lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Starting a new novel only to get stuck on the third freakin' paragraph is not my idea of a good time. ;-P

I am unstuck now, having worked out a blend between graceful writing and world-building info-dump. Something that could be construed as a scene has been produced. I am finding my thoughts focused more and more on this character and his world, which implies that the usual new-novel obsession should be forthcoming. And the next scene I have clear in my head is probably a week into the action, and needs a chapter or two of lead-in if it's not to be a pacing train-wreck.

C'mon, brain! Beginnings are supposed to be the fun part!

Go read this

Monday, July 21st, 2014 11:58 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Found via Bujold's blog, this lovely little story by Ursula Vernon.

How did she take something so ridiculous and make it heartbreaking?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
There's something fundamentally encouraging about stopping at the bank to deposit the check from one story on the way to the Post Office to mail another. No, I don't get to make that standard operating procedure -- but wouldn't it be great if you could!

I've gotten rejections on two stories in the last few days, which meant that the number of stories sitting around here was higher than the number of stories sitting in various slush piles. That ratio is not acceptable. ;-) So, those two got sent back out into the wild today.

Next up, I need to get some of the others dressed up in their best clothes, patted on the head, and shoved out the door. ;-) Onward!
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
One of the things I'm very leery of when looking for critique is what I call rules-parrots: those people who chant whatever writing "rules" they've adopted, and try to force every story to conform to them by rote at the expense of judging the story on its own merits.

As usual, Patricia Wrede says it better than I do:

"There are always folks around who have memorized a list of no-nos without understanding the reasons behind them, and they will complain bitterly if they notice you using anything on their list, regardless of what you’ve done with it or why."

I don't know whether the drive to parrot rules comes from insecurity about one's own judgment or a desire to boss others around (though I suppose they're not mutually incompatible). I do know it's profoundly unhelpful. Perhaps rules-parroting is a cop-out for a beta-reader in much the same way as using an unexamined cliche is a cop-out for a writer?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
We went to preview night of a play at our little local theatre last night. The play itself was fun (The Big Bang, the story of two guys trying to recruit investors for their enormous Broadway musical about the entire history of the world), but what really charmed me was that afterward, the director and artistic director(?) sat on the stage and solicited the audience about what worked and what didn't. That's right, they got people to pay them to be held captive to provide critique!

I gotta get me some of that. I wonder how you could modify that to work for written fiction?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I was officially on vacation writing-wise for June, so there are no quotas, no goals, no nothing to make or miss. Ahhhhhh. Nonetheless, just for the record:

tweaked Haley novel: 19 words
started Falling From Ground: 367 words
started the bakery story: 916 words
figuring out that I needed to get out of my own way and just roll with whatever the back-brain offers up: priceless

Meanwhile, I've spent the past couple of weeks battling the yard into submission. Which has its satisfactions, and ghu knows it needed to be done, but it was supposed to take days, not weeks (and counting). It's time to, if not get back on the horse, at least wander out to the stable and make sure the tack is clean.

Still no formal quotas for July, but let's see some activity, eh?
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
After I fed the cats at 6:00 this morning (a time established by my housemate, not by me, I assure you), I stayed up so I could get in a run before it got too ridiculously hot. And then I had to choose between getting out and running as early as possible, or booting up the laptop to do something with the words in my brain. Finally settled for a quick half hour to tap in another hundred words or so on the bakery story, then went running. And promptly came up with an excellent near-end line, which I had to keep repeating to myself through most of my 22-minute run so it would still be there when I got back.

Good problems to have.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
This morning I had a song fragment stuck in my head. After a few futile googlings, I finally narrowed down enough correct lyric to discover that it was "Saturday" by Built To Spill. Played it, was happy, moved on.

I'd left the tab with the lyrics up so I could mention it to the housemate, who I'd hummed it at. Just now, hours later, I was looking at that tab and deciding I ought to copy the lyrics to my off-line collection, since the song's pretty cool.

And WinAmp started playing it.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I had planned to take the next couple of months off, or at least easy, writing-wise. Haley was by far the hardest thing I've written in a lot of ways, and I figured I'd be a lot better off with some recovery time before tackling another novel's complexities.

I started Falling From Ground on Wednesday.

Having figured out the name issue, words leapt into my head, and kept insisting on themselves in that "We're not leaving until you write us down" way. It's always a sign when that happens, so I scrambled about and started typing. I've jotted down other snippets and things, but this one went into an official file named CHAPTER.01, so the novel really is begun.

That snippet did bring other snippets with it, but they kept not quite fitting together and side-tracking and.... I've said before that I'm an intuitive writer, and having to stop every couple of sentences to Figure Something Out is not the way I write. Except when it is, which was far too much of the last novel. I don't like it. It's not fun. And one of the reasons I wanted some time off is that I really wanted to get some space between me and that way of working, in hopes that it would go away and not come back and I could return to just transcribing my back-brain's product. So even though I got a respectable chunk (for me) done, I was not entirely happy with it.

In fact, I was funking out a bit about how this might be the new normal. It didn't help that the short-story idea I've been letting percolate hasn't been coming together, and it seemed to need me to sit down and brainstorm, up in the front of the brain and deliberately, something about the MC. Which, I just, NO.

Somewhere in the process of whining about all this to my housemate, it occurred to me that I might be trying to figure things out in advance not because that's what this story needs, but because I was so disconcerted about the surprise additional 15,000 words on the first book, and I so disliked the constant brick-walling on the third one as some new problem reared its head, that I've been over-compensating to try to avoid that. Maybe what I should do is just sit down and see what words happen.

As soon as I said that, the MC promptly named herself. And the snippet of words that had the seed of the story idea came back sounding like an opportunity and not a wall.

And I did sit down, and several hundred words flowed out of my fingers as if somebody's finally turned on the faucet. And when I thought I'd hit a good stopping point, and was on the verge of shutting down for the night, more words appeared. And more words, and more.... I think I did the final save-and-backup four or five times before my brain stopped giving me oh-just-one-bit-more. I've got an MC and a SC and a bunch of world-building and I didn't have to plan out one bit of it in advance.

So it's follow the short story and see where it leads. And for FFG, it's maybe get some sleep so you can keep the X in mind that Y is wending toward, but otherwise, stop stopping and trying to figure things out; you had an idea before, self, just roll with it. Your back-brain doesn't generally steer you wrong, so stop roadblocking it, already.

Sometimes you need to check the road map. But sometimes, you just need to get in the car and drive.

A rose by any other OMG

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 04:23 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I've been hesitating a bit on starting Falling From Ground (the Mars colony spy novel), and one of the reasons has been trying to settle on the main character's name. I've liked and discarded several, and finally figured on going with the one that came with words attached to it. I figured that, like naming a pet, it would come to feel inevitable with use. But it's never fully established itself in my brain, and some of the discards still called to me.

I just now (in the shower, of course) realized why. And it's not a bug, it's a feature.

4th Street Feelings

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 01:01 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So, there was 4th Street this past weekend. It was a real roller-coaster of a con for me... but the high points were awesome. I'll try to go into more detail later -- there are some ideas I want to explore more fully -- but that'll have to wait until I can brain for more than five seconds at a time. ;-)

The cookies went over very well, including one comment that pretty much means I'll be making them every year as long as there's a 4th Street to take them to. And they absolutely vaporized, so no, three batches wasn't excessive.

Cookies Everywhere

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 05:58 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
In my ongoing quest to make cookies for 4th Street without frying myself to a crisp, a note to self: Three batches of dough yields more cookies than you have cooling racks for, which leads to a frustrating and time-consuming shell game trying to get some of them done/set aside/boxed to make room to decorate more. (Especially if you don't burn any beyond usability, which I miraculously didn't this year.) Next time, two batches of dough. Two will be plenty, really.

However, this year's cookie horde is finally done. And I got to go to bed last night, instead of staying up until nearly dawn/dawn/well past dawn spreading colored sugar over small baked shapes.

May Word Count / Goals

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 11:22 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
And, with 4162 new words in the month of May, the Haley novel is done!

That's "done", of course. It's a novel, after all.

Technically, the writing was done by the end of the month, but the de-bracketing got done the next day. However, I'm giving myself a one-day grace period on account of getting the edit letter on my first ever professional sale OMG at the same time I was trying to wrap up the novel. And there's still the beta-review to be done, and whatever revisions come out of that.

But it's a kind of done, and I'll take it.

(My unstated goal was actually to finish before MediaWest. That didn't happen. Neither did finishing during MediaWest. And I'd meant "done" to mean done with the beta-revisions, too. But given how hard the last couple of chapters, and especially the last two scenes, were fighting me, I'm delighted to be any kind of done at all.)

It feels very weird, and immensely freeing, to be done with this thing. I've had "must finish book" repeating in my head for months now, to the point that I wasn't sleeping well toward the end because of it. And it's been nearly four years, start to for-now-finish, that this story's been on my plate (though I did, to be fair, take half a year off to write ...And The Kitchen Sink). It's been through one complete plot change and another significant alteration, and more stuck bits than I can rightly count. And now it's "done". There's still the beta-revisions on the last chapter, and then it's going to be drawered for a bit and we'll see what comes out of that, but it feels like an enormous weight is finally off my shoulders.

Oh, and it's tentatively titled Truth From Lies, unless I decide otherwise.


And now? I'm taking some time off. I'll write some short stories, maybe even some fanfic, but for the next month or two I'm not undertaking any large projects. I also need to do some hard-core querying on Highway of Mirrors; I still have that date with the AAR database that I've been putting off to concentrate on Haley. Falling From Ground and Financial Wizardry are still waiting in the wings, but I want some down time before I tackle figuring out another set of novel-sized issues.
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
Guys, my story is up! My story! With my name on it and everything! In a real professional publication!

This is so cool.

Publication Date!

Sunday, June 1st, 2014 01:28 am
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
OMG they haven't forgotten about me!

"Off The Map" will be published by Daily Science Fiction on June 2nd. That's this Monday, folks!

You can subscribe by going to dailysciencefiction.com and providing them with your email address, and they will send you a fine science fiction or fantasy story (including mine), direct to your inbox, every weekday, free of charge. Or, if you prefer, you can go to the website and read there at your convenience; I'm told "Off The Map" will go up there the same day it's sent out.

Do stop by and have a read. Now, if you will pardon me, I have to go hyperventilate some more.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Yesterday, I took the penultimate scene, previously written and naggingly unsatisfactory, and completely overhauled it, adding emotion and stage business and a practical reason for it to exist in the first place, cutting chunks and changing others and adding half again its length. I think it's better now; at the very least, there's certainly more of it.

This must be how the word-vomit crowd writes. My god, it's exhausting. I can't imagine why anyone would do this to themselves on a regular basis. I'd pushed out the original version of the scene on the grounds that I had to write something, if only so I could have something to fix. And it was the right approach for this scene, this time, but dear lord, I'm glad I don't do it that way all the time.

Also, I figured out what was wrong with the end of the scene. It wasn't any of the things I'd thought of before, and I can't believe I didn't see it sooner.

And today, I just have the last scene to tackle. It's coming incrementally, and slowly, but at least it's coming. So far, anyway. And much of it's coming jigsaw-style, which is a frustrating way to work, but is a damned sight better than nothing and seems to produce just as good results in the end. Onward.
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
Soho Press has a blog, as I have just learned from Gary Corby's blog. And top of the blog-list today is this surprisingly excellent piece on The Dead Scene and what to do about it. I have had that scene, and I've tried those tricks and sometimes they've worked, so naturally I think the writer is an insightful fellow.

Posted here mostly so I can remember to go back and read more later. That article is number 26 in a series, and I don't need to fall down that rabbit hole right now; I've got a con to get ready for.

Also, they do spy fiction. Must have a proper read-through later.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
If you were going to introduce someone to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., or maybe remind someone who hasn't seen it in ages how much fun old-school spies can be, what one episode would you pick?
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Seen about the internets: Post your ten most CRUCIAL CRUCIAL CRUCIAL-ASS movies, like the movies that explain everything about yourselves in your current incarnations (not necessarily your ten favorite movies but the ten movies that you, as a person existing currently, feel would help people get to know you) (they can change later on obviously).

I have a problem getting up to ten on this, not least because much of the visual material I'd choose for this purpose is TV, not movies. Seriously, go watch all of The Sandbaggers, and maybe some Remington Steele, Blakes 7, and Burn Notice, then get back to me. And... you know what? I'm just going to do a TV list, too. But first, the movies. In approximate order of chronological influence, although it all blurs a bit at this point.

The Breakfast Club
Harold And Maude
Ghostbusters
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension
The Stuff
Ladyhawke
Labyrinth
Grosse Pointe Blank
National Treasure
RED

Okay, maybe not so much trouble, once I opened the movie cabinet; I had to cut Mortal Kombat (which most people think is about, um, whatsisname, the kid, instead of the characters played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Linden Ashby) to get it down to ten.



But if you really want to get to know me through video, you gotta watch some TV.

In no particular order:

The Sandbaggers
Remington Steele
Star Trek (the original, thank you very much)
Blakes 7
Burn Notice
Max Headroom
Campion (the Mystery! edition, if there's any doubt)
The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy (the TV programme, though the books and radio show have their place, too)
WKRP In Cincinnati
Waiting For God

The housemate has reminded me that I forgot Daria. Good grief, how could I have forgotten Daria? That pretty much is me. Um... oh, hell, make it eleven.

Which opens up space for a Spinal Tap joke, but that's enough pop-culture reference for one day. ;-)

*bash* *bash* ...oh

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 01:54 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Writing: The process of banging your head against a brick wall until one of you falls down, and the blood drops fall in such a way as to form words.


I have figured out that one of the problems with the fighting-me-every-step-of-the-way final chapter is that I didn't know the antagonist's motivation. Specifically, there's an action X that's been bandied about in earlier chapters as a possibility, an action that she does not ultimately take. I know that she doesn't take action X; it would be wrong for the story, and it would be wrong for her character. But why doesn't she take action X? Why doesn't she take action X?

Five minutes after recognizing this question, I had the answer. And shortly after that, I had a small chunk of new dialog, and the necessary bit to make all the other bits of the scene fall into the order they should obviously be in. And not long after that, there was the opening scene of the chapter, neatly done.

As always, it helps a lot to ask the right questions.

The next bit that's being sticky involves two characters having an awkward conversation, which is difficult because awkward conversations are. I already suspect that I will not manage to imply certain characterization-related things as gracefully as I had hoped, but oh well. Forward momentum.

The next sticky bit after that is going to bring me back to the antagonist's motivation again. I know what happens and what kind of scene it's going to be; I know what she does and why. But I don't know what she thinks about it, and I'm going to have to, even if only a fraction of that comes through in the actual writing.

The last time I got stuck like this on an end scene, I tried writing it from the POV of a different character and then re-wrote it to match the POV of the rest of the book, and it helped a lot. I'm not going quite that far this time, but I did run some lines through the brain to clarify how the antagonist is seeing the scene.

And I discovered something interesting, which the end of that last sentence hints at.

The Haley novel is written from the single POV of the protagonist, in close-ish third person past tense. I like it that way, I'm comfortable with it. But if I were to write a scene from the POV of the antagonist, it would have to be in present tense. Because that's the way she thinks. Even though the entire book, as written, is in past tense. Even though I'm generally not keen on present tense, and certainly don't generally write in it. Huh.

There's a wealth of information about the antagonist's mind-set, in this. How she thinks of her role in the world, how she looks at the past and the future and her place in them. How, perhaps, she maintains herself in a very contradictory set of circumstances.

And hopefully, how she's going to get through this last scene, because it needs to get written, dammit.

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