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!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Character building - talking with your hands

When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher asked me in front of the whole class if it was possible for me to talk without moving my hands. I defiantly sat on my hands for the rest of the period...and couldn't finish a complete thought for the life of me. Every time I opened my mouth, my hands struggled to regain their freedom.

As I've gotten older, my gesturing isn't as expansive as once it was - I freely admit that it was dangerous to stand too close to me if I was in full story-telling mode when I was younger, particularly if you were holding a beverage - but it's still pretty well ingrained in the way I communicate. I still gesture more if I'm speaking Spanish instead of English, and those gestures tend to be more of a pantomime to help me find the right words. And I do still gesture while speaking to someone on the phone, or who could not otherwise see me.

Recently, a study came out that helped explain a little bit about why people gesture when they can't be seen. Basically, gesturing is part of learning a language - even people who have never seen another person gesturing as they speak will have very similar hand motions as they speak. It's a fascinating way of looking at language and how it ties back into the rest of the body, above and beyond just speaking and listening.

Even with the basic gestures being similar among speakers of the same language, however, everyone does things a little differently. Some of us are more enthusiastic and descriptive with the gestures, while others may keep their hands contained and their motions minimal. It changes how other people perceive them, and it can change with the character's mood - I know that if I'm not doing well emotionally, my hands hardly move at all when I speak.

Adding another way to illustrate a character's method of communication can help a character's development gain some depth and realism. Also, it can just be fun to see how much a character will flail when you start to put them in frustrating situations.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Editing - What was I thinking??

I know I said last time that things are definitely better than I expected, but I'm now starting to get into sections that...I'm not sure if I put the scene away for a while and then picked it up after several months and didn't re-read what I wrote, maybe? That's the only thing that I can think of, to have a character that is only visible to certain people get in line for coffee and be served, and have the line of customers (who had been behind the mostly-invisible character) disappear from one page to the next. Ugh.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what's going on with my auto-posting to Facebook, but I don't think it's working. I probably need to tweak some settings somewhere, but that probably won't happen until this weekend. Until then, I need to get a bunch of work for the day job done, and crochet like the wind for the three (!) baby blankets for work and the cat toys for a swap (before starting the stuff for the Nanowrimo Prep swap) - I, uh, may have overbooked myself a tad.

Have a good weekend, all!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Character building - what's it got in its pocketses?

I spend a not-insignificant amount of time on the weekends making sure that I have all of the things I "need" with me in the right bag, depending on where I'm going. During the week, I have a backpack that carries the bulk of the burden, but on the weekends, if I'm going to a game store or some such, I may not want the whole backpack - I may just take a small shoulder bag. It always leaves me reconsidering exactly what I need to have on me in order to feel comfortable.

Most people have their own version of the daily "pocket litter" that they have with them every time they leave the house - keys, phone, wallet. But what kind of wallet? Is it all of the keys together, or separated by a valet ring? Is the phone in the wallet somehow? And what else do they feel like they can't leave the house without?

For example, my husband needs to have at least one pen on him before he goes anywhere. I need some form of reading, be it on my phone, my Kindle, or a physical book. My friend carries a notebook of ideas and a pen, just in case.

It's a definite way of giving a reader a sense of what a character considers important, if you show what the character carries with them at all times. Are they always armed? Do they keep pictures of family close at hand? Is there a lucky token of some sort that they would feel lost if they left it behind?

People can be strange and marvelous things, and it never hurts to find new ways of demonstrating insights into a character that the character may not even realize are there.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Editing, First Pass

I've been working on taking a first go-through of what is currently draft zero of Paranormal Investigations, Inc., and it's been an experience. For the most part, I'm looking through what I've written and seeing what's changed in the...three? four? years that I've been drafting this thing. Clearly, some major changes have taken place - I mention in the first few pages that Alison didn't want to move back in with her parents after college, which is good, because her parents are, y'know, dead and all, and have been since she was about 8...oh, and she moved back in with her grandfather instead.

Still, it's nice to take a look at some of this and realize it's not all as awful as I was expecting it to be. I tend to be my own harshest critic, so I usually cringe at the idea of reading my own writing, as I'm convinced it's horrible and hardly makes any sense. And true, there are some things in here that need updating or removing entirely - this is draft zero, after all, also known as "GET WORDS ON PAGE!", so some things aren't making as much sense as they could.

Still and all, I'm finding that I'm enjoying the story. I'm a little surprised by that. I'm also looking ahead to what I can do for Nanowrimo this year, so I can be ready to start on November 1 with some idea of where I'm going. It would be nice to have a plan beyond, well, "get words on page".

Friday, September 2, 2016

August Round-Up

Time to see how the last month went in the world of reading and writing.

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)

Things accomplished in fiction: Alison decided that things were getting a bit too much for her after she discovered that her family probably knew about the organization from way back, and she decided to nope on out; I think Miss Strahan has convinced her to listen to more information, but it's still pretty touch-and-go.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Reached a point where I can stop writing and start editing book 1, seeing if there is actually a book 2 in here or if everything can and should get wrapped up in one volume; made some outlines for the next part for Nanowrimo; still using My Write Club for the weekly challenges to great success.

New books read: Lumberjanes #21 (still so much fun); Imprudence (the second book in the Custard Protocol, and another fun outing); Heroine Complex (far more entertaining than I expected, and the beginning of a new series I now eagerly anticipate continuing); The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (not my usual genre, but lovely and sad).

Old books re-read: Harry Potter 1-4 (it's been a while since I've re-read these, and it's nice visiting the early ones, before everything goes to hell), Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation (October Daye 1-2, in preparation for the new book due out next week).

Whew! Now time to start the first pass at editing. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Worldcon Post

This year I went to my second-ever Worldcon, taking place in Kansas City, Missouri. In general, I'm coming to realize that conventions for science fiction and fantasy fans tend to be more my speed than gaming conventions. If nothing else, the attendance tends to be much, much smaller, meaning it doesn't feel quite so crowded and full.

The convention center itself was gigantic - I'm pretty sure it was at least a city block long, and may have been a block wide as well. This was good and bad - good, in that there were plenty of wide hallways and areas for people to sit and recharge (either themselves or their phones) without feeling like they're block traffic; bad in that everything was a decent distance away from everything else. On a good day, this isn't a problem; however, I was using my cane the entire convention, and I was feeling the extra distance every time I walked around.

The panels themselves were, by and large, fantastic. I went to a couple of readings for authors I truly enjoy, and loved being able to hear stories from them about how they've gone about writing their works (or re-writing, in some cases). I also got to be called Mark Oshiro's favorite - when he got to the Q&A portion of his reading, my first question was "So, you mention that the main character dropped his bus card. When did he pick it back up? Because he leaves the terminal..." and got a "...God dammit, let me write that down" in response. (I later called him a terrible human being, and he thanked me. Good times were had by all!)

Several of the panels left me with lists of book recommendations, which is always a bonus. It's wonderful hearing about different writing styles from multiple points of view, and realizing once again that there isn't really a "right" way to write. It was also lovely to hear an editor manage to articulate her issues with J.K. Rowling's North American wizarding school, and not have it come across as simply bashing the author. (Her point was that, throughout the Harry Potter books, the world is a monolith - the only part of Great Britain that we see is London, and the countryside where Hogwarts is, which is not near any real city. Having one school for all of North America, and having it somehow lump all of the cultures that make up the countries of this continent shoved together, is in keeping with her already problematic writing style.)

It isn't to say that it was all wine and roses. As I mentioned previously, I personally had a little trouble with loneliness, and the first couple of days I felt as though I were being judged for using my cane and thus taking up more space than I "should". Rightly or wrongly, that was the impression I got. I was fortunate enough to (literally) stumble upon the Accessibility table on my third day, and received a badge ribbon that made things a little easier.

The demographics of the convention attendees still skewed pretty heavily toward Caucasian, though there were significantly more PoC than I've seen in the first few Norwescons I went to, for example. However, the demographics of the panelists didn't really reflect the diversity of the attendees. It can be really hard to get excited about a community that doesn't allow you to see yourself in a position of authority.

On the other hand, the Hugos were a thing of beauty. It wasn't a complete Sad/Rabid Puppy shut-out, and I didn't believe it would be - this year, they hedged their bets by including works on their slate that had a wide range of appeal. Still, we had three of the four prose categories won by people of color (including one translation, which included the translator as a part of the award, which I think is awesome), several of the award winners who couldn't make it in person used their chance to provide a written acceptance speech to call out the BS of the Puppies and how important diversity in fandom and fiction is, and two of the awards were accepted by astronauts. It's hard to beat that.

Overall, I'm very glad I went. Next year's Worldcon will be in Finland, which means I will probably not be attending, but I still plan to get a supporting membership and have the opportunity to nominate and vote for the Hugo awards. What about you? Will you make the trek to Helsinki, or watch the livestream with many of the rest of us as we see how the Hugos turn out next year?