Monday, May 23, 2011

Rescue from free-time island

Monday is back again, and so is the summer heat. Last week this time it was pleasantly cool, albeit strangely. Personally, I wasn't complaining.Likewise, I was happy for the time off from work as well, though it hit me equally oddly.Two years ago in the month of June, following totaling my car in mid-May, I wrote a whole book in a month. I am not sure from where the energy came. All I know is that it is no longer with me.

I called for writing doubling the pace for these two weeks. Normally I do three chapters a week, so roughly six to seven thousand words, leaving the rest for mental recuperation and work, so doubling that would be mean six chapters, and roughly thirteen thousand words. I realized later that this was basically the same pace I had going when my mind was in better shape. Before that though, I realized that I would be more than happy to have the excuse to slow down when I returned to the job for the summer semester.

Just recently I finished edits on the three chapters written most recently, and right on the heels of that is staring at the outlines and thinking about what to do next in what order, when normally I would have a different kind of labor at hand. Educating is no less involved, but it is different. What I'm looking ahead to now and is more writing, and the pressure associated with wanting to do it well. Likely, I'll take tomorrow off and begin Wednesday with a mind to finish up by Friday, which will lead to one, last desperate push before I go back to work on Tuesday, like shoving at the wet sand of a beach, fighting to keep my head above the lapping waves before passing out.

This added pressure I mentioned comes from the reviews of my book I'm finally getting, I think. I'm writing sequels now which will likely not be published for several years, but even more than that I'm seeing where the story is going and how it is benefiting from my constantly improving skill. The book that people are reading now was drafted years ago when I didn't exercise my talent as well. The fear creeping up within me is that the first book isn't good enough to make people want to stay to read the next, and the next, and so forth. A friend of mine pointed out, very sensibly, that this is counterintuitive. It only makes sense that a series would get better as time goes on as the author gets more practice. I believed his words, but remembered several series I've read that decrease substantially in quality as the volumes trudge on.

Another thing I've come face to face with recently is how differently readers read. Of my principle characters, there have been readers  that like some of them, and hate some of them.What is confusing to one person is clear to another. I've yet to get much feedback that sounds similar from two different people. Somehow, I feel like if I crammed all my readers together, I'd have one giant mutant that got more or less everything I wrote down. However, I'm happy to report that they all gave the book varying degrees of passing grades, though (a D is still passing, right?). Sometimes, I guess when they say you can't please everyone, they literally mean it.

In other news, I've moved forward with a couple reviewers in regards to getting them to look at the book, and I've also moved backwards with a few agents in that they've rejected me. Which is to say, things otherwise are continuing as per normal. A few advancements, a few setbacks, but at the end of the day I feel confident that I'm still facing the right way. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Planning to plan to pray

Yesterday, I had day one of my vacation and took a break... from blogging. Sunday was a bit hectic; I attended the second to last wedding on the horizon and spent the rest of the day seeing other friends before I sped home and commenced to the Sunday night editing I still haven't completely meshed with my weekly routine. Yesterday morning, with fresher eyes, I finished that up, along with more careful drafting of the chapters I squeezed into this past weekend. A bit sleepy and somewhat worn down, I put doing this off until today. It seems hardly the time or place to congratulate someone publicly (I also only have seven readers I'm aware of), but it was a very nice ceremony at a local park, followed by excellent barbecue and a prayer circle to ward off rain.So congrats to Daniel and Kandis.

Today has been much more relaxing. I committed to doubling the writing pace, using this week to do three chapters, and this weekend to do the three that I'd be doing anyway, and applying that regimen to this week and next. I was very pleased that this first week had training wheels on it, though, because I wasn't sure how comfortable I was to just declare I would do something, and then do it. Last year, finishing up the previous three books in the series (also at the same time; no I did not learn my lesson) I penned an epilogue which I mistimed. Fortunately, a friend helped me realize that that was not the time to tell that part of the story. I saved it, and kept it in mind, because I felt strongly that it belonged in the telling somewhere, and low and behold it's time has come. At least I think it has. Either way, I stuck it into the story and looked at it from multiple angles, tightened and sharpened it and let it be until I look at it again, hopefully on Thursday. That was an interesting experience, because I work very hard on telling things in a prescribed order. I think about the story in great detail, then I try to pick the most exciting part, and I try to tell it in a way that makes sense. If that makes sense.

Before a writer friend left town for job training, I cornered him in his apartment and forced him to read my query letter for my sci-fi novel. He avoided using hackneyed and trite, but synonyms did come out of his mouth. I wasn't taken aback, though I was a bit surprised. We talked about it, and I got some good feedback about why he thought that way. I gave him the low down on the story in an effort to get his opinion on how I could present the book in a better way to an agent, and he gave me a lot of confidence regarding his opinion that the story wasn't typical or predictable at all, which made me feel good. I did not, however, get around to changing much of the letter before sending it off to a handful of agents. So I guess I'll be crossing my fingers when it doesn't inconvenience me. About those queries, and about the latest round of short stories I submitted. And I guess about the requests my publisher told me they received from a few review sites.

Also, I am formerly announcing my goal this year to finally attend Dragon Con, with a plan in mind to attend the convention next year and actually have an author table. A friend sent me a link to a page where authors can register for Gen Con, and using the super power of laziness I applied that idea to the convention that wouldn't require plane tickets or tanks of gas. Hopefully the double-edgedness of my amazing ability will not come back to bite me come this and next August. I guess that's the price of power. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Backwards, into the future

It was a long weekend, but also a good one. Writing got done, friends got seen, and I even had time to visit an antique store and blow through a dresser full of old postcards to gift something unique for the holiday. I also possibly had my last outsourcing experience at the theater where one of my friends works. It's something I do from time to time, initially as a volunteer and later earning actual compensation. I sort of fell into it, really, wanting to learn how it all worked. But it became very rewarding. I work so much with abstract things that I found the flip side of the coin a nice, occasional, change of pace. I even got a cool picture of myself grinding a steel balcony set piece to make it smooth and actor friendly.

But before I had my last day there, I edited the chapters affected in tight spots between seeing old friends and working. Objectively speaking, I think the chapters came out fairly well. Sometimes a chapter is enjoyable to write; it has interesting plot points and does the work of advancing the story from a certain character's perspective. Sometimes a chapter is less enjoyable to write, though, because sometimes things need to be told not because they're cool or awesome but for the sake of those cool and awesome things. A complete basketball game, even one for the ages, has its boring spots, even for the players. I have to admit that I did somewhat rush the editing. I had limited time because of a previous obligation along with other editing I recently agreed to do and I realized that it takes more time to chew through those chapters than I thought.

So I guess I'll hope my editing chops are up to the task. And I say editing chops because I recently had a friend ask me to look at his work for him. He's a classmate from college and is far more famous than I, yet he thought enough of me to get me to comb over his words on a weekly basis. What's more he called to express his appreciation. I was surprised, pleasantly. It's been a while since someone has complimented me on something like that, or at all, come to think of it. But I guess with the critiquing I've been doing for years, and working with my other writing friends on their stuff, it isn't so strange.

In other writing updates, I believe this week I'm going to try to start sending out queries, after I look over my letter again. I didn't get as many eyes on it as I would've liked, but sometimes I feel like if you want to get something done, the best way is not to wait on other people. And speaking of getting things done (or not) I never did start that outline for the next novel. However, I checked the handy dandy calendar on my phone, and it seems that after this last week of work for the spring semester, I ought to have at least a couple weeks of nothing so I can commit to things like that. I'm also going to try to double the pace of the current works in progress with a goal in mind to finish by August. I feel the need to say again that this three books simultaneously idea was really stupid. And if there's anyone anywhere reading these words (even in the far off alien wasteland future) heed my words: don't do it. However, if I can pull this off, and stay on track, by 2012 I'll have four books done this year, which overall is not a fantastic pace, but I would count it a productive 2011. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tidy bows of fallacious colors

Another good weekend is wrapping up. Despite working on a Saturday, which was a strangely disorienting phenomenon, my planning early in the semester paid off and I still managed to get two chapters done on Friday, and the third yesterday. That marks twelve consecutive weeks of writing, sticking to a pace I set for myself. I feel like it's very important or at least is habit forming, because once getting things done is a routine most everything because a shade easier. I think a lot of people sit around at the end of the way wondering where all the time went mostly because they're used to thinking about doing things rather than doing them.

Then again, I was proved wrong in a really huge way this weekend also, so I might not know what I'm talking about after all. And it didn't concern directions or the year something happened or even the price of a food item. It was writing-related. From looking at my posts here and there, listening to the comments I make and how I make them, you might have gathered that I'm a nerd. And not the good kind either. My areas of over-specificity have to do with the hobby and the collectible, the types of things that require one to crowd around tables and hardly ever date.And what I learned this weekend was my particular brand of nerd has a certain skewed understanding of entertainment. Or should I say fallacious.

Because the theory passed along to me by a good friend was simply called the Nerd Fallacy. This fallacy is the reason why for certain movies and shows like Star Trek or Stargate have vast, fact-obsessed followings that compile living knowledge hubs for their obsessions, or wikis: pages upon pages of documented material where people not unlike myself painstakingly post things that can be construed as facts for those settings and worlds. The facts each have documentation, a certain episode, a certain line, which is used much like an academic uses canon. Superman's costume is never destroyed because of said in this issue published on that date. The Millenium Falcon goes this fast, which is why it can outrun Imperial cruisers, which were mentioned to travel at this speed. And I can admit that there is a certain security in facts. Academia has a similar characteristic. A scholar cannot make unqualified statements. Their own ideas must be backed up by reputable sources that are even more credible than them. I suppose that's why the two major sides of me interface so easily.

However the theory is called a fallacy because most people (the teeming masses, the buying public, the receivers) don't care about that level of specificity. Or, I should say, it does not affect their level of enjoyment such that the popularity of the work itself is hurt. All of this connected for me because I was watching some popular media with a friend, some very, very popular media. And my face was twisted up the entire time; I was cringing at every scene, every new development in a story that seemed slapped together and ill-conceived. I was frustrated by its popularity because I didn't think the creators tried hard enough, believing in compensation being commensurate with a combination of craft and effort. What I realized, after being told the Nerd Fallacy, is that it wasn't put together poorly, it was put together well enough to sell.

Months ago, before I started these novels I'm working on now, I had a conversation with a friend about another very popular author who stated an indifference about things carrying forward from book to book in his series. I had a bad reaction to that, and out of some obsessed impulse went back and read over everything I'd written before writing just so that I wouldn't leave anything out. I was concerned with the through lines; I wanted things to be consistent. I realize now what I was doing back then, and why. Now, I think I've resigned myself to just being that writer, however I won't, even secretly, criticize others for something that makes no difference. What matters, ultimately, is whether or not it makes sense for the reader. And if that's achieved, it's possible that any additional effort is wasted.

But I don't know, and for the time being I think I'm fine with that. In other news, I got my first official review. That is to say, from someone who doesn't know me and who has a name, or who writes for a group that has a name. There wasn't a whole lot to it, however my book did garner 4 out of 5 stars. It was described as "not your typical supernatural tale" and "had [her] guessing throughout." which I was told are both good things.

I'll take it.