Tag Archives: writing process

Set in the Real World

My first novel, Lucinda at the Window, is set in 1901-ish. The next two novels I wrote (the defunct ones) were set in a fantasy-laced version of Renaissance Europe. The Weordan novels and Zeta Iota are both science fiction, either off-world or far-future. Pas de Chat, written in 2004, is the only long work I’ve set in the “real” world.

For the first time in six years, I’m writing in a contemporary setting and it’s a little strange. When Aleister listens to music…on his mp3 player!…these can be bands that people have heard of! Bands that I listen to! So there’s a temptation to go a little Mary Sue. (I’d like to say that I planned to have Mr. Luck listening to the Cake album Prolonging the Magic, but I didn’t realize the aptness of that choice until I posted on Friday.)

The internet is also a more helpful place, research-wise, than it was in 2004. I’m more inclined to question my detail choices. Things I’ve done research on for this novel thus far:

PG&E energy scandal (for now defunct aspect of the novel)
How blackjack is dealt in casinos (hand v shoe)
Locations of casinos in the Chicago area (now also defunct)
Hallucinogens / deliriants
Scratch card sales in Nevada / Nevada state lottery (rather, the lack thereof)
Facial recognition security systems
Private investigator licensing

And of course, my new knowledge (or lack thereof) influences the writing. As much as I complain about inaccuracies in fiction, I better get as much as possible right. For example: short of calling gas stations in Nevada, I haven’t come across an answer as to whether I can buy a scratch card with my gas and coffee. I’m guessing you can’t, and therefore a pretty piece of writing bit the dust last week. (The concept will be recycled later.)

Anyway, in conjunction with that and my post on writer’s lock, I’m posting the following Luck extra: Mr. Luck Goes Fishing (and buys a scratch card and doesn’t meet Davis).

Writer’s Lock

First, via @BluePrintReview: How to be a Writer Part I by Kirsty Logan | Metazen

This comes closest to my experience of "becoming a writer." Unlike many authors, I didn’t start writing stories as soon as I could hold a pencil. I spent my childhood imagining. And reading. I didn’t write my first story until college.

—###—

Been suffering from writer’s lock this week.

Not writer’s block, writer’s lock. Due to the way we work, it can strike at any time, but it especially occurs during editing. In my mind, I have trouble reframing a scene enough to do the necessary rewrites to it. My concept of the scene becomes locked down. To some degree this is related to killing the beauties (as my teacher Marly Swick put it; also known as murdering your darlings). My brain has trouble accepting that a scene could be written as well as it already has been; that the perfect flow cannot be tampered with. Even when the scene is lacking important narrative information.

For example, I’m working on what will potentially be Ch. 1 of Luck for Hire. One of the main points of the scene is to establish Aleister’s adversarial relationship with Devine, Chance and Merit and their security head, Davis. Our original talk about the scene included the two meeting. Eric felt that was an important point. I agreed. And then promptly wrote the scene in a different, less effective way. Eric called me on it, though not immediately. My broken scene was enough to make him briefly forget what was originally intended. I’ve been fiddling with the changes since Wednesday. While I understand how the scene needs to go, it’s been locked.

The solution, to belabor an analogy, is a mental door-breaking of the scene. I can try starting over with a blank slate, but the previous version of the scene can’t be un-thought. I jimmy the edges of the scene until I let myself back in. Or something like that. In the case of this Luck scene, a real-world logistics problem cropped up and broke the spiffy beginning I’d written. I’m still not done writing the chapter and I’ve lost confidence that it is well written. That doesn’t mean it isn’t or that my opinion won’t change in time. It’s just not the zippy little collection of scenes that it was.

Edit, 15:03:
Finished scene.

Where’s Mr. Luck & #FridayFlash?

I decided to give Mr. Luck his own home: http://entangledcontinua.com/luck. I don’t intend to crosspost to here unless readers here really, really want me to. In fact, process stuff will probably still end up here and crossposted there because this where I talk about day to day stuff. Other #FridayFlash pieces will still end up here.

As for Mr. Luck, having Eric back in town is good. We pow-wowed Wednesday morning and pieces are starting to fall together in that exciting/satisfying way. The extended plan is to have the novel, around 80K words, done by the end of the year. How much of it will end up online in some form, I don’t know. Obscurity is my enemy, and I’m still pretty bad at being social, even online.

Collaborative Process, Nabity-style

In a reply to my last entry, JT asked a good question about the collaborative process that Eric and I engage in. The reply because post-sized:

My journal entries tend to simplistically reflect  my side of the process.

We each have our role, and our roles are complementary.

I’m pretty bad with plot. Given enough time, I could probably become competent at cobbling together enough "and then this happens" to form a novel, but it wouldn’t be pretty. My strength is stringing words together in a (hopefully) clear and (hopefully) compelling manner that form characters and places and things.

Eric is full of story ideas, and I hear a fraction of them. I’d say that when he proposes an idea it’s already gone through a fairly rigorous crap filter. What Eric can’t do is write. Well, he can and he can do it quite well, but it’s a torturous process. I can’t fathom how it could take a week to craft 1000 words of prose, but that’s around Eric’s speed. Conversely, he doesn’t understand that I don’t immediately see how the actions of characters will naturally play out.

So together, we’re closer to being a whole writer than we are apart. But that doesn’t quite explain the process.

What I depict is the easily quantifiable part: I write, submit for critique, rewrite, repeat. What goes on behind that is hard to nail down. There are cases in which Eric offers an idea, I pull a face and voice my doubts, and force him to rigorously defend his position. That usually results in either my being convinced or Eric talking himself out of the idea. He does occasionally writes a passage that I can’t quite handle. And then I smooth it out.

It may be dangerous and non-PC, but this is not an even relationship. I’m filtering Eric’s vision through my writing. The core ideas are his. This doesn’t mean I don’t add to it. Some of the best bits happen when I spring something on Eric (a locked tinder box, an extra character named Balito), but in the end what I write has to be consistent with his initial ideas.

Bad analogy: It’s like he has an idea for an all-salmon menu, but I have to come up with the individual dishes. As soon as I decide that trout should be substituted for salmon or that a salmon/chocolate sorbet is a good idea, I’ve deviated from the idea too much. On the other hand, I can say that it’s a bad idea to have a salmon-based desert and suggest something that works, but isn’t salmon.

Do I occasionally feel picked on during the process? Of course, but I generally trust Eric’s judgment and he keeps away from being critical of my writing style and the like. Unfortunately it’s always the things that need work that get attention. "Good job on that" should carry more weight, but "this is wrong for the following reasons" gets more time. And I’m sure Eric has his anxieties when broaching a new idea. I know I hate explaining mine.

In the end, if I can’t get behind the vision, it’s not going to work. Zeta Iota wasn’t working. I couldn’t put enough of me in it to write anything but bland prose. The hope with Luck for Hire is that this is a vision I can play around in. We’ll see how it goes.

Change in Plans…

…like *that* never happens.

(Actually, there’s four month a wax and wan that seems to happen with my writing projects. I work on a trimester schedule. Or I’m selectively remembering the pattern. I’m sure it’s not that neat. Maybe it should be and I spend too much time bucking the trend instead of going with it.)

Yesterday, Eric and I discussed the status of various writing projects and we decided that getting Divine Fire polished and off to agents/publishers wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s the "second" Weordan novel, but, like Model Species, it can stand alone. I finished DF in August of last year and put it aside in order to focus on Model Species (Sept – Dec with a November side trek). Then we started on Zeta Iota (Jan – April).  But now, as I have every summer  for the last few years, I’m going back to work on Divine Fire. Since this book is concerned with a religion based on a sun god, summer in Arizona isn’t a bad time for it. First order of business? Take a look at just how much work needs to be done.

Besides, ZI needs to stew longer. I’ll think on it, free write on it while Eric’s brain works more on the tech.

Eric’s booked his flight for Omaha in June. I’ll be staying here, which is new.  I’m developing a list of things to do while he’s gone. Cleaning the grimy apartment and eating German food is on the list thus far.

Sloths do move…

Strange Maps very often has cool things. Today’s post answers an interesting question. If the entire population of the US were compressed to the population density of Brooklyn, what state would we fit into? The answer is the United States of Brooklyn, NH That’s something to keep in mind when writing about enclosed populations like space stations or futuristic super-cities. (Of course, I’m assuming that this scenario includes room for public works.)

Working through changes on the first 10K of Zeta Iota at a slow pace. This book, this project, is hard semi-military sci-fi and my vocabulary in this genre isn’t extensive. I think I need to revise my reading list* to include more sci-fi and less Victorian mysteries. Or at least try to find a balance between the two. To be honest, while the Conan Doyle biography is good, I’m just not feeling it at the moment. I need a change of pace in my reading material. Plus, I should finish the Dune novels one of these days. (And yes, I pretty much wrote this same post back in December. I read one Warhammer 40K book and then went back to my “comfy” reading space.)

*I’m surprised the reading list has lasted this long. While I’m fickle about starting and finishing books, I’m doubly fickle when it comes to sticking to structured plans which I am in sole charge of.

With a little help from my friends…

I’m looking for a fairly large group willing to give me feedback on a novel excerpt. The excerpt is three chapters in length (no more than 30 pages) in PDF format followed by several specific questions (no more than six). It is important that feedback is honest. (Believe me, I’ve been at this a few years. I can take criticism.)

Please contact by commenting, replying to tweet, or email at katen@livejournal.com