Friday, March 12, 2010

A Cat and A Window

Over at Wyrdsmiths, Eleanor Arnason asked if there were things you, as a writer, feel comforted by or "need" to write. I thought about this question while I avoided writing (cleaned the dining room floor, changed the fish tank's water,) and I decided that what I need to write is a window.

As I noted in the comments, I've worked really hard over the last several years (particularly when I made the switch to becoming a full-time, stay-at-home writer,) to not NEED any talisman to write. I've trained myself to work at any time in any place. That being said, I think there are things that make me work better -- a rainy day, a cat on my lap, tea in my cup, and a window to glance out. The window, I find useful, in particular because when I'm composing I often look away from the screen to organize my thoughts. I think I think better when I get a look into the neighbor's kitchen or to rain drops spattering climbing rose stalks or something at least mildly pleasant (the snow melting, etc., although currently all the snow that's left are those horribly filthy black chunks.)

This is, of course, a luxury -- one provided for me by the fact that I can write at home, near a window. I wrote large chunks of several novels in a basement office cubicle, so, clearly, I don't NEED these things. But when I have them, they make the writing process more pleasant.

How about you?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why Do You Hate Verbs, Artist?*

Last night I couldn't find the paperback novel I've been reading, so I picked up a book that I'd taken out of the library. It's by someone I consider a colleague and happens to be on the Nebula ballot this year.

I started reading it. Then I threw it down in disgust.

The plot sounds awesome. The prose is beautiful. But there is a distinct lack of verbs.

Why? For the love of God, why, I ask you, do people feel that it's artistic or atmospheric to have sentences (no, technically FRAGMENTS) without verbs? I absolutely hate that stylistic choice.

Though I've had this argument before -- and probably technically lost it the moment books without verbs were published and went on to win Nebulas and such -- I still maintain that writing without verbs is lazy. Yeah, yeah, poetry is built on lovely fragments. But novels aren't meant to be poetry, they're meant to be stories. Stories have action, and action words are verbs.

I'm okay with the occasional fragment, honestly, I am. But six or seven fragments to a page, not so much. (Note clever use of fragment for emphasis here.)

Seriously, as someone who writes first person almost exclusively, I understand the need to establish "voice" and it is true that people think in fragments. However, writing is artificial. Being in your head is too confusing; that is why I read your book. Writing is the process of making story make sense and pulling order from chaos. Part of that deal is providing the structure of sentences, which have a subject and a verb (though one can be implied on occasion -- usually the subject, not the verb.)

What I think bothers me most of all is that somehow this kind of sloppy writing has become a shorthand for "artistic." You drop a few verbs and people are all, "Wow, you're deep and meaningful." Except I suppose, more correctly, they'd simply utter, "Deep. Meaningful." because then there would be no verbs.

Why do you hate the English language so, Artistic Writer? WHY?


--- x-posted from Wyrdsmiths

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Do List

I feel much better after my brief bout of food poisioning, thank you. And now that the smoke has cleared, as it were, and Mason's vacation is over, I should probably take a moment to figure out what's on my to-do list.

1. Go over CEM of ALMOST TO DIE FOR, which is due March 16 on my editor's desk.

2. Review and comment on Kelly's proposal (chapters and synopsis) for Wyrdsmiths on Thursday night.

3. Finally make .pdfs of all my recent novels, as requested by my agent, as well as make .pdfs of the promotional postcards and bookmarks for my up-coming releases so I can send them off to the printer.

4. Continue work on "darker" proposal for my editor, who passed on the lighter cow mutlilation mystery (baffling!) to send off to my agent next week.

5. Review and consider whether or not I really have a story in the short bit I started about the space prositute, currently called "Cold Chrome." (Not sure. As previously noted, I'm a horrible short story writer. They actually take a long time for me to write because I'm terrible at figuring out structure for shorter works.)

6. Get started on the sequel to ALMOST TO DIE FOR which is due in four months.

I think that's everything on my plate right now. Luckily, a lot of them aren't super critical. I mean, I can set aside the promotional stuff for a few weeks, but I really do need to get going on both the proposal and the sequel for my editor. Obviously, I'm going to start with the stuff due first -- the copy-edited mss. and the "homework" for Wyrdsmiths.

Boy, when I look at it like this, I have a lot on, don't I?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Of course, today, when I'm sick as a dog, I get the note from my editor's assistant that they're sending along the copy edited manuscript of ALMOST TO DIE FOR, which needs to be back on their desk on March 16.

The problem (and plus) of having so many books coming out in one year is that there's a lot of stuff that needs to get done -- all of it, right now. I spent much of the day in bed, but then, after I saw the note, I had to pull myself out of bed and try to be upright for a while -- at least long enough to download the mss.

Blurg. Pity, party of one!