Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nano Slutting

I have a confession: I'm a writing slut. I try to devote myself to one project, but it just doesn't work. A shiny new idea comes into view, and I chase it down and tackle it like a satyr at a frat party.

Case in point: I've been editing my second novel, a process that's taken far, far too long. I started strong; fresh from a whirlwind first draft, I was going to settle down and make an honest manuscript of him. But then one day stretched into the next monotonous day. He was unwieldy and boring. I began to lose my passion, fearing we were heading for a separation.

Then a new player appeared on the scene: Nanowrimo. I thought to myself, I shouldn't succumb to temptation. Sure, he's sleek and exciting. But I'm devoted to my novel who, while boring right now, has the chance to blossom.

Just an off-word, I told myself. I won't really cheat; just a blurb here, a plot twist there. I can keep my distance. Of course I gave in. Now Nano and I are sloppy kissing, ready to go to the next level on November first.

But then, a funny thing happened with Novel. Instead of turning from him, I found my passion renewed. New phrases for the next chapter nearly rewrote themselves. I began polishing page after page, empowered by a flame I haven't felt in months. Before I took the plunge with Nano, I felt guilty; dirty. But now, we're all the better for it.

If you desire fresh literary lust in your life, check out Nanowrimo now. You too can join the worldwide frenzy and write a novel in a month. And you may find that it rekindles the flagging embers of an old project as well.

Also, Nanowrimo runs numerous programs for young and budding offers. Even if you're not participating, consider contributing some cash.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nanowrimo is for slowpokes

I just found out about the 3-day novel contest via Nephele Tempest's blog. Veterans of Nanowrimo attempt to write a novel in a month. (Full disclosure: I've attempted Nano twice and never reached the 50,000 word mark in 30 days.) The one-month novel is an challenging first draft adventure. The three-day novel contest borders on clinical insanity.

Like Nano, the 3-day contest takes place over a set period of time every year, specifically Labor Day weekend. The rules are simple: 1) Register; 2) Write a novel in 3 days; 3) Submit your novel. You may prepare an outline in advance, but cannot write a word of text until Saturday at 12:01. No editing after the marathon weekend is permitted. The winning entry receives a publishing contract via 3-Day Books (after the novel is edited). Second and third places receive cash prizes.

While length is not specified, the contest administrators note that entries average about 100 pages. Length is a factor in judging, but it is not the only factor. Since writers have no chance for editing or over-thinking, raw writing is what matters. And the contest administrators say they can tell if you cheat.

I'm tempted at the notion; I've had an idea for another story floating around in my head for a while. Unfortunately, I have an out-of-town wedding to attend that weekend, and such an undertaking requires 72 hours of unswerving dedication.

If anyone is nuts enough to give this a try, please let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"You cut my semicolon...I want a divorce!"

This evening the Central Ohio SCBWI got a double treat. Two acclaimed authors, Gary Braunbeck and Lucy Snyder, shared some insights on collaborative writing. They have a special concern in terms of joint writing projects: they’re also married. They gave an informative (and amusing) presentation entitled “You cut my semicolon…I want a divorce!”

Lucy and Gary talked first about the benefits of collaborative writing in general. As Gary pointed out, a writing partner is especially helpful when working under a tight deadline. On one occasion an anthology editor asked him if he could produce a story in four days. Gary and Lucy working together were able to meet the challenge and create a compelling tale.

A fresh viewpoint is also useful when one party can’t decide which way to go with a given work. Maybe one person has a developed beginning, or a strong middle, but can’t decide whose story it is. In these cases, an outside perspective can illuminate and clarify the story.

Lucy pointed out that marriage brings unique challenges to collaborating writers. For example, when both are pounding out words under deadline, who has to clean the litter box? There can also be clashes over creative issues. When one of them is having a tough time, it’s difficult for the other to remain unaffected. Arguments might also arise over who gets time to work on creatively fulfilling projects while the other has to bring in a paycheck. Jealousy and egos can also come into play.

But they were quick to point out that marriage has its benefits, too. They never have to schedule a meeting to brainstorm; it can happen in the hallway or over laundry. They also share the bond of empathy. When Gary’s having trouble, Lucy can empathize, and vice versa. Being married to another writer allows them to share that understanding about the joys and frustrations of the creative process.

If you get a chance to work with either Gary or Lucy, I would recommend it; both are fonts of writing knowledge, and entertaining as well. As luck would have it, both will also be at Context this year. Context is an intimate convention for readers and writers of speculative fiction. I’ll be there, and I highly recommend it. While online registration is now closed, you can still register at the door. It takes place in Columbus, Ohio, August 27-29. More information is here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Revision hell

Some writers love the second draft. Having laid down the raw clay of the story, they revel in forming the loose contours into a clearly recognizable form, then moving beyond to craft it into a breathtaking final piece.

I am not one of those writers.

Last week marked the end of the first draft of a novel. Since then I've been in recovery, mooning about, staring at walls, wondering where to go from here. I've started research for a new short story that I'm eager to burst into; also, I've been leafing through this book, trying to internalize some tips. When I'm ready to revise (probably later this week), hopefully some useful advice will remain stuck inside me, and I'll be able to unstick it.

In the meantime, does anyone have any preferred revision techniques? Do you do multiple targeted revisions: once for characterization, once for tension, etc.? Or do you go in for the one-pass technique? Or maybe you're hardcore like Heinlein, and never rewrite unless an editor demands it.


[ETA: Link to Heinlein's Rules for Writing]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Moderating Marcon

Tomorrow marks the start of Marcon, Ohio's biggest scifi/fantasy convention, and I'm participating in three panels:

Is it fantasy if there is no magic?
Writing Groups
Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism: Fact vs. Fiction

I'm moderating the first two panels. This will be my first time as a moderator, so we'll see how it goes. I have some material prepared in case discussion stops, but I don't want to overwhelm any sessions.

Does anyone have any great ideas for questions I should bring up? Any favorite fantasy books that contain no magic? Anyone in a writing group who has some experiences to share?


Friday, May 7, 2010

What if the arc reactor were open source?

Disclaimer: I am not a software developer or Marvel geek. As such, I will probably make errors in regard to both points (please correct me in the comments if you have knowledge in either area). I’m simply a curious person who just saw Iron Man 2.

Possible spoiler alert: Some of the points in this post refer to events in the movie Iron Man 2; however, nothing revealed here happens after the twenty minute mark. It’s all part of the major plot setup.


In the opening scenes of Iron Man 2, the U.S. government demands that Tony Stark turn over the Iron Man arc reactor technology. Stark refuses. Unbeknownst to him, the son of his father’s collaborator also possesses the technical knowledge to create an arc reactor. The son, Ivan Vanko, goes on to create his own version of the Iron Man suit. This leads to ninety minutes of bad-ass explosions.

But what if Tony Stark had not reacted by maintaining ownership of his proprietary knowledge? For one thing, come on: it’s the U.S. military. You know they’re going to get their hands on whatever technology they want if they have to step over your still-bleeding corpse to get it. So let’s say Tony Stark foresees the inevitable and grants the government access to his work, but with a catch: everybody else gets it, too.

Would the enthusiasm for open source tech extend to potential weapons? What would be some outcomes of such a liberal-minded approach?

    Ivan Vanko couldn’t surprise Tony Stark with his whippy-suit get-up, because everyone else would have one, too. That includes the countries who made failed attempts at reproducing the technology, as seen in the videos at Tony Stark’s hearing. And they could certainly afford it. If the seemingly-poverty-stricken Vanko could scrape together enough cash to construct a suit on par with Stark’s, North Korea could pony up for at least four or five. Would this lead to world destruction, or simply way cooler wars?

    The arc reactor could be used for non-weapon/costume purposes. Seriously, why are folks in Tony Stark’s world still driving cars powered by gas? Power plants likewise could be freed from dependence on fossil fuels. The limiting factor would seem to be the components required to construct the arc reactor.

These are just some random thoughts. What do all of you think? What would a world with open source arc reactors look like?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Win a free, autographed copy of "Embers"

That's right, you can win an free, autographed copy of Laura Bickle's awesome new urban fantasy, "Embers". Details are right here. I've read it, and it's a lot of fun. I highly recommend!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Upcoming publications and new projects

I have two upcoming publications. My short story “Onyx Island” will appear in Bewildering Stories in a few months. Also, my essay “Revenge Cookies” won the Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k) Meritorious Boon contest, and will appear in that fine publication sometime this fall. For those of you curious, that is about an average turnaround time for magazines, be they print or electronic.

Also, I’ve started working on new projects while I work on getting “Slideways” published. One is a horror short I’m having some fun with. I’ve also started research for my second novel. The protagonist of this story is a paranormal researcher with a background in physics. So, guess who’s never taken a physics class? (Raises hand.) An undergrad major in Religious Studies and a Master’s in Library and Information Science require shockingly few classes in the science department.

To de-ignorance myself, I took a trip to Half-Price Books in search of “The Moron’s Guide to Physics” or its used equivalent. Instead, I found this informative volume. It’s a great read which I’m quite enjoying. On the less conventional side, I picked up this book as well. As soon as I saw it on the shelf, I thought, “This is exactly the sort of book my character would love.” I expect that reading it will give me some insight into the direction my book will take.

So how is everyone else’s writing week?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The soul-crushing synopsis

I just finished the first draft of my synopsis for Slideways. So far I've sent two query letters, both to agents who did not request synopses. Unfortunately, almost all the agents on my list require the dread document, so I've been forced to write one.

For those unaware, a synopsis is a mini-encapsulation of your book. But it's not enough to simply recap the major events; it should be dynamic, interesting, and capture the essence of your novel. All in (depending on novel length and agent preference) one to eight pages.

My current synopsis is about 2 1/2 pages, single-spaced. That feels about the right length to me, and fits with the preferences I've been reading on some agents' blog. It still needs work, though. Right now I need to step away, and I'll look at it fresh tomorrow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Agent queries: the process continues

So I just polished up my query for a great agent and got it ready to send out. Then I looked online and discovered she has a blog. Great, I can read it and get a sense of what she's looking for right now. Turns out, she just had a PITCH SUBMISSION FESTIVAL and is currently working her way through 300+ queries. Ugh, could there be a worse time to query her?? Guess I'll just sit tight, keep reading her blog, and look for a good submission window. I'm glad I did my research before I sent out that query.

In the meantime, I'll keep writing, in addition to researching other agents and editors. RT is supposed to have sign-ups for agents and editors on the convention website soon, so I'll keep my eyes open.

Anyone else having adventures in writing?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The importance of saving OR: How I almost had a nervous breakdown

When one creates a long word processing document, such as a novel, saving multiple versions is vital to ensure one's sanity.

Case in point: today I realized that the version I had been polishing was NOT my final version. I knew that the final version had existed somewhere, in some format; I simply could not find it. The later version contained my re-write of the climax and epilogue chapters, and brought the draft together in a satisfying way.

The version I had been editing, 25 pages from the end, had the words STOP POINT written in large red letters. This was followed by my earlier, crappy ending.

Naturally I began to hyperventilate. I'd made a grave error: in working back and forth between my desktop and laptop, I had somehow saved over my rewritten draft. I had just polished the first 190 pages of the draft with the crappy ending (though the versions up until the last two chapters were identical).

Thankfully, after searching every damned writing file on both machines, I discovered that I had been smart enough to email the corrected version to myself. After a few hours of thinking I'd have to go over my notes and do a re-rewrite of the ending, I discovered I didn't have to. I copied the 190+ pages of my polished draft and pasted on the corrected ending, creating a new Frankenstein file.

I'll finish polishing the last two chapters tomorrow. Right now I need to roll with this emotional comedown.

So, remember kids: always keep track of your drafts!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A good reminder

Entersection has an excellent post on establishing habits today. The last sentence particularly resonates with me:

"Every time a resolve or a fine glow of feeling evaporates without bearing practical fruit is worse than a chance lost; it works so as positively to hinder future resolutions and emotions from taking the normal path of discharge."

I've experienced this phenomenon of lost momentum many times in my writing. When I am working daily on a project, I am more likely to continue to work daily on it, to flesh it out, to be excited by it. But sometimes I get off track--I have too many other tasks that day, and I end the day too exhausted to produce writing. At the time, I often think, "Well, it's only one day off; I'll just pick it up tomorrow". Then the next day comes, and I have a harder time lifting up the end of my work where I left it, finding that mental groove in which to work.

That's why habit is essential. For me, the hardest part of finishing a project is the physical, mundane action of sitting down to write the thing. The more often I am able to finish a successful writing session, the more likely I am able to pick it up again the next day. Past success bolsters me on to future success.

On that note, I should get to work.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


The third draft of Slideways is now complete. I've filled in the plot holes and fixed what I didn't like. It has yet to go through my crack team of beta readers; but, for the most part, THE NOVEL IS FINISHED.

I have two possible goals for February: 1) Write 3 short stories; 2) Get started on novel #2. I'm still high on self-congratulatory praise right now, so I guess I'll decide in the morning.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ebooks and digital ownership UPDATE

I know several of you are interested in hearing about the discussion I led at THATCamp on digital rights and e-book ownership. It was a great discussion and I really want to share what all was said. In going over my notes, I discovered that I have far too much material for a single, readable blog post. I also want to expand on some of the items we discussed in a more thoughtful way.

As such, I've decided to write a series of articles on some of the meandering topics that came up during the talk. I plan to publish these on another website where they'll hopefully attract a bit more attention. I'm exploring one option now, and will let you all know as soon as the first article is available. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

LibriVox collection now available

To celebrate my completion of novel draft #2, I bought a decent microphone with the intention of recording for Librivox.

I mentioned LibriVox a little in my last post. It's an awesome project that seeks to take all of the printed material on Project Gutenberg and make it available in freely available audio format. To that end, scads of readers, listeners and editors, all volunteer, put in hours of love to bring these books to you. I participated by reading a short spec fic story, Celebrity, by James McKimmey.

If you'd like to take a listen, you can go download the newest spec fic shorts collection. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It is done!

After numerous trails that led nowhere, false starts and delays, the second draft of Slideways is now complete. There is still much work to be done; I have to clean up references I made to a subplot that ended up not working out, I have to delete a little, add a little, and polish, but for the most part I love it!

There are several other projects I'm impatient to begin work on, but for now I'm going to bask in the completion. As a reward, I'm going to go out and buy myself a nice USB microphone and headset so I can finally start volunteering for LibriVox. But that's all in the future. Now is for the basking.

Many thanks to all my friends and family who shared support, ideas, and an ear for me to whine at. Hopefully soon the fruit of my labors will find a firm to mass produce it, and everyone can enjoy.