Category Archives: Writing
Anything related to writing, authors, agents, publishers, etc.
So it’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally there. I finished writing the first draft of my first book.
For the past few months, I finally knuckled down, didn’t allow myself any distractions, and just wrote. I didn’t blog, I didn’t read others’ blogs (sorry!), I didn’t allow myself to sit down to read another book (more on that below), I hardly did any of my other various favourite time-wasting things. I got into the zone and wrote and wrote. Sometimes, at the start of a writing session, I went back to earlier bits and changed things I’d made notes on, but while I was in the zone and writing, it felt fantastic and I didn’t dare break myself out of it.
Want to know one of my main factors of motivation? (Apart from the wonderful support of my family, and the pure joy of writing that is its own reward, that is.)
Well, I’ve been looking forward to the release of Robin Hobb’s second book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, Fool’s Quest. So have my wife and my daughter, who are also hooked on Robin’s books (have I mentioned that I met her?!?). The book was due to come out on the 13th of August 2015. Well, I promised myself that I wasn’t allowed to read it until I’d finished writing my last chapter. Today is the 18th, and let me tell you, the last few days have been… excruciating. That was a mean, mean thing to do to myself. But you know what? It worked. I wrote more and better than ever before. (At least, the “better” part is what I’m telling myself. Shh! Don’t ruin it. I’m still riding that high.)
I know there’s still a lot of work to be done before my work is submittable, even to beta readers. I still have a few “[TODO]” markers in my draft that need attending. I’m pretty good (why am I being humble, I’m awesome! Like I said, shush!) with spelling and grammar even while I’m writing, but I’m sure there are occasional typos, and I’ll need to check for inconsistencies of PoVs, use of pronouns in my paragraphs, do cross-reference checks to make sure I’m not getting any names of minor characters muddled up, and so on.
But… I’m over that hump. Plus, I’m allowed to read Fool’s Quest now! Yay! My wife has already read it (finished about an hour after I got done writing, in fact), so now she’s in the position that I’m usually in after I’ve finished reading a book and have to wait for her to catch up so we can talk about it. I hope the book will have fewer errors than the last one, but other questions are much more important. Will Fitz finally Wit-bond again? Will the Fool pull through? (He has to, or the trilogy wouldn’t be named well… right?) What happened to Bee? Will we see more chapters from her perspective? Grrr.
Getting started on it as soon as I finish this blog post, which should be right about… now.
Nearly two months without a blog post (which was just a rant about something that seemed important at the time)… I’ve really been dragging my knuckles. Slacking off. Procrastinating. Sorry.
I’ve come to realise that the ending, which had seemed so good initially, was missing a certain something. Not that it wasn’t exciting the way I’d planned it, but, the closer I got, the more obvious it became that I needed more connections between characters, more things that I could hook into in later books. I don’t just need to end a story; I need to wrap up the first part of that story while setting the stage for bigger things down the line and weaving in hints and threads to be tied in later. I love reading the conclusion to a trilogy or series, and thinking, “Ah! So that‘s why she put in that morsel of information in the first book!” I want my readers to experience some of that as well.
Because of this uncertainty about how I could manage such a thing, I’ve been having a really hard time sitting down and writing the ending that I intended. Whenever I tried, I got that nagging feeling that I’d forgotten something, that I should improve something before I wrote the ending. And I just couldn’t bear to compromise on the quality of my story.
For weeks, it escaped me what that something was, and I was less productive with my writing than I’ve been for a long time. A bit of editing, a few pages of new stuff, working on background notes and the like. Just not really writing, dammit! Sure, I’ve had plenty of times where I hadn’t written much for a longer stretch, but that was always because of external influences, like work, family, or other projects (yeah, let’s call it “projects” – sounds better than “passing fancies”, doesn’t it?), not because I was stuck. I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block (maybe I just haven’t been at it long enough to experience that?), but I guess this is the closest I’ve come to date.
I found myself putting off writing during the few precious hours each week that I’m able to dedicate to writing. As a result, I wasn’t inclined to write up a new blog post, either. It just didn’t feel right; I’d just done a few non-writing-related posts in a row and wanted to be able to report on some sort of tangible progress.
A few days ago, it finally clicked in the deep, dark recesses of my head.
And you know what? It even helped me with one of the other things I’ve had a really hard time with: writing a blurb. I’m not sure how the two things are connected, but connecting Book One to the larger story helped me to see more clearly what the essence of the first part of my story is, and helped me to make the choice of which bits I could leave out in my blurb – something that always seemed wrong to me before. (“But that‘s an important component of the story, and so is that part, and I can’t leave out that bit!”)
Now I know what I need to do. It won’t be easy, and I need to make some changes that will ripple through other parts of the story, but at least I’m out of the doldrums.
Better get to it. Better get back on that horse.
My wonderful daughter is now 17 (man, that makes me feel old!) and in her final year of high school. She recently went on her Year 12 retreat, and the school asked every student’s parents to secretly write them a letter, which they would all receive one evening while they were away. They’d be given time to read it in private and to respond with a letter of their own. I cherish every word of what she wrote back to me, but while I wouldn’t dream of publishing her words, I’d like to share what I wrote to her.
My Darling Baby Girl,
If I said that I’ve loved and adored you ever since the moment I helped deliver you out of the safety and warmth of your mother’s womb, and caught you, and placed you in Mum’s arms, and cut the cord, and welcomed you into this world… then that wouldn’t be true. Because, well, I already loved everything I knew about you even before you were born. We had some great conversations while Mum was still pregnant with you (even though I did most of the talking and your contributions consisted mostly of kicking and punching and doing somersaults). I played you my favourite music by holding headphones against Mum’s belly, which of course is the sole reason you have such excellent taste in music even today.
Then, you were finally born, and so… perfect. You were there to comfort me with your bright, curious gaze – never once crying, just studying the strange being whose voice you already knew – when Mum needed an operation right after you were delivered and I was so worried that you might be an only child. It all turned out well, but I was so thankful you were there with me.
You had me wrapped around your tiny finger from the very start.
Every step you made, every breath you tade… er, took, I loved every moment of watching you grow up. You see, it wasn’t just that you were so cute (and, oh my goodness, were you ever cute!), but also that you allowed me to experience the entire world through the eyes of a young child again. All the glorious beauty of God’s creation, and I’d become so accustomed to everything that I didn’t really appreciate it anymore… until you showed it to me again. What a gift! In return, I wanted to share everything that I liked with you. If I saw a movie that was really moving, or funny, or exciting, I thought, “Ooh, I’m going to watch this one with Debbie when she’s <X> years old!” If I read a book that was really good, I thought, “Oh boy, I hope she’ll become an avid reader and devour books by the truckload.” (And lo and behold, it came to be thus.)
Well, all right – I can’t take all the credit for everything. Nearly everything, though. Yeah, of course Mum was always there to spoil you as well, so… almost nearly everything, then. (Now stop being so nitpicky and let me enjoy this!) And spoil you we did, but, right from the start, one of my goals was to help you be the best you you could possibly be. One of the most important traits I taught you was to be critical. I’d tell you things, even before you could properly reply more than yes or no (but, wow, you understood so much already!), and then ask a question that challenged what I’d just told you. Somehow, you just didn’t let me fool you.
So many milestones* along the way. Having a little brother, then another. Experiencing the wonders of having pets, and of having them pass away. Kindy, pre-school, primary school, secondary school, changing school, making new friends. Becoming a teenager, lying to your parents, reconciling. The first boyfriend (whom I somehow didn’t even kill… no guarantees about the next one, though), your first break-up. Braces. Your first job. Becoming a mature young woman (you were always way more mature than most others your age).
(*Disclaimer: Events may not necessarily be in chronological order. Events in rear-view mirror may seem more or less significant than they really were, depending. On stuff.)
And now, and now… you’re still and will always be Daddy’s little girl, but you’re also a wonderful young woman, so full of confidence – and rightly so – in her ability to handle whatever the world throws at her. Seventeen now, #ohmigoshohmigosh #howdidtimeflysofast?!? You’re old enough to watch horror movies with us, old enough to laugh at all my dirty jokes that I had to bottle up for years before you would’ve understood them (even if you cringe at some of them, you love it!), old enough to write your own stories (which are getting better so fast it’s scary), old enough to have your L-plates and later this year your P-plates. Soon you’ll be old enough to vote!
Your journey in your final year in secondary school will end a chapter in your life that will seem smaller and smaller as you move on and open new chapters over time, but you should always be proud of all that you’ve achieved and accomplished and become during this impressionable time. I know I am and will always be proud of you. Your sharp mind is a weapon, use it to beat life into submission. You can be anything you want to be, because you’ve been handed these most important attributes by Mum and me: awesome brains, the heart of an artist and a poet, a killer sense of humour, and a smile that can melt any heart. There shouldn’t be any situation where the things we’ve handed down are not enough, but if there ever is… I’ll be there for you.
Love always and forever,
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down
And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we’ve handed down
You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father’s
That you’d gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we’ve handed down
– Mark Cohn, “The Things We’ve Handed Down”
Things have been crazy busy at my end of the world, but I wanted to take some time to give a well-deserved shout-out to a fellow blogger whose meticulous proofreading/editing services I’ve recently had the chance to experience.
I’ve been following the blog of Thomas Weaver for quite some time now (well, just about since I started blogging myself), and have consistently enjoyed his Grammar Rants, amongst other posts. I’d like to believe that we’re similar in some respects (perfectionists, sticklers for detail, and grammar na… er, ninjas), but I can’t claim to have any seriously honed editing skills (though I did rant myself about things an editor should’ve picked up in a book written by my favourite author that I just couldn’t overlook). So, since I remembered from first browsing his site a long time ago that he was also an editor who offered a free sample of his proofreading/editing skills for up to 5000 words – and because I knew I would soon be submitting my first chapter, which therefore had to be extra polished – I thought I’d see whether he’d be able to find any little errors I may have overlooked in my own writing. I was pretty convinced that there wouldn’t be more than a few, and that those would have been ones that crept in with recent edits to said first chapter.
Boy, was I naïve.
Thomas not only found a few errors that had crept in, he also managed to remind me of how inconsistent I’d become with my commas and semicolons (in more places than I’d like to admit publicly), and of my bad habit with adding a fourth dot to an ellipsis when it’s at the end of a sentence, which isn’t correct.
I did have the audacity to disagree with some of his suggested edits, and, in our interesting email conversation about several aspects of editing and grammar, rather than being a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, he was happy to agree with some of my reasoning and answer my questions about some of the finer points of… stuff.
Oh, and, as a bonus, he came up with this gem regarding ellipses that cracked me up:
Then thou must write three dots upon the page. Three shall be the number of the dots, and the number of the dots shall be three. Four dots shall thou not write, neither shall thou write two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the three dots, three being the number of the dots, be written…
It helps to know the Monty Python original to appreciate it:
So, clearly, if you’re in need of professional proofreading and/or editing, I can whole-heartedly recommend Thomas’ services. Not only will you get first-class service, you’ll also be communicating with a guy who is very approachable, who knows way more than just his commas and semicolons, and who has a great sense of humour.
You can even try out his free sample offer so you have an idea of what you’ll get for hiring him. And if you do, please tell him Amos sent you – maybe I’ll get a discount when I need more of his excellent editing skills. ;-)
Ok, quick break from writing, just long enough to say…
… Sorry, the main part of my mind is somewhere completely different right now.
… I’m making good progress with my last couple of chapters.
… Thanks heaps, Thomas, I’ll get around to that blog post when I have a chance (that is, when it doesn’t mean breaking out of the Zone), and will reply to that email. Just… not right now. (You’ll notice lots of 3-dot ellipses, though!)
… Another great picture my wife took that sort of fits the topic:
… No, it’s not the Twilight Zone. (But thanks for your concern.)
… Your blog visit is very important to us. The next available Amos will be with your comment… er, later. Probably. Gotta go!
(*clears throat and climbs up on his soapbox, manifesto in one hand, microphone in the other*)
… that there are a few things I need to say at the start of the new year, 2015.
- … that people who wonder about the meaning of life either don’t have kids or don’t pay enough attention to them.
- … that love, humour and hope are the three main ingredients for happiness.
- … in happy endings in real life. (In stories, they sometimes make me cringe, though. Even if I did silently hope for them.)
- … in the importance of people being able to talk to each other… non-electronically.
- … that you don’t need to drink alcohol in order to have fun.
- … that smoking should be outlawed except for people willing to wear a permanently sealed-off helmet, and that the influence of tobacco lobbyists and the like are despicable. We all know what it does… why is it still around?
- … that America and the UK need to stop hanging on to their confusing versions of the imperial system of units and finally go metric (your medical and military people are doing it… no, not with each other, I mean they use the metric system). Also, the US need to stop insisting on formatting dates with the middle value followed by the smallest value followed by the largest value. WTF? Oh, while you’re at it, guys, fix where punctuation goes on quotes that are less than a “complete sentence”.
- … that bullies are almost always cowards too weak to stop doing to others something similar to what’s been done to them.
- … that the most wonderful sound in the whole wide world is that of my kids laughing uncontrollably.
- … that I’m the luckiest guy alive because my awesome wife, best friend and soulmate gets me and loves me including all my faults.
- … that religious extremism of any sort makes this world a darker place, and that the rest of the world should take heed of how Australia handled her first real encounter with it. #IllRideWithYou
- … that Australia needs to get rid of its current village idiot, climate-change-denying leader to start moving in the right direction again. We’re the joke of the world, being pretty much the only country in the world that is moving away from actively doing something about global warming, and it’s a friggin’ disgrace.
- … that OSS (open-source software) is the way to go wherever there’s a choice.
- … that DRM (digital rights management) is wrong.
- … that I couldn’t live without some of my favourite pieces of software (sounds like a future blog topic to me!).
- … that installing a piece of software on my PC or an app on my phone doesn’t give it the right to do things like collect data about me without my explicit agreement, to not give me a choice of when it can dial home or check for updates, or to access any information on my system it doesn’t absolutely need to function. Worst offenders being companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, but also increasingly “do-no-evil” Google. (I love Cyanogen!)
- … that it’s a crying shame that Smalltalk isn’t more widely used as a programming language (try Pharo and Seaside if you like to tinker, you won’t want to go back).
- … that I am fully within my rights, when I see an email from someone that ends with “sent from my iPhone” to add to my own response, “Sent from my 64GB/3G Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz Quadcore OnePlus One with Cyanogen 11S that kicks your iPhone’s arse (and costs less than half as much)”.
Work (in IT)
- … that programmers shouldn’t have to wear business clothes.
- … that software architects should have the guts to recommend the right software for the job, not based on which sales reps can throw more money at decision-making board members who still believe that more expensive must mean better.
- … that IT recruiters are right up there with lawyers and other blood suckers. The fact that they charge between 10% and 40% (or even more) on top of a developer’s rates without really knowing anything beyond buzz words is just appalling.
- … that I should take the time to blog a bit more. (Yeah, like that’ll happen. *sigh*)
- … that there are too many good, honest blogs out there to read – how I wish I had more time to invest in being a good follower!
- … that following another blog without really being interested in what it’s about, i.e. just to get them to follow you back, is akin to lying. Thanks to all those who do occasionally read my humble scribblings, and I hope to find more time to read all your blogs. (I _am_ interested in those I follow! I just roll my eyes whenever someone new follows me whose blog is about “making money by blogging” or the like.) For now, though, my aim is simply to have (not necessarily build) a platform while I focus on writing my book. Building my platform will come later, when I have more time for that sort of thing….
- … that WordPress is great, but they should finally accept that I like the “old” stats page better and stop asking me to vote in their silly survey every time I load it.
- … that WordPress needs to finally find a way to fix the “invalid certificate” bug that causes security errors. I keep forgetting that certain things only work in certain browsers because of it, and that it sometimes causes my “likes” of other blogs to be lost. Not cool!
- … that I’ve had enough of distopian future stories whose premise I don’t buy, or whose premise I buy, but they then make ridiculous assumptions about human nature that I just can’t swallow (might be another future blog post).
- … that everyone should take grammar seriously. Not just grandpa. All jokes aside, don’t let our language decay because people have to fit everything into 140 characters. Do your part, write things out, learn how it’s done right without needing a spell checker, and gently educate those who fall short. Or, like, mercilessly correct them, or… whatever.
- … that my story is worth telling.
- … that 2015 will be the year I finally finish my story. Watch this space. #amwriting
- … that you should all have a Happy New Year! All the best for 2015 (and beyond).
- … that it’s about time I stepped off this soap box. Ahem. Sorry for ranting, but occasionally it’s nice to get this sort of stuff off my chest. Now somebody give me a hand getting down, it’s higher than it looks. Huh? What do you mean, the microphone wasn’t on?!?