord for that. I feel positively Russian.

I didn’t write today, reading a few snippets of my book instead. When I wrote it, I didn’t intend for it to be a YA fantasy even though two of the main characters are 15. Upon consulting the ‘industry’ I was told that in order for my book to be YA it had to have this, that and that and in order for it to be considered ‘adult’ it shouldn’t have those or the other thing. The more I learn about markets and publishing the more I see that there’s a pervasive rigidity to the business. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?

I have more than one story going on that doesn’t fit neatly into the YA category, or any other category, or someone else’s view of how a book ought to be written. The question I have to answer is do I drastically alter what I have written to satisfy the market view? Must we comply? Confirm and conform?

Maybe I should change markets and go for the adults. Everyone else of importance in the book is an adult. But on the other hand everyone else being an adult shouldn’t preclude the book being read by teenagers. That's really a burner for me, the dictum that in order to be a YA book the main character has to be a teenager. Beyond elementary school I don’t recall there being books for my specific age bracket. There were books that had sex in them that we weren’t supposed to read (but did anyway), otherwise everything was fair game. I read Robert Heinlein, who didn’t write for teenagers. I read Stephen King. Mary Stewart. M. K. Wren. Anne McCaffrey. Tolkien might have written The Hobbit for children, but he didn’t write The Lord of the Rings for teens. The characters those authors wrote about were adults, but as a teenager I read them all. I wonder if that isn't as true now as it was then. When did we start categorizing to such a degree anyway?

I’m not exactly a rule-breaker by nature, but I don’t believe in too much conformity either. We, as different, individual people don’t fit into rigid categories. How can we expect our books to do the same?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A day of beginnings

Today I decided to create a new blog about my experiences with writing. I'm at a difficult place in my writing and need to step back. At the same time, I'm not really happy not writing at all - thus the creation of a blog about these difficulties that might help solve some problems and keep the creative juices flowing at the same time. Kill two birds.

Speaking of birds - they are eating a massive quantity of birdseed this winter. Must be because of the massive amount of snow cover that lingers and lingers. Come on Spring. I think the birds would agree.

Today I'm learning how to make a blog. Thank goodness for templates. I've yet to learn how to make a website. I suppose that'll be next on my things to learn how to do list. I made a previous blog about my old house but haven't done a good job keeping up with it. I hope to do better with this one.

Writing is what I know. It's hard to prove you know it unless you're published which is a goal extremely difficult to achieve. Writing is what I want to do and I hear that no matter what I should continue writing. Reach for the dream. Of course I want to be published. I haven't met a writer yet who doesn't. I'd like to be well-read, not necessarily famous, though I'm not going to turn that down if it happens. I'd like to have an income derived from writing. Trying to make a living doing what you love to do is a dream many people strive for. I'd like to believe that hard work alone will make it happen but it's likely going to take so much more than that. Fate? Luck? The right place and the right time?

I'll keep you posted.