Sunday, November 15, 2009

Title change...

Yah, I know, I'm supposed to be editing, but couldn't a title change be considered editing?
The title of my novel for the past few years has been 'Gathering the Stars', which I was rather proud of and loved for a long time. The problem is, now that I've done a massive revision of the story, the title doesn't make as much sense as it once did.
For while I simply ignored this because I liked the title, and worse, because I thought I could find a way to still make it fit. Then I realized that it was ridiculous to have a title that didn't relate to the story, and even more ridiculous to try wrapping the story around it so I could avoid thinking of a new one.
So I spent the last several days writing down words and ideas that related to the new direction of the book, and finally came up with the new title...I think....
For the moment, it will be called 'Under the Floating World', with the second book of the series to be called 'Guardians of the Floating World'. The third and final book is probably going to be called 'Dreams of the Floating World', though that one is less definite since I have the least written for that book. Collectively, the set would be called 'Tales of the Floating World', which as Japanophiles will know, is an homage to the thousands of woodblock prints depicting Edo-era Japan, as well as to the 17th century text quoted below:

... Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating; ... refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world...
--Asai Ryoi, in the Ukiyo Monogatari, c.1661

Anyway, I'm supposed to be editing! But at least I have titles for the moment :-)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On sending inadvertantly pornographic text messages...

Although I desperately want Technology to like me, and I keep trying to be friends and hang out with her, I know that Technology is secretly making fun me.
How do I know?

Because Technology totally made me send a pornographic text message, on accident, to a work colleague. I 'm sure I heard Technology and her friends laughing about it in the hallways.

I shouldn't be surprised. Technology is popular-- everyone loves Technology! And I'm just a dork trying to be cool. I thought she would like me because I use a laser at work, but all she cares about is the fact that I'm still the teeniest bit intimidated by an iphone.

Are you still wondering what an inadvertant porno text is? I thought so. Well, that would be when you have your texting set to automatically figure out which word you want, and it picks the wrong one.
My message was supposed to say: "I don't have time to go out with you today", in response to a male colleague saying he was going to grab lunch.
Here is what Technology, snickering away across the lunchroom, made me say:

"I don't have time to in out with you today"

How mortifying. My male colleague was shocked, but laughed right along with Technology.
And now everyone knows that I am a total dork, and even if I get an iphone, Technology will still find something new to torture me with.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Crackers Kill My Life!

Sorry, that should be, "Ze crackers, zey keeeeeel my life!"

I just heard this from a chef on a Food Network show, and I think it's easy to see why I find it so hilarious. Isn't it? Or maybe it is because I just know this relates to me somehow... I promise to explain tomorrow when I've had a chance to figure it out!

It just has to be my new motto, or my new battle cry, or something. As soon as I figure out what it means :-)

update #1: the chef who said it won the competition, so apparently the crackers did NOT kill her life!

UPDATE #2: So, I figured out why this funny little phrase resonated so much with me. Lately I have been very frustrated with so many things: the slow editing process, my burning desire to send the queries out even though I'm not done editing, the looooooonnnnng hours at work, the demanding customers I deal with all day long, and not enough hours in the day to get my 'work' done, let alone my writing.
All this frustration just seems perfectly summed up by 'Ze Crackers, zey keeeel my life!!' Every time I said it today it made me feel better :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Editing: A Report From the Trenches

So, I know there are probably loads of fantastic books out there about editing, but other than the basic grammar books already on my shelves, I haven't gone running out to buy anything else. This is partly because I am a cheapskate, and partly because I assumed I ought to just know this stuff, instinctually.
Yes, I actually thought that. Needless to say, when I finally took the time to read what editors and agents and writers with years of experience were saying, it was quite the eye-opener. Any of you new writers out there... I highly suggest a peek at blogs like super agent Nathan Bransford's blog , or writer Natalie Whipple's blog. Nathan has a number of older posts on the subject, and Natalie is currently discussing it.
That being said, I have come to a small epiphany of my own regarding editing and writing. There will be some who feel this is nothing new, but that is why it is my epiphany and not theirs.
If you are like me, you've spent weeks or months or years writing a book full of perfectly good scenes, and now that you are editing, you think all you need to do is get rid of adverbs and simplify your language.

But the single biggest thing you need to do is to ask yourself one question:
Does this scene move the story forward?

What do I mean by that? Well, does the scene show an important side of your character? I mean really important?
If your story is about a character with a fear of the dark, are you writing chapters and long drawn out scenes about how he plays the saxophone? Don't, unless he plays sax for a living and the lights keep going out in the concert hall, or unless the saxophone is going to be an integral part of some clever allegory about the whole thing. Otherwise, it doesn't make him interesting, it annoys everyone who wants to know what's going on with the actual story, and if through some miracle they continue reading your book, they will very likely roll their eyes and skip pages every time they see that damn sax brought up again.
I'm not saying that characters should be one-dimensional and without backstory. What I am saying is that not every scene and every drop of backstory that pops into the author's head need be in the book. This, in a nutshell has been my epiphany. I know all sorts of trivia about my characters, even the bit characters, but very little of it needs to be in the book. Certainly not as much as I had in the first draft!
I'm also not saying that you shouldn't write it down somewhere if you think your character would play the sax. I have a file on my computer of 'Extra Bits', where I categorize and stuff all these little details for now. That way, if one of them turns out to be important, I have it there, ready for me to use. If not, then I still know it, and it may influence the personality I ascribe to that character. As most people know, J.K. Rowling recently said that Dumbledore was gay, and all the fuss about that aside, this was a detail that didn't do anything to move the story forward, so she didn't put it in the book. It was just a small detail that she knew, which in some way probably helped her to write his character.

So don't cling to scenes and details simply because you wrote them! They can always live on in your 'Extra Bits' file where they won't clutter up your story.

For example, just this week I cut one entire chapter (it was mostly one scene) because it was, well, boring. It had action, it had emotion, but it did absolutely nothing to move the story forward. It didn't bring out the emotions my main character is struggling with, it was just something for him to do, and that was...boring. I cut it and instead wrote a new scene that tied into the chain of events catapulting my character to his 'destiny'.
I feel much better for it and so will you, so close your eyes, get out your scissors, and CUT! Wait, on second thought, you probably ought to do that with your eyes open...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Five Ways To Distract Ann From Writing:

One: Let her near an internet connection. She can't stop herself from checking everyone's blogs, then checking political news, then-- oh my, she can't forget her email! And before you know it, it is 10PM, when Ann turns into a pumpkin and heads for the nearest pillow.

Two: Tell her she never goes out, and it is so-and-so's birthday or this person is leaving town, or that person just got back into town. She is always feeling guilty about these sorts of things, so this is a good tactic, and one her husband employs regularly.

Three: Start watching a so-so new TV show, then shout, "Ann, get down here! The guy on this so-so new TV show who used to be on Firefly just dressed up for Halloween as his Firefly character-- it's AWESOME!!" Actually, just mention Firefly and she'll come peeking around the corner to see what you're talking about.

Four: Take her to Japan. Oh sure, she'll lug that laptop all the way there every time, but she'll never type a word. She'll check her email once if she's lucky.

Five: The Internet. Did I say that already? That's because it counts twice, it distracts her so much.