IWSG Post #09

(This post was written and scheduled in advance, as today I get to have a super fun endoscopy and expect to be pretty loopy from the sedation. Bleh.)

unnamedAUGUST QUESTION: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

These are all pet peeves that I attend to while writing, as well as editing and, to a lesser extent because it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it, reading.

They won’t suit everyone. I know that the first one probably lead to a lot of my peers in writing classes throughout the years lose patience with reading all the comments I left in the margins on their work when critiquing… For my part, I frequently felt like my stories weren’t getting enough scrutiny when it was time for my work to be critiqued.

  • Consecutive sentences and/or paragraph that all start or end with the same word or series of words. Exception: when it is done intentionally (and effectively) for emphasis.
  • Lack of Oxford comma. I like it, I use it, and I want to see it.
  • Dialogue where two speakers’ words are lumped in the same paragraph, making it harder to tell who’s talking if your brain skips the one or two cue words. Incorrect punctuation going in or out of the quotation marks — because if what follows the dialogue is a vocal action in any tense (said, says, etc.) it should always be punctuated with a comma, not a period, which then continues the sentence. If what follows is a physical action, then it should be a period.
  • Substitutions for said that don’t really describe a physically possible way of talking, like “smirked” instead of “said with a smirk” — because a smirk is a facial expression not a description of speech. Or “quaked” or “trembled” — also not speaking verbs. I got all of these examples from one of those Said is Dead posters, which tend to have mostly good suggestions with some real stinkers mixed in.
  • “As if” when it should be “as though.”
  • “Would of.” Are you kidding me?
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The Thing about Trilogies, & Zombies

The thing about trilogies is, I always get extremely excited about them. Then, inevitably, I find myself disappointed by the time I get to the last page (or audio track)… not because there’s anything wrong with the book but because after all that buildup it’s over.

The letdown is like a physical slap in the face, made even worse by the personal failing of letting the anticipation build until I’m in a glum mood to begin with and decide to treat myself to a story I’ve been looking forward to.

newsflesh3_5819I’ve done this with The Magicians series by Lev Grossman and probably others, but the most recent is the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant.

Because zombies.

I consume a lot of zombie stories, zombie tv shows, and zombie movies on a fairly regular basis, and I am a sucker for a good zombie concept. Continue reading “The Thing about Trilogies, & Zombies”

IWSG Post #06

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FEBRUARY QUESTION: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I think the biggest impact is in my book choice. A lot of my reading happens via audiobook in my car, and if there’s a particular story I’m working on I tend to queue up books that (a) I’ve read before and (b) fit the subject, general theme, or ambiance of what I’m trying to write. It puts me in the right headspace for what I want to do… or at the very least doesn’t yank me out of it.

For example, when working on Growing Magic I tend towards books where I really admire the world building, or the rules of magic, or if it just has a really cool adventure plot that vibes with what I want my characters to experience.

Audiobooks also help me de-stress after work. I like to think of it as holding harsh reality at bay so that I can go home and write rather than go home and lay on the floor experiencing existential crises.

When a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists.

Paul Auster

Author’s Voice, Editor’s Voice

I have always struggled with voice. In high school, the struggle went like this:

  • Reading Grapes of Wrath? Everything I write that week sounds like Grapes of Wrath.
    troad1fs
     A visual distillation of how I felt while reading The Grapes of Wrath. (Source.)
  • Reading The Great Gatsby? Everything I write that week sounds like The Great Gatsby. And includes a mint julep.
  • Reading Crime & Punishment? I don’t write at all those two weeks because Russian Lit just kills me.
  • Reading Stephen King in my free time? I learned how to spell harbinger real well. Real well indeed.

Then, in college, the struggle became:

  • I am pretty good at writing fanfiction in the Douglas Adams voice.
  • That’s pretty much it.
  • Everything I write contains the phrases “almost, but not quite ___” or “almost, but not entirely unlike ___.”

My problem is that I’ve learned how to write by sponging up whatever I happen to be reading at the time, and the result is I am still a bit uncertain of my own voice. What I do know is that it tends to be very direct, often rather snarky, and consecutive sentences never start or end with the same word because that drives me up the wall.

Some of this I’ve learned from how I edit other people’s work. I am the nitpicker who will go through the page and circle every instance of a repeated word in a paragraph or page, and note the total count in the margin just in case I hadn’t already made my point. I am the nitpicker who will not only notice that every sentence has the same length and structure, but (a) point it out, (b) state whether or not it seems like you did it on purpose, and (c) start scribbling in examples of how you might rearrange them.

I’ve never been quite sure how anyone feels about my writing critiques, but personally I can’t stand getting critiques back with no notes throughout and a bunch of vague comments at the end. If you didn’t think something worked I want you to show me where during the text you had that thought, and I try to do that when I edit.

My voice as an editor has helped inform me a bit more about my voice as a writer, although I have to take this with a grain of salt. If I listen to my editor-voice too much I get distracted by rewriting things I haven’t even finished writing in the first place. Similarly, I can queue up audiobooks to listen to in the car but have to keep a wary eye out for signs that the book of the week is taking over.

It helps when I pick the audiobooks to suit what I’m writing, rather than the other way around.

And heaven help me if I’m typing up something I’ve written longhand, because unlike the self-restraint described in this post over at The Caffeinated Writer I can’t help trying to fix it as I go! Approximately halfway through whatever I still have written down has somehow become completely irrelevant and I no longer have a complete draft. 

Monday Musings #10 — What just happened?

So… April is over? Apparently? Even though I was doing the April A to Z challenge and hyper aware of where was (or was supposed to be) in the alphabet at most times, the end of the month still managed to sneak up on me.

What did I even do this month?

I listened to four audiobooks:

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which I’d read before but a while ago. I really like the patchwork feel to it, consistent with how London itself is sort of a patchwork of small towns that the city expanded to and assimilated as it grew.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I’d seen and been confused by the movie from a fairly young age, so I found this book both fascinating and a revelation.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which… I liked the spiritual aspects of, but I sort of still have lingering “sigh, heterosexual women” feelings. And I didn’t particularly appreciate her disapproval of anti-depressants. Sure she took them, and benefited from them, but she kept broadcasting this “I don’t want to be on these forever” feeling and made a point of explaining that she got off them asap. I don’t know, it just rubbed me the wrong way. At the same time, I really appreciated her handling of the fact that not all women want to have children, and not all those that do have them responsibly.
  • And The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. I am still digesting how I feel about this book. It didn’t have the amount of Quentin fucking up as I’d grown used to.

I went to Indianapolis on my first business trip.

I got my first sunburn of the year, at a really awesome cider festival.

Counting my Sunday Gratitudes, I wrote a post for ever day of the month. They didn’t get posted one per day, exactly, but who’s counting.

All in all, I have gotten a lot done this month. I feel okay about that. Now on to May, and turning twenty-eight…

A to Z Challenge #5 — Earth

MAN: [Blood-curdling scream]

ZAPHOD: The universe does that to a guy?

GARGRAVARR: The whole infinite Universe. The Infinite sums. The Infinite distances between them, and yourself. An invisible dot on an invisible dot. Infinitely small.

~ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, radio series, Fit the Eighth, by Douglas Adams

total-perspective-vortex
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The Total Perspective Vortex was invented (fictionally of course) in response to the phrase “Have a sense of proportion.” I’ve noticed a similar concept mentioned in some of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books — that people have, amazingly, the ability to be bored, and completely ignore the infinite stream of stimuli that is constantly available to their senses, including the certain knowledge that there is far more out there than any individual could hope to process. Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #5 — Earth”

A to Z Challenge #4 — Dragons

stick dragonThis was a silly little one panel comic I did on scrap paper (as you can sort of see) in college. I’ve lost the original, thus the poor quality of the image. If I knew where it was now I would scan it with my phone and it would look a lot cleaner. (CamScanner app for the win.)

Anyway, I’m not so great an artist that I could draw a dragon, but I wanted to. As stick figures go, he’s pretty cute.

I love dragons and fantasy. When my younger brother and I were kids, my parents would read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy to us at bedtime. My favorite Disney princess story was Sleeping Beauty, and in retrospect I think it was because Maleficent’s dragon form was really cool. I grew up with my nose in books like The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede and the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce. I didn’t read exclusively fantasy, but it was usually either that or sci fi, or both. 

As an adult, one of my favorite author finds that came out of my random audiobook adventures were the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and everything I’ve read so far by Robin McKinley. The first was a random find, and after reading through all that was published at the time I put out a call to my online friends for an recommended books that included dragons. One of the resulting book recs was The Hero & The Crown, which I cannot recommend highly enough. (McKinley’s vampires in Sunshine are, similarly, just fascinating.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that dragons are cool. And also, does anyone have any good dragon books they’d like to recommend?

A to Z Challenge #1 — Audiobooks

I discovered audiobooks about a year after I graduated from college. At the time I had an intense full time job — six days a week, mostly nine to five, on my feet in a kitchen. By the time I battled my way home through rush hour traffic, it was time to eat dinner, shower, and fall asleep. I don’t remember exactly when or why the idea occurred to me, but I found myself at the nearest library one Sunday, browsing the audiobook shelf. After all, I had a radio adaptor in my car that could plug into my iPod, and I was getting tired of both my music collection and all of the local radio stations.

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This has been a good friend to me.

The first audiobook I selected was decent, but I liked it for the voice of Simon Jones more than for the actual story. I’m a nervous driver and my stress level goes up when I’m surrounded by other cars in that gray area between traffic jam and actually going the speed limit — but my stress level in rush hour traffic went down if I had a book to listen to. It was soothing. Plus, even when not driving I usually can’t read in the car without getting queasy. Not a problem anymore as long as I bring my headphones along on road trips, or if the people I’m riding with are game. (That’s how I got my mom into the Hunger Games series.) Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #1 — Audiobooks”

Monday Musings #9 – Library Mobile

I am a bookworm. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found I don’t have as much time for it… Less time, more apps. I have apps for reminding me to meditate, for reminding me to drink water, and alarms set for feeding the dog, leaving for work on time in the morning, etc. etc.

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Look at this weird thing. I don’t even know.

But you know what I never remember to do? Go to the library website.

You know what I just downloaded to my phone? Library apps. Like an idiot I’ve tried to log in through the Chrome browser app and it’s just been awful, all tiny and with lots of weird scrolling. And it never kept me logged in. Randomly, in the social media marketing class I attended today were some folks from one of the public library systems near where I used to live, and they told me that they do have an app. Lo and behold, the library where I live now has one too! The one where I used to live still doesn’t I checked.

I’m very, very happy that apps like these exist. Maybe it’s because I was raised in the Silicon Valley, the main tech and nerd hub of the United States, but I knew they would.

I mean, they had to.


Side note… Can anyone tell me how to edit my categories? I want to rename a couple of them but can’t figure out how, and the Google machine is failing me.