Monday, March 29, 2010

And you are?

As I sit here writing, I catch a glimpse of a new face amidst the mountains of paper and milling characters. He looks a little familiar, older maybe than the last time we met. The dark-skinned young man stands against the wall, minus an armored coat (or armored suit) -- which is good, there seem to be too many of those around here these days -- looking like he might be up to no good. Or maybe he's just trying hard to look up to no good.

"Don't I know you?"

He nods but doesn't have the courtesy to fill me in.

I glance over his slim form, not finding any of the usual lumps and bumps of weaponry that other discarded characters often show up with. “You’re not from the first novel, are you?”

“Not exactly.”

“I don’t remember writing you in the sequel.”

He shoots me a look that makes me wonder if perhaps he is up to no good after all. “That’s because you deleted all my set up from the first novel, reduced me to a few scant mentions to flesh out Ms. Mc. Then you dropped me from the sequel like I fell off the known universe. I wasn’t needed."

"Sorry about that. You're not alone." I point to the host of characters around him.

"Oh, I know. There’s a whole bunch of us coming. I’m just the first to find my way here.”

“Find your way? Where have you been between the first novel wrap up and the sequel revision?”

“Hanging out on the hard drive in your character reference file. I was hoping you’d reconsider.”

I run through the reference file in my head. “You must be Xander Tuck.”

“I still can’t believe you cut me. I was a good kid. Then Mr. MC sent me off to a school I where didn’t fit in. My grades sucked. My dad was pissed, and then I totally embarrassed Ms. MC and Mr. MC had to give me a new job and name for a fresh start.” Xander stares up at my computer longingly. “I always wondered what role I’d have in the sequel. Now I’ll never know.”

“You and Mr. MC had some good, touching moments. I always liked how you brought out the mentor side of him and mirrored the relationship he had with his own father figure.”

“Exactly!” His face lights up with a wide grin. “We had a good thing going. I was supposed to work with him, under him, you know? Mr. MC was going to help me regain my father’s respect, and I’m sure I was going to do more of that mentor/fatherly bonding thing with him. Can’t you find a place for me? Please?”

“Sorry kid. I made him a father instead. I don’t have a use for you anymore.”

His shoulders slump. “I see.”

Darn it, now I feel bad. It’s always easier to cut them when I don’t have to do it to their face.

Muffled swearing comes from under my chair. I look down to see Ms. Wildstar poking at the armored suit with the end of an unfolded paperclip.

“Xander, I take that back. I do have a use for you. See that girl?”

He nods.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, see if you can get her out of her clothes and keep her busy.”

He glances at her and then at me and back to her. “All right!”

“No. Not like that. Or like that.” I shake my head. “Just be careful, and I don’t want to know about the details, okay?”

“No problem.” He heads over to Ms. Wildstar with his charm turned on high.

What have I just done?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Subjectivity: What drives a writer to drink

Chapter one of the sequel went under the crit gun last week. Talk about mixed signals...

Being a first draft and all, I knew this would need some major work. I've been in revisions on the first novel a long time. I needed some insight on how far back the opening chapters of the sequel needed to step to get readers up to speed or lay things out for those who did not read the first book.

Well, I received a lot of insight. It might take a few meditation sessions and a bottle of rum to connect it all, but it's there.

As I search for some ice and a glass, I'll share some of what drives me to this moment.

Five critiquers read the past novel. Seven did not. Neither group agreed on any particular point in majority.

Half liked the opening for the same reason. Half did not for various reasons

There are too many things introduced in the chapter. There are just the right amount.

The pace is too slow. The pace is too fast.

There is much confusion over too much going on. Others follow along with little or no problem.

A few get frustrated and stop halfway through or sooner. Some really like the chapter. Some love it and want the next one right now.

Some don't like the couple longer sentences. Others aren't bothered by them.

There are too many tags and action beats slowing down the dialogue. There are just the right amount. Others want more tags.

On the bright side, everyone finds typos, and not all the same ones. Thank goodness for many sets of eyes.

What to take away from all this - after I find some coke to mix with this rum? I need to do some explaining without info dumping, along with slowing down while speeding up and clarfiying speakers without adding tags or beats. I need to add background to my world and characters without adding backstory and break up my long sentences with invisible punctuation.

In short, I need to do some major rethinking because this chapter clearly isn't working despite the fact that I really like it.

I raise my glass to my wonderful and helpful critiquers. Onward we go.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Suits me

In working on my sequel, I've discovered another good reason to get at least the first several chapters done before sending book one off into the big world: I'm finding things I thought I needed for set up in the first novel that I can do without, which equals further reduced word count. Hooray!

Ms. Wildstar turns in front of the mirror, admiring her black-clad form. "Does this make me look fat?"

Zsmed ventures over from the crate of adverbs he's been sorting with Nekar and hands her a card.

"Curvaceously?" She blushes. “That’s quite a word.”

He shrugs. "I found it in the box. I thought of you when I came across it."

I snicker to myself. Really? He’s working hard to get back in her graces. Not that Ms. Wildstar isn't shapely, it’s just that she's more the tall, gawky teen just coming into her body type than Delilah who has been drinking milk and has all the right curves in all the right places.

"Just because it’s in the box, doesn't mean it works. That's why she got rid of a lot of those." She points at me as if I'm some distant giant that can't possibly see or hear them.

Zsmed admires the sleek, skin-tight suit adorning Ms. Wildstar's body. "Where did that come from?"

"I found it lying on the floor this morning. I've never seen it here before."

"Must have come from the sequel. Did you take a look at it yet?"

She waves her hand at the hill of freshly crumpled and torn paper beside my desk. "Some. At least we finally have some new reading material."

He picks up a few pieces and holds them together, scanning the text. "Is it any good?"

"It's different. Looks like everything is getting trashed so far, I don’t have much to go by. Much better than the stuff we came from though."

"So what's the suit for?"

"Armor, as far as I can tell from what I’ve pieced together."

Zsmed glances at Nekar. "Uh, don't the main characters already have armored coats? Did they really need suits too?"

"Apparently not." Ms. Wildstar pokes at the suit. Her finger doesn’t even make an indent in the heavy cloth. "According to the discarded text, it’s supposed to be even stronger than the coats." She chews her lip for a moment. "Want to try it out?"

"I don’t think it would fit me."

"No, silly. I want to see how it works. I'm sick of sitting around here doing nothing. Borrow a gun from Nekar."

“You want me to shoot you? Are you crazy?”

No, no, no. What the hell? Ms. Wildstar is getting far too Ms. MC for my comfort. I put my foot down.

The room shakes. Paper goes flying. Characters fall to the floor.

I consider not taking myself so literally next time.

“Sorry about that.” I help Zsmed back to his feet. “There will be no gunfire, no armor testing, and no borrowing guns.”

Ms. Wildstar crosses her arms over her chest. “You created this armor. You should know there’s no harm in testing it out. Come on.”

“No. Take it off. Now.”

She sighs and reaches for a zipper. There isn’t one. She runs her hands over the suit, finding nothing to aid in its removal. “How does one remove this thing?”

I scratch my chin. “This is the problem with playing with discarded tech, Ms. Wildstar. I have no idea how it gets put on or taken off. I hadn’t written that yet. I can tell you how it’s created and by whom, but that’s all I know.”

“Well, that doesn’t help me at all.” She pouts. “Does anyone have a scissors or a knife?”

“Why don’t you go check over there?” I point to a mountain of crumpled, yellowed paper. I can’t remember editing out either of those items, but I’d rather she kept herself busy for a while. Goodness only knows what kind of trouble she’ll end up next.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm in love

...with my novel's sequel.

When I sit down to pound out a novel, which usually happens for NaNoWriMo each November, it just sort of flows out of my fingertips of its own accord. The beginning is me getting in touch with my characters, the first third is me exploring the plot I'd set out in my head (sometimes very, very loosely. Very.) The middle is where I'm wondering how I'm going to make what I'm doing now connect with the end (which I usually DO have in my head by the first few chapters) and the end is a lot of work to pull it all together.

Not this time.

I've never had the need for a sequel before. Everything else I've done ended neatly in 100k or less. But not my first novel, my baby. I wasn't ready to let that one go. And so to convince myself to finish the darn thing, I allowed myself a sequel. Amazing how easily the 'The End' came after that. Of course, that meant I got to sit down and play with my characters anew.

That was four years ago.

Any idea how much my writing has changed in the past four years? Let's just say (incredibily understated) lots.

With the baby novel now sitting in quarantine for one last tweak, I'm tearing into this partial rough draft of the sequel to see if there's anything here I can do without that would allow me to cut setup from the first novel. So far: 637 words. The sequel has its redeeming moments, but it needs a (again, incredibly understated) lot of work.

Know what I love though? I know the characters. All of them. Very well. I know the world and the tech. I know the feel of the novel. I had an ephiphany that showed me a fresh beginning, middle and end, the twists and how it all fits together. It's nothing like writing a fresh novel from the ground up.

After countless revisions on my baby novel it feels so good to explore and create with these characters agian. I've missed them. It's about time we had fun together. We deserve it.

Does this mean I'll start leaving room for more sequels in other novels? Not likely. It's a whole different challenge.

But that's a post for another day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Novel in a Blender 3

Where was I before I got so distracted? Oh yes...

While I am a big fan of the Orson Scott Card's Ender Saga, my favorite novel of his is Songmaster. Based on his short story "Mikal's Songbird", Songmaster follows Ansset, a beautiful young boy whose perfect singing voice has the power of amplifying people's emotions, making him both a potential healer and destroyer.

The depth of emotion portrayed this book is what makes it so great. You truly feel for Ansset. This is the first book that made me cry while reading. Not that crying stopped me from reading. I just had to grab a tissue so I didn't get the pages wet.

Whenever I reach an emotional scene in a novel I'm writing, I try to achieve the depth in found Songmaster. I want to make you weep!

This novel does deal with homosexuality, so if that's an issue for you, be forewarned, but it's a great read. If you're searching for inspiration on how to pack more emotion into your novel, I can't think of a better place to look.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Creative leak

I did actually get some writing done today -- editing on my current short story and writing a couple pages of Trust's sequel. Yay for that. Yet, I've found myself with an excess of creative energy lately, and it's been bursting out all over.

My afternoon was spent coating my old dining room table in fleckstone to get rid of its outdated santa fe look that we purged from the rest of the house ten years ago. The leak really started two weeks ago when I decided I couldn't take our living/dining room anymore and it needed to face lift. Preferably, right now. That didn't happen, but I have been working away at it here and there, picking out paint for the walls, sewing slipcovers for the furniture, recovering pillows, laying out the area for the laminate flooring I want under the dining table, and painting said table.

Today, as I was innocently checking my blog reading list, I came across a post by Liana Brooks about doing a blog facelift, and darn it, there went three hours. Dinner was a couple hours late. I was too busy figuring out HTML and taking pics of my favorite fabrics from my huge stash for potential background images. Don't interupt me people. You know where the kitchen is if you decide you're starving and can't wait any longer.

So there you have it. Like the new look? Hate it? Suggestions?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I didn't get any writing done last night

I sat down to write, but before starting, I checked my blogroll because I'd had a busy day and had not yet had the chance to do so. That led to reading a post that reminded me that I needed to write a post. Which made me look at my bookshelf for my next Novel in a Blender selection. At which time I spotted George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Which let me to his blog to see if the long awaited next novel in the series, A Dance with Dragons, was anywhere near a press yet.

Sadly no.

(If you haven't yet indulged in A Song of Ice and Fire yet and enjoy fantasy, of the epic sort -- done correctly with not a single boring part -- with a wide array of characters that leap off the page, where near everyone gets a chance to be both good and evil depending on the pov, get yourself to the nearest bookstore and start reading.)

Which led me to wonder how the HBO series of A Song of Ice and Fire was coming along. Which let me to this wonderful video that puts pictures with the cast names. I must say, I'm very impressed with the casting. Everyone is much like I'd envisioned them.

Though I've seen the cast list before, seeing them in person makes me entirely giddy and now can't wait for the series to air. The bad news is that reports say that won't happen until spring of 2011. Though, I suppose that gives me a chance to reread the series first so I can fully appreciate the visual feast.

Oh, and I suppose that also gives me time to get some writing done.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Caving in

We all need a change of setting. This includes our beloved characters.

They do what we tell them to (most of the time) and perform as expected (most of the time) but to really get to know them sometimes it's interesting to step outside the story and see what they would do if put somewhere completely out of their element. These scenes don't belong in the novel necessarily, but are for your reference, to dig into your character's mind.

I spent my weekend in a car for seven hundred miles and my saturday night in a cave. While the car part wasn't a complete change of setting for me, I can count the number of nights I've slept in a cave on one finger. It was an awesome experience.

I was tired, muddy and sore from our wild cave tour and glad to be warm in my sleeping bag in the moist fifty-four degree air. Yet, sleep eluded me as I lay there with the metal bar of my rudimentary bunk digging into my shoulder blades.

To entertain myself, I wondered what some of my characters would do if they had to spend a night in the cave.

Mr. MC - Would enjoy the moist air and the natural surroundings because he's always complaining he doesn't get outside much and his favorite place is by water. He'd be grateful to have a bunk rather than having to sleep on the floor.

Ms. MC - Would think it was cold and would bitch about the endless noise of the waterfall that wouldn't let her think. She'd also complain about the bunk, wake up in a foul mood and take it out on poor Mr. MC.

Mr. Secondary - Would be annoyed that he was stuck in a cave with seventy-six other men and only four women and no privacy to make it any fun.

Would they enjoy crawling over rocks, mud and water, on their bellies?

Mr. MC - likely wouldn't fit in some of the places we went. He's a larger statured sort of fellow, but he'd try if Ms. MC ordered him to. Enjoy it? No.

Ms. MC - Hell no. She'd order Mr. Secondary to blow the tunnel larger so she could walk through, and she'd only bother if there was something great to be had at the end. Sightseeing is not her thing. As much as she likes nature, she prefers it hot and humid.

Mr. Secondary, would bribe someone to get in line behind the female in the group so he could appreciate the view as they crawled along.

No matter where I go, my characters go with me. They are ever so much more entertaining than counting sheep.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shadows of the sucessor

Ms. Wildstar holds up her hand. She's staring at her fingers. I see she's painted her fingernails black, and they are an inch and half long. And filed into points. I shake my head. I knew she'd been bored since Zsmed ditched her for Delilah and then wandered off to sort adverbs with Nekar, but giving herself freakish manicures wasn't what I'd pictured her doing in her down time. She'd always seemed more the bookish or doodling sort.

She spreads her fingers wide and takes a swipe at the empty air in front of her. A satisfied smile creeps across her lips.

That's when I recognize the nails and that smile. They belong to her older, far more jaded and violent incarnation. I clear my throat. "What are you doing?"

"I found these lying around." She waves her hand of claw-like nails. "I was just trying them on. They feel so right."

"Those are Ms. MC's. Not yours. Take them off."

"But..." Ms. Wildstar glances at the shadows under my desk where I see Delilah pouting and casting longing looks at Zsmed.

Maybe this young woman does have some of the backbone of her replacement after all. However, I don't need her honing her revenge skills. Having recently cleared out a fifty pages of Ms. MC's similar lack-of-sympathy-inducing antics, I really didn't need to deal with the issue all over again.

I adopt my best accusing motherly tone. "You're not planning on doing anything to anyone with those, are you?"

Her gaze falls to the floor and her shoulders slump. "No, of course not."

That's more like her. "Good. Hand over the nail implants. They got dropped from the story for the same reason as those eyeballs that are rolling around here somewhere. Besides, you could really hurt someone with those. They're metal and sharp. Ms. MC ripped out a few throats with them in her time."

"I know. I've read." Ms. Wildstar limply points at the litter of a thousand torn pages that forms the landscape her world. "She gets to have all the fun."

"If you'd like to be tortured by having your nails ripped out one by one, I'll gladly go get the pliers, but I didn't think you were into that sort of thing."

She pales. "Um, no. That's ok. I'd forgotten that part." She backs away. "Maybe I'll go have a talk with Delilah and see if she wants to come with me to talk to those boys who don't get blown up anymore. They're kind of cute."

I try to picture Ms. Mc saying such a thing as a teen and fail. They can't be the same people. I never intended them to be the same. Nah, can't be. I smile and wave her off to her awaiting friend and impending giggle-filled adventure.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Not evily. Not at the moment anyway. But as I'm working on rewriting my sequel, I'm reminded of my favorite chapter of Sol Stein's, On Writing that I read a few years ago.

If you haven't read this wonderfully informative and humorous book yet, get yourself a copy. You'll be glad you did. Thanks to Ray Rhamey at Flogging the Quill for recommending it.

The chapter I found most enlightening discusses 'The Crucible'. As in: An environment, emotional or physical that bonds two people. This could include situations such as being trapped on a lifeboat, being in the army, a family, marriage, business partners, etc. Essentially what this boils down to is the thing that keeps your character(s) locked into the situation where they must seek resolution from the main conflict.

The (biggest) problem I had with my first novel was that the plot was weak. There was a good guy and a bad guy, but there was so much going on that there was no concrete direction. Enter the crucible! Ah ha! Having that solid 'this is the crucible' statement really helped pinpoint the main plot and helped me shave off countless subplots that weren't as important as I'd originally thought they were -- even though some of them were my favorite scenes.

Focusing on the crucible can also help up the tension level, especially in what can often becomes the barren wasteland known as the 'middle of the novel'.

Now I keep this lesson in mind during all my first drafts. It's really helped cut down on frivolous subplots and extraneous characters. Which is good, because looking down at the masses under my desk, this is a lesson I wish I had learned a lot sooner.