Beta-readers

So. My current progress report is that I am at 69157 of 69157 words. Yes, the manuscript grew. This is normal for me when I edit, because my biggest bane is writing too condense.

Doubtlessly, if a professional editor would go over the text, there would be text cut from the manuscript. I have seen the pages of professional authors where they show pages with large red x’s through them. That doesn’t change that when I read through my own texts, I tend to find stuff I tried to discuss in a sentence for which I really should have taken a page. So I work hard to put more air into my manuscripts, so it’s a fun experience to read, instead of a heavy information overload.

I mostly write because I love to write. I love the process of working on, crafting and polishing a story. Of seeing my text and knowing I wrote that. But I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t like for other people to read my stories and enjoy them. Even though, that is the dream, it’s also something I am absolutely terrified off. It’s really scary showing people something so precious, something so deeply personal, something I made and am proud of in a sort of fragile way. Which makes asking people to be my beta reader for a novel-length manuscript one of the hardest and scariest things to do.

However, I feel that if I am going to send my manuscript out to a publishing-house and/or an agent, I should at least have one other human looking at my texts beforehand. Because you know what you are trying to say and you know how your story-world and your characters work. But it also needs to make sense to other people.

Fortunately, I have a partner I love and trust, even or maybe especially with something like this, even though it’s scarier to let the people closest to me read the text than for instance a total stranger. He will read and comment on it, in a useful way.

Maybe I will also approach a couple of friends that like to read in this genre, since while my partner is amazing, urban fantasy isn’t entirely his thing. If I can find the courage :-/ Cause letting my friends read my words…. it remains scary as all hell.

Progress report

So the last few weeks I have been busy editing. My daughter has started napping for one longer period a day, instead of mostly power napping for like 10 minutes at a time, and sleeping a bit earlier. So I am proud to announce that I am at: 48785/66237 words. That’s about 2/3’s done.

I feel proud. And motivated to edit on. So now, for the hardest, and least re-written bit of the book. I am editing on!

An Editing State of Mind

I just spend well over an hour organizing my e-mail. My brain is looking for structure and organization, and by imposing order on the world, it is easier to impose order on itself. A mindset that doesn’t lend itself overly well to writing new things, but which works perfectly well for editing. And reading. Which I have both been doing.

On reading, I have greatly enjoyed Anne Bishop’s new book, Lake Silence, which was set in the world of the Others, but featured a new set of characters. The book really shows off her world-building, something I believe she is one of the very best at of all the authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. The new story is interesting as always, and I like that she has a main character that is both a little older and damaged by the world. A lot of successful books in Urban Fantasy have a young and supremely attractive main character, so I greatly enjoy it when someone breaks this pattern.

Next, I also read the new book by Patricia Briggs, Burn Bright, in the Alpha and Omega series. Every time I wonder how she manages to keep building on her world, expanding the story and the characters evermore, while still drawing from her existing character-set. This is extra impressive because she is a master at information management. She provides her readers with the information relevant for the scene, slowly unfolding the story throughout her books, but generally little more. To the point that if what feels like a side-story or a side-note always ties back into the main story arch, and that I have started spotting upcoming plot-twists by the side-stories taking up too much space…

Outside of that I have gone back to Obsidian, once again. I want to send it to a publisher and an agent somewhere in the next month and a half. I have polished so often, that that should be enough time(I know, I have been intending to do this ‘soon’ ever since I started this blog – one day I will manage).

Afterwards, I want to take a stab at finishing one of my many unfinished novels. In the end, I am more of a novelist then a short story writer. If new stuff comes up, though, I may start on a submission to the Paul Harland-contest, a Dutch contest for speculative fiction. I have been intending to participate again. But I am getting ahead of myself. First thing on the menu: editing Obsidian. Once more into the breach 😉

Writing and the baby

Last year I was pregnant, and towards the end of the year, I became mother of a beautiful little girl. This, not surprisingly, has impacted writing.

During the second half of the pregnancy, there was a bit of time where I wrote a lot. Then my head was so full that playing games was a challenge, and the only new books that worked for me were Young Adult, with their less complicated plot-lines. Mostly I was comfort reading, rereading series that I know well and love deeply.

When my daughter Aurora was born late November, the first couple of weeks were surviving. All went well, but learning to take care of a baby is a lot of work. Mostly I was watching a lot of shows, not even reading. Slowly, as the new life is settling in, there are less things I need to figure out and she is sleeping for slightly longer stretches during the night, I am slowly writing again.

So far it’s a stolen 5 minutes here and there. I don’t expect for it to become much more, but with a little luck, I will be able to go to 15 minutes of writing every day in a week or two. Who knows, maybe I will be very lucky and will be able to expand those 15 minutes to an hour of writing a day in a few months. I’ll try and update the blog every now and again, when time allows and inspiration for blog posts (and not stories) strikes.

Different media, different voices

Outside of writing fiction, I play Larp. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a form of improvisational theatre without an audience. If you’re curious, more information can be found here, for instance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_action_role-playing_game. While my short story and novel writing was slowing down, I did write several characters for Larp, and some plot for Larp, for other people to encounter. It got me musing about the similarities and differences between both kinds of writing.

With both kinds of writing, I first write the backstory of the character(or imagine and fail to write down, sometimes, with short stories). How did the character end up there? What does the audience need to know about the character, and how does the character’s background influence their decisions. I try to make the character as realistic and vibrant as possible, without making the background so complex I can no longer work with it, either in the game or in the story.
Also, with both kinds of writing, I try to create as interesting a setup as I can. To put the starting condition so, that the characters have something interesting to deal with.

Which brings me to the major difference between the two. Players happen. So from the moment you send the setup into the game-world, how the players interact with it, solve the problem, is out of your hands. All you can do is hand them tools, if necessary, or try to put them on a path by what information you release when to them. Even still, if you come up with 5 or 6 possible solutions or courses of action, they will present you with a 7th. If you’re writing the entire story, you can steer your characters to the most interesting outcomes, determine exactly when what reaches them, and if the outcome is unsatisfactory, you can go back and tweak until it works better for you. You write the continuation of the story of the character you’ve created, and control all the aspects of the story. You are chained by your own imagination, though, if you are inventing all of it.

Thus, both have a lot in common, while they still differ significantly. They have their own challenges, but also a lot of potential to build synergy, the one helping you become more imaginative in the other. I am enjoying how doing both is expanding my horizons very much.

Achtergrond bomen Keukenhof

Update

I have been supremely busy and not writing much. So, also not blogging much. I am expecting a baby though, and *have* to take it a little easier. Since I need to sit more, I am hoping to convert that into some more writing time again. I miss writing. So here’s to hoping I will manage to write more, instead of just sit more and watch/read stuff.

Contrast and cliché

A lot of writers merrily use cliché in their story. Using them might be obvious, but in that lie several benefits. People fill in a lot of information for those characters(and plotlines) themselves, because it plays into their expectations. It means you have to use less words to put down a character, less cues to create a plotline, leaving more space for other characters, other plotlines you want to include.

Personally, however, I love how you can use clichés best by how you can use them to lead readers on, to use their expectations to generate plot twists by having what at first glance appeared a cliché deviate from what people think it will do. When you have the damsel in the frilly pink dress clobbering giants in her spare time, or the vampire that loves his kittens – not to eat but to hang out with-, or the honest politician. It creates left fielders people do not see coming because of preconceived notions on how things are. Like starting a really gritty story set in a modern world with ‘once upon a time’.

By flipping the cliché, you can thus create a sort of emotional contrast, leading on with what’s expected and then turning it into something more exciting. Although its impact does diminish when it’s done too much. After all, if everyone turns the damsel in distress into a strong character saving herself, it will by definition turn into a cliché itself.

What is your favorite flipped cliché?