Tuesday, February 7, 2012

First Rejection

Well, I drafted up a query letter and sent it, along with the first 5 pages of my MS, to an agent. No dice this go around. Figured I'd update. I do, after all, have one follower.

I sent another one today. Gots to snare me an agent and get this ball rolling!

I am still waiting on returned copies from two people who always have useful commentary but they're both taking so damn long this time! And after an incident at work made me realize how badly I want not to work in retail the rest of my life, I came home and promptly fixed up the query letter I'd written months ago and sent it away.

That said, I am still working retail. And it's making me hate people more and more because as a whole we really just suck and are jerks. But I plow on. And then I'm still babysitting for two children who are old enough to babysit themselves and who I also dislike because they are fantastically boring and I feel little bits of my soul being sucked out of me as I sit on the couch, forced to watch hours of Disney or Nick or whatever-- and the only tolerable shows on those channels, for me, are iCarly and Sonny with a Chance. The former of which isn't well liked by the kids and the latter of which wasn't well liked either and now isn't on anyway because whatsherface had a meltdown or whatever. /rant

Anyway, here's hoping I can find an agent soon and then fingers crossed that they can find me a publisher. And most of all, hopefully there's someone out there who will want to read what I write. Preferably enough people enjoy it that I can get another book published...and another...and another... and basically that's what I can do for a living. That would be nice.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

a tiny update

Well, I'm nearly done editing the 3rd draft. Working out a few kinks, particularly in the area of "world-building"-- damn logistics, nothing more tedious than science and math.

I need to develop a setup for the military, work out some broadcasts from a foreign land, and figure out some issues pertaining to birds invading...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well, I've failed at this endeavor, haven't I?

The current update is that I've finished my first draft. The bones of the story are down. A friend is editing it and then we will meet up and have a lengthy discussion, I'll bounce some ideas off of her, etc. Then I will run through it and try and fix any plotholes and fill in more details, and all that cal. But the skeleton is there and that's what's important.

Anyway, I think it's become clearer that this blog isn't going to be too actively updated until I start the process of submitting my manuscript to publishers. But I'm still here and still working on it.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Ok, well, I've resumed writing. I'm making my way through a trial scene at the moment. It's a scene that I know will need to be revised later on due to the tedious task of fact-checking. Of course, the benefit to having your story set in the future in some made-up society is that you can make up all the rules of said society yourself. So the facts aren't super important, really. But I will check them anyway, if for no other reason than to make sure the lawyers sound lawyer-y enough.

I'm also still trying to figure out if there's really any point to doing this blog. I do find it useful, personally, but I could just as well type this stuff up in a Word document or whatever. Why bother posting it here? Well, I figure if I can get in the habit of posting regularly (which I know I haven't really done so far), I'll be able to start a blog in the future that is actually about something people want to read about. What that topic will be, who knows. For now, I practice with this, my nonsense blog.

Anyway, if I recall correctly, I was going to talk about Point of View this time, right? God, this sounds like a virtual English class now. Hmm. Well, this is an issue for me because I spent a lot of time deciding what perspective to use for my current narrative. See, I feel more comfortable in first person, it just feels more natural. However, it's limiting. Dystopias are normally in 3rd person, it seems (with notable exceptions like A Clockwork Orange). I thought it would be interesting to do it in the first person since it's atypical for the genre, at least as far as I'm aware. To deal with the issue of the limited perspective, I thought I could write the story from multiple characters' POVs. Faulkner did it, why not me, right? Well, it proved too complicated with the number of characters I had originally and what I needed to happen. I couldn't make it work. So I delayed my attempt at being William Faulkner (never gonna happen, I know) for another story, one that is probably better suited to the technique anyway.

And I'm writing it in the 3rd person. Which is good. It's different than what I'm most comfortable in, even if it's the usual for the genre. I guess it's the usual for a reason, then, huh?

I feel like I've repeated myself here. Did I already talk about all this? It's short enough, I guess it doesn't matter too much. In the future, maybe I'll check before I type out a post. Maybe. Probably not. Who cares? It's a practice blog anyway.

Now I must resume the fun writing. We're coming up on an assassination attempt and the trial verdict! Excitement abounds! Even if the damn defense attorney is a bit better than I expected, and making things difficult as a result...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In the coming week...

I'm going to be house-sitting for a week. This will provide lots of time to write, and so hopefully time to post here as well.

Goal: To finish draft 1. (Or to at least knock out another 30 pages).

Start date: Sunday, the 28th.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writing a Novel: Plot

I have an inclination to give my stories sci-fi or paranormal elements, mostly for the sake of plot. I just can't seem to write a story like Jacob's Room. And while I do have a story in mind that will not rely on anything beyond ordinary life, that is a story based off of real events. And so the plot is provided for me that way.

That said, I certainly don't limit my reading to sci-fi. I've been getting a bit more into it lately, but the extent of my 'hardcore' sci-fi reading consists of Frank Herbert's Dune series and Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. I've read a little Neil Gaiman, and certainly works like A Clockwork Orange or 1984, which are sci-fi, but not full-on, aliens and whatnot sci-fi. (As a side note, I've never seen Star Wars). I read some comics, and those certainly fall into the sci-fi territory. At least, X-Men definitely does.

So, given that I'm not an uber-sci-fi fan, why am I inclined to use supernatural elements? The current story, as I've said, is a dystopia. So it has all the necessary sci-fi trappings. It's no Dune, but it's a wannabe 1984. The last story was set in the present, but had a certain paranormal power attributed to one character which drove the plot. And before that, well, there was the whole journey to save the world plot.

I need action. I'm perfectly capable of writing lengthy scenes with no action, with just talking and interaction of various sorts or interior monologues, but I can't manage a whole story in Woolf prose. And it seems like the potential for coming up with interesting stories is increased exponentially by not limiting myself to the dramas of everyday life. I can't seem to come up with a plot set entirely in the real world without it seeming...soap operaish. Perhaps this is because of my socio-economic upbringing. Firmly middle-class, white, and generally happy. So stories need to be fantastic, need to be experiences no one has had. Or at least no one can have the specific experience in the story, even if it recalls other events.

So far this has been, perhaps, my most useless post yet. And it's only #4!

Ok, ok...

I explained (I think) in a previous post how I have tried different techniques with my stories. I've just sat down and started writing and seen where it takes me, and I've made extensive (though not binding) outlines. I'm the sort of person who has found it more beneficial to have an outline. Like I said, it's not binding. As I discussed in my previous entry, your characters most likely won't let it be. The story in its final form may be nothing like the original outline. But having the outline is still helpful because it can prevent you from writing yourself into a corner, which was my biggest problem without one.

Of course, if you take it too seriously, if you stick to it too rigidly, it can be very harmful to your creative output. Imagination is fluid and you never know when a new idea is going to come to you. The outline is a guide but it is not set in stone. The first draft is really just a more comprehensive outline anyway, isn't it? When a character starts to fully realize their potential and find their place in the narrative, there's a good chance it could seem inconsistent with how they were in the earlier part of the story. Maybe not with main characters as much, but certainly with secondary characters whose roles are not so clearly defined as the protagonists usually are. So you have to go back and change a lot of things the second time through. The second draft is really the first true incarnation of the story as it will be in the end.

That's really all I have to say about plot. You have characters and you see what they do. What they do is plot. As long as there's rising action and a climax and all of that. Jacob's Room is a story and it tells you what people do, but it doesn't really have a plot.

Next time I think I'll talk about POV. I had quite a few issues with choosing one for my current narrative, after all. I can probably say more useful things about it than I can about plot. Plot just happens, as far as I'm concerned. If it's not evolving out of your characters as you go, then it's what you sat down to write about in the first place, and either way, there just isn't much to explain.

Oh, I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy too, but I put that in the comedy sphere, even if it is sci-fi. Same with some Kurt Vonnegut stuff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Writing a Novel: Character

Like how I title this as though I know anything about it? I don't, but I am going to summarize what I believe to be the most important elements of developing dynamic characters.

(I've decided one approach to this blog will be to discuss the various elements and issues of writing stories in general, at least until I get to the 'figuring out how to get this thing published' part. And this will be beneficial to me to talk myself through even if I never have any "followers" to help me out.)

I think the two most basic elements of a story are character and plot, and since I think plot comes out of character 95% of the time, it makes sense to start with character.

It is important to know everything you can about your character, including an assortment of details that might never be mentioned in the actual narrative. You should know what your character is likely to have in his or her pocket, even if being aware of that stick of Juicy Fruit is entirely irrelevant to the story you are trying to tell. You should know more about your characters than the readers could ever know. I think, regardless of what POV you are writing in, it is good to know how your character would sound in the first person. Maybe pick an important scene in your story, in which multiple characters are involved, and write that scene from the perspective of each character. See what differences emerge.

Another important element is giving a certain amount of freedom to your characters. They might not always want to do what you want them to do. Your characters will surprise you as you go. In a sense, they really do take on a life of their own. Let's say you, as I have before, have a very clear idea of what you want to happen in your story. And you know exactly what each character must do to achieve the desired ending. So you are writing along and you find yourself having a hard time getting a character to behave accordingly. You just can't find the right thing for them to say or do, nothing feels right. But you need them to do this thing. Well, if it doesn't come naturally, than it probably isn't something your character would realistically do. And you can force it, sure, but it isn't going to work well. Readers might even notice, might comment that it seemed odd, or even out-of-character, for so-and-so to do or say such-and-such. And if readers feel like a character was out-of-character, you must have really messed up. After all, as I said in above, you should know your characters better than they do. And that means you need to know when to be flexible and let your characters do what they will.

I realize this might sound strange to people who haven't ever really tried to right a story before. Many people think the writer has all the control. But that just isn't the case. You create these characters, but then they grow up and they make their own decisions. It's really probably something like raising children-- believe me, you can lose sleep over them, be angry with them, disappointed in them, surpised by them, proud of them... There are a number of things in my current story that have changed since I began. Most changes are the result of characters behaving differently than I'd originally anticipated.

People behave differently when they are around different people. I've encountered a number of amatuer narratives in which a given character seemed to act the same way no matter who they were interacting with. This brings me to a third issue: don't think it's out-of-character for a character to act one way with one person and another with someone else. Every relationship should be different. Some might be similar, sure, but there are always differences, however small, and they are important to understanding the way the relationship works. And, obviously, understanding the way the different relationships work helps to understand the individual characters involved as well. Who are they close to? Who do they trust? Who are they defensive around? Who do they like? Dislike? Who they trust, but hate, and are defensive around? Who do they love, but not trust, and not like, and not feel remotely close to? Do they really even love that person? Who makes them feel safe and secure? Who thrills them? Who hates them? Who loves them?

If you have two characters that are exceedingly similar, which you might not realize until you are a ways into your story, but which close attention to the nuances of behavior in their relationships with each other and other characters will reveal, then you should probably make them into one character. No use in cluttering up the narrative unless there is a purpose in their similarities or if you are intending to have them go very different ways by the end.

Sometimes characters can be fun and different from your others, but can end up not really serving a particular purpose, not advancing the story at all. These characters are probably best to cut as well, although you should probably keep them in mind as an idea might come up along the way and you might find a path for them. I would keep them around in the first draft, just to see if they find their way. If they don't, they get cut when I go through for draft two.

Off the top of my head, those are the important things to remember.

To sum up:
1) Know everything you can know about your character (even though it won't be everything and they will surprise you).
2) Do not have them on a tight leash and do not force them to do things they don't want to do.
3) Give the various relationships between all characters due attention and detail.
4) Cut unnecessary characters or combine them. (Keep them around in draft one, just in case, but be ready to cut them in draft two if they don't advance the story).

Coming Up Next: Plot, maybe. Maybe not. We will see what mood I'm in.