Diana Pharaoh Francis | Diana P. Francis | Diana Francis

Archive for the 'drafting' Category

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
Back in the saddle again

I came back from the writing retreat having written 32, 281 words in basically 3.5 days. I am completely stunned. I have never written that much in that little time, ever. I worked on the sequel to The Incubus Job (comes out in just six days!!). It’s what you might call a zero draft. That means that I tried to just write story and not worry about the research elements, or making up names for particular people or things, and so on. I just put and asterisk and described what should go there. I’ll be able to search asterisks and fix those, though I’ll probably just end up combing through the whole thing when it’s done and revise and catch them that way.

I never write like that. Devon Monk encouraged me to try and it was kind of freeing. I’m going to use that technique in the next couple days to write an anthology story I have due soon. I doubt I can do 10,000 words a day since I’ve got obligations here that I didn’t have in the rainforest, but I think I could get at least 4 or 5K. If I don’t get bogged down in doing stuff on the net. I’m thinking of getting the Antisocial app, but I’m wondering if there’s a free sort of thing out there that works the same way.

The writers retreat is at The Rainforest Resort Village which sounds a lot less rustic than it actually is. We got to stay in a cabin with a back sliding glass window and deck overlooking a very babbley creek and beyond that, the lake. Geese flew in and out and it was absolutely lovely, even raining most of the time. We had a fire going in the cabin and a little kitchenette, and we hunkered down and wrote like fiends. It was fabulous. I love doing this retreat and plan to go next year, crossing my fingers I register before they sell out.

Once I got back, I had to finish the copy edits on Whisper of Shadows, the next Diamond City Magic book, which will be out April 15. Got that done, then worked on the tax receipts. I always have the best intentions of inputting those receipts into my spreadsheet throughout the year, and I always have to do it right at the end. They were all in one place. I keep a file bin hanging on my wall in my office to stuff them into.

I also went out and bought some manure and worm castings for the garden, along with three plants for the rock garden we hope to put in shortly (we need to create better drainage in that location before we can.)  My peonies are all in bloom and so are some other flowers. Plus the crocuses are up and so many. The former owners had planted them and this year some came up where they hadn’t before. I guess the wet this year really helped them.

I’m just about on schedule with my reading for this year. Trying to read at least six books a month, not including my own. Need to finish the one I’m reading–a British police procedural–to get my 12 for the year. I tend to let reading slip when I’m tired or really busy and just veg in front of the TV. I’m trying hard to avoid that and read, which most of the time I enjoy a lot more. A lot of them I get from Netgalley, which lets me discover a wider range of authors than I might ordinarily encounter, and a wider range of topics. So that’s been very nice.

And now, to go do some of that reading . . .

 

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
The stupid hurts

In this case, I committed a stupidity I haven’t done in years. What did I do? Well yesterday I had a fantabulous day of writing. I wrote the first long scene of Diamond City 4. I was so happy with it, I was buzzing like a hummingbird. I was so looking forward to getting started today.

And then . . .

I couldn’t find the doc. Or rather, I found it, but it was an older version. EVERYTHING I’d written yesterday was gone. Even on the backups. I did all sorts of things for the next two hours, including running recovery programs, but I’d successfully managed to make it disappear. I think I overwrote the newer one with an older one somehow. I don’t know how.

So I tried to rewrite it today. It didn’t come together very well. It felt clunky and info-dumpy and unexciting. So now, at the end of the day, I feel squashed flat instead of rejuvenated like yesterday. My stomach is a ball of aching knots and my head is throbbing. I hope tomorrow I can come at it again and find traction.

 

Monday, November 2nd, 2015
Writing the sequel

One of the toughest thing to do when writing is to write a sequel to a first book, then a third, fourth or tenth. I know people who plan an entire series from the beginning–Devon Monk, for instance, planned all of her Allie Beckstrom novels before she began. Having that plan established means that a writer has a clear sense of what each book should contain before it begins and can jump into the drafting relatively smoothly. Now the problem is, just as with battle plans, plot plans don’t often stand up to actual engagement with the enemy. So to speak.

As a book develops and more creativity sparks, the next thing you know is that you’ve changed something significant and it dominoes into all the next books and you have to replot. And then you do it again. And again. It can be incredibly frustrating. Do you know what’s more frustrating? Not being able to plot at all. Plot failure. I have a very difficult time with plotting even a single book, much less a series. Especially a series that I don’t know how long will be. Diamond City Magic is one such series.

This means that I’m doing a lot of exploration. On the other hand, the deeper I get, the more complex it gets, and the more stuff I need to do, and that means that plotting on one level becomes easier, because certain bridges have to be crossed. I have a developed a nebulous idea of landmarks that need to be achieved. So if you imagine it like a journey, I know there’s a mountain there, a valley there, a river there, and so on, all of which need to be traversed and each comes with their own special troubles.

Right now, I haven’t completed the revisions for book 3 and I’m beginning book 4, which means I don’t entirely know how big all the changes I will have done by the end of the revision, and so I may be building this next book on air. All the same, I have to start. Of course, I might be tossing most of it all away in the end, but if I worried about that, I’d end up never writing. Plus the fact that I have trouble plotting means that in fact, I have to write to find out what’s going to happen–to fill in the details between getting to plot events. Since those are all actually character revelations, I have to build the characters and events to get there, and hope that I don’t rearrange the terrain entirely as I go. I swear, it’s like writing in a living Dali painting.

So now I’m writing what I think is going to happen in this next book. I’m not starting where I normally start, which is the beginning, since I’m not entirely sure where the beginning will be. I just know that these scenes need to be written. At least under the current plan, and I need to be writing, because of deadline.

 

Sunday, October 4th, 2015
Writing Insight

I had a kind and generous friend beta read the manuscript I’ve been working on. It’s something I’ve worked on for awhile and yet very quickly–at a couple writing retreats mostly, and then a little more. She made a comment on something that a character does and it totally messed with my whole plot. First, she was right. Her question was essentially–if that can happen at this point, why didn’t happen earlier when a similar situation occurred? My first reaction was to stick my tongue out and say Cuz! in that snotty voice of eleven year olds everywhere.

Obviously my first reaction wasn’t actually useful. The problem was I didn’t want to change my plot. Except for that one nasty little inconsistency, it works and it builds into a really good story. At least, it entertains me, and of course, I do this to entertain myself. But what to do about it? I considered. And pondered. I showered, where many solutions arrive. I made the bed. I folded laundry. I did dishes, walked the dogs, drove my kids to school and picked them up, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I attempted writing out some ideas, because that often jars things loose. Nope. Days passed.

I got entirely distracted from the problem by last week’s shootings. I don’t think even my lizard brain was thinking about solving this conundrum.

I got a brilliant idea to solve the plot issue on Diamond City Magic book 4. (I’m attempting to plot it out). This was NOT the knotty problem I’d been struggling with, but it was a problem.  It’s a really solid idea and I don’t know if I can make it work, but it would solve all kinds of issues in terms of tension and stakes and developing the ongoing plot and deepening characters and conflicts. Obviously tremendously important, but not really an impact on my current dilemma.

I’m not entirely sure what the moment was when the solution arrived on the first manuscript problem. I trusted that would. I trusted that my head and my creativity would work on the problem and the solution would arrive. It has. It’s only a small change, maybe a sentence. It’s elegant and completely within the plot and characters.

My point here is, there are two somewhat contradictory truths to writing. One–you have to push and make yourself write and get words down. Persevere and make words. Tw0–you can’t force it. Sometimes you have to wait for ideas to flow out on their own time.

Now that said, I think you can court creativity. Woo it. Encourage it. You can’t wait forever and sometimes you have to prime the well. That might be through creative exercises, brainstorming, freewriting, and so on. Whatever it takes. Sometimes you write on something totally different, but encouraging the creativity on one thing can get it running on another. It’s like love: the more you have the more you make and can give more.

The main thing is that you have to trust yourself. That you can do this. That the logjam will break and the words will flow.

 

Friday, September 25th, 2015
Title Announcement

The new title for the third Diamond City Book is . . . Are you ready?

Whisper of Shadows

The release will happen sometime in January, maybe February. More on that when things get definite.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a side project. I’ve been working on it for a long time in my “spare time.” I totally love it. I’m going to be self-publishing it. It’s called The Ghost Job and here’s a little bit (rough–not been revised yet) of the beginning:

 

I got the fish-eye stare from the concierge when I walked past him into the lobby. I passed through the security net, feeling it ripple across my skin like seeking fingers. My lips tightened smugly. I could go out and come back again and totally change my aural signature. It might remember this version of me forever—and it probably would—but it wouldn’t do it a damned bit of good if it never saw this me again.

Effrayant was a mashup of the Bellagio and the Bates Motel, with a little dash of old school English castle for flair. The outside was brick and tile with a few thousand windows and a mansard roof that went up six or eight stories on top. The rooms up there were probably long-term residences. The central tower was a good forty stories high, with the four wings sprouting like spokes from its shoulders. Their rooftops boasted pools, clubs, restaurants, and helipads.

I wasn’t there for the entertainment; I was on a job.

Inside was dark wood, modern furniture, soft lights, and museum quality art. Muted opera music wandered through the cavernous lobby. The staff all wore Italian wool uniforms in gray, burgundy, and navy, while customers dressed in designer glitz and blue-collar chic.

I couldn’t blame the bellman for looking at me sideways. Wearing Levi’s, a longsleeved cotton shirt from the Goodwill, a pair of knee-high leather boots that had seen better days, and a blue ball-cap, I definitely didn’t look glitzy or chic.

Add in the fact that my luggage was nothing more than a ratty backpack, I was a little surprised that the security guards inside didn’t stop me. With force. Given how obcenely expensive it was to stay at the exclusive and highly discriminating Effrayant, I figured these guys should have been all over me. Sure, the ghosts make people want to turn and head the other way and let me be someone else’s problem. Security guards ought to be better trained. They shouldn’t let the heebie-jeebies get the better of them. I get that it’s not every day that you get the ghost push-off from someone made of flesh and blood, but Effrayant liked to brag their security was the best of the best.

I walked in and all six of thick-necked best of the best got busy picking lint off their coats, making me the check-in clerk’s problem.

Poor thing. I could tell she wanted to be anywhere else. That’s Tabitha’s fault. She can put the fear of Jesus into just about anyone without hardly trying.

Tonight she was trying.

She didn’t want to come into Effrayant. She thought it was too dangerous. She was right, but that didn’t change the job. I wanted to tell her to suck it up and settle down, but she was only a thirteen year old girl and dead or not, her hormones were raging. She wasn’t going to listen to me, of all people. Plus she still had a lot of PTSD issues from how she got killed. Or so I assumed. I had no idea how it had actually gone down. I only knew she was pissed as hell and she had nightmares that occasionally leaked into my dreams. If any of what happened in those nightmares had actually happened to her, she had a right to her attitude. Hell, she had a right to have gone right over the edge into insanity-land. I didn’t think she had, but it’s not like she talked to me. Another issue she had going on was that she didn’t trust anybody and when she got scared, she killed first and asked questions later.

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Sometimes you kick yourself

I have this book that’s been poking at me for a long time. It’s not anything to do with anything else. I read a bit of it at Miscon a couple years back and folks there have been asking for more. Haven’t had time to work on it and I’m not sure when I will. But that’s not the only reason I haven’t touched it. The fact is that I don’t know where it’s going. I don’t know what’s happening with some of the things. I wrote three chapters and stopped, and the second chapter doesn’t fit.

I realized, just now, a few seconds before starting that post, that I don’t actually HAVE to know where it’s going to write it. I mean, I could try just exploring and seeing. These days, that’s not a waste, because I can always self-pub if no one wants it. The thing is, I like these characters and this story. A lot. It’s definitely romantic, and more of a lighter, dreamier urban fantasy. I wanted to get at the sense of wonder of magic in the real world, rather than the grittiness and danger.

But it does have spiders. Lots and lots of spiders.

So I’ve decided that in the little spaces between projects and such, I’m going to write on it. I’m going to explore and have fun and see where it takes me. And enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Relearning an old writing lesson

Jake Lake once said that he liked to write a book over a period of no more than 3 months. For that long, he said, he could hold the whole plot in his head and he didn’t lose things. Longer than that, and bit and pieces started to fall away and he had to work a lot harder to get the story down. At that time, the idea of writing a 3 month book was absolutely crazy to me. I couldn’t imagine ever succeeding at that.

But then I did. I learned he was right. For about three months, maybe four, I didn’t have to worry about taking a ton of notes on where I was going or what the characters were up to. I could hold the story in my head. In writing that speed, I kept the pacing sharp and I also had a lot of fun. I never felt bogged down in a scene, because the scenes went by too quickly for quagmire. If they didn’t, that meant the scene had a problem.

I learned this lesson. It’s hard, because writing that fast means discipline and sticking to a schedule. It also means the words damned well better flow. One truth for me is that the words tend to flow better when I stick to a schedule, get sleep and exercise, and I eat reasonably health. I feel energized and creative.

However.

My son got sick and that took a lot more out of me than I ever expected. Part of it was having to go to the neverending doctor appointments. Part of it was having to watch him suffer and being helpless. Part of it was trying to be strong for everybody in the family, and especially my daughter. And it kept going on and on. Still is, really, but at least he’s improving.

Anyhow, my creativity grew thick and dense and unwilling. Writing was more miss than hit and I did fewer and fewer words as my schedule fragmented. I have no regrets–I was and am spectacularly happy to be available to the kids when they need me. Not everyone, not even most, can do that and I can and I have had no problems making them my priority.

I ended up having to reschedule my books and give myself much longer to finish them. That meant that I was going to plan for six months rather than three months per book. While that has been necessary, it has also made a difficult creative process even more difficult. Because I feel like scenes lag because I spend more time on them. I feel like I lose the character voices. I feel like I lose track of what I wanted the story to be. It’s infuriating.

In the fall the kids (both!) go back to school. I hope to regain my routine and hopefully my production. I hope to dive deeper into the creative ocean and live in it more so that the story will flow better. I have a lot of things I still want to write.

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
*gnashing teeth*

Today has been a crappy writing day. And by that, I mean I hardly got anywhere. Lots of typing and erasing and doubting and, well, see the title of his post.

I did write a little bit I do like, so rough as it is, I’m sharing:

I contemplated what to do. The trouble was that doing wasn’t exactly an option. That meant my only option was to open the door on the spirit world inside myself. Easy peasy. And for my next trick, I’d fly to Mars and back, and then jump a tornado to Oz.

The trouble was, I didn’t have any other choices, reasonable or not. It wasn’t like I was going anywhere. I took a breath and let it out and focused my attention on the problem. That’s when I noticed how uncomfortable I was. Let me say this: any reasonably well-endowed woman lying face down is for any length of time is going to start to feel a certain ache in her boobs. Before long, it’s going to turn into a raging ache. My panic attack had distracted me from the mild discomfort portion of the show, and now I had to bite my lip to tolerate the ever-increasing throbbing pain. Maybe I could shoot for a trifecta and get cramps and my period now, too.

If I could have, I would have shaken my head. As it was, I mentally smacked myself for going off track—not to mention tempting fate–and pulled myself back to the problem at hand.

Monday, July 6th, 2015
Progress made

You may not know this, but the third Diamond City Magic book is due at the end of this month. And I’m yanking my hair out. Mostly because where I thought it was going to end isn’t going to be where it ends and I’ve got to figure out a solid ending. But I have plenty of stuff to put into the next book. I left Riley in a rather bad place today, and oh! I managed to squeeze in an Elmer Fudd reference. Cuz yanno. That’s always entertaining. For me anyhow. And really, if I’m not entertained, how will you be?

Family is important in this book, as you might guess. And someone just found a family skeleton in the closet. It’s so fun!!!

And a small snippet:

“The FBI brought you here,” he said, his voice lifeless.

“They thought I could help,” she said with a little nod.

“Help them break me.”

“If I could. They needed to see you for what you are.”

His head tipped. “What am I?”

Her lip curled. “An abomination. A demon from the depths of hell. Satan’s own spawn.”

 

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Rewind, rip, state of confusion

Let’s start with what has nothing to do with the title. My dad’s foot is infected again. Apparently the bone infection wasn’t completely gone. He’s now getting daily infusions for the next month, so they put a PICC line in. There’s a scary possibility that there might be gangrene. I’m not sure when we’ll know. Anyhow, we wait and hope.

As for the subject of the post, I hit a wall with the book. I backed up and chopped out about 3K words and now I’m trying to pick up where I”m going next and how this book is going to finish out and I’ve got about fifty gallons of stuff to stuff into a teaspoon. I can do this.

Crap.