A Word on Definitions

No progress on the revision today, as I expected. However, we did have a productive Third Person Press meeting tonight and discussed some rewrite requests.

I also began writing a page of extended guidelines for TPP. One thing that we have noticed with some regularity is that many writers do not understand what we mean when we talk about “speculative fiction.”  Our calls for submission have always included the further clarification that we are looking for “science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, and paranormal (for example, ghost stories).” Despite this, we still get quite a number of submissions that contain no speculative elements at all.

To address this problem, we’re adding this page of extended guidelines to the TPP site, and encouraging writers to read them before submitting. I know, I know. We will still get submissions that are not speculative. But the hope is that this will cut down on them to some extent.

I started in writing with a good will, but soon discovered why it’s so damn difficult to come up with a definition of speculative fiction that everyone agrees on–it’s even difficult to come up with one that serves our very narrow purpose. We’re not attempting to define the genre for everyone, just setting out what we are looking for vs. what we are not looking for, and even that’s hard. The field is so very broad, the sub-genres so very many, the possibilities so multitudinous, that one can’t include all the possible permutations. On the flip side, it’s also difficult to define what is not speculative fiction in such a way that we don’t accidentally preclude stories that we would like to see. The best I’ve come up with so far on that front is, “There is nothing in the story that steps outside the boundaries of accepted reality.” I think that might be too broad and too vague to be helpful.

I expect I will be working on this guidelines page through several drafts. Maybe I’ll have it done in time for our next project!

Writing Log Update and Phase Two

Photobucket The writing log did not, as I suspected, end up in any better shape by the end of Sunday than it looked on Friday. I logged 294 out of a goal of 630 minutes of writing time. Discouraging. But–on to a new week.

Thus far things are looking better. Today I dove into the revision first thing this morning (well, after I slept in), and worked on it intermittently through the day. Thus I have 194 minutes logged already, and I’m through eight scenes incorporating changes and adding things. It’s flowing well, and despite the weekend break I still feel I have a good handle on the novel in its totality and what things need to happen. Interesting things I had to do in relation to the revision today included reading poetry by T.S. Eliot and Percy Bysshe Shelley, investigating brain function, and considering the possible side effects of an invented medication (being married to a pharmacist came in extremely handy at that point, as you can imagine).

Tomorrow will be school library day, and then I believe a Third Person Press meeting in the evening, so it is not likely to be nearly as productive. In fact, I will feel lucky to get any revision time in at all. But we’ll see how it goes. I am not revising my goal time back down after last week’s poor showing; I’ll stick with the new time until I get it.

On a side note, I spent far too much time today (and yesterday) trying to figure out and keep up-to-date on the Amazon and MacMillan brouhaha. I’m still in the My Head Hurts Trying To Fully Understand it All camp, and likely to stay there despite reading many illuminating blog posts and commentaries. My only conclusion is that the ebook battle has scarce begun, and there looks to be no clear end in sight.

The Revision Process (part 2)

Photobucket I could title this post “Into the Wilderness,” because that’s sort of what this part of the revision process feels like. It isn’t quite wilderness, because I have come this way before, but the path ahead looks challenging and unforgiving. Well, that’s because it is.

We left off last time at the point of picking up a colored-ink pen and starting to read from the beginning of the manuscript. I’ve done the preliminary work of gathering all my tools and setting up my StoryLines document, and now I’m beginning the first phase of the revision process. I’m doing two things on this read-thorough. I’m noticing problems and making note of them, and jotting down any ideas I have right then about how to fix them. Some of the things I’m looking for and how I’m dealing with them:

  • If it’s a simple matter of sentence structure, grammar issues, word substitution or the like, I make inline edits.
  • If I think a few more lines of narrative or dialogue are needed, and I know what they are, I write them in, using the back of the page if necessary.
  • If I need to write a new scene, I mark an asterisk in the margin and number it, then turn to my binder and write down the asterisk and number and as much detail as possible about what I think the scene needs to contain or address. I am not writing these new scenes right now.
  • If I notice an inconsistency, I may mark it with a margin note or with an asterisk and number, depending on the seriousness of the problem. For instance, if a character has inexplicably disappeared for a number of scenes, I’ll make a note that says ‘where’s X?’ I will not stop right now to figure out how to fix a problem like this. That will be for phase two.

As I finish each scene, I turn to the StoryLines program and fill out the cards for that scene. If I were an outliner, I would probably have done this work before I wrote the novel, but since I’m a discovery writer, I’m doing it at this point as a checking system. It’s a great way to get an overview of the structure and internal consistency of the story.

I’m also using the Notes section of StoryLines to keep a style sheet for the novel. This idea came from a post that appeared recently on Mary Robinette Kowal’s journal, in which she very kindly shared the style sheet her editor created for a recent novel, and talked about why such a thing is important for copyeditors, proofreaders, and typesetters in keeping the novel consistent. I thought this was also a good idea for writers in making sure the novel is consistent through the revising and editing stages, so I’m taking note of unusual words, spellings, etc.

Also in the interests of consistency, I’m taking note of little details like hair and eye colors, descriptions of recurring settings, and other items that I might have inadvertently changed through that fast first draft.

I mentioned that I’m using several different colored inks as I do this read-through and markup. This is one of Holly Lisle’s tips. Using a different color for each working session makes it easier to find the notes that belong with a particular section of the novel.

So in this fashion I am rolling through the novel, marking, cutting, fixing, jotting, noticing, thinking, assessing, and mapping. This is the first part of the process, and I expect I will have it done within the next few days. This part needs to be done fairly quickly, because I am attempting to read the entire novel into my head at once to see where the holes are. That’s why I am not stopping to work on complicated fixes at this stage. They will come in the second part of the process. And the second part will likely be more difficult…

…to be continued…

Photo credit: VinnyPrime at stock.xchng

This is working so much better…

Photobucket After the poor showing of the past two weeks with regard to writing time, this week I’m taking a different approach. I’ve blocked off time each day that is my “work time.” I have told my family that during this time I should be considered to be “at work” and more or less unreachable (emergencies notwithstanding, of course).

And it seems to be working. Today I had to re-arrange my schedule to deal with some ROML* stuff, but I still got the time in on my revision and a short story. Although it’s been only two days, this is very encouraging to me.  I am finding much to clarify, add, or improve upon in the novel revision (more than I’d hoped?  Admittedly yes.  But nothing I can’t handle, so far).  I am doubtful I can accomplish the revision in the three week time frame I was aiming for, but the plan is to simply keep working through it at a reasonable pace and see where that takes me.

In other news, the Destination: Future anthology (releasing soon!), which includes my story “Encountering Evie,” received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly! In case you don’t know what that means, it’s a good thing. :)

*Rest Of My Life

The Writing Log (update)

Photobucket I have a squeamish feeling in my stomach that this writing log idea was both good and bad.

Last week’s total was 185 minutes out of my goal of 600.

Completely pathetic.

I was telling myself that last week was an anomaly, because there were several ROML (Rest of My Life) things that I had to attend to, but this week is not shaping up much better. So far I’ve logged zilch on my personal writing. Some of it is ROML, some of it is Third Person Press, but the upshot is no minutes yet. I am considering the possibility that I have been deluding myself and that in actual fact I spend a ridiculously small amount of time on my writing. However, I am not concluding that until I have a month of logging under my belt.

That’s the squeamish part. The upside is that this is raising my awareness, so that I will be able to improve those numbers in the future.

*photo credit, sideshowmom