bonny_kate: (Default)
 I finished the first, rough draft of the latest story. It is a hefty (for me) 10,000 words, a steampunk fairy tale of sorts. I think it's rather good, but now I'm at a bit of loose ends as to what to do next.

I really should be editing things, but I'm having a hard time learning how to do that. I'm fumbling around trying to learn how much to trust myself and how much to listen to my various beta readers. I thought I could do this without too much trouble because I've edited papers, but the shape of a paper is very different from the shape of a story (which can seem even more individual). 

But I am writing, and I'm managing to get in a good, solid amount of writing. Three or four hours a week isn't much, but it's a whole lot more than nothing, and I have a 10,000 word story to show for it.
bonny_kate: (book love)
Friday I managed to sit down for an hour and write. I only wrote about 290 words, but I did find the time to write for an hour. I also finished a story (more or less). I am going to try setting aside a bit of time on the weekends to write. Often on Saturdays (and Sundays since we have evening church) I sleep in, but Joel gets up at the regular time and then takes a nap later. I usually spend the time poking about online, but I'm going to try to spend an hour of it writing. We'll see how well it works. If I can get in the habit, I know writing will be easier. I don't expect it will be easy, but it will be easier.
bonny_kate: (Default)
I think of myself as a writer. I am, perhaps, not a very good writer. I am not (and probably won't ever be) one of those writers who write every day. I will never be as prolific as Seanan McGuire, who writes at least two novels a year (and another a year as Mira Grant). I've spent years working (off an on) on outlining one novella, which may yet grow up to be a novel, and it isn't finished yet. On a really good day I can write around 800 words.

But I'm going to claim the title of writer for myself. I am a writer because it is what I am, but also because it is what I'm striving to be. Last year, for a bit, I tried to write for an hour a week. That isn't much, but it was still an effort because I was spending so much emotional and mental energy on job search (a truly heartbreaking task). I wasn't very good at keeping it up. I'm going to try again this year, anyway. After all, I did manage to write a few stories last year, some of them rather decent.

I am also going to work on editing some of my short stories. There is one in particular that I have a few markets in mind for. (I planned on sending it out by last July, but, well, work was insane and then I was sick, and then I was recovering from being sick, and that seems to very neatly sum up my year.) As I keep telling myself, if I can handle being rejected for so many jobs, I can surely handle being rejected for my stories (and I least I have the consolation that story markets tell you that you are rejected, instead of just never getting back to you).

I am going to ignore those people who mean well, but who say that you are only a writer if you are committed to writing. If you write every day, or every week, or always set aside the time for it. I am going to set aside time, but I am also going to recognize that life gets in the way, and that I won't currently prioritize writing that highly. But I am a writer.
bonny_kate: (cinderella)
Today I'm making cupcakes on which I will put the tentacles I made yesterday. I spent a lot of yesterday making tentacles out of Starburst, and all for Joel's birthday. I might be going a little overboard. Well, I don't think I'm going overboard, just trying to give him a nice birthday party. He doesn't do birthday parties, so instead this is an Arkham Horror birthday party with themed food, and fancy paper plates and napkins. It's my compromise, since a friend is hosting it at his house, and I don't want to scare him off by bringing in a pile of decorations too.

The menu (which is vaguely 1920's themed, and based on a few hours googling, so hopefully somewhat accurate):

Deviled eggs - probably. If I get to them. Because deviled eggs were big in practically every era.

Waldorf salad - because it was served at the White House in the twenties, so it is is Classy and Upscale, while also being period. But I'm going to use a yogurt based dressing, so it tastes better than the typical mayo based dressing.

Pigs-in-a-blanket - I had a hard time finding a main dish. If you're going average person in the twenties, things like mayo jello salads were big (ick), and if you're going upscale, things that were fancy and exotic then aren't now (like pineapple and Italian food). So I went with pigs-in-a-blanket, only this will be slightly fancier and will involve sausage instead of hot dogs, because Gatsby served pastry pigs, and from my hasty research, that's basically the same thing. And I don't like oysters.

Eldritch cupcakes - I am holding my breath about these. The tentacles look awesome (once I got the hang of what does and what doesn't work with the Starburst). I am hoping that they will attach properly to the cupcakes (I did a trial run with Starburst, but not with cupcakes), and won't get too droopy for the party).

So, that's the latest craft project. It's a lot of fun, actually, and I've spaced everything out so it isn't too much to do any one day. So far it's working. I also have other crafty projects (need to finish those Red Riding Hood and the Huntsman as werewolf hunters costumes, and am in the middle of an unrelated project sewing a tiny shirt with tiny set in sleeves, because, yes, I do love my friends that much).

And I should write the stories that are in my head. One of them I quite like. Another I started writing, but am going to have to rewrite from the beginning because I got the verb tense wrong. Oh, well, it happens.

There is something about the creative process where either I'm brimming with ideas and wanting to do a million projects (like now), or I just want to watch TV. It cycles like everything else, I suppose.
bonny_kate: (cinderella)
I've been reading a few different writer's blogs lately, and I find it interesting to read different perspectives on GM-ing RPGs. Some authors seem to be saying that RPGs helped them learn how to develop certain things, like characters or backstory or dialogue or world building. Others seem to be saying that RPGs take away valuable time that they could be spending writing. Interestingly, neither perspective covers my experience.

For me, co-GM-inig an RPG takes up story space in my head, but in a different way than writing a story does. I discovered that I can't work on writing on the same day that I'm going to be GM-ing, or my GM-ing seriously suffers. It's a very different way of looking at a story. In order to GM well, I have to have a developed set of characters, an idea of setting, and occasionally some type of set event (such as the Fey attacking the village). But I can't have a set plot. I can have a general idea of where the story is going, but I have to be willing to change it on the whim of the players. They may spend an entire session interacting with the carefully created village obsessed with llamas, and then turn around and blithely kill off archaeologists by sending them into danger. They may entirely ignore carefully crafted characters, or throw a wrench into things by doing something entirely unexpected (like replacing the artifact they are after with a perfectly constructed fake). In order to be a good GM, I have to be flexible with what the players want. I have to scrap my lovely plan because they have come up with something else (which I may not like quite as much). I have to interact with their characters in whatever direction they decide to take things. As someone who plots things out ahead of time*, this is a very different way of thinking about a story. I come up with a situation and let the players react, rather than coming up with a story. I can't expect the players to have a predictable reaction to the situation.

In the story that I'm currently co-GM-ing, I'm working with certain constraints. I didn't write any of the setup. I'm trying to resolve a story that someone else started. If I were starting from scratch, I expect I should set it up a bit differently. I would have a villain (or set of villains) with an agenda and a plan, and the main characters would encounter the beginning of the plan (with many hints as to the ultimate plan) and then I would let them react to the plan (it would be a somewhat morally ambiguous choice). I can't do this to near the same degree because of earlier constraints of the story, but I'm still trying for this as much as I can.

Writing is a different use of story space for me. I have to know where a story is going before I write it. I have to have it plotted out. I don't always have to write the plot down, as in the case of a very short story, but I have to know before I start writing, or the story will stall. I rarely make changes once it is plotted out (I made some changes to my novel when I was doing NaNoWriMo, but considering the scope of it, they mostly weren't large changes). This is similar to how I think about plotting out something to GM; I want to know where things are going and how they are getting there. But, when I write, I know exactly what will happen. There can be a specific set of events that has to happen. More than that, I know what the main characters will do. I know how they will react. I never ditch my beautifully constructed set of challenges because there is something I don't like quite as much. I always know what will happen with those challenges, and I never have to stack the dice to have it happen.

For me, GM-ing is certainly related to writing. I use similar skills, and both, after all, are about story. But they are about story in different ways, and some good GM skills would make for bad writing (for instance, having to remind characters multiple times in multiple ways of important things, because they've forgotten or not noticed or been distracted by the llamas in the story or the brownies on the table). Some aspects of the way I write would be bad if applied to GM-ing (such as the way I poke at an idea until I have it just right and it clicks, and then I don't want to use any other idea).

As an aside, I can make up a story without having it plotted out. I can take a first scene and go somewhere with it. It is almost certainly invention and not inspiration, though. There isn't the sense that everything clicks and has to be a certain way. The sort of stories that I invent aren't alive in the same way an inspired story is.


*Joel, on the other hand, is the sort of GM who has a vague notion of what is going on, and wants to make things up on the spot. I'm not really sure how we GM together, because I want to know what's going on ahead of time.
bonny_kate: (kaylee)
I've occasionally had the blissful moment when a story comes together, and writing it seems effortless. This happens very infrequently. I mostly find writing to be work. It is wonderful, rewarding work that I think is worthwhile, but it is still work (unlike, say, watching the next episode of whatever I'm currently hooked on). I also feel like an atypical writer in that I don't coast. I'm not sure if I'm atypical or not. But I do know that when I did NaNoWriMo it drove me a little crazy that so many of the emails seemed to be saying 'it's lovely, and then it's an uphill slog, and then you reach a magical point where everything seems to click and it's easy (or at least easier) and it all comes together.' This never happened for me. It was an uphill slog all the way (and more so the more I began to care about a book that started off as a writin exercise). I can't remember if there were days that weren't a slog, or hard work, that didn't involve lot's of antsiness and checking facebook and working to get those words written, but I know that even if there were, most days were hard. 

But it's also addicting. Watching a story come out right is wonderful, and finishing a story is lovely (especially when it clicks). I'm two weeks into my New Year's Not-Resolution, and have managed to work on my latest novel for an hour each week (outlining, at this point, because I am the sort of author that needs an outline, or the story never goes anywhere). It's hard, and I keep having to stop myself from checking facebook or reading that latest post on that one website . . . but it's starting to come together, and it's so very good.

I'm also glad to be working on my stories again because it feels like work worth doing. I've spent so long not having a job, and before that, having a lousy job. I'm not sure when I'll get a job. I suspect when I do get a job, it will be entry level and not very challenging (the economy is pretty lousy here in SoCal), so I want to be doing work that is worth doing, and I think for me that is probably writing stories. I've decided that I can handle rejection and waiting around, because I've submitted a ridiculous amount of job applications and so very rarely ever heard back (my last interview, for a job I didn't even want, was over a year ago). So I am planning on editing and submitting stories this year, because even if it means waiting around for a pile of rejections, it will be because I'm submitting stories
bonny_kate: (Default)
or, How to Avoid Boring Your Readers

I was reading a serialized novel, and my mind started to wander. This is exactly what you don't want to happen if you are an author. Once the reader starts to wander, to ask questions about the reality of the story, you've already lost. I shall then take a close look at the passage in question, and see what can be gained from reading it.

From Procyx (in the April 2003 issue of Deep Magic):

The parkways were themselves sweeping gardens. The fragrances of rich, floral perfumes drifted and flowed among the trees. They were exquisite, never competing - always complimentary. One fragrance would seem to drift by and end, and there would be an interval of olfactory silence before another scent might swell upon the air.


That's it, in its entirety. Now, before I begin to dissect it, let me show you just what was wrong. Compare the following paragraph, which adds on my thoughts.

The parkways were themselves sweeping gardens. The fragrances of rich, floral perfumes drifted and flowed among the trees. They (the fragrances, not the trees) were exquisite, never competing - always complimentary (this word never failed to remind him of art class in high school). One fragrance would seem to drift by and end, and there would be an interval of olfactory silence (he winced, even as he thought it, because it really was mixing metaphors) before another scent might swell upon the air. Reeber sneezed twice, in quick succession, and felt in his pockets for a kleenex. He never would have thought that he would be allergic to the flowers of that earthly utopia. At least, he assumed they were flowers, as the trees weren't blooming, but he couldn't actually see them. He snufffled. His eyes were already beginning to water.


So what happened? Obviously, by the end of the description I'm bored stiff, and have wandered off on a mental tangent. The first sentence isn't bad. It isn't very interesting, but it gives necessary information. The second sentence begins to give interesting images. We have perfume, but no flowers for the perfume to come from. In other words, the image is very nebulous at this point. Now, the next sentence get's into a bit of trouble. The last noun was "trees", but "they" refers to "the fragrances". This bit of confusion drew me out of the story for a moment, until I understood what the author was saying. Now I'm paying more attention to the words, which is bad. I don't just follow the flow of the story. The author must, at this point, work to regain my attention.

The next sentence, about the drifting fragrances, is bad. It gives no concrete images or scents. We don't see any flowers, or pollen on the air, or know what it smells like. Do the scents come from the trees? from herbs? from flowers? Are they sweet or pungent? Is it more like cinnamon or roses? What associations does the narrator have with the scents? I can't picture the garden, I can't smell the garden. I see someone standing in the middle of trees (and I don't even know whether they are really ordered, like a park, or more unkempt, like a wood), smelling various things.

Now, the description "olfactory silence" seems particularly ill timed. It mixes senses. There may not be a word for "not smelling anything in particular at the moment", but that is no excuse. But this might have been excused, if it was clear what sort of silence it was. There are all sorts of silence: the quiet after everyone has gone to bed, the tense silence while a class is taking an important test, the happy silence when everyone in the lab is working on a project that is going decently, the numbing sensation when a large, persistent noise like a drill has suddenly stopped, or the delicious silence on the way back from a party when the people in the back seat of the car have stopped talking. But we don't know which of these silences it is like. Further, it is confusing, because just a few sentences ago, the author was talking about mingling the fragrances, and here it is quite plain that they don't mix. What's a reader to do?

Finally, this is the sort of story that doesn't seem particularly realistic. I love gardens, especially the sweet, citrus smell of my roses on a muggy evening. But they make me sneeze. Most flowers do, in fact. Or they make my nose run. In fact, lot's of scents, particularly unexpected, strong scents, make me sneeze.

I should close by saying that this is definitely a problem passage. The author wrote some pretty decent stuff (otherwise I should never have made it this far). But any scene that confuses or bores the reader is bad. Once the reader stops to pay attention to phrases like "olfactory silence," you've lost them. Now, it may be possible to gain their interest again (or they may feel like slogging through the rest of the book because they've already read most of it), but it is still poor writing, and you risk the reader putting down the book and never picking it up again.
bonny_kate: (regency)
I'm back from the beach, with a lovely tan. I almost never tan, so I am quite happy (I either remember to put on sunblock and come back quite white, or I forget and burn). Well, I have a nice tan on my top half. I have lines from my capris on my legs, and flip flop marks, but those really don't count.

As a result of not writing for a week, I have two stories simmering in my head (two new ones, I mean, I have oodles of halway done ones, and some that I need to just write). One is an absolutely intriguing modern story that has echos of Briar Rose, but with tatoos and things (I've been better than usual and jotted the outline down). But I have decided that, in general, there shall be no new stories written, or started until I finish The Story. Because Jenn is waiting for that story, and I can't dissapoint.

Regency dancing tomorrow! Woot! I found these gorgeous wooden fans at one of the little shops we visited. They are thin wood, and are this pretty design. I've been practicing opening and closing them with one hand. I'm really rather good at it. I expect that the dresses will be stunning, the conversation interesting, and the dancing great fun (and I promise to post pictures, eventually).

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Kate Saunders Britton

April 2017

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