Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #002

Welcome to the second addition of Work in Progress Wednesday, which appropriately enough, is a work in progress itself.

If anyone else out there in the blogosphere wants to join in on the fun, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

So, once again I'm going to kick my own post off with thee ye olde word count meter.

82407 / 85000 words. 97% done!

That's right, I am 6% closer to finishing my WIP this week than I was last week! It's awesome, it's great, it's... not one hundred percent accurate.

You see, in an ironic twist worthy of an Alanis Morisette song I have been endlessly worrying since somewhere around the 50K mark that my book will not be long enough, and now it seems like it might end up being longer than my estimated 85K.

Waaayyy back in July when I first began writing this thing I was aiming for a final work count of 100K, but after I got several chapters in I realized that I had these kind of short little chapters in the 2500-4000 range. So I did a rough chapter by chapter outline and then pulled up the trusty calculator function. Here is my extremely skillful use of mathmatics (try not to be intimidated):

(# of chapters) multiplied by (estimated # of pages per chapter) = *smack head on desk repeatedly*

Yeah, it wasn't quite the 100K I had envisioned. No big though. I regrouped, researched, and realized that Urban Fantasy's should be more in the 85K arena anyway. So, things were back on track until, like I said earlier at the 50K range I started to worry that the story might finish before I got into the 80's.

At this point I did what I do best. I worried. I fretted. I stressed as if stressing was an Olympic sport and I was going for the gold (I would totally win it too, just ask my husband and he will roll his eyes in confirmation).

Then I did the other thing I do. I went on the internet seeking answers. I found an entry on The Swivet Blog concerning word count lengths for different genres. For Urban Fantasy it listed 80-90K as the range to be in. This posting became a sort of security blanket for me, whenever I was feeling uneasy about my word count I'd pull it up, look at those numbers, and give myself a little pep talk that went like this:

"Okay self, you can get to 80K. I know, I know. But what if you can't? If you can't that's okay too. You already know that there are holes in the beginning that you'll have to go back and spackle the hell out of. Once you take care of that it'll punch your word count up where you need it. Oh and self? The whining?So not attractive."

When this didn't work, I consulted another agent blog posting about word count - this one over at Pub Rants. This one specifically addresses the problem with novels that are too short and states that a full length novel is usually 70-100K words.

Now I am sure at this point you are reading this long winded blog post and thinking, "Really you were worried about having enough words? Because, honestly, that does not seem like that much of a problem for you."

And if you were thinking this then you are right.

By the end of this week I will almost certainly reach my goal of writing 85K words, but I don't think I will at that point be writing "the end" - that is not unless I want a book with a very very very abrupt cliffhanger ending, along the lines of:

"And then I... THE END."

Maybe I am wrong though, if nothing else this post has confirmed that estimating word counts is a very tricky business indeed. I guess I will just have to see what happens and update you during next weeks WIP Wednesday whether I reached the true ending or not. (See, now that's a cliffhanger ending, even I'm dying to find out what happens.)

What about you? Anyone else counting words like a crazy person, or are you somewhere else in your WIP?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heart of Darkness

It's blog chain time again and this time Leah got things rolling with this question:

So blog chain, (and others) show me your dark side...What do you do to amp up the conflict? What pins do you stick in the little voodoo dolls? How do you torture your characters???

When I first read this question the thought of darkness brought this poem to mind:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

-Stephen Crane
I love this poem. And while I cannot find the words to explain exactly what the exact meaning of it is, I do know that when asked to find the darkness within myself this is what I think of.

What I don't think of is my own writing. As much as I love the image of writers torturing their characters and using them as little voodoo dolls - I don't know that I do this. At least not consciously.

When I'm writing I am usually in one of two modes:

1.) Analytical mode. This is when I look at the story as a whole more like a machine with lots of moving parts. I need action here, motivation there, and resolution over here. I'm just trying to figure out the best way to get the puzzle to fit together.

2.) In the story mode. I guess this one is sort of self-explanatory. When I am actually typing and letting the story flow sometimes things happen that I really hadn't planned on happening. As long as this doesn't pull the story completely off-course from where I need it to go, then I just let it happen. So, at this point when bad stuff happens I don't really feel like
I'm causing it, but rather it simply is what it is.

I don't think I'm explaining myself very well here, and maybe that's just because I'm not all that comfortable with the idea of darkness within myself. Ultimately, I like stories about redemption and the ability of the human spirit to rise above, and even if I do have a hidden heart of darkness, ultimately I'd like it to bring light.

Want to read a much better response to this interesting question? Yeah, so do I. Let's both head over to the blog before mine in the chain over at Mary Lindsey's Weblog. And after that why not pop over to Archetype Writing, because I know she is going to have some interesting thoughts on this question as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #001

And now for something completely different, exciting, and new... I hope.

Recently, I discovered the phenomenon of weekly blog events, wherein one blog hosts a topic or question on a weekly basis. My previous "Monday Musings" post is an example of one that I participate in through the Just One More Page blog.

I've really enjoyed participating in the Monday Musings and have found some other similar weekly blog events that I look forward to taking part in. What I especially enjoy is having a chance to explore and leave comments on different blogs that I might never have found otherwise.

However, while I found many of these events centered around books and reading, there weren't many that specifically dealt with the actual writing of a book and the process of trying to get it published. Since this is something that is such a big part of my life (and blog) I decided it would be fun to host my own weekly event.

I'm calling it Work In Progress Wednesdays. Here is how it works: Every Wednesday I'll post here on my blog giving an update of where I am with my own WIP. Then anyone who is interested can come by and either:

1.) Write a post on your own blog about the status of your WIP, and then leave a link in the comments of the current weeks Work in Progress Wednesday (It's cool if you don't post on Wednesday too, you can have a WIP any day of the week you choose, it just won't be a cool alliteration.) to your own blog posting for that week. Feel free to grab the WIP Wednesday logo for your post as well!

2.) If you don't have a blog feel free to just type your Work in Progress Wednesday directly into the comments for that weeks post.

As for what exactly counts as a Work in Progress, I am giving that a broad definition. Whether you are on your first draft or twentieth, in the process of querying agents, or are just between projects trying to decide what direction you want to go in next - feel free to share.

So, for my #001 (Pronounced double-oh-one, if you don't mind. Yes, I could have simply gone with plain old 1, but I asked myself what would James Bond do? And here we are.) WIP Wednesday I am going to start with a good old-fashioned word count meter.

77743 / 85000 words. 91% done!

Look at all the blue on that bar and then the teeny-tiny smidge of white. Then look at the pretty little numbers stating that I am 91 percent done! Which means that I have less than ten percent left to write.

It is the freaking home stretch and way back when in the year 2008, when I was at a mere 20k and having to drag each word out of myself and slap it on the page, I thought that when I hit this almost finished point all I would have to do was sit down in front of the computer and let the words roll right out of me.

"Ha!" That's what I say to my past self. "Also, past self? Your intuitional abilities suck."

If writing is like running a marathon then my second wind should be kicking in right about now just in time to run past the crowd of cheering spectators and then bust through the whooo, you finished the race ribbon.

But if this was a race - I'm not running. I'm not even crawling. No, right now I'm belly down on the asphalt dragging myself forward by my fingernails.

Coincidentally, if I ever did try and run a marathon (and this is one of my goals, although when I first announced this to my family a few years back they laughed at me and then asked me if I knew how long a marathon was. To be fair their laughter was not totally uncalled for. One, because they were right, I really didn't have any idea how long a marathon was and Two, for many years I had loudly voiced my belief that the only good reason to run was if someone was chasing you. However, I changed my thinking in college when a friend passed along a bit of wisdom that she had read somewhere saying that the activity of running is like cutting your fat away with a knife. Maybe I'm just a sucker for an evocative image, but that hit home. Now, instead of being a person who has no interest in running, and has no desire to be convinced otherwise, I'm a person who has no interest in running, and would very much like to be convinced otherwise. It's a subtle, but important shift.) I would almost certainly finish in a similar fashion.

All the marathon analogy crap aside, my goal is to finish by the end of February. This goal has already been shifted multiple times, from wanting to finish by last fall, to the end of 2008 and now February. I'm sick of moving my freaking goal posts (I'm also getting sick of the sports analogies.), so I am determined to pull myself forward by whatever means necessary until I can finally write: "the end" at the end of this current month.

And then after that - rewrites. Sigh. But that's a subject for another WIP Wednesday.

Anybody else at the end of a first draft and have the same so close, yet so far away feeling? Or is anyone in rewrite limbo and wish they could go back to those carefree days of only having to think about finishing a first draft? I look forward to reading some other responses!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monday Musings on Sunday

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book reviews…
Do you read any non-blogging book reviews? If so, where (newspaper, library etc)? Do you have any favorites sources you'd like to share?

I will actually read a book review from just about anywhere that I find one. Seriously, if there was a dirty piece of paper blowing through a parking lot that said "Book Reviews" on it, I'd going running after it. Luckily for my husband who would be not too thrilled at me bringing filthy papers that I got from who knows where into our home, this does not often happen.

My main source of book reviews is from Entertainment Weekly magazine. I've had a subscription to this magazine for several years and during that time I have seen the book review section shrink increasingly smaller. At times I have even considered writing one of those letters to the editor saying something along the lines of, "maybe if you spent a few less pages endlessly analyzing the stupid and meaningless awards show known as The Oscars, then maybe you would be able to give more than three pages to the books section." The only thing that stops me is that I really don't think I want to be one of those people who write letters to the editor.

However, to give EW their due, it was Stephen King's review of The Hunger Games that brought this book to my attention. After reading the review I put it on hold at the library, and ended up getting it just in time for Christmas vacation at my parent's house. I was only a hundred pages into it when I woke up at 2am unable to sleep due to the ten year old mattress that we were sleeping on is quite possibly the most uncomfortable sleeping surface in the world. I decided to go downstairs and read for awhile until I felt tired again. Hours passed and as bleery-eyed as I became I could not put that damn book down. I ended up finishing it around 8am, at which time I climbed back into bed just in time to get comfortable, close my eyes, and hear my son start whining in the next room. And yet, it was totally worth it.

Another source of book reviews and book news comes from The Wall Street Journal. About two years ago the WSJ started showing up outside our door. Well, sort of outside our door. We live in an apartment building and there are four other units on our floor. The delivery person managed to throw the paper so that it landed almost perfectly at the midsection of all four apartments, meaning it could belong to anyone.

Since we knew we hadn't subscribed to the newspaper my husband and I ignored it for the next several days. Our neighbors ignored it as well and soon WSJ's began to pile up outside. As we began to notice that some of them seemed to be slightly more in front of our door than the others, we decided to take pity on the poor papers and bring them into our home. So, it was that everyday another paper rolled with a rubber band would come into our house, sit on our kitchen table for a little while, and then go into the trash, untouched.

It was my understanding at this point that the WSJ was nothing more than stock quotes and a few blah, blah, blah articles about economics. Then one day something strange happened. As I was sitting at the kitchen table having a snack I happened to glance over at the paper and peeping through it's rubber band bound pages I could see a headline to an article that actually looked interesting. Curious, I unrolled the paper and read the article. It was not only interesting, but also wonderfully written, and had nothing to do with economics at all! This was how I discovered that on the front page of the WSJ they always have a really great human interest article, and as I delved further into the paper I found that they also lots of other great stuff as well - not the least of which was book reviews.

I have come to look forward to my daily WSJ delivery, and a few months ago when my great-grandmother-in-law asked if she should renew the subscription (since she was the one behind the mysterious appearance of the paper on our doorstep) I answered with an enthusiastic, "Yes, please!"

Other than that there is also a little free paper at my local library that has not so much reviews, but short blurbs for books and I try to pick one of those up when I am there.

I also look for recommendations/reviews on random blogs, NPR, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and through Google Reader I read The New York Times Books Section and all their excellent reviews.

What about you? Where is your favorite place to read book reviews?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Monday Musings

In an effort to branch out into the gigantic blogging world I've decided to participate in some weekly themes that are linked to other blogs. Today I'm answering the Monday Musings question hosted by Just One More Page...

What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favorite one?

I have to begin by admitting that, yes, I do sometimes fold down the page corner to mark my spot. This is obviously not a very nice thing to do to a poor helpless book, especially a hardcover library book with the thick paper that will hold onto the memory of that crease forever.

My other less than perfect methods of not losing my place in a book have included: placing a tissue I have on hand between the pages (and with my all-seasonal allergies I always have a tissue on hand), leaving the book open face-down on some flat surface which in it's own way is as cruel a thing to do to the spine as turning down a page is to the paper.

However, before the book lovers of the world gather an angry mob with fiery torches to punish me for the error of my ways - let me be clear that I prefer to use a bookmark of some sort and have done so for my entire reading life.

The Erie County library system that provided 99% of the books that I read up until I moved to California had these cards in the backs of all the books that they would stamp with the return date. Ah, stamping a return date - already it sounds like such an antiquated notion. However, these cards were great. On one side they had the numbers 1 and 2 and on the other side 3 and 4. Using these cards I was able to devise a system wherein if I left off on the left hand page I would place the card so that the 1/3 was sticking up, and if I was on the right hand page, the the 2/4 would be up.

It was a wonderful system also because in essence every book came with it's own bookmark, but also a little pocket at the back of the book to keep the bookmark in while I was reading so it didn't get lost in the couch cushions, bedsheets, pool water, or wherever else I happened to be that day.

Since then I have struggled to find another system that works as well. Sometimes I'll use the little printout receipt that the library gives me when I check books out. Sometimes I'll use some odd scrap of paper that happens to be lying around. And sometimes I'll find a misplaced bookmark and actually remember to use that.

Lately though I have been using this bookmark that I just received from my MIL (this is the librarian MIL of the Barnes and Noble gift card who I've mentioned before) as part of my Christmas gift.

And as luck would have it, I also received an excellent book mark from one of my crit partners during our Secret Santa this past year. As you can see, it is currently marking a page of a reference book (also part of the same SS gift) on my cluttered bookshelf.

What about you? Tell me in the comments if you're a book marker, page folder, or have some other odd method for marking your page?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writing Vows

I missed the last round in the blog chain due to illness, but I'm back and just in time for a great topic chosen and started by Terri.

Have you ever had anything cause you to step back from writing? If so, what was the cause and how long did it take you to get back into the swing of things? If not, do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?

Basically the question is about the things that stop us from writing. Or top put it in visual terms - how do you go from this:

Fenced in.

or this:


To this:

Nothing's gonna get in my way.

Okay, so obviously the point of this visual display is that you can't let anything, including life, keep you from your writing.

But perhaps you are looking at this saying, well sure that is fine for dogs who can fly, but I don't have hind legs.

And I hear ya. So, let me try and put this another way.

Writing has been a part of my life for pretty much my entire life, or at least from the point where I could first put words together on paper, which was 2nd grade. At school during our free time my best friend and I used to write little story books together and sometimes if we could get a huge piece of paper we would draw the mansion that we would live in together in California when we became famous writers. Clearly, this was a very realistic fantasy.

The best friend and I stopped being friends sometime around fifth grade, but luckily my relationship with writing was longer lasting.

But it was never a formal relationship, instead it continued to be something that I did during my free time. And things went like this until a little over a year ago when I started writing my first novel. It began because my son was napping, and I had nothing else to do.

This, however, was not the first novel that I've started. I've actually been starting novels for over ten years. Starting is easy. Finishing though takes something else: commitment. I would even go so far as to say that one could apply the traditional wedding vows of:
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.
and apply them to your writing.

Hmmm... only problem with this is that I already admitted at the top of this post that when I was sick I took time off from the blog chain. And full disclosure - I took time off from my WIP as well.

Okay, so yes, I cheated on my writing vows. And it wasn't the first time either. I don't write when I'm sick. I don't write when I'm super-tired. I don't write if I'm depressed. And sometimes I don't write just because my ass hurts from sitting in the damn desk chair for too long.

But here's the important thing - writing is the world's most forgiving spouse and will take you back every time. Say you're sorry, promise never to do it again (although you know you will), and then get back to work.

Life's gonna get in the way, and sometimes there's no getting around that. Just do your best to try and clear the fences, and stick to your commitment.

Want to read some other thoughts on this question? Well, Jessica Verday was before me in the chain and Archetype is directly after. Make sure to go to their blogs, and all the blogs on the chain (see sidebar directly to your right) to get the full story.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Blogging + Links = Blonking

It's been a while since I've done a blog post with nothing but fun links to other things or what I like to call blonking.

First off I want to point you towards Michelle McLean's Writer Ramblings who this month is doing weekly posts on poetry in honor of Valentine's Day. In this first posting she discusses how to write a heroic couplet. It would be an actual heroic act on my part if I could write one of those couplets, but sadly this skill is beyond me due to a genetic disorder that makes it impossible for me to decipher where the stressed syllable is in a word. And since knowing where the stress is in a word is kind of the basis of iambic pentameter, which is then (according to Michelle and I think she knows what she's talking about) the 2nd step in creating a heroic couplet - I think this will be beyond me.

It was during college while I was taking a speech class as part of my theatre classes that I discovered this odd disability. We had to choose a poem and go through the whole thing marking where the stressed syllables where. By the time I finished this assignment my two poor roommates were ready to kill me, because this is what I did for each word.

ME: FOR-get. for-GET. FOR-get. for-GET. hmmm. for-GET. for-GET. FOR-get?

Roommates Jenny and Melissa in Chorus: AAAUUUGGHHH!!! How can you not hear it? Listen. Forget. Don't you hear it? Forget.

ME: So... FOR-get?

It was good times.

Okay, another great link. I have already mentioned my love of Query Tracker and what a great resource it is for finding the right agent to query and keeping track of said agents while you query. The forums over there are full of some of the best people on earth as well. And now to complete the QT trifecta of awesome there is also a blog. The posts are full of great info on how to write a query letter, synopsis, logline, and so much other information. I highly recommend checking it out.

This next link is one that I found a while ago on the Dear Author website, where it discusses how woman feel the need to be defensive or feel apologetic about reading romance. Since this goes back to my own posting about coming out of the genre closest, I found it to be an argument that really hit close to home for me. - especially when she talks about at first being apologetic about not reading very many male authors. I am also a male author avoider (well in fiction, in non-fiction I think I actually tend to favor male authors - try and figure that one out.) - in fact when I perusing the shelves at the library or bookstore if I see a male name on a book that I was reaching for, I usually think "meh" and pull back.

Finally, for a bit of silliness here are some of my favorite bits from the FAIL blog. It was a few months ago that I first discovered this blog and there is definitely a bit of an element of schadenfreude (If you aren't sure of the exact meaning of this word I recommend following this link to have it explained in song from the musical Avenue Q) involved in enjoying it.

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures