Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Edits Are Done

Well, not to put too fine a line on it, but the edits are done (is there an echo in here somewhere?).

I expected this to be a somewhat long, drawn out process, which I dreaded because I’m also in the middle of finals, but it turned out to be an easy job. According to my editor, that’s because I’m a good writer. I’ll take his word for it, since I respect his opinion. Bottom line for me is, I write. I do it mostly to entertain myself—and to get some sleep at night. Otherwise, the stories keep me awake.

Anyway, there were no major plot changes to make. Pretty much everything had to do with typos of one sort or another (and we know us writers never do that!). He did add the idea of my cops getting some information from a CI (that’s confidential informant for your non-crime people out there) rather than arriving at it all via brilliant deduction. In a way, I wasn’t sure about this change. I mean, I liked having one of my cops make  brilliant deductions. The writing I did for the scenes with cops was heavily influenced by Michael Connelly, and Harry Bosch does some pretty amazing deductions during his investigations. But, if you look at it closely, he makes these deductions based on information he’s gathered. He doesn’t make them up out of thin air, which was more or less what my cop was doing when I revisited the scene.

So that’s it. I think it’s off to the printer now for galleys, or will be soon. I realize that’s not much to say for this part of the process, but I don’t think you want a play-by-play of me editing.

I’ll let you know what happens next…though a big part of that, now that the semester is over, will be working on my current novel in progress.

Later,

Gil

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Words to Live By

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

—Stephen King

This little tidbit was posted to my Facebook page by The Writer’s Circle, a group I found at random, and I’d have to say I’m living proof of that. I haven’t even been able to make a post here on my blog for the last two weeks. Finals are coming up, though, and actual homework is slowing down, so I’ve been able to do a little more reading than I have for the past four months or so.

And that makes me feel more like writing.

Not just blog posts, either, I’m hoping. My Lyle Villines prequel is gathering electronic dust on my computer, and I don’t like that. But ideas have been coming to me a bit more here recently, and I hope it’s a trend that’ll last.

Mr. King is right, though. Reading is like fuel for writers. We get our inspiration from it. Sometimes we get whole ideas from it, situations we can put in our stories. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen what I call throwaway lines in other writer’s novels that I decide need more attention. I’ve rarely actually fleshed one out, at least in writing, but they’re good exercise for your imagination muscles. Like going to the gym, only it’s a mental thing.

I know that’s been a big part of my problem lately. I’ve had to devote so much time to schoolwork (and I’ve still got a lot I need to devote with no less than three class projects) that I’ve not had much time for recreational reading—everything’s been geared toward getting homework of some kind done.

That means my imagination engine’s been running on fumes and not doing a very good job of feeding me material. I don’t blame it. It’s not its fault I haven’t had time to write or read. But I’m going to school to put food on the table and all that. We all have to make choices in life, and I have to be practical and say I’m not likely to make a living from my writing any time soon.

Besides, having a skill to fall back on—in my case, networking and web programming—is a wise choice, in my opinion. Very few writers manage to be full-time writers, supporting themselves with their wordsmithing.

So take Mr. King’s words and put them up in your writing space or on your fridge or somewhere that you’ll see them, because they’re words of wisdom and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of them from time to time.

Read so you can write.

Write so you can enjoy life.

Later,

Gil

Prim and Proper

Okay, so I guess you’ve guessed from my post last week that I’ve started school at Northwest Technical Institute here in Springdale. I’m taking their Network/Computer Technician class, and I’ve already decided that I’ll add an extra semester for early next year and take their Web Programmer course. It’s only six more classes, and it makes me much more marketable to a potential employer.

Here’s the interesting part: I’m taking a class called Technical Communications this semester. It’s another name for business writing. You know, how to write letters, memos, that kind of thing.

Ironic, huh?

The instructor said that the people who have the most problem with it are creative writers. We’ll see. But I can’t say that I’m gonna enjoy it. Sure, I might need those skills in my professional life, especially since I plan to try to get a degree in the IT field, and that means I’ll be dealing with business types all the time. Doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.

I gotta wonder if it’ll have an effect on my creative writing. We’ve already had what I would consider some disagreements where I think she’s wrong. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I abhor the word alright, that I don’t even really consider it a word. Properly, it is all right. And yet she seems to think it’s, um, all right.

I won’t change my thinking on that one. I’ve seen too many references that say alright is at best nonstandard, and I will argue with any editor who tries to change it in my stories. I hate the idea that it’ll make me look like an idiot because they want to follow the latest trend (and I see it more and more in published books).

But can this course help my creative writing? Another question I’m waiting to see answered. I mean, I’m gonna have to use proper English for this stuff, not the more informal writing I’m used to. Heck, you see my most formal writing here on my blog. My fiction prose is even more informal than this.

In technical communications—or tech com, as we call it—everything has to be formal. We can’t even use pronouns! When she first said that, I wondered how in hell you could write anything that another person is gonna read without sooner or later running into a pronoun or two.

But if you look at any random business letter, I’m sure you’ll find pronouns are rare as hen’s teeth.

Should be interesting to see where this takes me. Luckily, it’s only a semester. I can take a semester of tech com.

It’s that semester of technical mathematics that I’m truly worried about.

Later,

Gil

Shameless Plug

Yes, this one is a shameless plug, but it’s not for me. It’s for my daughter, ’cause I think she deserves it. I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about me, and lately I’ve really centered on my novel—maybe novels, it’s getting so long (164,00+ and counting)—and what I’m encountering as I write it. I have to say it’s still something of a singular experience for me. To pump out that many words in roughly five months still kind of amazes me. I keep wanting to pinch myself and see if it’s real.

But one reader has told me that it was good to read my post that included seven things about me you didn’t know because it branched out into something besides writing. I don’t know that this post will qualify as being outside of writing, but we’ll see. Guess it depends on what you consider to be “outside” of writing. You be the judge.

I don’t know if any of you have followed any of the links I have on my main page or not, but one of them leads to my daughter’s blog, and I’d like to get you to go over there because she’s a good writer. I’ve had her writing move me in ways I never expected, and that says a lot to me. I’ll be fair and warn you that she doesn’t write the same kind of stuff I do. She explains it better than I do, so I won’t go into all the details, but don’t head over there expecting crime or speculative fiction of any kind.

However, when you get over there, you’ll be treated to samples of her writing that I hope you find interesting. She posts stuff like the prompts her writing groups does. They do five-minute writing exercises during group meetings and also send a list of words home with all the members to include in a story for the next meeting. Entirely different method than we use in my group, but interesting nonetheless. I’m fortunate enough to be in a group that has at least three published writers.

Jesi has a nice, informal writing voice that’s more like she’s talking to you than writing. It’s hard to do that (I’ve changed my own writing voice radically since dipping into crime. Maybe I’ll talk more about that on another post) in this game. Like a friend of mine said recently, writers have to be more formal in our writing than people are in everyday life because we have to tell the reader all relevant details. It’s not a formality of voice, but of method. If we don’t tell you about Colonel Mustard killing Mr. Body in the Dining Room with the Lead Pipe at the end of the book, you’ll never know. And if we don’t give you the clues ahead of time to see that’s true, you’ll feel cheated.

Having said that, for me, Jesi’s voice—not her method, but her voice—bridges the gap between telling a story and writing a story. That’s not a bad thing. Her style isn’t stuffy by any means. We’re not talking Henry Wadsworth Longfellow here, or Herman Melville. We’re talking Jesi Marie, who grew up in Santa Monica, is part of what I think of as the Digital Generation, and has a wry way of looking at the world. She’s serious about her writing, loves doing it and has since kindergarten. Heck, I had to be in my teens before I realized I wanted to be a writer, and she’s doing it before she can even write. Coolness.

She’s smart, too. I rely on her input to my own writing. Not in crime novels per se, but in plot ideas. We had a writer’s conference here this past weekend, and Dusty Richards, Western novelist, pointed out that, no matter what kind of fiction we write, the basic methods are the same. Our characters just wear different costumes. So even though Jesi doesn’t write crime, and doesn’t even like science fiction, I can still bounce ideas off her and get good feedback. She’s good at giving me an alternate point of view.

Let me give you an example. I’m developing an idea for a novel I’m tentatively calling Spree (let’s hear it for simple, unimaginative titles). It’s about a couple of guys who are going across the country, starting in LA, robbing grocery and convenience stores. The idea is that one of them, who is originally from New Jersey, has gotten a call from a family member telling him that his brother has a tumor. It’s operable, but for reasons I haven’t decided on yet, they can’t pay for it. So this guy gets the idea of robbing these places, laundering the money and using it to pay for the operation. My question to Jesi was: should I tell the reader why they’re doing this right up front? Or should I hint there’s a reason and only reveal it at the end? Or, not reveal it till the end? These were the three possibilities I’d come up with.

Jesi said, “Why not tell the reader the reason up front, but when they get to the East Coast they find out that one of them has lied to the other. All he really wanted was the money, and he lied to his buddy to get him to help steal it. He really wants to go to the Bahamas.”

Devious, isn’t she? Maybe she should write crime fiction.

I will say that the idea has been refined a little farther than that by now, but since I’m still in the planning stages, I’m not giving any more of it away. Not to you, anyway, heh-heh. But you can see why I turned to her for feedback. I ain’t makin’ these claims up just ’cause I’m her dad. Writing is far too important to both of us for me to be dishonest in any way about it. I give her only the praise I feel she deserves. It’s just too darn mean to give hopes where they shouldn’t be.

What’s made me even more proud of her is that, recently, she began a program to obtain a bachelor’s degree. She’s majoring in professional writing and minoring in creative writing. Go Jesi. Is that serious, or what? I’m not even sure how to go on from here, to tell you the truth. It’s so awesome that she’s doing this that I’m not sure how to talk about it. Or write about it. Some author I am, huh?

I cheer her on every day. It’s an online degree, and I’ve had some experience with that (I had a disagreement with the school I was attending that made it impossible for me to continue with them). It takes a lot of self-discipline to make yourself sit down and do the work when you don’t have to look an instructor or your fellow students in the face, and it’s all too easy to find an excuse not to. I had to give myself several pep talks when I was going. It got old. So I want her to know I’m proud of her, and I understand what it’s like and I’m behind her 110% (that’s just the measurable part).

So head on over there, check out her writing. And keep in mind that a lot of what she posts there is pretty much first draft stuff. It’s at jesimarie.blogspot.com. I can’t promise you’ll like her subject material anymore than I can promise you’ll like anybody else’s, but I think you’ll see that she’s an excellent writer, no matter the genre.

And that’s my shameless plug. We now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

Later,

Gil

The Plot Thickens

I actually mean that title quite literally. Let me ‘splain (kudos to anyone who can tell me what movie that’s from):

In my last post I stated that I’d passed the 100,000 word mark. Well, as of last night, I passed 110,000. So why did it take me two weeks to write roughly 10,000 words? I was slowing down looking for my pull off.

It’s like when you’re going somewhere you’ve never been and you’re following someone else’s directions. The last thing is usually “turn off on Dutton Road” or whatever. Most of the other directions are pretty easy: you take the Interstate and a major highway, then maybe a back road and so on. But then you have to find their friggin’ driveway, and you’ve never been north of the Mason-Dixon line, let alone in Connecticut. Everything looks strange. For me, it’s like when I went to LA to visit my daughter and we’d go somewhere in the car, with her mom driving: I’m a country boy, and it all looked the same to me. Might as well have been the moon.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at with my novel: there’s a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and I know that when I get out of the tunnel I’m gonna have to find the driveway I need. And I ain’t never been here before.

I’ve known how my novel needed to end from the time I began writing it. Well, actually, I had one ending in mind but, after a discussion with a few people whose opinion I value,  I changed it slightly. Same elements, just a little different situation. The point is, I knew where I needed to go, just not exactly how to wrap it all up to get there.

It’s called plotting (heh-heh).

So I had to slow down and figure out how to draw together a somewhat complicated plot in a reasonable way, and somehow let the reader know what happened from a first-person POV when the protagonist doesn’t know everything that’s going on (“And for my next trick, ladies and gentlemen…”)

I’ve had a notebook on my desk for jotting down ideas the entire time. Some of those ideas weren’t used (and won’t be), while others were, but in a different form. Sometimes I get an idea for how to do something and write it down, but when it actually presents itself in the story it ends up being different from how I originally visualized it.

That’s okay, though. I look at this kinda like making a movie: they always shoot more scenes than they’ll need, and I write more scenes than I’ll need. Things that seemed like a good idea but didn’t pan out in the end. For instance, I have an entire section where Lyle meets with a guy who’s gonna help him smuggle meth in new and creative ways, but then he never shows up again. That scene will either end up cut entirely, or I’ll go back on my rewrite and change a few things so he’s at least talked about. Things happen that way sometimes.

What I’m getting at, in a roundabout way, is that I took maybe six or seven days off in that two weeks since my last post, doing some cogitating (it’s an old word, if you don’t know it. Look it up). It was needed, though, and it’s turned out to be for the best. I sat down the other night to transfer all those notes to a Word doc and, in the process, figured out just how to tie things together. I know what I need to do, even if I’m not sure yet how many more scenes it’ll take to get it. I still have a lot to accomplish, and this could end up being a very LONG novel. Which means I might end up beefing it up even more to break it in two (I already have an idea for a sequel in mind. Stay tuned for more details on that. Maybe). It could get up around 130,000 words, and that’s before I go back and add the interludes from the reporter who’s interviewing my guy. Not sure how many words that’ll end up adding.

So there’s what’s been happening the last two weeks or so, and you know (almost) as much as I do. Enjoy.

Later,

Gil

PS. Jesi, thanks for the award. I’ll have to talk about it in my next post because I’m a little pressed for time today. I will get to it, though, and it means a lot to me that you gave it to me.

Another “Stuff” Post

Okay, first of all, yes, I’ve changed my theme again. It’s not that I’m so much indecisive as I’m experimenting. I actually wanted to use this theme last time I switched but didn’t realize how versatile it is (for those of you who don’t use WordPress, you can sort of try on your themes before using them. Except they don’t always look like you can make ’em look when you activate them). Mostly I’m looking for something I can proof that’s easy on my eyes. I not only proof in my text box, I also proof after I publish the post because I sometimes spot mistakes there that I don’t see in the text box. My daughter liked the last theme I switched to, but it wasn’t my preferred one, so now I’ve switched to this one.

Besides, I’m kind of a gadget guy, so I like to change things up occasionally. I get bored leaving it one way. Heck, I tend to buy new watches (yes, I still wear one of those) just because I get bored with the one I’ve got.

Okay. Now that’s out of the way.

I just came from my writers’ group. I didn’t take anything to read tonight, which turned out to be just as well. This group has been around a long time, over twenty years, if I’m not mistaken. It’s run by Western author Dusty Richards and an old newspaper writer named Velda Brotherton. For those of you who read Westerns, as of this year Dusty has written 100 books. He has written some for the Ralph Compton estate as well as several under his own name. Considering that Westerns, as far as I can tell anyway, aren’t a real hot commodity in publishing right now (which is sad, in my opinion), I think that says something for him that he can get his stuff published.

Anyway, because our group is so old, attendance fluctuates. When I take reading material, I usually make twelve copies because that seems to be a happy medium. Some nights are like tonight in which I’d guess there were well over twenty people there, and others it’s more like ten or fifteen. You just never know from meeting to meeting. They’re a punctual group (they have to be), starting promptly at 6:30 P.M. and ending as close to 9:00 as possible. It rarely runs over that. Each participant can bring five pages of whatever work they want, and that includes poetry. We pass around copies, the author reads it aloud, and then everyone is free to comment on it. In other words, what we have is a critique group.

I like that. I mean, we joke and stuff, so it’s not 100% business 100% of the time, but we do keep our nose pretty close to the grindstone, simply because of time constraints. In order for everyone to read their material, it’s necessary.

We have a pretty diverse group, too. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I do sf/f and I’m starting to experiment with crime fiction. We have a couple of mystery writers, one other guy is doing a space opera, there are a couple of romance writers, and one who thought she was a romance writer but then evidently figured out she wrote chick lit. Nothing wrong with that. We have one woman named Jan Morril (I hope I spelled that name right) who’s writing what I guess you’d call a historical novel. If I understand her history correctly, she is originally from Hawaii and is at least part Japanese. Her book, which she’s calling Broken Dolls, is about a Japanese family from California interred in a camp in Arkansas during World War II and the people they meet. It’s excellent writing, and I don’t understand everything that’s happening because I’ve missed large chunks of it. But what I’ve read is impressive and I’d like to read the entire book. I hope she finds a publisher for it, because it deserves to be out there. Anyway, we also have  a couple of humor writers who tend to do sketches rather than full-blown novel-length pieces, but that’s okay, too. There’s room for all kinds.

The thing is, I thought that’s basically what all writers’ groups did: got together and critiqued one another’s work. It’s interesting to me because it lets me sample stuff I wouldn’t normally read (and some of it I never will), and it’s been interesting educating most of them in what goes and doesn’t in sf/f. They just weren’t that familiar with the genre.

It seems. though, that the group my daughter belongs to doesn’t do that. They do a prompt session where they spend five minutes writing some kind of little flash fiction thing, and they’re given five words to use in a story for the next meeting (please correct me if I’m wrong, Jesi). From what I understand, it’s a small group, about eight people if I remember right, and they meet once a week just like my group does.

Now, I’m not one to criticize another group. It’s not like I’ve got the ultimate wisdom on what a writers’ group should be and/or do. But, while I like the little prompts and such that my daughter’s group does, I have to wonder if they’d get more out of it if they did some critiquing. I say this because I have grown considerably as a writer since I started going to this group I’m in and, with the exception of sharing whatever good news there might be (I’m still waiting for someone to jump up and down screaming “I got an agent!” or something similar), critiquing one another’s work is all we do. Well, that and eat the wonderful desserts one of the women brings every week.

So is anyone out there reading this part of a writers’ group besides me, my daughter and Russell (I know he reads this because he’s commented a couple of times)? If you are, what does your group do? Do you think critiquing should be a vital part of what a group does, or are there other ways to help group members?

I ask these questions because, as I said, this is what I pictured writers’ groups doing before I joined this one, and I think  I would have been surprised if they’d done anything else. But maybe my exposure to such things is too limited or something, so it’s gotten me to wondering and I thought I’d ask.

Well, I believe that’s enough rambling this time around. Let me know what you think in the way of groups. Or my new theme. I want it to be different but easy to read at the same time.

Later,

Gil

Brain Lock

Yes, I’ve been gone for a while. But, as the title of this post suggests, I’ve had a (sorta) reason: brain lock.

Brain lock is a disease a lot of writers suffer through occasionally. It’s disconcerting, to say the least, though I think I knows what’s caused mine: I’ve been concentrating on getting my synopsis done so much that it’s crowded everything else out. My brain is only capable of holding so much at once. Well, that kind of thing happens.

As I believe I’ve posted previously, my long synopsis came out at around nine pages. That’s at least a page too long, and I have yet to get up the courage to go back in and edit it. Instead, I took a few days off from that mess and then dove into another one: the two-page synopsis.

Forget waterboarding.

Every try to reduce 100,000 words down to two pages? It’s not easy. It’s like I had to take practically everything I did in that novel and throw it out, screen it down to the ugly bare bones. None of the nuance, none of the “show don’t tell” stuff, nothing that makes it more than a dry, boring basic telling of the story.

Oh, wait. I guess that’s what a synopsis is.

Well, I still don’t like it. And now I understand from experience why other authors don’t either. This is the ugly side of the writing business. Or, maybe to be more precise, it’s the business side of writing, and it ain’t pretty. Or fun. It’s one thing to plunge into a new novel and wonder if you can finish writing it and, if you do finish it, if it’ll be worth the effort. At least there’s an element of excitement there, the sense of skirting the edge of failure to keep yo churning out the words and see if your idea will pan out. This is the creative side, where you build the beast.

And then you come to the point where you want to submit the beast and you find you have to all but kill it. Apparently, editor and agents are afraid of wild, unpublished novels and want you to tame the darn thing down before you expose them to it. So you have to take all the spirit out of it and let them read it as a sound bite. Isn’t modern technology wonderful (see my post about how modern tech is changing the way we write)?

Doing it gave me brain lock.

It happens to the best of us. Case in point: in his book On Writing, Stephen King relates how he got brain lock of a sort while writing The Stand. He’d written himself into a corner, and it took several weeks (I don’t remember how many, exactly) to find his way out of it. He says he thought about just chucking the whole thing, except that he was like 500+ pages in and he couldn’t see getting rid of it when he had that much into it. He says the solution came as an epiphany of sorts one day while out walking when he realized that, literally, he needed an explosion to get the story going again. His characters were settled into place, busy re-inventing the world that had so recently been changed, and bringing back a lot of the attendant problems to boot. So, he had one of the characters plant a bomb in a closet, one of the main characters dies, and the world is shaken up once more. No more comfort zone.

I figure if it can happen to him, I don’t need to feel so bad, seeing as how I’m not quite the writer he is.

So that’s where I’ve been: in brain lock. Haven’t been able to write a word. Had several going through my mind, though. Won’t publish them here. I hope I can break this thing, though, cause I want to write, not just wish I was. Of course, now I have to do a query letter, so who knows what that’ll do to my poor brain.

Wish me luck.

Later,

Gil

PS I’ve reposted my story “Crosstown Traffic” after it’s been through the wringer at my writing group and had a friend read it as well. See if you can spot the differences.