Imagination Chainsaw

Some people may say I’m crazy, but that’s just talk.  Do I get a bit obsessive?  Not that much, but it does happen?  Do I worry?  As much as anyone else–okay, maybe a little more in some places.

Is the fear starting to hit me over this novel release?  You betcha.

I’m into the final set of chapters, and by the end of the week I’ll find myself with two or three left to edit and format.  This means that by Sunday Her Demonic Majesty will be ready for the ebook meat grinder, and by May 4th there should be a new entry in my bibliography.  But the end isn’t here yet, and as I go through the story, I’m seeing sentences here and there that . . . well, they don’t set well with me.

Yes, I know what’s going on:  my mind is in Issac Asimov mode, where I’m editing the story, and I see a different way of doing things, and so while I’m here I’m going to change things just a little bit, and when this is over everything will be hunky dory.  Or so it should, but the Dear Doctor had a problem when it came to editing–namely, he had trouble finding a point at which to stop with some of work.  It has been said that John Campbell once took a story from him, telling Asimov it was fine, and that writers have trouble when it comes to deciding when their stories are “perfect’.

I know the story isn’t perfect, and this is why I’m doing an edit and formatting, and not a simple formatting.  I’m not altering plot, or cutting the hell out of chapters–in fact, I ended up adding about one hundred words to a chapter the other night, because something was in need of a bit of elaboration.

What I really need to do is take a chainsaw to my imagination, and stop seeing problems where they don’t exist.

Sure, there are things that need a bit of polish.  As a writer you should see that, and fix it where it’s needed.  But this morning, as I was on the Trek to the Paycheck, I started wondering if a line at the end of the chapter I was editing last night should exist, or if it should be excised.  This is where I get into trouble:  I see a problem, only it isn’t a problem, it’s a phantom that’s come to shake it’s bootie at me, and giggle the whole while, ’cause it’s only gonna tease, it ain’t ever going to give me a hug and tell me everything is great . . .

I’m close on this.  The novel publication is only a couple of weeks away, and as much as I want to get it right, I don’t want to fall into an obsessive hole where I’m constantly thinking that the novel isn’t perfect, and I’m setting myself up for a big fall.

No problems.  I know what must be done, and I’m doing it.

If I only looked as good as Juliet Starling, though . . .

On Beyond Completion

Let me tell you, this weekend has been one of the busiest I’ve known since NaNoWriMo.  I sat down on Saturday morning determined to burn through the chapters remaining in Part Two of Her Demonic Majesty, and late in the afternoon yesterday, that goal became a reality.  Four chapters, about eleven thousand words, one part:  it’s all good now.  I’m on the home stretch, and the end is very near.

Not that the work didn’t leave me feeling a bit out of it.  I was so burnt by five-thirty Sunday afternoon that I actually checked to see if there was something on TV to way, and discovered the movie Prometheus was going to play.  While I knew of the movie, I’d never seen it, and decided to take a couple of hours out of my life and give it a watch.  What it did was confirm was that spending a trillion or so dollars to send Extremely Stupid People Into Space is a Bad Idea.  Next time just give me the money and I’ll figure out a better way of getting you a return on your investment.

Though I can see the set up for another movie, but I’m not giving up anything.  Not that anyone in Hollywood is interested–they’re too busy turning Ninja Turtles into aliens.

After letting my mind drip, I headed back to the story and did some playing.  With the big of formatting I’m performed I tried another .mobi compile, but I came up with a four thousand page story, so The Phantom Pages are still there, and I’d rather not deal with that crap.  I can convert it to a .doc and run it up for formatting, so no worry.

I also ran the story off to a Word .doc, just to see what I was going to have in terms of page count.  I was surprised to find something messed up with the title page right away, which is why being able to look at your story in several different formats is always a cool thing.  That was fixed, and the it was a look-see at the page count.

The great thing is Scrivener can give you an estimation on your page count.  I could look at that, or bring the story up in Word and zip to the end . . . which after I did told me there were two hundred and thirty-five pages.  Now, I know there are seven pages which really don’t add to the story:  title, Table of Contents, copyright and dedication pages, and the Part Headings, so what I’m left with is two hundred and twenty-eight pages of story.  Which is a nice little chunk of entertainment when it comes time to do the reading.

Unless there is a massive rewrite somewhere in one of the chapters of Part Three, I don’t anticipate the page count for Her Demonic Majesty changing that much.  I know what it’s going to run, I know what I’m going to charge.  All that remains is to finish out my work this week, set up a couple of things, and upload.

Before you know it, I’ll be looking for something else to do.

The Words From Hell

Consistency.  If there’s one thing you need in writing, it’s consistency.  Loose it and you may find your characters stripping off all their clothes, swimming out to a sinking ship, and filling their pockets with items once they arrive.  Or you’ll make pancakes for breakfast, give food to all seated, and when daddy shows up some time later, he sits and begins eating off a plate that appeared before him.

The one thing I learned so many years ago when I started reading in the 1960’s, and had reinforced in the 1970’s, is you have to keep your rules consistent.  This is especially true in science fiction, where you are creating new universes, and if your notes aren’t straight, you’ll find yourself crashing your spaceship into a planet that wasn’t suppose to be in your way.  Or, as David Gerrold–the World’s Oldest Redshirt–once stated, if you set up your rules so that no one can use their left hand, you can’t have the hero win in the last chapter by using their left hand.  It’s not only bad writing, it’s lazy.

Yesterday I’m on a editing burn.  I wanted to get through at least two chapters, and three if it where possible, because I’m in Part Two of Her Demonic Majesty, and if I were to finish the last two chapters today, then all that would remain of formatting is Part Three, and by next weekend I could get my Table of Contents in order, kick back, and get ready to meat grinder the story.

So I’m going through the story, looking for strange characters and misspellings, and correcting things that need correcting, and I discover one of my characters saying the word “hell”, and I realize it isn’t the only character who is suppose to say that word . . .

Allow me to explain.

Her Demonic Majesty takes place in an alternate universe difference from ours.  The main character, Jeannette, finds herself in this universe, and as she learns about the world, she begins picking up on all the little things that set it apart from her home.

One of her partners in crime, so to speak, is a demoness.  This demoness comes from another realm–an alternate universe, if you will.  The realm has another name, and because the realm has a certain notoriety  people of this new universe often use that name when cursing–

It should be noted that this realm isn’t named Hell.  Which means within this world you’d never hear people saying “What the hell?” or “The hell with it.”  Hell is an unknown name:  it’s not part of the lexicon.  If there is any character who would use the word, it’s Jeannette, because it is part of her lexicon.

But here I was, having someone in this new universe making a comment that has the word “hell” in it, and I’m scratching my head, because that goes against my rules for the world.

What can one do, you say?  You get to fixing.

I threw my story in Scrivener Mode and did a search for “hell”, and once I found it, I checked to see if Jeannette was speaking, or if someone else was.  And what do you know?  I’d screwed up:  I had characters from this new world using the word “hell”.  The one who was using it the most?  The demoness–the one person who wouldn’t use it, because . . . well, I think you know by now.

Keep in mind I’ve put this story through a couple of edits, and this is something that I missed each time.  I might have missed it this time, too, if I weren’t hyperfocused on getting the novel in pristine shape.  I caught it, and I know my other two rules have been adhered to, so I should be good as far as my rules are concerned.

If anything, I’m happy I didn’t say the hell with it.

See what I did there?

Going For the Fun

Today starts the moment when I get serious about Her Demonic Majesty.  I want to get as much of Part Two finished this weekend, so by this time next week I can say everything’s ready for the various meat grinders, and all I have to do is write the various dedications, upload, and watch the money roll in.

About that last part . . .

Yesterday I was speaking with a friend, as I am want to do, and they asked me what I was doing to promote myself.  I mean, I have a novel coming out, I have access to Facebook and Twitter, so how am I getting the news out to my fans that I’ll have a novel published in a couple of weeks?

Good, legitimate questions.  I didn’t have an answer.  I should because I’ve been here before:  I have two published stories, and I’ve sort of done the promotion thing by visiting other blogs and giving an interview or two.  I know the game.

I just don’t play it well.

The writing part is easy; you sit, you think, you type, you edit.  There you have it:  a story.  It might be shit, but it’s you’re story, and you own it.  What happens after you get the stuff up, though?  That’s the hard part.  It’ hard because I haven’t actually had to get into that part that much.

My friend started giving me hints of things to do, things to try.  I listened, I took to heart.  And I’ve started the wheels rolling . . .

First off, I revamped my author’s page.  It looks nice and bright, with the new covers up, and there I’ll start sending out information about the project of the novel, and when it’ll see the light of publishing day.  I have my Twitter, and I should get to revamping it as well:  change the background picture, get the names changed to protect the innocent, so forth and so on.

One of the things writers could do for NaNo was post excerpts from their stories, and that’s another thing that’s coming.  Every day I can pull out a few hundred words from each chapter, and maybe get people interested in wanting to read the whole thing once they get their taste.  Not to mention, if there’s an error, someone can point it out.

I will do an interview, and it’s going to be done a little differently than some interviews, in that . . . wait, why tell you now?  Just wait until next week.  Then you’ll see.

There will be the obligatory giveaway of books.  Haven’t decided on how I’m going to do that yet, but I will.  And with two covers from which to choose, winners can decide which cover they like better.  Now if I could only get a third cover, I could have a trifecta!

What I want the most–besides sales–is to have fun.  I’ve done the blog hops; I’ve done the interview; I’ve sort of done everything short of putting begging people to buy my stories.  I want to do thing differently this time.  I want people to find and enjoy, and help build the base.  And if they buy this, then they’ll maybe buy the stories I wrote under that other name, too.

It’s the time to shine–

Lets burn bright.

Comfort in Numbers

The Formatting of Part Two has commenced.  I opened up the file and started in on it, and just as I was getting ready to head off to bed, I was through with the chapter.  The next awaits me tonight, and I’m going to try and burn through three or four this weekend.  My intention is to get through as much of Part Two before next Monday, then get into Part Three next week, and try and finish up as much of Her Demonic Majesty before the end of the month.

No promises, but if all goes well, I could have the final version heading up through Smashword’s Meat Grinder on 4 May–and not because of any “The Forth Be With You” shite, because that is shite, but but because that would be the first Saturday where I’ll have time to send it up after I finish with the formatting.  If there are issues during the upload, I’ll have the opportunity to fix the problems and send it up again.  And again, if necessary.  But if I get up to Smashwords okay, then I can upload to Amazon as well the same day.Finished-sm

So the first weekend in May is my target publication date.  If it slips–hey, stuff happens.  Oh, and just so you know–I have a second cover!  Just look over to the right and you’ll see it . . .  So the plan now is to use one on Smashwords/Barns, and the other on Amazon, and then after a few months switch them.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe I’ll do like Marvel, and offer variant covers, so if you want them you have to buy everything.  Before you know it, I’m offering the equivalent of the copies of Firestarter with the asbestos covers that once sold for $250.  Not sure how that’s gonna work with ebooks, though . . . maybe that’s where I get the hard copies of the books printed . . .

There is a strange sense here, watching it all come together so quickly.  A month back I was in the doldrums, feeling as if I was getting nowhere fast.  I’d been on Suggestive Amusements since the end of December, and the novel was crawling to an end–or so it felt to me.  I was speaking with a friend the other night, and in discussing my publishing plans this year, I said something along the lines of, “I don’t feel I’m writing now as much as I did last year.”  They asked about what I’d done, and I replied, “I did that novel, that’s about seventy-two thousand words; and I’ve done about seventy thousand words in the blog . . . add a couple of articles, and I’ve written about a hundred and fifty thousand words since the start of last December.”

There was a slight pause, and then came their reply:  “What?  You think you’re not writing anything?  Are you kidding?”

Being so close to the center of the storm, you lose track of what’s going on around you.  Yeah, I know there are some who say blogging isn’t writing, but then, what is it?  Nose picking?  Here’s what it is:  it’s a continuation of the habit that is writing every day.  You need an idea, you need to get it down, you are writing.  And then novel–enough said.  It’s figuring out characters and creating a story and making sure your plot doesn’t fall apart on you.  It’s work.  It’s a lot of work.

And even when you think you’re slacking, you’re probably just kicking yourself for no reason.  As I’ve said, writers are their own worst critics, and this is the pudding full of proof.

So keep on keeping, I say.  Set your goals and work them.  And when you think you’re falling behind–check your data first.

You’ll likely be surprised.

The Great Gig on the Side

Last night was a time for editing, but never once did I bring up my work.  Say what?

I was chatting last night.  I was chatting with a friend who writes as well, for it seems that I’ve made a lot of writing friends over the last two years–almost three since I restarted everything with a class in the fall of 2010.  I was in the mood to chat after driving for over any hour through a torrential downpour that is still going on this morning.  So the brain wasn’t doing what it was suppose to do, and I was relaxing until it could.

As I chatted with my friend, the discussion turned to a story she’s writing.  She’s been inspired of late, and has pushed her tale into Novelette County, which is only slightly less sleazy than the Country of Novella, where I find myself hanging out a lot.  (If you know your Stephen King, you’ll get the joke.)  After a few minutes of talking about it, the question came:  if I was sent a copy of the first few chapters, would I be interested in looking it over and giving my opinion?

This has been happening to me a lot of late.  In the past month I’ve done a bit of beta reading for some friends, and from time to time I’ve been asked to look a story over and see if it needs some polish.  Now, I’m not an editor by trade.  If anything, I’ve developed my skills, such as they are, over the last couple of years, since it became obvious that if I needed to get my stories polished, I’d learn how to do it myself, or start paying people a considerable amount of money to do it instead.

But I’m a nice person, so I do what I can to help those who want to get ahead.  The people I know aren’t vampires thriving on drama and attention:  they are writers.  Beside, the vampires have all defriended and blocked me, so it make the selection process easier . . . anyway, I looked the story over, and did my little turn on the catwalk, marking up a few things, and leaving a comment or two where needed.

In doing this act I helped my friend a bit, which is always a good thing because we need that karma boost in our lives.  But wait!  There’s more . . .

A week back I was contacted by another writer and asked if I’d do a big favor:  would I help them edit their books.  They’re making a push to get their old stuff cleaned up and their new stuff in similar shape, and asked if I’d join in the band and help them out.  Naturally I said yes, because I’m good.  And I believe I can help get their stories whipped into the shape they desire.

What about your own work, Cassie? I hear you say.  Nothing is going to fall behind there:  Demonic Majesty is coming along, I’ll get back into it tonight, but I will help others where I can.

Who knows–maybe there’s something here I can turn into a worth-while vocation.

It beats slinging code, let me tell ya.

Coolness Factoring

There can be much joy in editing, though, as a writer, it’s one thing that we all seem to hate with white-hot passion.  For the longest time I avoided editing, thinking my first drafts were so good that I never needed to worry about editing.

While I will say that I seemed to get the story write on the first draft–you know, characters names are right, the plot flows as I want and doesn’t have huge holes in it–there are still a lot of errors popping up here and there.  Can’t be helped:  we are imperfect creatures creating imperfect creations.  Really, if I were producing tremendously fantastic stories that were nearly perfect, I’d stop driving sixty miles to work each day and live Neil Gaiman’s life.  Until then, I work at this writing craft until something come in the way of sales.

But I was struck by something interesting last night.  Shale I share it?  Am I writing here?

I was editing the last chapter of Part One for Her Demonic Majesty.  It’s a long chapter, a bit over fifty-eight hundred words, and it’s at the point in the story where I start turning up the drama a bit.  It’s a good chapter, it sets the mood for what’s to come, but . . . as I’m editing, I run into a few lines spoken by my lovely but dangerous succubus character, and there’s something about what she’s saying–

No, it more than that.  It’s how she’s saying the words that is making me feel a little strange.  As I’m setting up the format, what she’s saying just doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t feel like here.  Someone is speaking, but when I imagine her in my mind, and she says those words, they sound like they’re coming from another person.

This is where you look at the line, think about what a character should be saying, and then have them speak the words.  It sounds easy, but it’s getting those words right that’s tricky.  So I looked at the lines, and imagined the sentences changing, rearranging, and I did  a little cut and paste here, added something there, and deleted a couple of things that didn’t fit my succubus.

When it was finished, the paragraph was far cleaner than before.  It hadn’t actually been reduced or expanded in size:  if I remember correctly, I believe it became one word longer after the edit.  The thing was . . . when it was finished, I was taken by how what she was saying now was far cooler than before.

Do I mean she ended up sounding like a character from a Tarantino movie?  Far from it.  Her words now seemed to flow from her effortlessly, as if this is how she would handle this particular emergency, how she would express her displeasure, and how she’d get the attention of the other two people in the room, and let them know that, right now, shit is deep and extraction is necessary.

I did this a few times last night, and while it is not my intention to try and create some “coolness factor” for each of my characters when they speak, the editing did prove one thing:

I can still be surprised by this craft.  And that’s a good thing.