Summing Up November

Looking back on the fine month of November, I’m not all that crazy about my progress. Part of that is that I decided I should stop and write another novel–NaNoWriMo, you know–and part of it is that there were a lot of rewrites I needed to get done, and some of them re things I have no idea how to do. Part of it is also procrastination, of course.

I’m also a little overwhelmed at the sheer amount of handwritten work I need to type up. I definitely let that snowball on me. (And as a result, I’m going to have to take a day or two to type up the work in question.) This is going to have to be a part of my daily routine, now. Get up, type things into the computer, and then work on the next day’s quota. I do not like typing.

So, I’m revising a scene–it’s one of those right general content, wrong characters, wrong setting, wrong tone scenes. And I honestly don’t know what else is wrong with it. Part of it is that I want to put a romantic scene there. I want something nice and comforting and… nice. And not an argument over a funeral ritual that has become a stereotype for one of my cultures.

Of course, if I actually put a romantic scene there, it may ruin the ending, and descend into erotica.

I’m not having a lot of luck catching the right tone.

And if I could think of anything else that would work there, I would probably do that.

I’m sure nobody would be too surprised if my characters were all crushed to death in a mid-summer avalanche. Right?

I’m ready to be done with the revision.

An Internet Education

It is Thursday, the sun is in the air–real warmth, this time, not just a lot of light–and my Amazon recommendations are currently listing a wide variety of fire arms accessories. That’s my own fault. I had to go click on a link to find out what a brass catcher was, and now I know, and I’m also about to find out what a military crimp remover is. I’m pretty sure it’s what Marines use to de-crimp their hair back into regulation rectitude following a naughty weekend in Dubai.

I could be wrong.

The thing about the internet is that there’s information everywhere.

Those weird questions you really can’t just annoy a stranger with? A fraction of a second away with your favorite search engine, and from there, you’re onto the endless Columbo-style daisy chain of just one more question.

You know you’re onto something good, if Google comes up with no relevant results, or if a hotline of any type materializes before your eyes. And I’m more or less addicted to the “People who viewed this also viewed…” feature on Amazon.

For instance… the fact that people who viewed the uterus cookie cutter I’m looking at (don’t ask) also viewed Colosseum shaped salt and pepper shakers is a really weird juxtaposition. Back in the day… which was not so very long ago… people in my neck of the woods had to send all the way to Denver to get their uterus shaped candies and cookies. And yes, I know that for a fact. Now, you can order your sugary uteri from the comfort of your own Lazy Boy.

The information’s all just there for the taking.

I’m sure there are practical applications, of course. How do you make your book show up with the most popular uteri, for instance. Or just exactly what kind of people are reading my book? Can I use that to advertise to them, later on?

The advertising thing comes up as sort of a tangent from elsewhere on the internet, of course.

What kind of people do I want to advertise my book to?

Weirdly enough, I’m pretty sure the answer is not “People who buy books” any more than the answer is people with a pulse. But it might be people who buy their kids telescopes, or people who build model rockets.

Fifteen Minutes to Get Out Of Dodge

Somewhere near me, they’re draining a lake, looking for a woman who went missing about a week before Thanksgiving. The local news–via Twitter–is giving us a blow-by-blow description of the search. It seems they’ve just pulled out work lights, so the news-reader du jour suggests they plan on working late tonight. This particular disappearance–for whatever reasons–is catching a lot of attention.

And there’s something about anything the media touches that seems to turn into a three-ring circus.

They did do a lovely job of saying “pond” or “body of water” instead of “sewage lagoon,” though.

And if it weren’t unseemly, you’d swear you were betting on a dog fight. I mean… all the news readers have to know this is (potentially) a huge step up from their last major stories (which involve people accidentally shooting themselves, and Petsmart donating stuffed animals to an area children’s hospital.)

There’s not a whole lot that happens around here.

The investigation might be a whole lot better off without television. Without the internet. Without the rampant competition to get the scoop (which, if the stars align, may not exist in the first place.) Without the pressure to catch someone… anyone.

And honestly… If a psychopath dropped a body in a lake, the last thing anybody should be doing is telling him exactly where and when the police are doing. (The cop just pulled on his hip-waders.  He’s given the cadaver dog a Snausage. Fifteen minutes to get out of Dodge.)

So, what about you? Do you think news coverage helps or hurts an investigation? And if you were a reporter, just how far would you go to get the scoop?

(Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to add three sex scenes and a chainsaw murder to my novel. Good for the ole career, you know.)

The Cyber Monday Blues

One of the troublesome things about the great retail holidays that always gets to me is the certainty that–somewhere out there–is the perfect deal on the perfect thing that will lift my spirits and make my life better. Somewhere there’s the perfect deal on an ice fishing drill. (I could take up ice. Fishing seems a bit out of my league.) Or a kayak. Or… stemless wine glasses? Something.

The truth is, I need nothing. There are a few books that have been on my TBR list forever, and I might pick those up. And I really do need a new pair of shoes. Uhm, well, you know… in the sense that I have feet.

Other than that, if I get sucked in, I’ll probably spend more money on the kind of things that are excellent bargains you had no idea you needed until you saw them. Zucchini shoe-stringer? Well, ordinarily, no… but it is seventy-five percent off.

I’m not shopping for shoes today. I will take a quick glance at my various wish lists and see if anything I actually want is on sale. My guess would be no, but you know. Might as well. Carefully. And without letting myself get tricked into thinking everybody else is doing it.

I did actually go walk around a real life, physical mall for a while. (The Black-Friday crowds have now died down.) Shrug.

The sad truth is that the things that make me happy–in a more enduring kind of way–actually turn out to be hard work on a project I love, exercise, and eating my vegetables. I am such a grown-up!

Revision Progress, Math, and Holidays

I cut 5,000 words from my manuscript today. To be honest, I was relieved to see them go. You know that point when you realize that every chunk you can cut is another chunk you don’t have to revise? Oh, yeah. I’m there.

So, now I have revision notes to my page numbers. Specifically, something to tell me what page comes after page 27. It’s 38, in case you’re wondering.

A little math in my head, and that brings me to a very conservative word count, so I’ll have some space, at least to play around with some of the scenes I really did think existed.

There are exactly two lengths of manuscript, and somehow, I usually manage to bounce between them for my entire revision. There’s the Oh, shit, I’ve written a pamphlet length, and the oh, shit… did I really have to use every word in the English language length. There is no middle ground.

The most recent cut means I’ve gone from not a lot of space to play with to… just barely squeaking into my goal range. (But don’t worry, there are some gaps I still need to fill in.)

I’m looking forward to a mellow, introvert’s Thanksgiving in a few days. Something where I can get some actual work done, and maybe coax a piece of pie out of the universe. Holidays… well, you know the definition of Holiday, right? A holiday is any day on which you run a significant risk of having to explain the word homoerotic to Aunt Thelma. (No, no context. why?) So I’m having a Thanksgiving non-holiday.

My revision is on schedule, my nanowrimo is mostly not. And as for the holidays? I’m escaping.

How Can You Tell If Your Work is Good?

This morning, I ran across what has to be the single most objectively bad book cover I’ve ever seen in my life. Someone I follow retweeted it to help out the author. And even at the ass crack of dawn with an hour and five minutes of sleep (an actual Fitbit reading, not hyperbole) I could tell that this cover was slow down and look at the train wreck bad. It’s not pardon me, your slip is showing. It’s more… Hey, your bikini waxer missed a spot.

The book in question was a BDSM romance in the vein of 50 Shades. The adver-tweet, itself said BDSM romance, and yes, I actually followed the link to more description on Amazon. No, I can’t remember a dang word of what Amazon said.

The models on the cover were the requisite well-built and shirtless man(cropped at the neck), and a blonde woman who was pasted over him at a rather odd angle. You got the impression that some other background had been removed, and the original furniture didn’t really have the same contours as a hard six-pack. The whole thing was very clearly patched together.

She also had an expression on her face that didn’t really suggest a consenting adult. I’m very serious when I say that my first thought was that she’s dead. In the sense of… well, that’s a very life-like makeup job. Literally dead. (This is partially the weird angle she was at, and partially the expression on her face.) Dead. Overdosed. Vapid blow-up doll surprise. Best case scenario, she looked like a vulnerable adult.

And yet… someone not only decided that collage of images was sexy… they chose it to represent their book.

The cover had absoutely nothing to suggest BDSM or any other part of the plot. The only thing that made me notice it at all was just how awful it was. Who the hell is sending me this crap?

Writers are not artists. Most of us don’t have a lot of graphic design background. I get that.

I still found myself looking at this cover and wondering just how it happened. Author designing their own cover to save money? Probably. But still. How objective do you have to be to catch that your female model looks dead or intoxicated? Author not getting or not trusting feedback on the cover picture? Probably that, too.

And of course, to some extent, I’m guilty too. After all, I didn’t pull the author aside and send them a nice note that says… hey, uhm… did you know?

I have a writers’ group on line–an actually fairly large forum–where people can post titles, cover copy, and cover images for feedback. You get to vote as to which thing you like best, and then you get to comment about why. And the longer I’m there, the clearer I am getting about sorting out the objective–this is just wrong–information (Such as The cover model is a blonde Caucasian, but you described the character as a pretty Afro-Caribbean) from the subjective. (I like the blue one.)

So, the question is… how do you find the friends who will say hey, your slip is showing, your breath stinks, and you can’t for the world tell the American spelling from the British one?

How do you know when what you’ve done is actually good, and how do you develop the taste that lets you know the difference?

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.

Nope.

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.