Insecure Writers’ Support Group November 4, 2015


Today is the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click the words to visit)


Today’s cohosts are: Stephen Tremp,Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson.  

They will be visiting everyone and his brother and adding useful comments (I can attest to this) and are, in addition, interesting and useful contributors in their own rights.  Go ahead and visit them.  While you’re at it, stop by the web page for the IWSG: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

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Like everyone who writes, I have spent time trying to stem the spate of fabulous (to me, at least) words that came tumbling from my fingertips (or my ball point pen, depending on where I was).  Words that said just what I wanted to, that surprised me, that were a delicious surprise and so very fitting to what I was hoping to produce.  Better, in fact.

Never mind the fact that everyone else was reacting to my (read aloud) words in a fashion that made me realize that they had ears stuffed with earwax and could not hear my wonderful words.  I  knew they were good.


And, actually, when I looked the words over and worked on them and straightened them out, they actually were pretty decent, said what I wanted to say in a way that I thought was good (you do, after all, have to have some confidence in your own ability.  Running around and saying ‘I’m just terrible!’ is no more modest and truthful than shouting that you’re the best writer ever to come along.) 

The times do come, however, when the words themselves won’t come.  When I’m too tired to write, even though I want to tell a story and have an idea where the story is going.  I”m just too tired.

That has been happening recently.  Things get in the way.  Time gets away from me.  I just don’t have the time (I think), or I just don’t have the strength.  Or – and this is a major concern for me – the two stories that I have in the works have become stale.  I just…can’t…move.

And we all, or at least I  do, need to write.  I’m a writer, aren’t I?

I joined NaNoWriMo, thinking that cranking out 50K words to flesh out one of my WIPs would be the perfect way to kick off a new, lively, vital endeavor.  1400 words per day is not bad.  Let us be reasonable, here.  1400 words equals about 6 pages of double-spaced 12 point font typing.  A piece of cake.  

The first day of NaNoWriMo, I got in late, sat down, fired up my trusty laptop, and got ready to just write.  I closed my eyes, positioned my fingers on the keyboard, and typed my little heart out.  And, ladies and gentlemen, here is a part of what I wrote, as I discovered the next day, trembling with anticipation.  I kid you not, cross my heart and hope to die:


(Note: this would be book 3 of my Memphis Cycle, set in the Egypt of Ramesses the Great)

It was midnight and he was in the library of Opet.  Room after room, filled  with the scent of parchment and ink.  Tallow-topped torches at in the brackets along the wall. The golumes stood in rows against the walls, their contents carefully noted, tyheir writers loggedin the register.  He knew there were some there written by Amunhorkhebechef, Crown Prince of Egypt He di dot try to locat them.  His memory of the dispatches he had written were devastaig to thos wh o did hot know better.je [pire dfrp the fasl at jos be;t/  oOt was

He was writing by tye light of a single lamp.  Troop movements, ,bits of wisdom from thutors Iii. This was wor that he enjoyed, but it was gruelojng  His ajestywrote I a tight hand, rigidly daoj Ahw dlla  OR DE HWWLRH, ” HW iwa deo ou

 Je njad dpe jos dit9oes [er the guidance received fro hiu pve tjselves  She was a queen, a beauty, a woje to love a follow through light.

Dang, that’s good, no?  Just makes you want to read more, right?  Rush right out and pull out eveything that Diana Wilder has written, it touches your soul so profoundly.  Yeah, I agree.  743 words of pure fabulosity!  Wow, whoopee ding!

Yeah, right…

I scrapped NaNoWriMo.  It was a rough patch for me, and I might as well accept it, thought I.  These times come.  They’re the bad times that balance the good times through which you must work.  Hitch up your courage, take a deep breath, resolve to hang in there and put out a word here, a word there…  Watch it add up…

Well, folks, let me tell you what happened today.  I was sitting at my ‘real’ job, and a sudden twist of plot popped into my head. What if…?  Hmmmm…  It was a busy day.  I paused and thought about it, long enough to make an impression so that I could remember it, and moved on.  This evening, sitting with friends, I had a sudden idea for a conversation that would follow that twist.  Perfect!  It would work!  It brought new life to the story and added depth!  I opened my purse and looked for my notebook.

Not there.  Dang!  I cast about for something to write on: anything at all!  And I found some cash register receipts.  The backs were blank.   I did have my trusty pen (three, in fact).  I started jotting.

My friends watched me in silence, their eyebrows raised.  One of them said “Do you want to borrow my notebook?  I have one in my purse…”  I gave her The Look and kept writing.  And here is what I have:

Not terribly legible, but it captures a bit of conversation that I can work with.  And, more importantly, it captures that spark of inspiration I had at my desk.  I am very familiar with these characters, I know their quirks, and if they existed outside my own head, I’d invite them to lunch in a little local place I discovered that makes the best BLT sandwiches and has moreover, poetry nights with open mikes.  It would be a lot of fun.  They are people of humor and substance.  And they had, somehow, stepped in and saved my story.

…And NaNoWriMo is back on.

The point to all this is that, yes, the difficult times are there.  Creating anything always involves a struggle, as a philosopher said.  We all tend toward Chaos, and creating something out of nothing is fighting against that chaos.  Or so one writer whom I really admire said.  Whatever the underlying cause, my lesson, which I pass on, is not a new one:

Hang in there.  Let things work together, do what you can – and be prepared to be surprised.

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Visit the other blogs on this wonderful hop.  I guarantee, the other bloggers have a lot more to say, and a lot more on point.  (Cough!)

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850

Insecure Writers – ‘Do I have it in me?’


Today is the first Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy or practical suggestions. 2011 NaNoWriMoAs others have commented, it is NaNoWriMo time. That time when we are expected to crank out fifty thousand words in thirty days. If you prefer numbers, that is 50,000 words in 30 days. (It doesn’t look quite so frightening when you are looking at numerals rather than words, does it?)

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Well, speaking as an insecure writer, I will say that something that we all fear has come to pass.  No, nothing tremendously horrific.  I just somehow, in adjusting the spacing in my post (I tend to get grumpy about spacing) I managed to delete the whole thing.

I clawed back the beginning paragraph from the preview, and I am giving a brief run-down of my post.  I have learned something as an insecure writer:

If you mess up your manuscript (or blog post) you can carry on.

Here is what I said:

2011 NaNoWriMo

We are supposed to put out 50,000 words.  Will they be any good?  Can we write under that much pressure?  This is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo, and since my big problem with writing is to just let the ideas flow and make myself Wait to edit.  In otherwords, initial output does not have to be perfect.

This is a lesson I have learned.
My first NaNo (2011) is now a book called Mourningtide:

Last Year’s effort will be coming out at some point in 2014.  I am currently working on a fable or fairy tale involving a rather large crocodile that comes to stay with a struggling family.

I tried an experiment where I just wrote.  I turned on my laptop first thing in the morning (morning composing seems to be the time when my work seems the best) and I typed with my eyes closed. I had contemplated a scene involving the local busybody who was going to come bustling over, encounter the croc, and after some humorous histrionics go tearing out of there mouthing threats.  It came out nothing like that.  It was, in fact, rather moving to see where the story went and how it went.  And it was all from me.

2013 NaNoWriMo

I think there comes a point where we have to admit that we do have ability, that it is there to be tapped, that we have to nurture it and not be so bossy.

It isn’t hard, is it?  We see others as gifted and capable.  Why is it so hard to see ourselves so.

(And, this second time around with this @#$! post, it isn’t such a bad things to let things be, is it?)
http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=103850

A Piece of Croc…


I have had crocodiles on the brain for the past month or so.  It all started with an idea that I had about some poor fellow poling his boat back home after a hard night fishing when a roar splits the dawn and  – ker-SPLASH!! – his boat is nearly swamped by a wall of water.  The man straightens to see a huge crocodile floundering in the river beside his boat.

It gathers itself and surges straight upward, falls back and bellows again as the man clutches his chest and tries not to hyperventilate, faint and fall into the water.

And then the crocodile looks at him for a moment with the rising sun right behind its head…

The story takes off from there.  The thing is thirty cubits long (which makes it between 45 and 60 feet in length)  with a head wider than the man’s height.  It follows him home and things start happening.

Who the crocodile is, how it got there, and what happens next in various ways to various people, grownups and children, is the story.  It is shaping up to be rather amusing, but it is also requiring a lot of research into crocodilians.  There is a lot I didn’t know.

For example, did you know that they can gallop?  Here’s a video of a freshwater crocodile doing just that.  (Pity they didn’t set it to the William Tell Overture, as Paul Serano the Paleontologist did in ‘Supercroc’):

The man gets quite a turn when he comes home from a long day fishing and finds the crocodile basking in the sun with the man’s  two children napping between his front legs.

It isn’t quite like the other crocs in the river, being more than three times their size, but like some regular specimens, it does like to chase the man’s fowl.




It also takes a rather dim view of rude people and tax collectors.

There is a lot to research (and, to be honest, I’m learning more about crocodiles than I ever really wanted to know) but I can’t do any actual composing until November 1, since this is going to be my NaNoWriMo project for 2013.

What audience would I target?  Well, that’s a good question.  It isn’t really a children’s book, though I think slightly older children (of an age to read chapter books) might enjoy it.  It is a bit of a fable and a bit of a fantasy, especially when you discover who and what the crocodile is, and how he got there and why there is a huge, dark patch in the night sky, and why the river sparkles so brightly when he is in it.

Heck, I even have a cover design well on the way to being finished.  

I think I’ll enjoy it.

And now one final video that should leave you laughing deliciously.  No blood, nothing to startle you even if a croc does appear in it.  Enjoy it!

Okay, What I’m Doing…


I really need to update this blog on a regular basis.  It does tend to be hit or miss, but I don’t want to bore everyone with my writing issues and enjoyments (though I find it enjoyable). 
For example, I have the nicest recipe for Thai-style soup that works up quickly, has low fat and sodium, and makes wonderful left-overs for the next day.  In fact, if you can hold off eating it for two days it’s really good.  I’ll post it if I can find a good photo.

Currently I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo, which is a contest of sorts where you attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days.  To reduce that to understandable terms,a printed page – as in, say, a paperback of normal size such as you sneak on mass transit and hope no one notices you reading it – Harlequin Romance, to be precise – has about 275 words per page.  50,000 words translates to  181 pages.  A normal-sized harlequin.

Lots of people seem to think that they must produce a finished, polished, to-be-published-then-and-there manuscript, but that is not the case.  The founder of NaNo, Chris Baty, says that the task is to write 50,000 words.  And he gives some examples of what counts,
I have some Egyptian stories (you have noticed, haven’t you?) that feature some Egyptian names.  If I type (with apologies to A. A. Milne):

 Ramesses strode down the hallway, yanked open the door to the Imperial Kitchen s and snapped, “Nobody can call me a fussy man – but I do like a little bit of butter on my bread!”

I score 36 words.  Not bad.  But if, having access to his throne names, I type

User – Maat – Re – Sotep – en – Re – Ramesses II Meriamun strode down the hallway, yanked open the door to the Imperial Kitchen s and snapped, “Nobody can call me a fussy man   but I do like a little bit of butter on my bread!”

I score 50.

 
Now, that actually is not cheating per Mr. Baty, bless him.   
Way out of date cover

Mourningtide was last year’s NaNo project, and it’s in final polish, but I was just a trifle burned out and decided to go with Kadesh, which is moving along.  (Check for some chapters on my web page – www.dianawilderauthor.com )

I’ve been going slowly, and yesterday I took a day off to put Mourningtide into print book format for reasons that I am not allowed to discuss.  It was interesting to see that, printed, it is working out to 332 pages, if I include the List of Characters but not my incomplete Author’s Notes.  Considering that Pharaoh’s Son, that behemoth, was 421 pages and had a genesis that spanned nearly twenty years, that is not bad.
So, what on earth am I doing?  Writing and cooking and enjoying autumn.  I’ll have to post photos.
And that recipe, of course.

NaNoWriMo 2012


NaNoWriMo is taking place right now.  I’m participating. 

 
And I am an idiot:  I have a whole lot going on. 
 
I’m polishing Mourningtide, I am doing a once-over on a (Civil War) novel that will be on KDP Select as a freebie later this month, and I signed up to write a minimum of 1700 words a day to produce 50,000 words in 30 days.  (1700 words works out to about six printed pages).  It’s do-able if you work steadily, but in this case I am also working at a day job. 
 
I’m giving it my best shot, and I think I can do it, but if one thing or another has to go Kadesh will be the casualty.
 
Which reminds me: Kadesh is a working title.  Fans of Egyptian history will know that it was the battle that Ramesses II touted as his greatest triumph.  The Hittites, whom he fought, were equally emphatic about their ‘successs’.  My read is that two superpowers met and mauled each other, though Ramesses probably had the shock of his life in the process.  (There’s a strong indication that his father, Seti I, died of a heart condition, and I’ve used that supposition in my own ‘family history’ to account for some deaths.  It would appear, though, based on what happened at Kadesh, that Ramesses did not have a weak heart.  He survived the shock of seeing the Hittite army breaking through the palisades of his camp.)
 
I’m telling this story from the point of view of lesser characters.  Hori (Amunhorkhepechef) as a nineteen-year-old Crown Prince is given nominal command of one of the armies.  Others of his brothers (Ramses and Montuhirkhopechef, who died prior to the opening of Pharaoh’s Son) are in high command in other armies.  Khaemwaset (‘Khay’ in Pharaoh’s son, and the most well known,  historically, of Ramesses’ sons) is with his father, being all of fifteen years old.
 
It’s important to understand strategy, but this event shaped Ramesses’ reign and world history.  It turned him from being a ‘warrior king’ (though he tried) to being a true statesman, where his greatness lay.
 
So I’m writing Kadesh.  I truly must redo the temporary cover, but it’s a decent placeholder for now.
 
My website has sample chapters that I’ve whacked out.  Hori seems to be taking center stage just at the moment.  (I know him rather well).  Check them out here:
 
  
 

Polishing a Draft


So, you have finished your story.  It is complete.  The tale has been told and was done rather well, if you say so yourself.  You ‘compile’ the manuscript (for, after all, you are using Scrivener) and you then print the thing.  The result is a two-inch thick pile of bright white paper with printing on it.  The manuscript.  Finished!  Hurrah!



Wordsmithing as I do it.  The logic is hidden by the lack of prettiness…
The delight lasts only as long as it takes you to flip to a random page, and read…
“Did I say that?  What a passive construction!  What was I thinking?
You seize a pencil/pen/whatever, circle the offending phrase, write in what you should have written if you had not been under-caffeinated, and then sit back, scowling, and look at the rest of the manuscript.
…And now you are in ‘polish’ mode.
It’s been a while since I did this, and I had forgotten how enjoyable it is.   Wordsmithing, pure and simple, is a pleasure in itself.  It is, however, annoying when you have been envisioning a finished manuscript and, looking down at it, pen in hand, realized that the thing is anything but.
So you sigh, assemble the things you will need, and go to it.
What do you need?

Just the basics, ma’am, but in all available colors…
Pens.  Lots of them.  They tend to grow legs and walk.  I have one that was made by an artisan using chestnut wood salvaged from an colonial-era house on the seacoast.  Chestnut isn’t seen any more since the blight destroyed most of the chestnut trees.  That’s a pity because the wood is very rot-resistant and has a wonderful color.  Then there are the gel pens that are a delight to write with and have thick, visible ink.  The problem is that the ink tends to sink into paper and go through the other side.  Not pretty. 

Authentic Marvin
the Martian Pen

I also have a special Marvin the Martian pen I bought years ago at a Warner Brothers store and carried to various meetings over the years.
You need highlighters in various colors.  Why?  Well, what if you highlight something in pink and then think of something else that needs to be done with the highlighted passage, but is different?  Pink won’t work, it’ll be confusing.  Besides, hot pink is something of which I can only stand so much.  Purple, I think.  Or maybe blue…
Post-it notes, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, are very useful for marking places (‘Oh – that’s right!  I edited to here!’), marking thoughts (make sure you don’t get cheap imitations because they’ll fall off, and you will face your greatest fear: that your inspired edit will be lost forever and your powerful intellect, having decayed rather badly, will not be able to retrieve the perfect word in the perfect location.)
But you go cooking along, making corrections – until it suddenly occurs to you that the reason that the beginning of the novel seems to plod just a wee bit, with lots of information being made available rather quickly is that you have been going about it the wrong way, and it would work out better if you start in with the third chapter, scrap the first and second chapters, and then adjust as necessary.  You greet this revelation with a cry torn from your very entrails as you realize that the entire beginning of the @#$%! story has to be reworked.

Is it a disaster if it makes the whole story better but drives the writer mad?
You brew another cup of tea (did you read my post about tea?), get out the materials, and go to work, muttering under your breath even as you see that it truly will do better.  You bid farewell to the end of year release, the editor’s feedback, the new story that has been nudging at your elbow and presenting lusciously tempting scenes…  You buckle down –

Will pester for catnip…
And pray that your work is not interrupted by the dreaded ‘attractive nuisance’ that likes to grab your hand as you mouse…