Almost There (Really!)

Still not there, though I did make good progress and have the rest of the book outlined, for real this time. All the bits are tying together, and I can see patterns emerging. So yay! I think …

I’m dying to clean my house right now, but I will prevail!!!!

I may have to shut off the wi-fi, close the blinds, and put in earplugs so that I don’t do anything else until I get this book done.

Well, Not Quite There

I didn’t quite finish the book Friday. On this round of revisions, I wrote the big final turning point scene first so I’d know what I was aiming for. I thought all I had to do was bridge from where I was to that scene, and then do the mopping up aftermath stuff.

Then I read the scene I wrote, and it’s now all wrong. I guess I made some very different turns along the way. But this means I was farther behind than I thought. After a good day’s work and several thousand words of writing, I ended up with fewer words than I started with. I may even have to revise some of the stuff I did on Friday to really set up the new big climactic scene.

At this point in the process, having it done well is the important thing. There are no prizes for when I finish, only for having something that makes publishers excited. And after all the work I’ve put into this thing, I really need to make publishers excited.

So maybe I’ll finish it today. I have to finish this week because I’m going out of town next week, and I want it done other than for maybe one more pass before then.

Almost There!

If I’m very good today, I should be able to finish this draft of the book. I’ve got the rest outlined, and I only need about 4,000 words to hit my targeted manuscript word count (though I don’t know how many words are necessary to finish the story). That’s within range for what I can do in a good day, and it’s a rainy day, which usually means I can get a lot done.

I’ll want at least one more pass on this manuscript, but I’ve mostly been editing along the way so I don’t anticipate a lot of rewriting on this round, just wordsmithing and adding a few little tweaks and details.

Then I have a story I need to write that I’ve already been researching and developing, then I need to finish Enchanted, Inc. book 9, which is about halfway done, and then I’ve got Rebels 4 to research and write, and there’s the possibility of something else that might come in the middle of it all. And then there’s a book I’ve been dying to write that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m not sure it’s even viable, I’m not sure how to market it, I don’t know if I can pull it off. But it won’t shut up and leave me alone so I have to at least try to work on it and see what happens.

This is going to be a busy summer, it seems.

So, off to finish a book!

My Nebula Dress Dilemma

I think I’ve resolved my issue of what to wear other than my Star Wars nightshirt and yoga pants during the Nebula Awards. I had an appointment yesterday morning, and as I was getting dressed I realized my watch had stopped (yes, I still wear a watch — it’s easier to just check my wrist than to dig my phone out of my purse). Since the mall with the good jewelry repair place was near the appointment, I figured I’d drop by there on my way home. And then while I was waiting for the battery to be replaced, I thought I’d wander. This is kind of a dying mall (though new ownership just bought it, so maybe that will change) that only has the big anchor stores, the movie theater, and a few small shops left, but most of it is empty. I’d heard they’d put in a carousel, so I headed down to see that, and it was in front of Macy’s, so I thought I might as well see what kind of dresses they had. And lo, I found a dress on the clearance rack, a really nice “little black dress” from Ralph Lauren, in my size, for a ridiculously low cost. Even better, it’s stretchy, so not only will it pack well, but it’s not that much less comfortable than the yoga pants and nightshirt.

However, when I got it home I realized why I liked it: I already own that dress in a bright blue (and that was the dress I was tentatively planning to wear). Hey, it works, so it works in other colors. But now I need to decide whether to wear the black one or the blue one for the awards. The black one automatically looks dressier, but the blue is more striking. And can I get away with wearing both dresses to the same event on different days, or will it be obvious that I’m collecting every color of this one dress?

Then again, this is an event where I can have a conversation with someone and then later they act like they’ve never met me, so I could probably wear the same dress all weekend without anyone noticing.

I’ve also noticed that the local TV anchorwomen/meteorologists all seem to own multiple colors of this dress, so I don’t seem to have shed my TV reporter clothing taste.

writing

The Perils of Head Hopping

I don’t have a lot of absolutes when it comes to the writing style of things I read. I’ve heard people say they won’t read first-person narration or present tense, etc. I generally try to give everything a chance and let it come down to how the book works for me. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of second-person narration — “you do this” — but I’ve read a few stories where it works.

One thing that does come close to an absolute for me, though, is indiscriminate head hopping. That’s third-person narration in which the point of view character changes frequently — not just from chapter to chapter or scene to scene, but within a scene, and going back and forth within the scene. For instance, two characters are having a conversation, and when one character is speaking, in that paragraph we also get his thoughts. But then when the other character speaks, in that paragraph we get her thoughts.

This is different from omniscient narration because with that, we have an all-knowing narrator with a perspective on these events. That narrator may dip into everyone’s head at various times, but what we see in that character’s head is presented to us through the viewpoint of the narrator. This was common in 19th century literature. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens often used it. We might get glimpses into the heads of all the characters in a scene, but we weren’t so much seeing through those characters’ eyes as we were seeing what Jane or Charles thought about what the characters were thinking. Some of the cases I’ve seen of people writing head hopping today seem to be authors trying to do this but without realizing that omniscient POV works better if the narrator really does have a perspective, to the point of being an offscreen character.

I find it really hard to get into books that head hop because I can’t sink into any one character’s head, and that makes it really hard to get a grasp on the world and the people involved. If in one scene I’m switching among all the characters, I don’t get into any of them and I’m not sure what to think about any of them. It works better for me if I spend some time in one head, seeing all the characters through that person’s perspective, then in a different scene go into another person’s head and see everything through their eyes, and so forth, and then I can figure out all the characters by putting all this information together.

I will generally put a book down if I have too many instances in the first chapter or so in which I have to backtrack to figure out whose head I’m in. If I’m going along in one person’s head and then with no transition I’m suddenly seeing that person from the outside for a paragraph and it takes me a while to figure out that’s what’s going on, that I’m in another person’s head now, I find that very annoying. It’s worse when the author has point of view breaks on top of it, where the character is thinking things about himself that most people don’t think, so sometimes it’s just a POV break and sometimes it’s an entirely different perspective. For instance, if I’m in my head and reading something that astonishes me, the way I’d describe my reaction would be more internal — I might gasp, my pulse might speed up, I might get a knot in my stomach, etc. I probably wouldn’t think about my green eyes growing wider.

I just started reading a book by an author I’ve been enjoying, but the previous books were all first-person POV. This book is doing multiple character third-person, and I don’t think this author has a good grasp on that. We’re getting a lot of “her green eyes widened” type stuff from within the characters’ POV about themselves, but then the next paragraph will be another character thinking about what that first character’s reaction means, and then a paragraph later we’re back with the first person. I have to keep going back to figure out whose head I’m in. I’m really intrigued by the story situation, but it’s taking me forever to get into this book.

I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule about what works here because I know of a lot of really popular books/authors who do this in a way that bothers me so much that I couldn’t read their books, and obviously it didn’t hurt them with a huge number of readers. My rule as a reader is that if I notice it in a way that hurts my enjoyment of a book, you’re doing it wrong for me.

writing

Almost There!

I’m so close to finishing this book that I’m having to battle with my usual “oh, just get it done” impatience in order to make the ending what it needs to be. I sat down to outline the rest and realized that I’d made a few minor wrong turns that have things in not quite the place they ought to be, so I think I’m going to go back over the last half with the same concentration I gave to getting the first half right so I can get a running start to the ending. I’d have to do this kind of editing at some point anyway, and there will be less to change later if I get the setup right.

I already know most of what I want to adjust along the way, and they aren’t major changes, just a few little tweaks that will eventually add up, and that I think (hope!) will take this book to the next level.

So, that will be my focus for the next couple of days. I may throw myself a party when I feel like this book is finally done (for now).

Bits and Pieces

First, a public service announcement: Be wary of “customer service” e-mails claiming to come from AT&T, telling you that you need to verify your e-mail address because of activity on your account, and telling you to call a particular number if you think there’s an error. That’s a scam, but it’s a really good one. The e-mail looks exactly like an AT&T e-mail, and if you look at the expanded headers to see where it’s really coming from, the domain names have “att” in them (though in a different format from the real thing, like “att-mail.com”). I was almost ready to think it might be legitimate, but thought I’d google the number you were supposed to call, and I got a string of sites reporting it as a scam, including a post on the AT&T customer service forums. So, if you get an e-mail like that from AT&T, call the number on your bill or on the AT&T site to check. Don’t click on the link to verify anything, and don’t call the number in the e-mail. Apparently, these same scammers do also call and claim to be AT&T, so don’t give information to someone who calls you. Say you’ll have to get back to them, and then call the number on your bill or on their web site.

Second, for the past ten or so years, I’ve been doing posts about writing every other Wednesday and then sending them out to an e-mail list. I took a break over the holidays and never went back to it, and no one seems to have noticed, at least, not that I’ve heard. Is this something that interests people? Does anyone care about the e-mail list? I’d kind of burned out on the schedule and was running out of things to say, and I was sidetracked by other things. I’ve been occasionally writing about writing when I feel inspired, just not on any kind of formal schedule, and I haven’t been e-mailing the posts.

Meanwhile, I have nearly ten years worth of posts. About five years ago, I put the ones I had at that time into a PDF “booklet” on my web site, but I’ve been thinking about compiling them into an e-book that I could distribute like I do my other books, probably with some cost involved, depending on the length of the book (but probably no more than 2.99). Would anyone be interested in getting all these posts about writing craft and business and writing life, in one handy e-book?

But first I have to finish the book I’m working on, and I’m so very close. I just need to figure out exactly what should happen at the end, since I’ve reached the “and then stuff happens” part of my outline and it needs to get more specific than that.

writing life

Almost Done!

I’m so very close to the end of this draft of this book (which was almost a complete rewrite). Of course, that’s when it’s as though every fiber of my being wants to do everything but write this book. I suddenly desperately want to clean my house, organize things, nap, read, research obscure subjects, and learn opera arias. Every other story idea I’ve had for years is suddenly jumping up and demanding attention.

But I will push through. I have to tell myself that I can’t work on those other things until this book is finished. I’m even going to work Saturday, if I have to.

Though I do have other stuff to do Saturday. I’m doing a talk at church Sunday night that needs some preparation, and then I’m doing a workshop at the Nebula Awards conference that I need to write because I need to get the handouts to them ahead of time. I have some promo stuff I really should take care of. I also want to get my house in order because, distraction and procrastination aside, it really is awful right now. And then there’s that trip to the Nebula Awards. I’m presenting an award, which means I may need to dress a little fancier than I was planning to (well, since I wasn’t actually planning to go to the awards ceremony at all, I guess it’s a lot fancier because if they hadn’t asked me to present, I’d have been wearing yoga pants and my nightshirt and lounging in my hotel room). Some people wear ballgowns to this event. I’m not going that far, but should probably find something fancier than yoga pants and a Star Wars nightshirt.

So, yeah, I’ve got stuff I need to deal with after this book is done, so I’d better get cracking.

TV

Cord Cutting Update

I now have my cord-cutting setup more or less complete. I need to get a couple more things for full functionality, and I might make some tweaks, but I have all the major equipment now that my tuner/media server/DVR has been delivered. I was looking at DVR options once I dropped cable, but I couldn’t justify the cost of the Tivo for the amount I’m likely to record from over-the-air television. Either you spend a lot up front for the lifetime subscription or you pay monthly an amount that’s about the cost of a streaming service.

Then I noticed that some of the digital adapters/tuners had a DVR capability if you added an external hard drive. Most of the reviews for these were pretty bad, but there was one that had good reviews. I followed that link, and it turned out that it had been discontinued, but that company was about to launch a new product to replace it, and it had fixed the things that were lacking in the previous version. If you pre-ordered it, you got it at about half the usual cost, and it was quite reasonable, so I took a chance.

It’s a little gizmo that you plug your antenna into, and then it plugs into the TV via HDMI, and it works kind of like a cable box. It gives you an on-screen program grid for all your over-the-air channels, and if you insert a memory card (I need to get one), you can record programs. The nice thing about using a memory card is that if you fill one up, you can just swap out for a new one, so it pretty much has infinite memory. I don’t anticipate recording that much, mostly stuff from PBS, but what I do record along those lines, it’s for archival purposes because it’s some documentary that I might use as a reference for something I’m writing.

The media server side of things is a little iffier, since it’s Android TV and there aren’t a lot of apps for it yet. They don’t even have Amazon Prime. So I’ll still be using my Roku for streaming.

I’ve been thinking of getting a longer cable for the antenna and moving it upstairs to see if that improves reception any. The PBS station is prone to glitching when a plane flies over. I may also eventually look into getting a better antenna that might pick up my ABC station. At the moment, I can get their local news online, and there’s only one series I watch on ABC, which is about to end, so I don’t know if upgrading the antenna is worth it for that one station.

I really have been watching less TV, which is good. I think my reading is up. Amazon Prime is allowing me to have a lot more variety in my documentary habit, so I’ve branched beyond WWII. I’ve been watching a lot of stuff about the Tudors and the British royal family, since I’m currently working on a book that involves royalty. There are also a number of good travel programs. I think the difference between cable and my current situation is mostly in whether I have access to specific things. Having something to watch isn’t a problem at all.

TV

Going Postal on TV

I made the dangerous discovery that if there’s something I’d like to watch, I can run a search on the Roku and see if it’s streaming anywhere. I’d found last week that some of the TV adaptations of Terry Pratchett books were available with Amazon Prime, but not the one I hadn’t already seen, Going Postal. It’s not even available to buy/rent on Amazon. Just out of curiosity, I ran the Roku search and found that it’s on one of the free TV apps. So, now I’ve had a chance to watch it.

I heard a lot of complaints when it was on British TV, but it really wasn’t bad at all. The book was still better, but that’s a big “Duh!” I thought the casting was excellent (Charles Dance was born to play Vetinari), and it was interesting seeing some of these things come to life, like the way they depicted the Clacks. There’s a bit of a steampunk aesthetic in the setting, technology, and costumes. The special effects are a bit on the cheap side, and the low budget is occasionally obvious, but I don’t think that ruins the overall effect. I would love to see some of these adaptations done with a decent budget, and since I’m sure there’s a big audience for them, I’m not sure why they’ve all been so cheap.

That’s one of my favorite Pratchett books, in part because it was my first, but in part because it’s such a satisfying redemption story, about a con artist who gets caught but gets another chance. At first, he’s scheming for himself, but then he starts to see the impact his crimes had on people and he actually starts thinking about a greater good. He finds ways to use his talents to the benefit of others, not just himself, and that ends up benefiting himself. And that’s all done without getting sappy or sanctimonious.

I don’t know if I’d want to watch this again, so I don’t know about looking for the DVD, but I was so glad I found it to stream. I liked the adaptation of Hogfather, though it, too, suffered from being a bit cheap. The Colour of Magic was kind of a mess, though. It’s pretty much impossible to do that story on a low budget, and that meant a lot of the good stuff was cut out.