Consistency

I started to really work on the next scene for Burden of Knowledge in my head today and realized that I have to go wade through my manuscript for Queen’s Butterflies before I can continue.  I think there is a scene in the book that is in the same location as the scene for the story, and I want them to be consistent.  It drives me crazy when a story or series is inconsistent.  The people who check those things in TV and movies call it “continuity” and even there, they can mess up.  The storyline for one of the recurring serial killers early on in CSI: had a continuity issue, and it bothers me a little every time I watch the episode with the mistake.

Of course, my short story is set three generations before my book and room decor can change, so consistency in this case is not quite as tricky.  Architectural details are a different dog, however, so I’ll still need to confirm.  Too bad the hard copy is “checked out” by one of my coworkers; I’d rather flip pages than page down on the computer, but it seems I have no choice.

I hope you enjoyed part 1 of Burden of Knowledge!  Look for part 2 next Sunday!

A Picture is Worth…

Today the first 1000 or so words of my new short story Burden of Knowledge posted today on Serial Central! 

Even if you haven’t read my manuscript, The Queen’s Butterflies, you should give my story a try.

Here is a sample, a teaser, a taste, just for you:

“The funeral of King Ewan was a grand affair of state.  He had died unexpectedly, when a pleasure ride with his children was interrupted by a fleeing poacher and the pursuing woodsmen.  His spirited young gelding spooked, throwing him, and his neck had broken, leaving Prince Stefan to rule the kingdom before his time.  Ewan had been a good king, and kind, always considerate of the welfare of his people and the good of his nation.  The whole of Diaea mourned his loss.”

Now you want to read the whole thing, right? 🙂

Writing Practice

As she walked into the room, her senses were transported to an older time.  The scent that filled her nose was difficult to describe, yet achingly familiar, a blend of cleaning chemicals, fresh paint, and new books.  Her memory supplied the absent scrape of chairs and voices of children that usually sounded in the space.  Taking several steps into the classroom, she trailed her fingers over a desk to feel the smooth wood.

Sunlight streamed in through tall windows, high ceilings giving the room an open, airy feel.  Identical desks with identical chairs stood in perfect rows.  Stacks of textbooks sat on the counter lining the wall below the windows.  She approached the large desk at the front of the room, putting down her purse, and went to the whiteboard.  Picking up one of the new dry erase markers, she leaned against the desk and contemplated the expanse.  Finally, she uncapped the marker, reached up, and began writing in large, curvy letters.  “Welcome to 3rd grade!”

Repeated Irritation

Every author has pet peeves; most readers have them, too.  There are certain words that are often used incorrectly (weary vs. wary, for example) and some words that aren’t really words (orientate, anyone?) that drive me crazy.  Some things that irritate others, like starting sentences with “but”, don’t particularly bother me; I have been known to use them occasionally when they feel appropriate in my writing. 

One that especially annoys me is repeated words in adjacent sentences, or even worse in the same sentence.  There is a sign on the inside of the bathroom door at work that says “please leave the door open when you leave.”  I have spent many minutes trying to find a better way to say it so there is only one “leave” on the sign, but I have yet to find a good replacement word.  One of my new favorite songs has the line, “add some gold and silver for some pizza place class” and I always leave out one of the “somes” whenever I sing along.

This particular irritant is often very difficult to avoid, particularly when writing a scene without character names.  There are a few moments in my novel when I want to set a scene but keep the identities of the players a secret; I end up using “she” and “her” a lot, or a single descriptor like “the soldier” repeatedly.  It annoys me, but it is hard to find another way.

What are your pet peeves as a reader?

Cluttered

Working in a cluttered space is difficult.

I didn’t start out as a neat-freak; honestly, I can’t claim to be one now.  There are lots of ways that I am disorganized and messy.  My workspace is not one of them.

If the immediate area where I am working is cluttered, I get distracted and unfocused.  Yes, cleaning can be a good way to procrastinate, but sometimes it is necessary for me to put my mind in order.  I once had to take everything off my walls at work, eliminate many of the items, and put them back in a neater formation.  I was starting to feel crowded by my own decor!

Fortunately, most of my fiction writing is interesting enough to me that I can work even in my current messy space.  I should be able to work in a neater environment soon.  That will make getting my brain to do its thing easier!

Stymied

I looked up the title word for today’s blog on Wiktionary, and the definition is definitely how I feel.  Puzzled and stuck. 

I have been working on the second installment of my story for Serial Central (the first is done and will be posted Sunday).  I know the scene: it is a conversation between two characters, as seen and heard by a third character.  I know the end result of the conversation, although I am not going to share it with you.  (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here.  You’re welcome.)  It is the conversation itself that has me stymied.

My brain simply refuses to work on it.  When I set out to play out the dialog in one of my usual places (the car, the shower, trying to fall asleep) my mind veers off in a multitude of other directions.  I have reached the first time in writing fiction that I am going to have to force the issue.  I am hoping that by sitting down and compelling my brain focus on the scene, it will prime the pump and words will flow.  If not, I’ll simply have to sit there and make it happen.

As long as the end result doesn’t feel forced, I will be content.  You’ll have to tell me how I did when it posts.  🙂

Only One Story

Fans of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series often complain about or even refuse to read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.  They claim that it is too similar, that Goodkind ripped off the idea.  It is true that you can summarize the basic plot for the entirety of each series in the same way.  “Young male protagonist grows up without magic, is sent on a task that exposes him to a larger world, which leads to the development of his latent magic abilities and the discovery that he is destined to fight a malevolent magic practitioner to save the world.”

Okay, so there is a similar story concept at work.  However, all it takes is reading past the first novel of both series to figure out that the basic structure is used in dramatically different fashion by each author.  (In fact, this seems to be a prevalent plot pattern in fantasy.  Re-read that summary sentence.  It sounds an awful lot like the Harry Potter series, too, and probably others that fantasy readers can think of.)

I recently read a book called How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.  In it, he argues that there is only really one story.  Every story that exists relates to, references, and intertwines with every other story.  Authors often do this intentionally: making a character similar to a more familiar biblical or historical persona, setting up a plot that feels familiar for a reason, or even directly quoting or referencing an existing work.  Even unintentionally, stories reflect other stories.  Unless you are someone who has never ever read a book, heard a story, or watched a movie, you have internalized the tales of others.  This will come out in your writing.

I find myself needing a reminder of this from time to time, when I re-read a book series that has shaped my fiction.  Yes, there are parallels that can be drawn between my first novel and the work of Mercedes Lackey and Jacqueline Carey, among others.  It does not mean that my story is not original, or that my characters are simply re-imagined from theirs.  This is very far from the reality.  But they are both excellent female fantasy authors with strong female protagonists, and as I aspire to be the same, it should be no surprise that my book touches similar themes and approaches character development in a similar way.  It isn’t the same story; instead it is its own tale with occasional echoes of the stories of others. 

In the end, it’s all one story.

Words of Significant Weight

I own far too many books.

It never seems like too many books until I have to move them all.  I have already packed four boxes with just my fantasy collection (most of which is paperback) and I still have textbooks, kids’ books, nature books, interpretation books, Shakespeare, general fiction…  This could take a while.

I have to leaven the boxes with other things (like DVDs, games, etc) to make them light enough to lift.  I knew that words could have weight, but this is ridiculous!  I’m running out of lighter things to put in the boxes – I may have to shift to clothing. 

And don’t get me started about the National Geographics.  Every time I’ve moved, I’ve put my ever growing NG collection in the same box together.  Not this time!  Do you know how much nearly 14 years worth of NatGeos weigh?  Using the time-honored (and highly scientific) method of weighing myself and then weighing myself while holding magazines, I have discovered that the 2009 issues alone weigh about 8 pounds.  For those not near a calculator that equals almost 112 pounds worth of paper and ink.  112 pounds!!  Do you want to carry that much weight in a box (or two) in front of you?  Me, neither.

I might put the heavier hardbacks (and those yellow-spined magazines) into rolling suitcases.  That alleviates the carrying, at least until there are stairs involved.  Clothes can go in boxes, right?

Some have suggested that moving is a chance to purge, to simplify, to lighten your personal load.  While I am planning to viciously pare down my wardrobe and plan to leave behind a variety of randomness that I have accumulated, I absolutely refuse to reduce my collection of words.  Books are my friends when no one else is, and I will carry the boxes myself if the need arises.  🙂

Plug it in, plug it in

Just wanted to remind you: today the stories start on SerialCentral!! 

I know you are all anxiously awaiting my story, Burden of Knowledge, but please take the time to read the other stories, too!  You might find another fantastic author to follow.  Besides, part of the fun of a multi-author blog is the chance to share fans.  🙂

Pushing Paper

I am an electronic kind of writer.  I write everything on the computer – blogs are created in WordPress, stories are typed up on my laptop, and outlines and notes live in my hard drive. 

There are a few things that I keep in hard copy.  There are two hard copies of my manuscript floating around (not counting any my mom has printed) and I like to have a printed list of names to refer to while writing.  Occasionally I find a need to sketch a dress or draw a timeline, but most of my notes can fit in a small pocket folder.

Today I waded through boxes of old files, cleaning things out and re-organizing.  I had forgotten about a few things that have gone digital in the last few years: direct deposit pay stubs, bank statements, even some bills I get completely online now, not in paper form.  While I like to do many things on my laptop, there is one thing I refuse to do electronically: read books.  There is just something about holding a paperback in my hand or propping a hardback open on the bed that can’t be replicated by an e-reader, no matter how fabulous.  It does mean that I have to haul heavy boxes of books when I move, but I can live with that.

Shorter things are easy to read online.  I like to read blogs, e-zines, and news on the computer.  And starting tomorrow, I’m going to be reading fantastic stories on SerialCentral.  You should, too!!  Hopefully one day all the authors on the blog will have real, published books you can hold in your hand, but for now, you can enjoy their fiction (and mine!) online.

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