Monday, February 27, 2006

Breaking free of post-novel funk

At last! Forward movement! New words! I'm not stuck anymore.

Such a relief.

Yesterday, I started converting a script I wrote into short story format and finally started getting somewhere on it. I've had a huge mental barrier on this project. Scripts are written from such an outside perspective, I simply couldn't get in close enough to write it in story form whenever I tried in the past. But I was finally able to stop watching the film from the camera's perspective and get into the middle of it. Helps that I decided to start the story from the outside character's pov first. It was surprisingly easy to remember what the world feels like from his perspective.

And I also completed my DTD outline spreadsheet. I have everything I wrote documented. Now to tear it apart, fix it, and put it back together.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I was thinking about heroes last night, after a conversation with my dad. Heroes in the classic sense -- people admired for their achievements and noble qualities. Not sandwiches, not objects of extreme admiration and devotion. I was thinking about it because my dad had just watched "Cinderella Man," enjoyed it immensely, and he was telling me about how Jim Braddock was a true hero, and how I needed to see this movie posthaste. Really, this was his oblique way of telling me how much he doesn't approve of my taste in cinematic characters/men (nothing new there), but it did get me thinking about heroes and fiction. How few there are in movies today. I think there's more in novels, particularly if you go with anything high fantasy, but even there, less and less. And I was thinking about my current novel, DTD, and it's, um, distinct lack of heroes.

There are four main characters, and they are all flawed.

L - the only woman. A fence-sitter, unable to commit to taking a stand.
S - who has noble goals, who once was admirable, but years of failure have driven him to brutal, ruthless tactics.
R - who enjoys the perks that go with power without understanding the responsibility that goes with it. Selfish and spoiled.
B - the best of the bunch, except he's dead. And when you're dead, the basic needs that drive living people are gone, and this skews his outlook.

And, of course, that's only how they start out in the story. All four change and grow throughout, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But none are true heroes, none are admirable. I would not want to emulate any one of them. However, they suit the story I want to tell. Their moral ambiguities are necessary but it doesn't mean they don't have good qualities as well. I did not set out to write a story about admirable people this time around. I set out to write a scifi/noir story.

Is that a bad thing? Is it bad that I am not writing about upstanding and morally clear citizens? That I'm not writing about heroes? That my characters blur the lines between good and bad, do bad things to achieve worthy goals, and do good things that get them in trouble? I'm not a message writer. Never have been, though the themes I write about matter very much to me. For better or for worse, I write to entertain. I love and understand all four of these characters. I wouldn't be writing about them otherwise. But this is a book I will not give my dad to read. He's not interested in human failings and how we overcome those flaws to better ourselves and our society. He's not interested in the grey area. And DTD is all about the grey.

For the record, my previous two novels both offer up true heroes, the kind my dad would happily root for and aspire to be like. Oh, both novels have their share of grey (and my absolute favorite characters in both are the greyest of the lot -- hm, maybe my dad is right to decry my taste in men/characters), but there are very admirable noble characters in both for someone like my dad to latch onto, and clear-cut evil characters he can root against. Characters I ultimately find to be rigid in their outlook and best used to contrast against the greys. And of course, for me, it is the grey characters who are the important ones, as it is they who force the black and white characters to evaluate their own motives and goals -- and where they draw their line determines how much of a hero they really are or can become.

Friday, February 24, 2006

And the Goldbrick Award for the week goes to...

Hm. I need to write a looooonnng post in here to get Valentino to drop off the front page. I sort of pop in here, see that picture, and then my brain goes all to mush and I forget what I'm doing.

Instead, it's a short post. I'm in post-novel complete brain failure status. Don't have the desire to work on anything, and instead of forcing myself to work on a project -- any project! -- I've surrendered to laziness and the sweetness of doing nothing at all. And, of course, the perennial problem with doing that is how quickly I lose the discipline of daily writing. Which then just frustrates me. Sigh. No win situation.

Tomorrow, I write. Something. Anything! Tonight, however, I'm watching movies. William Holden movies. Of course, that's liable to be far more detrimental to my productivity than Valentino, but we'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rule #1


I know this. KNOW THIS! And I broke Rule #1 tonight. I was watching the silent movie "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and I had a tangential thought on my novel. And I failed to pause the movie and write it down. And the thought is *poof* gone vanished disappeared blowing raspberries my direction. Son of a squishy! I'd blame the handsome Mr. Valentino for this lapse, except he was nowhere around when I had the thought. It's no one's fault but my own. Pen. Paper. Computer. WRITE THEM DOWN!!!!

The picture is to mollify my self-irritation. :-D

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where do ideas come from, part II

So, I go three and a half months of working on novel with only one short story idea. It's been not even a week since its first-draft completion, and now in one day the short story ideas are piling up like the snow drifting outside. And I'm already working on another story that has nothing to do with these new ones.

So, after dinner, three things came together again. I was surfing the internet, following an online arc of links from "Sunset Boulevard" to a film noir page, which went through examples of all kinds of sub-genre noir, including Western Noir... and then two other things that had happened today sort of meshed with that and just like that I had another story idea. The other pieces were when I was taking a walk earlier through the snowy forest, listening with eyes closed to just how far voices can carry outside straight-line, and seeing an eBay item this morning with the title of "Lobby Card 1958 THE FEARMAKERS Dana Andrews roughed up." I know, I know, don't even go there... but it was less actually Dana Andrews as much as simply the title of the movie and the "roughed up" phrasing. It sent me off thinking about the various reasons people would get "roughed up." And the title of that movie is also the name of a "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" episode. The two have completely different subject matter, but since I know "Voyage" and have never seen that movie, my brain went off on futuristic submarines and scientific experiments gone awry. And a story was born. And it has nothing to do with Dana Andrews. Really. It's more like something out of "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.," but all cold-dark-winter-noirish. And damn, I miss that show! Come on guys, release it on DVD already! Please? (And while you're at it, release "The Fearmakers" too so I can see why Dana Andrews is getting roughed up and by whom.)

uno, due, tre

As usual, it takes three disparate things to bring a short story together for me. I really do not know why this, but it happens time and time again. Today it was a month-old failed idea for the pole 69 contest at Astounding Tales floating around in my head. It's been snowing and there is the most phenomenal set of icicles hanging off my front deck roof. And I was catching up on blogs earlier and found Vera Nazarian's entry of Jan 30. That was the third piece of the puzzle. Once I had it, all three pieces came together and I have a single short story to write, tentatively titled "The Icicle Garden." And really, the new conglomerate idea has little to do with the three pieces of origin. It just took that particular combo to make something new.

Friday, February 17, 2006

And so the edits begin

Interesting. Usually when I finish the first draft of a novel, I can drop it from my brain for awhile. Like when I completed my 2004 Nano novel last September, it just vanished out of my head, and I moved on to the next project. The current book is not going away. Not remotely. Not even partially. My brain is still living in that world with those characters, itching to get back in it and fix up the myriad things I know are missing/wrong with the first draft. I've got a ton of offline work to do just figuring out the rest of the political system I established. I've got to draw a street map of the city, cuz it's bugging me having it only in my head. I've got some failed plot threads to yank, some to put in. And since I haven't touched the beginning since I wrote it in November, I started reading it last night, and found I can't even remember some of it. Usually I need some time between completion of the first draft and the edits to gain some objective distance, but that's there already. Sort of inherent in writing a story from beginning to end without stopping, instead of jumping around between chapters like I used to do.

So, I filed away all my daily drafts last night and backed them up, then started with a new draft of the whole novel. First step is to put page breaks between every scene and label them all (I use simple labels like "CH1, S2" for Chapter 1, scene 2). Tonight, I'll print the entire sucker out, and then comes the fun part. Re-reading the whole thing and logging everything down after each scene into a separate document. POV for the scene, which characters are involved, what happens in the scene, date and time and location, what the scene was really supposed to accomplish... all that info goes into a doc that I then review and use to sort out all the obvious problems. Time consuming, but effective.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dreamy valley, lover's alley, stop and see the apple tree

So, conclusions on finishing current novel. This is my fourth completed novel, and it was an experience totally unlike any of the others. For one thing, I wrote it without knowing where it was going. I knew it opened and ended with a murder. I knew the setting. I knew the characters, and I had a vague sense of direction. So vague that I thought it might not even make a long enough story to do for NaNoWriMo. But other than that opening murder... everything else I thought I knew about the story was dead wrong. I didn't know anything.

This book was nothing but one new discovery after another.

And it was a roller coaster of a ride. The bad guy turned into a good guy. The good guy turned into a bad guy. The romantic lead (yeah, there was a third guy) got side-lined by the other two. I uncovered a conspiracy. Things blew up. People I liked got killed. People I liked even more got hurt. Badly. Betrayal, vengeance, lust, love, redemption... they all showed up where I least expected them.

I would say this was a fine lesson in how NOT to write a novel... except, somehow, it ended up working. Oh, sure, there's a ton of editing to do -- there always is on any first draft -- but, as a whole, the book works well. I'm actually very happy with it. That's what surprised me. That I could stay blind and let my subconscious, the characters, and muses lead me along and have the whole thing work. I tried about fifteen times to wiggle out of starting this particular story for NaNoWriMo. I had nothing but doubts and misgivings, but I wasn't allowed to set it aside. Muse #2 got mad and said to stop stalling, just trust him and write the fucking thing already. His words, not mine. So I did. And he was right. As always, damn him. Grumble, grumble.

So flying without an approved flight plan is not always a bad thing. Would I do another book this way? Depends upon who's swearing at me, I guess. LOL!

Thanks to a handy spreadsheet I kept while writing this novel, I know I wrote 113,168 words total on 70 days between Nov 1, 2005 and Feb 14, 2006, for an average of 1600 words per writing day. Interesting. The most I wrote on a single day was 5052 words, the least was -351, meaning I deleted more than I wrote that day. Urgh. 21 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue.

Music used as background:
King Kong (James Newton Howard)
The Interpreter (James Newton Howard)
Snow Falling on Cedars (James Newton Howard)
The Blue Max (Jerry Goldsmith)
Inchon (Jerry Goldsmith)
Morituri (Jerry Goldsmith)
"I Will Wait for You" (Bobby Darin)

And Rachel had made a plug regarding getting yourself a writing buddy. I second that. I don't think I ever would have finished this so quickly without her to push and encourage me. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I crossed the finish line of my novel right on schedule tonight! First draft is officially done! WOOOOOOOO!


Sleep on it, eh? Sleep on the different options and one ending will jump out at me, eh? Well, that was a nice thought. I woke up with a third option. @%&*#%&*#$ Eenie meenie mienie moe... which one, which one... dang it.

Monday, February 13, 2006


After tonight's writing, I have just one scene and the epilogue left to write. I'm almost there!! I almost could press on and finish it tonight, except that, once again, I'm not actually quite sure how I'm going to end it from here. See... there's two ways it could go. And I just don't know which version to pick yet. Hey, at least it's only two ways, not a half-dozen or more. So here I am, a mere couple thousand words or less from the end... and I'm stuck. Again. For like the hundredth time. I figure I just need to sleep on it, see how each one sits with me in the morning.


Um, how exactly can one get this close -- *THIS CLOSE!* -- to the ending of a 110,000 word novel and get the biggest surprise yet? I'm still shaking my head. How can I not have seen this particular thing coming in my own book? Who's writing it, anyway?? And this, coming after that surprise on Saturday from another character. This lot's been seriously holding out on me. And I mean SERIOUSLY.

In hindsight, every "surprise" this bunch of characters has hit me with was actually there in the manuscript long in advance. They aren't really surprises, they're logical outcomes of events and personalities I set up back in November. But somehow, I still managed to not see any of it coming. That's what floors me. That I could set it all up and not see what I was setting up.

This has definitely been an extremely unique novel-writing experience.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Getting there

Still on schedule. Finished Chapter 20 tonight. Just Chapter 21 left to go. 6000 words or so.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Not so bad. Approx. 3000 words, most of that written tonight, while I squandered the daylight hours away. Chapter 19 and the first scene of Chapter 20 are done. Got partway into scene two and am calling it quits. If I can finish Chapter 20 tomorrow, then I'm right on schedule. If I can get further... even better.

What's left

Outlined what remains to write of current novel this morning so I could get a grip on what is left to do... and WOO! Boy, did I get surprised. Big time. Appears my bad guy is far cleverer than I gave him credit for. He had another twist up his sleeve. And as much as I still loathe his tactics, right now I absolutely love him for his brilliance. Never thought I'd say this, but the bastard just managed to earn my grudging respect as he turned the final outcome of the novel on its head again. Damn him!

Anyway: what's left to do (unless one of the other characters decides they have to mess with me too):

Chapter 19 - finish last scene
Chapter 20 - three scenes
Chapter 21 - five scenes
The End

Friday, February 10, 2006


While browsing blogs (procrastinating, of course) I found this odd little amusing thing called: discover your drunken name. Type your first name with your elbows and see what you get. I got:


With the best of intentions...

My goal is to finish my current novel by the 14th, which is a fitting conclusion date for about ten different reasons. I'm figuring another 15 - 20,000 words, which is hard, but doable if I just stay focused and keep on writing. I don't think I've ever done more than about 6000 words in a day, but if I can really WORK over the next two full weekend days, then that should finish most of it.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Passed 100,000 words tonight on novel.

I say, old chap, stop mocking my bloody spelling!

All right, all right, all right! It's not just "towards." ALL of my written English tends towards British spellings. I typed "smoulder" in an email earlier, and, on reading it back, I, is that U supposed to be there? But "smolder" didn't look right, so I left it. Checked the dictionary later and got what is turning in to an eye-rolling cliche response: Chiefly British....

So, on a whim, I found these other things I do on a daily basis. They're all British:

Judgement and arguement. There's no E in American: judgment and argument. My spell checker always changes these on me automatically, but it doesn't stop me from typing them with the E originally. Though it could just be me. Same with travelling. I always put in two L's and spell checker removes the extra.

Dreamt, leapt - and similar words ending it T - American would be dreamed, leaped.

Even my sentence structure, I'm discovering reading up on various links, tends to the British... One example -- I would almost alway say: "I've just seen a movie." It appears that most Americans would simply say "I just saw a movie."

And it goes on and on.

So, does this mean my books will be naturally better sellers in Britain (don't I wish!), or will I simply drive my future American editors insane??

Sunday, February 05, 2006


This sentence fascinates me no end:

"Beware the man who looks in the mirror of his name."

Page 96, "Wanderer" by Sterling Hayden

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Making those words count

I love discussions like this, and I love reading Elizabeth's Bear's journal precisely because she jumps right in. I tend to save these kind of entries out to a Word file to read back later. This one got filed under the "editing" notes folder.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Stay on target....

Passed 94K on novel last night. Getting so close now! Besides the need to simply reach the end, I've got two scenes I'm especially looking forward to writing that are keeping me going each night. The first I'll hit this weekend -- one of the main characters gets his much-anticipated moment of vengeance on my hero. Which I'm not looking forward to writing so much as passing, cuz then I'll loathe him so badly that getting to the final confrontation where I can take care of him once and for all will be that much more satisfying. The other scene is the big three-way confrontation finale. That will simply be fun.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"We followed a trail of lilies."

Had a mini-vacation, now back to work writing again. Had an idea for a flash fiction story, but discarded it immediately because it meant too much to me, if that makes any sense. Those are the ones best left unwritten.

So, I wrote novel instead. Thought it'd be hard to get back into the swing of things after a week of inactivity, but the scene I had to write involved my favorite character, and writing his stuff is effortless and grinningly fun. Over 92K total now. 100K is just around the corner if I can keep up the 1000 words a day minimum.

Had an odd realisation the other day. I've worn the same necklace for over four years now. Silver pendant of the Norns in swan form on a choker chain. I've never taken it off, not for any reason; it's part of me. But I realised that on the day I finish the first draft of this novel, I will take this necklace off and put it away. As if its purpose will have been served. And the weird part is that it feels right to do so. It's time for a change. Which means I now have to start looking for a new necklace. I know what I want, but I've never turned up anything remotely like it. We'll see.