My thoughts are a bit mess this week so it is leading to a bit of a messy roundup.
Have you read blahblahblah
I told you messy. I both love and despise all of the lists about what you should read and what you have to read and what you are a horrible person if you don’t read and what you aren’t a real writer if you don’t read and whatever. They always say more about the people compiling them than anything else.
I love that they can introduce you to new books. I love that they give you a chance to see if you are being broad in your scope. I hate the often prescriptive nature of the lists. It feels like it is always the same books over and over and over. And the over and over nature of it feels a little like if you don’t like this thing you’re not a real fan. There is also a bit of the whole idea of a true fan that I will explore at some other point in time, but for now. Bullshit. The bullshittiest of bullshit.
Illusion of Free Will I feel a little surprised that this is a new idea apparently? Is this really a new idea? I assume there is something fundamentally different about this than other stuff I’ve read.
There is an idea in some communities (I am really sure there is a Mysterious Universe episode that talks about this but I’m having a hard time finding it so I may be wrong?) that the gap in time is basically where …consciousness lives. Or where the soul lives.
My goal was to rewrite a novel. I knew it was going to need a lot of changes. But I was hoping I could focus and get the editing of it done. So that I could move forward with that series. I thought this might be a big goal, but I thought it was doable.
But poorly considered…
I just started a podcast. It has only been going for a few months, and I’m determined to keep it going and it is a lot of work to make it happen. Promoting it, getting the word out, bringing in listeners and authors, supporting the authors with critique feedback, not to mention actually writing, editing, recording and producing.
Somehow I didn’t really managed to take that into account. I’m trying to balance a lot of things and I think that I’m trying to figure out what a good balance is. I’m learning.
Post Camp Nano debrief
I failed. Super duper failed. Super duper fantastical extraordinary failed. I at one point had a little done and I’ve actually gone backward. I have less done now than when I started the month. I had a couple of chapters edited. Now I have to throw the whole book out basically.
All is not lost
But on the upside (yes there is an upside here) I learned stuff. I learned a lot of stuff. Like I was creating a plan that might be overly ambitious, or aggressive, or three minutes of laughter…”you’re kidding right? oh ….shit.”
I learned that the structure I need to create for myself. I learned what I think for now a better plan would look like. I learned that I need to make sure I don’t go, I’m only going to edit. Editing is hard and in a lot of ways feels less creative and less like I’m doing a thing. So I need to weave in doing some writing and not only editing.
So I went backward. Mostly. But I think I actually came up with a really good plan on how to make it actually work. I have good ideas on resolving the problems.
They are big changes, removing an entire character and spreading her actions between two other characters. Adding several more scenes. Changing one scene completely radically, it was actually one of my very big stumbling blocks, I couldn’t see a way past it. Now I have a great solution.
I made a lot of really good notes so I can come back and pick this up later. It might have to sit for a while longer before I come back around to editing it. And that’s ok. I should be able to pick it back up with the good notes.
I had great cabin mates this year! Some have already written and published, some are just starting out. But they all had great things to share. Many thoughtful conversations. Most of the cabin was working on paranormal romanceish works. Some historical (which was great to hear perspective on), some modern, some editing, some writing fresh. It was very cool to have a great cabin. So thank you to all my cabin mates!
Bonus recording learning…
I may be better off scheduling recording longer things in the winter. Doing full books and doing narration for other books, might be better left as a winter project in general.
Chuck Wendig had a challenge and while his challenge wasn’t, stop editing and write something new, mine was. The challenge was pick from a list of titles (The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis) and then go forth and write 1,000 words.
I’ve been editing and working on writing related stuff so much I haven’t done anything just straight up out of whole cloth lately. So I took this challenge with gusto!
I’m posting here before I get all out of gusto and start feeling crummy about my work. Listen to the audio. (And for more audio tune into the podcast!)
The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis
I don’t remember when I started, mom said I always loved to go out when we were absolutely not supposed to be outside. I’d sneak past everyone and head down to the water.
My older sisters were supposed to watch me and they’d get in trouble because I’d still sneak out. I didn’t care. I still don’t. I want to be in the water. I know when the water is angry, I can feel it coming.
I never get hurt, and I bring home cool stuff I find in the water. Once, I found a really shiny ring, it was hanging from a tree branch. Mom and dad sold it, they don’t complain about me going out anymore.
The best thing I found, was a surfboard. I didn’t take that home. Mom and dad would sell it. I’d seen people surfing, but they always got out of the water when it was getting angry. They were scared.
I wasn’t scared.
The surfboard was twice as tall as me and it was hard to get it out my hiding spot.
I giggled as I walked down toward the shore with the surfboard on my head, it was too big to carry under my arms. Mom said I shouldn’t laugh when the water got angry. But it was funny just like when grandfather got mad and his face got puffy and red.
I knew the water was bad for some people and for the fields. But mom got to be mad, and dad, and even my brothers and sisters could be angry sometimes. Because I was the littlest everyone just laughed when I got mad.
Most of the people were gone by the time I got all the way to the water. I tried to remember what I’d seen people do on the surfing movies. I laid down on the board in the water and slapped at the water. My arms barely stretched across the board and I couldn’t get them to go very well.
So I got off and pushed it in front of me and swam out as far as I could, kicking my legs behind me.
When I was out far enough that I couldn’t see my house up the hill anymore I pulled myself onto the board. I tried to stand up and fell. I had to try four more times before I managed to stand up and stay up. I looked around. There was no one else on the water. There was no one I could see on the shore.
The water was very angry. I giggled.
I wasn’t sure how to get further out into the water without laying down again, I managed to stand on the middle of the surfboard and kick one foot in the water but I didn’t go anywhere. I decided I’d just stand and wait for the big wave to come to me.
It would be here soon. I did a tiny little shuffle on the board and fell in again. By the time I managed to climb back up on the board and turned to face out, I could see the wave coming toward me.
I could hear the water, it was screaming mad. I screamed with it. It was good to scream sometimes when you were mad. Mom said I had to behave and be a good little girl, but it felt so good to scream. And no one was here to yell at me. I knew the water wouldn’t mind. So I screamed with the water.
It was so much louder than I was, I couldn’t even hear myself. The water under me started to bob up and down.
My feet slipped again and I dropped to my knees. The water was much higher. I thought it would be better maybe to lay down on the board. I slipped as the water moved faster around me and knocked my chin on the board, but I managed to wrap my hands around the sides and my toes hooked under the end just as the first wave pushed me way up into the air.
I screamed and squealed. I felt like the wave was as tall as my house.
The wave kept going but I stayed where I was, I couldn’t see my house or the shore at all. Then another bigger wave lifted me up. I squealed with excitement, I was definitely as tall as my house now.
I stayed on top of this wave. I held onto the board but pushed myself up a little bit more so I was kneeling on top of the giant wave. Shore was racing toward us. The water felt so angry I screamed for it.
The wave got smaller, maybe the water was angry that it got so tiny when it was on land.
I watched the wave eat some of the trees and the little hut that sold candy for kids and drinks for grown ups along the shore. I wondered how far it would climb. I looked behind me and there were no bigger waves.
The water wasn’t so angry any more. It was almost all screamed out. I was too. I wasn’t sure how to get off the wave. I tried to think about the surfing movies.
The water smashed me into a tree. And then it went away. I clung to the top of the tree, and tried to hold onto my board. I had to let the board fall, the water took it away.
I watched the next waves come in, less and less water, less and less angry. All yelled out. Then the water started to leave, go back home.
I climbed down the tree and looked around for the surfboard before everyone else came back out of their houses. It was gone. But I did find a new pair of shoes and a surfboard that was barely taller than me.
Entirely off topic
Searching for a picture to go with this that would be usable with the right license I managed to come up with lots of dudes surfing (even though I specifically searched for girl) and strangest of all…a how to avoid teen pregnancy ad. Not even like water, surfing, or anything related. Just some dude standing there with how to avoid teen pregnancy.
M L Moos writes YA fantasy and is currently working on a magical trilogy featuring three young heroines and an undersea treasure hunt adventure. To learn more, visit her Facebook page.
She lives in Washington with her husband, two boys and one country cat with a cougar alter ego. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s either baking, volunteering at her church or watching Jane Austen movies to make up for the overabundance of testosterone. On the rare occasion she makes it out into public, though, she’s always sure to be glamorous in her mom hair and yoga pants.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the post from Jocelyn over at 52 Letters the last few days. (I know I mentioned it in the roundup post but it has been eating at my brain.)
What makes strong characters?
the current trend of badass, take-no-shit, cool as a cucumber under pressure, stoic protagonists who face fifty million kinds of stress without any outward sign of freaking out
She’s specifically talking about YA but I think that trend is absolutely wider. Calm, cool, an answer and a quip for every situation. When they do have a Moment it is a Thing and not a part of who they are.
Think Buffy right. (I know, a little old but still entirely fits this character.) The times where she breaks down are really meaningful because she’s always got a quip and does the slaying in an entirely casual way.
A part of this is that after you have been dealing with horrible shit for a long ass time you likely get better at it. So I get that by season 4 or 5 or even the third book a character can be like, yeah…been there, done that.
But even the coolest, most badass, take-no-shittiest among us would likely freak the heck out if thrown into these worlds.
There is also an element of why can’t anyone be a hero?
Like Jocelyn I’m introverted. Personally I’m all the way to the introvert side of the scale. I’m over here on my side of the scale trying to break down the edge to get away from the other people.
I do like characters who spend time inside their own head. I like characters who think things through before they do them. And I like watching characters overcome things to go out and fight and win.
Strong characters don’t all have to flex their muscles.
My strong characters
Both Eva and Jenna are somewhat introverted. Much closer to the middle of the scale, but for both their happy places are when they are working on their projects alone. Neither of them are charging out to get into the middle of trouble.
One will go out to fight for the people she loves. One kind of gets dragged kicking and grumbling into fighting.
Diane is very extroverted, but she’s actually a character who is quick to cry, highly emotional, and deeply empathetic.
I do think that just thinking about this will absolutely change the way that I design my characters. Creating more depth and a wider range of characters is always valuable. I know I have secondary characters who are like this. But it is worth considering if there are elements of this that should be brought into other characters.
Any strong characters who are not cool under pressure?
Cress. She’s the first one who jumps to my mind. She grows, but she starts out tiny, taking up as little space as she can. She doesn’t like to speak up. But she is strong. She is powerful.
I’m not sure I’ve got any other good examples coming to my head.
Spring is here and so I’ve done a spring roundup. Well they are vaguely tied to spring in my head. Emotional intensity, sensory experience, creativity, and of course SMBHs. (What don’t you think of Super Massive Black Holes when you think of spring?)
Reading YA and introverts and emotions
Jocelyn at 52 Letters has a great post about seeing yourself in characters, about emotional reactions, and about the way we expect our characters to be. I highly recommend it.
I’m not sure I have all my thoughts wrangled together on this yet so I may end up looping back to it.
Computer Generated Logos not entirely a creative AI but similar I think. (There is also an Atlas of Potential Nations, which generates country names and flags.)
Listen – Table Top Audio is a cool audio tool for listening to audio with a specific ambience. Designed for tabletop gaming, but works incredibly well for writing too. (I’ve actually been loving Thunderspace an app for the iphone for rainstorm sounds as well.)
Taste and Smell? – The future of gardening? I really try to keep myself aware of the range of the future. I know I have talked excitedly about the future of ponytail holders. (Because yes, I am the dullest person ever…shut up.) There seems to be a tendency to focus on some of the big things with technology, but it pervades everything, including gardening. I know there are the fancy indoor gardens (which I’m not convinced I could keep alive) but these little pods seem like another step along the path to the future in another way.
So in reading this I’m not entirely sure I understand it. I want to say I disagree but I don’t feel like that’s the right phrase, if this is what the science shows then …who am I to disagree. But it sort of doesn’t seem like what he’s saying is entirely backed up.
the techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to “highly developed fields” such as chess, sports, and musical performance
But is snowboarding a much more highly developed field than civil engineers? Are musicians not creative?
This was a cool story about the possible reasons that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of the galaxies appear to all spin the same direction. Early fluctuations of the universe seem entirely reasonable for this, but hopefully this can also give us more insight in the long term into the early universe.
I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.
Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.
This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.
I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.
I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.
What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.
Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.
So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!
Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!
I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.
I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.
And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.