Sunday, September 20, 2009

Writing Break, plus a Sneak Peek

I took a break from writing this weekend. Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all. I did send queries to four or five agents today--they were requeries to agents who requested partials from the first batch of queries I sent out, back in November, December and January.

I do admit to getting discouraged. True, I have known a few writers who snagged agents recently, but they all wrote YA, the one area that seems unaffected by the economy. Those of you who have read my novel have been so supportive and encouraging--thank you!

I had an idea for a nonfiction article, and I'm going to query some of the smaller national women's magazines. But I haven't even written the query yet because, as I said, I took a writing break this weekend.

And now, a sneak peek. Since you guys have either been here since before I started Fantasy Debut or followed me from there, I consider you my most loyal readers. I've created a new domain at I would appreciate it if you would visit it and leave any suggestions you may have here. I'm not going to announce it at Fantasy Debut for a week or so.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scrub, Scrub, Polish, Polish

I forgot that I had not sent "Under Observation" to Analog, so I prepared a submission this morning. I made three editing passes through it:
  • Pass 1 examined the whole thing for sneaky little phrases of telling instead of showing. I want as few words as possible. Every one must count.
  • Pass 2 used an advanced Word feature called Search by Word Form. This allows me to do a search and replace for "to be" verbs. Some of them--like those in dialog--were necessary. But those outside of dialog is where more telling instead of showing might be hiding. Therefore, I scrutinized each one.
  • I didn't do it this time, but another thing to search for are -ing words. Gerunds can infuse blandness into your story. I'll think of it next time, but I usually avoid gerunds, anyway.
  • Pass 3 examined the document for words ending in "ly". A few adverbs snuck in there. I zapped them.
This was after I had printed it twice. For both printings, I had made a lot of red marks just trying to tighten it up. For some reason, I continue to see problems better in hardcopy than on the computer.

I have an old typewriter that someone gave me. I use it to type up addresses on my envelopes. Luckily, the carriage is wide enough for a 9 by 12 envelope. I kind of like typing on the typewriter, but not enough to give up my computer.

I don't read many of the larger short story magazines. I find the taste in certain magazines far outside mine. It seems to me that they're writing to win awards rather than attract readers. But I do like Analog. If you've never read them, give them a try!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Recently, I've been writing six-sentence plots that covers all the major events of my book. I had one for my Christian novel, A Hollywood Miracle, which is currently stalled. I also had one for my romance, Any Woman, which is also stalled. For my trunk novel, I knew the ending up front.

When I wrote Starcaster, I just let the plot carry me along. With Forging a Legend, I had a plot to begin with, decided it didn't have enough oomph, and rewrote the whole thing--several times.

At this point, I'm wondering if I should bother forcing myself to write the six-sentence plot for East of Yesterday. So far, I'm letting the plot carry me away, but I'm a little nervous because I don't know where I'm going. But, such ambiguity seems to have helped me finish novels in the past. I end up rewriting them backwards, but it seems to work for me.

So I'm thinking I'm a panster, rather than a plotter.

I had some radical ideas today during a brainstorming session today, including the possible heartbreaking death of a major character. I also had a cool idea wherein the headings of my chapters will contain excerpts from my characters' travel journal.

But before I go any further, I'm going to take down my copy of Donald Maass's Writing the Break-Out Novel and peruse some things I've been thinking about. It's my favorite writing book because it give you so much to think about.

Which are your favorite writing books?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Productive Weekend

I love three day writing weekends at home! I got a lot done this weekend, including:

1) I started my East of Yesterday Gazetteer. I do one of these for every novel I write. I use TiddlyWiki for my gazetteer, which, despite its odd name, is a wonderful tool. Look at the sort of connections I can build using this wiki:

    Each hyperlink opens to another wiki topic. Building these wikis are a breeze, and the software has grown to the extent that it doesn't take a long time to learn it. Things like the bullets are intuitive - just use an asterisk when you enter the info and the software converts it to a bullet. It works especially well with FireFox. Want to try it? Here's the TiddlyWiki website.

    It also helps me think of connections between characters. Sammy Jones, one of the employees in the above example, is quite a bad character who sprang wholly formed after I wrote the entry for his father, the Reverend Oscar Jones. Sammy is a driver and a thug for Felix the gangster. You can just imagine the conflict. And what of Dorothy Latham? Exactly what is she doing to work her late husband's debt off for a gangster? Even I'm not sure yet.

    2) I organized my various POVs. This is the first novel I've written in many years where I have more than one points-of-view. Oath of the Songsmith, the novel of which I never speak, had multiple viewpoints, including the various villains. Forging a Legend originally had three, but I cut it down to two by rewriting all of Thesk's points of view. Starcaster had one. East of Yesterday has at least three, possibly four. Plus, EOD does more POV switching than any novel since OATS. I had a terrible time keeping track of POVs with OATS, so I created another Word Style called "POV". Now, they all appear nicely in my Document Map along with all my other stuff. What am I talking about? Refresh your memory by reading my primer to the Document Map here.

    3) And lastly, I wrote another 5000 words, cut 2000 words for a net increase of 3000 words (just in case you can't add), for a grand total of just over 20,000 words! Plus, I do believe I have already gotten through my mid-novel slump! I might be due another one, because I'm shooting for at least 100,000 words. But we'll see.

    And that was all on the weekend! It made up for a rather unproductive week.