Friday, January 22, 2010

Stop. Rewind. Rewrite.

After spending days struggling with the chapter that would not die, I finally beat it into a shape I was pretty happy with. Then, talking to Dystophil today, it's decided that all that struggle, all that time, effort, and work were all for nothing. Because things need to be tightened up. Because things aren't moving. Things aren't working. Something, other than the chapter that would not die, went wrong.

I can see Dystophil's point. I even agree with it. But what I've written is good. Good enough to sell? I don't know. But if I were more worried about getting published than I was with enjoying what I do, then I wouldn't be writing Urban Fantasy.

Still. I do want to write to the best of my ability. And if that means scrapping eight chapters and revising a large chunk of story, than that's what I'll do.

Turns out it wasn't quite a full eight chapter. I kept most of three, where she first meets Revenant. The end, though, I've rewritten, and have started chapter four. Again. So far, I like where it's going, like the possibilities it presents. I'm almost certain that it's better than what I had originally. It's still hard, though. It's throwing away 14,000 words. Out of 18,000. That's a lot of progress, gone. Thrown away. Not to be used.

So, even though I like where the new material is taking me, I'm angry about having to give up so much progress. I want to have this finished before the Backspace Writers' Conference. That's roughly five months out. Five months to write, revise, and polish a manuscript, query letter, and synopsis. It'd be easy, if I weren't also a full time student.

Ah well. Life is full of choices. I've made mine. Now to make the best of them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taking Things in Stride

Today, someone told me that my manuscript will be rejected out of hand because it deals with demons, angels, and vampires, "because there is such a glut of them in urban fantasy." This is true. There has been an increasing amount of books involving angels and demons. On the other hand, it's what people are reading. So long as people are reading urban fantasy, there's going to be a demand for it. And as long as there's a demand for it, I don't think manuscripts like mine will be rejected out of hand.

To be honest, I'm struggling right now. That one statement, that one promise that my work is going to be rejected out of hand by someone who hasn't read the whole of my work, has made me doubt myself. I've tried not to let it get to me, but it is. Those statements which contain a grain of truth, or a seed of our fears, always hurt most.

So, if all you can say about my work is that it's unoriginal, flat, and going to be rejected out of hand because of the content, keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself. As I see it, the only way to fail to get published is to not keep going. Not query agents that represent your genre. Not work to write the best possible book you can write, and then be willing to go back and make it better.

If you've ever had someone tell you you're going to fail, you know what it's like. Join me in flipping them the bird and then marching on. Because I'm a writer, and the low opinion of one person out of a dozen will not stop me from doing what I love to do.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Picking the Right Title

I've always had issues finding names for my books that fit. Only on rare occasions do I hit on something that fits perfectly and works well. "Angelic Demon," "The High Courts of Hell," "Dealing with Demons." With the big changes I've been making, I'm not sure I can keep any of them.

"Dealing with Demons" certainly doesn't fit the first book anymore. I've been using the working title of HUNTED, but I hate one name titles. I have a big long list of possible titles, and it's growing all the time.

Some of these titles include:

Demon Blood
Blood of Demons (or) Blood of Angels
Demons Never Lie (or) Demon May Lie
Angelic Demon
Demon in the Rough
Angel Management
(and) Demon's Den

Blargh on all of them. None of them seem to encompass the feel the story being told.

So here's my question to you. How do you come up with the titles for you book/stories/poems, and how do you know when it's the right title?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Never Look Back!

When I first started writing, I had no idea what I was doing. Most days I still feel that way. There's one big thing I'm doing differently now than I did even during the last draft.

Making changes.

Before, I'd finish everything before going back and making changes. I'd finish a chapter, I'd finish the book. I've come to realize that it takes more time to go back and change a lot of writing, than it is to go back and change a little. This time around, when I want to make a change, I'm not going to back. I'm just adding that change in right now.

Because, really, it won't be long before I go over it and fix things. That's the beauty of revising as you go. Of course, my revising is slower than my writing, and I only revise on weekends. You'd think that'd give me more time to work on my book. ERNGH! Wrong.

For example, Ch. 3 ended with a deal being made. One of my readers groaned as she read it and said "That's so predictable. I was hoping for THIS." And she went on to discuss her "this" and then I got thinking about it, because I hadn't liked my "that" and we worked it out.* Of course, I didn't go back and change it right away. I made notes on how to change it, then dived right into Ch. 4 as if the changes had already been made.

Another example: in Ch. 7 we're introduced to a minor character. Before, he'd been a name, but he'd never had a face attached to him. Then, further along in the chapter, I realized my cast was starting to feel too testosterone laden, and made this note; "CHANGE AVERY TO GIRL.** TOO GUY HEAVY ALREADY." Just like that. Only without the quotes (or the asterisks). Then I continued on my way, writing as if I'd already implemented the change to the beginning of the chapter.

Now, instead of having to re-write the end of one chapter and nearly the entirety of another, I just have to rework the end. Instead of having to re-write another, entire chapter, I just have to make a couple changes to the beginning. See how much time, effort, and pain work I've saved myself?

The trick is going to be staying on top of those revisions. I can only make oh-so many notes on my whiteboard before I run out room.

*This and That added where plot spoilers would otherwise be. =)
**Really cool thing was I figured out that the name of the girl Avery will be Lyvia. I suck with naming my characters (I had a villain that went through two drafts as NAME before we found a one that fit him well), so thinking this one up and being happy with it pleases me to no end.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seeking Perfection

I've read some really good books. Great writing, vivid characters, well thought out and surprising plot twists. On the other hand, I've read some not so good books.

As I learn more about writing, about my own and others, the harder it becomes for me to get into a book. Hence the enormous list of doom. It's not that I don't like reading anymore, I do. But for the first hundred pages or so, I just can't get my inner editor to shut up. Some books it shuts up sooner than others. Some books it's quiet until the middle of the book. It really depends on writing style, and how quickly the book draws me in, and how deep. If it can draw me in deep enough to completely immerse myself in the story, than the editor never has a chance to make snippy comments and generally complaining about little details that didn't bother me even a year ago.

Which gets me thinking. What if my book is one of those books I'm going to pick up and snip at while I read it? Okay, I do that anyway, because it's mine and I can still do something about it. But what if other people pick it up and snip at it, or can't get into it because of their inner critic?

I know what I like to read, and I know what I don't like to read. When I read something, I know if they've used too many adverbs or if it feels a bit too verbose. Sometimes I can find errors like "'Blah blah,' Sammy he said." It should have read as either "Sammy said," or "he said." Oops! But mistakes happen, and they're forgivable.

Because, lets face it, there's no such thing as perfection. There are always going to be mistakes. There are always going to be things I'll cringe at when I read my own writing, and think "I could have done that better." That's the point! To live and learn and grow and change and become better, even if you never reach perfection.

A wise friend once told me, "If you ever stop learning, you stop living." If I ever write the perfect book, I don't think I'd write anymore. There wouldn't be much point, would there?

To-Read List 2010

Also known as the list of books I own but have not yet read. It's appalling, how long this list is. My goal is to chew through it, and not buy any more books until I've ready at least five off the list. (Yeah right. Like that's ever going to happen.)

The List (in no particular order)

Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson
The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson
Well of Eternity - Richard A. Knaak
Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
Magic Blood - Devon Monk
Dragon Bones - Patricia Briggs
Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs
Small Gods - Terry Pratchett
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card (borrowed from brother, don't actually own)
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Feast of Souls - C.S. Friedman
Kushiel's Scion - Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Justice - Jacqueline Carey (Don't actually own this one. Don't know how that happened.)
Kushiel's Mercy - Jacqueline Carey
Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
Glass Houses - Rachel Caine
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin
Firestorm - Rachel Caine
The Gunslinger - Stephen King
Prince of Dogs - Kate Elliott
The Burning Stone - Kate Elliott
Banewrecker - Jacqueline Carey
The Last Wish - Andrzej Sapkowski
Genesis of Shannara - Terry Brooks
Children of Chaos - Dave Duncan
In the Realm of the Wolf - David Gemmell
Hero in the Shadows - David Gemmel
The Becoming - Jeanne C. Stein
The Scent of Shadows - Vicki Pettersson
Dragonfly - Frederic S. Durbin
Love Bites - Lynsay Sands
Thin Air - Rachel Caine
Person Demon - Kelley Armstrong
No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstrong
Broken - Kelley Armstrong
Inda - Sherwood Smith
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik

That's a long list. That's a daunting list. I'll get through it eventually. It just might take me a while. Especially since I'm OCD, and will want to read whole series if the writing is engaging and the story compelling.

Sad thing is, this doesn't even include the books I have for my kindle. That'd be a really incredibly long list.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Exciting News

It's paid for. It's confirmed. It's official and there's no going back. This May, I'll be attending the Backspace Writers Conference in New York City. Every time I think about it, I get really excited, and slightly sick to my stomach. I've never been to NYC, and there's a chance that I might end up going alone. I don't deal well with new experiences when I don't have someone to lean against and share it with.

Social anxieties for the fail.

Anyway! My goal is to get my current version of Jacky finished and polished before the conference. With school, it'll be tight, but doable. I'd also like to chew through this box of unread books I have lurking in my office closet.

A list of titles will come in another blog in the near future.

Excited. This is going to be such an adventure and (hopefully) a good opportunity. Here's hoping Dystophil will be able to join me. Because, lets face it, adventures are best when shared.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

To Procrastinate Sleep

School starts tomorrow morning. I don't have any classes as early as I did last semester, but still early enough that I'm not sure I'm going to have much "me" time in the morning. More that than, classes start at the same time every day. Good in some ways. Bad in others.

Mostly, I'm worried about finding a good balance between school, play, and working on my novel. Not to mention I need to throw "take care of myself" into the mix as well. It will be challenging, but doable. I hope. Still. There's a good chance that my tolerance level for school is going to plummet, my mood will dive into a chasm of abysmal despair, and I won't want to do anything but zone out playing video games. Heaven knows that's what usually happens to me spring semester.

This year, I have a plan. Kind of. Get up, go to school. Come home and have some me time. You know. Get my thoughts and emotions under control by having some quiet time in front of the alter (yes, alter. You did read that right.). Taking care of me after that. Lifting weights three days a week, Tai Chi on the other days, and running at least once a week. Assuming I ever get around to buying running shoes. After I've taken care of me is when I'll put time into school work, and because I almost always multi-task, I can switch between school work and novel work. Maybe. Hopefully.

It's going to be interesting. I'm just glad I'm not like poor Dystophil, who isn't only going to school full time, but is also working full time. Pretty sure trying something like that would be the end of me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Finish What You've Started

I need to stop starting chapters, then letting them sit before I finish them. Once, leaving a chapter unfinished for a day or two while life jerks me around by the chain hasn't been a problem. Recently, I've discovered a disturbing trend.

A chapter is going great. It's flowing well, the dialogue works, the characters are coming to life on the page. Something pulls me away from the chapter, and I don't get back to it that day. When I do come back to it, usually the following day, everything still works pretty well, but I can't get back into it. I can't find the voice I'd been writing in. I can't make things flow as well.

The only solution I have to this is to finish a chapter the day I start it, but lets be realistic. School starts against on Monday, and I'm a full time university student. There are going to be days where I barely manage to chew out 100 words, let alone a full chapter.

Does anyone have a good fix for this? How do you get back into the swing of things when it's already moving and you have to jump back on mid-swing?

Or is this something I just have to suck up and deal with myself? I betting it's that one. There aren't many easy way out of things when it comes to writing.


New Years Resolutions

My mom was trying to figure out why New Year's was such a big deal for people. I agree with her, that ringing in another year can have it's downsides (like neighbors screaming, banging on pots and pans, and shooting off noise rockets). But there's something special about it, too.

It's a new year. It's time for starting fresh, for changing things you haven't been able to change. Habits are hard to form, and old habits are hard to break. The New Year gives people a nice date to mark, a day to say "I can start doing this NOW" and have a chance of being able to do it. Because it's the new year. What better time to start new things in life then at the beginning of a new year?

My resolutions list could easily stretch a mile long. Eat better, exercise, lose weight, spend more time studying my religion, read more, game less, write every day, do all my homework the day it's assigned, etc.

But I'm not going to. Once you start laying things out in a long To Do list, they start to build up, grow, expand, until the reasonable suddenly seems impossible, you lose heart, and all those resolutions go out the window. So, no long list for me this year. Just a couple.

Take better care of myself
Finish (completely, polishing and everything) WT: Hunted

Happy New Years, everyone. I hope you have a manageable resolutions list, and find the strength of will and courage to do it, and keep doing it all year round.