Personal


If it’s important…

Let’s just say that this year has been epic, stressful, and full of ridiculous, massive changes in both my personal and professional life. If you had told me in January any of the stuff in my life right now would have come to pass, I might have laughed at you in disbelief.

So. Wow.

I apologize for being a bit vague. When I decided I wanted to a recap, I sort of forgot that I am shy and also private. Still, I can tell you about all the good stuff, like being a part of Pandamoon Publishing as their editorial coordinator, a shift which took me by surprise (to say the least). I also have more energy than I did at this time last year, thanks to more judicious managing of my mental weather, and even though I’m swamped with All The Things I Want To Do, that’s… really not a bad thing. Inspiration has snuck its way back into my life, too, and I’m working on projects that I’d either set aside or was allowing to percolate, and I am forging better relationships with my family and taking more action to accomplish my goals.

The frustrating and stressful stuff I want to leave behind with 2015, and even if they follow me, they’ll — of a necessity — be different than they were and hopefully more conquerable.

Part of why I think I’m had a pretty danged good year comes down to a single moment and, like all truly life-changing moments, it was brought about by a cat.

Over Thanksgiving in 2014, I brought home a cat from Colorado. Her name is Pica, and she’s probably the cutest cat on the planet. (Not that I’m biased.) I bring her up now because when I was trying to sort out the logistics to bring her back with me, my friend told me something that sort of settled in my bones. I was upset that he’d have to go to great lengths to get her her shots on short notice, and that it would be inconvenience and effort on his part because of something I’d done that could have been avoided if I’d gotten my act together earlier.

He said: If it’s important, it’s worth the inconvenience.

I’m probably paraphrasing a little, because time and turning it over and over in my head has polished it down. Those words — if it’s important… — stuck in my brain. If it’s important, it’s worth the obstacles. If it’s important, it’s worth the pain and inconvenience and dealing with your own failures. If it’s important, it’s worth making it work despite the hard stuff. Packed into ‘if it’s important’ is a wealth of meaning, about throwing yourself forward and picking yourself back up and taking action after action after action.

If it’s important, it’s worth the inconvenience.

There’s an underlying message of compassion in that, when said from one person to another, but I think I was struck most by the acknowledgement that important things are hard and sometimes those hard things are larger than just me. And, sometimes, in being larger than just me, they will leak out onto others, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Or any less worth it. Or my friends any less willing to help me make things happen.

What really gets me is that ‘inconvenience’ is never a factor for me when I try and help others, so I have no idea why the rules were different for me. Now that I know that they were, however, I’ve been working this past year on internalizing this idea of ‘if it’s important…’

I credit this handful of words with a lot of my drive in 2015. In evaluating what I found important, it made me make changes in my life that gave priority to the stuff I wanted to focus on, and helped me decide to live a little bit more outside of my head and in the real world where I can actually make a difference.

So here I sit, at the end of 2015, doing what I love, in a place I’ve made my home, with friends I held onto despite the distance, at the end of my first full year with the most adorable cat in the entire world.

And, friends, I believe that’s important.

Pica in a Box

So very important.


Note to Self: Take Better Notes 1

Today, I’m pissed off at myself.

Not for anything dire, luckily, but I’m still mad enough that I think I can get a blog post out of it. *grins*

I’ve been participating in #1LineWednesday on Twitter. It’s… run? Prompted? Encouraged? By RWA’s Kiss of Death twitter (@RWAKissOfDeath), and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve found more awesome people to follow through #1LineWednesday than I have doing anything else on twitter.

Yesterday’s theme (for the 21st) was ‘Last Lines of Chapters’, which – okay fair enough. The only problem is that recently I’ve been writing short stories, so I didn’t have a lot of ‘last lines’ to choose from. So I went spelunking into my dropbox where I keep my projects and skimmed through a few of my oldest novels. Good news: some of them aren’t awful and could probably stand to be reworked and finished! Bad news: none of them are finished, and some of them need a great deal of work.

Of particular note is that I found one of my old NaNoWriMo novels and started to skim it to find chapter ending lines. Cue me being a little floored, but it’s actually good? About halfway through skimming, I just straight-up started reading (and editing in my head, but mostly reading). I mean, there are some parts that straight-up suck, especially because I had no idea how to manipulate the tension I was building, and the prose is way too dense and heavily overwritten, and I’ve improved by leaps and bounds since I wrote it, but – ??? ??? ???

The reason I never finished it is because I’m more of a slow-and-steady writer, so that NaNoWriMo’s mad scramble for for 50k-in-a-month is just a little on the ’causes intense project burnout’ side of things. Also, I think I was mid-other-project and doing nano that year to figure out if I could write villains that didn’t suck so ‘finished project’ was a priority. But! For whatever reason, I tidied up my 50k, dropped the project in a metaphorical drawer, and never looked back.

The thing really cheeses me is that I stopped at the end of the ‘second act’ and wrote a paragraphless wall of words to explain the ending. It’s one page long, uses some sort of shorthand that I don’t provide the key for, and that’s it.

What was I thinking?!

How on earth did past me expect future me to sort out this block of unmitigated nonsense?!

I went to bed angry last night because why, why did I do this to myself. I knew for a fact that it was the most ‘solid’ book I’d written up to that point. Why. Whyyyyy.

It’s worse than just ‘I don’t know how to finish my book’, though.

Friends.

Friends.

This is a Time Travelling Serial Killer novel. A woman tries to rescue her brother from the killer’s clutches while time deteriorates and the past and future become unstable. There are at least four timelines and because of the ‘type’ of time travel I picked, my MC experiences linear personal time while the alternative timelines are created and destroyed around her. It’s very important for me to know what happens, when, on which day, in which timeline, and how the main character (who is also travelling in time, because, you know, why make it easy) experiences each event and in what order.

I need like 10x more notes than I have. What the heck am I supposed to do with lines like, ‘Dragons don’t have pockets!’ and ‘Remove the shark-jumping bits!’?

I’m so mad.

Friends. Take better notes than I do.

Especially when you’re writing about time travelling serial killers and stop (whyyyyyyyyy) just before you get to the good part.


Dancing in September

The reasons for my radio silence the past month-and-some-change have been myriad and of varying levels of ‘excuse’. August, however, was slam-chocked full of travel. First weekend was a wedding in which I was maid of honor (Hi, Kimi! Congrats! I hope wedded bliss is treating you well!), the next weekend was a funeral for the boyfriend’s grandfather (15 hour round trip in the car), and then a week and a half ago I spent the week with my grandma after a thankfully brief medical scare (she’s fine, whew). I haven’t been home a lot, and when I have, I’ve been working on a novel edit. There will be announcements at some point. Eventually.

Suffice it to say that I have been obscenely busy, and when I edit I slip into tunnel-vision-mode and drop off the face of the planet. Here I am crawling back on-planet and maybe dancing a little because my month of Going Everywhere and Doing Everything is over.

Your regularly unscheduled writing-related posts will (hopefully) recommence sometime this week.


Emotion and Logic 1

I was just about to run off to the grocery store when I was struck by a thought. Grocery shopping on hold until further notice.

The other day one of my friends said something to me that struck a chord. It was a brief comment, but it was along the lines of, “Isn’t it weird that logic holds more weight than emotion in determining whether a decision is ‘valid’ or not?”

So I’ve been stewing over that comment for the last few days, because my gut reaction was: But emotion is ridiculously important in decision-making because it abbreviates the logic!

Part of the reason why I cannot dismiss emotion entirely from the decision-making process is that it’s what governs most of my final choices.  By which I mean I don’t make impulsive, consequence-ignoring decisions (that is the usual type of decision implied by ’emotional decisions’, is it not?), but that I am put into a state of emotional dissonance when challenged for a decision. I then know when the decision is ‘correct’ for me because that dissonance evaporates when I make it. If my state of stress persists past the decision-making, then I know I need to re-evaluate the situation because my conscious mind hasn’t dealt with something my subconscious is concerned about.

My personal makeup requires a reason for pretty much everything, so all my life, I’ve made a habit of trying to parse my emotions. This has two results. The first is that it makes my mild anxiety and depression a little bit super awful since logic need not apply. The second is that I am prone to using my emotions as a bellweather for when I need to roll up my sleeves and and get to the bottom of something. In case it isn’t obvious, I journal. All my thoughts get untangled via writing, and usually when this happens, when I actually grapple with the thing my emotions are flailing about, they sort themselves out.

Because this is how I deal with life in general, I often use the metaphor that emotions are a little black box. Things go in, things come out, and sometimes you can correlate input and output, but other times weird things come out along with nasty blue smoke as the result of an input you though you’d already recorded as producing something else. They’re a complex process, maybe a bit mysterious, but something you can manipulate to a degree if you hit on the right combination of inputs.

All of this–*waves hand toward prior paragraphs*– is sort of the background to the idea that I believe that emotions are the abstract user interface for the mind.

And by abstract, I mean really, very abstract.

As an example of the kind of abstraction I mean, in the Otherland series by Tad Williams, one of the characters has a garden in cyberspace. This garden acts as an abstracting agent for news and events from all over the ‘net. It’s the feed aggregate, the dashboard or hub for every one of his concerns to make their presences known. Except, and this is why the imagery has stuck with me in the however-many years it’s been since I’ve actually read the series, all of the news is represented by physical objects that would otherwise be contained within a garden. I don’t remember what the abstract mappings were in the book, but let’s say the patch of clover represented business concerns. They could be healthy or look kind of wilted to suggest the health of the companies under this guy’s control, or a large bunny could be nibbling on the foliage to suggest the impending hostile takeover that would wreak havoc on his business’s structure. It’s a metaphoric interface, with rain and sunlight and different patches of flora representing different concepts and events. In Otherland, the abstraction of a garden represents raw information made digestible at a glance.

There’s a similar abstraction in Gun, with Occasional Music does, only the information being abstracted is the daily city news. In GWOM, and again I read it a hecka long time ago, one of the images that stuck with me was that in this dsytopic cyber-noir future, nobody is allowed to use actual words to give you the news. Instead, there’s a radio program on that plays music. It’s orchestral, if memory serves, but music nevertheless. The hardboiled detective protagonist of the books listens and waits for the tremolo of suspenseful strings, because that’s his cue that something mysterious and awful has happened and he needs to break out his magnifying glass and investigate.

Instead of ‘digestible at a glance’, the use of music as an abstract plays directly upon the idea that music conveys ideas through evoking feelings & emotions. Music, for most people, is an emotionally evocative medium. Just in classical music alone, you can have music that evokes the feeling of standing on the edge of the sea, of walking down a country path, or of riding on a train. Movies use their scoring to support and enhance the emotional impact of scenes, and so do commercials when they’re trying to evoke an emotion that will allow them to sell you things. There’s angry music and sad music and music designed to pump up your energy so you can rock out on the dance floor. Music is powerful because emotions are powerful, and using music to convey emotion is one of the most efficient ways to condense entire experiences into something that can be passed from one human being to another.

That is: emotion condenses experience.

The emotional output is the result of the little black box has chewing up and spitting out every single thing that your mind has perceived happening to you at any point in time. Emotions are your garden and your orchestra.

And sure, sometimes there is an out-of-tune piccolo player who knows where the bodies are buried that you can’t fire and every time she shows up you cringe, or you plotted your garden on a stretch of rocky ground and you keep finding stones you swore you rooted out already, but emotion is information.  Even if the rogue piccolo is stressing you out and logic isn’t going to force her to hand over the blackmail, emotion is the layer of the human user interface that takes care of the ‘at a glance’ monitoring. If you’re grouchy and grumpy, maybe you’re hangry and need a granola bar. If you’re disquiet in a relationship, there’s probably a reason. And maybe if you’re stressed it’s not just one thing and none of the causes are fixable. I mean, emotion isn’t magic. Sometimes what it’s telling you isn’t exactly super useful.

I think that emotion’s status as the abstract interface is especially powerful in writing. Just like an evocative song, an evocative scene can convey a mass of condensed information and form a connection between writer and reader. This is what’s at the heart of the advice ‘show-don’t-tell’, it’s what advice about building and sustaining tension deals with, and it’s at the very center of adventures and romances and epic quests. I have never squared off against a dragon with a too-heavy sword and a sweat running into my eyes, but I can put together the sensations of it from other condensed experiences and feel that terror for my ownself.

The fun thing about abstract interfaces, though, is that they have a relationship with the thing they’re abstracting. In emotion’s case, it’s abstracting logic. I get really cranky when people insist that there’s a strict divide between logic and emotion, because they’re two necessary parts of a single decision-making system, even if that decision is something as simple as ‘what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?’.

Logic affects emotion and emotion affects logic. There’s a give and take to the system. I can logically step through a problem and feel relief at the solution, and I can write books with a minimum of plot holes so that people buy in and that, in turn, bolsters the emotional impact of my work. On the flip-side, I can also be hit by an emotion out of the blue that signals to me that something interesting is going on inside my head that I might want to take a look at, and I can create mystery in piece of fiction by describing someone experiencing an emotion that has no apparent immediate source. There’s an inextricable relationship between the two processes, even if it sometimes goes haywire.

In computer science, abstraction is often desirable, because it, as the wiki says, ‘suppresses complexity’ for ease of use.  So, say, emotion is abstraction (and desirable) and a readily-interactable interface, then logic is where all the heavy-lifting complexity behind the scenes happens when the mind is calling upon its heuristics. The mind is complex in ways science is still discovering, and the brain does take shortcuts (good google term, btw: ‘brain shortcuts‘), but logic is an if-then-else process that marches from one end to the other. In some ways, logic becomes constrained by it’s own linearity, hence the shortcuts. It needs emotion to help find other bits and pieces inside the mind that could be unrelated to the primary logical thrust, but be equally as important. Emotion networks even unexamined thoughts into the whole in rapid gestalt.

Not that incorporating unexamined notions ever backfires. Or that it always works.

Still, the point of this whole thing is that when I encountered the concept that logic is taken as more ‘valid’ than emotion, I had an immediate, “Wait, no- that’s not what I meant to imply at all!” Emotion and logic are interrelated in a complex fashion, and unless something isn’t functioning properly, to deliberately ignore one in favor of the other is a disservice to one of the primary systems that helps us connect to each other as living, experiencing humans.

Now, I’ve spent more time than I meant to on this and I still need to scoot off and get milk.


Philosophy of Editing

This particular post has a twofold purpose. First, to let you know where I am with my projects (!) and the second to sort of explain what sort of editor I am when I’m editing someone else’s work. Hopefully, the reason they’re mushed together in the same post will become evident rather quickly. 🙂

My ongoing writing projects have only been lightly touched this past week, so they’re in a bit of a stasis. Still trying to fix the danged ending of Station (it’s just about giving me fits), and I’m working up an old short story to my current skill level. However, I haven’t had a lot of time to work on them because I had a freelance editing job to accomplish and I still haven’t quite figured out how to balance personal writing with professional editing. The edit went rather well and I have a couple of other opportunities to chase because of it, so hopefully I’ll figure out balance here rather quickly.

I’m also trying to figure out how to explain the type of editing I do so I can put it up here on my website under its own heading. Yanno. Just in case.

And with that segue, here’s my attempt:

I like to call myself a developmental editor. There are several different kinds of editing, and sometimes the definitions thereof are a little ambiguous and somewhat overlapping. See three different sources: Here, here, and here, for case in point. So, as in any chat about editing, I should probably clarify my terms before we get too much further.

I usually classify them into three major categories. Copyediting, line editing, and developmental editing.

Copyediting (and/or Proofreading, because some people make a distinction between the two) is about getting down the very last stage of polishing and is primarily concerned with the what of what is actually set down on the page. It’s the grammar. The syntax. It’s making sure everything is spelled correctly and hyphenated correctly and that you’re using the correct slang. It’s citing your sources (in nonfiction) and making sure that you’re consistent in your capitalization and you’ve eliminated as many typos as possible. This is the very last stage before your piece of work goes live. This is the type of edit that I always seek out before I send anything off for real because even at my most accurate, I start seeing what I meant to type and not what’s actually there.

Line editing is a bit looser and more concerned with the how of how something is written. This is going through your story line by line, paragraph by paragraph and looking for both logical consistency and flow. This is the place where word choices are first challenged, and all of those sentences with jarring parallel construction are pointed out. This is where I nudge people toward a consistent style, and try and suggest ways to develop atmosphere and tension within a scene and what they’re accomplishing with the words laid down as-is.

Developmental (or Substantial/Structural) editing is the most abstract of the categories, and it’s primarily concerned with the why of the piece. Why is this scene here? Why are you developing this theme? It addresses concerns such as building tension and releasing it early, or overwriting scenes that don’t need emphasis. Being a developmental editor is like being a rollercoaster designer; it’s all about making sure the story will guides the reader from the beginning to the end on a smooth path and contains only the terror and thrills you mean it to.

Classifications defined, I must say that developmental editing is what I enjoy the most, mostly because I get to I wade into the story, knee-deep, and sort of muck about. Some of my most favorite discussions with people have been wrangling about the construction of novels and movies, and over the past couple of years I’ve transitioned that love of discovering why I enjoy a thing into something useful by practicing on my writer-friends.

My philosophy of editing is very much about figuring out what story the writer wants to tell. I’m not sure how other editors approach manuscripts, but I’m of the opinion that the only way something can be ‘wrong’ when writing a book is if the author does not convey what they were trying to get across. I also firmly believe that a necessary part of editing a book is knowing why something isn’t working.

Partially, my desire to make sure my writers know what’s going is because I’m constitutionally incapable of accepting a ‘correction’ if I don’t know the reasoning behind it. I have editors I trust to know what’s up, but my process requires knowledge of all of the ‘whys’ and mechanical underpinnings of what my words are doing. Sometimes an editor can suggest something quite good and it just won’t fit with what I was trying to accomplish; if I modified my piece, then my goal would be that much further away. Not only that, but I don’t learn and grow as a writer unless I know why I’ve missed my mark so I can hit it first try next time around.

I assume that other writers have a similar growth process and a similar attitude toward  grappling with the underpinnings of whatever piece they’re writing. Granted, sometimes that’s not true, but I default to explaining everything and modify based on author preference.

I need to wrap this up because I’ve spun off two other blogposts via digressions (not included) already, so I think my general conclusion is that, when I edit, I approach it with an attitude of figuring out what the writer’s goal was, and then helping them discover how they can accomplish that goal. I disagree with the idea that there should be some sort of conformance to a mold, even in genre writing, though I do think that there is power in using established conventions to convey meaning.

Developmental editing, for me, is all about finding patterns and making connections. Plus, feeling around inside the mechanical guts of a piece of writing has the fun and interesting side effect that sometimes I end up explaining to my authors what they were trying to accomplish by instinct in the first place.

Though I admit my investigations have been limited, I’ve not found a lot of information on how other editors (especially developmental editors) go about editing philosophically, so if anyone reading has any thoughts or resources, I’d love to compare notes. 🙂

 

 


Not a New Year’s Resolution 1

In a not-quite New Year’s Resolution, I and Elly (Eidolonkami) have agreed to encourage each other to blog. This is my attempt.

It is very interesting to me that, for most of my life, I have been blogging in a pseudo-anonymous fashion. I had a blog in high school, back on livejournal. While it was transparently obvious that I was the author, there was a level of remove about it. Same with my other blogs down through the years. I was blogging under a different name, and while that name was connected to other spheres, it was never something that, oh, that people I grew up with or people who know my mom could find without a bit of digging. (Hi, mom and mom’s friends!) This blog, however, is under my professional name. I’m blogging – but professionally.

Or, well, more or less. It’s still a blog.

The lack of even the veneer of anonymity is a little hard to wrap my head around, however. What do I say? How professional do I need to be? Is it better to ramble on as my awkward self as part of forming a rapport with possible readers, or clam up and attempt not to show my ass in public? These are concerns.

I think I’ve settled on being slightly awkward, because it was going to happen eventually, as well as a little bit earnest.

In other news, today I’ve discovered that the Trader Joe’s Vanilla and Cinnamon Black Tea with the Christmas Lemur on it has one of the best blends I’ve had in a while. A++, definitely recommend. I’m also attempting to write a synopsis for my current story project. I know I mentioned the project, but I’m not sure if I mentioned the synopsis. I don’t usually write synopses so much as very amorphous outlines, so it’ll be interesting to see how this project changes if I tighten down on it a little.

I hope everyone is having a lovely day!


Happy 2014! 3

Ah, how things change. Seeing as how I posted last in September of a whole other year, I suppose it’s time for an update.

Currently working on a novel with the working title of ‘Station’. It is – and this is, for all intents, my elevator pitch – a story along the vein of the old west gunslinger novels, where our lone hero rolls into town and challenges the status quo. Except in space. My heroine is a cyborg left to stand sentinel over the time stream, and she visits times and places where something (or, more accurately) someone is changing the future. As per her programming, she is supposed to be the agent of fate, to stop whatever sea change that will take the future in a radically different direction. However, she is always left with choice, and sometimes she chooses to stand by – or even help, those she was sent to nullify.

So that’s the story, more or less. I would feel regret about dumping my vampire romance, but I have been beating my head against it for the last year and it was time to let the darned thing go. I’m optimistic, however, because I love adventure scifi to the tips of my toes, which is exactly what this new story is designed to be. It’s more in my wheelhouse, and to be honest, I think that was a big issue with Broken Bond; vampire romances aren’t really my thing and I was flailing a little in the dark with it. I might come back to it eventually (especially since my writer’s group and anyone who I’ve showed a sample chapter to loves my male lead), but for now, it’s best I let it lie.

Anyhow, in other news, I have a novella that I am in rewrites for (the ending needs a bit of a tweak), and several short stories that I need to get off my duff in post to Amazon. It was a surprisingly good year despite moving across country (oh, I’m in LA now as of March!) and sort of struggling through my New City Blues. My writing has picked back up thanks to the all-or-nothing ridiculousness of Nanowrimo, and I’ve got my roadmap for 2014 all sorted out.

Hilariously, and as sort of a footnote, I’m considering adding my skills as a developmental editor to my website. When I couldn’t write this year, I honed my editing skills, and have gotten good feedback on my developmental and structural editing. Namely, Genevieve (whose link I have plastered into my sidebar over there), has been trying to convince me to hang out my shingle in a more official sense. So, perhaps I shall share the love and open up my inbox to taking on a few more projects.

We shall see.

2014 is dead, long live 2015! 🙂

 


So far so… well, I’ve been really busy!

Interesting fact: When you no longer have a 9-5 job, your days become really full of all the stuff you used your 9-5 job to avoid. Like… dishes. And grocery shopping. And helping people move. And going to conventions. And editing. And spending time with people

Actually, I’ve started back in on my vampire romance novel that I began last November for Nanowrimo. Despite having it’s roots in a ‘write all the words’ sort of challenge, I’m pleasantly surprised at how coherent it has been during my edits. I’ve improved since I started it (oh my god, have I improved), but there are moments that I’m actually really proud of. It’s the piece that has my clearest authorial voice thus far, mostly because it’s both set in a contemporary Denver and I’m not worrying a lot about building some ridiculous world or conforming to a particular era.

I’m also damn pleased that it’s a vampire romance novel. The genre is one that I think needs having a few tropes turned on their heads. I am… apparently not terrible at doing that, according to my very kind writing cheerleaders.  Granted, that’s like saying your mum likes your fingerpaintings, but whether I’m fingerpainting or fiddling with tropes, I have a great deal of fun. That’s all that counts right? Right? I mean, if I’m having fun, hopefully my readers will be too. That’s the idea, at least.


First day of the rest of my life

So.

Friends.

I quit my 9-5 job to have more time to write. Currently, that means I’m having my first Monday without a desk job since I convinced someone to hire my inexperienced self right out of college. It feels like it shouldn’t have been as easy as it was to quit, to be honest. I feel like it was almost too easy and that I should be looking for the catch that will pounce me anyyyy moment now.

It’s odd. I’m kind of deviating from ‘the script’ by my own recognizance, and I am pleased and satisfied with that, but I am also absolutely fucking terrified that I’ve made the worst mistake ever. We’ll have to see, I suppose.

I figure I’ll get back into the habit of blogging. I used to do it pretty regularly when I was in school, for whatever reason, so I might as well return to the practice. I think it’ll also help me keep a bit on track with this whole writing thing.

Not a lot of writing planned today, unfortunately, because I’m in the throes of edits for a community gift project. Once that’s complete, however, I’ll be diving in to… something. Not sure what. Too many ideas, not enough focus, and it’s far enough out that I’d rather just concentrate on edits before I galumph off and leave the project hanging.

Actual plans for today: existential angst and website design.

I haven’t done website design since I made a really shoddy website for my aunt and her business. I wonder what happened to that one. Hrm. Either way, I am going the WordPress route this time because my website skills are at least half a decade out of date. Doesn’t mean I can’t at least try to make this thing look pretty.