Thursday, December 17, 2009

What’s the point? (PFC: Last class of the fall semester)

Apparently, at least at this hump in the road, I don’t have one.

I’m talking about my WIP Ala’der, of course.

In class last night we talked about how to avoid writer’s block, tips on remaining positive about your writing, and the purpose of synopsis. The last on the list was what we applied in our writing exercise.

Pam gave us a list of generic points in a novel – such as call to adventure, crossing the threshold, and reward – and asked us to write one sentence after each point. The idea was to give us a very general idea of what our plan is for our novel. In short, an outlining exercise focusing the important parts of what would ultimately end up in your synopsis when you have a shiny new agent and they’re pitching your masterpiece to a publisher.

Afterwards, we broke into groups to read our rough outline to our classmates and get some feedback. The instructions were to read the sentences you wrote for the exercise (unless you’re that guy – see my previous posts on PFC – in which you just proceed to babble about your novel for a half hour when the entire time allotted for discussion is intended to be shared by six people. /shakes fist).

Lucky for me, I escaped my diabolical non-rule following classmate for my 15 minute chat with Pam. I really had nothing in mind to ask her, so I just started babbling a little bit. It was fun to just chat about, and the conversation leaned to the importance of establishing the rules and laws of my fantasy universe. Very cool to just say the concept out loud and have someone ask me questions about it. A fun fifteen minutes which showed me a few holes that I need to fill in my world building.

I returned to my group to find that only half the people had gone. Since I missed critiquing, I was pretty content to just miss my chance to read. By the time everyone else was done, all but two of the people in my crit group had to leave. Can you guess who was one of the two that stayed behind?

You guys are so smart!

Though I do have to confess that That Guy isn’t so bad at giving intelligent feedback. Now if only That Guy could follow the rules and remember that all this cool stuff about writing also applies to them.

In short, the one sentence per topic outline didn’t really work for me as far as getting my point across. I found myself longing for a real synopsis! Wow. Crazy. I WANTED to write an actual synopsis.

The apocalypse. It must be close…

I was asked a lot of questions by my two classmates, most of which I could explain, but tried not to, but did anyway in a bizarre how-can-I-say-this-the-fastest-so-I’m-not-annoying-because-class-was-over-ten-minutes-ago kind of way.

Despite the confusion, I got some pretty interesting feedback that made me rethink some parts of my intended ending. And when asked to give the ending statement that’s all about the entire theme of novel (aka what’s the point) I learned that I don’t really have any f'ing idea. At least not in a way I can articulate in the English language…yet.

Good news is I have plenty of time to figure this out. And here's hoping the answer doesn't come to me in Chinese or something.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Celebrate...and win free stuff!

Beth Revis, who recently GOT AN AGENT, is holding a contest to celebrate! The more followers she gets, the more prizes she'll be giving away, so go over and join the fun!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Awesome news from a fellow blogger and writer!

Fellow blogger and writer Beth Revis HAS AN AGENT!

Go over to her blog and spread the love!

I had the privilege of reading her YA Science Fiction manuscript Long Way Home when it was out on submission and I loved it!

I can't wait to get a signed, published copy with her special pen! Bwhaha!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PFC: Week 8 - no post

Sorry guys. I was home sick last night and missed out on my class, so I don't have any notes to share this week.

Also, last week will be my last class for the fall session. I'm all signed up for winter session, which starts Jan 6.

I've gotten a decent amount of comments and questions on my PFC posts, so I assume there are people interested in seeing these posts continue?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Examining Kumari (my protagonist) with The Fire in Fiction

Warning: Giant Post Attack

I’ve been working through my The Fire in Fiction revisions – mostly adding microtension on every page and focusing on secondary emotions.

Part of all the secondary emotions is getting to the root of who Kumari is and the things I haven’t explored deeply enough, both in my head and on the page. (Some of this post will be spoilerish, so if that bothers anyone stop here!)

During the Fire in Fiction workshop, this was one of the first things we covered: decide what type of protag you have and determine the following:

  • Find your average joe’s strength
  • Find your hero’s humanity
  • Find your antihero’s promise of redemption

Then, make sure a hint at the evolution of your protag shows up in the first five pages.

I view Kumari as an antihero. Which means over the course of the story, she needs to encounter redemption of some kind. And that I need to ensure that she’s likeable despite her “darker” nature.

So what makes Kumari an “antihero” instead of a normal hero or an average joe?

  • She’s a skilled wrangler – an undead poacher. While there are many who try their hand at this profession, only a handful are successful. Out of the people that doesn’t die trying, most are just okay. A few are exceptional. At the start of the book, Kumari is okay and getting better. Thus, this profession moves her outside the “average” category. She faces the undead, she leaves the safety of cities to hunt them. Average people hide behind the barricades.

  • She has a chip on her shoulder and has a very dark way of thinking. Her personal motto is that “everyone should be able to choose how they die” – a two fold line of thinking. First, turning into an undead is the unthinkable fate and it would be better to die if you’re bitten instead of becoming a monster. (This is how her brother died, something she feels both angry and guilty about). Second is the idea of controlling your own life/fate/destiny. She hates the world and doesn’t think it’s worth saving. A good enough life is living without starving and dying without becoming an undead.

  • She doesn’t believe in the law system that’s in place (police officers of sorts called “gunners”). She believes they’re all corrupt – which is true in some cases. She rebels against their authority any chance she can find. Her father was a gunner who died because his colleagues ran away and left him behind during an attack. Her father held the line to save as many people as possible. As a result, Kumari hates all gunners unconditionally, never giving any of them a chance to show her what good can come from order in a chaotic world.

  • In all honesty, she’s a bit of a bitch, and trusts only a small group of people that are close to her. And anyone outside her group is nothing and, as far as she cares, already dead. For example, the only time Kumari helps defend a city is when the risk of a breach is so great that she and her company are in danger.

  • Overall: she hates the world, is disgusted that humanity has come to this, and doesn’t believe that the world is worth saving.

Next, what will be Kumari’s redemption? What does she need to change? What is really going on under this hard exterior?

  • Kumari cares, even though she tries not to: Her father was compassionate, and always tried to make the world a better place. He did this through defending the city and often helping people down on their luck by taking them in and helping them get on their feet. Her brother was also compassionate, but in a different way. Her brother made himself one of the greatest wranglers in the history of their city, and shared his extra winnings with the poor. Her brother’s fame also allowed him to help ensure fair treatment in the markets and price on trade. Though jaded by the loss of both her father and brother, Kumari can’t escape what’s in her blood. Despite having such a crappy outlook on life, she compulsively helps people, even though her mindset should tell her to walk away and leave them to die. In addition, she would do anything to keep her few friends safe and is the provider of her group.

  • Example: Vled, her trainee, was a slave she freed when he master was beating him to death in the street. Kumari killed Vled’s master on impulse, and then took in the boy because she’d left him with nothing and no where to go.

  • Example: Kumari is robbed in the middle of the city, but instead of killing the robber, she only shots him in the leg. She takes her water back (a very pricy thing in this world) and leaves the boy alone. Bastion (one of her group members) comments that if the robber had begged her for water, she’d have spared him some.

  • Example: Kumari strikes a risky gamble for Heaven, the child slave and prostitute of her hated rival Inimi. Despite the fact that taking Heaven away from Inimi would hurt him, Kumari is drawn in by the disgust for seeing a child treated in such a foul way - even though Kumari denies it later when Heaven wants to know why she bothered to save her. Overall, Inimi did play a bigger role in this decision.

  • Aberhiem, a character that comes in the second part of the novel, is someone Kumari is forced to trust because she needs help and is out of options. Just when she starts to warm up to him, she finds out he is a gunner. When the dust settles, she accepts him for who he is, showing some growth as a result.

  • When Heaven is kidnapped, Kumari risks everything to save her. Heaven accuses her of only coming to save her because she wants revenge on Inimi. When Kumari confronts Inimi, he calls her out – proving that the real reason Kumari came back was to save Heaven. Thus, the emphasis of the original interaction – Kumari saves Heaven because of Inimi and her own personal stake – are now reversed.

  • Overall: In the end, Kumari gives up her freedom – handing over her fate and control of her own life – to try and help find a vaccine for the undead infection. By the end of the novel, she’s given up on all of her own priorities in favor of helping the world she’d forsaken.

Now, how can I show this glimmer of change in the first five pages?

Originally, my first five pages start with a hunting scene to go with the action out of the gate concept. You get a bit of insight from Kumari, mostly about she’s awesome at kicking zombie butt – unlike in the past when it used to be tough. On about page six or seven, she and Bastion are on the way back into town and they have a chat about how Kumari has pushed too hard and will have to use extra rations of water. The glimmer of redemption comes when Kumari argues that she’s no different from anyone else, even if she’s the wrangler, and shouldn’t get extra water. So, it's close to where it should be, but is it too little too late?

I was trying to decide how I could do better, and a critique buddy made a great suggestion. The scene with the robber (mentioned above) happens in chapter 2. In reality, there’s not reason why that interaction can’t happen before they leave to go zombie hunting. Then, I still have the action hook in the first chapter AND I get deeper insight to Kumari’s antihero nature and future evolution within the Maass recommended first five pages.

And there you have it! Applying The Fire and Fiction to Kumari – what kind of character my main character is and how I can show hints of her evolution in the first five pages of my manuscript.

Monday, November 30, 2009

PFC: Week 7

Sorry for the late notes. Holiday weekend and such.

This class was all about Plot.

We worked around a circular diagram. So, if you want, draw a circle on a piece of paper. At about where the 9 would be on a clock, draw two lines. Label the one closest to 12 "Cage" and the other one (below it) "Home."

You character's journey starts in the Cage - something is confining them, holding them back, keeping them from going on their quest/personal mission/road to fulfillment. This is where your plot beings.

From this point, we move around the circle clockwise. At about 12 o'clock, draw a line and label it "Quest." Now, you can have many markers like this along the path, which are the events moving your plot along to the central conflict. Which means at about 6 o'clock, you need to draw a line and label it "Dragon." This represents the climax/boss fight/revelation of the story. Now, you can have small dragons (smaller conflicts and fights/struggles) along the way, but there should be one event/scene that is the biggest and most important of them all.

From there your plot goes the rest of the way around to Home - essentially, back to where you started, but your character is no longer confined to the cage that was around them when the novel started.

Another thing to remember within your plot is what Pam called the "call the adventure," which is exactly what it sounds like. The moment that the plot gets moving. It can be a phone call or a kidnapping. Your protag gets fired or your hero gets the news that their kingdom is under attack. Something to kick start the action and get your plot off the ground.

This concept (the circle pattern) is based on The Hero's Journey by Joesph Campbell. I found a website that has a diagram - different than Pam's, but the same general idea. It has a few more steps built it, but interesting take a look at.

As you might imagine, our exercise was to write a scene in which your protag (or another character) receives the call to adventure.

Fun stuff. Since I had already wrote Kelder's call to adventure in chapter 1, I opted to work on Telleo's call to adventure. A very fun exercise, and for homework we need to expand it into three pages.

Extra Credit: How to know when you're being "that guy" and should stop.
  • You preface your question by saying "Because I have a Masters in this."
  • You debate each answer the teacher gives by saying "But I learned this another way in my Masters classes."
  • 90% of your classmates are openly laughing and mocking you.
  • The teacher actually says "I don't care what you do" after five minutes of giving you detailed responses, and THEN YOU STILL KEEP ARGUING.

Be kind to your classmates. Don't be that guy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fire in Fiction: Post revamps

I'm working on a new approach to my Fire in Fiction post series. Since my notes are basically summing up what you can learn better by reading The Fire in Fiction book, I've decided to instead show how I'm revising my manuscript based on what I learned at the workshop.

Here's a few places you can pick up The Fire in Fiction:

I'll have a post up about evaluating my protagonist, Kumari, next week.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fire In Fiction: The Maass Workshop Intro

I'm going to make an attempt to convey some of the greatness that is Donald Maass and his teachings on my blog. While I can't possibly live up to the experience of taking one of his workshops or even reading his books, I'm going to post some of my revision notes based on th workshop in an effort to help out people who can't afford to take classes like this.

That being said, if you can afford it, you're cheating yourself by not going. Interested? Visit Free Expressions for information about when Don Maass might be in your area. My experience and recommendation comes from taking the Fire in Fiction class. I was so impressed that I've already signed up for the Breakout Novel Intensive in Oregon next April. Also, you can order his books on writing from - Writing the Breakout Novel and Fire in Fiction. These are must haves for a writer's shelf. I own them both, I've read the Career Novelist (which is really more for published authors, but you can download the pdf for free from his website I believe).

I also want to say that there are two ways to look at these posts. First off, this class really felt like something for people with completed first drafts (at the very least) and more for people deep in revising and trying to add the shine that will catch an agent. Of all the classes, agent blogs, seminars, etc I've ever taken on the web and in person, Don's workshop really felt more advanced to me. This is about taking your fiction to the next level, even beyond just landing an agent. He talks about these techniques as something that makes the difference between publishing one book that does okay, and having a career as a successful novelist.

That being said, the second way to look out these notes could be as a tool box of techniques, and something you can elect to be aware of as you're writing something new. But consider how many people get stuck in the limbo of trying to make draft one perfect, and never finish? Remember that its okay to write your story, have it be a sucky first draft, and then use teachings from various agents, books, blogs and workshops to go back and refine your writing. Trying to do everything at once might not be impossible, but is an alarmingly high bar to set.

Based on my personal experience and where I was at in the this whole process - I'd finished my revisions on HOUND and was planning to start querying, but decided to wait until after this workshop - I really think these are things to apply when you start revising. At least at first. Once we're all cranking novels out for contracts every few months, we'll all learn to do this stuff in two or three drafts instead of ten. And I really am glad I waited to query. I think HOUND would have been marketable and I might have found an agent, but I feel that after this workshop my eyes have been opened and that if I can apply these concepts and techniques to my novel, my chances of success will be significantly higher. At least, one can hope right? But this kind of thinking comes from spending two days with a wonderfully impressive and extremely inspirational instructor.

My thoughts aren't going to give you the amazing experience I had, but I hope they might give you some ideas for your own revisions and inspire you to take one of his workshops if the opportunity presents itself.

So now I've written this huge post, so I'll leave you with this. Here's the basic overview Don gave us at the start of the first day. And don't forget to pick up the full Fire in Fiction book.

Fire in Fiction with Donald Maass

How are we going to get through to the reader and bring them back for next novel? What techniques can make the next book as great and as impassioned as your first? We need to get in and get the tools to make every story great.

Here are the things you need and areas we will talk about:

  • Appeal of protagonist
  • Microtension
  • Finding tools to find our unique voice for ourselves and our story – this can vary between books
  • How to push your story to interesting and dramatic places – and make it believable
  • What is the purpose of our story?
  • How do we hang on to this during the whole long process? How do you find the power and passion buried in the story in draft 10?

"These are the techniques I hope to teach you." - Donald Maass

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


For those of you following the guppy chronicles, you've probably noticed my endless whining about how I've been cutting so many words and was concerned my novel would be too short when all was said and done.

Well, I wrote a new scene for HOUND. Three pages single spaced, 1,716 words.


Good things, good things are happening. Bwha. BWHAHA. /rubs hands together.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PFC: Week 6

Fooled you all! Bet you thought my next post would be about the Maass weekend, hmm? Sorry, not yet. Still digesting and thinking and things.

But, I never put my post about up about my last PFC class, so here we go:

First we discussed the types of stories that are out there:
  1. Monster in the House – scary thing in confined space. Add people to the mix = primal, something everyone can relate to: Jaws, Alien, Panic Room
  2. Golden Fleece – quest myth. Star Wars, Wizard of Oz, Back to the Future, heist movies
  3. Out of the Bottle – cinderlla – want something to save them; scrooge – need to change evil ways, teaches a lesson
  4. Dude with a problem – ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances: Die Hard, Titanic, Shindler’s List
  5. Rites of passage – tales of pain and torment from an outside force, 28 Days, When a man loves a woman – serious movies with serious issues
  6. Buddy Love – actually a love story in disguise – Dumb and Dumber, also any Romance books and movie. Relationship, love is the focus, be it lovers or friends.
  7. Why done it? – who is not as interesting as the why. Law & Order, China Town, the Insider
  8. The fool triumphant – fool is actually wise – Forest Gump, Dave, The Jerk, silent clowns
  9. Institutionalized – common cause, united few for the many, sacrifice the goals of the few for the benefit of the many – MASH, American Beauty, Godfather
  10. Superhero – extraordinary person in an ordinary world – Dracula, Gladiator, Beautiful Mind, Superman, Batman, Xmen

For the first exercise we had to pick ONE of these and explain why we selected the option. By restricting yourself to one of these options instead of trying to fit everything about it into as many categories as possible, you can help find the greater motivation behind the story - the most important thing.

Next, we talked about dialogue. Here's what Pam had to say:
  • Must progress the story forward
  • Not unnecessary chit chat – might happen in real life, but has no place in fiction
  • If it’s a conflict scene, the dialog must carry the weight
  • No repetition
  • Works as hook
  • Use tags/action to show character as they do stuff = define character traits, etc.
  • Never use said if possible – replace with action or don’t have it at all – NOT about replacing with special words and adverbs
  • Watch dialect – use sparingly
  • Distinct voices
  • Each person should have different tones, quality, levels of sophistication and degrees of formality, rhythm and speed
  • Easy method: contractions with or without
  • Remember order is important. Example method: FAD: feeling/thought comes first > followed by the action/rection > then the dialogue

Exercise 2: Write an action scene between two characters. Make the dialogue distinctive. No he said/she said.

Exercise 3: POV and emotion exercise

  1. Pick your POV character
  2. Pick an emotion
  3. What color is that emotion?
  4. Taste of the emotion?
  5. Smell?
  6. Covey this feeling as best you can from this POV – in dialogue

For closing words Pam gave us this to think about:
It is recommended to have three story lines in your novel. Think about how they braid together. They start in different places, but they intersect. Sometimes they are independent, other times events happen that might require all three to come together.

I assume we'll be working on this more when we go back to class next week. As always, homework is to take one of the exercises and expand it into three pages.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Inspired, amazed and a little scared.

The Fire in Fiction workshop was, hands down, the most amazing thing I've ever done regarding writing and my goal of turning my passion for my stories into a career.

Trying to present my feeling and thoughts on this blog in a coherent manner is going to take some work and some time. It will probably end up being a multiple part series. So be patient with me!

For now, I'll say this:

I'll be doing another draft of HOUND with fresh direction and specific purpose, inspiration and eyes that are open to many, many amazing possibilities.

And if this workshop is in your area and you can, go. You will not regret it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Big weekend!

The Fire in Fiction workshop with Donald Maass is this weekend! Squeee!

My PFC update will be late. Tonight I have to print out my entire manuscript (HOUND), but before I can do that I need pick at it some more. And then a little more. And some more after that. And try and get my query letter in decent shape to take with me - just in case. And overcome my fear of how terrible I think my synopsis is and print it out too, so I at least have it with me. Just in case.

Aside from having a bit of nerves (what if Mr. Maass says: You need to do a complete rewrite because this writing sucks!) I'm actually very, very excited! I'm sure I'm going to learn a ton, right from the one of the horse's well known mouths.

I don't have class next week, so I'll fill you in on PFC from this week and my experiences at the Maass workshop this weekend.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, November 2, 2009



I've decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year, being that I'm finishing edits on HOUND and hope to start querying after my workshop this weekend (unless Donald Maass tells me I need to rewrite my entire book, in which case we will have lots of cheese to go with an huge amount of whining.) I'm also working on my new WIP for the PFC class, but I don't really want to rush it. I'm enjoying a more relaxed pace that comes with the class, and still putting out a fair amount of writing - up to 18k-ish so far.

So, good luck to everyone doing NaNo this year! My advice?

  • Have fun!
  • Write extra words on the days you're on a roll. Don't stop just because you hit the magic number. You'll thank yourself when you have a crappy day and don't get any writing done.
  • Let yourself have a crappy day if you need it. One day of no writing doesn't mean you've failed. Don't get discouraged, and don't feel like you have to give up your whole life for this.
  • Get one of the neat spreadsheets from the NaNo site - it helps! It's awesome to see the little graph fill up with your progress.
  • Find the time and after November is over, remember how EASY it is to write 1,666 words a day. You can always make time for that.
  • Play around on the forums. I hooked up with my first critique group for HOUND from the forums.
  • Forgive yourself typos, plot holes and other unpleasantness. After all, this is a first draft and we all know first drafts aren't perfect. (I've now reached a full year since I started HOUND, and I'm still putting some final tweaks on it.)
  • That me say that again: this is a first draft. It is NOT okay to query December 1st. Please see every agent blog under the sun for proof.

For those of us not doing NaNo, the Intern is posting a series called NaNoReVisMo and offering up some great advice for those pesky revisions. For those of you doing NaNo, bookmark it for some December reading. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

PFC: Week 5

I’m trying a different approach to this week’s blog post. I took notes on my netbook and figured I would share them here with anyone who’s interested. Of course, I’ve added little bits here and there for guppy flavor.

Lecture Part 1: Five key scenes in a novel

  1. First meeting – first time your reader meets the characters (not just MC, all of the secondary characters as well) – think of it like introducing someone to a family member for the first time – what things do you notice, how are the dynamics different between knowing a character and meeting them the first time?
  2. Fight/conflict scenes – must come to a head, revealing, does not have to be resolved, hurt or hinder, open new plot points – have to have at least one, can have many. Should have one in the first 1/3 of the book – shows how the MC will evolve in latter sections.
    Mini exercise: List some conflict scenes in your book
    Mini exercise: How does your character react to these types of scenes?
  3. Sensual scene – the senses, not sexual – a scene that is so full of taste smell sound touch that the person reading is in the story 100% - make the character go through all this as well – the feel of your book, will tell you where the book is if it was taken out of context – what is the pivotal thing that happens in this scene?
  4. Tender moment – where the reader gets to see the MC doing something through someone else’s eyes and doesn’t know they’re being watched. MC interacting with someone else and a third person is observing. Ah ha moment – something secret, unexpected, etc – reveals there is more to MC than we think – In first person the character does it but doesn’t think anything of it, but the reader sees the out of character moment.
  5. Resolution – the end! If a series, at least one major plot has to be resolved.

Most of this made sense to me, though I was having a little trouble on the Sensual Scene concept. Personally, I don’t see why every scene can’t touch on all the senses. As the discussion went on, I gathered that Pam was suggesting there should be at least one scene where the senses are consuming, but something major happens at the same time. Pam gave an example from a book she has published – her MC has time travelled without knowing it, and as a writer Pam used the senses to be the turning point in which her MC realized the shift had happened (at the same time establishing a great deal about the “feel” of her world). While I get the gist, I still think most scenes can (and often times need to) have this quality. But everything in moderation, balance and not overwritten, of course.

Exercise 1: Write a conflict scene

Lecture Part II: The importance of setting/atmosphere/description is as important as your characters

Main points:

  1. How do characters and atmosphere interact/relate? What is the importance of a setting? Why did you pick it? It should be significant and a different story in a different setting.
  2. As a writer you should horde information: take little tidbits from everything – i.e. TV shows on attraction, body language – how human beings interact in the real world.
  3. What’s the reason for something in the scene – can’t just be because it’s “cool” – i.e. how does weather affect the people in the scene?

After this discussion, we read a few first paragraphs from published novels and guess what genre/setting they took place in.

Exercise 2: Choose a place where most of the book takes place and/or location that will be the final scene/battle and write a scene in that setting. Try and touch on all the senses – a “sensual” type of scene.

We did more critiquing, and people who hadn’t read last week stepped up to the plate.

Oh, and If anyone was wondering, I brought in a leather pouch as my item that speaks to me about my book. Since Kelder’s power comes from the Sand, she always carries a pouch of Sand on her belt.

Fun Quote of the Class: Pam is explaining why new authors need to have closure – an ending scene – and that thier first book needs to stand alone even if you would like to write it as a series.

Classmate says: “But my book isn’t a series. It’s a two book series. That’s okay, right?”

What I love most about Pam is the fact that when someone says something like this, she simply repeats the answer she already gave to the same damn question. It cracks me up every time.

Lesson of the day: Listen when your teacher is speaking. Don’t just hear the words and take notes. LISTEN TO THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF HER MOUTH.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PFC: Week 4

Sorry for the late post. I was in Colorado at the Stanley Hotel. Redrum anyone?

Week 4 of my fiction class focused on conflict - both internal and external. Pam discussed how a scene is much like tiramisu, as in it has many, many ingredients, but if you remove just one it'll taste like crap. So conflict, you see, is one of the many necessary things that make a scene tasty. And now I'm hungry.

We only did one exercise this week, but it was broken down into a few parts. First was the set up, then came the scene writing.


Write down the name of your main character on the top of the page. Next, list 10 things your character would never do. When you complete the list, pick 2-3 items that are the most extreme. Now write a scene where your main character DOES one of the things you said they would never do.

This type of conflict building comes from Donald Maass, who Pam quoted a number of times during the lecture.

I enjoyed the exercise. Since this scene needed to take place in the first 1/3 of our novels, I used the time to rewrite and combine the text with a scene I had written previously in my short story version of Ala'der. I liked the scene overall, and the exercise opened my eyes to some tension building I'll have to do before I reach this point in the novel.

I volunteered to read first again. I waited, again, but no one seemed to want to toss themselves out there first. Part of me wonders if this makes me look cocky, but it's really not about that. I'm not shy about sharing my writing, I never have been. And I have experience being critiqued, from both good and bad critiquers. So I don't mind being the ice breaker for the people who need a few minutes to overcome their nerves. :)

I got some good feedback and was happy to find that most of the questions that came up were things that would be easily clarified in the context of the novel. For example, one of my classmates assumed Kelder was male, just by the sound of the name. It is clear Kelder is female on page one of the novel. Also, questions were asked about the relationship of the two sisters and the significance of the father (who is mentioned once in the scene I read). Both of these things are visited in great detail before reaching this scene. There was some mention of POV confusion, which I think will be clarified, again, in context. Regardless, I'm going to give it some extra attention when I revise, just to be sure.


1. Expanded the exercise into three pages
2. Bring something into class that speaks to you about your novel

Next week we're going to talk more about conflict, and the people who didn't read in this class are going to have their turn next time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

PFC: Week 3

Week three was what I'll call "back to basics class."

For class #2, we handed in our first three page assignment to Pam. As a result, Pam started her class with the "this is how you format your pages" lecture.

Things like:
  • Put your name on your paper
  • Use paragraph break
  • Use the tab button at the start of a new paragraph
  • Here's how to properly format dialogue

Many, many people had questions on this, which I can honestly say surprised me. But I then remembered that I have an undergraduate degree in English, with a focus in creative writing (and learned this stuff in 101) and most people don't.

Then we moved on to point of view (POV). The discussion started as a focus on why it’s important to remain in a single character's head for an entire scene, why the omniscient narrator is often frowned upon by agents, and the difference between first and third person POV. I was fine with the lecture topic. I felt it was valid for everyone including myself, as it never hurts to be reminded of the basics from time to time.

She spent some time discussing things that are cliché - like having your character look in a mirror to establish what they look like in every itty bitty detail - and how real people don't walk around thinking "my I have lovely locks of shimmer golden hair and my eyes are as blue as deepest ocean." The concept she aimed to push home was that no description should be focused on unless it has validity. And that you have to always remember what set of eyes you're looking through, as your characters mind will influence how they describe things to the reader. Overall, a very interesting discussion.

Which proceeded to then turn into two hours of annoying. Again, many people asked valid questions. Some people were confused about certain things, which is fine. My problem was that the discussion degraded into people asking the same EXACT questions over and over - like they weren't listening to the person before them who asked the same question and got the exact same answer.

Then we moved into "but I'm going to do this rule breaking in my book and its okay because of XYZ, right?" and "Are you just saying this because it's actually true because agents might prefer this but it’s not always the case, right?" And we even had one person trying to talk LOUDER THAN Pam so she could make the point of why it was important that the first book she's ever attempted to write was the exception to the rule and therefore, it was okay for her to break the rules.

Ugh. Once again I'm reminded why I will never be a teacher. I am simply not patient enough. Pam, on the other hand, is amazing and patient as a Saint, but firm at the same time. Kudos to her.

Because of the time this took, our exercises were limited. We filled out a questionnaire about our story and characters for the first exercise. For the second, we talked a bit about the role of the mentor character in a novel and the relationship they have to the hero. And that they almost always give some kind of a gift to the hero, be it advice, a physical object or support in a difficult situation.

So our second exercise was to take that idea, and write a scene between our hero and mentor in which the mentor gives a gift to the hero. This scene, Pam suggested, should take place in chapters 1 or 2, no later than 3.

Since I'm well into chapter 4 of Ala'der, I decided to go through and find out if I had already put a scene in that fit the bill. I had! It was in chapter 2. Perfect! So I spent my time tweaking the scene, and I have to hand in that scene expanded into three pages for next week. No problem.

Next week we're going to do some full blown critique groups. Should be interesting.

Moonlighting on Writing it out

I'm invading Beth's blog! Bwhaha!

In my post, I share what I've learned about YA in the last few months. And if you stop by to read my quest post, make sure read over the rest of Beth's series for this week - all about what YA is and isn't. As always, Beth's posts are informative, interesting and fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One taco to rule them all

Yes. That is a real taco. And yes, it was really as big as a hardcover novel.
Wtf, work deli. Do I look like I need to be more pudgy than I already am?

Generational gap?

So I read this on facebook last night, and I think it's worth sharing with as many people as humanly possible. This is a conversation between Isabell, my five year old neice, and Scott,my brother and her father. It was posted by Darci, Isabell's mother.

Isabell: "Daddy, where's my Barack Obama doll?"

Scott: "Your what?"

Isabell: "My Barack Obama doll. You know, I had it last Christmas and he sat on the fireplace."

Scott: "Did he have on a gold jumpsuit?"

Isabell: "Yeah! He did!

Scott: "Honey, that's not Barack Obama. It's MC Hammer."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

PFC: Week 2

This week we got into the nitty gritty of character, and using the emotions of your character to drive the scene.

We did three exercises:

Exercise 1 – Character Interview

Pam gave use two starter questions – “what are you afraid of” and “what brings you joy?” – and about fifteen minutes to continue the interview. Afterwards, she asked us what we learned about our characters that we didn’t already know.

I found out a few things about Kelder, my main character for the Ala’der book, that I didn’t have a firm grasp on. The first is that she fears something I thought she was only angry about. And second, that her sand cat was the runt of a litter, given to her as a joke by the older Ala’der since Kelder was the youngest person to ever become one of the Ala’der.

I shared with the class, and Pam went on to discuss that every new thing you figured out about your character is another scene that can go in your novel. An interesting idea for sure.

Exercise 2 – Opposite Traits

For this exercise, we were asked to list a trait our character is known for, then write down the opposite of that trait, and then, write a scene with the character demonstrating the opposite of the trait they are known for.

I selected bravery as one of Kelder’s dominating traits, so my opposite was to write a scene where she was afraid. Which worked in tangent with the interview, as I had just discovered a fear I didn’t know Kelder possessed.

Exercise 3 – Write a scene about…

We were given a list of circumstances to put our character in, and then write out how they might reaction. The main goal was to display strong emotion. The options included:

The hero’s best friend has died unexpectedly
The hero’s best friend has betrayed them
The hero is kissed
Someone asks the hero to marry them
Someone is trying to extort the main character
Receives an inheritance

I’m sure you can all guess where I went. That’s right: death.

Here’s my exercise. Since I don’t have names for these characters yet (and I don’t even know if a scene like this will play out in the actual novel) I simply called them “Rival” and “Mentor.” After all, I only had fifteen minutes. No time for dwelling on such things!

Again, this is completely unedited from last night - despite my twitchy fingers.

Rival’s knife was quick – quicker than she’d ever seen the coward fight. As if he pulled the glass from the air itself, just before he sunk it into Mentor’s throat.

Many, many times had Kelder found her own blade as the source of so much blood; wet, red , water and life, absorbing into the desert. But there was no Sand here, only the stones that held them all in this wretched, man built city.

Mentor fell to his knees, hands grasping futility for a flood that could not be stopped. It slowed everything; sound, breathe, even Rival. Rival paused to look at his blade, as if he was shocked that his own actions had succeeded – that he had struck down a fellow favored of the Sand with such ease. It was Rival’s smile, a heartbeat and river later, that snapped Kelder’s world back to order.

Mentor was dead. There was no changing the will of the Sand. There was only revenge.

Then, you guessed it, Pam set us up for our first real critique session. Completely voluntary, kind of the get your feet wet idea. Okay, I was scared shitless, but what the hell right? I promised myself at the end of the first class that I was going to take advantage of every chance there was to read to the class. I need the practice, and I need to get over being terrified if I ever want to be a professional, successful author. I counted to three, and no else stepped up, so I raised my hand.

I was shaking again, had to clear my throat in the middle because it tried to choke itself, but I made it through. Pam was the only one to give feedback (I think everyone else is still a little gun shy about speaking up in anyway, or being the first to say something needs work) but it was pretty cool.

She pointed out phrases she liked – which shows she’s a super attentive listener. That she liked that I had a starting and ending hook for the scene. Her only suggestion was to expand the setting – where are they, what does it look like, smell like, is it hot, cold, etc. Which made perfect sense.

When I do these exercises I’m aiming to get something coherent out (and as perfect as possible for fear of looking like a monkey with a netbook) as fast as possible. And looking at the scene from above, my plan is certainly to expand it if it makes it into the book. This might be the clinching moment of the longer scene, but there will certainly be worlding building and setting expansion in the paragraphs leading up to it.

I also commented on a few of the other writers' work: like instead of telling the reader it was 3:00 am, show me the clock and asking a question about when person takes a gun from their purse, shouldn’t they have the safety on? Both of my suggestions seemed appreciated, which was also fun. It’s nice to feel like your contributing.

I feel like a fish in water. I think by the end of the semester, reading out loud is going to be much easier.

Homework: Take one of the three exercises and expand them into three pages, or write a new three pages. These pages must include a focus on displaying emotion, and also moving the plot forward in some way. These pages should happen within the first two chapters of your novel.

Talley-ho! My word count for Ala’der is up to about 4,000, not including what I wrote in class last night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rejection: Shine Anthology

I heard back from the Shine Antho this weekend. The answer was no, as this post's title implies, but the rejection letter was personalized.

This was an interesting story where the boundaries between real and virtual life often blended over so much that the distinction between the two became unclear. More importantly, the virtual world seemed to function as a conduit that made the actual world, which felt rather dystopian to me, more bearable. And even if there was some light at the end of this story's tunnel, I prefer stories where things are better than today. So I'm giving it a pass.

When I wrote PERCIVAL, I wasn't sure where to begin. I like hardship and feel that adds strength to the fiction I write. For me, I felt it was optimistic in terms of how Percival felt and acted - the belief that no matter how tough things were, he could (and did) improve the world. But I had a feeling that might not be quite enough for this antho for the very reason the editor discussed in the rejection letter. Still, always worth trying.

The editor did go on to recommended a few places I might submit it to, which was a very pleasant touch to the letter and encouraging. Why, I do think it would just be silly not to take his advice, don't you? :)

As for other markets, Asimov's would be one of your best bets, as Sheila Williams told me personally at last month's WorldCon how much she was looking forward to Shine, but also wrote in her July 2009 editorial: "I know it will be hard for writers to resist turn inward and that there is great value in holding a mirror up to our lives, but I'd also like to see stories that uplift us, show us some way out of our current circumstances, and offer us some grand new vistas of the future." And I can assure you she's not the only editor (several asked me at WorldCon: "How do you get writers to write upbeat stories?") out there. Also, markets like Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Analog and Futurismic (and Baen's Universe, if they hadn't closed shop) might be well worth a try.

I certainly wish I could say ‘try me again’, but a second Shine anthoplogy will only happen if this one sells well. Shine is slated for an early 2010 release, and until that time I will keep several features (‘Optimistic SG around the World’, ‘Music that Makes You Feel Optimistic’, etc.) running on the Shine blog, while adding new ones.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Popular Fiction Class: Week 1

As most of you know, my three semester writing course at the University of Washington started yesterday. It’s called Popular Fiction 1: The Beginning (for the fall section; winter and spring are called the Middle and the End, respectively), but I’ll be calling it PFC for short (not to be confused with PPC, PCC, BFG or PB&J).

My instructor is Pam Binder, PNWA president and published novelist. I have to say, I was impressed by her style during the informational class and her devoted follow-up to my questions regarding her course. And now that the course is underway, my early opinion is confirmed: Pam is pretty darn cool.

Class started as one would expect: a gathering of timid writers in a small room, early comers spread out along the rows of tables as the rest filled in the gaps. This is a full class, 25 people and (yikes) 14 people on the waiting list. Glad I signed up early. Pam came in and everyone chatted casually for a bit before beginning introductions. You know, that typical, and necessary, “this is my name, this is who I am, and this is what I like to write.”

A cross section of my classmates: a physicist with five published non-fiction books, a stay at home mom, a game designer, a few editors, a couple journalists, a man who once sold aircrafts to the Russian mafia, a woman who has had an idea about a novel for forty years, an environmental scientist who tests hazardous waste, and a guy who liked the class so much last year he’s back for a second round.

Pam went on to cover the basics: the do and do nots about publishing and agents, the reason why you don’t use pink paper and 3 pt font, and why its important to know your genre and be able to pitch your idea coherently.

Enter exercise 1. We were each given a blue note card and ten minutes to produce the following: our name, working title of our work in progress, genre of said WIP, and two sentences describing the novel.

Well, shit. Nothing like an assignment to smash my indecisiveness. Ala’der it is, since I’ve decided I will benefit most from taking a new project through the program, start to finish, instead of trying to rewrite something I haven’t finished yet. Good news is I have a pretty good grasp on what my Ala’der book is about. Bad news? When we’re done with said exercise, we will be reading it aloud to the class.


So here’s what my card looked like (and by the way, Pam gave full permission for horridly written run-on sentences for this first attempt at grasping at our ideas):

Name: Erin
Working Title: Ala’der
Genre: Fantasy
Two sentences: (Just to let you all know, its really hard to not edit this the next day, but I want to give you the honest crap I spewed out last night) “At the age of nine, Kelder was chosen by the Sand god to be of the Ala’der, feared assassins with mirrors for eyes and control of the desert for the meager price of their soul. Now, fourteen years later, she is called by the people of her god’s rival, the Sun, to kill a soul looker – the one blasphemy that crosses deity lines – and discovers a horrible truth: the soul looker is her sister, Telleo.”

Yeah. I totally read that in front of twenty-four other writers. And it was nerve wracking. And then, watching other people go through the same thing, I felt better – not in a mean way, mind you. Surprise, surprise, I’m not the only writer who finds reading out loud difficult. I listened to others stumble over their words, voices cracking, and watched a number of other blue cards tremble with the anxiousness that comes with public speaking.

All exercises will be done like this: 15-30 minutes of writing, followed by reading aloud to the group. I think this will be really good practice in a place that already feels safe. These people are in the same boat as me, so we can all suffer fantastically together and hopefully as a result be better prepared when it’s time to read our stuff to agents and, perhaps one day, to our fans.

We also spent 15 minutes writing the opening scene of our novel. I already had a few stabs at a beginning for Ala’der, but I started from scratch for the exercise. And I think I might be on to something – a slight twist that might give the opening more bite. Cool.

After the writing time was up, Pam spent the rest of the class talking about the basics of critiquing – something I won’t go into detail in this post. I think most of my followers have a good grasp on how this works, and while it’s always necessary to discuss this in a new class, I don’t think you all need to hear it again. At least not in a post that’s already approaching epic in length.

The class ended with two homework assignments. First, expand our opening scene into three double spaced pages to hand in next week to Pam, who will return it the week after with her personal critique. And second, visit a bookstore and decide where our novel would appear (what genre category, mostly) and what author we might find on the shelf next to us.

To say the least, a great start.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

I have four - five. Well, could be six, uh, different ideas of what project to work on next - namely, for my writing class. Names given to these ideas are strictly to help me organize my brain.
  • The Dark Book - 85k+ written, needs some work on the front end cleaning up POV and I need to write the ending.
  • Becoming Darkness - the prequel to The Dark Book. I've been thinking The Dark Book might be the wrong place to begin the series. But I'm not sure. I have two chapters written of this.
  • Ala'dar - a fantasy setting, lots of sand, soul eaters, assassins, and a people divided by two gods and what they have to offer. I have a completed outline, and plan on writing a short story set in this world for an antho (deadline early next year). I'm intrigued by this idea very, very much.
  • Sequel to Hound - 'nuff said.
  • Finding - a post apoc type world about creatures who learn by stealing the lives of humans. They hate the color yellow. This idea is based on a really messed up dream I had. I have some notes, that's about it. Oh, and two pages. Sometimes writing a page or two about a random idea is enough to kick start my creative mind.
  • Alacrity's book - a sci-fi project I was working on a few years back. Love the concept, love the characters, but my plot spun way out of control and I lost hold of where the book was going. Decided to shelf it and move on, with plans to someday return. Is that time now? I think I have around 40-50k words on that one.
  • The big fat epic fantasy Catalyst Heart - my first novel, 240k. I might go...hah....ahah...hahahahhahah! Sike! Yeah, that would be a hell no. I'm not mentally ready to rewrite that one from the ground up.

Pondering Erin ponders.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I saw the movie 9 this weekend, confirming my suspicion that the only thing that can tear me away from Fallen Earth, the apocalypse game I'm playing, is, well, MOAR APOCALYPSE! Though, my house is starting to look like the middle of an apocalypse, but wouldn't cleaning just dampen that end of days feeling? Well, I did do some laundry this weekend. One simply cannot do well during the end of the world without clean underpants.

Regardless, what an awesome movie! It has character, it has adventure, it has butt-kicking for goodness! Dark and exciting - and I would suggest taking the PG-13 rating seriously. This is not a movie for little kids. And while some of it is the same story we've heard before, it has some nice twists and elements that make it unique. Can't wait to get it on blu-ray.

In other end of the world news? I read The Hunger Games over the weekend and loved it. Thanks to Beth Revis for convincing me to check out some YA. Oh, and I started season 2 of Battlestar Galactica yesterday.

Now if I could only get my mind back to Hound - it fits right in after all. Oh well, I know I will. I have a workshop I plan to take it to November 5 & 6, so I want a clean product by then. Writing class starts next week, September 30, though I'm still not sure what I'll be focusing on for the class. I might give it a few sessions before I make the call.

The break has been refreshing. Slacker or no, I'm loving game time with the boyfriend. Serious business can resume in October.


And on that note, I'm going to go see if my motorcycles (in Fallen Earth) are done crafting yet. /rubs hands.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I send an email asking why we were having a meeting about an already resolved issue.

Result: A meeting about the meeting to help understand my issues.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Odd timing and Fallen Earth

My lack of writing and absence from the blog world can be credited to two things:

H1Nerd1 and the apocalypse.

After a great weekend at PAX, Erik came down with the flu, which was confirmed to the piggy/nerd flu from the outbreak at the Penny Arcade Expo. I've been teetering on the edge, consuming OJ and vitamins at an alarming rate, and took two days off work while I was feeling sick and unsure if I had the nerd virus myself. I never did get as sick as Erik, and now that he's fever free it looks like he's on the road to recovery.

The good part of this timing was that it coincided with the Fallen Earth head start. We did pretty much nothing but rest and play the game for the last four days. Worked out well. A relaxing few days, I'm sure, is the thing that kept me healthy. That and lots of hand washing, no smooches and sleeping alone.

Loving Fallen Earth though! Very bad for my writing productivity, but I planned to binge. I did print out part II for the next editing round, which I'll be doing on lunch breaks. I got through two chapters today, so not all has fallen by the wayside in these apocalyptic times.

Oh, and if you're playing Fallen Earth, you should know how to find me.

Who else would my character be but Kumari? Alec Masters server (the only one right now, but who knows if that will change with the wide release). My alt is Abigail Colt.

And I love crafting. As per normal in any game I play, my inventory is a mess. So is my bank. Both of them. And so is my alt's bank. And my horse's pack. And Erik's inventory whenever I can get him to hold something for me.

I'll post pictures soon!

Other news? My writing class starts in two weeks! Yay!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Still here, still editing

I haven't been posting much, mostly because my editing is lame, boring and no longer exciting to talk about. Honestly, just more of the same. I'm making progress, albeit a little slower than I'd like.

And no news yet on the Shine antho. I figure if I don't hear something by tomorrow, I'll send the editor a quick email. His website implied he would be sending rejection letters and he's had my piece for six weeks. Also, he's mentioned on twitter that he's made his decisions.

So, I don't think that would be pushy?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The done pile

My done pile now has chapters 1-3 in it. Aside from needing to make a final pass for typos and/or formatting issues from Word changes, they're done.

Otherwise, still having a love affair with my Sharpie pens and trying to keep editing this weekend. Not having too much luck, though.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I love...

These are the BOMB. Love them for editing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And then some more!

Forgot one!

Best line yet is from Rick Daley, keeper of The Public Query Slushpile:

I like to use this example of overwritten prose vs. simplicity:

A) I extend to you an informal expression of welcome.

B) Hi.

Everything and then some!

Links of all shapes and sizes!

Once Upon a Crime is offering a three chapter critique! Following the directions to get in on the fun!

Rachelle Gardner had an excellent post about manuscript tightening yesterday.

The Paperback Writer shares ways to rejuvenate your blog and shares some new sub-ops.

The Pimp My Novel blog is running a series about genre sales. Excellent blog to follow. Here's a link to the first post in the eight part series. The other posts are linked on the right side.

Lynette Labelle has an opening in her critique group for a romance writer. Stop by her blog if you're interested.

Born in the 80s? This is for you.

Are you on facebook, and do you love stupid facebook games? Then join my army in Castle Age! Please? I need more people in my army so I can invade other castles. I pay you with magic missiles. Yes?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another example of why early drafts aren't good enough.

Today I discovered a pretty severe error in my manuscript. And not a plot or grammar or character or consistency error.

My story is based long after the undead outbreak that destroyed the world as we know it today. How long? Who knows, but long enough that the past is a distant memory, and the world has been rebuilt on shaky foundations. I didn't want to write about an outbreak. Or a horror movie style "run from the zombies." But my story is still based, in its roots, in the real world.

In my manuscript, there's a copy of the Divine Comedy by Dante. The book is somewhat significant for a few reasons. First, I made a bit of metaphor out of it. Oh, clever me! Actually, I'm really quite proud of this passage. (Which, out of context, will probably lack the impact I believe it has in the manuscript, but what the hell, here it is.)

It worked well. Heaven read during the daylight hours or slept under the canvas they pulled out across the roll cage of the Jeep. Her sunburn was getting worse. Even though she took care to keep her delicate skin covered, the light always found a way in. The back of her hands were by far the most uncomfortable, but she sacrificed them in order to get through to Paradiso. Once it was done, she simply started over again, putting herself back to the beginnings of hell.

Second, the copy has changed hands between two characters in the book, and that exchange is important to a third character.

And third, I wanted the fact that the book itself still survived and was very, very old to act as a memory of what once was and now is lost. So old, in fact, that Dante himself touched the pages.

So what's wrong with this whole blog post?

No copy of Dante's original manuscript of the Divine Comedy exists today in 2009.

What started for me as research as to what exactly the book would look like turned in to a big problem. Sure, not many literature buffs or historians might be reading a book about zombies, but it only takes one reader to discredit your book for a screw up like this. This is one of the reasons I always write science fiction and fantasy. It's much easier for me to keep the history of my own made up world in line.

So, some slight tweaking and I should be able to fix this whole mistake. However, had I sent out an earlier draft, I never would have noticed this mistake. It took a number of passes, looking for different things, for this to finally jump out at me in the polishing phase.

So don't rush. Give your manuscript the attention it deserves to make it the best it can possibly be.


Once again, Skyla Dawn gives some excellent advice to aspiring authors.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New study shows that when zombies attack...

...we're screwed.

About time.

I finally beat Sid Mier's Colonization last night.


This game is such a pain in the butt. I have to say, despite the fact that some aspects of game play are fun, I don't think I'm ever, ever going to play it again.

The basic concept is that you're building a new colony on the new world. You have the evil king and your home country that you trade with. Slowly but surely, you get people to join your cause from the motherland. Or you can buy them from money you make via trading with Europe, trading with the natives, and from treasure you find in ancient burial grounds and ruins. People you buy/recruit from Europe each have a set of skills, or are "blanks" which you can train via schools in you build in your colony or by sending them to live with the natives.

You take resources from the land, and turn into products - like sugar for rum. You build roads and farms, and send your little wagon trains to move the goods across land and your ships to send the products back to the homeland. But, don't get happy. The only way to win is to free yourself from the greedy bastard of a king, who taxes you like crazy business and steals all your hard earned loot (unless you have a "tea party" (think Boston tea party) for a resource/product, which means you can never trade that item overseas again).

It's the winning that gets complex. If you build "rebel" points too early, the king adds more people to his army. His army comes when you declare Independence. But...the math behind the process of being ABLE to declare independence is insane. Not to mention that fact that you have to have enough guns stockpiled to equip all your colonists. (P.S. - your colonies can only hold 200 guns each, which equips only four people (eight if you're from England. I was from England. Go team George Washington!). But if you have too many people and too many colonies, its very hard to lift your rebel sentiment high enough to revolt. But...if you don't have a huge army, you can't hold out against the attack. But...

OK well, I'm sure that doesn't make much sense to anyone who hasn't played.

Short version: Unless you like suffering, meticulous game play/strategy or proving your simulation game skills to the damn pretend King of England, skip this game and just buy the normal Civ IV. It's much better, and it doesn't make you want to kill your own citizens. At least not all the time.

If you do decide to try Colonization: The Devil's Playground, visit the CivFantics forum for a general guide. You'll need it.

Added: Hey, is that a typo I see? Shouldn't my victory be "an Independence" victory?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Publishing Terms

I can't imagine all of you haven't see Nathan's blog today, but here's the link just in case. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My printer.

My baby laser jet printer is fixed!

Apparently, he ate a hair tie. That was my "paper jam" that I haven't been able to resolve for the last month.

So, hells yeah! I don't have to buy a new printer!

/does the M.C. Hammer dance

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Great resource list for writers

Marisol posted an awesome list of books about the craft of writing today. Having read (and purchased with intent to read) a number of books on this list, I support Marisol's blog post. One can never spend too much time learning about the craft and industry. Except, well, if you spend all your time learning about writing and publishing, but never spend any time writing.

Of course, even though different books say different things and no single guide can be labeled gospel, one sure fire way to avoid being a noob or a douche bag is through self education.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hey you! Yeah, you. The NOOBs.

n. Noob, Newb, N00b, Noober, Newbie – one who is new to something, uneducated, and at times but not always, foolish and super annoying.

Note: This post might come across as rude to some people. This only represents my opinion. It is also a bit of a rant. You’ve been warned.

Editor and writer Skyla Dawn Cameron is writing a blog series about how aspiring (and published) authors can avoid being douche bags. We read posts like this, and other less colorful guidelines from published authors, agents and publishing houses, and think “Well, duh! Of course! That’s so obvious! People who do that ARE douche bags!” We get a good laugh.

But when we see how it affects getting even a foot in the door, it becomes less amusing. Agents are going from form letters to no response means no. Some, like Colleen Lindsay, have been forced to close submission due to the bad query letter influx (and badly behaved wannabe authors).

Tell me then. Why is it people who follow the same informative blogs I read, with all the hints and tidbits on what NOT to do, seem to think the rules don’t apply to them?

Take Authoress’ query contest. Jodi Meadows critiqued the 58 queries and first 250 words. First, it’s great that Authoress dedicates time to help noobs out. Jodi deserves the same kudos for taking her free time to look at even MORE slush. Hell, it's great for all of us that read Authoress' blog. We all get to read the feedback from Jodi.

When I saw this go up, my first thought was holy shit. Jodi (and the agent she works with, Jenny) are one of my top picks for agents to query to once my hunt begins. But guess what?

I READ THE DIRECTIONS AND RULES FOR THE CONTEST. And because my manuscript and query are not COMPLETELY DONE and ready for querying and/or already being sent out to agents, I DID NOT ENTER.

Come on people. WTF?


  • Not “still tweaking/polishing.”
  • Not your first or second or even third draft. (and if you have some magic pixie dust that makes this in the realm of possibility, pass that shit on for me to snort. I could use a good trip).
  • And certainly not for your work that doesn’t fall under the fucking genres they represent (which you didn’t even have to dig up yourself, since Authoress spelled all this out on her blog).
  • Additional stupidity: Or not if you felt the need to revise your query repeatedly in the comments section (since that was also in the instructions of WHAT NOT TO DO).

I think Jodi expected and deserved a bit better from the educated blog community. Authoress even spoke in your favor, assuring Jodi this would be above and beyond the normal slush reading. I’m speaking for my own opinion only. I am not quoting Jodi, nor do I have any communication with her on this topic. But I know for sure I expected better.

So shame on all of you – yes, you know who you are, I hope – for thinking the rules don’t apply to you or not taking the time to read them. Learn the lesson before you really query, or you might as well give up. Getting published might be a dream to you, but it's a business. And you have to be a professional independent businessperson when showcasing your work.

So remember:

Publishing = business. Success in business = being prepared and educated. Being prepared = reading guidelines/rules.

Oh, and just reading guidelines isn’t enough, in case you’re unsure about that one. FOLLOWING them is also required. Even when it’s YOUR manuscript, kids.

You are not special. You are not the exception. None of us are.

And by the way, congratulations to the winners (and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I'm always, always happy to see others succeed). And congratulations to those who entered and did not ignore the instructions. Obviously this post doesn't apply to you.

But I'm sure all of you that did win aren't frantically running in circles and panicking because you don't have something ready to send her...Right?

Friday, July 31, 2009

More progress and incoming vacation

My good friend Nick coming in for a visit this weekend, so I'll be taking a break from revising/editing/blogging world for a few days.

However, before I go, here's an editing update:

Part I (chapters 1-8)
  • Revision "1" (as in first pass for this draft on the word doc in comments (which actually involved about three passes over everything)) is done. I've accepted all changes in the word doc.
  • Printed the pages and got through around chapter five making revision 2 on paper.
  • Put in the changes for chapter 1 (and made a few more changes) and half of chapter 2.
Chapter 1 is done. DONE. I'm really happy with it. For the first time, I feel confident that this chapter is ready. Like, agent ready. I compared it to my old document (pre-first editor changes and about my third draft) and really, truly see an amazing improvement. The action is fluid, description is balanced, characters are solid and the hook is strong.

I could pick at this forever. I would say this is about the 12th draft of this chapter (at least)? Some were drafts minor edits, other drafts were cutting sections of text and/or rewriting passages. But I feel like this is it - for chapter 1.

Small victories. They're important. :)

Chapter 2, watch out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gmail seeks to help with my manuscript...

...and fails.

I always send a copy of my most recent manuscript back and forth between my home and work computer. And I just put "Hound" in the subject line. Today, Gmail felt inclined to offer some helpful links as they spied on my email with their little robots.

Sadly, they got the breed wrong.*


*For those who don't know, my book is not about dogs. Hound is a nickname for one of my characters and the book is about the end of the world, zombies and gladiatorial combat. In fact, there isn't a single dog in the whole thing!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Revisions, going strong.

I made some good headway on Hound over the last week.

Did more cleaning on chapter 1 and 2, and I think they're good enough for the time being - as in, I need to keep moving forward instead of mowing the same spot on the lawn over and over again.

As for chapters 3-5, things have been a mix of house cleaning and character development. As most people who've been following this blog for a while know, when I made my original outline I planned to kill a specific character at the end of part 1 of the manuscript (chapter 8). When the time came for the death of said character, I changed my mind and killed someone else.

The move was brilliant - the death had greater meaning, more impact, more drama. And altered my entire outline for the better. Problem was, I never went BACKWARDS to accommodate for this change. I never went back to provide the "why this disposable character is now important enough to stick around" and put in the why the now dead person is super important and the loss a poignant one. Sure, I talked about the dead person tons in the rest of the book - but I never made sure the readers would give a shit that said person WHEN they got pwned to deadness.

Duh. And the makings of my most awesomest breakthrough moment for revisions so far.

So, let's see what I've done for chapters 3-5.
  • Made cuts in chapter 3 of some unneeded "flavor text" to keep the pace moving.
  • Overall cleaning up on chapter 3 - reworking sentences.
  • In chapter 4 I spent a good deal of time addressing my "breakthrough" issues. Added two dialogue exchanges and some IM for Kumari to flesh out both of the characters who needed fleshing out.
  • The rest of chapter 4 was house cleaning again - working hard to streamline my action in an important fight scene that takes place in this chapter.
  • I marked a paragraph of chapter 4 that needs to either be cut or moved to a place where it fits better. Still undecided as to if the information is important enough to keep.
  • Chapter 5 was almost completely house cleaning - no major issues.
  • Marked one spot to look at revising further - basically, am I making their life sound too good?

I still need to go back over chapters 3-5 to make sure I didn't miss anything, and that I'm happy with all my sentences (for now). I'm halfway through chapter 6, but that will have to wait until my next post.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Everyone is a critic.

What my cat's ass thinks of my manuscript:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The next level

As I go through revisions for Hound and ponder new projects, both short and long, I've been thinking a lot about workshops, critique groups, networking, conferences and feedback.

As writers who are going through the process of discovering our own skills, strengths and weakness, there's only so much we can do for each other before we hit a wall. Yes, we know what all the blogs of agents and publishers talk about. And we know that there are some consistences and some glaring contradictions between them. We know that there are things we aren't supposed to do when we write - then we see those same no-nos in most of the books we buy from and Barnes & Noble. You know them, the bestsellers who got away with breaking all the rules. And did it before they were bestsellers because it was their first published book (complete with all the rule breaking) that made them successful.

In short, until we aspiring novelists have an agent and are published many times over, we don't really know what the hell we're talking about. We're making educated guesses based on informed research and tidbits we sheen off those who have the experience we lack. Myself included, of course. And I'm not discrediting beta readers - who are essential to the process of writing - or the blog sphere as a whole - which is a wonderful networking and learning tool.

I'm talking about the next level. The expensive level: conferences, workshops with agents, university programs taught by established authors and run by boards of people with years of experience in the industry, or working with freelance editors.

I learned a great deal from the editor I hired, despite my frustrations about the process. She pointed out things a critique group of five failed to notice. And I got what I needed - someone to fully devote their time to my manuscript. When we swap with other betas its a mutual favor and you never really know what you'll get back.

Let's be honest.

Who out there hasn't done a swap, put hours into critiquing the others person's manuscript, only to get a handful of comments back from the other person in return? Or that you committed to reading without taking the time to first get a handle on the other person style/taste to make sure it matched your own? Or that your writing isn't in the same place - are you both working on the same draft of your project? Is this your fifth manuscript and the other person's first? Is the other person actually ready to hear feedback (from someone besides non-writer friends and family), or are they just going to tell you they aren't going to consider your advice until they see if the rest of the group agrees 100% with your suggestions?

Getting off that tangent and to the point:

After hearing the great success people have had with workshops and writing intensives with experienced people in the industry, I'm going to take the plunge and the dent in my finances.

Donald Maass will be in Seattle this November to host an interactive workshop. For $339, I'll get to rub shoulders with a very well established agent who represents my genre. After talking with the project coordinator, I feel confident that I'll get a lot out of the workshop - two days long, eight hours each day - including some feedback on my writing from someone with an experienced opinion.

I'm also going to an informational meeting for a workshop program at the University of Washington. After checking out the two teachers, I've decided taking a class taught by a romance author just isn't for me, and will take the session with author James Thayer (though his most recent novel has romanace elements, but he appears to lean toward thrillers) if I like what I hear at the meeting. The board of people who oversee the program is pretty impressive, and include Donald Maass. Also, there will be guest speakers throughout the session. The session runs two nights a week from January 11th to April 19th.

Aside from networking with professionals, this is also going to be a chance for me to meet other writers in person. As great as the blog world is, finding a group to meet in person with is superior (in my humble opinion). Discussions and interactions are different and more in depth when your face to face with people. I really miss the writing groups I've had in the past.

Next summer, I'll be attending local conferences.

I know that I'm lucky I can swing the finances to do these type of things, and I'm by no means judging the people who can't. I just think there's enough proof out there (again, from the information we see on the interwebs and hearing about results directly from people who attended this stuff, experienced and inexperienced alike) that if you can make use of these things, you need to do so. So I'm going to. And I'll be happy to share everything I can with the rest of you, for everyone who can and cannot go for themselves.

And then you can take everything I say with a grain of salt and a dash of my own inexperience.

If you have any experiences from workshops, classes or conferences that you'd like to share, feel free to post in the comments!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sending shorts and editing longs

Yesterday marked the great occasion of me sucking it up and get my butt to work.

First, I finished working on my short story Percival and sent it in to the Shine antho (which closes for submissions August 1). Nothing like waiting until the almost last minute, eh?

Second, I started the fun task of revising and editing Hound. I got my line edit back last week, and am happy to report that things look good. Here's hoping I don't screw it all up in the process of refining my sentences.

I've entered the phase of aiming for perfection,and hoping to land somewhere in the realm of very, very good. Still trying to trim some of the lingering fat, as well as looking at each sentence in careful detail (again) and trying to see if I can make it better (again). I'm also working closely with a beta reader on a sentence by sentence level - a favor I plan to repay when they're ready to have their manuscript picked at. You know who you are. ;)

Yesterday I tackled two chapters, which was more than I expected. My lenient goal was five pages a day, with the dangling carrot of starting my fun new WIP idea called Ala'der. I was surprised to find myself excited to continue and willing to hold off on new writing in favor of working on more revisions. A good sign, I hope, and something I really hope will stick.

What did I accomplish?
  • streamlined the action in chapter 1
  • cleaned up sentences that could be better in both chapters 1 and 2
  • cut five paragraphs at the end of the first part of chapter 1 that included a POV shift and extra info that the story could live without
  • killed one of my babies - a sentence that I adored, but not one of ALL the people who have read it understood the point I was trying to make. I've be resisting cutting it since the first draft, but finally caved. I fail - well, I did fail. Now I, uh, unfailed?
  • added some inner monologue in both chapter 1 and chapter 2, with the hopes that it will pull the reader closer to the MC sooner. (My IM amount increases as the story goes on, but was almost nonexistent in the first part of the manuscript)

That about sums it up.

A long road left, but at least for now I'm excited again about my project. That's a great feeling.