Monthly Archives: January 2014

When Writing and Life Collide

ImageLet’s talk about writing and life. I write and life happens. As a general rule, I’m a prolific writer. Writer’s block doesn’t usually get a big grip on me because I have a great way of dealing with it: I just write something else. Either something else in the same book (so everything’s written all out of order and I have to assemble it later like a jigsaw puzzle) or I switch books. Sometimes I’m writing several books at the same time just to escape the full effects of writer’s block.

That’s not always the most practical approach, just so you know. If you don’t have to finish a particular book by a particular time, it works. But if you have deadlines, either self-imposed or by an agent or editor, that’s not going to work. I don’t have deadlines though, so I can do what I want.

This is where life happens. There have been a few things going on in my life that have me extraordinarily stressed out. One thing is going to resolve itself either in my favor or not (most likely not) in the next few weeks, and waiting for it has me gritting my teeth during the day now instead of just at night. My dentist (appointment next week – also stressing me out) is going to have something to say about this. Another thing that’s related and stressing me out is going to resolve itself very likely in my favor but that’s going to take about three more months, and there’s a deadline I have to meet in about three weeks first. I’m not ready. Oh, and my son’s science fair project is due in two days, he’s not ready. Another time on that.

So, I’m writing (A Thousand Words Novel #3, if you’re curious), and writer’s block strikes. Fine. I move on and start Be Careful What You Wish For #2. (Which I should have been working on already, yes, I know that.) I get a few thousand words into it, lose focus. Not good. Move on and pick up a Young Adult mermaid novel I started a couple years ago and then lost on a writer’s block binge. Nope. Hmmm. A really unique contemporary werewolf romance? No. Huh.

Okay. I’ve been here before. It’s one of those rare times when I have to make a decision. I can force the issue and bleed for every paragraph and write a couple of thousand words a day, but this isn’t National Novel Writing Month, and no one’s looking over my shoulder counting those words. And I know that they’ll be good, but it isn’t worth it. There’s no deadline, there’s no reason for the frustration.

Option two: I can revise something that’s waiting. By revise I mean take something I wrote and do my own first self-edit before sending it to alpha & beta readers and my editor and all that nonsense. Usually books get more than one round of revision, and time has to elapse between rounds so I can kind of forget it a little. Thankfully, I’m forgetful.

Option three: I can take a few days off and just read, read, read and not even open Scrivener (I write & do early revisions in Scrivener, not Word, if anyone’s wondering. When I write on my phone/tablet, it’s in Evernote, and occasionally in NotEverything by SoftXperience). Normally I read a little every day, or a little more every other day. It balances out. You have to read a lot to be a writer. In this case, I’m talking marathon reading. Like stop and read five books back to back sort of thing. Okay, maybe I’ll take a break for Minecraft (that’s new – The Girl’s fault) or Plants vs Zombies (that’s really new and The Boy’s fault) but otherwise, just read. The kids are trying to ‘balance’ my life. How adding video games balances me, I’m not sure.

The point of this? Life happens. Writer’s block occasionally wins. Occasionally. It shouldn’t be allowed to be the crutch that many writers use it as. Cowboy up, kiddies. I don’t have to let it win, I can push through it, it’s just sometimes not worth the frustration. I’m not working on a deadline. If I had a publishing house contract, I’d be writing something very different right now, but I don’t.

So, I’m going to go grow some giant mushrooms in Minecraft, then I’m going to tap my fingers and wonder when Transitions is going to come back from editing (new cover for that is in ‘coming soon’ on my website www.toribrooks.com), then I’m going to do some revisions on the sequel for Chrysanthemum because it is still longer than I’m comfortable with. And I have some new books to read. That will get me through the weekend.

 

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“Chrysanthemum” available on Kindles

(And it’s about time!)

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January 20, 2014 · 1:02 am

Did I Write Garbage? – Part Two

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All right, let’s revisit my ongoing examination on the birth of a novel. When we last left my NaNoWriMo project, Rerun, I’d ended NaNo at nearly 59,000 words, then trimmed 15,000 when I found myself trying to regain focus. And I wasn’t upset about it, I’m still not, although I’m sort of missing those 15,000 words now.

So I started off again with a renewed sense of direction and almost 44,000 words completed. Experience told me I was halfway done. That was by word count. Reality and experience are not pals, however, something I learned last week.

I finished my first draft of Rerun, finishing at 67,404 words. I was not really happy about this. My experience (again! You’d think I’d learn) told me that I was going to lose some of that in editing and I prayed that rough edit I did in December took care of that problem.

Maybe, I’m not sure yet. I did a quick clean up: fixed some dates, checked for consistency, took care of all but one of those “Look at this@@” research notes, and handed it to the alpha readers. All 67,128 words of it. I was so relieved I didn’t lose more I can’t begin to tell you. Of course there will be more editing.

Alpha readers sort of have a fun job. They read it and just give an opinion. Well, kind of. I put mine through the third degree. Let them read the first chapter then I quiz them: who do you think will do xxx? I want to know if the end is going to be a surprise and, if not, at what point they guess or how close they get. Beta readers get the same treatment, but worse. I don’t expect alpha readers to pick apart plot consistency; check my physics, history, or math; or catch plot holes small enough for them to step over. They’re kind of your average reader and I just want feedback.

Beta readers – I require work. I’ll actually edit it and have it short of sending to my editor before handing it to beta readers. I send it to them, all formatted and pretty, with the implied request “Please pick apart this novel and leave me lying in the gutter, twitching. Thank you.”

Handing Rerun to alpha readers is fine, they’ll let me know if I’m on the right track and then I’ll fix what I need to. But I’m still having some nervous twitches about a couple of things. First: I expressed concern before I was venturing into unknown territory and I cut 15,000 words in part to get me back on track. I’m not sure it worked. This isn’t a romance. It’s closer to chic-lit than romance. Okay, not what I was shooting for, but I’ll live with that.

My second concern is: I’ve never written anything this short. I think the shortest novel I’ve completed to date was somewhere around 78,000 words. It is a novel, I haven’t ventured into the novella range yet. I actually had to go double check, but Writer’s Digest (among some other resources) still counts everything above 50,000 words as a novel. I’m on the fence at that 50k line, but I’ll go with it. And it shouldn’t matter, there’s nothing wrong with novellas. They’re the trend, they’re popular, some people prefer them to full-length novels. I’m just a little skiddish because this is so much shorter than I’m used to. I’m not going to pad it just to inflate my word count into my comfort zone. The story is complete as it stands, and I’ll wait and see what feedback I get before decided whether to permanently shelve my apprehension.

For the record, I don’t write short stories either. I can’t. I used to, back in junior high and high school, but I seemed to have lost the ability. Everything I have now that is a short story is actually a cut chapter, although that seems to work.

We’ll see what happens to Rerun as it progresses past the alpha and beta readers, revisions, and an editor. I’ve never timed a book from beginning to end, or tracked the steps, so this should be interesting.

 

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Someone at Comcast Hates Hubby Right Now

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My inlaws are having trouble with their TV/Cable/Phone service. They can make calls, but they can’t receive them. Hubby has done a bit to verify the problem the best he can from being 30 minutes away, and managed to get them to answer their GD&*!@ cell phones (for a change) but doesn’t have their account number to call and actually report the problem. Father-in-law doesn’t either.

“Dad, it’s on your bill.”

“My what?”

“Your bill. That you pay every month.”

“Yes, I paid it.”

“Great, now find it.”

“Find what?”

Sigh. “Find your bill, Dad. The one you paid.”

“Oh, I filed it.”

“Great. Go get it.”

Shuffling of papers, line goes dead. Hubby calls back a cell phone and gets his mother this time, who has no clue any of this is going on. After a minute, he gets his father, who is trying to call Comcast. He’s confused by the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. He’s not giving the ‘correct’ responses. Hubby tells him to press ‘0’.

“No, not ‘oh’, Dad, press ‘Zero’, the number. Just keep pressing zero.”

“But that’s not one of the options.”

“Trust me.”

Presses zero, simulated female computer voice pretends to be confused. It upsets the eighty-year-old.

“I don’t think that was right.”

“If you have the account number, I can call.” (Hubby usually calls and pretends to be his father. It’s better for everyone.)

“No, I have the bill.”

“Okay, just keep pressing zero, Dad. They’ll give in.”

The eighty-year-old is surprised (I have no idea why, he should trust Hubby by now) when the simulated female computer voice offers him a representative. He takes the option like a drowning man. And hangs up on us in the process. Hubby calls back, gets his mother again, who – again- has no idea what is going on even though she’s answering on the cell phone that was right there while his father struggled with Comcast. She pauses and informs us he’s talking to someone.

Hubby clarifies, “Is he pressing buttons or speaking responses to an automated system, or actually talking to someone? Someone alive.”

“He’s talking to someone in Spanish.”

Okay . . . Well, Father-in-law happens to know Spanish, so if that’s how it has to be, so be it.  Unfortunately, I dare say he knows fewer technical terms in Spanish than he does in English, so that should be interesting. Some poor tech support person is helping a tech-challenged eighty-year-old who’s not even speaking his primary language.

In other words, someone at Comcast hates Hubby right now.

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