Thursday, February 25, 2010

I need a title theme system, because this is killing me.

Today while I was having my (adult) karate class, over in the kids' class, I heard a black belt tell the 10 to 14-year-olds, "Yesterday I went to a really interesting kinesiology convention." And I thought to myself, they probably don't think that's a really interesting convention.

Also today, my karate friend who is reading my karate zombie novel told me he's on page 205 (of 285). I'm amazed by that. He said he was trying to guess which characters were based on which members of our dojo. I guess that could keep you going.

And I just spent the last hour rolling grape leaves for a potluck tomorrow. The problem: we're having a snowstorm right now. The potluck might not have anyone at it, if no one can get to work. At least stuffed grape leaves are a meal, if I'm the only one there. What if it's only me, and someone who made a cake?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On readers, absence of

One of my karate buddies volunteered to read the karate zombie novel from November, but then never gave me his email address. Maybe he's waiting to give me his business card or something. Maybe I shouldn't have told him so many times that the novel is unreadable. I need to practice in a mirror saying "just skip the boring parts" perhaps.

Late Night Baking

Boston Cupcakes: according to the cookbook, mace gives them a special New England twist.

Um, yeah. But everyone liked them.

I am happy to say I don't hate the dolphin story so much anymore. Sick to death of it, yes, but not hatred. This is an improvement.

A couple of days ago on there was a suggestion about taking things from conception to completion (shut up, despite having posted a link, I'm writing this from memory rather) in the shortest time possible. With the dolphin story, I have not done this. For some reason a few weeks ago in editing, I dumped like four pages of exposition into the first act of the story. It's a short story. It can't take that sort of weighing down. In the last couple of evenings, I've taken most of that back out.

What I think I can improve:
1. Write a better first draft (probably less with the endless exposition).
2. Edit more efficiently.

Maybe if I practice editing things I've written recently, I will start to write things with an eye to editing them? At my day-job I try to always keep a manual in a reasonably "close to finished" state. It reads logically from start to finish, doesn't have huge chunks of half-written crap, so that I can always fire off a draft to someone who needs it for QA purposes, or who just wants to find out what the product does. And yet my story-editing system is completely destructive of the first draft. Often it takes three or four more drafts before I am able to read a story through again, after a somewhat readable but exposition-heavy first draft.

Maybe the next story will go smoother.

But at least I have cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oh my god I hate this story

So it's like the third or fourth day in a row that I've been looking at the Dolphin story, and the beginning is SO boring, and nothing happens until about page eight (of 26), and there's tons of exposition. And the writing is crap, and there's no point even fixing it, until I know which paragraphs should actually stay. And I've moved so many things around now that there is no flow. Every place where two paragraphs used to flow one to the next, now there's invariably some chunk of nonsense dropped in the middle.

I will never finish anything, not even this 5000-word story.

But at least I got it back down to 5000 words. That's something, I guess.

Oh, and the ending is pretty good, I think. At least, it's good compared to the rest of the story, which is crap.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

In Process, Jan 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 80% complete.

"Dolphin". Short Story. Editing -- just finished the 3rd draft. Got the POV right now.

"Bezoar". Short Story. Third draft. Made some really good progress with this one this month. Last night in my big mission was to make it clear in the first five pages what this story is about, because I seem to have a problem with that. And rather than write first, then knit, I edited and knitted at the same time. When I try to make the changes in the soft copy today, I guess I'll see how that worked.

Printed some of the karate zombie thing, never really worked on it. Felt like going back to Toothbrush maybe.

Extremely poor focus this month. My interior life has gone all haywire. I need beta blockers or adderal or both.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Out there -- Jan 10

"Unicorn" - Just came back again. That's twice. On today's list I have to get it out to #3.

This is the first time in my life, I think, that I've ever sent something out twice. Always in the past, and remember this was in the dark ages of juvinilia, I would send something out, and no matter how pleasant the rejection letter (and I did get a few personal ones) I would always decide that the story sucked and file it away. I probably still have those files. I should pull the stories out and find out how badly they really did suck.

Writing avoidance project: Instead of actually working on the novel, I bought several books to read for research. So I guess at some point I'll have to actually read Dante and Milton, and some actual apocrypha.

This time next month, it would be sweet to have another story circulating. God, I wish I didn't edit so slowly. Though last night I did manage to do the "write first, then knit" thing that I mentioned before, and I got to the end, again, of Dolphin. It needs at least one more pass through before I can let others read it. Some sentences still seemed randomly placed.

Monday, February 01, 2010

What I read -- Jan 10

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon. I saw this book on many "best of year" lists maybe four or five years ago, but I'm not sure I ever put it on a list. The boy was reading it for school, so I picked it up and read 106 pages the first day, and then finished it two days later when the boy brought it home special so I could finish it (he'd already finished it). He thought Christopher was arrogant. I thought Christopher did some amazing things, especially considering his challenges, and his parents were a pretty disfunctional lot, and it was a good thing he had Siobhan, a sane, rational adult. I gather from the intro that the author spent a lot of time with autistic people, which made the characterization good. The details -- lists of items, etc. -- were hysterical and totally appropriate for the character to notice. Some of them I sort of skipped over, like the descriptions of the signs in the train station, but the box of meusli was brilliant.

"Debugging" by David J Agans. This looked a lot more interesting on the shelf of the R&D library than it was when I got it home, but I did slog through. It kept referring to the more interesting bits that would be in the next chapter, and laughed at its own jokes, but it was informative.

"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower. Short stories. I read a couple of rave reviews, or maybe the same rave review twice. As I'm writing a lot of short stories right now, reading a lot of them seemed like a good idea. The first two I didn't like that much. I felt like they wanted more editing. The characters were interesting, and the situations, and the sentences were grammatical, but it felt like he didn't read that much fiction. The third story, the one about the dad with something like alzheimer's, really resonated. The other stories were okay, I got through them, but then the title story, which closed the volume, was awesome. I loved the voice in that story, because it was the same modern voice as the other stories, but displaced into whenever the vikings were doing their thing, like 700 AD, and applied our relationship values and work ethic to their social order. It was extremely entertaining. Though I'm glad there was only one of those in the book. More would have been too much.

"The Changeover" by Margaret Mahy. This was highly recommended by Justine Larbalestier. The author is a New Zealander, and as such, there were some sentence structures that seemed odd to my ear. Particularly, the use of "for" in the middle of sentences where normally I would have "because" in the first draft, and then take it out in the second and make a separate sentence. Once I got used to that, the story moved along nicely. Justine was right -- it was a neat way to show a relationship between two teenagers in an imbalance-of-power situation (she's 14, he's 17, he's a prefect and a witch...). There was magic, and that was cool, but really the interesting thing in the story was the complex and evolving relationships between all the characters. It made me think in Toothbrush, I need to work on the relationship between Claire and her sister, and Claire and her mother, and maybe even her sister and her mother....

"The Magicians" by Lev Grossman. Bought it in North Conway in August, at an independent bookstore for full price. Who does that anymore? Started it in August. It was a good story, but I found it very put-downable, maybe because it's a hard cover so not portable, and also, whenever characters in a story start doing too much coke, I tend to be put off. That's just me. It's my issue, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I can read two or three pages of that, and I have to take a break. It took me forever to read Lost Girls a couple of years ago. Unbelievably, this book took me longer to read than the sleeve of Morrigan, which I finished on January 30. There were some good sections, where I could read 50 pages at a sitting, but then it would bog down and lose its lightness and fun and become a slog for 20 or 30 pages. Not sure if it was me or the book. I loved the mash-up of Narnia and Harry Potter, and how adult interpretations of everything kind of bog them down, but the ending was harrowing.

OWW: One. Meant to read another, but also meant to put something up there, and never did that either. Feb will be better.