Despite Excuses

This is my second full day back from the Despite Excuses Writing Retreat up near Fort Bragg, CA. I can still hear the sea if I close my eyes and listen hard enough.

It’s called Despite Excuses because we all have excuses not to write. We all have lives and responsibilities and day jobs and things. Despite Excuses is about writing even though Real Life happens, rather than waiting for Real Life to agree to leave us alone for a while. If we wait for that, we’ll be waiting a long time.

I don’t do well with roommates or housemates, but somehow I managed to get along with almost everybody in a ten-person house for a week. “No introvert-shaming” was a big rule and that helped a lot. If someone needed time to themselves, to write or nap or spend some time in nature, there was nothing wrong with that.

I tried out my Rejectomancy and Other Myths exercise on the group. This is a modification of my Rejectomancy presentation from a couple of years ago, expanded to include other myths and “truisms” about publishing. We had a nice mixed group of new writers and veterans, so the input was great and people learned a lot from it.

With a lot of teachers and parents in attendance, I also had the opportunity to crowdsource some ideas and inspiration for my YA novel-in-progress. I’m stuck at the point where kids experience the brunt of other kids’ meanness, and I’m out of touch with the techniques teens use to make each other’s lives miserable these days. We didn’t have mobile phones when I was in high school, so harassment has changed a lot since my day. We had to pass notes…uphill, both ways, in the snow, while fending off bears.

(Minor aside: I did see a mobile phone when I was in high school. It was a giant lunchbox with a brick of a handset attached to it. But it would be about fifteen years from that point until I had my own mobile phone. That phone was a brick of a handset, too, but it was a sleek brick, at least.)

I fell about 750 words short of my writing goal for the retreat, but toward the end I made the executive decision that spending time with people was more important than spending time writing; experiences are writing fodder, and I needed the inspiration more than the wordcount. I can make wordcount at home; I can’t stretch out on my back in a hot tub at home and gaze up at the Milky Way, oohing at the streaks of meteors across the sky.

In short, if you have a chance to drop everything, go to the coast, and write…take it. Despite excuses.

 

Revision Purgatory

Revision Purgatory is a much better place than Revision Hell. I’m fortunate to be working with an editor who has a great developmental eye and a lot of patience for “what if we…” emails, so I’m definitely not in hell. If I were in Revision Heaven, I could just wave my hand and say “Let it be done,” and lo, it would be all done. So I’m definitely not there, either. But Purgatory is a good place to be. It’s neutral, it’s not distracting, there are no loud parties. Just a few loud cats, but that’s my own fault.

The down side of working from home is that every afternoon my office mates start yelling at me about how hungry they are, several hours before the cafeteria opens for dinner. They also walk across my keyboard and try to rename my characters with their feet.

Anyway. I’m about two-thirds through the big, substantial edits on my Pathfinder novel. I still have to go back and brush up a few things, but I’m trying to focus on the big picture first. I’m pleased with the shape it’s taking. Zae, Keren, and Appleslayer are a lot of fun to write, and I’ve had enough of a break from this story that I can see it with fresh eyes now. I’ve written a whole separate novel since I turned this one in, and having that extra experience at this is also helping me now.

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This sign (on Route 580 in Oakland), is my measure of how deeply into this novel I am, in my own head. If I read this out of the corner of my eye as “Zae and Coliseum” as I’m driving past, I know I’m thinking about the story.

There’s not much to say from Revision Purgatory. It’s hard to update when my updates would essentially be things like “this scene you know nothing about? it now happens after this other scene you know nothing about, and I have to find another reason for them to be doing the thing I can’t tell you so that this other thing I don’t want to spoil can happen.”

I took yesterday off to visit the SF Maker Faire, which was a lot of fun and a needed break, and was also inspiring on a tinkering / creating / inventing-weird-stuff level, which of course is a perfect thing to get me into Zae’s world.

Zae’s world, as it happens, is an interesting place to visit. Check out some of the other Pathfinder Tales novels while I polish this one up. I’m looking forward to sharing more of her story with you!

Process: Writing the Actiony Stuff

I complained to Matt, my husband, that I’m not confident about writing the big action sequences. I can do them, I’m not saying I can’t, but they’re not my comfort zone.

He said, “You’re going to have to get used to them. You’ll probably be writing a lot of them. If only there was a macro you could use as a template and just fill it in.”

I said, “Like Pokemon? ‘$name attacks $name2 using $skill. It’s $adjective effective!’ except not like that?”

He said, “No. Exactly like that. Block it out like that, and then embellish around it until it’s a scene.”

Blocking is a theater term for staging out where characters go and when.

I did it. Just the bare bones at first. I made the decisions, keeping it simple.

A shoots B.
C taunts B.
B attacks C.
D, unnoticed, moves to get a clear shot at C.

Then I turned those bones into a fleshed-out sequence, which was much less intimidating once I knew the mechanics and could see it in my head.

It works. I was self-conscious about complaining, but it spawned conversation and a good, do-able solution.

Also, my husband is smart. 🙂