Monday, November 30, 2009

everything here smells like skunk

Finally, November is over. NaNo is over. I may change my mind next year, but I don't think I'll be doing NaNo again--I've done and won five times now, and I don't really need it to keep me writing the way I used to. In fact, this year it was a bit of a detriment. I had to stop progress on Bell-Men to do NaNo; I could be done with the rewrite by now if I hadn't.

Oh well, it's all good. I'm closing in on the last of the Bell-Men rewrites. I expect to finish in another week or two, and then I can relax and do some reading before picking it up again for another editing pass.

Hey! I've about decided that the last week of December is going to have to be a short story frenzy write-in! I've only got one story out right now and I really need to write more. If you're interested in joining me, I might start a blog for it pretty soon so we've all got a place to congregate. Ideas welcome!

I didn't sell any stories this month--not a big surprise, since I only have that one story out. I wrote the abysmal The Dragon Whisperer, which needs a lot of work to make it readable. Maybe I'll make 2010 the year of rewrites and editing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Early new year's resolution

In 2010, I will lose all the weight I meant to lose last year, start calling myself Alexa Serpentine, and take up treasure-hunting as a career.

700 words until I "win" NaNo. It's slow going.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Me and the Bell-Men

My story "Fall or Fly" is up at Every Day Fiction! I've also got a guest blog post up at Flash Fiction Chronicles about the editing/rewriting process after a story's been accepted.

I've finished my NaNo book, such as it is--just 40,000 words, but I'm counting the new stuff I'm writing for Bell-Men on my NaNo count until the end of November. I shouldn't have any problem reaching 50,000 words total written this month, but I do feel like I'm cheating. Oh well.

I'm so glad to be back working on Bell-Men. It's so much better than my NaNo book! Of course, it also still needs an awful lot of work. The original ending was truly awful. I'm literally rewriting the entire last third of the book to improve the ending. As soon as I figure out how I'm going to actually end it this time, I can go back for an editing pass instead of a rewriting pass. I'm really looking forward to that phase. It means the book is almost finished!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Almost there...almost there...

Yes, okay, I'm not finished with my NaNo book yet. I've been writing steadily on it, though, working hard to wrap it up with a reasonable ending.

I reread the whole thing for the first time yesterday, and you know what? It's actually pretty good. That's the main reason why I decided to take a little more time to finish it; the beginning is so promising, and the follow-through not bad either, that it seemed a shame to rush the ending just to get it done. That's essentially what I did with Bell-Men, when I was trying to finish it before NaNo, and now I'm having to rewrite the last third of that book. I'd rather do a good job the first time.

Besides, I think I can finish tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting to those magic words

I've made it to about 32,000 words in my nano book. I'm really getting impatient with it. The writing is terrible, the story banal, the plot more of a plod. I like the main characters, but they never have engaged my imagination the way my best characters do.

So I decided today that I'm going to wrap it up as soon as possible. Tomorrow's my day off, so this is my goal: tomorrow I will finish my nano book. I won't get to 50,000 words, of course, but I'll get to "the end." Then I can go back to my Bell-Men rewrites and I'll just count any additional words I write on my nano count.

I like that idea! Cam has been really patient with me, especially considering that I left her in the middle of a scene where she's been kidnapped by vampires and she thinks all her friends have been killed, but she's getting really insistent about me getting back to her.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No books in November

I'm feeling much better today, so much better that I no longer loathe my NaNo book. Still, at lunch when I dragged my beat-up notebook out of my bag along with the leftover pizza, I had a wave of "oh hell, not now." So I tra-la put the notebook away and pulled out the paperback book I've been carrying around for weeks, Fritz Lieber's Swords & Deviltry.

I know, I know, I've been talking about reading it for probably two months now. I even started it in October, but before I could get more than a few pages in, suddenly it was November. I don't read much during NaNo. But today I read through lunch.

At first I couldn't really get into the book. It's a parody of those swords and sorcery books that were popular in the 60s and 70s, which I've never loved. But--about twenty pages in, I suddenly realized that I love this book dearly and want to read it until I'm done. That's going to make it hard to get a few thousand words in on my NaNo book tonight. And that's why I don't read much during November.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Other people suck (present company excepted)

I just went through my files to find an old story to rewrite or a WIP to finish that might catch my fancy. I'm so bored with my NaNo book that the mere thought of writing one single word on it today makes me want to take an axe to the computer. Alas, I can't find anything else I want to work on either.

I know, I know, I ought to go back and finish the rewrites for Bell-Men. But my current reluctance to write, and my loathing of my NaNo book, are directly related to stress. I'd just open up the Bell-Men document and reach for the axe too. Until my stress eases up (it's about work, and I'm hoping to get it resolved tomorrow, which I dread because it involves confrontation), I doubt I'll be racking up many words. It's infuriating that this is happening now, during NaNo, but at least now that I've figured out what the problem is, I know it's not the project itself that's failing to hold my interest.

You know what my idea of bliss is? Working for myself, by myself, without needing to deal with other human beings in person at all. Other people are self-absorbed jerks.

Of course you're not a self-absorbed jerk. It's all those other people.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Time to call in the evil clowns and cowboys and attacking robots! I've run out of plot. How do you run out of plot in a book that is so far only 23,000 words long and probably will be wrapped up by 35,000 words? I don't know, but I just managed it.

Of course I'm not entirely out of plot. The plotlines aren't resolved yet and the main character keeps getting into worse messes. It's just that I have the notebook in front of me and I'm staring at the next blank line thinking, "Now what? Nothing is happening. Nothing is about to happen. Unless I have May's breakfast brought to her by ninjas or something, there's a definite lack of things happening in the foreseeable future."

Maybe I'll just have the bounty hunter return and menace May for a little while. Except that he wouldn't do that when she's hanging out with a dragon. So I'd better get her away from the dragon. She really needs a bath and a change of clothes. Hehe, maybe she'll discover a bounty hunter spying on her then.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The hard parts of writing

Ideas are easy. Writing is easy, even though writing well may not always be. Even revisions are easy. No, the hard parts of writing are the parts no one ever tells dewy-eyed young writers about.

I just had to write another bio. I hate those things. How do I make a bio sound interesting but not amateurish, informative without being brusque? Answer: a lot of work. And I still probably failed.

Queries are hard. Synopses are hard. Sure, there are writers who like writing both, but there are some people who enjoy getting their heads run over by trucks. There's no accounting for taste. If I had to choose one or the other, queries are not quite as awful as synopses. Synopses are horrrrrrible.

Keeping track of contracts is not easy, no matter how organized a writer is. I have a big plastic file where I keep contracts, each one in its own folder, and on the front of the folder I write when I signed and sent the contract, when my copy of the contract was returned, when reprint rights become available, how much I'm being paid and when the payment was received, and whether I've received my comp copy. Thank goodness for manila folders.

Keeping track of submissions is simpler than it used to be because of Duotrope, but I never rely 100% on Duotrope. What if its server tanked tomorrow? I keep a binder with careful records of every submission I've made since 2007. I'm always having to refer to it.

Taxes. Taxes are really hard. This week I received my first, albeit tiny, royalty check for Jack of All Trades. Taxes this spring are going to be...interesting. As in "may you live in interesting times" interesting.

Networking and The Business is not as hard as writing a synopsis and can be fun, but it's complicated. This week alone I've written a guest blog about editing, posted a review on Skunk Cat Book Reviews (which I love to do and started for fun, but which is all part and parcel of writerly networking), written that bio and sent a photo for an anthology, read a short story proof and responded to that editor, and updated my blog.

Yeah, this blog. Updated!

Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm down to one active short story. I've either sold or retired everything else I've written. I have three stories forthcoming in different magazines, but that's it.

I hate writing short stories, but it's becoming obvious that I need to do just that. Once my nano book is finished and I'm done with the Bell-Men rewrites, I want to knuckle down and write some short fiction. It's either that or not sell anything next year, and I like selling stories. It makes me feel like a real writer.

Besides, when I get a really juicy idea for a short story, it's almost as fun to write as a book--with the added bonus of not taking very long. I just wish I got those juicy ideas more often.

Speaking of juicy short fiction, here are three you ought to read:

"Faith" by Aaron Polson
"The Revival" by Jeremy Kelly
"A Cause for Celebration" by Jameson T. Caine


I made it to 15,500 words on my nano book as of last night. Today at lunch May was having lunch too with a king and the maybe-pirate. For some reason, I decided that the meal was made up of three courses, each of them soup. I spent a paragraph describing the soups.

Today is gloomy and looks like rain. Maybe I'll make soup (just one kind) tonight and stare out at the melancholy rain and write.

Also, I just remembered with great joy that I have an unopened box of chocolate covered cherries at home.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Other people's enthusiasm

I got home from an exhausting day at work to find Mom waiting for me in the side yard. She looked so smug that I thought she'd done something crazy--bought that moldy house on Dogwood Road, maybe, or bought tickets to the Nutcracker even though she knows I loathe ballet. It just turned out that she'd passed the 25,000 word mark on her nano book while I was at work. I bought her a used copy of No Plot, No Problem on Thursday and it's revitalized her book. She talks about it all the time, in between asking me how my wordcount is going.

Not so good, actually. I've been sitting in front of the computer all evening, trying to dredge up enough enthusiasm for my own nano book to do more than type a few lines between tower defense games. I've managed to inch past the 12,000 word mark, but it is not going well. I'm bored bored boredboredbored with this story. I want to go back to Bell-Men.

I just have 38,000 words to write. I can do that on my head. Maybe if I remind myself how sweet it will be when I surpass Mom's wordcount and BEAT HER TO THE FINISH LINE.

Friday, November 6, 2009

1,061 words an hour

I have an hour for my lunch, and today (as I usually do) I pulled out my sandwich, chips, and spiral notebook to write while I ate. I figured I'd written maybe 500 words, but when I typed it up, I'd written 1,061 words. Nice! I didn't even realize I could write longhand that fast.

Of course it's rotten, wretched, horrible writing, and I suspect the next scenes are going to include a bounty hunter with a tame werewolf or something equally illogical, but it's engaging me reasonably well. I do intend to wrap it up right at 50,000 words when I get there instead of making this a full-length novel.

Mostly, I want to get back to my Bell-Men rewrites. Even when I'm actively writing The Dragon Whisperer, I catch myself thinking of the next scene I want to include in Bell-Men. That's where my interest really lies. Much as I'm enjoying hanging out with May and the maybe-pirate Petersen, I want to return to Cam and her troubles even more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too much math

I play the online game Kingdom of Loathing, and today I ran afoul of the Dwarven Factory Complex Puzzle. I've spent the last hour figuring out the code for which rune stands for which word--I got that part without too much trouble--and then struggling with converting the digit runes to real numbers and then from base-7 digits to base-10. *weeps hysterically* I can't do it. I simply can't do it.

Finally I gave up, because my eyes were glazing over and I was wasting time I could be using to type up today's handwritten NaNo pages. I don't like giving up on this sort of thing, but I know when I'm beaten. I'll try again after NaNo when I have more free time. So anyway, after I gave up I checked my email, and my editor at Ancient Tomes needs me to fill in a W-9 before she can figure my royalties for Jack of All Trades. I printed off the form and started to fill it out.

*weeps hysterically some more* I think the Dwarven Factory Complex Puzzle is actually easier than figuring out if I am an Individual/Sole Proprietor or an Exempt Payee. The Dwarven Factory Complex Puzzle fried my brain, but the IRS's W-9 form has fried my soul.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Writey write write

I dug in and wrote today, even though it's Tuesday and Tuesdays are my long days at work. I wrote longhand, so of course I had to type it all up when I got home. Considering that I had a lot of really important stuff to do when I got home, like play video games, I didn't get started typing until about an hour ago.

I typed over 2,000 words before I quit just now because I have to get to bed. And I didn't even finish typing up everything I wrote! I think I'll do okay in Nano this year after all.

The story is rocketing along. I really like the character of May. She's very different from any character I've ever written--tough, confident, practical, and stubborn--and she and her maybe-pirate boss snark at each other constantly, which is a lot of fun to write. The writing may not be first-rate, but I'm having fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No Name May

I've written 2,500 words on my new NaNo book. Sorry, Tiger, you've been kicked out of the NaNo club. Enter The Dragon Whisperer, which has managed to engage my interest. I may not have to give up in frustration after all!

I am having fun, oddly enough. Yesterday Mom and I took a two-mile walk down by the river and discussed our NaNo projects. We came up with enough of a plot for me to get started, and we both agreed that we needed to approach our projects without such grim determination.

My starting idea was: a woman who used to be famous for communicating with animals and making them do her bidding had to retire from the business when her ghost friend--whose ability she was using--vanished. Now she's been called out of retirement with an offer she can't refuse.

Within 500 words, I'd given the woman an interesting job in a shipping office. She's pretty sure her boss is a pirate. I immediately started to change the idea, morphing it into something that would allow the maybe-pirate to be involved. As of now, the maybe-pirate was injured when his ship ran aground during a storm, and he told the harbor authorities that the woman is his wife and she's just now gotten him home and is about to find out what he's up to. Fun!

On the other hand, you will notice that I have not named the poor woman. Her current name is _, which is not a name at all but a placeholder. I think she goes by May but it's short for something longer. This is the first time I've written this much into a book without knowing the main character's name. At least it's in first person, because otherwise the page would be sprinkled with underscores.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Only two months left in 2009!

Here is is, November 1, and I've written 800 words on my Nano book. I stayed up to midnight last night to start (since I was watching Ghost Hunters anyway). Those 800 words were like pulling teeth. I hate the story, I hate the setting, I hate everything about it. I suspect I'm going to pitch it and just start writing for fun. I never write for fun anymore; even my fun projects, like Bell-Men, are meant for publication. That's what Nano is for, after all: write and write and write, and have fun doing it even though at times it's hard. I think I'll just do this year's Nano book stream of consciousness style and see how it works.

For one thing, last night I dreamed I was stuck in a house that had me trapped. It was a magical house and I was its slave, keeping the magic going even though it meant I couldn't sleep or eat. I didn't mind, because I loved the house and I wanted it to be in good condition. I woke up feeling a little creeped out, because it's not a big jump to see that the house in my dream can easily stand for my writing career. I don't have to work 24/7. I can slack off and enjoy myself without trying to produce something I can necessarily sell.

Anyway, since we're sliding down the last hill toward 2010, I think I'll revisit my goals for 2009:

land an agent
sell a novel
sell a novel to a major publisher (i.e. one which will get my books on shelves)
sell at least four short stories
sell a story to a SFWA pro market
write at least six short stories (flash doesn't count)
write at least two novels
finish writing White Rose

Yes, BT, I know I can't control a lot of this. :) Still, I've done rather well in spite of my setting my goals way too high. I have sold a novel to Double Dragon--not a major publisher, but not a major novel either. I've sold far more than four short stories and written five (not counting flash). I've written two novels, Blood and Taxes and Bell-Men. I've already decided to jettison the last goal, since White Rose is pretty bad. If I'm going to write a bad novel, I should write it during Nano.

Since publishing grinds along so slowly, I think I can safely say I won't sell a novel to a major publisher in 2009. I'll push that goal, and the agent goal, to 2010. And I do have one story out to a SFWA pro market; we'll see how it does. I should hear just before the end of the year.

And now to The Baby Name Wizard, to pick out the name of my new Nano protagonist!