lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-06-26 03:24 pm
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Oblique Strategies random phrase generator

Because I couldn't find this when I wanted it, I am now posting it here (and bookmarking it everywhere I thought it ought to be).

Oblique strategies was originally a set of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt used to break deadlocks in creative situations, and is now a website. Each "card" contains a (sometimes cryptic) remark, the pondering of which may help you resolve a creative dilemma.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-06-20 12:29 pm
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A Point of Order

At closing ceremonies of 4th Street this year, Scott Lynch publicly gave me credit for the Writers Workshop.

This was wrong.

I should have said something at the time, and I wish I had. At first I was too surprised to say anything, and then I was too furious to say anything fit for public consumption. All I did for the workshop was sit in the room and make sure people had pens and coffee. Janet Grouchy did all the heavy lifting that made the workshop happen, right up until the on-site point. And she kept doing it even after she knew that she would no longer be a part of the convention. That deserves a hell of a lot of respect, and a lot more acknowledgment than the nothing it got in closing ceremonies.

Any thank yous or kudos for the workshop should be directed to Janet (and to the panelists, who were awesome), not to me.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-06-07 12:38 am

At The Foot of Plot

I mentioned in a very previous post that I came up with a way to ask something, and it didn't work.

My idea was this: When people talk about characterization or world-building, they get very detailed on how-to -- and often very mechanical; there's role-playing character sheets, for example, or something like Pat Wrede's worldbuilding guide.* When people talk about plot, however, it's all examples and results but very little how to do it.**

What I need is the kind of granular, how-to equivalent of what people do with character or setting, but I need it for plot.


I thought this was a clear and insightful explanation of what I'm looking for, but I tried it out on two very different groups of people (fellow seminar participants and established pros), and it failed utterly both times. I got some recommendations for the usual plot books, none of which do what I'm talking about; I got a detailed and specific definition of what a plot is, which wasn't wrong, but again wasn't what I was looking for.

Luckily, this was at last year's 4th Street, so I also got a lot of good discussion and further analysis of what I was looking for. Part of the problem is that I'm so at sea when it comes to plot that I'm still trying to find the right way to ask the questions, and we all know that asking the right questions is at least half the battle.

It was Skyler who put her finger on one of the key elements: directing/misdirecting reader attention. I particularly struggle when it comes to writing mysteries, because of course plot is especially important in a mystery story. And a core component of a good mystery is that the reader gets enough clues that the reveal makes sense at the end, but not so many that they figure it out long before the detective does.*** And how do you get those clues in front of the reader in a way that they'll remember them, without going "THIS IS A CLUE, REMEMBER IT"?

Including the clue in a list of other things is one way. If there's a needlepoint cat pillow, a blue teapot, a thread-bare armchair, and a faux-fur rug in a room, and in a later scene a blue teapot's been stolen, the astute reader might connect the two. Another trick is to make the clue mean one thing when introduced, and another later on; there's a couple examples I can think of where something's presented as a formative bit of character backstory, then later it turns out to also be a vital plot element.

There are doubtless many other ways; feel free to mention your favorites in the comments.

Another good suggestion (and I don't remember whose it was) was to outline/flowchart what's happening from the bad guy's POV (assuming you're writing from the good guy's POV, which I generally am). I may have to try that for the fantasy-mystery that's in the queue, laying out the crime and its fallout from the thief's perspective.


So directing and misdirecting reader attention is part of what I'm looking for. This applies to more than just mysteries; in any story, there are things you want the reader to pick up on without hammering it at them, things you want them to have but not notice that they have until it's time to use them.

I think cause-and-effect is another part of it, but I'm not sure I can yet articulate that part in a way that makes sense to anybody else.

I'm still looking for other questions to ask, and better ways to ask them.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sometimes I wonder if anybody understands plot, at least in the way I'm trying to.

It may be because most people don't really have plots in their lives. They have a series of events, related chronologically if at all, but that's exactly what you don't want in a novel. Characterization they have: If you want to show your character is lonely and feeling outcast, all you have to do is show a bunch of people sitting at a table in the breakroom, and your character comes in, looks wistfully at them, and then goes to sit at a different table by herself. Anybody who's ever been to high school can relate to that. And of course we're surrounded by setting all the time; one of the classic ways to teach yourself to do setting is just to pay attention to the details of whatever places you find yourself in. Worldbuliding is just setting with more Why behind it; if one doesn't have that already, one can go and read a lot of history and economics to develop the Why muscle. But true plot isn't something that most people directly experience. (I suspect pacing might be equally as hard to teach on the granular level as plot; I wouldn't know, because I'm lucky enough to have been dealt the pacing card and so can generally do it by feel.)

I want the "Look at the room you're in. How would you describe it?" equivalent for plot. But nobody says "Look at the plot you're in, and describe it" for plot practice, and there's a reason for that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


* All of which bounces right off of me, because character and setting/world-building are among the cards I was dealt for free. I can't wrap my head around creating either in such a mechanistic, deliberate way, because my back-brain spits them up fully-formed (or close enough to be going on with) without any conscious effort on my part. Heck, I can't not come up with characters.

** The 4th Street seminar was a prime example of this. The romance writer detailed a very specific set of techniques to show a character progressing through their arc; the mystery writer talked about the effects a plot should have on the reader, and listed several books that did this or that plot-thing well. No dis to the presenters, they were all good, but it was the same disconnect I've run into elsewhere.

*** And not send the reader haring off in some other, completely unintended, direction entirely. This seems to be something I have trouble with. ;-P
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-06-02 03:15 pm

May Word Count

May was a wash as far as word productivity was concerned. The load of stuff needing to be done around the house was just too heavy, and I pretty much wrote off writing in favor of getting some other things done. (Which mostly still aren't done, but that's another post.)

So, words for May:

Falling From Ground = 114

And that's it. That's net; there was some negative-word-count editing in there, but not enough to make the gross any less embarrassing.


I was not a complete slug all month, however:

stories submitted = 6

Which meant that more than half the available works were out there making their case. So the business side made a decent showing, even if the production side didn't.


June may be another fustercluck, what with a con that may be fraught, and a home improvement project that I'm thoroughly fed up with. On the other hand, I've already started applying the alpha-reader's feedback to the mega-chapter conglomeration, and I think I know where to break it up into reasonable chapter-sized chunks. I really do need to figure out what's going on behind the scenes in FFG, though.

So, goals:

- Let's say 3000 words. Some of which had better be on getting FFG moving, though don't forget that Green Ring and short stories exist.

- Keep subbing stories.

- Get HoM querying happening again. I've already started this, with finalizing the new query, setting up the new email address, etc. Now to put them to use.
lizvogel: Chicory flowers (Landscapin')
2017-05-18 11:08 pm
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I'm ten hours farther behind than I was an hour ago.

I spent half the day fighting more of the lawn into submission, after the other half was eaten by more digitally-oriented clean-up. I didn't even try to work on the remaining downed trees that need to be cut up; it was just too windy. So the enormous tree limb that came down in my parking space wasn't really necessary.

On the plus side, it merely dinged the hood of my car before rolling off, causing no operational damage and only minimal cosmetic. I've been pulling back a bit when I park, in case of just such an eventuality. So it could be a lot worse.

It even politely rolled off to the side, blocking neither parking space nor the rest of the driveway. But there's still what looks like an entire tree laying there, and I'm the one who'll have to deal with it. So yes, I am farther behind after working all day than I was when I started; I estimate I accumulated an extra ten hours of work to do, not an hour after I'd done a whole bunch of work.
lizvogel: A jar of almonds that warns that it contains almonds. (Stupid Planet)
2017-05-12 07:52 am

Y'know...

If your cause encourages you to be horrible to people in the advancement of it, maybe it's time you got yourself a new cause.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-05-02 06:06 pm

Word Counts, February - April

February:
original short fiction = 3 (just a title, really)
Green Ring = 2942
Falling From Ground = 4457
Total new words in February = 7402

March:
Falling From Ground = 79

April:
Falling From Ground = 2620

Okay, so March was a fustercluck of a month. I knew that. April was supposed to be the month I went back to the A-Z mystery short story that's been languishing, but instead it got bogged down in this expletive-deleted novel, which I swear I just need to finish one conversation to get to the end of the chapter (actually a 4-chapter-length conglomeration, but this would definitely be the end of *a* chapter), and I just cannot get it to go. If I'm more than 500 words from the break I'd be surprised, but no, the alpha reader's getting another stops-in-mid-scene chunk. Argh.

(February kind of rocked, though.)


In other goals, I did get a new email account set up in February, and by mid-March had tested it enough to be satisfied in paying for a year. It's not perfect, but it does the things that are deal-breakers for me, and the things it doesn't do I mostly don't mind working around. Final clean-out of the old email accounts is in progress.

With that done, I haven't gotten back to querying, but I have at least been sending out some short stories:

February: 1 submission sent

March: 3 subs sent

April: 5 subs sent

I currently have four stories out there in slush land. My game plan is to send out two for every one rejection; eventually that should lead to everything being out there, though it gets trickier with the things that have been making the rounds for a while.


For May: Words, dammit. Keep stories out. At least glance at agents lists and query.
lizvogel: text: I have more userpics on Dreamwidth (more userpics on Dreamwidth)
2017-04-18 01:27 pm
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Test Post

I just turned on beta testing for the "HTTPS Everywhere" feature -- this is just to make sure I can, in fact, actually post via my ancient browser and snail-slow internet connection.


ETA: Yup, that worked just fine.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-04-06 01:49 pm
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OMG Life

The last month or so has been a saga of one thing after another -- except when they've overlapped. To wit:

     housemate sick - trip to con in MN - power outage - me sick - kitchen faucet

each of which lasted about a week. The power outage hit 14 hours after we arrived home from a trip made into a mini-saga of its own by Amtrak's crap communication. The thirty-foot tree that's down in the front yard hasn't really been registering on the agenda. And now it's tax time.


I'm not posting wordcount stats right now, because I don't want to look.

lizvogel: text: I have more userpics on Dreamwidth (more userpics on Dreamwidth)
2017-04-04 11:53 am
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So, LiveJournal

LJ has a new TOS, which pops up so you have to agree to it to use the service. (I actually give them points for the obnoxious, intrusive, unavoidable pop-up, rather than just slipping the changes into the TOS and not calling attention to it.) People are variously freaking out or shrugging. I waded through the English translation, which is not legally binding (the original in Russian is binding, but I don't read Russian, so try enforcing that in court, suckers), and it seems to be mostly the usual TOS junk -- though there is a bit about them being allowed to email you stuff, including advertising. That could be an issue if they actually use it, but then, that's why I have Sneakemail.

(If you tend to post about Russian politics or generally use your LJ as an actual journalism platform, this could be a problem for you. But if you do that, you're probably already aware of the concerns, and have been since LJ was bought by a Russian company several years ago. Nothing really new here.)

Mostly, though, it's SSDD. I shall keep cross-posting as I have been, and checking friends feed when I remember (which isn't as often as it should be). I'm not deleting anything, though I will up the priority on backing up my old pre-DW-crossposting entries -- just in case. (Since the worst LJ could realistically do to me, all the way on the other side of the globe, is delete my stuff.) And I should do that anyway.

I will say, for anyone reading this on LJ that does want to jump ship, importing your old LJ to Dreamwidth is really easy. And DW works pretty much like LJ only less broken. (The only feature gap I'm aware of is photo hosting; you can post photos to DW, but I understand it's awkward and limited. They're working on it, but it's complicated, and the DW folks generally don't like to put things into service until they're working right. Contemplate that for a minute.)
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
2017-03-16 12:15 pm
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Random Shuffle Has A Point To Make

So far this morning, WinAmp has randomly played two songs that are on the Mars-novel writing mix. I think I need to get back to work.
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
2017-02-24 08:40 pm
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Not what I'd planned, but a very good day.

I didn't mean to spend the whole day in bed. I was only going to spend a couple hours sitting in bed writing. But then this kitten came and used my foot as a pillow -- and stayed that way for about six hours.

Who's going to argue with that?

So I stayed in bed all day, and wrote 1052 words, and made my kitten very happy. And LittleGirl as well, who jumped up and curled up beside me a couple of times.

And me, too. ;-)
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-02-23 02:45 pm
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Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Blackberry Sage

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Blackberry Sage

Where bought: Foods For Living

Aroma: Sour/tart, with an underlying unpleasant tang.

Texture: Solid, chomps well, melts nicely.

Taste: Hmm. Savory chocolate. Well, the blackberry part is good.

Overall: Interesting, I'm glad I tried it, but don't need to have it again.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-02-09 12:17 pm
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Chocolate: Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt

Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt (55%)

Where bought: Foods For Living (They keep having sales....)

Packaging includes lots of information about their ingredients come from (all small farmers/fair trade), sustainable packaging, and what coffee to pair with your chocolate.

Aroma: Oh, wow. Cocoa liqueur straight to the back-brain.

Bar is hard to snap pieces off. Texture is *very* crunchy. Chocolate melts slowly but smoothly around large proportion of crunchy bits.

I'm not really getting much taste of caramel, though there is a nice richness that's probably attributable to the toffee-like bits. Occasional bursts of salt when I hit a larger chunk of salt. Chocolate itself is full, deep, but perhaps a little overwhelmed by the other players.

Overall: Good. Not perfect, but I'd be curious to try other flavors from the same company.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-02-01 02:44 pm

January Word Count

original short fiction: 577
Falling From Ground: 2542

Total new words in January: 3119

Not quota, but not bad for a month that got eaten by the home improvement project from hell. I can't blame myself for not writing after a day of being up on a ladder with a sander until midnight. But in future, I need to manage projects so they don't consume time & energy that needs to be spent on writing.

I will note that the FFG progress was all in the first half of the month, and reasonably steady. If I'd kept that up, I'd have made quota no problem.

The short fiction was another chunk of Adrian Blissfield and the Night Train to Munich, which I apparently really can only write while on a train.


I totally failed on January's other goal, which was getting a new email account set up and tested. It was present in my mind a lot, but nowhere under my fingers.

(On the incentive side, the rat-bastards at my current email provider are discontinuing my account level. Given the way they've been taking away features and their general attitude, I didn't really expect them to honor what I bought as a "lifetime" account much longer, but it's not the sort of thing that would encourage me to give them more money even if I didn't already want to leave. To their credit, they are at least giving several months notice; to their shifty-eyed not-credit, my two different accounts have gotten two different offers to buy up, sent some weeks apart. Yeah, 'cause that looks like a company I can trust with my cash and my data. Not.)


For February: 5000 words, which is eminently do-able if writing is the priority it is supposed to be. And get the email going.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2017-01-01 10:11 pm
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November & December Word Counts

November:

original short fiction: 800
Falling From Ground: 2649
Total new words in November: 3449

Decent, especially with alpha-feedback to incorporate. The 800 words was a complete short story, begun as prompt fic and completed in one sitting.


December:

original short fiction: 43
Falling From Ground: 4265
Total new words in December: 4308

Not bad for what I was kind of treating as a relax-a-month, and which is always a bit crowded with the holidays and whatnot. I'm still waffling about a plot, but I've finally got a next-bit that will lead to more next-bits, and will let me introduce several elements I've been looking forward to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'm not much of one for New Year's resolutions, but I do have two writing-related ones. It's time to bring back my 5000-words-a-month quota; if the novel gets stuck, I need to remember that I've got plenty of short stories to play with. And, by the end of January I should have at least one new email account set up and tested.

And that's enough to be going on with.
lizvogel: Run and find out, with cute kitten. (Run and Find Out)
2016-12-21 01:07 pm
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Shiny thing, shiny thing....

Last night I went to bed with the laptop with the intention of working on the Mars book, decided I'd rather play with an early old-mission story instead, and ended up writing a couple of lines that set up another bakery story.

Mono-focus is not exactly my problem. ;-)
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2016-12-16 09:36 am
Entry tags:

Chocolate: Nutty Steph's Pink Peppercorn Ecuadorian

Nutty Steph's Pink Peppercorn Ecuadorian Chocolate (71%)

Grown wild in the woods, according to the shiny silver & pink packaging.

Where bought: Marshall's, I think?

Aroma is sharp, slightly tart, not deep.

Texture has a brittle snap when I bite in. Melts nicely after a few chomps.

Quite a cornucopia of flavors here. Harsh bite from the peppercorns, little bursts of tartness from the lemon, something else that I'm attributing to the rosemary. The chocolate itself is a pleasantly bitter dry dark.

Overall: Interesting. Definitely not something I'd want on a regular basis, but quite enjoyable as a change of pace.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2016-11-28 02:12 pm

Evil Writer Grin

I have come up with a "what the hell's going on" for the Mars novel that is just evil, evil, eeeevil. I probably won't use it -- it's not quite the kind of story I thought I was writing, and it's got its own "what's going on" that would need to be solved -- but it is so far the only idea I've come up with that connects all the dots.

There are things I want to do with this novel that I can't do if I do that (probably... hmm.), but it does put a happy evil writer grin on my face. My main character is staring at me in appalled disbelief.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
2016-11-26 10:37 pm
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Thanksgiving Cookies

I finally managed to make cookies for the family Turkey Day gathering: turkeys, pumpkins, maple leaves, oak leaves, and cornucopias. I feel like I spent the five days leading up to Thanksgiving immersed in cookies, and that's because I did. They went over very well; much oohing and ahhing, and even people dragging other people into the kitchen to see them. (And several comments that they tasted good, too, which is important.) Very gratifying. The kids broke into one of the trays before dinner (which is high praise if anything is). The cornucopias were particularly popular with the little kids, doubtless because of all the glitter and shiny candy bits.

Fancy baking doesn't really go with my image with that side of the family; I rather enjoyed spraining their expectations that way. ;-)

Notes to self:

I made two batches of dough, because I also wanted to make some one-year-anniversary hardware cookies to take to work. One batch would have been enough, even with that. (Well, also extra dough to cover breakages and screw-ups, but I only broke one cookie and didn't botch any.)

I started out being good and making a set number (a dozen plus cover for breakage, so ~15-18) of each shape, so that I wouldn't be decorating forever. But then I had dough left over, so I finished it up with more of the same shapes. And then I decorated them all, because they were there. Better than usual -- I only did one all-nighter -- but still way too much time squinting over sugar. Next time, if there's dough left after whatever number of cookies you said you'd do for the specific event, cut it in some other shape entirely so you know when to stop!

I arranged the cookies on two of the rectangular trays, 8 or 9 of each shape in a column, 5 shapes per tray. This looked great! Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the presentation, but it was very professional-bakery looking.

One tray would have been sufficient, however; even with the very positive response, I still ended up bringing an almost full tray home. 8-9 each of 5 shapes for approx. 18 people is plenty, especially with the huge amount of other food that's always there.