writing life tagged posts

Fatigue, A Stalled Book, and Art in the House

Oy veh. What a week the last few weeks have been. Stress levels haven’t been just through the roof, they’ve been somewhere out beyond the orbit of the Moon, so my body’s said, “OK, I’ve had enough of this fun.” Welcome to knock-you-flat-on-your-back fatigue. To quote the lyrics from the ’70’s rock band Spirit, “It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong.” Boy, howdy.

That Stalled Book

I’d like to blame it all on the draft of book #3. Progress has come to a screeching, grinding halt. I shouldn’t be surprised: I knew, even as I was writing the second draft, that there were significant problems. Then my writers’ group found what they found, and my own read-through and analysis found even more.

OK, fine. I’ll interview my characters. That’s a technique that’s helped before...

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Book 3, Starting Draft 2

One of the things writer Anne Lamott is famous for is her advice, “Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.” To me that’s a kind of liberation theology for writers, but that’s a subject for another time. Today I’m going to continue to pull back the curtain on my writing process, at least as it relates to getting all the scenes in order for the second draft of this book.

So: “Give yourself permission….” Done.

“Write a shitty first draft.” Done.

OK, maybe “shitty” is a relative term, but while my read-through of the first draft got a “not bad” rating, as I wrote last time there were problems with the timeline, that is, the sequence of events in the plot. Timeline is especially critical for this book for two reasons.

  • One, it needs to end at a certain time of year in order to t...
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Book 3, Draft 1

Woman reading a book

Image courtesy of Marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last night I finished my first complete read-through of the first draft of book #3 (working title, Guardians, although I’m considering Wild Spread as an alternative). (No, that’s not me over there on the right. My ideal reader, maybe. At least her interest level looks right.) I’ve got almost 10 pages of hand-written notes of things to check, fix, delete, etc.

Overall verdict: not bad.

There are some scenes that are way out of position. There’s a place where one of my secondary characters chrysalizes, then a few chapters later appears again in her unchanged, original form, as if the chrysalization never happened. Oops. Well, that’s the sort of thing that happens in a first draft...

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Critique Groups: Saying Good-Bye

The Cochise Writers’ Group, which I co-founded with Cappy Hanson, has gone through phases of growth and contraction, as every group does. We’ve been as small as four members, and as large as 17! We hit that number about a year ago and it became obvious very quickly that if we didn’t do something, the group was going to be unmanageable. The first thing we did was close the group to new members.

Our only saving grace was that not everyone in the group was submitting work. A lot of the new members did initially, in that burst of enthusiasm that comes with being new at something, but that tapered off over the months. Now we’ve got about half a dozen members who submit work more or less regularly, and that makes things easier to handle, both from a critique standpoint and from a management one.

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Tucson Festival of Books, Day 2

Got home late from TFoB yesterday, so now I’m catching up.

Did I say yesterday there were crowds at the Festival? Let me show you.

TFoB crowds

Did I say there was food? (And crowds)

TFoB food

That’s just one side of one of the two food courts.

And there were panels. LOTS of panels. From one on the “first folio” printings of all of Shakespeare’s plays, to Kick-Ass Women of Sci-Fi, to Surviving the Future (panel below),

L-R: Austin Aslan, Paolo Bacigalupi, Charlie Jane Anders, Jonathan Maberry

L-R: Austin Aslan, Paolo Bacigalupi, Charlie Jane Anders, Jonathan Maberry

to Ask a Sci-Fi Editor, to My Hero Can Beat Up Your Hero (panel below).

My Hero panel

L-R: Paolo Bacigalupi, Greg Bear, Sam Sykes

Did I have a good time? Writer-pal Lisa Vogel and I did, even standing in line.

Lisa & Ross

Yeah, definitely going again next year.

Save

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2016 Tucson Festival of Books, Day 1

Day 1 of the 2016 Tucson Festival of Books is in, well, the books. (Sorry.) (Not really.) Hosted on the University of Arizona campus, it’s the fourth largest book fair in the entire country, and 99% of it is FREE! (Pictures tomorrow, I promise!)

Check out this (very) partial list of authors in attendance: Paolo Bacigalupi, Greg Bear, Terry Brooks (yes, the Sword of Shannara creator), Jared Diamond, Diana Gabaldon (yes, the Outlander creator), Tucson writer J. A. Jance, Jeff Mariotte, Sierra Vista’s own Yvonne Navarro and Weston Ochse, cartoonist Stephan Pastis (creator of the Pearls Before Swine strip), R. L. Stine (creator of the Goosebumps kids’ series), Chuck Wendig, and over 100 others...

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Writers’/Critique Groups: Right for Every Writer?

My writers’/critique group, the Cochise Writers’ Group, has been going through some changes lately and that’s gotten me thinking about critique groups in general: their puCritique grouprpose, size, makeup, and so on. This post starts an occasional series as I collect my thoughts and observations about them.

One of the most argued about questions in writer-dom is whether writers should join critique groups or not. There are some people who are absolutely certain they know what the right answer is for everyone. Multi-published author Dean Wesley Smith is death on writers’ groups. I guess he had a bad experience with one once, but if he did, that’s not a sufficient reason–not a reason at all, really–to declare all groups bad all the time for all writers.

Here’s the thing...

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The Art of War for Writers

Small 4-star rating on dark blue background

Put James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers next to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on your bookshelf—or better, within easy reach! It’s that good.

Using famous and long-ago Chinese general Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as his model, Bell presents vital and valuable information for writers in bite-size chunks. These nourishing and digestible non-chicken nuggets add up to a lot of chapters, yet only two are longer than five pages.

That’s what makes them so useful: you can read a few, set the book aside to ponder them, and then come back without being overwhelmed with information. These chapter titles will give you a sense of what I mean:

  • From Part I, “Reconnaissance”: 21. Put heart into everything you write.
  • From Part II, “Tactics”: 36...
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Critique Technique Extra: Life on the Other Side of the Critique

Last year, Becky Levine wrote a post called Critique Comments: Remembering to Give Them Time. I liked it so much I not only included the post on the daily Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs posts I was writing at the time, I invited Becky to guest post here. While she declined the offer (her choice; no problem), that post is a good jumping off point for this one.

Becky advised letting a critique sit and percolate, or ferment, or something (my words, her concept) before responding to it. Of course, there’s going to be the natural defensive first response, even if the comments aren’t negative. Any suggestion to do things a different way is going to get that. That’s the reaction that needs to be put aside, taken off the hot stove and allowed to cool, as it were. It might be wrong.

Or it mi...

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Great Stuff for Writers, June 24, 2013

Major changes coming again to my Great Stuff posts. Starting next month, I’m going to again scale way back on these posts, for a lot of reasons:

  • Technical buffoonery on my part that made the Twitter links back to them produce “page not found” errors that I didn’t know about (but should have). I know better now.
  • Time. This is the main reason. It just takes too much time to produce these posts in the current form.
  • Others are doing it better. They have bigger audiences. Another reason why my time isn’t being well spent on these posts.
  • I need to rethink my social media involvement, such as it is.

So, July 1st, when Google Reader dies, is a good time for a reevaluation and restructuring on these posts. What will that be? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here’s the Great Stuff for Writers from...

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