Story on Demand: Two minutes!

Put something in the comment that can happen in two minutes, and I’ll write story about it.

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Back of the Book

boy/girl

squire/mage

comedy/tragedy

hero/villain

beginning/end

murderer/guardian

madman/sage

friend/slave

true/false

hunter/prey

jonas/rime

spell/sword

witch/is which?

[Just playing around with some text – potentially for the back cover of Spell/Sword. As a young nerdling I used to spend quite a lot of time in bookstores and libraries.  I’d spend hours reading the inner jacket, and the back of every book — deciding if it was what I wanted to read next. In bookstores most of all, five bucks for a new paperback was a serious investment. Of course, I immediately became a critic. I was flabbergasted at how many ‘back cover summaries’ were totally misleading, and were clearly written without the author’s knowledge. I was still a little too young to understand about marketing, publishing, etc.

But I vowed, that when I wrote MY book, then I would make sure I didn’t have a crappy summary on the back cover. And since I’m self-publishing, I can have whatever wacky text I want.]

 

Blowing the dust off…

Let me just knock some of the cobwebs off  here.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he is most displeased at my lackadaisical posting schedule of late.

But I was editing, black and white photo soldier guy, who I hope is not some sort of war criminal! I can see that ceremonial dagger on your belt, and I’m sure you’d like to dispense some pre-Internet justice, but hear me out.

In between normal life errata and work neccesity, my creative-time has been in short supply. Lodestar has taken a turn for the awesome as we rocket towards the conclusion – and I’m determined to deliver on the storytelling and gameplay promise of the campaign and not leave my players disappointed when it wraps up in September. On top of that I’m running a short side-game for some neophyte nerds in the neighborhood, plus planning for my Top Secret Next Campaign. Compounded with time rolling in the floor with the new puppy, and other general puttering about – I’ve been swamped.

I finished the rough draft of Spell/Sword back in April, then put it away for as long as possible before diving into editing. I made it a full four weeks, which was torturous indeed.

True editing began in May, here was my process:

1. Print out the draft, and read through it. Making only absolutely necessary notes in the margins.

2. Cry.

3. Read through it again, making nit-picky grammar notes.

4. Take all of the comments/edits from the paper version and add them to my Google Doc. “No argument” edits were implemented immediately. [Grammar fixes, word choice, spelling mistakes, erotic centaurs scene] More complicated edits requiring more thought or massive chapter-spanning revision entered as Comments onto the G-Doc.

5. Man, there’s a lot of these Comments. [63 total, only 17 of which were related to petticoat description. ALWAYS NEED MORE DESCRIPTION OF THE COURTLY LADY DRESSES]

6. Worked in fits and starts on the larger edits. The easy ones first, picking at the edges — then finally dived into the more serious ones in June.

7. Anxiety Quicksand. Edits seem to be making book worse. Every thing I read seems to be terrible, even if not explicitly marked for revision. I hate the book, and spend a lot of time polishing a terrible, shiny thought. Writing this draft was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — a goal in my life that I never imagined I would accomplish. To have made it this far is nothing short of miraculous — but the book still might not be any good.  Effort does not equal excellence in writing, or any art.  I might have a completely unusable draft, rotten to the core.  I might have written a book and still not have a book.

8. Kept editing.

9. Started to lose the feeling of forward momentum, so I engaged the Saving Grace of Art. A deadline. Contacted my Alpha Readers, and let them know that I would be printing the draft the first of July to send them copies for review. I embrace that deadline, and editing redoubles in ferocity.

10. I like the book a little better. Well, let’s be serious — I love the book, but understand that I have lost any objectivity. I’ve read it too many times, I’m way too close.  I finish up major edits, with the salve that I’m going to go through this whole process again once my Alphas have a crack at it. Only they can tell me whether or not my child is a Goofus or a Gallant.

Highlights reference! These always bothered me. Maybe Goofus’ friends needed a little “tough love”, and who’s to say Gallant even liked oranges? Look at that smug S.O.B. — he probably poisoned that fruit. Yes, I was a child concerned with logical fallacies, move along.

11. I have one last brainstorm for my editing before releasing it to the Alphas. I read the entire draft out loud in one sitting. I catch innumerable grammar, tense, spelling, and logic errors in the process. Best thing I’ve done, next time around I’m planning on doing this much, much earlier. I also record me reading it [TECHNOLOGY!] for further review.

12. I like the book.

13. I send the draft to be printed for Alpha Readers. I feel a sense of pride that my closest friends and advisors will soon know how fucking clever I am.

14. I listen to the recording, and immediately catch a dozen glaring syntax and logic problems.

This sand is filled with irony!

15. Cry a little bit. But you know, in a badass way, like Chow Yun Fat in The Killer.

 

I  know I’m not unique in my process, or in my reactions — I know my colleagues and associates are sick of my talking about these things like I invented Author Malaise. But, you’re my blog and this is my first time up this thorny path — so get prepared for some serious whining and navel-gazing.

Also, some ruminations on various literary and genre concepts. I’ve been struggling to put my novel in context with others in the genre, and I’ve had some thoughts. SOME THOUGHTS, I SAY.

I’m also thinking about pulling my old weekend STORY ON DEMAND out of mothballs, now that I have a little more brainspace to spare.

What do you think, Corporal Steely Breadcrumbs?

I’m just here for the ladies. And the oppression of the Proletariat.

Levels and Blech

Stringer Bell finds my prose to be lackluster.

I’m temporarily finished with my short story, Star Prophet. I’m really ambivalent about it — part of it I like, parts of it I don’t — but I’m trying something really outside of my comfort zone/style.  I have lost all perspective on how well it’s working.

Looking for some feedback, follow the link for the full text, so you don’t need to read it piecemeal on the blog. Comments here, or on the page itself would be much appreciated!

Star Prophet II

Cold walk, warm house. My uncle’s third knuckle on the right, potato-sack lumpy and his red voice and the fall of the Roman Empire. The stars were out, but I was in.

Humans do these things. They do these things to each other every day.

My face was bent. I rolled next to the couch and waited, while meteors impacted on the surface of Mars.

The press of headphones, the music and the moon  – I lay with the sheet over my head and lost myself. The rhymes, the words – the quick symmetry of the drum and the strange keen of the electronic flute.

I think about Star Prophet’s planets — about the songs he hears. The whirling slide of space and time, the spaces, empty – now full. Jupiter turns his face, and Saturn hula-hoops across the dance floor. The blood on my pillow is red. The rains of Mercury and Venus, the broken canyons hidden beneath the cotton-wool cloud.

[I’m really not happy with this section. I’m used to bla-bla-blahing my way, spitting out a few hundred words like it was nothing. This sucker’s fighting me. I’m going to keep working on SP in dribs and drabs, then do a massive revision when it’s all done. This is what I get for actually thinking about a story.]

Story on Demand: A humble plea.

I’ve had a great time doing these every weekend — you guys are nefarious idea-mancers, flinging white-hot bolts of creative inspiration at me, which I’ve done a yeoman’s job lobbing back over the net.

[TENNIS METAPHOR. BAM.]

This week, could I humbly request — well, something a little more vague? The past few weeks people have given me extremely specific prompts, and I’ve had to sort of push it around my plate with a fork for a while.

One of the best prompts I’ve received was “music as weapon” and I had a freaking blast with that one, and am quite proud of the results. [Thanks again, HTBS!]

Glass Dogs. [ Go ahead — read it again!]

So, I think what I’m asking for is for you to give me an idea — not a plot.  Make with the vague!

Forgive the presumption! FORGIVE IT, OR THE WEASELS.

[The weasels are bad.]

Drop your lovely ideas in the comments, and I’ll churn out a story for the shiniest.

 

Strange words.

I was looking for something else in my notes, when I stumbled across the piece I put up this morning – The Umbra.

Apparently, I wrote this.

Do you ever have that happen? You read something in your notebook, or Google Docs — and it’s clear that your brain and hands produced it — but you have no memory of actually writing it. It’s like reading something that your doppelganger from another dimension wrote.

It’s a neat feeling, honestly — approaching your work as a reader only, without any context of the process.

I’m sure this is the goal, when sages suggest you let your first draft sit for a month or two before giving it the first read  — it helps with objectivity — and wouldn’t it be amazing to read your novel as a stranger? That Thing occupies a sizable portion of my psyche — how cool would it be to read it that way?

So get on it, doppelganger!

Any of you guys have stuff like that on your blog? I’d love to read it — hear your anecdotes!

This line is bold for no reason.