September 30, 2011 at 08:39 (Thoughts)
Tags: Amazon, birthday, books, e-books, e-reader, Kindle, random thoughts, reading
The newest Kindle iteration has come just in time. I was already considering an e-reader for my birthday this November, but hadn’t quite been convinced of what I wanted. The announcement of a smaller, simpler Kindle has sealed the deal for me. It’s cheaper, and doesn’t have unnecessary bells and whistles that I really don’t want on a device used for reading books.
My primary purpose for ever wanting an e-reader has been to carry a selection of texts with me in a lightweight and ultra-portable device. The opportunity to download all those free books is just a delight for me, because while I love real books and always will, I usually can’t justify buying many of them with my budget. There’s an entire library worth of old books that are now free to acquire, and I will finally get a chance to read, or re-read the “classics”.
I find it a real chore to read novel-length works on my computer screens, and indeed, I still haven’t finished reading a small handful of e-books I’ve already bought/downloaded because it’s just uncomfortable and inconvenient. I want to be able to read in bed, or at the park, or in the car.
Of course, I doubt I’ll ever use an e-reader as my primary reading source. Books have too many things that you can’t recreate electronically. They feel good, and have textured pages. They smell of paper and ink and other books. There’s the sound of turning the page, and the satisfying faint clomp of closing the book when you’ve finished a great story. The cover art, and browsing the spines, and the small details like publisher logos…
One thing I definitely won’t mind is a lack of dust covers! I always take them off my hardcover books when reading, since I tend to tear them otherwise. But I really do hope my eventual experience with the newest Kindle exceeds my expectations. Even if I resent the idea that my books can run out of battery.
September 27, 2011 at 20:10 (Writing)
Tags: books, challenge, deadline, inspiration, novella, planning, plot, schedule, word count, Writing
As you may know, I’ve switched to working on the potential-novella referred to as M. I read the opening I wrote several years ago and felt somewhat overawed by how awesome the idea was, and wondered why I stopped. I can honestly say it was because I hadn’t plotted any of the story out besides the general idea; it slowed me right down, and I can see that, now. At the time, I just drifted onto other projects that had more immediate appeal, without ever realising what was holding me back.
While the ideas for this story were still there, they needed a lot of developing. And as my last blog entry covered, the strange little ideas I’d worked out, and the interesting plot directions I wanted to use have finally started to make sense as a whole story. I got excited and I have begun planning out the plot properly. The best part about doing this is always knowing what to write next. Once this is sorted, I can sit down and throw whatever words I want at the page. Editing will be challenging, but the important part is always finishing that first draft.
My plan is to have the overall plot finalised, to whatever extent I usually do, by the end of this week. Then starting Sunday, I intend on writing like a maniac (or if you’re a fan of Dear Sugar, writing like something else!). Novellas clock in around 40,000 words in length. I want to hit that in two weeks. Madness? Oh, yes. With my lifestyle, most certainly. And that’s precisely what draws me to it.
I have always been inspired by challenges. Put some kind of ridiculous deadline in my head and I want to tackle it wholeheartedly, just to see if I can. Looking over my writing records for TDM, I don’t often reach 3,000 words a day, but where’s the fun in it if I already know I can manage ~2,000? I could do it in a month, but two weeks? We’ll have to see.
There’s always the distinct possibility that I will get directed, bored, or grumpy with this whole plan before it’s finished. You guys can always call me on it if my happy little word counter isn’t rising daily.
September 26, 2011 at 10:28 (Writing)
Tags: books, ideas, inspiration, new stories, planning, plot, themes, Writing
My writing has been on hold while I try to untangle the vast reserves of ideas I have. I needed to put everything in place for this story, because it’s been years since I worked on it, and despite knowing the general plot, I never came up with too many specifics. Ahh, the days of literally making it up as I went.
I have been sorting and compiling ideas for a couple of weeks now. It feels like forever, and I’m an impatient sort. I’d prefer to be writing than planning and plotting, but I can recognise that one must come before the other. Little ideas, big ideas, strange notions that don’t seem to fit into this story have all been running through my head. For a while there, I intentionally avoided even thinking of any of it, because I was getting so frustrated at how none of it was slotting together nicely.
Then yesterday, it clicked. The parts fell into place. Even the weird things that I didn’t think were relevant to this story had a specific and important role to play.
I don’t know how any of this works. It’s some kind of function my brain has had for as long as I can remember. I could attribute it to a wild imagination or half a lifetime of practice in writing, but that doesn’t encompass the fullness of how stories sometimes just “work”. After all that struggling with ideas, after all those days of just giving up trying to put the crazy jigsaw together myself, I can finally see the full picture and why those ideas were connected at all.
Does this mean I’m back into writing immediately? Not quite. I can see it all, but I still need a little time to percolate this as a whole. I’ll probably start by putting down a plot outline with all the major and minor events I’ve already decided on. From there, I think I will be able to fashion something like a story out of it. I have a pretty great feeling about this work. This is going to be fun.
September 24, 2011 at 11:11 (Writing)
Tags: books, family, genre, influences, jewellery, random thoughts, The Dragon's Hoard, themes, Writing
Something I came across recently had the opinion that people get a lot of their passions in life from family influences. For instance, if you attend sports games as a child with a parent, you will associate fond memories and excitement with that sport. The love for that game is passed down to the next generation, and then when that person has children, they will repeat the process: take the kids to the ballgame, because they have great memories, and they want to share those experiences with their own offspring.
As with most subjects, I immediately twisted the concept and wondered just how much our family impacts our writing. I know that I got a lot of my love for reading from my parents and other extended family members. I have those kinds of great memories of my grandparents taking me to the library and being allowed to choose any book I wanted to borrow. Of reading the same story every night with my mother. Of my father taking me to buy books from the second hand bookstore every time I ran out of new things to read in his house. Those are important parts of my childhood, and if I had children, I would want to do those things with them as well.
Some people didn’t have the same exposure to books and reading through their family as I did. There are plenty of folks out there who came across their love of literature from a friend, a teacher, or just happenstance as they went through their lives.
And then I wonder if the genre we write is an extension of these influences. I can definitely say that I was exposed pretty early to horror (dad-approved reading of Stephen King before I was a teen), and I was raised on fantasy in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Was I set up to become exactly what I am, or did my taste and talent coincide from such an early age? There’s no definite answer to that, but it sure makes me curious about the experiences of other writers and how much correlation they can see between their upbringing and their stories.
A final note: I’m sorry this is a couple of days late! I’ve been busy with jewellery stuff over at The Dragon’s Hoard.
September 20, 2011 at 20:26 (Writing)
Tags: agents, books, feedback, publication, Writing
Some writers really want an agent to work with. I understand all the reasons for desiring an agent, largest of all being their expertise when it comes to shopping your book around to their contacts in publishing, and knowing how to handle all the legal/contractual side of things. This knowledge, and much more, is unparalleled unless the writer themselves wants to do all the work of two or three people.
Many agents have an online presence in this day and age, and you get the amazingly unrivaled opportunity to get to know them and see if they are a “fit” for you. The days of querying unknown agents based solely on their other clients is quickly slipping away. I start to wonder if writers get their hearts set on any special “dream agent”, someone they’ve seen around, and think would suit their work and their personality.
Me? I don’t know that I’m at a place where an agent is necessary. Perhaps that will change in the future as I get more writing credits or want to push a larger project. I would not lament the insights of a talented and passionate editor working with me and sharing my love of my books. That would definitely be something special. But even so, I have no qualms approaching big houses alone if I felt I was ready for it (or rather, my story was!).
There are so many resources available to us now that even something like a writer’s contract can be poured over by the inexperienced and unraveled with the help of a search or two online. That’s not to say an agent isn’t worth their weight in gold; a good one who really believes in your work definitely is. To some writers, an agent isn’t totally necessary. To others, like me, an agent would foremost be a buffer between me and the demands of the industry.
With all that in mind, I’ve had my eye on an agent or two over the years. I love their personality and take on writing, but I don’t think my work necessarily fits with their other clients. Same genre, different style, so there’s no telling if they’d like my perspective on the stories. If I get to the stage when I feel it’s time to get an editor, I’ll probably still approach the ones I like most. They might be ready for a change, right?
September 19, 2011 at 13:51 (Thoughts)
Tags: bonsai, ferns, fruit and vegetables, gardening, Ostara, plants, random thoughts, Spring
I am currently mad about growing plants. Fresh produce from my own garden would be so nice, and keeping ferns, growing perennial flowers and generally having a garden that is rewarding.
It sounds like a simple enough process. Collect appropriate planters or prepare the garden beds, ensure the soil is good with compost, mulch, and natural seaweed fertiliser, then plant away! Seeds, seedlings, and larger plants, depending on what’s available, what I want, and what suits the season. I know what I need to for keeping a garden, but I must admit, I’m really bad at it. The knowledge and theory is all there, but something I do in practice has ended in ruin every time.
I have killed dozens of plants, maybe even hundreds. Sometimes there’s a sad couple of cherry tomatoes harvested. I once managed to grow a horribly bitter and stunted carrot, and while totally thrilling to dig it up, it was a disappointment.
It would be easy to joke that instead of having a green thumb, I have the dead and crispy thumb of a failed garden. I can get self-sowing plants to go wild, and there are plenty of flowering bushes in the yard that do fine with absolutely no input from me (except the occasional watering when it’s dry out). Once it comes down to something that I should be involved in maintaining, there’s not much success.
This isn’t too off-putting to me. As the Spring Equinox approaches, I definitely feel the subtle call of nature to celebrate Ostara by planting and growing and tending the garden. I have enthusiasm that this time will be different, and the blueberry bushes with thrive and produce berries. At least this time, I don’t have chickens, as chickens love EVERY part of a blueberry bush (I swear they developed a taste for it).
I look ahead, hopeful that what I’m planting will survive. My ferns haven’t turned crispy yet, and my European Ash bonsai tree is looking ridiculously healthy! The strawberry plants have their first tiny strawberries on them, and the new mulberry tree is suddenly covered in long green berries! This is all a great sign. Maybe my mysterious gardening inability has passed and I will be able to fulfill all my planting urges.
September 15, 2011 at 21:09 (Writing)
Tags: agents, editors, fonts, submission, Writing
I’m a self-confessed typeface fanatic. Being both a writer and a visual artist, the appearance of fonts means a lot to me. So when I start seeing people complain endlessly about one font or another used for submissions, I both understand, and find occasion to resent their outlook.
It’s fine to have a favoured typeface. Everyone who deals with text probably does! But unless an editor or agent has specifically and clearly stated in their submission guidelines that they expect a certain font, they don’t get the freedom to judge a piece if someone is using a perfectly neat and professional typeface (Times, Garamond, Courier, so on).
This comes about because I once read an article by an editor, one of those “writers tips” kind of pieces. In it, this person made some noises about being biased against submissions printed in Courier. There was an implication made that a writer submitting in Courier was doing it all for appearances, to try and make themselves seem more “genuine” as an author or some bizarre conception.
As a person who chooses to write in Courier (Dark Courier, to be precise), I felt pretty irritated. If I submit in Courier, it’s because that’s A) what I use personally, B) a very common industry standard, and C) they haven’t said not to. I like monospace fonts very much. They are comfortable and clear to read while I’m typing, and they’re very neat and tidy in print. When it comes down to it, Courier was the accepted norm for so many years, it’s just unprofessional for an editor to act like anyone using it is doing so for show.
Don’t get me wrong: if an editor, agent or any other industry professional specifically states that they would like to receive submissions in a certain typeface, by all means, a bit of exasperation is expected if they still get submissions in a different font. A writer should read and follow the submission guidelines of every individual they approach. As long as the editor/agent’s expectations have been made easily accessible and easy to understand, there’s no good excuse for them not to be followed.
But if there’s nothing specific to go on, I’ll be submitting hard copies in my size 12, indented, double-spaced Dark Courier. If someone doesn’t like that font, they need to make their preferences clear from the outset.
September 13, 2011 at 20:11 (Writing)
Tags: art, books, decline, improvement, style, themes, Writing
The more you practice, the better you get, right? I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, not in such simple terms. Certainly, you get more practiced the longer you are doing something, but does it really result in improvements?
Even with the knowledge that personal taste is a huge part of any judgement, I know of artists who have a career that spans many years and shows some kind of decline the longer they work in their field. With some graphic artists, the changes often show they have fallen into a simple, easy-to-repeat style. They simplify so they can keep producing their work. This is a kind of improvement; they are now more streamlined and capable of fulfilling their obligation to draw frequently. But it doesn’t make it better, artistically.
In that vein, some authors are so prevalent with their writing, you can see when they fall into a rhythm, a method to continue putting forth their creations with such astounding frequency. They work for years and keep writing, and even if you’re still entertained by their work, they have found ways to simplify and streamline, perhaps sacrificing something important along the way.
Maybe it’s the compulsive, habitual nature of humans that makes even artists fall back on something that’s almost uncreative in its repetition. Or perhaps some people just fixate on a specific style and consciously aim to recreate that, as their “tried and true” method. Or, heaven forbid, maybe we’re all only capable of producing our work in a limited number of ways, and it’s just when you’re able to see a large collection that it becomes evident.
These people are all very well practiced, and I’m sure they are very happy with the progression of their skill, but it doesn’t always work out better, as far as I can see. I have even noted in my own writing, new things might be put together with better skill, yet lack in some kind of special soul that an older work captured. At least I can put that down to most of it being unfinished, still in the process of becoming something better, becoming the attractive finished product.
I don’t like the idea of stagnation. I see patterns in my work, certainly, but I can only hope that there’s no decline in the quality just because I find ways to “improve” over time.
September 11, 2011 at 13:09 (Writing)
Tags: adversity, books, fiction, plot, reality, setting, themes, Writing
Before I threw myself headlong into other projects, I strongly considered going back and finishing my romance novel, known as FiA. But I have a rather significant concern surrounding that story, and haven’t quite been able to work on it.
In its simplest form, the setting for FiA is natural disaster stranding the two main characters together, where they fall into some kind of love (romance, after all!). In the time between birthing the full plot, and when I was going to return to working on FiA, a very similar event actually occurred in the location my book is set in.
It almost feels insensitive for me to write my novel about this location, and about this kind of disaster, when in somewhat recent times that place has gone through such a terrible experience. My feeling is borderline irrational; the location has seen other such disasters over time (as with many places on this fine planet, you get hot-spots for natural disasters, like Tornado Alley). It’s part of why I chose that location. The setting is realistic, the events plausible.
My handling of the event in FiA is befittingly serious. I don’t make light of suffering, but it’s also not the direct focus of the story, since it’s pretty much just the catalyst for the characters to be together. I hope that, given enough time, I’ll feel comfortable in writing this book again. I was really enjoying the experience, and the little that I got through taught me a lot.
I have the capacity to over-think my work to a degree I hadn’t realised beforehand. Writing FiA made me see that I could get just as caught up in my version of the real world as I can in fantasy (writing descriptions of a place I’ve only seen in photographs is wondrous!). I know I haven’t finished with this story, but I don’t know when I’ll go back to it, either.
September 9, 2011 at 20:47 (Thoughts, Writing)
Tags: assessment, books, random thoughts, rules, taste, Writing
I don’t pretend to be very widely read anymore, because there are just SO MANY books out there, and I don’t have the time or inclination to consume them the way many others do. I don’t read books that are outside of my normal tastes very frequently, and even in some genres I only read a specific author. This doesn’t really bother me, though I do try to keep up with what’s new and interesting (or old and interesting!), because I have a certain responsibility to know what my chosen profession is doing, right?
So in my quest to remain somewhat attached to the comings and goings of the writing world, I still read books, and sometimes just for the sake of seeing what all the fuss is about. Occasionally, this means I read a really incredible book that is well worth the time and effort, and sometimes this means I am left in a state of wonderment that there should be anything considered remarkable about a book.
There isn’t a simple way to divide and define these books. What makes a person enjoy one story over another? It can be a case of fantastic characters, epic storytelling, or just a universal concept delivered in an accessible format. Maybe they are believable scenarios, or deep truths, or a subject you’re already passionate about. These traits don’t serve as a defining point, though. There are books that people love with honestly one-dimensional characters, then books that the same people will reject for having that flaw. I know this, because I make frank comparisons in my reading and I see myself doing it.
What makes a problem become a fatal flaw in one work, when it can be overlooked in others? Is it the cumulative quality that actually spurs our decisions, and we just put it down to the first simplified answer we come across? What’s worse, we learn all these rules about writing (that are surely for breaking!) and we appreciate why they are important, yet a book can come along and seemingly disregard all the important things you’ve ever learnt, and still be a good book.
I suppose the quest to understand what makes a story good is one of those endless, unanswerable things. Not just because everyone has their own personal taste, but because sometimes the things we love in one instance are the things we hate at other times. People are uniquely capable of these amazing contradictions. At the end of the day, there probably isn’t an answer at all. Not even to ourselves.