Works In Progress

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Thick skin

Lately I've been reading Some Writers Deserve to Starve! 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry. Yesterday morning I made it partway through the entry on critique groups (Truth #23: Not all critique groups are critique groups). I stopped off at the subhead "The Etiquette of Giving Critique" (p. 183 if you're following along at home), put my bookmark in and got on with my life.

A few hours later I got my first rejection notice.

Last night I picked up where I left off in SWDtS! and noticed the pull-quote just above the subhead: "Developing rhino skin is part of the process of becoming a writer." Anybody want to needlepoint that into a sampler for me?

Those you who know me know I love rhinos. Those of you who know of me through the faith*in*fiction message board or my blogspot message posts know that I use Spider-Man villain Rhino as my avatar (see left). If rejection is the means to the end of rhino skin development, then bring it on. (Publishing a piece now and again would be nice too, though.)

What's a guy have to do to get the cool rhino horns to grow?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Rite of Passage

I got my first rejection letter (e-mail) today. While I'm not surprised, I'm a little bummed out (but only a little).

So this is what being a writer feels like.

And now, back to work.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Speaking the Language

For years I’ve wanted to be a writer. I’ve not always wanted to actually sit down and write, but I’ve wanted to be a writer. I don’t think I’m alone in this. People like me/us keep publishing companies solvent by purchasing how-to and inspirational books whilst in the pre-writer phase. Among the many things I bought to persuade myself I was writerly* if not really writing were several annual subscriptions to Writer’s Digest Magazine.

Now maybe it’s me and maybe it isn’t (several letters to the editor have commented on how the mag has improved of late), but I always found the articles in WD a little too simple: Show Don’t Tell (of course not), Avoid Clichés Like the Plague (duh), Substantially Reduce Your Adverbs (you betcha). I’d come away from scanning an issue thinking: well I can do that, this writing thing’s not so hard after all. In fact, why even bother writing when I’ve got all this mastered?

Have I mentioned yet that I wasn’t actually writing much, if anything?

Now that I have a fat pile of MS pages on my desk, I see that it’s not as easy as I had thought. Wait! These are just pages of narrative telling, no showing in sight. Clichés are standing out like sore thumbs. And perhaps I too-hastily estimated my skill at eschewing adverbiage. Writer’s Digest not only makes sense now, but it makes a difference, too. So do the how-to books and the inspirational tomes.

They say to learn a language you need to immerse yourself in it. Not to get ecclesiological, but I used to be a sprinkler when it came to writing. Dribs, drabs, drips, drops. Whatever I managed to write failed to transform me from pre-writer to writer. Diving in the deep end last fall – now that did the trick.

I'm not kidding myself anymore, either. I know I’ve still got a long way to go. But at least now I’m speaking the right language. (Five points to me for rejecting the pun when writing the penultimate word in that sentence.)

And while I’m on the topic of speaking a common language, let me add that I’m enjoying reading Christian fiction as much as I’m enjoying writing it. Part of what led me to want to write in the Christian niche were the books in the late-80s/early-90s that presented salvation as just one more obstacle to overcome on the way to the big finale. It wasn’t always that blatant, and it didn’t enable the main character to call down holy fire to resolve the climax, but in book after book it was the means to the end. I didn’t care for it (on technical grounds; I was glad the character got saved, but it didn’t always serve the story well). Lately I’ve been immersing myself in modern Christian fiction and (largely) enjoying what I’ve found. There are a lot of well-written stories out there presenting the Gospel – or a Christian worldview – that are content to put it out there, but don't require a commitment by characters or readers by page 325. It seems the industry’s speaking my language. Whoodathunkit?

*Among the "101 unconventional lessons every writer needs to know" in Robert’s Rules of Writing, Robert Masello shares that it’s okay to “buy the smoking jacket” (Rule #56). Part of becoming a writer is wanting to be one. Not every kid who wants to be a writer (or tap dancer or ballerina or fairy-princess or veterinarian or what have you) will realize his or her dream. But it still starts with the dream. Don’t want to be a writer and odds are you won’t. Want to be one and maybe – just maybe – you will (perhaps you’ll even get published). I don’t feel enormously terrible about the years spent not writing (a little remorse, yes, but not a lot). What I’m doing now redeems them all. The pre-writer phase is over. The writer has entered the building (even if he wears a ratty bathrobe instead of a smoking jacket).

Friday, May 13, 2005

500 New Words

Well, I fought off the impulse to start fresh on Monday and went ahead and wrote the new opening scene for Chapter One.

I like it.

It's still rough, but it does a couple things. It opens with action (it could use a bit more): David Wagner (formerly Graham) zipping around Graphite trying to find a newspaper box with a copy of the paper still inside it. He fails, and in failing reveals character. With the demon exiting Stage Left at the end of the prologue and Wagner entering solo in chapter one, I think there's a fair chance the reader might infer correlation (esp. since both have anger management issues). I hope so at any rate. (Of course you, dear blog reader, will miss out on the old switcheroo, but there'll be other surprises in store. Surprises galore, in fact.)

500 words. Not a lot, but it's a start.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Has This Been Done Yet?

I cooked this [link removed] up this morning. I'm thinking it might be landable at The Door - if it hasn't already been done (I can't find anything like it, but their archives aren't the most extensive).

It's still a little rough, but I think with a nice faux Blogger or MT template it could be rather humorous (esp. with some nice fake google ads).

Gimme feedback if ya got it. [no one did. thanks for nothing]


[if anyone was curious about what this was about, e-mail me ... or subscribe to The Door, I'm gonna submit it]

[edited 5/18/05]

Working MyMind

Another problem with the first draft of Revival was (is) that I lost track of characters. So-and-so's not in this scene, so what's it matter what (s)he's doing. Before long, the character had dropped from my radar completely, and stuff I had planned on them doing later got left out. So, in the rewrite (I've re-done the prologue, so I'm officially in it - yay!), I'm working harder to keep track of everyone.

I've tried writing notes with bits of narrative summary, but by the time you get to the end of the notes you've forgotten the beginning. I've tried making outlines by hand, but eventually there's no more space on the page to cram things in and half of what's written is illegible.

Last night, more on a whim than anything else, I did a VersionTracker search for Mac Outlining Software. One little freeware gem came up: MyMind 1.2. It makes very nice outlines (here are some screenshots) and is surprisingly intuitive to use.

I monkeyed with it a bit and came up with a sample outline for my first chapter. First of all, I love that I can insert a photo into the background. It may be completely irrelevant, but it's fun. One thing, though, that's very useful is that the outline map is interactive. By stretching the outline points over to the right, I was able to create a timeline of sorts. Changing colors specifies what gets written about and what exists as background info only.

Pretty handy utility.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Name Fixing

My main character is getting a new name.

In the first draft he was David Graham, but while I was going through correcting typos I noticed several instances where I had typed the badguy's name, Gantt, instead of goodguy Graham's. And conversely. So, Ol' Dave is gettin' a new name (I think I'll leave other G-name-ster Tracy Greene alone for now).

Goodbye, David Graham.

Hello, David Wagner.

Cue strains of 'Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, huh-huh-uh-huh'?

Naah, it'll be with the 'whuh' sound.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Case of the Missing Newspapers

One of the problems (which are legion) in the first draft is that my main character just showed up in Graphite and wandered around for a bit. Not the stuff of compelling fiction. So, let's give David Graham something to do and have him be in the middle of it when the story opens.

Solution: He's looking for a newspaper, but all the vending boxes are empty (for the sake of verisimilitude the paper's a regional weekly with a special 'local' insert that varies from town to town; a town of 1,000+ isn't going to have a daily paper). His routine: grab a paper, check into his fleabag motel, flip through the paper and then get down to business. So, Inkling #1 that something's wrong in Graphite will be the absence of the local papers.

But why have the local papers gone missing? That's been a stumper.

I've finally settled on State H.S. Football Championship Playoffs. It has a number of positives. First, it'd sell papers (so clippings can be sent to family and friends, framed in the living room, etc.). Second, it gives me a reason to have a fair chunk of people absent from town when things begin going pear-shaped. I don't have to write the star quarterback in as Rambo; I don't have to write cheerleaders at all. It also gives me a place to put Barbara Adams' daughter, Brandy (Babs isn't going to fall for Pastor Jim if her daughter's in jeopardy, so the girl'll be away cheering her pom-pons off and I don't have to worry about her).

So, the Graphite Pencilnecks (yeah, they need a better name), have advanced to the State-1A play-offs (this is the same division as my local school's team, the Triangle Lake Lakers (see, I don't have to make the name that much better)). Maybe they'll come and play the Lakers in the first round, or maybe it'll be the Arlington Honkers, the Adrian Antelopes, the Elkton Elks or the Huntington Locomotives (the Nixyaawii Community School Eagles are not eligible for state according to the info I found online, or else it'd be them for sure).

I've decided they'll have just beaten the Wallowa Cougars, who fared quite well in the 2004 playoffs. They should be quite proud of themselves. Pity they won't have much of a homecoming.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Constant Fun

In naming the streets of Graphite, I decided upon the simple and oft-popular numbered streets (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) for the roads heading off the main street (Parkman). There were two little glitches with that system: a tiny street between 2nd and 3rd and a longish street between 6th and 7th.

Now, I haven't planned any action to occur on either of these roads, so I'm positing that an early city planner was a math nerd with a sense of humor.

The little road is 'e' St. (mathematical constant e=2.7182818284...); the longish one is Avogad Rd. (Avogadro's number=6.02214199 × 1023)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Welcome to Graphite

Well, Eladnref, actually (that's Ferndale spelled backwards, in case you're not the type that automagically transposes oddly spelled words).

Last night was the first time in a long time I actually did more than noodle on Revival. I had printed out a bunch of close-up views of Ferndale, Calif., from Google Maps, cut them out and taped them together awhile ago.

Yesterday evening I scanned the map in, transposed it, and printed out a negative image of it (so streets would be darker than the surrounding buildings).

Here's a copy of that map.

Then I traced the paths of the streets and added a few more. Then I got to start placing things on the map: the church, the cemetary, some shops, the "fatal intersection," the high school, etc. Streets got named, keeping as close to what I had written in my first draft as possible (I was a bit ambitious in naming one of the streets 14th St., they only go up to 8th now). I think I got down everything I need.

Providential moment: As I was naming streets, I had everything named but Mill St. I looked around the map, searching for a spot to shoehorn it in. There was only one street left, a little one. But it was right on the river. Suh-weetness.

Now alls I need is a local event explaining why all the local papers are sold out and I can start the rewrite in earnest.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bombs Away?

Well, I've sent my first-ever non-fiction article off. It went to Writer's Digest by e-mail this afternoon at 1pm PDT.

I know there's no need to keep checking my Gmail account for a response (esp. since it's almost 8pm EDT), but that's what I'm doing every 15 minutes.

I need to get back to Revival. Hopefully tonight!