The Same Thing Twice

I started writing another missing scene for my revision, yesterday. It was… well, pretty damn similar to the scene I wrote the day before. Not identical, but very, very close. Close enough that I wound up stopping to write a blog post about Deja Vu, voice, and the difference between parallels and repetitions.

So, I guess we’ll find out just how much of this I understand, and how much I can make myself understand.

My characters are psychic–or something like that. There are details–and in both scenes, the psychic bond is being broken. One scene is a death, and in the second, a character has voluntarily given up that connection. Her sacrifice will be permanent.

The lead up to the bond being broken is okay. It’s different; the circumstances are different. But then… well, as I’m writing the break, itself, I happen to have the distinct feeling that I’m writing something basically identical to the last one I wrote.

Feeling? No. I know. It’s the same.

I’m trying to figure out what’s broken that makes the two scenes so similar. They really shouldn’t be the same thing twice, but somehow… well, they are. And until I figure out how they should be different, I can’t fix it.

I think I’ll work on something else, today.

Doing My Homework

I’m still working my way through that revision list, one scene at a time, and the good news is that–in the theory–it could actually be finished by the 27th of April. I have fewer than twenty scenes left… that’s about one scene every two days… it’s not even particularly faster than I’ve been going.

That’s optimism, of course. It is faster, but it’s not impossibly faster.

I don’t usually write like this–I’m not sure I could, if it were a first draft–but it does give me a solid sense of “Here’s the Finish Line.”

I’ve been focusing on one of the subplots, at least in part because it has more scenes that are completely missing from the manuscript. I may be reaching the end of “missing” and moving on to the horribly broken and damaged things that I’m still at least a little attached to. I hope that’s less time consuming, but it might wind up being more.

We’ll see if I can manage something that’s vaguely in the right word count range this time. I haven’t used up all my ‘safe’ index cards yet, so right now, I’m worried about being too short. In a couple weeks, I’ll be worried about being too long. I promise.

The Great Theme Reveal

Anybody who’s read this blog for long knows I’m not much of a “theme” person. I have to drag themes kicking and screaming out of my novels, and most of the time, I have no particular desire to build or work with a theme. I’m not someone your tenth-grade English teacher would like. My tenth-grade English teacher(s) spent the entire year hinting about ways to do drugs in class, on the premise that stoned might be an improvement, and ultimately wound up being sainted for not killing me in my sleep.

At any rate, my theme for last year’s A-to-Z Challenge was a Fly-By-The-Seat-of-Your-Pants stroke of brilliance: Whatever the hell happens to pop into my head. It worked well enough. I made it through.

This year, I thought about doing an upbeat complicated relationships thing, because that always seems to work its way into my stories, but let’s be honest, I’m not really sure all my readers are up for a recitation of A-to-Z relationships, and quite frankly, it would almost certainly devolve into a list of rare and exotic paraphilias. Why no… I just needed something that started with the letter U. Why do you ask?

That could sure get thorny fast.

Do I really need a theme?

Okay, so the one that finally popped into my head was…

Words that begin with the letter M.

That doesn’t seem so unreasonable. I’ll need to add words that don’t begin with the letter M to make it fit the challenge, but with some effort, I think I can make it work.

Words that begin with the letter M it is, then.

If you want to join in the challenge, all the details are here.  Let me know if you’re playing along.

Explaining the Self-Explanatory

Well, hell. Sometimes it just gets down to that choice of getting up or lying in bed counting down the moments that you could have been sleeping… if only you could sleep.

Good morning, world. Time to eat my English muffin and pretend to be awake.

I’m not really sure what got me up this early. It could be the scene I was writing last night. (Possibly I need more time between when I finish writing, and when my head hits the pillow.) Or it could be the fact that I’m having one of those “conversations” at work. You know the kind: I said something I figured was self-explanatory, and apparently, it’s not.

It’s going to need to be fixed.

I’m still vaguely hoping to have a manuscript by the time I leave for Colorado. That may be at least slightly optimistic, but my characters were cooperative last night (and probably any night where I have time and a little bit of discipline) So, it could happen.

I think about going to the library to work on things on my days off, and then, I realize the library opens roughly eight and a half hours after I wake up. That’s a whole work day! I’m not sure what is open, right now. Truck stop cafe might really be it.

In further small-town related news, the junk-yard burned last night. Thick black smoke everywhere. About two miles of road was closed down… not that the fire was that big. It’s just that two miles is the smallest section of road you can close, and still have a place for traffic to turn off without having a giant rut of u-turns.

I liked that junk yard. Meanest dogs in town. Nearly licked me to death, the last time I was there, and when that didn’t work, they tried drowning me in an ocean of slobber. I was lucky to escape with my life.

Confessions From The Writer’s Hard Drive

Somewhere, in the deep, dark depths of my hard drive, I have a mostly-complete manuscript of a prurient nature. Well, it really, really wants to be prurient, anyway. I’m not sure it quite makes it, since I don’t really have the attention span for other people’s sex lives… no, not even if they’re my own figments’ sex lives. Because, uhm… **plot bunny** and suddenly, there’s a series of explosions I have to deal with.

I do, however, go through a fairly regular phase of creative despair in which I’m absolutely positive my stories suck, and I should just turn to writing for the erotica of the month club.

In general, something usually kicks in and saves me before I get too far into Butch Billionaire Bad Boys in Space. But the knowledge that whatever I’m working on doesn’t have to be good is usually a pretty good way of kick-starting the creative juices, particularly on days when I’m not sure I’m capable of being good.

If I were going to write a romance, let’s be honest… it would probably include the words “And then he standardized her spelling, cut out sixty-two percent of her commas, and did some structural things with subplot B that somehow made the whole thing work. Also, he remembered to drop those books off at the library before she got fined. The End.”

Well, the closest I ever got is this manuscript. That lives on my hard drive. 89,000 words. That I will probably never revise, and that… well, let’s be honest… if it’s grounded in the real world (it is) and nobody dies (they don’t) I probably will never figure out quite what to do with it.

I can actually tell you why it was useful to write, though. It helped me to pin down exactly what it is that my stories tend to have in common. I tend to write about complex relationships–between individuals and cultures–and it doesn’t really matter whether I’m writing science fiction, or a romance, or a murder mystery, that will be there.

I think knowing that helps me to skim over the writers’ block phase faster. You know… what are the weirdest people I can possibly put in the same space ship? Right now, I’m moving on to something sorta different, but still the same. It’s a strange sort of thing.

I also think writing a lot without necessarily intending to keep everything has helped me get to a point where I can make more objective decisions about what’s worth revising, and when it’s time to move on.

That Morning Non-Routine

I am awake and staring at a blinking cursor. I’ve had breakfast, and I’ve remembered to put my laundry in the clothes dryer so it will be dry in time for me to go to work. I have checked in on the giraffe that is supposed to be having a baby, live-streamed from the whichever zoo it is. (No baby.)

This is what happens, by the way, when people inform the older generation about live streaming video… hundreds of hours of giraffe. Now live in a computer near me.

I have checked in on the forum where I’m a moderator, and answered a couple of questions. This is one of my bigger morning activities. Something I really do need to do on a regular basis. It’s a good forum. One of the best I’ve seen for writers.

And I have checked the news, the email, and a couple of ads, featuring things I didn’t know existed, but now desperately want. Especially at the fabulous prices listed. Closing and deleting.

Part of this is, of course, that I get up early. It was before 3 this morning, when I finally decided it was time to give up on that last chunk of sleep. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that, or to the idea that sleeping til 5 is “sleeping in.” I’m sitting under an electric light, pretending that it is not completely dark outside, and more or less bracing for the day.

If I had my creative, write when I feel like it choice, I’d probably be writing all night, and then going to bed… well, right about now. Last night, I wrote until that MUST be in bed moment, and then finally did go to sleep.

How to Survive, Break Out of Jail, and Join the Revolution

Today, my novel’s primary antagonist is breaking out of jail. She’s moving from being one of the many people who work for her particular government–very high up, actually–to being disillusioned by her recent experiences, and generally willing to fight for what she believes in.

Yep. I said “antagonist.”

She’s done fairly well for herself, considering she was more or less just the faithful maid when I started.

I don’t actually have themes, but if I did, this one would probably be about figuring out what you really believe, and then being true to yourself. I think everyone in it is re-evaluating their oldest beliefs and basic assumptions.

Maybe the theme would be something along the lines of beliefs changing with time and experience. I don’t know. Ask an English teacher. **adds another explosion**

This particular character could be the main character of her own book, and sometimes, I think maybe she should be. If I wind up doing a series, she probably will be.

52 Index Card Pickup

I’m slowly sinking back into my revision, after an absurdly long time away from it. Life happens, and last year, it happened to me. I got a lot of other things done–for instance, that blogging regularly goal, and quite a few new words–but the revision, and the focus that takes were just not one of them.

I just finished cutting away the excess. I don’t want to revise every single wandering train of thought that choo-choo-ed its way through my mind, and that was a lot of bulk. I think that process took away half of the raw words off the bat.

Now, I’m working on figuring out just how many words I have left, and how I want to use those words.

I have about 40,000 words I’m good with. The first chunk of the novel has already been organized and revised, and it’s… well, either breathtakingly brilliant or mind-boggling awful, depending on how I’m feeling at any given moment. Anyway, it’s pretty much done.

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels can be pretty big, but with some guidance from Uncle Google, I see that 100,000 – 115,000 is a good range to aim for. So… subtract my 40,000 words, and I wind up with 60-75 k left to go.

I’m using three different colors of index card here:

  • Green–for the things that are already IN the book.
  • Violet–for the 60,000 words that are well and truely safe.
  • Yellow–for the next 15-20,ooo, which are creeping toward that limit, or possibly over it.

For the new/or yet-to -revise portions of the book, I’m figuring 2,000 words per scene, which works out to 30 violet cards and 10 yellow cards.

Then, I sat down and wrote out lists of all the scenes the book NEEDS. One for my main characters and one for my antagonist/main subplot/whatever we’re calling her. That eats up twenty three of my violet plot cards, and brings the currently planned total somewhere around 86,000 words.

Deep breath, and exhale. I am definitely going to be able to squeeze everything into ONE free-standing book. I was worried about that. Particularly since it definitely isn’t two whole books.

So, now, I’m debating whether I have the willpower to just sit down and write through those cards without tinkering with much of anything on the way.

People Leave So Many Ideas Lying Around!

I was at the movie theater this week, taking in the bargain-basement special. If you get up early enough, tickets cost less, and I’m always up pretty early, anyway. The movie wasn’t bad, or maybe even good.

Somewhere toward the beginning of the movie, my mind latched onto some little detail of the thing that appealed to my Muse. I’m not talking about something like “It should be about a girl who gets caught up in a tornado, and whisked away to a strange land, but instead of OZ, in my book, it’ll be Macy’s.” More like watching Gone With The Wind, and focusing in on “This is set in the south. What a cool idea. My next book’s gonna be set in the south.”

Except, you know… the south on a space-ship, ’cause that’s more my thing.

So, at that point, half my brain goes scooting out along a “Well, what if I did this?” track, while the other half is still sitting in the theater, keeping an eye on the movie and its plot.

It wasn’t a bad movie. It held enough of my attention, even though I’d found a bunny to chase, and maybe that actually makes it a good movie.

But it wasn’t my movie. It wasn’t my story. This other thing–the other train of thought–it was mine.

So, there I am… fiddling with one set of ideas while I’m watching a different set on the screen in front of me. No, I really don’t know how that’s possible.

I’ll tell you about the idea sometime. I’m still building it, right now. I’m about a million miles away from having a plot. Or, you know, characters, conflict, structure, or a name for my spaceship.

 

The Morning Writing Hour

I woke up at a quarter to three this morning, with the cat staring me in the face, and clearly wondering why I’m not awake and working on my novel. The cat cares.

Well… the cat is a creature of habit. He expects the same thing to happen every single day. If I had the sense to feed him as soon as I get up, I think he’d be pouncing even more enthusiastically, which would probably be good for the novel. Chances are, it would be good for me, too. Less sleeping in, less destruction of my routine.

Later on, when it is summer, I’ll be able to get up and actually go somewhere. Out on the porch, in the fresh air, to write. There might even be daylight by the end of my time.

Right now, though, it is cold. It is dark, and the electric lights are doing nothing to convince me that it is morning. I don’t have a problem getting up an hour early before I go to work, but damn, it’s hard to get up on my days off. My mind refuses to accept that sleeping until seven is sleeping in, and so I do. At which point, the rest of the world has started, and there isn’t any time left to just sit and write.

I’m battling distraction. Do I need to know that the guy who beheaded another guy on a Canadian bus has been released from lock-up? No. Or that Twitter recommends eating spiced pears after sex? Not even slightly. Hate the texture of pears.

I need to wake up and get some work done. I need to feel like I am getting work done, and right now… well, I probably am, but I don’t. Tracking revision progress has always been tough for me.

Maybe I need old-school notebooks, with ink and no eraser.