Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm Moving!

I'm migrating my blog from blospot (where you're reading this), to wordpress. I've been thinking about it for some time, and I've decided to take the plunge. Wordpress will give me more control over the presentation of my blog. More formats, more themes, more pages. It will require learning more about the software than blogspot does, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

The new blog can be found here, at

I hope you'll join me there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Excerpt Monday - October

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This month I'm excerpting from a work in progress, an as-yet unnamed paranormal romance. Our hero, Duncan, an agent of the vampire community, has tracked down and slain a rogue vampire--and only then discovers that he'd only just sired a child, Claire. His duty is clear....

His duty was clear. Instead of wasting time washing her feet, he should kill her. A wooden stake through the heart to immobilize her, then remove her head. Once she was dead, he could call Oscar to send a clean-up crew and be done with her.

That's what he ought to do. In fact, he didn't actually need to stake her; it stopped a conscious opponent from struggling, but in her current state, he could simply remove her head and be done with it.

He rose and finished dressing. The last item was the kukri in its leather and wood sheath. It fit inside the waistband of his slacks, behind his back. He reached back to wrap his fingers around the hilt. Draw and strike. One quick, practiced motion was all it required.

He sat and watched her as the bedside clock tracked the minutes and hours of his indecision. She woke once, briefly, at midnight. Her previous foray had nearly exhausted her reserves; she was barely able to move. He watched, his own body immobile. His muscles knotted as he struggled with the desire to feed her again. It was all he could do not to act.

She relaxed into immobility again. The clock continued to display the passing minutes and hours. She struggled up to consciousness again near dawn, weaker still. She gasped for breath she didn't need, driven by lifelong habit. Her fangs descended, as unconscious a reaction as a human's stomach growling when hungry.

Duncan slashed his left wrist and held it over her mouth. He watched himself do it as if in a dream, or a movie. He wasn't conscious of his intent until it was happening.

As before, she sealed her mouth over the wound, sucking at it, throat working as she swallowed the blood. He felt his own hunger begin to stir. This was twice now that he'd fed her; he would have to feed again soon.

She drank more this time. Her hands rose to grasp his forearm, holding it in place as she fed. Her eyes opened, only half-lidded at first. Before she'd finished drinking, he saw the light of awareness fill them. She looked down, eyes almost crossing as she focused on the arm she held to her mouth.

She stopped moving. She stopped sucking. She lowered her head and stared at the bleeding cut on his arm. Her gaze traveled up his arm to his shoulder then to his face. He felt her grip on his arm tighten.

She released him, still staring at the bleeding wound. He sat up straight, pulling his arm away. She watched impassively as he licked his wrist to close the wound. She reached up to wipe her lips, then examined the red smear on her fingertips. She sniffed at them, then licked them clean.

Her gaze shifted, meeting his. "I drank your blood."


She frowned, frustrated. "I drank your blood."


"Does that mean I'm a..." She couldn't face it. "What am I?"

"I think you know."

"A monster." Her answer shook him.

"No, not a monster."

"A vampire?"


"Like the...vampire who attacked me?" Her voice was very small now.

How to answer that question? Yes, like the vampire who attacked her, but not like him. She didn't wait for him to work out a response.

"A monster," she said. Her eyes widened slightly as she looked at him. "Like you."

Her eyes narrowed as her anger rose. "I remember. You gave me orders. Made me do things."

"It was necessary."

Her anger faded as her gaze dropped to his torso. "I shot you. Didn't I?"


Her emotions shifted again. She teared up. "Why would you do this to me?"

"I didn't--" But she wasn't listening.

"I had plans. A boyfriend...." She sounded on the verge of tears.

"I didn't do th--"

"I had life, goddamn you!" She covered her eyes with her hands. "I had a life."

"Listen to me, Claire," Duncan said. He needed to quiet her before she fell into complete hysteria. She was a strong personality, yes, but there were limits--and she was rapidly approaching them. He laid a hand on her wrist. "Claire--"

"No!" She flung herself off the far side of the bed, crouched and ready to fight, or flee. He was between her and the door but he already knew she was a fierce and determined foe. He wouldn't underestimate her again.

He rose from his chair and took a step back to his left, giving her a little more space--and more effectively blocking the doorway. The last thing he needed was another footrace through the neighborhood. She remained crouched, arms raised to fend him off. Her breasts rose and fell as she breathed heavily, still in the grip of lifelong habit.

He tried to meet her eyes but she once again avoided eye contact. "Don't!" Her voice was shrill, and loud enough to wake anyone who might have been in the rest of the house. "Don't try to put the fucking mind whammy on me again!"

He patted the air between them, hoping to calm her a little. "I won't. I promise. I won't try to put the mind whammy on you again, but Claire--you have to listen to me."

She didn't reply, but she didn't refuse either. Progress, he hoped. "I'm naked."

He blinked, confused by this sudden change in topic.

"Why am I naked?"

"The other man--the one who attacked you--must have done it." He might have done more. Probably had, in fact. He didn't mention that to her. No point to it.

She frowned, eyes darting in every direction as she concentrated. "He's--did you tell me he was dead?"

"Yes, I did."

"You're sure?"

"Killed him myself."

"Good." A beat. "Why?"

"Because he'd attacked you, among others. He was a rogue and had to be dispatched."

She'd relaxed her posture a little as they talked. Now she covered herself as best she could with her arms. "I want some clothes."

Duncan nodded. "All right." He backed toward her closet, keeping an eye on her. He spared a glance at it, then resumed watching her. He reached into the side of the closet that held dresses and pulled one hanger out at random, a simple but brightly patterned sun dress. He tossed it onto the bed in front of her. "There."

She leaned over and picked it up. Discarded the hanger and pulled the dress on over her head, gathering the material and popping her head through as fast as possible, apparently fearing he would attack her while she wasn't watching.

The dress slid over her curves and fell into place with only a couple of tugs. It fit her closely and it drew the eye somehow better than her nudity had done. Her lack of a bra was also obvious. Duncan enjoyed the look. He didn't mention it.


She nodded. "Yeah, thanks." The moue of annoyance told him she'd thanked him automatically and didn't like having done so. Ingrained habits were hard to break.

Her posture changed. She wasn't standing so erect now, and her eyes looked sleepy. Just as before, her brief awakening wasn't going to last, especially this close to dawn. She shook her head and forced her eyes open wide. She looked around the room, as if searching for threats.

"It'll be dawn very soon," he told her. He could feel it himself, looming like an execution. Young as she was, she would feel it even more intensely.

"That's what I'm feeling?"

He nodded. "I feel it too."

She looked at the window, where the blinds and curtain were drawn. A faint glow was visible around the edges. She sidestepped away from it, her gaze flicking to him--and then down before he could mind whammy her.

"We'll be safe enough down here," he said.

"I know," she said--and punched him in the jaw with all the considerable power in her body.

She was faster and stronger than she'd been as a human. As was Duncan, but she caught him by surprise--and he weighed no more than he ever had. The blow did minimal damage, but it knocked him across the room. She took the opportunity to flash through the living room with all the speed she could muster, flinging open the door and launching herself out into the pre-dawn gray.

He leaped to his feet filled with a killing fury. Twice now she'd sucker punched him. Twice now, he'd let her get away with it. He'd underestimated her, and it had cost him. Men and women much older and more powerful than she had tried and failed, and paid for their mistakes.

As she would pay. He passed through the doorway and up to ground level in an instant--then stopped, just as quickly. The glowing sky to the east was blinding. He stopped and turned away, blinking away tears. Purple afterimages obscured his vision. The sun would be peeking over the horizon in moments.

It wouldn't kill either of them, but she didn't know that. She was exposing herself to what she believed was certain death. When she'd called her attacker--and by extension, herself--a monster, she had been deadly serious. Despite his anger with her, he had to admire her courage and her decisiveness. With only moments to act, she'd sacrificed her life to avoid becoming a predator like the man who'd turned her.

He turned and stumbled back down into the apartment, half blinded by the bright sky, limbs leaden. Anxiety pounded in his temples, that sense of approaching doom that signaled the arrival of the sun. Slamming the door shut didn't help. He groped his way toward the bedroom. He was nearly there--

* * *

Claire staggered to a halt in the middle of the street against all her instincts. They screamed at her to flee, to find cover. She could feel the sun's imminent appearance pressing down on her. The awful dread was unbearable, as painful as the eastern sky. Tears streaked her face, squeezed out of eyes shut tight against the searing brilliance. It wasn't enough.

She pressed her palms into her eyes, shielding them. She crouched in the street, tensed against the unbearable pain she anticipated. It would be hideously painful, burning to death. How could it not be? She hoped it would at least be quick.

She trembled with terror and grief and fury. She didn't want to die, she was too young. Please god, don't let me die. But if she didn't, she'd become a monster like the one who'd attacked her, who'd bitten her, raped her, forced her to drink his blood. He had done this to her, making her a monster like him. But she wouldn't let him win.

She'd burn first. She'd burn because she was a monster. A thing of legend, something that didn't exist, couldn't exist. Only it did. She did. She'd drunk that man's blood. Her memory of doing so was distant and fragmented, like a memory of a dream. But she remembered how desperately she'd wanted his blood, and how gratifying it was to have it. And even now, god help her, she wanted more. Much more. She couldn't imagine not wanting more.

Only moments now. She steeled herself to remain where she was. Cowardice clawed at her resolve, undermining her determination, throwing rationalizations around, plausible excuses to change her mind. Claire crouched lower, certain she could feel the heat of the sun on her skin, sobbing with the effort to hold herself in place, stoicism abandoned in this last moment of life.

She sensed the sun's arrival. Please, god, make it quick--

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's the Twenty-first Century!

I know. I have an eReader. It's no flying car, or jet pack, or lunar vacation destination. But it's pretty damn nifty all the same. It's a Nook, from Barnes & Noble.

I bought one for Spouse in June as an early birthday present. After seeing how much use--and enjoyment--Spouse got out of it, I decided it was time to get one of my own. So this Labor Day we hied ourselves down to the local mall, to the local B&N outlet, and picked one up.

I'm still learning all the ins and outs, and all the features. But I know I'm going to like using it. I've already downloaded a considerable quantity of free content. Nothing pirated, mind you. Barnes & Noble offer a number of free ebooks on their website, ranging from self-published (mostly via Smashwords) works--none of which interested me--to classics to sample works from current authors. I downloaded a couple of Harlequin romances, one in the Intrigue and one in the American line, to see what they're like. I also downloaded H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines because, well, it's a classic of SF that I've never read, so it's past time I did.

I also downloaded a dozen or more books from the Baen Free Library, another excellent source of free literature. I'm sure there are other sources (Google Books and Project Gutenberg, to name two) that I haven't yet taken advantage of. And, of course, I'll be buying ebooks from any number of publishers in the months and years to come.

I also downloaded to my computer a piece of free software called Calibre. It can convert any number of file formats into epub format (the open standard for epublications, and one that my Nook can read). The Nook doesn't read HTML except in its browser, but with Calibre I can convert and sideload some of my favorite web-based fanfic (in HTML and other formats) for reading while not tied to my computer.

Last but not least, I can also load images into my Nook to use as wallpaper or screensavers. So I just loaded the cover art for all my published works into it to serve as my screensavers. Now anyone who picks up my Nook will see a cover for one of my Cobblestone Press stories on the screen. (And it will help to distinguish MY Nook from Spouse's Nook too....)

This ain't exactly a food pill, or an anti-aging drug, but it's a pretty nifty piece of future tech all the same.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How I Write: Rest and Recreation

Welcome to another weekly post in the How I Write series. This series of posts is the brainchild of Ansha Kotyk, who--along with the other participants, including Yours Truly--haunts the forums (registration required) of the Romance Divas website. You can go here to find a list of all the participants with links to their individual blog posts. We'll each be posting on the same topic each Wednesday for the next two or three months--longer, if it goes well and we're having fun with it.

This week's topic is open--we all can write about whatever topic we choose.

I choose: burnout. Or, the necessity for time off.

Regular readers of my contributions to this series know I'm a big proponent of Heinlein's Rules For Writers. Because they're invaluable, I'll post them. One. More. Time.

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order.
  4. You must send your story to an editor who will buy it.
  5. You must keep your story in the mail until someone buys it.
I've also run the numbers, showing that a reasonble word count each day (or each working day), produced consistently, can result in several novels over the course of a year. If you doubt your ability to produce enough fiction to fill a 90,000 word book, this exercise is invaluable. It convinced me that I could do it, and I've written two novels this year.

Something else that needs discussion, though, is time off.

When you're self-employed, you have to be your own boss. Kristine Katheryn Rusch (whose website I linked to last week) is doing a series of posts about the freelance life. She makes that point--you have to be your own boss, and you have to be a strict taskmaster. Freelancers have nobody standing over them, demanding that they do a job in return for a regular paycheck. That means you have to motivate yourself.

You also need to treat yourself like an employee in another fashion: giving yourself permission to be ill, or to take a vacation. It can be stressful, knowing that the onus is on you to bring home the bacon, or when you're just starting out, to try to break into the writing field so you can begin to bring home the bacon. It takes time. Most "overnight sensations" in any field are people who worked for years, laboring away in obscurity, mastering their craft, before they found themselves in the right place at the right time with the right product (be it a novel, a screenplay, an invention, a service) to become an "instant" success.

In one way, writing is like any other sales job: you have to be prepared to hear "no" far more often than you'll hear "yes" from prospective clients (editors). If you produce enough stories or novels, and you work at improving your craft every day, and you keep them out there (Heinlein's Rules, again), eventually you'll start hearing "yes" occasionally, and then more often. But you're going to hear "no" a lot too. Even the greatest salesman can't sell to everyone, even with the greatest product in the world. To turn Lincoln's phrase on its head, "You can sell to all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't sell to all of the people all of the time."

It can be wearying. Depressing, even. Even when you're selling everything you write, you're still going to need to take time off sometimes. You're only human. But when you're still trying to get your foot in the door, it can be more difficult to justify taking time off. Cashing a royalty check makes it a lot easier to tell yourself that you deserve a rest. If you're still trying to make that first big sale, when you have nothing to show yet for all your hard work, it's a lot more difficult.

But you still need it. Burning yourself out helps no one. It won't improve your craft. It won't sell your work any faster. It won't give you the wherewithal to support your spouse in the manner to which he or she would like to become accustomed. But it can drain all the joy out of what should be a great job. You're getting paid (or hope to get paid eventually) to sit alone in a room and make shit up. If you're not enjoying it anymore, you're doing something wrong.

That's not to say that there won't be days when it feels like work, because it is work. It's a job. But if you feel like you might as well be punching a clock in an office, well, it's like the old vaudeville joke:

Patient: "Doctor, doctor--it hurts when I do that!"
Doctor: "Then don't do that!" (rimshot)

Don't do that. Sometimes you need to step away from the keyboard, put all the stories and story ideas and possible markets and calls for anthologies out of your mind. You need to rest. You need to take a vacation. And you're entitled to one, like everyone else. Rest your mind. Rest your spirit. Let your mental garden lie fallow for a time. In the long run it will help.

I've been spinning my wheels for the last month or more. According to my original plan for the year, I should be most of the way through a third novel. I haven't even started it yet. And yes, four novels is an ambitious goal for someone who never wrote even one before this past year. If I get three done, it'll still be a hell of an accomplishment. I still want to manage four, if possible. But right now, it's time for me to step back. I'm going to take a few days off from my writing. I'll write if I feel like it, if it's something I want to write. But otherwise, not. Not for the next few days.

I'll see you all again then.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How I Write: Recommended Reading/Classes You've Taken

Welcome to another weekly post in the How I Write series. This series of posts is the brainchild of Ansha Kotyk, who--along with the other participants, including Yours Truly--haunts the forums (registration required) of the Romance Divas website. You can go here to find a list of all the participants with links to their individual blog posts. We'll each be posting on the same topic each Wednesday for the next two or three months--longer, if it goes well and we're having fun with it.

This week's topic is Recommendations--Readings or Classes I've Taken.

Years (and years...yikes!) ago, I was a member of a critique group. Soley by good luck, I fell into a group with published writers involved in it. Mary Rosenblum (who writes SF and mysteries) was one. Mike Moscoe (or Mike Shepherd) was another member, though he was still a wannabe when I joined the group, but he sold his first novel not long after I joined the group. I wrote and got critiques and learned how to listen quietly while my darlings were put through a blender in front of me. I even sent a few stories out, but I didn't either write or submit consistently, and soon fell back into my old ways. That group eventually dissolved, as groups tend to do.

I continued to write fanfic, and some original fic, and participate in online games (that were really more like collaborative writing projects). I attended the local SF convention every year, attended all the panels aimed at writers and wannabes, and every year I got fired up to want to write again...and then after the con the desire would fade away and I'd go back to my old habits.

Two of the writers who sometimes presented panels were Kristine Katherine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. Separately and together, they've been editors and publishers, and they've both published scores of novels and short stories. They both have websites and blogs, and it was they who introduced me to Heinlein's Rules For Writers and who taught me to run the numbers. I would strongly recommend that you check out both blogs.

Dean is currently doing a multi-part series on his blog called Killing The Sacred Cows of Publishing, about the many and destructive myths around writing fiction for a living. Kris is writing The Freelancer's Guide on her blog, about the ins and outs of working as a freelancer--of any kind, not just writing. They both have extensive experience and know whereof they speak, so it's good advice--and it's free. They're both also posting frequently about how the advent of electronic publishing is changing and will change the world of publishing. Short answer: nobody knows yet, but you need to pay attention to this stuff because nobody will care more about your career than you will. (P.S. the comments to their blogs are often as useful as the blog posts themselves, as other professional writers chime in with their experiences, opinions, and beliefs.)

Kris and Dean also do workshops for writers in Lincoln City, Oregon. I attended one last September which helped spur me to buckle down and work at writing instead of playing around at it. That's why I now, around a year later, have seven erotic romance shorts published and two novels circulating. Their workshops are well worth the cost.

In a less interactive vein, I also recommend a number of books that I've found helpful over the years:

Orson Scott Card's Character and Viewpoint (Writers Digest Books) - An in-depth look at how to construct and animate convincing characters, and--my personal favorite part--an analysis of the differences between first, second, third and omniscient points of view, pointing out the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure (Writers Digest Books) - I've never read a book that gave me a clearer understanding of the structure of scenes, from the smallest to the grandest levels. It all boils down to cause and effect, stimulus and response. Bickham goes into great detail about the many ways you can screw this up, and how to do it right.

Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the $elling Writer (University of Oklahoma Press) - This is an older book, but well worth reading. It covers some of the same ground as the previous book (and did it first, really, but it wasn't the first one I read), and is another excellent manual on how to create dramatic tension scene by scene.

Robert McKee's Story (Harper Collins) - Subtitled "Substance, Structure, Style, and The Principles of Screenwriting", it's obviously a book about writing movie screenplays rather than novels. Nonetheless, it is full of excellent advice on how to pare a story down to the essentials and find the "skeleton" of your story, or (going in the other direction) start with bare bones and work your way up to a fully-fleshed dramatic story.

I recommend all of these books, and I welcome comments suggesting others you think I might profit from reading!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How I Write: Knowing When You're Done/Ready to Sub or Query

Welcome to another weekly post in the How I Write series. This series of posts is the brainchild of Ansha Kotyk, who--along with the other participants, including Yours Truly--haunts the forums (registration required) of the Romance Divas website. You can go here to find a list of all the participants with links to their individual blog posts. We'll each be posting on the same topic each Wednesday for the next two or three months--longer, if it goes well and we're having fun with it.

This week's topic is Knowing When You're Done, or Am I Ready to Submit or Query?

How do you know when you're done? When can your manuscript benefit from another editing pass, and when are you simply gilding the lily? I can't give you any hard and fast rules. I can only tell you how I look at it.

I'm a believer in writing fast, in writing as much as possible from the subconscious, creative side of the brain. Your subconscious knows everything your conscious mind knows, and plenty more besides--as anyone who has ever been blindsided by a long -forgotten memory coming to the fore can tell you. It remembers everything. So it knows everything you know about the art and craft of storytelling. Trust it.

Once I'm done with a story--a novel, especially--I put it away for a few days, or for a couple of weeks if it's a novel. Then I reread it from the beginning, looking for anything that leaps out at me. Typos and wordos and other artifacts of writing quickly; rough bits of description that can be improved quickly; and deeper issues. Sometimes I'll rearrange scenes, add or delete scenes, or add transitions to smooth the flow of the story. Once I've done that, I give it to my trusted first reader, my spouse.

Once my spouse has read it and given me a critique, I go over the story once more, making any changes I think advisable, give it a final polish--spellchecking (by eye, on printed paper with a red pen), fixing any other last-minute errors I find, and then I call it finished.

Is it perfect? No, but nobody writes a perfect novel. Nobody ever has, and nobody ever will. Is it the best I can do at the moment? Yes. Will I someday look back at it and cringe? Almost certainly; if I'm still learning and still improving my craft years from now, I certainly hope I'll be able to see things I could have done better in my earlier work.

Would it benefit from another editing pass? I don't think so, and I'll tell you why. Barring an obvious flaw that I somehow managed to miss every time I've looked at it so far, I've already given it the best effort of which I'm capable. Continuing to try to polish it is likely to do more harm than good. Whatever creativity I possess, whatever distinctive "voice" I may demonstrate in my writing, will only be diluted if I continue to fiddle with the manuscript. My voice--anyone's voice, really--is freshest with as little editing as possible.

I believe I'd be better advised to send the current manuscript out into the world to sink or swim on its merits than to continue polishing it to a mirror finish. Any lessons I learned from writing that story, or from the critique I got, or from editorial replies, are best applied to all my future work. I will learn more from applying those lessons to new tales than I will by trying to retrofit them to an earlier story.

So...I know I'm done when I've had at least one other person read the story and give me a reaction, and I've revised the story once based on that critique. I never, ever ask someone to re-read the story after I've made the changes (or some of them) that they suggested. After all, if I didn't make the changes they think are necessary, why should I expect them to have changed their minds? And if I did make the suggested changes, how can they complain?

As for submissions...if you're sending out a short story, it goes to one market at a time. The cardinal rule is, send it to the top markets first, however you define a "top" market. Maybe you want to be read by as many people as possible, or you want desperately to be published in a particular magazine. Maybe you just want as much money as possible for your work. Whatever the criteria you use, don't sell yourself short. Don't assume they'll reject it. Let the editor(s) decide whether they want your story.

That doesn't mean you should ignore their guidelines. Don't send flash fiction to a market that wants novellas. Don't send "sweet" romance to a publisher who only prints scorching erotica. But if there's any doubt in your mind about whether your story suits their market? Send it to them. Let THEM decide. They may just like it enough to make an exception. And the worst thing that will happen if they don't like it, is they'll send you a rejection letter. Eh. You're going to get lots of those over the course of your career. Get used to it.

If you're sending out a novel, send out multiple submissions. I send my novels to five publishers at a time, and as rejections come back, I send it out again so that it's always out at five publishers. I also ignore "no unsolicited manuscripts" rules. Not everyone will agree with that stance, but it works. I know--because I received a rejection on a novel from a publisher who "doesn't accept unsolicited manuscripts". The rejection letter came from a second editor, who had looked at the manuscript at the request of the editor to whom I'd sent it. Yes, they then rejected the novel--but they considered it. They did, in fact, read it despite the alleged rule against unsolicited manuscripts.

No editor wants to be known in the industry as the one who rejected the next J. K. Rowling sight unseen so that some other publisher makes a fortune on the book. They're going to look at everything that comes in the door, even if only briefly. But unless you're a name author already, everyone gets only a brief look--unless you grab the editor by the throat and make him miss his subway stop because he's caught up in your story. In which case, rules or no rules, he's going to want to buy your novel. And again, the worst thing to happen to you if they don't like it is, they send you a boilerplate rejection letter that says "we don't accept unsolicited manuscripts". But it's just that: boilerplate.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How I Write: Revisions--First Pass, Resources, Critique Groups

Welcome to another weekly post in the How I Write series. This series of posts is the brainchild of Ansha Kotyk, who--along with the other participants, including Yours Truly--haunts the forums (registration required) of the Romance Divas website. You can go here to find a list of all the participants with links to their individual blog posts. We'll each be posting on the same topic each Wednesday for the next two or three months--longer, if it goes well and we're having fun with it.

This week's topic is Revisions--First Pass, Resources, Critique Groups

Well...I'm not sure that I have a lot to say this week, to be honest. I said most of it last week. Revision is my least favorite, least time-consuming part of writing. Based on how some of the other participants described their writing technique, I suppose one might say I do a lot of my revisions while I hammer out the first draft.

I don't think of it as revision, though. It's all part of the mysterious, mostly subconsciously-driven, seat-of-my-pants approach to writing that I employ. I begin at the beginning, and write until I reach the end, then stop. Of course, along the way I may add or delete scenes, cut and paste scenes so the arrangement works better, or go back and modify scenes to suit changes I've wrought since I first put it down on "paper". I suppose one might call that revising, but I've always thought of it as simply part of the process of writing.

Thus, when I'm done with my first draft, it's relatively clean. The revisions are minimal at that point, and involve much cleaning up of typos, dropped or extraneous words, and smoothing out the rough edges of text being composed on the fly. And spell-checking, of course. I run the computer's spellchecker--but only after I'm done with the writing. I never, ever, ever allow the computer to spellcheck (or worse, grammar check) me when I'm writing.

And I never rely solely on the spellcheck. Software guys can't spell for beans. Many a spellchecker is as likely to introduce errors as eliminate them. Besides, there are too many errors a spellcheck program won't catch: homynyms, of course, and words that aren't the word you meant to write but which are at least spelled correctly. I'm never done revising until I've printed the story out and read it through line by line with red pen in hand. It's amazing--and a little alarming--how many errors I always catch that way.

I briefly mentioned critique groups last time. I'm in one, but they've met maybe twice since joined them. And even if we met regularly, I wouldn't depend on them to critique my work. I never show anyone--not my critique group, not my spouse--a work in progress. Nobody sees it until it's finished because it's my story; it'll be the best story I can produce at the time. I will only show my work to them after it's finished (and in the mail to an editor who can buy it--Heinlein's Rules again). Then they serve as another audience. I'm interested to hear what they have to say, but any valid criticisms I get will be applied to the next story. Once a story is done, it's done.

I suppose all of that might sound arrogant, but that's not my intention. It's just that I work best when I simply write the best story I can produce all on my own. I don't want to write by committee, or to please a committee, or for the approval of a handful of individuals--all of which can happen all too easily with critique groups. Plus, even if your critique group is full of established, published writers, they are still giving you their personal opinions, based on (among other things) their personal tastes. And if I'm going to ask someone's opinion of the story, why not an editor? If he likes it, he'll not only tell me so, he'll give me money! Does your critique group do that? Mine doesn't.

So my stories go to editors first, then to other people, whose opinions I respect. I'll listen to their criticisms, and heed their advice (if I think it's valid). But I won't revise a story once it's finished. That ship has sailed. I will, instead, apply the advice to my future stories, which--given both my greater experience as a writer (by a minimum of one additional tale) and informed criticism, is likely to be better overall than a story I might revise after the fact.

In fact, I may soon redraft (i.e., rewrite from scratch--not revise) a story I've had in circulation for over a year now. I've gotten some good and useful feedback on it, and I can see the validity of the comments I've received from some editors who rejected it. It won't be a revision of the original story. It will be a new story based on the same premise, with some of the same characters, but told anew--with (I sincerely hope) more skill and better craft than the one I wrote a year ago. (I won't pull the old story from circulation, mind you. Heinlein's Rule # 5--keep the story in the mail until someone buys it. It may yet find a home someday. But there's no reason I can't take another bite at the apple.)