Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Still Here!

No, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth. Just been dealing with the nitty gritty details of being recently unemployed. Do something with the retirement account, decide on COBRA or Obama-care, but more importantly, relax and recharge from a job that had drained me more than I even realized.

The retirement account has been dealt with and satisfactorily so. I did decide on COBRA - I'm sorry but the plans I saw under Obama-care really sucked. I take a very expensive drug for my Diabetes and since it's on everybody's tier 3 formulary, it just wasn't worth the saving on monthly premium to have to pay over $1000 at least twice before anything got paid. A copay of $70 for 90 days is much easier to swallow.

Sorry. Rabbit trail. Where was I? Oh, yeah. This is a writing blog. Supposed to be writing about writing.

Well, not much of that has been done in the last few days, either. However, I have been thinking about what has already been written and I've come up with a few of what I hope are better ideas for further rewrites. Nothing dramatic, just a change of venue for the some of the scenes and a way for my hero and heroine to meet that is hopefully a bit better than what I've got down now.

A lot has changed for me in other areas since being a full time writer working from home. I'm losing stress pounds right and left without even really trying. I don't stress eat any more, which is really helping. Not even binge eating while watch Amazon Prime. I play solitaire on my Kindle instead - unless my computer is refusing to stream, in which case, I watch Prime on my Kindle and play a game on the computer. Either way, both mind and hands are occupied so neither one gets the idea to grab hold of food to binge on.

Actually, I think the binge eating was stress eating from dealing with the idea of having to go back to a stress filled job the next day.

My only real problem lately has been giving myself permission to just do nothing if I want - just for the rest of this year, mind you. Come January 2, 2015 the daily writing requirements begin along with the training for becoming a paid copy writer. I felt I really needed to let go of the past before I could take that first real step toward my future.

And it surprised me to learn how difficult it truly is to just do nothing.

I've been working since my senior year in high school, way back in the dark ages - ok, graduated in 1978 just a couple of weeks before I turned 18, you do the math. So, the sense that I should be doing something is quite strong in me right now. Let's face it, doing nothing doesn't pay all that well.

In all honesty, I probably don't want that sense that I should be doing something to go away. Might lead in a direction that isn't good. Still, even a writer who writes every day without fail needs to relax occasionally. Makes me wonder if the pros ever not write at times. I guess it's a personal preference. I know with me, if I skip a day or two of writing, it's harder to get to it when the time comes.

Does that mean I'm just procrastinating here? It's hard to know. My friends say I need to just relax for the rest of the year. My family - well, they really haven't expressed any opinions. My mother just asked me this morning if getting things ready to put up a Christmas tree was worth it. She did ask me this question right after I'd gotten out of bed so my response was not to ask me in the moment because the answer would be no. I'm feeling better about that right now, by the way. Totally worth getting a tree up. We didn't do one last year. Or the year before, for that matter.

And it just hit me what else is bothering me. It was about this time about four years ago that I lost my last fur baby - my dog named Wren.

He had been having small seizures and the Monday before Christmas that year, I had to take him in to the Vet's office for the last time. He must have had a grand mal seizure at some point during the night. I got a call from my mom that morning that something wasn't right. When I got home, I found him with his eyes constantly trying to roll back into his head. He was still alive and somewhat aware. It wasn't really a hard thing for me to do. I knew that our time together was up and that this was the last, best favor I could do for him.

So, yeah. Probably another factor to how I feel right now. I do still miss my little Wrennie Poo but he was 13 at the time and had lived a very good life by spoiled dog standards. I would love to have another dog but the circumstances right now just aren't the best.

My plan is to spend the next 2 weeks relaxing - even if it kills me. I have a game that I've had for a while but haven't played much. It's the kind of game that really forces careful thought and strategy or the character will instantly die in combat. It's one of those turn based games where you can choose an enemy to fight if you come across them in the wild. They don't chase you down - at least, they haven't yet. With some of the enemies, it's possible for a character to die with the first blow so choosing carefully is essential. I like these kinds of games because they do involve the mind in a way that it can let go of everything else for a while.

Trouble is, I also find these kinds of games hard to stop playing. I'll just explore this next area or fight this next battle. One reason I'm trying to get into the habit of setting an alarm to remind me that it's time to stop playing and move on to something else.

On the other hand, because part of the mind is focused in this one area, it gives the rest a chance to mull over any plot issues or scene problems. I usually find resolutions for those problems while playing one of these games so this has become a part of my creative process. I had this kind of synchronicity happen while working, too. I always kept some kind of notes going on while working. Didn't always use them but they were there if I needed them. In fact, in my earlier years at my former job, I would be able to write in my head while performing my main task. I somehow knew when my fingers made a mistake and could go back and correct it then move on. Many of my story ideas came to me during that time.

And now that I'm just rambling, I'll quit and move on to something else. I'll still be doing some writing during the next 2 weeks but probably not every day.

To everyone who observes Christmas I say Merry Christmas. To those who do not or who observe one of the other holidays during this time of year, I say Happy, Merry, Good-Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate. I guess Happy Holidays would cover all of that, wouldn't it?

Just in case I don't make it back here before 2015 - Happy New Year to all with the hope that everyone can attain their fondest dream in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ok, So It's Not THAT Bad...(ramble included for free)

I am very surprised to find that doing these revisions hasn't been that bad - so far. In fact, I'm kind of having a bit of fun at the moment. Of course, that might be due to the fact that I'm revisiting previously written scenes that I loved at the time I wrote them. The basic plot of the story hasn't changed in all of the many versions so cobbling scenes together isn't that much of a chore - yet. In fact, a scene I wrote as a flashback has now become the opening scene, with some minor changes and a major addition.

I just spent (counting on fingers) several hours today slaving over the second scene, which was a conversation in yet another version that, with some minor changes, I could make it fit as a follow up to the opening scene. All the work was well worth it to hear some high praise when I read it aloud to my small writer's group. It became a necessary info-dump scene that presented the plot catalyst so it was important the scene really worked well. Apparently, I nailed the info-dump without it sounding like an info-dump.

Aside from the timing of the plot catalyst, in reviewing scenes from the most recent incarnation of this novel, I quickly realized that somewhere along the way, my plot had become so convoluted that even I had trouble following it. That version was very close to 100,000 words but was nowhere near the beginning of the end. I seem have this issue with the passage of time in my novels. Everyday something must happen. Not sure why I feel this is necessary.  I just always have and it's hard to break a lifetime habit.

Not that a novel taking place over a short period of days versus weeks, months or years is a bad thing. I've read novels like that before. Most of what I've read, however, does take place over a longer period of time. The author condenses the time down by a short narrative between key scenes. It's telling instead of showing but I suppose if the telling is brief enough, it's ok?

Which brings to mind to one of my biggest issues with revisions and polishing a novel for publication and just fiction writing in general - the rules of good writing. Sometimes, I think writing was much easier before I learned that writing rules actually existed.

As writer's, we hear phrases like "show don't tell" and "active versus passive" narrative. Ok. But what does that all mean? How do I show a scene in an active sense? I kind of know but what if I only think I know but I really don't know?

Or, many times I've read that to write something like, 'He went to the cupboard, looking for something to eat', is mixed tense. 'He went to the cupboard' would be past action while, 'looking for something to eat' is currently happening action. Yet, I see that kind of writing all the time in published works, even in debut novels. Is it ok sometimes but not all the time? When is it not ok?

One tutorial tells me to not use so many dialogue tags. Another says to use them all the time so the reader can more easily tell who is speaking. So which is it? I'm confused.

During my Writer's Digest course, I was told by the instructor that I shouldn't start dialogue with action. The action should come after the dialogue. But sometimes, in my head, I see the action first then hear the dialogue - how many others see their novels in their heads as movie and just write what they see? I do.

Because I see the action as a movie in my head, I also sometimes commit another writing crime by breaking up a line of dialogue with what the character is doing while they are speaking. People actually do that in real life, don't they? Especially if it's a difficult conversation. Rarely do people, in normal conversation, spout paragraphs of dialogue without some kind of action during said spouting.

I guess I am rambling on here but this is what I mean when I say writing was much easier when I didn't know these rules existed. Forget that the rules seem to change periodically.

Perhaps the best course of action is to just write the thing and worry about the rules later, maybe even break a few if it makes the words flow more smoothly. That's why an event such as NaNoWriMo is so much fun. A writer can legally gag the mouthy critic and editor for 30 days straight. It frees a writer to just write the darn novel and not worry about things like active versus passive or showing instead of telling or dialogue tags. How many readers even know those rules exist, anyway? I didn't until I learned about them after I'd been writing for a while.

Even though I'm in revisions now, part of those revisions involve additional scenes that have yet to be written. With the exception of the scene I worked on today, I'm hoping to write any additional scenes like it's still November. Get in the writing flow and don't worry about the rules until after the scene is finished. Who knows? I might find that revisions aren't even necessary.

That sound you just heard was collective heads of my inner critic and editor exploding.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We Now Return You To Regularly Scheduled Revisions - OY!

Revisions! ACK! But the manic writing was so much fun! Why do I have to go back to revisions now?

Ok. Now that the whining part is over...

Hi. Welcome to Revision Hell. Won't you join me in my own personal pain?

No, seriously. Revisions are...a necessary evil if one wishes to become a published author of good novels that everyone wants to read. Or so I'm told. And yes, they can be painful.

As I look at the first/second/third/millionth draft of my chosen project, I see where I started the story a bit too late. Well, the most recent incarnation, that is. The inciting incident actually happened in the back story.

What is an inciting incident you ask? Why, that's the whole reason the story exists to begin with. Something happened that triggered other somethings that triggered a reaction that get the idea.

I've signed on for a year of writing tutorials with Writer's Digest and one of them I've listened to so far talked about the inciting incident or the plot catalyst as the instructor called it. Now, since the instructor was an actual agent and since she was talking about why queries get rejected by her agency, I was definitely sitting up and paying attention. Her agency is also the one I intend to target with my project once it's finished. Well, one of the first ones I'll send it to. I'll need to pick out a few more because it's not very smart to hang my hopes on just one agency.

There was a lot more valuable information in this tutorial. If you're interested in what the tutorials do have to offer, you can sign up on the Writer's Digest tutorial page. It's $25 a month, $199 a year. Lots of good tutorials there. It's mainly listening and looking at a slide presentation but you can do screen captures and take notes that way. Or listen to the same tutorial over and over again if you wish. I've learned quite a bit already. Which brings me back to...Revision Hell (imagine a booming, echoing voice over here).

So, since I've figured out I started my story too late, it gives me an opportunity to do a bit more writing. Kind of a peace offering or reward for actually working on revisions. My story is going to remain essentially the same, I just back up in the timeline a bit.

I had written a scene as a flashback but now that scene is my opening scene. Event timing is also about to change in which my plot catalyst will occur. In fact, already has as I write this now. Happened in the first chapter. The tutorial indicated that the plot catalyst should happen within the first 30-50 pages of the book. Check!

Now all I really need to do is sift through scenes that have already been written to find the ones that either fit better now or not at all. And there are lot of scenes. This particular project has been in the works since, oh, 1995 and has seen numerous and I do mean numerous revisions, rewrites, complete overhauls, etc. There are scenes that I have written that I really liked but I had to cut then out when the story became something completely different. Not really a good way to write a novel, I must say. It never gets done if you keep writing it over and over.

That's why I now have a deadline to get this novel through this initial revision run so that it can go out to beta readers to rip it apart and tell me where the real revisions are. That deadline is New Year's Eve - this year, 2014, just so we're clear.  I know at least two people who might be reading this who are now jumping up and down for joy. They're the ones who have been nudging me to pick something and just get on with it. Now that I have, I'd best get back to it.

Deep breath, make the leap - Geronimo!