Category Archives: writing thoughts

Writing blather

I don’t have much this morning.  Generally I have a topic in mind that I think about throughout the day, then post.  But there’s been a lot stirring at work, to the degree that it’s pretty much work, horse, house, ski and that’s just about it.  Well, except for Netwalk’s Children.  That writing process is fascinating me even as I’m going through it.

Ironically enough, I got a batch of rewrites back from my series editor for The Netwalk Sequence (purchasing info here) for my latest planned upload, Netwalker UprisingUprising is–uh–turning into a larger story.  It’s reflective of the greater arc of the entire Sequence, and I’m finding myself having to rethink the dang book as well as what I’m trying to do in Children.  Let’s just say that Children answers some questions that Uprising brings up, while bringing in a few bombshells of its own.  I–uh, well, there’s been some worldbuilding pieces I’ve been consciously avoiding and now I can’t.  Or, rather, I’ve been gathering data for several years and suddenly it’s starting to coalesce.  Fascinating how that happens.

OTOH, it’s interesting to be plotting one and creating the underpinnings for that connected story while working on this next one.  I already see the need for a transition story that will explain a couple of pieces between Children and already published stories as well as the book that follows Children.  It’s very fascinating doing this sort of building and creation on my own and hopefully something good will come of it.

Meanwhile, I have other writing tasks to do, a deadline to meet, etc.  I suspect that this month I’ll put up a short story, perhaps a prequel to the “Cold Dish” story published in M-Brane 9, that tells us a bit more about Kathy Miller and a bit about Melanie and Andrew’s backstory.  That one might be a freebie.

Thinking about it…and now, onward!

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On the writing process

Not a long post today, but I’ve been thinking about changes in my writing process as I go about getting ready to work on Netwalk’s Children.  For one thing, this indie publishing thing?  Means I have NO EXCUSES about delaying getting to the work.  Doesn’t write itself, doesn’t put itself up, can’t mutter about editors taking a long time to hold up the work while they decide whether it fits their line/publication.  I’ve gotta write it and send it to my copyeditor.  Then it gets rewritten and sent to my formatter.  And somewhere in there I’ve got to think abut stuff like, oh, covers and publicity and all that good pile o’stuff that is part of the whole process.

Lots of work.  But, on the other hand, one really cool thing?  I can jump directly from revisions on Netwalker Uprising to planning Netwalk’s Children.  I CAN HAZ KEWL WORLDBUILDING WHILE WORKING ON CONTINUITY!!!

Yeah.  Got a little excited there.

I’m also getting a bit excited about Children.  It’s been a while since I’ve done new drafting/planning for a novel.  In fact, it’s been two years since I’ve done new novel work (shudder, why so long?  Inventory and all that good stuff.  One reason The Netwalk Sequence came about was the opportunity to get niche material out of inventory, experiment with consciously putting together a whole sequence of related stories/novels, and get that whole world out for people to find and enjoy).

To that end, I’m finding myself spending more time outlining and preplanning than I have in the past.  In the past, I’ve been a pantser about long form writing.  I knew kind of where the story would end up, knew the main points of a two-page outline, but the details?  Nuh-uh.

Not so with Children.  One reason for that is a hard self-imposed deadline–I want it ready to go up in late April or early May.  That means that when I do start writing, I need to be able to start writing.  Hard and fast.  It’s something I know I can do, but I’m realizing that to keep the pieces together without having to do tons of rewriting for continuity’s sake/fixing plot holes/etc, I need to have a more detailed writing plan than I’ve done for past books.

Additionally, Children is the first Netwalk story to be written since I started studying Interpersonal Neurobiology.  It’s the first significantly neuroscientifically informed Netwalk story, which means I need to identify where I go out and do more research.  Plus, I want to try doing this sort of detailed outline to see how it affects my actual writing process.  Ideally, I’d like to get it up on Scrivener and use that tool to help me put things together.  I need to integrate more technology tools in my writing work simply because otherwise I’m drowning in paper, and I need to simplify everything so I’m not lugging around a ton of reference materials.

However…the initial outline is going on paper.  Annoying, but given the time constraints of the Day Jobbe, that part of the process has to happen this way because of learning curves and all that.  After Children, perhaps even with Netwalk’s Descendants, I’ll be putting together stuff on Scrivener or some other like tool that I can find to port hopefully across to my tablet as well as laptop and desktop.  I’m starting to integrate materials for my nonfiction writing in that manner; it would be awfully damned nice if I could do the same for fiction.

I’m still not sure what the next project will be once I finish the Netwalk Sequence.  I have three short stories outlined, plus ongoing nonfiction projects.  I have portions of half-finished novels lying around the hard drive.  I also have the Peter McLoughlin Weird West sequence that is crying out to be written.

We shall see what the summer brings.

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On aging and writing and other endeavors, sigh

Jim Van Pelt has an excellent reaction to one of those not-so-lovely screeds that proclaims that after a certain age, writers are all washed up.  Not going to link to the original blog, simply because I have to wonder if it wasn’t the result of a frustrated, newish writer old enough to know better who nonetheless fell prey to the temptation of smacking the face of an old-timer to get blog hits and, therefore, attention.  The middle school teacher in me doesn’t want to reward bad behavior, in the first place, and secondly, doesn’t want to continue to highlight something that the author will later most likely regret publishing.

But even as I read both Jim’s post and the original post, I kept thinking of exceptions to the rule, including George R.R. Martin himself.  Like the original blogger, I haven’t read the books in question.  My pleading, though, is simply that I don’t have the reading energy these days to dedicate to a series of books that big.  I read the first two or three books and, while I admire the intricacy of the plot threads and all, they were just too plain big and complex for me to read until the series was finished.  Now that may change, since I’ve managed to configure the Kindle reader on both my iTouch and my Asus Transformer (I love, love, love reading on the Transformer.  While I still have a huge pile of paper books to read down, I’m rapidly switching over to e-books for my new purchases, especially either hardcovers or mass markets in the genre).  The Song of Ice and Fire series might well be a better choice for e-book rather than paper.  I rocked my way through the latest Stephen King much more comfortably than I would the hard copy, so that’s what I’m thinking.

I follow GRRM’s blog.  Put simply, what I’m reading there and the commentary he puts forth about his writing doesn’t suggest a declining mind.  Rather, it suggests that instead of pumping out tons of quickly-written, not so-well-written prose, he’s putting in a lot of effort to craft his work more precisely and in greater detail, because he can.

The aging and creativity debate isn’t a new one.  Knee-jerk response suggests that aging means decline, that brain cells stop forming in early adulthood and it’s all downhill from there.  However, recent neuroscientific findings suggest that such isn’t necessarily the case.  We’re still forming neurons and connections well into our 50s; perhaps not as many as when we were younger, but it is still happening.

And unless you are subject to specific genetic conditions, much brain deterioration is preventable, as the article linked points out.  Preventing brain deterioration doesn’t require fancy exercises or special programs.   Rather, maintaining regular habits such as exercise, eating right and minimizing stress are all factors in keeping your brain healthy and productive well into your later years.

But what about this particular blogger’s argument?  He cites examples of authors for whom he believes their best work had been completed by their mid-50s, all within the genre.  He’d be supported by some writers outside the genre, who point to Nobel Literature prize-winners like Faulkner, Hemingway or Steinbeck whose greatest works were published in their early years.  Granted, in those three cases (as well as others), often the Nobel is a culmination based on many years of production rather than a single stellar work.

Counter this blogger’s assertions with the production of writers such as Robertson Davies, who was actively creating quality work in retirement.  What about Frederik Pohl?  What about Margaret Mead, or Ursula LeGuin, or other articulate, producing writers who continue their writing contributions well into their later life?

Age is what you make of it.  And despite what someone at the threshold of middle-aged panic might think, decline is not inevitable.  With age comes perspective and understanding.

I leave you with these words from William Faulker’s Nobel acceptance speech to consider:

He (insert from me, the young writer) must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Read the whole speech.  It’s a good thought.

ETA: After reading the comments on the post, including the latest, it’s clear the writer considered getting a lot of responses as a “win.”  So, not clearly thought out….simply written to provoke comment.

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What I love about good editors

Good editors are priceless.  I’ve worked with several wonderful folks, including the lovely lady who is editing most of my Netwalk Sequence work, and they all have similar characteristics.

First, they quickly grasp the vision you may not always be able to consistently articulate in your work.  I don’t care how good a writer you are, you always need editing.  What I have noticed in the difference between dealing with a beta reader/critique group and an editor is that a beta/crit group often wants to rewrite your work in their words, or else says “There’s a problem but I don’t know how to revise it.” A good editor understands your intent, identifies when what you’ve written is inconsistent with the overall thrust of the work, and picks up when you’ve dropped the ball on what you’re trying to say.  Additionally, a good editor can make appropriate revision suggestions without taking over your voice.  It’s a fine art.

(that’s one reason why I’m reluctant to rejoin a critique group.  Another is that it took me years to get over the undue influence one group I participated in had over my work and writing voice.  I literally could not write fiction for quite a while without hearing their voices and arguing with them as I wrote, and ended up paralyzed as a result.  Not good.  I’ve had good betas, but they aren’t the same as an editor with an editor’s vision)

Secondly, especially with a short story collection or magazine, the good editor looks for work that is consistent with the style of the other writers in the anthology or magazine.  Good stories benefit from the company of like stories.  Story placement in an anthology or magazine is an art, and I have liked my placement in every magazine or anthology I’ve been in to date.

Thirdly, it’s not about their ego, except as a presentation of the overall work or imprint.  They aren’t seeking to tear the writer down but build the writer up so that the published work is the writer’s best effort.  They want to build the writer up.  Critique groups often fall into the trap of one-upmanship and it’s not pretty when that happens.  One vibe I’ve gotten from some of the rejections of the ilk I critiqued in my rejection slip post a few weeks back is that in some form, ego slipped in the door.  There are very positive rejection critiques out there, but they share the characteristics of the good editor request for revision in that it’s not an issue of ego/one-upmanship.

(Another factor is that many newer editors are often uncomfortable with just saying “This doesn’t work for me” but have to find something–anything–to justify the rejection.  Straining like this ends up with cockeyed rejections of the sort I ranted about.  A good editor is secure in his or her own vision and can say “hey, this missed the mark.  It doesn’t work for me.”  They don’t need to give a specific reason.  Editors, trust yourself.  If you don’t think it works for your imprint/publication, but you can’t articulate why, don’t worry about giving a reason.  Don’t force it.  Forcing it comes off poorly.  You’re the editor of the anthology/magazine/imprint.  It’s your overall vision, and the writer’s work is just a piece of your overall work.)

Good editors are like gold and are meant to be prized.  Enjoy the opportunities to work with them.

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