Unsagging My Middle

No, not my middle. My Story’s middle. I have a character who needs to get from point A to point B in a hurry, but the middle third of my book is starting to look more like the Lord of the Rings than something thoroughly modern, and written by someone who **ahem** doesn’t particularly care for dual person verbs.

There are a few things that need to happen on this trip, but not a lot. It’s not an epic journey, and it’s certainly not the whole point of the story. Just enough that I can’t skip over it and just say “And when he arrived, he took a bath.”

And the whole thing has to be very, very sleek, because I’m running out of spare word count.

As if it didn’t have to be sleek, anyway.

There was a lot of sag to the book, when I started my revision. I’m not sure if I’m talking about words and plot lines that I never should have written in the first place, or if they were… necessary explorations that have now served their purpose. They don’t fit in with the plot, and most of them can’t fit in with the plot.

I’ll save some of them for the next book, and throw out the rest.

I keep coming up with things that could–and maybe should–go in the book, though. A plot card here, a paragraph there.

I have plot cards in an envelope. Counted out and color coded according to available word count. If I run out of cards before I run out of plot, I’m in trouble.

So, how about it? Any plot de-sagging tips I should hear?

Early Morning Word Sprints (Caveman Style)

I got up this morning and did a nice, long word sprint, instead of my usual blog post. I got a lot done, and wound up with enough of a scene that I didn’t feel particularly guilty about going out to play. It gave me something nice to put in my “progress charting journal” and really does… uhm… compliment the on-going “took a vitamin D capsule in the pretense that it’s actually morning when I get up”. It worked well, and there’s a fairly good chance I’ll do the same thing again, at some point.

Maybe I’ll be a little more organized about it and figure out I’ll put up that day at some time in the evening.

Word sprints are working out fairly well for me… well, when I remember to do them. I got two of them in, today. They were both an hour long, and that amounts to about six pages, all with teeny-tiny writing. (Don’t ask the size of the pages.) I’m doing the writing longhand, at the moment, which seems to keep me in a much more linear space, and it also puts the computer (and Twitter and the News and and my e-mail and my several writing forums) out of reach.

Linear is very, very good.

I’m reminded of that every time I pick up a section to revise.

Eventually, I’ll wind up with a stack of little yellow papers, and type them all into the computer (because nobody’s willing to accept a shoe box full of little yellow papers) and that will be like a first going over editing. As long as I can keep all of my little yellow papers together long enough to get them into the computer, this process could really work out well for me.

I did some word sprints socially during NaNoWriMo last fall, and then, a presentation by Jenny Marts (Writing Sprints Journal) at the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference kicked me back into it. I haven’t gotten as far as chasing down sprinting buddies, because I’m not exactly sure what I’d have to report back to them, besides a number of handwritten pages. I’m also–not always, but frequently–going a lot longer with my sprints than we did for Nano.

In a weird way, writing sprints seem to be a thing I’ve always done. Not, perhaps, the organized, pre-emptive, I’m going to sit down and do this thing, but the last minute, NO, REALLY, YOU HAVE AN HOUR AND A HALF, NOW COME UP WITH SOMETHING COHERENT! thing.

So, there you have it. If you’re going to wait until the last minute to get anything done (and well, yeah. I am.), you should probably figure out a way to get yourself as many last minutes as possible.

Does anybody have any tips on how to make sprinting work for revisions? How to measure revision progress in general?

StoryTime Blog Hop: Your Invitation

We’re a little less than a month out from the next StoryTime Blog Hop, and I’m actually getting the invitation out in time that everyone has an actual opportunity to write a short story. The deadline for links is July 20, this time around, and the Fabulous Juneta Key will be hosting (again. Because she’s amazing.)

StoryTime is a Speculative Fiction blog hop, so bring your Science Fiction, Fantasy, and anything else that has speculative elements, and join us.

The hop features speculative short stories, usually under 1000 words with a G or PG rating (No graphic sex or violence, and try to avoid the dirty filthy language you hear around here.) It is not specifically oriented toward children, although children’s stories are welcome and encouraged.

If you want examples of stories from previous hops, I have a (dismally out of date) list of links.

I hope you’ll join us as a writer, but if not, be sure to come back and read the stories on the 26th of July.

So, NOW What Do My Characters Have In Common?

I finally found that scene. You know…. THE scene. The one that has been missing, and in hiding, and presumed dead, or possibly never to have existed in the first place. I found that scene.

I’m still writing it, but I think that it’s what the novel needs, maybe more than any of the other scenes. I thought it was probably going to be a love scene in the end, and I can’t say I was all that thrilled about it. I’m pretty blustery when I’m in a slump. I’m always going to give up writing good stuff and go write Sasquatch porn on Amazon, or, you know… Zombies or Spiders could be sexy…. but in the end, the problem with my erotica-writing get rich quick schemes is that what I write never turns out to be erotic. Oh, look, a duck! So, in terms of actual love scenes, in actual post-slump writing… Uhm…

This is not a love scene…

Not really.

But the two characters do have a lot in common by then. They actually… might have more in common than any other two living people in the book. (There are a lot of dead people. I won’t do commonalities with the dead.)

I forgot to ask that “what about now?”  question. You’d think I’d remember that.

So, now I have the first end of the scene, and some choppy bits, and I think that’s probably my last “safe” plot card. We’ll see if I can get to the end of the book without getting into my “tread carefully” plot cards or my “do it and you’re dead” plot cards.

Dreams Without a Sell-By Date

I was talking to a coworker… or maybe this is a theme, and it’s just suddenly becoming obvious… But, it was one of those “At my age” conversations. So, here she is, in a job that she hates, coming off the last job that she hated, and which finally just hit the boiling point. Just couldn’t stand it, anymore, so here she is… And she was basically saying… what else can I do, at my age? (Her age is older than I am, but probably still about an eternity from retirement.)

The thing is, she had ideas. None of them are really things she’s passionate about, and most of them are things that you probably should be passionate about, if you’re going to make them your life’s goal. But they sound better than here, and why not?

Oh, yeah. That’ right. At my age… There are geographic factors, too. Kids, grandkids. Family in the dying little town we live in. We’re all good at finding reasons not to jump. Not to face the unknown.

The truth is, I don’t believe either one of us should count on our current job being here for long. Definitely not until I retire. Probably not even until she retires. And it’s really not that great a job to begin with. More of a devil you know situation.

Not everybody gets be an astronaut when they grow up.

And most kids… we pump them full of the kind of dreams that do have sell-by dates. How many years do you have to become a baseball player? I mean… you might spend your eighties tossing a ball around with the Senior Sluggers, but you’re never going to play for the New York Yankees. No, not even way out in left field. How long before you lose your chance to be a rock star? Do you even want to be President of the United States after you’re old enough to buy a beer?

Writing is different.

You can actually do that, regardless of age or geography for as long as you’re interested in doing it.

You can be better at eighty five than you were at twenty five.

There’s a lot of value in the idea that I can still make it, even at my age. Even at her age.

And I can make it doing something I’ve always loved.

I’m still working toward that goal.

In school, I got a lot of That’s Nice, dear… Have you considered this assessment-indicated career in forestry and wildlife management? Certainly more than anyone suggesting that writing could be a career path in itself.

 

Staring Down the Third Week Slump: The Blogger Falls in a Hole

There are patterns in my blogging, in case you hadn’t noticed, and as a result, there are patterns in my website traffic. One of the biggest momentum killers is falling behind when I have a couple days off. I’m usually not all that far ahead, anyway, but there’s something about a good day off that will absolutely slaughter any momentum I did have built up.

The other big one I see is that the first week of a month–well, that’s pretty good. I have beginning of the month “events” and blog hops, and I’m starting with a fresh slate, so the first week or so is always good. The second week rarely hits that high, but it’s not bad.  And then, the third week… well, the third week is where the momentum starts to dwindle. Sleeping in starts to seem like a good idea, and I don’t get posts out as routinely, clock-work-ly at eight o’clock as I usually do.

Sleeping in beats the shit out of my Krebs’ Cycle–every single time, because I just can’t wrap my groggy head around the idea that sleeping until four or four thirty in the morning IS sleeping in. Nope. An extra couple of hours beyond that, and good-bye, mitochondria!

As weird as it sounds, I think the answer is probably scheduling posts for my days off.

We’ll see if my poor little brain can accept that. But the truth is, I’m falling out of rhythm on my days off from my day job, not the days when you’d think I’d have the least time to do this. No, really… I’ll just post a few pictures after I finish hiking in the tall grass.

The other thought that flutters through my head is that what I really need is something along the lines of a mid-month goal… or blog hop… or maybe both. Something to get people in here, and something that I’m going to do on a deadline.

So, what are your patterns and pitfalls? Any suggestions for that mid-month blog hop of my dreams?

Counting Down the Plot Cards

I got to work on my revision project for a while, and I wound up putting everything in order, or close to it. That makes the whole thing seem a lot more complete than it has in the past. (Previous Organization: Main Plot and Sub-Plot neatly separated so I can make sure everything’s there. Current Organization: Chronological.) It also makes me feel a whole lot closer to the word-count of doom. You know… that moment when you go over anything remotely resembling marketable, and you have to go back and fix it (again) before you can even think about selling it?

I have color-coded plot cards, and I’m moving into the word count warnings.

When I run out of cards entirely, I’ve hit too big and clumsy.

Right now, I’m envisioning virtually every card I have left going toward the development of the relationship between main characters and why the two planets cannot exist without each other.

Every time I start a new project, I am convinced that I’m going to plot in a neat, orderly way, and not write a whole bunch of material that I don’t really need. I’m convinced that I’m going to make out plot cards as I go along, and stay focused.

And it never seems to happen that way. Part of it is my mind skipping from place to place as I settle into a new story. Part of it is probably just laziness and disorganization. I don’t necessarily have a plot thought through at the beginning, but keeping track would sure be able to cut down on the revision time. And the writing time.

I think writing by hand tends to keep me a little more focused than writing on the computer. Or maybe, I just throw things away in a more expedient fashion when I’m writing by hand. Let’s just rip that out of our notebook and throw it away. It didn’t go anywhere. (And on a computer, I just press save.)

So, right now, I’m playing with a couple of ideas for my next project. One of them involves robots, and the other involves space ships, and long-term space travel. I only have a couple of characters, and maybe a scene or two for each one.

What do you think?

The Contract

He caught up with her after lunch, outside the restaurant where they’d had their first date. He’d scraped together a little cash–enough for a drink or two–but he was relieved when he didn’t have to spend it. His last job had been a while.

“Well?” he asked.

Kathy shifted her weight. “Well, what?” she said.

“Well, I heard…” He tried not to look at her, not to give her that prying, downward glance that he associated with gossip and old women. “Are you pregnant?”

“About three months.”

“Congratulations.”

He couldn’t think of anything else to say, and maybe that was the right thing. Maybe it wasn’t. There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm in it. And in other circumstances–in the olden days–people might be congratulating him.

Kathy looped her arm through his, and smiled a little. Cautious. “I’m going to ask Will and Patrick to be the fathers,” she said, as if giving the contract to someone else were nothing. “They’re good with kids.”

“Do you  think they’ll do it?” he asked.

“Probably.” From the tone of her voice, he suspected the thing was done, that the contract was signed, and that Will and Patrick already were the fathers. “They’ve been together for five years. Their careers are going well. Their mothers want grandchildren.”

Responsible and stable. Reliable. A good choice, by any standard. They didn’t smoke, and Patrick didn’t even drink.

He absorbed the information with all the dignity he’d practiced. “What about me?”

Kathy tensed. “You’re not father material.”

“Yeah. I know. But…” He wished he had a cigarette, or maybe something stronger. “It’s my kid.”

“No.” She dug in. “It’s my kid. I’m the one who’s knocked up. I’m making the choices.”

“I know that.”

“I’m not offering you a contract. That was never on the table.” She pulled her hand back, and folded her arms across her stomach. “You’re not going to be a father.”

The way she said it pissed him off, even though he already knew. Maybe she would have told him, before, if she’d had a chance. He’d stood her up twice in the last month. The first time, he was hung over, and the second… he was playing drums in a dive bar for cash under the table. A contract? No.

He didn’t have any qualifications.

And the houseplant she’d given him had been dead for months.

“I like babies,” he said.

“Everyone likes babies.”

“And kids.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’ll get a job,” he said.

Kathy nodded, but he could tell she didn’t believe him anymore.

“Will and Patrick are a great choice,” he said, after there wasn’t anything left to say.  They kept walking, and eventually, they got back to her office building.

“I’ll need your medical history.”

“Fine.”

Kathy looked at her watch. “I have to go back,” she said. She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. “You should stop by, sometime. Maybe take the kid to a carnival, or something. Throw some balls. You’d be a pretty good fun uncle.”

He nodded. “I’ll do that.”

He didn’t know when, but he would. It sounded like fun, and maybe the kid would look like him.

Just Exactly What IS In a Name?

I ran into one of THOSE names the other day. You know the kind. Close enough to a New York Times Bestselling Author that Google just goes right ahead and corrects it, when you type it in the box. Close enough that the proud owner of said name will probably never be able to dig out from under all the mentions for the other author.

Well, you’ve gotta cringe.

I have a name that makes Booksellers ask, “So, what are you using for your pen name?” and it’s still not as close as that. You type my real, what-grade-school-teachers called me name into Google, and you get a sex therapist, but if you go into a bookstore, and say the same name, you probably walk out the door with a lesser NYT Bestsellers’ paranormal romance du jour.

I am not a sex therapist. I care deeply about your pelvic floor muscles, but… well, you know… no offense…  from a distance.

I can’t afford the dot.com, the dot.net is the sex therapist. There’s an herbalist a couple slots down, and even if I could… I’d still have to fight my way to the forefront of Booksellers’ minds.

A pen name is in order. And I may or may not have settled on the one I’m using. I don’t have that domain name, either.

Names are strange and complicated things. There’s the friend who registered his domain name years ago, decades ago… and you wind up with a picture of David Tennant when you google his name.

I don’t know how much that matters, if you’re not dealing directly with the public. I’m sure the correct link is on all of his literature. It is a really nice picture of David Tennant.

Naming yourself isn’t all that easy. I’m still running around thinking about well… what if I used initials. What if I… And I’ve heard it should be something somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. Preferably close–but not too close–not close enough to be easily be mistaken–to someone who writes similar things. And I’d like it to be a name I might–plausibly–turn around to, if someone said it in public. gee, I hope somebody says my pen name in public, someday.

In an I don’t have to make up my mind if I don’t want to move, I wound up deciding that the domain name I wanted–at least for the time being–was ReprobateTypewriter.com and that it could be promoted more or less like a magazine, until I do come up with a pen name I like and am willing to stick with. It also leaves room to bring other people into the picture, which doesn’t sound entirely like a bad idea, although honestly, I’m not sure where I would put them.

And you? If you’re writing under a pen name, how did you choose it? If you’re not… why not?

IWSG: Did You Ever Just Quit?

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG will be JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

So, this month’s question is Did you ever just say “I quit” to writing? If so, what made you come back?

I’m not sure I ever quit quit. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or another, and writing regularly. There are highs and lows, of course, and there are moments when I think I should just make writing my secret hobby, and go sell insurance for a living, but quitting?

No. For me, the problem isn’t quitting, so much as starting.

I’ve always written. I don’t remember not writing. I have stacks of old journals in the basement, and files and files of hand-written, spiral bound stories. I entertain myself that way. Sometimes, I understand myself that way.

The problem for me, is getting to the point where I believe in my abilities enough to make this more than a hobby. Enough to do the heavy lifting that gets you from writing for your own amusement in the back of the classroom to writing professionally, with the intention of supporting yourself.

The trick isn’t–as far as I can tell–to keep writing. It’s to keep writing for others. Others who may not be cheering you on, yet, and who are definitely going to see that plot hole, and who are definitely not going to take “Well, it exists in my head” for an answer.

I’m getting there in baby steps.

There’s the first novel you write. And that revision nearly killed me. I kept going around in circles, and you know… since I’d only written ONE novel, and since I was having massive trouble getting it revised, and I was… probably having more fun writing for myself than working on this insurmountable, clean and polish until other people can read and enjoy it thing.

I’m not really to the place where I believe that I can revise quickly and efficiently, and not want to sell insurance. The write for others for a living thing just seems soooo far away.

But my version of quit would probably be start writing whatever suits my whim, without any professional intent, rather than actually giving up writing entirely.