Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Triple Cross blazes along...

Five scripts out of nine done.

I'm actually astounded at how... easily this is coming right now. Though typing that in may jinx it. But I may actually be able to move to the next phase of this in November or December...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Triple Cross writing

When I said "going like gangbusters", I wasn't kidding.

I wonder if this is just about formatting, or if this project just happened to finally percolate. I have a theory, that at least for me, I conceive projects, write out some notes-- sometimes extensive notes-- and then they need to sit and stew for a while before they can actually be written.

Anyway, the process of writing a graphic novel as a stage script, and then cutting and pasting into the GN script format has proven very effective so far. I may be taking this project to the next stage in November/December.

Needless to say, little forward momentum on Banshee.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Like I said yesterday, it's funny sometimes how the muse hits.

I mean, I was pretty sure I would be cranking out Banshee, as well as Maradaine Constabulary and Vanguard. And all those are taking up a fair amount of brainspace with their buzzing.

But the loudest buzz came-- quite suddenly-- from Triple Cross, the graphic novel I had planned out. And it's been coming like gangbusters.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Form Follows Function

One of the side projects I've had was scripting out a graphic novel. I have the whole thing outlined, plotted page-per-page... but writing the actual script was seizing me up. I couldn't quite figure it out.

Until last night, I hit a breakthrough.

See, I was trying to write in a format fitting a graphic novel. Namely, breaking the page down into panels, describing the action of each panel, and dialogue within said panel. In other words, trying to plan out how the whole page would look from the get go.

Wasn't coming together.

Then I said, "Why not just write it like a play script, just to get the dialogue and action onto paper... and worry about how to structure the page when you get to that stage of things?

And literally, the flood gates are opened.

So that project may be coming off the backburner.

It's funny, sometimes, how you don't quite decide what it is you're going to work on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another member of one of my writing groups went to a conference this summer, where she was given a structure for writing a solid, sellable novel in 20 weeks.

In this structure, weeks 1-4 are essentially spent in prep work. All well and good, I approve. Weeks 5-15 are about doing the actual rough draft writing, at a steady, intense pace. Manageable.

Here is where I get amused. In week 17, you are supposed to give your draft to your reliable first-readers for critique, which they will return for you to work into your novel by the end of week 18.

Now, just getting yourself a group of good critique partners is an art in and of itself. Getting ones who can give you good, useful critique AND turn it around in 7-13 days? That's a miracle. I've got a good local group for novel reading, and I give them a whole month, minimum. I mean, it can be done in that time frame, sure... if you've got nothing else to do. But if someone is good enough to do that turnaround and have it be really good... what are the odds they have nothing else to do?

In short, I'd really like to know where this guy got his critique partners.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

As seen in the list here, I am one of the authors chosen for an upcoming anthology of "Hint Fiction", which will be published by WW Norton in Fall 2010.

"Hint Fiction" is a story of 25 words or less, which suggests a larger story. It was, for me, a very interesting exercise. With every word representing 4% of the total piece, there's no filler, no room for error. No opportunity to warm up the audience, get them sucked in. It's got to be a pure, hit hard and sink the eight-ball on the break sort of piece.

I can't wait to see the book and see everything else in there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More thoughts on outlines

As I've said before, I'm big on outlining. I have my twelve-part structure for novel outlines. Outlines help me get finished. They give me a sense of the Big Picture, and without them, I'd feel lost.

Now, I'm never going to tell another writer, "You have to use an outline" if they work better without one. If someone can get a novel done without an outline, excellent. I'm a big believer that every writer should do what works for them. But I do raise my eyebrow at one of the big arguments against.

Namely, "If I outline it, then I feel constrained in the writing."

I've never found this to actually be the case. In fact, I've always found wonderful discoveries in the writing process. Case in point, on the currently-in-rough-draft USS Banshee, I have not strayed from the outline, yet... but I find a fascinating thing I didn't expect. I added an extra element of danger to the initial action sequence-- nothing really odd, but not something I planned. But that element, and its effect on Lt. Kengle, is important... and it makes it necessary to make certain changes to how Kengle first boards the Banshee. Now, again, this is nothing that technically goes off outline... but in the outline, there wasn't much to it besides, "Kengle boards the ship." This new layer makes that scene a moment, and (if I'm doing things right) gives more depth and understanding of the character.

Those are the things people fear outlining will strip them of. And I can tell you, it doesn't happen that way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fantasy Manifesto #4

Try not to Cut and Paste Cultures

Now, this is one of the hardest things for a Fantasy writer. A lot of what is considered, shall we say "typical" for the fantasy genre comes from a British/Celtic/Western European template. It's not unavoidable, but it's damn hard to avoid completely. In no way do I claim innocence. I've had it noted that many aspects of Druth culture come off as "VERY British". One workshop reader of Holver Alley Crew told me she thought I was British until she actually met me. So this is something I struggle with.

There's two key reasons why it's so hard not to do. One is it is damn difficult to come up with a culture, with every element of clothes, food, social mores, government, religion, architecture, etc., etc. out of whole cloth. The second is the need to give your readers something recognizable they can grasp onto to get into the story. You could make a culture that really is nothing like anything every seen on Earth... but would your readers really understand it? Or would it be so alien that it would be impenetrable?

I think the real key is finding that balance between the familiar and the unique. Familiar enough not to lose the audience, unique enough not to bore them. You can have cultures that suggest similarities to Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Arabia, India, China, Japan, Africa, Mesoamerica, Polynesia, etc., etc... but should avoid making them such obvious copies that people don't look for anything deeper.

Of course, if one is writing Urban Fantasy, or Alt-Earth Fantasy, then these don't apply.

BAN01: 6720

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I just got word that I sold a piece. More details when I have them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reader question answered

OK, this is actually the first time I've had a Reader Question in which to answer. So why not make a post of it?
I forgot to ask: do you use any tools like Scrivener, or do you just use a good ol' fashioned word processor (or the even more good and more ol' fashioned yellow legal pad)?
I essentially use Microsoft Word for actual writing. I occasionally will work longhand, as it's sometimes a good way to get cobwebs out... though I prefer a lined notebook to a legal pad. Something about turning the pages instead of flipping them over the top appeals to my sense of aesthetics. Of course, in a desk drawer I have about twelve such pads with a ton of unorganized notes. Most of those have been typed in, so they are essentially redundant.
I have tried out Scrivener, and was more or less underwhelmed. When I first saw the pitch for it, I found it interesting, and yet vaguely offensive. They've since changed the pitch, from what I can tell, but at the time it was along the lines of, "You can't actually write on MS Word, because that doesn't make sense to your writer brain. Here's some software that thinks like YOU do."
I've never quite understood the complaints with MS Word as a writer's tool. I've, personally, found it completely functional for my needs. I can do whatever I need on it, write how I want to, move text around, re-format in a snap. I don't see what's non-functional about it. Maybe someone else can explain it to me.
Anyway, back to Scrivener. I think it is probably a perfectly fine tool for helping one organize ones thoughts and materials. The thing is, I already have my thoughts and materials organized my own way, so the act of transferring it all into Scrivener seemed more work than it was worth. On top of that, most of what Scrivener actually DOES is take anything you put into there and make it into text files. Scrivener just allows you to look at text files in different ways. Again, I'm sure that helps a lot of people, but it's not particularly useful to me. At least, not MORE useful than what I already do.
Like I said, I use MS Word to actually write, as well as most of my notes are done on MS Word. On any project, on top of the actual Rough Draft file, I make three other files: Outline, Dramatis Personae and Facepage.
The Outline I already have a template document, in MS Word, using Notebook Layout mode. Twelve sections for the twelve parts of the outline.
The Dramatis Personae is just that: a list of all the characters, with a basic description of who they are and their relation to anyone else in the piece.
The Facepage is a word document with just headshot pictures of the characters with their names. Collecting said headshots is part of the prep process.
Worldbuilding is done on MS Word, with MS Excel, Filemaker Pro and Adobe Photoshop all playing a role. Also, with my Space Opera worldbuilding (for USS Banshee) a wonderful star-system program call ChView has proven invaluable.
But sometimes it's just a notebook and a pen, of course.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Today's work: further tweaking of VER01. There's a fight scene-- or specifically two paragraphs of that fight scene, that could use a bit of change-up. I think I gave my main character one too many skills, and that scene has it. I can see how it doesn't quite work. So, tweak there.

Also today, further work on BAN01 rough draft.

BAN01: 5091

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I have had a productive week, even if the three 3No6Mo projects didn't really advance in a word-count related way. I didn't NOT, advance, mind you, just not as much as I could have.

But I DID take that first chapter of the otherwise unpublishable Fifty Year War and give it a re-work and clean-up pass. I've found a few markets that it could fit in as a short story.

What's funny is how, a few years ago, I felt that chapter was in a pretty solid place. Looking at it now there were so many things-- little things, mostly-- that I felt could be fixed or cleaned up or written out. Some of the changes just involved streamlining. There were several character and worldbuilding elements that were either dead weight, or unnecessary without the larger context of being part of a novel. I'll be taking that to my writing group on Tuesday.

I also started the Fourth Draft of Thorn of Dentonhill (Veranix #1). I got some new comments which involves mostly tweaks, but one very critical comment that a certain plot element is not given enough weight soon enough, so when it does finally get some explanation, the reader didn't care anymore. I've now added a new sequence in the first chapter which address that.

Finally, I did some publisher/agent research. That's how I found out about the above.

BAN01: 4557

Monday, October 5, 2009


There is such a thing as Creativity Gridlock. This is a different beast than Writers' Block. I've had Writers' Block, where you just STARE at the blank screen until your head bleeds because you KNOW you should KNOW what to put there, but you can't think of what. Now, I should point out that that is different form just not having anything to write. Then you don't even open the screen. With Writers' Block you feel this nagging something that you should be writing, but don't quite have it. It's like that feeling of trying to remember that kid in third grade who did that thing with his glasses... you know you KNOW it, but you can't quite get it.

Creativity Gridlock is when you do know. You know what to write for a few pieces. You know the whole bit that will come up in the end. You know this other cool bit in the middle. You know how four other stories are going to go. And ALL THAT STUFF wants to get out your fingers, and what you can't figure out is what to write FIRST. And NONE of it is willing to shut up and wait their turn, all those stories want out NOW, and you can't write any of them.

At least, I have moments like that, and I don't consider it Writers' Block.

Word Count:
BAN01: 3500
MCI01: 280
VAN01: 150

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lost track of time while writing. Was cooking along, looked up at the clock, saw it was 1:30 in the morning. Whoops. At least I was productive, moving USS Banshee forward a good thousand words.

Word Count:
BAN01: 2050
MCI01: 280
VAN01: 150