Saturday, June 22, 2013
Historical Novel Society conference is going well. I have lots of notes, some of which I will be supplying here in future
blog posts, some of which are impacting the short story I have been trying to write this last month or so. I've had the chance
to meet some really interesting authors including the gentleman who wrote Judus, which has done very well, and my friend Tinney
Heath, who wrote A Thing Done, which several reviewers has praised for its fascinating characters and interesting setting
in medieval Italy, excuse me, Florence (Italy is a modern concept).
22 jun 13 @ 10:41 pm
Note on terminology: I've discussed a few definitions in past posts. In the SF/F arena I was mostly finding, ifI recall correctly,
that writers' were unpublished, novelists were published in that format, and authors were writer's who had either finished
a manuscript or had published something, not necessarily a novel or fiction, and that all the terms were used rather free
and loose. At this conference, everyone is being fairly consistent: writer's as unpublished (or all) and authors as published,
with no one really being referred to as novelists.
If there was an area of potential dispute about terminology, it was about what it meant to be published. While the self publishing,
independent and small press publishers were all being considered published, there were differences in views and experiences
regarding how authoritative or hierarchical that might be, and what that might mean regarding future publication. For example,
one author was clearly of the opinion that no major publisher would ever consider a book that ha already been published in
any format, maybe especially self-published, whereas another indicated it ha worked to sell a book that had originally been
published as an independent press of some sort, although that one did indicated that it was only after they had gotten the
big publisher to accept another book or more than one.
Writer's challenge: query for blogs that discuss how the writer went about getting publish and what sorts of press they chose.
Quilter's challenge: if you are considering trying to sell your work, check out etsy and blogs on quilt design. Run some
queries about copyright across multiple art forms. Share pros and cons.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Quilts and art
Art is a great source of inspiration for quilting (and stories, since I think art should tell a story, or at least give the
shape of a story). A saw some abstract art that I liked that gave me ideas for a quilt design. That made me study the art
work, because I had no idea why I liked it or why it should be different than any other abstract art (which usually doesn't
make me think of quilting). Part of it, I realized, was that it had a pieced look, squares and rectangles (and other shapes,
usually smaller) with lots of white space between each. Quilt blocks with sashing, and just a little bit of crazy quiltness.
But that wasn't all. It also had something I had noted earlier and recently commented on in one of my blogs, one of my more
recent discoveries regarding scrappy and crazy quilting: focus area. Only there was two of them, and just the bit of directionality
in the mediums elsewhere to provide the hint of a connection: or arrows, a directionally like a vector, hinting of motion.
I don't know if two is necessarily better than one, but it at least works.
14 jun 13 @ 9:53 pm
And for stories, two usually is better than one, sometimes more than two, for example, team, family, and the conflict with
an outside enemy. Development car vary, and prevalence in any given scene, but each must have it's tensions and conflict,
each must have its defined characters and their roles, and each must ultimately contribute to the finale, each acting as a
force pushing the protagonists toward crisis, climax, and resolution.
Writer's prompt: Three points, two curves, one hope
Quilter's prompt: square inside a square, off center
Monday, June 10, 2013
Comment from "MommyMommy": On May 17 you mentioned "whether clothes were appropriate for the season",
Maybe what clothes would be better...Hee Hee.
10 jun 13 @ 9:07 pm
Reply. Thank you, good catch! Although, there are some stories where the "whether" would apply... My stories are
never blatant about the lack, but I have one where the reader paying close attention will realize all the available clothing
is laying out to dry, or that pulling on clothing is being specified well into a scene. I leave accessories up to the imagination
of the reader.
An FB discussion brought up the topic of showing and action versus telling and narrative. There are of course entire books
where the action is low key, not shoot-'em-up fights and action-adventure, like court room or board room dramas. There is
still a distinct difference between showing and telling, and it isn't just putting quotes around narrative.
How to explain it though...
Some of it can be small action, described in the same detail as adventure action: footsy under the table, rolling eyes and
hand signs by those listening to a long winded speach, silent swings of a fist, pursed lips and grimaces.
These are all instead of the "telling" narrative of "he didn't like..." "she was predictable, always
filling sheets of paper with doodles.." "the two of them used every opportunity..." a little of that is okay:
a little telling is allowed, especially when introducing new characters of importance later, but it should be kept to a couple
of sentences, especially early on, not multiple pages in large blocks.at a meeting, and everything that can be readily shown
in an appropriate amount of words should be shown, leaving the reader to figure out the meaning, because that it what readers
A little clothing and visual description is allowed, too, but unless the readership is really expected to not know what a
office, board room, or whatever is like (e.g. for teen audiences), descriptive narrative should also be kept to the bare bones
indicators, with the reader left to fill in the blanks: Not "the table had seating for fifteen" but "sixteen
people crammed around the table" or "so-n-so stretched his legs under the generous table", which is more than
enough to indicate the group was sitting around a table and not at desks in a class room or rows of chairs like an auditorium.
Also, like any discussion in a story, the dialog should matter, preferably at multiple levels, and not be used as a means
to present narrative. Consider:
-- if past events need to be explained for the reader as well as characters in the scene, can someone remember the scene instead
of describing it in dialog?
-- can the long-winded dialog be summarized in a brief narrative?
-- dialog should show characteristics of speakers, listeners, including lies, misinterpretations, and absurdities
-- scenes full of dialog still need to be full scenes, including conflict and change, not just information exchanges.
-- don't including anything the reader already knows. If characters need info, keep it to a brief comment that that character
was filled in, unless the reader needs to know that the character was lied to or given incomplete information.
-- Characters are not just voices, normally, unless they are remote to the scene, and then someone should be local: that person
still has body, motion, expression, and other minor and major actions that they can perform while speaking. It does not have
to be in alignment with the dialog.
Writer's challenge: swap characters and their speaking roles. Does is still make sense? If it does, the dialog may need
to be shifted to make it more character-specific.
Writer's prompt: He turned, paused. The phone rang.
Friday, June 7, 2013
An unfocused week
My life has been a badly designed quilt this week, lots of pieces that don't much match, bits and pieces of progress, clusters
of related activities that don't quite fit together as hoped... but it is Friday and that is everything.
7 jun 13 @ 9:23 pm
I am getting ready for the Historical Novel Writer's conference and Camp NaNoWriMo (July WriMo with a little more freedom
for goal setting than the November one. We'll see. Book 2 is nearly done with revision 2 so it is time to make sense of
the mess of notes that constitute Book 3. Or novella 3. My current science fiction series is running a bit short - maybe
65,000 for Book 1, 70,000 for Book 2 by the time I add my new scenes, and Book 3 likely to be about the same or shorter unless
its more sophisticated climax takes more words to build. That turns out to be a bit too short for what some of the (traditional)
publishers want but it might be a good test bed for trying out the e-book world if I can find something that looks like a
Writer's prompt: one-way street, downshift, step on the gas, literally or figuratively
Quilter's prompt: take a stack from your stash, sort into two piles of fabrics that go reasonably well together. Use one
stack as the center, then other stack as the borders. Pick a strip width for each.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Troublesome scenes and working backwards
As usually happens, when I'm assembly a book from the many scenes I've built, I find a problem, usually on the increasing
troubles and conjunction of forces that lead to and form the climax. As I believe I mentioned before, I have a hard time
writing even an individual scene that doesn't have something of a happy ending, so I have lots of bright middle stuff and
not enough struggle. (I have a similar problem with scrappy quilts and I think writing this blog just answered what I did
wrong with my latest baby quilt: I aimed for "random", scattering the shades all over the quilt, which is very common
but to me always unsatisfying. It is too much like the effect of solving the problem of every scene with a little happy ending:
flat, even, and unfocused.
1 jun 13 @ 10:26 am
What I found, trying to fix that in my current story this past week, is that if I take the ending bit, move it to the front
of the scene, so that the scene starts well but ends in the middle as it were, I Have the framework I need. Still needs lots
of work of course, to adjust the dialog, setting conditions, and such, but that is much easier than getting the scene's change
going in the right direction, of problem without yet a solution. Similarly, all the squares became center squares by spreading
all the colors evenly throughout. It's functional but generic and what I needed to do was give a sense of direction, build
to that climax at some point in the quilt, and let the scrappy fabrics guide the eye there, just as the forces and build up
scenes drive the reader toward the climax, so long as the scenes have a clear direction of movement and don't end where they
The individual scene work helps get me on the right glide slope, but I inevitably have to write a couple more scenes that
start where the newly modified ones leave off to get to that darkest before the dawn state and that is a bit harder. What
I'm currently trying is to look at the ending again, not to move it earlier--though it does happen that I usually take out
several scenes and just merge core bits of dialog or action into the new scenes or revamped scenes if they contain needed
information that is nowhere else--but to work backwards from the ending to the climax and just before the climax. That seems
to help get the creative juices going in the right direction, as it were, to build the missing scenes.
I find them among the hardest to write which is probably why they end up getting missed until I'm nearly done with the book.
Sometimes I think that I have written them, but the drafts usually end up much earlier, not being sufficiently unpleasant
for the characters, that sense of doom, the unsolvable problem, that makes for that wow ending when it is, none-the-less solved.
Of course, since I'm drafting new scenes, they will be roughs, but unlike some of the scenes that I just leave as is until
later, I will usually rewrite these right away, and start making changes as needed to the earlier scenes right away, primarily
reviewing them for the forces that are at play that make the flow and difficulties and solution work, as I often have to invent
features that weren't there before, albeit hopefully quite minor ones. The main thing is to make sure nothing is truly coming
out of left field, that is, without prior introduction? Is there anything I feel a need to explain? If so, I will put the
explanation, the role of a side character, or other active force earlier on, so that the climax, always a battle of some sort,
whether verbal or physical, is not slowed down by so much as a phrase of narrative not dedicated to describing action or dialog.
The climax is no place to be explaining things to the reader.
Writer's challenge: write a scene appropriate to a trajedy.
Quilter's challenge: Making a scrappy quilt? Take the blocks and lay them out so that the spread seems even, or "random".
Now redistribute them to form bands that drifting from light to dark or from one part of the spectrum to another, aiming
for a point in one of the quadrants (not or not quite the center).
Writer's prompt: up-hill is bad, struggle is good, ease is sorrow