…Yeah, that about covers it.
Which is not to say it’s nice here in the Great State of Eternal Flooding. We’re thoroughly waterlogged and all pausing for a 1.3-million-strong collective sob every time that weird ball of fire has a tiny, plot-irrelevant, my-cousin-can’t-act-but-he-really-wanted-to-be-in-a-movie-can-you-put-him-in-the-angry-mob-scene cameo in the sky. In other words, it’s spring, and we hope summer gets here fast.
The only good thing about weather like this is I don’t have many excuses for not writing. Yardwork would be like a one-woman mud-wrestling contest: The Writer Vs. The Poor Footing. I’m hardly about to go for a bike ride. Spring cleaning…well, any reason to avoid that is a good one, really: rain will do. Even Her Dogginess refuses to go for walks in this.
So here I am, with plenty of after-work time on my hands and the plot of a sequel screeching in my ears, and what do I do?
Well, I’ve caught up on House MD. I’m working on Fringe. Also I’m trying to learn to play the Game of Thrones theme on the keyboard, a fairly laughable effort so far, but I’ll get there eventually. I sewed a few loose buttons back onto my favorite coat.
Oh, and I’ve written scenes for two other WsIP, because that’s pretty much how I roll at the beginning of Any. Freaking. Book. I don’t know why, but the moment I lock in on something, I get wonderful ideas for something else. It’s my brain’s version of comedic timing, I guess.
So I’m floating at the moment – forward progress, and a decent amount of it, but spread between projects it doesn’t look like a lot. I am, however, enjoying myself, and after a year of letting this industry get me a bit down followed by a wildly-focused month of rediscovering what it feels like to write what I love, I’ve decided that’s what matters. If I’m not having fun, there’s not much point.
What is everyone else working on?
…Yeah, it’s been a while. You knew that would happen though: it does every year, when the snow melts and the trees bud and the air starts to have that fabulous green smell in it again. I’ll get over it –I’d have to, or be useless pretty much from April to October– but for the nonce I am the World’s Most Distracted Writer, hieing off from scene to backyard the second a warm breeze blows in from the open window.
Also, we have kind of a lot to do around the house this year. I am working too. Really.
Anyway, since writing is something I do in 10-minute increments these days, I thought I’d probably better post about something else, and what better than some amazing new books? Or, well, new to me, anyway. I joined
Goodreads some time ago, but only started really using it in the last few months, and I have to say, if you’re not on it? Go join. I’m not sure yet how I feel about it as a promotion tool for authors –if you’re involved in the reviewer community or just ever on twitter, you’ve probably seen the kerfluffles that pop up now and then when an author responds to a bad review of their book (and by the way, for the love of dog, Don’t. Do. That, people, good gods)– but as a tool for readers, it’s amazing. I’ve discovered more amazing books on there than I could ever have hoped to do on my own.
Anyway. Plug over. Onto the books!
Book the first: GRAVE MERCY, by Robin LaFevers.
Assassin nuns. I could leave it there, because really, you know you want to read it now, but I won’t. The main character, a 17 year old farmer’s daughter in medieval Brittany, escapes a bad marriage at the last minute to become a nun in a convent dedicated to the God of Death, whose daughter, it turns out, she is. From there it’s all court intrigue and international politics and a tense whodunnit mixed with romance and history, all woven around the story of one girl’s growth into a woman who makes her own choices regardless of her loyalties. Just read it. You can thank me later.
Book the second: I HUNT KILLERS, by Barry Lyga
Pro tip: don’t read this one when you’re alone in the house. For some reason I didn’t expect it to creep me out, and I was very, very wrong about that. Which makes sense, as it’s about serial killers — and I mean, all about them. Jasper Dent is the son of the country’s most famous serial killer: he was raised in the midst of one long crime scene, and spent most of his free time taking care of his dad’s trophies. While other kids were learning to catch a ball, Jasper was learning to separate a knee in less than 5 minutes, or to identify a good victim. Since his dad’s arrest he’s been trying to put his life back together, but being raised by a man who murders people for fun –and who is training you to do the same– is a whole new kind of baggage. And when a new serial killer comes into town and the police can’t put together the clues that seem so obvious to him, Jasper has to decide if he’s destined to hunt down men like his dad… or to follow in his father’s footsteps.
It’s a gorgeous, dark, twisted story. I highly recommend it — but fair warning: this one’s definitely not for the weak-stomached.
So there you are. Go forth and buy, and all that.
Well, I lived through the Dread Synopsis. I whinged rather a lot, which probably added a decent handful of hours to the process, and I surfed the internets plenty, which no doubt added more. Step 10 of the previous post got plenty of exercise. Rum and Coke, I’ve found, is a helpful addition to the creative process, so long as you keep it to two. More than that and, well.
…The less said on that, the better, probably.
Anyway. If any of you peoples are gearing up for one of these and hate it like fire on a boat full of tarantulas in the middle of a cyclone in the Bermuda Triangle like I do (really: it was almost that bad), this is the advice I finally settled on –well, that and this— out of the several-hundred pages of synopsis-writing advice I read.
And now I move onto the Next Big Thing. Maybe. I should be, and sporadically am, revising my MS. I have fabulous feedback from almost all of my also-fabulous betas and there is, after all, a looming deadline on this one. And I am, but because I’m also me, and I can’t do anything simply, I’m looking at the sequel I already re-wrote once and thinking hey, that needs a YA reboot too!
Probably I should ignore me this time. But we all know I won’t.
I tried, I will say that. I have about 10 other projects I could work on instead, not to mention the revision. I started my weekly writing group hour-of-focus (hah!) planning to pick up something completely different, give my head a break from these characters, achieve some needed distance before diving into revisions, be sensible (stop laughing, I do manage to be sensible sometimes)…
And wrote, out of nowhere and with no
malice-er, thought aforethought, a new beginning to, surprise, the sequel to this MS.
I’m not one to go on about muses and following inspiration: I do believe this is a job, and routine is what saves you on the days when muses, inspiration, and the general feeling that you’re not completely wasting your time and maybe you should take up something less effort-intensive, like, say, parasailing all fail. Putting in the time regardless of whether you actually have anything to say is important.
And yet. I write in one of my 10 other waiting-in-the-wings-for-their-turn projects, all of which have a decent shot at becoming good books, and that’s what it feels like: clocked time. I wrote that new sequel beginning, and all sorts of neurons I’d forgotten I had lit up and started shouting it should end this way! and this will be the major catalyst for the mid-book turning point! and check it out, dude– a theme!
(That last little neuron may be permanently soaked in cuba libres. :P)
Anyway. I’ve always been a plan-it-out kind of writer: my books have detailed outlines, schedules, word count goals, and a kind of birth-order personality thing going for them. I definitely value routine over inspiration: routine shows up every day, whereas inspiration is kind of like sunshine in March –it’s almost always a surprise, and you take it whenever you can get it and hope it lasts for more than 5 minutes.
Nevertheless, when I get this much sunshine in my head, I’m hardly going to fight it.
…Synopsis time, that is, or as I like to call it, hide-under-the-covers-and-pretend-I-collect-stamps time.
Seriously, anyone who has ever written one of these, or tried to write one of these, or just spent more than ten minutes thinking about writing one of these, knows it doesn’t really get much worse than this. I’ve scrapped 75K of plotless MS and started over; I’ve outlined; I’ve rewritten an entire book to change the genre; I’ve R&Rd, I’ve log-lined, I’ve STETed– hell, I’ve queried.
I’d happily do all of it again simultaneously, while riding a unicycle and singing a polka cover of My Heart Will Go On, if it meant I could avoid this bit.
My process, such as it is, will probably look like this:
- Write a sentence.
- Re-read all 200+ pages of Failblog.
- Write a paragraph.
- Post a moaning status update on FB, spend 45 minutes trading comments with fellow writers who have also suffered/are suffering.
- Delete the paragraph.
- Surf the internet for advice on synopsis writing, all of which I’ve already read, printed out, and tacked to the wall beside me so I don’t forget what I’m supposed to be doing.
- Write two paragraphs.
- Mourn the untimely death of my motivation.
- Re-read the submission guidelines of my targets.
- Make myself a drink.
- Moan on FB again.
- Delete the two paragraphs.
- Make myself another drink.
- Stare morosely at the screen and think about stamp collecting.
- Enjoy the irony of Step 6.
- Write a synopsis.
- Hate the synopsis.
- Start over at step 1.
It takes a lot longer this way.
Well, I think I’ve run the gamut of delirious yay-I’m-writing posts and self-motivational Tuesday teasers, at least for now, so I thought I’d do something new. And since I’ve gotten questions on this subject from a few people (not that I’m claiming to be anywhere near approaching an expert on it– almost any writer with a blog and a manuscript on sub knows just as much or more about this as I do, I’d bet) on that most wonderful facet of the new digital age, i.e., Spying On Each Other For Fun, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about page taggers.
They’re evil. Really.
Mostly if you’re querying, particularly if you’re on sub… maybe not so much if you’re just moseying along thinking about joining the madness like yours truly, but even then it’s still weirdly addictive. Stuff like this is extremely useful if you’re trying to figure out how to drive traffic to certain posts, addictively panic-inducing if you’re waiting to hear back from an agent or an editor, and mainly a point of curiosity, in that rubbernecking can’t-look-away-from-the-car-accident sense of the phrase, if you’re like me and no longer trying to do much beyond bellow off into the Great Void of Teh Interwebs every now and then because it’s kind of fun. In a world where we’re constantly learning about/becoming outraged by Facebook’s latest means of data mining and Apple’s hidden aps, being informed about how and when someone’s gathering data on your web activities is never a bad thing.
So. Enter Statcounter, which is one of several options poor peons like me have for our blogs and websites.
–If you’re wondering (you’re probably not, I know), Statcounter’s basically just a way of augmenting the information a platform like WordPress will already give you about the way people get to your site, what they look at while they’re there, how long they stay, etc. Depending on a person’s ISP and browser security settings, among various other things, this info can be very basic or surprisingly –sometimes frighteningly– specific. The first time I realized an idle IP address search could, in rare (hopefully very rare) cases, give me an aerial view of someone’s street, I think I avoided the web for a week or two in sheer spiky-haired horror while I reviewed everything I could remember about my own search history.
Anyway. It’s important to know what a page tagger like this can do, because it means something other than hey, my blog’s weirdly popular in Pakistan this month! –it means many of the sites you click on are gathering information about you the moment you do click on them.
…Yes, I did just state the obvious there in a big way.
At least, I think it’s obvious to most of us these days. But just a few years ago I could never have imagined how completely public everything on the internet really is, how rare and difficult to achieve anonymity is… so just ignore me, you internet-savvy peoples of the world.
It’s largely harmless, IMO, but it’s still kind of disturbing to know that if you’re, say, googling someone you know IRL regularly, for whatever personal reasons you likely weren’t planning on announcing to said someone, there’s at least a pretty decent chance they know about it. Facebook stalkers take note!😛
So, yeah. Think about what you say, but also think about bout what you click. There’s a record of all of it out there somewhere.
So here I am, a week later, still trying to get my brain out of SWORD. That’s always been an issue for me, particularly with books in this world. I slip into these characters’ heads far more easily… which means I’m far more sure of myself while writing, but it also means it takes far longer for me to move on when I hit THE END. Right now a familiar turn of phrase, or hearing one of the songs from my writing playlist, is enough to put me back into the ridiculous pitch of angst that pretty much defines the whole second half of that book.
Luckily, after a year of barely moving on anything, I have plenty of projects to fiddle with. This one isn’t much more than a vague idea right now: something set in the same world, but kind of– sideways. I have no idea if it’s going to go anywhere, but it’s fun to play with.
“Be at ease,” Guy grunted, setting the saddlebag on the small table. “I thought you a spy, girl. I’d no notion Evrard was recruiting his couriers from the fields.”
Her chin lifted ever so slightly. So she had some pride.
“Tavern,” she shot back. It was almost comical under the circumstances.
“All the same to me,” Guy retorted, and as the girl ducked her head he reached and wound her hair in his fist, forcing her gaze to his. “What message?” he asked pleasantly, his other hand curling in the folds of her woolen skirt. She drew a breath, beginning to tremble. Her gaze was fierce and outraged, hinting at a strength possibly worth the effort of breaking… and that was very well. There was little else to hold his attention out here in the back of beyond. “No games now, girl: I’ll have your head as readily as feed you supper if you aren’t quick with your answers. The one’s less work than the other is all. Tell your message. Is the north mustering?”
“Nay, ain’t –o lord please–” Her breath caught. She shivered harder, teeth clenched.
“Aye, you might beg, little messenger girl. Beg me, and mayhap I’ll let you loose tomorrow: but tonight, you keep me warm.” He pulled her closer, his fingers finding chilled flesh under wool, her desperately trying to back away and having no luck at all. Guy brought her close enough to press his face to her neck and caught the surprising scent of lilacs on her skin. “Why else would my lord send me a girl for a courier, eh?”
She stopped shivering.
“He wouldn’t, Lord Elliott,” she said, right into his ear.
There was a second only, to register the sudden absence of a common accent, the utter fearlessness in flesh against his– then, too late, the quick thrust of her hand. He felt the blade slide up under his ribs, a sensation that at first was perceived only as a terrible invasion, and in the next instant turned to breathtaking pain.
She twisted it.
He sucked in a breath to scream but it bubbled in his chest, filling his mouth with the awful taste of blood. His hands wouldn’t obey him. His knees went, and the girl, with odd solicitousness, bore his weight down gently to the dirt. She stared. Her dark eyes were wide and wild. Her first, Guy understood, and couldn’t help a moment’s fleeting admiration. His men wouldn’t know until they came to bring the evening meal, which was at least an hour from now.
She would be long since gone by then, and so would he.
In other words, dear reader, I pulled it off.
My rewrite is clocking in at an amazing 96K right now (that’s amazing mostly because I started at 101K and was convinced, halfway through, that I was going to wind up adding another 6 or 7K to the tally).
I’ve written 53,000 words in the last 28 days, or so Word tells me (hah: take that, failed NaNo attempt), I’ve become so much the definition of antisocial that my long-suffering husband is probably wondering if I’ve developed a very specific form of agoraphobia, and yesterday midway through the final 11-hour writing marathon, Her Dogginess flung herself down on the floor beside my desk and made this astonishing rrrroOOOOOWWwwar! noise that conveyed her boredom and her feelings on whose fault said boredom was fairly effectively.
Being a writer can be a bitch. Living with one, I suspect, is almost always a bit of a bitch.
Anyway. I have no idea what to do with myself this morning.
…Mainly because I love that word, woe. I suppose Tuesday’s Teaser could just have easily been full of grace, the way the old song goes, but that probably wouldn’t have been nearly as accurate.
And, really, woe is just such a great word.
Anyway. Going full-bore on the WIP, still so swoonily happy with the work I’m doing that even I’m a bit sick of hearing me go on about it. It’s classic honeymoon phase, when you just can’t believe how wonderful everything is, and the wonderfulness of it all can only be expressed with lots of italics, and you have to tell everyone over and over again, and maybe you even pull a little of this:
–Or, well, maybe you just want to but it’s winter and you’re wearing layers, and also there aren’t really any hills around where you live, making it mercifully impractical. (And don’t feel obliged to listen to more than half a second of that: believe me, you’ll get the idea.)
The other shoe usually drops with impressive force from this state, so I’m just going to enjoy it while I can, mkay?
Anyway, a short teaser, and then I’ll go back to rubbing my hands with glee in between typing paragraphs.
Kyali drew her sword, heard the whisper of steel clearing sheaths all around her, and hooked her heels in the stirrups. Her pulse began to pick up. Her fingers clenched on the grip of the sword.
Snow, she told herself. Ice.
One day, if she kept trying and kept as far away from Devin and Jessica as she could, she might learn to feel nothing but cold. It was a worthy goal. It would be so much better than the fire waiting for her every night when she finally let herself sleep.
The crackle came closer. Closer.
Then the brush exploded, disclosing a man on horseback, a man doubled up in the saddle, clinging to the pommel and swaying loosely with every stride. Danyn Jerin’s-son rode close enough that Kyali could see the arrow, the blood coming from where he had his arm wrapped over his middle. His eyes locked on hers, full of a dazed distance that told her just how bad the wound was. She wrapped her fingers tighter around her sword and looked past him to where the trees were beginning to twitch and shudder and the sound of hoofbeats was rolling toward them.
Wedge formation, she signed, and took point without waiting for her men to move around her as the first of the Western band chasing her unlucky scout came rattling out of the woods.
They shouted, seeing her waiting for them, and raised shields. They never slowed.
“No prisoners!” she shouted, and kicked Ainhearag forward already swinging the sword. The first man died under the edge of her blade, still trying to get his sword into position.
…Appropriate title for a post-Super Bowl Monday, no? I’m surprised I’ve never used it before.
As I’m writing this my FB wall is blowing up with howls-with-lots-of-capital-Os from Pats fans and howls-with-lots-of-exclamation-points from Giants fans, so I guess I know who just won.
Good thing I don’t care about football.
Dear Readers, I’ve put in 10K in the last 6 days, and ohdamn does it feel good. To be working on something I love, to be working on something I believe I can sell… to be working at all, really, because forward motion on a project you don’t feel both of the above-mentioned things for can often feel more like marking time than working.
And yes, this feels like work: I know this story and these characters inside out, but anybody who has ever taken a plot apart and put it back together prettier can tell you, it’s still all elbow grease and smoking neurons. But it’s the difference between the minimum-wage drudge you take to pay the bills while you look for something better and the job where you wake up in the morning thinking about what you’re going to do that day and how much it will rock. I’m definitely having the latter experience right now. Enough so that I decided it was worth it to put the calling-cards back up on the blog, so if you want to read a teeny excerpt from my DreamJob book, it’s there.
Don’t all crowd in that direction at once, now.