Monthly Archives: October 2012

Works in progress

I bandy about the WIP acronym a lot, assuming that folks that read this here blog already know what it means. For those of you that don’t, it mean Work In Progress. Or, in my case, it’s about to mean Works in progress.

As in multiple.

It’s not unusual for me two work on two stories at once. Since I’m normally a slow first-drafter, I’ll spend months writing a novel. In the meantime I’ll get anthology invitations, or I’ll see a cool open anthology I want to write a story for, or an idea will present itself and demand to be written. So I’ll put the novel aside for a week or two, write a short story, then get back to the novel. I find that it’s a nice break from a longer work, and I don’t have a problem getting back into the voice or feel of the novel. It works well with my process. I haven’t had to do it for a while, but that’s about to change.

I’m still tweaking the novel WIP, as well as writing the Dreaded Query Letter and the Stupid Synopsis. I have several stories and a few essays to write in the next few months, and so I have to get cracking on those while working on the accouterments for the novel. I’ve always found writing for publication to be a part-time job, but more and more I find that job requires lots of multitasking. It’s good I enjoy that sort of thing.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing Class: Edit the Life Back Into Your Story

Over the past year or so I’ve taken several online writing classes, mostly workshops from the RWA. They’re inexpensive, I’ve learned something from each of them, and some have been really good.

Last spring I took an excellent class–Edit the Life Back Into Your Story: Hands-On Techniques for Creating Emotional Impact, taught by Lynn Johnson.

You can guess from the title that the class covered how to revise scenes to add more emotional depth to them. The exercises involved reading other people’s scenes and identifying what emotions they portrayed and how they were portrayed, and then doing the same with our own scenes. I’ve been kind of a dunce about this sort of thing, so breaking it down into a step by step analysis was very useful. The scenes I revised during the class were much better for the effort, and I’m still trying to go over other people’s scenes on a regular basis because I found that very helpful.

She’ll be teaching the class again at Savvy Authors beginning Nov. 26.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


I admit, this is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because we get a ridiculous number of trick-or-treaters raiding the house for candy every year.  We’ve had a run of amazing weather lately, and the trees in our neighborhood have grown up enough to offer some lovely fall colors–I especially like the ruby-red on our front yard tree.

I also love the costumes.  Jeff and Tim like to tease me about dressing up as a princess every other year.  I’m not alone, though.  We get a lot of princesses, and I’m predicting that we see a few Batmans and Avengers this year.  Just a feeling.

So, we’ve got flickering, blood-red lights draped on our front porch, skulls by the walkway, and some glowing eyes to put in the window.  I’ve already had some caramel apple cider, although I haven’t had anything pumpkin-flavored yet.  Have to remedy that.

It’s a good time of year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How loud, exactly, is the sucking sound?

I’m putting this post up late, because of my oh-so-busy day. Writing–yes, actually, one of the first things I did today, preschool is wonderful– cleaning, child tormenting, and then out to the movies. Which fine cinema extravaganza did I partake in tonight?

Birdemic: Shock and Terror!

This was the Rifftrax live version, in which the gentlemen behind Mystery Science Theatre 3000 add their subtle, critical interpretation  to the film, enhancing it for a nationwide audience.

Now, while I thought this whole thing was hilarious, it was also a bit terrifying. Not the movie, good lord no, but the clear evidence that someone could make something so awful, could spend so much effort giving it to the world, and apparently never realize how bad it was.

This is my secret terror with writing.

What if I write something, think it’s pretty good, but it’s not. It’s really, really not. And I just can’t see it, I think it’s great, and I flog it to everyone I meet. I push it so hard that it somehow gets out into the world, and only then as it crumples in flames do I realize just how bad it is, and I have to change my name and move to Patagonia.

This whole critique group thing? Yeah, sure, I hope it improves my writing, and I hope I can help everyone else out. But really, it’s all about Patagonia. And the avoidance thereof.

So guys, please, when I write something bad, make fun of it. Because I would much rather have you do it than trained professionals working a national event.

Also, in related news, my wife has told me that I never get to pick the movie again when we go out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The to do list

I’m a list-maker from way back. They’re not organized lists by any means. Sometimes they’re not even written down. But I make ’em, and–unless I’m mired in the quicksand of depression–I follow ’em. Crossing an item off the list is a wonderful feeling; throwing away a list because everything is done is even better. I have several writing lists, and the best way to tell you about them is to … make a list of my to-do lists.

Maybe I have a problem.

In no particular order:

1. Things to fix in the WIP. This is an evolving list as I get more crits from people. Add this, change this, make X happen, make Y not happen. That sort of thing. For the most part I keep this one in my head–my theory is if I don’t remember something I’m “supposed” to change, maybe the idea wasn’t that awesome or important to begin with. Near the end of a project I write it down, probably so I have concrete evidence I’m almost done.

2. Upcoming deadlines. Self-explanatory.

2a. Order in which to write stories for upcoming deadlines, which isn’t always in the same order as the deadlines. Shortest stories first, followed by ones I have great ideas for, followed by the ones I have no idea about. Unless the ones I have no idea about are due in a week. Then they get top priority.

3. Agents to query. Also evolving. It’s interesting to note that the top five or so names haven’t changed in the past four or five years.

4. Critiques for people. I belong to two writing groups and I do a small amount of critiquing for random writing friends. I don’t like to keep people waiting so I usually get to these before my own writing.

5. Ideas for novels and stories. Always evolving.

6. Now that I’m heading up the Library at Origins, I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do for that. Another list.

And … I think that’s all I have for now. Someday I hope to add “novels to write for my contracted series” and “emails to send to my agent and editor,” but one thing at a time.






1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing fast

James Maxey has begun a series of blog posts about writing fast. The first one’s up today.

I’m a little obsessed with this topic. I’ve been trying to up my speed, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of his posts. In my case, there are two things that I know will help me: more practice and sprints. Pretty much the same things that will help me get faster at running and swimming.

No wait, three things: more practice, sprints, and learning how to be more productive with the time I do have.

More practice is obvious: more time spent writing. Productivity is a fun subject that I’ll leave for another day. So let’s talk about sprints.

This is, by the way, just my theory. Ask me in a year or two if it’s helped. Or if you have a time machine, please go check and let me know now if I’m wasting my time. <waiting…> No one? All right then: sprints.

The way to get faster as a runner is to…run faster. Shocking! I suppose the theory is, you get used to running faster at shorter distances, and gradually you’re able to do longer distances at those speeds (actually, longer distances at a speed that is slower than the sprint training speeds but faster than you were doing before). When I was being good about my running training this did seem to be making a difference.

So it ought to work with writing too. I can churn out words pretty quickly–yay journalism training–and I enjoy using Write Or Die to time myself for short writing sprints. Doing that has made it easier for me to write quickly at other times (for example, my lunchtime writing slot). Of course the important part of it is to write quickly and still want to keep the words when I’m done, or at least the outline of the scene that I’ve created.

That’s short sprints. Then there’s longer sprints. (That makes no sense, but bear with me.) For example: National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in 30 days is much faster than my usual speed, and yet I’ve done it twice. I’m doing it again this year, to see if this whole planning and outlining thing helps me create a rough draft that I want to do something with other than sticking in a drawer. Maybe it won’t work out, but it’s still good practice for me.


Filed under Uncategorized

That song I can’t get out of my head

Technically, it’s the ideas for songs I can’t get out of my head.  A few weeks back, I mentioned that I was stewing over my next project–tentatively a road trip book with magic.  Well, the idea has officially blown up into the beginnings of an outline and character bios and world-building notes and yes I’m going to finish the steampunk book first I swear.  Breathe.  Okay, but if I’m going to have a road trip book…you see where this is going, don’t you?  I need music.  My characters need music.  But oh my, a road trip playlist.  Where to begin?  What are the songs that speak to these characters?  What are the tunes they belt out when  they’re alone in the car and no one is around to judge how bad their singing is?

Those are the questions bouncing around in my head right now.  I have a feeling I need to get to know these girls (yep, we’re dealing with two girls here) a bit better before I can answer them, but still, it’s a tantalizing subject for my brain.  I have strong memories of road trips with my family when I was a kid, traveling through the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, seeing glimpses of the ocean in Florida, signs for all the roadside attractions, great stuff.  I want music for that kind of journey, and for what the characters are feeling and going through.  Tantalizing, I tell you.

So, what about you?  What songs speak to you when you’re on the road?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


So I’ve attended a few storytelling nights held at Chicago pubs in the past few weeks. It’s a continuation of a grand tradition–verbally telling a story to an audience. These aren’t like readings I’ve attended and participated in, though, where the stories being read have been fiction written by the author.

These stories are from real life.

I’ve heard some good ones and not-so-good ones, ones that brought tears to my eyes and ones that meandered, ones told by professional actors and ones uttered by complete rookies. Just like the written word, there’s an art and a craft to a spoken story. There are pacing and cadence and beats to worry about.

As I listen I find myself critiquing the speaker. Not the performance as much as the words. The story. The emotions the teller should have hit, events they should have glossed over, the order in which the story is told.

I also find myself wanting to entertain a small crowd with a story of my own. This will happen sooner rather than later, I think.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

About that book

Life is more under control this week- no one is in the hospital, and nothing’s on fire. That means I’ve actually had a chance to start rolling along on my next book.

Starting a book is always a bit fraught. I like the planning stage, where I get to do world building and character generation and all that fun stuff. And I like being in the middle of the book- I know what I did, I know where I’m going (generally) and the whole thing mostly hums along. And the endings are usually only problematic because I get lazy. Once I know how everything is wrapping up in my head, its hard to make myself sit down and actually, y’know, write that out.

But beginnings. They’re hard, because that’s where I have to start committing. What’s this character like, how are these people interacting, how does this culture work, where the heck is this plot going? All of that has to start getting resolved. The whole thing goes from a pleasant, malleable daydream to an actual thing that has texture and resistance and pushes back against me.

Which is actually cool. A lot of my ideas happen when my concepts start smacking hard onto the page. Sometimes, though, the collisions are ugly, and I have to clean things up. A lot of time gets spent on fiddling too. I realize suddenly that a character is a little more like this than that, or the plot is going to have a lot more of that than I thought. All of that gets the story going, but it means that my first couple of weeks writing tend to involve a lot of back and forth and rewriting as I straighten things out.

Which is why beginnings are interesting. Often it’s a fun sort of interesting, but not always. Sometimes it’s a lets-lie-face-down-on-the-lap-top interesting. Oh well, usually it only lasts a few weeks, and I’m already one week in. So I should be through it soon.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

House of cards

So, I’m writing this book. Every day for the past mumble weeks I’ve typed at least a couple hundred words (aside from the week or two I mostly lost to a short story). It’s been going well, but I keep feeling like I’ve hardly written anything. But according to the word count, I’m halfway done.

The thing is, I got stuck early on, and skipped to a later part of the book, meaning to return to the beginning later. Then I got stuck in that later part, and jumped to another part….after enough of these jumps I finally admitted to myself that I’m writing it out of order. Which means I have gaps. Scenes, but no connective bits. No solidity. The whole thing could fall apart at any moment.

I like this process–it sure beats getting stuck on a tricky part–but I expect the last third or so of the book to be incredibly difficult, because a) oh hey, there’s all the tricky parts all at once and b) everything has to be linked up. On the other hand, I always find the last part difficult. At least this time I already know how the characters solve the major problem, because I wrote that bit ages ago.


Filed under Uncategorized