Four Green Squares

the tiny little blog no-one will ever read

An Extremely Useful Editing Method for People who Hate Editing May 22, 2015

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 6:04 pm
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So I’m about 6 months into novel-editing hell.

Accordingly, I’m slowly honing an Extremely Useful Editing Method for People who Hate Editing, which I present herewith for any like-minded parties.

  1. Yes. I can do this. Or rather, I MUST do this.
  2. Preferably with minimum tears.
  3. But first, tea. Everything starts with tea. I am in England, after all.
  4. Maybe I should, yanno, open the manuscript?
  5. Ditto actually open my eyes when I look at it?
  6. Ditto take my hands away from my eyes?
  7. Note I didn’t say “no tears” earlier.
  8. Lets really open up this file this time and—
  9. A spelling mistake. First line.
  10. Spelling mistake fixed.
  11. Hey, look at me, I’m editing!
  12. YES I CAN DO THIS.
  13. Maybe.
  14. So give up. Because it’s piss-or-get-off-the-pot time.
  15. Think of all those books on Amazon, in bookstores. All those people could do it. Do you really want to admit they can do something you can’t? You’ve already written the blasted thing. This is the home stretch.
  16. The dream of the perfect first draft will never die.
  17. Maybe I just have to dive in there and—
  18. Wait, I wrote this?
  19. Why do I not remember any of this?
  20. Okay, this bit I remember. It sucks.
  21. Figures.
  22. You know what else sucks? Romance subplots. I’m simply not a romantic at heart.
  23. On to the next scene and see what I have to work with.
  24. The Cut File is my new best friend.
  25. Maybe this would be better set at the beach.
  26. I want to marry my cut file.
  27. Make that a threesome with my ergonomic mouse.
  28. If I move this scene to later and add in a new one here, then that means—
  29. OMG OMG EPIPHANY: Your job as a writer is not to solve your characters’ problems for them. That’s their job over the course of the book. Your job as a writer is to give your characters the right problems to solve. What are the right problems? The ones that move them along their arc or force them to deal with the situation that, deep down, they are avoiding.
  30. It seems so clear. Wow.
  31. Stare out the window and marvel at this clarity. Wonderous.
  32. Except—how does that work in practice?
  33. Maybe if I merge these two characters…
  34. The dream of the perfect first draft is dead, and my cut file is its elegy.
  35. New mantra: Is it Scene? Is it Arc?
  36. Yes, no, yes, yes, no.
  37. I still think my cut file is a better book than what I have left.
  38. BUT IS IT ARC?
  39. Time for more tea.
  40. Not green tea either. High-octane tea.
  41. Halfway? When did that happen?

I’m now at the point where I have to read it all straight through. I know that Holly Lisle and Chuck Wendig both recommend reading it through as a first stage, but c’mon, I didn’t get in this mess in the first place by listening to wisdom from the trenches, did I? Besides, everyone needs a hobby. Mine is reinventing the wheel.

Novel

But here it is. Yes, humungous but I do the “comment” thing in Word, which means the actual page gets shrunk when you print it. To compensate, I upped the font to 14 pt. So between that and the ridiculously large margins due to comments, it was 435 pages printed out. I think it could kill a cat if dropped from waist height.

I shall keep you updated as and when…

 

News, news, news. Yup, that much news March 6, 2015

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 2:59 pm
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So, I said I had some news, did I?
 

  • So, those of you that did make the awkbot cry, here’s a chance to read my story “A Touch of Red”, which is just out in the Spring 2015 (March) issue of Mirror Dance.

 

  • My story “Mission Critical”, which first appeared in Luna Station Quarterly’s issue 17 , was selected to appear in its first “Best of” anthology, out later this year. It’s about an alien that eats nearly everyone and how can you not want to read it knowing that?

 

  • My story “Refugee Status” (one of my Clarion application stories, for the interested) has been accepted by This Dark Matter to be published the first Friday of March. Oh, yeah. Today.  The entire future is being evacuated back to present day, and it’s a love story set in one of the refugee camps. Bear in mind, it is a horror e-zine so maybe it’s not so much of a romance. Or is it…

 
Seeing this story in print has special meaning. This is the first short story I ever had critiqued or workshopped. God, that feeling of dread and fear expressed as an insane urge to giggle and hide under the cushions. Knowing it wasn’t right but wanting people to tell me it was perfect anyway. Ending up with loads of comments that I then had to figure out how to use, not crumple in a ball and toss under the bed, food for nightmares.
 
I must have done okay, because it got me in to Clarion (or at least didn’t keep me out). It’s been revised a bit since then but remains the same in essentials.
 
I even remember where I got the initial idea, from an exercise in The 3 a.m. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform your Fiction, by Brian Kiteley: “Use Cookery—menu preparation, the love of this process—as a way of understanding a man and a woman’s relationship to one another.”
 
I just happened to set the kitchen in a refugee camp, in a world having to cope with the entire future being evacuated. Once a sci-fi writer…
 
So much of my personal writing history is bound up in this story, along with the fact that I could never write it now. I simply would not make these plot choices again. Not that I think they are bad; I’ve just made them already. Mined that vein of inspiration, moved on.
 
Seeing it out in the world feels like the proper, befitting end to my “learning to write” stage. Not that I think I need to stop learning; I don’t think you can ever stop learning new things about writing, or wanting to improve. But I definitely wouldn’t call myself a beginner, either.
 
There you go. Stories published in the space of about a week that span about four years of my writing. Such is the strange timeline of the writer’s life.

 

Two things January 20, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — FourGreenSquares @ 8:47 pm

And only two things because Clarion application season is here again:

(1) In the 2.5 years since Clarion, I have written more than in the entire preceding decade.

(2) This is, from what I understand, not at all an unusual reaction.

Clarion. Because who needs sleep?

 

WIP Kill your Darlings Time December 30, 2014

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 5:51 pm
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Sigh.

I get it. I do.

First draft vomit becomes final draft exquisite entree.

Wait. Somehow that seems backwards. I’m not sure I want anything constructed from reconstituted vomit, even in analogy form.

Lets try this: first draft buffet–all those paths partly taken before realising they don’t quite work out–becomes the single platter of a final draft.  The most appealing choices from the array in front of you.

Which means that some things gotta go. Like this.

I didn’t even write it thinking it would fit in the draft, but more for my own knowledge of what happened. Then I tried to shoehorn it in several places but no way a near-2,000-word flashback isn’t going to kill the pace. Even broken up into chunks.

Given that it’s been a while since I’ve had any WIP stuff up here, I thought I’d share. At least it’s going somewhere, and this might purge my urge to make it fit the draft.

This, for those keeping track, is from the 4th novel I wrote this year, tentative title Nothing and Forever. It’s YA sci-fi.

You can find it below the cut.

 

(more…)

 

2015: The Year of the Edit November 27, 2014

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 7:40 pm
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Is it close enough to the end of the year to start totting up progress?

I’m not quite done this final project but–fingers crossed–I will be by Dec. 31, even if I’m still scribbling as the ball drops. Even if it’s dropping in a time zone far west of here, even.

Because if I finish that project up (and I’m well past the midway point), that means I’ll have written four novels this year. Yeesh. About 350,000 words at least.

Crikey.

As I look back upon The Year in which I Spewed Novels Non-Stop, I feel a bit like a toddler that just learned a new trick, then has to do it again and again. And again. Oh, and again.

Four bloody novels. Think I got the hang of it now.

Which means I now proclaim 2015 as The Year of the Edit.

I’ve always loved first draft better. Writing all these novels so quickly, in such a short span of time, has shown me that part of that preference definitely stemmed from not really knowing how I arrived at the story in the first place. To cf. a previous post, I could make pretty story-shaped splotches but not much else. How do you fix a car if you don’t know how engines work? For a long time, that’s how editing felt.

Writing all those novels, solving that many pacing, character, plot, worldbuilding problems–and feeling my way through the different story dynamics and synergy that informed the stories’ varied topographies–means I feel like I finally know enough about how novels function “under the hood” to get out my wrench and oil can, pop the bonnet open, and get my hands dirty.

So yes, the Year of Editing. I’m actually looking forward to it…

And I’ll put it in print, right here: if I start a new novel without getting at least one of these four out the door, you can rip my pen from my twitching fingers and hide all my paper. The Year of Editing. And Some Short Stories. Which Also Need Editing.

Can we sense a trend yet?

Editing. Editing. Editing.

After all what does a toddler do after learning one trick but start on another?

 

More good news – A Touch of Red upcoming in Mirror Dance November 2, 2014

Filed under: writing — FourGreenSquares @ 12:06 pm

I am very pleased to announce that my short story “A Touch of Red” has been accepted by Mirror Dance for the Spring 2015 issue.

The story features a river that runs red with the goddess’ blood once a year, and swimming in the river at this time might grant you magical powers that last for a year. I’ve had a novel idea for this world rolling around in the back of my brain for a while (gotta finish up my current three  WIPs first, sigh), but couldn’t resist fleshing out the world with this short story.

Which is about shoes. Thanks, muse, thanks a lot…a river that grants magical powers and…and…my muse gives me shoes. No complaints, though.  Its one of my favourite things I’ve written and almost everyone has said it’s made them cry so…get those tissues ready and I’ll post a link when I get it.

 

Get yer Red Volume now October 5, 2014

Filed under: clarion,writing — FourGreenSquares @ 3:06 pm
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The Red Volume is out (okay, it has been for a while–my bad).

And it’s received incredibly good reviews: Neil Gaiman recommended us on Twitter,  Cory Doctorow did the same on Boing Boing, Tor.com called us its “new faves,” and Walter Jon Williams (one of our Clarion instructors) showed the love.

It’s not too late to get your copy. Available on pay-what-you-want, DRM-free, at awkwardrobots.org.

And E.G. Cosh, who designed the awkbot on the cover, also put together this cute little video available on youtube.

Don’t make the awkbot cry! Get your copy of the Red Volume today.

 

 
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