Monday, October 17, 2016

Editing continued

I'm most of the way through my first-pass editing of draft zero, and I've definitely learned a few things about my writing style. For one thing, I have a devil of a time remembering the full names of my characters - several of my in-line notes involve "[CHECK VERONICA'S LAST NAME]" or "[INSERT JONATHAN'S LAST NAME]." It's kind of sad, but it makes me feel a little bit better about the fact that I have a hard time remember real people's names as well - it means that, even when I make the people up, I'm just no good with names.

I've got a better idea of what needs to be fleshed out in book 1, and where to go in book 2, which is super helpful. Once I finish this pass, I want to go back to my rough outline of book 2 and fill in some of the gaps that I know need to be filled, before going to book 1 and turning my notes into actual changes in the manuscript. This, of course, is provided that I can read my own handwriting - we'll have to see about that.

All in all, I feel good about the progress being made. I'm ready for November to get here (and more than ready for the election cycle to be done and over with, with as little bloodshed as possible, please). 2016 is finally making its way into the history books, and I say good riddance.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Words Matter

The last couple of weeks in American politics have been particularly rife with...let's call it excitement. We've seen words used to harm and cause outrage, used to discuss vile behavior as though it were common and nothing to be ashamed of, and used to belittle and demean.

We've also seen words used to inspire hope and change, used to reassure and comfort, a nd used to fight back against those who would use words for ill. It's been an object lesson in how flexible language can be, and how important.

A little background: I graduated from high school in 1999. (Yes, I know - by Tumblr standards, I'm ancient.) It means that my formative years were filled with people telling me that words didn't matter - if I was being teased, it was because I "reacted so well" and I needed to ignore them. If people made fun of me, maybe I shouldn't raise my hand so much in class. (On the flip side, asking a teacher to stop announcing my grades to the class, because it made me a target, meant that I had low self-esteem.) If I got upset ("reacted") when people called me names or told each other how awful I was, then I was just feeding them, and it was on me to stop reacting, and they would stop saying things. It shouldn't have bothered me anyway, since they were just words. Sticks and stones, and all that.

I was fortunate enough to never have a serious physical injury in my childhood - no broken bones, no lasting scars from serious accidents on the playground, nothing like that. Because of that, I can't say for certain that the wounds from sticks and stones scar worse than those of words, but I know that I still deal with the scars of those words to this day. They've faded, over time, in large part because I found family and friends that wouldn't re-open the wounds. They didn't tell me I was being oversensitive if something upset me - they helped me find a way to move through the problem, not pretend it didn't exist. And they did this primarily through their words.

I know that not many people read what I write here, and that's fine. I'm just trying to put some more words into the world that may do some good, whether they be words of writerly inspiration, words of encouragement (both in writing and otherwise), or words that make people laugh (particularly at me). Words are the best light I have for the darkness, and I'm trying my best to make it shine so others can find their lights. The last thing I would want is to have my words cause someone else's light to dim, even for a moment.

Words matter. What you say, what you write, what you communicate to the world - it all matters. Your words can change people's minds, change people's lives, even if just for a second. They can be a powerful tool, or a dangerous weapon. We treat words like they're nothing, but we need to remember to be careful. Being careless with our words can cause a lot of pain, for ourselves and for those who hear or read what we say.

A tool or a weapon. You choose.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Character development - shields

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how we arm ourselves to face the world outside our comfort zones. Some of us have rituals that we use to get ourselves in the right mindset to go out and do what needs to be done, even if we don't actively identify them as such - shower, shave, brush teeth, comb hair, that sort of thing. For some folks, this morning ritual includes things like working out or yoga or some other form of getting the body in a good place as well as the mind.

I was always a "do it the night before" kind of kid, because I value sleep, and the best sleep is that first thing in the morning. However, I need to take a few steps to make sure I can handle whatever comes at me, as well - if I'm not wearing my rings or my watch, I find myself feeling off-kilter all day, and I don't quite feel like I'm as prepared as I could be.

I see it as a form of shield-making - the things we do to prepare before leaving the homes we create for ourselves. Even if it's just something as simple as grabbing their wallet and keys on the way out the door, it's something that makes a person feel as though they're ready for the day ahead, whatever it may hold. It's something worth looking for when figuring out who your characters are - if they had to leave for the day in a hurry, what would they be sure to grab? What would drive them crazy if they didn't have it? What shields do they put in place before they walk out the door?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I am a big fan of comfort reading. I tend to re-read books that I love many times over the years, because even if I remember the broad strokes of the plot or the characters, there's always something new to discover and remember with every reading. This book? This is one that probably has, if not the most re-reads, at least in the top 5, in my library.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the first epistolary books I ever read. The entire story is told in letters and journals, which as a writer, is always fascinating to me - how can an author fit so much about a character into a simple letter? The fact that the book is also historical fiction, taking place not long after the end of the Second World War, helped to attract my attention as well.

The main theme is the love of the written word. The main character is an author who wrote columns for the newspaper during the war, and is now trying to find the best idea she can for a book. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey Island, who had purchased one of the books she had had in her library from a second-hand bookshop, and was writing to see if she knew of any other books by the same author. It leads to a discussion about reading, writing, and the importance of not only the written word, but also the ties of friendship and family, during the worst that life has to offer.

There's a bit of history that's rarely told in the US in this book - the occupation by the Germans of the Channel Islands. By hearing the voices of the people who lived through the occupation, the authors are able to give a good amount of detail to what happened, without coming across like a textbook. Knowing that it's in the past for them, but still building who they are in the present, is a gift for the reader to unwrap with each letter.

The audiobook version has multiple actors, which make the letters separate and distinct in ways that reading them can't quite get across. This is a book that I can honestly say I wholeheartedly love, and I recommend it to pretty much everyone.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Third Quarter Check-In

We are now in the dawning of the Age of Aquarius the fourth quarter of the year, so let's look back on Q3 and see what got accomplished (or didn't).
  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I should really restate this as "fill in the gap between books 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigations", and it's still in process.
    • New due date: July 31, 2016
    • Q2 status: This is the goal for this Camp Nano, so we'll see if we can actually finish filling the gap this month.
    • Q3 status: Ish? I've reached a good stopping point and realized that enough changed in book 1 that book 2 basically needs to start over again. I'll call this one complete (as restated in Q1), with redrafting book 2 as the plan for Nanowrimo
    • New goal: Complete draft 0 of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • New due date: December 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
    • Q1 status: I haven't even touched this one in a while. I'll keep the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status: Same as Q1
    • Q3 status: Yeah, that didn't go according to plan. I've spent the year focusing on PII, so this one is off to the side. This will get moved to next year.
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process
    • Q2 status:  In process
    • Q3 status:  In process (so many notes on my draft 0 of book 1, many of which involve asking Past Stephanie just what the devil she was thinking)
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process, as Paranormal Investigations started as a Nano
    • Q2 status:  In process, looking better with each day of sitting and actually getting some words on the dang page
    • Q3 status:  I'm going to call this complete, with PII book 1 as a complete draft 0. Go team me!
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
    • Q1 status:  COMPLETE!
    • Q2 status:  Trying for number 2!
    • Q3 status:  Didn't make number 2; revving up for number 3
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I have ideas, ever so many ideas...keeping the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status:  I may come back to the short story I was fiddling with post-Camp Nano, or I may try for something completely different. Who knows? Not me!
    • Q3 status:  Uh, we'll see. I haven't even thought short fiction in a couple of months.

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Round-Up

I survived September, and so did you! 2016 is that much closer to dying in a fire (but please, Lord, not an actual fire, because seriously, we do not need that after this year)! Let's see how it went on the book and writing side.

Words written YTD: 42,846 on one and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels and a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to) - you'll notice this didn't increase, because of all the editing. New word count will begin in November at the latest.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Realized that, while my Draft Zero is not complete crap, there are certainly plenty of things to fix. My editing notes have started turning into questions, a la "When did THAT happen?" and "Really? You sure about that?". Sometimes they're directed at the characters, but they're mostly directed at Past Stephanie, who really didn't have a plan for this (clearly).

New books read: In Little Stars, The Fixed Stars, Never Shines the Sun, and Full of Briars (also known as a bunch of October Daye short fiction); Assassination Vacation (non-fiction about several presidents and their assassins; tended to ramble, but interesting nonetheless); From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (short story for the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, and an absolute delight).

Old books re-read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (this is when I start slowing down, because Things Get Real); October Day 3-8 (I'm almost to the new book!); Hogfather (part of the epic Discworld re-read, and one of my all-time favorites).

Friday, September 23, 2016

I have a PLAN!

Well, to be fair, I usually have several plans. It's how I've discovered I operate the best. If there's an issue of some sort, I tend to handle it best when I can have the issue laid out as plainly as possible, and have steps toward resolving the problem put into place. Yes, the plan may be difficult, and yes, there may be hazards on the path, but it's a heck of a lot easier for me to handle a solution when I can chart out what needs to be done.

I realize that I don't share this problem-solving style with a lot of people, but it's come up recently with some day-job and personal life issues, and I've wanted to put something down so I can remember it the next time things get overwhelming. Breaking things into a manageable, clear problem (you did X when you should have done Y, you haven't been doing Z as well as you should, that sort of thing) makes the solutions more clear to me. If I did X instead of Y, I can do Y now, see what needs to be updated from X to Y (if anything), and figure out the best plan to make sure I don't mistake X for Y again in the future (that's the big one - it doesn't do much good if I make the same mistake over and over again).

The downside to all of this is that I can get overwhelmed pretty easily. Being told that my performance is "slipping" without giving specific examples will pretty quickly take me to a place of "everything I do is awful, why does anyone put up with me?", which is not much help in resolving the problem. Also, when I get overwhelmed, I tend to freeze - if I don't know where to start, then I don't start anything, because it might not be the best place to start. Hey, I never said it was logical.

Anyway, my problem solving skills aren't particularly entertaining reading, I know, but I thought it might help to write them down. I hope to return to griping about editing on Monday. Have a good weekend, everyone!