23 January 2011 1 comments

The Evolution of a Story

FOAT's first-round edits and rewrites have been completed, and the revised ms is back with the editor at Carina. My OCD internal editor would have been more than happy to continue altering and mutilating until the end of time, but I'm learning to rein it in and draw the line.

So then, back to the second drafting of Black. I'm still not entirely pleased with it, have hit that stage of flailing book!hate where I feel the urge to drag-and-drop the entire file into the trash and be done with it. Four years of muse effort reduced to recycled electrons?

In lieu of that, and despite the fact that the climactic scene remained only half resolved, I sent the ms off to a rather benevolent beta. There are times when, especially with heavy rewrites, you get so close to the story that all you see is wood bark and the forest itself ceases to exist entirely. Need stronger plot thread, need greater tension between the characters, need to resolve blatant character flaw so narrator doesn't seem "too stupid to live".
...What was the story, again? What was the point?
This is where that whole Outlining Of The Story really would have come in handy. Sadly, when a story grows organically from a 5k short into a 100k novel, all on its own, that step gets...skipped? Bypassed? You get to the end, and sit there thinking, "what am I missing? I know I've overlooked something, but hell if I know what it was."

For me, at least, this is where a good beta comes in. I don't need inline edits. I don't need help polishing the prose. I prefer a beta who reads the story in its entirety, and then sits down with me and says, "my god there is a huge sinkhole here, how did you miss it."

Easy. I was too busy staring at the constellations?

There is an inherent value in a reader who is capable of simply reading and seeing the larger pattern of plot and character without distraction. One who can take in the story in its entirety and step back to assess it as a whole. Black is at the point where it needs that, now. This particular beta, quite ironically, doesn't perceive herself to be one.

I have evidence enough for myself, though, that she's great at it. She read the draft of FOAT at my request, and offered a few comments that we discussed at some length. Minor quibbles about consistency of character, and the smoothness with which the issues resolve themselves. Not surprisingly, the comments she made were identical to a couple of points the current editor requested be addressed in the first-round edits.

Personally, I think this beta doubts herself simply because she isn't a "professional author" or "experienced editor". That isn't what a beta needs to be, frankly. At least, not for me. Does it help? Sure, if you have concerns about grammatical execution, or technical style, or some other writing tool you've employed with questionable results.

If not, those assets, in some regard, simply get in the way. A good beta, then, simply need be an eager and aware reader. The kind that gobbles up books, knows what they like, and why they like it, and can communicate that clearly without acronyms and squeeing. These types are generally genre-specific. I could offer my trunked fantasy novel to this beta, and the odds are very high she would be bored to tears with it. :)

So I'm taking a small respite from the editing while the beta reads. A few days to catch my breath, to relax and unwind and do nothing more than yoga in the mornings (and slog away at the Horrid Day Job).

And a coffee-mug toast to EveryBeta. You provide a wonderful service, offering perspective and clarity to writers when they lose it. Never mind that you get to read the juicy bits before anyone else...
I guess for some that's payment enough, but I offer my undying gratitude as well.
13 January 2011 0 comments

Chaos & Mayhem

I need to acquire a pair of solid black Manx cats, and name them Chaos and Mayhem. So I have someone tangible to blame when things go to shit. As it is, I hold myself accountable, and that…just sucks. Can't muck about in denial when you're the only one around to blame.

The FOAT edits are going well, on track to be completed before the deadline. It's been stressful though, and engaged much of my spare time. Thus the one-week delay in getting Black's excerpt up. Not that it takes a great deal of effort to cut/paste a scene into a post, but…gah. I manage to stress out about anything and everything. So I went through the whole ordeal of "what's an appropriate excerpt for a muse with a novel-length story" and a bunch of other OMGWTFBBQ shit that was utterly useless and unneeded, to say the least.

It's the one thing I seem to excel at. Spectacularly. Yep that's me, The Worrywart.

One year ago, I wanted nothing more than to have the entire year just fast-forward and be over with.

Now? Well. I'm glad I slogged through the changes and challenges and experienced the good energy that came my way as well.

Hopefully the coming year will have as much, if not more, to offer.

Thanks to the delay of my mild writer-panic, Black's "Origins" post will be bumped back to the 20th, and the interview to the 27th.

One of these days I'll actually find a groove for my writing, a schedule of time allocation that doesn't leave me feeling like a flailing, beached marine mammal.

I'm working on it. Habits take time to form. I try to remember to take time for myself, between writing and the day job. Sometimes it seems like I can't do all three without one suffering. So I try to switch it up, and disburse the butt-hurt as evenly as possible. That's my solution, for the time being. Morning yoga seems to help get me moving more quickly than caffeine or nicotine, though, and it's a great "me time" activity. Not to mention, I need to move my scrawny butt around and get exercise. Not the aerobic sort, I don't need to be burning more calories. But awakening the body helps get the mind out of first gear. And if I can make a routine out of it, a habit of actually regulating my breathing would be a good thing also. Beats the hell out of succumbing to mild panic attacks, which I apparently do rather often. There's that Worrywart thing again. J

So that's my wholly unintentional New Year's Resolution. Yoga every morning. Need to get myself a mat. Mainly because my carpet smells horrid when I bury my nose in it. Can't wait until spring gets here, and I can put the mat out on the front porch to do my morning yoga. Hopefully by that point I'll be familiar enough with the positions and routines that I can do it by ear, without visual prompts. I'm almost there.

Mmm. Yoga in the mornings, on the front porch. I'm liking that idea.

That's my ramble for the day, though. Back to the edits…

06 January 2011 2 comments

My Corner of The World

Or, where the magic happens, I guess?
Either way, a writer's little corner of the world usually speaks volumes about their personality, among other things. Some have an office to sequester themselves in, to shut out the outside world and focus. I don't have the space for that -- nor is it really a requirement, when Lap Dog Monster and I are the only ones about, the majority of the time.

So I thought I'd share with all of you what my workspace corner looks like.
Feel free to draw your own psychiatric conclusions *lol*

A corner of the living room, fashioned from a pair of solid wood desks handed down to me from my grandmother. And a matching chair, which, though it looks horribly uncomfortable, keeps me from falling asleep at the desk.
Yes, my walls are some strange, sickening purplish plum color that screams "paint me". I've lived with it for the past six years, so I notice it only subconsciously. Want to come over and help me redecorate?

I'd probably get more done, if my Procrastination Machine (Acer netbook) wasn't so close to the Writing Machine. But yes, that's a Dell Dimensions 2400 series, roughly eight years old, if not more. Recently overhauled by a savvy computer genius/geek, so it runs beautifully, and outfitted with a Vizio 19-inch LED Razor  for a monitor. Easier on the eyes, and my Christmas gift to myself.
That's a brass unicorn just behind the coffee cup, a gift from my daughter. The plush lolcat my son gave me is partially visible in the lower left hand corner. I try to keep it out of direct line of sight, since it's definitely distracting and makes me laugh when I look at it. Aleks' Eye of Fatima is hanging from the joint of the desk lamp.
And yes, Amara, that is indeed your artwork gracing my desktop background. The widescreen HD definitely feels like a window into an Oregon landscape. Loving it.

So there you have it. Cluttered, but cozy, and somehow I manage to not distract myself too terribly. (And if you look really, really close, you can see the editing compilation file minimized on the writing machine's desktop.)

Back to work with me, now. I'll see how much I can get done before I'm off to the dreaded dayjob. At least it's nowhere near as stressful as it once was. Win little victories.
05 January 2011 0 comments

FOAT edits, round one.

A four-week interval for edits and rewrites to a 93k manuscript.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm trying not to dwell on the time constraints beyond that which is required to actually reach the deadline in a timely and appropriate fashion. Preferably ahead of it, yes?

The biggest points in the process revolve around altering character behavioral responses in the latter part of the story, and altering plot development to trigger greater conflict from said character.
In other words, someone needs to put up more of a fight.
Which is, inherently, what soldiers are born, bred, and trained up to do...so I'm fine with that.

It did a world of good, not looking at the story for a few months. The prose is "fresh", so to speak. I can see the errors, the rough spots, without executing excessive headdesk maneuvers.

Sadly, I think my 40 hours of free Pandora will be exhausted before the deadline is acquired. I like the high energy of the trance genre station a great deal. It's the sort of thing I need to stay awake, and focused, and productive. For me, and for this particular story, it's what works best. I've tried other music, but it's all either distracting or grates against the natural aura of what I feel when I try to channel the characters. Not sure how to explain it, but then, most emotions and sensations escape true portrayal. They're conveyed more accurately in an indirect fashion, I've found.

Admittedly, I spent the weekend -- instead of relaxing and enjoying the last throes of the holidays -- stressing out about !deadlines and !editing and feeling like Achmed when he sings, "Oh holy shit, I think I blew my foot off."

In the words of Tears For Fears, though... break it down again. Those are my dreams, and these are my eyes. No one can ever know all the secrets and truths in life. I don't want to master it all, just own my little corner of reality. To bend it to my will.

Yeah, yeah, I have control issues... =D

Look for the excerpt from Black in a couple days, to start off the Muse series for January.