Archive | February 2010

busy, busy

Doing almost seventeen hours of work is difficult sometimes, LIke right now. I have things due  today, plus a test, a test on Friday and again, something due, and a huge project and test due on Tuesday. It is chaotic. For some crazy reason I decided to volunteer for a fundraiser  my college did last night, which meant more time spent not doing school and, even more important, not on writing.

So, besides the fact that I have absolutely  no time to do much of anything, I have no time to write. Part of this is my own fault because I have to do a paper edit of something but part of it is just that I’m too tired.

So, how do you squeeze in a few minutes to write? Because once you start writing, you don’t want to stop, but the process of starting to write is difficult. Any ideas?

(This is also a post to say don’t expect inconsistent posting until after my nursing test on Tuesday.)

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the “secret” to good characters

I recently read a blog post about how the secrets that a characters keep makes the story much better. I began thinking about it because my first reaction was that none of m characters  have any good secrets. However, I found myself proven wrong.

I realized this when I began looking at my arranged marriage plot.  In the first plot, the guy looked interesting to write for, because he has the secret of his deformity. The maid would be interesting to write for, because she has her secret love and the possibility of of a child from an earlier marriage. (i’ve been toying with that idea too.) But the girl who marries him at first doesn’t have anything fun because she doesn’t have anything she’s keeping from anyone else.

Which brought me to my second plot, which involved the guy keeping the secret from his family and the girl about his disability  and the girl keeping it from him about her love of his brother. (I’m trying to work on a big bang ending for that one, by the way. I think it might be interesting.)

But it isn’t just this new story that I discovered the secret thing about. In Hope, I had the whole secret that the reader didn’t know about who Hope was and who Ka’yam was, which ends up being told in due time.

Giant’s Wife had them both keeping the language from each other, and Heddwyn keeping his past from her, more or less.

Dragon Slayers has an interesting one involve Justin which I shall not tell you yet. (I promise I will edit that soon and post it.)

Kontyo had the secret, although unknown to him, that he couldn’t go back home.

In fact, when I look at it, almost all good plots focus around a bunch of very well crafted secrets while having a bunch of very interesting characters.

However, that isn’t the whole entire part of how to do it properly. The secrets can’t be told all at once in the beginning. The secrets want to be stretched across a series of chapters, preferably the whole length of the book. I don’t think the end of Hope would have been as interesting as it was if I didn’t have the reader find out the Ka’yams real background nor do I think it would have worked if the reader didn’t find out about Hope where the reader did.

Part of it does take skill figuring out where to tell the plot and where not to. Part of I think just will flow out when it should. Sometimes, I find, if it is a really big secret, I’ll have it planned out long before I write the scene.  It’s exciting, both to me as a writer and hopefully to the reader.

So, when it comes down to it, the secret of having awesome characters that you want to write for is that they have secrets themselves. Sometimes, you’ll find the characters keep the secrets even from you too.

ebooks anyone?

I started reading news articles and I came across one about how positive the recent amazone/apple/ipad/kindle/ebook/Macmillan is for book readers and authors as well. This article started me thinking about how ebooks are effecting things for writers.

Right now, we have many devices for reading ebooks that we didn’t used to have. Many people own an ipod touch or an iphone. I don’t know how blackberries or androids compare, but if they are similar enough, you might be able to read an ebook on there. Almost everyone own computers and fast interent. Then you have all of the currently released ebook readers, from Kindle to sony. Now, we have an ipad, and who knows what will come out the near future.

Also, there are hundred now of self publishing places that let you publish the book without costing you much, if any, money. Yes, you get pennies for your book depending on what you set your price to, but it is possible.

The question comes then why not post books as ebooks? Obviously, as writers who are hopefully activity trying to find a market to sell their books, we don’t want to make them fall flat. However, I think I can see a few good reasons. Now, I don’t know the publishing business that well so I might be totally off my mark, but it makes sense to me.

First of all, if the purpose for writing is so others can read and (hopefully) enjoy your work, then it makes sense that by putting it on the internet would make it possible to reach a larger group of people than just your close circle of friends. (That is partly why I started this blog.)

Secondly, although this is highly unlikely, if you create a large reader base, it could be possible that publishers would see actual money in publishing you. You aren’t just a random no name. You’re [blank] who wrote [famous ebook].

Baen did this actually. They said that it made sense to offer a few choice books to readers online, so they could see what they might be getting into before they committed to buying a book. If you are really certain about what you wrote, then why not share it?

My greatest fear with putting something like that online is I don’t see the logical holes within my story. Not really. I would hope that if I were published, the editor would tell me, “Abigail, this part really stinks and makes no sense.” I just don’t know. By publishing them to the internet so that way everyone could download them whenever they want, I might actually be publishing something very bad.

Then again, don’t we all not really know when we send something to the publisher whether it is good or bad? It’s all a gamble.

So I’m thinking about putting Shad up for download once I finish editing it. I originally planned on posting it here, decided that it would not work because how poorly Giant’s Wife came out and went over, and changed my mind. (If I did post it, I would make a separate place, such as shad.alwaysawriter.wordpress.com, if I can do that.) So I don’t know. I’ll have to look into this when spring break comes.

Anyone have any other opinions about ebooks?

ebook solution

I’ve been reading a lot about the problem with ebooks. To summarize, publishers like hardback books because they can make them for almost the same price as paperback books (slightly more) but can sell them for much more. People buy them because they don’t want to wait for the paperback to come out in a few months. People with money. People who can buy kindles, ipads and iphones who now want to buy ebooks.

Suddenly, publishers don’t have any secret good mine, because everyone wants to have ebooks for very little money. After all, why should an ebook, which doesn’t have paper and ink and presses, cost much of anything? Ebooks should be maybe $2, if that, and publishers aren’t the ones producing ebook readers, where all the ebooks go. (The answer is that the writers and the editors need to paid too.)

So, my solution is that publishers sell hardback books, yes, and with these hardback books they give a free ebook that they can download in almost all formats. (I’m questioning kindle, just because I know for the long time it was difficult to get a kindle book.) This way, the person who has the money to spend on both the hardback book or the ipad gets both for the price of one, publishers are still happy because they are selling thier hardback books (And really, how hard is it to make an ebook available?)  and it gives whatever company who does this a bonus over the other companies.

Obviously, there are a few details that still needs to be worked out, such as how do you know that I don’t buy the hardback book and let my friend download my ebook. But I’m not the one being paid to figure these things out anyway.

Now, if there are any publishers out there reading this and think it is a really good idea, the proper thing to do would be to look at my manuscript. :)

taking science to the next step

This post, by the way, is in honor of it being student nurses week and the fact that today (when you see it, Not when I wrote it.) is my student nurses convention day.

I was learning recently in one of my classes about the nerve sends messages through the body through action potentials. We got to the part where the action potential gets to the synapse (which is like a gap between two axons (nerve parts)). What basically happens there is the action potentials eventually open up these calcium channels that cause these special chemicals (neurotransmitters) to go across the gap. Once there, they attach to the other nerve axon, and start sending a pre-action potential (graded potential) through the nerves.

The problem with this is that if the neurotransmitter isn’t removed, it’ll keep sending the message about the stimuli constantly to the brain as soon as it can. So it needs a way to be removed and there’s a couple. If you care, they either use an enzyme to break it down, another cell picks it up, or it just drifts away after it sends the message.

NOw that you’ve had your pre-science lesson, the real lesson.  Nerve gas causes these neurotransmitters to stay on the axon, and constantly send the message. When they are constantly sending the message, the muscles in the whole body contract. (Yes, this is very painful.) It also paralyses the diaphragm, which means that the person can’t breath.

This might be really morbid, but considering that most writers have to be part  crazy already, it’s not too surprising. By taking a basic scientific structure, like the neurotransmitters being stuck to the axon continuously instead of leaving, we have a weapon. If we are to taken something else that should be maintained by the body’s general checks and balances, and throw that out of whack too, then what kind of chaos can we cause for our characters? What kind of chaos can we cause as an evil overlord?

So, two more thoughts that I’ve learned from nursing. (Maybe I’ll get more too eventually.)

IF you need to confuse an elderly character for whatever reason, but don’t want it to be too out of character, give them a bladder infection. Sometimes the only sign that an elderly person has a bladder infection is confusion. (You could also make them dehydrated, because that occurs easily in the elderly.)

If you want to have a tough group of characters, like special mercenaries, you can give them a stomach tube. The idea being that a doctor would basically create an artificial hole from the inside to the outside of the stomach wall. Some of the protections they have for this will allow someone to go into water and everything, without making it obvious. Then, say they are doing something that they can’t eat, but they really probably should be eating, they just stop, pull out a syringe filled with nutrients and such, and inject it into the little tube that leads to their stomach. TAda! This  could be classified under the same idea as Jack Bauer goes to the bathroom during the commercial breaks.

cutting words

Yesterday I spent a good hour writing blog posts and summarize topics I want to blog about later. My goal was to write up the posts last night but, I studied late, didn’t finish dinner until late then, and realized I had a scholarship to write that is due today. (I know. Brilliant on my part.)

The scholarship wants us to write a 250 word essay about why I chose a career in nursing. So I figured it would be about a five paragraph essay, I wrote lots of those in highschool, so I would just write it like that. I outlined it, summed up my points and wrote.

First word count: 566 words.

So, I went through it, editing it as I went and came out with my second draft. Word count: 500.

I ended up cutting out almost everything I could, to the point that I barely have my typical five paragraph essay, to get to a grand total of 263 words. I figure that close enough, I can’t cut anything else, so I’m done.

I will tell you it is the hardest thing in the world to cute something down from 566 words to 263 words. I wish it could be better. I almost wish that I decided to write a poem instead, so I could say more. There is so much more than what I said in my essay about why i chose nursing. But some of it I don’t know how to explain. How do I explain that I partly went into nursing because, if I was needed to, I could go overseas and help? Or that I could become a midwife maybe someday? Or that I want to teach people?

I can’t say to be honest how to cut words. I know now to look for phrases that can be described in smaller words and prepositions. And try not to save it for the last minute. You would think I would have learned by now, don’t you?

one idea, many stories

So, on Sunday I wrote about my love story plot that I’d love to write. Much to my dismay, I’ve been toying with this idea ever since Sunday. I had an almost breakthrough that made me consider actually writing it, in spite of my swearing off of love stories. The idea is that I should just set it in a sci-fi setting, which I need practice writing in anyway,

Now, I have two ideas.

Just so you know the background: Arranged married goes wrong when the guy, who was rumored to be the guy, because he’s handsome, athletic and nice, has been in a very bad accident and is in some sense deformed, although it is not completely obvious. Girl is unaware of this initially, although would eventually find out as much.

So now, my two plots. Plot one from that is basically that idea. Guy was hurt, guy is slowly getting better so the girl doesn’t know. Girl finds out, freaks out and decides that she can’t marry him no matter what and blahblahblah. Well, as it turns out the other girl who has been caring for him since the accident has secretly fallen in love with him and somehow he finds out and he loves her and tada! Doesn’t end happy for the first girl but it ends happy for everyone else. (If I wrote this, it would be in the maid’s POV, just because anything else would be too difficult, and the other girl not as much fun.)

Story two: Guy’s a soldier; he got hurt; he comes home. Parents say while you’re covering, now is a great time for you to get married. And forget about all that silly soldier stuff anyway. It’s not like that was good for you.  Girl shows up, and it’s okay, although no one tells her what happened. (oooh, maybe he didn’t tell his family how badly hurt he was.) Problem is guy doesn’t want to marry girl because guy wants to still be a soldier and do good things like that. Girl doesn’t want to marry guy because by some twisted fate thing, girl has fallen in love with guy’s brother over the past year that they have been sending letters. Obviously, neither of them know the other’s dilemma, but if either of them decide not to get married, then it is worse than if they were found with a bunch of illegal drugs in their possession. Eventually, they find out everything and the guy breaks it off and runs off to be a soldier again, girl marries guy’s brother, and everyone is happy.

Both these stories could be written in a well-crafted science fiction society, so I would steer clear of the fantasy stuff I’ve been writing recently. It would actually be even more of a challenge to myself to make a believable reason as to why the society has arranged marriages and what their rules are. (Such as, if we are going to allow arranged marriages, we need to have a rule that there can only be a three year difference between the couple and so forth.)

I would like to write both these stories and I think, especially the first one, might be boring for me by the end. It’s not like Giant’s Wife where it ends with a BANG! Bu the second one might be a good thing to write because the second one I can incorporate into mindskill later on, as one of the characters. It would give background, society and so forth and might make for a much better story for me.

So, maybe I will write it. I’m not allowed to write anything else until I finish editing Dragon Slayers, which I have not done any of yet. Bad Abigail I know. But at least I can plot.

the unknown problem of writing in college

Basically, the problem with being in college is it takes a lot of time. I’m currently taking 17 hours, but that manages to add up to thirteen hours of sitting in class plus another nine hours of nursing clinical and two hours of lab for a total of twenty four hours of class room time, Then, I work for about an hour each week, but I’m trying for more just because I don’t want to have to survive on 28 dollars a month and I just finished training for my job, which took up another two hours of my day. And… I keep thinking I’m doing something that I’m missing but I don’t remember what, besides eight hours of sleep a night.

What it comes down to is that I am busy. Busybusybusy. Why does this matter with writing? Because when I’m this busy, I think I just can’t find the plots.

Reason why? See, you know about school’s writing contest that I’ve mentioned before. When I first saw it, I thought about what I would write for that whole first semester. Nothing came besides a few silly ideas. School stopped, I’m free and I get the idea to write short stories so I can get everything out. I come up with my Robin Hood rewrite, my when-to-fight story, my Dragon Slayers story, Kontyo and finish with starting mindskill, plus I think a few others. It was awesome after a month of no plots.

i also started a diet at about this time so I thought that it was the diet letting my mind think some more. Now… now I’m not sure. Because I’m two months into the semester and I’m having a hard time plotting. It’s like all my mental energy is focused on school that I can’t come up with anything to write.

This is, obviously, very bad, because I use writing to relax. If I have no plots, how can I relax while doing something productive (not playing stupid facebook games)?

This whole concept that school zaps my plotting skills is foreign to me. Last year, while at another school, I managed to write a whole novel (Shad) in a matter of months. It was a blast. But now… I’m lucky if I can come up with something to even write about.

Last semester at Thanksgiving break, I was sick the whole time, so I’m hoping now that things will clear up mentally for me over spring break so I can restock my plots.  I guess it’s just a side effect of going to college that we never think of.

My other thought is that I’d rather write more of a suspense type book, that’s quick and fast. Writing fights are hard to begin with that the last thing someone wants to read about is some kind of fight I would think every single scene (more or less). So I’m thinking that maybe what I should do is read a suspense book to get a better idea about how to do action. I am about to start a chaotic two weeks (from test 2 in nursing until test 3), so I obviously can’t start that until after those two weeks at least. Then we’ll see how much reading we have at that time to determine if I can or not.  I also want to read this book I started earlier this semester but never finished over spring break. Oi, looks like I’ll be busy.

(Oh, and on that love story idea, I LOVE that idea the more I think about it. The stupid plot won’t get out of my head. I am so frustrated, but convince now that he divorces the other girl at her request and marries someone else.)

where do plots come from?

I only remember snapshots of those months. That is normal. Most of the time while writing a story, time just passes me by until there’s a click of realization. The clicks I remember clearly, because it’s like I realize two pieces of a puzzle that don’t appear remotely similar can be linked with just one little piece. Those are the moments that make writing exciting. However, the everyday moments of putting words on paper–words that are sometimes cut out completely later on–isn’t usually remembered.–(From Flashes of Imagination)

I commonly see this question answered by authors on their websites. In many ways, it is a very good question. Where do the plots come from?

In some ways, they seem to pop out of thin air. I tell my mom it’s like a bouncy ball is in my head and it is always bouncing around. Sometimes it’s like this ball hits the right spot and–boom!–I have a plot.  Or at least, the beginning of a plot.

Because unlike what I would like to happen, a plot isn’t something that just appears out of thin air. It takes time to develop.

Let’s take Shad for example, which I know that no one has read but I know how it developed more. When I first thought about the plot, I had a piece of wood with a string on it that I was playing around with. I twisted the string around the nails and made a ship. Then, I started thinking about this person, who worked on a place like in Titan AE, so it’s like a recycling plant, who wants to be a mail runner and how he becomes it.  Since that didn’t really interest me, the concept did more, I wrote it in my notebook and stowed it away.

Fast forward quite some time and I’m sweeping the dining room floor. I start having a conversation between the characters in my head. Out of that conversation comes the concept of Shad thinking himself as the best pilot and also the concept of sweeper ships.

Fast forward again a few more months and I decide it’s time to pull out my notebook and start writing down details of the story. I write down how they get food, how they get supplies. What they wear. How they act. Everything. I create for myself a society. I also get excited and write a few scenes.

However, I didn’t actually write anything for Shad until a year later, Maybe that is why it came out so well. During this time I was editing another story (Hope) which I wanted to finish before I started a new one. Two weeks before I started at a tech school, I told my mom that I really want to write this and I think I should, because otherwise it might just disappear. She said why not? I ended up writing Shad within three months, from August to Thanksgiving.

Now, between that time obviously I had to figure out things like who Shad’s parents were and where he came from and things like that. I don’t remember how I figured out the ending. I don’t remember how I realized the captain’s background (a rather nice little piece.) I don’t even remember why I decided that Shad needed a pet, except that I wanted a way to show that he wasn’t just some random tough guy.

Ironically, I usually can’t tell you want my plot is until I finish a story. For Shad, I thought it was his race. When I finished though I realized what it really was: Shad finding his place in the civilized galaxy.

The bottom line is that plots take time to develop. Plots usually have more than one issue involved in them. It’s almost like an onion, with the many layers that all comes down to it. But where do they come from? Thin air I think. Random ideas and thoughts connected in such a way that most people can’t even see them. They just pop in and then I knew how to exactly write something interesting.

So, does anyone else know?

I WANT TO WRITE A LOVE STORY!

After finishing Giant’s Wife, I said that I swore off love stories until I’m at least engaged. Why? To summarize, because I haven’t even dated yet, so I don’t know how to exactly write about it.

This morning I came up with a brilliant plot  though.

Guy, we’ll say a lord, gets maimed in an accident. Very badly maimed where his whole side is at best useless. He lost part of his arm and can barely walk. But he doesn’t want anyone to know because he’s slightly ashamed and he used to be really athletic and now he’s lucky if he can make it from his room to his office. He’s getting better but it’s slow. This is a recent accident though

Girl was married earlier to him by proxy, had been postponed in coming to him for some unexplained reason on his part, and then finally arrives. That’s all I know. They get married shortly afterwards.

They get married.

But guy acts weird. Things like, he doesn’t ever rise or walk much in her presence. He always has a cane with him, which could be an ornament but it’s still weird for normal, everyday life. He also doesn’t show his hand/arm much (because he wears a prothesis) or uses it.  He also keeps to himself and never once sleeps with her.

Now, I don’t know where this would go much. My obvious solution would be that the girl starts to love the guy and then finds out and then is like, “Oh well,” but that’s so cliché.

The next idea was something along the lines of a servant of some kind who has been helping him recover for the last six months has basically fallen in love with him. He wouldn’t notice because he’s a nice, strong, lord, she’s just a common, and they are technically already married.

Then, the girl finds out, declares that she didn’t bargain to marry a maimed husband and wants out and he, because he’s feel all miserable, agrees and lets her go back.  At some point in time, the servant girl comes out that she loves him and he finds out that he loves her and–tada!–everything’s happy.

The only problem is I can’t write it because I refuse to write a love story like this. I would like to pursue this idea more or less and see where it goes, because it sounds interesting. (It actually sounds like something that my friend and I would roleplay if we still did.) It would be a blast. But I can’t because I am not going to write a love story.

Why does love have to be such a difficult topic anyway?

Maybe I’ll try to convince my friend to roleplay this summer.

On a different note, I’m trying to think of short stories to write for the characters in mindskill (besides Isaiah) because then I would get to know the characters better and I like that idea.