Monday, August 25, 2014

I kind of think I probably don't need that....

Two years ago (!) I posed about the word "that"; how most sentences retain their meaning without it, how it's overused in writing (I definitely overuse it in my first drafts!), that kind of thing.

In editing The Last Song, I've noticed a couple of other words or phrases I've overused, the removal of which seem to strengthen the sentences, and the writing overall. "Probably" is one; it's one thing to use probably in conversation. It happens. It's cool. But in descriptions? It can be very frustrating to read "probably" over and over. You just want to know, "well is it or isn't it? Why won't you tell me?"

The same with "kind of", which has two meanings. There's "What kind of dog is that?" which okay, fine. You can say "type of" or "What breed" or whatever instead, but not too terrible. Then there's "It was kind of a pain". Is it or isn't it? "It was a pain." Say that instead (and there's that word again).

It's occurred to me to wonder if, organically, I've begun the attempt at removing most/all "weasel words" from my novel but no, apparently weasel words are something else and not like this:

But whatever words one might want to get rid of, suffice to say the "find" function you can do in a document is a Godsend.  Called somebody by two different names? Find and replace. Can't remember what kind of guitar it was? Find guitar. Did the thing with cats happen before or after this conversation? Find cats.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Man vs. Self (Or, when your Bad Guy might also be your Good Guy)

I'm almost done editing The Last Song for this round (you ready, Kelly?). I still feel very good about it, which is either awesome or worrying. I honestly can't tell, but if I'm not my own advocate, who is? Right? Right.

My main character is not a nice person, necessarily, and doesn't always do the right thing. I guess I need to go so far as to call him an antihero. He's his own worst enemy, as the trope goes, and he's a great example of Man vs. Self in that English class you had years ago on "conflict". There is no Bad Guy in the story, no villain; just our POV character and his mistakes. His occasional self loathing. Y'know. Like you do.

But. I also hope the reader roots for him, y'know? He's got a goal, and regardless of the past (and there is a Past), goals should be attainable. Goals tinged with regret and perhaps apology especially so.  Personally, I like characters who have flaws. Squeaky clean characters (and people) may or may not (in my experience) lean towards the self righteous, and that just gets my snark up. People with flaws, especially when they're aware of said flaws, strike me as more genuine, more human. It makes a character come off the page better.

In a way, this came from an Absolute Write post, as some things do. I didn't read the thread, though. I just kind of scrolled through the recent stuff, wherein somebody was asking "What if I don't have a bad guy?"  I thought to myself, "Well, I don't have a bad guy! I mean, creepy things happen, bad stuff happens, but there's no 'villain'. It's all scenery and setting and experiences rolled into the narrative." And I've read books like that, of course, where there's no "enemy".

In fact, I'd say most books don't have an "enemy", most narratives have no true antagonist. In a way, the universe is too indifferent to take the time opposing everybody individually, no matter how important we are to our own narratives.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grocery Store Inspiration

For whatever reason, I end up spending what feels like a lot of time in the grocery store. It isn't a whole lot of time, actually. I can shop swiftly and efficiently, with a minimum of forgetting the exact item I visited the store for.

But, my very first job (other than the dog walking "business" I had when I was 10) was cashier (and later customer service) at a grocery store. Foodtown, if you must know, though it wasn't the Foodtown with the towering clown out in front so that's all right. But running a register can be inspiring in that "slice of life" literary kind of way. Also in a weirder kind of way, I guess.

Other experiences are from the customer side of things. For example, every time I've gone into Wal Mart in the past six months or so (which all told has been blessedly few) that Kary Perry song "Roar" has been on the radio. I cannot claim to be fond of that song. There are other times, though, when a song you LOVE comes on the radio. While I myself will likely never rock out to "Don't Stop Believin'" in the bread aisle, I can imagine somebody giving in to that desire.

Other times, you can tell when somebody's found what they were REALLY looking for, instead of a "sort of close enough" example; the grocery store I visit most has an organic section nestled in the middle of it, and occasionally I find those organic items next to the real thing. Like "Oh, this is where the rest of the yogurt is! I don't have to get this dairy free overpriced stuff made from coconut tears."

Obviously, fellow customers are also story fodder. That woman buying a shitload of organic, making-stuff-from-scratch food, using reusable grocery bags even when your store doesn't have a good way to do it, wearing a cardigan and driving a forty year old Volvo? There's something there.

The guy asleep on his feet buying a bajillion frozen dinners who gets a phone call from his wife, who is a night nurse? Yup.

Cell phones give us a pernicious window into peoples' private lives, because frequently people don't seem to understand that they are on the phone in public. That means everything they say is IN PUBLIC. Even when it's private phone-things to be said while you're alone at home or even in your car. It's interesting. And story fodder.

Friday, August 1, 2014

White Rabbit

July was a pretty good month.

I completed 30k of a fantasy novel, which included The Dreaded Prologue™, but in this case the prologue totally made sense because the book is about two characters who are 1. in the prologue and 2. directly affected by the...inciting event? that happened there. Inciting event is probably the wrong term, because it's supposed to be the kick in the ass your main character gets, and while what happens certainly was a kick in the ass, it wasn't the kind everybody's talking about.


The writing workshop went well. Not everybody was finding the time to write at home, and/or were having troubles, so for most of the month we did writing prompts, talked about Important Writing Things™, etc. In the last two sessions, though, we brought work from home, read it out lout, and mini-crititqued it. Answered the "would you keep reading?" question. That kind of thing. I'm going to run another workshop in November, for real National Novel Writing Month, with an eye towards people starting a longer work and adding to it throughout the month. Kind of what Camp was, but not really.

So what now?

Obviously my fantasy novel isn't done. Not at 30k, and not story wise. However, I think I'm going to follow my typicaly MO and "put it to bed" for now. Maybe I'll finish reading and editing and tweaking The Last Song so I can send it to Kelly, or maybe I'll fully finish my April novel, because of course I didn't finish it yet, though it's so very close, and I have to figure out how my Claudio stand in is going to die.

Oh yeah, and at least one of my Twitter buddies has said I should definitely keep going with Klara and the Clockwork Djinn, so I'll work on installment two and post that...eventually. Our goal is to motivate each other, and set a post date. So if I get done early, I guess I'll keep working on the serial installments. Maybe do one a month? That's downright Dickensian! We'll see.