What have I been working on lately?

May 23, 2011

I thought I’d bring all of you up to speed on a few things.

  • The ‘Request for dedicated readers’ that I answered at critters.org is going fairly well – I’m up to around page 125 out of 184, so more or less on track for finishing by the end of the month. I’m liking the story so far, and hopefully I’ll have some helpful feedback to share with the author.
  • New smartphone apps! I’ve been learning some good tricks with NS Basic App Studio, and have completed little apps for date calculator, (figuring the difference in days between two dates or the date result of offsetting an input date by a particular number,) and a data collection front end that feeds into a web application back end. I’ll post some screen captures in a few days if I remember.
  • The Straight Dope Message Board short fiction contest went well, though I didn’t win in the voting. But I really like my story, which actually took the character of Lisa from Chatterboxes, which is fundamentally a speculative contemporary sci-fi book, and put her into an urban fantasy scenario, learning sorcery from a teacher who isn’t quite what she expected.
  • I’m a little behind on my goal of submitting a story a week this month – I’ve done two, and I want to make a few more revisions to the Landing based on my critique tracking results before sending it out again.
  • I’ve nearly finished the second out of three fandom chapter updates I wanted to make in May – this one is ‘Children of the Molecule’, my Roswell/Doctor Who crossover, which is finally drawing towards an end.
  • And I’ve written a new scene for ‘The Long Way Home’, with Naveli getting Ereyu as a pet ferret.
It actually looks somewhat impressive when I type it out in a list like that.
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National Novel Editing Month update, week 3

March 21, 2011

Total time logged so far: 32 hours, 14 minutes

I’ll have to put in quite a bit of time this coming weekend to get to fifty, but I really do think that I can make it. Since I last updated, I have…

finished the critters crit that I started last weekend, sent it in – and got a very nice thank-you note from the author for my feedback!
Finished proof-reading and spell-checking ‘The Angel’s Charlie’ – and grammar-checked it as well.
Participated in the ‘Hone your skills’ blogfest – yes, I counted the time I spent reviewing and sending feedback to other blogfesters as Edmo time, for the same reason as doing any other critiques, and I still didn’t have time to read everybody’s work, because of all the Wizard World craziness.
Began doing basic spell-checking, proof-reading, and grammar checking on a Roswell raggedy edge fanfic I finished last year, “Roswell Calling” – I’ve finished the spell-checking up to part 3 of 18, while the other stages are lagging a bit behind that point.
And I spent a lot more time reviewing notes for “The Long Way Home” and coming up with my own thoughts about what still needs editing in that manuscript.

Grammar checking with Microsoft Word is a process that I have to be careful with, I think, because while the automated tests can sometimes flag truly atrocious sentences that I never seem to notice when I’m reading the manuscript myself, and that sometimes slip by other readers – if I follow all of the suggestions about avoiding fragments and so on, I definitely I lose some of the unique voices of the characters. At some points I actually found myself growling ‘That’s voice!’ to the laptop while clicking on the ‘Ignore this rule violation’ button.

I’m not quite sure where to go next with “The Long Way Home” at this point… I might try to just pick something from the list that I’ve made that would be a fairly substantial rewrite of a scene or multiple scenes, and just start writing, in the hopes that I can get in touch with my creative side again, because my Inner Editor is all over the place and doesn’t seem to have a regimented plan for whipping the manuscript into shape. (Not that it’s in such terrible shape at the moment, but I know that it can be better, though I’m unsure about how to get there.)

One thing that was oddly fun about writing my Long-way-home list of things to fix, was getting into the possibility of powering-down my heroine’s magik arsenal, since it stands to reason that if things generally go too smoothly for your hero, taking away some of their resources or abilities and seeing them flounder a little and have to be clever about doing more with less sounds like a good tack to take. It works quite well in the Robert Asprin Myth-adventures series, actually, where for most of the books the Great Magician Skeeve has really only a few basic tricks down pat – but they’re also reasonably versatile tricks, and he’s smart about using them in fresh new ways.

Wish me luck for the final ten days of EdMo.


Getting back into hot water

February 10, 2011

So, on Sunday morning, I tossed some dirty dishes into the sink and started running the tap. Dipped a finger in when it was partly full to make sure that it wasn’t getting too hot.

It felt ice cold, so I drained it again.

I didn’t think too much of it at first, like I thought that it couldn’t actually be something serious. Kept checking through the morning, wondered if the same problem was affecting my whole building. Went outside and wandered by the laundromat downstairs. They seemed to be doing brisk business. Finally put together a load of brights just so that I could go inside and try running a bit of hot water from the sink in the corner. That was hot, all right. (I set the wash on ‘cold’ anyway – better for the planet.)

So I rang the bell at the super’s apartment, and she ended up calling the landlord and he came over and delivered the news. The water heater in the bar downstairs was broken, it belonged to the gas company so they’d have to fix it, and they wouldn’t be sending somebody out until Monday at the earliest.

It was actually sometime Tuesday while I was at work that things finally got hot again. (Apparently there was some other problem only discovered while in the midst of fixing the first one.) In the meantime, living without hot water at home was just sort of a vague and dreary sense of deprivation. I didn’t end up washing any dishes until it was back, (though I did four sinkfulls on Tuesday evening.) I did heat a large saucepan’s worth of water on the stove three times to pour out into the bathroom sink and wash with.

And I took two nearly ice-cold showers before heading out to work. (One each working day until the heater was fixed.)

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In (mild) defense of the Inner Editor.

November 12, 2010

An open letter to Lindsey Grant, of the Office of Letters and Light

Nov 12 2010

Lindsey,

Ever since I watched your NanoVideo segment ‘Silencing your Inner Editor’, something’s been nagging me about it. As I drifted off to sleep last night after a successful write-in, the reasons why came clear – you are maligning my Inner Editor, and likely those of tens of thousands of other writers around the world. I cannot let these calumnies stand unrefuted.

Lest I get tarred and feathered myself, I should be clear that I don’t believe my Inner Editor has a part to play in National Novel Writing Month. And the little voice inside me that whispers the sort of things you mention in the video – that my writing isn’t worthwhile, that I should stop and give up etcetera – that voice is there, and it deserves every bit of abuse you threw in its direction. But that’s not what I’d call my Inner Editor, and I propose calling that voice the Inner Critic.

The Inner Editor is a different beast. He doesn’t want me to give up writing, or think that my words aren’t worthwhile. He goes the other direction, nagging at me to make each phrase and sentence the best that it could possibly be. If he suggests deleting my draft so far, it’s only because he thinks that I could start over again and do it better – if he whispers that I shouldn’t start the next scene, it’s only because he thinks that the scene I’ve just finished could use some polishing.

So no, I don’t listen to my Inner Editor during November – that’s part of the point of National Novel Writing Month. But neither do I believe that he should be ‘trashed’ permanently. He has a worthwhile contribution to make to my writing, and in fact I’ve spent several months this past year working closely with him, trying to get my 2007 Nanovel ‘The Long Way Home’ into suitable condition that I could show it to an agent!

Rather than a trash bin, I suggest a well-appointed and comfortable cage as the proper way to keep an Inner Editor out of the way for November. Make sure to stock it with all of that healthy food that takes a long time to prepare that he keeps saying you should eat more of instead of junk, and offer him plenty of your old manuscripts to read through and make notes in the margins – as long as he promises not to show them to you until the 1st of December.
Wishing you high word counts,

Chris K.


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