Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

Robots are taking over the world… but oh, they’re so cute! April 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 10:17 am

Honda brought you Asimo, the charming, earnest little robot that surely wouldn’t think itself superior to humans. He so Zen and spiritual and stuff, I mean, he does yoga–he can’t be evil! If he’s the ambassador, we’ll stand by awwww-ing while they enslave us.

I came across this very awesome video from Popular Science. This is DARPA’s new pet, a mechanical mule-like-doggy-thingy. It can carry hundreds of pounds, hikes through the forest just like Fido, can trek through ice and snow, even regaining its balance when it slips on ice. (Don’t you just dig the lovingly rendered, slo-mo replays?)

What amazes me is how quickly and easily I find myself sympathizing with this poor little thing. Look at its legs! The way it scrambles! Go little robot, go, take over the world!


Plot plot plot! September 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 1:40 pm

Taking inspiration and much needed (and generously given) assistance from Jade Park, I decided to work on plotting my magnum opus. I studied several books, including Martha Alderson’s Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple, Nancy Kress’s Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. Then I pulled out a stack of large newsprint, and started plotting.

I worried at first it might be awkward using this gigantic piece of paper. On the contrary, the new format was liberating, and the ball-point slid along the newsprint deliciously. I potted one of my character arcs. I made a list of scenes. I scribbled down notes. Now I’m contemplating writing a whole short story on a sheet. It’s simply fantastic, because it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. I never realized how constricting a computer screen could feel, or how limiting a keyboard is. With a keyboard, you can only type letters. Pen in hand, you can make all kinds of marks.


Uh… you mean like Lord of the Flies? September 18, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 8:29 pm

Okay, I know it’s slightly unethical, and frankly I can’t imagine what sort of waivers the parents signed, but as a writer of speculative fiction, I’m really curious about the new cbs show Kid Nation. 40 kids in Bonanza, Colorado, making their own town.

It’s the psychology I find fascinating. What sort of emotions will these poor kids show? How will they adapt? Like I said, it’s unethical, but what a unique insight into human nature.


A new tool September 14, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 5:07 pm

I nay-said (that’s a word, right?) the writing program Scrivener on Fluent. Well, I checked it out anyway, largely because I have a Mac book without any word processor (except TextEdit). I’m two days into the 30-day trial and I have to say, I’m liking it. For someone as scattered as me, it’s nice to have everything in one program. No need to open multiple word documents, Scrivener does it all. Filling out index cards and reordering them to rethink scenes or story outline is a snap.

I hesitated because I love brainstorming in my notebooks, but I realized, I don’t have to give that up. It felt a little awkward at first, since it requires a slightly different creative process. While not perfect, I like that this program ventures out of the limiting linear structure of Word, and once I get more used to it I think it will be very freeing. Anyway, I’d suggest checking it out if you find yourself frustrated with traditional word processing programs.

And you back up your stuff, right? Right?? I use Jungle Disk which links to Amazon Web Services, and charges to your Amazon account. You can set the program to work automatically, and you can store gigabytes for cents a month.


Writing about children? July 10, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 5:02 pm

Okay, here’s another thing I’m having trouble with. One of the characters in my book is a young boy about 8 years old. I want to write a short story about two kids, a girl of, say 5, and a boy of about 7 or 8. So… how do I do it? I don’t have a lot of experience with kids, and so I’m at a loss. How do they think? How do they move? Feel? Act? Emote? I guess I have to spend some time with kids. Maybe I should start kid-sitting again.


ugh… so this is revising… April 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 9:48 am

Okay, this is much hard than I thought it would be. I’m faced with my huge stack of paper. I started making edit notes then sort of gave up. There was too much of that. I’m no where near the point of language refining, which might actually be fun. I’m somewhere stuck in the land of, okay, this character doesn’t make any sense, or wow, this part is boring, really boring. In other word, there’s a lot I have to reimagine and rewrite.

Which makes me resolve to try outlining my next novel more thoroughly. Another massively important point: get intimate with your characters before you start outlining, even! This will help prevent your characters going off and doing their own thing which, though cool, leads to a great deal of headache later. Its worth investing the weeks/ months it takes to write out character sheets for each of your main characters, figuring out who they are, why the are, and what they are likely to do. Throw them into a situation, and the plot sort of takes care of itself. Funny, this is a summary of the advice I’ve read in how-to-write books, but it never quite struck a chord with me. Now I feel like it’s slammed me upside the head and I think, Oh, well, duh!

So here’s my plan of attack: read the manuscript, make large scale notes on what works, what doesn’t work. I’ve done some world and character building- I need to do more of that. Then sit down, block out the scenes I want to keep, and start brainstorming new scenes. We’ll try ye olde index card method next, writing out the scenes on the cards and moving them around.


The Revision April 15, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsy @ 2:11 pm

For the last several days I’ve been chomping on the bit, preparing to rewrite. I want to wait on it, to develop the “fresh eyes” I’ll need to look at it a little more objectively than now. But I also realized I have no clue as to how to go about revising.

I’ve sent my novel off to my writing buddy and my sister for reading. Sending it to the later was hard to do–I have almost never let family read my fiction in the past, and I have a rather tense/ competitive relationship with my sister, but in the end I decided I wanted her feedback more than I was scared of what she might say (“This is all crap! How could you waste your time on this?”) At some point I’ll let my poor betrothed read it. Out of all of them, he, perhaps, deserves most to read it, having been the brunt of neglect for the past few weeks (“Not tonight, honey, I have to finish this chapter!”)

I’m gradually arming myself with information. A quick Google search led me to author Holly Lisle’s site, which has a wealth of helpful information. Furthermore, she’s not afraid of transparency, and reveals her struggles to make it work, hints at how much money she makes, how to do taxes, etc. I appreciate and admire transparency in authors, and vow when (if?) my time comes, I, too, will be fully transparent.

As with all advice, though, you have to consider who’s giving it. I’m not sure I want to write like she does. So I’m reading another extremely helpful book, Self -Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. This is full of good stuff, not only advice on where and how to cut, but a checklist of items you should look out for while trolling through your manuscript.

Another less helpful but interesting book is Noah Lukeman’s The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life. At times this book reads more like a rant on Lukeman’s pet peeves, and much of the info is standard (show don’t tell, focus on characters, etc etc) without much else to make it worthwhile. In fact, I don’t know that I’d recommend anyone buy this book if they already have good guides. But I have it so I’m reading it.
I want to be good and ready when I start revising, because I want to make this the best darn novel it can be. I already have ideas on what needs improving. I’m sure I’ll discover more. I’m starting to get geeked about this; I think it will be fun. A friend of mine told me she loved rewriting. I thought she was crazy, but now I see, this is where the real magic happens.