I did a little editing this morning, but I played hooky and took the kids to a carnival for the rest of the day. Tonight I'm taking the night off to paint, read, and listen to music. It's just as important to recharge the batteries as it is to nail those daily wordcounts. :)
Gender Does Matter:
My previous post contained a sarcastic remark about seeing that women writers were paid as much as their male contemporaries. I was serious; here are two quotes on the statistics from an important study
by the National Endowment of the Arts:
"In 1989 women authors earned only 52 percent of male writers' earnings."
(Based on U.S. Census figures)
"Regarding income, non-Census surveys showed female authors consistently earned less than males, with different studies showing a range from about 40 percent of male earnings to about 75 percent by 1991."
I can't cite statistics for 2003, but I can assure you that the bulk of my male colleagues make from 25% to 40% more money than I do (based on comparisons of actual advances and sell-throughs from the same publisher.) So don't kid yourselves if you think we're all treated the same, regardless of gender. We're not.
I have kept myself away from e-mail lately, as I'm getting a lot from members of Certain Writer Organizations Who Should Know Better Than To Mess With Me:
We haven't seen you at [Big Important Thing] for the last two years, and you were so popular in New Orleans . . .
I was on pain medication in New Orleans. Send me a big bottle of narcotics and I'll reconsider.
I love you. Can any words possibly sound sweeter or offer greater comfort?
I'll never bother you again works for me.
I have attached a copy of the first three chapters. Cover blurbs need to be twenty-five words or less, so your comments should be brief.
My comment is exactly two words. Guess what they are.
Your future looks very bright...
Is that your teeth I hear grinding?
Do you have a contact at Popular Science Magazine? I have written a nonfiction article on . . .
PopSci came looking for me, and exactly when did I become your agent?
You should think more carefully about what you write. You are representing women writers all over the world.
Am I? Wonderful. We'd like to paid the same as male writers; can someone take care of that, please?
See you around the con circuit, I'm sure ...
And what planet are
you on, sweetheart?
9,689 Total for 11/07/03
No Man's Land:
Often as a writer you have to stray beyond the boundaries of your own emotional experience and basically guess what it would feel like to be your character in his or her particular situation. This is okay if the character is modeled after you, but when you have a serial killer falling in love with another serial killer, it's a bit tougher. Still, I promised a few folks that I would finish "Silence" (a story I started writing over at FM back in May) and I have to resolve this highly unusual relationship in a logical fashion.
These are two utterly unredeemable people. A tiny part of me wants to "fix" them, but I'm squashing it; they are beyond saving. Situations like these bring me back to that Eternal Question, "Can a monster feel love?" More often than not, a monster is a monster all the way to the bone, but there have been cases of a few homicidal maniacs being gentle and wholly devoted to a parent, spouse, child. Often people who have no regard for human life are big pet lovers, too. So I believe it is possible for a few of them to experience the same emotions we "normal" people feel.
But do they feel it the same way in which we do? I keep returning to a long-held belief of mine, that once you cross a line and do something appalling and insane, like murder someone, it separates and changes you into something other than human. The Green River killer, who has been splashed all over the news lately, could not have murdered all those women without it warping his soul. So while a monster may still be capable of human feeling, I don't believe they feel it in the same manner we do. The distorted soul must in turn distort the emotions felt.
Now to make the final leap -- distorts it how? Into what? Any opinions out there?
Writing what you love has one drawback; you sometimes need an alarm clock to pull you out of the work and back into the real world. In the work, I'm investigating an arson crime scene in the French Quarter and watching my two characters struggle to be professional when all they really want to do is jump each other. In the real world, I have to do the weekly bookkeeping and start the laundry. That's why I have two alarm clocks; one is never enough.
10,771 Total for 11/06/03
One of my best writing days since summer. I think because I unplugged the phone from the wall. :)
24 hour deadline, wasted:
My editor e-mailed today; the editor of the annual devotionals antho requested two more from me. Since they're under a tight deadline, I took a pair that I had roughly outlined, finished writing/polishing them, and sent them off. I was tempted to fiddle with them -- short pieces have to be so tight and flawless -- but I knew they were as good as they were going to get, so I covered my eyes and hit "send."
I don't think submitting gets any easier when you turn pro. Actually, I think it gets harder. After a time you get to know too much about publishing and your editor. That knowledge can make you paranoid. The other, invisible pressure is trying (mainly subconsciously) to top yourself. Building a substantial body of professional work also means lugging it around with you. AKA Career baggage.
I don't think about any of this when I write, thank heavens, or I'd never finish anything. I think about it while I'm watching the pages emerge from the printer, when I'm packing the shipping box, when I'm burning the final backup. A lot of the time I think, "Boy, if this is a practical joke, it has to be the longest one in history."
I think this is a healthy attitude, and I hope I keep it. No one automatically rates their place in the world, you should always be fighting to keep it. Otherwise you become complacent and lazy, and what got you there -- your particular edge -- grows dull and useless.
A year or so back a friend recommended an herbal supplement, Kava
, to help deal with stress, and I tried it with great success. However, my doctor wanted me to stop taking it until he stabilized my athritis treatment. Now that I'm back off the anti-inflammatory meds (all of which were aggravating my old pal, stomach ulcer #9) my doctor gave me the green light to take Kava again.
It always a couple of days for the full effect of Kava to kick in, and if you're expecting a big thing, you'll be disappointed. It's very subtle and gradual. What I mainly feel is that I'm more relaxed and even-tempered, and it seems like I don't get as mentally exhausted as I do at the end of the work day. There are no narcotic effects, and it does not make my insomnia worse, two more pluses. When I stop taking it, there is never any sort of withdrawl, either.
Drawbacks: some people taking large doses of kava have suffered liver damage, and you should not take it if you're on another medication (always check with your doctor before you take an herbal supplement.)
Shake them Up:
Linda Howard has a new novel, "Cry No More" that just hit the shelves. There is a beautifully executed plot twist at the end, which is one reason I buy her books. You can't predict the twists in her book and they are always whoppers.
A plot twist is the unexpected event or events that your reader really shouldn't see coming. Example: Little Red Riding Hood takes a basket of goodies to Grandma's. The Big Bad Wolf dresses up like Grandma to deceive Red and lure her close enough to devour her. [begin plot twist]
After questioning the BBW, Red pulls a shotgun out of the basket and blows off the wolf's head. [end plot twist]
Grandma is rescued from the closet etc. etc.
Plot twists are not hard to write as long as you remember this: never do what the reader expects you to do, but appear
as if you are until the last possible moment.
3,859 Total for 11/05/03
Today I had a two hour teleconference with my editor, who went over revisions on Home for the Holidays and the GCI series in general with me. He's a terrific editor so that was more fun than work.
My publisher sent me cover copy for the mass market version of Blade Dancer; according to the production info listed it will be released in July 2004.
Early Morning Strategies:
A couple people have e-mailed asking if I have any tips on increasing their daily wordcount. My advice is to get a jumpstart on the day. I've been getting up at 4 am for the last couple of months to get in some extra writing time, and I've been able to increase my quota by up to 2K/day.
I needed an alarm for the first eight weeks, because my brain was tuned to 6 am and I rarely get to bed before 1 am. Last night I set the clock for 6 am (thinking to sleep in a little, as my insomnia seems to have eased off) and damn if I didn't wake up at 3:57 am anyway. I'll have to work on getting to bed before midnight to compensate for the bioclock shift.
I know getting up an hour earlier is tough for folks with day jobs, but early mornings really are good for writing. Usually everyone else in the house is asleep, for one thing, and there are not as many inside/outside noises to distract you. You start fresh, without the emotional stress and strain you feel at the end of a day. I like the feeling of having accomplished something before I start making breakfast and packing lunches for the kids, too; when I come home after making the run to school I feel like I have a jump on the day's quota, and I'm more relaxed when I sit down to do the bulk of the work.
9,223 Total for 11/04/03
Writing a novel really isn't much different from shooting a movie; a scene is a scene in either medium. While you have a bit more leeway writing versus filming, you want your scenes to be effective and move the story along.
When composing scenes, think about the following:
1. Timing -- try to come into your scene as late as possible. Rather than start with a setup narrative, use dialogue or action to introduce the scene. If you prefer narrative, make it punchy.
All I was trying to do when they caught me was bury my mother in a shallow unmarked grave.
"What you need, honey, is a stud."
The gunshot threw all of the guests into an immediate panic.
2. Work the Surroundings -- you've set up a beautiful castle with cool rooms and guards and tapestries and then everyone does nothing but stand in it looking at each other and talking. Use
the setting -- have your characters move around it and interact with it.
The fussy little tables and chairs lining the hall began sliding back and forth around us, pushed by nothing. The carpet runner under my feet twitched, and I looked down to see the wool loops squirming out of their knots like multicolored worms.
3. Show contrasts -- Unless you've gone and built Beige Planet, you should have interesting contrasts around. Find them and show them to the reader.
The brain sat in a shallow basin on a scope table, right next to a sandwich, a datapad and a server of lemonade.
4. Cut the puppet strings -- characters who talk in tidy, complete sentences that carefully explain everything are mannequins. Breathe life into your characters by having them speak naturally.
“Why are we stopping here?”
“Roman Solange, aka The Rhymer. Small time fence, pushes hot chips and some light tech. He owes me.” I climbed out of the car and did a proximity sweep. “He’s got one man inside. Watch him, he’s twitchy.”
5. Get to the Point -- scenes move the story along. If you have a really cool scene filled with lots of gorgeous characters in a fascinating setting and none of this does absolutely anything to progress the story, you've just written a window display, not a scene.
The guards began tossing the Afflicted over the platform. They fell screaming all around me, their bodies hitting the sand before they scrambled to their feet and tried to escape the circle. When the last had been Thrown, the guards retreated through the platform doors and barred them shut.
Like the other deathcats around me, I lifted my head and roared.
PW's Zaleski advocates
reading genre fiction. Reviewer furious
over reviews. The Snuggle Fabric Softener Bear takes over
his good twin's weblog.
I think we need to do some water testing now.
5,371 Total for 11/03/03
I spent a couple of hours getting the web site stuff finalized and off to Willa, and had some stray arson research to track down, so that ate into my writing time. Also, if there is ever a downer writing day for me, it's always Monday.
You NaNo'ers out there may start feeling some drag now and then when you're writing. AKA the novelty and fun of writing a book wears off and it starts feeling like work. Well, it is
work, but anything worth doing generally is.
I always brag that I don't get writer's block, but the truth is I don't allow myself to get jammed up over writing. If anything gets between me and the words, I write straight through it. Just imagine you're a Mac truck and the blocky feelings are a flimsy little barricade on the highway of your novel. You can park yourself in front of the barricade, stare at it, and it won't go away and you won't go anywhere. Or you can hit the gas, drive through it, crush it to pieces under your wheels and keep moving.
New StarDoc Novella:
"Deimos" is now up over at the web site,
thanks to my web goddess Willa.
That's not a weblog echo, it's me, sitting here and muttering over my cup of diluted ultra-healthy artery-friendly mind-stimulating infusion of herb, wishing it was instead the brew of evil blood pressure-elevating heart-stressing caffeine-laden beans from the mountains of Colombia. Juan Valdez, when are you going to sweep me off my feet?
I'm also wondering why it is that if I'm only permitted three hours sleep a night I have to spend two dreaming of the apocalypse as brought about by the Snuggle Fabric Softener Bear.
Who I just realized looks remarkably like this guy.
I've got to stop reading science fiction...
Part Two (and about time) of Justin Stanchfield's excellent story "God's Guitar" is up for the reading at Abyss & Apex here.
If you missed Part One, read it here
8,232 Total for 11/02/03
(I also did a final edit on Deimos today, which came out to 34,127 words and 154 manuscript pages. I'm sending it off to Willa for posting on the web site before I'm tempted to mess with it again.)
You Know You're Famous When:
I subscribed to a SF chapter-a-day e-mail list so I could get more previews on some different books. Yeah, yeah, well, I'm trying.
Got my regular weekly e-mail just a few minutes ago. This week's book starts off like this:
Today We Begin a New Book!
by S.L. Viehl (fiction)
Published by ROC
Copyright (c) 2003 by S.L. Viehl
Ah, hell, I already know what's going to happen in this one. :)
Dinner with Marie last night was fabulous. We went all out and ate ourselves into the next dress size. She has blackmail photos of me, which is okay, I have blackmail photos of her around her somewhere. Then we went back to her house, by which I have walked my dog a thousand times; she was that close. One of the first things she showed me was a miniature painting I did for her back in 1980-something. She's kept it in her jewelry box all these years. I came home and cried. Okay, enough about Marie, I'm just over the moon about this whole thing. :)
I woke up this morning and could not get out of bed. I was one huge muscle spasm, and my spine said Uh-uh, sweetheart, you're not going anywhere.
This happens once in a blue moon; I just have to take a muscle relaxer, turn on the heating pad and wait it out. I didn't feel like reading, so I stared at the ceiling and thought about the WIPs and ran some dialogue in my head. The cats, who were now concerned because Mommy is never horizontal for more than three hours at a time, jumped up to keep me company and snag some of the heating pad, which they love more than me.
This year has gone by in a blur. Everything in my life is on fast-forward; next month Katherine will be turning nine. Nine
and I swear I just brought that baby home from the hospital. I took copies of my books to dinner last night for Marie, and they filled an entire shopping bag. When did that happen? Tomorrow this weblog will be two years old.
So many things have happened to me, and so many dreams have come true, and yet I can still clearly remember sitting in front of the old white Formica desk in my bedroom, my red hair in braids, wearing peds with the little foofy pompoms at the ankle, typing my first novel with two fingers on the used Royal Academy Mom got me because she couldn't afford a new typewriter. God, I loved that machine; it was a miracle because I could write so fast on it (three pages a night!) I was four years older than Kath is now when I did that.
I was almost sorry when the pill kicked in and my spine unkinked. I wouldn't mind having back spasms a little more often.
Almost forgot to post this. :)
9,549 Total for 11/01/03