Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Musing: NaNo

Like Hurricane Sandy, NaNoWriMo is bearing down on us. As I mentioned Friday, I'm still not certain if I'm participating this year, though I have checked out my regional forums in NaNoland. There's a lot of NaNo chatter out there right now, so I  thought I'd share a few thoughts on my own experiences with NaNo for the benefit (I hope) of those of you who may be looking at doing it for the first time.

- First, it's about process, not product. A blessing and a curse, this is. Detractors of NaNo argue that NaNo encourages you to write crap. NaNo encourages you to write, period. That's the real point of it: shut down the internal editor, sit in the chair, and write. NaNo's greatest gift to me was getting me in the habit of writing, of establishing a process for writing. If you want to write and have never found a way to get yourself started, NaNo can be a great thing.

- You don't have to finish. By this I mean it's okay if you 'win', it's okay if you don't. 'Winning' NaNo means churning out a 50,000-word novel by November 1. No one says it has to be a complete novel. If you're a wingman like me, you may not know how big your story is. If you're a plotter/planner/outliner, you may have an idea that your novel really needs 80,000 words, or 90,000, or a 120,000. Don't despair. Do it anyway.

Back in 2010, I got too hung up on the idea that my novel had to be 'finished', i.e., that it needed a beginning, middle and end. Over the last few days I racked my brain to come up with a proper ending for my story, and really rushed the ending. It wasn't a bad ending, really, but I may have lost something due to my compulsion to finish. Which leads me to

- Winning isn't everything. It's okay not to 'win' this. For real. Especially if you're a new writer who is trying to get started. The important thing is to establish the habits that work for you. The daily word count tool is a handy way to track your progress, but it's too easy to get hung up on making the 1,667-word daily goal, too easy to get caught up in the obsession of 'winning.' Maybe you can't write everyday. Don't obsess over winning. If you only get 1000 words, don't feel like you absolutely MUST hit 2,334 words the very next day. Relax, breathe, focus on establishing the habit of writing.

- Avoid the 'Dirty Tricks for Padding Your Word Count.' On that section of the NaNo forum, you'll find handy tips like 'if you make a misstake mistake, don't cut sentences or paragraphs, just leave them.' Actually, that should read 'do not cut sentences', because to pad your word count 'do not use contractions, even if it makes your grade school dropout sound like an uptight English professor from the 19th century.' Another good one was 'every time a character walks in the room or speaks, use his full name and title', such as "Joseph Abernathy Caldwell, an investment broker at Goldman-Sachs, picked up the telephone. 'What is happening, dude?' said Joseph Abernathy etc." Every. Time. If you have any thoughts that you might like to pursue publication some day, you probably don't want to get in the habit of padding word count.

Finally, please, please, please remember that anything you do in NaNo is a ROUGH DRAFT. Please do not start sending your 50,000+-word opus off to agents and editors, or even beta readers or crit partners until you've had a chance to read it yourself and clean it up. Do yourself, your friends, and all those agents and editors a big favor and take some time to look it over and honestly go over it. (I will admit I was guilty of pushing to 'win' and using a few 'dirty tricks', though nothing as bad as what I quoted above, but I knew better than to shove my NaNo off on anyone.)

Anyway, that's about all I've got to say about NaNo, for now. What about you? Any tips, tricks, or things you wish you knew the first time you jumped in? Share, share.

Now, one last thing. Depending on how things go here, I may be back on Friday, I may not. We made out pretty well with Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last year as far as our power (I think it was out for a day); I fully expect we'll lose it some time today. How long it will be out is the question, hopefully not too long. I know at least one regular here is in what looks to be the direct path of the storm. Good luck, be well, be safe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Week That Was

This was a funny week for me here at the Doubting Writer. For the first time in a while, I didn't do a whole lot of actual writing. I put the finishing touches on Barton's Women last week and, gasp!, turned it over to my wife on Saturday. When I was not out of the house (cross country meet on Saturday, Writer's Circle on Sunday) I was predictably on edge, especially when I sat on the couch reading Before You Know Kindness (I like it) and realized my wife was reading my book at the same time.

She started it Saturday evening. By Sunday afternoon she had read 2/3 of it, and said she didn't want to keep reading. This would not seem to be very good news, except it was: she didn't want to keep reading because the situation was making her uncomfortable. I asked (about the only thing I asked while she was reading) if it made her uncomfortable because I wrote it, or if it was because of the situation itself. She said it was the latter. Fist pump! I elicited feelings! Yes! She finished the book in the wee hours of Monday morning, 368 pages in less than two days, and I was able to carry on a meaningful conversation with her about it (Though I often did so from another room. Picture me getting up to take a dish into the kitchen, making coffee, picking lint of my sweater, moving, moving, moving). She had more meaningful things to say about this one than she did with Parallel Lives, and I am grateful for that. Now we wait to see what other readers have to say.

But, as I've said, I've done very little 'new' writing. This must be one of those down phases where my brain needs to regroup and recharge. Instead, I pulled out a short story I finished over the summer, Last Man Standing, polished it up, and sent it off yesterday to a few short story markets. I'll spend some more time over the next few days looking for others. Short story submissions are time consuming, that's for sure.

Of 'new' writing, all I did this week was a short bit at my writer's circle on Sunday. It wasn't much, about 400 words of a conversation between two people that I think might be part of The Next Project. Of course, I don't know if it is or not. Right now, The Next Project is still the germiest-germ of an idea kicking around the back room, and that brings me to the next question: NaNoWriMo.

I'm still on the fence about NaNo. While I 'won' by hitting 50K in 2010, last year I never really got out of the gate (in fairness to me, I spent the first two weeks or so trying to push Parallel Lives out the door, so that shot the month for me). I don't think I even had a real idea heading into last year, and that's the problem this year. The Next Project is still waiting for that Special Something, the catalyst that will allow me to do this:

I'm faced with an interesting question for this. Do I take what little I have of an idea for The Next Project and just start now? I am a discovery writer, after all, and I usually start without too much of an idea of where things are going, but the monster is usually moving a little more on the table when I do that. The Next Project may not be far enough along for me to do that, and I hesitate, for fear of spoiling it somehow. Like, say, picking up a brain from Abby something. On the other hand, it gives me a chance to try working in a new way, to try experimenting a bit. I have six days; I could still give The Next Thing some thought and maybe, maybe, come up with an...outline. Yes, I said it, I could come up with an outline. We'll see. Still, it will be nice to get to work on drafting something new again.

Something of interest I saw today. If you don't read Jane Friedman's blog, take a look at today's entry. She also links to a presentation she did in Germany last month, The Future of the Author-Publisher Relationship.  Thought provoking stuff, though I know better than to promise a post inspired by Ms. Friedman's ideas.

Finally, Hurricane Nancy is still roaring through the blogosphere. Make sure you stop by Nancy's blog and find out where she'll be on the next stop on her blog tour. I had a great time interviewing her, and thank you all for your comments. Until Monday, have a great weekend!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Author Interview: Nancy S. Thompson

Today I have the pleasure of a Doubting Writer first: an honest-to-God Author Interview! Nancy S. Thompson officially made the jump from 'aspiring writer' to 'published author' last week when her thriller, TheMistaken (Sapphire Star Publishing), hit the streets. 

"Obsessed with revenge following the violent death of his pregnant wife, Tyler Karras pledges the woman who killed her to sex-traffickers in San Francisco’s Russian Mafia.  In exchange, they’ll finally let his brother leave the business for good—with his debt wiped clean and his heart still beating.  But when Tyler mistakenly targets the wrong woman, he’s forced to protect his own victim from the very enemy he's unleashed, and the Russians are holding his brother as leverage to force Ty to complete their deal.  Caught in a no-win situation, Ty must find a way to save himself, his brother, and the woman, but with the Russian Mafia, even two out of three makes for very long odds. "

A gifted writer, Nancy has been a regular reader and a valuable commenter here for a long time. The Mistaken is 'a good story well told.' It's tight, fast-paced and exciting, and Nancy puts her characters through hell. In addition to her skill as a writer, Nancy is a great reader, with an excellent eye. Her insightful comments and critiques have helped me improve greatly. Best of all, over the past year we've gone from being just blogging buddies to actual friends, and have shared the blessing/curse of sending a child off to college, but now I'm trampling on the interview. Here we go, please welcome Nancy S. Thompson!

Tell us something about yourself we WON'T learn from reading your 'About Me' page.

Well, I just spent the last 2 years working very hard to get my son ready for college.  That included advocating a tough curriculum, SAT prep, college fairs and tours, filling out online applications, composing engaging essays, and scholarship applications.  It was a long, difficult process, but it paid off.  Not only did he get accepted to 14 universities, he was also offered and accepted several scholarships to his first choice school.  Plus they gave him 2 years of college credit, so he’ll graduate in May 2014, saving him time and me a great deal of tuition money.  My son is my proudest accomplishment.

That's an exhausting process, I know from experience. Great news, though, that he'll go from freshman to senior in basically one year!

I love origins stories. Tell us about the origins of The Mistaken. How did it come about?

Before The Mistaken, I’d never written anything in my life, and I’d never aspired to, either.  But for some odd reason, I had this idea pop into my head one sunny spring afternoon.  I was cruising around in my little convertible when a new song I’d recently downloaded—Thirty Seconds To Mars’ Hurricane—started to play.  Two lines in the chorus intrigued me:  "Tell me, would you kill to save a life.  Would you kill to prove you’re right?"  It made me wonder, what could drive a decent, law-abiding man to commit a violent crime, and could he ever be the man he once was?  Then than darn muse, who I’d never met before, started whispering in my ear and wouldn’t shut up until I started writing it all down. 

Ah, the power of music!

I'm also a sucker for process. Describe your writing routine, if you have any. Are you a morning writer, evening? Anytime?

I love to write anytime of the day.  If I can, I’ll start in the morning and write until it’s time for bed.  Unfortunately, my husband does need some tending to, so I have to take breaks to prepare dinner and eat and shower, and all that.  But often, I forget.  That’s how absorbed I get with my writing.  Drives my husband nuts!

For me, there's usually a certain time period that has to pass between inspiration—the moment where an idea first strikes—and work time. Quite often that involves a degree of synthesis between two or more ideas, and sometimes it involves actively thinking over something. When you had your first burst of inspiration for The Mistaken, did you go home right away and start writing, or did you have to give it some more time? How long?

There wasn’t much time at all between inspiration and actively writing—maybe a few days.  I started jotting down a very extensive outline while I watched TV in the evenings.  That outline proved to be a great roadmap, from which I rarely strayed.

Which seems to answer my next question: Plotter or Wingman. Err, Wingwoman?

That’s a tough question.  I’ve always thought I was a plotter, hence the outline.  But when I really think about it, that outline was really more like a first, handwritten draft, sans dialogue and setting.  All the story elements were already there, the plot and characters.  I just had to expand to go from about 100 handwritten pages to 380 typed ones.

Sounds like a plotter to me. But, the more I read of other people's process, the more I think it's just a matter of degree.

When I first had my inspiration for Parallel Lives, it was going to be a very different story. During a very early writing session, I had an 'Ah, hah!' moment that changed everything about it. Did you have any moments like that while writing The Mistaken? Has the story changed much from your initial vision?

Actually, no, I always had this one particular story to tell, and I stuck with it from outline to finished draft.  There was one part, a dream sequence, I chose to leave out, but all in all, the story never changed.  Of course, as I began working with critique partners, the story evolved to include more detail, more layers to the plot, but essentially, it always remained the same.

The story emerged slowly over four weeks.  As that blasted muse dictated in my ear, I wrote furiously, trying to keep up with her.  But I will say, she started telling me the story in the wrong place.  I revised it later on, so it all began with an exciting turn of events which sets everything else off.  But besides adding more layers to my characters and one minor element to the plot, nothing else really changed from the first word to publication.

We often hear about 'saggy middles' and writers who get 10, 20, 30,000 words into a book and then get lost and discouraged. Did you ever hit a point during the writing of The Mistaken where you thought about throwing in the towel and giving up? What kept you going?

Perhaps it was the rookie in me, but no, I never got discouraged.  I simply sat down, day after day, from morning ‘til evening, for about two months, until the story was done.  I never got blocked because I had that outline.  You see, I never wrote The Mistaken with the idea I would pursue publication.  It wasn’t until I was finished that I thought I might have something good on my hands.  I will say this though: I do fear that roadblock on my second novel.  I’m almost finished with the outline, but I’m not quite there yet.  Hopefully, it will see me through like the first one did. 

Ah, a second novel -- so what's next for Nancy S. Thompson? Do you see yourself continuing in the same genre, or changing things up?

My next project is the sequel to The Mistaken.  Poor Tyler and Hannah are about to go through a whole new round of hell.  I’m about seventy-five percent done with the outline for that, and I really need to get back to it.  It was disrupted when my edits came in, then I had some family drama, followed by all the lead-up to my launch, and now I edit books for my publisher’s other authors, so that takes up a great deal of my time.  But come November, I am so ready to finish up and start the actual writing.  

I, for one, am looking forward to reading this! Thank you so much for you time, and best of luck with The Mistaken.

One final note, Nancy is having a giveaway. Everyone follower who comments on Nancy's blog over the next two weeks will be entered into a drawing for an ARC of The Mistaken and a bookmark.  Five runner-up winners will each receive an e-book copy.  Winners will be determined using and notified via email. And, finally, Nancy is also over at Carrie Butler's So, You're a Writer... today. Be sure to stop by there, too. Thanks for visiting, and enjoy The Mistaken.

Wow, Thanks for coming by and good luck!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Same Old Ground

Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
Same old fears -- Roger Waters

By the time this day is over, I should be *finished* with Barton's Women. And of course, by *finished* I mean  I'm "in the time between this rewrite and the next." I stopped 18 pages short of the end yesterday, wrung out, unable to push on, right in the middle of a paragraph. There are still a couple of tweaks to make in the earlier part of the manuscript: a stronger opening paragraph, a new, short scene, already thought out, in the middle, nothing major, nothing that will take too long (fingers crossed). I might be able to edit and smooth those last 18 pages AND go back and do those fixes. And then I'll hand it over to my wife.

My wife tries not to pester, but she's curious, and every so often she'll say, "Are you finished yet?" My insistence on watching Revolution feeds her curiosity (and let me tell you, between Revolution and Breaking Bad, she is just hating on Giancarlo Esposito. She needs to watch some Bakersfield, P.D. to change her mind), and I've told her enough about the story to whet her appetite. She's been telling me lately that she knows what the story is about, but I think she's just pulling my leg. Unless she's been reading over my shoulder or breaking into my e-mails, which I doubt.

He can't be contained by the boundaries of this blog!

I've said this before, but giving my writing to my wife is harder than sending queries to agents or crit partners. My wife has not offered much in the way of deep criticism; she's said she likes it, she commented once or twice on some dark aspects of some things and gushed over something else, but she's never gone deep. I wonder if perhaps I've put up a sort of defensive posture that's kept her at a distance. It's a definite possibility.

The is a good time to hand Barton's Women over to her, aside from her curiosity and my need to be done with it (for now). The Catbird's Cross Country team is running in their conference championship tomorrow, which gives me the opportunity to be out of the house almost all day. It's much easier for me not to be around when she's reading my writing. I just can't be in the same room with her. When I gave her the full manuscript for Parallel Lives, I handed it over just before she walked out the door to spend a week with her brother and his new set of triplets.

I did put the pressure on. I told her yesterday that she'd be getting it soon. That was done partly because she's been bugging me for it, and partly because it forces me to finish. Once you tell someone you're doing something like, say, writing a book, you really have to deliver, don't you? I just hope she's still excited once she's done....

Have a great weekend, all. On Monday, I'll have Nancy S. Thompson here to talk about her brand new book, The Mistaken. See you then!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Mistaken Launches!

I'm making a rare break with my usual Monday-Friday post schedule to trumpet the release Nancy S. Thompson's debut, The Mistaken! Big congratulations to Nancy!

I had the pleasure of reading an earlier draft of the novel. It's a gripping story of a man and a woman in a rather difficult situation (which is putting it mildly). Romance, heartbreak, the Russian mob, mistaken identity - there's a lot happening in The Mistaken, and Nancy tells it well. Go and pick up a copy. It's available as print or an e-book at Amazon  and Barnes and Noble and direct from Sapphire Star Publishing.*

And, Nancy's touring! She'll be here for an interview on Monday, but today she's celebrating at her site, and with Mark Koopman's. Stop by and see what she's got to say, and enter the contest for an ARC of The Mistaken, and a bookmark. Here's thefull schedule:

The Mistaken Blog tour:
10/23:  Julie Musil
10/25:  Matthew MacNish
10/26:  LG Smith
10/27: Aimee Jodoin
11/19:  Arlee Bird

Big congratulations to Nancy! You are now a published author! 

*NOTE: As of now, there is an error with the link to B&N for the paperback edition, and Amazon is listing the paperback as out of stock. The book is available for Kindle and Nook.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Voice

The high school had a fundraiser Friday night, a musical event in the school auditorium. In the course of some 2-1/2 hours, a number of acts, including students and teachers, performed a variety of mostly rock-based songs (perhaps the oddest moment was listening to the school's bandleader sing Stacy's Mom Has Got It Going On). Especially nice to see was the vast breadth of music embraced by current students. In my day, it felt like every band at our school's rock night played heavy metal. Friday night, we were treated to several songs written by kids, along with covers of the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Neil Young; there was a group that played Celtic-style hard rock, a la the Dropkick Murphys; a current Top-40 hit whose name escapes me; two different Peter Gabriel songs by two different acts; and one from the Mamas and the Papas. The kids really covered the spectrum there, which is much better than at the  Cabaret Night a couple years ago, when every other girl sang an Adele song. I like Adele, but it was a bit much.

There was some skilled musicianship on display, and some clumsy, sloppy stuff, too, which is part of the fun. I have no doubt that some of these kids will be able to have successful careers as working musicians, particularly as their individual and ensemble skills improve, but I don't think any of them will be headliners, at least not as far as singing goes; the truth is, vocally at least, these kids just sound too much like everybody else. Of course, we can never predict these things with any real accuracy, but I don't think anyone there was likely to become the Next Big Thing.

In music, there are trendsetters and copycats. Looking back 50 years, the Beatles stood the music world on its head. Nobody sounded like them, and the world ate them up. That spawned the British Invasion, and the airwaves were inundated with copycats and sound-alikes. The Dave Clark Five, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Searchers, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Who, The Kinks – all were bands that had, at least in those early days, a similar sound and style to the Beatles. All were gobbled up by record companies looking to ride the Beatles' coattails to stardom and a big payday.

But while those bands had success, none of them could match the Beatles in terms of volume of hits, popularity, or cultural impact. In terms of groups, only the Stones and The Who came close in terms of impact, and we'll toss the Kinks in there, too, though they're really a tier below. The other bands hung on for a while, and a number of successful careers came out of that era (think Steve Winwood, Graham Nash, and just about everyone who ever played with the Yardbirds), but what separated those big three 'Beatles copies' from the rest? They developed a unique voice, a unique sound, a unique style, that separated them from the rest of the pack. They may have gotten signed because of some resemblance – real or imagined – to the Beatles, but they ultimately made it because they were different. And really, really good. This is a trend we see in the music business all the time.

As writers we hear a lot about 'voice'. Voice is a particular style, a rhythm and a flavor that belongs to you, and you alone. It's your vocabulary, it's the way you put words together, the way you describe your worlds, and it's something you have to find on your own. It's part of what sets you apart from the rest of the pack, and it's one of those slippery things that is hard to pin down. Is voice natural? Can you teach it?

Honestly, I don't know the answer to either of those questions. But voice is one of the things that separates us from every other person writing in our genre. We can't be copycats. If you want to stand with the greats, you have to develop your own style, find your own voice.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Too Tense!

'A man walked up to me and said, "I'm a wigwam! I'm a teepee! I'm a wigwam! I'm a teepee!" I said, "Relax, you're two tents."'

That's a really bad joke.

I'm too tense today. On Monday I foolishly said I was going to write something about tense. On Wednesday I tried to put some ideas on paper and didn't get much. Same for yesterday. Now I sit, with my self-imposed deadline come and gone, and no real ideas. Add to that the fact that the good part of autumn has come and gone in central New York, that we're into the winter part of fall, and my mind is not overly-cooperative. But enough whining.

What got me going on this subject was reading Lori Roy's novel, Bent Road, which I picked up from my library over the weekend. The book opens as follows:

"Celia squeezes the steering wheel and squints into the darkness."

Bent Road is written in present tense, and it made me realize how unusual this is. We often find sections of novels written in present tense: dreams and flashbacks are often written in present as a way to convey immediacy, a feeling of this is happening NOW (question: why would you do this with a flashback?). But entire books written in present tense? In my experience, it's fairly unusual, though obviously not unheard of. (Yes, I have read others, but I can't think of them off the top of my head; and yes, feel free to suggest some in the comments). Past tense seems to be the default setting for fiction.

I enjoyed Bent Road, don't get me wrong, yet I did find myself pulled out of the story from time-to-time by the present tense. My eyes saw present, but at times my brain tried to switch the word to past, which caused a bit of dissonance and disorientation in my head.

Present tense seems like a bit of a risk to take when writing a novel. It's not something I've done, myself (I have done it in a couple of short pieces, though); I don't know if I'd enjoy writing a novel in present. Funny, though, yesterday, while working on a rewrite of a scene in Barton's Women, I found myself shifting into present tense. I'm not sure if my attempts to write it in present were the result of the influence of Roy's novel, or if present tense was somehow more appropriate to the new action I was writing into the scene. It took a lot of work to get it into past.

I have found, though, that present tense often works very well when paired with another uncommon literary technique: second person point of view. A lot of people don't like second person. For some, I imagine being addressed as if you are a character in a novel is a deal breaker. Like asking a rhetorical question of an agent in a query. Consider the opening line to Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City:

"You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning."

I guess there are a lot of people who might say, "You're right, I'm not" and close the book.

I'm about done for the day. What do you think of present tense? Is it something you like to read or like to write? Do you make a conscious choice of tense when starting out, or does it just sort of happen? Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Musical Monday: Bottom of the World

Back in August we passed through New York City on our way to and from vacation. After getting my dose of New York sports radio ("Joey from Brooklyn is on the line; what's up, Joey?" "Hey, how you doin', Mike?" in glorious Sopranos-style accents) I found New York radio stations to be every bit as limited as upstate radio -- there were just more highly-specialized stations to choose from. At any rate, while surfing the dial in search of something different, I came across good old WFUV, college radio from Fordham University. Ironically, when I was younger I didn't much listen to FUV because they were a little too eclectic for my tastes. Now, as an old man, I can only listen to so many Led Zeppelin tunes in one day. Radio stations have become so compartmentalized and specialized that it's really not fun for me to listen to any one station for very long. But I digress.

While glued to the Bronx River Parkway, FUV played this song and I loved it. Alejandro Escovedo has been around for some time, apparently, but I'd never heard of him before. I'm not sure what struck me most about the song: the imagery, the musical style, Escovedo's voice. This piece reminds me a bit of Dylan (Queen Jane Approximately, perhaps) or early Springsteen. Here's a video of a performance from last June.

I haven't thought too much about music with regards to Barton's Women, but if I had to choose a theme song for that work, right now I'd go with Bottom of the World. Anyway, I'll be back on Friday with a post about tense. Have a great week, all!

Friday, October 5, 2012

An Old Question Revisited

In my second-ever blog post, I asked Is it Always Going to Be Like This? I was talking about the sinking feeling that comes when you read your work: the sensation that it's not good enough, that it's not as good as you thought when you wrote it. The cringing at every page, the thinking, "Did I really write THAT" (obviously not the good kind of 'did I really write that?'). At the time I had just read my first draft of Parallel Lives for the first time, and was mortified by what I read. Is it always going to be like this?

courtesy Colin_K's photostream
Last week, after letting it sit for 6+ weeks, I read over Barton's Women. Is it always going to be like this? The answer, at least for me, is 'No'.

I'm surprised to say it, but I'm happy. I didn't cringe, at least not with the same frequency as when I read Parallel Lives. If I do say so myself, I've written a pretty good story, and I've written it fairly well. Is it perfect? No. Are there rough spots? You bet. Are there awkward sentences and 'WTF?' moments? Of course. But they are fewer and further between than in my first draft of PL, whose pages are filled with gigantic X's and notes that scream 'this is crap!' Most of what went into my notes for Barton's Women are notes pointing out cases of repetition (possibly my most frequent note goes something like, 'said this on p. 64; pick and stick', meaning, pick one place to say this, and stick with it), continuity and timeline, and POV issues (that's a big one here; I'm aiming for close 3rd but sometimes slide into omni).

Is this a sign of anything in particular? Well, it could be one of five three things:

  1. I'm actually getting better as a writer
  2. I am more blind to my failings than I was before
  3. I was simply much more critical with Parallel Lives

Obviously, I hope it is number 1. I would like to think that the last two years of writing, blogging, reading, reading, reading, editing, critiquing, etc. and so forth, have made me a better writer. It's not always easy to tell, is it? As for number 2? I don't think that's likely. I am the Doubting Writer, after all, and I will always be the Doubting Writer. I am always going to be my biggest critic, I am always going to look for mistakes, I am always going to judge myself more harshly. I am not going to succumb to Golden Word Syndrome. That leaves number 3, that I was more critical with Parallel Lives, and I do have to consider this.

Parallel Lives was not technically my first novel. That honor belongs to the untitled NaNo I 'completed' right before starting PL. It was completed in the sense it had a beginning, a middle and an end, and reached the NaNo goal of 50K words in a month. But it wasn't finished. By the time I completed it, I was done with it, and the idea of PL was already burning in my fevered little brain and had to be written (It's telling, too, that I was revisiting this novel after getting PL out to betas last year, but it was superceded by what became Barton's Women). The NaNo was a month-long brain dump; Parallel Lives was a brain dump followed by months of crafting, until it was finished. It was the first, and thus has a special sigificance for me.

First children often (not always) have excessive pressure put on them by parents. Maybe, because PL was my first, I put too much pressure on myself to get it right, to make it perfect. First Novel Syndrome? Maybe. But that's not to say that I'm not working to make Barton's Women perfect. I want it to be perfect, just as I want PL to be perfect. I want it to be published, and I want it to be a big hit with readers and critics alike, the same thing I want for Parallel Lives. To do that, I have to make it a "good story, well told". Was I harder on Parallel Lives than Barton's Women? I suppose in the end others will have to decide. I surely hope it's a case of getting better.

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Trailer: The Mistaken

The 'O' side of my family is known for being late; it goes with the name. God willing, I will be late for my own funeral (if you're going to be late for anything, that's at least a good thing to be late for). And I'm a little late with this one, because the big release for Nancy S. Thompson's book trailer was last week. Still, it can't hurt to spread the love a little bit, can it? Here, in case you didn't see it last week, is the trailer for Nancy's thriller, The Mistaken, available October 18, 2012.

I am quite excited to see this book in print. I read an earlier version last January, and it's a thriller indeed, well-written, well-paced, and with a hero who finds himself in some seriously grey territory. Tyler Karras lands in Hell, then digs himself even deeper. It's a story that is both moving and grueling (and I mean that in a good way--thrillers are supposed to put you through the wringer right along with the characters, and Nancy delivers), skillfully done. Big congratulations to Nancy. And, maybe I'm not supposed to say anything, but I will have an interview with Nancy here on October 22! Be sure to stop by and meet the woman behind this fine book.

On a side note, we schlepped in to visit the Magpie yesterday and took her to see Finding Nemo 3-D. The film, as always, was a lot of fun. Disney and Pixar know what they're doing when it comes to film making and storytelling. Still, I'm not sure 3-D really enhanced the film all that much, and the rush to convert and re-release the back catalog in 3-D (coming this Christmas: Monsters, Inc. in 3-D!) smacks of being a quick grab for cash. Then again, Disney has a history of re-releasing classics in the theaters every few generations (I remember seeing Pinocchio and Lady and the Tramp in theaters as a child, and I'm NOT that old), so it's nothing new. It is nice for new audiences to see old classics in theaters, where films are really best enjoyed.