Lucky 7 Game

Dear Jane,

My WIP is on hold. It lacks ongoing conflict. My protagonist’s actions don’t affect the big picture. It’s your fault I know about these faults. You made me read many good writing blogs. (Yes, your fault. I see your half of a conversation on Twitter and want to see the rest.)

I also need to focus on a smaller number of spinning plates. My WIP has been set down gently and is wrapped in foam on a safe shelf. There is a box beside it to collect random thoughts, so I don’t have to open the WIP and risk spinning it before I have time to do it right.

Now you make me do this.

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next seven lines as they’re written–no cheating!

(Gulp. I’m still surprised what started as 11 pages of 60 page story is now 86 pages. Fixing the aforementioned problems will make it even longer.)

At nine minutes, still damp, she reported to the office and saluted Gunnery Sergeant Hammett. He nodded at her salute, gave her a data pad and pointed to a chair. “You know the drill, Cadet.”

She wrote. Stick to the facts as I saw them. What if it wasn’t him? The assassin would still be out there, and she had assaulted an innocent victim.

Stick to the facts. He was an intruder. She had immobilized him.

Did she over-react? Should she have stopped after shooting his leg? No, he would have climbed back to the roof and escaped. Shooting the rope, making him fall, risking a broken neck – that had been stupid. She should have shot his arm. An easier shot. He would have hung there until security arrived.

Bonus: Same universe, set 5 or 10 years later. Very different person and story. Hard to believe the last time I touched the file was 2003.

She didn’t need a boyfriend. That would imply that she cared about him, that it would hurt if she lost him. She hurt enough already.

She called him.

“Keyop? It’s Hannah. I’ve got to cancel the ride tomorrow. There’s a sick bobcat in the bush, and the Ministry’s asked for volunteers to track it down before it attacks anyone.”

“Can I help?”

“Pick me up at seven. Volunteers are to meet at the dam. Bring lunch.”


A Published Story!

Yep, published, for a minor definition of published — but still more official than any of my work to date. Under my real name: Sandy Schoen. Yay!

Conversations with my Muse, Part ???

Once again, I’ll save my Twitter contacts the joy of a post every time I come up for air, and the post will self-publish around midnight tonight. (Yes, I like WordPress’s scheduling feature. Now, if only it would Tweet to my account when the post goes out,…)

Going back two scenes, just because … and it’s about 10x faster than it should be. Shotgun rather than agonized.

Paragraph structure in fiction is way different than technical writing. Tech, short is the norm, and you keep to one topic per paragraph. Fiction works best when the thoughts wander a bit, then come back. If you change paragraphs with each topic you get single-sentence paragraphs. I’m still experimenting, but it seems to work best if I split paragraphs by pacing rather than strictly by topic. A single long rambly introspection is one paragraph. Sometimes the next paragraph, or the event that stops the ramble, is introduced in the previous one, to stop it, rather than being the start of the next one. That way drags the reader along rather than starting and stopping. Goes against my training, but seems to work better.

Okay, the emotional lifelines between the characters are all firmly secured, but they’ve taken over from the canon motives. Is this limited to this set of scenes, when they’re living in each others’ back pockets — which is fine. The canon motives could use a little complexity — or is it erasing the canon motives totally? Need to add a tiny bit of canon motives to the mix.

Rethinking, rereading. I think we’re good here.

Jason’s motive is still vengeance, as in canon. I added two friends to the list of people he’s avenging for. It’s also protection, which is in canon, but to a lesser extent than vengeance. Jason tries to protect Lucy and that Galaxy Girl.

Mark’s lifeline allows him to go further into his duty. That duty is still to carry on what his father started. I add a motive to allow Princess to give up less. The way I did it seriously overshadows memory of his father. Perfect line about “I do it for you.” Can I add “and Dad” and not have it come off forced?

Normal solution worked: Remove that wonderful line, preserved here for posterity:
So you can have the life you need.

Now I prefer it without the line. With the line, it looks like he’ll fight to keep them at far opposite ends of the balance. Without it, he’s allowing her to move closer to the middle, which acknowledges that he’ll have to move in as well. (I’m thinking like an engineer. Remember the Tea Balance rule from ChE100E?)

Oooh, it also lets me add in a line about his father’s lifeline / balance. Circle closing. Yep, if in doubt, kill the line that stands out as wonderful. Works every time.

Also, still need her to reassure her roommate not to worry when she doesn’t come home, and to arrange for the room to be empty.

Another loose end: When they add up her courses and her posting, what do they think?

Conversations with my Muse, Part II

Today’s tough scene is their “first time”. The challenge is keeping it balanced, knowing what to do before they close the door.

@JaneLebak Last night’s problem line is now toast. Found a better approach.

He stepped back, uncomfortable. I don’t want her to feel pressured … ROTFL (at Jane’s Twitter comment about zombies) … he felt clammy hands on his neck.

Dear MSWord: Please remember I prefer Draft view, not Print, which has columns.

IvyR @CricketB Dear Cricket, I know what’s best for you, dear girl. Don’t tell me what you think you want; leave the choices to me. Love, MSWord

@IvyR Solutions (often of the “step away from the brick wall” variety.) — in reply to Ivy and Jane talking about multi-tasking while writing

She sounds so …. mercenary.

Dear muses: Does he think of her as girl or woman? Teenager doesn’t sound right, even though it’s accurate.

Can I close the door on them now? Please?

Phew, it’s morning. She wakes up. Eeeek, what about her roommate, worried she didn’t come home? She’s not the type to needlessly worry a roommate, and the very first draft had a conversation between the girls, but… how to squeeze it in.

Okay, they’ve almost flipped motives. He was supposed to be her lifeline to sanity. He stays on Earth, while she goes to the station. Remember the MASH episode, when BJ falls for the artist, and she draws him with a life-ring and cord leading back to his family? Two little lines, and now the need to hold on to that lifeline is keeping him sane. I like the result.

Except … “cold and lonely” is too close to “it was cold for him.” Need something like vengeance for the dead is necrotic, cold, tomb, backward-looking, to contrast with living and future.

Now I need something warm to hold on to. Not fire. Something like a hot brick wrapped in a towel. Warm, solid, and comforting.

He wanted her to have one more summer memory, to hold on to when she shivered alone on the station. A memory for himself, too. Vengeance could keep him going, but it was cold. She was warm and living. He could keep going, so someday she could find spring. — overdone or what?

Mental whiplash. If we started with para 2, they’d be in her headspace. As is, looks like it’s still his, and thinking her thoughts.

There were a few false starts and reassurances. Then they tried again.
— That’s a line that will depend on who is reading it. I suspect the majority will pick the meaning I didn’t intend.

Throwing in scents at random places. Mostly easy, but that one scene? Earlier scene, she’s about to cry. Her nose is stuffed. She wouldn’t smell anything.

From the top, again. What if the room is taken? If her classmates suspected she wanted it, they’d quietly make sure it was free. Their way of supporting her.

Interesting thought. She could go either way. Keep celibate, except for him. Or gather rosebuds wherever and wherever she can.

Conversations with my Muse

I’m one of those people who need to come up for air frequently while writing. Usually I need to shift my view or rethink a sentence. Sometimes I need to ask a question, and often the process of deciding the right question gives me the answer.

Today, rather than fill my Twitter feed, I decided to put it here, and post it automatically at midnight.

Would a General tap a pen while making a tough decision?

Make that General Strom, or a general. You’d think proper caps would be automatic by now.

Why do I use long sentences for chaotic action and short for numb introspection?

With his job title, and what we’ve seen him do already, how incompetent can I make him?

I’m too distant again. My arms are cold, too.

Can’t settle into an emotion for her. Need to find a dominant one for this moment, then let it evolve.

What do you call a small kit with comb and toothbrush, maybe some mending equipment. A life-saver for a cadet who has ten minutes to clean up before reporting to a CO.

Okay, this doesn’t fit in the text, but I like the idea. Needs rephrasing.
She once again blessed the soldier who left a grooming kit in the washroom next to the CO’s office. Comb, nail brush, toothbrush, minor first aid supplies, boot polish and a sewing kit. Anything that you could use in ten minutes to make yourself presentable. She suspected it was one of those things that everyone knew existed, and the officers expected you to use, but no one admitted existed. The cadets quietly replaced anything they used, and no one said a word.

Would Hammett really pull out a novel right now? It’s not his shift. Lots of frantic stuff is going on in other offices, but his job is to stay here, watch the dozing prisoner, and monitor communications. Maybe a field manual. Does he teach a course? If so, maybe grade papers.

Recursive Backups and the Reluctant Writer

Hello, my name is Cricket, and I’m a packrat.

I also can’t work in the middle of a mess.

The next chapter of my novel (no, don’t ask, it’s a long story) is due at the end of the month. (Or a week later if I’m willing to pay for rush shipping.)

This novel has been in progress since November 2002. I know that for certain because I have the very first draft of the very first scene I wrote for it. It’s going to be somewhere in the middle of the story, unless it fell victim to “Find your very favourite scene and delete it.”

When I write, I’m terrified I’ll make something worse. So, the first thing I do is make a copy, with a sequential number. I then work on the newest file.

Sometimes I split a file out, to save something I need to cut and can’t bear to part with.

Sometimes I make a full backup of all my documents, by date. File1 will be in the first backup. Files 1 through 10 will be in the second backup. You get the picture.

Sometimes my husband makes a full backup.

If in doubt, we make even more backups.

This fall, when I moved to the new laptop, Husband just copied everything from the old one into a folder on the new one. I think he left out programs that he knew would be re-installed, but he left everything else.

So, I have the current “My Documents”. That’s pretty well organized.

Then I have “old_machine-2008-08-21”. That’s not under My Documents, since I don’t need to back it up yet again.

In that file, I have

This is from the backup program on the old computer, including My Documents. It contains one copy of all my writing. I think.

It also contains an old folder for Shared Documents, which contains Data, which has another copy.

Then there four zip files, taken maybe twice a year, back when we had to zip things and burn them to a CD for backups when we traveled. Each of them has both My Documents and Data.

I just spent two hours finding everything to do with my novel, moving them to the desktop, then dealing with the duplicates.

Yes, I like the fact that Windows can now read handle files within zip files just like regular files, so I can explore, copy and delete them without extracting them first.

And, yes, I have “backup as of this date” and “zip of backup this date”.

Very frustrating. No, I’m not comfortable assuming the contents of identically named folders from two different backups are the same except for the newer files. I opened each folder, copy the contents to a central location. No, Vista is not smart enough to actually compare the two files. It says “A is newer than B. What do you want me to do?” It asked me about ten times for each of 100 files.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually start to read some of the notes. I hope to start writing early next week.

Vows and Proposals

When I thought Onebit might propose, I told him the most romantic proposal I’d ever heard was “The sun rises in your eyes.” It’s from Guy Gavriel Kay’s (spelling?) Fionavar Tapestry series. A year later, he used those very words for real.

A comment elsewhere made me think of that old interest, proposals and wedding vows. Some are formal, some spur of the moment. Here are a few more. Anyone have others?


The sun rises in your eyes.
— Guy Gavriel Kay, in The Fionavar Tapestry


I choose you to be my wife/husband, to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to grow with you in love, to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.
— United Church of Canada

I choose you to be my wife/husband. All that I have, I offer you; what you have to give, I gladly receive; Wherever you go, I will go. You are my love. God keep me true to you always. This is my solemn vow.
— ??? on a church’s website

Does anyone have a copy of RJ Sawyer’s Hybrid? I loved that one.


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