Thursday, July 21, 2011

More dissertation stuff

As it happens, most dissertations have three chapters. Each chapter is a self contained scientific paper (it’s different in humanities), containing all the usual suspects (introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion). Each chapter gets worked through the advisor on average, four times.
Sum up:

1 Chapter one: finish writing give to advisor.
2 get back chapter one, revise, give chapter one draft two to advisor
3 get back chapter one, revise, give chapter one draft three to advisor
4 get back chapter one, revise, give chapter one draft four to advisor: he stamps with approval

Now for those of you good at counting (which I’m not), you’ll notice there are twelve steps. Twelve. As in a twelve step program. 

Of course, me being the annoying overachiever that I am, I have four chapters. So I guess I’m on the sixteen step program. And of those sixteen steps, I just finished step 13. 

Whew, now I only have three more drafts to finish. This is sort of a forever process.

I’m off to California for the week, so I’ll have sparse internet access. Have fun while I’m away (and not to worry, there are people staying in my house while I’m out).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ah sishkabobs (an old family swear word)

Dreams are funny. I know I’ve posted a few of mine here, but I’m not really talking about the kinds of dreams where I carve agents and editors out of marble.

See, I’ve always had this dream that I’d walk into a Borders one day and see my book (or books depending the depth of my daydreaming) sitting on the shelf somewhere between Feist and Foster. In my standing day dream, I’m always a little surprised to see my book. Strangely, this daydream never involved Barnes and Nobles, always Borders. The strange thing is that I actually don’t have a bookseller preference other than independent (and not even because I’m all antiestablishment, but just because I like the people who sell books because it’s their passion, they’re awesome like librarians).

I’ve just learned that regardless of my career (published, unpublished, multi bestseller, or “limited” release), that daydream can never happen. Borders is closing, some stores as early as Friday according to Yahoo.

Usually, this is the part where I’d be all sad for myself, but really I don’t have a product that’s on the market. I really feel for people who were just about to debut their novels, their first novels even. What a punch to the gut. Imagine your book had been picked up at Borders but not at Barnes and Noble? Yikes.

And then of course, the 10,000 employees, who probably are reading about how they are losing their jobs from the nightly news.

So how come we can’t get a book store bailout?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Interregnum

So, I’m sure many of you know, I’ve been lurking around the boards at trying to hook up with some critique partners. 

It’s really great to meet other writers, and I love reading first chapters. I learn so much about what works and what doesn’t when I’m reading other people’s first chapters. It’s one of those things that I’m completely blind to with my own work. I just can’t even see what the problems are in my own work. It takes a long time before I can actually look at my story and see what needs to happen with it to make it good.
And that brings me to today. 

Today I started on my interim project, the story between the first draft and the real revisions. And I’m so excited about it, I just can’t help but blab about it. 

It’s adult fiction, Sci/Fi or speculative fiction (whichever you prefer), about an FTL ship during a human vs. alien interstellar war. It’s sort of complicated, but I’m on the second chapter (having already mangled the first chapter no doubt), and I’m still really excited about it. Enough explosions to make Michael Bay happy… well, okay, not *that* many explosions, but plenty for sure. Rogue AIs, Faster Than Light travel, Alien technology, experimental drives, guns, stun rays, and nukes, I’m looking forward to this bag of trouble…
So, here’s the brief on the new WIP:

Title: A Battleship Named Hope


Hope Darrington thought it would look good on her transcripts: AI donor. Her brain was fast enough, good enough, strong enough that she was put on the list in case something happened. Then it did. When Hope woke up after the jet crash, she was a space ship, and there were other space ships firing at her. She panicked (who wouldn’t), and people died. 

She was tried for dereliction of duty, found guilty and sentenced to dismantling. 

That was thirty years ago. A previously peaceful alien race has launched a surprise attack on a human colony, wiping out all communications and destroying all the ships capable of reaching help. All ships but the forgotten convict, the rogue AI who thinks she’s human. Now a ragtag group of space marines are going to try to fly the ship to get help, but without Hope’s help, they might as well be bait.

Okay, so the brief needs a little love, but I’m working on it. I still need to figure out her personality a little more to really get the feel of this. And besides, it's just a project to help me not think about my other project. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stupid stuff that makes me smile

This morning I popped open a fresh box of tea. I love the smell of tea. It is ridiculous. I love it brewed, I love it in leaves, I love tea. And of course, in the afterglow of awesome breakfast tea smell, I started thinking about all the other great but stupid stuff that makes me smile. 

For instance, I love the smell of pepper tree blossoms; the taste of fresh cut hay; the smell of rain on cement (not asphalt); the sound of the rain on my roof; the feel of falling into water when you’re still all dry; that feeling of relief when you finish all your classes for the semester; when my cat sits next to me on the couch and purrs; the smell of a new book.

My list could go on forever, but I gather we’ve all got stuff to do today. 

What silly things do you love?

Monday, July 11, 2011

More process

First an announcement. If people haven’t heard or seen, there’s a crit partner match up over at

There’s also a tweet-pitch off over at Love Ya that starts tomorrow (which by the time most people read this is today).

More on my process: editing

I guess all writers are pretty strange and otherwise unfathomable. I know a ton of people in revisions land right now, and that got me thinking: what is my process?
See, if curling up in a corner to cry was a process, that would probably be mine, but at some point I finished a novel. Then I went back over it. Then I went back over it. And then, because I wasn’t really sure, I went back through it three more times. I think you get the drift. The only way I can start to see the problems with my manuscript is through repetition. If I have a hard time staring down a passage for the seventh time, then there’s probably a reason.

I think there’s this sort of evolution in writers. Maybe I shouldn’t be so general: I went through a sort of evolution. The first time I wrote a novel, I loved it so much I wouldn’t have let anyone change a hair on its pretty little head. I was twelve. The second time I finished a novel, I was 24. I loved, loved, loved that novel. In fact, I loved it so much I was willing to rewrite huge portions of it. Oh man, I loved that novel. It’s one of the few projects I’d be willing to consider tackling from the “Once upon a time…” and no, I don’t start stories like that. I didn’t write another novel for six years, but I loved it so much I tore it to pieces, reassembled it, ran it through the grinder of every person I could bribe into reading it, then took that feedback back to my manuscript one more time. Then I started putting it out there, and getting feedback from professionals, that’s how much I loved that story. I loved that story enough to brave the dreaded land of queries for it.

In short, the more I love a story, the more I’m willing to work on it. That seems simple right? Well, it isn’t. We all get those SNI, and how do we know that they’ll turn into a story we love enough to rewrite it. My guess is, this is what agents and editors are always talking about when they say write the story you want (need!) to write, not the one you think will sell. (Do I sound like an afterschool special yet?)

So, right now, my process is this: write story I fall in love with. Write a different story so I’m not all googly eyed at the first story. Reread the first story in preparation for edit. Tear first story to little bitty bits. Take a look at second story to see if it would be any easier to beat into shape. Nope, back to first story. Beat it into shape (I do this by going over it repeatedly and talking plot points with people I trust). Edit it. Revise it. Edit it some more. 

Basically, my editing process is a Mandelbrot set. (I’m super nerdy right now).