Andrew Vaughn had a series of questions relating to productivity that I answered here. I know one of them is not a surprise to the people here, but I still get people (and in fact earlier this week) who are like, “Wait? You were in the Army.”
Yeah, that comes from being the least likely to join the Army …
I’m working on a scene in the next book in my GALCOM series (the first is Crying Planet, coming out this month). The main character is a civilian contractor recruited by the military because she can see ghosts. So she is serving on this big spaceship, the only civilian there.
And the subject of orders comes up. Most of everyone’s experience with orders is probably seeing Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation bark, “And that’s an order!” (or probably any movie with military officers), or soldiers answering “Yes, sir” like robots to a command they are told.
It is a such a different experience in the military from the civilian. If I got a cold, I can call my boss and tell him I’m not coming in because I’m sick (and he would probably be happy that I wasn’t there to give it to him). But when I was in the military, my only option was to go to Sick Call. If the doctor, or more likely medic for a cold, said I was fine, he would tell me to return to duty. If I was really sick, like with a virus, they might give me “quarters,” which are orders from a doctor that say “Stay in bed for 24 hours.”
But it does look strange to the civilian because they have the choice of deciding while the military does not.
It’s all in the military mission. We train with the expectation of going to war. That’s the daily life of the military. War is where orders become very important. Orders work hand in hand with the chain of command (that’s the officers) and the NCO Support Channel (that’s the sergeants). They will be in communication with other companies and battalions to know what’s going on. For example, they might know that artillery is going to be fired in a particular area and to keep soldiers out of that area. Obviously, me as the lower enlisted, am not going to know anything about that. Nor would I need to.
Because the leadership has this additional knowledge though, they are the ones who give us the orders. And if something goes wrong, they are also the ones who will give us new orders.
War situations cannot ever have a too many chief problem.
It’s chaotic and stressful to start with, so it needs one unified voice, and that’s how orders fit in.
This morning, we have rain, and it will be turning into sleet and snow later in the day. Kind of wimpy rain, considering what it’s supposed to turn into. Anything ice strikes terror in Washington, DC. because we’re such a commuter town.
By the way, Wednesday it was 72 (no, that’s not a typo). Any bets on what it will be like on January 20?
All the hotels are booked way out to Quantico at least, which is about 30 miles (and probably a 2 hour drive to downtown during rush hour). I was trying to help someone book a hotel, and nothing was available. I told her to start calling around because there might be cancellations, so hopefully she gets a room and not too far away.
New Things in Writing
This week, David Farland had three tips on writing on the senses, which is an advance level skill. Part 3 talked around something I hadn’t thought about: Light.
Non-appeals. The worst kind of non-appeal occurs when you simply neglect to show us something. For example, let’s say that you start a story and your character goes outside his house. You as a writer might imagine that it is dark, but you’ve never told the reader that it is night time. So when your character gets mugged and can’t describe his attacker, the reader might be confused. (This happens quite often in stories. Always let us know what the light source is in every scene.)
So something new to play with in the story!
Dena Wesley Smith has a post up today about typos. In this case, it’s what every blogger has probably experienced–someone zooming in to inform us that they caught us in a typo.
You have sinned! You made a typo!
I don’t know what it is about typos, but they bring out the worst in people. I suppose if you attach writer to that and suddenly we’re supposed to be perfect with the words.
Hmm. Tell that to my fingers. I am constantly making corrections because I am a lousy typist. My fingers get tangled up and sometimes I have words that are mostly spelled correctly, but have an extra letter in there. Particularly as I’ve gotten older (to the point of reading glasses), it’s harder for me to tell if I have too many i’s and l’s, especially if the font is small or condensed.
But then sometimes extra words creep in, and where they’re not supposed to. I wandered into an existing scene, did a quick spell check (three typos, not too bad), then read it. Found this:
Hope passed added the flatware to the plate and passed up up, but left the glass behind
Clearly I was thinking it too many directions when I wrote that!
I like checking soon after I write because occasionally I run into one where I have to stop and think about what I was trying to say. If it’s too long after, I have to strike the sentence entirely because I don’t remember.
Working on Multiple Projects
This week, I was part of an online INTP discussion, which was quite fascinating. Filing was actually the major part of the discussion, and how hard it is just to put pieces of paper in files. It’s like details, and I don’t have much tolerance for it.
But, also my natural state, I like hopping between projects. Sometimes it’s a break, or a way to get a different perspective. Sometimes I even get bored. Doesn’t mean the story is getting boring, but that I need a break from it.
At the moment, I’m working on a science fiction novel, a mystery short story, and a fantasy short story. Both the short stories are set in Morro Bay, California. I’m thinking of wandering around between them, following the flow of what I want to work on. I ended up getting hung up on the fantasy for a week because of a combination of getting stuck (let critical brain in and went in the wrong direction) and wanted to get it done. The result is not as much done as I wanted to. I probably would have figured out the problem if I’d hopped to a different story. Sometimes I need a little time to process where I need to go next.
Washington DC’s big party: The Inauguration
That’s only a few weeks away now. We will be shut down close into downtown because all the streets will be closed. Expect it to be cold. We were 11 when I went out to my car yesterday. Probably no better. But that’s typical weather for this time of the year. At least things will finally get back to whatever normal is after that.
Only six more weeks until Spring!
When I first got out of the military, I was able to do a Myers-Brigg test to see where I fit on the 16 personalities. I’m an INTP, which is probably the smallest percentage out of all the personalities. But when I saw the results of that test, I realized how true they were.
Among other things, I found the Army to be very toxic to creativity. I did not do a lot of writing when I was in, though I had purchased a computer. Part of the problem was that I did live in the barracks, and it’s hard having to be in the room and wondering if someone was going to interrupt me for work. I was the only person in my platoon who lived in the barracks, and I often got tagged when one of the other platoons said, “Sorry, we can’t do this.”
But everything was also very structured, rigidly so. I did the training schedule every week, and we mapped out each day, hour by hour and followed that schedule. If we were going to a training site at 1000, that’s where we were.
And no one liked messy of any kind.
I’m messy when I work. Messy, but not disorganized. It’s just a part of my process. Not like a coworker’s desk that I visited a few weeks ago that scared me. I thought if we had an earthquake, he might actually be in danger!
My squad leader always fussed at me because of my desk. At my second duty station, there was a sergeant who would go behind me and straighten up to his standards.
Then there was my room in the barracks. It always had to be ready for inspection at any time. There were weird rules like if you had a single magazine, you couldn’t have it sitting on the desk. It had to be put in a drawer. Um, I read library books. What was I supposed to do with them?
So even when I went “home” at the end of the day, I couldn’t really be me, and me is important is being creative.
When I got out, it was like all those years of being forced to be so neat exploded, and I got really disorganized and messy. It took a while to rally all that back in to a more normal state.
But because of all this, I always thought I was terribly disorganized. I was completely shocked when a co-writer admired how organized I was.
Sometimes things are not always what they seem!
I ran across the concept of “buried dialogue” a few weeks ago the How to Write a Page Turner lecture. I hadn’t heard of it really much before .. or rather, what I did hear was, well, buried.
It’s in one of my craft books, mentioned in passing, buried in a paragraph about other things. In fact, I found very little on it at all. This is one of the few posts (counting on one hand two) that discussed it at all.
What it is:
When you have a bunch of narrative, then some dialogue, and then some more narrative. So …
Narrative. Narrative. Narrative. Narrative. Dialogue. Narrative. Narrative. Narrative. Narrative.
Narrative. Narrative. Dialogue. Narrative. Narrative. Dialogue. Narrative.
Yup. I’ve been guilty of doing exactly that in my fiction.
For those readers who like to skim dialogue, that’s a piece of dialogue that would get missed entirely. As a visual spatial, I hop on words rather than reading from word to word, so it’s possible I would miss it, too. Hmm. That does explain times when a book has lost me …
Anyways, since not burying dialogue is technique seen at the best seller level, I looked for it while I was typing up Michael Connelly’s The Reversal (first three chapters). What I found was more like:
Narrative. Narrative. Narrative. Narrative.
It’s also a pacing thing, a skill that I eventually want to work on. But pacing is such a big skill area that I want to whittle away at it with other areas like dialogue and narrative first.
When I try thinking differently about this, it makes me think not only about the dialogue but the narrative itself. These is a lot of narrative that gets in as, really, a placeholder (e.g., he nodded, she sighed).
So I’m playing with it on both my current short story March of the Gulls and my science fiction novel, book 2 to Crying Planet.
In 2016, I published 22 ebooks (might have a couple more before the end of the year). That’s an astounding number, and I want it to be higher next year. The only way to make money as a writer is produce a lot of writing (as opposed to writing one book and have it become a best seller. A best seller has a shelf-life of probably a month).
But I also don’t do well with typical goals that most writers set. Like writing X words a day. Or writing X books in a year. The last time I set a specific goal like it, none of it happened.
So it’s a different goal: The Year of Craft.
I’m still working out that means in how I will be doing things in the new year. Then I’m a pantser, and it’s discover things as I go along!
Things I’m not doing this year
- Submitting to anthology deadlines. Okay, I’ll probably still submit to a few of them, but I get pummeled at work by deadlines every month and I just don’t need that on the writing side.
- I will not take workshops to for learning how to fix a writing problem. The whole writing culture is about “Your story is born broken, you have to fix it,” and for pantsers, they’re told even worse. I’ve treated craft I’ve struggled with as something to be conquered, sometimes with a battering ram. That’s going to stop. It has to. It’s very frustrating for me when I write and ruins the fun.
Things I’m doing this year
- Taking four workshops. I’ve got four workshops planned out:
- Advanced Character Dialog: I’m actually taking this because I’m really good at characterization and I’ve largely ignored any skills because of that.
- POV: This is another advanced class, because I want to play with the POV.
- Cliffhangers: I want some better understanding about how to end my chapters in an exciting way. Sometimes writers think that it’s bad to do a cliffhanger because they think it means “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” at the end of every chapter–not as something to make the reader turn the page.
- The last one’s open. Might be Pacing or B Story. Haven’t made up my mind. Could also be a new workshop that shows up that piques my interest.
- Studying best selling writers. I’ve been typing Michael Connelly’s first three chapters of The Reversal and learning a lot. Typing the scenes is like an artist painting a Monet. It’s amazing. I see things that I didn’t when I was reading. It’s also a relatively low cost, and enjoyable, method of learning.
- I’m branching out into other genres, like Mystery, and experimenting with series. I never thought I could do a series until I wrote Crying Planet. Before I got to the end of it, I wrote a short story with the same characters, which placed Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest. Then I got an idea for the next book (which is either called Cursed Planet or Lonely Planet).
- I’m going to try writing in groupings of something. Like I did a mystery story set in Morro Bay, so I’m going to try writing other stories set in Morro Bay.
Finally, Crying Planet is coming in January, my first science fiction novel. And it’s a series! I never thought I would be able to do a science fiction story, let alone any kind of series. I’m just waiting on it to come back from the copy editor.
All I’ve been seeing this Christmas are commercials screaming “Fear of Better Options” (FOB), pointing at stores that offer too few options–obviously to get you to buy at their store.
Then there’s my trip to the drugstore. Yesterday I cut my finger on a grater (carrots are dangerous), and I ran out of bandages. So it was off to the local drugstore to buy a box of bandages.
Do you know how hard it is to buy something simple like a bandage?
It used to be that when I bought bandages, the choices were the fat-sized ones, the narrow ones, the tiny ones, and the odd-sized ones. Now I have to choose between flexible, waterproof, anti-bacteria. Then, under each of those categories, there are even more choices to make.
Can’t a bandage just be a bandage?
Men visit Rewa’s island with monstrous automatons and promises–and the ability to help her walk normally again. They just want to farm the sugar cane fields for Rewa and her people. If one farmer agrees, everyone will agree. The decision hangs on what Rewa does. And no matter what her decision Rewa makes, it will cost her.
This is pretty cute. Just make sure you stay until the end for an appearance of Santa Claus, Star Wars-style.
This is Lee Greenwood’s iconic song God Bless The USA done to Christmas lights. It was kind of like a Desert Storm theme song–when I returned home, I heard it everywhere on the radio. The radio stations would play it on the anniversary of the start of the war, until the second Iraq war started.
About halfway through the video, it has each of the services’ songs, and then switches back to Lee Greenwood. Amazing work on the lights.