Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sliding a final achievement under the wire...

The year's almost over and I really can't believe it. Where did the time go? I've been reading my friends' resolution lists posted online, and feeling bad about my lack thereof - of lists I mean; I have plenty more resolutions than I need.

Get published. Get published. That seems to be my constant refrain, but not an aim I can claim to have much control over. Last year I tried amending it to "submit," and I think I managed it. At least, I was managing until summer. But then it was Christmas and New Year's Eve. Where did the time go?

Still, I am sliding one final achievement under the wire of '09. I took the Poetic Asides November challenge, sometime in those missing months, and wrote a poem a day for 30 days. But then you have to organize a collection of 10-20 poems to complete the task. I finished today. (Luckily dinner was easy to make.) And now I have a collection of 20 poems, entitled Patriot Son. All I have to do is email it and I can claim to have entered one final competition to complete the year.

Oddly enough, having started to use Snowflake Pro (bought cheap when it first came out) to help edit my stories, I decided to try it on organizing my poems; it worked great! I would never have believed I could choose 20 from 30 and reorder them so conveniently.

Now if I could just find some nice cheap software to edit and reorder the rest of my life - or even just to organize those phantom submissions... for 2010. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Writing at Christmas ?

Written note from son, found on the breakfast table this morning - "I've run out of contact fluid Mum. Please can you get some more for me before lunch." Son gets up at lunchtime (goes to bed at some unearthly hour), so the note makes perfect sense. And luckily there was a sample pack still in the cupboard so I didn't need to go shopping after church.

Other than that, there's not been much writing done here over the last few days. Lots of eating, which was nice; really nice in fact. And turkey butties, of which I will soon make some more for that afore-mentioned lunch. I did write my usual hundred words a day, except if you look at my drabbles (stories, above) you'll notice I didn't always write or post them quite at the right time. And I've just posted the last of my Christmas Bible studies, but it was written weeks ago.

Reading? I've done plenty of that: Christmas cards and letters, catching up, with thanks and joy, on news of the year gone by; newspapers, catching up on the days; books, catching up on overdue reviews (so yes, I did write two reviews); and internet, catching up on which movies to rent for us all to watch together - my mother, husband, three grown-up sons and me, so we're a hard group to please. Oh, and I read the rules for the board game we'll continue to play this afternoon.

If you were trying to write over Christmas, I hope your writing went well. If you were taking time off, I hope you've had fun. And whatever you're doing, I'll wish you all the joy of the season before I go make (and season) those turkey butties and wake up those sons.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's beginning to taste like Christmas

I'm not sure what I did wrong with the Christmas cake this year; when it came to pouring the mixture into the tin it didn't fit. I greased another round for it (and fed the final scrapings into my mouth--the best bit of baking). The kitchen smelled fruitily and spicily delightful while the oven did its work. Then timer pinged, sharp knife confirmed, and there we were, with Christmas cake and a spare.

When friends came round I used icing and plastic holly to decorate the spare. As a mini-Christmas cake it was nice, as was the stollen with nutmeg icing, the chocolate, and the nuts... Sugar and spice...

Afterwards we left nuts and candy in dishes on the coffee table. I nibble them as I pass--bad for the waistline, but good...

It's beginning to taste like Christmas and it's fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's beginning to sound like Christmas

No, I don't meant the music. There was music in the stores today, though at least it wasn't too loud or too wearying. There were people too, all talking at once. There were children crying and parents saying "No." But that wasn't it.

The sound of Christmas was the voice of a son on the phone, happy and excited to share good news, and filling us with joy. To think that he'd tell his parents first! So now he knows where he's going next year. Now we know where he'll be. Now he can plan.

And just maybe we can plan his Christmas presents to match what he'll need. (What's the weather like in Texas?)

The sound of joy; that's the sound of Christmas. It's still ringing in my head.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's beginning to smell like Christmas

This morning the house smelled of furniture polish. Not a bad smell, kind of like spring and lavender; clean and fresh. It wasn't a bad feeling either, knowing the housework's done, and thanking Mum.

But this afternoon; that's a different tale. This afternoon we filled the bread-maker with stollen, put a Christmas cake into the oven, and set a two-pound Christmas pudding to boil on top of the stove.

This afternoon it's beginning to smell like Christmas. And who cares if it's raining outside while we have colored lights and spicy scents to keep us warm?

I posted another Christmas drabble too - just click on stories to see it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beginning to look like Christmas

They're saying it might snow soon, so we've been trying to fit lots of activities into my Mum's first few days with us. Driving out to Multnomah Falls today, it certainly began to look a lot like Christmas.

Afterward we drank hot chocolate to warm frozen hands, then went out to buy a Christmas tree. Looks like Christmas in our living room too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beginning to feel like Christmas

It's strange the way your fingers freeze, not straight away but just as you start to believe maybe they won't. And noses too. Even the "I-don't-need-a-coat" son buys a scarf. I shop for gloves 'cause Mum says I should.

It's strange the way hats and scarves and gloves disappear from year to year. Then you enter the store; your ears feeling cold as you leave. "Where's your hat?" "I don't know."

It's strange the way it feels like the year before with no time in between. Mum's here with Christmas in her smile, and while shopping for food should be boring it's turned into fun when we do it as one.

So maybe it's not so strange after all, just beginning to feel like Christmas. The family arrives and it's cold outside.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Red and Blue

Christmas Bazaar - decorations - bright reds, shining greens - blinking lights - Christmas music - cold winds.... oh, those very cold winds every time the door opened to let all the customers in.

There were visitors, browsers, friends who walked round all the stalls but left purses at home; I suspect they were wise. It might be too easy to find yourself spending too much.

But I sold all my copies of Voicecatcher, so I now owe a nice large check to voicecatcher.org. I sold bookmarks and stocking stuffer stories as well - see my stories link above to find out what they are - but not one of my books, and I left feeling blue.

The lights are still bright (some of them are blue too), so I'll look on the red side instead; I did give away lots of brochures, made lots of new friends, and I wore a warm coat. What more do I need?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wondering How I Write

Perhaps I could use my time more efficiently by writing, but I've got a headache so instead I'll just think about writing for a while. I've read quite a few blog posts recently by authors telling how they create novels. It's comforting that there isn't just a single "right way" and the advice to "write the way that works for you" makes lots of sense. But what about writing the way that works for the novel? I'm only asking because as I head into editing all my current manuscripts again - my usual winter task - using Snowflake to organize myself, I'm wondering how I'd have used the software at the writing stage, and realizing that I approached the writing of each novel completely differently. Perhaps that just means I haven't worked out what works for me yet, but I felt like it was working at the time.

My first novel - Chasing Shadows - is about a character who kept invading my every feeble attempt at writing something serious. I gave up in the end and decided to write about her. Each chapter wrote itself like a long response to some question I'd asked. Then I glued the answers together, switched their order, tried to make a timeline, and eventually had a novel. Snowflake would have helped me avoid "losing" a chapter (which I did at one point - storing it in the wrong directory and forgetting it was already written).It would have made the reordering much easier too since I'd have used one-sentence scene summaries rather than sheets of paper all over the kitchen floor.

My second attempt - Divide by Zero - grew out of a rather large set of short stories whose characters kept reappearing. When one of the characters committed a crime I realized I wanted to turn them into a novel. Snowflake would have saved me all those endless files of story names, story lists, reordered story lists, lost files, forgotten names, switching eye colors, etc.

Third novel - Hemlock Edge. This started with a set of four short stories about magical teenagers. Then I planned the major events in the novel. Then I realized it was a series and planned the major events in the first novel. Then I wrote a synopsis. Half the scenes were written forwards, one after another, with those first four stories at the start. The rest were scenes that I wrote when I felt like it, threaded in as I reached the right place. Yes. Snowflake would have been great - not least because I would have had a record of all my characters ready and waiting for the second in the series, I wouldn't have accidentally changed someone's family dynamics, and the "right place" for each scene would have been ready and waiting instead of half-forgotten.

Fourth - Obituaries. This time I was writing forwards from start to finish, using Textnovel. And I changed the spelling of the main character's name. It needs lots of work - changing points of view - too much time spent in one character's head - scenes that I just wrote 'cause I felt like it. I think Snowflake would have helped me stay on track better; I could've written notes for where I was planning to go, instead of finding myself meandering.

Fifth - Hemlock Bees. That's the one I've just finished and am now editing with Snowflake's help.

Sixth - Resurrections. It's only got one chapter so far. It's the sequel to Obituaries, and since textnovel's not letting me post for some reason, I'm going to edit Obituaries first. Probably a good idea anyway. Snowflake will give me a character list with jobs and places of business and house descriptions to keep me on track.

Of course, there's the kids' books too. Do they count as novels? I'm certainly going to use Snowflake with my stories about a first-grader called David. Trying to remember which friend is gluten intolerant, which one hates reading, which one always jumps off high places, etc. is driving me up the wall. Probably the fact that I only write it when the sun's shining in the right direction doesn't help.

I think my conclusion is I'd've used Snowflake differently in each novel - keeping a record of scenes as I wrote them, then shifting them round - making a record of stories and reordering them, keeping track of changes to names and locations etc - actually writing a synopsis and a planned scene list for Hemlock - making notes as I went along with Obituaries, and keeping track of what direction it was heading - listing ideas ready to turn them into scenes when the sun shines the right way...

And now I really should start using it for my edits. Headache improving. Time to get to work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Working backwards is fun too

I've spent a while playing with my Snowflake Pro software and my first Hemlock book. It's going pretty well. So, for those friends who've not met the Snowflake Guy (Randy Ingermanson), here's a few notes...

1. The software downloads and installs really easily - always a plus.
2. The welcome page has a neat diagram of a snowflake, and quick explanation of its relevance to writing a novel. Basically, the idea is that your novel has a beginning middle and end - three sides, like a triangle. If you add a triangle sticking out from the middle of each side, and another triangle sticking from the middle of each resulting side, etc... you end up with a snowflake. Meanwhile you're adding ideas to your one-sentence summary and turning it into a novel.
3. There's access to lecture notes and a spoken lecture at each stage of the program, to help you know what you're doing and why. And Randy's a really good speaker.
4. So, after doing the basics - title, genre, audience, expected word-count, author bio etc. - Snowflake Pro invites you to write that dreaded "one sentence summary." In my case, with the novel already written, finding a way to describe it in one sentence is something I really need, or how will I sell it.
5. Next, you expand the sentence into a paragraph. 5 sentences now - setup, 1st disaster (1st act of a 3-act novel); then 2nd and 3rd disasters (act 2); then conclusion (act 3)... and then into several paragraphs for the synopsis. Organized writers plan their novels at the start I suppose, but working backwards is fun too.
6. Just before writing the synopsis Snowflake asks you to list the characters. This is the part I'm really enjoying - what are their abstract goals; what are their goals in this particular novel (I'm writing a series - I can even add notes about how their goals will change). There's space for one-sentence summaries of the characters and one-paragraph descriptions.
7. On a later page Randy's created a whole long list of questions about each character. At last, a place where I can store hair color, eye color, height, fashion sense etc... I can even imagine what their favorite books are then scatter them on the shelves; what are their hobbies? What does their house look like? Again, I've already written the first two books. I have files full of notes about who's who and where they live, but this way I put all my notes in one place, and when I start editing (next job) I'll have everything to hand.
8. Soon I'll start work on the scene list. This time I really will be working backwards, deconstructing the scenes as I edit and writing (again) one-sentence summaries. With space to remind myself whose point of view I'm using, a record of page-length to help me avoid overlong and overshort scenes, this should be really helpful.
9. At the end of it all, the summaries I've typed in earlier will be used to create my book proposal...
10. ...by which time it will probably be snowing.

So that's a one-paragraph summary of Snowflake Pro, and so far it's just what I needed. Thanks Randy.