anthimeria: Barbara Gordon, in wheelchair, hand fisted, with the word "Not half beaten yet" (Oracle: Not Beaten)
* checks date *

* checks date of last entry *

*shuffles feet *

As we used to say in the days of LJ (. . . and ffn, if that's not showing how long I've been in fandom), RL Happened.  I'd like to get back to updating this regularly, but I also know making promises I can't keep is never a good idea.  I also don't think it will look the same, if I do update more often.

Originally, I intended this blog to solely be about my writing, and writing-related things in my life (WisCon, book recs, etc).  And while writing is still very important to me, I have found that twitter is a really good place to put the sort of daily-ish updates and frustrations.  Less formal and quicker to jot off than a blog entry.  That's one non-RL reason I haven't been over here in a while.

I have some ideas about how I'd like this to evolve, while also being aware I'm pretty much talking to myself.  I welcome readers!  I'm also aware I don't HAVE many, and since that's not really the goal, that's fine.  Feel free to unfollow/follow/etc, no hard feelings.

There's a lot going on in my life right now that blog entries might be appropriate for--a new teaching job this summer (teaching talented kids to write fantasy!  Best summer job ever!), I've started a Massive Re-Write of the swan book (totally different outline, much more horror than urban fantasy), and I'll likely be moving for the first time ever as a grownup.  I've moved before, but not what I'd consider properly--I moved 2000 miles with two suitcases, which didn't involve much packing, and I moved within town three times the first year I was out here, but I've been in my current place for almost 5 years now, and I've accumulated stuff.  Unlike the last time I moved across state lines, I won't be able to leave anything I don't want at my parents' house.  The move is probably the biggest thing, really.  And doing new things always makes me want to write about them, and really, that's one thing that won't fit well on twitter.

So.  We'll see how it goes, yeah?

Meanwhile, I'm 1k into the Wingless re-write, and I have 2k more to write today, so I should stop procrastinating and do that.  Wish me luck!

anthimeria: Swan looking over its wing, words "Not a chance" along one side (Sassy Swan)
Alright, I've finished the first (easier) half of the hardcopy edits.  All the typos I found are fixed, with some easy-to-add or easy-to-delete bits taken care of also.

Next step is applying the macro-level hardcopy edits, which include everything from the half-dozen scenes I marked "needs more sensory detail" to "delete this chapter and replace with something new".

. . . yeah, some of the really big changes may merit their own draft.  We'll see.

At any rate, the current wordcount is 95,719.

Not as low as I'd like but not as high as I feared.  If I do it right, the rest of draft II should take care of a few thousand words.  I hope.
anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (The Novel)
Let Wingless lie fallow for a month, and then took another month (argh life) to do the hardcopy edit.  Now I begin to apply said hardcopy edits.

For the record!

Current Wingless wordcount: 95228

I shall update once I have a wordcount for the end of DII!  Here's hoping it's <95k.

NB: Okay, I admit, I'm looking at the stats I posted when I finished writing the rough and am wondering where 200 words went.  I haven't touched the draft at all (possibly some formatting changes?).

NBpt2:  Oooh, wait, I know where those words went!  Those are the words I cut from the first 3 chapters to bring them under 10k, so I could submit the beginning to the WisCon Writers Workshop.  Explained!
anthimeria: A laptop keyboard and the Latin "Quot libros quam breve tempus" (Quot libros)
Personal best ever daily wordcount: 7858

Final wordcount for DI: 95400


. . . and only a month late.

On the other hand, three days before the revised deadline of June 30.  Silver lining!

And now to blast Ever Ever After and ice my wrists.

anthimeria: Barbara Gordon, in wheelchair, hand fisted, with the word "Not half beaten yet" (Oracle: Not Beaten)
Note to future self (and anyone who's interested): check twitter for more day-by-day updates on wordcount.

So it turns out that trying to churn out 90k words in two and a half months takes up pretty much all your free time!  And while I sort of knew that, I'd never done it while also working, so that's a new and not entirely fun experience.  Getting sick for a week and a half also makes hitting daily and weekly wordcount goals difficult.

Doing this sort of intensive writing, though, makes me remember why I love it and why I want to do this for a living.  Cue writerly nattering! )

I'm enjoying this book so much, y'all.  I missed writing YA and I never thought I'd love writing in the modern era so much.  It turns out it's a huge relief to be able to write about characters driving and answering cell phones and saying "neat" without having to worry about whether or not it's authentic to the period or the pseudo-historical fantasy world.  I LOVE IT.

anthimeria: Open book, says "sometimes you reach what's realest by making believe" (Books)
Greetings, well met, hello the internet!

(Hmm, that rhymes.)

I have been less present here because a) I am on twitter and it's distracting, and b) BECAUSE I STARTED WRITING THE SWAN BOOK AND IT IS AWESOME FUN.

Okay, that's a little bit of a lie.  I pulled teeth to get 4500 words into a first draft in third person before I gave in to the manuscript's insistence and rewrote the beginning in first.  It works much better, and a week later I'm 7k words into the new first person draft.  It is now awesome fun.

I also decided on a working title: Wingless.  It'll go with Heedless and Fearless for books 2 and 3 (it's a closed trilogy).  Haven't decided on a series name yet, so as a collective they'll still be called the swan books, but for now book 1 is Wingless.


(PS: Just got back from FOGcon this weekend and had a fabulous time!)
anthimeria: Mask of feathers (Feather Face)
WAAAAAAAAY back toward the end of 2013, I mentioned briefly on here that I was worldbuilding for an urban fantasy YA book, and scrolling through my entries, it looks like that's ALL I mentioned.  It got usurped by Trial and The Forest War and The Novel and eventually my YA steampunk, which was my most recent project.

But the YA steampunk book has screeched to a halt over the matter of plot--as in, not having one that works with the wonderful characters and world I built--and the short I was working on fizzled, and I'm not in the mood to deal with the latest round of crit on The Novel.  Hence feeling like I've been bouncing around like a superball.

Since it's been so long since I worked on the UF YA, I couldn't remember how much work I'd done, so I decided to go back and check.  I remember feeling overwhelmed.  There's a lot of detail and a lot of worldbuilding and like, twelve important characters.  I'd hit a wall.

It turns out, though, that a year and a half of perspective brought me to a place where I could see that I'd done enough.  That it was okay to not have twelve fully-fleshed-out character bios.  That the pieces of outline I had, along with acknowledging and using inspirational sources, were enough to get going on a real three-act plot outline.

So spent a week or so refamiliarizing myself with all the materials, re-read some of the original research, and then set-to with a will.  And created what seems to be a sound outline in three days.

Just . . . damn.  It's been a really long time since I had writing flow that easily, even if it was outlining.  Every time I hit a wall, it was a sign I needed to go away and come back, and I did so, and when I came back, I could poke at it and come up with a great plot twist.

For the first time, also, I am writing something that could be called horror, or at least have a horror subgenre.  I've never been into horror (I'm a total scaredy-cat and always have been), but Seanan McGuire, who is pretty much my favorite grownup author, is very horror-oriented.  Ever since I started reading and following her online, I've come to the conclusion that she's very smart about stories and that horror might have something for me, if I could get past the stomach-churning and triggery stuff to get at what good horror actually does.

Whether or not this book ends up being more or less horror oriented, reading articles about how horror works got me through the outline.  It reminded me that characters need to make decisions that get them in worse trouble, that jump scares should happen when your reader and character are experiencing relief that they escaped, and that if your characters are secure in their plan, the only thing to do is have the entire plot change direction.

I need some time away from this outline now, to make sure I didn't miss any obvious plot holes or places where my character arc should show up, but . . . right now this feels not only solid on a plot and character level, but like a YA book I could sell.

The excitement is making me a little light-headed, but it's also awesome.

Of course, the damn thing doesn't have a title, but we can call it the Swan book.
anthimeria: A laptop keyboard and the Latin "Quot libros quam breve tempus" (Quot libros)
Want to send me into a research spiral?  Have me going over my character profiles since it's been more than a week since I picked them up and realizing I don't know what they wear in winter, and my book takes place during a Colorado winter.

Cue an hour and a half of googling trying to figure out not only what they should be wearing culturally (difficult, b/c they're both second-generation immigrants from very different climates), what they should be wearing given the Western/American influence, what they're be wearing considering they're both working class/teetering on the edge of damn poor, what materials would've been available, and whether they'd've purchased said winter clothing or made it.


Mostly research venting )

All right, venting over.  Maybe now I can actually get to the new plot, which is what I intended to work on today . . .

. . . unless I get snagged in another character detail.  *sigh*

(It's such a good thing I love worldbuilding.  Such a good thing.)

anthimeria: Barbara Gordon, in wheelchair, hand fisted, with the word "Not half beaten yet" (Oracle: Not Beaten)
So I have been researching and worldbuilding for a YA steampunk novel for the last several months.  I've got my characters worked out at last, and I think I have the world pretty much nailed down.  (Both of those things took FOREVER and I have disappeaed into so many research spirals in the last few months, y'all.  SO MANY.)

But the plot.

I had a plot in mind, when this was a simple one-off adventure story starring two relatively-recent settler girls in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains above Denver (and don't think 'settler' means 'white').  Then the world sort of exploded on me, and their entire relationship changed and changed the story I wanted to tell with it.

It's now a trilogy, mostly because of their relationship structure, but the action plot I came up with just . . . isn't clicking any more.  Plus the most interesting book, for me, is the second one--they meet and form a relationship in book one, but in book two they're removed from their familiar context and navigating how they want things between them to work and also by the way there's prejudice and new communities and social issues and crazy steampunk explosions.  Book three is them returning to their original spaces, changed and different, and wrapping everything up.

So we can see why I'm most interested in book two, right?

Which begs the question: Should I just write book two?

Actually that in itself begs a lot of other attendant questions, like, "Will anything make sense if I just write book two?" and "Is all the trauma that gets explored and dealt with in book two only worth it if we've already bonded to these characters in a previous book, epic-fanfiction-style?" and "Just how long would book two end up being if I try to make it stand alone?"  and "If I try to make book two stand alone, will it even sell in a YA marketplace that wants trilogies?"

I'm torn in a lot of directions and not sure what to do.  Ideally I'd like to reinvest myself in the plots of books one and three--or at least book one, investment in book three can happen after I've actually written something.

This is the part of writing where I really miss college, or more specifically, the community of writers it provided.  I can no longer go down the hall and bounce ideas off someone else who's also working on a book or short story.  All my writerly friends are scattered all over the country.

Okay.  Two girls searching for a McGuffin in the middle of a snowstorm in the Colorado Rockies in 1872, in a steampunk alternate history.  I can think of cool things for them to encounter, and this will reinvigorate my interest in the book.  Really.

. . . suggestions welcome.

okay so

Aug. 22nd, 2014 01:26 am
anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (Default)
HAH it's been a long time since I posted . . . mostly that's because I've had my head stuck in my railroading research.  Four volumes on train technology in the nineteenth century, that are well-written, understandable by a layperson, and in-depth?  It's like research Christmas.

It's also like Christmas because it's lasting longer than I could've guessed.  Like, well over a month at this point and I still have two volumes to get through!  But I'm nearly finished with the most relevant volume for the book.  But it's just so much fun!

My latent engineer and history geek have been showing through in a big way with these books.  'Course I've also got a couple of social science volumes coming in, and have been really enjoying a few other books.

There's also a boatload of editing to do on The Novel, but I've been very  very distracted by fun research.  I'll check back in later!
anthimeria: Gears, some magnified (Gears)
I have been miserably inactive on here because I have been doing ALL THE RESEARCH for my next project!

It's pretty set that it's going to be steampunk YA in a slightly-alternate-history post-gold rush Colorado.  My internet activity for the last month has basically been Colorado history, railroading history, Mexican, Californian, Native American (mostly Ute), and Chinese history, with a bunch of Victorian occultism and world mythology thrown in, because steampunk.

EEEE and my interlibrary loan about railroading technology in the nineteenth century just came in!  It's four volumes and there are technical drawings.  I'm ridiculously excited.

My roommate is probably getting tired of me ranting about the gauge controversy and narrow gauge fever.  (Gauge is how far apart the rails are on a train track.)
anthimeria: A scary angular outline of a face, the words "Still Watching" (Oracle: Still Watching)
I appreciate workshops.  They show you new sides of your work, introduce you to new fellow writers, and hopefully give you useful feedback about your work.

It's just FRUSTRATING when you have five peer edits of the same chunk of manuscript and some of them contradict each other, and some of them agree with each other about something YOU think is wrong, and nobody comments on THAT ONE THING you were secretly hoping to get specific feedback about.

I spent today painstackingly going through every crit and dealing with comments small and large.  I also dealt with all the things I needed to think about for this draft that I discovered between submitting it to the workshop and actually workshopping it.  Basically, today was seven hours of fiddly, consequential drafting, and between the last few days and my scene re-write after FogCon, I've added ~1100 words to The Novel and have officially declared Draft IX done.

With any luck one or two folks from the workshop will be willing to exchange work with me, because I'd love to know if the issues they spotted in the first ~10k words are present in the rest of the book or if it's a beginning thing (I suck at beginnings, argh).

But until I know for sure, I think I need to set The Novel aside for a while and do some work on what might be my next project--YA steampunk, ahoy!
anthimeria: Open book, says "sometimes you reach what's realest by making believe" (Books)
WisCon was awesome, as usual!  The Romance in Spec-Fic/YA panel went really well, and even though I made a few missteps in the How to Ally panel, my fellow panelists saved the day.

I'm so glad I workshopped The Novel at WisCon this year--everyone seemed to like the book and had really good points.  Because the piece is so polished, most of the work I need to do now is big-concept stuff that either I just didn't pay enough attention to when I wrote it originally, or are things that didn't make it through all the changes I made in the last few Big Edits.

This means that while I do have fixes for most everything, there's a lot of time-consuming searching through the whole manuscript for every instance Thing A is mentioned, tweaking it or deciding it doesn't need to be tweaked, and then moving on to the same for Thing B, Thing C, etc.

There were also a few plot points I needed to work out that meant I spent several hours this afternoon yapping with my roommie-and-muse and then writing down my thoughts and counter-thoughts.  I oftentimes don't see good answers to problems until I talk them out with people or until I write down the solution and realize it wouldn't work/is too complicated.

There's a lot more to work on, but I do actually need to get up and go to work tomorrow, so I'm reluctantly putting aside the critiques for the night.

Book rec: finally read Karen Healey's The Shattering--loved it!  Great mystery with enough subtle terrible twists to keep me going.  I love the three main characters and the diverse cast as a whole.  Guardian of the Dead is still my favorite of her books, but I really enjoyed The Shattering.  Check it out if you like YA mystery!
anthimeria: A laptop keyboard and the Latin "Quot libros quam breve tempus" (Quot libros)
Would you believe I FORGOT that I wrote Trial in the present tense?  I opened the doc to start draft III today and had a "Huh . . ?" moment.

But once I got past it I hit a few fiddly things of the type that are a pain to change but a good way to get re-acquainted with a MS I haven't worked on in months.  Researched medieval heraldry, did some shoe-related clothing extrapolation, fixed some capitalization inconsistencies, that sort of thing.  Then I went back through my notes from the first few chapters and hit the things I knew I could fix right then.

I haven't touched the larger underlying stuff that needs to be added--more magic, and the magic-related subplot I discovered while crafting DII--but that should come soon, hopefully.

In the meantime I'm toying with another YA idea, since the fairy book doesn't look like it'll be going anywhere for awhile.  Steampunk, because it is a genre I love, but with magic this time (there's no magic in Skywatch, and also Skywatch is middle grade).  I'm thinking another dual-POV book, and possibly may involve the transcontinental railroad or a steampunk-alternate-history version thereof.  We'll see!

Plus, since I DID fix that scene in The Novel, I need to query that some more.  Yay, a writing to-do list!
anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (The Novel)
I fixed the character arc scene that needed work in The Novel.  It's a lot of new writing, rather than just editing or even re-writing, so I'll need to revise it at a later point, but right now I'm just happy to have the new scene in there.  I also added ~600 words, even though I deleted a goodly chunk of the revised section, which brings the wordcount up from 92,047 to 92,630, and bring the "approximate wordcount" up from 92k to 93k.  Curse you, rounding!  Note to self: revise cover letter to reflect new wordcount.

I'm poking my nose into a few other projects that are in the research/worldbuilding stage, one YA and one grownup, but I think I'm going to return my attentoin to Trial.  I miss middle grade, and I've neglected the draft for too long.  I have a whole subplot that needs to be worked in!

Yes, I find this exciting.  C'mon, we know I'm weird that way.
anthimeria: Gears, some magnified (Gears)
Trying to get back into the swing of things is haaaaaard.

Good news: worldbuilding for a new adult novel commencing, we'll see if that goes anywhere, AND my roomate and I hashed out a possible solution to the character arc thing I need to change in The Novel before I send it out to any more agents.

Bad news: After two years of submitting Skywatch to agents (~20, not that many) and 2 full requests that both got form rejections (more worrying), I decide to give my MG steampunk another look.  And it's . . . well.  Let's just say I really don't want to give up on it because I really love the world and the characters, but the writing is mediocre at best and the plot drags.  A MG mystery/thriller should clip along like anything, and Skywatch just doesn't.

Right now I'm hoping this can be fixed with an edit, but it's possible I may sit back after doing a re-read of the whole MS and go, ". . . it needs to be re-outlined and re-written from the ground up."

This would make me VERY SAD but is also something I would do for this book.  Skywatch is all the things I want in MG and I'm determined to do well by it, even if that means a whole truckload more work.

It also means that MG-wise, once I decide what to do with Skywatch, I need to refocus on the dragon book, because if I have to re-write Skywatch from the ground up it's going to move back in the queue.

But I don't know yet!  We'll have to see.
anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (The Novel)

So, when I put together the submission packet for the Strange Chemistry unagented submission period, I did a desultory review of The Novel and concluded it was still pretty tight, and I didn't need to edit it, and I could focus on the business-end stuff.  Then I spent most of November and the beginning of December working on the query letter, and then some more in January, and now I think I finally have a decent letter.

The catch?  In working on the query, I needed to check the MS for a few things (including one instance of "plot logic" someone on a query crit forum pointed out, which needed to be fixed in the MS before I could fix it in the query) and discovered that there's a whole bunch of fiddly little details that aren't quite there yet.  Some of it's worldbuilding or plot stuff that I didn't notice was a hole till a critter pointed it out, and some of it is metatextual/philosophic issues that exist because I did the original worldbuilding and writing for this book SIX YEARS ago and have learned a lot since then.

So while I'm not making big changes, they are very exacting.  I need to find exactly the right place to make the change, then exactly the right change to make in order not to disrupt the flow of the story that already existed, and I need to do this while not bogging the MS down info-dump style.

It's irritatingly fiddly and worse because I have no one to blame but myself.  Myself of six years ago, but still myself.

EDIT, five hours later: ARGH.  Race is complicated even/especially when you're making up all the rules in a fantasy kingdom!  And so is class.  And nationality.  And all the research just makes it more complicated!  And I decided that INTERSECTIONALITY IS IMPORTANT.  Writing is hard, y'all.  (I'm going to keep reminding myself that it's SUPPOSED to be hard, that means I'm thinking at least almost enough.  It's supposed to be hard, it's supposed to be hard, if it's easy it's my white privilege, it's supposed to be hard, yes I'm going to screw up, it's supposed to be hard, it's supposed to be hard . . . )

EDIT II, three hours after the first: Writing a high fantasy while simultaneously, in the same text, engaging critically with the history of high fantasy is also REALLY HARD.

I'd forgotten why I needed to write a middle grade utopia after editing this book for six months.  Now I remember.

(I should be asleeeeeeep.)
anthimeria: Mask of feathers (Feather Face)
In my experience, an author who wants to improve, especially and author who wants to be professionally published in today's publishing industry, needs to develop both a thick skin for critique and the ability to know when your critiquer is right (most of the time) and when they're so far off base they're in the wrong ballpark.

I use an online forum to get crituqes for my query letters, pitches and synopses, because my meatspace friends all have jobs and lives and aren't, right this very minute, devoted to working on a query letter, whereas people in query letter forums are generally devoted to working on their queries, and if everybody plays fair--crits others, gives return crits to people who critted them--it works quite well, despite the oftentimes huge disparity in writing skill and publishing experience.  I kinda love it, and I enjoy (for a certain definition thereof) both critiquing and giving critiques.  Up to a point.
Anger is a legitimate response, but what we do with that anger matters. Also, lots of opinions behind the cut. And writerly rambling. )

In short: critique ettiquette, I have feelings and opinions about it.

For now I've paused work on my query.  I still feel like I have a good draft, it just needs a few tweaks, and I need to seriously consider several things one of my later critquers said.

Also, I had no idea before I started asking for query critique HOW MANY people would be confused by the fact that one of my main characters is a unicorn.  Everyone who crits the query seems to assume that either a) she's a unicorn in human form, or a human with unicorn magic, or otherwise somehow human-shaped, or b) if she actually is no joke a unicorn, she must not be a main character and should be removed from the query.

SERIOUSLY.  I am fairly certain I wouldn't be having this problem if she were almost any other kind of mythical creature.  Which, admittedly, is part of the culture I'm talking back to with The Novel, but still.  It never occurred to me that anyone would question her being a unicorn.

anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (The Novel)
So, nothing on Trial.  I'm thinking working on the actual MS of any of my projects is going to be too much to ask during the holiday retail season.  But I have been worldbuilding for the new YA, so that's something.

I also rekindled the Query From Hell that is attempting to write the query letter for The Novel.  I have a solid synopsis and even a workable pitch, but I have written literally dozens of query letters and hundreds of pieces of queries for The Novel over the last three years I've been submitting it intermittently, and they're pretty much all nothing more than acceptable.  A number have been quite awful.  So I'm trying again.  We'll see what happens this time.

Hope everyone's not too stressed!
anthimeria: A laptop keyboard and the Latin "Quot libros quam breve tempus" (Quot libros)
So I've been worldbuilding for my newish YA project--I actually had two days off in a row this week (my work schedule is funtastic)--and spent the first doing mythological research and worldbuilding, and the second doing real-world research and worldbuilding.  I feel this is what happens when you write urban fantasy: research about yokai and research about which season American high schools play certain sports end up equally important.

In other news, I think I'm going to wander back to Trial for December.  The holidays are always crazy and I think it might be easier to fit editing into my schedule than writing or worldbuilding.  I'll probably still do all of the above, depending on my mood, but I like to focus on a project and Trial is due for some attention.

I also need to get back to writing that YA spec-fic diversity short story for kaleidescope . . . it needs a fair amount of editing as well.