Tag Archives: Writing

Best Worst Writing Retreat Ever!

Last week I didn’t write any blog posts, on purpose! You see every once in a while my Mom and I pack all our writing supplies and head off to a cabin Casino in the woods and write for a few days. It’s cool because the rooms are dirt cheap mid-week in the dead of winter, there’s free soda all the time, there are shiny things to distract us when we’ve been sitting at our computers for too many hours, I have a pool to jump into when I’m fed up with everything, we don’t have to argue about eating because there’s a buffet or three, and generally all kinds of good things.

This time we headed up to Black Bear, which is a beautiful building with really decent food located in one of my favorite places on earth (Lake Superior, specifically about 25 minutes outside Duluth, MN). If the people there had been a little more welcoming I would have been in hog heaven, but they were all a bit… unfriendly and it was an issue.

I can’t write in places where I feel unwelcome. It’s why I stick to coffee shops and libraries and my apartment for writing times. I pay to be in those places, whether through rent or taxes or by buying overpriced tea, so I have every right to be there. On the other hand, I can’t write at my parents’ house or Maddy’s family farm because I am a guest there, no matter that I’m family. The Erins that  are guests in other people’s homes are not the Erins who do the writing. Maybe they will be someday, but the Erins who write are still pretty sensitive artistic types and fear rejection from friends and family. That feeling of unwelcome made me less-than-disposed to write on my writing retreat, so I did what any good writer would: I started reading.

I read my own novel-in-progress, Steamstress, which was sometimes awful, sometimes good and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Then the next day I went for breakfast with the plan of reading Tim Buckley’s Great Games Bowl novella* after which I was exiled from the room by housekeeping so I wandered the resort, looking unsuccessfully for a place to work. In the end I wound up in the lobby, reading the Steampunk! anthlogy on my Kindle and pretending it was work (I’m writing steampunk, it kind of was) then I was sucked into it and then the third Soul Screamers* book came in at the library (oh Kindle library lending, how I do love thee, how I do love thy ability to deliver books to my Kindle anywhere) and then… I read the next three books in the series, plus the two novellas. Then my Kindle died, just as I was tweeting the completion of my sixth book of the day. I got a bit done the next day, but obviously not the glorious burst through the finish line bout of writing I’d been expecting on the outset.

So, was it a waste? Should I have stayed home?

No. Because as I was falling into bed last night I was thinking about the things that bugged me in the protagonists of the last two YA series I’ve inhaled (Soul Screamers and Jessica), namely that they proved competent time and again, but would revert to hiding behind their boyfriends until it became necessary to be competent again. That’s overstating it a bit for Soul Screamers, Jessica hangs a lantern on the problem and both resolve it in a way that I find acceptable, but I realized I’d done the same thing in my book, unintentionally. That’s not the story I want to tell and that sure as hell is not my grumpy protagonist (I love my grumpy protagonist).

In the midst of this epiphany/breakdown last night I realized (and affirmed said realization as not crazy with two sources) that I would have to excise large tracts of delightful gooey romance from the book. It not only allowed Grumpy Protagonist to learn things without earning that knowledge, because the Honorable Love Interest would tell her, but also was way too easy on the Honorable Love Interest. Things happened more or less according to his plan and as we all know, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, especially when the enemy is Grumpy Protagonist (also, I, as a writer, am morally obligated to make things as hard as possible for my favorite character, especially when he’s the Honorable Love Interest, those are my achilles heel) . So, that’s a lot of editing to do and some major changes to make, including new characters to add (Grumpy Protagonist gets a BFF whether she wants it or not! BFF is awesome and comes with Polar Bears!) all of which will make the novel much stronger because I no longer have an improbable romance dragging down my character progress.

It’s a major improvement to the novel, and I would never have spotted it if I hadn’t spent my writing retreat reading.

*This is the third comic I’ve seen branch into prose fiction in the last few years and I must say that it holds its own against the Fables and Girl Genius novels.

**Loved the series, entertaining as hell, fun, really great take on the paranormal YA thing. I was describing it to a 15-year-old boy and he wanted to try them out. I think the covers might scare him, but I may find a copy of the first book, “give” it to his sister and tell him to check it out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Writing

A thought, a plan, a canal, more posts

One part of that title is a lie.

I watched this 20/20 special yesterday about YouTube and the people who rise to fame and fortune because of it, I then talked with my Dad about it at lunch and what I was saying about providing consistent, regular content for your audience being the key to growing said audience struck a chord with me.  The thing is, that statement is not at all true about this blog at all. I never post and that’s because I’m lazy, particular about how my content looks, I agonize over every word and in the end it’s easier to post to Tumblr or Twitter. In writing circles we would say I struggle to silence my inner editor. That. Ends. Today.

My plan is to limit myself to thirty minutes for writing blog posts for one year.

If I have an idea that would make a good post I’ll do some limited prep (if there are pictures to download or vitally important links to gather) and then have half an hour to write and five minutes to edit it before I hit post. Period.

Does this mean the quality of my posts will suffer? Probably, unless it cuts down on my tendency to ramble. I’ll have less time to research, to find links or pictures to support my ideas and I ask your patience with that. Find evidence to prove/disprove me and put it in the comments, I’ll be doing the same.

Does this mean I can post more frequently? Absolutely. That’s the point of the exercise. I need to tell my inner editor to shush up about Appa (Avatar: The Last Airbender reference, I am incapable of saying shut up anymore, it always turns into that phrase) and just write. If it means I post three rambling posts that contradict each other, than that’s okay because I’m (hopefully) taking you though my thought process.

I’ve got over half of my thirty minutes left, but I’ve said what I had to say. With the exception of one post going up tomorrow (it’s already written and scheduled) I won’t take more than 35 minutes to do a post on this blog for the next year.

Please bear with me and understand that I’m trying to grow as a writer, not fill your feed readers with useless junk.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ponderings, Rules, Web, Writing

Willful Suspension of Disbelief Only Goes So Far

Warning: Contains Feminism.

Second Warning: I am not an accomplished feminist scholar, a fault I lay at the highly successful feet of the women who have gone before me.  I don’t always recognize when I’m being marginalized, because it is a bit of a foreign concept to me.

So… I finished A Game of Thrones. It took me three tries over about nine months, but I bested the beast. As expected, I was not overly fond of it. I’m currently reading the second book and I’ll read the rest of the series, because I am invested in a few of the characters, not all of them, but a few.

I was surprised when I didn’t really struggle with the content of the books, but rather a lack of desire to keep reading.  It killed my second attempt at Game of Thrones when I left the book at my parents’ house right around the halfway point and never bestirred myself to go get it so I could finish. My parents live 10 minutes away and I’m over there a few times a week, all of which is to say it wasn’t lack of opportunity, it was lack of desire. A Game of Thrones is at least the fourth book I’ve put down for such an extended period in recent months and that is so unusual for me that I’ve mulled it over for a few days trying to puzzle out why it happened.

Today, however, I had a breakthrough. I was in the shower (a magical place for thinking) and I decided to take the Bechdel Test to a few books that were on my mind. This led to me doing something you’re not supposed to do with the Bechdel Test: use it to classify the overall feminism of a work.   Some books, including A Game of Thrones passed with flying colors, others, including what I’ve read of A Clash of Kings (the second book in the series), made me rack my brain to come up with an example.  When it comes down to passing the test versus passing it well most of the books I’d struggled to finish fell in the latter category. After a lot of thinking and trying on different definitions I have an explanation for what they share and why it is so frustrating.

I like to call this the isolated female protagonist or the isolated female.  Look at your shelf of fantasy novels and think about how many of the female protagonists in those novels interact with other women of their own free will. I’m not suggesting that the female protagonist needs to be sent to the kitchens or anything, just that they have a frustrating tendency to be set apart from other women in a way male protagonists are not set apart from other men. Sometimes this is because comparatively normal women don’t exist or aren’t present in the books, but more often the female protagonists tend to  throw off traditional roles in a way that isolates them.

The worst part is that I completely understand one part of why the isolated female happens, especially in a work trying for historical accuracy. Men hit harder than women, so the big army you’ll use to fight the epic battle is going to be made of men and your research is going to focus on depicting those men. If you’re good you’ll research not just the stuff your heroes are doing but how the cavalry, infantry and archers work, maybe even delve into what kind of men they might be when they aren’t fighting.  This in turn leaves you with little to no time to even think about the half of the population not in your big army, so you ignore them, not out of spite, but because they aren’t as necessary to your writing as a whole.  This means that when you write one of your female characters in a down moment you can either surround her with well-researched men or poorly researched women. It’s hard to fault the choice there.

The whole situation, both the isolated females and the lack of common women in proportion to common men is so jarring for me, personally. I know exactly what I would be doing in any other historical era.  If you doubt me on this, try to find a museum without a single spindle. The idea that I and my skills wouldn’t have a useful place in a fantasy world is is a major turn off for me.  It’s not really something I think about consciously, but I react positively when books show all kinds of women making things or doing things, that includes having laundresses and cooks, nurses and seamstresses.  It’s a fault in a lot of books, including some by authors I love (cough Mistborn cough).

I have more thoughts on this, I’ve got examples that I’d pull out if I didn’t have work in the morning, hell, I’ve got half a mind to coalesce, gather references and look into publishing, but I mostly wanted to start a conversation so have at it! I’ll see you all on the other side of MiniCon!

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Ponderings

Explaining Two Sentences in Five Paragraphs

Ugh. 0 words written on Project Rizzo Allen today.  I mean I did a lot of things, I applied for a bunch of jobs and played a little Kingdom Hearts (replaying these games is good for my mental health, I swear it is) and I continued my experiments with alcoholic ice cream floats, just no writing.  I imagine that a few of the things in those last few sentences are confusing, allow me to explain.

Project Rizzo Allen

Doctor Who artist Matthew Dow Smith mentioned on his twitter that he uses Muppets as code names for projects he doesn’t want to talk about in detail yet. This makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t mind talking about what I write, but I don’t make up titles easily, no writer should get too attached to any title, and, honestly, I freaking love the Muppets in just about every form. So I’m using Muppet code names. Don’t ask me where the Allen part came from because I made it up in August and I have no idea what the purpose was at the time*, but I like it enough to let it stand.  In fact, if anyone wants to guess at why I put “Allen” at the end I will accept any silliness you all come up with as truth.  I updated the sidebar with the Muppet codenames for everything and I’m glad I have a way to talk about things without having to make up official titles for them. I hate naming things as is, so having a pool of names to pull from makes my life easier, as the Muppets so often do.

I Applied for a Bunch of Jobs

Here’s the thing, I’ve been working as a contractor for over a year, so I’m getting used to minimal job security. This one snuck up on me during November. I’m applying to my top tier aspiration jobs right now, gonna do more extensive searching next week when I am actually unemployed, and I’ll probably use my bartending certification in more than one way before this month is out.

Alcoholic Ice Cream Floats

Speaking of bartending, I blame NaNoWriMo, late nights, and twitter for my latest little obsession.  I was struggling on Monday night to hit 25,000 words according to my sense of justice (I put some outline words in for padding because the NaNo site kept eating away at my word count in the official validation) and twitter gave me two ideas for celebration.  Matt was having Scotch and Mitch was having a Root Beer Float, so I combined the two and you saw the results yesterday. I’m working on a new one, I will say it’s Orange Soda based, but I’m going for a complex flavor that I haven’t worked out yet.  It’ll be cool if I can make it work.

No Writing

This isn’t strictly true. I write very intensive cover letters that I edit very poorly (I’m a terrible self editor, remember that if I ever ask any of you to beta read a book. Terrible. Self. Editor.), I tweet constantly and I’m writing this here blog now. So what I meant was that I did no writing on Project Rizzo Allen, but I did do some nice worldbuilding on Project Pepe during my commute.

It’s exciting because I had all but given up on the world Project Pepe is set in, the original story (it was the NaNo novel from 2006) was a bit Mary Sueish and came darn close to X-Men fanfiction. I’ve always desperately wanted to do something cool there, because I like a lot of the worldbuilding, the characters and I think this world needs more Super Hero novels.  What I couldn’t figure out was how to mitigate the elements of, well, bad fan fiction until this week. I had a couple of those “What if I changed this?” thoughts that completely coalesced the story for me. It was what I like to call the coda book. I went through a period where all of my series had a main sequence and then a coda afterwards to give me some closure on the decisions I made during the series.  Anyway the coda, Project Pepe, is another feel from the Super Hero High School trope I was playing with originally and it’s so much better.  There is more meat to the story and I get to keep the parts of the world that I like while losing the baggage. I’ve spent months trying to work out how to do this world justice, and now I’ve figured it out and it feels really good.

So there, five paragraphs on two brief sentences about my day. How in the world did I manage to lose NaNoWriMo?

*ETA: I think I figured out where Allen came from, and I think the codename was originally for a completely different project set in the Project Pepe universe (thanks Evernote for keeping all my story notes sitting around), but at this point I’ve named so many parts of Project Rizzo Allen so many things that I’m just gonna run with it as is.  A gold star to anyone who guesses why I used Allen now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Drinks, me me me, Twitter, Writing