WriYe and Themes

Waiting til the end of the month, like normal. Whoops.

May’s WriYe blog post prompt is:

What are some of your “go to” themes you like to write about?

Themes are weird. I suspect they’re one of the areas of writing I don’t understand as well as I would like to. Because, like, themes are the heart of your story, and the thing that your plots and subplots connect back to, the thing that gives your story meaning and lets it resonate with your reader.

But they’re also weirdly subjective. Like, I could have my theme be one thing, and depending on how people read the story, they could see the theme as being something completely different.

Anyway.

I write a lot about friendship in my stories, and by extension, found family. This is one of my favorite tropes and I use it a lot. Not sure that it counts as a theme.

Hm. This is harder than expected.

I don’t like depressing fiction, and I almost always end with a happy ending, so my themes also tend to be positive, stuff like “you can do anything if you work together” or “it’s worth it to fight for what you want.” I don’t know if I re-use a lot of themes necessarily. I probably do, but I also don’t really work in themes. Like, I’ll poke at them from time to time, maybe come up with a vague one for a first draft and then poke it a little more when doing my revision, but as I said above I’m not sure I really understand them all that well. A lot of what I do with theme is instinctual, and possibly not very good. I don’t know.

Elements, now, I do reuse a lot. Found family, like I mentioned. Forests. A lot of horror elements lately, like settings that are falling apart or ghosts. Magic, because I write a lot of fantasy. Dinosaurs. I really should stop putting dinosaurs into things but I just find the concept really funny.

But, yeah, I guess I reuse themes. People working together, from a variety of backgrounds, to get what needs to be done done. I think almost all of my longer works can be summed up that way.

Is that theme, though, or plot?

Auuuuugh I don’t know.

Anyway.

Thoughts about theme, squiders? Do you have a better way to tell what is theme versus other story elements?

Back to our normal twice a week schedule next week. My edit will be turned in, no matter its state. Wish me luck!

Trucking Along

Work on the revision for my Gothic Horror continues apace.

I’m actively working through Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel again, partially because it’s been a few years since I did, and partially because I find it’s useful to remind myself of the steps every now and then.

There’s three main parts: triage, cutting, and cosmetic. Triage is looking at what you have versus what you need, cutting is creating (and then doing) the fixes, and then cosmetic is top-level stuff after all the big stuff is fixed.

I really appreciate the way the course is lined up, because it really is so tempting, especially if you’re new to revision, to do the easy stuff first. Fix continuity issues, and weird dialogue, and things along those lines.

I’m essentially done with the triage part now, so I’ve got to push through that and the cutting portion before my end of the month deadline. The cosmetic stuff can be done after I get the editing notes back, because I’ll have more stuff to fix anyway.

Man. It’s a lot of work. But it’s always good, and it really does help the story get so much better.

How are you doing, squider?

Blurry notes

Hey, Not Too Shabby

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Okay, now that that’s out of my system…how’s my new revision going?

Surprisingly well, actually. My Gothic Horror is in much better shape than I thought it would be, from being a first draft. The plot is coherent, people are mostly in character, and there’s only one subplot that comes out of nowhere midway through the book.

That being said, I’m not moving as fast on it as I had hoped. I’d forgotten that May is super busy, with having to get ready for summer stuff, and school getting out, and birthdays, and volunteer commitments, all of which are cramping my editing style.

And, you know, my not being totally stressed out style.

Luckily I’m pretty good about boundaries, and I’m also pretty good about focusing when I need to. That old adage that you get more done the busier you are is certainly true for me.

Or so I shall continue to tell myself so I don’t go insane.

Anyway, wish me luck and sanity. I shall need both.

Whoops, Change of Plans

So, squiders, change of plans. I’ve got to put my revision for Book 1 on hold and switch over to my revision for my Gothic Horror novella, which is now due to Turtleduck Press at the beginning of June.

Not going to lie, this is a bit frustrating, since I was finally getting somewhere on my revision, but I understand the change and I’m really the only person who can step into this spot.

So, uh, fingers crossed that the novella is a much easier revision than Book 1 is.

I’m thinking it will be–it was mostly coherent last time I went through it. I do need to rewrite Chapter 1–I started off in first person and then found that wasn’t working–and take out a little bit of a second viewpoint that I decided early on wasn’t working. But revisions never quite go the way you expect them too, so we shall see if we encounter any major unforeseen issues.

No matter how you slice it, though, three weeks is not a long time, so I’m really going to have to book it here.

As such, I’m going to go down to blogging once a week until I turn the book in to give myself as much working time as possible. Other projects such as my SkillShare class will also need to go onto the backburner.

(I, of course, reserve the right to blog more if I have the time/inclination.)

Anyway! Wish me luck!

It’s a Good Thing My Notes are Only for Me (Also Con Thoughts)

Revision planning continues. I admit I get a little stircrazy with it sometimes. Here’s a list of problems and fixes, for example:

Notes
Not the most helpful

Other highlights, from my chapter review:

  • Sigh. This chapter sucks but it has good information in it.
  • Prophecy: Suddenly in FULL FORCE
  • Relationship: Weird
  • Notes: This chapter feels really…not good.
  • Prophecy: Hanging out in the back
  • Relationship: Going down like a lead balloon
  • Kira is a butt.
  • Notes: I like this one too. Good job, me. I guess.
  • Relationship: Still a mess
  • Dan and Lana are awkward and useless.
  • Relationship: Basically the worst
  • Relationship: Whoops
  • Notes: God, I love Paran. He’s so fun once he’s in his own element.
  • Relationship: Very confusing

Yes, yes, it’s very good that no one else is relying on my notes.

Going to print out the book tomorrow for the next step, so wish me luck.

In other news, I learned today that our local Star Trek/scifi convention, celebrating 45 years this year (apparently their first year they showed the trailer for Star Wars before anyone knew what that was), is shutting down. I guess it’s still run by the original people, and they’re retiring, but I’m very sad.

Cons seem to be going the way of these giant, commercial things, like San Diego Comic Con. We have our own version of that here, which regularly pulls in over a 100000 people. And they’re interesting! But they’re also overwhelming. The last time I went to SDCC I think I spent more time standing in line to try to get into things than actually doing anything, and half the time you wouldn’t even get in. What’s the point of spending a gazillion dollars to do that? I mean, yeah, you can get access to information and guests that you can’t at a smaller con, but at some point I feel like the trade-off is not worth it.

(I haven’t gone to the local one in several years either. I went the first few years before it got ginormous, and now I just can’t be bothered most of the time.)

I haven’t been to the Star Trek/scifi con in a few years either, but that’s more because the timing hasn’t really worked since I had the small, mobile ones. But it was my first con. I went for the first time when I was 12–don’t even remember how I learned about it, since this was early Internet days–and for a shy geek like me who thought that she was alone, it was eye-opening. I went every year after that, first with my parents, though later they’d just drop me and my friends off. I feel like smaller cons–this one, and MileHiCon, for example–are a good place for teenagers to really be able to grow into themselves. I have a ton of happy memories.

Like the time the Klingons crashed a panel about the Dominion war with a Cardassian skull. Or the time the Klingons stole my candy. (Lots of Klingons.) The time my then-boyfriend and I got professionally done up as Vulcans and then came in as finalists at the dance contest later that night. I first found out about Pokemon there, having wandered into an anime room showing the first episode in Japanese (with no subtitles, so I had no idea what was going on).

My friends and I would go and just hang out, maybe attending panels, maybe not. It was a great way to find out about new shows and movies we didn’t know about and to just be around like-minded people who weren’t going to make fun of us for knowing the difference between a Galaxy-class and an Intrepid-class starship.

The last time I went, I didn’t even go into the con proper. I put on my original series mini-dress (that I made for Halloween one year, off the pattern in the Technical Manual) and hung out in the bar with my mother-in-law and her friends, and we watched the people in costumes go by and chatted about nerdy things.

So, I mean, I understand why they’re shutting down. I didn’t realize it was the same people running it all this time. And it’s all volunteer-run. But it is the end of an era, one that I will remember fondly.

(And, of course, I can’t go this last year, because of small, mobile one activities. I’m tempted to blow them off, but I have committed to stuff, so alas.)

What was your first con, squiders? Do you have fond memories? I’d love to hear one.

Distracted By My Own Work

How goes my revision?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Yesterday I finished going through Book 1. At the very end, there’s a note that the story will be continued in Book 2.

I sat there, and I said to myself, “Don’t do it, Kit. Stop here. We have to get this book done, and you know what happens in Book 2.”

And then I opened Book 2 and read it anyway.

And, at that point, I figured I might as well read Book 3. And then I really enjoyed Book 3, so I went back and re-read the end again.

This is counterproductive, and yet, every time I work on any of the books it happens. That’s part of what is so infuriating about having to work on Book 1 yet again. Most of the story? Good. Great, even. My betas for Book 3 universally told me they stayed up too late reading. So I know if I can just get the beginning of Book 1 in shape, I should be able to reach my goals with the trilogy.

So why is getting the beginning of Book 1 in shape so damn hard?

Sigh.

Of course, Books 2 and 3 aren’t perfect. They both reference events that no longer happen in the most recent draft of Book 1 and don’t reference new events. Book 2 has structural problems and everyone’s just slightly out of character. But there’s also not a lot of use working on them if Book 1 doesn’t get done.

(In case people are wondering why they’re out of character in Book 2 but not Book 3, my writing of the trilogy has gone something like:

  • Write Book 1
  • Write Book 2
  • Rewrite Book 1
  • Rewrite Book 2
  • Write Book 3
  • Rewrite Book 1

So the current draft of Book 2 is actually the oldest existent draft and I did some plot work between it and when I wrote Book 3. This list also doesn’t include non-complete drafts. Yay. I’ve been working on this trilogy for SO LONG.)

Anyway, I’ve dragged myself out of the later books and am back to working on Book 1. I spent some time today writing out the main subplots as well as my antagonist motivations, which was less helpful than I was hoping but may have value in the future.

The last step before I get to actually revising is to go through Holly Lisle’s 7-Day Crash Revision course. I’ve told you guys before that I use a modified version of Holly’s How to Revise Your Novel process for my revisions, and the crash course came with that class, back whenever I bought it. I’ve never used it, though, but the idea is that it’s for a quick revision when you have a deadline, and she recommends only using it on a project that has already gone through a major revision.

Book 1 has been through my major revision process, so I thought I’d run through the crash course with it and see if there’s any value.

I am aware that this is me procrastinating the revision yet again, but I do want to make sure I have everything in place so that this is, finally, the last revision. So I don’t think it will hurt to use the resources at hand.

I also need to decide how much of the book to print out for the paper edit. First nine or ten chapters, I’m thinking. As I mentioned before, I think past there the book is more solid (aside from a side plot that kind of goes nowhere that I need to poke at) and needs only tweaks. My print shop left me (moved twenty minutes away) so I may just stick it on a flash drive and go to Fedex/Kinko’s for that.

(I am aware that Kinko’s is no longer in the name anywhere, but I am set in my ways and here we are.)

This is kind of ridiculous. I want to work on this, but I am also scared of working on this. It is very frustrating and I wish I would get on with it a bit faster. It’s just…I’ve been working on this project for so long, and it’s very important to me, and I just want to get it done right, and yet I’m also unsure if I’m going to get it done right.

auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugggghhhhh

Anyway, how are you? How are things going?

So, How’s the Big Project Going, Kit?

It’s the middle of April. So how am I doing on my major project for the year, which is to revise the first book of my high fantasy trilogy, so I can get it ready for submission?

I mean, it’s going okay. Am I as far as I wanted to be at this point? No, but a lot of that is because I needed to finish my novella draft and I didn’t get that done until February.

And then there was Pirates of Penzance, and the cruise…but really that’s just excuses.

Anyway.

I’m kind of a lightweight outliner when it comes to first drafts, but when it comes to revision, I strongly believe in knowing exactly what I’m changing, and to what, and where, and why.

(The idea is to minimize the amount of drafts, she says as she has lost track of the amount of drafts this book is on.)

(Though, to be fair, the most recent draft is the only one I went into where I’d outlined the revision before hand. Earlier versions I hadn’t come up with my revision process yet and hence were somewhat haphazard.)

So I decided, after my readthrough of the draft, that the best thing to do would be to make a chapter guide, with the thought that then I could go back in later and make notes about what changes should go into each chapter once I knew what was in each chapter.

I got about half a chapter doing that, then went–well, why shouldn’t I write down notes as I go? Save myself some time later.

So I did that for about nine chapters, but then I realized that there’s three main plot threads that need to run through the entire book in one way or another. If left to my own devices, I tend to do what I call subplot bunching, where I will focus on one subplot for a bit, then switch to another, and so on, and what happens is that plot threads get dropped for a while and the flow of the book is off.

As this is the first book of a trilogy, as you can imagine the plot threads are quite a bit more complicated than they are for a standalone novel.

ANYWAY, so I went back in and started making notes related to my three major plot threads and whether or not they were currently present, and what they looked like. And I think, after I finish my chapter summaries, I will need to map out how each plot thread needs to progress to make sure everything is moving and makes sense.

Because, of course, rearranging the plot points like we talked about will fix some problems, but it does create others. Chapter Six, for example. I thought I’d just be able to take it out, since I’d moved the main plot point in it before the story started, but it also includes a major reveal about one of my plot threads. So now I’ve either got to think of a new chapter six (potentially doable, though nothing is currently coming to mind) or I’ve got to figure out where else that reveal has to go (and it has to be chapter six or before), and I will need to know my progression to make that decision.

Yay.

Is this the most efficient way to work? Probably not.

And I am thinking that, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, I will need to print out at least the first third of the book and edit on paper. And…probably rewrite some of the chapters. The first one definitely. Maybe Chapter Six, depending on what it ends up being. Most of Lana’s point of view because she’s half the problem with everything.

Whee. Double yay.

The good news is that my revision deadline for the novella keeps moving back, so I’ve got more time to work on this now than originally planned. And my SkillShare class is going pretty well, so the hope is that I can get that done and then spend all my attentions on the revision.

How are your goals for the year going, squider? Making good progress? Run into issues?

WriYe and Memories

Hello, hello, squiders! How are you? Home ownership continues to be one step forward, two steps back, which is, well, what it is, I guess. I’d like to say I’m not stress eating, but I am absolutely stress eating.

Anyway, onto this month’s WriYe prompt.

Best writing memory.

Hmm. Memory how? Of actually writing? Of doing something with said writing?

I have a lot of good memories of writing. And I have some awful ones. (There may or may not have been a writers’ conference where I spent some time lying on the floor crying.) But in general, more good ones.

A lot of them involve other people. My first local Nano group up in Boulder, and how half the time we’d talk about Star Trek or tell jokes instead of writing. Sitting with my best friend in my favorite tea shop, drinking tea and eating scones and fancy chocolates. Weekly write-ins with friends out in California. Getting to go to the first ever Night of Writing Dangerously (and drinking my first and only Red Bull). Going to the Stanley Hotel for a write-in, and then absolutely not participating in the ghost hunt afterwards.

I probably miss that the most, right now. The in-person writing. Since we’ve moved back to Colorado I’ve had a hard time finding a writing group that can meet on a regular basis at a time I can also meet. I’ve had a few groups, but none that have lasted long, or provided what I wanted out of it. So, uh, side note, if anyone knows how to put together a writing group, give me tips, I guess.

But there’s good memories of the writing too. There’s been some stories, especially earlier on, when I didn’t understand structure or pacing or plot but also did not care, that were such a joy to write. My first sale felt pretty dang good (I think I got $5 for that story), and I still get a thrill when a story is accepted somewhere. And whenever a reader or a beta comes back and tells me how they couldn’t put a book down, or how they’re still thinking about the characters or the story after they’ve finished it.

But a “best” memory? One that outweighs all the other ones?

I don’t know that I have one. Maybe I will someday.

What about you, squiders? Do you have a best memory related to something creative?

An Unintentional Pandemic Journal

So in 2019, I posted my first SkillShare class, and, as part of that, I got a free year subscription, which I mostly used to take drawing and painting classes. One of the classes I took was called something like Sketch Journaling, which, as the name implied, talked about sketching your day versus straight journaling (though there were words included in the sketches).

I enjoyed the class, and bought a mixed media book and some sketching supplies, with the idea that I would sketch our vacations, as I didn’t think I could commit to journaling every day, sketching or writing or otherwise.

And so I did. In January 2020, we did a ski weekend, which I used as a test of the vacation sketch book concept. It went well, and I foresaw really getting into it when we took our Caribbean cruise in March of 2020.

Except, of course, we did not take our cruise in March of 2020. Instead, it got cancelled two days before we were supposed to board, and we ended up driving to Moab instead, where, as the week went on, hotels began to shut down, restaurants closed, and COVID numbers climbed worryingly.

And, because it directly affected our vacation, it’s all in the journal. And because we’ve done a trip every three months or so since that time period, each entry has ended up being a small time capsule of what was happening, pandemic-wise. Whether we were wearing masks or not, how safe an area felt COVID-wise, things that different locations were doing that we weren’t doing at home, and vice versa. Weird quirks that changed plans. Worries that things would be more or less dangerous than they ended up being.

As we, in theory, begin to come out of the pandemic part of COVID and move into the endemic part, it’s interesting to look back at where we were when, at the fears that ended up justified or overblown, at our mental states in different situations.

I guess it’ll keep going. The book’s only about 2/3rds of the way full. I dunno if I told you guys that we did get to go on our cruise finally, two years after we were supposed to go. Time to add that into the book, so it can continue the story.

Have you guys been tracking the pandemic somehow? Thoughts, or things you’ve noticed?

My New Favorite Tool

Howdy, howdy, squiders. I spent today patching and then painting the closet (we found a solution that basically included buying random things from IKEA, and we’ll see how that goes once we put everything together) which is, well, what it is. We decided on a dark forest green color, which is pretty, but may or may not look good in the end once there’s clothes and organizers and whatnot in there.

I also started my next SkillShare class (about points of view and tenses) and had coffee with a friend, so it wasn’t all house work.

Anyway, I had to go to IKEA yesterday to pick up the pieces we ordered, as well as track down some of other pieces that we couldn’t do for pick-up for some reason (white drawers could be added to the pick-up order, but the gray ones immediately next to them in the warehouse could not. I don’t even know.). While I was there, I picked up something I’d been eying for a while.

It’s called a Klockis.

(IKEA item names always make me laugh. Are these real words in Swedish? Or are they just made up words that sound vaguely Swedish for marketing purposes?)

The Klockis is a square clock that has four modes, depending on which side is up. One mode is a clock, which also keeps track of day and year (2013 was the default, so apparently they’ve been sitting around for a bit). One mode is a thermometer, which can be in Celsius or Fahrenheit. One mode is an alarm. And the last mode is a timer.

I bought it for the timer.

You see, the bigger, mobile one has had a Klockis for a while. And I’d noted that the timer saves its time. So, say, if you set it to 10 minutes, every time you go into timer mode, it starts a 10-minute timer. No need to reset it every time.

I’ve long been looking for a timer that has a set time it counts down. Most timers have to be set each time, and/or they tick while they work (like an egg timer). I’ve used online timers occasionally, but them being on the computer, which is also where I’m working, tends to make them get in the way.

I’d looked previously online for set-time timers, but they’re rare and almost always out of stock, as well as being expensive. So when I realized that the Klockis would reset its time consistently, it seemed like a great solution.

You see, I have two working modes. One is super focused. This is a great mode! But the problem is then I don’t move for a few hours, and studies recently have consistently shown that sitting for too long is bad for you. The other mode is super distracted, where I work for a few minutes, mess around for a few minutes, work on something else for a few minutes, etc. Things get done in this mode, but not efficiently, and I still normally don’t move very often.

So the idea is that I set my timer, and I work (on just one thing) for the duration of that timer, and then I switch to something else, or take a break, or remember to stand up and stretch.

I set it up yesterday, and I tried it out this morning while I was working on my SkillShare class. It’s perfect. Works just like I hoped, and I got quite a bit done.

It’s always nice when you find a tool that works. Here’s to hoping it helps me be focused and healthy going forward.

Have any tools you’ve found useful, squiders?