Tag, You're Not It

Friday, March 1st, 2013 06:51 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
One of the challenges of database design is not just accommodating current needs, but anticipating future ones. I'm good at doing this most of the time, but most =/= all.

Tags are a database. And there are some things I'm still talking about that were tagged a certain way for reasons that no longer apply, or that I no longer want to think about in that way.

If you reached this post by following the HoM tag for Highway of Mirrors, you'll want to continue with the niay tag.

If you reached this post by following the Haley novel tag for the as-of-this-posting-untitled Haley novel, you'll want to continue with the novel 2 tag, which it was before I finished something else first. ;-)

(And if you're reading this on LiveJournal, you'll have to find those tags yourself, as the links point to Dreamwidth. And if you're reading this on Dreamwidth and want the niay tags prior to May 2nd, 2009, you'll have to look on LiveJournal. Platform changes, bleargh.)

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
February's goals weren't word-count goals. There were only sort-of goals at all, which may have been some of the problem. So:

Finish re-writing Highway of Mirrors synopsis: Rough draft done. I'd meant to get it done done, but I somehow lost track of the fact that the month was nearly over.

Start querying again: Not done. Obviously, since I need the synopsis for that.

De-bracket Kitchen Sink, add sub-plot: Really not done. In my defense, my alpha-reader is not in one of her lightning-fast phases, but also, de-bracketing takes an astonishing amount of time and NaNo-style writing leaves a lot of brackets.

Not on the goal list, but a noteworthy accomplishment anyway: Entered Big Deal Conference contest. Which included writing a blurb as well as selecting an excerpt, so some work there.

Total score 0.5 out of 3, plus 1 extra credit; not an impressive tally. I don't feel all that bad about it, though; the work that I did get done (the synopsis) is good work, and I think I may have broken a mental barrier with it. Plus, I did just finish a novel last month; one is perhaps entitled to a bit of a rest, after that.

Only a bit, however. So, March's goals:
- revise Kitchen Sink (de-bracket, add sub-plot, other revisions as necessary)
- finish the bloody HoM synopsis
- query at least one agent

Also, do some writing, even if it's just fanfic. Because I am a happier person when I am making new words.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm still in the midst of re-(re-re-)writing the synopsis for Highway of Mirrors, but I find myself in need of a short pitch, so I'm taking a break to work on that. Now, working on the synopsis is more painful than the query, and I recall writing a one-sentence pitch and thinking "Hey, that didn't hurt!", so I had this theory that the shorter the form, the easier it is to summarize the work. The short pitch is proving to be anomalous data. ;-(  It's especially frustrating because I thought I already had a short pitch written, and as usual when I think that sort of thing, it's both too long and not very good.

I'm saying "short pitch" for my own convenience; this is the thing also known as a logline or an elevator pitch. Sometimes the logline and the one-sentence pitch are the same thing. In this case, the target is asking for a logline, and 2-3 sentences seems to be the standard among the examples (at least, the good ones). Unsurprisingly, I'm having trouble sounding both pithy and coherent in that small a space.

All the various short representations of a novel -- summary, outline, query, elevator pitch -- are generally lumped together as being summaries of the story, in various degrees of detail. But it's occurring to me that that's not quite right. A summary, obviously, is a summary; an outline is a summary in a more bullet-pointy (yes, I am a writer) format; a query is a briefer summary that leaves off the ending. But the purpose of the short pitch/elevator pitch/logline is not to summarize; it's to sell. Yes, the others are all sales tools too, but they do their selling by giving at least a somewhat accurate overall impression of the novel. The logline is all about the "hey, cool!" factor.

In this particular case, the only thing the logline needs to do is be interesting enough to get people to read the brief excerpt that will appear directly below it. It has to be interesting, it has to make people say "hey, cool!", it has to stick in the reader's brain -- it does not have to sum up the whole book, however briefly. And that's why my pre-existing short pitch isn't good; it's an accurate summary given its length, but it's utterly lacking in "hey, cool!"

In this particular application, it'd also be nice if the logline seemed to fit with the excerpt. However, to my surprise, I've managed to find a <500-word chunk that gives a good impression of the characters, the tradecraft, and even the theme -- despite not actually being about the theme, when it's in context. So if I nail the "complex characters doing morally ambiguous things" aspect in the short pitch, I'm golden.

Which is all a long, procrastinatey way to say that I've figured out what I've been doing wrong. Now I just need to sit down and do it right.

July Word Count

Friday, August 3rd, 2012 03:29 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
July's goals were not word quotas, but rather Things Being Done. To wit:

Finish revamping the query - Done
Finish the novel revisions - Done
Rewrite the synopsis - not done.

I'm a bit frustrated with myself over the synopsis, but two out of three ain't bad. Especially when it's those two. I got the orphan reference inserted reasonably smoothly in the one and only place it apparently could go, the additional action bit works per my beta, and I finally tweaked the very last paragraph into something I'm happy with. The query will be getting a test-drive this weekend, which hopefully will yield some good data, if nothing else. And I did at least get the outline done, which was the prerequisite for the next synopsis attempt.

Just for the record:

first novel revisions: 222
post-novel novella & etc.: 2372
old-mission stories: 1150

Total new words in July: 3744

Not bad, considering.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Yep, the query is back again. I'm calling it version 3, though really it's more like 3.49785. It's definitely better; the question is, is it better enough? You tell me. )

Obligatory note: I welcome constructive criticism. That does not have to be exclusively positive. However, if you don't like the genre and are determined to dis any example of it, or if your idea of feedback includes drive-by sniping that's more about stoking your ego than improving the work, feel free to move along without commenting.

Fun With Outlines

Monday, July 16th, 2012 08:55 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm working on writing an after-the-fact outline for the novel. This was suggested to me as a way to get a grip on what needs to go in the synopsis: for each scene, note what happens and whether it pertains to the "relationship plot" or the "action plot". I've added "ethical plot" to the mix, since I figured out that that's really where the heart of the story lies. (And the action plot has subsets... I'm not good at this putting-in-a-box stuff.)

I'm combining this with another suggestion I picked up somewhere (possibly also Pat Wrede), of tagging each scene as to whether it advances Characterization, Plot, or Backstory. (I think the original breakdown was Character, Plot, and Setting, but that was for a fantasy novel in an invented world. And really, the backstory is the setting, for mine.) The point being that a scene must do at least one of these things, and it's better if it can do more than one.

I'm finding several things in the process, most of which are not exactly earth-shattering revelations:

- Apparently I never write a scene that doesn't have at least a little character development in it.

- I'm pretty good at multi-purpose scenes. Five chapters in, I've only found one short scene that does only one thing (characterization, of course). Many hit all three.

- The line between Character and Backstory gets really blurry, as does the line between Backstory and Plot. This is especially true if the A-plot is emotional rather than action-oriented: Does why the characters split up go under character (because it's who they are that made it a splitting-up-level issue) or backstory (because it's part of how they got to where the novel is) or plot (because getting them back together is the main plot goal, and that requires making the splitting-up reason no longer a deal-breaker)?

- Despite my fondness for what are sometimes called "jump cuts" but which I think of simply as scene breaks, I have at least two chapters that are one big uninterrupted scene. (This is not a problem; I think they work fine as is. I'm just surprised.) I'm having to tag sub-scenes for the outline.

I'm simultaneously doing a love list for the novel. It's getting self-indulgently long, but all the revision- and query-misery aside, there's still a lot in this novel that makes me really happy. And I keep getting sucked into the prose and forgetting to analyze. Yes, my own prose. That may sound arrogant, but darn it, I actually am pretty good at this stringing-words-together thing. It's good to be reminded of that, when I'm immersed in things like querying that I'm really not good at.

June Word Count

Monday, July 9th, 2012 05:41 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Oh, yeah, this.

The goal for June was to finish the novel revisions before 4th Street. Oh well. Nice thought, that, but, um, no. I did manage to get the last massive change (a huge chunk of mostly-new material, turning one chapter into two again) into my beta-reader's hands before I left, and she got me her feedback to incorporate before the end of the month. However, she quite reasonably wanted a rest after that, so the last few chapters are rescheduled for July.

Word count wasn't the point this month, but just for the record:

first novel revisions = 2435
Total new words in June = 2435

Still to do: See if my beta approves the addition to the action climax. Tweak the end so it's less clunky. There's a reference I need to work into an earlier chapter, and there might be another to work into the next-to-last scene. And that, please ghods and microfiche, should be it. At least until somebody with a contract in hand says otherwise. ;-)

So, July's goal is the above, and also to get my query and synopsis finally done. The query's making progress, I think; it's definitely better, although whether it's better enough remains to be seen. I dread looking at the synopsis again. And then, once all that's done, it's time to send it out.

May Word Count

Monday, June 4th, 2012 05:33 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
first novel revisions = 2376
Total new words in May = 2376

Yeah, that's it. Nowhere near quota. However, as this month included a rush-job for a client who forgot to tell me the deadline had changed by two months, a nasty head cold, a major con, and helping my mother move, I'm cutting myself some slack. (Seriously, in the last half of May, I was home all of three days.)

Goal for June is to finish revisions on the novel-again-in-progress in time for 4th Street. I don't even care what the word count is, I just want the thing done.


Saturday, May 12th, 2012 01:18 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Judging from the responses, my query is either so brilliant that everyone was struck dumb with awe, or so awful that no one could find the words to express it.

Despite that, I'm going ahead and posting the synopsis. For the uninitiated, a synopsis is like the query-blurb's big brother. It's longer (opinions vary on how much so), more detailed, and does spoil the ending. There are several uses for a synopsis; one of the more common is to show whether an author can sustain a story through to a satisfying ending. (Sample pages, when submitted, are always from the beginning of the book; many writers can make an interesting start, but drop the ball before they get to the end.)

So, with spoiler warnings for an as-yet-unpublished novel, I'd love to hear what you think of this. Does it sound interesting? What's your impression of the characters? Does the plot sound like it holds up all the way to the end? What bits make you say "Cool!" -- or "WTF?" In short, would you read this book? )

ETA: I would have thought this was self-evident, but evidently not: I'm looking for constructive criticism here. That does not have to be positive. However, if you don't like the genre and can't get past that to evaluate an individual instance of it, it's probably safe to assume that yours are not the comments I'm looking for.

Queryitis: The Relapse

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 10:49 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Ah, spring, when a young writer's fancy turns to thoughts of querying....

(It is, embarrassingly, almost exactly a year since I last did this. I know I said the query might take me as long as the novel, but I thought I was joking.)

So, I have revised the query for the first novel. For those unfamiliar with the process, the purpose of a query is to get an agent interested enough in the story to request some or all of the manuscript. It should introduce the most important characters, hit the highlights of the plot, and convey the genre, tone, and voice of the novel. And it should do it all in about 250 words.

I'd really appreciate some feedback on this, whether you consider yourself "just a reader" or you've been through this game yourself. Is it interesting? Are there any bits that you find confusing? Do the characters sound like people you'd choose to spend several hours of your leisure time with? If you read this on a back cover, would you turn to page 1? In short, oh f-list and others, would you read this book? )

April Word Count

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 10:02 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I told myself that I needed 203 words last night in order to make quota without counting anything but the novel revisions. And by ghod, I wrote 204. And every one of them hurt.

I actually needed 208. *headdesk*

first novel revisions = 4996
old-mission stories = 294
Total new words in April = 5290

Still, over quota in toto. It's a good thing I'm a writer and not a mathematician. And I did turn a snippet into a scene last night, which is always a nice accomplishment.

I am alternately excited about and exhausted by the mere thought of the revisions. There's some cool building-up-to and groundwork-laying stuff I get to do, now that I've realized it's needed. There's a frisson of anticipation in this that's not dissimilar to being on the audience-side of a story that's building up to an exciting climax, only without the unpleasant worry of not trusting the creators to take the story somewhere I want to go. There's also a damned lot of it to be written, and one scene that's now so chopped up that I've resorted to printing out both the old and new-half-done versions, and will be cutting them up with scissors and moving the bits around on the floor to try to achieve some coherence.

But hey, there's only four chapters to go. Except that it'll probably be five by the time I'm done expanding this one. I don't think any of the others will need major revisions. (There's one small but significant addition to the penultimate chapter, but I've already written it, so it'll just be a matter of fitting it in and sanding down the edges.) I think. But we'll see when I get there.

March Word Count

Monday, April 2nd, 2012 06:58 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
first novel revisions = 6097
old-mission stories = 306
Total new words in March = 6403

Not bad! I was wondering what the revisions-count was going to look like; it's certainly felt like I was doing a lot, but I had absolutely no real idea of the numbers.

Yeah, it's been all about the revisions, this month. The absence of the new novel up there isn't a typo; I haven't touched it. The first novel has eaten my brain, which shouldn't be a surprise as that's what it tends to do. I find I'm rather missing the new novel; I'll be excited to get back to it. Which is good.

But first, I'm going to have to get through the deep dark woods of revision to the other side. I am finding the process rather disconcerting; I really truly did think the thing was Done, and now not only is it Not Done, but it seems to be getting more Not Done the more I get into it. I've already added a whole additional chapter, and I can see what may amount to another additional chapter's worth of material on the horizon. And I'm not entirely sure about its shape, or what it's going to do to the ending. I may possibly be less certain where it's heading than I was when I first wrote it.

It's going to be fascinating to find out.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Gacked from [livejournal.com profile] azdak, the WIP 7x7x7 meme:

1. Go to page 7 (or 77) of your current WIP.
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written.

The first novel seems to be in progress again, and the revisions are certainly work, so here goes. (I went with page 77, because that seemed more fun.)

"Don't get too smug," her mother warned. "I could still decide the whole idea's a waste of time." Which it might well be. Scott's plan B wasn't the worst she'd heard, but how much of her own agreement came from just wanting to see James again?

Haley sat straight up at Elle's remark, looking as not-smug as she knew how. Scott chuckled. "She can ride with me, in the surveillance van.

February Word Count

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 12:03 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
the new novel = 35
assorted mission stories = 553
first novel revisions = 124 net (599 gross; I had to cut a non-trivial chunk)
Total new words in February = 712 net (1187 gross)

Um, yeah. February was not a good month, writing-wise. Or at least word-count wise. While I still say it's a good base metric, it doesn't fully reflect the work involved in serious revisions. Not that even the gross count above is good, but the 475 I cut was at least as important as the ~300 I put in place of it. And the sheer re-reading involved is a non-trivial effort, and absolutely necessary.

It also doesn't reflect research on the new novel's replacement plot. Which I didn't do as much of as I should have, but I did get the key points established. There's some secondary research and some vital plot noodling left to do, but it's looking very promising.

All true, but also February was just not a good month. Not-writing makes me depressed, which makes me not write, which.... Yeah. There was a con and some day-job crunches and other excuses, but there was also a lot of just not doing it. Which is both the most detrimental and the part most under my control. So yeah, boot, meet backside.

That said, I'm actually excited about revising the first novel. It's going to be a lot of very hard work, but I can already feel the shape of what the result will be if I pull it off, and it's good. Worth it, definitely. I've already tackled the scene in Chapter 5 that's probably given me more trouble than anything else in the novel; it now sustains the emotional tone I need without veering out of character, a combination which none of the previous versions managed. Despite last month's remarks on the matter, I've kind of fallen into concentrating on the revisions to the exclusion of most, if not all, else; while bad for my word count and all that implies, it is getting the novel a lot closer to what I want it to be.

Now I just need to learn to work on something else during the natural lag-times in the revision cycle. Preferably something with a high word count. ;-)

January Word Count

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 02:36 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
the new novel = 5
revisions on the previous novel = 1498
assorted mission stories = 5454
Total new words in January = 6957

Well over the 5K goal. /*dusts hands with sense of accomplishment*/

The "assorted mission stories" are mostly just one story -- which is done except for figuring out the model of gun used in one scene, and which just might work as a stand-alone. I'm not sure if submitting post-novel stories for magazine publication before the novel gets published is a good idea or a bad one, but it'd be nice to have the option.

The count on the new novel would be beyond sad, yes, except that I'm still pushing around ideas for a replacement plot. The one I'd settled on -- and "settled" is the operative word -- just wasn't doing it for me. Thanks to this post (Pat Wrede = god of writing about writing, y/y?), I've got several ideas, or variants on an idea, that I like better; now it's just a matter of doing the research (oh gawd) to see which one flies best.

The previous novel revisions are something of a surprise to me. In an attempt to write a query that isn't, y'know, boring, I sat down to reread a few chapters to get the voice fresh in my head. My reaction can best be politely summarized as, "Well, this could be better." What it boils down to is that I've now been away from the text long enough that I can be my own beta-reader, and the first novel is finally getting the rigorous critical read that it should have had the first time around. And revised accordingly. (It's also getting longer, which is not the point but is a nice side benefit.)

I'm still going to hold to the 5000 words per month goal. How that's going to work out with revisions going on one novel and major research needed on the other before I can write much, I don't know. I'm tempted to chuck everything else and concentrate on the revisions, but I recognize that's a bad plan. I used to be able to switch between several on-going projects with ease; looks like that's a skill I'd better revive.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
A tip for aspiring writers: When you've finished your first novel, or even a sufficiently lengthy story, put it into proper manuscript format (1" margins, double-spaced, 12-pt font of your preference), and print it out. And then, any time you're feeling discouraged about your writing, pick it up and hold it.

And say to yourself, "Hey, I wrote this."

There's nothing like the heft of a small deciduous forest in your hands to remind you that yes, you have accomplished something pretty amazing, something that most people never do. My novel may be a tad on the short side by current standards, but it still feels pretty darned impressive.

More Done!

Friday, October 8th, 2010 06:04 pm
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)

I have polished off the last remaining tape flag. The novel is officially done!

(Well, except for me doing a final whole-thing-together review. And my betas doing the same. And probably at least one new beta, for that fresh-eyes thing. So in a way, still "done". But I'm calling it done.)

64,441 words. 13 chapters. Three and a half years. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Yesterday, I finished the final chapter of my novel.

"Done" is an interesting concept, for something as large and complex as a novel. I have written the final line of the final scene, and all the lines and scenes leading up to it. I still need to see what the betas think of the last bit, and incorporate their comments as appropriate. There's also a fist-full of tape flags on the earlier chapters, mostly word-choice and the occasional typo, but a few that may take real thinking. I knocked off several of the easier ones last night, but there's plenty left. And there will likely be another beta or two to come, now that I can hand over the whole work at once.

However, the thing is written; if I had to hand it to a publisher today, I could strip out the find-a-better-word brackets and have a functional manuscript. It's just shy of 65,000 words, if my late-night math holds true.

That's done enough that I treated the housemate to a sushi dinner in celebration last night. And you know? That's done enough to be pretty damned cool.
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Had another go at writing at the coffeeshop on the way to the gym today. Managed to turn out about about 400 words in... an hour and a half? Something like that. Not too bad, by my standards. More importantly, I seem to have finished the revision from hell. Well, for definitions of "finished" that include a handful of find-a-better-phrase brackets, and having no idea whatsoever if the new version is even coherent, let alone "right". But all the gaps are filled in, at least.

The coffeeshop experiment remains inconclusive: On the one hand, getting out of my usual environment does seem to help with the sticky bits; on the other hand, while I'm pleased I'm developing the ability to write through interruptions, I could happily have fed a cup sideways to the two women who decided the otherwise-deserted back room was the perfect place for their whiny-voiced chat. Still, 400 words, not to be sneezed at.

Now to do the final tag scene... and the packet of tape flags' worth of minor tweaks, and whatever else the betas find....
lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
Had a most pleasing weekend-plus with the charming and talented [personal profile] signeh, which included much discussion of life and of writing.

It's so very refreshing to have a beta-reading session with betas ([personal profile] signeh and the housemate) who (a) get what I'm trying to do, (b) are capable of staying on-topic, and (c) can actually have an intelligent and useful discussion about a piece of fiction. We came up with some good insights on the sticky bit in chapter 10 of the novel. Fixing it is still going to be mighty hard work, there's no way around that, but thanks to them I've at least got a sound plan of attack.

Now I just need to be able to, you know, attack it. My typically uneventful life has suddenly acquired a batch of rush-job paid work, a rush-job job application... and my Ficathon Walks Into A Bar story is due, er, today. So much for going out to play in the lovely warm sunshine!




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