Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Haunted: The Complete Series

I admit it, lately I have been distracted from writing.  In fact, I do not believe I have done anything since Thursday.  Why?  Because of Matthew Fox.  It started out with obsessively rewatching his Haunted series--love the asylum episode.  Then that lead me to Lost rewatching--especially the final episode when he tells Flocke he's going to kill him.  Those scenes/episodes?  Just ooooh.  And come on, look at that cover!  It's hard not to get addicted.  He's just so watchable.

Besides, I'll let you in on a little secret.  I tend to do fanfic in my head about my favorite characters in my favorite series.  If the idea is good enough, it becomes a repeat mind-fic.  (I get bored easy, yes.)  Then the mind-fic begins to alter the characters, backstory, situation, etc.  Finally, it becomes my own idea, my own story, my own characters.

When I start obsessing and day dreaming this much about a character, it usually means I'm getting close to a story idea.  That's how my Walker series started out.  Although, it wasn't aforementioned dream boy who was the root cause of it.  No, just another random hottie, Michael Shanks/Stargate-SG1's Daniel Jackson. 

So, what have I been doing the last few days?  I've been watching Haunted and Lost.  Obsessively.  My mind tells me it is a bad thing, because it means I am so story-starved I have to watch tv shows when I could be (at best) writing or (at least) reading.  But my mind also tells me it's a good thing because I'm working on some story bit by obsessive bit.

So, when will I get back to writing?  Likely Friday.  Until then, I'll just play around with Matthew Fox's roles.  Trust me, I won't be bored.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seek Your Peace

I was working on my Bible study sheet, when I came across Romans 3:14:  "Whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness."

This hit home after all that happened yesterday and this morning on writing groups.  I got so involved in debating angrily, defending my point of view angrily, and just feeling angry at what others were saying, that I messed up my calm, my sense of peace, my inner balance.  I was bitter.  This was hurting me.  Bitterness, no matter what the cause, always does hurt the writer.

Today I am back on track, writing again.  Today, I am happy and me again.  I am calm where it matters again.

How did I do that?  Recently, as I recover more of my religiousness, my sense of peace and perspective is restored through Bible studies.  Before then, I used to soak myself in nature or become absorbed in movie.  Any of these can work and will offer up healthy alternatives to bitter brooding.  Any of these will help you regain your balance and perspective. 

Just remember, never lose sight of your inner peace for long, or it will be that much harder to be what you are meant to be, a writer.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Publishing Thoughts, a Rant

Been too busy debating something on a writing forum to do writing today, critiquing, or catching up on emails.  Which sucks.  But I bring it up here because I need closure.

The point I wanted to make, but couldn't get across or wasn't believable concerned traditional/NY publishing and authorial control.  Namely that the average author had very little control.  Not over the cover.  Not over the final vision of her novel.  I'm not saying that is a bad thing, or that traditional publishing needs to change.  I'm just saying those who seek that route need to not only know this upfront but happy with it.

In a perfect world, an publisher or agent would take on a novel that only needed cosmetic changes--that is, this pace is too fast or slow, this isn't clear, this is infodumpy, this scene/chapter is repetitive, you mentioned this earlier and it sounded better there, or you need to mention this earlier for credibility.  Cosmetic changes.

What I don't like is vision-altering changes.  Such as, delete these characters, merge those, this one needs to be more like this, this subplot needs removed/added/changed entirely, or the last 1/4th or 1/2 of the book needs to be dropped and changed with a new ending.  These changes require not only a lot of editing but time and effort.

After all, why would I as an author submit something if I knew that something was wrong with this plot/character/ending but I just couldn't put my finger on it.  No, all this needs to be taken care of before then.  I am satisfied with my vision, and I would assume if an agent or editor took it on without a revision-list requirement first, then why would they want to change it so extensively?

That is why I don't want to try the traditional route.  Because from what I understand from blogs, forums, and the like, these vision-level edits happens a great deal.  By the way, this is in regard to newer writers.  I imagine those with quite a few novels under their belt don't get the vision-level change demands, in part because they have proved themselves and also in part because they know what the editor/agent wants and writes that in the first place.

And finally, just because I don't believe in compromising a satisfying vision for a novel that doesn't mean I don't believe in edits.  I just believe in editing to improve that vision, not change it.

Phew.  Glad I got that off my chest.  Now I can go back to my normal writing day.  This is why Internet and I don't mix well when I'm writing, by the way ;-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walker Novel 2 & Characters & Donald Maass

Writing the Breakout NovelAs I worked on the KPP2 of Novel 2, I realized I never posted the revised KPP1. I'll have to rectify that this week.  The major changes in both key points dealt with changing characters.  The Wonder Twins, though I love them, are removed from Novel 2.  Why?  Because as I worked on the outline, I realized they didn't have a recurring role in that novel.  It hurts, but they didn't . . . fit.  Sad, but true.  Just like in real life, huh?  Sometimes you spend less time with certain friends because they just don't fit into your life anymore.  By removing them, I strengthened the relationship between Walker and Maha, his desired lover.

Same in KPP2.  Instead of Smiley, Walker's out-of-place, off-reality friend, it is Maha's voice he hears.  That make his understandable hatred of her after his rescue that much stronger.  Doesn't make it any more reasonable.  But it's there.  He's not very reasonable in that world.  Hard to be reasonable when you are a walking wound, hurting.  But, also, removing Smiley here meant removing him from KPP1--so that happened too.  I think it helped strengthen Coustin Bustis's role in Walker's life because she is a minor character that is seen across several novels--a little bit in Novel 1, more in Novel 2, somewhat in Novel 3.  I like her, too, because like her cousin, Walker's wife, she is provides levity through her sexual attraction, joking with, and baiting of Walker.  Also, she is a kinder version of Walker's wife, although that makes her a tad less fun.

The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction WritersI made all these changes on characters before I started really re-reading Donald Maass's books.  He believes in complex relationships in novels.  That is, characters who have more than one role in the main character's life.  He says these are the "most absorbing" ones in novels.  To that end, he suggests combining characters.  When I first read that long ago and took his advice, it really changed how created characters.  It made them so much richer. Unconsciously, I still try to do that today.

Speaking of Donald Maass. Did you know he has a new book coming out? I bought it and another book I had been eyeballing (a sequel to Martin Lindstrom's Buology, which I adore).  I used my membership, a gift card I had earned from B&N 1, and online coupon.  Except for a few cents, the gift card covered the entire cost.  Don't you love it when you and a book are meant to be?  It's is supposed to ship in a few days--that is another reason why, if I can, I order books from B&N.  Their freebie shipping?  They don't punish you by adding an extra two weeks to the delivery time; rather they try to get to you fast!  Unlike some other online *cough* Amazon *cough* venues I could name.

1 Note: I have B&N's credit card, and love it.  It means free gift cards after 2500 points from non-B&N purchases.  But using it to make B&N purchases has benefits too--a discount of . . . I can't remember.  It's not much, but it usually comes close to matching the s&h fee or the sales tax, so I'm happy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Updates: Launches and Retirements

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook 

On Launches.....  

I have recently finished the first KPP1/beginning edits for all novels.  My goal is to get the KPP2s, the launch points, done this week.  What are launch points?  I read something in Donald Maass's (lit. agent) workbook about building interesting or tense content between opening pages and the main events of the novel.  He called it "bridging conflict."  When I started writing out of order, I felt that there had to be something to balance the climax section of the novel.  So, I started thinking about what the beginning meant.  It is a hook, an introduction to the important elements of the novel.  The climax is the key scene before the denouement, or end.  Now, I couldn't have an idea as important as the climax in the beginning, but I could have something that started the plot ball rolling. Something that moved the reader and characters to the main conflict.  What was that point?  I called it the launch point.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Writing Out of Order: Editing Phase One: Getting It from Me to You

As I mentioned in my last post, the first edit is really a fleshing out.  Sometimes when I am in a hurry in certain sections I write material like a poor screen-writer's manuscript.  Talking heads, negative space, and smiles galore.  Not all of it, though.  The part that drove me to write the scene is usually rich in details, including phrasing options.  Those get pared down or changed in the edits.

The second edit comes a week later after each same block from the five novels is done.  This is the first, real edit pass.  This is not the time to flesh out material; instead it should be pretty close.  Of course, with the newer written bits, I do more than grammar check.  But mostly this is to make the writing look pretty and clean. 

I start the second edit by saving the file as a new name appendage, called Polish.  Using the Search and Replace function in MS Word, and highlight key words such as be forms, will forms, had forms, -ly adverb forms, there was/were, it was/were, now, then, and by.  I am a passive voice and adverb queen, dual crowns.  Highlighting these help me get rid of less polished wording.  Then I double space it.  Then I open the file up in my main (free!) writing program, Rough Draft, because it allows me to see how many of each search function and I can note it in the handy notepad feature.  I have to admit, I don't always get rid of many of these.  But every little bit helps, especially if I have the same structure in a paragraph unintentionally.

As I edit, I highlight the completed paragraph, change to single spacing on it, and remove highlights.

At the end, I recount those bug words above.  I do happy dance when I drop the number by the tens; I sulk when I drop it by one or none word.  Then I move on.

Finally, if I am to post, I usually resave the file as Postable, and use the Replace feature in Word to add extra paragraph spacing (^p^p) and remove the tabs (^t).  I save as an RTF, then I copy and paste it to Rough Draft--because Word acts up when you try to save a RTF as a text--and save the text version there.  Voila, it is ready to be posted.  Generally, if I have to cut it up because of length, I do it within Blogger.

PS:   Do not be deceived, this is not the last edit, but is the last to mention in this post.

The Difference Frequent Editing Makes

Well, the first KPP1/Beginning of Walker Novel 2 is clean-edited 1. I can definitely feel the difference in it and in the newly written KPP1s of Novels 3, 4, and Harem. Namely because this isn't the first edit for either of Novel 1 or 2.

That is why I think my current method works. After I write all the new blocks, that same week I go back over them and flesh them out. Then once they are all done, the following week (like this week) is dedicated to line edits or polishing.

After this week, and it should only be this week because I am on track, I will start on the KPP2s/Launch Points, going through the same process again. Not so bad, methinks. Not so bad at all.

1 Notes:  I don't have time to post the new version today, but I will this week.  However, I really hate cutting it up into so many blocks to make blogable.  I may end up hosting it on my webpage and posting a link to it here.  Not sure yet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Story a Month Changes

It is good to have goals, but in order to succeed at those goals you must have the proper skill base first.  Before I can try to write a story a month, which would have to be a short story to work at that pace for me, I have to become good at writing short stories.  Not sure if that is in me.  Sure, I can try, but naturally I write in the 10,000 and up range.  So, instead of having an artificial time limit on writing such a story when I am working on other series, I will merely set a goal of always working on a side story, something completely unrelated.  This is good practice, keeps my mind active.  In honor of my original intention, however, I will post the story for free on this blog for one month.  Then once that month is up, it goes up for sale on various epub sites.

So, that is my goal for these stories, these side stories, these asides; and it is a goal that I am more likely to reach.

Walker Universe Series: Novel 1: KPP1 (Edit Pass One)

Early Draft, Edit Pass One

Copyright ©  2011  Jodi Ralston

My sometimes-wife had the knack for finding me while I was in the bare.  It was how we met and how she found me now when I was knee-deep in the teardrop pool at the first House of Health.  She of course was fully clothed back then; this time she barely was.  A sheer dress.  And stringy golden breast-band and loincloth almost rivaling the size of the golden kohl around her eyes.  In other words, dressed to impress.  Dressed for trouble.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week One Thoughts

This weekend didn't turn out as I expected.  I was busier than I expected, more depressed, and more tired.  But I still got things done.  Maybe I'm not ahead, but I'm not horribly behind, either.  I'm right on target with Walker Series.  I'm behind on the bi-monthly tale, Dole.

But more importantly, this last week made me realize I have to free up more time during the day to do other things.  Don't get me wrong, I want to make this a career, but I also want to improve myself for my tutor job, I want to improve my body so it is healthy and strong, and I want to improve myself in general by learning things I keep putting off.  So, it is not so much as spending less time writing, it is spending less time snoozing and internet playing.  I wake early because I have no time after my night job to do anything but eat and go to bed.  Usually, I snooze for an hour or two after waking up, because I'm still not used to it.  No more:  nappy time is gone.  This is going to work, but it will take at least two weeks to feel the real effect.  After all, I heard that is the time necessary to set a habit.  And I am going to set this habit.

The other habit I want to implement is less time spent on the internet.  Blog posts are good okay.  Keeping track of my industry is okay.  Email checking is okay.  But it needs to be kept in check.  It needs to be scheduled just like my career, so I don't spend more time than I think on these places.  Time I don't need to be spending thus.

So, as I work on editing the KPP1s this week, writing a quarter of Dole, returning some critiques, and doing other writerly tasks, I'm going to keep a sharper eye on what I spend my time on and make sure I make room for what I want to do. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Critique and Realizations

I've received my first critique on KPP1 (beginning block) of Harem, and I realized something.  No matter how much of a hurry you are in to get comments from a crit group, never submit work with less than polished wording and grammar.  Why?  Because it interferes with the critiquer's ability to study and review the content or substance of the story.  I should have realized this; as a writing tutor at college, I notice grammar and wording first.  You have to train yourself not to.

So that realization lead me to another.  Whether I post material here on Novel 1 and Novel 2 for demonstration of my writing technique or just for fun, I need that material to have that a higher level of polishing, too. Which means, I will have to spend a lot more time upfront on editing and polishing than I planned on (I had planned on spreading it out over more phases of writing and editing).

That lead me to another realization that I am trying to bite off more than I can handle.  This is a new technique, writing out of order.  This is a new technique, working on all novels same section at once.  I do not need to be worrying about how to make the process go faster; I need to be worrying about getting the basic technique down.  That means I need to delay this series' publication.  As I dislike posting something this large with only a month or two to go in the year, especially for tax reasons, I have settled on a January 1 publish date.

As a result, I expect to have more time to work on and publish monthly stories and more time to analyze the writing technique so that next year I can shave off weeks or months of time.  Over all, I expect better results period.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Progress Report 3-2-11 so far

Progress Report:
  • Walker Novel 1: 2062 words edited on KPP1, this pass done.
  • Walker Novel 2: 1088 words edited on KPP1, pass incomplete ('tis long).
  • Monthly Fiction: 4 handwritten pages (and twice that many notes), done yesterday.

Not bad for being depressed (partly because of writing expectations not met; mostly because an oppossum raided our chicken pen last night and killed several chickens, including one of my favorites).  Although being depressed is the worst time possible to make decisions, I decided that I'm going to give Dole this weekend yet to see how far I can get.  I tend to overestimate word count, after all; it may not be 30,000 words.  My insane goal?  To get it half written before the weekend is up.  If I can manage that, it might still make it as a March fic.

March Story and Adult Content

For a while, my March story was stalling.  I even posted on DW Smith's site when I saw that it happens to him too, and he was kind enough to respond.  Then on the car ride home from work last night, I had an idea on how to get me excited about it again.  The problem?  If I do so, it is longer, closer to short novel length (i.e., 20,000 to 30,000 words).  That means it won't be done this month.

Also, I realized that I may run into problems with "adult" content (and not just on this story).  Blogger allows adult content if you label your blog as Adult.  Not my preference, but I may have to, especially since Bluehost.com, my website host, doesn't want content "deemed adult related."  Dole, my March story, does have some sexual content--though not explicit.  A couple of the Walker novels make allusions to sex, nudity, and some other situations--though, again, nothing explicit.  All have mature language in them.  Maybe there is a way to censor the scenes the way people do with curse words.  Not sure.  All I know is everything just got more complicated.  Darn.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quick Progress Report

Walker Series: 
  • 1178 words written on Novel 3, KPP1.  Is done for this pass.
  • 1593 words written on Novel 4, KPP1.  Is done for this pass.
  • 2351 words edited on Harem/Prequel, KPP1.  Is done for this pass and posted to crit group.
Daily Ideas:
  • Nada.
Monthly Story:
  • Nope.
So, some progress is done.  Though, I wrote over on Walker Series, at the expense of exercise and Monthly Story/Dole, it was worth it.  Tomorrow, I hope to edit Walker 1 and 2.  Then lightly edit all of KPP1s the next day.  Then Saturday, a day ahead of schedule, I hope to implement my new method of revision.  That is, in one week I write, say, all KPP1s.  The next week I go over them, revise them, make them good.  (Which is when I can post them too.)  Then the week following, I rinse and repeat with KPP2s.  The only area where this will really get tricky is when I get on the events, what I call tertiary level (with KPPs being primary).  But I'll simply give myself more time to write, and I should be good.

With my new schedule?  It looks like likely October is a more likely post date.  Not bad.

Anyway, as I have to leave in a bit, I'm going to save writing on the Monthly for tonight. It's a story I am struggling with.  One hand I like the idea and the story works, but it is different for me and it is . . . well, I'll save that for another post. 

That's what I've got so far.  Hopefully, by early next week, the revised Novel 2 KPP1 and the new-to-the-blog Novel 1 KPP1 can be posted.  Cross your fingers, anyway.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not So Bad

Today is my official start on goal for my Walker Series as well as for my monthly fiction.  I had a late start, because of the evil free Starz channels.  Even so, I wrote about 700 new words on KPP1 (Beginning block) of Novel 3.  Then I revised Harem's KPP1 (about 1600 words).  There should be one more part to Novel 3's KPP1.  Harem needs one more look over on its opening.  It feels a little . . . stark, not quite finished.  Then Harem goes off to my crit group for an edit.  Tomorrow, I hope to finish up both of those KPP1s, so that on Thursday, I can get a move on to the KPP1 for Novel 4.  I know right now any of my key plot points are going to have another full-fledged edit at a later date.  They are the hardest to write, but the most important.  I'll have to revisit them after I get in the groove of later writings.

As for monthly fiction?  Nada so far.  Despite my late start on the Walker series, I managed to write over my allotted two hours.  So, I will have to take a break then get some words down on it.  It too is a vampire story, just like Harem is.  But Blood and Bread (aka Dole) won't be as "fun" as compared to Harem.  In fact, it is rather bleak.

That's all I have time for.  Let you know how it goes later.