Saturday, November 24, 2007


There's a new post just below, but for the curious:

I fixed the link for Writtenwyrrd (from blogspot to typepad). I've also added a few more writers' blogs that I tend to frequent and another agent blog I like to check out from time to time.

Hope it helps.


Milestones, or some variation thereof

Okay, so technically, this is my big news for Thursday, because I didn't touch my computer yesterday. As of this past holiday, I finished the first big round of editing on Hounds, the urban fantasy I've been working on. I had my printed out copy that I'd gone through months ago, making notes and changes, and on Thursday said I was taking a break from my week of school work (seminar papers, oh the joy) to edit for fun.

I finally reached the last page, and then even decided to haul out the other hard copy covered in green ink (I just don't like the look of all that red ink) and editing notes. I actually breezed through the first eight chapters or so on that one, however. It was a copy of the pages as I brought them to my writer's group. After receiving their verbal and written commentary I compiled it all onto my pages and put all those copies into its own folder. From title to "The End." I'd started off incoroprating those changes a few days (a week at the latest) after the meeting where I received them, but then I fell behind, so when I went to incorporate the changes the other day, I didn't have any big changes until chapter 6. Makes the 'I edited eight chapters in one day' claim a little less impressive.

Anyway, that's all good stuff for me. My first semester of graduate school is winding down. I took this past week off work to focus on my papers and research. I feel like the time has gone by far too quickly, though. I have a 4-5 page paper, as well as an outline or some semblance of knowing what I'll talk about, which I can email my Thursday class professor for a presentation on Thursday. Both need to be in by Monday. And the bulk of my time, not spent doing homework for the Monday and Wednesday classes I still had despite the holiday (only the Thursday class was cancelled) was researching for a draft of a 20-page seminar paper which I need by Wednesday.

One week is not enough.

Even this post is a small detour from research on the presence, or lack thereof of "minority" characters in science fiction and fantasy (I use quotation marks because I live in Hawai'i, where African-American, Asian and Pacific Islanders are anything but the minority) for this 5-page paper due Monday. I probably won't get to typing it tonight (I wouldn't want to, even here I feel like my writing is confused and convoluted), but if I have my research done and my notes organized, typing it tomorrow shouldn't be too bad. Then research for the presentation, which I bega last week, and an outline about that, then see about some research on the gendered body of Joan of Arc (for my Wednesday class, Medieval Women Writers, it just sounded like so much fun). But that last will depend on what time I finish the other two tasks. At least, at this point, there's no more required reading for my classes (except this last week in the Thursday class).

(And why does a 5-page paper, or 20-page for that matter, seem like such a big deal when I finished the first drafts of two novel-length works? Not that I'm bragging, I just don't quite get how being able to achieve that, plus the countless other essays I've written as an undergraduate, and still the prospect of these graduate papers fills me with dread.)

Then again, I go back to work Monday. Ugh. It wouldn't be so bad except I know I'll still be really busy, school-wise, the next few weeks and work is going to be busy, too. That's okay. I'll hang it there. Just don't be surprised if I look like a zombie by the time Chrsitmas hits (I'm also making two things for friends as Christmas gifts, so those need to be done soon so I can mail them out and I haven't even really begun).

And look at all the love for the parentheses tonight.

Yeah, definitely gonna be a zombie.

Good luck to the rest of you. Happy writing.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writers on Strike

(Dang it. I had this all typed up and then my laptop copped out on me. Anyway.)

I first heard about this a few days ago on Neil Gaiman's blog (scroll down to the first question in bold). I figured I'd share it here for those who didn't know. Since Gaiman writes within both the publishing and media industries, he is affected but not wholly.

Essentially, writers in the media industry have gone on strike, as of Monday I believe. They're protesting in order to receive a portion of teh revenues garnered from DVD sales and internet shows and films. The first shows to be immediately affected are the late night talk shows, like "The Daily Show." These programs rely on up-to-date commentary from that same day, thus have no scripts on back-up. They immediately went to reruns.

Next up are the half-hour comedies, which, although they have scripts, tend to alter them over teh week they're filming (if my understanding is correct). This includes shows like "The Big Bang Theory" and "'Til Death."

After that come the hour-long dramas, which generally have scripts through November, but at least some of them don't have scripts for the end of the season, so if the strike doesn't end soon, the last episodes of the season may be affected for these programs. "Desperate Housewives" falls under this category, as would "Heroes," I suppose (and this week's was such a good eipsode).

So here are a few other places with information about the strike:

CNN (from Monday, November 5)

NPR (from Tuesday, November 6)

MSNBC (from Wednesday, November 7)

And here are some pictures from The Guardian.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

When hungers pokin' at ya, pokin' at ya...

Or in this case, words are poking at your brain.

So, I think it would come as no surprise to say that I am a dork for new words, or words in general. I am that peculiar student who makes a list of words they don't know in a textbook, looks up the definition and writes it down.

I am prone to using words like thingamajig, thingamabob, whatchamacallits (haven't had that candy bar for a while though) and gall (usually not in reference to the gall bladder).

Interesting situation for me--a while back I thought I created a word--niggle. As in, "this idea is niggling in my brain." Definition somewhere along the lines of 'to simultaneously wiggle and nudge.' It came with the image of that cartoonish bookworm wiggling about as it nudged ideas or words in the cavern of my mind (yeah, I work with visualization a lot, I keep thinking it's going to help decrease my anxieties). So yesterday or the day before, I was weirdly surprised (not annoyed, but not exactly pleasantly surprised either) to see someone else use it.

And then today, I came across this post by Jessica on Bookends, LLC: The Art of Editing.

It's about the difference between copyeditors and acquisition editors with a link to a Salon article. Pretty neat stuff, and with this second mention of the word, I think I am pleasantly surprised, although I don't think I could explain why in anything even remotely resembling concision.

Then again, that's not new.

I may have to politely disagree with one point, though. In recounting a personal anaecdote, Jessica mentions to this former teacher that schools focus too much on the grammar aspect of writing and not enough about writing good papers as a whole. However, it seems to be a pretty common complaint here, in Hawai'i, that the schools don't teach grammar nearly enough, so students reach high school and don't know how to write properly, or they get to college and don't know. I'm in graduate school now and professors still take a little time in the introductory course to teach us our we should write papers for class. And there are 400-level courses on Modern Grammar. it strikes me as a bit strange to need classesd at this level of education, but at the same time, I am intrigued. I must admit I fall in that category of writer who spells well and can see when a sentence looks "wrong" but isn't able to specifically point to the parts of teh sentence which are lacking.

Anyway, check out the post. I enjoyed it.

And yay to new words, even if they aren't as new as I thought.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Drive-by posting

Just a quick post to wave hello and share my good mood.

Much as I wanted to be around CoffeeQuill more often since classes started up (all three require some weekly computer time), that has turned out to not be the case. I am still painfully lacking in time.

But today my schedule was surprisingly free, so I spent the bulk of the day editing.

It's put me in a, dare I say, chipper mood.

I've been saying, here and elsewhere, that "I'm gonna do X and then try to do some editing," which inevitably ended with me finishing X and then being too tired to edit. Today there was no X. Rather the one tiny x was something I could do at any point and didn't really take time away from the editing (just had to print something out that I shall read on the bus for class today).

So as of today, I got past the 'editing chapter from hell' and moved onto what I guess would be the 'editing chapter from purgatory.' I dunno. Got 12 more pages of this one to edit and basically have to call it a day now--my "Love, Terror, and Feminism" class awaits--but still, this bit of progress has put me in a much better frame of mind in regards to my writing than it's been in days, weeks, possibly months (I was really behind with this editing).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another good-bye I'd rather not make

Robert Jordan passed away today.



John Scalzi

Dragonmount, Jordan's blog

Nielsen Hayden, Making Light

My sympathies to his family and friends.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Good-bye to Ms. L'Engle

I only found out today.

Madeleine L'Engle died last week.

She's one of those writers who...I'm so used to going to the bookstore and the library and seeing her books. It's a little strange, but comforting I suppose, to think the books will still be there, even though she's not.

I learned this through the blogs of Jenny Rappaport and Jennifer Jackson (links on the side).

Ms. Jackson also included this link on her post: Obituary for L'Engle.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I am a bad, bad blogger

Life and procrastination got in the way. First, I was just waiting to read all three of the Magic or Madness books by Justine Larbalestier, but after the first two, the third seemed to disappear from my library. Whenever I get a chance to read it, the review will come.

I just finished my first week as a graduate student. One class has weekly responses via a blog, the other two require class emails. I think the first will be harder, though, because it's my Monday class and I really need to work harder at doing the readings before the weekend. Upside, the class blog need only consist of a single paragraph. Second week of balancing class and work starts tomorrow. We'll see how it goes.

In the mean time, since I'll have to get onto the computer more often (turning on the computer, another act that was terribly difficult the past month or two, still not quite sure why), I'll try to update here more often.

I'm still editing the urban fantasy. A friend of mine is sending out his first query letter, so good luck to him. I'm hoping his progress and successes will sort of spur me into action--we've done well to play off of each other's enthusiasm in the past.

More writerly fun to come soon. For now, I'm off to do some editing, then I have one more essay/article to read for class tomorrow and I have work in the morning and early afternoon.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

At least it's a happy day in the world of writing

Irritation and bad mood aside, I've been excited and nearly giddy at the prospect of writing today.

1. In a post a few posts down I mentioned working through a character issue in chapter 7 of the urban fantasy I'm editing. Writtenwyrdd commented with some advice that was quite helpful, and led me down into the fun world of "what if I try it this way, no this way, how about if we add this other twist here..." in order to see which solution would work best.

I get a kick out of that.

Specifically, she brought up the prospect of using a red herring to make my main character think she'd been wrong in her suspicions, only to find out she was right later on, that this guy is not a good guy, though perhaps for a totally different reason than she suspected of him.

I have heard of red herrings, know what they are and all that good stuf, but that's one of those instances that I don't think of its proper name even as I use it. Although, I occasionally notice, "Hey that right there is a handy bit of foreshadowing," after writing something. But yes, so it jogged my memory and now I can go back and really play with that character and the interaction between him and the protagonist.

2. Earlier today I began an AIM conversation with a friend, still ongoing, where she invited me to go clubbing this Saturday. Now to look at me you wouldn't think I'd be much of a dance club-attender. You would be right. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've been in any club, and still have a finger or two left over. And the occasions that I've danced n club even less so.

But I am trying to fight the ever-present urge to give in to my hermitude, and she's my friend and I don't get to hang out with her as much as I'd like (frankly the only people I do spend a lot of time with are my immediate family and my coworkers--all those hours at work, goodness--perhaps a bit too much on both accounts). So I said sure. A couple of minutes later, the exciting prospect came to me.

Even if the night is a bust--too hot and sweaty, expensive drinks, don't want to dance, don't like the music, etc.--I can still use that night as research.

I'm working on a new story which centers around the proprietor of a dance club, now in disrepair, both Harry and his bar. But it was once quite popular, and I feel scenes within a couple of clubs may appear throughout the story. Even if everything that happens saturday night doesn't make it into this story (and I think we all know it won't), the experience will, through little details that add realism to scenes.


Write what you know, right? Well, I don't know much about clubs, due to my lack of going to them. But I've been to a few over the years, and I'll go to this one and it wil all come together as knowledge and information I can pluck out of my consciousness for a particular aspect. Like the smells, or the sounds. Finding the right words to describe that kind of din or the lighting (strobe lights, anyone? we'll find out).

Would it be rude to wander absently over the club, jotting down notes into my little pad of paper.

You never know, even my short discussion with my friend about the possbile dangers of me wearing my glasses onto the dance floor may make it into this story, or some other one.

In any case, I can't predict what the weekend will bring, but the prospect of widening my knowledge base thrills me, and sends me into spirals of writing nirvana.

I love learning new things. I really do.

In other news, although I've been reading her blog for months, if not over a year, I finally read Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier. I've borrowed and reborrowed it from the library, but never got around to reading it. Now I have. I enjoyed it. And I appreciate her use of the multiple viewpoints. Perhaps a more detailed review will be forthcoming, but now I've got to get ready for work. Alas.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A few ideas to ponder

For some reason, I find it easier to continue editing one story if i'm working on another. wel, I say 'for some reason,' but this makes sense to me. In editing, I can get bogged down in the smaller details. If I'm working on new pages then I feel as if I'm still utilizing my creative talents (oh, I don't like that word, sounds sort of arrogant, but you know what I mean). I think, without doing any new writing, I'd end up really not enjoying the times I edit, and I wouldn't want to do it. The result being that it either takes forever to finish editing a piece, or I do a less careful job of it because I just want to finish.

Also, this new story I'm working on, I feel this urge to share the idea with people. Usually I don't. I might give the basics to a writerly friend, if it happens to come up in conversation, but this one I keep wanting to tell people. "Hey I have this new story, what do you think of the premise, or this characters, or these other guys?" Often enough I don't even like to describe my stories evenwhen they're well on their to being complete. Go figure.

Ah well. Job calls, so I'm off.

Happy writing.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Totally about writing process, can you believe it?

So after a week, I am halfway through my first round of converting hard copy edits to computer file. I'm struggling through a brambly bit at the moment, which has had me stuck for a few days.

I'm trying to insert more hints about a character's suspicious behavior early one without overdoing it. It was one of those issues where, I knew he'd pop up from time, not too terribly often, and my protagonist doesn't like him, just as a clash of personalities. But the further I got into fixing the story in my mind and discovering just where it was all going, his motives became murkier, tied up in centuries of tradition mingling with politics and clouding emotion. And because he doesn't like the protagonist. So two-thirds of the way through the book and I realize his behavior is more suspicious than just being a jerk. And now I'm editing the early chapters to reflect that, bit by bit.

Once again, it's that matter of balance. She thinks he's just being an ass at first, but the next tme she sees him, something strikes her as a little wonky. The next time, suspicious.

Chapter 7, where I am right now, is where this character first comes in. I think the reason I've been stuck is just because this scene will set up the future scenes with this character, particular those where he's interacting with the protagonist, and I want to get it right. That means allowing myself to take my time with it. I feel like I know where I'm going, though, so maybe the rest of this will move more smoothly.

We'll just have to write and see.

(And I don't even like puns. Oi.)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stepping Away from the Writer's Group

Okay, still gonna go to the group each week, but I probably won't be bringing more than a page or two of one-shots or poetry, if I bring anything at all. As of the Wednesday before last, I have brought the last chapter of my urban fantasy to the group and received their critiques and feedback. Last night I finished taking all of their handwritten notes and compiled those onto my hard copies of the chapters.

I now have two copies of the manuscript, one with my own edits, the other this compilation of edits. My next step (which I began a bit earlier today) is to take those handwritten notes and transcribe them onto the computer file copy. I'm doing this with my personal copy first, because I think its first few chapters are older (I had printed it out but then made changes to the computer file version before even editing the printed hard copy), then I'll do the writing group edits.

It's time-consuming and I am tempted to do what my friend is doing, rewriting the whole thing while incorporating the edits in order to get a cleaner flow of narrative between the old and the new. But right now, considering the amount of editing needed, I'll think I'll just input them and reread it afterwards, doing my best to read it for flow and pace (better than I did in the first editing round trying to see how it flowed and whether the pace worked).

Still reading the Neil Gaiman anthology, Smoke and Mirrors, which I am greatly enjoying, and trying to go to sleep Friday night, I ended up forming this neat description of a bar in the midst of a dump (not quite literaly speaking, quite), which I actually remembered Saturday. I wrote it down while driving from Mililani to Kapolei (I wasn't driving, I was in the passenger seat, shotgun). I was pleasantly surprised that I remembered as much as I did in terms of word to word recollection. I don't know if it would be better served in poem form, or just adjust it for prose, though I do know I couldn't use it as the beginning of a story. But I do like it and I like the inkling of a story forming out of it. We'll see where that leads.

The rest of this Saturday was less than pleasant, but it has been good for my writing, if not my sleep habits. (Two nights of taking forever to fall asleep, only to wake in the middle of the night, but dozing in come morning--not quite sleeping in, as I was partially conscious).

My typing on this laptop is still atrocious--you are all lucky I find as many of my typos as I do. I blame it on a combination of never getting the hang of the home keys, long fingernails, and being unaccustomed to the flatter keys of a laptop/notebook. (Actually, I rather need to cut my nails, I am far too concerned about them breaking under the skin--screwing chipping them, that's pansy talk--while I'm packing and moving large, heavy boxes at work.) Right-o, off to edit some more.

Friday, June 1, 2007

A belated, 'we'll miss you'

As is often the case, I am behind the times. (I still haven't switched over my Favorites list from the old computer to the new and have fallen abysmally behind on all my favorite blogs.)

Alas, today I learned that Miss Snark is retiring. I was a novice Snarkling, reading and enjoying her blog, but rarely commenting, but she will be missed. By me, and countless other bloggers and writers.

The Snarkives are still up, for those who are curious and in need of her snarky guidance (who isn't?).

I, for one, wish her all the best. May those who query you be writers who've read the snarkives and don't make your trigger finger itch for the clue gun.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sabrina, updating? ~hand to cheek~ How novel!

You never know, maybe one day, I'll get closer to the one-post-a-day goal I had originally.

But I digress (never a good sign when it occurs in the first sentence, or the second).

So my first draft of the urban fantasy story is done, and I have technically completed the edits on my hard copy. I have brought all but the last chapter to share with my writer's group, but as I was editing chapter 15 and 16, my question became this: was chapter 16 even necessary?

It basically acts as a resolution chapter. Everyone who makes their living in the mortal world, returns to the mortal world, with a few extra people in tow, the reader sees what happens immediately after they return and then a short scene a few months later.

It's one of those chapters where I think it isn't really strong enough (as is) to end a novel, but it answers enough questions that it might be needed anyway. I wonder if hinting a little more at what's to come in a planned book 2 might help, but I don't always like that 'hand rising from the grave so you know there'll be a sequel' motif. and in this case, assuming I get an agent and get the book published--well, much as I'd like to say, "Of course it'll be popular enough to warrant a trilogy or series" I am also conservative, read: self-deprecatingly realistic, enough to know that it might be my only one, or at least, it might take a while before I get a second book published. So the first book should be self-contained, satisfying enough that readers enjoy and want to read more, but not cryptic at the end to the point where the reader is left frustrated as they wait to read book 2.

Anyway, since this is meant to be a writing blog, I hav now blogged about writing. Reading Neil Gaiman stuff always helps. I'm finally starting to read actual books again, not just manga, although I'm starting small, with a Gaiman short story anthology.

Um...that is all.

(I really am bad at endings, I'm surprised I've ever finished a story because that always requires an ending. Maybe all my endings are really bad. Gah! No I can't think like that. Maybe they need work, but they aren't bad. There. That sounds encouraging, right? Heh. Okay, I'm done now. It's been a long day.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My meme-cherry popped

I do believe this is the first time I've been tagged for a meme. Keen!

(Everything is prettier on a new computer. Is that true or it is just me?)

So here're the rules:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

I don't know about the tagging others part--I still feel new to the blogger community and a bit like I don't know enough people to do that, but if you read this and someone else hasn't tagged you, feel free to claim I did and play along. Then let me know, I'm a sucker for learning random things about other people.

So me...

1. I just got a new computer and that gives everything a pearly rose-colored glow, much like sunglasses of the same ilk. This is actually the first new computer I've ever had--the other two were throw-aways, one from my high school that originally ran on DOS (but it was already 1999 or 2000), the other my dad got somewhere, about to be trashed. The HS one I got first, and it lasted longer than the newer one I got later.

2. I've been to the Ice Palace, the lone ice rink on Oahu, a handful of times. I have yet to learn how to ice skate. Although, this last time I had a fall that left me sore for two days, which seems like sme kind f progress.

3. If I wanted to, I could adopt the local kine pidgin talk, yeah? Cuz I been living in Hawaii since I was one keiki, so I one local. But even typing sounds odd, and saying it out loud sounds even funnier.

4. Sort of a corollary to 3--I am a miliary brat, but my dad retired after I finished 4th grade, and I never really considered myself a "military brat." I just use the term because when people ask how long I've lived in Hawaii that reply seems to come with greater, quicker understanding. But I've been out of the military, so to speak, or lnger than I've been a "military brat."

5. I am a creature of cravings. I like fruit and water, but since I don't feel like eating or drinking that, I tend to not have them as much as I should. I am trying to change that. It helps to have fruit like mangoes, green apples and korean pears, which my mom will offer me half of. She loves fruit. Lately, I've been craving pomegranate fru-tea ice blended drinks from the Starbucks-like 'Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf,' Pepsi, and dark chocolate.

6. When I was in kindergarten, my favorite color was pink and I wanted to wear skirts and dresses to school every single day. By first grade, I hated pink and dresses and never wanted to wear either. Now I am okay with both, but only under specific circumstances (the right pink must be punk).

7. I can never pick a favorite anything, be it books, manga, music or movies, colors, food or v shows. There's always a long list of very general things because the things I like, I like a lot (Neil Gaiman can do no wrong in my book, same with Charles de Lint, and even out of the many Valdemar books Mercedes Lackey wrote, I couldn't pick just one). Although I will say that Belle from the Disney version holds a special place for me out of the Disney princesses. I think it's because she likes books, kinda looks like me (ah yes, we both wear our brown har in a ponytail, we must have been separated at birth) and isn't passive.

8. (I feel like the last one should be the best, but how do you choose a 'best random fact'?) I usually find it pretty easy to start something--here I'm specifically thinking of stories, but it can be applied to other hobby-projects as well--but it's always difficult for me to finish something. Now I've finished the first draft of this fae story, but I'm getting stuck on the edits, and I want to rewrite the ending because it reads like 'oh, here's the end, wait, we haven't resolved X, add a scene/chapter. tere's teh end, oh wait, what about Y?' But I am editing in a big way, better than I did for the first quest-fantasy story, so I feel like I'm making progress. Maybe with the next story I'll do an even better job of ending it. Let's hear it for practice.

Okay, so what does everybody else have to say? Random facts abound!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Haven't had a writing group post in a while

That's what you get when I go on teh computer the morning after my writing group meets. Some vague thing irked me last night. And this morning it felt like I wanted to say, "Gods forbid I include any details for the sake of description and giving the readers a fuller image of the scene," which I think was the problem. Of the pages I brought last night, the trend seemed to be that there were details that didn't add anything to the narrative/plot and in other places, there needed to be more details to make the story clearer.

My reaction (in my head) was a peculiar combination of, "I see what you mean, that makes sense and I should change it," with, "What's wrong with including the fact that this immature guy has to stand still and not move his hand, and now his knuckles itch?" I kept the latter purely mental, while verbally responding with the former. That's why they make written comments as wll, so I can go through it afterward, when I've set the emotions aside, and see if those details really are unnecessary, or if there's something missing to make them pertinent.

Even after the worst meeting (which this was not, not even close), I am grateful for the writer's group. Because these areas they pointed out were parts I glanced over, that I didn't see the problem, or maybe I saw the problem but didn't know how to fix it, and they came in with a suggestion to fix it. Beta readers in almost any form are helpful, regardless of the strength of one's "You're killing my baby!" feelings, because there will always be aspects of an author's writing that needs work, which they can't see on their own.

My personal worry is that I have too many aspects like that which I can't see, and should I ever stop bringing the major works to my group, I'd miss out on some big editing that needs to take place, which then makes me feel like I'm relying on others, and I don't much care for that.

Or maybe I'm degernerating into paranoid rants, but I want to my work to be written by me. Thus, I try very hard not to give in to too many of their changes, particularly when it's along the lines of 'change this sentence to this.' Most of them aren't fantasy or sci fi-oriented, and some of their opinions on point of view, pace and voice are influenced by that. Basically, I just don't want to lose my own voice in my writing by trying to fix everything that point to as a problem, even if they are, technically, correct.

I think that point ends differently from how it began, but overall: writing groups are good, if you find one that suits you, be careful if you're in one that doesn't fully suit you, don't give in to all their changes, nor ignore all their suggestions, and try to listen with the emotion set aside.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's too late now, fulfillment just adds fuel to the flame

*No Doubt, "Too Late" from the album, Return to Saturn

The title has nothing to do with this post. I just like it and it seems like it suits the business of writing, for some. That perhaps a writer who is published once, ill then be motivated to write even more, thus fueling the fire of success.

That's not the point though. No actually, I hd a curious realization the other day. Now lately I have been reading a lot of manga, and by a lot I would guess in the hundreds since getting on this kick with Christmas 2005 (I'd read some before, but that's when I really started devouring them). I've run across some stories that were simpler, but had lovely artwork, others with better stories and slightly less desireable art, some with high quality story and art and other with less quality of both. Assume what I'm about to say speaks of the good ones, and basicall every statement ends with IMHO.

I happen to think manga can have well-developed characters and strong plots. The best ones have some sort of character development, for at least the small handful of major players (actually I'm reading one right now that has that, "Ouran High School Host Club"). But it occurred to me that reading a manga versus reading a novel is a very different type of reading. Comic book-style/art aside, I read the story differently.

I used to think it was mostly a matter of, "They're shorter and more visual, so I can read them in half an hour to an hour." But the other day I sat down to begin reading Kate Elliott's Spirit Gate (I'm being a bad reader--I got side-tracked away from The Burning Stone and thus haven't finished the Crown of Stars series yet, but I do want to read this one, which I got for my birthday), and even only reading the first few pages before heading off to work, I was struck by how calm the activity made me feel. Even when reading tense or action-packed sequence, there's still part of me that tranquilly content, "I can't wait to see where this goes." My emotional state with manga is more grin-y, "this is fun, what's gonna happen next, I want to know now." Essentially the same thoughts, just phrased differently and with a more active sound to the latter. Perhaps it's a matter of the ID and ego.

(I did say I'd get into pulling out some of that psychology stuff, didn't I? Just didn't expect it to be today.)

So Freud had a lot of silly ideas, but people still cling to a few. Wait a moment, I'll give you a chance to get out all the Oedipal Complex jokes you know. Better? Okay, here we go.

So Freud had this idea about the unconscious and conscious mind (the iceberg imagery, of which only a small piece of ice above the sea level is really conscious thought), and within this was the Id, Ego and superego. Let's ignore the moral high ground of the superego, he's boring anyway. The ego as I always thought about it, was the practical sort, sying okay, we can do that, but not ight now. A harried mother of toddlers, perhaps. The id is the toddler, worse twins, and then both want A/B now. No! They want C, too!

Manga seems to fulfill that innate and mostly unconscious id desire to read, because there are (usually) plenty of manga at hand that I can read. Be it from the bookstore, a recent purchase, or the library, or rereading ones I've already bought (I think I found a couple of good series that lend themselves well to rereading). Reading novels seems more of an ego compromise, "wait until the summer (I've been in the school system so long that I associate summers with reading for a slew of entire days), and then you can read all of these books, and these over here, and a couple of those too." They were the reward for finishing the semester, finishing the year, finishing high school or college.

Now that I'm working, it's all a bit screwy for the novels. I want to read during my free time, time not taken up by work, eating, sleeping, or working on writing and editing my novel (I've caught up with the edits for my group. I'm on the cusp of chapter 14). All of that takes up a lot of time, though, and sometimes I must admit, I just don't feel like reading. So when I do, it's usually a small window and it's much easier to read a short manga than risk getting sucked into a novel only to have to put it down at the most inopportune moment because of other stuff.

You're just reaching an awesome chapter, the big fight scene, whichever, but it's so late you have to go to bed or you'll be groggy all day at work tomorrow.

There's still hope for novels, though, don't get me wrong. I read all those Thursday Next and the Nursery crime books in a fairly short amount of time (I found The Erye Affair as well at the library), and it was such a nice feeling to start a novel.

As easy as it is to say each reader reads differently, I think it may be just as true to say every reader reads each book differently, too. And by book, I mean manga, novels, nonfiction, all of it, even breaking it down to genres or even authors. I bet if I read Spirit Gate and then Neil Gaiman's American Gods, I'd notice a distinct difference in how I approached each of those books as well.

Just a neat little thing I noticed about myself I guess.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bad writer, ignoring your readers

Hello readers. I'm sorry for ignoring you. Blame stress at work. I always do. heh.

So I have an older sister who writes. She sent me an email with some new writing the other day and only today did I get around to checking my email in order to reply. It was an interesting start to a story and it made me think of Book #1 (or was it Book A?). Anyhoo.

It's my questy/classic high fantasy story that I dare not look at for fear of keeling over from the horror of the writing. It got me highest honors in English, but I have this image of it still reading as very young. I began it in high school, reworked, finished and revised it in college, and I know it isn't as good as my current stuff is. But then, that's not surprising. I'm still learning, so it makes sense the earlier, less skilled work reads younger and doesn't have as much depth.

But that story was the sort where I started writing without little more than an opening scene and a couple of characters. 50-80 pages in, I had to stop and completely rework those first pages as I figured out what the plot was now that I had a firmer grasp on the characters and what they wanted. Her story read like that. In my opinion, it's perfectly fine to start a story with only a vague idea of what's going on. It can take longer, but eventually you get a feel for the chcracters and the plot and can rewrite the earlier stuff to match the story after you figured it out.

In my writer's group a few women always seem to ask the new members whether they have an outline for the plot. But they ask in a way that seems, to me (I could be totally wrong in my assumption, but for the sake of this post and point) like they expect every writer to know exactly how the story ends right from the get-go. I don't necessarily agree with that. Just as every writer has a different process for writing, they have different processes for planning a story as well. It may make it harder for them to critique because they don't know where it's going, but a lot of these stories coming in now, they still don't, even if the first draft is done or the writer herself knows exactly how the story goes.

No one else needs to know how you write a book. But you should know your own methods. Know your weaknesses, be it dialogue or plotting or too many flashbacks. Know how you edit and what you tend to miss (which you can find out by seeing what a consensus of readers point out for improvement that you consistently don't see until they point it out), and know your strengths.

I noticed this a few times with our new members that had also attended another group. That "well, they said to take X out, now you're telling me to put X back in." You can't always listen to writing groups. You have to look at what others say and then decide for yourself what works best. If you can conceivably look at every comment a critiquer gives and explain why you need to leave it as is (a real reason, not, 'but it's my baby,' remember dears, "Murder Your Darlings"), then leave it as is. If their suggestion makes sense to you keep it and make the change, but you're the writer and it's your story and your method of writing. they aren't writing your story for you and...

You will always know more about your story and the characters than the reader does. As much as we sometimes want to put in all the cool little quirks and tiny details that create this beautiful image in our heads, we can't always. We have to pick and choose for the single or small handful of details that create the image in the readers' heads. Alas, if I get published, my readers may never know that my protagonist's best friend used to be quite bulked up (not obscenely so, but a lot) and he lost a lot of muscle mass after a long illness. He's crazy tall and still muscular but very lean, a few shades short of skeleton at times, if you'll allow me the exaggerated imagery.


...Heh. I have no idea how to wrap this up. Yay for distractions and losing one's train of thought.

Happy writing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So sleepy, darn these morning schedules

I'm a night person, really I am. But I live with people who are, due to jobs and school, day people, and since getting a job, I must also wake up at a reasonable hour. And then I'm on my feet for at least four hours six days out of seven (yesterday was eight hours, and tomorrow will be seven--we have no chairs for employees). So the fact that it's 9:30 p.m. right now and I'm on the computer does not bode well. I'm already yawning, and even though I may be awake until 11 p.m. or midnight, working on the computer requires a functioning brain, which watching TV and reading manga does not.

Anyhoodles, I'm just about to edit five pages for my writer's group tomorrow. I won't have time to do it later because of my hours. In terms of the whole manuscript (I am behind my new year resolution goal), I'm on page 101. It really does a number on the flow when I'm working on editing a select few pages from chapters 12 or 13 (where I'm at with the group), and then trying to switch gears and look at stuff from chapter 7. I feel like "Wait a minute, I was just looking at this stuff, haven't I edited it already?"

It feels too familiar, although I haven't looked at that chunk for months. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, though I'm inclined to think the latter since I've been stuck on the past couple of pages for a while now. I just need to buckle down (even on one day off) and take the whole day to read through the manuscript. I'm trying to read for flow and pace, which is difficult when I allow myself to stop after only two or three pages. I think I justify it by saying, "Two or three pages better than nothing."

So I'm off, and I hope all of you are writing and having fun as you write. Happy writing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Last post on Fforde...maybe

Since the last time I posted here, I have finished Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten, the last three books in the Thursday Next series. The only book of Jasper Fforde's (as far as I know, he may have more series beyond this and the Nursery Crime series) I haven't read is the first about Thursday Next, The Eyre Affair. I haven't yet found it in bookstores or at the library.

I really do enjoy his writing. The light, funny style, all the twists and plays on classic literature and genre literature. I finished it before heading off to work yesterday, and an hour in to working, I almost lamented having finished the book because I thought it would just be such a nice way to end the day. Go home after whatever work drama you may have, and read a good book.

These were all borrowed from the library, which in some ways is not a good thing. Because I have books that I bought years ago and have yet to read. One of my resolutions for this year was to read at least ten that fell into that category. I haven't read them, not because they're bad, or anything related to quality, but I get library books and read those first, or read manga which take half an hour to hour to read one volume. So one the one hand, ten books in a year's time really is an underestimation of what I can read, but at the same time, there's so much other stuff, other books that get in the way. I still have a Charles de Lint book and a book on Japanese mythology from the library, as well as that Dufresne writing book, The Lie that tells a Truth.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Classic Literature and why we love you

Wednesday I work until 7 at the store, which means I'm closing, which means that I probably won't get out until 7:30. That means that if I went to the writer's group this week, I wouldn't get there until 8 p.m. and my sister likes to leave at 9, so I'd only be there for an hour anyway, not really enough time for all the group members to read the pages as well as get a lot of feedback and I'd hate to make my dad drive back and forth so much. So I probaby won't go this week, although if my sister still does, I may give her my pages and just receive written feedback. I don't much care for the idea of them critiquing it while I'm not there though. My brain gets wrapped up in these issues with the writing and then sometimes I feel like, 'why bother bringing pages at all? It's all crap.' I don't feel like that all the time, or even most of the time, but I'm fighting that feeling right now even as I editing my pages with the group's comments in mind, because they had a point.

Swiftly veering away from talk of the group, however, I went to the library this Saturday and borrowed a pile of books. A couple of manga because they're fun and quick to read (satisfying my desire to read and complete a book, and look at pretty pictures), a Charles de Lint book, and three Jasper Fforde books. They didn't have The Eyre Affair, but they had books two, three and four:

Lost in a Good Book
The Well of Lost Plots
Something Rotten

I'm on page 212 of the first book, which is nice and a little guilt-inducing, as I don't work until 3 today, but will probably read for most of that time instead of editing which I would be doing.

Anyway, this post is jsut to once again assert my newfound love for Fforde's writing. this book takes place in 1985, but you don't notice that so much except in reference to fashion. Any other 80s references aren't so jarring (ahh, scrunchies, I bet I still have a bunch tucked in the back of a drawer somewhere).

Also related to literature, but not Fforde: I've seen commercials for a new movie called The Last Mimsy. I am almost certain it's based off a sci fi short story called Mimsy were the Borogroves, the title of which is taken from Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwock" poem. As Fforde makes me want to look up all sorts of obscure nursery rhymes and reread Great Expectations, so does this make me want to drag out my sci fi anthology from a "Studies in..." course and reread that short story.

Books are fun!

I'm such a dork.

Friday, March 2, 2007

My attempt to not go all angsty/ranty

So I put this off a few days because I wanted to approach it as analytically as possible, although I know I couldn't be totally objective.

I went to the writer's group on Wednesday, received two cards and a gift card for my birthday, for which I am thankful (one card was homemade with a picture from Belgium, lovely picture, gonna use it for research/description/inspiration at some point, I just know it). There was actually another person with pages, but we took so long to get started and then to read and critique my seven pages that my sister and I had to leave before we could read the other girl's.

Anyway. I know how I react to critique. There is the inital 'they're criticizing my baby, how dare they.' But I am bringing in the pages knowing full-well what is to come, and knowing I will learn things about my stories I hadn't noticed before, and ultimately the experience will help. I set the emotions aside until I'm by myself, get it out of my system and then look at their written comments and my notes on their verbal comments with a clean eye. See what I can use.

Here's what I did not appreciate this week. Coming from a new member: 'I've noticed this will every writer under 25, that it reads like a videogame or RPG.' I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist. She added, anime too. Another women, a veteran of the group, said, "I was gonna say movies, but yeah." They referred to my pages as falling prey to this.

I exchanged a glance with my sister.

Here's the thing. I don't particuarly care for the fact that they were making a blanket statement about all writers under 25. Second, I don't play videogames or RPGs. At best, I occasionally used to watch my brother play videogames, and used to listen to my friend talk about her RPGs. But there's also the fact that there are many different kinds of videogames. And neither women bothered to explain further what they meant specfically. How is my writing like a videogame?

I understood their critique when they said the narrator sounded too distant, too observant and not close enough in the characters' heads, and it was after that point this woman brought up her blanket observation, so I guess they're related, but being unfamiliar with videogames I don't get the comparison.

I watch anime from time to time (and have a few favorites), but apparently not enough to see the point there either. As for movies...the woman who said that has always said to write description as if you're watching a movie of it in your head, now she criticizes me for apparently doing that?

I find their analogies confusing, even though the basic idea of a distant narrator and a few of their other points made sense to me. I agreed with them. Just making this comparison to other forms of media escaped me.

So I guess what I'm wondering is this: Have any of you ever read something and thought it sounded like a videogame or RPG, and if so, can you give me a concrete explanation of what that means to you? It may not be the same as these members were thinking, but it might help and I'd appreciate it.

I know a writer wouldn't want to write something and treat it as a movie, RPG, etc, because those are different media forms that have different needs, but a writer can use some techniques from other places to enhance their own writing. Where might that go wrong?

Thank you and happy writing.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gotta love a good quote

No hard thinking for me today, if you don't mind. Here's are a couple of quotes from writers, for writers, for writing. You may or may not agree with all of them, some are more for amusement. Take what you like from them. The Gaiman quotes are from his online journal, some foudn through The Quotable Neil. The rest, excluding the Churchill quote, I don't know where I found that, are quoted in John Dufresne's book, The Lie that tells a Truth.

I like quotes. I collect them. Heck, I hoard them. But I'm generous, so here you go:

You have to write if you're going to be a writer. Because Elves won't do the work for you. --Neil Gaiman (plenty more where this came from)

All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams. --Elias Canetti

If you want to be a writer, write. You may have to get a day job to keep body and soul together (I cheated, and got a writing job, or lots of them, to feed me and pay the rent). If you aren't going to be a writer, then go and be something else. It's not a god-given calling. There's nothing holy or magic about it. It's a craft that mostly involves a lot of work, most of it spent sitting making stuff up and writing it down, and trying to make what you have made up and written down somehow better. --Neil Gaiman

When a writer is born into a family, that family is doomed. --Czeslaw Milosz

The problem with fiction is that it has to be plausible. That's not true with non-fiction. --Tom Wolfe

What is remembered is what becomes reality. --Patricia Hampl

Writer's block is a luxury most people with deadlines don't have. --Diane Ackerman

Inspiration is to work every day. --Charles Baudelaire

Writing like a mad thing. Wishing that time were more, well, rubbery… Everything would be okay if we just had rubberier time. If you could lean against a week so it would have ten or fifteen or thirty days in it. That's all we need. --Neil Gaiman

If you hear a voice within you saying you are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working. --Vincent Van Gogh

Habit is the denial of creativity and the negation of freedom; a self-imposed straightjacket of which the wearer is unaware. --Arthur Koestler

All writers, I think, are to one extent or another, damaged people. Writing is our way of repairing ouselves. --J. Anthony LukasWhen I'm not working I sometimes think I know something but when I'm working, it is quite clear I know nothing. --John Cage

Any artist must expect to work amid the total, rational indifference of everybody else to their work. --Ursula K. Le Guin

It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn't allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering "Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!" and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there's nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you'll need to learn how to shrug and keep going. Or you stop, and get a real job. --Neil Gaiman

‘You're a writer? I've got an idea for a book you can write.’ This is right up there with ‘If you all just hand over your wallets nobody's going to get hurt. Except for any writers amongst you. We really hate writers,’ on the list of things writers generally hope not to hear. --Neil Gaiman

(Writing American Gods) was a bit like wrestling a bear. Some days I was on top. Most days, the bear was on top. --Neil Gaiman

Lacking bear pepper-spray, I walked home across the garden last night singing very loud bear songs, which went something along the lines of, "Lalala, I am singing very loudly to alert the bear to my presence, Lalala because most of the websites I've found talk about making noise and giving bears lots of time to get away, Lalala also I do not want to startle a bear at all because according to everything I've read on the subject bears do not like being startled." You don't have to worry about rhymes with bears. They don't mind about rhymes. Or tunes. Or scansion. Frankly, hypothetical bears are a very easy sort of audience. --Neil Gaiman

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public. --Winston Churchill

Big Deadline is still a thing of madness. The other two little deadlines at its feet chivvy and squeak and grunt and bare their sharp little teeth. Several smaller deadlines howl impatiently from the bushes outside.Argh. --Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I've gone identity mad

*Mika "Grace Kelly"

I chanced upon this song on VH1 as I was channel surfing his morning. It was pretty entertaining.

But this blog post isn't about that. Or maybe it is, seeing as that's the line I choose to use as a title.

Writing habits.

Every writer has them: get a cup of coffee, sit down, boot up the computer, and so on through their regular routine of getting in the groove to write. But I'm thinking more in terms of habits one finds themself encountering as they write. Or maybe habit is the wrong term.

One woman in my writing group says her stories all tend to center around one specific theme. She writes contemporary romance and the theme is the redemptive power of love, according to her. She said once that every writer has a couple of those themes the crop up in every story they write.

I'm not sure if that's necessarily true, but I do find motifs or general ideas popping up in my stories. Although I never set out to include them, the past couple of stories I've written include a few dream sequences (I know, never start your story with them, but I keep them a few chapters in and brief, and they do have a purpose), and the protagonist's past always plays a big art in the present trouble.

I don't know if that's really a problem. The two stories these aspects appear most prominently in are quite different stories. I tend to think that as long as these (habitual insertions of general motifs) are important, it's not necessary to throw them out, just because they're in another story. It may be a problem if one finds every story they write including the same idea, because it seems like that would get boring.

And I speak in terms of stories that one intends to get published, thus taking into consideration the buying audience. Not like I think any writer should cater to the trend of what's being bought, but they should consider how a fan would would react to reading the same book over and over again, with only the title and character names changed.

Of course, I may be generalizing my views as a reader onto the general reading audience. I wouldn't want to read the same book repeatedly, although I like to see details here and there (within the story or stylistically) that remind me of an author's previous works I've read. Consistency is one thing, but repetition is boring, in my opinion.

So anyway, I'll keep an eye out for when stories are developing in my head, see if the dreams or past influences are too strong or don't really help the story and are just there because I like them. I can always cut them out in edits, but if it's clear even before I start writing that these motifs aren't necessary, why write them in the first place?

Do any of you find images or situations that keep cropping up in your first drafts? How often do you keep them in the later drafts?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jack Spratt could eat no fat...and that's Spratt with two T's, not one

One of the things I love about the Borders in Waikele is that they position that trade paperback books right in the front of the entrance. Now, on the one hand, it’s totally a ploy to get people buying books. On the other hand, I chanced upon “The Lie that tells a Truth” there as well as Jasper Fforde’s “The Big Over-Easy.” If you like nursery rhymes and mysteries, then Fforde is for you.

I never would have picked up either book without seeing them as I wandered through the trade paperbacks for the few minutes I have before my writing group.

So when I saw Fforde’s second book in the nursery crime series, it was in hardback and I waited eagerly to see it in the trade paperback section. When I chanced upon “The Fourth Bear” in the library I snatched it up and read it in two or three days.

Fforde is a British writer and if you like mysteries or books that plays with archetypes in a fun way, Fforde is your man. He also has a series called Thursday Next, which I’ve never read, but I’m going to keep an eye out.

I’ve never read mysteries or thrillers, but Fforde has a writing style that’s easy and fast-paced without feeling rushed. Until you get to the end when the climactic scene arrives and all too soon it’s over and you’re left wishing for more. And by you, of course, I mean me, but it’s a good book and he’s a good writer and I urge you to come to the dark side.

I also finished Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which is funny and makes me want to write a story that plays off of some of the more interesting entries (the stereotypes about the Companions on a quest, or the prevalence of Stew, but no grazing cattle or sheep despite much leather and wool, etc.). It was just flat-out a fun book to read, and has inspired ideas and scenes for my pirate-y story SH in as much as it makes me want to write and puts me in that world’s mindframe.

Books are fun. Yay books!

On a completely unrelated, but more important, note, a favored professor of mine at the University of Hawaii Psychology Department passed away earlier this month. I only found out today when I checked my email. Edward Chronicle, it felt strange to think of you as Ed, even though you insisted, but you were a wonderful professor and made me love cognitive psych even more. You will be missed.

A week and a night late, but here's my night with Ms. Weis

So, barreling over the subject of my seemingly long absence (seems long to me, maybe not to anyone else, and which I blame on long work hours strategically placed to give me no time in the morning and leave me tired when I come home ;P ), we’ll dive promptly into the visit/talk/dinner with Margaret Weis on February 14, 2007.

I got sick that night. A nasty cold that left me wanting something soft to eat, because I was hungry after a day of work wherein I got out late as well. I settled on a small hamburger from Wendy’s. My dad and I ate in the parking lot of the library where she would be speaking. We went inside and my writing group leader introduced me to her. The WG’s husband got out of his seat nd gave it to me, a very nice and gentlemanly thng to do as it was a comfy cushioned chair in the front row.

Spoiler: I am ecstatic that Keifer Sutherland will be voicing my favoritest DragonLance character in the whole wide world, Raistlin, in the animated movie they’re currently working on. I’m also keen on the other actors she mentioned, although now I don’t remember who they were specifically (just that at the time, I thought it was awesome).

(Raistlin was my old school fangirl subject. Can you tell I’m wearing a mental cheesy grin as I type?)

So she spoke about how the DragonLance series began, and the new developments, and her production company, and then she answered questions and signed books. I brought two anthologies with stories she’d written (about Raistlin) and she signed the title page of each. One of my group members also took a picture.

At the dinner afterward, the two women in my group who basically lead it, made me sit next to Ms. Weis, not that I minded of course, and I was my usual introverted self, but I did ask a few questions. My sister sat on my other side and she’s much more extraverted, so I tend to think she’s more memorable. She certainly had people at the table cracking up.

But overall, it was a good night. I was feeling less and less well as the night wore on, and was sick until…Tuesday, although the cough is lingering and my ears still won’t fully unblock (yes it’s that kind of cold, where you wake up one morning to find everyone’s voices ever so slightly muffled and your own oddly distant).

She said one very memorable thing, though (it was all enjoyable, but this stuck in my mind):

“[I] Write every day, because it’s so easy not to.”

I smiled to myself. I know all too well that feeling. She gets up and writes every morning from 7:30 to 11 or so.

When I wasn’t working, I could get on the computer at 8:30 or 9, and be there until 4, 5 or 6 o’clock, but recently there wasn’t much in the way of writing progress. It was floating online, blogging about something random, etc. that sort of dedication is admirable.

Now that I work, it’s only on days like today, when I work from 3 to 7 p.m. that I might get on the computer. I still jot down quick scenes, and think/plan out stories in my head. Even last night I was playing on a rework of an opening for a story I wrote (read: novel I began) in 6th or 7th grade. Probably all 20-50 pages of text are crap if I read them now, but it was an accomplishment to write as much as I did back then, and I still like those core characters, so maybe one day I write a better story resolving around them. But I’m not writing like I should.

Every writer is different, and I think some can pull off not writing every single day, but I think that habit can only help.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bookworms and Margaret Weis

I was thinking about this the other night and even looked it up in the dictionary. Odd that the schools I went to should take a generic term for a myriad of worms and larvae that eat paper and/or bookshelves, but they do.

As a fan of books and reading and the whole experience surrounding the image of ‘curling up with a good book,’ you’d think I’d hate the little buggers. But I don’t.

Whenever I look at the word, I think of the cartoon figure I saw a lot in elementary school. A green segmented worm (is segmented the right term? Makes it sounds like it was chopped up) with round, black-rimmed glasses, and occasionally a hat, sometimes a graduation cap.

It’s a happy little image that said reading is fun, and I agreed wholeheartedly. I was ambivalent about worms in general, but somehow I came to like the idea of a bookworm. Which is odd, considering that even then I knew bookworms ate the pages of the stories I liked to read, but still…

A few years a go I bought a book in the DragonLance series, an anthology called the second Generation. There were two little holes on the side and as I flipped through it, the tiny holes became bigger and changed into tunnels running back and forth along that edge of the text. Clearly it was a victim of at least one bookworm, I thought. Although, other than the holes and whatnot, there was no sign of a living worm.

I bought the book.

I figured that not enough of the text was eaten up to make it impossible to read, and I was drawn to this idea of having that book.

Perhaps it’s just one of those quirks. But despite my little moment of anxiety the other night, where I worried there was still a worm and it was spreading to my other books (I was getting ready for bed and stopped to check), but that concern aside, I just liked the idea of having a book the illustrated the effect of these insects I’d heard about, but never saw. (And I keep losing my train of thought because of distractions, so I don’t even know if that’s what I originally planned to say. Alas.)

Also, Margaret Weis, who edited that anthology, is coming around to the various libraries this week. Yesterday she was at Mililani, tomorrow she’ll be at Kapolei at 6:30.

For those on Oahu, she’ll also be giving talks at:
Wahiawa, tonight, Tuesday, Feb 13 at 6 p.m.
Salt Lake/Moanalua, Thursday, Feb 15 at 3 p.m.
McCully-Moiliili, Thursday, Feb 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Also, an update:
Sundays' progress--15 pages read and briefly edited.
Total pages read and edited--20.
Monday, Feb 12, 2007--46 pages read and edited.

Considering I was stuck on page 4 for days, it felt good to get something done.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Drown all the boys and girls inside your head...

* not the actual line in a My Chemical Romance song, but that's what I thought it would be and I like my version better.

What seems to me a common piece of advice often given to aspiring writers is that of using all the senses when writing. Far be for me to talk back to the Powers That Be in the publishing world. On one occasion at my writers group, months, if not a year or two ago, one of the women there asked me how I remember events that occurred in my life.

That is how I remember to include the other senses in description.

The look of something is important, a symbolic splash of red or a flash or light or a poignant solitary blue flower in a gold vase.

But scents and sounds, I think, are perhaps tied for the second sensory method of remembering.

I’m not sure why I started thinking about this the other day, only that I did as I tried to fall asleep. One or two notes from a song on the radio (a song from a few years ago, but totally unrelated) elicited a memory of something. I can’t remember the memory now, it was a few days ago, but it was just this sudden and obscure memory.

That of course, led to my thinking about my own personal, “classic” example: listening to Ace of Base (not their “The Sign” album, but the one after) brought to mind “The Last Vampire” series I read by Christopher Pike when I was in 6th grade. I listened to that album a lot as I lay on my bed and read those books. I can’t think of one without the other, especially because I felt the mood of those songs seemed to fit the protagonist of the book series so well.

[small, unrelated side note: I’m typing this on Word and the dreaded green squiggly line has appeared under ‘lay’, which reminds me of a fairly recent post by Writtenwyrdd on the difference between lay and lie. Go, find it and check it out, while I try to figure out if this is actually wrong or Word is being fickle.]

[and some guy on Judge Judy said “tooken,” as in, “where he had just tooken my dog.” Interesting. Of course, in AIM a few days ago, I said “fighted” and didn’t even realize it at first.]

back to my original topic—

When my writing group member asked me how I remember things, I thought of scents, which, I believe, is a powerful way to add a sense of realism to a story.

I have no idea how to describe the smell of my mother on her pillows, but whenever I am changing the bed and catch a whiff of that scent, I think of being a little kid and curling up in her bed or on her rocking chair and that sense of warm protection and comfort.

Or catching a whiff of ‘something’ as I’m walking down the street and even if I can’t figure out what the odor is, it brings to mind some other memory.

So keep I mind those scents, fragrances and odors that elicit memories in your life and think about using that technique in order to bring realism and another layer of detail to your story, but don’t forget particular sounds. If your story is set in the contemporary world, a line or note from a song can have strong implications to a character, or the intonation in a stranger’s voice might remind them of someone they knew closely years ago, though this stranger looks nothing like the person brought to mind.

Play around with it, and try not to rely too much to a single sense in your descriptions.

Happy writing.

And I leave you with an awesome line from Heroes: "Life evolves, Father...Now I have to go save the world." *Hiro (whom we love)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Doing the music thing

I do the music thing. Listening to music as I write. Not so much music that matches the mood, but I start writing with a craving for a certain band or genre of music, and write to that. Usually I can go for chapters with just one cd. When I change to something else, it's often similar in sound. If it's very different, I don't listen for very long, just once or twice (which seems to shift the focus enough to jar my brain out of whatever rut it's in), then switch back to the original cd.

I can write the entire first draft of a novel with just a handful of cds.

Some people write in complete silence, others with music, others (I have a friend that does this) while playing movies in the background.

[I tried that with Pirates of the Caribbean, because SH has pirates, I thought it might help, but it didn't. Of course, the circumstances weren't ideal--my little sister was in the room and trying to talk to me as well. Very distracting.]

The point, to repeat what I say in a comment a few posts ago, and to echo WrittenWyrdd's words, is to write. And to get the book done.

Don't be afraid of doing it wrong. Especially not the first draft, don't get tied up in the 'right' or 'proper' way to do it. But if you're stuck, try something you haven't tried before. It might help.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I keep forgetting what I wanted to write about: Writing and My Day Job, a Sitcom

So, it's nice to be working. I'm outside the house, I'm working with, talking wit, and generally intercting with people that are not blood related. And I get paid.

Of course, I am forced to stand for 5-6 hours most days, which is uncomfortable, and there are so many different things to remember and I get a little stressed worrying that I'll mess up someone's shipping. But it's okay.

The issue is balance. I am not a morning. I need coffee, and without a lunch break, I need food before I leave in the morning. There's one show I like to watch, too, but it doesn't seem to be on every morning now. And then I get home around 5:30 and I'm tired. It's 9:50 in the morning right now, I am trying to type this, eat breakfast, drink a cup of coffee, and edit chapter 12 for my writing group tonight. I have forty minutes, I don't think I'll finish the editing, because I definitely intend to finish the coffee and I feel obligated to finish the food (even though it's a bit greasy).

So I am currently trying to find a balance between working at a day job, that takes up the bulk of the hours I would be on the computer and leaves me tired and aching afterward, with my desire to work on my stories.

But I like the challenge. Day after day solely in front of a computer monitor with few to no people around turns you into a hermit. And I think a job gives you more fodder for stories, as unconscious and unintended (and the ideas may be completely unrelated to anythng a work, but just getting out around different people opens your mind to other things, I think) as it may be.

There we go. I remembered the points I wanted to make. I have other ideas for posts, but no time now, so I am off to edit and eat.

Come here coffee, I won't hurt you.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Skip Ahead; or There and Back Again, A Writer's Tale

I was thinking about this.

In the story I'm currently writing, SH, I'm only about two chapters in. I have introduced a character named Kam and I am stuck. I think the problem is that I introduced him too soon. He's an interesting characters, and at first I thought this situation that the main character is in would be a good place for to introduce him.

Now I'm not so sure.

There are writers out there who follow an outline very strictly. Others don't start with a outline, but do work in a linear fashion. They start with their prologue and continue through chapter 1, 2, 3 until they reach the last chapter X or the epilogue.

Some start at the climactic scene and work backwards, perhaps focusing on the main scene and then filling in the smaller ones and the transitions.

I tend to write in a generally linear fashion, often because I haven't the foggiest idea how things will end or what the actual climactic scene will be. But one habit I do have is this: when I get stuck, sometimes I just stop and skip ahead to the next scene that is fully formed in my head (that I can picture the action, even if it isn't one of the more important scenes). The gap may be just a page or two to wrap up the troublesome scene, or a whole chapter.

I try to leave the smallest gap possible and just type in a note to myself that I need to fill it in later. I did this with my Honors thesis. I started that story in high school, worked until I reached a point and then needed to stop in order to focus on classes. When I took up the story again (this all before even joining the Honors program) over the next summer, I didn't know how to wrap up that scene I'd left off on. So I just skipped ahead, from that beginning of their procession, the first night away from the castle to their first major destination. I didn't know how much I was leaving out, but it was sort of a fresh perspective.

I tend to think, while, as always, it may not work for all writers, that skipping ahead is a helpful solution to getting stuck. I think it may help me with this new problem (just jump ahead to the rescue and maybe try it without Kam. If it flows better, maybe they need to meet him later).

It gives the writer a chance to step back and see how the story could work better from a different position, and reenergize him/her to write again. See how it works. I hope it helps.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Easily distracted: not a good thing for a writer, sometimes

Distractability--Here I finally start to read through and edit my hard copy of 'Hounds' and after one short phone call I am on the computer, wandering through livejournal and blogspot.

So I got a job, which means the updates here will either be a little earlier or much later, but I'll still try for some consistency. Bit at least I can say that I -did- start the edits.

Out in the world, being easily distracted, for a writer, seems both a good and bad thing. The bad part being obvious: too distracted and you never write anything.

But the good, as I see it: Maybe you're too focused on something while writing. Focused to the point of getting stuck because you can't see anything beyond that small point. But then a noise or a bit of movement or a color or (fill in the blank) distracts. You walk away. Come back. And sit down to stare at that part of the writing, but now your eyes are used to taking in more of your surroundings and you can view the whole page or the chapter. maybe then you can move on.

Or you're out in the world, literally, walking through a store or down the street. You're distracted by something, which draws your attention to something else and so on. Any of those 'something's and 'so on's could become the spark for a new story or the answer to a plot issue with a current story. (Just try to avoid it when crossing busy intersections.)

Distractability gives a writer a new perspective, a different focus, which I think could really help creatively.

Just don't let it drag you away from your goals for too long, just long to help.

And as a bonus: "pet words" We all use them (I've used my special pet word twice in the sentence above). I say that some of them are okay when used sparingly in a story, but be careful during your edits and cross off the ones you honestly don't need.

My list, of course, is by no means complete, but I know I suffer from most of these. Any other words that fall under this heading?

had (Technically correct to say, "She had called him an hour ago," but I think it works as well without it)
well (especially in dialogue)
...and I'm sure I suffer from more that aren't occurring to me right now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I have a Beatles song floating around in my brain

I forgot to mention this earlier.

On Paperback Writer's blog, there is this post, which I found via Miss Snark (I do believe).

It is funny. Read it and enjoy.

And then watch out for ninja agents rappelling from the rooftops.

Also, coming soon: Additional links to blogs by Patricia Wood, Holly Kennedy, Nadia Cornier, Jennifer Jackson, The Rejecter, and anyone else on my favorites list under Writing Blogs that I haven't included yet.

Neat words I just found as I opened my dictionary to double-check my spelling of rappel (I'd missed a 'p'):

purfle: 1. to decorate the border of 2. to adorn or edge with metallic thread, beads, lace, etc. --n. an ornamental border or trimming, as an inlaid border of a violin.

Then, while looking for purfle to type up this:

pyrexia: same as FEVER, from the Greek pyrexis, feverish-ness <>

putamen: the hard stone, or endocarp, of certain fruits, as of the peach and the plum, or the shell of a nut.

Make of all that what you will.

Thunderdome: Paper versus Computer

I love writing with a pen and paper. Or pencil, even though it smudges. With that, I am not bound to any one spot when the writing bug hits. I can be in my room at my desk, as I would if I wrote via computer, or on my bed, or sitting on a chair in the backyard staring at the orange tree in my neighbor's yard, or at the town center, sitting at a bench across from the bookstore, watching the different people going in and out with small children, while old men sit as a table nearby, just talking.

With paper (loose or in a notebook) and a writing utensil of your choic, there are absolutely no limitations.

With a computer, especially for people like me who don't have laptops, they're basically bound to the places that have desktops. And perhaps even more limited, if also like me, they're particular about which computers they use.

I will use my dad's if necessary, and there are computers at the library up the street and at college, there were a handful of computer labs I could go to (as well as the computers in the newsroom, where I worked, I used them a lot, for research and articles mostly), but I've always been most comfortable with my own little desktop. It's old and kinda slow, but it does what I want it to do most of the time and I like it. It's mine and I can type up anything I care to and save it without thinking I should only save it to disk and never leave a copy on the hard drive (as I'd think with the library and computer labs, a post about my paranoia coming soon to a blog near you).

I can't take this desktop to the park or chill out at a cafe with it. Too bulky; I'd give myself a hernia or something.

Generally, this isn't too big a problem for me. I tend to take some form of paper and at least one pen with me whenever I leave the house, if wearing a jacket or bringing a shoulder bag, infinitely more than one of both. My problem arises when I start something on the computer, then have the urge to continue working on it when I'm away from the computer, or even just not in the mood to turn it on. I can take notes, but without the exact few lines on the file I don't like to jump straight into a continuation of the scene.

Here's my solution: I've taken to printing out the last two pages or so of whatever I'm currently working on. Not everyday, and usually just when I'm on a roll, but can't stand the computer any longer. If I don't feel like printing it out but feel like I might want to work on it more later, I may also just write down the last paragraph on a clean sheet of paper, so if the muse hits between then and the next time I get on the computer, I know where I left off. If I don't, then the next time that situation comes up, I just skip a line and write down the new last paragraph on that same sheet.

It's a funny little solution to projects that really get under your skin or that you're alternately working on via computer -and- longhand, but it works. I tend to do more thinking about the story and more note-taking by keeping that little one or two-line reminder. I can't use "I don't know where I left off -exactly-" as an excuse.

Because let's face it, a writer can love writing, but we're horrible when it comes to coming up with excuses to not write. (You'll have to pardon the repetitive words there.) Chores, other people...I use my need to have a social life and not give in to an utter hermit-like existence as an excuse. And it isn't a matter of not loving to write. I don't know what it is. But for this excuse: "I'm not on the computer, so I can't write," this is my solution. And maybe I'm the only one with that excuse, but there you go.

Viva la papel!

Random stuff:

375 words on a first-person backstory of Rei, my main character for Book B, abbr. title "Hounds" (because I'm tired of referring to it as book B). In my head I know where she's been and what she's done the past 8 years, in a general sense, but it doesn't hurt for me to see the words and revivist her voice. It's helping already.

10,917 words total on Book C, abbr. "SH." Haven't been working on this too much, but have been thinking about it a lot, and I'm currently working out the climactic scene in my head. I think I may have introduced a character too soon and thta's stalling me in the writing. I'm thinking about the structure and plot too much for it being a first draft.

On page 85 of "The Lie that tells a Truth." I was talking about this book with my older sister, also a writer (after I came home with it, she said she'd bought the same book a while back), and we agreed that the nice thing about the book was that reading it made you want to write. Writing exercises aside (I hate the term 'writing exercise' sounds like work, even if his suggestions for them are good), ignoring the exercises, just reading the text makes you at once want to keep reading, and yet put the book down and pick up a pen and paper. And that, I think, is why this is a successful writing book.

Will now be off to edit the second half of chapter 11, because writing group is tonight. Last week's was okay, but we never got around the writing prompt and I wish we could get through a whole chapter each week (but we spend to much time talking for that). Oh well. Anything is better than nothing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A head's up

Not that I feel like getting into another long-winded shpiel right now, I'll spare you, but just so you know...

In college I was an English and Psychology major. And for my honors thesis, even though it was really just an english honors project, I drew upon my knowledge of psychology to incorporate into my main characer (primarily). See, I like my characters messed up. If I can screw them over emotionally, I will. I don't know why exactly, except that I think it makes them more interesting. Maybe I'm a little sadistic? Who cares if your main character is a nearly-all-powerful mage? That's boring. Give them mommy issues, or daddy issues, or class/caste issues, or appearance issues, or all of the above and then throw in some repressed childhood memories that tie-in to the current situation (there's a point about that which I'll make in another post).

I think in my first story, the honors thesis one (high fantasy, I guess you'd call it, with medieval castles and whatnot) that basically incorporated all of those, mostly in the same person.

So anyway, the heads up is that I'm going to try and include posts about psychology, specific things like the DMS-IV (Diagnostic manual of symptoms, I hope that's the acronym) requirements with which to diagnose depression, or the different types of schizophrenia or mood disorders, personality disorders, sleep disorders or what constitutes Down syndrome and the like.

It just seems like I keep running into references about that sort of thing, on Patricia Wood's blog (the main character in her book, Lottery, has an IQ of 76), Written Wyrdd talked about sleep apnea, or I've come across other medical discussions. Not like I'm an expert, but I took classes on abnormal psych, developmental psychopathology (we discussed autism and conduct disorder among many others), cognitive (which I loved and later did research on, specifically problem-solving), regualr developmental psych, and loads of others, so I do remember some stuff and have plenty of notes because I'm OCD like that (keeping far too many old papers).

I tend to think knowing how people work, how they think, can help a writer create more realistic characters. You don't have to say they're borderline or narcissistic, but I think those attributes can make a character stronger.

So why not? And maybe I'll come across something that will strengthen one of my characters.

Happy writing.

I love books!

Frankly, one of my happiest memories revolving around high school (not that high school was terribly awful, but I was the chick who knew -of- a lot of people, but didn't hang out with more than a handful) is sitting outside of my best friend's English class and reading on either end of the bench.

So I am greatly pleased when my dad bought me a writing book as an early birthday present, entitled, " The Lie That Tells A Truth," by John Dufresne. I'm on chapter 5, page 52-53 and thoroughly enjoying it. The tone is easy-going, the exercises at the end of each section are simple and as rare as I do writing exercises or prompts on my own, there are some that intrigue me enough that I might actually do them on an off day. There are nearly 300 pages, but even at this point, I just want to read it, then read it again, taking notes the second time around.

The dork that I am, I find it enormously keen that he includes various quotes about writing and writing-related character traits (like patience, or lack thereof), and I like to collect quotes, but I don't want to interrupt the flow of reading to jot them down. Hence the second reading when I'm done.

There's some humor, but it's also really informative.

Here's one of his exercises from the chapter on "Writing Around the Block," retyped fully.

"Making a List, Checking it Twice
Maybe it's that I'm obsessive-compulsive or maybe it's that I know I'll forget whatever is so important in two minutes (or maybe that's the same thing), but I make lists. (Lists were perhaps the first written litterature. Even before the list that Moses brought down from the mountain, and before Hammurabi's list of laws, someone probably scratched something about cleaning the cave, planting the wheat, hunting the mammoth, gathering the firewood.) I have lists of possible story titles, interesting names, lists of things I have to do. My characters make lists. I used to worry about this behavior, but these days I wonder how people get along without their lists. How do they know what to pick up at Winn-Dixie? Lists free you up to think about more important things, to daydream. Anyway, many of us do keep shopping lists, Christmas card lists, guest lists, birthday lists, and lists can be helpful for getting in touch with your usable past and with your obsessions.

So here are some lists for you to make in your writer's notebook:

1. List all of the friends you've ever had. Put an X beside those you've lost contact with.
2. List all of the pets you have ever had, even the short-lived goldfish from Woolworth's and the little turtle that turned into cardboard overnight.
3. List all of the moments you'd live over again for whatever reason. (To get them right this time. To enjoy them afresh.)
4. List everything you've done that you are ashamed of.
5. List every object that you've ever lost.
6. List the best meals that you've ever eaten.
7. List the toys and games that you owned as a child.
8. List your favorite songs.
9. List your favorite smells.
10. List your goals for the next five years. Prioritize them.

Take five to ten minutes on each list initially. They will suggest events, emotions, people, you haven't considered in a while. What else do they suggest? Use the lists in the coming days for sources of material for your fiction."

After reading that, I continued on, but it got me thinking. I have about ten pages covered in names, some already used for characters, some attached to story-less (currently) pictures. About six pages are names I made up, the rest are from name books with their meanings ('cause I'm a sucker for a name with a cool meaning, as long as it still fits the character). I make lists of goals, lists of groceries, countless daily/weekly to-do lists. And some of his suuggestions got me thinking to the point where I couldn't keep reading, so I pulled out my notebook and jotted down the title, "The Yellow Galoshes." Then wrote about two paragraphs about a girl in the rain with an umbrella and yellow galoshes wondering how people thought getting beaten on daily wasn't normal. It was normal for her. Was it different for other people? But she didn't wonder about that in a 'pity me' way, but from curiosity, because she was at that age where she's just beginning to realize not all families are like hers.

Of course, I didn't get all that information in two short paragraphs, just her opening thoughts about it. I don't know yet what makes those damn galoshes important.

...Or maybe I do. Hmm...

And that night, trying to sleep, three ideas for blog entries came to me and I jotted them down in the pitch dark (surprisingly legible considering I was also writing on a small post-it). And at some point that day, two titles for different stories.

I love lists.

As I read this book, I will be sharing exercises and interesting facts I find. I think taking a more thorough break from writing is good. I'll read this book and another and see how I feel then.

The "other" book (oo, see how cleverly I segued right there? heh) is "The Tough Guide to Fantasyland," by Diana Wynne Jones. This one I requested through the library after seeing a mention or two of it online. It was origially published in 1996, but reprinted in 2006, with a few changes if I remember correctly. I have the '96 copy.

So far (I paused in reading the other book to check this one out and I only began this one the other night), I am greatly amused. I opened it expecting it to be more humor than relevant advice and it is entertaining in terms of humor. It certainly doesn't take itself seriously as an actual guide to writing fantasy (unless by guide, you're thinking of tour guide, because that is definitely the feeling here).

Tangent: In college, I wrote a review of a book which the title suggested was a humorus how-to approach for college students/graduates writing resumes. I don't like to read other stuff about books before writing my reviews (to avoid biasing my own opinion). So I started reading it with only their back of the book and whatever promo stuff they sent. My problem was that there was more humor than actual advice, so it only worked as a humor book and less as a how-to. That irked me. I felt like whatever advice might be there was common sense, and for the most part, they stop short of anything really helpful. I didn't enjoy it as much because my expectations weren't met.

My point being that for Tough Guide, I went in assuming it was only meant to humor, so if I found no advice per se, it was okay, because I was only looking for entertainment.

What I found was lots of humor in spoofing/satirizing the stereotypes in fantasy, i.e. Assassin and Thieves' Guilds, "Northern barbarians" and their manners, etc. At the same time, I was seeing some things that I did (for example, they talk about how there are no normal animals--random woodland creatures or farming animals, in Fantasyland--and I do include, or I hope I do, normal animals in my writing, just small mentions here and there as they pass grazing cattle or the like) or didn't do, like giving the good guys normal, unmagic armor when they think there'll be fighting.

I would read an entry (designed encyclopedia-like) and see that I do include part of it, but not all, or would get an idea for turning a stereotype on its head, like that regarding bard (and apprentices). It was nice to see my expectations more than met.

Again, not done reading it, only just beginning, but both books are enjoyable to read for different reasons. And together they make me want to write, which was something I've still been struggling with.

(This post is horribly longer than I intended, isn't it? Heh, sorry.)