Waiting for feedback

I took a week’s vacation in San Diego, which is a beautiful place. I stayed with John and our moms on Ocean Beach. Every night we got lulled to sleep by the waves breaking outside. Revision was slow going, though, and I sent my second draft off to two readers last weekend. Before that, I’d been the only one who’d read most of the material, and it felt like my private world for two years. I let John in, but only to look at certain stuff. Now he’ll get to read the whole thing. I also sent it to a friend who’s an agent and editor for her day job- she’ll tell me how much more I need to fix and polish it before I send it to editors, and whether I should try submitting it to publishers and agents, publish it myself, or just hide it under my bed.

In the somewhat anxious wait, I’ll work more on the prose of my manuscript. I do enjoy marking it up with comments in Scrivener. I’m most afraid that I have written something worthwhile, because then I must serve the work and make it the best it can be.

 

thinking about writing markets

I continue hacking my way through the second draft of my manuscript. I’ve got revision fatigue, so I had to take some time off it while I was working on it. I may start doing some other scratch notes and writing on other stories. There’s the sequel to Razor (manuscript working title), and also a more fantasy-like novel about magic which is complex mathematical formulas. Really!

In some writer groups I find plenty of discussion of writing to market. In SFR this means writing an erotic novel with a shirtless pale-skinned fellow with no head on the cover. The title often has plenty of tropes in it. Now, if you like writing that or reading that, great. I’ve read about writers trying to bend to do that style themselves, often for the money. If it is something they enjoy, great.

I would find writing such a novel extremely difficult because I can never keep anything simple. I also find writing anything I’m not interested in reading difficult. Anyway, I have no idea which genre to market my manuscript in. I recently finished the fantabulous Wanted and Wired, and I think my writing is a little less romance-focused: fewer thoughts about kissing and more thoughts on the ramifications of capitalism.

All that said, I look at my manuscript and can see oodles of things to fix, and also a plethora of things that may or may not need fixing. That’s why I’m turning the second draft over to two friends with the following question: Bury the manuscript and never look at it again? If not, what do I work towards?

Engineering practices in writing: Rubber ducking

I’ve had several scenes designated as “to sketch out” for long periods of time. There are some scenes I find very difficult to plot out on my own. Thankfully, I have John around to ask me questions about the scene, see plot holes I missed, and have me place everything that’s on the table, so I can go forward with new ideas. John and I are both software engineers, so the way we probe at, pick at, and try to debug a story is very much from that background.

If a scene is giving me trouble, I explain the scene sketch, sentence by sentence, to somebody without my knowledge of the rest of the book. I figure out a lot of problems and details this way. It’s the same principle as teaching: when you have to go through everything from other perspectives, you have to get to know your material, in this case a story, better. There isn’t always somebody around to go through the material with, though. An engineer in the book The Pragmatic Programmer carried a rubber duck around to explain things to, so the process is often referred to as “rubber ducking” or “rubber duck programming.”

me and some "ducks"
me and some “ducks”

My duck is not actually a rubber duck. It’s a stuffed animal or figurine. I rotate through them so they don’t get bored. I’m mostly a planner, so I rubber duck or talk to John at the scene planning level. I’ve also rubber ducked with the scene already written if I think there’s something missing or there is an issue. Then I go through the existing scene and try to explain why each sentence is there to the duck.

 

Some of the principles of my job carry over to my creative life. Have you found this as well?

blog hop and scene planning (introducing John)

I’m working on logistics for the SFRB’s Summer Blog Hop. I have so much to learn, since I’ve never participated, let alone run a blog hop before. My Websites for Writers help documentation may get shelved again. I think it may be worth just formatting as is and asking what people want to know.

John, my partner in most things, is exceptional at helping me sort scenes and plot threads out. A few nights ago we talked an hour about a scene I’ve been struggling with, featuring two conflicted characters facing off. He was able to peel apart some of what should be going on, especially in identifying the character motivations and how they fit (or wouldn’t!) with proposed actions. That will help me sketch out the beginning to the end of the scene.

He may not write fiction, but he does a ton of roleplaying, and he identifies with this little guy as a mascot:

Umbreon Umbreon says “um” a lot, because life is quite the confusing thing. John’s always encouraged me in my creative endeavors, and has functioned as my muse every so often. So here’s to him, my black fox.