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!

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!