The Fertile Random of Revision Hell

I’m in Revision Hell at the moment, chopping up and messing with the first Bannon & Clare book to get it from zero to first draft status. So I have the map of Dickens’s London out, a sneezing cat on my shoulder, a dog flopped at my feet with several long-suffering sighs whenever I move in the slightest, and a head stuffed full of story structure, plot arc, character cross-references, and things to look for in the zero draft.

As you might suspect, this makes for some exotic thoughts when I’m not actively revising. Like the peculiar, highly-colored, anxiety-ridden dreams I’ve come to expect during revisions. They rarely involve the story; instead, they’re some version or another of the old “here I am in class, naked and missing my homework” dreams. Last night’s featured Martians.

Seriously, you don’t want to know. In any case, here’s a selection of Things I Think While Revising, different than the normal oddness inside my head only in that the anxiety makes them much more vivid than usual ho-hum “how would I do a shootout in this stairwell” thoughts.

* “I have a tumor. I’m going to die.” This morning while running I had an amazing bolt of pain lance through my head. Wednesdays are my easy days, only three miles and no double in the afternoon. So there I was, trucking along at about two miles, and I had to stop and screw my eyes shut. The dog was confused, and as soon as the bolt passed I wondered if I had a brain tumor and I was going to be felled by it in a matter of weeks. Then I realized I was being ridiculous, and started running again.

* “Pancakes and watermelon are an acceptable dinner, right?” The kids agreed enthusiastically. However, I don’t really like watermelon, so it was grapes, pita chips, and Brie for me. That was when I realized I had grabbed “light” Brie. Let me tell you, such a thing is an abomination unto the gods, and shall ever be, world without end, amen.

* “A hansom only needs one clockhorse, thanks.” Said to the nice lady checking my groceries at the supermarket. She knows me–I’ve been shopping there for a decade now–so she just said, “Another book, huh? I’m gonna give you this coupon, honey. Go home and get some rest.”

* “Armored squirrels. With red eyes. Can I fit them into this draft?” Sadly, I could not. Altered rats, sure. But not squirrels. I’m sure there were squirrels in Victorian London, but I don’t want to dig them up. Let them rest in peace, for Chrissake.

* “I can climb tha–THUD.” It’s not that I overestimate my abilities. It’s that I throw myself at the wall and see what sticks, and while I’m in revision I’m tempted to do the craziest things because they sound good at the time.

* “Oh, God, if I just had a submachine gun right now…” Pretty standard, right? But when in revision hell, the ensuing mental dwelling upon the likely consequences are Technicolor vivid. I…won’t say more.

* “Could I teach the dog to bring me a glass of wine?” I actually spent a good ten minutes contemplating this. Then I ran up against the fact that Miss B doesn’t have thumbs. And decided it was time to go to bed, for I was getting silly.

* “What if it was an alien driving that car…?” One of the things about revision is that new stories start crowding the brain, the what-if muscle working overtime, begging to be used. I have not decided if this is a method of procrastination or a natural result of the creative faculties chewing on the bone and gristle of a zero draft, looking for something a little more tender. Who knows? In any case, I lose myself in little what-ifs like this an awful lot during revision. Even more than I normally do, which is saying something.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Here, have a trailer for a movie about the invention of the vibrator. Hat tip to the Selkie for that one. See, there’s a taste of the random that happens when it’s revision time.

Speaking of which, I’ve got to go back. I’m trying to find chapter names that don’t sound like coffee brands. *headdesk*

Over and out.

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Gallop Aloud

Hello, dear Readers. I’ve been visibly neglecting the blog for a while–I hit a burnout stage with the Friday Writing posts, and after my personal life fell apart in flaming fragments, well, the time and inclination was seriously lacking. I had very little energy, and what I had I had to spend on deadlines. (Speaking of deadlines, you can find an announcement about Bannon & Clare here.)

But things are a little better now. I was out at 7AM with Miss B., ran a respectable three miles in just a few minutes over a half-hour. Running outside is very different than slogging away on the treadmill–harder on the knees and lower back, certainly, and I wouldn’t be running outside if I didn’t have the dog. The companionship and protection factor is not inconsiderable at all.

While I ran, I was putting together the Ride of the New Guard, which is to say, a particular piece in the book I’m working on now where I want the rhythm of a gallop to come through the words. It’s going to require some specific music, and some breathing, and some reading things out loud to get it right.

I am always amazed by people who say they don’t read their dialogue aloud to check for rhythm. Often, problems with dialogue or the “scan” of a piece can be fixed by looking for rhythm and breathbreaks–those places where one runs out of air and naturally take a breath. Reading is most often a silent personal activity, but the flow and ebb of speech is still the most natural framework for a story. Emphasis and stress, the upward inflection of a question, the cadence of education or dialect, all these things are a richness just begging to be used, as well as a forensic tool. Often, when you can tell a sentence isn’t right, saying it aloud will show you where the catch is. (Diagramming the sentence sometimes works too, but only in a small number of cases. YMMV, of course.)

Reading your work aloud to yourself (I add the “to yourself” because reading aloud to others is a special sort of hell for me personally, one I avoid whenever possible) also helps with immediacy–feeling it in your own corpus, and therefore being able to bring it to a Reader.

So, while running this morning, I was thinking of the cadence of a gallop, and how to bring that through. Which will mean a lot of muttering as I stare at my screen today, fingers tapping, and my body remembering what it was like to ride a horse. Of course I’ll look crazy, but that’s beside the point. Crazy’s pretty relative if it pays the bills.

Or so I keep telling myself.

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Not Shell-Shocked, Just Looks That Way.

This is what the end of a zero draft looks like:

* Every piece of silverware in the house is either dirty or in the dishwasher, which I have not unloaded. The sink is piled high with dishes. Good thing tonight’s pizza night. Except we won’t have plates if I don’t deal with the kitchen.

* Three baskets of laundry are behind my writing chair. I don’t remember putting them there. I think the last time I did laundry was…Wednesday? No, it had to be before that. It was while I was writing the cave scene. In other words, who the f!ck knows?

* Just ate two slices of leftover cake. I NEEDED THEM. Now I feel slightly sick, but my brain is yelling MORE CAKE! I WORKED HARD, I NEED GLUCOSE! I am resisting valiantly. Plus there’s no cake left.

* Found myself bent over this morning, hairdryer in my hand, staring blankly at my toes while I forgot I was drying my hair. Thankfully, nothing was too scorched. Well, at least some of my hair covers the bad bits.

* There is a stabbing pain between my shoulderblades. Need to figure out the memory foam padding in the chair. Also, should stretch more. Yeah. Will get right on that.

* Was in bed before 8:20PM last night. Informed my darling children that I was tired, therefore THEY were turning in early too. They wisely did not quibble.

* Miss B. is shedding. Drifts of white undercoat everywhere. Even if I hoovered every day it would build up. I haven’t hoovered since last weekend. You’ll have to send in the Saint Bernard with the little cask of rum around his neck to find me in the White Wastes.

* My TBR pile looks like a tornado hit it, teetering dangerously on the small table next to the couch. The research books are scattered around, all open to different pages, dog-eared, underlined. The series bible is torn, coffee-stained, stepped on, and generally ragged.

* Only decided to go to post office and bank today once I figured out that due to automated tellers and the automated postage kiosk, I did not have to speak to a single living being.

* Forgot to put my shoes on twice this morning. Only realized it once I had taken a few steps outside. Okay, fine, half a block.

* Woke up this morning and was unsure if I had really finished the book or just dreamed it. Had to check. (This happens far more often than you’d think. I’ve never been wrong, but the idea that I MIGHT be makes me check each time. What? Neurotic? Me?)

* Bedroom is strewn with clothes, for the simple reason that I would be dressing and suddenly drop every article of clothing to run to the keyboard and vomit up another chunk of text. Then I would start shivering and try to figure out why I was cold, and realize I was just in a tank top and one sock. It’s a mercy I work from home, and that I have an alarm on my phone reminding me to be decent before everyone comes home from school.

* I had to ask my daughter what I’d made them for dinner last night. It was waffles. And bacon. Thank God. I’ve never forgotten to feed the children, but I worry.

* Realized yesterday that I could not remember showering at all for the past day or two. Leapt in the shower. Had the shampoo in my hand before I realized I had indeed tried to shower an hour and a half ago, but I had turned off the water and wandered out to get more of the book set down. At that point another chunk of text appeared, so I turned off the water and…yeah. Two hours later, wrapped in nothing but a towel, I wondered why my teeth were chattering.

* The inside of my skull feels like it’s been scraped clean by an enthusiastic Baskin-Robbins employee. With a really cold scoop.

I am proud to report, however, that the zero draft of the first Bannon & Clare book is finished, and buried on my hard drive to age a little bit before I polish it and turn it in. One down, two to go before the end of the year.

God help me.

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Linkage, plus Bannon & Clare

My semi-hiatus from blogging proceeds apace. Here’s a couple links:

* I linked to my “The Hard Sell Doesn’t Work” post on Twitter yesterday, and Becca Fitzpatrick has further thoughts.

* An underground village in France, continuously inhabited for thousands of years.

* The Wishery Snow White remix, just because it’s been too long since I’ve linked to it.

* Larissa Ione on thickening skin and review scars.

I am also breaking the semi-hiatus to announce something. It’s that time. I’ve been given official permission to announce the project I’ll be working on after (sadly) finishing up Jill Kismet, Bannon & Clare:

Emma Bannon, Prime sorceress in the service of Britannia, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t much help that they dislike each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen. In an alternate Londonium where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs. The game is afoot…

I am so ridiculously excited about this. Clockwork horses. Charm and charter. Gryphons. Cannon fire. Logic engines. GIGANTIC CLOCKWORK MECHA RUN BY LOGIC. *does squealing Kermit arm-wavey dance* This is why I’ve been diving up to my eyeballs into Victoriana. I am having a ball with creating Bannon & Clare’s world, and I can’t wait to invite you, dear Reader, into it.

And now, back I go to the semi-hiatus…

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Magic, Begin

Thanks to everyone who has suggested Victoriana for me! Especially Reader Ariella–thanks for the ISBNs, they make things a ton easier.

My project for the morning (other than bouldering and getting in wordcount) is to find a decent map of London in the 1850s; one at least 2ft by 3ft that I can get laminated and tack up over my fireplace. Of course I plan on altering things with (relative) abandon–what use is history if one can’t have a little fun–but I’d like the bones up there for me to build on, so to speak.

Yes, this is for the current work, but I don’t know if I can announce it yet, so mum’s the word until I get permission. But it’s awesome, I am hideously excited and almost dancing with glee every time I get a chance to work. This is the period of creation where everything is shiny and fun and new, where everything feeds the work and serendipity, not to mention synchronicity, is working overtime. There comes a certain point where something clicks in a book, the characters get a breath of life and start misbehaving in earnest, and the whole thing achieves a critical mass and starts behaving like an organism in its own right rather than just a disparate collection of words.

I love that.

So, I’ve a fresh cuppa and a mass of reference books stacked at my elbow, tissues within reach and the window to my street uncovered. The clouds are gray cotton, the street is gray pavement, even the grass is grayish. But there’s color and life and motion inside my head.

Let the magic begin.

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Me And That Sea Pirate

I have a croak like a raven and a slight fever, so the Tale of the Squirrel Surfer will be put off until tomorrow. I just don’t think I can do it justice in my present condition. I keep wandering away from the computer to go lie down for a little bit and put together scenes of an alternate almost-Dickensian London inside my aching, stuffed-up head.

It’s weird being me.

Anyway, in lieu of the Tale, I shall instead present you with this: what happens when you put me and Captain Jack Sparrow in a room together. Hilarity abounds. (I had so much fun with this.) Also, there is a zombie cupcake. And there’s a three-book giveaway involved–I’ll be giving away a signed set of the first three Strange Angels books to a lucky US commenter. Go, read, hopefully be entertained, and possibly win some stuff.

Other than that, let’s see…oh yeah, the Selene & Nikolai reunion story will be in the upcoming Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, which I don’t have a link for yet. You guys seem to like that Nichtvren couple and are inundating me with email! Heavens. I had no idea Selene was so likable–I found her a bit difficult, albeit for some really good reasons. And Nikolai, well, I never liked him. But we all knew that.

Anyway, I’m going to go nurse this cold and see if I can’t get the next few scenes of the sorceress and the logic machine out of my head and onto the laptop. Peace out.

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