Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Like word association games, but books with music

Today I am listening to "Bimbling" by Martha Tilston. This is the CD I associate with "Some Kind of Fairy Tale" by Graham Joyce. It's on my list to read the rest of his books. So sad there won't be more.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In process -- August 2014

First Draft

Limering”. Around 81,000 words. I am ready for this to be done.


The first day of “Editing Something Else Month” went to hell when I spent an hour looking for the printout of the story I wanted to read.

“As light as a bird”. (short story) What I had wasn’t really a draft as much as a pile of notes typed up in chronological order. I knew this before I started to read it. But I didn’t realize that the last three pages were missing about five scenes. On the second day of working on this story, I added almost 5 pages of content, and that wasn’t even at the end. I’d started with just shy of 4300 words, and the second draft ballooned up to 7181 (jesus! I went back to check for writing this, and I didn’t realize it had swelled so much. I thought like 6200 or something). That was the plot revision draft. Then I started doing the scenes draft.

So, back in 2010 or thereabouts Karl Schroeder was the Writer-in-residence at the Merrill Collection of Toronto Public Library. He read one of my stories and drew me a revision cycle chart that I still have that goes something like “Plot – Scenes – Character/Setting – Copy edit” and I noted myself not to do this more than twice. I guess the implication was I might be pecking my stories to death with endless unfocused revisions. Since then I have *meant* to do this but perhaps not been as fastidious in the actuality as I thought.

Having just finished the “plot fixing” draft of WWS, I thought I would do a “scene fixing” draft of this, but I didn’t really have a clue where to start. Last September or October I bought a book about scenes (also, Nancy Kress said in Locus that the point where her writing really started to take off was when she got a handle on writing in scenes) and I decided to read that book (finally) and put its concepts into practice with this short story, as a warm-up before tackling the novel.

I read about four chapters and opened a printout of my story, and tried to mark where my scenes started and ended, and the problem became apparent at once.

Here’s what might be a personal failing of mine: whenever I read a book or a blog post or whatever about improving my writing, I always think to myself, “sure, I could do that but it would stifle my creativity” and so I ignore it and don’t improve. And that’s stupid. I have mocked this thought process in others, who think perhaps that behaving like an adult and paying bills and suchlike would somehow ruin their genius, and so they continue to, you know, fuck up their lives endlessly even though they’re like 45 and should stop living like that. And yet, here I was saying it myself.

And then I decided, none of those rules apply to first drafts.

Not that it would be bad if my first drafts weren’t better. But that’s not the way I roll, man.

And if somehow learning to craft scenes with starts and ends rather than 7100 words of stream-of-consciousness rambling that sort of gets to an end makes my first drafts better, I suppose it’s not a bad thing. I did a third draft and started a fourth. I need a better title.

“Selkie Girls are Easy”. I carried this one around but didn’t really do anything except think. 

"Lucky Kate". After reading Make a Scene, I realized what was wrong with the middle of this story and wrote some notes.  Maybe when Limering is done I will give a week of "new words" time to fixing it.






“Ceremonial Armour” (Kaffe Fassett, knit from a photo). Half done the first sleeve, and I’m liking the colors again. 
“St. Anthony’s Ribbon” (self-designed). Seven inches of body. This is a good travelling project.
Octopodes socks from Knitty Spring 2014. Finished.
Rick socks from Sock Innovation. First started.

I also finished sewing the skirt I started last month. It goes with Kaffeklatsch, but it’s too warm to wear that yet. Fortunately, I have some brown tank tops. In all, I have about eight tops that this goes with, so win!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What I read -- August 2014

“Heir to the Empire” by Timothy Zahn. This is book one of the Thawn trilogy, apparently. There are a bunch of these Star Wars books lying around the house. People say he’s like god’s gift to the Star Wars extended universe, so I thought I’d give one a try. Wow. I haven’t read many tie-in books lately, and I was always more of a Star Trek person than a Star Wars one, but wow. He really caught the quirks and nuances of Star Wars. I could really hear Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher delivering this dialog, and I loved how he used the various catch phrases. Though I felt like he didn’t know much about being a pregnant woman, especially after reading that Elizabeth Bear book last month.

 “Make a Scene” by Jordan Rosenfeld. I bought this last year with my Ride for Heart gift certificate, and finally read it so I could do the next draft of WWS. I’d read maybe five chapters and then decided to check out the Amazon reviews, just out of curiosity. The 1-star reviews are always my favorite, except some of the reviewers were more bashing me for needing this book than were actually bashing the book.

I found it useful. I hope it helps.

“Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wursch. This biography was targeted at young adults, and the writing was a bit condescending. It could have been considered good, if the author was a precocious 15-year-old, but for actual adults the sentence structure and quotes were not really impressive. Nevertheless, the subject matter was well-handled.

“Dark Force Rising” by Timothy Zahn. Book two of the Thrawn trilogy.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

What I read -- July 2014

“Tenth of December: Stories” by George Saunders. I read it on the subway, giggling. People kept moving away from me but whatever. Delightful. I went back and read some of the stories twice, to feel why they worked.

“Thieftaker” by D.B. Jackson. I’ve known about this series for a while, maybe even since before it came out. The author must have used to be part of a group blog I used to read. With my current Puritan New England project, I’m curious what other people do with it. Though this takes place a bit later than WWS, and the magic is different, etc. It has thriller pacing, so it didn’t last long. The only thing that annoyed me was I suppose the author’s style – he didn’t use past perfect where I would have. If I didn’t want to use past perfect I probably would have found away to write the sections differently. More descriptions of characters than I normally do, but that might be my flaw, not his.

“Steles of the Sky” by Elizabeth Bear. Book 3! So what to say about Elizabeth Bear? She was an instructor at VP when I was there, and it’s hard to comment on someone you hero-worship. I’ve bought pants because she recommended them (they’re fantastic pants). I’ve made recipes she posted. She does handstands and wall-climbs, and so do I! I approve of her use of past perfect tense. These books are really good. You should read them. Also, I will always associate this book (and therefore the series) with “Constellations” (the album not the specific song) by the Moulettes.

“World of a Thousand Colors” by Robert Silverberg. Short stories, and fabulous. I read “Lord Valentine’s Castle” in high school and it had a huge impact (right up there with, oddly, AE Van Vogt’s “Slan” but whatever). I really should read it again. Elizabeth Bear mentioned RS a month or two back, so when I was casting about for something to read and this was sitting on the shelf, I pulled it down. Glad I did. There was one story I remembered reading before: the man who couldn’t forget or something like that. I must have read it in an anthology. But I don’t think I’d read the rest before. One story had misleading confusing use of past perfect. These stories were mostly published in the 50’s and 60’s, and reflected gender attitudes of the time, which grated after a while. The story about the guy who named all his trees was a standout.

Friday, August 01, 2014

In process -- July 2014

First Draft
Limering”. Around 74,000 words.  Trying to wrap things up.

“Wind/Water/Salt”. The end really needed a lot of attention. I deleted more words in the last quarter than in the other three quarters combined, I bet. Things seemed adrift, and like I just wanted the first draft to be over, kind of like the second. Which isn’t a good sign, perhaps. Some stats:

  • I started this process with a full read-through of the first draft in January, pen in hand. I began actually editing in February, so the second draft took six months.
  • The first draft ended with 48 chapters, and the second has 45 chapters, even though the second-last chapter got divided in three.
  • The second draft is over 13,000 words shorter than the first, clocking in at 143,139 words, a loss of 8.4%. That’s not quite the 10% I was hoping for, but there are probably three drafts to go (hopefully they won’t take as long) and if I lose 8.4% each time, well, that takes me down to 110,085, which isn’t quite the taget 90,000, but it’s better than just cutting whole plotlines or something. Not that I could.

This is the plot revision draft. It’s much more logical than it was before, at least the way it looks in my head. I’ll let it “rise” for a few weeks, or maybe age or ferment (but not foment), and then read it again and I’ll know. 

Last night I opened the file just to clean up a revised outline, and it didn't look as genius as I'd thought, and I went through a pile of notes to see if I could throw any away (I could!) and found some good ideas that still need to be implemented. I'd like to get back to it, but I'd like to do a few other (small) things first. Short stories! They're like knitting socks. In that they always take far longer than I expect, being so small. 


“Kaffeklatsch” (self-designed).  Finished. It was a bit of a death march to the end.
“Ceremonial Armour” (Kaffe Fassett, knit from a photo). Three inches into the first sleeve, I had to make a chart to progress. So it sat for a couple of weeks until one evening I just did it (took about ten minutes, what with counting the stitches, looking at the previous chart, and doing some very rudimentary math). Looking at the colors, I’m not sure I like them, but whatever, I guess it will be so ugly it’s cute.
“St. Anthony’s Ribbon” (self-designed). Finished the first sleeve. Started the body. Fixed the edge chart. This is going to take a while.
Octopodes socks. Knitty Spring 2014. MC is leftovers from Tenney Park (knitty deep fall 2011), with some brown tweed Kroy for the contrast. It works surprisingly well. I was so sick of all those old projects, I just started these one day. The pattern was difficult to follow, or maybe error-riddled, or maybe I’m just not used to following patterns anymore. I'm a third of a cuff and a heel away from having the first one done.