Friday, November 30, 2012
NaNoWriMO winds to a close
National Novel Writing Month is winding to a close. I haven't come very close to my 50,000 word goal (only about 40,000),
but I still got a lot closer to writing the complete novel story line than I expected to and (contrary to guidance) did a
lot of editing along the way (I had to resequence in order to make any progress at all, as I changed my mind about where I
was heading and ended up rewriting sections to match their new location instead of just making some notes on what needed to
rewritten). Besides, I have some Christmas presents to finish.
30 nov 12 @ 8:16 pm
I am closer to getting those done fortunately, and am currently putting the binding on one of them. It's a dark binding on
a quilt of many shades, with a light back, and I was surprised how much difference the dark border made. It suddenly started
to actually LOOK finished, as soon as it had a frame. I've found that frameworks for stories have that same impact. Fantasies
and science fiction stories may wander across countries and galaxies, characters may face challenges from all sides from nature,
enemies, friends, themselves. Side characters and scenery may come and go throughout the story as wildly as a crazy quilt,
with just as much unrelated color and texture, but if words, theme, and/or core characters provide a clear framework connected
to beginning, middle, and end, the rest will be pulled together into a coherent whole as effectively as with a binding on
Some authors do it with symbols that are somehow associated to set the mood and foreshadow what is to come. Some do it with
words and extended metaphors that do much the same. I've done some of that. In my current story, it's more situational,
an ending where the action is similar to that of the beginning, and the main characters are still trapped, but the circumstances
have drastically changed along the way. At least that is the concept. I still need that turn, that transition, metamorphosis
moment, but I have things headed in useful directions, the circumstances for change set up, and pieces of the climax scene
started, but they have to be fit together yet so that I don't accidentally turn it into an anticlimax or draw the aftermath
out too long (I think I have to cut a few scenes entirely at both ends, because they essentially repeat the same change.
Changes don't always have to "take", especially if they are desirable, but the first attempt has to have an impact,
and the second has to be different BECAUSE of that impact. Obviously plenty of work still to do, but a good start.
Writer's challenge: Take a scene or story. Add an object.
Writer's prompt: shopping disaster
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
What is science fiction?
Its not a new topic, anymore, more like a perennial one, but it came up in discussions this last week so I thought i would
expound again. The meanings have changed over time, apparently, and no longer often fit my definition, developed in youthful
readings, early attempts at writing science fiction, and in getting feedback thereon.
27 nov 12 @ 7:16 pm
It's understandable that the meanings get distorted and sifted. Like cars, when the makers started crossing over styles,
types, structures, and functions, the definitions blurred, sometimes in useful fashions, sometimes not so much, and always
to the detriment of clear understanding and communications. I recall standing beside a car and laughing because someone called
it a full-size. When I said that that was what I laughed at, they said, yeah, no way, that's what I call a boat, and I could
only stare, because here I was thinking it was obviously a compact. After all, it was about half the size of Dad's station
wagon in all three dimensions, and sat two people and a dog if the dog wasn't too big. My Dad's car was the obvious boat.
Science fiction these days is horror (but the horror characters might be good guys, bad guys, semi-evil protagonists, and
the endings might be happy instead of tragic or at most sad and hopeful, like traditional horror called for), or its adventure
with a token science fiction element. (I was appalled when the "obvious" historical fiction cum adventure flicks
of the Indian Jones series got labeled Science Fiction, but considering the source of the Crystal Skull can almost see it
at a stretch...).
I get that there are always fuzzy edges. Authors like to play and they come from different background interests. Even the
most traditional classic, contemporary or historical novelist has used the simple trope of having someone from a different
place or time show up somewhere or somewhen that they aren't from just to get that outsider POV, with a token magical or science
fiction explanation. In my view, though, that's using science fiction as a trope, or maybe a bit of speculative fiction if
they do a bit more with the trope than merely get someone there and back again. It's often not anything I would identify
as science fiction writing, however. Science fiction and fantasy writers like myself also blur the edges by trying to scientifically
explain magic (missing the whole point and definition of magic, in my view of fantasy, but it can sometimes help authors avoid
the trap of limitless magic and god-characters, who can lose interest value if nothing is a challenge). Cross-overs have
also grown more common: romances that are historical fiction, romances that are fantasy or science fiction, alternative histories
that play with history but may or may not use science fiction nor fantasy to prod the world in a new direction from history
as we know it. Even contemporary or historical military adventure might adopt a capability that is more science fiction than
realistic, but is often only intended, like the CSI shows, to convey modern capabilities on an episode timeline and budget
instead of the more realistic two-week wait, low budget test, or to offer clarity where real results would be more ambiguous.
Does that make it science fiction? So ambiguity is common. I would have no problem with that, except that at present, however,
I'm having trouble finding any books that fit the core definition, and so hardly can find an agent or publisher that would
recognize my books as a science fiction they might be interested in, or that I might want to read. I've found a few nice
speculative fiction books, but science fiction, not so much.
Writer's challenge: what genres and sub genres does your story fit into? What makes it fit?
Writer's prompt: energy, screen, switch, radar, or button
Friday, November 23, 2012
SAw the video Winter Cottage today with the family. Wouldn't have been my first choice but it turned out to be a good movie
with some brief messages good for any artist, including writers and quilters and all, though it is about the "painter
of light" Kinkaid and his inspiration and mentor. The mentor said something to the effect that it had to come from the
heart every single time (Kinkaid was earning some money by painting a wall mural of his home town that was essentially boring
him, until his fellow townsfolk started to inspire him by being themselves). It seemed something I've heard in a variety of
different ways, but the application in the movie to the mural made me think about the words in a more practical sort of way,
helped by a recent personal experience with people being themselves in all their consistency, however good or irritating,
normal or unique.
23 nov 12 @ 6:27 pm
In the past, I've sometimes felt that people's characteristics were more clear when I first got to know them because it was
contrasted by the the known and different, but if people are consistent, the subtle characteristics become more apparent over
time (and if they are irritating, repetition makes them more so, a phenomenon most of us have had occasion to experience).
Some of these are to be tolerated and dealt with. Depending on the relationship, they may be things to try to change or
to take for granted or to appreciate when there is a particular need. These, as I took the story, were the sorts of things
that inspired the artist, though most of the pictures I've seen of his work have been more physical places, houses and streets
and such, than people. They are also great fuel for inspiration of story characters, since most of the personality characteristics
of people are time and place independent. What changes with time and place are the ways those traits show through the days'
usual and unusual activities.
The other perennial reminder was to not give up, to keep going. It may take some training and guidance to figure out what
works for each of us technique-wise, but if we keep putting our hearts into it every time, apply the techniques we know the
best we can, the rest will take care of itself. Don't know if I'll reach my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, but I keep plugging
away and I'll end up further along in my novel than when I started, regardless.
Writer's challenge: Envision or recall a moment that meant something special. Capture it in writing.
Writer's prompt: Light, dark, winter, hearth, star, blue, foot, reach, way
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Getting charged up - its funny what will really energize you. I've been making QOVs slowly for awhile and just found out
that there is a destination nearby, and a point of contact for delivering them, the all important combination. Suddenly I
am envisioning recruiting help, using it as project for our local quilt group who always seem to do better with specific goals
and clear purpose. It's a big enough need I can't do it myself so I envision the recruiting and organizing role instead of
my usual plug-along and make things role. Both have value but I almost always take the second. Reality and timelines and
my long to do list quickly overwhelm the energy, but some of the plans are already in place and the idea that I can do something
about it lingers.
20 nov 12 @ 8:23 pm
Of course there is a story writing point, because that's what I do the rest of the time, and that is that you have to energize
your readers the same way and its hard and you never know what will work.
One thing that won't is being bored writing. If you have a scene that is tedious to write, but you have to because it includes
some key bit of information, it better be short or it better be rewritten. Information can virtually always be input somewhere
interesting, preferably by showing, but also by meandering thoughts by characters, backstory narrative, or bits of side commentary.
One thing that will energize and interest is ideas, enlightenment after foreshadowing, and the borderline circumstances that
challenge assumptions and traditions. Of these, the most under appreciated and invisible, but ultimately the most fun for
writer and subtly effective for the reader is foreshadowing. Foreshadowing can be as easy as a military simili or metaphor
instead of a civilian one if the military is on the way, as complicated as a long metaphor related to things to come. They
push the reader's thoughts in the right direction, make them wonder, make them anticipate without really giving a clue to
what is to come, and so add to the sense of discovery in a way that simply presenting the "surprise" cannot. If
nothing is anticipated, the surprise is just the next thing, instead of THE thing.
The ideas and challenges are more about story line than wordsmithing, either minor plot elements or the major story, the theme
or the underlying message. As an idea, it "merely" needs to be brought up, often by taking the contrary view, a
misunderstanding, or a minimal understanding of the topic, and letting the characters discover through experience and dialog
that there is more to the issue, that it matters to them, and why, by events that make it key to answering a problem. The
challenge can take a similar course but also requires a problem where the opposite seems like the easier answer, the obvious
answer, or makes the concept being challenged seem wrong, questionable, or at least not as simple as it is usually treated
by habit, tradition, and contemporary culture.
Writer's challenge: Make a list of things that are true today that you assume will be true tomorrow, a year from now, ten
years from now. What would cause them to change?
Writer's prompt: Use the following words in a scene or story: true, hope, food, fall, leave, ripe, red, lead, lace
Thursday, November 15, 2012
You know you're a writer when
...you take notes because no one else is
15 nov 12 @ 9:07 pm
...you feel like you've forgotten something if you don't have three or more pens along
...the question is do you have some paper and your answer is "how much?" or "what size?"
...no room in the house lacks a pencil holder
...any container can be used as a pencil holder
...vases in your house are short because it's too hard to get pens out of the tall ones
...one tweet is never enough
...social software is another chance to communicate via text
...a short note is more than a page long
...you read an ad and want to start making corrections and improve the phrasing
Writer's challenge: How do you know you are a writer?
Writer's prompt: It couldn't be avoided, I would have to-
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
NaNoWriMo progress report
The story line is getting built, the words to fill the scenes and make the story a little slower and erratically. I have
notes and ideas in three little notepads (the paper kind) and several scenes starting to take shape but more dialog than setting,
and the battle scenes are barely outlines. I have to really be into the right swing for those, and preferably reading about
war and battles (fiction or nonfiction) to get into the flow of battle tempo, chaos, the shift from action to thought, to
"individual" POVs within the battle zone.
13 nov 12 @ 8:19 pm
I quote the individual because I have a set of people, creatures, and ships that are mind linked and don't exactly count as
individual, especially in battle, so I have been playing with floating POVs between them, all third person, but seeing their
shared and individual thoughts.
So far I have only one other POV character, a kind of devilish friendly enemy who tries to help, in his way, but thinks he
has the right to control their lives for good or ill and is only helpful in so far as it meets his desires. Evil characters
are the hardest, both because it is hard to know how much of the lies and conniving to show the reader, and because it's a
struggle to stay in an evil mindset. It is sometimes interesting to come up with things that come across as evil to the reader
if not necessarily obviously or to the characters, and unpleasant to try to follow the lines of reasoning that lead to evil
actions in a character that doesn't know how evil he is being.
Inspiration is all too common, of course. I always assume that people mean well but there are some attitudes that just curdle
my belly and lead to evil behavior, almost all of them related to one person thinking they have rights regarding another,
even the right to "protect" without permission, as if no one was allowed to choose an unsafe path, or a path someone
else might think is unsafe out of ignorance or due to different skills, but more because safety is a choice, too. I would
rather be a lot less safe, in a lot of ways, especially since all the things I'm being protected from in my daily life, in
travel, in activities is so less likely than things I'm not protected from. I'd rather take the low-chance risk than give
up my right to move freely, travel freely, my right to privacy of many sorts. But so often we, individuals, aren't given
the right to make that choice, by governments, but often also by individuals in their lives: the overbearing parent, the overprotective
boyfriend or spouse, the aggressive friend that tries to run their social life for them, assuming they can't run their own
because their social interaction is of a different style than the friends (and don't we all have friends that make us wonder
at times why they are friends, whose behavior we sometimes more tolerate than enjoy, accepting the roles out of familiarity
or habit or because of other parts of our complex relationships even as our needs and desires and lives change?). The boundary
between tolerable and evil is fuzzy and even overlaps, and getting it right for a story... For this one, I'm looking for
the seeming good management skills and the relatively obvious evil on the other end. The trick is making it believable that
the same features come out of the same character. Even insanity has to make a kind of sense. I don't know if I'm good at
crazy, but I'm getting a lot of practice with this story.
Writer's challenge: Identify a characteristic in someone that irritates you. Take it to an extreme and use it in a s scene.
Writer's prompt: Use the following words in a story: shade, barge, fade, chip, light, red, drag, pole
Friday, November 9, 2012
I suddenly understand that ad...
You know that ad where the older kid is doing the "way back when I was a kid" thing at a younger sibling? I get
it. I'm not a kid anymore, but technology is changing so fast that a kid would feel old. My nice "new" computer
(still seems fairly new to me... maybe three years old?) is apparently nearly an antique and some store clerk referred me
to a store for "old computers" to get a replacement modem.
9 nov 12 @ 4:43 pm
I mean, I get that the new thing is iPhones and iPads and such, but they don't have a key board I can type on fast enough.
I touch type and I have a lot of typing to do so one of the those pretend keyboards on a screen isn't going to cut it for
me. I don't want to be looking at letters when I'm trying to visualize worlds and emotions. Even when I draft on paper (still
waiting for that screen that lets me write--and I mean free-hand cursive-- my book on the screen with a stylus or pen-ish
thing then flips over to let me edit the resultant text with a key board... Let me know if they invent that and I'll consider
technology to be an improvement), for now I need to be reading my notes while I'm typing, not looking at a screen to find
When I mentioned that to a teen - on the train maybe, or a distant cousin - she said, well you can't hold a key board up to
your ear. I was kind of surprised. Actually, I was thinking, well, I didn't think they used the phone as a phone, anymore.
But with smart phones, I suppose even texting will be passe' in a few months (if it isn't already) since they can go back
to pushing letters instead of translating numbers into letters for writing messages. Back to "messaging" like when
we got instant messaging on the computer? Well, it's still texting, just not so dependent on pushing little buttons with
the thumbs multiple times to compose the message, since they don't have buttons anymore... I suppose one of these days I'll
have to buy a new phone, but since I don't use my personal phone for work, I'm hoping to hold off until I actually need the
phone for more than an emergency travel thing before I bother. Otherwise, it will be out of date before I figure out how
to do more than turn it on. I don't plan on blogging or writing books on a phone any time soon.
Writer's prompt: The archeological team had dug up a most curious object...
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Not making rapid progress with procrastination, but caught up on some of my letter writing and other things. I've done a
few thousand words of real fiction writing and that's enough to get my novella or whatever it comes out to be headed in the
right direction. Also helping on my first novel in the set. So far the only feedback I've gotten is that the premise is
weird but considering all of my traditional stuff seems to be failing with agents and publishers, maybe weird is what i need.
8 nov 12 @ 10:04 pm
Try this for a cover concept (I'm not great with the actual artwork nor computer art but maybe I'll see if I can figure out
how to upload a pencil sketch sometime during the month): a stone wall divides one side of the cover from the other. On one
side is seated a very thin woman, on the other side, a thin man (both half starved). Above the man, a large creature (a pterl,
wyvern and/or perydactl-ish) with a toothy long beak and blue wings. Hovering over the women are two heads, one white, the
other blue and whether they have separate bodies or share one as there are many links not readily portrayed in a picture.
Above all of them, with sky and stars behind them, are two small space ships, they can be mostly cockpit, weapons may or
may not be apparent. I haven't decided on colors. All my scenes with the ships are from the inside of the ships. Is a ship
aware of its color? The pterls are aware of theirs, enough to be a bit vain...
Battles, arguments about stupid Service policies and practices made worse by the interpretation of dunce leader pairs (fellow
link pilots who've been promoted), memories of the couple of days when the protagonists weren't separated by walls, the plot
needs lots of work, but the premise is getting more solidified.
Writer's challenge: Look at a bunch of your favorite covers, or a bunch you haven't read in a book store. What do they tell
you about the story? What do they imply?
Writer's prompt: look at a picture in a newspaper or at the cover of a book you haven't read yet. Without reading the article
(nor the blurb), write the story. Then read the original.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Procrastinating as a prod to writing
i can imagine writing 50,000 words at some times in the year. November isn't really one of them, since holidays are approaching,
and end of year deadlines, and... but I signed up for NaNoWriMo as much because I wasn't getting letters and journals and
other things written as because I wanted to get more novel writing in. If I set a goal for one writing task, I'll get lots
of writing done, just not necessarily the thing I was planning to write.
6 nov 12 @ 7:46 pm
So far I've written bits from three different time streams in my novel's series, two letters, several journal entries (of
course, I was traveling, even if I find less opportunity to write when I'm with family, and notes for a couple of blog entries,
and figure I'm more on course than I expected since I didn't steer to a totally different fiction series in my written wandering.
I guess some people get writer's block with the pressure of a big goal, and I guess this is my sort - not writing the right
thing - and I have some of the issues of getting myself headed in the right direction, but I've so much I need and want to
do, I figure any progress is good and if I settle into that, the main story I want to work on will take care of itself in
between. I have plenty of ideas forming and jot notes, so once I settle, filling in the scenes that go with the notes will
come quickly in leaps and bounds, with rapid typing alternating between none. In total, it will be the 50,000 words, even
if they don't all count.
Writer's challenge: write a letter and tell someone about a writing idea in the letter.
Writer's prompt: I grabbed something, peeked out the door, and changed my mind about the something