Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Slow and Careful Consideration

There's so much you can get dinged for in English, and with every pass I take over something I find more. It's a sifting process, and the collision between 'knowing the rules' and 'total creativity' is the place where grammatical accidents happen.

We want to have total freedom and create without limitation.

We need to follow the rules.

I feel I do a pretty good job but I have my hang-ups, like stringing together disparate ideas with commas, and my successful struggle getting over verb-tense issues. I go over my older work and I wonder what I was thinking, but I can see the desperate struggle to get the words out while not being attentive of the rules. As with any art, you get a lot better as you go on - if you keep going on.

We get better, all of us do, as long as we devote a little time each week to learning and re-learning the basics. This is something I even do, I pick up older English books every week, flip to a random page, and just read. They can be basic or advanced theory, but it is a part of my training regimen every week to keep brushing up. I liken it to exercise and calisthenics, running practice sprints, weight-lifting and the other training athletes perform.

This helps, it really does. I have a library of basic grammar to advanced fiction theory in real books and sitting on my shelf reminding me I am using shelf space to store these so they expect to be used. I leave them lying around, on my breakfast table, by my bed, in stacks near my computer - everywhere. My little writing books are a part of my life, and that's where I want them to be.

I'm not perfect though, and sometimes silly stuff slips through. I try to do penance for my sins, picking something I messed up on and writing a workshop on the subject. This has helped as well over the years. Also, please, never be afraid of 'doing the work' - knowing you have an issue and going back through everything line by line looking for that one issue. That blood lost now is called the learning process, and the repetition of fixing the error over and over again toughens you up and teaches you the rule like nothing else.

So I adopted a process of a 'slow and careful consideration' when I do my editing passes. I know I have to do several on a project, because an editing pass is also another opportunity to learn and apply knowledge, and the more you do the better it gets.

It stays with you though, so never think editing time is wasted. Every hour spent editing makes the next book all the much better. You will likely spend the same time editing the next book finding new issues, so don't expect editing to get better as it goes along. You are learning, conquering old things, and tackling new things with each book and with each pass.

It gets better as you go, but you do feel better as you keep up your training regimen, and use every book as a new opportunity to learn.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

CLS Romance: Detail Passes, 18,000 words

I am at 18,000 words with my CLS Romance project, and I am finding myself going back and doing detail passes on what I wrote. I find it helpful to go back and ask the basic questions about a chapter, where are they, what do things look like, or when is this happening? Asking the basic who. what. when, where, why, and how questions will get you looking at your work as a reader, and you will then determine if that extra information adds to the scene or distracts from it.

Sometimes, I find that I wrote something, and it doesn't have a strong sense of place, so I need to pull my narrative and descriptive paintbrushes out of my writer's toolbox and set the scene.

Other times, I will see an info-dump and want to convert that into dialog so the reader can pick up on the information slowly and over the course of a conversation.

These are detail passes, like a painter stopping and going back into a place in the painting to add little pieces of detail to make the picture pop. Now, it's possible to overwork a chapter with too much detail, but never, ever consider your first draft to be a final - chapters always need detail passes and you should ideally never release something raw to readers.

After I am done my pass, there is always room for another to layer in further details and information. You may have forgot about the cold in a winter scene, or forgot to describe the tone and color of the light. You may have forgot to describe what the characters were wearing, or that may not be important. You may have missed a chance for some great dialog or character development.

As for progress? I am not done yet, and I have this feeling I am either halfway or 2/3rd done with this. I do not want this to go 70,000 words though, even though I could sit here and just turn this into an epic. I have my plan, and it shall take me as long as it takes me. I am feeling 30 to 35,000 words is my target based on the outline I have remaining, and my tendency to add in detail and interaction as I go fluffing things out as bit.

Mind you, that is still a hefty amount of post-work. It took me a couple weeks to get On Black Wings finalized, so we are talking a solid week or two of editing work to get this project to a releasable state. This is with those detail passes I am finding necessary and also very fun to sprinkle in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CLS Romance: 15,000 Words Done, Being Selective

I had a wonderful two days with my romance project this week, clocking 8,000 and 4,000 words respectively. I am clearly in love with the book, and it also reminds me of why I love writing in the genre - both romance and fantasy.

Oh yes, CLS Romance is in the fantasy genre, or should I say, a fantasy sub-genre. I love writing in fantasy because it gives me a strong sense of character, place, and also freedom. In fantasy, there is a freedom for characters to be heroes, for danger to be real danger, and for decisions to matter.

With the modern world, there are expectations and rules to follow. In a fantasy world, some actions are justified and also heroes can be heroes without being second-guessed by those in the world or quite possibly the reader. For a book that focuses on one subject (romance), I want there to be as little focus on baggage around the world and on the story, and more of the characters.

It's always a danger when writing stories where your focus is tight, you get comments like "what about this?" and "what about that?" - while this is great feedback and I love it, there is also a careful consideration to not throw in so many "the world should work this way" stuff so it derails your story on a tangent, or all of a sudden "things cannot happen" the way you want them too.

As an artist and a writer, you need to be selective.

In fact, the quality and ability to complete your story directly depends on your selectiveness. Things need to "work" and "make sense" but you don't have to paint everything or include every detail. This is not to say things should be so out there they are beyond belief, but I can't throw in "what ifs" that make logical sense that would drive my plot into never-never-get-it-done land.

It's also true in life, you need to be selective in the things you commit to, the choices you make, and the projects you choose to work on. It's the greatest lie of modern life that the 'have everything' Internet indoctrinates us with.

Having everything and trying to do everything is the surest route to unhappiness.

It's only when we are selective and limit our choices is when we are able to focus and find enjoyment in the few things we love, and do these few things well.

Monday, November 3, 2014

CLS Romance: Coming Back

Like two lovers apart, sometime spending some time away from each other makes the heart grow fonder. You will know if it's love if after a long time, you see your love again, and those same feelings come rushing back and you fall in love all over again.

And I feel it.

Such it is with my CLS Romance project, I re-read the entire introduction and the love bug has bit me again. There is this separation I like to put between myself and a project, I get the entire book plotted out, I write a killer intro, and then I walk away - and it could be for weeks.

When I come back to it, if I feel those same feelings rushing back, I know the love is true and worthy, and I am ready to begin again. It has just happened with my CLS Romance book, and I have so many feelings and ideas I am absolutely swimming with excitement at pushing through with the next part of the story. until the end.

I need that time away. I came back and discovered new things I love about the book, and I found myself adding little this' and that's to the book, sprinkling in a dash here and there, and putting a whole new level of meaning and love on the book. It's how I express love for my work, tender care and deeper meanings, along with lavished attention and detail.

It is perspective, but it is also rediscovery.

I love romance, and I am coming up with guidelines and little rules for myself to keep the romance beautiful romance in my mind, and raising the heat and passion without going the erotic romance route. Not that I couldn't, of course, but I want this to be what it is, and I am getting a kick our of this being a straight romance book and playing by those rules. This is also teaching me more about erotic romance by not having those routes to explore, I must find different ways of expressing love and lust, along with showing the thoughts and passions of those involved.

I am fighting multiple perspectives as well, my mind is positively filled with writing PoVs of other major characters and how they see the world. I would just love to write these and go down those rich paths of discovery and background, but I must fight those urges to preserve focus.

This book is about focus in a way, discipline and careful crafting.

I see myself spending some cozy and quality time with this project in the coming weeks as all the possibilities come rushing back to me and fill my thoughts with the prospects of love and heartache, romance and choices, colorful lands and memorable characters.

I have fallen in love, again.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fall

How could I leave a Halloween post up when the rustle of leaves bristles by my window, and the crisp snap of the chill air blows outside? It's Fall, a the time nature decides to remind us we all grow old and wither, but as well we also bloom to our brightest colors and vibrancy in our further years.

This is Fall, a time when the leave glow brightly and put on the show of all shows, and the cold air blows in from the north, and majestic clouds billow overhead with the spattering of rains as ice and snow loom in our minds.

This is Fall, a time when we celebrate all that we have to be thankful for in our lives and experiences, and gather with family and friends to be home again.

We look forward to the coming of Winter and the blowing ice and snow. This is the herald of a time of change and growth towards the year's final steps into renewal and rebirth.

Until then, enjoy the moment.

For Fall is a time to open our eyes and take it all in. The festivity, the celebrations, the relaxation from the hectic times of summer where we try to cram in every last drop of enjoyment out of the sun and warmth of that now passed season. It's time to take our lives down a couple gears, slow down, and enjoy the show which nature provides for us without fail, year after year.

This is our time.

This is the time to let go, take part, and enjoy the glorious colors of life. The season is upon us! How could you miss out at the hay rides, the cooking, the trips through the orange, yellow, and red fires of fall foliage? The parties, the life, the love we share as family and friends? This is our time to be together as a people to make this moment one to remember.

We don't want to miss the chance.

Or, it may be okay. We may celebrate this in our own way alone as we sit at our window with a hot mug of spiced cider as we watch the squirrels dart about as they bury food for the long winter ahead. We could sit at our desks and write what we write, talk to our fans, and take on that 'writerly role' we smile when someone tells us they love what we do. Thank you for being a fan, we say, and onto the next connection we go. Life goes on as it gets colder outside, and because we don't need to rush about, we are just fine where we are. Work needs to be done, and the world will go on without our participation in it.

But still, in the rustle of the wind and the leaves outside, the season calls to us.

And then there's a call on the phone, and a knock on the door, and someone we love with rosy cheeks and all bundled up says there is a Fall concert downtown, and they would love us to go with them.

And life wins again.

We bundle up, put on our best coat and scarf, and venture out into the slowly dying world as the season's final show blooms around us with color and the dying throes of life, and we realize there will be another renewal, and other spring, another summer, and yet another Fall for us to enjoy next year.

But right now.

This moment.

This Fall.

This is where we are.

So we decide to put our work aside, venture out of our cave, and enjoy the show while the show goes on. For this is Fall, a time where nature lies down for a rest to come back again next year, and the cold wind kisses us on the cheek as we go downtown to that concert, and we realize one thing.

We are a part of all this after all.