Sunday, June 27, 2010

posted on a different blog

There are also some blogs I post to occasionally. I just posted on

Saturday, June 26, 2010

posting elsewhere

I have another blog, you know. I had a blog I'd written in notepad and this blog wouldn't let me copy and paste, so I posted it over on my wordpress blog, which would. Then something strange happened. I blogged again. And again. Then I blogged here, then there again. Anyway, from here on out I think I'll post on one blog and put up notes on the other that I did.

So you can find today's post here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing by the Numbers - 2

One topic I see a lot of on author blogs and in the various online groups that feature authors, is the use of outlines versus 'pantsing', i.e., winging it, playing it by ear, throwing stuff on the wall and seeing what sticks...well, let's stick with pantsing.

I am a pantser. Just thought I'd make that clear.

Back when I first started writing the book that eventually became Unbinding the Stone, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had a dream (really, the whole thing started with a dream I had one night) and a first line that popped into my head, but nothing else. Okay, something else, years of reading other people's fantasy novels, and of course, my wonderful high school English classes.

So when I sat down to write that first draft I put down that first line and thought, "Now what do I do?" I thought about it for a day or so, and decided I really didn't like descriptive prose. I didn't read it in the books I read, and I would be damned before I'd write it. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a need for description of some kind in a book. My solution to this dilemma was simple and obvious: pay attention to what the character perceives, rather than what he sees. We all see things that we don't perceive, simply because we've seen it a million times before. What we perceive is usually the stuff that matters to us at that time, for whatever reason.

The connection to pantsing in all of this obvious, I'm sure. I was pantsing squared. That's why this post is called Writing by the Numbers - 2. In the first Writing by the Numbers I wrote about writing for me, for number 1, so to speak. Maybe I should stop before I get to 3, not sure what'll happen there.

Back to squared pantsing. Not only was I making it up as I went along, I was making up how to make it up, as I went along. It didn't stop with description, you see, it became everything I wrote. What words the guy used, how did he speak, how did the non-human creatures speak and act, how did gods act, all with an eye to making them readable to a mere human like myself. (Which is crap, really, since I was writing them, they obviously had to be readable to me. The problem was making them still sound plausibly like gods and non-humans.) Needless to say it all worked. Eventually. That first book did need some extensive revision, mainly because the computer it was on crashed and I had no backup, but also because the first version sucked, big-time.

The second book, A Warrior Made, was similar but very different, since I never do the same thing twice. The good thing was, I had some idea of what the main character was like. The bad thing was, it was 20 years later, he had grown and changed a lot in the meantime, and I added 6 other main characters.

My latest novel, St. Martin's Moon, which starts with a werewolf attack on a lunar colony, was even more pantsed than them. Not only did I not know what was going to happen next, I didn't have a plot, or even a genre for the book. It was originally supposed to be a horror/mystery but I don't really do much with setting (a requirement for horror) or plot (necessary for a good mystery). Unfortunately I found out too late, and here I was with these really cool characters walking around and doing stuff. The only connection to all these things was the hero, since everything that happened was because he was there. But he wasn't doing them. When I finally figured out what the book was about, some 2 weeks after I finished it, the amazing thing was that it all worked!

The only way I can write is if I have something that I've already written, to work with. Outlines are not possible for me. I have to have the story written up to that point so I have something to extend. Unbinding the Stone itself started from a philosophical notion I heard about in class, that I used a fantasy context to develop and build on. So I have to say, pantsing is a great thing. For me it's the only thing. But really, I would recommend not pantsing about your pantsing.

Wait a minute, I just had a great idea for that third post--!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Evil Genius

This blog is not about me. Well it is about me, since it's my blog and you will get a dose of my writing and responses to things.

But this blog is about a great set of books I dscovered completely by accident in the library a few weeks back. My daughter (the 9-year-old, not the 15-year-old) is currently reading books in the YA section of the library, and is constantly after me to bring her home new material. Her favorite is animal books, but there's a limit to the amount of that stuff out there. So I went looking about the shelves at random, and came across this nice little book--okay, not so little, it's a bit thick for YA--called Evil Genius. See, the title wasn't about me at all, so there.

Evil Genius is the story of young Cadel Piggott, a man of incredible smarts raised by people of incredible dumbs. He is taken to see a 'therapist', Thaddeus Roth, but it quickly becomes clear that Roth's method to deal with Cadel's moral quandaries is to remove his sense of morality altogether. To this end, he and Cadel's father, the supervillain known as Phineas Darkkon, have created an academy of Evil know as the Axis Institute for World Domination (eat your feeble English school heart out, Hogwarts).

I stop at this point because I don't want to divulge too many spoilers, and this book deserves a close read. Harry and his friends have nothing on Cadel and his enemies. In many respects this book is a YA version of Soon I Will Be Invincible, another superhero novel on the evolution of the villain, equally fun is a totally different way. Doctor Horrible too, but without the songs.

I liked this book so much that we went out and bought both it an its sequel, Genius Squad, and have read them both. We eagerly await the next in the series, Genius Wars.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Roads not taken

I could have died yesterday.
It isn't much of an observation. In this world we can almost die every day, several times over. Most of the time we don't notice the possibilities, but they exist nonetheless.
Yesterday I got my face rubbed in it. I was taking my daughter to a bowling party for her 4th grade class. We're driving along, and I get to the turnoff where I would normally go to get the place. But right in front of me is an oil tanker truck, and I really don't want to be stuck on a one-lane road behind something that slow. So I don't make the turn, going straight and taking a different and slower route to the same place. I get there right on time anyway, and as I'm signing her in, a guy comes out and says that some kids might be delayed, since there was an accident on a certain street. It semed an fuel oil truck had been hit and overturned!
A couple of hours later I go back to the place to pick up my daughter, who was having a lot of fun and didn't want to leave, but what can you do? I took a different route home, the one I would have taken going down, and sure enough there was still a circus on the road, trucks with flashing lights everywhere, and the same oil truck I didn't want to be stuck behind, now upright on the grass.
That got me to thinking, especially since it was my turn to blog on my publisher's site and the subject was time travel of all things. I don't much care for how backwards time travel is portrayed, usually too many inconsistencies in it. But sideways time travel is of great interest, worlds at the same moment in time but with different histories. For example, one where I followed that truck...