The Difficult Middle Bit

Confluence is off to my editor! It toddled out of my computer on September 26, as a very rough second draft.

They grow up so fast.

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay 

This book series completely ignores what is going on in the world today, because it has to. I wrote Tunerville before tRumpledneckskin and COVID, and it would wreck everything if I tried to shoehorn in either of them. So I made an executive decision to leave it out. Plus, you don’t have to think about either of those things while reading it.

I sent it off early because I wanted to avoid the issue I had with the last book. By the time I found someone to do a really thorough edit, I’d done so much polishing I almost had to tear it down and rebuild it. This time, it’s rather loose, so I can shuffle things around more easily.

Writing a book is tough. Writing the second book in a trilogy is even tougher. I didn’t start out intending for Tunerville to have a sequel, but here we are. A middle book has to bridge the gap between the first book and the last and still hold up on its own.

I got some great advice from the writers on the podcast WRITERS/BLOCKBUSTERS. Although it’s a screenwriting podcast, I learn something about storytelling every time I listen. They talked at length about this in their Infinity War episode. Both this film and The Empire Strikes Back were complete stories in themselves. That is, characters had definite arcs and those arcs had resolutions, even as they led into their respective sequels.

He did it.

Infinity War pulled all the threads of the MCU together and propelled us to the majestic ending in Endgame. Nobody here is getting snapped, but I drew something out of Tunerville and some shit is going down.

The ghost tuner opened up a can of worms for the characters. They’re suffering through it, and it isn’t their fault. They’re facing some strange and terrible things. But I hope they’ll find the strength they never knew they had.

Stay tuned for updates; you can follow me and my press, Boomkaart Books, on social media. I’m on Instagram but as it’s primarily a platform for pics and video, I don’t have much to post there. Nobody wants to see the four walls I stare at every day.

Once I’m out of this dungeon, that will likely change; I want to produce some video and audio content, but I can’t alter this space and my family member seems to be on a remodeling kick (yes, in the middle of a damn pandemic!). The noise level and inability to set up recording space have curtailed that for now.

Back to worldbuilding; have a good weekend and be safe. Wear the damn mask!

Updates on Book 2 and Other Assorted Nonsense

How’s it going, y’all?

I hope everyone is safe, and your families too. A lot’s happened since I last posted. Well, in the world; not for me. Still no job; still a basement dweller.

It would help if it were full of wine.

Image by Tania Dimas from Pixabay

Some updates:

Screenplay

The screenplay continues to grind along very slowly. I don’t think a massive online open course where people can proceed at their own pace (i.e. fall behind) is best for beginners learning a very interactive writing process. There are so many people in the class that no one can connect. The platform doesn’t allow you to follow anyone to see their progress. This is massively frustrating, since we’re required to give feedback to other writers. I would have preferred an in-person class with more interaction.

Even Zoom would help.

Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay

Critique is useful, but I’m tempted to just proceed on my own. I downloaded all the videos and lectures. Although I think it could be shot on a fairly low budget, I highly doubt I’ll ever do anything with it. It’s fine; this screenplay is only for learning anyway. Your first anything will never be your best.

Book 2

I’ve set a release date of January 2021 for Book 2. And — I have a working title! It’s Confluence.

If I hustle, I should be able to revise and find an editor (and then revise again after that). Setting a deadline will hold me accountable. I really wish I could go somewhere else to work — the library would be good — but Missouri’s caseload keeps going up, so no.

I’m in your state, being a little bitch.

Image by Pabitra Kaity from Pixabay

Meanwhile, I took some time yesterday to mock up a layout of Chris’s house from Tunerville, where his maternal grandparents lived. When they died, his mother sold the house to him to keep it in the family, since Chris intended to stay in Martinsburg. Paulette and Alan moved to St. Thomas close to Chris’s brother Adam, his wife Carmen, and their grandchildren Mags and Henry. (Martinsburg and St. Thomas in Missouri are both fictional.) If you haven’t read it yet, you can get it at the title link.

Here’s the ground floor and the basement.

Image: A. Elizabeth West

Here’s the upstairs and the attic. I did these in Word, which sucks. I need to find some cheap (or free) easy-to-use room layout software.

Image: A. Elizabeth West

It helps me to have a representation of the space. When I’m writing, rooms tend to shift around in my head. During Book 1, the living room kept changing places with the dining room and the parlor / study. And the downstairs bath didn’t even exist! Chris’s bedroom also moved from the back to the front. But the kitchen has always been in that spot.

I don’t care if it’s not perfect. This is how it looks in my head. I need a solid image of the space for a pivotal scene.  

Workshops

In June, I attended two online workshops — How to Write Fights and Action Scenes, and Act Like a Writer — with comic book and NYT best-selling novel writer Jonathan Maberry, author of V-Wars and the Joe Ledger series, among others.

He presented scads of useful information and even took questions. Jonathan is very accessible on Twitter and prices his workshops affordably, a great help to little starveling writers like me. The proceeds from both went to an affordable housing organization, so coughing up $50 felt worth it in every way.

The Shiny Folk and other stories

I’ve taken my story collection down from the Boomkaart Books website temporarily. WordPress downgraded my ability to sell it directly from that platform unless I purchase an expensive Business account. I can’t do that presently, so the only alternative is to sell it via Amazon (ugh, I know). To do that, I have to raise the price a little and burn one of my ISBN numbers, so I’m including new content and a brand new cover. This will be the last edition of the collection. When it’s ready, I will let you know.

Conlang / Worldbuilding

Again, plugging away. I finally settled on place names for the world that goes with it. Of course, anything can change at any time as I plunge deeper into grammar, etc.

I also made a map using Inkarnate, an online map maker any Dungeons and Dragons players reading this will probably recognize. I like it despite the free version being somewhat limited. Should I stay on the high fantasy kick, I might pony up for a (very reasonable) Pro account.

Here’s a teaser:

That’s pronounced BETTHH-rah, by the way. In this language, ss is pronounced as the th in them. That’s all you’re getting. I’ve already said more than I probably should.

I’ve never gone this deep into fantasy before, and I’m not sure it will be a success, but it’s fun, so I don’t really care. If you enjoy the story, that’s all that counts.

I’ll leave you now to return to job hunting and revision. Stay safe — wash your hands, wear your masks, and avoid all the germy people (most of them).

And don’t forget to register to vote!

Sorry, I’ve Been Away Fighting For Your Rights and Let’s Talk About Revision

*peeks*

U up?

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been spending a ton of time there tweeting about voting, Brexit, and kittens, oh my! It’s hard to think about anything else right now. Every day brings us more crazy.

In addition to that, I’ve been job hunting. Still nothing there. I’m still halfway between overqualified and underqualified for just about everything, as well as trying to figure out how to make a career change with my old pal dyscalculia. But enough about that

Been busy with this, too. Go see it before it’s out of cinemas or I will disown you.

Let’s talk about revision!

Tunerville has been copyedited a total of fifteen times. I’ve had three beta readers and two editors (thank you omg, free copy for sure). It’s the latter I want to talk about.

You may think your manuscript doesn’t need a professional look-see, but you’d be wrong. Writers who aren’t working with a publisher, you need to budget in professional editing services if you can (or furiously cultivate some friendships and your network). You cannot properly edit your own work. You just can’t. You’re too close to it.

“In writing, you must kill your darlings,” said William Faulkner, Stephen King, and this glaring white-tailed sea eagle. Believe them.

Image: Phil_Bird / freedigitalphotos.net

I just finished a massive revision of Tunerville on the advice of Editor #2. And I mean massive. We’re talking major restructuring, the painful but necessary killing of many darlings, rewrites, and even brand new scenes. I went in with a plan; it took two weeks of intense and focused work.  

Despite how exhausting it was, I LOVED IT. I love editing. I love rewriting. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I hate writing first drafts. I wish I could just download my brain. Yes, of course my dream is to do this all the time. And to secretly be an Avenger. A grad school wisely teacher told me no amount of writing is wasted. So even if something is less than perfect, you will learn from every mission. Every encounter with an Infinity Stone will exponentially increase your power. Oh sorry, I mean every time you sit down at the computer. 

Is it better? I hope so. I probably won’t hear back until the end of August, but in the meantime, I have a lot of other work to do — and hopefully actual work to do. Unemployment is not a vacation.

Book 2 has commenced. I’m mulling over whether a grand overhaul of Secret Book is even worth it. I have two other books in notes stage. A garage sale is in the offing, in case I have to move. I’m still resisting (online, even if I can’t travel to marches).

Meanwhile, please enjoy the smooth beauty of this heirloom tomato. I grew it myself. And check your voter registration. We outnumber them, but it only works if we show up at the polls in November.

Cherokee Purple variety, if you please. A fine tomato for fresh consumption.

*shameless plug*

If you haven’t yet read my short story collection, hop on over to the Buy Me! page of this blog and download a copy for only 99 cents. Bought it and liked it? Share the link!

*addendum*
For a friend who is hotly anticipating Avengers 4 along with me because more Cap and Bucky.  :)

How to Get Past the Feeling That Your Writing Sucks

I started re-reading IT and I’m in despair over how poor my writing is in comparison to Stephen King’s. I know I shouldn’t do that; IT was his thirteenth novel and Tunerville is only my fourth, so I don’t have as much practice as he did when he wrote it. But it’s so hard not to, especially now that I can read books and see the mechanics that went into writing them.

Mel Gibson allegedly said about directing, “I can’t watch movies anymore. I can see the strings.”  Yeah, mentally ill or not, Mel kind of sucks, but this quote illustrates very well the phenomenon that happens when you begin to see how your craft actually works.

I feel exactly like that now–I can not only see the elements that make up the whole, I can understand WHY they don’t or do work. It’s akin to watching figure skating before and after I learned to skate.

Tara Lipinski, 1998 Winter Olympics. This is a combination triple loop jump followed by a double loop. Very difficult.

Image: popsugar.com

At the time Lipinski performed this program, her elements made no sense to me. I could not see a jump coming and had no idea what it even was until she did it and the commentator remarked on it. Watching a figure skating program  then was an experience in surprises—stroke stroke BOOM! stroke stroke BOOM!

After fifteen years of skating myself, I can see the jump setup. I notice many more technical details that I didn’t before, such as whether the edge is good, shorted rotations, etc. I can even tell if someone jumping is likely to fall (sometimes they manage to save it when I think they can’t, so I’m not totally accurate). Even if I can’t perform all the elements Lipinski did, I recognize them. I can watch the jump and know with at least some certainty whether the judges will mark it as well executed.

Of course, you don’t have to be a skater to know these things. If you have a keen eye for observation and have been watching for many years, it’s possible to understand and analyze a sport with great accuracy. Many people who enjoy American football have never played it, but they can look at the formation during a game on TV and tell you exactly what’s about to happen. 

Whoop, didn’t see THAT coming! #herpaderp

Image: buzzfeed.com

Doing an activity, however, provides you with a deeper understanding of its execution. That doesn’t make you an expert unless you’ve put in the hours and practice to become one. However, it does give you just enough information to be dangerous…

…to your self-esteem.

Writing is, in its nature, a solitary activity. You must enter the cavern of your mind and search for treasures there, then haul them out and attempt to convey them–and the quest for them–in a way that resonates with the reader, so he or she will buy your work.

But one man’s treasure is another’s trash. And a clumsy attempt at presentation will sell no merchandise. In your solitude, you can lose your objectivity regarding the quality of your presentation. When you run into a master’s-level piece, you may feel your work is just a sad little flea market tchotchke.

We know it’s all too easy to measure ourselves against others, and we shouldn’t. A quote attributed to David B. Schlosser has been going around on the internet lately:

Image: taaonline.netE

Easier said than done when you’re confronted with the exquisite reality of a more seasoned writer’s technique. It’s enough to make you swear off writing. Hell, it’s enough to make you want to quit reading.

Since we are artists and we must create or die, we have to use these moments not as cudgels with which to beat ourselves, but as tools to sharpen our ability. You simply cannot write effectively if you don’t read.

But Elizabeth, you say, reading in an analytical manner spoils the story for me. Yes, it can. However, you will not know if the jump is good unless you watch it. I “headit” when I’m reading, and yes, it can spoil a poorly executed story–all my attention is on how I would fix this sentence or that phrase or what was this idiot thinking that is not how a semi-colon works.

But I can still pick up books and lose myself completely before I remember I’m actually reading and not crawling around inside another person’s head in a land far, far away.  A skilled writer can employ these techniques so well that a reader will remain unaware of them.

Book’s so good the kid doesn’t even notice he’s stuck in a damn attic all night.

Image: dvdactive.com

Pay attention to the techniques you see–do they work? Why? Why not? If you’ve read the book before and you don’t remember how the author used them, go back and read it again. This time, watch and learn.

Sometimes we can’t see what isn’t working. We’re too close. In that case, we can put our work in front of another person’s eyes. Beta readers and writing groups can provide helpful feedback.

If you have the money, consider hiring a professional editor to give you an in-depth analysis. Work can change; it can be improved. Someone with industry experience can help you not only make your story better but in the process, help you become a better writer. 

I decided to pursue professional editing for TunervilleI have little money; this is going to hurt financially, but I’ve reached an impasse. After countless rejections and two with the same critique, it’s time to admit I might need some help.

It feels a bit like I’m sending my baby off to war. Maybe I’ll find I just need more time and more practice before I get there. Maybe this will actually help me get the book published. I will not know until I give it a chance.

Don’t dwell on YOU when you read for analysis or solicit feedback. Think about your WORK and if the techniques you see can help it or not. Your personality and self-esteem are not the focus here. This isn’t therapy; it’s called improving your craft.

If you need help, ask for it. And be nice to yourself. You probably don’t suck as much as you think.

Related:  10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You But Should

How to Drive Editors Crazy

It happens from time to time in communication.  We all have the occasional typo.  But if you write professionally, you need to make sure you use the proper word.  This means PROOFREADING.  Spellcheck doesn’t know everything.  It will skip over words spelled correctly.

And if you use Autocorrect in either your word processor or your tablet, you must beware of substitutions. We ALL know that one.

Image: damnyouautocorrect.com

Behold, in two parts, I list for thee some common mistakes that make editors gnash their teeth.  Many of them come from mispronunciation of words or homophone confusion.

I can just about guarantee I made a mistake in this post and someone will point it out to me.

Part I: Getting it Wrong

Vise versa

Um…no.

I’m a vice!  No wait; I’m a vise.  I’m a tool, not a sleazy habit.  Unless you like that, baby. C’mere and give me a little squeeze.

I’m a vice! No wait; I’m a vise. I’m a tool, not a sleazy habit. Unless you like that, baby. C’mere and give me a little squeeze.

Image: Glenn McKechnie / Wikimedia Commons

Then vs than 

I might have done this already.  It bears repeating.  Then refers to a specific time.  Use than to make a comparison.

Cut and dry

It’s cut and dried.  As in, the fish is caught, cut, dried, and now we’re done.  No more work needed.

Perq

It’s perk.  I know it’s short for perquisite, but the word is spelled perk.

Bait in switch

It’s bait and switch. You dangle the bait AND then you switch it.

Stop using quotes for anything except direct quotes!

Scare quotes (or the gesture, air quotes) have come to denote irony, which means that you’re probably saying the opposite of what you actually mean.

Thanks, I’ll pass.

Thanks, I’ll pass.

Image:  submitted by Mary / unnecessaryquotes.com

Irrespective (see what I did there) of what you might have heard, irregardless is a double negative and cancels itself out.  Say regardless instead.  A manager at an old job used the incorrect form all the time, and I used to laugh at him secretly.  He was a tremendous bully and customers hated him, so I don’t feel badly about it.  You may laugh at him too.

Half-hazard

Try haphazard.

Jewlery

This isn’t even a word.  It appears more often in spoken discourse, but I’ve seen it written too.  It’s jewelry. Spelled jewellery, if you’re British or learned British English.

That vs. who

That refers to objects, groups, or animals; who refers to people.  That doesn’t technically violate grammar rules, but since people aren’t objects, who is the correct form.   Example:

“I know the culprits that trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

As a proper Englishman and a learned fellow, he would never say this.

“I know the culprits who trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

“I know the culprits who trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

Image:  fanpop.com

Part II: Know Your Homophones

Balling vs. bawling

You ball your girlfriend or boyfriend.  You bawl your eyes out.  If you say, “That film was so sad I was balling all over the cinema!” I’m going to look at you funny.

Cue vs. queue

Since these words have multiple meanings and some are confusing, I’m going to use them in a couple of sentences.

Cue

The pool player arrived with his cue [stick] in a special case.

An actor waits in the wings for her cue [signal].

            Tell the DJ to cue up [put next in line] a disco track.

Queue

English people love to queue [verb: line up].  They’re good at it.

Officer, the man who jumped the queue [noun: line] wore a queue [braid] down the back of his neck.    

Breaks vs. brakes 

We all got breaks when we found jobs after a long period of unemployment.

When the rabbit ran out in front of me, I hit the brakes.

Peddling vs. pedaling

You pedal a bike.

You peddle your geek junk on eBay

They see me rollin; they hatin….

Mantle vs mantel

A mantle is a cloak.  It’s also used colloquially–someone can assume the mantle of command (they put on the cloak of power).

You put things on your fireplace mantel.

Roll vs. role

One’s a verb; the other is a noun.  Bartholomew will roll the cheese down the hill.  An older actor typically plays the role of King Lear.

Hoard vs horde

This is a hoard.

Muwahahaha, all mine.

Muwahahaha, all mine.

Image:  David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery / Wikimedia Commons

This is a horde.

375-horde

Image:  newsbiscuit.com

Pour vs. pore

Both verbs, but they do very different things.

Imma pour you a drink, man.  We’ll talk.

Deep in the library at Orthanc, Gandalf began to pore over the scrolls. 

Flare vs. flair

A flare is a Roman candle you put on the road when you’ve broken down.  Flair is about how you show your sassy self!

Palate vs. palette

The first one refers to your sense of taste, or the roof of your mouth.  The other is the thing on which Bob Ross mixes his little roll of paint.

Wean vs. ween

If you mess this one up, I will laugh like this:  HAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAAHAAHAHAA!  Because deep inside, I’m a dirty-minded sixth-grader.

To wean is to extract yourself gradually from a dependence on something.  You wean yourself off that daily latte. You wean your little babby off formula/breast milk and onto solid food.

Ween is a very old word meaning to think or expect something.  It’s also short for wiener, which is slang for your big old willy.  Willy is slang for your penis, bro.

One-Eyed Ween didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

One-Eyed Ween didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Image:  goonies.wikia.com

Grizzly or grizzliest vs. grisly

I see this one a lot.  Grizzly as an adjective means flecked with grey, as in an old dog’s muzzle.  As a noun, it’s a species of bear.

Grisly means something that causes disgust or horror, like blood and guts.  So a grizzly grizzly can do grisly things to your sad little meat body.

Finally, one I saw just today:

Wrap vs. rap

A bad wrap–this is what you get when you let your cat assist you with the Christmas presents.  A bad rap means somebody’s dissing you.

What do you mean you don’t need my help, Linda?

What do you mean you don’t need my help, Linda?

Image:  MoreFlippyCat / YouTube

Remember, Autocorrect and Spellcheck are great tools, but neither is a substitute for editing.  If you can, ask someone else to look at your article.  Or set it aside for a while and go back to it.  Print it out and look at it on paper–your eye doesn’t see the same thing on screen in the same way.

Now go forth and edit!

A view on second drafts–article by Moira Allen

I subscribe to the Writing World newsletter via email.  While catching up on issues I haven’t had a chance to read, I came across this article by Moira Allen.  It’s very relevant to my current situation with Tunerville.

The only exception here is that my first draft experience sucked dog doo.  I enjoyed writing Rose’s Hostage; not so with Tunerville.  On everything else, though, Moira nails it.

Coffee on the Deck – by Moira Allen

January 24, 2013:
Do You, Author, Take This Novel….?

It should be fairly evident to anyone who has been following my editorials that I’ve been having just the teensiest bit of difficulty getting to the second draft of my novel.

I’ve found this reluctance a bit of a surprise. While I approached the first draft with a certain amount of trepidation, the experience was actually a delight. I loved writing that first draft. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed writing task quite so much. I couldn’t wait to sit down to the computer and begin the next scene. And much to my amazement, that first draft actually got finished.

And that’s where things came to a screeching halt. Oh, I said, I’ll just give myself a bit of a break, and come back fresh. Maybe a bit longer break. Maybe a sabbatical. Maybe a round-the-world cruise, followed by a lengthy quest for enlightenment at some remote monastery, and then another cruise… Suffice it to say that time has passed, copious amounts of water have flowed under bridges, and the second draft is no closer to being begun.

Now we stand on the brink of yet another New Year, with that first-of-the-year urge to set goals and tackle the important stuff, and I’m asking myself… why? What is it about a Second Draft that makes it such a different, and more intimidating, prospect than the first?

And then it came to me. The first draft was romance. The second draft is marriage.

The first draft was a dance of delight without commitment. Put simply, I could enjoy the relationship without worrying about whether or not I could actually make it work. One of the mind-games I played was the classic “It’s a first draft, it doesn’t have to be good.” The words don’t have to be right. The rhythm doesn’t have to be perfect. Plot holes can be filled in later. Research gaps can be noted and attended to in the future. We’re just having fun together, my novel and I, spending time together and seeing where it goes without worrying obsessively about whether it’s going “in the right direction.”

But now, it’s time to ask harder questions. Tackling a second draft is not just a stroll in the park. It’s a commitment. One can no longer get away with saying, “The little things don’t matter.” In a second draft, they do matter. One can’t say, “Hey, I don’t have to worry about making it work” — because making it work is the whole point of a second draft.

Nor is it just a commitment to “hard work.” If hard work scared us away from writing, we’d never get anything done. There are lots of writing tasks one can undertake that involve every bit as much work as a novel, but nowhere near the amount of commitment. Because the commitment isn’t just about effort. It’s about emotion.

Writing a novel is, in many ways, a process of embarking upon and committing to a relationship. A novel is something you’re going to spend time with — a lot of time with. It’s going to consume hours of your waking life. Even when you’re not working on it, you’ll be thinking about it, worrying about it, perhaps even having conversations with your characters in your head. You’ll know more about the lives of your characters than you may know about some of your own relatives. When things are going well, you’ll wonder if they’re really going well, or if you’re just deceiving yourself. When they aren’t — well, stock up on the chocolate ice cream!

It is an emotional commitment. It raises doubts, fears, concerns. Is this the right book to commit to? Is this really something I want to dedicate the next X months or years of my life to? Do I have what it takes to make this work? What if I don’t have what it takes to make it work?

Like any relationship, we come to it with hopes, expectations, and dreams. A novel isn’t just a certain number of words. It’s words into which we have invested our hearts — and we hope that investment will “pay off.” We want that novel to be a success. We want others to read it and fall in love with it, just as we’ve fallen in love. We don’t want it to end up on the remainder shelf, or worse, never make it to the top of the slush pile. And if the relationship doesn’t “work out,” we’ll blame ourselves, and perhaps start to wonder if we have what it takes to make any novel work.

In short, a novel has a unique power: It has the power to fulfill our dreams, or break our hearts. Mere “work” alone does not have that power. Only a relationship has such power.

So if you are finding yourself shying away from a first draft, or a second draft, or a third, take heart. You’re not lazy. You’re not afraid of work. You’re afraid of commitment — and everything that a commitment means. Deep down, we realize that only by giving that relationship our all, and holding nothing back, can we truly “make it work.” It’s no small step to take.

But without taking that step, we fail before we begin. So perhaps, as we look ahead to a New Year, we need to say more than simply “I will.” We need to open our hearts, embrace our fears, and say… “i do.”

Copyright © 2013 Moira Allen


Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts Mostly-Victorian.com, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer’s cat. She can be contacted at editors “at” writing-world.com.

A Professional Critique and NewBook News

I did something ballsy this week.

I sent Rose’s Hostage to horror writer Brian Keene, who is doing critiques for money.

Yes, it’s perfectly fine for published authors to do this.  Writing books doesn’t pay very well—just scroll to the bottom and check out the link to his post on what being a full-time writer is REALLY like.   But we write because we have to, not because we can.

Brian’s one guy, and he doesn’t do this all the time, because you know, he has his own work to do.  He offered it last year, and I was unable to partake.  Thanks, unemployment.   This time, it coincided with my first full paycheck from NewJob.  Yay!

I pulled another 1,000 words out of the sucker and chopped up some of the chapters before I sent it.  Many of them were too long.  I’ve been reading more lately, as per my New Year’s resolution.  While I read, I notice stuff, like word choices (I can’t stop editing in my head, or headiting—it’s really kind of annoying), chapter length, and crap like that.

Anyway, if you’re a writer, horror or not, you could do worse than to read Brian’s stuff.  He’s good.  I respect his opinion, and I’m both elated and terrified as I anticipate receiving my undoubtedly heavily red-inked manuscript back.  Dear Baby Jesus, please let him like it.

You’ve been letting me down lately. Get on the ball, kid.

Image: Jeffrey C. Cann / Wikimedia Commons

I met Brian and fellow horror scribe John Hornor Jacobs at VisionCon (see my post “Geek Heaven”), where they introduced me to the Gross-Out contest.   John’s got a terrific zombie book out called This Dark Earth.  If you like The Walking Dead (I do; I’m totally addicted now.  Thank you, Netflix!), you might want to take a look at it.

Okay, shameless plugs aside, hanging out with other writers and getting them to look at your work, even if they charge for their expertise –WHICH THEY SHOULD!!!—is a valuable thing.  Certainly worth more than the Samsung Galaxy S II I was planning on buying instead.

Want want want…aaaaahhhh….prepaid smartphone *drooool*

Want want want…aaaaahhhh….prepaid smartphone *drooool*

Image:  phandroid.com

No matter what dear Mr. Keene says about my book, there will be lessons I can carry forward.  I’m doing the first rewrite of my new novel right now (well, not right this second—I’m probably going to watch a few episodes of Red Dwarf tonight.  Yeah, I’m into that now.  Thanks again, Netflix.)  First thing would be to shut off the damn streaming and work.  The inner boss is much harsher than the outer one.

Timewaster!

Timewaster!

Image: fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speaking of it, I promised you a little more information about NewBook, and here it is.  It’s called Tunerville, and it has something to do with the paranormal.  No, there are no vampires.  One of the main characters does something that turns the world upside down.  I hope I can get it up to snuff so you can read it someday.

I’m still not ready to reveal my hook just yet; as I said in an earlier post, a lot of changes could happen, especially in this first rewrite.  I don’t want to get you all excited and then drop you like an old shoe.  That wouldn’t be fair.  By the time the Blogging from A-Z Challenge rolls around, I should be farther along.  So stay tuned.

I will say this:  my first rewrite is reminding me how much I really like this part of writing.  First drafts can be fun if they flow like Rose’s Hostage did, but Tunerville was a real bitch-kitty.  Let’s hope the rest of the process is a bit easier.

And there is some material in there that will, if it gets published, undoubtedly brand me a heretic and a heathen.  Bring it on.  As Robin Williams once said, God has a sense of humor—just look at a platypus.

Okay, I’m going now.  Two hours of skating this morning and two lessons froze my brain as well as my feet.  See you around.

I’ll leave you with a fabulous song from The Hobbit, which I have chosen for my Adult Bronze test program.  Enjoy.

 

Places in Your Writing

UPDATE:  I FINALLY GOT A JOB!

Yep, and it’s writing/editing related!  I’ll be proofing reports for a local company, along with various administrative duties.  I’m pretty excited about it.  It seems like a very cool place to work.

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  I had to rest my brain after NaNoWriMo.  The space between when I finish and when I can stand to even look at NewBook has been larger than it was for Rose’s Hostage.

Instead, I’ve been reading Robert J. Sawyer, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and Brian Keene, and absorbing lessons on characterization, chapter structure, and speculative / thriller elements.

There’s a lot to do, and I promised I would share that process with you.  I’ll start with these remarks about setting.

Whether your story takes place in a village, a city or on another planet, your setting has its own identity that may or may not be wrapped up in that of your protagonist.  The right name and some attention to its population, geography and infrastructure provide valuable backstory that will give your place depth and realism, even if you don’t use all the material.

The sounds of the words can tell you something about your setting.   Consider J.R.R. Tolkien‘s hobbits, who live in Hobbiton, the Shire.  Tolkien’s place names are representative of the folks living in them. Shire sounds pastoral, peaceful, like the hobbits themselves.

Looks like it, too.  No wonder Gandalf loved it here.

Looks like it, too. No wonder Gandalf loved it here.

Image:  filmhash.com

Gondor sounds mighty, as its warrior Boromir was before the Ring tragically unmasked his failings.  And Mordor—the name alone is enough to conjure writhing black spirits in one’s mind.

Batman’s stomping grounds are based on New York, a city that can be dark and looming, although Chris Nolan’s movies are filmed in Chicago.  Gotham, which was a nickname for the Big Apple long before Batman came to be, sounds metropolitan but also gothic in a broody way.  Considering Batman’s tragic origin, it fits.  Metropolis (hello, Captain Obvious) is the bustling city where Superman hangs out.

Sometimes writers use real places in their work, especially ones with which they are very familiar.  Tons of movies and books are set in New York City. .  In Betty Smith’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the borough itself is as much a character as the protagonist.

I prefer to make up settings.  Unless I know a place very, very well, I’m liable to get it wrong.  If one of my books happened in Los Angeles, I would have to either do a great deal of research (which sucks – I set something in Spain once and know NOTHING about it) or travel there to get it right (Ha! Not likely with my bank account!).

Rose’s Hostage is set in a fictional city in Illinois called Ralston.  Yes, like the cereal.  To me, it sounded Midwestern, solid, slightly industrial.  I picture a drive into it as close to entering St. Louis–not as factory-infested as Joliet, with rural satellite communities like my small city.   To make it interesting and keep my detective busy, I added:

  • A self-contained rough area downtown, like the Narrows in Gotham City, with lots and lots of bars and hookers.
  • Federal law enforcement and an entrenched Mafia presence.
  • Motorcycle gangs.  Both they and the Mafia are augmented by a reasonable proximity to Chicago, which I can mine for all sorts of criminal goodies.
  • Lots of public areas—parks, a museum, etc. where disaster-ish stuff could happen.

Thinking about where Ralston is, who lives there and what kind of activity they would engage in made a difference in all sorts of details.  The population is mostly descended from Western European immigrants, which affects what names I choose for people.  All this comes together in a flavor for the area.

Most of the places in NewBook are grounded in reality.  Some are speculative.  There are several places where the story happens:

  • Martinsburg (working title)—a nice, middle-sized city, nothing huge, smaller than Ralston, but not rural.  It’s home to a prestigious university that has spawned a pretty good scientific community, central to some elements of the story.
  • A couple of other dimensions.  No, really.
  • Heaven.  Yep, you heard me.
  • Brief visits to Los Angeles and New York.

WTF??  What is this story about, anyway?

You'll find out, youngling.  You'll find out.

You’ll find out, youngling. You’ll find out.

Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are larger social ramifications to the protagonist’s actions, but I simply could not expand the scope of my settings and still manage the story.   So I’m condensing the majority of it down to Martinsburg.  I’m not sharing just yet because so many things still need work that what I say now may be completely different in a month or two.

Keep an eye out for April’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge.  I’m planning yet again to participate, with more enticing tidbits about how my book is coming together.

NewBook’s settings are still mostly in my head.  It seems kind of back-assward to write them down now, but this book has not followed my usual process, so don’t take it as gospel on how to work.   For most of us, it’s worthwhile to take time and plot your setting before you put your characters there.

 

More Annoying Online Errors

Surfing around the ‘net, I found another 79,352,863 so-called professional articles online this week with ridiculous errors. Most are homophones, words that sound the same but are spelled differently.

I already covered common punctuation errors here, in The Most Annoying Online Errors (formerly called “All Those Eyes.”  Editing is fun!)

Below are more goofs I keep running across, in no particular order.

Horde vs. hoard

A horde is a large group.  A hoard is an accumulation.  ”But,” you cry, “the definitions are similar!”  Tricky? Yes, except a hoard can be small.

Teh vs. the

In LOLcat speak, teh is usually deliberate. The email to your boss is not LOLcat speak.  Often this error is a typo that careful proofreading would have caught.  I see it more in blog posts and comments.

Image:  lolcatpics.com

Thx vs. thanks

Unless texting your BFF, write it out!  The more you get in the habit of writing carefully and properly, the better your overall presentation will be.  Save the textspeak for casual encounters.  Or just learn to type faster.

Bare vs. bear

(Naked vs. a large carnivorous land mammal)

I hate this one.

The pain was more than I could bare.

Don’t wear shoulder-bearing shirts in the office.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear (not a bare).  Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.  Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?

If you tell me this is a bair, I can’t help you.

Image:  APF/Getty

Isle vs. aisle

You were not married on a tropical aisle; it was a tropical isle.  Your grocery cart didn’t lose a wheel in the middle of the isle; you lost it in the aisle.

Gage vs. gauge

A gage is a pledge or the token of a challenge, like the glove a knight throws down to an opponent.  A gauge is an instrument for measuring something.  Guage is just plain wrong.

Hair vs. hare

Come on.  Really?  You can’t tell the difference between an aggregate of keratinous filaments growing through the skin, and a long-eared, rodentlike mammal of the genus Lepus?

What an ultra-maroon!

Image:  mediadump.com

Juggler vein

Your veins can juggle! Call the news channel! Call Ripley’s Believe it or Not!  We got a medical miracle here!

Leach vs. leech

NO:  The trash leeched chemicals into the groundwater when it rained.

To leach *VERB* means to dissolve out something by percolation.

A leech *NOUN* is a bloodsucking freshwater worm, or that ex-boyfriend who hung around constantly and ate all your roommate’s food.

Accept vs. except

To accept is to receive something—an object, criticism, etc.   Except is a preposition, which leads to an exclusion.

“I’d accept your challenge,” the Doctor said to the Sontaran, “except we are not both armed with sonic screwdrivers.  Wouldn’t be quite fair, would it?”

Run-on sentences

Run-on sentences go on and on they don’t have any punctuation between them and they are very very long the person writing them doesn’t know or care about punctuation oh my God that drives me nuts.

I see these in comments or forum posts the most.   Many times, they lead to an impenetrable wall of text my eyes cannot fathom.

Than vs. then

NO:  He was more handsome thenthe first man we saw.

YES:  He was more handsome than the first man we saw.

Than is a conjunction.  It sets apart two unequal subjects of comparison.

Then is an adverb (modifies a verb, typically) used to denote time and place.

Gandalf leaned over, set the confused Pippin on his feet, then brushed him off roughly. “Fool of a Took,” he muttered, not without affection. 

Subject/verb agreement

Plural vs. singular

The cops ate their donut.

One cop, one doughnut.  His doughnut, her doughnut.   More than one cop, more doughnuts.

Spelling

Donut vs. doughnut.  Did you catch that one?

Separate, not seperate.

Mischievous.  not mischievious. Also pronounced wrong:  it’s MIS-cheh-vus, not mis-CHEE-vee-ous.

It’s leviOsa, not levioSA, you bloody idiot.

Image:  bookclubllt.blogspot.com

———-

When your name goes on that article, you want it to be your best work, right?  Even if you’re posting anonymously, your online writing represents you, in comments, posts, and even tweets.  Take a little time to check words you’re not sure of.

I’m far from perfect, and if you spot a mistake in one of my posts, please let me know in the comments.  They come to me in email, so I’ll see it. I’ll gladly correct it, publish your rebuttal to something I said (following my Comment Policy, of course), or change it if needed.

Why I Don’t Want to Read Your Manuscript

Hey, it’s not that I don’t like you.  Really.

“But you’re a writer!  You can help meeeee!” 

Maybe.  But there are issues.

Legal stuff sucks

Remember that story by Stephen King, “Secret Window, Secret Garden?”  They made a film out of it with Johnny Depp, called merely Secret Window.  In the film/story, a writer is approached by a hayseed who hurtles the accusation at him, “You stole my story!”

I don’t want to read unpublished work, possibly be influenced by it, and then end up in court because you levied this accusation at me, even though my story has nothing to do with yours.  Or because I used the same theme, like first love, but not the same plot, that of your fictional first time with a young Bruce Wayne, in Alfred’s room while he was at the grocery store.

Dear God. We can’t blame you. *droooool*

Image:  Wearingcelebs.com

Criticism sucks

First readers are great.  They look at your stuff, and point out mistakes, inconsistencies, awkward turns of phrase, and other beasts that infest your writing.  You will be blind to these while you birth your masterpiece.

Truth is, no one, NO ONE, writes a perfect first draft.  Depending on the writer or the work, it may take several edits before it’s ready for someone else’s discerning gaze.  If you think your first draft is perfect, I challenge you to sit on it for a month and then go back and read it again.

If I read your work, I will feel compelled to point out the places where it could use some improvement.  I’m no expert, far from it.  But I know enough to help you with the big clunkers.

And that’s what it is:  help.  I don’t do it because I don’t want to listen to you whine, or yell at me, if I make suggestions.  Learn how to take constructive criticism (I really prefer the term feedback).  You’ll have to do this if you want to be a writer.

Not having enough time sucks

I have two blogs, and (usually) a full-time job, plus I’m supposed to be writing my own stuff.   I don’t always have time to slog through your long-ass manuscript.  Especially if you’re going to yell at me.

If we’re both broke and you’re at least at my level of skill and you want to barter—you read mine, I’ll read yours—I may be amenable to that.

Critiquing is work, and working for free sucks

Sorry, man, but I can’t pay my bills in thanks.  If I don’t know you and you want me to give a basic critique, you’re going to have to pay me for my time.  If I do know you, well you’ll still have to, although I might be able to work something out with you.

“But you don’t have a book out.  You’re just an amateur writer.  Why can’t you do this for the kudos?”

Because.

  • Unless YOUR book is coming out and you thank me profusely in the acknowledgments for helping you cross your Is and dot your Ts, the kudos aren’t going to do me a bit of good.  No one will see them.
  • I’m not a complete amateur.  Yes, my output isn’t as prolific as some other people’s, but I have actually been paid to write.  If you get paid for something, you’re no longer an amateur, the definition of which is “someone who does something for the love of it.”
  • If I have to work for free all the time on YOUR stuff, I’m not free to do my own work, which at some point I may actually get paid for.

———–

I’m not trying to demean your efforts, really.  I’m just pointing out to you that there are good reasons why many writers don’t read unpublished work.  Famous ones are even less likely to do it, unless you’ve paid buttloads of money for a personalized glance-through at a conference or convention.

Writing groups are a good place to bounce your stuff off other people of a similar literary bent.  They are set up with this in mind.  A good group will have rules, and you’ll have to return the favor from time to time, but that will only help you learn.

Look here for a good article on how to find a critique group.