Out of my five-page depth…

January 24, 2013

Well, after putting it off, for a while, I finally checked out this link that Elizabeth Twist left me over at Stringing Words for my five-page synopsis on “The Gnomes are Missing.” And there’s really great stuff, so much really great stuff, (warning, it’s a link to the ‘5-page synopsis’ category on Anne Mini’s blog, and it looks like she’s posted about synopses of all lengths a LOT!)

So I’m kinduv at that point where I know most of what I thought about writing a five-page synopsis before today is wrong, and I’ve got some notion of what I should actually be doing, but not enough to feel actually comfortable giving it the old college try. Sigh.

Probably I just need to sleep on it and get back to this at the Power Center tomorrow – hopefully Elizabeth will be coming too and I can pick her brain about what she got from reading the Anne Mini stuff. (Unless she’s decided the weather is good enough to go frolicking with her dog instead. 😉 )

One thing that might be good is that I think I was actually on the right track when I went ‘off-script’ Tuesday evening and just talked to the Hamilton Writer’s Circle about what excited me about the Missing Gnomes story, instead of reading the plot outline point by point. If I can get the heart of that impromptu speech down into Roughdraft, and then expand some of the scene that excite me the most even more, then I think I’ll be well on my way.

I’m not sure if this is necessary, but I do think it’s worth doing. I’m sure Kij Johnson knows how to write a kick-ass 5-page synopsis. She may not expect everybody applying to her workshop to know that yet, but I suspect those who do will earn a point in her books. Now that I know more about the target I’m aiming for, I’m one step closer.

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Editing and Workshop submissions progress

January 23, 2013

Hi again, friends and followers! It’s been a pretty cold week here in Ontario, but that’s given be some time to stay inside where it’s warm and get cracking on my workshop applications stuff, including the editing. (Yay?) 😉

First off, the Missing Gnomes. I still need to sort some stuff out here, especially with my five-page synopsis, but I pitched the rough outline to the Hamilton Writer’s circle at Chester’s yesterday night, and people really seemed to love the premise, the characters, and a few people started really debating a few of the plot points – including whether my villain can actually reform and seek absolution at the end. (“Pixie crossbow to the back of the head, I’m tellin’ ya! Only way to be sure.” :D) So that was great, really helped me stay excited about that project.

What I’ve been working on tonight, though, has been the “Time Bubble Blues” story. I got something like two dozen great critiques for this story a week ago, and even though people really liked it, there was a lot to come to grips with. After taking a little while to catch my creative breath, I dove into the revision with a variant of an approach that’s worked pretty well with me for short stories before.

  • Start by re-reading all of the critiques in order, and making notes of everything that you’d like to change – not necessarily something that a critter told you to change, it could be something that you were reminded of by something they said. Leave off anything that you like the way it is.
  • Some of the items will be very concrete and easy, some extremely vague and nebulous, but that’s okay.
  • Once the critiques have all been read and the list is complete, find something that you feel confident to fix right away. Fix it, and cross it off or mark an X next to it. Then look for the next thing.
  • As you X off more of the list, the quick wins will become sparse, and maybe vanish entirely. Tackle bigger items when you feel ready for them.
  • If you need to do online research or involved planning to take care of an item on the list, do it, but don’t let yourself get distracted. If you make some changes for a nebulous item but think it’s not finished yet, mark a diagonal slash / in front of that item – that’s half of your X mark.

So, I’ve been going at my list that way for a few days, and this evening I just felt moved to blaze a slightly new trail, so I started at the beginning of the story. There was one item on my list to ‘Speed up the start, give less exposition about how the bubble operates’ so I cut as much as I could out of the first scene, before disaster strikes. Then I just kinda kept going through the storyline, adjusting everything I could think of or remember from the list, re-ordering some scenes, expanding some content and adding a few hundred words. I think I really got some great stuff done.

I guess the next thing I’ll need to do for my next editing session is go through my list and see how many more X marks I can add.

 


One fellow writer is better than none.

December 18, 2012

I was a little worried about showing up to the Hamilton Writer’s meeting at Chester’s beers of the world this evening, after the late-November meeting when nobody else showed up. There were a few RSVPs on Facebook over the past week or so, at least.

Not all of the RSVPs worked out, but at least one other writer, Marilyn, showed up. We chatted, had a beverage and some dinner, and read over each other’s writing samples. I brought the first nine pages of “The Gnomes are Missing”, and Marilyn had a fun little two-page piece about exploring an attic. 🙂 Since she’d had a tough time getting downtown on the bus and was worried about heading back home, I gave her a lift with Ghost once we were ready to leave.

I’m sorry that Laura wasn’t able to make it. Perhaps she stayed up at her tiny house today after all.


May the muse be with you

December 17, 2012

I feel like I’ve hit my creative stride over the past few days, for the first time since Nano, really. I already mentioned that my Saturday was productive in several ways.

Sunday, I started the block revision of ‘The Storm Mirror’, marking up the first two scenes and then rewriting the next few on the Alphasmart Dana. Then it was down to Williams on the pier, meeting up with Elizabeth Twist and Gale, where I started a new story, “Time Bubble Trap”, partially based on “Project Fast Track” from last year.

Today, I got more of “Time Bubble Trap” on the bus to and from work, writing on the eeePC. We got stuck in traffic for an extra fifteen minutes because the Hamilton Harbor lift bridge was up, but the battery was charged up enough that I could write for most of the extra time! I also read some of a Temperance Brennan book on the Kindle, “Deadly Decisions.”

So I feel like I’m well over the post-Nano crash, and riding a wave of creative energy. The next few days might be a little hard to find time for writing or revisions, though. Tomorrow evening is the Hamilton Writer’s meeting at Chester’s, and that should be fun. I’m going to bring the opening pages of “The Gnomes are Missing” again – this time other people have RSVPed, so I should be able to actually read them.

And Wednesday evening, my mother and I have tickets for the Vinyl Cafe concert at Hamilton Place, which is a holiday season tradition for us that I’m looking forward to.

Hopefully I’ll be able to fit more Block Revision in tomorrow before I have to leave for work.


What process do you write in?

September 26, 2012

There was some great conversation between the four of us who showed up to Chester’s Beers of the World for the Hamilton Writers meeting last night – once they turned down the music enough that we could hear each other speak, that is. 😉

One interesting topic that came up was our choice of writing process – specifically between three very different experiences – typing on a keyboard, scribbling with a pen or pencil on paper, and speaking into a voice recorder. It was interesting to see how different people reacted to the different options.

I’m a typer; I have been since I was very young; taught myself how to go beyond two-finger hunt and peck typing, though it took proper typing lessons to cure myself of looking at the screen. I have handwriting so horrible that I can’t read it myself, and I get very nervous about the sound of my voice and my ums and uhs if I try talking into a voice recorder. But I’ve never really needed an alternative to typing – it’s a process that works very well for me.

The new gentleman who brought up this topic for conversation said that he found that a voice recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking work very well for him – especially after he’s reached the halfway point in a story, which is where the tough part usually begins for him. He can usually cruise through the first half on a keyboard, he said, but then gets blocked if he can’t talk it through. Another writer that I’ve known for many years mentioned that she associates keyboards as a tool for a day job, not a part of her writing process, so she writes her first drafts out in longhand.

Have you found the process that works for you? Is there some special subprocess within those big three that you write best with, (a particular keyboard device, that perfect notebook paper, or whatever?) Do you ever wish that you could find a better process than the one you’re writing with now?


Laser printer toner.

January 16, 2012

I got my laser printer a little over a year ago – there were electronics gift cards that came my way on Christmas day, and so I went to the boxing day sales and carried home a little Brother printer. It’s been a great unit, and I’ve put it to good use – printing out several copies of every short story or excerpt that I take to Hamilton Writers or the now-defunct ‘New Writing Workshop‘, and every story that I put into my Kansas binders.

Just before I left for San Francisco this November, the printer’s ‘toner warning’ light started blinking. I over-reacted a little and didn’t even turn the printer on again until I’d found a seller on Ebay who would ship me a toner drum without charging a full arm for it, and then once I’d brought the new drum home – the printer seemed to be fine with the old toner drum.

This has continued on for a few months – the toner light would start blinking intermittently, and then clear up, as if it can’t make up its mind. “Toner? Yeah, I could do with some new toner.” “Toner? Nah, I’m fine, I don’t need more toner.”

Tomorrow is the first Hamilton Writers meeting of the new year, and I had some idea of forcing the issue, of continuing to print out copies of “Project Fast Track” until the printer knuckled under and asked for toner. Turned out I didn’t really need to try very hard. The toner light came on steady after the third copy, which means that it’s not a warranty, but a ‘toner end of life’ error condition. Somewhat whimsically, I turned it off for about an hour, came back – and got another one and a half copies, (twelve pages,) before ‘toner end of life’ hit again.

That time, turning it off and waiting didn’t clear the problem, so I finally opened up the front of the printer, took out the drum assembly, bagged up the old toner drum, inserted the new one, and cleaned off the ‘primary corona wire’, whatever that is, by sliding a stiff green switch back and forth several times. The manual says that I should wipe out the insides of the printer when I change the toner, but it’s too late for me to bother tonight, so I need to remember to do that soon.

It’s a good little printer, and I’m sure it gave me thousands of pages from that first starter drum. Here’s to the next five thousand pages printed!


The writers of Hamilton

December 7, 2011

I had a great time at the Hamilton Writers meeting last night, at Chesters’ beers of the world. There was a good turnout, eight of us, with a mix of HW regulars, friends of mine from the Hamilton Nanowrimo group who were coming for the first time, and one other guy who was an occasional member of both groups.

There was some great conversation as we assembled – Laura talking about her tiny house, and I showed my Holly Lisle manuscript notes to anybody who would take a look. Many burgers and fries were eaten, and beer was brought.

Then, it was sharing time. I went first, with most of the revised Father Ismay story, and Rob gave us another chapter of his thriller. Then Gale booted up her little netbook and read from the opening of “Murder in the Parish”, her Nanowrimo mystery story from this year, and Alex read something that he was working on involving a guy who has a UFO encounter and gets spooky powers.

It was just a great time spent with nearby fellow writers. We all need some every now and then.


Finished a new story draft!

September 17, 2011

Well, it’s taken a bit longer than I might have hoped, but I’ve finished a new draft of my short story “The Trigger”, based on feedback I got from the Hamilton Writers group and the other two members of the ‘Terrible Trio’. (Which isn’t a name we settled on, because Lydia didn’t approve it.)

The length of this new draft is up by a remarkable amount – from 2000 words in my initial draft, which was a requirement of the SDMB short fiction contest, up to over six thousand! And what’s more, I think I’ve noticed something about the way I tend to tackle story revisions sometimes – not necessarily a good way or bad way, but figuring things out about my own writing process seems a useful thing to be paying attention to at this point.

The thing is, if I know I need to make big structural changes to a story, I don’t tend to work closely based off the previous draft and the critique notes I’ve got from it. I’ll review everything – and then start writing again, as if it were a new story, but based on the previous idea. If there’s a scene or part of a scene that I think would still mostly work, then I copy and paste it in, and edit as needed, but in other places I might just type in a few lines of dialog from memory, or descriptions, without even checking the last draft.

And then, usually, I go over the critique notes again, to make sure that I’m not repeating any bad mistakes from last time. I haven’t gotten to that bit with ‘The Trigger’ yet.

I’ve gone through this pattern a few times since I’ve started tackling short stories in the past two years – changing ‘Samantha and the Wolves’ into ‘The Wolves of Wyoming’, revising ‘Harry and Mars’ before I sent it in to the Kansas workshop participants, rewriting ‘Survey’ into ‘The Wyverns of Werness’ over the workshop weekend, and now ‘The Trigger.’

And this isn’t the only way that I do revisions – I did a fairly substantial rewrite of ‘The Landing’ based much more closely on the previous draft in August, and I’ve done some more superficial revisions as well. This ‘Scavenge and Rebuild’ tactic seems to be a fairly useful one, I think – probably should keep an eye on the results a bit before I let myself get too comfortable with it, but at least it’s a fairly fun way of approaching a rewrite.

What’s your usual approach to doing a rewrite, if you have one?

 


And I’m back home.

July 11, 2011

It’s good to be back in Canada.

I’m still a bit tired from the trip and all the excitement of Kansas. Took me a while to get back into the swing of things with work – and it didn’t help that my Blackberry didn’t want to take any emails when I powered it up today.

My creative energy still isn’t really focused yet, but hopefully that won’t last too long. There’s lots of great new stuff sort of still swirling around in my head, but I’ve got projects that I committed to for July, and I don’t want to let them all slide. Tomorrow night is Hamilton Writer’s at Chester’s Beers of the world, so that should hopefully be fun. I’ve printed out copies of the scene assignment to read there.

On a sadder note, I left “The Prisoner of Azkaban” in the seat pocket of my Continental Airlines flight from Kansas City to Cleveland yesterday afternoon, so the Harry Potter posts may get delayed until I pick up a new copy.


The tiny violin that went canoeing.

June 8, 2011

Well, I think it’s time to share another quick little prompt story. Like a lot of the writing that I’ve shared here, this came from the Hamilton Writer’s meeting at Chester’s Beers of the World, in early May.

Nobody had prepared any prompts ahead of time, so I actually used my iphone to get a few random writing prompts for everybody, and I think that they worked out pretty well. The prompts were:

A sleeping bag, an old record player, and a poem.
A tiny violin that went canoeing.

Here’s what I came up with based on that.

 

“I wish we could have brought the turntable,” Emily muttered as she looked over the clearing and the cozy tent that they’d managed to set up.

“Shall I compare my love to a vintage record?” John said. “The depths of my heart are scratchier and less bored…”

“Spare me the poetry,” she grumbled. “It’s just a good night for music, and I’d prefer something that doesn’t come out of that portable radio. They never play anything good on the FM band out here, anyway.”

“We could sing,” he offered, looking through the duffel anyway.

“I sing a quarter note flat, and you sing a quarter note sharp,” she pointed out. “We don’t make beautiful music together, at least not that way.”

“What the hell – why is this still in the bag?” he exclaimed, bringing a little black case out of the long duffel.

“Umm… well, I thought that was your manly shaving kit or something.”

“Who puts manly shaving gear in a minature violin case?”

“I dunno, somebody who wants to pretend to be a very short gangster? What is it? It was in the case already, from that trip you took to the convention in the city I assumed.”
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