Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Writing Fast: Or, Why I'm Doing Camp NaNoWriMo

You might know about NaNoWriMo, "National Novel Writing Month" (November), wherein a bunch of writers of all sorts band together to write 50k words on some project. It gets called all sorts of things, mainly practice or a rough draft.

I've participated a handful of times. Won a few times, lost a few times, and the losses were due to things like illness or an unexpected loss of computer access in the last few days when I had 2k words left to write.

Well, now the NaNoWriMo organization is running Camp NaNoWriMo, on months other than November. April will be one such month, this year. I'll be working on A Fistful of Water. Technically, you aren't supposed to work on anything that you've already written in, but I won't be counting the first 10k words of that project, because they're already written—and I'm the type of writer who writes a bit, then starts figuring out where I'm headed.

I'm working to reach the point where I produce 50k words a month regularly—and actually, those First Draft Fridays seem to be helping on that front. I finished the first draft of "Thrice Uncharmed" Monday, and I've already been cleaning up my version. Some things like typos and details that don't quite match up might be assumed to be the fault of drafting it fairly quickly, but…those things happen when you write slowly, too.

See, I've noticed that when I write quickly, my overarching plots tend to be more solid, leaving detail issues to be cleaned up.

Well, I'm a details person. Writing quickly therefore plays to my strengths.

To be blunt: Quality vs. quantity is a false dichotomy.

Just think about it. You have to write in order to get better at writing. (Pesky thing, practice.)

So the more you write…

the better you'll get.

That means quantity leads to quality.

Are there limits and qualifiers on what, exactly, is meant by "quantity" and "quality"? Yes. That's why the version of "Thrice Uncharmed" over on Wattpad is clearly marked with the warning "THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT." I've already found typos and name changes and detail gaps.

But the danger in detail-oriented writers is we can get so caught up in getting everything out perfectly that we lose sight of the big-picture story that we're trying to tell. As a detail-oriented person, I can't function as a writer if I try just getting things out and not fretting over spelling and the like. (Scrivener's handy annotation function really helps, because I can select something I screwed up on and hit the annotate keyboard command to effectively delete it, or hit the highlight keyboard command to flag it for later.)

Every writer has their foibles. The trick is, learning to work in ways that help you rather than hinder you. Maybe that's making yourself write more quickly than you naturally would. Maybe that's making yourself write more slowly than you naturally would. (I've encountered both types.)

In my case, writing "fast" helps me, so… I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo, this coming month.

There's also the detail that I kinda-sorta want to finish the Chronicles of Marsdenfel so I can move on to something else. I'm not tired of the world or the characters. I've started Conláed and Manal's story, and I've ideas about what Lallie's up to another century or two down the road.

I just really, really want to have some series or story arc that's done.

I've been working on these Chronicles of Marsdenfel for nearly a decade. I'm ready to play with another story arc. Maybe that old NaNoWriMo that I'm pretty sure is the outline for a trilogy masquerading as a novel rough draft—and even then, the ending scene looks like a good kickoff for another book or three. Or maybe I could rewrite that old novella for which "Thrice Uncharmed" has ended up being a centuries-earlier prequel.

As I mentioned, the posting "Thrice Uncharmed" did very well for me, as a kick in the pants. I even posted the last bit yesterday.

Why'd I do that early, you ask?

*twiddles thumbs* Oh, because I've decided the already-written 10k words of A Fistful of Water will be going up on Friday.

Yes, A Fistful of Water will be my new First Draft Fridays project. If Camp NaNoWriMo goes well, that could be a good 10k words or more posted every week.

And I think it should go well. I just discovered that my vitamin D is nearly the lowest my doctor has ever seen. I seriously have a prescription for vitamin D. The dosage is so high that I would be terrified of taking it if I didn't trust the doctor who handed it to me.

We'll see what happens.

What do you think about writing quantity being needed to develop quality? Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? (If so, what's your username? I'm Carradee.) What do you think of my selection of A Fistful of Water as my next First Draft Friday project?


Friday, March 22, 2013

First Draft Fridays Continue…

I've gotten more sections posted on Thrice Uncharmed, which has morphed from a sweet romance into a clear dystopian. Trilogy. That gets kinda creepy (in my opinion).


Anyway, I'm over halfway through the story (it's planned to end up straddling the novelette/novella line, in the 15k–20k word range). And I'm halfway through the next section, so that might get up today, too.

The blurb has been updated to reflect the genre change, too, and I've started the synopsis and drafted the blurb for the next two.

So if you're interested in reading the first draft of a YA sci-fi/dystopian story (which wasn't what I'd intended to write, but oh, well), you can find it over on Wattpad.

If not, well, don't check out the above link. ^_^

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Story vs. Mechanics—What Trumps: Story or Grammar?

Should a writer focus more on telling a story or on the mechanics of writing? Which will do them the most good as a writer? If you can only afford to focus on one, not the other, which should you worry about?

My answer is going to sound a little strange, as an editor.

Story trumps mechanics…

…but you still need mechanics


Before you go cheer about the unnecessariness of editors or seek to lynch me as a heretic, wait.

Here's why I say story trumps mechanics:

Some readers can appreciate a story despite the mechanics.

No readers will appreciate mechanics without a story.

This is actually one of the factors in me deciding to run my "First Draft Fridays". The types of readers who are interested in reading first drafts can check it out; the types of readers who are only interested in reading final product can avoid it. Easily.

As a side effect of that above "Some"/"No" premise, publishing a mechanics-lacking story can still gain you readers (though you won't have nearly as many readers as you could have had, if you at least had the basic mechanics in place, because of how different readers process text). I've seen it work. (I'm not naming examples; I'm sure you already know some.)

But a grammatically "flawless" text with a story that's…lacking? I'm not talking about matters of taste, here, cases wherein one reader might find a story flawed and another won't. (And something's in the water this morning, because that's Kris Rusch's post, today.) I'm talking objective everyone-will-agree-this-story-is-lacking level.

*shakes head* The movie world calls these kinds of things "eye candy". While a printed page can look pretty, that's not really its purpose.

And the purpose of mechanics is to ensure that you get your intended meaning across.

You can technically hire an editor to fix a heck of a lot, if you really want to, but you'd be best served by learning what mechanics you can.


Editors aren't omniscient.

That means, if you hand an editor a morass of story, the editor will have to do a lot of work, charge you extra, and probably make you say things you didn't intend, because the editor isn't telepathic and had to make reasonable guesses about what you meant to say.

I've had cases where clients who knew grammar said "Um, shouldn't this have been left two words? Because Y."

And they were right, because I'd read and edited their line as if it were X, not Y, but the writer had to know some mechanics, herself, else she wouldn't have been able to recognize the difference.

Even writers with fantastic senses of mechanics will accidentally say things they didn't intend.

A few months back, I accidentally commented on a blog to the effect that one publisher I work with removed all –wards and –ward forms of words like towards/toward. I'd meant to say all –wards forms were changed to –ward. But I'd phrased it a few different ways, when drafting the comment, and by the time I published it, I hadn't realized that I'd combined a few of them into a line that said something very different from what I intended.

It happens to all of us. But if you know enough of your mechanics to be generally clear, the editor will be able to more accurately guess what you meant to say.

So if you can only focus on one, focus on the story…

…but for the sake of your editor, your wallet, and those readers who need or want proper mechanics to be able to appreciate a story, don't neglect mechanics.


What do you think of story vs. mechanics? Which do you think you're stronger at? Which do you see first as a reader?


Thursday, March 14, 2013

New News: First Draft Fridays

I am decided: Fridays will now be First Draft Fridays, for some WiP. It'll take off tomorrow (Friday the Fifteenth), on Wattpad.

Why Wattpad, of the options for fiction sites that feature decent ToS? Easy-to-use interface. Using Wattpad—and only Wattpad, at least for now—will be the easiest method for posting those first drafts.

(And it helps that, just browsing around, I recognize some of the other authors on there from my online meanderings.)

So… Wattpad is chosen.

Now, the story I've chosen to start with is science fiction romance; you can read the opening scene of “Thrice Uncharmed” on Wattpad now. Why did I pick “Thrice Uncharmed” as the story to blog? I'm going to submit it to a particular small publisher once completed, and I've confirmed that publisher is fine with stories starting life as blogged, and it should end up a novelette).

So the posting of this story will give me time to get used to posting a first draft, getting in the habit, and deciding how I want to handle this in general. After seeing how it goes, I'll decide on how I want to continue it—such as, stay on Wattpad, blog the first draft to A Fistful of Water, that sort of thing.

Because I'll be submitting “Thrice Uncharmed” to a small press, I suspect the final cover will end up completely different from my original mock-up (assuming even the title remains the same), but here's the cover that I've put on Wattpad:

Wynne Layuman doesn’t hate Hector Primuman the Fourth, but with their steady rivalry through school and the way everyone keeps tossing them together, she can’t bring herself to like him much, either. Eventually, people use the outdated Earth adage, “The third time’s the charm,” as if the third attempt to set Wynne up with Hector hadn’t happened by the time they hit Dyad (age sixteen). She expects she’ll end up Partnerless at Triad (twenty-four) and then assigned one—the colony’s young and still needs to propagate, after all—but for it to be someone who she’ll love or who can understand her when she starts talking the heat capacity of con-carbon? Dream on.

Hector Primuman the Fourth, great-great grandson of the man who founded the original colony, has long known he’s odd. With the genengineering that advanced his mind at the expense of his body, the closest thing he has to a friend is the one girl who can (usually, sort of) keep up with him: Wynne Layuman, whose materline has worked in construction since the second generation, and whose paterline has provided many of the most ingenious innovations used by the colony. But Wynne’s highly competitive—and popular—leaving him aware that while she’s the closest thing he has to a friend, the feeling isn’t mutual.

Can Wynne and Hector get past the rivalry to develop something more, or will others’ meddling sabotage whatever chances they have?

Note that it is a first draft, so it will be rough, with typos and such. (And yes, that lady's camisole looks odd, I know. It was my first attempt at painting one.) If you're interested, check it out. If not, let me know what you are interested in seeing more from me. (I mean, other than the next Aleyi novel. I'm working on it.)

Are you interested in the story? Is there another story you'd rather see? Have you ever thought about (or actually have) blogged one of your own stories (and if you have, care to share a link)?


Monday, March 11, 2013

Should I Blog Free Fiction?

I've been considering blogged stories, lately. As you might know, I serialized A Fistful of Fire on purpose. I read Stormy's geeky (but adult!) urban fantasy series, Mirrorfall, over on Require: Cookie. I've kept an eye on case examples of serialization, through the years. I've watched the rise and fall of a few different serialization sites. I keep an eye on the stories posted on Camille LaGuire's blog and on Kristine Kathryn Rusch's.

Overall, as a reader, I tend to prefer complete works, these days. I've been burned by a lot of incompletes that…languish (including my own WiPs). Serialization could be a way for me to kick myself in the pants to actually get words out on the story I need to get done, rather than on anything and everything else.

It might also overwhelm me to the point of wanting to cry (due to a lovely genetic disorder, my hormones are annoyingly willing to put me in that state of mind)—in which case, it would be self-sabotaging to serialize.

And I would like to submit to places like magazines and small publishers, so I have to be careful about which stories I post publicly.

But I very much like the "Free Fiction Mondays" over on Kris Rusch's blog. She posts a single short story every Monday, taking down the one from the week before (leaving blurb and links to buy that old story). I'd like to do something similar, but I'm not (yet?) at the point of writing a short story or four per week or month.

However, I also know myself well enough to realize that, without any reason to write regularly, I won't. I'll want to, but I'll get distracted by everything else that needs to get done, get overwhelmed, take too long doing the minimum that must get done… It's a nasty cycle, annoying when I'm lucid enough to see it, but I'm not sick enough for conventional medicine to really, well, help. Taking iodine helps a lot, when I remember, and I'm currently having some other things checked. Lord willing, that'll help me stay on the "Oh, goodie! Let's get stuff done!" swing of things.

Now, if I could just remember that increased activity means I need to eat an extra meal per day… ^_–

But I work well with having betas on WiPs (which, from what I've observed in general, is actually unusual), and I know that A Fistful of Fire would likely still be its original mess if not for my putting it on FictionPress years ago and getting feedback.

So bearing all the pros and cons in mind, I suspect serializing would be good for me—only left temporarily or behind a password wall—but what to post? An in-progress story or a short fiction piece each time? What genre should I post? You readers here know me as a fantasy writer, but I cut my writing teeth on soft sci-fi, space opera–type stuff. And I'm seeing more authors come out with story ideas comparable to ones I've had on the back burner for years, so I'd like to have something out in that field so I don't come across as an imitator.

Sure, I have a blog story I want to write at some point (same world as "PRIMpriety", though Lyn won't be a main character), but that… Will take prep. Lots of prep, like suitable blogging software for the specific things I need to do with it (anybody know something where you can schedule blog comments?) and custom blog themes and a start date in September or October. (I could possibly get away with November, but that would be pushing it.)

Yes. That particular idea would be insanely complicated to implement. But it would be pretty freaking cool. (Picture a blog, run by one character, with the webmaster being another character, and the two argue in realtime…and can interact with readers in the comments, with others from that world sometimes popping in and responding.)

So… That's not an option to start serializing, right now. Though if I get in the habit of blogging now, maybe I could be in a position to start it later this year. Hmm… ^_^

One thought I've had is serializing the rough draft for a novella or three that I've been trying to finish for months.

Or I could serialize an all-new project that bit me this past week and is pretty much pitching a hissy fit, insisting I write it now. Starting premise:

Time travel's possible.

It's possible to travel to different universes, too.

Sometimes, folks escape to another universe and live there.

Now, picture how that could get if two different versions of one young woman reached the same universe, they met, and they decided to rent a place together to save on rent, with a third person who doesn't know they're versions of the same person…and there's a third version of herself who works for the pertinent stay-in-your-own-universe authorities.

Confusing, right? But it'll be fun. I think. I mean…

[rough draft snippet]

When Raleigh entered the apartment she shared with Janni and Kitten, the latter sat at the dining room table, staring at a tower made of wooden rectangular prisms that Raleigh’s recognition software told her was Jenga—a game that Raleigh couldn’t ever remember seeing in this universe. She opted not to ask. It was best to leave Kitten be about things like that. At least Janni would tell you if she couldn’t answer a question. Kitten…

The auburn-haired girl—who was the youngest of the three of them, and her too-big secondhand sweater made her look younger than she already was—turned her ice blue stare on Raleigh.

[/rough draft snippet]

^_^ "Kitten" is sorta River Tam (Firefly/Serenity) meets Sicarius (The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker), but unlike them, she isn't unique, as far as others from her universe are concerned. (She also isn't telepathic. Well, two versions of her aren't. "Cop"-one is, but her range is too large, so she has to keep it blocked unless she wants a migraine, because she hears too many freaking people. The other two versions of her were supposed to be telepathic, but the mod didn't take, which is part of why their native universes deemed them cripples. Or so's the current setup; it might change.)

I want to blog something. I haven't decided yet if I'd post it here, or on a separate WordPress thing, or maybe even on DeviantArt. (I'm leaning towards maybe Wattpad or FictionPress, though. Their current ToS look good, at first glance.)

I'll be asking some of the small presses I want to work with what their opinions are on stories that have had blogged first drafts. Their answers will affect what I post—so far, I have one story confirmed that I can post—but more than that…

Your input will affect what I post and where I post it.

So what do you think of free fiction, reader? Would you rather see…

  • (complete) short stories?
  • WiPs related to specific already-released stories? (If so, which stories do you want to see related stories for?)
  • WiPs in unrelated worlds?

And do you have a preferred site you prefer using for reading online fiction?


P.S. I couldn't help it. I've been playing with cover ideas, so here's a concept cover for a current sci-fi story ideas:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Failure Is a Good Thing

This post is not a whine or complaint. I feel as if I need to start there, because last time I posted something that mentioned negativity and my hormone disorder that can lead to depression without me realizing it, some folks misread my intended tone. (My apologies on that.)

But contrary to what some in the self-esteem movement say, failure is a good thing.

Why do I say that? Because.

Failure means you tried.

You can only fail if you try something. You could go through life trying nothing, I suppose, and you'd never fail…but you'd never succeed, either.

I'm likely showing my age and generation here, but I'm reminded of the song "Rock Star" by the band Superchic[k]. (I think they've since changed their name to drop the square brackets.) That song pretty much says "If our band fails, that's fine! We'll have tried. We don't have to become big names out of it." (For those unfamiliar with the band: Superchic[k] is Christian teen pop, geared for girls, and their songs tend to be encouraging. I personally think "Bowling Ball" and "Wonder (If She'll Get it)" are hilarious, and the song "Na Na" singlehandedly helped me improve my relationship with my brother when I was a teen.)

Now, there's such thing as trying foolishly, as when you do something for the umpteenth time in the exact same way as has failed all those times before. But anything can be done foolishly. That foolishness doesn't invalidate the value of the action, properly enacted.

This came to mind this week because I had two announcements. One I posted in a blog post—and speaking of which, A Fistful of Fire is still in that "Read an Ebook Week" promotion on Smashwords, which lasts through Saturday—and that got some downloads.

But I also released the short story "Kill Jill" earlier this week (featuring Romeo and Jillian), via an update to the blog's side bar and a tweet. I know some folks are interested in that story, but evidently the readers who are interested in it (Pneumarian, note the code in the sidebar -_^) don't stalk my blog and Twitter feed.

Those results are even understandable, considering I only post once a week, and I don't use Twitter much. (I also tend to use Twitter more for chatting than for anything else.)

See, some self-publishing authors focus on the "Oh, noes! I haven't moved any copies of 'Kill Jill' since release day! Something must be wrong! I must promote—promote—promote (or give away) to get more reviews and readers and move more copies!"

Me, I'm looking at that and thinking, "Okay, so announcing a new release in the blog sidebar doesn't do anything, at this point."

I'm not expecting the short story to take off or anything like that, just from this little heads-up to my readers. But I anticipate seeing at least a few copies in readers' hands by the time the weekend's up. I'm working on creating a print version—"Romeo & Jillian" + "Kill Jill", in a double book—but it looks as though CreateSpace doesn't allow that, so I'll be having to try somebody else. Drive Thru Fiction, perhaps.

This concept—of looking at failure and thinking, Okay, so what can I learn from this?—applies in far more than the world of self-publishing. It can apply to life, studying, cooking…

As a cooking example, I've recently started playing with chia seed pudding. I found a recipe that I loved (though I admittedly modified it slightly and forgot to write one of the changes down, so I don't remember the quantity). I've been since experimenting and trying to create a version that my father would like. So far, I haven't exactly been successful. (One of these days, I'll remember that he doesn't care for cassia—which is the spice that most of us call "cinnamon". Cinnamon's actually something else. But I digress.)

Failure is an opportunity to evaluate where you went wrong—if you went wrong—and try again.

To put it another way: Failure is an opportunity to learn.

And that's all too easy to lose sight of.

What do you think about failure and its ability to be a good thing?


Oops! ETA:

I forgot to mention: Note the link on the header bar to my policy regarding beta reading and beta readers. Whether you're a reader curious about how it works or a writer trying to put your own policies together, feel free to check it out. ^_^

Monday, March 4, 2013

Smashwords "Read an E-book Week" Sale!

I'm participating, with A Fistful of Fire available with a free coupon. Get an e-copy, gift e-copies to your friends (at least one person already has!), or check out some of the other offerings from participating authors.

So go check out the sale and enjoy! ^_^


P.S. Feel free to leave a comment regarding any particularly enjoyable titles you find by the sale…

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