and writing

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 06:34 pm
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
...Aaaand no sooner do I settle in after posting that, than I have to go jot down the 500-odd word beginning to a new novel. Beginnings have been murder for me lately, but this one came smooth and relatively easy like beginnings should. I can't prove it was due to the run, but I doubt it was just coincidence.

It's not the beginning of anything I'm supposed to be working on, of course, but I'll take it. ;-)
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
Went for my first run of the season today. Well, jog. Well, kind of a bouncy shuffle. But I managed to kick off at the equivalent of Week 5 of Couch-to-5K, which ain't bad for having been off half a year. Bright sun, fresh air, and a body that if it's mostly still knots managed to get out and move fairly well -- I'll take it.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Blueberries (72%)

Where Bought: Foods For Living

Endangered Species is one of my favorite brands. Aside from the 10% donation to ecological causes, it's really good chocolate, and they have a lot of flavors and combinations that are right up my taste buds' alley.

Aroma: lovely strong hit of chocolate

Texture is firm, satisfying to dig your teeth into but not hard. Breaks with moderate pressure without being brittle or crumbly.

Good strong chocolate flavor, dark but not bitter, intense and just the right amount of sweet. The blueberries are a nice tart zing, neither overwhelming nor overwhelmed.

Overall: Mmmmmm. Heck yeah, would buy again.

March Word Count

Sunday, April 10th, 2016 04:07 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So much for posting more often. ;-P

original short fiction: 2222
Total new words in March: 2222

Yeah, all right. Better than I feared, worse than I hoped, and I need to get my act in gear. (Not least because if the writing brain doesn't get exercised via writing, it takes it out in anxiety dreams. The last couple nights were doozies.)

What I hadn't realized is that I didn't submit anything in March. Bad writer. That flurry of stuff I sent out in February had mostly come back, so it's not like I didn't have inventory.

Made some progress with investigating new email services. Hushmail would be a contender except for the lack of spell-check; Inbox looks promising, but there's a couple things I can't check without a test account to play with. Must get my act in gear on that one!


April goals: Get the bloody Highway of Mirrors revision put to bed (still waiting on beta reader). Get email back to functionality. Get at least one story out, to the nice people who told me to send them something else if I had it. And get enough writing done that I can at least sleep at night.

...nnnnnnnnnnn...

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 03:40 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Yesterday was sushi and pie (Pie Day!) and a large mocha, all of which fire up the writing brain. Instead I went to bed, and my brain used all that fuel for the kind of dreams that leave me feeling like I was running a marathon all night. Which frequently happens when I haven't been writing enough; this was just dialed to eleven.

Now I'm sitting down to write, and the same brain that wouldn't stop spinning scenarios all night is lying there like a lump. I have this one short story left from the batch I want to complete before going back to the Mars novel. It was a good idea when I first thought of it; it's probably still a good idea, somewhere under this massive layer of "eh". And I have all the engagement of road-kill.

I want another mocha. This is probably not a good idea, but it may come to that.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
My library's search function always offers a "Did you mean..." even if it finds what you asked for. I don't know who programmed the thing, but it clearly has no filters for names or anything that might be relevant for a library search. Its latest, however... no, search, when I asked for Larry Niven's Ringworld, I did not mean "larry naive ringworm".

...I think perhaps I will not write a children's book called Larry the Naive Ringworm.

February Word Count

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 01:18 pm
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
original short fiction: 257
Highway of Mirrors revisions: 1571

Total new words in February: 1828

Better than I expected, and not bad for a month in which word-count really wasn't the point.

I've added a little over 4k words to Highway of Mirrors in this revision pass, mostly in the form of little characterization snippets.


Short story submissions: 6, and queried on one outstanding

At one point, I had everything fit to go out in some slush pile somewhere. They've started trickling back already, of course, but goal still achieved and it was nice while it lasted.


For March: Start writing new stuff again, consistently. Also, read-through of HoM with housemate and revisions as necessary.

Ugh

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 10:34 am
lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
I got a lungful of cold air yesterday which has moved in and set up shop, and now I feel like crap. Welcome to March.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
...there's a list of Campbell-eligible authors at Writertopia.com.

If you're an SF writer and your first professional sale was published in 2014 or 2015, go there to see if you're eligible. You probably are. (I'm not. Turns out the prior year's contest win netted enough to count for their purposes, so I'm past my shelf date. Ah, well.)

Also, there's an anthology of Campbell-eligible authors being put together here. It's exposure-only, but might be good for some name recognition.

(Note: I am in no way hallucinating that I'd need to start working on an acceptance speech, even if I were still eligible. This is more in the nature of a PSA to any fellow writers who were equally oblivious to this stuff's existence.)
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
Every short story I have that's fit to go out is currently in a slush pile somewhere.

Goal achieved!

Next Thing

Thursday, February 18th, 2016 05:45 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the revisions are done.

Well, "done", of course. I spent an entire day on the last bit to be wedged in and decided it just wouldn't fit, so have set it aside. When the housemate & I both have some time free in our reading schedules (i.e., after book club), I'll print out two copies, see how it reads all-together for both of us, and then discuss the various bits that didn't fit and whether they're worth what it would variously take to fit them in. And then revise more as needed, though ghu knows I hope that's not very much.

And then I'll have a newly-revised manuscript and a new query, and I'll just need a new email provider so I can be confident of actually getting any replies. I cannot express how much I don't want to do the work to make that last happen.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Revision generally comes to me in one of two ways. There's the reading-through of the text, when I come across something that just doesn't ring right or could be better. Those usually aren't too hard to work the new text in (though if something was wrong the first time, there's no guarantee that I can come up with the right thing now). And then there's the snippets of words that come to me when I'm not looking at the existing manuscript, in fact often nowhere near it; sometimes just a line or a phrase, sometimes half a scene of new content. These typically get scribbled down by hand on whatever paper I can reach at the time, and then fitted in later. Sometimes they actually do fit where I'd envisioned them, but more often I've misremembered the existing text just enough that the new stuff has nowhere to go, or crashes into the existing with that horrible crunching sound and shrapnel everywhere. And that's if the new stuff came with a specific spot in mind; just as often it's a bit that I like or that adds something important, and it needs to go somewhere, but I have to canvass the existing text to figure out where. And then comes the roadblock or the shrapnel....

This current revision pass of Highway of Mirrors has had plenty of both kinds. I'm now down to the last few handwritten bits that need to be fitted in, and of course these are the hard ones; the easy ones got done already. There's at least one bit that I really like that I don't think I'm going to be able to use; it would add a lovely oomph to the figuring-out-the-spy-plot part, but there's no way my characters could acquire the information in question -- and making a way would probably require another 20k words, all of which would be a distraction from what the novel's really about. So, no.

One bit is a two-parter; I came up with the perfect way to work in the set-up reference a couple days ago (when I needed to be getting ready for work, of course), and now I need to scan through the later chapters to figure out where the follow-up goes.

Another bit is adding some needed depth to the antagonist's characterization, and that too requires writing a new chunk to fit it into. But in this case, the point in the story where it really needs to go happens to coincide with one of the weaker scenes in the novel. So, as is often the case, put two problems together to create a solution. I'm having to effectively write a whole new scene to slip this into the background of, but I'll have less summarizing and more actual story when I'm done.

Doesn't mean I'm enjoying the process, though. ;-P

January Word Count

Thursday, February 4th, 2016 08:02 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Highway of Mirrors revisions: 2489
original short fiction: 16
Total new words in January: 2505

I'd have liked more, but wordcount is not the point of revision. And the revisions are going well, all things considered. I've gotten stuck into the plotty bits in the later chapters that I was afraid were a disaster; in fact, they're just... not quite there. With surprisingly small changes of actual text, I'm taking what were strands running parallel to each other and knitting them together so they converge on more or less the same point, which I think may be the difference between a handful of events and a "plot". I'd like to claim that this is what I meant all along -- I mean, the bits are all there, seemingly waiting for this -- but I can't say it with a straight face.

I've also changed one thing from being data that my characters are given, to data that they find out. It's not a big thing (just the code name of an operation), but I think it's having an impact beyond its size, making them seem much more investigate-y and clever.

The characterization tweaks I added to the earlier chapters were things I meant from the start, but now they're actually on the page for the readers to share. ;-)

I'm laughably over my mental deadline, but my deadline was laughably unrealistic -- or rather, I'd figured on a week to do the logic-fix I turned out not to need, and maybe a couple of the easier character-tweaks, and then print it out to review for plot issues and give it to the alpha-reader simultaneously. That's somehow turned into a full chapter-by-chapter review (the chapters out of order, which is an interesting focusing technique) and everything-I-can-catch overhaul, which turns out to be a lot more than I thought I could do without hard copy. Once I've got the last of the currently-handwritten bits wedged in (which have come to me variously over time), and the last of the newly-introduced brackets removed, and the knock-on changes from the above followed through, then I'll print it out for both the housemate and myself to do a full read-through. And then we'll see what we shall see.


Oh, yeah; I also got one short story submitted.


For February: Finish this revision pass and get the print-out printed out.

I'd like to get another short story finished. The idea that spun off from a library presentation on screenwriting last summer recently acquired a half-page of handwritten fix, and the main character now has an actual reason for being where she is. (That one, I think was in the back of my brain all along; it just took a while to get to the front.) That might be a good candidate.

Everything that can be in a slush pile right now, should be.

The email issue remains. I wish I could switch gears better; maybe once I get to the print-out stage of revision, I'll stop feeling like every free day has to go to that, and can catch up on some admin work.

But mainly, the revisions.

Rumble in the Box

Thursday, January 14th, 2016 06:39 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Money was tight this Christmas, and the cats are so spoiled that it's hard to find something new and different to buy them, anyway. So I took the box that the new microwave shipped in and cut a couple small doorways in it, and now the kitties have themselves a box fort.

There's something fundamentally delightful about listening to a large cardboard box purr.

...or not...

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 01:14 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Well, that's embarrassing.

Turns out the logical inconsistency that I've been stressing out about in Highway of Mirrors... doesn't exist. (Short version: It's not the existence of the Sekrit Facility that $character uses his Sooper Spy Tricks to suss out; it's who's there and when. The place itself is officially known of. So it's perfectly all right if said character shows up at said facility later on.)

I'm still digging into the revisions, though. There's a lot of stuff that I think I can do better now, and one or two things that I've never been entirely happy about. (I still don't know what to do about those, but it feels like time to give it another try.) The previously "final" version is backed up in several places, so I can dink around to my heart's content and always go back if something proves to be a bad decision.

Have not yet devolved to spending all morning taking a comma out and all afternoon putting it back in, though I expect that will come. But for now, onward.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Oh, god, why did I think I could revise this thing? Someone, please, shoot me now.






No, no, it's okay, really. Breathe. Fix the logic inconsistency, then print out a nice, clean copy and give it a read from there.

December Word Count

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 12:25 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I had meant to do some writing on the first, to start the New Year off right. Instead, I got sucked into errands and tasks, and haven't gotten unsucked yet. So it looks like the new year is carrying on true to form. ;-P


So what did December have to say for itself?

original short fiction: 1920

Total new words in December: 1920

Disappointingly low, but then I did give myself permission to go easy in December. Plus, that total represents two completed short stories, both of which were previously stuck, as well as tweaks to a third story which got it to the point that I'm willing to send it out. So actually I'm pretty darned satisfied.


No queries sent, and there won't be until I've found a new email service that doesn't randomly delete messages with the subject line "Re: Query...."


Short stories submitted: 2


So overall not bad, given the limitations and the time of year. I'll take it.




For January: The laid-back approach still seems to be working, so I'm going to carry on not stressing about word-counts for a while longer.

I did finally make a list of all the works-in-progress (credit less to willpower than to curiosity). It was not as traumatic as I'd feared; stories-started-then-stuck made up a much smaller portion of the list than I'd anticipated. And it was useful as a focusing tool. So:

January's main goal is to dig into the Highway of Mirrors revisions. At minimum, fix the logical inconsistency, and sort through the other notes I've accumulated to see what fits where. It may be worth trying to recruit fresh betas between the logic-fix and any emotion-conveying revisions. (Psst, hey, anybody wanna read an old-school-inspired spy novel with a complicated-romance sub-theme?)

Stretch goal: Finish a short story (probably "Measure", the one that needed the railroad research).


Carry on submitting stories as opportunity presents.


In a writing-related vein, get going on the email research. I've been concentrating on cleaning out my existing accounts, and not that that doesn't need to be done, but that doesn't have to happen before new accounts can be test-driven. And too much is waiting on having new accounts established.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I considered doing a round-up of all my works-in-progress (or should-be-in-progress), but it would probably just harsh my mellow. And I'm feeling pretty good about writing these days. In the past few weeks, I've finished a story that was doubly-stuck, on what-happens-next and on an indecisiveness of tone ("A Cold Day In Spells", for the record); finished another story that's been an opening in search of a story for about eight months (not sure "Dinosaurs Taste Like Chicken" lived up to the promise of the opening paragraph, but done is still good); figured out the vital Thing to un-stick the Mars novel; and, just recently, found the tweak to take a story that's been in not-quite-right limbo for several years from "this needs something" to "this could go out now" (and hit Send on it today).

(Writing is cool. Also weird. What that story's been waiting for was a better punchline. What it got instead was a line or two of character-reaction just before the end. While a better punchline still wouldn't hurt, what's there now works, because the earlier tweak refocused attention on the characters, and now the existing punchline means more. I was startled.)

And perhaps the best bit of un-sticking, which I am intermittently giddy about, is something I thought of yesterday for Highway of Mirrors. I haven't talked much about it, but my last round of revisions introduced a small but significant inconsistency. It took me an unconscionably long time to realize it was there, and once I did, I didn't have a clue what to do about it. And it's been really bumming me out. But this new idea not only doesn't involve either cutting the clever bit in Chapter 4 or mutilating the new scene in Chapter 10, it may even introduce an additional cachet of ominousness (ominousity?) to the central story issue. And it's a fairly small tweak (not that those can't be as hard to wedge in as larger changes). I still need to ponder it to make sure it'll work (and won't inadvertently introduce a new problem), but the prospect is making me excited to have another go at the manuscript, whereas before I wanted to pull the covers over my head and not come out.

So, after a year of mostly poor productivity, things are starting to look up. And that's enough of a round-up for me.
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
I'm not sure I even knew there was an Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase, let alone that I was in it.

Yeah, that's kinda cool. ;-)

New In, New Out

Monday, December 21st, 2015 02:54 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
About a month and a half ago, I started a new job. It's nothing glamorous, just a part-time gig at the local hardware store, but it's a little steady money coming in, and it's a little me getting out of the house. No question that both of those needed to happen, but I was concerned what the effect on my writing would be.

Well, within the last few weeks, I've gotten un-stuck on the current short story (figured out what the thing my characters were investigating was meant to do, figured out how it tied together with some other things I wanted to include, and worked out how it all gets resolved). I've also, and here's the bit that needs a fanfare playing in the background, gotten un-stuck on the Mars novel! It's been stalled for months because I needed my character to discover a Thing, and while I knew the general parameters and what kind of effect it needed to have, I had no idea what the Thing actually was. And now I do! It fits nicely, it has possible implications for later, and it will really mess with his head.

And I do think the job is why this inspiration is finally happening, or at least a part of it. The amelioration of a certain amount of financial stress is probably a factor (I love doing freelance/contract work, and it's great when the clients are there, but it's a fiscal crap shoot). However, I suspect most of the credit goes to simply getting new input for the brain. It's a lot easier to have new thoughts when the neurons have new things to process, even if it's only where the mouse traps are or what kind of pipe to use for gas vs. water. Like any other part of the body, the brain works better when it's exercised regularly.

On the other hand, having come up with the new idea for the Mars novel, I haven't had a chance to do anything with it beyond the 250 or so words of jotting down the main concept.

The down side is the time management issue. I know lots of writers manage to write around full-time jobs, and I don't pretend my couple of days a week ought to be a major obstacle. But I'm still having trouble finding my footing. I'm not an every-day writer anyway, so the days when I've been on my feet for seven hours are obvious choices for no-writing days. But it seems like all the other demands of life are ganging up and overwhelming the remaining time even more than they already did, and if I do manage to beat them off and declare a writing day, I come up for air to find rubble and chaos everywhere. ;-) Trying to fit in writing in less than all-day chunks hasn't been working at all. Or at least not very well; I'm getting better, but I still need a lot of boot-up time before staring at the screen turns into putting words on it.

So as far as writing is concerned, the job is a net good, because all the writing time in the world won't help if your brain is mired in stale sludge. But all the new ideas in the world won't help if you don't make time to put them to use, either.

I need to be very careful about taking on any new demands on my time (especially this time of year, when baking and crafts will Eat My Life if given half a chance). And I need to establish a better balance of life maintenance and writing.

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