Tag Archives: MTL

That Was Weird.

My novelists’ support discussion group met tonight, and for the first time I didn’t want to talk about how the novel is going.  As I casually mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve put Meet the Larssons aside for a while, to gain some additional distance and to work on Project Hometown (which needs a better working title, I know).  Tonight, I really felt how big a decision that was, and started to regret it.

I took a two month break from MTL when I finished the first draft last October, but that was in triumph, and I was giddy with the flush of accomplishment.  This time, I’ve been screwing around with the revisions for close to six months and have nothing to show for it except 350 pages of manuscript covered with blue scrawl (bad) and 150 pages that haven’t been touched yet (worse) plus notes for scenes that haven’t been written yet (worst).  This break isn’t a well-deserved rest, it feels like an admission of defeat.

Revision is hard work, and requires more organization and consistency of effort than writing the first draft.  For the last several months, I haven’t been able to commit to that much self-discipline because things have picked up so much at the office; I’ve been traveling a lot, blah blah blah.  I can make all of the excuses for myself that I want, but they’re all bullshit.

What it really comes down to is that as I reworked the book, I lost the voice of Jake, the main character.  I couldn’t get inside his head any more, and with a book told entirely in the first person, being stuck on the outside is problematic.  He became flat, and passive, and finally I just wanted to stop.  I still expect to come back to Jake and Meet the Larssons in a few months.  Maybe in August when we’re on vacation, and I’ll have a little more time; maybe when I finish the first draft of — or get stuck in the middle of — Project Hometown.  Whatever.  Oh no, poor writer-man, lost his character’s voice! Author FAIL.

I outlined Project Hometown pretty thoroughly over the winter, about 40 pages worth of synopses, character backstory, plot notes, etc.  I’m hoping to move this draft along more quickly, and maintain a better story arc than I did with MTL.  The main characters are all a little angsty, but I’m hoping the process of writing it will be less angst-ridden than MTL was.

Angsty Writer Poetry

Little Unfocused Me

Lost his MC

and didn’t know where to find him…

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Spring Sunday Stats #5: April Showers … Are Tiresome.

It’s been a hectic week here at Stately Unfocused Manor.  Both kids developed a stomach virus on Tuesday and spent much of that day and the next throwing up, making us extremely grateful that they are both old enough to aim.  By Thursday, they were both well enough to go to school, but Unfocused Girl’s school was closed for parent-teacher conferences, so she missed most of a week of school (I wasn’t able to go to the conference, but The Siren reports that her teachers say she’s doing quite well).  Things at the office continue to be bizarrely busy, but I was able to keep most of the balls in the air this week.

In sad comic book news, Unfocused Girl recently received the final issues of both The Amazing Spider-Girl and Supergirl:  Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade.  On her behalf, I would like to give an enormous raspberry to both Marvel and DC for not continuing these titles, which were two of the only books appropriate for all ages with girl heroes.  Spider-Girl, at least, is being continued as a web comic but you have to subscribe to the entire “Marvel Digital Universe” for about three times what subscription to a single print title costs.  It’s probably a good deal if you’re going to read more than one on-line Marvel series, but I don’t know that it makes sense for us.  As for Supergirl, from what I’ve seen of it, the primary title is too mature for an 8 year old (at least, my 8 year old).  She still likes her subscription to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and we’ll check out a couple of the other Marvel titles, but Unfocused Girl really liked both of these subscriptions; I hope both of the major comic book publishers realize they’re leaving behind a lot of potential readers.

It’s cold and raining today; the kids are over at a friend’s house watching one of the original Godzilla movies, so I can blog without guilt.

On Writing: This week was much better than the last few have been.  I marked up another 32 pages of Meet the Larssons this week, through page 352.  I’ve been doing my mark-ups on the train, but I’ve decided that I’m sick of all the hand-editing and I want to start getting the edits and notes into the manuscript, so I’ve started typing in my hand edits at home.  I’ve typed in the entire brand new first chapter (1733 words) and started the second (formerly Chapter 9), staying mostly faithful to my handwritten drafts and edits but not entirely.

I also knocked out a critical scene from the apocalyptic science fiction novel I briefly outlined a couple of months ago then put aside.  I started it on Write or Die on Friday night (I love Write or Die, BTW; many thanks to Dr. Wicked for creating it!), then kept going that night and Saturday evening; it needs work, but the first draft of the scene is complete at a little over 1500 words.  I don’t know whether I’m going to do anything with it anytime soon, but I’m considering seeing how the story works as a novella that I could expand into a novel later.  A friend of mine (who makes no-budget science fiction movies) suggested that the story sounds like a good no-budget science fiction movie, which would be fun.  Whatever I do with it, after all of the editing I’ve been doing, it was fun to do some original writing.

Finally, on Monday I resubmitted “Jimmies” to an on-line market after an exchange with the editor on Twitter.  I’ve managed not to break the “Get Mail” button in Apple Mail, but it’s been a close thing.

On Running: I had a better week running this week, too, despite some funny knee pains brought on, I expect, by a very active game of tag on Easter.  I got in three runs during the week — none of them long, but two of them were outside — and today slogged through the rain for 10 miles in 1:31:24, a 9:09 min/mile pace.  Slow, but given the weather not altogether unexpected.  I had to wrap my iPhone armband carrier in Saran Wrap to keep the rain from getting into it, which worked well.

The Siren and I are both trying to drop a few pounds, so we’re undertaking a full-blown reboot effort.  We’ve cut out wine with dinner most nights, white flour, and stealing the kids’ Easter candy.  It’s helping, and I’m hopeful that dropping 5-10 pounds will make my knees a little less tricky.  I’ve been negligent about stretching this past six months, so I’m trying to be better about that, and will attempt some exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the knee.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Finally, I do intend to post about the podcasts I’ve been listening too, including some new ones.  I’ve just been busy.  But I promise to get a post up, if not this week then next.

Bad Lawyers, Secession Talk, and Rewriting the Novel.

There are a couple of recent stories in the news that I think are worthy of comment, but I’m posting this from work so I’ll be brief.

First, I get why the Obama administration has promised that they’re not going to prosecute the CIA agents who followed Bush administration policy and tortured people in the name of national security post-9/11: they were doing a difficult job under circumstances that may (may) have made the relative morality of their actions seem, if not actually good, then at least not so bad.  Also, they were told by the administration’s lawyers, over and over again, that what they were doing wasn’t “torture” and it was all perfectly legal.

Advice of counsel is a viable defense in criminal prosecutions, so I suppose it’s reasonable for it to apply here.  That said, I hope the asshat lawyers who wrote memos to order for the Bush/Cheney cabal condoning torture all get disbarred.

Second story:  Let me get this straight. Spending a trillion dollars to fight a war in a country that didn’t commit terrorist acts on U.S. territory is perfectly fine and questioning it makes you an unpatriotic terrorist sympathizer, but spending a trillion dollars on rebuilding infrastructure and other projects here at home is a crime against the Constitution and the American people that warrants states seceding from the Union (check this link too)?

Finally, as a personal update, I went back to Scrivener and cut 12,000 words from Meet the Larssons last night, but typed in 1205 words of the new first chapter.  I’m still going through the last couple hundred pages with a pen in my hand, but the rewrite has begun in earnest.  I’m very glad to be back at the computer.

Spring (again, HAH!) Sunday Stats #3: We Are the Aliens.

Oh, look, another week has gone by and I’m still in this hole.  It’s a very nice, comfortable hole, with many fine features to recommend it, but it remains a hole.  I keep digging, which is probably not the best way to get out.  For every deadline I get through, two more get closer and more pressing.  There’s a ladder, but it just leads to another hole.

One of the people I work with — a senior partner who’s been out of law school twice as long as I have — says that working at a big law firm is like being in a pie eating contest where the grand prize is more pie.

All of this pissing and moaning is by way of excuse, again, for my failure to blog all week, and my inability to comment on your blogs in at least that long.  Rest assured, I’ve been talking about you on Twitter and Facebook, which I manage to keep up with on my phone.

Also, I was sick on Tuesday night and Wednesday. And then I had insomnia on Wednesday night.  And Thursday night was Unfocused Girl’s science fair.

So let’s just go to my pathetic stats, shall we?

On Writing: I started the week getting a few pages edited, but that was it; I was at 311 last Sunday, now I’m at 320.  I hit Write or Die once this past week, 233 words on a little short story that probably isn’t going anywhere, but it’s been fun.  That’s it, though.

I also accepted an invitation to write a chapter for a book in my area of practice, with the first draft due in July.  It’s a great opportunity, professionally speaking, but I’m going to have to work hard to make progress on my fiction-writing around the research and writing for the chapter, since that will all have to be done outside of work as well.

On Running: Before today, the only running I did this week was to catch my train.  The Shamrock Shuffle-on-ice wore me out, and then I got sick.  It was just a little cold, but it left me completely screwed up — I got too much sleep on Tuesday night and then had a nap on Wednesday, then too much coffee to restart after the nap, then insomnia Wednesday night.  All in all, I didn’t have much leftover for running.  I ran 8.88 miles this morning in 1:15:00, all at home on the treadmill because it was hailing, for crying out loud; as I write this, it’s snowing.  I did watch the first 2/3 of The Dark Knight, finally.  So far, so good, I think; I loved the car chase on Lower Wacker Drive.  If you’re stuck on a treadmill, I heartily recommend watching action movies with car chases and explosions — these are especially good for interval training.

On the iPod will not appear this Sunday.  I’m planning to make this part of a mid-week post, or maybe a stand-alone item.  It doesn’t really fit with the Sunday stats, and getting all the links right takes too long after I’ve written a 600-800 word post.

Random moment with the kids:  Junior and Unfocused Girl woke up a little early this morning, surprising considering we were out pretty late last night at a wine tasting party (all parents and affiliated children from Unfocused Girl’s new school).  The kids have both been on astronaut kicks lately, since their visit to the Soref Planetarium in Milwaukee over spring break, and Unfocused Girl has been saying she wants to go to Mars and look for alien bacteria.  When I went into their room this morning, Junior, who is interested in somewhat more complex forms of alien life, was explaining to Unfocused Girl that Martian astronauts actually come to Earth in the night looking for alien life here.  I asked him what alien life the Martians find here, and he said, “Us! Human beings are the aliens to the Martians!”  This was like one of those moments when you can see your kid growing up before your eyes; he’s starting to understand how different people, or tentacled things, can have different points of view.

Then at breakfast he said the word “poop,” or variations thereof, so many times that I had to order him to keep the poop away from meals.

Shocking Myself.

As expected, I’m getting hammered this week at work (most of which would have happened even if I’d worked more over the weekend), so the only “writing” I’ve been doing is re-reading Meet the Larssons on the train and marking up the manuscript as I go.  I’m not doing heavy editing at this point — I’ve given up on that for now, I want to get the structure right before I do any more at that level of detail — but I’m making edits as I spot them.  What is surprising me, now that I’m not looking to rewrite entire scenes as I got but just to outline new scenes and try to see where old scenes might fit, is that now that I’ve hit the second half of the draft, it isn’t entirely godawful.  There are pages and pages of prose that aren’t all crap.  There are plenty that are, but not all of them.

I mean, it probably is all crap, when measured against some artificial, commercial, “would people not related to you pay money to read this” kind of standard that editors and agents, with their “experience” and “real-world” understanding of the so-called “market,” would use.  But I’m reading it and not totally repulsed, now that I’m allowing myself to enjoy it.

This is new.  This is good.

Spring Sunday Stats #1: Cooler By The Lake.

I took a couple of mental health days this weekend and got very little done for work, and even left the Blackberry off (mostly).  I’ll pay for it this week, because things are still crazy at work, but it was worth it.

I’m wiped out from the weekend — lots of time outside, playing with the kids — so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: I did more on the revision of Meet the Larssons on Friday on the train, and then in a solid 90-minute block on Saturday afternoon. I’m continuing the manuscript slog to a point; where a scene is still usable, I’ll mark it up as I go, but I’m not writing new scenes at this point, just making notes and moving on.  The goal is to get through the rest of the manuscript so that I can see what is salvageable, what needs to be moved, and what needs to be written from scratch.

Tonight I’ve started looking for a new place to submit “Jimmies.”  I want to have some idea where I’m sending it next before I start revising it based on the last rejection.

Also, on Saturday I tried Write or Die for the first time, and had a wonderful time.  As the sidebar widget says, I wrote 305 words in 10 minutes, and only had to listen to the horrible penalty sound one time for pausing (and that was a deliberate test).  Highly recommended.

On Running: A beautiful, sunny day for a run. I did 10 miles in a leisurely 90 minutes, my first outdoor 10-miler in God knows how long, in shorts and a sleeveless top, no less.  The temperature dropped 10-15 degrees as I approached the lakefront, though, and by the time I got to Lake Shore Drive I was glad to turn around.

On the iPod: During my run today, I listened to an Episode 27 of XFM’s series “Writers on Writing,” an interview with Amy Tan.  It was interesting enough, I guess, but was almost entirely a discussion of Tan’s childhood and how it related to the characters in The Joy Luck Club.  The show itself seems to be misnamed, however, since there was no discussion at all about writing.  This was the first episode I’ve tried; I also downloaded Episode 7, with cyberpunk author William Gibson, and will listen to that next to give it another shot.  Also on the iPod this week:  Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Show 25 (The Dyer Outlook); NPR Planet Money # 20 (Not So Toxic?); I Should Be Writing #113 (Paul Malmont and Brett Savory interviews); Escape Pod #191 (“This Is How It Feels,” by Ian Creasey); and Phedippidations #178 (All in Stride).  So there you have it: I get longer runs, you get more links to podcasty goodness.

Winter Sunday Stats #10: Things Are Looking Up.

As I often do, I’m starting this Sunday Stats post on Sunday morning, and I’ll fill it in during the day as I get things done (or not done).  What’s unusual is that I’m starting this in bed at 7am, because I woke up at 6:30, still full from the night before.

Attentive readers may remember from post #200 a month ago that the Green-Eyed Siren and I have not been out to dinner, just the two of us, in a long time.  Thanks in no small part to your many suggestions in the comments, we went out last night and had a terrific time.  We found a French restaurant we’d never been to in a neighborhood where we used to hang out (back in the last millennium).  There was a wait for a table, but they took my cell number and we walked over to a nearby bookstore/wine bar and spent a happy hour talking, drinking, and picking out books.  Funny but true: without knowing it until we got there, we walked into the store intending to look for the same book, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair.  The Siren had seen an extended review of it on Necromancy Never Pays, and I had heard about it during the last meeting of the novelists’ support discussion group.  By itself the hour at the bookstore would have been the best night out we’d had in a while, but we were very glad to go to dinner.  The food was great, the company and conversation was better.  And it was nice to see that all of the restaurants in the area were crowded — maybe the economy isn’t in total collapse yet.

We figured out that the last time we could remember going out to dinner alone was the night before Mother’s Day, 2006.  It’s possible that there was one time after that, but we couldn’t place it.  Certainly not in 2008 (let alone 2009).

So we’ve promised each to do it again much sooner, but the deal is that first we have to read the books we bought last night.  I suspect we’ll be doing a lot of fast reading in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks again to those of you who suggested “research” for the dinner date scene in Meet the Larssons.  I still think having the date canceled was the right thing for the story, but at least I could write it now if I needed to.  It would be better, however, to have more data.  One night out is a pretty small sample…

On Writing:  Putting aside mouthing off to the Siren about Project Hometown last night at dinner to keep her laughing (although I didn’t think the mugging scene was that funny, may need to rethink it), I didn’t get much done this week.  It may have been a short week, but it was a busy one at The Firm.  I finished a chapter in the manuscript slog through Meet the Larssons, and I’ve outlined the first six scenes of Project Hometown.  As Randy Ingermanson describes it in Step 8 of the Snowflake Method, the scene by scene outline is best done in a spreadsheet, which is how I’m doing it.  Randy recommends just two columns:  one to identify the point-of-view character, and one to describe the action.  I have columns for POV character, the characters involved in the scene, the location, the time, a description of the action, and finally, any interesting character development or reveals.  Of the six scenes I’ve outlined so far, two are not described at all in the five page outline I drafted at the beginning of January.  That will happen more as I get deeper into the outline, but it was a fun surprise to see things I hadn’t thought about before come out so early on.  I haven’t gotten any work on either novel done today (just this nearly 1200 word blog post, which should probably tell me something), but I may be able to work on one or the other this evening, if I can stay awake.

On Running:  A not-very-long long run today, just a little over five miles in 42 minutes (8:18m/m pace) on the treadmill at home, due to a late start.  In 5 weeks, I need to knock nearly 7 minutes off that distance for the Shamrock Shuffle (time last year around 35:50).  I think I can do that, but I’ll have to start speed work this week.  I haven’t been able to get to the gym at all — I really need to get a little weightlifting in every week if I’m going to keep my weight down — but I managed a couple of good weekday runs despite not nearly enough sleep, both on the treadmill.  We did make it to Taekwondo yesterday, and Unfocused Girl broke a board with an elbow strike on her first try.  Junior wasn’t able to break his, but he’s still little and hasn’t been practicing that long.  He’s motivated now, though.

On the iPod:  For the treadmill runs, I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica (Season 2 – I’m way behind, so please don’t post any spoilers!) on my laptop.  The Siren bought something called a SurfShelf, which fits over the treadmill control panel and lets you secure your laptop with a good view of the screen and easy access to the keyboard.  Obviously I’m not going to type while I run, but it’s great for watching videos (and occasionally reading blog comments) as the miles go by.

In other news, I twisted my own arm hard enough that I finally cracked and bought an iPhone.  Yes, I love it.  I will probably by a Shuffle for running, but the phone has allowed me to start listening to podcasts again while I walk to and from the train, or while I’m driving.  This week, I started to catch up, and listened to:  I Should Be Writing, Special Episode #42 (James Patrick Kelly interviews Kim Stanley Robinson) — I didn’t finish this episode, because I was listening in the car and the sound quality wasn’t quite strong enough to overcome the engine noise (Kelly’s questions were fine, but I kept missing Robinson’s answers) so I’ll have to finish it today; Grammar Girl #156 (What Is the Plural of Scissors?) and #157 (When to Use a Comma with “Too”); Writing Excuses, Season 2, Episode 18 (World Building Governments) and Episode 19 (Do Creative Writing Classes Help?); and various episodes of NPR’s Planet Money.  Auria Cortes from the blog Murder She Wrote recommended the Writers on Writing podcast.  Intending to give it a try, I looked on iTunes, found a podcast called “Writers on Writing,” and downloaded a couple of episodes (interviews of Amy Tan and William Gibson).  I’ll let you know how I like them, but the iTunes feed for this XM Radio-produced podcast only goes up to Oct. 30, 2008.  AC’s recommendation didn’t sound like she was talking about a discontinued podcast, so I checked the interwebs and found another podcast called “Writers on Writing,” which looks like it comes out three times a week and has for a while.  On iTunes, though, it’s called “Pen on Fire,” probably because of the other podcast.  So there you have it, two writerific podcasts for the price of one.  I’ll listen to them both and let you know what I think.