Archive for the 'Day In the Life' Category

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
The season of light

The season of light comes with full fat eggnog and cookies so obviously it isn’t light in the dietary sense. It’s light against the darkness, the promise of spring’s return, the celebration of the end of winter even when we’re in the icy heart of it. And in the icy heart of winter, I want my butter-laden cookies and high-caloric eggnog latte, thankyouverymuch. Along with that I want light entertainment, so here’s a roundup for you of free and low cost holiday cheer.

1. PG Wodehouse’s Another Christmas Carol. Read aloud for you, click and listen to Part 1, then Part 2.

2. Play games on Norad Santa’s countdown village while you wait for the sleigh to take flight on their famous tracker. I especially like the connect-the-Christmas-tree-lights game and Christmas Tetris.

3. In the Seattle area there’s the Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, with tickets for sale (and if you’re an early bird there were several free nights). Check out the botanical gardens nearest you for similar displays.

4. Watch holiday favorites like Die Hard, Scrooged, It’s a Wonderful Life.

5. One of my personal favorites, the Christmas stories of Connie Willis. All Seated on the Ground and Miracle and other Stories are available as ebooks and will lighten your spirits with alien invasions, carols, and even a spine-tingling Epiphany.

Storytelling is one of the oldest and truest ways we’ve kept hope alive in the dark, and it’s good to remember in this season of light that telling stories and listening to them is the human spirit beating in the icy heart of winter.

Monday, December 10th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
The Revision Slog

Back in the day, I thought revising meant reading the thing over and making sure everything was spelled right, grammatically correct, and that the main character’s hair never accidentally changed color.  Ha!  Those were the days…   I’m in the middle of revising the twelfth Kitty novel, Kitty in the Underworld, based on editorial notes.  Here’s what I’m doing, without any details to avoid spoilers.  It’ll give you an idea of what constitutes a serious, in-depth revision.

  • I’m moving the end of Chapter 2 to the end of Chapter 1.  Thematically, the same thing is happening, and this way the story won’t have to switch gears, then switch back again.
  • I’m adding a scene to the end of Chapter 1, a great big bombshell of a plot coupon.  In the earlier draft, the first three chapters mostly described the series’ status quo as of the end of the previous book, Kitty Rocks the House.  This is one of the pitfalls of writing the twelfth book in the series:  I’m trying to re-introduce characters, remind the readers what’s been going on, etc.  But it’s actually kind of long and boring to read.  So let’s follow good novel writing rules and do something early that actually changes things and starts the plot off with a big push.
  • This Very Bad Thing I’ve added will influence absolutely everything that follows.  The novel’s main plot starts in Chapter 3, and this Very Bad Thing has the added bonus of making the main plot that much more critical and suspenseful.  Note that none of the comments I got from my editor or my beta reader suggested adding a Very Bad Thing happening in the first chapter.  I got notes that the whole book needs more drama, that the stakes and motivation aren’t clear, and that the opening is a little slow.  I decided that having something bad in the first chapter will fix a bunch of the more vague problems my readers pointed out, in one fell swoop.
  • Previously, Chapter 2 was a bunch of people sitting around talking about the status quo.  Now, it’s a serious meeting about what to do about the Very Bad Thing that happens in Chapter 1.  Note, I’ll also be reminding my readers of the status quo from the previous book by having my characters discuss the new situation in contrast with the old.  Now this scene is doing more than one thing plot-wise, which is a big improvement.
  • And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten right now, but as I’ve said, the changes I’ve already made are going to have consequences for the rest of the book, so I need to go over the manuscript carefully to make sure those ripples make it all the way through the story.

This is heavy, tedious, slogging work.  Not the glamorous side of writing at all.  Rewriting entire chapters kind of sucks.  I sometimes feel like I’m breaking the whole book to pieces and I’ll never be able to put it back together again.  Reviewing the manuscript to examine how one big change affects every other aspect of the story is intensely tedious.  But I do it, because I know it’s going to make the book better.

Here’s the really tricky bit:  the manuscript was probably okay the way it was.  A lot of cool stuff happens.  My beloved characters are doing what they do, and the readers who’ve been with me throughout the series would probably like the old version just fine.  But you know what?  It can be better.  I can make it better.  I don’t want to put out an “okay” book.  I don’t want a book that makes my readers think, “Oh, that was nice.”  I want them to think, “Holy shit, that was amazing!”  I want a brand new reader who’s never read any of my work to read this book and think, “Wow, I ought to check out the rest of the series.”  I don’t want to put out a competent book, I want to put out a great book.

And that’s why the slog is worth it.  (But I seriously need a big pot of hot tea and some good music to get me through it…)

Friday, December 7th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
In Which Diana Discusses Copyedits

So my copyedits for my fall ’13 novel, Across a Star-Swept Sea, came in yesterday. This will be my ninth novel, and the first time I’ve ever done “electronic” copyedits on a novel (I’ve done them on short stories and essays before). My last go around were done electronically by the copyeditor, but then were printed out and sent to me to review on paper. This time, I’m supposed to review them electronically.

That lasted about half an hour.

Turns out I really count on the different format at this stage in the game. I like to look at it on paper. So this is what I did:

Thank you, Staples.

So now here I sit, my desk cleared of distractions (I’m about to close my laptop down, even), with just the things i need to finish these copyedits: the copyedits themselves, a cup of tea, my space heater (I have such thin Floridian blood), and this nifty combo pen/highlighter/sticky note thing (shown) I found at Staples while waiting for the clerk to coil bind the manuscript.

She had to coil bind it in two, because this is a looooong book (almost 400 pages):

Fun stuff, huh?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
A Couple of Thoughts from Last Week

Thought the First

Here’s a concrete example of how over time it’s good to review how you do things and make adjustments:

When I was first starting out — I mean, going to my first science fiction conventions as an author with only a couple of stories published — I realized how nice it would be to have business cards, to give people my e-mail address, and so on.  Since I was pretty short on funds and moving around a lot, I decided a good way to do this was to make them myself in small batches, printing them on do-it-yourself business card stock, rather than shelling out for a big stack of cards that might quickly become obsolete.  And this was a good way to do it, at the time.  When my first books were published, I added the covers to the cards, and this became a great way to hand out info about my books.

I ran out of business cards recently.  It’s been awhile since I did up a batch, a year or so maybe.  I have a new printer, and the thought of reformatting my templates to the new printer made me want to cry.  (This is part of why I ran out of cards in the first place.)  Then it occurred to me:  Why the hell am I still doing this myself?  Especially with so many great online printing services that will let me design something I really like and send me a package of nice cards for a reasonable price?  Great big lightbulb moment, let me tell you.

I’m kicking myself for waiting this long to go the professional printing route.  I should not be wasting the time doing them myself anymore.  My career is in a very different place than it was twelve years ago, I should not be doing things the same way.

Thought the Second

I think I’ve talked before about how much I hate the concept of “author branding.”  Mostly because on all the lists of “how to build an author brand,” I hardly ever see, Be an Awesome Writer.  And because I came to blows with my old publisher about what my own “brand” should mean.  Most of what people mean when they say “branding” is stuff aspiring authors are doing anyway:  writing work they care about, setting up a website, being professional about it all, and so on.  “Branding” just puts a fancy name on it and gives writers one more thing to stress out over.  One more unnecessary thing to stress over.

Well, The Onion just did an article that illustrates exactly how it comes across (to me, anyway) when an author is more focused on their “brand” than they are on their writing.  Oh, I can’t stop laughing.

Monday, October 29th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Time is Marching On, and Time is Still Marching On

I’ve been contemplating time, and how I always need more.  Don’t we all?  The words “I’m bored” never even occur to me, because I always have something going on, even if it’s just vegging out and knitting a scarf (valuable recharging time, that is) .  It’s almost the end of the year and I have a stack of things I’d like to finish before the ball drops on Times Square.  It’s an arbitrary deadline.  But this business runs on deadlines.  Most of mine are self-imposed.

I’m a big fan of self-imposed deadlines at the earliest stages of a writing career.  First off, they prepare writers for externally imposed deadlines — you know you can hit that contracted deadline because you’ve already hit your own.  Second, they mean you get stuff done.

You have to learn to measure your own productivity.  It’s important to know how much you can do in a day, so you know how long it will take you to complete a project.  If you learn to gauge the length of projects before you start, you can judge how much time you need.  This is how the pros work.  It sounds so mercenary, doesn’t it?  Is there any room for art amidst deadlines?  Because I still like to think I’m doing art, even with the deadlines.  Write good books — that’s the goal.  If I don’t do that, I won’t have a career.  Of course I think it’s possible, I pretty much have to since that’s how I do things.  But I know this is how you have to work if you want to make a living at this gig.

Embrace the march of time.  Embrace deadlines.  Time and deadlines are your friends.   “The end of the year” is only one possible deadline.  Go ahead, pick a deadline.

  • Your birthday
  • A loved one’s birthday
  • Any holiday
  • Tax day
  • The end of the month, or the start of the following month.  Or heck, any day of the month.  The tenth, let’s say, if the end of the month doesn’t work .
  • The release date of an anticipated movie, because if you finish your thing you can go see it without guilt.
  •  Vacations make marvelous deadlines — the chance to go on a trip without worrying about a that thing you’ve spent every waking moment thinking about for the last three months is hugely motivating.
  • NaNoWriMo is built on deadlines.  (How many of you are doing NaNoWriMo, hmmmm?  How’s that going?)  In that case, your deadline is the end of the month.

Deadlines are the thing that will help your career move forward, because they are the things that say “You have to finish this, you have to send this off, you have to work.”  Otherwise, we’d sit around being bored.

This is my favorite song to listen to when I have an approaching deadline.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Trust the mirrors

While most people will agree that writing is a solitary endeavor, I’d like to point out one very important aspect of your social network.

My friends and I call it trusting your mirrors.

Due to human physiology, we cannot see out the back of our heads, so we can never truly see behind ourselves.  We can’t tell where we’ve been with a clear view.  But if you have a group of trusted confidants, then you can not only see behind you, but you can get the old “objects in mirrors appear larger than they are” aspect of it and really get a good look at what you’ve been doing.

Take a new story, for example.  You write it, and if you are like most writers I know, you immediately think that it sucks.  It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh off the hotplate of creation, you know, deep down, that it has negative value, you’ve wasted your time, and that this is the last thing you will ever write. Mainly because someone will finally figure out that you are a fraud and the entire house of cards will come tumbling down.  Or, you know, worse.

Not everyone goes through this roller-coaster of self-doubt and recrimination, but let me tell you, I know veterans with thirty years of sales who still think like this when they finish something new.  We are all meat puppets with a chemical soup battery in our heads that controls our emotions and our thoughts.  Who can blame us for panicking and expecting the worse.  It’s survival instincts.

But, if you are a very lucky person who has enough good sense to find like-minded individuals as well as a diverse base of support, than you can trust them to be your eyes in the back of your head.

They become your mirrors and they can show you a view of yourself that you cannot see.  This is an amazing gift, let me tell you.  Finding someone who you can trust to be honest and who has your best interest at heart is worth more than a Hugo, a Pulitzer or even a NY Times Bestseller slot.

Because you will always have to write the next thing and the world is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of place.  A single success or failure will not define your career.  If you surround yourself by good souls and put in the hard work you can maximize your success and minimize your pain.

Trust the mirrors, watch when things are larger than they appear and don’t forget to let those around you protect your flanks.  It’s what friends and family are for.

If you are not careful, you may end up having a very fulfilling life with good friends, good writing and high expectations.

And probably some wine, but that’s a different post.

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
Tao of cats for writers

Since the internet is for cats, a writer’s guide to wisdom. Or peace with cat hair.

1. The cat typing left on your screen is a gift. It’s a new word for your SF or fantasy novel.
2. The cat snoozing on your keyboard is also a gift. It means you should take a few minutes to imagine the scene you are about to write and what conflict your character faces that is equal to moving a sleeping cat.
3. The cat who drapes all over your arms, inhibiting typing, is a gift. Of warmth. You’ll be grateful in December.
4. The cat who sits on your red-ink-marked hard copy is a gift. You are being reminded to take time to think through how to make these changes smoothly. Also the size of the project is being hidden so you only have to think about the first step.
5. The cat who knocked your phone off the charger is a gift. You were not in a good frame of mind to talk to anybody what with the edits, the weights on your arms and the new SF word.
6. The yowling at your feet will be followed by claw pitons up your calf, breaking your concentration from the work to return you to the Now and the Meow. This is a gift. Sitting for too long in one position is bad for your muscles and your circulatory system.
7. The purring in your lap is a gift. Have your characters had any warm and soothing moments in their headlong rush through conflicts?
8. The cat walking on you in the middle of the night is a gift. You are now awake and able to write down the idea that just came to you.