Monday, October 29, 2007

Weird dreams

I dreamed last night about being back in high school (or maybe college?) and misplacing my schedule, so I had no idea what classes I was supposed to be in at what times. It was the second week of school, and there was one class I hadn't even been to yet, because I couldn't find out when or where it was. I have no idea what this says about my subconcious, but suffice it to say that my sleep has not been settled.

I went through chapters 17 and 18 today, for a grand total of an additional 900 words added to the manuscript. I have five chapters remaining before I inflict this disaster upon my beta-readers (including the batch who have never seen/heard of this monstrosity before). I am hoping that virgin eyes will help give me a fresh perspective.

The word count, sadly, is still lacking. I'm at the point now where I'm trying to figure out just how short is too short. I know, it's early still, and the beta readers may open up an entirely new world for me as far as elaborating/expanding my story. Still, I fret and worry, because it's something I'm good at.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today's Efforts

Today's efforts made up for my disaster of a yesterday. I struggled my way through revisions on chapter 15. (sometimes, the original version is just as good as it gets) Then my revisions for chapter 16 FLEW by. I had things to add, and room to expand, and...oh, it was sweet.

That leaves me with seven more chapters to go (and six more quotes to find). I have ten books on Japanese philosophy and swordsmanship scattered around me at the moment, as I look for just the right words to preface a few of these chapters.

I've been threatening my beta-readers with a mid-November delivery. Ahead of my self-imposed schedule, but it should leave me plenty of time for follow-up revisions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

There is more to life than writing

There was no writing done today. Instead, I spent the day dealing with a car that suddenly would not function no matter how I begged, cursed, or beat on it. It's days like this that I sorely miss my father. He was the best mechanic in the entire world.

The good news is that it was only the battery in the car that was borked. The bad news is that it took them over $200 in diagnostics to determine that. Oh well, better safe than sorry, I guess.

Hopefully, tomorrow's writing will be back on schedule.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'll take that to go!

While I am diligent about updating my word count meter to the left, lately I’ve been slacking on making actual posts. Most of the time, it’s because I’m so tired when I get home from the Real Job ™ and the hubby and kiddo are demanding so much of my attention just then.

I have also discovered that, while I think of many things to babble about during the day, many times they have faded by the time I actually walk in my front door. So, to rectify that, I’m going to attempt to take notes for my daily blog posting during the day, and just cut and paste when I get home. It’s not cheating, it’s thinking ahead!

Today, as I am working on revisions to chapter 14, I am pondering the fact that I come from a fast generation. We have fast food, e-mail, instant messaging, and one-hour photo. We wait for no man (or woman)! But, since the Evil Powers That Be have blocked more websites from Chie’s work, I no longer have her instantaneous feedback on my writing during the day. That’s two years’ worth of habit to break! And Theo, while he gets to talk to me during the day more than anyone else, likewise has classes and a job, and other obligations that extend beyond the virtual realm.

So, I toil away here, and when I hit a stumbling block, I have to wait hours to get a fresh set of eyes to look at my obstacle. It is unreasonable to expect people to drop everything and do what I wanna do, but sometimes I feel like I’m out here alone and treading water, waiting for a passing ship to rescue me. I’ve been spoiled in the past, and now I am suffering the consequences.

I think chapter 14 is done, by the way, minus any small tweaking. Onward and upward.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keeping on keeping on

I've managed to make it through revising chapter 10 today, and start on chapter 11. Then, during a boring spurt at work, I sat and just read through my own story, just for the pleasure of reading. You know what? I still like it. I take this as a good sign.

We have a newly acquired furnace in our house, so we have warmth. This is also good. The kiddo's birthday is Friday, and I am taking the entire day off of the Real Job (tm). This means I probably won't get much work done at all on my writing. And that's ok.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cut off the nose to spite the face?

So, in my effort to expand my word count.... I hacked 700 words out of my manuscript. I know that it will be better for the book, but it hurt. It hurt a lot.

The pieces that I hacked were my hasty and ill-thought attempts at a meta-plot. Yes, the series will have one, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that it shouldn't be introduced in the first book. The plot for this first book is already nice and tight, and I'm happy with it. The fact that adding this meta-plot thing brought me to a screeching halt proved that it wasn't the right thing to do. (it has, however, given me some good notes and plot ideas for the second book)

I'm panicking over the word count thing still, despite my promises to myself that I'd finish the revisions before going all freaky. Ah well. Even if it's short, it's going to beta readers when I'm done with this round of revisions. I'm hoping that they can point out other places where I can expand without making it merely gratuitous padding of words.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Word from a Beta

I'm in the habit of jokingly giving assignments to my beta readers. See Gita's book report for an example. Well, Theo has furnished me with an excellent essay on my hero, Jesse Dawson, and with his permission, I am posting it here. Everyone have a good weekend!

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dawson: The Five Minute Man

For Dawson, he lives in those five minutes all the time. He is that guy that each of us finds ourselves being at some given point in our life when we are called upon to don the mantle of a hero even for the briefest of moments. Dawson is both an example of an extraordinary person and an ordinary person, not because he's the typical poet-warrior that classical literature explores, but because he dwells within that five minutes of super-normality that everyone experiences at some point. He just does it better than most.

The archetype is familiar to us, not just because of its relationship to our own moments of heroism but also because its closeness to the modern interpretation of the hero. We know this five-minute man. We've seen him thrive in characters like Han Solo, the space-opera anti-hero who through a brief encounter with someone of more innate goodness than themselves forces them into the five minutes which they will spend the rest of their lives in. We know him in the western hero Shane, who despite being a gunslinger, finds himself attracted to the notions of a normal happy life even if such a thing is denied to him by virtue of...that's right....his five minutes that he lives in. Dawson is aware he lives in those five minutes. We know he does when he asks himself “Am I the only person who gets paranoid when life is going too good?”

So where is the religion? The higher calling? The fate and destiny and supernatural aspects of being heroic that we often crave in our heroes? It's there like it is in each of us but it's grounded in the practical good. Does a man become a samurai because he can memorize the code of Bushido or does he become a samurai because he addresses a commonality of goodness that can exist in your everyday person? Dawson seems to do a pretty good job answering that question. The markers of higher ideals are all around him, the trappings of Bushido and the placement of a Buddha in his garden. However, he is no Buddhist and he's not exactly a samurai either and yet we find him bowing because of “Courtesy, you know.” Dawson bypasses the pomp and circumstances of honorific titles or codes but bypassing such, he comes to the heart of it. In this we celebrate with him the irony of a noble existence; sometimes if we are simply true to ourselves and believe in doing the right thing our of common decency, we become much more sublime in our inherent goodness and the codes to which we adhere ourselves exist independently in themselves, free of any forced regulation or sublimation. By no means do they lose their meaning for us or for Dawson but he doesn't need to force them upon himself. He embodies them without knowing it.

But that's getting complicated. And Dawson is uniquely noble in his simplicity. It's also what makes him loveable. And we love to love the sardonic everyday hero. We love to love ourselves after all while we pray for that five minutes when we get to put our base character to the test.

In Live Free of Die Hard, the latest installment of the adventures of another five-minute man John McClane, he asks the question any sane person would “Why does this always happen to me?”. The answer is as practical as the question “Because you're that guy”. Even the choice of words underscores the inherent normality of the everyman hero we find in Dawson. Dawson is also that guy.

We wonder when Dawson had those five minutes and we wonder why he stayed. But we only wonder for a moment because we're drawn into the time and space he lives in because it is so very familiar to us, not just because it is a popularized archetype but because we wonder if our own five minutes are coming and if and when they do, if we would find a hauberk dreadfully uncomfortable or not.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Today's Efforts

Short post at the moment... Worked on chapter 6 today. Added about 700 words to that one.

I realized, in talking to a couple friends (*waves to Chie and Theo*) that I talk about my writing an awful lot lately. I mean, annoyingly a lot. I think it's because, for the first time, I actually FINISHED something. Granted, it was only a first draft, but if someone wanted, they could sit down and read it from beginning to end and have a complete story. I'm excited! I'm invigorated! My dream is closer to being real than ever before! I have!

Sorry, Monty Python moment there.

I started this blog so that I wouldn't be annoying my friends/neighbors/co-workers/beta-readers with my random insanity. Maybe I should leave more of my babbling here, and learn to shut up in real life, from time to time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A little goes a long way

So, I posted the first chapter to project #2 on Absolute Write's critique board, to get some initial reader reaction. And the first person who critiqued it said it was "Nearly brilliant". This made me feel all gooey and glowy inside. In fact, it's days later, and I still feel pretty darned good!

And this got me to thinking how one single word or phrase can have such a drastic effect on a writer's self-opinion. All it takes is one tiny bit of praise to make us fly high for a week or more, and one itsy bitsy criticism to send us spiralling into the realm of "I will never write again." In some cases, we even stick with it, hanging up our pen and parchment and slinking off into the sunset to lead mundane lives.

I have no idea what this all means, but it was the thought that was creeping around my brain today, in amongst my other familiar neurosis. (no, I still have no idea if the e or the i is plural. At this point, I'm refusing to look it up out of sheer spite)

I think I found a happy solution to chapter three today, and reworked four and five as well. Five may or may not be done, but I was at the nitpicky point when I left work this evening. None of those three chapters have reached the word count goal I'd set for myself, and in true anal-retentive form, I'm fretting about it. It's a sheer act of will, now, to force myself to just write the damn story, and see what I've got at the end before I start freaking out.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Blog Comment Blitz

This week is Absolute Write's fourth ever Blog Comment Blitz. So, welcome to all who have stopped (or will be stopping) in! I plan on visiting 14 other blogs over the next few days to leave my mark there as well. It's amazing what interesting things you can find out about the world.

On the writing front, I haven't touched it this weekend, but I have been musing on the revamped chapter 3 quite a bit. I may be able to rework the section I hated as of Friday, and then weave in some of that meta-plot I was babbling about.

On the personal front, we had our first ever Jack-o-Lantern carving today. Trust me, it was a camera worthy event. Now, if I can just figure out how to get my ancient digital camera to play happily with my bright shiny new computer.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The plot bunnies are stalking me

Well ok, plot bunnies and dust bunnies. The little bastards have teamed up.

My brain is frying with all the things I'm trying to keep in it, at the moment. I'm slogging through chapter three revisions at the moment, and I just wasn't happy with what I was coming up with. I mean, there were certain elements I knew I wanted to introduce in that chapter that I'd missed in the first draft, but when I stuck them in, I lost the narrator's voice. So I was all bummed about that most of the afternoon.

Then, on the bus ride home (let's hear it for public transportation!), I had a realization. I have plot. I have sub plot. What I need to introduce is meta plot! See, I confess, I am eyeing this project to be the first in a series. Doesn't everyone want to write a series? This doesn't HAVE to be a series. It's a rather pleasant little tale on its own. But...if the characters happened to show up again, I have plans for them! And, one of those plans is an overall meta-plot. And I can start laying subtle groundwork for it now!

And I promise that there will be nothing at the end of this book that would cause a reader to gnash their teeth and froth at the mouth if there were never a sequel. Cross my heart.

So, my word for the day is meta-plot, and I may spend my three day weekend pondering that.

Status: Tweaked chapter 2, and added about 900 words to chapter 3.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The voices are talking to me

I admit, I am a slave to my neurosis. (neuroses? I'm too lazy to look up which one is plural, right now)

I think I was happier before I discovered the "word count" tool in Microsoft Word. Curse you, Bill Gates! Even in the midst of my revisions, I am agonizing over every single word. And then I realize that the actual word count differs drastically from the 250-words-per-page method of word counting. I mean...HUGE difference. And then I worry about which one people want to see. (I know the answer to that. It depends on the person)

And I know if I write to word count, I'm only hurting myself. If I write to fill words, I'll end up putting in unnecessary padding. If I write to cut words, I may cut things that I should leave.

Just write the story, stupid! Argh.

On a saner note: I added about 800 words to chapter 2, today.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

And it begins anew

So, I started revisions today. I know, I know, I said I'd wait. But I found a bit of free time (while waiting for OTHER people to do THEIR jobs) and reworked chapter 1. I added about 750 words to it, and I'm fairly certain that I'll be fleshing out the description a bit more in certain areas, might eke out a few more here and there. Overall, I'm pleased with how I've begun. I suppose that's half the battle, right?

And, brilliant me, I thought to put a roast in the crockpot this morning, so dinner was all nice and ready when I got home tonight. I love not cooking.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Great Writing-less Writing Blog

So, I'm not sure what to blog about, now that I'm taking an officially sanctioned week off from the writing process.

I started the Quarterly Project From Hell at the Real Job (tm) today. I have already reached the point where I can do no more work until other people get back to me. I think that's the part I hate, that I have to depend on the work ethic of others to complete this task. If it were just up to me, I'd bang it out, have it done, and be on my way.

Every day, I have opened up chapter 1, with the intention of simply thinking about it. I already know that the opening paragraph is weak. It always has been, and the tone of it simply doesn't match the tone of the rest of the book (hazard of coming first, before I'd had time to find the right voice). So, I keep pondering that first paragraph, trying to figure out how my main character would introduce himself to the world. He' s a bit of a smart ass, so I'm sure there's going to be something sarcastic in it. I don't feel bad that I haven't figured out how to start it yet. (all these "Great First Lines" threads and contests I keep seeing have me very intimidated. Think anyone would notice if I stole someone else's?) I'll start feeling bad NEXT week, when is when I've said I want to start writing again.

Now, since I have a three-day weekend coming up (yay Columbus Day!) does my next week start on Monday or Tuesday? Hmm...