Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Draft Done - Yay, Sooty!

As everyone who writes will know, there is no such thing as finished. One goes through and clears up one set of issues only to emerge at the end with a whole new set.

And thus it was with this first draft. I went through. I cross-checked and verified and inserted required information and elaborated where noted. And all the while I was compiling a list of further changes to make.

The first draft is done. And all that means is that I am now free to start on the second draft. But I am pleased -- and proud that I got it done.

Tomorrow I will be gone for the day, taking a hike around what has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. If I'm not too tired tomorrow night, I will celebrate the first of September by diving into Adjacent Possibilities. All this month I have been jotting ideas for that story. I have a new opening in mind and I want to see if it'll work. I've been following a wonderful series of posts on ethics that have given me ideas for one of the characters. The book's philosophers focus on ethics and beliefs, you see.

So I will enter September actively editing two novels. The third? It haunts me. I wish I could accomplish more, but even five or six straight hours of work can't get me through enough pages: sometimes ten, sometimes twenty, sometimes two.

I am very tired, so I will have to add word count tomorrow.

And tomorrow I will celebrate. Tonight I will sleep!

Will I Meet My Goal By Midnight, 31 August?

I'm ending up down to the wire on this. I promised myself 70,000 words, one round of editing, and a whole-draft revision in one month.

I need more discipline. I have spent two days now trying to skim -- not read, but skim -- my way through the story to find all the notes for elaboration or insertion and get them worked out.  Instead, I find one, work on it, and proceed to edit and rewrite around it rather than move on.

Thus I have a first draft that is roughly complete, but has gotten its first round of editing in chunks.  Not sensible.

To be fair to myself, there have been an unanticipated abundance of interruptions.But then, isn't that one of life's most important and ironic lessons -- always plan for the unexpected.

I did better tonight, but am still only about one-third through the story. Tomorrow I will leave home, leave cats and people who distract me, and hole up to get this done. I must be able to say, truthfully, that I achieved my goal.

I am over the 70k goal, so I won't bother with word counts until I have the draft complete.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Makes A Real Character?

What makes a 'real' character?

I read many posts on the topic. They seem to involve check lists, formulas you can plug in and hey, presto, you have a three dimensional, well rounded, believable, likable (even the bad-guys) character.

I know it can not, does not work that way. No formula can replace authenticity. But how do you create authenticity?

Writing is a reflection of reality. It is also a simplification. We want a story to have a clear arc from beginning to end. We want to see how things have changed. Real-life people don't often change much. Lottery winners are a good example. Sudden wealth alters their lives for a short while, then they settle back into old habits. But in stories we expect our lead characters to change. We want the exceptional, not the normal.

Each genre has its own expectations of how real a character must be. Much as I love cozy mysteries, soft science fiction, and fantasy, the characters tend to be flat. This doesn't mean we don't like them, or loathe them, only that we usually know right up front if they are the good guys or the bad guys. No grey areas. We learn a few quirks and we're done. In a series it gets complicated. The author has to keep adding traits and life-history, leaving us to wonder why we didn't know about them earlier on. Literary fiction is more like life. We can see the complexities of human nature more realistically portrayed.

 When you step back and think about a day -- even an hour in your life, how many fleeting moods, random thoughts, odd memories, half-completed actions are there? Far too many to ever account for. But they reflect the prism of your personality.

I want my characters to have those facets.

No one is without moments of weakness, and no one is always weak. No one speaks uniformly good or ill or anyone or anything, unless they are speaking from hate or prejudice.

Normal people like and dislike aspects of people and life. A real teacher will complain of annoying students while also glorying in the good ones. My characters should be real enough to do the same.

What's important is that behind the specific attributes of a character, we can clearly see their core nature. Speaking ill of a bad person is consistent with a 'good' character. If they find they made a bad judgement they will try to rectify it. But they will still make occasional bad judgements. We all do.

To label a character good or bad, then assign a few traits or habits to flesh them out doesn't create a person, only a stereotype with garnish. But give that character too much reality, and the reader might become confused.

So, let the reader know how you feel about the character. Do you like them? Why? Choose a few aspects of their nature to focus on. Don't be afraid to show them as inconsistent. When you do, though, be sure to refocus on why that seems inconsistent -- get back to the core.

An example: if my enthusiastic teacher dislikes a student, that seems inconsistent. But if she says the student is a trouble maker, then we understand that it's the student who's the problem, not the teacher. She's a real person, just like you and me, one who reacts to stimuli, and not an inert mass of attributes selected from a check list.

Real characters, like real people, are complex. As a writer, we have to give a sense of that complexity in a simplified form. Not an easy task.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Researching a Novel

There always comes a point where I have to cope with all the "insert here" comments. In Adjacent Possibilities, that was, and still is, working in the philosophy that is integral to the characters' world views, in a palatable form for readers.

Tonight I've been working on the chemistry aspects of the Sooty story.

Sooty is a creature from another dimension. He cannot live on the naturally occurring elements we have. His world is more like the neutron soup of our just-post-Big Bang. He needs to combine and break apart atoms to simulate the energies he's familiar with. It has to be a mix of elements, as each one has a unique 'flavour' that helps sustain him, much like the variety of nutrients we need in our bodies to function, including tiny traces of metals.

Hey, it's the distinctly science fiction aspect of the story. I classify Sooty as speculative, though, as the science is adjunct to, and not the main purpose of the tale.

Anyways, I've been reabsorbing what chemistry I knew, and much that I've forgotten, and then making my own use of it to suit my goals (apologies to real chemists).  But it took many hours to get even the limited amount of factual information I required into story form.

Next is to go through for character consistency. The rereading that accompanied inserting chemistry revealed several major flaws. If Anna and Sooty manipulate her best friend, Tai's mind, I see that Anna has to tell Tai the truth eventually. How would I react if I found my best friend had controlled my thoughts? How would you?

I've got ideas jotted down, and hopefully tomorrow will get them into the story, along with other omissions.

So, mostly revising, or editing, or whatever you call it when you are sticking in the bits you avoided in the creation stage. But I have gotten two thousand more words in over the last two nights. Whee!

I will declare the first draft complete when I eliminate all the "insert here" or "expand this" notes. Of which there are far, far too many.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Humor For Sooty (and Chemistry)

Gotta love these. Lolcats has been running a series of Chemistry Cat jokes, and now Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal gets in on the act.

Chemistry is part of Sooty's story, you see. Again, I find synchronicity. When I work on Adjacent Possibilities, the world is full of philosophy, and when I work on Sooty, chemistry.

Of course, I know it's only that I notice these things because I'm thinking about them, but even that is good. It means I'm seeing things I wouldn't have noticed before.


 (sorry about the overlap, but using a smaller size-option made this one unreadable)

Update 23 Oct, 2011  I was just going over old posts and saw this image had vanished. I can't get it to reload, so here's the direct link to the comic from its site's archives:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sooty's Parts Are United

I look at how many hours I put in today on Sooty ( about 7, not including breaks. Actual working time), and then I see I wrote 3 words less than yesterday. I am appalled. How could I have worked so long, with such concentration, and achieved so little?

I have to remind myself what I did in those hours today. Fiddly stuff. Little things that started simple. 'Expand on this' notes in the text, or 'add this bit here' that necessitated writing new scenes, then finding they belonged better elsewhere, then massive rounds of copy-paste as I rearranged bits of what I'd just written into several different spots in the story.

Lots of back and forth comparing what had been said in various places and adjusting for consistency.

Structure. Continuity. Lots and lots of character and relationship consistency. All essential, and all most dreadfully fiddly.

The middle is found. It is now in outline and chunks-of-scenes form, but the story has its structure from start to finish.

Along with writing that bridge, I also have to do the necessary research on chemistry, and get the results inserted where they belong. Way too many 'look this up' notes in the story.

I am, however, pleased with what I got done today, and will focus on that for a few hours, rather than on what's left to do before the first draft is completed.


Update with even more hurrah!

I discovered that there was a big chunk of text that had been copied, but not deleted. I hate it when I do that. But I forgot to take that into account when I wrote up yesterday's total writing count. The chunk came to 1811 words.  So I actually wrote 4817 words yesterday, not 3006.

Whew.  That is much more in keeping with all the writing I felt I had done.

Current total word count is correct, only the daily allotment was wrong -- and is now revised.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Most People Are Good Drivers

We all laugh when we read studies saying that most people rate themselves as above average in some category. Intelligence, thoughtfulness, honesty, and driving.

Driving home this morning I realized something. Most people *are*  good drivers. Maybe not super-courteous, or following speed limits, but they do stay in their lanes, they don't cut out in front of you (except the twerp who did that to me last fall, drat her), and they stop at stop signs.

Think about it. We rely on people following the basic rules. When someone turns left in front of you and you have the right of way, why are you angry? Because that's abnormal. Not just that it's illegal, but that you expect them to follow the rules.

We assume that people will drive respectfully. Sure, we look both ways even when the light is green -- we know we can't trust everyone to be alert or rational. But we can assume they will be.

It doesn't require any particular religion, or any religion at all. It has nothing to do with race, or age, or gender. Most people don't steal. Most people don't lie -- excluding social lies, or course. Most people are kind most of the time.

We notice the exceptions.

We need to remind ourselves just why we notice bad behavior.

We notice it because most people are good drivers, of cars and in life.

And I thank you all.


One of the themes that always pokes its way into my stories is integrity. Not being who you think you should be, or who you think others want you to be, but rather, finding who you truly are.

Facing facts is a tangent of that. And yet, self-delusion can be helpful. It gets us through times of hardship. "This, too, shall pass." "It's always darkest just before dawn," "Light at the end of the tunnel." Myriad proverbs to choose from, all telling us that we needn't give up hope, needn't face facts. Instead, we can adapt reality to make us comfortable.

So, we have to find a balance between accepting reality clearly enough that we can deal with life as it is, but not so bluntly that we become despairing or incapable of action.

My re-interpretation of reality was that I could write a novel in a month, including at least one thorough round of editing and revision, and then publish it as an ebook. I cheerfully announced that I would let it go, knowing it wouldn't be a good as it could be, because I need the satisfaction of having something 'finished' and out-there. Also, I need to learn how to get ebooks formatted for the various distribution sites.

My learning novel, I called it.

And now I find I cannot do it. Oh, I can have it written. I can revise it, too; I already am. I find I cannot write the outline that will facilitate said revisions without stopping to implement them. No self-restraint, alas. So I will meet those goals.

But -- I cannot put a book out into the world unless I make it something I'm proud of. So now I see myself with not just two novels in editing, but three.

I have to get back to Adjacent Possibilities. I've learned so much from the Sooty Experiment, and the editing will go more easily because of that. But I did so want to believe I could relax and accept an adequate novel, just for the sense of accomplishment in saying: I have a story available.

I'll keep to my month. I'll get Sooty  written. I've already spoken to an editor, too, to provide that so-necessary extra pair of eyes. I'll get Sooty  shaped up to where I can let it try its proverbial wings. I cannot say when, but I'm now hoping by mid-October. Still very fast, I know. But I'm trying to find that precarious balance between the sense of completion I need and the sense of pride I have to have in my work.

( Update:  I should clarify. I normally do not write so swiftly. For the other two novels-in-editing, one is going on for almost 2 years, the other, Adjacent Possibilities, for just over a year. Both are still being researched as well as edited and revised, and for both I sometimes wonder how one ever knows when something is finished. All I know is that neither of them is finished, nor will be for many months, perhaps years to come. )

Word counts are not totally abandoned, but I'm letting them slide until I get the outline done. Then I'll get the middle written, and have a completed first draft to announce.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oops -- Revising Before Finishing

I haven't written in the last two days, but I have been poking about at the Sooty story, adding bits, taking out bits. And I've gotten quite a few notes of character development, plot points to clear up, and such. And pondering over a title for it. Sooty just won't do.

I've spent a day running errands, and another day on a wonderful hike to a new and different waterfall in the Coastal mountains. That walk will find its way into the women's fiction, Adjacent Possibilities, that I am currently not-editing, and hence grieving for. I have been making notes for it, too, as I write the Sooty novel. It is always in my mind, as is the third novel, the crossover speculative fiction. And all the other stories I can't wait to write.

"If we had world enough, and time..."

Part of the problem is that having been writing from the beginning forward as well as from the ending backward, I now need to meet in the middle. This was confusing me. So I opted to stop writing the middle until I got a detailed-note outline completed.

I dedicated myself to that today, but am barely a quarter of the way through it, as I keep stopping to adjust the story. And also stopping to do laundry, to answer the phone, to feed the cats, to take care of dinner, to move the sprinkler in the flower beds, and to walk to the frozen yoghurt shop after dark with my kids. Sundry things that take many little snippets of time and are distracting.

But then, that's also part of why I chose to work on the outline today. It's more forgiving of interruptions as there's no sweeping chain of thoughts to be broken off and perhaps forgotten.

This is why I growl when male writers thank their wives for taking care of daily life for them so they can write. Who, I ask again, takes care of married women writers?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sooty Update

I only wrote 200 words today. I had revised the first few pages to take to my critique group, and then, working off their suggestions, revised the scene more this evening.

I've been working on the foreshadowing in this scene. Anna starts seeing things in weird new ways, but she doesn't know why -- after all, she hasn't met Sooty yet!

So, here's the current revision of the opening - previously seen here.

Sooty -- Opening Scene

 Anna huddled on her bed, clutching a pillow. They were at it again. Not quite fighting, but arguing. It seemed as if they were always arguing lately. Her tightly shut door couldn't block the sounds from the living room down the hall, voices that echoed in her as if she heard not through her ears but in her mind, and left her stomach churning acid sour. It didn’t take any brains to figure out her mom was unhappy, but why'd she have to make the rest of them unhappy, too?
       In her mind's eye, clear as clear, she saw her dad hunkered down in his big chair, his puff of pale blond hair sticking up over the back. He was holding a book, one finger carefully marking his place. The TV was on, though muted, and he was glancing furtively at the flickering images.
       His image was also flickering, as if she were seeing him through a camera lens while adjusting the focus. And when her mind twisted itself to a slightly new focus, she could see waves streaming out from the lamp beside the chair, and from the television – even from Dad himself. Waves of energy that overlapped in interference patterns like she'd seen in science class.
       Her vision spread. There was Mom, tall, straight. If Dad were flickering, Mom was a laser. Her energy, or whatever it was Anna was seeing, was so intense it was hard to look at her. Anna felt her mind pulling back, observing with something more like normal vision again.
       Despite her anxiety, Anna's curiosity was aroused. She'd never seen anything so clearly in her imagination before. And certainly never seen energy from people and lamps. Was it a stress induced hallucination? In unconscious habit, she filed the puzzling thought away for future consideration.
        Her mom's voice rose, words that sounded like needing to be herself or something. Why? She had a job she loved, a family she said she loved – what more could she want?
       Out of the rumbling that followed that proclamation, her mother snarled, “All you see is boobs. You never think about the person they're attached to.”
       A growling sound. Her father shouting – actually shouting, “I thought sex was what this is all about?”
       Anna's vision of the scene in the living room shattered. She didn't want to hear any more, either, and twisted around to drop face first onto her bed, squashing the pillow firmly over her ears. It did no good; she was still aware of her parents in her head, aware of the tense silence between them as the echoes of her father's shout jostled the corners of mind.
       And then her mom laughed, an awkward, gulping sort of laugh.
       That was a real sound. Intrigued, Anna jumped up and ran to press her ear against the crack between the door and its frame. She could hear their voices, talking now, not shouting, but she couldn't make out any more words. She brushed uncooperative straggles of her soft brown hair from her eyes and shuffled back to sit on her bed.
       She wasn't imagining things now, but she knew from experience that while Dad was listening to Mom, he was also hoping for distractions to save him from having to commit himself to a clear statement. That was how he disciplined her and her brother, Alan, too. Tried to discipline. He'd start by laying down the law, then sidle over to one side, then the other, and end by saying do what you think best. But do think, and do be careful, okay?
       The tight muscles in her face softened in a brief smile and stayed soft even when she thought about her mom. Mom did lay down the law, but, as she and Alan both had to admit, never unreasonably. She rarely issued her decrees, but when she did, what she said was absolute.
        Footsteps in the hall. Anna froze, a rabbit in headlights. The footfall stopped at her door. Someone knocked. Not someone. She knew who it was. Mom.
        She grabbed the pillow again and squeezed it hard If only she had something alive to cuddle. Her friend Jay had a cat, a big fluffy calico. Anna loved to pet it and hear its rumbling purr. Just looking at it made her feel soft and cozy. She could use that comfort right now.
       She'd asked her parents if she could get a cat. They'd said no.
        “Anna?” Just as she'd expected, her mother's voice.
        Oh boy. When Mom had been arguing with Dad, she often came in to talk at Anna. And usually it was the same speech. Don't waste your opportunities. Don't try to be someone you're not. And oh, by the way, you need to be more outgoing. Get more friends. Maybe try a new hairstyle. Not that her floppy straight brown hair would hold a style. Even the permanent her mom had coaxed her into a couple years ago had flopped. And she preferred glasses. Putting her contacts in took too long, even if Mom did say her dark eyes were pretty.
        Anna sighed. “What?”
        Her mom opened the door slowly, then peeked around to catch Anna's eyes. "Can I talk to you a second?"
      When Anna nodded, her mom stepped in, her hand gripping the edge of the door as she closed it almost shut. She stood that way, her lips pressed tightly together, her eyes on the floor, until with a visible breath she let her hand fall. She leaned against the door, and it closed with a sharp click. She seemed diamond hard, yet once again shimmering, as if Anna could see the aura of her life force. Her best friend Tai was always on about such things. Maybe Tai wasn't crazy.
       How strange, Anna thought. It's as if I've never seen her before. Or, she reflected, as if I'm seeing her through someone else's eyes. She studied her mom's face, long and thin – a well bred horse, Dad used to say as he tugged mom's long black ponytail affectionately. Thin – too thin, Anna now realized. Just being around Mom was exhausting. She never seemed to slow down, even when she was, in theory, relaxing. And she was always vibrating with energy that, for some reason, Anna could now see.
        “Anna… I'm sorry about the yelling. I've been trying to make a decision. I need to do something.”
        Anna didn't answer; she was waiting for the rest of the lecture. Instead, she lowered her head and made sharp little folds in the sheets.
        Her mom fidgeted around the room, opening and closing drawers, straightening the papers on the desk, twirling the cord of the blinds.
        “Anna, I do love you. And Alan. And I love your father. Please try to understand.” She let fall the cord, turned, and left the room, closing the door gently behind her.
        She was gone. There'd been no time for a reply, even if Anna had had one to offer.
        Anna held held up her hands. She noted, with almost clinical interest, that they were shaking. She let them fall, and turned her head to stare blindly at the closed door. Something was going to happen. She had no idea what, but she knew it wouldn't be good.
        The last few months had taught her how to cope with the turmoil she felt. Turn yourself into a robot, that's the trick. Finish homework, then get ready for bed, everything mechanical, without thought. It got things done, even if it couldn't make things better. Tonight, though, her mind wasn't cooperating as she'd like. She kept going back to that one exchange between her parent, about boobs and sex. Was that what the problem was? It wasn't something she wanted to think about.
        That night she dreamed, a strange dream, unlike any she'd had before. She dreamt she was a ghost, or something inhuman like that. Without shape or form, but not void. She dreamt she looked about her and saw the world as shimmers of energy, as of heat mirages above baking pavements in the summer. Everything shimmered, even the people she passed.
        She wasn't walking. She drifted like a puffball from a dandelion, caught in currents and eddies, not of air, but of energies emitted by people and objects.
Then she slid through a person, feeling in one bright flash all their thoughts, their dreams, their fears. She woke, choking on a scream that wouldn't come out.
        Dawn was barely lighting the window, but Anna didn't try to go back to sleep. She sat on the edge of her bed, pressing her forehead into her hands as if to force her mind to serenity. More hallucinations. I'm really messed up, she told herself. I need to get my act together.
        She pulled on her glasses, stood and stretched tall, then stumbled over to her desk. The internet would distract her, and help her to put her dream, and the visions of her parents that she'd imagined the night before, out of her mind.

Updated: I reread this, and felt it wasn't quite my writing. I keep running into this. I am not a florid, descriptive writer. I am told I have to put more description in, more tags that anchor dialogue to an action. That is not how I like to write. Yes, I need more, but rereading the above, there is too much. It is not me.
Writing is so bloody hard to learn, and it's even harder to find and develop your voice when others want something different from you.
I keep striving.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pronouns and Word Choice Reveal Gender, Rank, and Intelligence

One reads posts analyzing how to write a male character, or how to write a female character. I often find myself irritated -- women have to have lots of friends, they have to be emotional, they have to care about dressing up, and they have to think men are uncommunicative. Men have to be taciturn, talk about football, have only one or two close friends (to whom they speak in occasional grunts), and they have to think women are irrational.

In reality, some women are sports-mad and some like fluffy little dogs. Some men are sharp dressers and some like fishing alone for hours.

But this article from Scientific American has real advice on writing relationships. Chose your pronouns carefully, writers. They can reflect gender, social rank, and intelligence.

Although we never notice it, when analyzed our speech patterns and writing show that women are far more likely than men to use cognitive words (e.g., because, reason, think, believe); social words (e.g., he, she, friend, cousin); and 1st person singular (I, me, my).

Men use articles more than women: (a, an, the).

According to Psychologist James Pennebaker, "men and women use language differently because they negotiate their worlds differently. Across dozens and dozens of studies, women tend to talk more about other human beings. Men, on the other hand, are more interested in concrete objects and things. To talk about human relationships requires social and cognitive words. To talk about concrete objects, you need concrete nouns which typically demand the use of articles."

Also, people of lower rank use "I" words in communications, whereas higher rank people avoid them.

These offer new ways to look at characterization. Although in reality we are unaware of these cues, if we write them into our characters, mightn't it make the reader's perception of their roles more vivid?

It's not just gender. This fascinated me:
"Higher GPAs were associated with admission essays that used high rates of nouns and low rates of verbs and pronouns. The effects were surprisingly strong and lasted across all years of college, no matter what the students’ major.
To me, the use of nouns -- especially concrete nouns -- reflects people’s attempts to categorize and name objects, events, and ideas in their worlds. The use of verbs and pronouns typically occur when people tell stories. Universities clearly reward categorizers rather than story tellers. If true, can we train young students to categorize more? Alternatively, are we relying too much on categorization strategies in American education?"

As I growled about a few posts back, writers can be seen by more analytic minds as being of inferior intelligence -- something that also plagues women in the eyes of some men. Emotional, social, story-telling minds are less valued than analytic, concrete minds.


I would argue both are important, and are equally essential to our human existence. Without the story tellers and the emotion-givers, we are robots. Without analysis and concrete reality, we are adrift without reason.

I am intrigued, and anxious to try gender-pronouns and concrete versus emotional in my stories.

How do you write? How do you tell a story that reflects the concrete? Do you have special cues you use for gender and rank? I'd love to read about them.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Literal and figurative coasting.

My daughter and I went over to the coast yesterday. One of those rare and marvelous times when the coast is warm (between 61 and 65 while we were there) and sunny, and only a gentle breeze.

The Oregon coast is a beautiful place, but odds are it will be cold, damp if not wet, and windy.  We were truly appreciative.

We fed gulls, an imperative for us, and discovered a new beach that will now be a favorite. We walked and walked to the accompaniment of the thrumming, rolling, unceasing roar of surf.

Lunch: fish and chips and clam chowder -- of course. Then another beach and more gull-feeding.

And then another beach, walking and watching the sun slipping into  bank of clouds on the horizon.

Driving home through the Coastal mountains at night, with a huge full moon appearing, apparently, from all directions as the road wound its circuitous way.

No writing, but a lot of living.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Writing in Reverse, and How On Earth Does One Self-Edit, Or Self-Evaluate?

I'm quite enjoying writing backwards. I ask myself, where do I want this character to be at the end of the story, and then I write. I refer to things that will need to be added or explained earlier in the story.

Then I ask, how did they get from the beginning to where they are now? What had to happen for the ending to happen as written? Add in the points I mentioned above, and a scene in front of the one I just wrote takes shape. Step by reverse step, I'm finding out where the story is coming from, rather than where it's going.

I may not get anything written tonight. Busy, busy, unfortunately. But I did jot down some ideas, and I got a section of the story worked up for my critique group.

I had another melt down last evening. I looked at my writing and thought, "This is crap. Total, incontrovertible crap."

Then I started writing, forgot about crappiness, and just enjoyed the story.

I keep wondering about my desire for external validation. There is a notable agent that is accepting the first 20 pages from ten local authors for her critique. Even if it weren't out of my budget, I wonder if I would do that. If she said it was no good, I wouldn't stop writing. If she said it was good, I still wouldn't stop. So, why seek opinions?

Obviously because I have no confidence in my own abilities. How does one acquire that objectiveness? All I read (and I read so very much) about self-editing seems inevitably to rely upon one's own discernment of what 'feels' right.

All I know is that when my editor has returned pages to me with lots of green crossings-out, I cannot understand why this was cut and not that, or why this emotional depiction was deemed unacceptable but this other was okay. I remain perplexed.

He tells me I should write more, and thus learn. Well, huh. I wonder how much writing it will take for me to feel confident in what I create?

Do all you other writers get hung up on this? Do you feel you know when you've gotten it right? Do you angst over understanding, or just enjoy the writing and accept the editing?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gratuitous Sex and Violence, or Realism?

Young Adult, as a category, has become increasingly violent and sexual. There are books that are not, but these themes are prevalent. Often justified as 'realism', I always counter that realism also includes laughter, love, and happy times. Admittedly, those don't make such compelling reading.

Without getting into the research I've read on the cultural / social motivations for this trend, I find myself speculating on how much, if any, sex and violence I want to include in my current YA Experimental Novel.

Write what you feel. Yes, but there is a perverse streak in me that wants to turn this into another sort of experiment. Like the idea of writing a 70k novel (with editing and revising) in just over a month as a break from editing, I find I want to experiment stylistically as well.

It is not my nature to write sex and violence. It might be intriguing to see what happens if I make myself do so.

If the emotional catharsis that resulted from switching to first person in the other novel is anything to go by, the results of such an experiment could be mind-blowing.

Curiouser and curiouser....

I'll let you know what happens. But, I wonder how others feel: do you find yourself thinking about, or actually writing more sex and violence in YA than you would have a few years ago?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sooty, Science, and Writing Backwards

I'm still struggling with the desire to get back to editing. Who knew it could be so seductive? But I need to keep to my goal, too.

This is not arbitrary. I need some sense of accomplishment, some goal I have attained. The editing -- who knows how long that will go on? After I work through all the notes I've made of things to add, clarify, or rewrite, I need to go over the work as a whole. Then it gets bundled off to my long-suffering editor. Then back to me for who knows how much more work.

Sooty, though, I am treating as an experiment. Yes, I want a good novel. Yes, I must be proud of it or I won't put it out. But I'm trying to learn necessary skills by doing them, not by reading about how to do them. Applying intellectually attained knowledge in the real world. That sounded pretentious enough, don't you think?

I'm doing something new tonight. When I took Adjacent Possibilities through the first round of editing, I pulled out all the scenes that had passed muster with The Editor, and then rewove the story around them. This got me thinking. There is no compelling need to write the story in sequence.

After all, this is how I solve mazes and other puzzles. Start at the end, then work backwards. For some reason that often works better for me.

So, I worked on the ending tonight. I was fascinated to find myself tying together threads that hadn't yet been spun, making connections that hadn't yet been clearly visualized.

I am also *forcing* myself, and it takes real will, to just write. The page is a mass of red squiggles, but the story is there. I will correct typos later. Right now, I want to see if I can get the words.

I have also started a bookmarks page, with links to articles on chemistry and on the many things we use everyday that came out of the space program. I wish schools would teach that fact: even space research, so often held up as an example of unnecessary spending and wasteful hubris -- our lives have been enriched in so many ways through products developed for the space program. Discoveries are often serendipitous. We might as well cut off our hands and feet as cut funding to research, or even require, as short-sighted politicians do, that research produce immediately usable results. Foolish, foolish blindness.

That was my soap box for today. And yes, there will be a hint of that in Sooty.  I cannot seem to help myself. I have to have intelligent characters who understand the value of science and research, of thinking, and of being reasonable. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Trouble With Taking Breaks

I am working on Sooty, the young adult speculative fiction that I will (!) have done by then end of the month.

But now, only a week or so into my break, I am longing to return to editing my philosophic, romantic, thoughtful but light-hearted novel, Adjacent Possibilities. It is calling to me. Like the wafting scent of the sweet peas I picked yesterday, like the fluffiness of a cat's tummy needing to be rubbed, like a path leading into the green darkness of a Cascadian forest, it entices.

The sirens were not so compelling.