Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Act of She

Wow, almost a week since my last post. Been nearly a week away from a computer. The ramp at work and bringing a new line to life has left me with little to no time. Coupling that has been my renewed interest in getting the excess weight off my body. Which leads me to my topic for today - cutting excess weight from the manuscript.

Recently I have learned that the iPhone can open emails with PDF attachments. So knowing this I sent myself and my wife the manuscript in PDF to our phones. Over a casual dinner we can pull up the manuscript and discuss what works and what doesn't. During one of these discussion I spotted an excessive amount of the word "she" in the draft.

Tenchnically there is nothing wrong with using the word, except when repeating it four times in one paragraph. So I have become determined to reduce the amount of 'she' words in the manuscript. I started yesterday with the first chapter. The delimma I was faced with was how to find them all. I could print out the chapter then attack it with a highlighter (which I have done in the past). The problem is that I alrady have a 8 inch stack of paper for this book (yeah - I've saved every print out related to the book). The answer came yesterday while teaching people how to use MS Word at work.

MS Word has a "find" function. Most people use it to locate unique words in a document. Word 2007 also has a "replace" function. "Replace" is great for changing an occurance of a word with another - like changing a name. While showing this function I noticed the "replace" function has a "more" option. It turns out that you can change the format (such as font color) of a specific word. So I went into chapter 1 and had all the "she" words replaced with red font. Bingo. I instantly saw all the "she" and was able to correct the repitition problem.

Next step is to use it to find "was", "had", "were", "saw", and every other crutch word I like to repeat when I get lazy. I think it'll also work to change the font on the letters 'ly' so I can fix those pesky words too. I love learning about new features that save me time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Friday!!!

I have not been so happy to have a Friday come to an end in such a long time. Work has been crazy. 120 people trained in one week on a program that the company has never worked before. There is more to be done to get them up and running, but we have made major strides.

Nothing to do with the book really, other than I haven't even opened the thing all week. I've been considering what to do at this point and the more time I ponder the more I think that printing the book and reading it aloud will be the next best step to creating a polished piece. The only that has responded to reading the book in the current draft is my mother - believe it or not. Mom - the woman that hasn't read a book in nearly a decade - the same woman that never read any of my school papers growing up - the woman that thinks that newspaper is only good for house training dogs. She actually read it. Her response? "Well, I was bored a lot and there were words I didn't know." Go figure.

Anyway she did point out a few areas that I may be able to cut to quicken the pace and remove more words. At the moment I am below 95K words. I could loose another 5K without really affecting where it is now. It really feels like I am spending more time editing this book than it took to write it!

I've been thinking of the 'what next'. I'm really feeling compelled to write the beginning of the chronicles. I really wanted to release that story last, but my mind constantly drifts back to Alice Liddel's story and her relationship with Charles Lutwidge Dogdson. The real story is facinating and leaves so much open to interpetation. My whole concept fits really well into history. Sort of a historical fiction / fantasy / steampunk thought going. Hmmmm.....

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Yeah, I know that I haven't posted in a while. Not much toward the book has happened since my last post. The ciritque group is humming along, but I've taken a back seat there for a while. My biggest issue at the moment is exhaustion. Work has me running ragged so by the time I get home I just want to sleep. To add to this today and tomorrow will be late days due to orchestra. Our final concert of the 2009-2010 season is tomorrow. Yay!!!

So where am I with the book? Well, I have removed an additional chapter to get the reader into the meat of the story quicker. I've also moved the rave scene back to the beginning. Now I am back to fighting that freaking first sentence. Here is where it is at for the moment:

"Surrounded by the industrial celebration of candy colored teenagers, Emily sat feeling alone and abandonded with a healty dose of fear."

Well... At least that is where it stands now. I haven't gotten any feedback on the sentence from anyone yet. I've been waiting before sending out queries until feedback comes back. It's all quite from the 20 or so people I sent out the 4th draft to (with the old sentence). I may read over it this weekend - out loud.

Let's see....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Rollercoaster of Emotions

Only a short note tonight. Recently my emotions have been quite low. "Pit of despair" maybe - though not quite that low. Regardless, my motivation for doing anything except vegging (wonder if my UK readers have that word) out infront of the tube. The seasons are changing, the weather is warming up, and I feel lathargic. I have been trying to pull myelf out if it, but every time I look at myself in the mirror down I fall. So what's bothering me....

Well first is my weight. A few short years ago (right before I started writing RABBIT SLAYER) I was energetic, slim, and loved to exercise. The pitfalls over the few years has made keeping that body impossible. Now I've ballooned out and lost all my endurance (can you believe I used to run marathons and Half-Ironman triathlons?). Next is my financial situation. Though I have a job and I am working on paying off the debt incurred during the past few years, I still have little money left. Lastly, this whole adventure into writing a novel. I know I should be happy that I finished it (well I wrote the story) but I want it to be good enough to publish. And I am finding that the road to seeing it on the shelves is an uphill battle - in the wind - while storming - without shoes.

I will do this. I will pull myself out of my funk and I will see this book thing to the end. Even if it means that it'll never be good enough for publication. Point is - if I don't try I'll always wonder "what if".

Sorry for the downer post, but it helps to vent from time to time. So is the life of a writer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Critique Mishaps

As I think I stated before I decided to join a few online critique groups. But I'm finding it to be a challenge. I'm getting a crash course on the personalities of writers. Mine included. While some people take criticism well some take it really hard. I can't really blame them - we writers put so much of ourselves into the stories we can't help but to take comments a little personal.

Case in point is a recent posting for a writer in our group. The opening chapter was long and - in my opinion - was overwhelming the reader with tons of information on characters, society, and sociology. Granted the perspective is unique, but all in the first chapter is a bit heavy for a reader. I tried to explain this and a few other points in my critique. By the response I got back from the writer I felt as if she could she would have reached through her keyboard and smacked the hell out of me.

Critiques should be taken in a manner of being positive. Obviously some critique ARE personal attacks, but personally if I disagree with suggestions or critiques I file it away. If I get several that say the same thing than I'll look at it. If not then it is that person's opinion - they are entitled to it. Let's face it what we write isn't going to please EVERYONE. If we could, we'd be on the best sellers list week after week instead of struggling to get out our first book.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Away

This weekend I was afforded the opportunity to get away for the weekend. After months and months of constant attention to working on the book I take some time away. Living in Texas allows for some beautiful weather and being in the north east we have some outstanding scenery. Weather is a key factor when driving the back roads of our country on a motorcycle.

The Dallas / Fort Worth area is known as a transistional area. The area to the east is wooded and filled with rivers, streams and lakes. The area to the west have open rolling hills and vasts plains. Our trip this past weekend took us east, through small towns and villages established nearly a century ago. With the mind of a writer I absorbed the richness of these town - taking in each nuance of the buildings, the landscape, and the people.

The trip allowed my brain to relax and in a way recharge with creativity. To break beyond the strict confines of editing. To allow my imagination to flurish with possibilties. I'm hoping at as I return to editing the RABBIT SLAYER I can work on the prose in imagitive ways - to remember that editing does not have to be stoic. It too can be a creative process - one line at a time.

The pinnacle of the weekend occuried when I arrived home and read the English project written by my daughter. The project was to use a multi-medium (she called it genere) work that depicts the life of a fictional character based on historical relatives. My daughter choose the life of her great-great grandmother. A woman that immigrated from Germany in the late 1800s with a toddler. Not a lot is known of her, but my daughter did a splendid job of using multiple writing techniques to depict an immigrants life in New Work at the turn of the century and beyond. It is an excellent piece of work - and I'm not just saying that because I'm her father. - Well maybe I am. Seriously, sometimes I am amazed at the mind of my child. If only I had the imagination she appears to possess.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Family Ties

Last night I began outlinning book two of THE ALICE CHRONICLES called FAMILY TIES. At first I just stated at a white screen and wondered what to do next. I then decided to follow what I did with book one and see what follows through. Here is what I did and plan on doing to begin the next installment.

First I wrote out the objectives. The things that I wanted to accomplish in this book. These will be the sub-plots that move along with the story. The problem I faced was looking for the catalyst. What is going to raise the stakes enough to warrant the book. For this I looked to my idea that I had planned for book three. It clicked. Everything fell into place in my mind and I know it'll work. Leaves me a little dry for the catalyst in book three, but its too early to worry about that one.

As I have mentioned in the past, my problem over the years was coming up with an end of a story. It was what allowed me to do RABBIT SLAYER. I knew the beginning, the middle, and the end before I started. So for FAMILY TIES I have done the same. I wrote out the beginning, the middle, and then the end (well sort of). It is like writing a query at this point - more of a note to myself of what will happen in each section.

Once I completed that I began writing a chapter by chapter outline. My outline is more like a guidline to the chapter. For example "Chapter 1: Emily wakes up in Alice's apartment with a splitting headache. Emily will attempt to leave, but is stopped by Alice..." and so on. Nothing really formal, again just notes for me to at least get a feel for what will happen in the book. No real details unless there are specific imagery I want to put there. Last night I got as far a chapter 4. That's kind of where things started to get complicated and will need more thought.

Now when I am done with my outline I do not for a second believe that the ending book will flow exactly the way I wrote in the outline. I am not so rigid that I don't allow the story to take over. I know that when I wrote RABBIT SLAYER the sotry flowed down paths I hadn't considered. That is the beauty of wiriting allowing the story to write itself. So I have to go back and modify the outline to allow for the new twists. The end result remains mostly the same.

So this is my method. An outliner that gravitates to organic when in the flow. What are the methods you use for starting a new book?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Is it a New Idea?

This past weekend I browsed the local book store while the wife shopped nearby. I really had no intention of buying anything, just wanted to look. I first checked out the fantasy and YA generes to see what new books were populating the selves - and to see if I recognized any. And it was some where along my search that a title jumped out and grabbed hold of my imagination.

Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter

OMG! What a title - what a concept. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Granted I have seen "Pride, Prejudice, and Zombie" - even bought the book for my daughter - but the interest was no where as great as when I saw the Lincoln book. I had to see what the author had done with his life story. Amazing. It appears that he had created a secret life of the president - all associated to vampires. It was so intriguing that I had to buy the book (and seeing how it was 30% off - a bargin too).

My wife and I talked about the concept on the way home. I told her that I wasn't certain what gravitated me to the book when I had passed over others. She felt that was probably due to the fact that I had done something similar. Really? How so? She explained that I too had taken a known classic, put a dark twist on it, and made it my own.

I'm still not certain that I did what Stephan did in his book. So I start to wonder, is this a new idea or one taken to the extereme? I know of "Wicked" a twist on "The Wizard of Oz", but are there any more?