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This blog is my online wordsmith workshop, where you'll find notes on my writing experiences, excerpts from my fantasy and science fiction novels, and essays of a more homeworld flavor.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time and Tale
As I may have mentioned in the past, I don't generally write my scenes in order, don't write books from start to finish in sequence, though I do sometimes revise that way. Along the way and out of sequence, I do tend to write nearly a book worth of "history", intending it at first to be "the story" and deciding only later to make it background, history, past, the meat of the story coming later in time. In general this has resulted in writing my books loosely in order, if not the scenes, the later books dependent in part on what came before.

Currently, though, I find myself doing the reverse. The first book's idea came first, but the second got my attention and I wrote the bulk of that second book first (well, as far as it's written, but a nearly complete first draft, 70 or 80 thousand words at a guess, in 12 chapters, and that's well enough along to be "revising" instead of writing. It's the first book that is largely rough notes.

It feels strange and changes the dynamic of my writing. My ending is concrete, which is seldom true, even when i have some idea where the story must go. Even details are well established, and that is usually true only in a later revision. I have ideas, better developed than before, things that had to have happened (though not necessarily in story time), things that seemed too repetitive of my first ideas and so have changed. And an end. It's highly recommended to have an ending, and I usually do when I come to revise (though even then my plans might change), but I seldom do when I amm still drafting the scattered scenes, the dialogues, the story line notes and it flashes like a beacon for its strangeness. I don't know if it will help or hinder: one should never go in too direct a line from start to end, lest the reader become bored with the predictable course. It will be tempting to turn away from the light, even to fight its coming, and that could add an unexpected tension to the tale, for will or no, my course is set, or nearly so, and it's only to see which forces will take it there.
28 apr 09 @ 6:37 pm

Friday, April 24, 2009

Linking
Just a quick note. I said I'd comment on my efforts as a blogger. One is linking to others as a means of being part of the allusive "community". As part of my CSFF group participation (they have a bunch of writers who write and blog about writing SF and Fantasy), I'm trying to link to Technorati. My only other encounter with it was that it was suggested as a place to hunt for blogs but it is one of the sites whose functions concern more than encourage me. it pushes the most popular sites, as if that equated to the best, and it may be, if what you want is popular at the time. But often I find myself looking for something that isn't high on the general populace's list of interests. Do the good ones I seek fall into obscurity for lack of popularity? That, like unusual ingredients that are hard to find in stores that increasingly focus on the generic and popular family foods, can lead to a world of mediocrity and boredom, even in a medium that started as a realm for the unusual and creative. I can only hope that quality and those who appreciate will continue to aim for the best, and that my own doesn't fall into the generic.

Anyway, I don't always understand the interactions of the web pages that are supposed to be helping bloggers and blog readers find each other, and especially the software bits that make it work, but it said the problem I encountered could be solved by adding this bit to a blot post, so here it is. Pardon if it looks bizarre.

Technorati Profile
24 apr 09 @ 4:19 pm

Writing, Revision, Writers, and Authors
Encoumtered another blog/discussion forum for which registration doesnít seem to work. i read a great guest blog post and wanted to respond, tried, but error messages abound and iím not even sure my bookmark worked, at least not to take me back to the right post, so I thought I would say at least a little bit here on the topic.

Mostly it was about the definition of writer versus author. It's a topic close to my heart, naturally, and one that the blogger made sound definitive, though in truth the words are often used interchangeably, making computer searches specific to one that much more difficult. The short form is, writer's write; authors are published and generally have to deal with business and sales, even if they also write.

Obviously the two overlap considerably, but not every writer cares about being published--or at least being published successfully and formally to a broad audience-- and a few authors donít actually like to write. I would also add that there is a difference regarding the revision process. I'm a writer who would like to be an author so revision is an important part of the process, but in a lot of ways, revision is about preparing the written word for a reader who is not also the writer. If writers uninterested in publishing revise, I suspect it has a different focus, a different definition of quality, perhaps. Certainly I don't revise my journal (wholely apart from taking a journal entry and revising it for the purposes of writing an essay).

I suppose pure writers do revise. it's not just the act of writing, afterall, but an art, and like any art, it takes a measure of skill and effort, a hope of perfection that the writer defines for him or herself even in the absence of another reader. Not just words, but the right words, and in the end, for writer or author or both, that's the point. Even a published author has no guarantee of an audience, of appreciative readers, readers outside ourselves, but sometimes the right words, for ourselves, is enough.
24 apr 09 @ 3:26 pm

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Community wanna be
I keep looking for the right kind of advice, the help I need. It's a slow search. A fair amount of advice is out there to be found, but I've taken enough classes, particiated in enough cons and discussion groups, and sought advice long enough that itís hard to find something that isn't a repeat of what I've found elsewhere. I follow what advice I can but finding the right agent and/or publisher remains a daunting task and who is to say what I can do to make it go better?

The repetition has valueable, too, as far as it goes Rephrasing can clarify an obscure point, make its purpose or application more clear, and highlights things that are particularly important. Still, I get frustrated by the advice that I know I should follow, but which is easier to restate than to do. Like one I came across recently: find a published author and ask them who their agent is, in order to find a reliable agent. Well, that would be great, if the authors who write something in the ballpark of what I write were any easier to find and contact than the agents with a cold, out of the blue request, no less.

It falls into the same category as "participate in the writing community" (for your genre). Well, sure. Love to. Anyone have tips on how? I started my blog partly for that specific purpose, to be part of the SFF writing community. I spend time on line every week trying to find a writing community to participate with. They are out there, but even on the rare occasion I find a blog that allows posting by others, (My own doesn't and I haven't found a way to make it possible, yet, except to make my e-mail address available on the contact page, so no blame to them), but even when supposedly they allow comments, it only seems to work once in half a dozen tries, for any number of reasons. (Like having to be registered with this, that, or the other blogging group, or random server malfunctions or security words that are illegible to even my experienced eye).

And discussion groups. I know they are out there, too, but they seem reluctant to be found. So far i have found groups for readers to comment on published authors, and places for published authors to discuss the writing business or blog or chat with their fans. Nada for unpublished writers like myself trying to find a way in to the allusive writing community. I'm sure they are out there. How can they not be when writers love to write and online groups are a chance to write a lot, and the bashful introverts that many writers are don't even have to come face to face to meet someone? But finding them seems to take a measure of computer savvy i havenít yet attained. Iíll keep trying and I welcome suggestions. i also welcome other unpublished SF and F writers to contact me and, if you'll give permission, share what you have to say so that we can have our own little community until we find that secret door to the rest.

21 apr 09 @ 6:02 pm

Sunday, April 19, 2009

off-topic fun personality quiz
http://mindmedia.com/braintest.html

has a fun and fascinating test! and lines up well with Myers Briggs and other personality tests Iíve tried, though with less either-or results than I often come up with in the past: maybe I am ďfinding myselfĒ or at least gaining confidence in my choices as a i grow older...

Auditory learner: 42%
Visual learner 57%
(they couldnít test for tactile, of course, or I think the numbers might have shifted significantly)
Left brain 38%
Right brain 61%

according to the summary, this means...
Emmalyn, you possess an interesting balance of hemispheric and sensory characteristics, with a slight right-brain dominance and a slight preference for visual processing.

Since neither of these is completely centered, you lack the indecision and second-guessing associated with other patterns. You have a distinct preference for creativity and intuition with seemingly sufficient verbal skills to be able to translate in any meaningful way to yourself and others.

You tend to see things in "wholes" without surrendering the ability to attend to details. You can give them sufficient notice to be able to utitlize and incorporate them as part of an overall pattern.

In the same way, while you are active and process information simultaneously, you demonstrate a capacity for sequencing as well as reflection which allows for some "inner dialogue."

All in all, you are likely to be quite content with yourself and your style although at times it will not necessarily be appreciated by others. You have sufficient confidence to not second-guess yourself, but rather to use your critical faculties in a way that enhances, rather than limits, your creativity.

You can learn in either mode although far more efficiently within the visual mode. It is likely that in listening to conversations or lecture materials you simultaneously translate into pictures which enhance and elaborate on the meaning.

It is most likely that you will gravitate towards those endeavors which are predominantly visual but include some logic or structuring. You may either work particularly hard at cultivating your auditory skills or risk "missing out" on being able to efficiently process what you learn. Your own intuitive skills will at times interfere with your capacity to listen to others, which is something else you may need to take into account.
19 apr 09 @ 11:46 am

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sharing of life
Blogging is a curious thing and not quite fully understood though I make a stab at doing it. I know this one isn't quite the intent. Except in as much as writing IS my day-to-day life, this one isn't about my life as many are, or at least only occasionally, peripherally. If ever I'm attempted to share more, I think of the recent Lola comics as well as miscelaneous other comments I've heard in the recent past: it's easy to say to much, especially if what I say involved others. Even if I was willing to reveal so much of myself, the trivia of my existence, or thought anyone would be interested, our lives are seldom just about us. Thus are most story scenes about the interaction of the characters: such is the normal way of life. we don't go through life without encountering others and to discuss those parts of our lives is to discuss others, else, mostly likely, to be boring.

I know its done and people are fascinated by it. From all I've heard, that's what FaceBook and My Space and many family blogs are all about. i read that the readership of most is somewhere around 12, the million-hitters aside. Family and friends, a personal circle less than the potential world. Yet it's all out there for anyone with a computer and a random or lucky query to see. I suppose that numbers help, in the end. Millions of sites, no one can see them all. How public is it if no one looks? What does privacy mean?

They are no longer questions easy to answer, if ever they were. I'm a stong believer in privacy, as a right, as a need, as those who read the Homeworld page can probably guess. A few of the essays are almost "personal essays" but the majority are not. I don't know the stats, but at a guess I would say about 90 percent of written and published "essays" are the stuff of personal journals, private lives, often tragedy and triumph, health and dying, soul and heart-breaking, the writings of people who have had hard lives, or hard parts of their lives. My life has been less interesting, but that doesn't keep me from writing, and it doesn't keep me from sharing something of myself. I think a good writer must share something of themselves, even in fiction. Most of my non-fiction essays are not even, directly, about people, though I try to let even essays like Dill say something of life, and hint at something of me. Perhaps that is the point of blogging.
18 apr 09 @ 7:59 pm

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scene building
I know, its been a whole week. Holidays intervened. Life goes on, though, and I have much to do and share. I've mostly caught up on my lost typing except a notebook full of historical notes for some of my characters. I will be more selective about retyping those, since I have a better idea, now, which pieces of history have a place in the books and which can remain history in my paper files.

The process also told me that I am at the same somewhat dreaded stage for several of my novels, when I have a solid outline (well, much more than an outline, at 80,000 some words for some of them, but a more firm outline than I usually start with.) and the core of most scenes, but every scene needs to be tackled one-by-one and the skeleton given flesh.

Usually at this stage, I have several components for every scene. I have dialog (sometimes very little except dialog, since that is often the essential form of character interaction). I have something that occurs (a change, ultimately: change in what different characters know, a shift in attitude, an argument with a decision, an event, but a change, a thing that advances the story and so makes the scene worth keeping.) Of necessity, I also have a set of characters; present or coming or going; and something of a setting. Sometimes I also have physical action but often not unless it's an action scene such as a battle or flight or change of location (in which case there might be little or no dialog).

Altogether, that's sort of enough for a scene, and more than enough for a minimalist style short story scene. Still, for a normal novel, its enough for the author, but not for the reader experiencing a scene without the author's vision. More is needed to convey the scene fully to the reader, including expressions of emotion: dialog can sometimes be almost enough for that, but dialog alone often has the coldness of a brief e-mail, lacking tone, context, and emotion, easily interpreted in multiple ways. A few gestures and facial expressions can do much to clarify a phrase as humorous or serious, angry or factual, sarcastic or jolly. I've usually included enough clues that I know, but not enough for the casual reader.

My settings, at this stage, are mostly incompletely conveyed in words, if well-developed in my mind. While little in the way of details are needed for contemporary, local fiction, science fiction and fantasy tend to require much more and, indeed, the setting may provide much of what makes the tale science fiction or fantasy, a strong part of what draws the interest of readers looking to discover the new worlds the author has created for their entertainment.

If a setting is the location for several scenes, the setting can be developed in stages, but eventually it needs to have all its unique characteristics laid out. Setting descriptions are also an opportunity for the writer to enhance the mood, emotions, and conflict of the scene through word choice, more detailed set design, and selection of details.

If the mood is harsh, painful, let the setting be sharp edged, unpleasant, cold. If the mood is peaceful or melancholy (til that last moment of change and new conflict), soft surfaces, gently artistic descriptions of art and decor, and symbols of love and friendship may be in order. True love in a storage unit filled with broken junk makes a hard sell, unless clumsiness and humor are the goal, but it may do nicely if the seeming romance is false and soon to be betrayed.

And of course every scene is ultimately one of sensation. for the story to develop, the central core may be action and emotion, but for visualization by the reader, the senses are the thing: touch and sight, taste, smell, and hearing are all part of every real scene of our day-to-day world, and the characters must experience them to if the scene is to be real for the reader. Not necessary every one in every scene, but all should be present in the end. Even if the characters aren't eating on stage, the air can be tasted, or the bitter bile of fear or disgust have their impact on the tongue. If the character's hands lay quiet in their lap, the bench may be hard under the seat, and every conversation has its sounds, sight of other characters or the walls at which a lone character stares unseeing. And if there is breathing there is smell, whether sweet perfume, malodorous confined spaces, or earthy sweat in between.

Some scenes allow for skimping on one or more of these elements, but such skimping should be chosen with conscious care and intent, the decision to neglect more carefully made than all the other, more complete scenes are described.
14 apr 09 @ 7:08 pm

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I commented last week about the chaos i often work in. It's not really all that bad, or always that bad and it only took an hour to get things in order, to clear the couch, the floor, not quite the coffee table... I enjoy it neat. I just know it won't last. One hurried hunt for something that didn't get put I thought I would put it and chaos will reign again.

I intended to go on that theme a bit but like many ideas I have for blogs, they don't quite match my thinking when I sit down to write. It's important to write what fits the mood, I think. I have difficulty writing a sad scene when I'm cheerful and I definately can't write humor when I'm feeling blue. Its one of the reasons I jump from story to story, scene to scene, I think. I write what fits my mood, and that might be several different scenes in several different stories. On the other hand, they aren't generally well written. They just capture the mood for me so i have material to work with when I sit down to revise. Revising is a less moody writing thing. Which is why I think it works well for me to do that stage on the computer. Not very image-stimulating but practical and grammatical and intellectual for finding the right words instead of the words that will suffice to capture the moment enough to jog my memory of it.

Like cooking. I've put bits of cooking in many of my stories, many based on recipes I've made, cooking conditions (like camping and picnicing) that I've experienced and journaled about. Today I came home hungry or with the munchies, who knows but I usually munch a little when i get home, and can keep from munching badly by cooking something more complex. We had merrangues (kay, that one's a spelling thing) in need of fruit so I made gingered pears (canned pears, white wine vinegar, candied ginger, corn starch in a little water) and while it simmered I made a shepherds' pie. We ate dessert first but not snack AND dessert so I figure it a plus. Shepherds' pie might show up in one story, gingered pears or gingered something other has shown up in a couple, along with candied ginger because it is authentically medieval and I love ginger in anything. Besides, with food the social experience that it often is, cooking, kitchens, and eating always make great settings for conversation as well as food fights, arguments, and even romance. So long as you know something about food. Or camping. Or ginger candy and when it would be served at table. A few words, a note about a smell or taste or how to hold something unusual, the mood associated with eating, write it then, in detail, and the makings of s scene are waiting.
7 apr 09 @ 8:21 pm

Saturday, April 4, 2009

No one has actually said so (its the type of problem, an absence, that is hard to discern directly and never commented on even in the most discerning group of writers), but I believe Mattias falters in Chapter 3. It had a lot of good material, a lot of good character building, but not so much story and I think it needs a little physical conflict or up-tempo shouting and argueing to compliment the personality tensions (tenuous soap opera? Is it too much?) that prevail. For those of you who read chapter 3, I welcome your comments. Would a fight in the streets help?

Anyway, breakfast is eaten, the sour dough is fed, and I am a little late on updating my web pages after having been a little quick last time (I've been aiming for Tuesday or Wednesday and Friday or Saturday but it doesn't always work that way). My tour of the gardens revealed that something in the neighborhood likes eating tulip flowers, at least the base, and that mushrooms are particularly fond of our recent weather pattern, so on Homeworld I've posted an essay I wrote awhile back about Mushrooms, one of my few essays that is in the form of a personal-experience story, so i will be very interested to see whether people like it less or more than the third-person essays I usually write.

Rereading it myself, I noticed something i had forgotten and got to think aobut my expereinces with travel journals. No matter how much I write, I find it is less than I thought at the time and never "enough", especially long after when i am trying to recall some specific thing that happened.

My theory is that the nearer it is, the more is conveyed to our minds by every little phrase and word, because we need less to jog our own memories of the day. As a result, even long journals tend to be relatively brief (my own in always a five subject notebook, though those have shrunk to 3-subject length over time, and I might write a page, three in a day, and sometimes not every day unless I'm traveling). We (and i assume it is not just me) naturally tend to focus on particular aspects of the day, those that ring out in our senses: physical or emotional, or a new discovery for the mind. The rest are just there, fresh in our minds without need for elaboration, and a few words seems to suffice, at the time. As we get further away from the event, however, we look back and see that we barely touched the surface, that we remember there being so much more, even knowing our memory is imperfect and incomplete. We need more details to jog our memory when it was long ago. As writers trying to convey the events of the day to them--whether truth or fiction, the task is the same--we must remember that, for the reader, it was as long ago as infinity. They were never there, they never shared your thoughts of that wonderful image you have built your story from, until they read the words, so they need even more concrete details to envision the scene.
4 apr 09 @ 9:56 am

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Be sure to get in touch so I know you're out there! See contacts page or e-mail wyverns(at)earthlink(dot)net.

Every word should be an experience