Monthly Archives: November 2013


Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for?

For me, some of the things I’m most thankful for are the things I complain about the most: time to write and having so much to do.

I do have time to write–work weeks like last week are the exception–and while I’d like to have more, I’m getting a good amount of work done.

And having a lot to do? That just means that the world is an interesting place and I will never be bored.

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Dr. Who

It was a great weekend, what with my birthday on Friday and the Dr. Who 50th anniversary special on Saturday.  I was tense and teary-eyed most of the episode.  Great stuff.  And I’m going to be a mess when the Christmas special rolls around.

Unfortunately, that means I’m also behind on daily word count again, so this is another way-too-short entry.  This book needs to get written, and fast, so it can get re-written.  And re-written.

And so on.

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Drama vs. Logic

As I was finishing up a novel outline this week, I hit this particular issue. I had a situation set up that, on reflection, didn’t really make sense. Not a big deal, because I figured out how to make it work out all nice and logically with a little thought.


My fix wasn’t as dramatic as the first situation. It made a lot more sense, but it didn’t blow up quite as big and pretty as the original set up did. Seeing that made me waver a bit, but in the end I had to stick with my fix. Plot holes, no matter how pretty, are plot holes, and I just couldn’t leave it there. My characters would hate me, for one thing. It’s one thing to ruin their lives for them, it’s another to force them to act like complete morons and do something they would never do just to make the ruins sparkle a bit more.

And more importantly, I couldn’t do it because of the readers. Sure, some of them might skim over it and never notice, but others would. And it would bug them. It bugs me, when I hit something like that in a story.

It’s like a little piece of gristle in an otherwise great meal. Small, but it sticks in your teeth.

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Finding time to write

It’s been a little over a year since I took the new job in Chicago. I have a longer commute now, I travel a fair amount, and I do more social activities with friends.  As a result my writing pace has slowed. I’ve learned a few things about my process, too.

1. I need to feel comfortable in my surroundings. I don’t get a lot of words in when I travel and I can’t write on the el during my commute. When I’m on a plane or at a hotel or on the el I’m constantly aware of my surroundings–who’s that guy sitting there? Did you hear that noise? My purse is still closed, right?–and so I can’t fall as deeply into the story as I need to. I’m starting to feel like our apartment is home and my productivity has increased.

2. I write well in coffee shops and cafes, but only if I’m alone. When I’m with others I tend to want to talk. This is great for business networking but terrible for word counts.



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Bigger isn’t always better


I used to write on my iPod touch. I spent many lunch hours hunched over its tiny screen tapping out words.

Then Apple introduced the iPad. I didn’t get one right away, but once I did, I fell in love. Its larger screen was much nicer to write on. I like it so much that I don’t take my netbook on writing retreats anymore. (And if Literature & Latte ever releases Scrivener for the iPad, it will be even better.)

But there are still times when the iPod/iPhone sized device beats out the iPad. I’ve been really busy lately, so have been squeezing writing into tiny crevices. Last week, I pulled out my phone during intermission at the opera (Falstaff; the performers did a good job, but it was too silly for me) and wrote a few hundred words. Last night, I wrote in the car on the way to and from tennis. I could have brought the iPad, sure, but it would have been awkward, and it doesn’t fit well in my tennis bag.

I made a ton of typos, though.

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Novel update

I’ll be travelling a bit this week, so here’s a short update on the novel.

I’m past the 60,000 word mark, the second act is over, and I’m heading steadily toward the climax.  The great news is things are finally starting to move.  What I mean is, the words are flowing along instead of grinding in fits and starts like they were  a couple of weeks ago.  The story feels stronger, with a  solid structure, and the characters are a lot more fleshed out in my head.  There’s still tons to be fixed before this is a workable draft, but I can see the shape of it now, which is a really important step for me.

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A New Toy

Until recently, all my writing has been done using MS Word. Not because I particularly loved the program, it was just on the computer and I was vaguely familiar with it. It worked fine for me. Since I did minimal planning anyway, I just needed something that would let me sit down and hammer out words.

With my recent forays into actually planning out what the hell I’m doing before I do it, though, I started looking at Scrivener. Scrivener is a program designed specifically for writing books, and it has a whole lot of features that make that process easier. It helps you organize all your research, your world building notes, and helps you set up an outline. You can even set up your book as part of a series, so all the notes and work that you did for the first book is right there for any others that might follow.

There are also some nifty features for tagging each chapter of the book so that you know what characters appear where, or what location this part of that part of the plot takes place in. Or what parts need work. And it’s very flexible about moving parts around. All this makes editing and revising a lot easier.

I’ve had it for a couple of weeks now, and I’m really liking it. Yes, I have to avoid playing with the silly features– like searching the internet for pictures of people that look like the main characters and putting them in. But so far its been very useful, and I haven’t even messed with most of the features. Like the name generator.

A name generator.

Anyway, Scrivener. It’s a good tool for the big, complicated jobs. Like secondary world fantasy books.

Which always, invariably, involve oodles of names.

Have I mentioned I hate coming up with names?

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Back in the salt mines

So I’m about 7K into the new draft. Don’t get excited–a lot of that is taken from the old draft. I’ve done some outline-y bits for the rest of the novel as well as more detailed outlining for the next few chapters. I can already tell this draft is going better than the last one. For one, I don’t procrastinate as much before I get my ass in the chair. For another, when I’m working on it I don’t have the urge to check facebook every fifteen minutes. Third, I find myself getting immersed in the world (read: obsessed) again.

This has got potential to be really awesome. Or incredibly terrible. Right now, in the beginning, it’s all possibility and rainbows and awesomeness. It’ll all come crashing down around me but right now I’m enjoying the ride.

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Where do you get your ideas?

I’m a new enough writer that I’ve only been asked that question a few times. Today, I’m going to answer it.

The shower.

Yes, when we bought our house, we didn’t know that the recently renovated bathroom was equipped with an Idea-matic 6000.

By the time I got out of the shower today, a novel idea I’ve had for awhile had spawned a more thorough history, a tense first chapter complete with dialog, and a beginning that might work well as a short story.

I’m not sure why showers do that, but other writers have mentioned doing good thinking in the shower. Maybe shampooing is just so boring that our brains have to come up with something, anything, to think about.

Now if only the shower also doubled as a time machine.

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School visits

Last week, I did my first school visit at one of the local elementary schools in Champaign.  I was invited to participate in the school’s annual Family Reading Night, and I read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Mark of the Dragonfly.  I was nervous, of course, but I had a lot of fun.

It was wonderful to practice not only speaking in front of an audience, but speaking directly to my target audience.  I also learned a couple important things, the first being that reading for seven or eight minutes only gets me about seven pages into the novel.  The time flies by, and that’s okay because another thing I learned is that shorter is better.  An introduction for the author, a short reading, and then a Q&A afterwards held everyone’s attention but didn’t drag on so long that it made the students restless.

The experience also reminded me that the most challenging thing about interacting with a younger audience is also the most fun thing: you have no idea what the kids are going to say or ask.  You have to be prepared for anything, because wow, kids can come up with some really creative and interesting questions and observations.  Speaking of which, note to self: come up with a better answer for the expected questions like “How did you get the idea for this book?”

You’d think I’d have some of this stuff down by now, but I’m still learning.

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