Saturday, June 30, 2012
One of the values of New Year's resolutions is the process of looking at what you want and what it takes to achieve it. It's
also a good exercise for those hot summer days when something less physically active is called for. I review a lot of different
goals: long-term retirement wishes, yearly budgets, and things like writing and blogging, that involve a fuzzy sort of plan
that is based half on recommendations of others, a quarter on observations, and only a quarter on real understanding of the
entire process from writing to publishing to reaching the ultimate reading audience. That none of it will go quite as i planned
has very little to do with the process of setting goals and working toward them and periodically making sure that those two
are heading in the same direction.
30 jun 12 @ 6:36 pm
The writing part, naturally, takes a lot of my thought, being more immediate and more complex at the same time, but I'll use
the retirement planning thing as an example, because it relates. One of the things I like to write is advice, but certainly
not something I would ever consider an "advice column". For one, I've no real idea if my advice is better than
anyone else's. For another, there's plenty of advice available out there for those who really care to look. Mostly, though,
I offer advice on a whim, often in reaction to dumb advertisements and weird news blurbs that I catch, and not anything I
would expect people to look for. Maybe more on the order of advice I wish some people on the news would ask for... like
the dumb investor advice advertisements that blow off goal-setting as meaningless.
You may not need to set goals or consider long-term plans if you have a lot o money to blow on the stock market, but most
of us are pretty close to the margins on what we are willing to risk for the chance at earnings, and what we can't afford
to risk if we want to be assured of a viable retirement while we're still healthy enough to enjoy the time off of work. When
you have just a little leeway on your budget, understanding what we want out of our current life and our future life is how
we prioritize and find the money out of the budget to invest: do we reduce the snack budget to allow investing or do we forgo
thoughts of a dream cruise in favor of less savings? Those are decisions that can't be well made with some goal setting and
Sales of other things also trigger my desire to give advice on reality, because I know people accept the sales pitches without
thinking them through, like the very common one of "But this and you'll save half." (r save some number of dollars.
It sounds great, half price, big numbers, right until you think about how much you would save by not buying it at all, just
as you've done until now. Then every dime spent is money spent, and not saved. "Second one half off": same thing;
do you need two? If the answer is yes, then do the math: hlaf off of one is 25% off both. Make sure you aren't passing up
a 30% off sale in favor one that only sounds better. If you would otherwise have bought one, the second one is just an unnecessary
For writing advice, the cause isn't just the same. I just like sharing lessons I myself have learned through experience writing.
If I ever get published, I plan to share that experience, too in case anyone might consider following a similar course, with
the added incentive that i have sought advice blogs and other sources of guidance, and found them of aide only here and there,
in some aspects of my writing and I don't know how much of it is questionable advice, and home much my failure to understand
the advice well enough to benefit by it, or it was advice that didn't fit my particular genre or writing style or other factors
that frame the whole of the writing experience.
Still, those are more motivations for doing it than goals for the long run and that is where I am in a small quandry for figuring
out whether it's worthwhile for the fun of offering advice, regardless of audience or value, whether I might do more to aide
some of my longer term writing goals, like more time writing inquiries (which I know I need. I write a lot of different things
and it's all fun, but some more useful for my longer term goals than others and periodically I have to sort through and prioritize
them and I expect to be doing that for the next few weeks. A periodic goal review helps me sort out which those are, and
gives me an incentive for the ones I'm subconsciously finding excuses to avoid.
Writer's challenge: set one short term goal (such as one short story by the end of the month, a certain number of words if
you track that sort of thing, a troublesome scene completed and polished) and one long term goal, like when do you think you
could get your book or collection of short stories done? What sort of vacation or retirement house would you really like?
(RV, houseboat, and old mansion to keep you busy redecorating?)
Writer's prompt: Use the words steam, skirt, shirt, wing, polarity, and tree in a story or scene.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I love writing artful narrative, beautiful descriptions of places, policies, situations, settings, etc for my stories. Its
a fun writing exercise and they have their place, but for the most part they have to get chopped or chopped up for a novel.
For science fiction, they might need to get shopped up more than fantasy, where descriptions of natural settings are more
classically an aspect of the genre.
26 jun 12 @ 7:59 pm
I started editing one of my other science fictions (set aside for the purpose of getting a fresh look) and the first thing
I encounterd was pages of lovely narrative. Knowing it had to get the knife came easy, knowing how and where it could go...
What I decided was that, like most story elements, the pieces had to go to when and where the reader actually needed them.
I couldn't do a reference book on the planet as the intro, no matter how much understanding the place mattered to the story!
In the beginning, the main character is descending through storms, so the narrative about the storms and the terrain as it
could be seen through the storms stayed, everything else - moved out.
Where to move it to, I tried to follow the same rules, although the search necessary to find where I talked about policy or
law in dialog, where I mention other features of the planet that the long intro babbled on about. The word-search function
is helpful but of course, only gets the words I actually used, not the ideas I'm looking for. I "paged" through
and found likely candidate locations but I won't be surprised if I move them later. The hard part was recognizing the need
(which I didn't quite identify the last several edits, though I knew there was something wrong with the start: I knew the
information was needed, liked the lovely flow and phrasing, and didn't recognize that it needed to be distributed), and making
the first cut.
It always seems to be the way, that it's easy to do, hard to recognise. If I were under a deadline, I expect it would be
harder. Lacking one, the easiest way is just to step away and work on another novel (I always have several in stages of development).
When I have given myself a deadline (about the only deadlines I have until I find a publisher) or just want to make progress,
I might try other things, like looking for very specific things to edit in the story, which gives me a kind of break from
other aspects of the story while still making progress (verbosity, dialog, character development, overused words like "but"
and "and", etc.). Reading something very different and short but intense and interesting also helps for a quick
but reasonably effective break, since the purpose is relly just to get the mind away from the story.
Well, that's a bit off from where I started so I'll leave it that before I wander any further.
Writer's challenge: Find a collection of short stories and read one, then return to writing.
Writer's challenge: go though your story and mark anywhere that is narrative. If it's longer than a couple of paragraphs,
consider if it can be replaced by action or dialog. Consider whether it needs to be known now.
Writer's prompt: Take a scene where weather is not a factor and move it somewhere excessively hot or cold.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Always more to do
i finally finished polishing the science fiction novel I've been working on but writing the synopsis was going so rocky that
I decided on a brief change of pace. I have therefor been polishing a fantasy short story that I plan to enter into the writer's
of the future competition I mentioned last time. I suspect it is, at the lease, too traditional to be a good candidate as
a winner, but the effort will ease me in the direction of trying more (after I get a couple more queries sent out) and even
if nothing comes of the short story attempts, most of my best (in my personal view) novel series started as attempts at short
stories that didn't work. Also, setting myself a goal of entering each quarter gives me something to work toward while I
wait for rejection letters.
20 jun 12 @ 7:07 pm
I'm sure there's something wrong with that last sentence, just like my original year goal of about twenty rejection letters.
Of course I'm not aiming for rejection, just using it as a tracking system. Ideally, among them will be several acceptance
letters. Who says I can't be getting several series shopped around by different agents at the same time, after all? That
wasn't how I pictured the process. I always thought one acquired an agent on the order of working with a career coach - continuously
over time. But lots of what Ive read lately indicates that it is common to have an agent for a single series or at least
a very narrowly defined set of subgenre/age group, and to start over shopping for a new agent with the next series or sub-subgenre
(maybe giving the first agent a chance, if it's ready to go more-or-less in sequence, but with no expectation that they will
want to stick with you on a different book even if the first was pretty successful. I can see where the change would have
value to both the agent and the author; still, not quite my original vision of the process.
Writer's prompt: What's around the next corner?
Friday, June 15, 2012
Getting there but still procrastinating
I have spent much more time on line doing some of the searches i need to do (when the weather is less beautiful than it has
occasionally been this past week - I can write outside as well as garden, but not online). I get so tired of the slow searching
that I feel like getting off line, which still fails to get me to my blogs. However, I was online and found something I just
HAD to mention: http://www.writersofthefuture.com/contest
15 jun 12 @ 11:44 am
It's a quarterly (English language) writing competition for short stories and novelettes with an annual bigger prize for one
of the quarterly winners. It's free and can be entered electronically or via snailmail. I highly recommend trying to enter
quarterly until you win, if only as an incentive to keep writing and keep working at your writing skills. All publication
rights stay with the author though winners are invited to provide something for the antholoigies that provides the funding.
(It didn't sound like they were necesssrily the winning entries that got published). I have trouble with short stories.
Novels are definitely my thing, but I know that writing short stories is a good learning tool and have tried on occasion.
This one has the advantage, besides a nice frequency, of not having a specified theme, and if you are late submitting it
for one quarter, they'll just roll it over to the next.
Writer's prompt: what would you like to be able to do that you can't due to a technological limit or "law of physics"?
Assume you can and write a story that uses it.
Writer's challenge: enter the competition, or any writing competition you can find.
Friday, June 8, 2012
There must be something about looking for agents and other online tasks) that I really don't like, because even though it
is relatively easy (if sometimes tedious and time munching), I have actually found myself ironing, cleaning, and doing laundry,
and turning old clothes into quilt fabric as well as the more entertaining activities of designing new quilts, making summer
clothes, and fabric shopping, all (I suspect) to avoid some of the online tasks I really need to get to.
8 jun 12 @ 10:08 pm
The result has been neglecting my blogging and other more pleasant tasks, too, which is unfortunate, but at least I ahve plenty
ro write on when I get myself online. I have little notes in my journal, comments in my story notes, and draft blogs from
my evening writing sessions (when I'm not online because we don't have wireless in the house.)
For tonight, I'll leave it mostly to a status report: I've gone though my latest space science fiction several times, checking
for character consistency, fixing the climax (several times), straightening out scene POV issues, adding missing names and
fixing character titles, and clarifying actions and setting to round out some heavily-dialog scenes.
I am fractionally hopeful that progress with the international space station will garner a bit of an audience for space fiction
again, if it ever comes into popular awareness (it's hard to tell what young people might be hearing about and listening to
when there are so many more mediums for passing information); so I'll charge ahead with revamping the synopsis to match the
new version of the novel and start considering likely agents (not that I have found any that specify an interest in space
fiction, but science fiction of the right flavor and tone, especially for young adults, can offer hints that they might at
least give space fiction a chance, if only as something new, again.)
Writer's prompt: write a scene that has something to do with a space station or other space object.
Writer's challenge: List all the things you would like to do or accomplish this week. List all the things you have to accomplish
this week. List all the things you know you should accomplish in order to make progress with writing and/or publication.
Make sure your plan for next week includes one more hour of writing related stuff than last week, even if it needs to be
in fifteen minute increments.