Saturday, May 30, 2009

Descriptive Descriptions Describe

I have been remiss in something. There is a lovely place I go to curl up and get warm and talk about writing. It’s a great, very supportive place and needs more victims (ahem)  I mean members. Please check out: Unless you’re an opinionated jerkweed. We don’t need any of those, and you wouldn’t last long. But if you are writer who would like to be silly and serious, and has a deep respect for other writers, needs love, or has love to give, please come and check it out.

Tonight was pretty fine. I got to do a lot of description, very little dialog. Not that I don’t like dialog scenes, but there are times when it's nice to snuggle up in a characters head and just look around. You set the scene, while adding layers to his character, showing how he reacts to the challenges of it or opportunities it presents. The land itself in this particular scene is also like a character; it is imbued with an old energy that was defeated (think the dark side of the force, if it was an animal that could be defeated and driven into a box canyon, then kept there by an army of Jedi, only my Jedi are Dragons.) This was a young man who had never been there before, and I had never had characters on the ground before, so it was fun to see it close up. And smell it. And hear it. Sometimes, I think people forget the other senses when it comes to description, but to me, the sense of smell and hearing make a description go 3D. Touch is also important, and sometimes, your eyes can touch things: a meadow soft like green velvet, or a mountain range with sides like sand paper. Snow laying on the ground as crisp as a sheet. Jagged rocks just begging to tear the skin from the tips of your fingers. That sort of thing. 

Well, Cricket (cat) thinks its time I stopped writing and play some fishing pole. I better go. (you don’t wanna be here when she gets angry...)

Till later!

Friday, May 29, 2009

fairy sparkle sledgehammer of love and retribution

Last night, I did nothing. No writing. No forward motion, nothing. The journal entry tonight (which I scribble in before writing) said “No fun writing. No fun at all. When I do have a good day, it seems the next is horrid. I must chug on. I know it will get better. It must, or I will quit. I will quit forever this time.” Then I grit my teeth, opened up my WIP and got to work. It was not going well, and after two maudlin pages, (I had said I would write 8 to make up for yesterday) I was about to throw my hands up. 

I cheated. I got on AW to look around, you know, how you poke your head in to see what’s shakin’. And I had a pm. I don’t know about you, but there should be a 12 step program available for those of us addicted to pm’s. I love them. They make my heart go all flutter pat. So I opened it. Not such good news. Gal told me she had many rejections after very high hope-age. She wanted to thank me for a silly thing I said, that it made her laugh.

I don’t know what came over me - but I just felt this must not stand. Instead of whipping off a “it’s ok, you’ll be ok,” cuddle post, I got up on my high horse and rode. Told her not to let it get her down. Don’t give up. Rejection sucks, it just sucks! At least you tried. I am such a coward, I have stopped writing in the past at the simple FEAR of doing a query. I have told you how Writer’s Markets give me an itchy trigger finger. At least she got to the submission stage! Who gets there? Not a lot of us.

I also told her I had been online neglecting my goal and my WIP when I got her note. Then I told her she had tonight to wallow and tomorrow, I expected her to crawl out of the hole she was in and get back to work. You don’t get published if you give up. I told her I was going back to my WIP, going to finish my work for the night. Why? Because I am a writer. I want to write. I will write. And nothing will stop me this time. Even if it is only to get to the stage where I submit and get rejected.

I did write. The first line after I got offline was this one:

She wanted to think she saw movement under his eyelids, but it was only the play of light and shadow across their swells and hollows.

Now, it’s not Faulkner. It’s not Tolkien, but it did say what I wanted it to, and it was probably the best line I’ve written since I got back to work on my WIP two weeks ago. I’m not saying the light came on and I was on the ride fantastic, but far off, a candle flickered, and I felt more hope than I have these last 2 weeks.

What about you? Are you meeting your goals? Are you setting them? Unfinished books don’t make the rounds. Castles in the air need foundations, you know.

Simple triumphs, people. Grab them and keep them close to you when they come.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Do You Edit?

Bsolah over at the Absolut Write Water Cooler has challenged bloggers to write about how we edit. He got my teeth to gritting, but I have taken up the challenge.

The first thing is to do two on screen read-throughs to catch all the obvious stuff. Then I print, then I lock and backup the files. Put the printed pages somewhere dark and dry for safekeeping. After the appropriate time, I hold before me the printed words. On the first read through I go through it quickly. I get depressed. I know I will never be a writer. I will never have the guts to start querying. But you know what? That scene where the stable boy runs from the soldiers? That was mighty fine. So, I keep reading. The part with the prophesy comes up. I enjoy that, but find it needs some tweaking. Plot is picking up. Too much description there. My red pen is FLYING now, but I am grooving. I am not such a bad writer after all. I might have something here. These dragons are cool. Who am I kidding? I must be related to Tolkien! I have no needless words! There are going to be movies made, cheap plastic rick-rack related to the movies will be given away with Happy Meals! I AM AWESOME!

Wait. What was that? That was a klunky sentence. That must go, that has no place in my opus. Is that a dangling participle? Why does he shrug his shoulders all the time, and why are my Dragongar always nodding? I am sick of nodding Dragongar. What am I writing here, bobblehead fiction?

And so it goes. Soon, I am back down on an even keel. Not so far down as the first few pages, but no longer fantasizing about Peter Jackson offering me his first born for movie rites. I go back through the whole thing again, reading much slower, doublechecking that all the weird names are spelled right. If there are changes too big to be jotted down, I just put a sticky with note: "clean up this paragraph/section". Sometimes, whole pages can be dropped out or x'd through. There is much paper shuffling as I search down the loose ends of the x'd out pages, or slight changes to paragraphs before or after. I also keep a page for notes. "Put in more references to Pratice" (my Dragongar church") or "note Biona and Jale react similarly" or "What about money?" because I had no money references in my first draft, and it was needed to make the world more real.

Now it is time to put the red changes in the computer. (Remember your backup, in case something should be corrupted, you'll have the original to go back to.) Now I begin. The first few chapters, yes, I look at the red pages religously, but after that, it's like I'm searching down the mistakes I know are coming. The thing has become like reading your name over and over again. I find more things to change and fix than I found on the read through. Whole pages of dialog get changed, as if what was there before was only stand-in. I know how my characters talk now. I should have Guy say something snarky there. Jale should not cry here, Loic would never say that in public, etc. After the red pages are done, I never want to see it again, but there is still editing to do. It must marinate, suffer another onscreen read through and then.... the place I have never gone... beta time. I have faith in this story, hell, I have faith in my series. The true test will of course, be the beta's opinion.

And that is how I edit. **curtsey, exit stage left**

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing With My Eyes Closed

  “Desperate women rarely get everything they bargain for.”

A particularly nasty gentleman said that to one of my characters yesterday. He’s right, you know.  I mentioned yesterday how the writing has been a bit of a slog. I wanted today to be different, so I turned to a page in the trusty notebook where I keep all my super-secret Dragongar codes and passwords and read the following passage:

The Dragonclaw. There is a short whitewashed hallway that ends suddenly at the great room: a high-ceilinged place with skylights up among the beams. I see thick wooden pillars all around, a huge stone fireplace crackling away and thick chairs sitting around like brown dwarves. There’s a long wooden bar with a copper cap on the patron's side gleaming in the firelight. A fat man with a generous face cleans a glass behind the bar. There are stools along it, their seats match the brown dwarves. A long black mantle gleams in the light from wall torches. The floor is dark from the soot and grime of years. Turn to the left and you are looking past the bar at a narrow set of stairs. The stairs are tall - the steps themselves a dark wood that creaks as you go up them, as if to tell on you, the backs of them are painted white. At the top of the stairs is a narrow hallway.  On the right is a store room, on the left is my room. 

Inside, a bay window high off the floor lets in light. The walls have tudor wood striping and dark wainscoting runs along the bottom. At the far end of the room is the slope made by the roof outside and a small closet. There’s a camp bed for napping and under the slope of the roof are shelves with books and reference materials, and of course, paper, pens and ink. Next to the shelves, under the bay window, is my desk, where the crystalline winter light streams through and lays down on the floor like a stretching cat. When I look out, I can see the fancy brick shop and part of the Guild Hall of Brickmasters and Masons, with its array of colored bricks and dark stone, and of course, the blue gray paving stones that line all the streets of Regency Row.

This, friends, is the deepest depth in which I sink. It is the blueprint of my own particular madness. I have a place inside my story, inside my world where I go to write. I did this as a lark once, after having an amazing dream about the story I was writing. In the dream, I took a plane, a bus, a taxicab, a train, a mulewagon and finally a buckboard wagon, each conveyance growing older and older, taking me farther and farther out onto the plains, until I was in my story, visiting the characters.  When I got there, I found they had a place waiting for me in the attic of one of the houses, supplied with all the things I would need to write and rest. 

When I started writing about the Dragongar, I knew I had to find a “place” within my fantasy to go and write, so for fun, I wrote the above, with the help of pictures cadged off the net. As I said, it was just for fun, but it is a magic place. When things get really hard, and I feel like I'm "working on the story" rather than writing, I read this description and go there in my head. Then I shut my eyes, and try to stop thinking thoughts like "Character A and character B need to do some talky talk that winds up taking them to character C and discovery B1." All I do is struggle and flounder when I think things like that. Tonight, I decided to try and go inside this world that I love so much and have detailed so thoroughly, and stop thinking and start to see. This is not a new trick, but it is one I forget so often: using images to create or “feel” the story. It often starts with the slant of light in the room, its warmth or chill. What colors are there? Is the firelight reflected off the chimney of the lamp? I start by closing my eyes and seeing the story, the talky talk starts, and the next thing you know, I am not working on the story, I am writing it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Forcing It

Well, I am making progress. Of a sort. I’m writing every day, but so far, it’s a bit of a slog. I'm trying not to focus on the fact the story isn’t jumping up and slapping me in the face. I'm trying not to focus on the fact much of what I'm writing will probably be written out, dropped, or moved. Oh how I hate moving stuff around, and having to find all the loose ends and tie them up! One always slips loose and waves in the wind, pointing and laughing at me. “And what about this?” “And what about this?” “Now this doesn’t work.” Mocking little bastard. I wish the muse would grab them and strangle them before they find voice. Sigh. I have to turn those thoughts off, and full steam ahead.

So, how do you keep going when it isn’t particularly fun, and things aren’t exactly leaping out of your brain at the speed of light? (that does happen sometimes, and it is mighty fine!) Today, I decided to take stock of where I was in the story.  I wrote a couple pages from two minor characters POV, just to remind myself of some things. Who knows what, and who is where, who’s in the castle, who’s in the hallways. It was interesting, because these are folks on the fringe, but important enough to see things the main characters might not. I had a captain of the Guard who’s noticed some weird goings on confront a magician. I had a servant girl sneaking around the castle and getting into some trouble. And loe and behold, it was the captain and the girl running into each other that created my conflict. I hadn’t planned that, it just happened.

I think these little sidetrips were justified. The girl could be a major thing later on, and I got to show another side of my captain, one that I’ve had in mind, but haven’t tipped to the reader, yet. In the end, not knowing what to do and grasping at what is inside these two unknown heads will end up adding layers to the story.

That is how the muse works, people. I don’t question it. I just try not to fark it up!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Imaginary Ramblings

First of all, I want to thank Adam, a lovely friend and fellow I stalk long distance (actually, he’s crazy about ME, but you know, if it makes him feel better...) He mentioned my little bit of fairy-dom here, and I would like to thank him. He has been added to the blog roll!

I have also adjusted my settings so you can leave comments, even if you aren’t a blogger member, so I am sorry to those of you just dying to talk about my posts that were unable to. (smiley!)

I am fresh from composing my 8 pages of un-real estate. It is a great and grand fantasy epic (scoff, cough, ahem) of which the first book is completed. I  am now 225 pages into the 2nd book, with 500 pages planned.  The first tome is 500 pages, and took a year and half to complete. That is way too long, and I know I am capable of doing better. I would be going great for awhile, then get full of myself and get lazy, then downright slothful, going weeks between writing sessions.  That is just not good for anyone.  Not good for me because I feel TERRIBLE about not writing. I mean, I talk about writing, I dream about the story, I spend time fantasizing about what might happen if the book ever got published, but I never DO it. It is a blow to the self esteem. So I feel bad about myself, and that doesn’t exactly motivate me to write. All that time between sessions doesn’t do the book any good, because when you take time off and come back, there is that lag where the ol’ fiction muscle is trying to start flexing, and at first, all it does is shamble around, lifting 3 pound dumbbells, and dropping them on your feet.  Pace, structure, characters, you’ve forgotten all that stuff. And not good for my friends, who are tired of hearing about the book I'm NOT writing.

The only way to write is every day, with a goal. I am no plotter, and though I know where the story is going, I don’t know how it’s going to get there. My goals are never story related. They used to be word related. I held myself to Stephen’s King’s suggestion of 2000, which he said is roughly 10 pages. Of course, for me it was more like 8 pages.  That became too steep a hurdle for me. This time, I have decided to go with 4 pages a day, come hell or high water, and no cheating for chapter breaks. That is what I consider “do-able.” I must get 4 full pages, no huge white space allowed. I figure I’ll be done in another 72 days! Light at the end of the tunnel! This weekend I have decided to double my output, since it’s a long weekend, and we got out of work early on Friday. I’ve procrastinated enough, and it’s time to make some serious progress.

I will keep those of you waiting with baited breath up to date on my progress, and I hope you are making way on yours.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Name is Bettielee and the Things I Write Come True...

This place is about the Far Seeing Fairy and the tales she brings me. What is a Far Seeing Fairy, you ask,? Well, she's my muse! I write fantasy fiction. I am one of the unwashed and unpublished that walk among you.

So, where does the muse come from and how does this work? Well, I don't really care about that. All I care about is what she does for me, and how to get her to work. She's not a pez dispenser, when she runs out you can't put in a new packet of ideas and tilt her head back. You have to do your part, and the first part is to define your muse.

This is instinctual, and the great thing is there are no tryouts. Your muse is there, you just have to give it form. The thing I will not share with you is her name. If I were to tell you and you were to utter it, she would grow enchanted at the sound and wander off. I believe this, so it's true. It's like the cartoon about Simon - "Well ya know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true..." When it comes to your muse, whatever you believe is true. Mine is usually in fairy form, frolicking out of reach in the forest of my imagination, or staring at me in disgust when I get distracted (oooh! birdy!) When I sit and stare at the screen and don't know what to do, she sends me these tickles that start with the phrase "what if..." Whenever I get a "what if" I pluck it outta the air and hold onto it like a life preserver. Sometimes, it is ludicrous. Sometimes I question her sanity. More often than not, she is right, or with a little work and a few more "what if's" I get the ball rolling again.

Now the muse is only part of the process. There is also the Magical Fiction Machine, a fickle monster with a sticky throttle. It doesn't work unless you turn off the thinking part of your brain. This is where I run into problems. When you worry about agents, queries, what will your beta reader think, what is "hot" in publishing now, rather than letting it all go and having fun, the MFM seizes up and the fairy runs away in terror. These questions, this real world pollution, sucks all the air out of the MFM's tubes, and it can't siphon off the imagination (its fuel source) I believe imagination lives in the oldest part of your brain, and there might be an escape hatch back there, a place that leads to other worlds. That place is your far seeing place.    The part of your brain that hasn't matured past 10 and where "disbelief" is set to "suspended".  In his excellent book "On Writing," Stephen King says writing has to happen in the basement of your imagination. This is one of the few places where Sai King and I disagree.

I need an attic place. I need to get to the far seeing place and look out over the horizon, get the lay of the land, see where the dragons are gathering. I get lost in the eye of my imagination and live in that other world. Then I have to shut the door on all those questions, all that reality, all those writer's markets. I have yet to open a writer's market and not felt like blowing my head off immediately after shutting it. If I can get through that trapdoor and let the imagination do its thing, I hear the motor on the MFM start the thrum, the fairy starts to dance and beckon and on comes the fiction. 

Now if I could just get her to do the dishes.