Monthly Archives: November 2012

There Will Be No White Flag Above My Head

Nano 2012 turned out to be an epic fail. I accomplished exactly none of my three goals, nor did I break 50K.  I didn’t even come particularly close–final word count was around 20K, give or take a few notes I had written before officially starting.

At least I still have the seasonal motivation to keep me focused on the story at hand. I would like to put it up at least the Wednesday before Christmas, as long as I feel it’s in good shape with respect to polishing and sanding. This may turn out to be a pre-write for next year’s holiday season…remains to be seen.

A novella can’t be that hard to finish. I’ve done it twice already. So there. Now if I can just lure my muse out from under the desk to help me bag a few 5,000-word days instead of the 500-word days I’ve been pulling on my own, we’ll be in business.  I wonder if he likes port?  Perhaps I can lure him like one of my heroes with the promise of sweet red highly alcoholic vino….

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…Because Why Wouldn’t You Look It Up If It’s Right There?

Or, I love the internet post #573

I just decided to check up on the phases of the moon in December 1814. Because, I mean, if it’s right there why wouldn’t you take 20 seconds to look? I guess it doesn’t really matter if you say the moon was full at Christmas and it wasn’t, but it’s pretty lazy not to at least check and take that artistic license. No reader is ever going to know you took the time to do that research…but doing it obviates the potential for exposure if you didn’t.

While I was at it I checked the weather for that season. Much more difficult to find out–every article I saw talked about the extreme weather events bracketing the winter in question. But you can extrapolate a decent amount from an utterly unnoteworthy winter, too. That was five minutes well spent.

And I never had to get up from my desk. Oh, interwebs, I do love thee so.

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Death to Euphemisms

Or, How to Write Historical Fiction Without Sounding Like You’re Trying Too Hard

I find historical fiction that uses a lot of period cant problematic. On the one hand, when it’s done well the linguistic flourishes add depth to the setting and help make you feel like you’re reading about another time on a subconcious level.  On the other hand, when it’s done poorly the writing becomes ridiculous and difficult to take seriously.

I am a fairly cautious writer. Unless I am either certain of my skill set or so invested in an idea that I will put a ton of research time into it, I tend to just circumvent the issue.  With respect to using slang, I…generally don’t. I will sprinkle in a few choice lines here and there in dialogue, where a period phrase I know is the perfect summation of a feeling or situation, or where a modern expletive is easy to replace with an older one, but because I do not think in that language, neither do my characters.

I find myself having to stop and re-word deep point of view sometimes, when a character thinks in a modern euphemism. I know better than to use words like “okay” simply by reflex, but what about phrases like “she didn’t want to broadcast her distress.”  Is “broadcast” an appropriate verb for an early 19th century heroine to use? I have not consulted the OED on this one, but I assume it relates to radio waves and therefore should not be used. 

Moments like this make me realize just how much of our everyday language we take for granted…how many metaphors and euphemisms are buried in words we use by rote.  Catching them all is hard.  But if you can’t be arsed to use actual period slang, the least you can do is avoid modern usages that would be incomprehensible to the characters you’re writing about.

Capish? (Or capice, however it would be spelled when said as the movie mobsters say it.)

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You Have Our Gratitude

Or, Counting One Writer’s Blessings

I am grateful for every person who has purchased one of my books in the last year and half, and for every stranger who has stopped to read one of my posts. I’m especially grateful to those who have encouraged me with likes and comments, and to those of you who found me via absurd and hilarious search terms.

I am grateful for friends, family, and my husband who support my writing and tell me that, yes, I really am a delight to read.  I am especially grateful for a husband who has read a romance novel because he wanted to know what I was working on. I am grateful for my parents’ lack of media savvy so they do not have to be embarrassed by what, exactly, it is that I’m writing.

I am grateful for the internet and the entrepreneurs who make it possible for me to write what I want and offer it to readers without being mediated by a publisher.  I am grateful for the online communities of likeminded writers who support and inspire me in self-publishing endeavors, and for the communities of differently viewed writers who keep us on the “other side” honest about our options and odds.

I am grateful for the education I received from my parents and my public school, and I am grateful to my university professors who taught me how to look at English as a language, look at language as a tool, and look at tools as a means of creation. I am grateful to the young girl named Lily Emily White who took the time to learn and absorb the lessons those professors offered her.

I am grateful, as ever, to my muse, my nameless green-eyed wastrel of a muse who always comes back to me and never minds when I have gone on ahead without him.

I am, indeed, as all of my neighbors love to say, blessed.  And I am grateful for it.

Thank you.

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NaNoWriMo 2/3 Progress Report

Sadly there is not much change to report from last time.  I lost most of a week to traveling, costuming, and finishing up a sewing commission due by the middle of the month.  Then I lost this past weekend to my day job on Saturday and some of hubs and my mutual friends on Sunday, who always seem to require a full day when we go out with them. So last night and this morning were the first opportunities I’ve had to get much done since the 9th.

One of these years, man, I really must give NaNo an actual try instead of selling my writing time short for other obligations. Isn’t that the entire point of the month?

Anyway, I still have Thanksgiving Day and this coming weekend to get piles done. I have not yet given up hope of finishing the novella this month, at least, though I doubt I will finish both it and the novel. Not unless I break a leg or something and and have to spend a few days on forced bed rest where my mind and hands are active and available.

As of now, my word total is around 14K, 11K of which are straight forward progress on the story. I am finding it easier to write scenes as I come to them rather than sketching them in advance (though obviously that is happening some), and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m doing less central planning or because this piece is a novella versus a novel, so it’s easier to keep the threads in mind all at once.

All in all, I’m okay with where I’m at.  I would have loved to be further along, but under the constraints of my actual life this is not an abject failure. Yet. 🙂

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Blessed Are the Cheesemakers – #amwriting cross-post

Or, Artisan Writing

Right now American culture celebrates DIY and the hand-crafted or one-of-a-kind item that is just exactly you.

How many times in the past month have you heard or seen the word “artisan” related to bread, or cheese, or honey—any of the small food crafts that used to be done at home, got exported to large companies, and are now coming back to the hands of individuals running small-scale operations? Etsy (and, I’m sure, other similar sites) has a marketplace of crafters selling either goods they have made or their services to make something specific for you. Microbrews as a group now eclipse any one of the big three beer distributors. The trend in restaurants is smaller spaces with more limited menus that do a few things very well. Hip music now is not to listen to what’s on the radio but to some relatively unknown and esoteric sound that crossed your path in the digital stream. Hundreds of film festivals across the country showcase independently made movies, some of which get picked up for distribution on Amazon or Netflix and sometimes even theatrical runs at the AMC just down the street.

All of these represent a splintering of our popular culture from being dominated and driven by a handful of corporate interests to being dominated not by one or two big things but by a large group of little things. People like to find the niches that appeal to them. We all have slightly different tastes from our friends, and so we find a few common interests and many more that only we, ourselves, are passionate about.

Ebooks and self-publishing have created a marketplace for niche writing, as well.

So how should we, as disintermediated writers, approach our job of writing for an audience with this new long-tail marketplace of niche in mind?

First, take a cue from the cheese-makers: artisan products take time, attention, and deep understanding of the process of creation. Take the time to make your book the best it can be, but don’t hold it from the world so long it becomes over-ripe. Send it out at peak freshness and start on the next batch.

Second, take a cue from the artists on Etsy and give the world the book or story only you can write. This might be the actual plotline of the story, or it might be the fantasy world you’ve built. It might be the way you write—your style, or your pace, or the point(s) of view you choose to use. Just don’t try to re-write someone else’s book. Write your book.

From microbrews you can learn to market yourself based on what makes your writing different. They talk about the honey and the spices they use to flavor that Fall Harvest, or the ridiculous bitterness of their IPA. What’s the most unique part of your book? (Hint: if you’re writing in a well-defined genre, like romance, or one with a ton of iterations, like urban fantasy, it’s much easier to sell your book based on what makes it different, because everyone who reads that genre/sub-genre will have some expectation of elements, thus you can ignore those as a given and focus on what you did differently.)

And, finally, from music and films we learn that to have a successful product, you need to have a product finished to a degree that makes it indistinguishable from a studio-produced project. Just like no one wants to listen to music that sounds like it was recorded in your closet, no one wants to read books that look like they were published from your closet (note: written in a closet is just fine, because editing and proofreading and ebook formatting are meant to take that closet-based feel out of the final version). This is different from the perfect ripeness of your story—tip #1 was about when to stop writing—because it relates not so much to the words and story but to their presentation…to the product nature of a published story. Your book needs to be edited at the very minimum for consistency, typographical errors, and disambiguation. It needs to be proofread for consistency of your punctuation (smart quotes, em dashes, ellipses, chapter headings, etc.). It should have a professional-looking cover and a format with some sense of design, although if these can’t be done, plain and competent is preferable to failed attempts at more.

The main point of all this is what Aristotle described as pride in work. You should be comfortable feeling proud of something you have worked hard to create and produce well, if you have, indeed, met the standard of excellence you set for yourself. Writing is done for yourself; publishing is done for your audience. Take pride in both parts of the process. Take pride in your work.

Be an artisan writer.

Read it on the amwriting blog here.

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Filed under Lily Elsewhere, Writing

If Lena Dunham Were More Honest About Either Sex or Politics

Or, Why I’m Voting for Gary Johnson

If Lena Dunham were more honest about either sex or politics, her appalling confessional about voting for the first time would have gone a little more like this:

“What no one ever tells you about your first time is what a let-down it will inevitably be.  You build it up in your mind like it’s going to be some grand, romantic, life-changing event…something that will make you feel different, better, more sophisticated. It won’t be that way. You’ll find, when the time comes to make that choice, that your options are limited. You pick a guy you sort of like some things about, and even though there’s a lot that you don’t like, you know he’s the best you’re going to get this time, so you go ahead and you go through with it. You give him that place in your life, of being your one and only first. And when it’s over, you don’t really feel any different. You don’t feel that great about what you just did. You’re still the same confused, scared kid you were going in, only this time you’re left standing on the other side wondering, Is that it? Is that all there is to it?

It’s true what they say, that with time comes experience and with experience comes knowledge. You get older. You try it a couple more times with guys you only sort of like. And then you say, No. Enough’s enough. I have more self-respect than this. I deserve more than this. I deserve someone who sees the world the way I do, who I have more than a couple things in common with, and who I don’t disagree with on more than a couple issues. I deserve to experience this with someone I can be passionate about. Someone I can believe in. Someone who won’t let me down.”

And that, fair readers, is why I will be voting for Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party, this year. This is my third Presidential election cycle, and both of my other two votes have gone to candidates I viewed as the lesser of two evils. This time, I’m not voting for someone I consider only slightly less awful than the other guy. I am not voting to cancel out the vote of someone I disagree with. I’m voting with my heart, for a man who stands for almost all of the same things I do, who has pragmatic and specific proposals to act on those beliefs, and who has a voting record that supports his claim that he would actually make good on his promises.

I don’t care that he will not win. What I care about is no longer compromising my political beliefs.

I know many people would claim I am throwing my vote away, but I disagree. Throwing my vote away is giving it to a candidate I don’t even like, but simply fear less than the other guy. Perhaps this election is special simply because both candidates offend so many of the beliefs I am most passionate about, that while there is a difference between them, it is only which part of my self to betray if I were to support one over the other.

I am done feeling dirty and ashamed after walking from the voting booth. I will vote with my heart, and walk out with my head high and my conscience clear.

Republicans…you should have gone with Ron Paul.

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Filed under Rants and Storms