Eyes on Copy

When I was in high school, I took Typing 101 (now my daughter is in high school, taking Keyboarding). We learned to type on huge metal Underwood monstrosities, with keys that actually needed force to depress, rattling carriage returns, and clanging warning bells as one approached the margin. Our typing teacher had the disconcerting habit of creeping up behind you during timed exercises and screaming “eyes on copy!” in your ear if your eyes happened to stray from what you were typing to the keys or your work. This invariably resulted in fingers being jolted off the home row and at least one line of sbdp;iyr honnrtodj nrgptr upi trs;oxrf ejsy jsf js[[rmrf/

However, this morning I am considering another meaning of “eyes on copy,” after listening to the latest episode of Writing Excuses during my morning walk. The topic was “Strategies for Getting Published” or in other words, getting eyes on your copy. Editors’ eyes, readers’ eyes–really, anyone’s eyes.

It’s a great episode, covering the various uses of social media, approaches NOT to take with submissions, and both caveats against and ideas for trying something new. (If you’re an aspiring or struggling writer, especially in the speculative genres, you really should be listening to this podcast. It’s like a master class in genre writing.)

One comment, however, particularly resonated with me, stuck as I am right now (as I always seem to be) in the rut of trying to figure out how to balance writing, writing-related activities, and ROML*. Brandon and Howard, sort of together, said the most important thing is still to have great writing, and lots of it.

Great writing. And lots of it.

That seems to be where my planning always falls down. I think I do have good–sometimes even really good–writing. But I’m not doing enough of it. I am always struggling to keep writing at the top of the priority list for myself and for those around me. Writing at home–really, doing any job from home–is a very difficult job for other people to take seriously because they think your time is flexible and unstructured. And on my part, it’s very easy to get caught up in many things that are writing-related and relevant to my writing career–but not actually writing. Another meaning of “eyes on copy”–keep focused on what you’re doing.

Great writing. Lots of it. Eyes on copy.

I’d better get to it.

*the Rest of My Life
**Thanks to mconnors for the great typewriter photo

The Longest Distance

old typewriter keys …is the title of the short story I’ve just finished. “Finished” as in first-draft finished, but finished nonetheless.

This was one of my “zombie writing projects” columnist Chuck Heintzelman talks about in the May issue of The Scriptorium. No, it’s not about zombies. It’s been existing in a half-alive, half-dead state on my hard drive for, if you can believe it, about ten years. And I’ve finally found the impetus to pull it out, dust it off, read it over, and finish the darn thing.

It’s a time-travel story of sorts, although not in the usual way. On Facebook today I posted a list of things I had to look up during the writing of this story. They included: history of sound recording, history of nail care, Victorian slang, history of photgraphy, Occam’s Razor, Babbage’s Analytical Engine, Max Planck, The Glass Menagerie, Vietnam War, blackbody radiation, Victorian fashion. I must also add: streetmap of London in the 1900s, wars in Africa, and various dates in UK history. It’s been an interesting journey.

Now I shall let it lie fallow for a few days, spiff it up, and give it to someone to read. I’m very happy to have finally finished it.

It’s Official

I’m pleased to note that I am the new Webmaster for SF Canada, the national association for Canadian speculative fiction professionals. We have a newly-built website that is in the process of becoming our main home on the web. Right now I’m busy trying to find my way around it and figure out what needs to be done, but it’s an exciting job. I have some plans for new things I would like to bring online at the site once all the basics are covered.

The new site, if you’d like to visit, is at www.sfcanada.com although it’s still in the growing stages of getting content added.

Back to work

old typewriter keys It’s been a bit of a hiatus, both from editing and from blogging, the last couple of weeks. Last week was the kids’ spring break, so I really didn’t expect to get much work done–and I was correct.

But today was back-to-school, so it was back-to-work for me as well. It’s a grey, rainy day here, which I hope explains why I was actually nodding off over the manuscript a few times! I did make it through a chapter or so, however, and input some changes into the master document, so it was a decent beginning. I expect this phase, which consists mainly of adding all the details I haven’t added before this and polishing up the writing, to take about two weeks if I can work on it consistently.

Photo courtesy of mconnors

The week behind, the week ahead

Last week I did nothing on the novel editing. Nothing. I have a fresh copy of the manuscript all printed and waiting patiently for the not-so-gentle attentions of my red pen, but it spent the week unscathed.

Instead of editing, I was running the book fair at my son’s school, which ultimately results in a lovely pile of new books for the school library, and I spent one school day doing Writers In the Schools presentations at another local school. While both undertakings were highly successful, they precluded any notions of working on the edit, and although I might have squeezed in a bit of time on it here or there, I honestly didn’t try. My brain was not in the right place and had too much other stuff filling up the forefront of it to believe that I’d really accomplish anything useful.

One very nice thing that happened at the school presentations was that I read the opening of my middle-grade novel, “The Seventh Crow” to three classes. In each case they listened with rapt attention and begged for more, so that was a very encouraging test-run.

The upcoming week should be a different story with regard to the editing. I hope to work at it every day, but I don’t really have any idea of how quickly it will go or where I want to be on it by weeks’ end. Have to wait and see on that one. I also have to look to the March issue of The Scriptorium this week and try to write some more on a story I want to submit by the end of March, as well as keep moving on Third Person Press work, so…it’s going to be busy.

However, if you read this blog with any regularity, you already know that’s the story of my life… ;)

*Photo by malko at sxc.hu

Phase Two Edits–Complete!

Photobucket Today I made it through the last of my editing notes, added the last bits that I knew were needed, and called it a wrap on phase two of the novel edit. I’ve added about 7000 new words during this phase, which was good.

One more phase to go–the one I call “making it pretty.” This means I’ll be line-editing the whole thing and looking for places to add description and sensory images, deepening characterization, and just basically polishing the entire thing until it (hopefully) shines.

I’m getting tired of looking at it, but I find this upcoming phase of revision is usually very satisfying, and not as much hard work as the last phase. It’s a strange mix of right-and-left brain work that I generally find invigorating. I have the school book fair and a school visit coming up in the next week and a half, though, so I don’t expect to have a lot of time to work through it until those things are over. I’m going to posit another two to three weeks to get to the end, which is not bad. I’ll be quite pleased if I can make that deadline.

Revision Paranoia

Photobucket I’ve come to the point in this revision where I’m hearing voices in my head.

They’re saying things like, “This novel stinks,” and “It’s brilliant but not marketable,” and “It has more holes than last year’s socks,” and “This is a big waste of time you could be spending on other things.” In other words, it’s getting to be hard work, and my brain doesn’t want to do it any more.

Which is not to say that any or all of these things are not true. They could be. But I’ve come to the conclusion, through my own writing and by reading what other writers say about their experience, that I am not the best judge of that at this time. My job right now is to finish the thing, and show it to someone else–probably several someone elses–before I even start to think about it solely on its merits.

And before I can do that, I have to finish it. So off I go.

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.

ROML* Rolls Over Another Week

Photobucket While I still have two days left to log writing time for this week, they will be the weekend, so I think it’s highly unlikely that I will get to my goal hours this time around. Maybe it serves me right for getting cocky about how well last week went (614 minutes) and upping my goal by half an hour. When I think about it, though, it was mostly *Rest Of My Life issues that kept me from writing.

I’m really not sure what I can do about that except try to plan better (the things I CAN plan) and try to find catch-up time when the planning doesn’t work.

~.~.~

In other news, I came to a huge and sad realization last night. I need to get rid of some books.

I’ve been buying books since I was in university and the city offered a variety of used book stores, of which I would make the rounds almost every weekend. The book acquisition habit has continued over the years, and although I do get more titles from the library these days (especially when trying an author for the first time) I still like to buy books. Part of me would like to count the number of books in the house–and part of me is afraid to do that.

However, when I was doing some pre-housecleaning housecleaning in the bedroom last week, I realized that I have at least 50+ books in that room alone waiting to be read or in various stages of being read. And when I do read them–I have nowhere to put them if I want to move new to-be-read books into that space. Every bookshelf in the house is already packed or over-packed. I don’t see us adding a new room to the house just to hold books. Sooooo…the only conclusion is that I have to get rid of some. And while we’re planning a Great Purge of the house this spring, the idea of sorting through the books and moving some them out of here is more daunting than all the rest of the things that I know need to be done.

*Sigh* I wonder if I could convince my husband to add on that extra room…

Photo courtesy of mzacha @ sxc.hu