Month: June 2010

Oregon Workshop Brain Twist

I went to the June Novel Writer’s Workshop with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch from June 14-17.

It was good.  I’ll get to that.  But it was also incredibly sad, and even now it’s hard to write about it.

First off, what it was about:  it was a workshop for writers on the edge of getting published (or getting published but with an excess of frustration) to help them get their novel out.

But not to agents.  Directly to editors.

I’d been considering the idea for a while but wasn’t really sure how to go about it.  Does the ms need to be…perfect before I send it?  If an agent is supposed to make sure your book is ready for an editor, how…do you do that by yourself?  What do you send?  How do you find out where to send it?  What if, God forbid, the only guidelines for a publisher’s website say, “No unagented submissions.”  Most of them do.  What if I do something wrong with the editor, then get an agent–have I screwed the pooch forever?

Maybe I should just go the agent route until I figure out what I’m doing, I thought.

But I had this feeling that agents weren’t going to like my books, because I don’t have “bestseller” written all over me.  I write what I write what I write.

I ran into Kris’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide first.  It’s good; if you’re going to freelance part- or full-time (or are just thinking about it), read it.  (If you’re just messing around and going, “Someday I’ll [insert project here],” don’t bother.)

From there (gateway drug), I went over to Dean’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing.  Scary stuff.  You’re on your own, baby, and if you think an agent/editor/publisher/PR/publicist/fan base is going to make it magically all better, you’ve got another think coming.  After several weeks of hyperventilating, I decided to sign up for this workshop:  if I could walk out of it knowing whether to send a novel to an editor or not and how to do so if I wanted to, it would be worth it.  An end to the endless cycle of anxiety–should I?  shouldn’t I?  I’ll just give up and do it the way people are telling me to do it–would be worth it, even if I found out the answer was NO.

In short, I loved it, really liked all the people involved, loved the area (it was like any given tourist town in the Black Hills, with the hills and an OCEAN, so funnily familiar), loved the hotel (a miniature House on the Rock), want to go back.

Now for the sad part.

At a certain point, it doesn’t matter whether the ms is perfect.  The agent isn’t a writer and can’t magically make my book all better.  Basically, you get a book ready for an editor the same way you do for an agent.  You make sure your query letter is perfect and your formatting is perfect:  they’re your interview suit for the best job ever.  And then you send it out.

There are more details, but I don’t feel like typing out two-and-change days’ of information.

You ignore the “no unagented submissions” part.

And then you send it.

There is no magic recipe, there’s just you and your book and your interview suit (no bunny slippers allowed).

I grieved over this.  Rationally, I knew it, but I didn’t believe it.  By the end of the class, I believed it.  I’m a writer; if I keep it up long enough, I’ll be a professional fiction writer.  Any failure is due to excuses and life events, which, since all writers have them, end up as excuses.

I really don’t care what anybody else has to say about it; I’ll be interested to hear other people’s views, but it’s not going to stop me.  I have two books out now, both to agents and editors.  I’m writing another book.  I wrote a short story in three hours yesterday, and it’s good.  And this on top of all the other freelancing I’m doing.  I could not have done this a month ago–rather, I could have, but I never would have considered it.

For some reason, the change was incredibly sad.  Goodbye, not being a writer.  I’m glad I was you, but I’m not you anymore.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-27

  • @dcawley I bow to you on your DnD goodness. in reply to dcawley #
  • @syrimne1 Three more eds, via e-mail. I will send out via snail next Sat a.m. if I hear nothing. in reply to syrimne1 #
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law was pretty good, a YA tall tale. Just excellent writing, although the plot was slow at times. #
  • Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine by Steven Rinella: I read every word. Not something a speed-reader often says. Great nonfic storyteller. #
  • Got Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane at airport. Liked it until end, then wished to strangle author for bad science. ONE GUY is a study? #
  • I have too many library books at home. Can you tell? 🙂 #
  • Finished outlining next book, feeling pretty hip. Time to do some yoga and get knocked down again. My dog does stretches better than I do. #
  • Grilled angel food cake for breakfast…mmmm….. #
  • @MsAllieD There are as many pro-life signs in South Dakota as there are wineries in Oregon. in reply to MsAllieD #
  • via @maleesha: Star Trek: Tik Tok http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZWaWrvJ7nA Awesome. #
  • Tim: Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven – another good book ruined by a transcendental (read: deus ex machina) ending. #
  • Things transcending life as we know it are problems, not solutions. He got it half right. Fun female lead though, especially the very end. #
  • Yesterday was a bad day. Today will be better, because I said so, and I can do things like that. #
  • The dog is eating my hose. It's all fun and games until you threaten my strawberries. #
  • @tafkae Yeah, she's full up. in reply to tafkae #
  • @tafkae She did really well with the first real instance – just about party wiped us, though. I will let you know if she changes her mind. in reply to tafkae #
  • Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson: Fun cozy read, good recipes, but I called the ending. I LIKE to be bamboozled by mysteries. #
  • Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan: YA adventure. Not deep, just fun and easy to relate to. Not as good as book 1. #
  • Wild Robert by Diana Wynne Jones: Novellette? Not sure what the point of this was. Felt like a truncated novel. #
  • Almost cleared out overdue liberry stack…yesterday's bad day = a lot of reading done. Oh, well. #
  • I hate this McChrystal thing, but it's been a long time coming. #
  • I'm thinking of calling the new book, a dark fantasy set in 1960s South Dakota, "A Chance Damnation" – whaddya think? #
  • @syrimne1 How many eds are you planning to send to at one time? in reply to syrimne1 #
  • @ianthealy Heh. When I met Lee at an RPG, that was his character name. STORY OF MY MARRIAGE! Rrrrowr 🙂 in reply to ianthealy #
  • Frames – Disappointed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZdx9e3YdVY&feature=related First song on the new book playlist. #
  • @doycet Coooool. in reply to doycet #
  • @doycet Isn't that the truth about publishing, though? in reply to doycet #
  • C1 on Chance Damnation done: "Someday, he was going to marry her, and there would be problems." #
  • Heh. That quote probably made you think I'm writing a *totoally* different book than I really am. #
  • @doycet Whatever sound it makes, it certainly is very strong in the whiny "poor little publishing industry, can't make a buck" sound. in reply to doycet #
  • Ray and I are off to her belt test for high-yellow. Wish her luck! She has worked SO hard on this kata. #
  • Back from test – won't find out until next week. #
  • @doycet Re: publishers. I also bless copyeditors and artists. Dunno. Big suckage drives big innovation. You'd rather live now than 50 y ago. in reply to doycet #
  • @ianthealy @stryscribe No, you'd get *two* pro investigators laughing at you behind your back. in reply to ianthealy #
  • I am very witty, insightful, and productive when I'm avoiding something else. #
  • @doycet You don't want to be just starting this in 10 years. You want to be 10 years ahead of everyone in 10 years 🙂 in reply to doycet #
  • @syrimne1 I'm putting together a package for a kids' chapter book. So the pressure to send to a bajillion agents is halved. in reply to syrimne1 #
  • @syrimne1 Er, editors. in reply to syrimne1 #
  • Somebody send me a deadline! #
  • @ianthealy Done with seven minutes to spare! in reply to ianthealy #
  • @doycet Yours is a little harder…backup to CDs? Write a story a week? Check on subs? in reply to doycet #
  • Time to give up on the submission to LCRW. They've had it for 10 months and won't respond to my "Hello?" inquiries. #
  • @syrimne1 I am not doing the art or hiring an artist – wow, Hadn't even considered it. in reply to syrimne1 #
  • @doycet It just seems weird for you to be upset about being on the frontlines of the change. "I was alive and I waited for this." in reply to doycet #
  • @doycet Like, dude, isn't that what you're supposed to be doing? What you were built for? in reply to doycet #
  • @syrimne1 I have to fight the urge to jump into sequels. Sell book one. Then write book 2. in reply to syrimne1 #
  • @ianthealy I'll let my honey do that. in reply to ianthealy #
  • @tafkae Er…I think the point of philosophy is that it isn't stupid. But then there were some of them that I wanted to beat up. in reply to tafkae #
  • @tafkae Except they were already dead. in reply to tafkae #
  • I am in love with Wanda Jackson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzJ3hiqsi0U&feature=related #
  • I finally found it! Tennessee Ernie Ford singing 12 Days of Christmas! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu0uSQ_vbZw #
  • Now that's a bass. #
  • Johnny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgK-1mpSljI&feature=related

    As a child, he had cried, as all children will. #

  • I'm having waaay to much fun looking up songs for this book. #
  • Muppets spoof of cooking shows: http://www.youtube.com/user/MuppetsStudio?blend=2&ob=1#p/u/5/2Qj8PhxSnhg #
  • @doycet I should have ditched the war analogy. Generally the opposite of stupid is stupid. in reply to doycet #
  • @doycet But yeah, see your point. And it's not like there are only two sides, either. in reply to doycet #
  • Leon on the Spitting Image by Allen Kuzweil – YA silliness with a lot of spit. Unexpected ending. #
  • Hello, Twitter. Goodbye, Twitter. #
  • C2 Chance done (new POV): "Theodore rolled his eyes, as if to say, There goes Aloysius, trying to save the world using his mouth." #
  • @kknippling Yay! Pretenders. in reply to kknippling #
  • @kknippling Google's nickname isn't "Skynet" for nothing. in reply to kknippling #
  • C3 Chance done: "Or maybe he was praying that Theodore wouldn’t kill him." #
  • Interestingly, if you burn a cow with anthrax, it may take up to three days to get rid of the carcass. #
  • That's a lot of wood. #
  • So I don't forget, Theodore has a garab knife. http://www.marcialtirada.net/filipino_weapons #
  • I have the next set of e-mail subs prepped (for Ray's book). Going to wait until tomorrow, scan over the one more time. #
  • Hardcopy subs have to wait until I get a new printer cable. With switch from old PC to laptop, I need a converter! #
  • Off to the farmer's market! Lee has to work today. #
  • Decided today will be a dreadful day, as in, I'm going to do all the things I've been putting off, or a good many of them. Like Quicken. #
  • Front yard trimmed, yoga done. Arms shaking. #
  • @syrimne1 If you are moved to write a sequel, it's not stupid. I promised to write a sequel for the chapter book after I'm done on this one. in reply to syrimne1 #
  • Quicken and hustling done. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-20

  • I want to take the day off, dammit! #
  • I enjoyed Karate Kid with Ray and her karate school yesterday. I had to laugh at inappropriate moments, though, like the crane kick… #
  • @senseihaynes I wanna see you do the upside-down crane kick. #
  • In Denver. #
  • Now in Portland! #
  • Virga: Rain or snow that evaporates before hitting the ground. Via A.Word.A.Day #
  • From Uncle Dan: The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi (?). #
  • Another from Dan: I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian. #
  • @ianthealy For my Uncle Dan, they're not bad puns. They're AIR. in reply to ianthealy #
  • No more sleep. Time to walk the beach instead. #
  • Picked up a bunch of shell fragments that have been worn down into what look like teeth. And hearing aids. #
  • In Portland. Already missing the sound of the ocean. #
  • In Denver. Flight out at…9:30. #
  • @Daphneun This was a much better idea on the way out. Seemed like it, anyway. #
  • At concourse B, looking for my gateless gate. I think I passed it. #
  • @Daphneun My instincts say no. Unless the nostrils features burnt meat. #
  • @Daphneun Wow. Phone input bistro as what?!? #
  • Bored, bored, bored. #
  • Yay! Ray finished the end of her story and liked it. #
  • @syrimne1 I made it back safely 🙂 #
  • @Three_Star_Dave Okay, here's the plan: instead of calling it "Ghiradelli's for breakfast" call it the no-pain pain au chocolate diet. in reply to Three_Star_Dave #
  • @doycet Fishy farm: I know, right? in reply to doycet #
  • Returned from trip. Cleaned out fridge. My squick for the week is over. Don't Lee & Ray EAT while I'm gone? #
  • That is, don't they eat anything out of the fridge? #
  • Ox wants to bring the pain down on the guys clearing branches from the power lines. He keeps huffing at me for keeping him inside. #
  • He thinks they're threatening the strawberries, I guess. WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP THE SQUIRRELS WHILE I WAS GONE, OX? WHY?!? #
  • My goodness! Where does the licorice go? #
  • @Knippling Freakin' teeter. in reply to Knippling #
  • @Dabeak What, was she digging? in reply to Dabeak #
  • @doycet If you want more talk on Twitter, you could start a pun war with me. Just saying. in reply to doycet #
  • Daily food lesson: Make crepes in two pans. Then, if one of them sticks, you can abandon that pan. Price: burnt pinky. Ow… #
  • Ray's not feeling well today, going to miss belt test practice. She's drugged up and eating a crepe now. #
  • I make all-healing crepes. Had nothing to do with the Motrin, I swear. #
  • Three more subs sent out. Glah…my mouth tastes terrible. Dear self: it's FINE. #

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Description Ah-Ha: First Impressions

If all description is a part of character (that is, if all the description you put in a novel reflects your POV character or narrator), then a lot of description is the character’s first impression of a thing.  Not just “what would your character notice” about a thing, but “what would your character notice that he’s noticing?”

For example, Bill in Alien Blue would probably look at the front of my house and notice that it was red and yellow with a front lawn going to seed and a “Solicitors will be fed to the dragon” sign on the front.  But his first impression would be that the front yard was as scraggly as a hippie’s ass. —He would have met Lee before he walked in the door.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-13

  • I was thinking I hadn't had a rejection for quite a few days in a row and was feeling paranoid that I had only dreamed of submitting stuff. #
  • Luckily, I was rejected today, and now feel more secure in my place in the universe. #
  • Tra la, tra la. #
  • @ianthealy God paged me, you'll never see the light, who wants to see? in reply to ianthealy #
  • @rachelgoing What are buttermilk pies like? I haven't had one. in reply to rachelgoing #
  • @Knippling Congrats on your chinchilla bebe! in reply to Knippling #
  • My boss made me work a fourteen-hour day! Waaaaaaah! #
  • She did give me a manga break, though. #
  • @DaphneUn You're so subtle, you Catan addict, you. in reply to DaphneUn #
  • @Three_Star_Dave You should be mooning after M. I suggest using your new l33t phone to send her a snapshot 🙂 in reply to Three_Star_Dave #
  • Yay! Going to be an awesome day today. #
  • Mandoline chopped off the tip of my finger because I was being an idiot! Not faaaaaiiir! #
  • To be honest, the asparagus ribbons were quite tasty, though. Maybe it was the blood spatters. #
  • @BPGlobalPR It was bound to happen. Satire is hard to understand when so many people are in denial. in reply to BPGlobalPR #
  • @ChuckWendig Stubborn beets = undercooked. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • @ChuckWendig IMHO. I live at 6K feet, so I'm used to cooking them forever. I tend to nuke the bastards under plastic wrap instead. in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • @ChuckWendig No! Deny not the beetaliciousness! in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • Please check out the PPW critique corner! Several people are looking for groups. http://www.pikespeakwriters.com/critcorner/ #
  • The kids' book is done! Let me know if you have kids and I can foist a softcopy on them for comment (8 yo target audience). #
  • It's an adventure story with spies and magic. Warning, kids do get hurt (but not killed) in the story. #
  • Thrilled! Ray just read half the book. #
  • Also, she just put Bjork on her Pandora. #
  • CAKE OR DEATH! Ray's watching it right now… #
  • I @#$%^&* hate Open Office. It's worse that MSWord. #
  • @jonahofthesea Grats! in reply to jonahofthesea #
  • Brain dead. Need a break. Oooh, or chocolate. #
  • Paying jobs done! Now I need to finish my reading for the workshop… #
  • Working on the summary and query letter for Floating Menagerie. #
  • @doycet Sheeeeeesh. A difficult dream. in reply to doycet #
  • @ChuckWendig Team Fortress 2! Heavy and Medic FTW 🙂 in reply to ChuckWendig #
  • @tafkae Yep, I have such a pan. in reply to tafkae #
  • Putting together a food-freelancing resume. Let me know if you have a restaurant or food-related website and want me to do some free work. #
  • @tafkae K. in reply to tafkae #
  • I think I write stories about the incompetency of THEM and the humor that ensues when normal people get sucked into taking THEM seriously. #
  • …or the tragedy that ensues, I guess. #
  • This is why, I think, Libertarianism, as a movement, irks me. Independents should not attempt to become a THEM. #
  • Finished reading Blink by M. Gladwell. My blink = the flip test. One paragraph, three random spots in book, I know whether I'll like it. #
  • I think prologues are usually so bad because the AUTHOR's not in love with those characters, either. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-07

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Coming up with a setting to love.

What makes a lovable setting? I don’t know yet.

Obviously, it’s going to vary from person to person; we all like to read different things. But people who like to read often talk about books they didn’t want to put down, because they liked the characters and setting so much. I have a handle on what characters I like, but I haven’t really thought about the settings I like.

The first thing I did was look through my handy dandy bookshelf to find books whose settings struck me as being good. (I arbitrarily decided not to use any visual media, like TV, comic books, or movies, in order to not confuse the issue.) I did not actually flip open the books to read how well things were described–I’m not at the point where I’m trying to find out how such effective (affective?) settings were built, just which ones I like the best.

They seemed to fall into three groups.

The first group was fantastic settings:

  • The Princess Bride
  • Discworld
  • Dragaera
  • Stephen R. Donaldson’s Mirror of Her Dreams books
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Narnia
  • Tad Williams
  • Sandman
  • Tamora Pierce
  • The Neverending Story
  • Chronicles of Amber
  • Piers Anthony
  • Douglas Adams
  • The Eye of the Dragon

The fantastic settings were the settings that I tended to think of first as being good settings.

The second group was mundane settings:

  • Jane Austen
  • Dorothy Sayers
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Janwillem van der Wettering
  • Agatha Christie
  • John D. MacDonald

But these were the books that I wanted to take down and flip through. Most of these were mysteries.

The third group was urban fantasy settings, that is, setting with magic in the “real” world:

  • The Circus of Dr. Lao
  • Artemis Fowl
  • Changeless
  • The Diamond Age
  • Sorcery and Cecilia
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • Cherie Priest
  • Harry Potter
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel
  • The Club Dumas

I seem to have a fondness for books of manners with a dash of magic.

There were also some books that felt like they didn’t have a setting, the setting was so integrated:

  • Gormenghast
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Dumas pere
  • Jorge Borges

In this last set of books, I wasn’t wistfully thinking I wanted to read the books again so I could get back into the setting so much as I felt that those settings had been so thoroughly integrated into yours truly that I couldn’t actually leave. Having once read these books, my perceptions had been so changed that I couldn’t un-read the books.

I don’t know if I want to actually write one of these last books.

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