Wide Awake but Dreaming

Slip into my thoughts and do watch your step


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Starting Seems to Be The Hardest Word

This thing happened last night.  This thing is actually what is known in the biz as “Beginning a New Scene,” and it should have went off without a hitch–

But you know that’s not gonna be the case.  Not with me.

"Okay, that's eight words.  Does 'Urrrr' count as a word?  If it does, that's nine . . ."

“Okay, that’s eight words. Does ‘Urrrr’ count as a word? If it does, that’s nine . . .”

I run into this all the time.  I know what I’m going to write, because I’ve already went over this scene in my head probably eight or nine times.  Sometimes I’ll even say the parts out loud, because that’s the sort of crazy person I am, where I’ll act it out because–why not?  Who doesn’t talk to themselves all the time when they’re at work and they’re working on scenes while they should be, you know, doing something else.

I’ve got it all down in my head, and then . . . it’s time to write all the descriptions need to bring the scene into focus.  Which I normally don’t have a problem with, but when I’m starting everything up–

It doesn’t come out right.  It comes out slowly.  It comes out in spurts.  I comes out feeling like I’m missing something.

I managed about six hundred an thirty words all in all, getting the next breakfast scene rolling.  I’m usually like that at the start, and tonight I’ll read over it again and probably redo some of it before launching off into the new stuff.  That’s when my chaperon, Ms. Rutherford, pretty much throws shade as some of her charges–which you would think is something she wouldn’t do in front of another student, but Annie ain’t just “another student.”  (I was told by my fourteen year old daughter that none of the cool kids ever say, “throw shade”, and that she’d never heard of the term until I asked her about it.  I’m just being a proto-hipster here, yo.)

Besides, like a lot of my scenes, nothing really gets started until the first thousand words are out of the way.  There’s always the set up, the build, and then I launch into the goods.  The real business starts when Annie is getting ready to lay down the law to everyone else, and Kerry pops out of the lift–then I get going.  Then I know what’s going to happen, and there shouldn’t be any hesitation in getting it done.

This is nothing new:  it’s all been there, done that about fifty or sixty times since the story started.  And since I’m in rebuilt mode right now, I’m working hard to get things right.  Essentially I’m taking three scenes, completely scraping two of them, writing a new one to replace the first and rewriting the third with parts of the second scene to make it seem more interesting.  It’s a bit of a detour, because I should be a few tens of thousand of words into Act Two right now.

Getting this stuff right in the first part is more important, however.  Particularly if I want to polish this up and publish it while I’m still finishing the novel–

Wait–did I just say that?


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Bookin’ it Back Again

Whereas the night before I was adding words to a scene, last night saw a balancing of the books, so to speak.  Second rewritten screen, and this was made somewhat better because silly little things were removed, and I keep someone sitting in the shadows until the last moment.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Mostly I felt great writing last night.  I’d been thinking about what was needed for the rewrite, and it hit me some time back:  keep the room dim and keep Annie sitting.  Have her in the shadows, but put Kerry there, too, so that they can see each other, but not very well.  Keep her in here chair, watching this strange boy who doesn’t seem to know where his book are.  And keep the name reveal until the last moment, so she stands only to tell her name and hear his.  And then be shocked.  Or her version of shocked, at least.

This would be Annie if it were darker--and she were in a chair--and in shadow--and didn't have . . . oops, this is the future.  Never mind.

This would be Annie if it were darker–and she were in a chair–and in shadow–and didn’t have . . . oops, this is the future in a different library. Never mind.

There were days and days of hesitation, so being able to get into the story, look at what was written, and then just start writing was a marvelous feeling.  It was even better knowing what I was going to write, and when, and just wrote.  Sort of like old times before I was stressed and weirded out by a whole lot of things.

One of the things I’ve been playing with in Scrivener the last couple of nights are snapshots and using a drop-down function in Compile to make it easier to do a chapter at a time.  The snapshot is what your your scene/chapter/document looked like before you started messing with it.  As there were a few things in the Book Store Scene I wanted to use, I needed to ensure I didn’t get cut happy and waste a section before realizing, “Hey, that was important.”  So I snapshotted it, gave it a name, and left it to sit while I did my biz.  Since I’m happy with how the scene turned out, I’ll delete it tonight.

The important thing about the snapshot is being able to “roll it back” into the existing document.  That way, if you totally hose up your scene, you replace your new hot mess with the old, and things are good as new.  Though if old was a hot mess as well, good as new might not be an improvement.

I’m sending off the rewrites to a beta reader, and to do that I’m compiling them into pdfs.  Since I don’t want to play “Click That Scene” to get the right one to compile, I’ve used a drop-down box on the Compile Pop-up to get to the scene in question.  Just roll through your manuscript, find the act/part/chapter/scene, pull that out and click it to select.  Then compile and get your print out.  Easy as pie.

Really, I should have discovered this ages ago.  Guess I was too busy world building.

Really, I should have discovered this ages ago. Guess I was too busy world building.

Tonight that big “To Do” gets tackled.  I know what I’m going to say, because I’ve played that scene out in my head a couple of times.  Or three.  Or maybe a dozen.

It’s all relative when it comes to writing, you know?


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The Ginger Rewrite

There was writing last night.  Not a lot of writing–though if one considers I added five hundred fifty words to a scene, I guess you might consider it a lot.

I finished rewriting the first scene in my current work in progress, the scene where Annie departs for school.  The first part of the scene was good:  it hit all the right notes and set a tone I set out to achieve.  Other than cleaning things up here and there and streamlining a few sentences, it remained the same.

Where I expanded was later, in Annie’s bedroom, where she’s looking over her things one last night–for the next few months, that is; it’s not as if she’s going away forever–and her father comes up to speak with her.  It was a good scene on its own, but as I was told by my beta reader, it was lacking something.  So . . .

Oh, you wanted to see what I was working on?  Well, look below:

Oh, you wanted to see what I was working on? Well, look below:

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

“Are you going to miss this?” She turned around and found her father stood in the doorway, watching her. “Do you want us to send you anything from here?”

Annie looked about the room, taking it in, considering her father’s question as she decided not to mention her previous thought. She shook her head slowly. “I think of anything, I’ll send Mama a message.”

Her father nodded. “I am going to miss you.”

“Are you?”

Victor was somewhat taken back by the quickness of Annie’s reply. “Yes, I will.”

“I’ll miss you as well.” The right side of Annie’s mouth twisted upward into the faintest of smiles. “Mama, too. I’ll miss you both.”

A few awkward moments of silence filled the room as Annie and her father gazed at each other without speaking. Victor didn’t know if Annie was being her normal self—quiet and contemplative—or if she were truly upset. It was impossible to get her to admit her feelings at the best of times, and Victor knew better than to press the issue now. The last thing he wanted was to see his daughter off on her great journey with her angry at him. “I do worry about you, you know.”

If there was one thing about her father that was true, Annie was aware that he worried about her. Even during those times when they had little to say, when he was away with his job, he always called home and asked of her well being. He does care—if he could only show it more. “I know, Papa.”

“And you’ll be away on your own, alone, having to do so many things for the first time . . .” His attention was drawn to the bay window. “Meeting so many new people . . .”

It wasn’t difficult for Annie to see where her father’s trailing statement was leading. “That’s true, Papa.” She twisted her head slightly to the right. “But I’ll be careful. You know I will.”

“I know, but . . .” Victor was almost squirming in his need to speak.

Annie decided to relieve her father from his dilemma. “But he’ll be there—yes?”

Victor nodded. “Yes. Your Ginger Boy.”

She’d wondered if this was the real reason for her father coming to her room: perhaps not, but it was enough to bring him upstairs. “There’s nothing to worry about with him, Papa. I’ll be fine.”

Given an opening, Victor was ready to voice his concerns—after a question. “When will I learn his name?” He raised an eyebrow. “Soon?”

“Mama knows his name; if she wanted you to know, she would have told you.”

Victor shook his head as he chuckled. “You women.” He rubbed his chin slowly as he met Annie’s unflinching gaze. “I know almost everything you’ve told your mother: you’ve known him for years and he knows you—”

“Yes, Papa.”

“But you don’t know him, Anelie. You’ll find seeing this boy in your dreams and then out of them are completely different experiences. Which is why—” He breathed deeply before continuing. “I worry.”

Annie had heard these same comments from her mother two weeks earlier—was it possible she’d spoken with her father? She dismissed the idea; the words coming from her father were not her mother’s. “I’ll be fine. I have nothing to fear from him.”

Her father wasn’t quite convinced. “I worry you’ll end up hurt.” He tapped his fingers together. “It is possible.”

She shook her head. “No, it isn’t.”

“Anelie—”

“Nothing bad will happen, Papa.” She almost cracked a smile to put him at ease—almost.

At this point arguing with Annie was going to lead to a confrontation, and that wasn’t what Victor wanted. “All right; I’ll take your word. I know what he means to you.” He chuckled again. “And I know when you’ve made up your mind, I shouldn’t try to get you to change—” He tapped his fingers against his legs. “Particularly where he’s involved.”

Annie did think it a little unusual that her father didn’t push his opinion harder, but his final statement said it all: he knew he wouldn’t change her convictions, and he accepted them. Maybe not fully, but he does. She went over and slowly slid her arms around him. “Thank you, Papa. It means so much that you trust me.”

 

And there he is:  The Ginger Boy.  You’ll learn more about that brat about sixty thousand more words into the novel–or will you?  Actually he’s hiding in plain sight, because one of the things I’ve changed up in these first few chapters is to not hide things.  I tried that and it wasn’t actually working.  While I’m not coming out and saying things–okay, I will come close to that later–if I’m gonna tell the tell, then I’ll tell it.  Tell it in a way that makes sense, but at the same time doesn’t show everything.

Yeah, it makes sense that things will get said by people who aren’t part of the Normal Group.  You have to show a little difference here and there to make the characters come into their own, to allow them to be who they are.

Hence some rewrites–

‘Cause you’re not always going to do it correctly the first time around.


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Out of the Fire, Into the Dance

Not much writing wise got accomplished last night–and yet, there was.  It was a weird, raining night (not dark and stormy, mind you) and I had to door to my balcony open and my fleece jacket on while I did my nails and thought about writing scenes.  I kept walking from the computer to the balcony, where I would take in the night air–and the noise of the street twelve stories below–while I let my nails dry.  It’s a great way to think and let you mind work on ideas–

I worked on a story.  Only it wasn’t my current work in progress.  I was thinking along the lines of erotica, because I’ve reread some of the stuff I did years back and I’m interesting in publishing it under another name and seeing if this generates any cash.  Be my luck that I’ll end up selling big and I’ll spend the rest of my life writing all sorts of strange stuff for the masses to wank to.

But I believe Gore Vidal started out this way, so there are worse paths to follow.

I also spoke with a friend who read a few of those stories–I’d sent them her way Thursday night–and she told me she’d had a difficult time sleeping because, well, I apparently brought back sexy.  She’s also an illustrator, and she let me know she had a few ideas about a couple of the scenes, and she wanted to work up a few preliminary sketches to show.  I let her know that if I liked them I’d commission a few more for the story, and use them when I publish–which, honestly, I now feel is a bigger possibility that it was a few months before.

Which brings me back to the current work . . . the Great Cassie Novel on Hold.

Today or tomorrow I’m going to go into one of the scenes and rewrite part of it.  If I like what I see, I’ll move on to another scene which needs a rewrite after the previous rewrite didn’t feel right.  If I’m satisfied there, then I’ll move on to the new scene that need recreating, and then rewrite the scene that follows.

I know my focus there now, and I have a better feel for the characters.  I say I may start the rewrite today because I still have things to work out in the character map, and there’s a few things I want to do with Kerry as well.

The rewrite is coming, however, because yesterday was a Dance on a Volcano sort of day, and it was necessary to, as the lyrics say, get out of the night and out of the dark, into the fire and into the fight.  One as to make up their mind if they’re going to continue or just cut and run–and I decided there really isn’t any choice for me.  It’s finish the story in a form that isn’t going to embarrass me, and by that I mean I can live with the characters.  It won’t be an easy struggle, but I’m certain I’ll find my way through the death zone of expectations that didn’t pan out.

"Death zone my ass.  You wanna see a death zone?  Watch what I do with the whole London section."

“Death zone my ass. You wanna see a death zone? Watch what I do with the whole London section.”

The novel will get finished.  That’s all there is to that crap.  Just need to stop being worried and get through what needs to be done.

It’s dance on the volcano or die time.  I know where I want to go.


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Trials and Sombulations

There weren’t any last evening’s activities.  This whole weeks has found me struggling to stay awake after getting home from work, and there was no exception to this rule yesterday.  Work was something of a mind bender, and I even came down with a bit of a headache from all the concentrating needed to figure out why a program wasn’t working.

It’s enough to get you drinking if you wanted to drink . . . and there are plenty of times I want to drink these days.

But I did have the ability to think, however.  I couldn’t really write down what I was thinking, but I thought about thing anyway.  I wanted to go on my character design; I wanted to think about starting to write something I have developed, in my head, for a scene–

I couldn’t.  Not one word.

When those moments come around you begin to wonder “Is this from being tired, or am I ready to pitch this crap into the nearest bin?”  Those thoughts do run through my head a little these days, because that precious ego that I never really had was bruised, and I take a long time healing.  Not always a real long time, but it’s enough to push me into one of those quiet moments where I really want to walk away from things for a while.  Though the last time I did that, it was like ten years before I came back, and I don’t think I have another ten years left in me.

It all comes down to a matter of adaptation.  I need to make this character work, and I’m deconstructing her so I can put her back together.  There are some things I don’t like, or that bother me, about her personality, but that’s part of the character.  You have to work it out and own it, baby.

But in the haze that entered my mind about eight PM last night, I starting having my doubts if I could make it work.  If I could have this happen right.  Those doubty doubts:  I hate them.  You get them if you’re a writer, and when they come they play hell with you.

But then there’s the flip to that doubt.  If I got up and walked away from it all, if I said, “I’ve had enough of this bullshit, I need a break, I think I’ll take the next year off and think about never coming back to my writing,” that wouldn’t set well with a few people.  I can think of at least one person in particular who would react badly to that news, and all hell would break loose . . .

"You're upset because I've stopped writing!"  No, I'm not . . . just look at the flowers, Cassie.  Look at the flowers."

“You’re upset because I’ve stopped writing!  You are!” No, no I’m not . . . just . . . look at the flowers, Cassie. Look at the flowers.”

Okay, maybe not that bad, but there would be a lot of hurt feelings come out of it all.

I know what’s bringing on the tiredness I feel at night; I simply need to work through that.  Once that’s out of the way I can get my mind back on other things–

Like reconstructing the deconstructed.


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My Own Private Scouring

Sometimes you gotta get real and know when you gotta make changes.  There are times when you know something is wrong and you gotta make it right.

This is one of those times.

For most of the weekend my mind has been whirling about with what I need to do for Act One of my work in progress to make it better.  Right now it’s wrong, because one of the main characters is wrong.  There’s no focus on her; it’s all following and smiles, and it’s not the way she should be portrayed.  I’m not in a panic–no, not this time–but I have been thinking and working and even mapping.

Right now I have a Scrapple map set up with forty-five notes on the character, and I’ve got a ways to go.  It’s a going over that I didn’t get into the first time, and the nice thing about Scrapple is where you come up with something you throw down the notes and link it where you want to link it.  My mind maps usually look pretty neat, but that’s because I’m like that when I’m putting my things together.  The neatness gives me focus, and the focus helps me understand.

Besides, I’m good with maps.  Everyone knows that.

There are other things that need doing, however–and one of the nice things about Scrivener is, as a project planer, once you decide on where you want your story to go, you send it off in that direction.  So with that already in mind . . .

Sorry, little scenes, but you just don't go with the flow anymore.  It was nice knowing you.

Sorry, little scenes, but you just don’t go with the flow anymore. It was nice knowing you.

Yes, you throw up that big ‘ol “Delete” sign and pull those suckers out of there.  It’s not that big of a deal:  they were only about twenty-five hundred words, so it’s not like I’m killing off huge chunks.  But it’s the rewrites . . . yeah, I need that.  Why?  Because the first rewrite leads into the first new “To Do”, and the last To Do leads into the the final two rewrites.

That’s where focus changes.  That’s where I can show things a little differently, and bring another character out into the open.  Not just more, but show something else that I was trying to hide from the reader, but realized over the weekend that the something I was trying to hide was already sort of outted right away.  So why hide it?

Besides, the real goods don’t come until the kids get to the U.S. and they’re greeted at Logan International by a bunch of LaRouchies–as I was during my only visit to this airport–warning them of the dangers of the New World Order and how it’s going to force The Mark of the Beast upon them, and that darkness is pretty much gonna fall upon the land if we don’t go back on the gold standard.  Which, come to think of it, would make for a pretty good scene, since The Foundation is seen by some in my world as the New World Order, and having a few LaRouchies square off against a bunch of NWO witches, sorceresses, and spirit summoners might be fun–for a few seconds.

Onward and upward, I say.  The day awaits.


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Hard Characterizations

There are moments when you’re writing that you wonder if you’re nuts for getting into this business.  You wonder if it’s normal to torture yourself to get out a story.  It’s not unusual to wonder if you’re losing your mind from time to time–or maybe that’s only me.

Last night I was on-line with my beta reader–well, one of them.  And we were talking on and off.  Mostly I was trying to rewrite a scene, and it was slow going, because there are distractions, but there are also things i’m trying to keep in mind as I go along.    And we start talking about the story, but in particular we start speaking of Annie’s part in the story.  Now, I know she know Annie well, because, in many ways, she’s Annie, so when she talks I try to listen.  I don’t always do it very well, but I try.

And what she had to say wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t pretty because she was telling me I missed the mark on some things, and that she was there more or less as a decoration.  In short, I took someone who is suppose to be a main character and more or less shuffled her off to the background of Secondary Character land.

Did it hurt to hear this?  Yeah.  It hurt a lot.  No one likes being told that something they’ve just worked on for three months is really, totally flawed.  Was it true?

Every word of what she said was.  And I knew it.

She said, “Give your story a real read, not some bullshit read,” and I could, but since I’m so well tied into this story, I can see the goddamn words in my head, and they aren’t saying what I want them to say.  I can reread it all, but I know it’s going to back up everything she said last night.  There were other things said that rang true, and burned pretty hard, but that’s the way real truth hits you.  It’s not something you want to deal with, but if you don’t it’s gonna come back and bite you on the ass

"You rotten bastard of a software program!  How dare you show me what a piece of crap my story has become!"

“You rotten bastard of a software program! How dare you show me what a piece of crap my story has become!”

Another bit of advice I was gives was to create a character sheet for Annie, and to, in her worlds, “be painfully honest” about who she is.  But at the same time, I really need to do the same thing with Kerry, because there were thinks about him when I first started imagining him that didn’t come out as expected.

Like . . . he’s clueless.  Just like me.

You reach a point when you’re putting something together where you have to ask:  am I doing this story the right way because I’m so in love with my awesomeness, or am I doing this right because I want to get it right?  For me, I’ll take Door Number 2 every time.  As a once-famous director said about a movie he was filming, “If you can’t get it right, what’s the point?”  Of course at the time he said that he was knee-deep in cocaine, spending money likes there was no tomorrow to do things like tear down sets and rebuild them because the street just didn’t frame right, and was probably crazier than a shithouse rat throughout the whole experience (I know there are a few of you out there who know the person I’m describing).  But the feeling for creative people is a correct one:  do it right or don’t do it at all.

I got some work ahead of me.

Because I want to get it right.


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The Dark Witch’s Thoughts

This is a number:  one thousand fifty-three.  That’s how many words went into the new scene last night.  It took a while to get there, but I made it.

The first night wasn’t a much as I liked, though given that I was doing two, maybe three things at the time, I have to admit that typing in a little over six hundred words isn’t a bad accomplishment.  Last night was more of me starting to hit my stride, looking for and finding the groove I needed, and heading off down that path.  It was slow, it was halting, but it was also fun to start getting back into the minds of my kids.

Last night it was mostly Annie’s thoughts.  Watching spells not being done, feeling a bit bored about hers, and thinking about the week before.  Of course her thoughts are mostly about the person sitting to her right, but hey:  young love, right?  Though she probably wouldn’t eat a horse heart for him, but you never know . . .

Let me entertain you with a little excerpt, because I haven’t done that in a while–maybe a week.  I’m getting rusty.  And now that I’m writing, lets show it off.

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

In the last couple of minute, though, Annie watched Kerry growing frustrated with not being able to do the spell, or worse yet, having no control once he started the spindle turning. She saw that most of the time it was wobbling all over the place, which would prevent him from exerting any fine control should Kerry manage to turn his spindle three times.

She reached over and touched his arm. “You might want to stop and rest.”

Kerry seemed far from ready to rest, but Annie’s touch and calm tone were enough to make him slump in his seat. “Yeah. I’m pushing this too hard, and I’m getting all messed up.”

Annie thought of what Kerry was going through in lab as more than “messed up.” “I think you’re trying to hard—” You would know all about that, wouldn’t you? She pushed the errant through from her head. “Sit for a few minutes, clear your mind . . .” She slide her right hand along his arm until she found his hand. “Talk to me.”

There was much Kerry wanted to talk about, but most of it revolved around what she’d just done. “You managed this pretty fast.”

Annie shook her head. “I’d done something like this once before, so I just took that knowledge and applied it here.”

“I’ll bet you could do more.” He nodded in the direction of Annie’s spindle. “You could probably levitate it.”

Annie had never tried levitating something before, but she could understand why Kerry would think she could perform the spell. He knows I’m a witch, that I come from a family of witches, and therefore I’m already magically inclined. He doesn’t understand I’m not that good with simple spells. She decided to be coy with her response, to see if her suspicions were correct. “Why do you think that?”

“’Cause . . .” He looked at her, a broad smile across his face. “I think you can.”

“You have faith I can do this.” Annie patted his hand. “That is not the same as having skill.”

“You have the skill—” Kerry flipped his hand around and pressed his palm into hers. “You’re my Dark Witch; of course you have the skill.”

You’re my Dark Witch. Kerry had taken to calling her that after their stint in Sorcery, and her confession on Sunday that, indeed, she had her own books on the subject, and most of the spells she’d attempted were from that branch of magic.

But where Annie saw a serious discipline that required a tremendous amount of willpower, Kerry saw what she was doing as almost—fun. He’s a Normal, and sorcery and black magic are always very powerful in their fantasy worlds. He doesn’t understand the work one must put into learning this art—or what it can do to a person.

She thought about to last week, and what Professor Lovecraft did to Kerry in front of the rest of the A Level. From his point of view he was shocked bad enough to require a night in the hospital: he never saw this from her point of views, which was seeing someone who knew how everyone else in the class saw the act, while also expecting a possible attack from one of those students. And when Professor Lovecraft returned from dropping Kerry off, she launched right into a short lecture without ever explaining her actions.

Her willpower has to be extraordinary to be able to semi-torture a student in class and never mention the act again—except to me later—or even act as if it were anything other than what she does every day. Until Kerry performs sorcery on someone else, he won’t know what it takes to do that. She wanted to talk to him about this, but didn’t know if now was the time—

And then Kerry starts getting all excited about something, and . . . that’s the end of the scene.  More to commence tonight.

And just like a writer, as I was preparing the above excerpt, I began reading it and . . . I had to change some things.  Just a few.  And add some words–only twenty.

"No, no: it's far too early to have Annie start casting magic missile. She doesn't even play D&D yet."

“No, no: it’s far too early to have Annie start casting magic missile. She doesn’t even play D&D yet.”

That mean the number is now one thousand seventy-three words.

All in a good night and day’s work.


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The Editing Light

First off, no April Fool’s jokes here.  Not today, not ever.  I’ve been on Facebook about five minutes and I’ve already seen about a half dozen–I mean, who saw that shit coming?  But I don’t need a single day to prank you:  I can do that any day of the year.

Not that I would . . .

Act Two started last night.  It wasn’t an auspicious start:  six hundred and thirty-six words were written into the new scene, and at the moment I’m tracking six hundred and sixty-four words total.  Which means if I hadn’t edited one sentence to remove a couple of words, I’d be Number of the Beasting right now, and really, I’d get a screen capture of that just to show off.  Because people think it’s satanic, and who doesn’t like a good satanic joke on 1 April?

What’s I’m not saying yet–because I haven’t gotten that far in the post–is that I wasn’t only writing new stuff, but I was editing old as well.  At the same time.  In the same screen.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out:

Come on--who doesn't write like this?  We all do, right?  Hello?  *tap tap*  Is this thing on?

Come on–who doesn’t write like this? We all do, right? Hello? *tap tap* Is this thing on?

So here I am, new on the left, old on the right, and one of my beta readers in a chat room on the Internet, going over some of the scenes.  When she’s not talking about Act One, I’m tapping away on Act Two, slowly and surely, because I was a bit tired yesterday and I got a new tee shirt and I had to try it on and get pictures, but mostly I haven’t written anything new in a few weeks and you need to work that skill up again.

I know that right after Wednesday’s last comment I’m going to cut to Annie thinking about something magical, and then it’s over to Kerry, and then back to Annie, and then to some loud mouth student who’s gonna accuse Annie of cheatin’, but there’ll be a Japanese student in there yelling “Kuso” because they just can’t get this magic thing workin’ right . . .

When my beta reader–or should I just call her Trusty Editor(tm)?–came back to the chat room, Act One was on.  She found mistakes.  She found things that seemed out of place.  She gave me a couple of suggestions that helped the scene.  She found a stupid adverb that Elmore Leonard would have kicked my ass over.  She found a hilarious passage that made a background character look like they might be part octopus.  And she found something that sort of pissed me off–

Wait, what?

Let me explain.  There was a passage in one of the scenes that she pointed out sort of didn’t seem right because of the way things were set up.  I kept saying it doesn’t matter, it’s not the focus of the scene, be a good little Elsa and let it go.  Actually, I was being a little more bitchy than that, because I’d already been up about seventeen hours and my head was foggy, but what the hell.  There was back and forth there for maybe forty-five minutes, and then we moved on.

By the time I signed off, I said I’d fix it.  By the time I crawled out of bed to write this post, I realized that if you’re gonna tell a tale, then tell the damn thing.  All a very simple line does is change the dynamic of the story–and in retrospection under the light, it can make one of the characters come across a little more mysterious.

See, like Kerry, I can be a bit clueless, and I need a good Annie to kinda whack me now and then to get the ego in check.  If you’re a writer you have an ego–don’t lie!  I see yours hiding behind the television.  But as Harlan Ellison once said, a great editor will show you how to make improvements by asking one simply question, and if you listen to them magic will happen.  At the time I wasn’t listening, because I need things to sink in.

But now I see.  Just a couple of words in the right place, and I can change the whole dynamic of the scene.

She also told me that she loved the fact that I was a woman of my convictions and that I wasn’t afraid to tell he to go to hell to get what I wanted.  I finally told her that good women don’t tear each other down, they empower each other to do better.

And after three years I’m still learning how to be a better writer.

That’s not a joke.

That’s the facts.


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Once Again, With Madness

Here we come around to this particular date, 31 March, 2014, and this is a date I have marked down and have mentioned many times on the blog.  It’s the date that Act Two begins, and that begins starts sometime tonight.

I’m ready and . . . I’m not.

There’s a lot ahead of me, and I lot still remaining.  I’ve already set the word count to one hundred thousand words, but I’m almost certain I’ll go over that–not by much, but over is over.  I have a huge sequence to write, and it’s not intimidating, but one of the last things that happens in this sequence I was going over last night, and I realized something that might happen between Annie and Kerry, and . . . oh, it’s a hard thing to imagine.  Maybe even harder to write, because I’ll be crying a lot while writing.

Parts Four through Eight are waiting; Chapters Thirteen through Twenty-Seven are set with the directions.  All I have to do is write the words.

The journey of a hundred thousand words begin with "It's not fair!"

The journey of a hundred thousand words begin with “It’s not fair!”

Yesterday saw me tweak a few things here and there, mostly with Annie, working not to make her come off like a complete hard-ass in a few place–and, if I should say so, I think I did the trick.  And since one of the things that a beta reader told me was there could be a lot of confusion with how I set up measurements and scales, I created a notation page for the start of the novel which explains a few things to the reader:

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Throughout the story various scales are used to denote how time is told, how things are measured, and how buildings are laid out.

Floor Plans

The Foundation uses terms used in much of Europe and South America for building floors. Ground floor is found where the entrances are; first floor is the floor above that, second above that, and so on. The thirteenth floor is used within The Foundation; it is not considered an unlucky number. This will also be explained by characters from time-to-time.

Measurements

The metric system is used throughout the book by The Foundation. There are times when the Imperial system is referenced, but metric is the standard way of keeping track of distance, speed, and weight.

Time

The Foundation and nearly all countries other than the United States use twenty-four hour universal time; this results in times in the story being listed at “09:00” or “17:30” for denoting when events occur. Some speakers will speak in universal time, while other will interchange between twenty-four and twelve hour times when speaking.

As a character in the novel says, “This tends to confuse the U.S. kids when they first arrive,” and it will likely seem confusing to the reader at first. Remember, it’s also the first day in a new world for you as well.

 

It’s not much, but it’s an aid.  And it should help you along.  And, no:  I’m not doing conversions for you.  That’s what the Internet was for.  And please don’t say, “I don’t wanna do conversions when I’m reading,” ’cause I did them forty years ago when I was reading stories, and there was no Internet, so you found a book and memorized your conversations, and that was that.  You kids these days . . .

I’m ready, about as much as one can be to throw themselves back into a daunting task.

Wish me luck.


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Rebuilding Off the Beta

First order of business:  I made it back to The Burg, and it was a real adventure.  I started out in cool but cloudy conditions, then it got windy, then it started to rain–and right around Cleveland it started snowing.  Hard.  Real hard, like you could only see a few cars lengths in front of you and one lane was clear hard.  Then I made it east of the Cuyahoga River and it turned to rain.  Then I made it to Pittsburg and it turned to harder rain, and by the time I rolled through the Allegheny Tunnel with Brian May blasting the guitar solo from Brighton Rock, it was fog, spray, and hard, hard rain all the way.  One good thing was very few people heading east, because I didn’t have to deal with idiots.  And I had some new old tunes, so that helped the time pass.

Still, it was a nearly twelve hour trip, with an hour or so at a rest stop in Ohio because I needed to eat and decompress, and I chatted a little with people I know.  I needed that, because heading through the mountains the rain was hard enough to cause ponding on the PennPike.  I didn’t stop to ask if it was Amy Ponding . . .

Thank you.  I’m here all week.

Once I make it home a little after eleven PM (or should I say 23:00?), I start up my computer and slip into my jammies, and what do I do?  I find one of my beta readers on line, and we start talking about my novel.  But of course, because after driving twelve hours through some climate hell, what else would a writer do?  Go to bed?  Surely you jest!

But it was a great chat, and we covered one chapter that had mistakes–I seem to slip “the” in a bit where it’s not needed, like saying “the her bedroom”, which is likely my way of starting out impersonal and then making the object personal–but more importantly, discussing a line that has bothered me since I first wrote it, because it makes the character in question seem like a bitch, which is not my intention at all for the character.  My beta reader picked up on it right away, and we both agreed that it was something that needed changing–so now there is a note in the scene that reminds me to look this over at some point in the future.

See?  When I say I make a note about not making someone a bitch, I mean it.

See? When I say I make a note about not making someone a bitch, I mean it.

More feedback will come–probably when I’m more awake and not having just drove through a flood that could be surprising as hell when blasting out of a tunnel at . . . fifty-five.  Yeah, that’s how fast I was driving.  Me drive like a manic when it’s raining like hell?  Not a chance!

But there will be feedback, and discussions, and since this is a long-term project, there will be lots of work before this is published.  Because this time I want to get it right.  However, the fantasy porn I can probably shoot out their like no one’s business, right?

Act Two is set up, at least for the first two parts, which now have part and chapter cards.  The word count is reset, and I’ve determined what’s going to get counted, which includes the title cards, and that’s why you see a number in the total word count.

A clean document ready to get sullied by my thoughts and ideas.  Poor kids:  they deserve better.

A clean document about to be sullied by my thoughts and ideas. My poor kids: they deserve better.

Am I ready for this?  About as ready as I’m gonna get, which is to say bring on the stress and doubt and craziness that comes with writing a story.  Particularly a long novel that is going to take me most of a year to finish a first draft.  But I’m the one who signed up for this, and I will see it through to the end.  As Neil Gaiman says, “Write.  Write every day.  Finish what you write.”

I started this mess, and I’m damned if I’m not going to give my kids a great ending.


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Second Leg of the Triathlon

This is what’s waiting for me:

It doesn't look like much, but . . . yeah, it is.

It doesn’t look like much, but . . . yeah, it is.

I began looking over Act Two in detail yesterday, full of the realization that come Monday night I’m going to sit down at this computer and start writing again–just like Liz Parker, only without the trauma that comes from dating a kid from another planet.  (Though now I wonder if Liz Ortecho wrote as well . . .)

The interesting thing, at least for me, is I looked this section of the story over, and I was like, “Eh, I know what I need to do, so no problem here.”  The biggest thing I’m looking at is figuring out what spells the kids are gonna work on in one of the early scenes, though there’s something coming up in transformation class that’s gonna be fun.

And during this mental walk-through I did something that I rarely do.  It’s right there–see?

You gotta look close--see it yet?

You gotta look close–see it yet?

No, you’re not going to see it, because I’m playing with you.  As of yesterday, there was a scene right before “The Walking Tests”, but the more I looked at that scene, and then looked at what I wanted to do in the chapter, the more I came to the realization that it didn’t fit into the flow of what I really want to say in Chapter Fourteen–particularly since the new first scene sets up something that’s spoken of in the scene, “Preparing the Evidence”, and this helps push along the plot to “Confronting the Students”.  Since there’s a scene in Chapter Thirteen that will do the job just as well, I decided to delete the Chapter Fourteen scene.

This is one of the reasons why I lay everything out before I write, then look everything over again and again.  When I laid out the novel I knew what I wanted to say in that scene, but as you work things out in your head, and you see these scenes three, four, five times before you start writing, it’s a simple matter of knowing if they’re going to fit or not.  I know my novel, I know what’s happening–and I knew after some consideration that scene didn’t fit.  So off to Scene Hell you go, love.  Have fun.

I also thought up a few scenes for the next book–what did you say?  You’ve seen my time lines, you know I’ve thought things out way more in advance of this first novel.  There is more to this story than just Act One, and about the only thing I don’t have all that figured out is what happens during the last year of school for this kids.  Oh, I have a general idea, but nothing down in any sort of detail.

The last thing I have to do today–besides everything else I need to do before heading back to The Burg tomorrow–is print off Parts One and Two for someone who wants to beta read the story.  Since Scrivener lets you determine what you want to print, I’m removing Part Three from the compile options and I’ll have that pdf created before you know it.

If only the weather were better today . . .

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