Saturday, October 31, 2009

What I read: October, 2009

"The Drowning City" by Amanda Downum. The boy bought this book about the day after it came out at the Borders Express in North Conway, NH, I think because necromancers are cool. He read 65 pages and then abandoned it because there wasn't enough magic. The storyline was maybe too much about politics for him, and not enough about reanimating an army of dead and having them swarm the city.

I did not have that problem. I started this book in the Porter terminal on the way to VP, and finished it a couple of days after I got back. I did not read more than maybe 10 pages while I was there.

"Palimpsest" by Catherynne M. Valente. I'd read one of her other books, and it stayed in my head, and this one had just come out, so I put it on my list. It's really good in a sublime sort of way. Palimpsest is a city that people from our world can only get to in their dreams, and via having sex with someone else who has been there. It's like a drug, with all the attendant issues -- some people seem to be able to manage it, some not. The story follows four people who got into Palimpsest for the first time on the same night, and are therefore linked. This must have been an incredible challenge to make work, structurally, but it did work. And the city was wonderfully realized, with that thing that was talked about at VP -- giving readers the information they need at the time, rather than all the information about something the first time it's encountered.

"The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman. I gave this book to Ed for his birthday a couple of years ago, and have finally gotten around to reading it myself. We've also been watching the TV series "Life after people" which covers the same ground. The two are interesting complements to each other. This book has a story idea on every page (except the Petroleum chapter, which I didn't understand). It made me want to read 1491. I guess I should pick that up, with a few research tomes for Apocryphal.

Three books this month? I feel I am not living up to Justine Musk's expectation that a writer first read obsessively. And I don't think I'll do better next month, as I just signed up for NaNoWriMo. In fact, I'll probably do worse.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I named her Honorine

At work, I have been copy-editing a manual that I unfortunately may have released prematurely. See, a coworker left (a couple of years ago) and I'm not sure now if he didn't say something like "I put final files out for that manual, but you might want to give them a once-over before you post them" as he waved and walked to the door. Anyway, I did some minor revisions, and realized the content was really good and I'd like to steal some of it, but then I realized that there are some errors. So, this is a quote from a section of body text in a released manual:
What is this thing all about

Yeah, not with even proper punctuation. I laughed and laughed, but that was to hide the tears. I have to take frequent breaks from this task, so I don't become too engrossed in how nobody ever cared enough about this poor manual to point out to me that it needed a once-over. After reading writing blogs and the paper, I'll check out the knitting sites. Today I found the name for the girl in the dolphin story... in my continuing attempts to file off the serial numbers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Disturbing patterns

Today I let Ed read the Unicorn story, and he made some suggestions to improve the ending. I read it through and found some continuity errors, which is good, I think, because now I'm down to continuity.

Then I switched to my VP story -- the one I wrote there. I'm changing the POV still. I noticed a disturbing trend: uncles manipulating young women. I wonder what it means.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Upped a level in editing

I made a discovery about all those pages of endless dialog that appear in my first drafts and fail to progress the plot. From a scene I was working on last night:

"

Do the wings grow in later?" My Dad asked. They were disproportionately small
compared to the rest of the body. "I can't imagine it could fly with those."
"Maybe it's like a bumblebee," said my mom. "Scientists used to say they
couldn't fly. It's too heavy for its short little wings."
"I would imagine it's magic," said Uncle Dave.
"So can it fly now, with those wings?" asked my Dad. "And more importantly, can we expect its mother to pop out of the woods to protect it from us?"

Became:

"Do the wings grow in later?" My Dad asked. They looked insignificant, like a
bumblebee's. "Surely it can't fly with those."
"I would imagine it's magic," said Uncle Dave.
"Can we expect its mother to pop out of the woods to protect it from us?" asked my Dad.

Apparently my characters don't actually have to say everything. Some of that endless dialog can be metaphors.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Unicorn, all the time

Last night as I was going to bed I had a stunning realization about the want/need of my main character in the Unicorn story. So I festered about that while I slept, and woke up in a very bad mood and yelled at the boy (he was leaving for school too slowly; he deserved it).

Anyway, so I came to work and wrote a page of notes on improvements, and now I feel much better. But the question is, when will it end? When will I ever finish this story? It's been about a year! How will I know when it's good enough, or time to cut my losses and move on to something else?

Actually, I am doing something else(s). I worked a bit on Dolphin yesterday (that's my VP short story).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh wait, I do still have a day job

Words one should never see in a computer manual:

"For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume..."

I took it out, the whole paragraph. I play this game now where I try to guess what engineer wrote the previous seven editions of this manual that has finally come my way.

Today, I actually had fun with it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Enough about VP; let me tell you about my VPstory

We each had to write a 5000-word story. It was for an editor for an imaginary steampunk magazine. We had to pin them on the wall for our peers to read. Friday afternoon during our oath, we had to promise to work on the story, and send it out until we had exhausted all markets for it.

So this morning, I started editing it again. And since we normally start too early in the story, what I did was, I tacked 150 words onto the beginning! Much better now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Still about VP

Today I subscribed to Locus, because of Viable Paradise. Yeah, I want to see my picture.

The strangest question I've been asked, since I got back, was one I was asked twice. And the gist of it was: "So what's your next step -- revise the book, and then take it back next year?"

Um, no, I tell people. The next step is to revise the book and then send it to agents and publishers. Completely different. My goal is not to wind up in that cycle of just going to workshops all the time. Workshopping is a level-up for me, but it's not the level I want to sit at for years and years.

And on that note, I've made it all the way through "Unicorn" (the short story I had up on OWW) again. It's 1K shorter, which is good. I think one more pass, and it's good to go.

Though I keep saying that. I've been working on this story for a year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It will be days still before I stop talking about VP

Yesterday, on my first day back to work after Viable Paradise, I was sitting all innocent-like at my desk raving about how fabulous it was to the other tech writer I work with. Probably I went on and on about all the amazing things I'd learned, and after a while he cut in with "don't you wish you'd done that 20 years ago?"

Um, no, actually. If I'd done that 20 years ago, it would have been wasted on me. This was the right time.

Of course, that was the same guy who thinks he's too old to be the next Joss Whedon, or go skydiving, or learn to rollerblade... Age is in your mind, dude, and dude, you are old.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

VP was full of awesome

I have an idea of how to fix the story I wrote. If Elizabeth is the POV, not George, well, then want and need are easy.

I need to learn to be mean to my characters.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Best TW feedback ever

Over at the dayjob, SMEs are feverishly trying to get documents back to me all marked up, in preparation for the release that's supposed to happen the week I'm back from VP. Today's best comment:

Unfortunately not true.

SMEs, they're so cute.