Wow! Two posts in two days! what’s the world coming to?
Some recent interactions with writers caused me to post the following on FB. It really turned into a blog post, so…here y’go!
Carolyn and I have worked with a lot of writers over the years and at the risk of pissing some people off, I’m going to share the first advice we offer to writers who come in from the Lit/English/Creative Writing degree side of the force.
Pry that grammar rule book out of your cold, soon-to-be-creatively-dead fingers and start writing what you hear in your head. Those are your characters, not the terms and rules someone came up with try to analyze language. Toss the rulebook into the back of a closet and pull it out only in the final, copyedit stages, and even then, just flag the points you think are ‘wrong.’ Use those cute little multicolored post-its and it will end up looking like a Persian carpet! After you’ve done all that, go in and read it like a reader (and yes I mean LIKE) and ONLY change the ones you think MUST be changed for people to think you’re not totally illiterate. Like getting it’s and its, I and me, might and may correct.(Even when you know the rules, your fingers will misbehave. Trust me on this one…sigh…)
Trust your brain’s backburners to get the majority of the important stuff right. And as Carolyn told me when she suggested I try writing, “Write what you hear in your head. You can learn to punctuate it into clarity.” And its corollary: “Write (ahem, I shall stick with her public version) garbage and edit brilliantly.”
The corollary of all the above is, if you find yourself defending your work in terms of literary-isms…take a step back and examine your motives. Are you defending the characters’ story or baffling yourself with technical BS.
Now…back to my final scenes since I finally HEAR something! Yipppeeee!
Sheesh. This is total rough draft. But I have WRITING to do! Deal.
I have a last line. This might not seem like a Big Deal, but for me, it is. Every other book, sometime during the middle, the last line of the book…where it was all headed…has come to me. It’s the ultimate “lightbulb moment” of my writing process. I don’t necessarily know how I’m going to get there, but something inside says “this is the end.” Not to say that I haven’t had the last line morph slightly on me or that I haven’t hit the ending sooner than I thought and so had to give up the last line in favor of another…but that scene, that line, whether or not it’s in the book, happens sometime around the end of the book. I can honestly say, I’ve never ever had to force a book to that ending. It’s not an outline to which I will adhere come hell or high water, it’s just the most magical part of writing to me and I’ve never tried to analyze it, just marveled at it.
I don’t know why that is. But it’s always happened. I think of it as the story percolating on the back burner of my subconscious finally coming to a boil and congealing into a coherent mass giving me an answer to which I now have to find the clues within the pot that lead me inexorably to that end.
The end of a book to me is not an end, it’s the promise of a future. A story isn’t about the end, it’s about the process of getting to the end so a future is possible. (How come all those words begin with “pro”? Hmmmm…. oh…possible doesn’t have an “r”. Whew.)
Needless to say, this had never happened with this book. I’ve known for a couple of months now the “plot” that gets me to then end, but I didn’t have that magical line that set the tone for the ending, that gave me the underlying causality rather than just the plot. It’s been driving me crazy. I’ve been writing, or trying to write, scared, more often than not, because this book is so important, being the culmination of what I consider my primary raison d’etre…the rest of my writing is gravy…and it just couldn’t be allowed to lumber to a last page.
It needed to sing with the promise of the future for my beloved kids.
Consequently, my sleep schedule has just been all off. I’ve been staying up late with the computer, trying to write…late night and first thing in the AM have always been my best writing times…and ending up doing a bit on FB and Den of Angels, just to feel I’ve accomplished something, then lying in bed in the morning trying to get the characters to talk so I can run to the computer with that great insight.
And all that’s happened has been that same sequence of events plodding toward the end. Since I began putting HG on top priority, I’ve managed to get one scene after another to work, and, ultimately to work well, but OMG, it’s been hard. If I didn’t know the characters so well, I’d be hosed. But I finally hit an absolute wall. I realize now, I HAD to have that last line. I read that whole book to Carolyn, right up to that wall, and she kindly said it was great and she wants the rest. She laughed and bit her nails at all the right moments, so I felt it was going pretty good, but…still no last line.
Well…yesterday, after a night of attempted suicide (JOKE) with a nice glass of triticale whiskey and too many shortbread cookies (never combine sugar and alcohol right before bed…immensely stupid) I woke up with the deserved sick headache. Not all the way over to a hangover, just a general malaise. I took some funky water (we have this neat stuff that’s concentrated electrolyes to put into water…sort of gator aide without the yucky taste or calories…and went back to bed to try to conquer the queezies. Carolyn came in after a bit with a great suggestion. “Let’s take a drive and talk about the ending.”
OMG…just what I’d been wanting. But I also know Carolyn was in a bad spot in her own book, so I didn’t want to press. However, I still had a tension headache…and yeah, it was tension, not the whiskey. I’ve been waking with one for the last couple of weeks…so I took some Excedrin migraine and dove into the covers again. (I’d tried the exercise horse to warm up and wake up…that was not a good idea….) Half an hour later, I felt I could face daylight and finally got up, got dressed, and we decided a trip to Pullman for a Cougar Burger was just the right prescription.
Now…Carolyn was supposed to get a computer in on Wednesday. Her current laptop has been a scarey one problem after another. It’s also several years old. She’d been talking new computer, and this current round of writing disrupting crazies clinched it. Dell had their after-Christmas sales going, and she got on the phone and ordered a lovely machine that will do everything she needs, including play Guild Wars without hurky-jerky movement, for a long time to come…and it still has Win7.
Well…Since these things have been known to come early, I asked if she’d check to see if it was on its way, not wanting to leave the house unattended if by some chance it was on a local truck for delivery. She went up to the Dell site…and the order wasn’t listed. After some frantic, she got on the phone, went through the stupid automated system…and the robot said the order had been canceled.
She finally got hold of a live person and they began giving her the runaround. They sent her to another dept, who then tried to send her BACK to the original one. By this time, she was shaking with upset. This whole computer situation would have been bad at any time, but with all the story angst in the house from both writers, it was kind of the last straw.
And it was keeping me from my Cougar Burger!
I asked if she wanted me to talk to them, and she gratefully relinquished the phone. I got on, and played one heck of a Bad Cop. I said, not letting them get a word in edgewise, that we’d been Dell customers since they started, we’d had two years of problems with the other computer that just kept getting the same “repairs” and that this was the last straw, that we had to get out of the house and to get me a supervisor who could fix this…now.
They transferred me. It wasn’t to a supervisor, but I finally got out of them that it was a “compatibility issue”. They couldn’t tell me when it had been canceled, or what kind of compatibility issue or why we hadn’t been notified, and that we’d have to go back to the original salesperson…I finally realized that was all about commission.
Uh….right. So again I wait…he’s going to “hot connect” me directly to her. No muzac. And when the connection came through, it was to Microsoft Exchange…what mailbox did I want. ARGH! fortunately, I did get phone numbers. Her direct one and her next-up’s. I called her, got her voice mail. I left a message, then called the other number and finally, FINALLY was able to determine that the order had been cancelled two days after it was ordered because…get this…the frame ordered was incompatible with the screen ordered.
Part numbers. GOOD EFFING GRIEF! Why didn’t that raise a red flag the moment she put the screen in the order? The order wasn’t actually cancelled on the 14th, rather that’s when the email supposedly telling us it was going to be cancelled supposedly went out on that day. An email we never got. That was the ONLY warning they sent us. They didn’t let the salesperson know there was a problem. There was no further attempt to contact us. The automated system just zapped the order.
Sales person Number Two promised to get with SP#1 and they’d work out the new order and call us back within the hour. Please note…none of this was the fault of the sales staff, it’s the automated process Dell has for dealing with a problem in an order that sucks pond water.
Funny thing, this nice jolt of adrenaline pretty much zapped the headache! Well, jumping ahead, got a call, got the order in, expedited, which evidently means cutting, maybe, two days off the normal time, whoopie, and got ourselves on the road.
After a latte and chai tea, we began talking. Carolyn had said she had some ideas, and basically those ended up pretty much what I had planned, so I felt I was on the right track. I began just outlining the scenes I had planned, and somehow, because I wasn’t running it in my head, but explaining to another person, the circular replaying of the same conceptual lines wasn’t possible and I was forced to move forward….and the scenes began to flesh out. She had some suggestions for a couple of additional scenes that didn’t feel quite right to me, but in sorting out why they didn’t feel right, I began to realize what my scenes had to do other than just advance the plot. I still had this kind of “wrap up” moment, that I didn’t know how to handle, that I didn’t even realize I was fighting. She made a suggestion…half a joke, I think, for something else and all of a sudden: Congelation! (Okay…I KNOW it isn’t a word)
And with that suggestion….I had my last line. Curiously, the scene in question was NOT the last scene, it simply set up that final line.
And THAT is the real magic of writing.
Two days ago, I was very close to slitting my wrists. Seriously. Not physically, I’m not remotely suicidal, but my writing wrists…yes. I was seriously contemplating hanging it up forever. It’s a long story.
As most of you who have followed me the last few years know, I’ve been struggling to get my writing going again ever since, after several years of sending books to a seemingly receptive DAW, I found out they’d decided they couldn’t publish them, even tho they’d never read them, because of how long it had been since my last book. That decision resulted in Carolyn, Lynn and myself taking the step to start Closed Circle. That ended up eating up my creativity for several years, between the website, covers, and book conversions.
During that time, I was trying to write the most difficult book of my career, the one that’s going to sort out and tie up that knot of threads twenty-five years in the making that is the ‘NetWalkers series. Problem is, anyone who writes, esp fiction, knows it’s a muscle that needs exercise. Once you’ve lost the tone, it’s really hard to get it back, esp when RL keeps throwing you curves…like CJ’s books to edit, taxes, an ever-expanding garden and a variety of household projects…not to mention a demanding little house-elf whose clothing and stories have been one of the most fun things I’ve taken on in a long time. It’s hard to include him in the distractions, however, as it was he who convinced me I might still be able to write. Anyway, it was hard to convince myself to put a book that would never have a chance of serious distribution, especially one that was so scarily difficult to even contemplate, at the top of my list.
The front end, the reunion between Wesley and JP, had practically written itself. Unusual in a series book, but these two had so much confusion and heat between them, it made filling in the background downright fun. The middle was progressing…at a snail’s pace, but moving. I knew there was something missing, and thanks to the distractions, I could never quite put my hand on it…solving that kind of problem often requires serious meditation…or lots of trial and error until the right connections emerge. But I was getting there. I was really close to solving it…. Then came this year, with the fence, the second pond, the wedding, the long trip south and Wiishu’s big GoH gig. And the book stopped cold…again.
Well…this fall, I decided enough was enough. HomeComing Games became THE priority, and even if it meant only three lines a day, if it took all day staring at the screen to get those three lines, I was going to stay at the computer until they were written. Then, suddenly, that magical moment when it all snapped together. I’d actually found that missing piece and necessary focus. I began what we call a rolling rewrite, got through to where the final glide into the ending would start, and took notes on where I thought it was going.
Then, I began reading what I had to Carolyn. She was giving great feedback that would require a subtle reworking of certain scenes. I made a copy of the file I was working on at that point and started a new one. I usually keep a couple of versions a month. The pace I’ve been working, that w/b enough.
You probably see where this is going. I began putting in those subtle changes, the ending scenes were beginning to come a bit faster, a bit more inspired. The end was in sight….
Then, two days ago, I turned on the computer…and got that “Windows did not shut down normally” screen. Ah, well. Happens sometimes when this laptop runs out of juice. I told it to start, brought up WP and the file…and instead of going to the bookmark, it opened at the top. Hmmm…OK. Did control-end to get to the end of the file…and it was in the middle of a sentence about halfway through the book.
OMG. I knew I’d saved down. However, I often leave the program up while I go check email, so maybe it had made an auto backup…even tho it doesn’t usually do that if there are no changes. So… I tried to check the location of the auto backup—and the program quit. I tried checking Explorer where the backups, according to another installation, s/b…and there was no folder.
Double OMG. I looked for the most recent manual backup…and it was that one I made before I began entering the CJC comments.
Triple OMG. I check the flash drive I often backup to…the little memory card from the camera that I make backups to…
Nothing. Zip. Nada.
This laptop is the one I switched to when my newer laptop died the SDD death this last summer. IT was on Carbonite…this one…was not. Scratch that option. Besides which, by the time I figured the problem, that screwed up file might well have overwritten the good one anyway.
I…lost it. I’ve never in my life been that upset over anything. I’d worked so hard to get to that point, and I had NO ONE to blame but myself. I KNOW to back up…and I usually do to several places. I’d just gotten so distracted by actually writing again, I foolishly forgot. And now…it was gone. I knew the information was on the drive…nothing had been written to the drive since that last save…I have the data on a separate disk from the programs, so it was safe, as long as I didn’t save anything to that drive..
Now…many many years ago, when, before an emergency move of the machine, a friend mistakenly parked my HDD with a parking program pulled off another computer…don’t ask…I ended up using Norton Disk Doctor to reconstitute Harmonies, sector by sector…. After Norton ceased to carry that program, I’ve looked many times for anything that analyzed HDDs and restored files in that fashion, simply because it was such a lifesaver, and I’ve never found anything remotely like it. I can’t even find anything now that will scan the HDD for key phrases and restore the associated sectors!
Well, we called Lynn, who has a little business down in Florida that involves saving people from themselves, computer-wise, and she, bless her, sent us a couple of links, one of which was to http://www.easeus.com/ (which I see now, of course, is having a more than 50% off sale! ARGH Aw, well.)
This proved to be my savior. A deep scan turned up three possibilities, i.e. three different saves, that were virtually identical. Curiously, the one it claimed to be the most complete was the only one with a problem. The two “raw” ones restored to perfectly useable files. The named one was…tada…missing the end of file command. i.e. it came up perfectly in WP…formatting and all…but when I hit “cntl-end” the program crashed. This is what happened to the file that was up when Windows shut down wrong! I just copied and pasted it into a new file, and it’s working like a charm. Got another scene written today and while I won’t be done by Christmas, New Years is a serious possibility.
Moral of the story: never EVER write a book about a computer geek with a Loki complex….
I found from Pook’s first few months with us…
I think, maybe, I’ve got the sequencing worked out in the middle of HomeComing Games! I’m at the end of the section I had written out and am beginning to go into brave new territory! Let’s hope for an end by Christmas!!!!!!
Momma-D! Momma-D! We jus’ founded stowy we wuz s’posed to put up a LOOOOOOONG time ago! We are hanging our headzes in shame. Bud I hopes you enjoys it!
It’s crazy. I did this way back when the package came…which was March of 2013! I thought I’d posted it, but I recall now, I had about six stories and I was trying to dole them out. I’ve decided I must get all the pics processed and up and I’m several stories behind, so…enjoy!
One of the “games” on Den of Angels is an interview with your resin kid. Wiishu finally filled it out last night and I thot I’d share it.
FL LTF Shiwoo
Modified Default Faceup
Eyes…I think they’re from junkyspot. Purple
hair: generally blond. From me and my fake fur box.
Age…I think he just is.
If you were to describe yourself with one word, what would it be?
Cute! (Cuz dats what Mom calls me alla time.)
What is most important to you in the world?
Hmmm…makin’ peepows happy.
Would you help someone who needed it while passing?
Are you very observant?
Uh huh…Oh look! A butterfly…
How innocent/naive can you be?
Umm what’s dat mean?
Can you entertain yourself easily?
Sure! I likes doin’ stuffs. But I really likes doin’ stuffs wif peepows.
How well do you get along with others?
It depends. I likes makin’ fwens, but dere’s dat mean lady dat came to d’house right after I did…
What was the longest time you had a friend?
I never lost one! Dat would be terrible! Think how scared dey’d be, bein’ lost!
Do you have someone who knows you inside out?
Oh, yeah. Mom’s taken me all apart an’ put me back togevver again, so I tink she knows me pweddy good.
How short is your temper?
Can you let go of grudges easily?
What’sa grudge? Is it sticky?
Do you read?
Do you watch TV?
Do you collect anything?
How long do you stay interested in something?
If you collected, would it be for interest or profit?
Hah! Das a twick question. Interest IS profit! Tee hee hee.
Do you know your parents/creator?
Sure! Momma-D putsted me togevver and Mom’s my mom.
What is your birthday?
Do you have any siblings?
A dumb brovver named Pooki. He’s a pain, bud I lubs him.
Ever have to fight for what you believe in?
Yeah. Doze weeds in d’garden can get pweddy tough.
When did you move out on your own?
*GasP* I couldn’t leave Mom by herself! An’ somebody’s gotta keep dat dumb Pooki outta twubble.
When did you REALLY mature?
Did you have many friends?
152! But I gets more alla time. I lubs facebook!
Any action you regret?
Hiding Pooki’s present from Momma-D. Dat wuz bery selfish.
What is a memory you treasure?
Teaching my fwen Miike to feed d’fishes.
Do you have a dream partner?
I don’t remember my dreams very good.
Do you believe you seek someone like your parents(or creator)?
I already answered dat. I gotsa mom. Nex!
Do you have one night stands?
Oh, yeah! I love filkin’!
What feature is most attention grabbing for you?
Oooo, dats tough. Prolly Ironman.
What MUST someone have for you to consider them?
Hah! Anovver tricky question! Depends on wot I’m considering dem for, isn’t it! Tee hee hee.
Older, younger, same age as you?
How do you feel about settling down?
Oooo, I loves takin’ naps.
How many dates before you go to bed with someone?
Hmmm…Dates make me burp. So…I prolly shouldn’t eat any.
How do you handle rejection?
How many times did you stop something before it developed?
I hates to admit it, but Pooki usually gets into trouble before I can stops him. Den I gots to save him. But dat’s OK.
Have you settled down and if so for how long?
Hmmmm….My longest nap wuz prolly about four days…
What do you love most about your partner?
Hmmmm….Shushu? And Shishi. Should I name d’fishies, too?
How many relationships have you been in?
Lessee…dere’s Momma-D. An’ Chi. An’ of course, Mom an’ momma-CJ. An’ Pooki, I better count him…
Have you ended any?
*Mumble* I’ve thought about it. Pooki can be a pain…
Has your heart been broken?
Don’ be silly. I’d bleeds to death.
Any loves you cannot have?
Nope! I loves everybodies!
Do you believe in true love?
Have you ever died?
Can you even die?
I don’ think so. Wot’s that mean?
Have you seen someone die?
D’flowers die alla time, but dey always come back, so da’s cool.
Have you killed someone?
*Mumble* I’ve thought about it….
Have you had someone killed?
*mumble* I’ve thought about it…
What makes you truly happy?
Bein’ alive. An’ flowers.
If you could, what is one thing you would spend your life doing?
Makin’ peepow happy.
Do you have a job, if so what is it?
House an’ garden elf. *nods wisely* Oh! an’ Pooki wrangler!
Have you ever gone insane?
Did you ever feel as if you were the only sane one in the world?
Hmmm…I don’ tink I wanna answer dat.
If you had a choice, would you live a calm eternal life, or live a wild short life?
Tanks you bery much! Dis wuz fun!
Had such fun the last couple of weeks. GuildWars2 had a special event. The capital, Lion’s Arch, was all decorated, there were trick or treat doors that sent you to the Mad King’s Labyrinth, where you could play some strange game of hide, seek and kill, er, convert, or go bash monsters like candycorn kritturs, with energetic impromptu zergs (big groups of people who take the baddies on in a riproaring brawl). The baddies dropped trick or treat bags that contained things like candycorn, plastic vampire fangs, and chattering skulls. These can all be used as either currency for goodies available only through the event (like BIG storage bags or minis like a black kitty (zuzu—Poobii has one in the pics) or the bloody prince (who was the bad guy this time…you did him in with a candycorn mini) or a ghostly spider. Oooooo….
Anyway, the last night of the event, I broke down and bought the Poobanator a Mad King costume. For a while, he went around Lion’s Arch with the King, being a frolicking Minime. But then Carolyn pointed out an asura (little folk, like Poobii) up on the central haystack, playing his flute. Poobii had to jump up and listen, then join in, first to the flute, then a drum, then the boom box, for which he broke out the “inventory shuffle”. The other guy joined right in. When Poobii had to leave, he would bow and he always bowed back. When Poobii tried to get all the stickinthemuds in the area to dance with him, he joined in that, too. We came to the conclusion the humans were chickens. At one point, a charr joined in the revelries.
It was a great way to close out the party.
Hope you can make these out. The quality of the screen shots sucked. I wish I’d known how to capture the screen in video….Time to research…