Monthly Archives: July 2013

Creative Therapy

Funny how a little thing like neurosurgery can set back one’s writing schedule.

I’ve actually been looking forward to getting this herniated disc repaired for quite a long time, so I have to say I’m glad the surgery is finally in the rear-view mirror. On the other hand, needing not to sit at my desk for more than a few minutes at a time while I recover makes it quite difficult to do any of that daily writing that’s so important to keep one’s creative muscles in shape.

So I’m spending just a few of those allotted minutes here, letting anyone who happens upon this post know that I’m still kickin’ (well… breathing, anyway), and that I’ll be back to my old, snarky self as soon as possible.

Since I won’t be getting much exercise of either the physical or creative type over the next couple of weeks, I may need to set up a regimen of “CT” (creative therapy) to accompany the inevitable PT that will come after some more healing. Good thing I can still use my brain while confined to my bed.

How ‘Bout Now?

I hate that moment when I’m revising to address a CP’s (completely valid) concern about the believability of my protagonist’s reaction to a certain situation, and I realize I need more feedback.

I don’t want to pester my CPs at all hours, yet I don’t know whether or not what I was trying to achieve in the first place came across at all, or is still coming across in the way I’ve changed the passage. I need my sounding board, but it’s not available.

“Hey! Does this work? No? How about now? Or now? … Can it be now yet?”

It’s a really weird combination of working in a vacuum and writing to my audience. And I’m feeling lost.

Inferiority Gremlins

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PlotSpackle™ and Revision Sanding

Ever notice how revisions keep applying to smaller and smaller details? I start with the PlotSpackle™, then sand it down with a low grit abrasive, then use a finer grit, and ever finer for innumerable iterations after that.

Before I even started writing the initial draft of my novel, I knew I was going to have to do some serious editing. As I really got into that process, I deduced that I’d probably have three major rounds of revisions before I was ready either to self-publish or shop the manuscript—Round One: make something I’m not ashamed to show to my critique partners (CPs); Round Two: use CP feedback to make a coherent, mostly polished draft; Round Three: get feedback from a professional editor to make a shop-ready draft.

Counter to my own expectations, I’m in middle of Rounds One and Two simultaneously, though R2 is several chapters behind R1. (Funny how what we think the process will be like rarely matches with how things actually pan out.) Within each major revision round are also several smaller revisions, each version polishing the work to a slightly higher shine. I keep going back and finding just one more tiny thing to fix before calling it good. I think I understand now why some authors say their books are never really “done.”

Anyway, R1 has now made it to one of the climactic chapters, and it’s really making me tear my hair out. I’m pleasantly surprised at the amount of action and tension that I somehow poured into these pages in those initial throes of creativity. On the other hand, there are so many minor details that no longer fit in with how I’ve changed the story leading up to this point that I hardly know where to start.

It’s maddening. I’ve got some great stuff—a shape-changer’s shift described in detail, a couple of different types of magic being used in battle—but not all of it works. This person shouldn’t be attacking that person in the manner depicted; this magic mechanism needs to be clearer and modified to match the new reasoning behind it; my protagonist’s reactions need to be more calculated to match her own plans… It’s a mess.

Even so, it made my heart race a little the first time I reread it in months; I know there’s a great scene buried in there. Now I just have to figure out how to sand down the high spots left by all that PlotSpackle™.

Fictional Genealogy

Fighting with this latest short story has been good for me in several ways. First, it’s just plain good practice to keep writing until you get something you can use. But it’s also become a possible springboard for something more.

In the world I’ve created—seen not only in my short stories, but also in the novel I’m writing and its eventual sequels—I have a supernatural symbiont that is passed down matrilineally. Therefore, I’ve taken great pains to figure out exactly what that line is, for six generations. The trouble, though, is that somehow the paternal branches have fallen completely off the tree.

So far, the only male character in my fictional genealogy chart is the (plotwise) future love interest for my main protagonist. That leaves out her father, grandfather, and two further generations of patriarchs whose very existence is hinted at only through the fact that their offspring exist. If nothing else, this seems like an oversight because I’ve left her relationship with the men in her life utterly undefined.

Until now. This short story has been kicking my butt for the last few days—particularly the ending, which just wouldn’t cooperate—but while massaging one portion of it, I’ve discovered the barest nugget of a male character. I finally met her father.

Now I won’t lie; he’s still drastically underdeveloped. Heck, he doesn’t even have a name yet. But at long last I have an inkling of who he is, what he’s like, what drives him—and how his relationship to my protagonist has shaped her. That’s big! Not because I need him specifically—in fact, I’m pretty sure this first novel does just fine without so much as a whisper of him—but because it makes her richer in the long run.

Besides, it’s given me some ideas for Book Two. They might even be somewhat useful ones. I’d better go write them down before I forget.