Introduction to Working Reviews

Like all writers, I am fascinated by my own craft and trade. I gobble up websites and books about how other people write, preferably successfully, though not always. There is, I think, a little bit of fear, even cowardice, involved in this, at least for me. I am hoping to have secrets revealed to me; I am waiting for someone to hand me a silver bullet. There is the illusion that someone has found the one way in which to write which will make every story work every time. But mostly I want to see all the ways, each subtly or radically different from its cousin, in which stories really are conceived, told, and retold. Writer’s sites and books are paradoxically good for this too.

I have quite the collection of books on writing, particularly those with writing prompts. I suffer from terminal laziness and fear of new things, so I am attracted to anything that promises to bump, lure, or beat my brain into writing those first terrible words. Exercises tell me to change perspectives, change tense, change style. Write shorter, write longer. Write poetry, write prose, write nonfiction.

And you know what? I read the books with great enthusiasm and then I put them away. Sometimes, something I read will sink into my brain far enough that it crops up again in my next project, usually without my noticing at the time. But it sort of misses the point of the books. Do the damn exercises.

(You might imagine, from this, that I am the type of person who has difficulty committing to resolutions, diets, exercise programs, and serial fiction. You would be correct.)

But in my striving to create material for the blog that will be interesting enough for strangers to read it and relevant enough for me to write it, I lighted on this little-used collection of mine. So, in an effort to increase and improve my own writing and perhaps direct readers to resources for their own use, I started Working Reviews.

In Working Reviews, I will demonstrate a handful of exercises from one book over the course of several weeks. You will get a snippet of fiction alongside my comments on the process of writing it.

I have three goals in doing this. I want to review these books that I have so lovingly collected and see what they are really made of. Within that, I particularly want to look at how well these books, typically aimed at literary style writers, translate into commercial genre writing: how much do they offer to the writer of fantasy, romance, science fiction, or mysteries? I also aim to increase my own production and break away from the crippling sense that only “official” projects deserve my attention.

Continue on to the next post, then, for the first installment of Working Reviews.

SEA – 177, and a ficlet-in-waiting

SEA got early but limited attention today. What I thought would be a fantastic, toy surprise sort of scene– the introduction of my secondary female character and an adventure in ocean swimming– has been strangely hard to get into. I feel separated from the scene, though I think the words I’m getting are objectively good for this stage. I think I need to cut loose with some wild dialogue. That might get me going. I can look forward to that in the next couple scenes.

I spent most of the day writing the example for the first Working Review column, which will be going out tomorrow morning. I still have to finish the article itself. Tomorrow will be an awkward day. Guests are coming and I have responsibilities to deal with while they’re here. I can’t wait for Friday, when I can take a little break.

SEA – 267, and scattered energies

Spent the afternoon working on other projects then went out to run errands. By the time I got to SEA this evening, I was feeling burned out. It’s so hard to get myself to work early in the day. I’ve always been a last-minute panic sort of worker. But when the only deadline I have to deal with is one I’ve imposed on myself, it’s so easy to just leave it for another day, especially when it’s the end of the day and I’m tired. Having a work ethic does not come naturally to me. Oh, dear. All I want to do right now is read and listen to something soothing.

On the plus side, I have a new book to read and lots of flower bulbs and vegetable seeds to plant in the coming months.

SEA – 414, and congealing

That sounds rather dubious. In fact, I’m referring to plans again; they’re coming together quite nicely. I worked out the shortlist for my first Working Review, a column that will start Wednesday, barring any unforeseen disasters. And I am hammering out a plan for a Sunday column as well: something between, if you will indulge me, a cooking and food section and a collection of stand-alone stories with a shared world. I’m, ah, still working on that idea. Nevertheless, I feel confident enough to say that good things will be starting here in the coming week.

As for SEA, I’m very happy with my words tonight. I introduced my male lead and brutalized him from the first word. I forced him to introduce himself to the reader through the highly unsympathetic eyes of the female lead, who wants nothing to do with him on principle. Her prejudices are presenting themselves in neat ways and I’m going to enjoy writing the next scene between them, when we get to see her through him. I also foreshadowed the beginning of the secondary plot, which I get to start in on tomorrow.

I forgot to mention in the previous posts for SEA, but I’m writing it as part of Holly Lisle’s Write a Book with Me project. The goal is to write in small, hopefully painless chunks, even if it takes a long time to finish. It’s a nice way for me to get back up to speed and it will be very nice when I have to cut back on SEA to participate in NaNoWriMo this November. It feels good to be able to hit my goal every day without difficulty and to not have to flog myself for falling short. I’m saving all my flogging for November.


map 9-5-09
map 9-5-09

I love making maps. I will find any excuse to make a map for a project, no matter how small or unmapworthy. This can be depressing, because I cannot draw worth a fetid dingo’s kidney. But I just finished reading The Hobbit last week and I adore Tolkien’s maps. So I thought I would try to do something a little like that, with lots of shaded mountains and squiggly little rivers.

I don’t have any project in mind for this, though I’m getting ideas. I imagine lighthouses on those lonely peninsulas and a good, though not kind, recluse out on the island. Shipping lanes crossing the sea, imperiled by rocks and a giant octopus. Secret meetings occurring in that little circle of tufty grass amid the southwestern forests. And a spring, fed by underground run-off from the lake, where a small community, perhaps a monastery, seeks shelter in a troubled world.

Did I mention, I love maps?