Archive for March, 2010

Write What You Read Except When You Don’t

One of my WIPs (works in progress) is a steampunk. I’m mentioned before that this came about by accident. The house publishing my first novella had a blog entry from an editor saying she was looking for more steampunk. I mentioned this to my husband, who tossed out an entire plot off the top of his head. (My husband sparks off brilliant ideas like a unicorn’s ass shoots out glitter. He’s actually much better at plotting and world building than I am. The reason I’m the writer in the family is because I’m the one putting my butt in the seat and typing. Inspiration isn’t everything.)

It’s a terrific story and I’m madly in love with the characters. I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, and I even have my very own Godey’s Lady’s Book here in my office (a bound copy of ten issues).I started to type out the plot for you before I remembered that I wasn’t finished working yet and I don’t want to jinx it. I’ve done a ton of research on top of my existing knowledge of the period and my existing love of alternate history/worlds.

What I haven’t done is read a lot of steampunk. The giants in the genre don’t appeal to me, with the exception that I enjoyed Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Notice that’s not his steampunk work. A title that never comes up in steampunk top ten lists that I loved was Pavane by Keith Roberts, even though it’s an alternate world where the tech is steam powered. (Although set in the present day, the world is built on the assumption that Elizabeth I was assassinated, England went Catholic, and the Catholic Church repressed technology such that industrial progress evolved very, very slowly.)

But I felt like I should read more of what I’m trying to write. I went to the library and got Steampunk, since that one is recommended on every top ten list on the topic.

The reason I haven’t declared it a wallbanger is because I would never huck a library book at a wall.

Also, I have not read all the stories yet. I got pissed off by the scholarly essay at the front of the book, where it basically says that steampunk, without the “punk” aspects of thinking negatively towards the society so described, is pitiful. Under this theory, focusing on the imaginative aspects, the technology, the social norms, and the clothing, without writing the rebellion, make the story inherently less valuable.

Pish and tosh. You can’t write about Victorian era clothes without considering what those clothes suggest about the society’s expectations and desires. Ditto relationships between men and women. And I’m sorry, but some of the stories I have read so far are just gadget porn. Science fiction is infested with this kind of “story” – endless nattering about how this doohickey works and blah blah blah. So to suggest that anyone writing fiction for the pleasure of invention (as opposed to Making Statements) has taken a step down is to be one of those people who doesn’t read or write popular fiction.

I’ve read enough to figure that out. So thanks, but I’ll take it from here.

Categories: Thinking Tags: , ,

A Writer’s Mental State

March 30, 2010 4 comments

I was doinking around on Absolute Write instead of writing last night, because my story sucks. I still met my word goal for the night, but those words were all boring. The story is boring. No one could ever possibly want to read it. Fortunately, there’s a chart for this.

The AW poster said this chart is courtesy of a science fiction author named Maureen McHugh. I am now going to purchase one of her books because A) science fiction author, B) I owe her one now.

Inspiration: Nifty!

I don’t remember how it happened, but I stumbled onto nearly ten years ago. This site is devoted to amateur erotic fiction. Text, not video. I still don’t recommend clicking the link if you’re at work or your kids are nearby. In order to keep themselves open, they have recently started accepting advertising from anyone willing and able to pay, and the intersection between “willing” and “able” consists mainly of porn sites.

It’s a funny thing when the ad visuals are the only thing making a site NSFW (not safe for work). But they gotta do what they gotta do to keep running, and they are quite the gateway drug for erotic fiction. I know a whole lot of people who stumbled into reading and writing erotica from Nifty.

The term amateur simply means that the writers aren’t doing it for money. None of the Nifty authors are paid. The site hosts don’t edit the material, although I have the impression that they decline to post stories that are so poorly written as to be illegible. They also bounce stories for having objectionable content (rape, unwilling partners, children, excessive violence, violence not part of a BDSM scenario, etc). Note that the site says it’s gay/lesbian erotica, and their submission guidelines say they don’t take hetero stories. I have found a number of straight stories, though, usually of the “doing it in public” or “as part of a threesome” varieties. Stories are filed by category so readers can find exactly what rings their bells.

It’s basically a short story slush pile with the worst 50% removed. A lot of it is still unreadable. There are enough heroines who are 5’7″ and 110 pounds with enormous tits to make you sprain your eyes rolling them. But such trials make finding the gems that much more satisfying. There’s one author named Marie who is theoretically telling us about her personal adventures (mostly F/F), and she writes well enough that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.

Anyway, Nifty was absolutely one of my big inspirations in terms of what made me decide to start writing erotica. If you can get past the ads and into the story archives, and you write/enjoy erotica, this site is worth a bookmark.

Categories: Thinking, Writing Tags:

No Clever Post Today

This morning, my husband and I woke up our little boy at what I used to call the ass crack of dawn. We dressed him, which annoyed him, and then we put him into the car without any breakfast, which enraged him. Fortunately, by the time we got to the hospital for his tear duct surgery, he was a ray of sunshine. My mate said our little guy didn’t cry even when the anesthesia mask went on.

I feel weird even calling it surgery, because basically, they stuck a wire into his tear duct and out his nose in order to pop a little membrane (something that happens naturally for most kids before they’re six months old). He was under for less than ten minutes, and it didn’t hurt. He came out of it so fast that we didn’t even sit down in the waiting room before the orderly fetched us. He was more irritated at waking up to find a nurse cuddling him when he’d fallen “asleep” with Daddy cuddling him.

He is currently fine, and happy to be dismembering Mr. Potato Head.

Me, I’m a wreck, wondering if it’s too early in the morning for Bailey’s. See you Monday.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

iPad Options, Bookstore Apps, and Me

I’m a little crazed today, but I hate making the three of you click on my URL in vain. So here’s a link about how the iPad isn’t going to preinstall any particular bookstore, but allow the user to install her favorite app.

Me, I hope readers go directly to the publisher’s website to buy my book, because I will get twice as much money. And by “twice” I mean “nearly a dollar” instead of “not quite enough to get a soda from the machine.” That is true of every digital publisher I know of, by the way. The author’s royalty is double if the buyer got the book from the publisher, because distributors take such a huge cut.

I just wrote to the editor to ask if there was going to beĀ  a Carina Press app ;)

PSA: Magnets Are Not Good For Your Computer

My computer tower is on my desk instead of the floor, thanks to toddlers, dogs, and my slackitude when it comes to vacuuming under my desk. This gives me a smooth clean surface perfect for post it notes. There are eight on it right now. Character names and thumbnail descriptions, questions for my friend in the army (color background for a story), list of blogs that I’d like to have review my book, books I want to read, that kind of stuff. The kinds of details I’d remember if I didn’t have a small child who does not sleep, and for the love of kumquats, the next person who suggests sleep training DIES, okay, because seriously, do people really think I’d have NOT CONSIDERED THAT after two years of not sleeping? If it worked on my particular kid, wouldn’t I be sleeping more? Anyway.

So I swapped pictures of this computer, bristling with post it notes, with a friend on Facebook who claimed to have the a better collection of notes than I did.

He did. Kind of. Two of his notes were attached to the computer case with magnets.

Y’all… don’t do that. Yes, it’s probably safe. The type of magnet that erases hard drives is much stronger than the “refrigerator” kind of magnet. But you can still do damage to other components. And if you’re a dork like I am, owning a rare earth magnet or two is not unthinkable. If you’re in the habit of sticking stuff to your computer, and you use that magnet because you’re muddy brained from not sleeping or whatever, you could really ruin your day.

It hasn’t happened to me, because sometimes, I can see the trap before I step in it.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Health Care

I’m already self-employed – I’m a consultant and a non-fiction writer before I go into a phone booth and put on my glasses – so all this yammering about health care makes me kind of want to reach out and hit people. If you believe in the American dream, in pursuing your dreams to be self-employed, in the importance of writing and art, you might consider making a fist yourself.

Read more…

Categories: Thinking Tags: ,

Revise and Resubmit

There is a middle ground, when it comes to letters from a publisher regarding your latest manuscript. (If you are an old writing hand, skip on down to the *** bit.)

One end of the spectrum is “hello, we would like to buy your story.” That doesn’t mean you’re done. That means you’ve got a couple rounds of edits, cover consultations, and six months minimum before you have a book in your hands or in your digital reader.

The other end of the spectrum is “thank you for sending us your manuscript but it doesn’t meet our needs at this time.” It might not be that exact phrase, but it’s polite, short, and unambiguous. That’s a rejection.

One step up from there is the rejection letter, along with a line of personal feedback. This is a great sign. You can write well enough that someone working a fifteen hour day took some time to say something you can use.

Two steps up from there is the rejection letter with a ton of specific feedback. The editor does not want to see this story again, but you could use that feedback to rewrite and possibly sell that story somewhere else. And this editor really liked you/your voice/your story. Send her your next manuscript with a nice note thanking her for all that great feedback last time.

Three steps up (or more cheerfully phrased, one step down from acceptance) is the revise and resubmit letter. Tons of specific feedback, along with a disclaimer that reads “making these changes doesn’t means we’re going to buy it, but we’d like to see this story again if you decide to try.”


I got one of those last week. It’s funny, but at first I was more bummed by it than I’d been by a flat rejection. It was like missing a potential home run by an inch, or missing the qualifying time by a millisecond. So close, and yet so far. I’m rational enough to know it’s a good sign (and that I have friends who would kill for this, and kill me for whining), so I just put the email down, thanked the editor, and noodled for a couple days.

Three of the suggested changes were cosmetic, trifling things. The other items were all deeper, and it is my private belief that I’ve spotted the difference between “acceptance, now here are your developmental edits” and “revise and resubmit.” My first novella is almost through her editing process, and all the suggested changes were things that tightened the story. The suggested changes on my R&R are things that will change the story. There are ripple effects from these suggestions that run through the entire manuscript. It’s a lot more of a challenge than throwing in a few lines of description or giving the lead a bit of interior monologue. I don’t have a track record as a fiction writer yet, and no one knows if I can pull off this kind of challenge.

*I* wasn’t sure I could pull off this kind of challenge.

Something broke loose like a boulder in a flooded river. Yesterday I sat down and poured 4K new words into the manuscript. Seriously, I could have written all night. I DID write all night, I kept waking up and writing notes for more stuff on the pad I keep by the bed. I couldn’t turn on the light without waking my mate, so let me tell you how thrilled I am that I can read my own notes this morning. See, yesterday, while I was cleaning up dog poop, I thought of a single solution that will solve all of the plot and motivation problems at once. It means changing about a third of the manuscript and adding at least two more chapters, but it works, I really think it works.

It’s a little scary because one of the things I get most often about my work is that my stories are well-paced. Adding so much material can be risky, but I think this is going to be so worth it. Someday, I hope to write a blog entry on what I did wrong, and how I saved it. But first I’ve got to save it!

What’s a Six Letter Word for AAARGH?

March 19, 2010 3 comments

I swear that writing is like a crossword puzzle. You want to use the perfect word, the exact word that will fit. The perfect word will enhance the story with nuance and flavor and subtext. But the search for the perfect word can bring your writing flow to a halt while you fart around trying to remember the word that is sort of like “strive.”

Strive, but kind of sounds like astride because it has an “a” and an “i” in there and anyway, it’s an active word that suggests hard work and not just daydreams. Hrm, maybe I should change that book he’s reading to one about patent law to foreshadow the ending. Did they have books about patent law then? Maybe I should Google that… NO INTERNET DURING WRITING TIME. Focus on the word, striving, reaching, climbing, do I have a thesaurus? Where’s my thesaurus? I could just use the online one… NO INTERNET DURING WRITING TIME. Where is my stupid thesaurus? Oh, hell with it. Next paragraph. She was attired in brown velvet, trimmed in… no, I can’t say attire, too close to the last sentence where I said aspire.

Aspire! I meant to say aspire!


See how much faster that would have gone if I’d just written “strive XXX find synonym” and moved on? (The XXX tag doesn’t mean hardcore porn in this sense – it gives me something to search for later on in order to find all my notes. I find the margin note feature less than helpful with first drafts.) I’d have thought of the right word within seconds.

Honestly, the hardest part about writing is learning to get out of your own way.


March 18, 2010 2 comments

Some days, I want to be a Writer. By that, I mean “one who has written, and is now collecting royalty checks.” The whole “Writer” thing involves fuzzy daydreams and interviews with magazines and has nothing to do with reality. I know in reality, we’re writers with a lower case W, and that means we have to write. It’s a slog, sometimes. It’s not hard work in the sense that digging ditches is hard, but it’s still work. This morning I don’t feel like working. But if writing were my paying job, I would have to do it whether I felt like it or not. And I want it to be my paying job. It could be, if I put in the time and stop getting wrapped up in daydreams involving elegant hats.

But this morning I’d much rather be a Writer than write.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.