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Archive for the ‘Novel Plans’ Category

Forward at Last!

My computer is all set up and my writing rescued from the old, corrupt hard-drive. Which means I now have access to my novel. Which means no more excuses for not editing it.

I’m terrified of it not being good enough. I know it isn’t good enough right now. It’s not long enough, the writing is a complete mess in terms of grammar and consistency, and there is so much more telling than showing it’s sort of pathetic. I don’t know if I can fix it. If the bones aren’t good, what’s the point right? In the 2008 Writers’ Market for Novels and Short Stories there is an article about how to know when something is no good and when to move on to the next project. It’s where I first got the idea for the ten novels in ten years. And I know in my head that it isn’t done. There is a decent story here, there are characters I kind of like sometimes.

The problem is that this novel is my Frankenstein. Not the book, the monster. It’s the first. My original baby that I threw together from bits and pieces I could find laying around. A bit of a bad spy novel I read once, a couple characters from an old Shadowrun game, a villain right out of one my dreams, a mall fight scene because I thought it would be cool. It’s a patchwork novel, a strange creature built from cut corners and stolen inspirations. And to make it acceptable, to make it truly mine, I can’t just put a pretty dress on it and send it to the ball. That is why this rewrite is going to be so much work. I have to tear into the structure and rework the very marrow of the stuff. There will be carnage.

Time to get it out of the way, however. I have to do this. So for my two hours a day I’m going to be reworking a chapter at a time of Dangerous. (God do I wish I had a real title for this, sigh). It might take me longer than two hours per chapter, it might not. I don’t really care. One chapter per day. This will only take at most 20 days, and that’s if I add chapters. I can’t remember where it stood exactly, but I think it’s only about 17 chapters long at this point.

Things I want to do to this novel besides burn all copies:

1) Fill out character backstories and motivations. It’s third person omniscient, so this should be fairly easy.

2) Add about 100 pages to the novel. I don’t think this will be difficult either.

3) More world description. Make the setting matter more and feel more oppressive and dystopian. Include more news casts and more camera/police presence. (I should watch more Fox news to get more ideas, heh).
4) More peril. Things in the novel are entirely too much on the side of my protagonists. They should work harder. It’ll be more interesting.

5) Rework pretty much all the writing. It’s super sloppy right now due to me trying to cram words in for the word count. Contractions are a good thing.

Those are the main things. If I manage to fix all those things, I think the end product will be something more like a workable draft. Then I can finally inflict it on my friends and mother. They keep asking about it, silly fools. Well, by the end of March they will have learned the error of their ways. Oh yes.

Productivity Is Overrated

I haven’t written a single thing all week except to jot down a few notes here and there for my novels. In terms of life though, I’ve been very productive, so I suppose it’s a trade-off. I built my shelves, finally. All that remains for my office to be complete is for my old computer to get raided for its information (such as my first novel that needs edits) and for the new computer to be fully installed with the programs I need. I’d like this to get done by the end of next week. I’ve been using it as an excuse not to do much in the way of writing. It’s a poor excuse.

I’m a tomorrow person. I know this, and I do what I can to work around the constant desire to just “do it tomorrow”. Actually, I did get some writing-ish stuff done, since I managed to get some comic things sent off to my artist. However, it’s not really as much as I’d hoped. So for next week I’m setting some goals. I will meet these goals. They aren’t that lofty or interesting, but I have to get going. Once I have momentum, it will take care of itself, but I’ve been putting things off too long.

Weekend goals: Finish review of Cooking Mama for my friend’s website. Rework Predators plot outline (I’ve had some different ideas, so I’m going to rewrite it).

Next week’s goals: 10 pages of Predators. At least 10 pages of Chwedl written. Type up and edit first layer of Past Dark. Finish Bad Day comic (I can do this in one day, I just have to buckle down and do it).

I’d love to be doing a chapter of each book a week, but it isn’t going to happen. I should be realistic about things and put off Predators until I’ve got Chwedl done and ready for first round of readers. Then I could buckle down and get Predators done in time to be sent out once they’ve gotten back to me about Chwedl. I may do this. But I want to get the outline done at least. We’ll see. I may have too much project on my plate. Fortunately for me, it takes me far less time to write pages and pages of comic than it does for my poor artist to concept and draw the stuff up. I can get layers ahead of her in a day or two without a problem, so I’m not worried about her outpacing me in terms of the comic.

So that’s the story of this week. Exciting, isn’t it? I’ll be more productive. You know, tomorrow. But hey, shelves! My to-read shelf has 58 books on it.

On Research

One reason I was attracted to writing fiction at a young age was actually a mistaken thought I had about the process. The first time I wrote a fiction story I asked the teacher if she meant that I could just “make stuff up”. She said yes. I took this to the extreme, as do many starting writers. I wrote stories about flying horses on planets with continents that spanned a mile or two. I invented random plants and ecosystems that made no sense and were heavy on macrobiology and very light in the real of plausibility. Consistency was right out as well. Magic is magic, right? It can be used to explain anything. In my early stories if someone could do magic, they were essentially a god. My characters might get captured or hurt, but like cheesy action movie heroes they sprang back instantly, the same as ever. I didn’t build worlds or characters back then so much as weave impossible tapestries without regard towards consistency or comprehensibility.

And at one point early on I swung the other way. It took a couple years but suddenly I was obsessed with reality in my stories. My daydreams and fantasies suffered from the same problems. I’d begin with childish fancies of flying horses and start thinking about how that would leave horse poop falling out of the sky and all kinds of implications of that. I’d wonder what the weather was like, wonder where the bathrooms were in these castles, even wonder why characters weren’t in school or why everyone was literate and spoke the same language. A myriad of issues arose. I was stuck, there were too many facets to realistic writing, or so I thought.

I’m not sure I’ve solved the problem. There is a large no man’s land that writers must inhabit between reality and fantastical impossibility. Fortunately, we have a large toolbox available. Plausibility is foremost. This isn’t the same thing as “good enough” but it’s something like that. My favorite tool though is research. Even when creating a character or a world from scratch, it isn’t really from scratch. I pull bits and parts and ideas from everywhere. This character rock-climbs, so I should look into that because there might be terminology or habits or physical characteristics that are important. This world has a lot of swamps, so I need to read about swamps. Or visit some swamps to get a truly hands on research perspective. These are just examples, but they illustrate my point which is that the closer you can relate something to what is recognizable and already plausible, the easier it is for the reader to continue with the story.  It’s the theory of heating up the water slowly, so that by the time the readers are boiling alive they don’t mind the fireballs and flying ponies. The best writing makes you cozy and comfortable with its premises in stages, it takes you inside itself, wherever or whatever that might entail.

So I research. Which is fun, actually. I get to learn about things I might never have learned on my own and I get to read, something that is easy and enjoyable. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve researched or am reading for each novel project:

Dangerous: Pretty much internet research for this one due to my time constraints. I read about cold fusion, titanium production, rice production, closed environments, high oxygen environments, guns, Roman government, viruses, biological warfare, and probably other topics I’ve since forgotton.

Chwedl: On the internet I’ve researched Welsh given names and literary traditions. Since I have a degree in Medieval Studies and studied a lot of Welsh lit, I don’t have to do much reading there. I am currently reading a book called “Medieval Wales” by David Walker, mostly for the place names, maps, and social structures. I plan to research clothing in dark ages Europe a bit more as well, probably using the internet and perhaps my college library. I’m putting a heavy fantasy slant on the novel, so I’m going to pick and choose what I like or don’t from the historical basis.

Predators (or Werewolves in Space as I jokingly call it): So far just reading a book about astrobiology called “Life Everywhere” by David Darling. It’s totally fascinating. I intend to read Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s works, of which I have two sitting on my living room floor waiting for perusal. I don’t have his book “Expedition” at the moment, which I really want. Hopefully it will materialize soon. I intend to read about a host of things, most of which I probably haven’t even realized I need to know. Sci/fi is like that for me: it’s a journey of discovery and I never know where my novel or short story will take me until I’m writing it.

So basically, those are my thoughts on research. For now.

If Stories Were Wishes

The other night I had the coolest dream. It ended up that I was wide awake at 5am with a desperate need to write this stuff down. At first it seemed like this new idea would just be nice sci/fi short story. The premise is simple: a group of biologists on a new planet studying predatory fauna. It was going to be around 3500 words which makes it easy to write it up and give it to my friends who love to give me feedback on this stuff. Do a quick rewrite, then submit somewhere. Boom, done. Maybe a month or two.

If only it were that easy. Instead this story has expanded into a novel. I could probably keep it novella length, but those are especially hard to market. It’s sad really. Over 10,000 words and a story is too long for a short story. Under 60-70k words, and too short for a novel. And 60k words is still an awfully short novel. There is a gray zone, which my first novel currently occupies at 55k, between 10k and 70k. Now, mind you, I realize different genres have different typical lengths. A young adult novel doesn’t need to be more than 170-220 pages generally (about 45k-65k words). Likewise, a stock romance novel is often around that length as well. For mainstream fiction or genre fiction like sci/fi or fantasy, however, most books are 250 to 350 pages these days. Longer if it isn’t the first book from an author. Which is why with my novel projects I’m aiming for 75k-110k words.

So Novel Project 2 is apparently starting at the same time as Novel Project 1. That’s the fun of writing, I suppose. Can’t really plan anything. My brain is teeming with ideas for both novels, therefor it isn’t as though I can just ignore one and work on the other merely because one idea was first. With some of my ideas, I can do this. I have three other novel ideas, for example, that aren’t pressing themselves into my head as needing to be written right now. I know the basic plots of each of these, but the chars are staying quiet enough I can ignore them and write the others.  The sci/fi novel isn’t staying quiet.  This is a story that is demanding to be written.

I think the only way to possibly have hope of completing these projects is to break it up a little. Fortunately the projects are different enough that there won’t be crossover. One is somewhat hard Sci/Fi, the other very much Fantasy with some fairytale/historical elements.  One is third person omniscient, the other is in first person.  I’m going to handwrite the fantasy novel, which means it will take longer. That isn’t such a bad thing, however, because it will make the editing process easier and it will be something I can do on a longer time-line than the Sci/Fi novel. As much as it might make editing quicker to write both by hand, I’m not that much of a masochist. Handwriting stories is fun and I prefer it, but something that long is an exercise in endurance. I type about 70-90 words per minute when I’m on a real roll, which means I can do a page of story in about 3-5 mins if I know where I’m going with it. When I write by hand it takes longer to do the same amount of text unless I want my hand to cramp. (oh the memories of college lit exams where I had to write three essays by hand in 40 mins.)

So, to sum up:

By end of March: have Nano novel (working title Dangerous) edited and ready for second round of readers.

By end of June: have both novels (working titles are Chwedl for the fantasy and Predators for the Sci/fi) done in the first draft form and ready for first round of readers.

By end of September: have at least Chwedl ready for second round of readers and edits.

By end of December: submit Chwedl, have Predators ready for second round of readers and edits.

Of course, if I get into grad school, it could put a serious constraint on my writing times and needs. However, I don’t see this ten years ten novels project as being counter to getting my MA. At the least I can turn in parts of my novels for classes and hopefully turn one of my yearly novel projects into my thesis project. I doubt whatever adviser I end up with would mind the idea of the project, hopefully they will think it is interesting and worth helping me out with.

I know, too many ideas is probably the least of my problems. I read so many complaints from amateur writers about how they can’t find the ideas or they have writer’s block or something along those lines. This is never my problem. The problem for me with writing is that once you’ve written the story/novel, the work has just begun. Editing takes ten times the energy and time of actually writing. I’ll get the hang of it one of these days. I hope.

Stalling

The prelim work on my novel is done.  All that remains now is to get writing.  Beginnings are easy and hard.  The first paragraph is always hard.  After that, it comes on its own generally.  I haven’t written that first paragraph.

On the other hand, I finally finished a story I’d been working on for four years.  I’d gotten stuck at the halfway point, dreading a scene the story needed but that I wasn’t sure how to handle.  After a friend lit a proverbial fire under me with a supportive but kicking my ass type of lecture this last weekend, I decided to just buckle down and finish it.  It went pretty well, actually. Now I’ve got the fun task of editing it.

Speaking of editing, hopefully my new computer will be up and running soon so I can salvage my novel from the old one and get cracking on that.  I’d like to have a comprehensive edit done by March.  I’m not sure 28 days is reasonable but I need some sort of deadline or I’ll just keep putting it off forever.

And finally, I called the graduate program I applied to and they have everything they need.  Which means now it really is the waiting game.  Thankfully I have tons of projects to distract me.  I hate wait.

My Secret (The Writing Process)

When I was younger we’d write every Thursday morning at school. It was my first taste of scheduled habitual writing. It was also pretty much my last taste of it until November of 2006. Two days before November started a friend told me about National Novel Writing Month. Then a coworker bet me that I couldn’t write a novel in 30 days. So I did.

This was the first time I’d really made myself write everyday. Oh, I’ve read all the books, all the blogs, the essays and processes, but I’ve never been a daily, disciplined writer. I write like I eat: often late at night and in binges. I once spent 28 hours writing a short story, with a break to pee. I finally passed out on my notebook a few pages from the end and woke up four hours later, found my pencil, and got right back to writing. For my novel, I needed different habits. I had a deadline. And 20 bucks on the line.

It would be wonderful to be able to say I’ve been writing daily since. That I’ve developed the “writer’s discipline” that so many others talk about as being as necessary as blood and air to the profession of writing. But this post isn’t about what I should be doing. It’s about what I actually do.

Beginning a Novel:

(Here I reveal just what a nerd I am). I see the starting process for a novel in much the same way I see the starting process for being Dungeon Master in a Dungeons and Dragons game. The first step is of course the idea. Usually this is a character or set of characters for me. Someone in the mess in my head steps up and demands to be seen and heard. My brain explores their story, and starts to build on it. I might scribble down a few ideas, a description, a name.

Then the process is ready to begin in earnest. I love to read, so research is always foremost. Even for a wholly made up world like the one in my first novel, research was necessary. I read about bloody rice, about alternate energy forms, about swords, about high oxygen environments, names. I did this in tandem with writing the novel due to the time constraints, but I prefer to get this stuff done before writing happens. Once I’ve got the idea of what elements I might need I do quick character sketches. A character sketch generally looks like: Name, description, relation to other characters.

Once I have my characters basically outlined, I do a plot outline. For the first novel, I’d written the first three chapters before I knew where the plot was going or even what it really was. And believe me, it shows. Those first chapters are even more of a mess than the rest of the book and don’t quite fit. I’ve spent all my revision time so far just on those first 25-30 pages. I do outline by chapter. This helps me define the chapters and makes sure they relate well to each other and make sure I don’t skip important things or put things out of place. It also helps me plan how to cliff-hang and build tension. Sometimes my chapter outlines are very detailed, sometimes not so much. Example:

Detailed: Twins confer whether or not Seren will release them. They plot an escape and get caught- Seren hunts them down with her hounds. Chapter ends with end of chase. (In this I have all the elements I need to work out the details, nothing is left to be filled in except the actual writing.)

Vague: Aine and Tesn travel throughout the land healing a blight/plague. Demonstrate Aine as resourceful/fearless/smart. (In this I have only a very rough idea of what will happen in this chapter. In all likelihood, this chapter will get broken up into two or three chapters once I’m writing and can get some sort of subplot going here to show all the character qualities I want).

The outline isn’t a firm road map. It’s more like guidelines really. It helps ensure I won’t accidentally forget a plot item I wanted to include. I tend to throw the kitchen sink at first drafts of anything because taking out useless stuff is often easier than adding it. One of the big issues I have with my first novel is that I’m better at paring things down, whereas the novel desperately needs about 100-150 more pages. Basically I have to double the length when all I really want to do is destroy half of it.

So, I’ve got an outline. I’ve got names, places, setting, character sketches. It’s time to start writing.

Jim Butcher’s Great Swampy Middle:

(To see what I’m referring to, go here)

The middle of the novel isn’t actually so bad once I have an outline. Mostly at this point my process involves just getting it done. The most words I’ve written in a sitting were about 9,000. The least that still got something done was probably 100. (this post is at 864 so far). I don’t tend to write things out of order, but I will occasionally write lines or ideas in margins or in my notes as I go, especially if I’m changing something big. I keep fairly extensive notes as I go to help with needing to edit for consistency. I think the outlining and note taking are byproducts of having an English degree and the research a byproduct of having a Medieval Studies degree. I find the outline and notes really help push things through the tough times in the middle of the story when things are happening but I can’t resolve anything big yet. The post I linked to describes these times much better than I can, however. At this point my writing process is just to buckle down and write.

A few things I’ve found help me. 1) Bribes. I had a large bag of my favorite cookies and would only allow myself to eat them if I was writing. (Yes, I gained about 6lbs writing my first novel, but hey, novel!). 2) Not forcing it. Sometimes the story wasn’t there. I couldn’t hear things clearly. I actually spent only 19 days of the 30 writing. If the words aren’t there, they aren’t there. (By the way, I think in pictures, so it’s doubly hard if the pictures aren’t there because then I have nothing to translate to text). 3) Music. I prefer to write to music without words, such as classical violin or piano pieces or to music without words I can understand such as various Anime soundtracks like Escaflown or Hellsing.

Decisions and Revisions:

(Yes I love that poem, why?) Moving on. Ending a novel is easy for me. The climax and results were the most fun of the whole thing to write. It felt a little like being a small child again and banging away at a piano in dramatic fashion.

Revising is the adult coming into the room and making you play properly. Wrists up, actually reading the notes and keeping time. I hates revising. Hates. I can sit all day and pick apart the work of other people. I find things wrong and see exactly how to mend them. I have insights and ideas all over the place when revising things written by not me. When I was tutoring in college I promised all my clients they’d get As and they all did. Editing the work of others is simple. Editing my own work is like pulling my own teeth. It’s the area where I feel I need the most work, and thus need more practice. I don’t have a process for it really. When editing short stories I usually just start over rather than edit. I have a few stories that exist in multiple different forms, all distinct from each other in big ways even though they are basically the same plot and characters. I considered doing this with my novel. But it’s 189 pages or just about 51,000 words. I’m not sure I can bring myself to just rewrite the entire thing. (However, I am considering it.) So far my revision process looks like this:

Step 1: Go through a printed out draft with a pen and find inconsistencies, typos, and general little fixes. Also write margin notes about where to clarify things or where something badly needs a rewrite.

Step 2: Start at chapter 1 and begin following the notes I made for myself in the paper version. Then procrastinate some more for a few months before computer explodes and you have even more excuses not to work on it.

As I said, I’m still a work in progress for this stuff. I’m trying to circumnavigate the initial editing process by writing my second novel by hand. I usually write my short stories by hand, as well as a lot of my poetry. I find it forces me to do the nitty picky editing as I type things up. I’m hoping that this will eliminate a lot of the parts of revising I find so tedious. We’ll see.

So there it is, the secret to my writing process. Ok, so it isn’t much of a secret. I have no gerbil blood rituals, or chocolate miracle pills. I don’t dance through dimensional portals to glean ideas from ephemeral fields of black and mist roses. I do write often in the dead of night, or in strange bursts of furious creation. I don’t have discipline, I don’t have formulas. I like my notes and my outlines because I like to plot things. But my characters inevitably stray from the paths laid out, just like players do in any DnD game. That is actually where some of the fun starts in writing, at least for me. Those moments in the middle of things when someone says something or a character does something that is completely right for them, but totally wrong for the following of plot. Then there is a quick scramble to fit it in, to adjust the path and explore this new unknown. A good GM can work these things in, a good writer should be able to as well. Like Hex having kids. Who knew? But hey, him having kids left me with lots of reasons to keep the characters involved in the main plot. The kid part was an accident, something that came into my head and was out on paper before I’d thought about the implications. But now not only have they become central to a lot of character motivation for him, one kid is the main character in the sequel. I’ve got a whole novel idea about her now.

I’ve probably said it before, I know I’ll mention it again. This is why I write. Because the things in my head want out. Because they speak and move with lives of their own. My process is informed by this fact, it exists to serve the desire for life, for communication. This is why my writing is very personal, why I refer to it as a sort of child. The process is me. Everything I do while writing or preparing to write comes from who I am; from my educational background to my thoughts, fears, and eccentricities. I’m my secret.

Presents! (To myself)

The last couple days have been surprisingly productive.  I’ve gotten the bones for my novel project number one, which from here on out will be titled Chwedl.  I’m part way through scripting a comic.  And I think I really am going to rewrite my other novel in the first person. (Working title of that novel is Dangerous, btw).

The comic I should be working on is Past Dark, but this other one leapt into my head and wants to get written.  I must obey.  My writing is like that.  Things sort of get worked on in their own time.  And if I don’t obey the impulse to work on something, I often get stuck in a limbo state where nothing seems to come together clearly.  So I’ve learned to not force the process (although occasionally kicking it does seem to have some effect).  This comic is tentatively titled Bad Day.  And yes, it’s about a girl having a very very bad day.  I think when finished it will only be about 75-80 pages.  Perfect length for a graphic novel, right?  Hopefully my artist will want to draw it.

Beginnings are hard.  They make or break a story for me.  The twins in the novel are fairly clear personality-wise.  I can picture them easily.  The main girl, Aine, I can’t picture as clearly.  I know I want her to be resourceful, funny, and fearless (all the good things a heroine needs, right?).  I can see what she looks like, that part is easy.  She’s a foundling child of the fair folk, so her appearance is dictated by that.  But I can’t really hear her voice yet.  She still is just an instrument of the plot.  Makes it hard to begin the novel.  But I’m outlining, and hopefully once the actual process has started, she’ll be more talkative.  So the first words have yet to be written.  My goal is to have the handwritten draft done by May.  Then the first revision and typed version done by August.  At that point I’ll be making friends read it so I can get a polished version done by December.  At which point, well, hopefully it will be ready for queries and suchlike.

And then I’ll rinse, repeat the process.  Oh, and of course write up two comics, another novel revision/rewrite on Dangerous, and hopefully have gotten in to Grad School.

So much to do, might as well go to sleep. Or back to outlining book.  Maybe my next post I’ll go through the whole starting process for me writing a novel.  Not that I have the process totally nailed down, having only gone through it one whole time now.  But I know I’m always interested in different people’s approaches to writing, so it is only fair I share mine.

5am + 2 hours sleep

It seems I can now perhaps add my comic back to the list of writing projects. Years ago I did a webcomic that made it a year before crashing and burning. Someone has camped our website (curse you!). But my artist has decided that she can indeed fit comic back into her life despite a full plate of law-school and hunting down Harry Dresden for lunch. (To have lunch with, not eat. Important distinction. And yes, we both know he’s fictional. Geez). Past Dark will live again. Although perhaps not in web form. We, and by that I mean me, have a crazy plan to finish the thing into a nice 200 or so page graphic novel or three and try for publication. Her art is awesome, the story is beautifully improbably and steeped in mythology, and we share a brain cell.

This project will be separate from my novel project, but it’s still writing related, therefore, it gets mention. I may even post a few preview panels once we have some art going again. I’ve got to dig out my notebooks and re-acquaint myself with the characters and plan I had for the plot(s). I think it will also require doing a side story for a character I really liked, but that doesn’t have a place in the main story anymore.

Which segues nicely into my issues with stories sometimes. It’s funny how once I’m in the middle of something I realize that I’m more interested in a side character than the main ones. Like in my first novel, for example. One of the main characters and definitely the most developed of my flat sad peoples was a bit character I’d considered killing early on. But then a love story started to happen with chemistry between him and a main character. And then it ended up that he had two small children. I didn’t have the heart to off him. Also, he’s kind of funny in a stereotypical sarcastic manly way. I like him enough that I’ve considered trying to rewrite the novel from first person with his point of view, even though the structure I have for it won’t work at all without the omniscient perspective. It’d be a good exercise, however. I’m beginning to forgive authors like Robin McKinley for being so damn slow with writing novels. (Envy me, I have the reading copy of her latest because having a mother who works in a bookstore is superhandy.)

Sorry, tired. My point though, I think, is that characters always seem to rule my stories. And not the ones I necessarily think will do so. I have another story I’ve been working on for years, which began as being about a woman and is now looking like it’s going to be more about her husband. Or my new novel, which I had thought was mainly going to be about the twins, but will likely mostly involve the girl’s quest.

But this is my writing process. Disjointed. An investigation into my own headmeat more than a guided journey. Perhaps when I’m 50 I’ll have some sort of set way of creating. But I hope I won’t. Even if it means trashing a story and starting over. Even if it means trashing hundreds of pages and diving into a voice cries out over the others, “follow me. I’m the tale.”

Also, to be fair, Hex is the only character who doesn’t die or fall unconscious at any point in the novel. So he’s sort of the natural choice there. Or something. I just wrote my way into a whole huge project, didn’t I? I need to learn to sleep more. Seriously.

(Spell check hates superhandy and headmeat. I’m going to single-handedly bring kennings back into style. You’ll see.)

Decisions and Revisions

I’ve decided against busting my ass to apply to Clarion this year. My computer is hosed, which means most of my writing is currently unavailable on the hard drive at the moment. I’d be terrified of losing it all if I had less confidence in my friends to pull a magic computer trick and get my data back. Hopefully this weekend we can do some techno rituals and retrieve my novel (and my music collection, please?). One of these days I’ll learn not to name my computer after volatile entities. Last computer that died on me was called Venus. This one is called Gir. Oh well. (I guess it ran out of cupcakes).

For this week my projects are: Write review of Cooking Mama on the DS for gamer-girl.org. Finish outline for novel project 1 (come up with better name for novel project 1?). Start novel project number 1, my goal is at least 5 hand written pages per day. (At which rate it will only take about 12 weeks to finish the rough draft. Which seems short until you know that it took me 19 days to do the rough draft of my first novel. Which is on the harddrive of deadness.)

I also really need to get cracking on the whole novel rewrite thing. Editing my own work is probably my least favorite thing to do in the world. But, only way the thing has a shot of being published is if I fix it up all pretty like. I had someone recently find out about the whole “editors at major publishing company liked it and want a rewrite” thing and they really got on my case. It’s easy for someone whose work it ain’t to say “if that was my novel, I’d be doing nothing else but that rewrite for a chance like that”. And technically, they are right. I’d have thought the same thing before it WAS my novel.

Which brings me to admitting some hard things to myself about that novel. I don’t really like it. I’m not that much of a fan of the characters, I don’t see how the plot requires the setting in any way, and the setting feels weak and flat to me. I’m more excited about writing the sequel than I am about editing the first one. I know some of the major problems and thanks to a livejournal post by Jim Butcher that I stumbled across, I think I know how to fix some of the issues with the characters. I’m not a cerebral writer. I don’t do things on purpose, with the exception of stupid nerd references that probably no one will ever get. (B13 is the building my protagonists live in, for example). I don’t sit and think about “what’s the motivation for this scene?” or “what does my character like to eat?”. I just sort of go by feel. Which works most of the time and fails spectacularly on occasion when I don’t have a solid picture of what I’m doing. This novel was my first. Like most firsts, I had no idea what I was doing. I was foremost winning a bet. I never intended for the draft to be seen by anyone except maybe a friend or two. I was going to let it die a tiny, inconsequential “good to know” sort of death. But then an author friend submitted it to his editor and they liked it, said it had promise but needed to be longer and to be rewritten/cleaned up. And I told a tiny sort of lie. I said, “oh, well, I’m working on the next draft now, a total rewrite.” Which I wasn’t. But guess what? I am now. Sigh.

Because of this connection, this first novel has a better than random chance of seeing publication. The problem is, I don’t really think this novel is representative of what I want to write. It was written as a joke, a dare. I’ve already won my 20 dollars. But on the other hand, I can’t really let this pass me by just because I hate my baby. I gave birth to this thing, I guess it is up to me to whip it into something I won’t be ashamed to see my name on.

So for the first rewrite, I think I’m going to go through every scene with the main chars in it and see how I can make their lives suck more. The book is almost afraid of the setting, so it’s time to make the setting into something to truly fear instead of just a green screen random backdrop. Aspiring writers would kill for this opportunity, right? But it’s up to me to turn this novel into something worth dying for. Go me. Or something.

Window Closed, Window Open

My application is in, and hopefully complete. Now I get to play the waiting game. (Insert epic scrabble game here, final scores 259 to 442, I win- ok, now back to the entry). I wish dearly there was some information on how many people apply and how many they accept. I couldn’t find any numbers. None. Grr. The only thing I have to go on is that the max number of people who can register for many of the graduate level writing courses is 10-15. Which says that they don’t have very many grad students. Now, most of those classes aren’t full either, which means even fewer people. I’m freaking out, just a little. Sigh. It’s always been very hard for me to let anyone read my stories, much less strangers who are deciding my academic fate. and yes, I know I’m being a tad dramatic. If I don’t get in, I have other options. But they are far less convenient and more expensive.

Speaking of expensive, it isn’t exactly going to be cheap if I do get in. But I have some ideas for how to offset the costs. One is applying for aid, obviously. But loans are loans, and I’ll have to pay the monies at some point. My other ideas are along the lines of trying to come up with some of the monies by self-printing a chapbook of my poetry and seeing if I can’t get people to buy it as a nice donation thing towards my schooling. Bel had the idea that I should do this and print out an expanation of what I’m doing and what this book is for the back cover and then leave some copies in places with a “Free” sticker on it to try to draw in strangers as well. A chapbook is fairly cheap to self-publish, and my poems are things people have liked in the past. It’s something I’m considering, since I have a pretty large body of poetic work. We’ll see. Like I said, I have ideas. First I have to get accepted. Which means waiting. Did I mention I hate wait?

Fortunately, I have a great novel idea I’m fleshing out to help tide me over. It’s going to be novel number 1 of the 10 novels in 10 years personal challenge I’m giving for myself. It’s a psuedo fairytale set in Ancient Wales (sort of). I have a degree in Medieval Studies, and I took medieval Welsh as a language during that time. So I already have some feel for the culture. I’m not going to make it historically accurate, however. It’s supposed to be fantasy. As long as I get it consistent, I’m not going to worry too much. I’m excited though. The plot is pretty much there, the characters are fairly defined in my head, and I have all kinds of ideas for things to research to give it that extra bit of credibility and sense of the fantastic. Plus Welsh fairytales are notoriously more gory and strange than the better known Irish ones. Which will be a blast to write, I’m sure.

The insane part of this is that I’ve decided to write the novel by hand. I used to do all my writing by hand pretty much right up until my last year of college. It was how I ever got around to editing anything. I’d write it up by hand and then the first rewrite would happen as an incidental part of typing the story/poem/academic paper. I’ve never written anything by hand that was more than 30 or so pages, however. I want to make this novel at least 400 hand-written pages, which will end up being around 250-300 typed pages. I bought a fresh pack of moleskine notebooks . And I bought a neat little book on early Medieval Wales which has some sweet maps. So I’m ready.