The Festival of Queries: A Writerly Celebration of Death

I’m finishing up my revision, and that means it’s time to start the weeping an gnashing of teeth Uhm… working on a query letter. So, this is the process by which we take the novel–all 100 thousand words of it–and cram it into a post-it note, or better yet, a postage stamp.

That’s an exaggeration, of course. I actually get about three hundred and fifty words.

It’s not really supposed to be the whole story line. It’s more of a hook with a couple of jaw-dropping, earth-shaking plot points.

In other words, I get to leave almost everything out.

My current word count for the damn thing highly streamlined and professional piece of correspondence. is sixty-nine words. Yup. In other words, I’m pretty well good with the hook part, and now, I’m debating what I should use to flesh it out a little more.

And that’s where I get completely and totally lost. Sixty-nine words is plenty, thank you very much. Now, can I send you a picture of household pets, or possibly one of my grandmother’s cookie recipes?

Apparently not.

So, now I start trying to figure out what’s vitally important information, and what’s not.

Can’t NaNo. Moving Furniture.

Today was a busy little day. I got up early and actually did… some more work on my revision. It’s becoming fairly obvious what my priorities are. I want to finish my revision. I want to finish it on time, and then start querying the hell out of it.

Oh, yes… and I’d like a new project to help me escape the general tension of querying the hell out of anything.

I came up with a newer, shinier idea than the one I’m working on for NaNo. That’s always a good sign that NaNo may be over. For me, at least.

And I moved the furniture. Not all of the furniture, but a serious preponderance of the furniture. I rearranged the living room so that the furniture is now set at an angle to the walls. The general living room-y goodness is mostly intact. Well, let’s be honest. A change is always nice. Right now, it’s also a fabulous excuse for not having done much of anything today.

My new power supply arrived this afternoon, and I got it replaced in record time, so there will be no more dire warnings about the unstable old power supply. I think a moment of silence is in order, since that’s the last remaining part from the original build. I’m so attached to that machine, I’ll probably be swapping out parts when I’m a hundred and ten.

I finished up another scene from my revision–must type–, and wound up with a freebie or two. You know what I mean… pages that I don’t have to revise because the relevant information wound up being included in an earlier part of the manuscript. Not too bad, all said and done.

Chiseling Away and Building Up

My nano notebook gained an index, today. Nothing major, just a couple of index cards (one for each of the major projects I’m working on, right now) that have the name of the project at the top, and a list of dates and scenes that I was working on. They live in the pocket at the back of my notebook, and in theory, I should be able to track down scenes from that, after I’ve misplaced them.

I did some math, and one notebook = right around 50 k. (If I’m allowed to count notes, and plotting, and if I hit 250 words per page… well, that’s pretty close. I also realize that if I’m trying to stay on track, the idea of fill this notebook pulls all the goals from all the different projects together.

Today was a rewrite day. I’m pulling a scene from my revision apart and putting it back together, using entirely new parts. As it turns out, the wrong person got beat up in the first draft, and in the revision, I’m fixing that. I would rather not beat up the new person, but there you go.

More heart-stopping assault and battery.

The new words are going in the nano notebook. Hence, the index cards.

I’m hitting a little patch of backstory, and I’m debating how much of it to keep. Some of it may be the solution to my pacing problem. More than that, and it may become a whole ‘nother pacing problem.

The question is… whose backstory do I include? It’s all the same event as seen by multiple characters. I have it written in several different forms, and I’m not sure whose version is the most important or the most relevant.

I have two main options, and I think the choice is probably already made in the back of my mind somewhere. I’ll see if I’m thinking the same way in the morning.

What’s New? And Other Questions Not To Ask During NaNoWriMo

I don’t know why it is that people (that would be non-writers) always stumble into the questions that you probably shouldn’t ask a writer on a fast-drafting binge.

And I don’t know how they manage to sound so utterly clueless while they’re doing it.

I mean… there can’t really be people out there who are unaware of the high holy day month that is NaNoWriMo, can there? I’ve invited a couple of people to join me in the excitement, and having some strange fascination with sanity, both of them have declined. (Whilest backing away slowly, and removing any sharp objects from my immediate reach.)

Nonetheless, co-worker has decided that today is a good day to ask me “What’s new?”

This isn’t someone I know well. And maybe if I hadn’t been right in the middle of trying to think of how a cannibalistic alien and a time traveler find common ground, I wouldn’t have found it so annoying.

And he does tend to hover.

So, of course, when I said there’s nothing new, rather than accept that, and move on, he pointed out that he hasn’t talked to me in six months. (Which may be literally true) and something must be new.


Not a thing.

There are times when I’ve answered the same kind of question from the same person with a real answer. Being a non-writer, though, he doesn’t really want a real answer. For a second, I actually thought I’d killed him last year, when I informed him that my nano book was about a family that is caught in a quantum entanglement with another family who died at Hiroshima.

I could actually not think of a single “new” thing in my life that would interest him.

Or a lot of people.

Perhaps I should have children. Then, when someone asks me a question like that, I can go into detail about potty training, and how little Herkimer is making poo-poo in the toilet. (And by the way, we’re talking about the most beautiful, trumpet-shaped dumps you’ve ever seen in your life.)

Or not.

This question is, of course, still topped by the guy who asked if I didn’t think I should finish the first book, and revise it, and get it published before I start in on the next one.

Uhm, no, and by the way… don’t you think you should raise the first kid… get him through school… and medical school before you start in on the next one?

If I didn’t need to work on my revisions over my lunch hour, a lot fewer people would know that I am writing a novel, let me tell you.

I’m not sure there are any good questions to ask about someone else’s novel, particularly if you don’t know them well, and are not working on something, yourself.

Yes, My Words Count for Word Count

Today is day 5 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m busily listing all of the things I know about my characters and my setting.

Because I don’t have the faintest idea where the story goes from here.

This is where fast-drafting becomes really odd for me. It’s a little more like talking to myself than, you know, actually producing a novel. Or, maybe more precisely, my characters are sitting around talking to each other, and nothing is really happening, except, possibly, I’m working out the various relationships in the book.

The what’s going on.

The starting point.

And five days in and thousands of words on the page just seems like a really strange place to be looking for a starting point.

I’m trying to remember if this is just one of the phases of my picking up a new novel, or if there’s something wrong with this scenario.

I think the answer is that if I keep going, things will be fine.

But right now, there are a lot of things to distract me. Including, by the way, my own revision. Right now, it would be incredibly easy to walk away and never come back. It’s not that the topic is bad, it’s that the momentum just isn’t there, yet.

And damn, right, I’m going to count the list-writing words, and the characters talking to each-other words, and the inner monologues while staring at an engine words.

They may not turn out to be in the finished novel, but they’re definitely a part of the process.

Software Death Match: YWriter vs Scrivener

The first writing software I ever used was Simon Haynes’ Ywriter. By then, I’d finished a novel in Microsoft Word–one huge, unending  scroll of a document–and I was mired in revising. I knew I needed something different. YWriter is what I found. It’s free, and the guy who programmed it is a writer, himself, so he’s not just guessing about what features a writer needs. It’s easy to use, and streamlined, and I’ve used it ever since. It also happens to be free (with a tip-jar type option.)

I’ve always been happy with the software, and I should make that clear up front. I’m a huge fan of YWriter. It would probably take a force of nature to make me switch permanently.

However, I’m going to give Scrivener a shot.

Well, half a shot. I’m going to copy everything I do there into YWriter. So, I can quit any time I want.

The Scrivener program is something I’ve heard a lot about, and a lot of people are fanatical about it. There’s also a NaNoWriMo free-trial, so now’s a good time.

The big reason why I didn’t choose Scrivener in the first place is that back in the day, when I was making that decision, it only ran on Macs. So, there you go. Decision made for me. I played around with the Linux beta for a while. It was pretty bare-bones at the time, and I never got as far as finishing a project in it.

There’s a learning curve. And in my opinion, that just isn’t there with YWriter. YWriter is probably a little less flexible… just a limited number of folders you can nest things in… but if you’re familiar with novels and computers, you’re pretty much good to go as soon as it’s installed.

I’m giving Scrivener another shot this November. I won’t actually be writing my novel into it directly, but I will type it in and see how the organization structure works for me. (Since I already have software I know and like, I’ll also be copying the novel into the brand-new version of YWriter (Version 6! Where does the time go?)

And since I think a lot of the rave reviews come from people who are comparing it to Microsoft Word, or other office software, I’ll post my thoughts so you can have an apples to apples comparison from someone who’s actually used other dedicated novel-writing software.

Shout if there’s anything in particular you would like to know.

Another Post on Ways to Publish

Recently, a co-worker of mine–someone who knows that I am working on a novel–came to me in the break room and handed me a classified ad out of the Penny Press. That’s a small-town all-classified ads type publication with versions for just about every region there is. (Possibly not yours.) Lemme tell you. If you want a new carburetor for your Ford or if you have a few straws of bull semen to sell, the Penny Press is your best friend.

This particular ad began with the phrase “WRITERS WANTED” and then went on to the glories of self vanity/subsidy publishing your novel.

She had the best intentions at heart, so I thanked her, and put the ad in my purse, and maybe felt a little guilty for not explaining the difference.

I’m not talking about the difference between indie publishing and traditional publishing here. This is straight-up vanity press vs. indie publishing.

So, a vanity press is a “publisher” that never says “NO” to anybody who’s got the money to pay them. You pay up front. They make their money off of you, not off of your book. And yes. Just in case that book turns out to be worth anything, they’ll want a majority stake in that. You pay them to publish the thing, but somehow, they still wind up in control with an on-going stake in your book.

In indie publishing–which is a term that’s explicitly supposed to separate Indie Publishers from vanity publishers–you own the intellectual property rights, and you hire people. So, you might hire a cover artist. You pay him for his work, and then, he’s gone. He doesn’t get an on-going stake in your book. And if you also want to hire an editor, you don’t have to hire the cover artist’s best friend. You pay for everything, and any profits above that are yours to keep.

And in traditional publishing, you’re essentially taking on a very selective business partner. Someone who brings knowledge, experience, and money to the table. They’re very selective. They’re not going to publish your children’s book, Baby Hippo’s First Book of Number Bases because they know it’s not going to sell. They bring value to the partnership  (see knowledge, experience, and money) and YOU bring value to the table (your book/intellectual property) and you each wind up with a percentage of the overall business you start together. (And yes, that’s an oversimplification.)

So, on to analogies. Imagine that you want to sell antiques.

There are three basic ways that you can do this.

Subsidy publishing is like a booth at the local antique mall. Nobody cares whether you’re selling Chippendale dressers, or handmade soap, or that nifty collection of Care Bear themed glasses from 1980’s Pizza Hut. (Yes, or human remains.) You pay your rent, and there you are. BUT WAIT… you’re tied in, because people don’t look up booth #217 in the phone book. They look up Antique-y Antique Mall. And–if you’ve been in one of those places–you know that the profits from snack bar, and the t-shirts and so forth all go to the mall, no matter how much rent you’ve put in.

Indie Publishing is like opening your own antique store. You’re going to pick what goes in there, and you’re going to design the logo, and figure out your own snack bar, and advertise your own name, and your own particular niche and if you do it right… well, you own a business. The risk is all yours, and so are the profits.

Traditional publishing is more like that high-end antique store in a nice neighborhood of a big town. IF they think you have something GOOD, you don’t have to pay the rent or put an ad in the phone book, and they already have name recognition that says “We sell the best Care Bear Collector’s Glasses around.” And the partnership should be worth more to you than the fraction that you bring to it.

Excitement and Rising Early

I get up early so I can get a little writing in before work. And I work early, so, that means I’m up early. I rolled out of bed–no alarm needed–around 3 o’clock this morning. And that was after common sense and discipline informed me that waking up at 2 would just be overkill.

I’m working on revising the tail end of my novel. Two more months… I hope… and I’ll be done. Or done-ish. Or… at the very least, going back over the beginning to pull out a few loose ends that never went anywhere.

My creative mind does not feel like 2 in the morning is ridiculously early. I just think that if I get up at 2 one day, it’ll probably be 1:30 the next, and so on. Makes it difficult to maintain a normal schedule with normal human beings. (Don’t get me wrong. I like normal human beings. I’m just… not one.) On the other hand, my rational mind can’t wrap itself around the idea that sleeping in til 7 is like someone who usually gets up at 7 sleeping in until noon.

So, we have the general excitement of let’s get up and do something. Make something. Finish something.

So, I woke up.

And I’m writing a blog post.

Because I have now stared at a blank piece of paper long enough, and I’m not exactly sure how what I’ve written connects up with all of the rest of the story.

Right now, the chunks I’m revising… well, they’re all middles. I have to get to the middle, and then connect the middle to the beginning, and in some cases, add an ending.

But I’m making wake up at 2 in the morning progress.

And I’m more excited about the process than I have been in a long time.

So, back to staring at that blank piece of paper.

My Editorial Diversion

Later on today, I should finish the last of the scenes that were not on my original revision schedule.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with them, at least in part because I’ve been getting a lot of OH, so that’s where that goes! Some of the things that just seem to fit, now were things I had generally envisioned having to cut entirely.

I’ll be getting back to regularly scheduled revision, and more or less on time for the month.

This month, I’m also working on a short story for the Storytime Blog Hop. It should be something Halloween-y, which is always a fun theme.

Has anybody but me noticed that when you have an hour, you actually use it, but when you have a whole day, you watch YouTube videos until it’s all gone?

I’m so very guilty of believing that my regular wake-up time is absurdly early (because it is.) and that I deserve another fifteen minutes. And then, that fifteen minutes turns into the rough equivalent of sleeping til noon. (If, you know, I woke up at a decent hour in the first place.)

I cannot get it through my head that sleeping til 4 or 5 is actually sleeping in, now.

Oh, well. Somewhere, there’s a glass of water that’s destined to resurrect my Kreb’s Cycle. I just know there is.

Any tips for keeping a schedule, even when you work a weird schedule?

NaNoWrimo Prep Month

National Novel Writing Month is coming up in three weeks. Three weeks?!? Yup. Twenty-one days.

And while I’ve always been a little hit-or-miss in winning NaNo, I usually start the month with good intentions.

This time, I’m starting the month with two pristine notebooks (240 pages each) and a shiny set of brand-new ballpoints in multiple victory-oriented colors.

What are we doing tonight, Brain?

Same thing we do every night, Pinky… Try to take over the world. Try to write a cleaner first draft.

So, I have notebooks. Of a hard-bound, and pocketed variety, in the hopes that I’ll

  • Write neatly organized and linear scenes. (And the truth is, what I hand write really does tend to be less fragmented than what I type.)
  • Be able to look and see whether a given day was a good day or a bad day.
  • Not have little scraps of paper running around the bottom of my purse and the back of my hard drive.

I’m also working on finishing up the revision of my current novel. Which demands at least some time in November to finish on schedule.

I have a couple of ideas. I’m not really at the talking about them stage, yet, but I’m working on deciding between them.

I’m not that much of an outline person, but I do have a wide variety of index cards so I can make myself a plot deck as I go along.

If anybody wants to buddy up, my NaNo profile is at and I’d be glad to hear from you here, too.

Are you doing NaNo, this year? Why or why not? Tips for the terrified? Leave me a comment, and hit the share buttons, to pass on the insanity.