Sunday, August 29, 2010

Organizing More Than Thoughts

I used to think I was a fairly organized person. Oh, my desk at work didn't always look like it, what with file folders and papers heaped all over it from corner to corner, but I was using those file folders, processing those papers, and when I was done with that chore, they would all be put away, and I would start on the next task. My supervisors knew that if they needed some new project done, they just needed to give me the parameters and turn me loose; it would Get Done.

Then I came home and it was time to start sending my short story and novel manuscripts out to try to sell them. Total confusion.

At this time, I have two novels and a dozen shorts ready for a new home. I have a list of places I can send them, but is it a complete list? Probably not. So I keep looking for new places. I also go back every few months to those markets already on my list and check to see if their guidelines have changed. Particularly if that market was closed to submissions the last time I checked. Sometimes, it seems I have too many options, too much information. I have tables with the basic information on the various markets, then a folder with detailed information for each market I'm truly interested in. I have a table with ALL the submissions I've made, then a portion of that same table duplicated on the document for any particular market, so I can see at a glance which stories have already been submitted there. Files and documents and tables—oh, my!

I keep thinking there's got to be a better way, but all the methods used by other authors that have been explained to me seem to be just as complicated. Why is this so hard?

All my efforts have not kept me from the embarrassment of sending a story to the same market a second time. Color me beet red! It doesn't keep me from having the strong desire to throw my hands in the air and give up. Color me frustrated. It does cut into my time for writing. Color me irritated.

Unfortunately, all my efforts to get this process organized can't color me published. Yet.

See ya next week.    Trudy

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Counting Your Words

Some of the advice a new writer gets is that you have to write, preferably every day. Gay Haldeman says, "If you write a page a day, at the end of the year, you have a 365 page book." Others give the same advice as a certain number of words per day, but the point is, you should write every day.

Okay. That gets you a rough draft. It's easy to count how many words you've added to the end of what you had yesterday. I've been wondering, "How do you count your productivity when you're re-writing?"

Re-writing doesn't involve blank sheets of paper where you place new words. It involves considering the words you've already got on the paper. Is there a better word than this one? Would this scene be better if it came earlier? You are, in short, rearranging what you've got. You move things around, add words, delete words… How do you count that?

I have a method of how to designate how much rewriting I've done in any given day. I start each day with a new shade of that draft's color. Is this my red draft? Then today, I use pink, or brick. When I'm done, I highlight the pink/brick section, and that tells me how many words I've 'gone through' that day. But the inaccuracy bothers me. My second draft might be twice as long as the rough draft, so obviously I've been adding quite a few words. But third draft tends to be considerably shorter. Following drafts might be shorter yet, as I manage to tighten it up even more. So, if I work on a section of 2000 words, and I wind up with 1700 words, do I count 2000 or 1700?

Most the time, I just go with the number of words I wind up with. I'm not sure it's fair, but it's a simple process, and lets me be consistent in how I'm tracking things. I just keep wondering how other authors count their words when they're doing re-write. I suppose I ought to ask. Maybe they've got a better way.

See ya next week.    Trudy

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Go?

Not too long ago, I asked my husband – or maybe he asked me, I forget… Anyway, the question was, Why do I continue to go to sf convention panels on writing when I've been to so many of them, I've heard all of it before?

At the time, I arrived at the conclusion that I go to them because I do, occasionally, get a new tidbit I either hadn't heard or hadn't fully considered before. I went because I was hoping to find those tidbits that might help me become a published writer.

And every once in a while, I stumble into a gold mine. That's what happened this weekend, when I attended a series of three panels on different aspects at Celebration V, a big Star Wars convention. I admit, I hadn't held much hope for learning anything new at a media convention, but going to some panels on writing promised some time in chairs that were marginally more comfortable than the hard benches in the hallways.

The first panel was on plotting and character development. It was interesting to hear how that author plotted his stories, and I'll give his method a try, or at least a study. This was a little more than a tidbit, maybe as much as a nugget.

The second panel was on … well, what I remember of it (without consulting my notes) were some suggestions about doing description. I have had to work on description as I learned my skill, but I think I've learned to do a passable job. Still, different eyes and all that, so let's count this one as a tidbit, at least.

The final panel was by Aaron Allston, and concerned dialog. I didn't think I had any problems with dialog, so I was looking for tidbits. Anyway, we had Aaron at our own convention (OSFest in Omaha NE) a couple years ago, and I hadn't gotten to even meet him until the Dead Dog Party after the convention, when I was too tired to see straight. So at least I could hear what he had to say.

In one short hour, I learned about individualizing character voices, making them reflect the point of view of that character, how to use generational speech patterns, jargon, accents… And in the last few minutes of the panel, he gave a wealth of information on how to include humor in your dialog, even though he was not able to go into that subject very far. Aaron has obviously analyzed these things in great depth, and did his best to pass on what he had figured out. Wow. I went looking for tidbits and was handed a gold mine. That kind of unexpected bonus will keep me going to panels for some time.

I'll be home next Sunday, and should be able to get my blog posted on time, unless I get confused about what day of the week it is. See ya then.    Trudy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Little Differences

A few years ago, I began working on a piece that involved a vampire and a werewolf. Since then, I've read any number of books that involved either a vampire/werewolf team or a main character of one persuasion, with an occasional appearance by the other. These days, I'm not only working with one such team, I now have another, set on another 'Earth universe'. And for that matter, I also have two other universes that include vampires and werewolves, though not necessarily as main characters.

In the instance of using a type of character that is as well known as vampires, which has been used, re-thought, and sometimes re-invented by any number of other writers, one must be careful to create something a little different in 'your' vampires. I am not that familiar with the original Dracula – even that story has been retold and re-imagined a number of times – and have no idea how Dracula became a vampire, although I do remember how he turned humans into subservient vampires. If that was the only way of creating a vampire, there would not have been a Dracula. So, how does one start a race of vampires? Even if you don't explicitly explain it in your story, you should have some idea how it happened.

Are there a lot of vampires in your universe, or only a few? Several recent writers have a huge population of vampires 'coming out' and mingling with humans. They seem to make it work, but to my mind, such a large number of vampires would run the risk of turning humans into nothing more than a food source. Therefore, I tend to make my vampires extremely rare. Mine also do not burst into flames in sunlight, but they do 'burn at the drop of a sunbeam', so they tend to sleep during the day. And they can survive for a very long time on 'extremely rare' pieces of meat, although if you get them mad, they might drain your blood to teach you a lesson. If they live a long time, how do they manage to avoid being detected, or do they even try?

All characters take thought about their background, their lives. When you're using a type of character that someone else has already created, you must either follow the 'rules' about that type of character, or create your own rules. Whichever way you go, have a reason for that decision.

Next weekend is another convention. Don't be surprised if I'm late … again.    Trudy

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

After Life Intrudes

You hear about people who do their writing in 'stolen' moments – the lunch hour of their day job, the bus ride to and from their day job, half an hour after the kids go to bed. I used to be one of those, because I had a day job, a family that expected to be fed occasionally, a house that tended to get dirty when I wasn't looking. I did what I could when I could, and dreamed of the day when I could devote whole days to writing.

I'm still waiting.

I no longer have the day job, but other aspects of 'life' intrude from time to time. The science fiction non-profit I belong to recently had its annual convention, and for the week preceding, I pretty much lived on granola bars and diet colas as I tried to handle all the million details that needed to get done. The weekend convention passed, and you would think I would be able to get back to my writing. Didn't happen. More details to tidy up, plus a trip to plan, which meant getting the car tended, packing… If I wasn't busy with any of that, I was too tired to do anything but play mindless games. Finally, the convention is done, the driving done, and the vacation has begun.

Now can I get back to writing? I hope so. All those friends in my head have begun to think I've forgotten them. Ha! Like that could happen! See ya next week. Trudy