Monthly Archives: January 2015

Writing tip: NOT jumping the gun

*A shorty.

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Patience in writing is also a virtue

When a plot has events in it carefully laid out to happen in a particular order and sequence, I have found myself in the position of having a strong desire to ‘get on with it.’

To locate a piece of action, or a chunk of motivation, or a reward for the reader closer to the front of the story than it was originally planned.

This plays havoc with plots:

‘Grab the girl, already.’

‘Shoot the bastard.’

‘Is she STILL pregnant? Can’t we get that baby born?’

And then I remember process. And laying the foundation. And footwork. And good storytelling: keeping the reader wanting the next piece and in edge-of-the-seat, gripping, unbearable suspense – and I stop worrying so hard.

I worked things out in advance, and not much has changed. This can’t happen until that motivation, and that motivation until this other requirement, and that requirement until this prerequisite…

I worked back from the revelation to the steps necessary for the reader to BELIEVE the event when it happens, and there is a pace and a timing structure in place for a reason, and the reader is just going to have to trust me that I’m moving as fast as I possibly can, not dragging my feet, and getting her to a climax with a sense of satisfaction.

And, knowing that a Book is the first in a trilogy, she isn’t going to get the Happily Ever After (HEA) ending quite yet. But I will strive to have the Happy For Now (HFN) be a reasonable stopping place.

Don’t jump the gun – it leads to motive-less actions and hurried prose.

And Dei ex machina (if I’m doing Latin plurals right).

Enjoy the trip.

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*Shorties: A place for the quick thoughts that don’t get a huge blog post.

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Guest post by Peter Alexcee – Taoism (Inner rightness)

Thanks for letting me share this, Peter:

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I put this together a while back and I often reread it to remind myself;

Taoism philosophy (Inner Rightness)

The bush and the ocean and everything from elephants to buttercups have their own inner rightness, but humans keep wanting to improve them, or change them into something that will be useful for the humans, but this isn’t actually a great ideal. Wu Wei is a part of Taoism, which is the idea that you let things follow their natural laws.

It’s only humans who believe in mistakes. Nature doesn’t have any understanding of mistakes. If a branch falls from a tree, it doesn’t mean the tree’s made a mistake. Nature just reorganizes itself around the fallen branch. So now it becomes a home for the insects that live on the ground. Its leaves rot down and make the soil richer. If the branch falls into a creek, fine, the water now flows in a different way.

So, life goes on. Things happen. If you let things happen, they do.

What does Taoism say about if people you love die, or get killed and no longer are a part of your life? You do nothing. This has happened. It doesn’t matter in the long run how they’re gone. They’ve gone, so your life reorganizes itself. It will affect you in different ways. So, let it affect you. Feel what you feel, do what seems right to you. Don’t imagine there is a right way to act or a wrong way. Just let your life continue according to its own inner nature.

Think about the way creeks and stream operate. They start off little, gurgling and bubbling and jumping over rocks, full of energy, going all over the place. Then they get older and bigger, becoming rivers, and they take a more definite course, sticking to their path, knowing where they are going, getting slower and wider. And eventually they reach the ocean and become part of this vast mysterious world of water that stretches away forever. It is just like people; we start off life full of energy, going all over the place, then we start to follow a definite path as we get bigger. When we die, we join this ocean, a part of something that stretches away forever.

—–
Go with the Flow. I am the leaf floating in the river of life. Does that mean you are helpless, vulnerable, without freedom? No. In fact, belief in that gives you more power, more purpose, more life. Does the river worry about the up coming bend or obstacles in its path? Does it fret that its life’s path will be changed? No. The river continues onward, changing direction; going with the flow. The river reorganized itself; it does not stop at the bend and considers that fact that it is changing its course. The river does not stop; it continues onward, as life continues onward.

That’s the power of that belief, the river knows its life continues past the bend. Whatever bend that will occur in your life, you know that your life will continue past that bend. As the river reorganizes its life with its new course; so will you reorganize your life with its new course. That is the strength of that knowledge; that knowledge does not make you vulnerable. Is the river a slave to only one path; even though that path is well developed? No. Rivers make new paths all the time, it only follows the right natural path. When circumstances change, the river is free to make a new path. Even though you feel that you are following your one and only path, and that you feel you have no freedom of choice of that path; a tried and tested path; when your circumstances change, you are free to make a new path; your right natural path.

When the river starts off young, the river will wander all over the place; winding. When the river begins to pick up speed, starts to flow with more purpose, it begins to be less windy, more straighter, faster and purpose. Such as we, when we grow up; we are open minded, learning and full of wonder. As we grow old, our life begins to take on more purpose, more straighter, and feels more faster. But that does not mean we can be stuck on a single path. The river always reorganizes its life, and with every moment, an opportunity can exist to change circumstances.

Go with the flow, be the leaf floating in the river of life.

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 19, Scene 1

This week’s post begins Chapter 19 (1.19.1).

The coughing is less – but not yet gone. Amazing tenacity for whatever it is. Begone, already!

I begin the ‘getting to the end’ part of Book 1. I am now working without a net – there may be pauses. I hope not – now that I’m feeling a bit better, the second neuron I have seems to be coming back online. I tell people I have two neurons, one for breathing and the other one for everything else.

But we are so far behind where I planned to be at this point…

NJ is covered in snow – but a lot less than had been forecast, so there is some possibility of leaving the property, should I have any reason to. DH bought a SNOWBLOWER in September – and my part in the annual drama – of going out there to move some of it out of the way so he didn’t have to do the whole thing – may have come to an end. For which I am grateful. I will not have to find out if my leg braces fit in my winter hiking boots (though they probably do).

Wish we could ship some of the white stuff to the mountains in the West which need it. Task for Amazon?

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 19, Scene 1  [Kary]

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2015.

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 18, Scene 5

This week’s post finishes Chapter 18, with Scene 5 (1.18.5).

Coughing is actually physical exercise – or has the same effect on me: it uses up physical energy. When it goes on and on you wonder what life was like before. I know there are plenty of people much sicker for much longer; that’s not it – into every life some of this falls. And I know that in the grand scheme of things, one little novel (okay, one monstrously long novel in three parts) is unimportant. But I would prefer not coughing, thankyouverymuch.

If there is a next time – and I definitely plan for one – maybe it is better to have even more than 40 scenes in a buffer before I begin posting! I don’t know yet how I’ll handle Book 2, though the initial plan was to just keep going. Maybe a month’s break to fine-tune the plotting.

I apologize for dragging the 12 faithful followers (you know who you are) into a serial with a slow writer at the helm. I’m cheerful about it, and will try to speed up once the ribs don’t hurt and the brain isn’t quite as mushy, but it do make ‘er harder.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 18, Scene 5  [Andrew]

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2015.

Unexpected writing gifts: keeping brain working


Thanks brainyquote.com and quozio.com.

Keeping the brain working

If there is one thing universally feared almost more than death, it is developing dementia, and losing control of our minds – and the ability to be a grownup and make our own decisions.

The prospect of being taken care of is a grim one. Companies like Lumosity (which I tried) sell the concept of doing specific exercises to keep the mind ‘tuned up’ in areas such as memory, and keeping up the mind-body connection as fast as possible by practicing until you get very fast at games.

I have no idea how this affects writers in general, but writing is a complex mix of research, puzzle solving, paying attention, and synthesis (once you decide what happens, you also have to come up with words that make it INTERESTING).

IOW, if you’re a writer, and you keep writing, and you don’t write the same book over and over, you’re going to have to LEARN new things, and keep using your memory to recall the OLD things.

Technology is in an exponential expansion mode

In our day this comes with an additional burden: mastering technology.

There are a lot of parts to the actual writing, each of which has its own secret handshake: how to make your characters seem like real people; how to create story events which, though seemingly random, coalesce into an actual story that people want to read; how to be subtle in proposing themes; how to satisfy the conventions of a genre (I’ll include ‘mainstream’ and ‘literary’ as ‘genres’ here for convenience) but still have something fresh to say.

And now people have the option to learn a whole slew of technological parts which used to be left to ‘publishers’: covers, formatting, interior layout, editing, proofreading, word processing, even bookbinding. Each of these technological parts has equipment – computers, cameras, scanners and printers and copiers – and associated software. The software is getting more complex every minute.

Brain games touted as ‘the answer’

If, instead of fearing change and all the things that are necessary ‘just to publish a book,’ the writer embraces the learning experiences, and struggles with each one until it is mastered enough to decide whether paid help would make the end product ‘better’ – at an acceptable price – Lumosity and all those other companies (the ones who create crosswords and word searches and scrambled letter puzzles) are not necessary: except possibly for things requiring closer hand-to-eye coordination and speed than touch typing, all the areas of the brain are going to be continually challenged by merely choosing to BE a self-publishing writer in the digital age.

P. D. James, the British doyenne of mysteries, died recently – in harness – at, IIRC, 94.

LEARNING is what stretches a brain

I KNOW for a fact that me writing, which has been an extraordinary struggle these past many years, and which is (I hope) going to be producing that first published book much sooner rather than later, has stretched my mind in ways I never imagined.

Now I’m happily learning Pixelmator on my Mac – so I have a reasonably priced way to create my own graphics (thought, sadly, it doesn’t CREATE the graphics ability it serves). I mastered Scrivener – even wrote a few blog posts about the matter, and still get requests for my Scrivener template (nothing much – don’t get excited). I tackled the 2011 (newest) Word/Excel/PowerPoint version for the Mac. I just upgraded to Yosemite (still questioning that one, but we’re learning to get along). I do research online in obscure topics (California child custody for celebrities, anyone?).

I communicate with all kinds of indie authors (they have been most kind) and venerable institutions ranging from Oxford U. Press (which manages the British crown’s copyright in perpetuity on the King James Version of the Bible) to Trinity College in Dublin to an academic involved in the maintenance of the online version of the Montcrieff translation of The Song of Roland.

Every single one of these activities costs me days of my life – too bad. They keep my mind working, focusing on a PRODUCT, working to understand the digital advances the young take for granted (and acquire at a dizzying rate).

I am about to try my hand at the marketing side of things: I have read so much my head is full of plans to research everything from book reviewers to POD to velocity in Amazon rankings.

Implied promises?

I don’t know if DOING these things will maintain the ability to do NEW things, or merely keep me involved in trying. But every time I experience the discomfort of not knowing what I’m doing, or the horrible state behavioralist and animal trainer Karen Pryor calls a ‘pre-learning tantrum’ (where the old ways don’t work, you can’t figure out the new ways, and the pressure gets unbearable), I find a way to learn. And go right back to finding the next thing that needs to be tackled. So far, so good.

I hope it means I will be USING the old noggin longer and harder and to some useful effect.

What else is there in the world of retirees that comes with so much payback? (I can’t walk, so don’t tell me to go do the traveling I was looking forward years ago.) Every aging person who can should take up writing – and the DIY philosophy – just for the benefits to the brain.

How are you planning to keep your brain serving you?

Writing tips: Letting characters tell stories

I know, I know: Show, don’t Tell.

And never ever use Talking Heads and As You Know, Bob dialogue to get your story out – and into the head of your readers.

I was so proud of myself for avoiding the above pitfalls, that I was baffled this morning when I realized that the only way to write the current scene was to have it told, one character to another, in a static situation.

Writing Rules and Mortal Sins

The thing is, like all writing ‘rules’ (they really ought to be labeled suggestions, for the damage they cause otherwise), this is another one which can be broken, to great effect, when the breaking is done deliberately and with intent and skill.

Whew! Go for it. Break lots of them rules while you’re at it: the general rule is, if you’re writing third-person multiple pov stories, that the viewpoint character for a scene is the one most affected by the scene.

But this scene is different!

I may be wrong. Someone may write to me after I publish 19.3 and tell me I did it all wrong, and there was a perfectly valid way to do it within the confines of standard practice.

But it made me think, and as a result, I came up with a set of caveats I think apply:

A dozen CAVEATS for Telling, Not Showing

Caveat #1: You can’t do this very often in a story. The story as a whole must still show much more than it tells.

Caveat #2: You can’t do this in the beginning. The problem with so many beginnings is that we don’t care about the characters yet, and we are going to care even less about something boring they tell someone else.

Caveat #3: You can’t do this without a lot of preparation. The reader must be literally panting for you to provide the information, because you’ve been dropping hints and pieces all along.

Caveat #4: There has to be a very strong emotional motivation. Characters have to have very good reasons for dumping in one chunk something they’ve been reluctant to let out.

Caveat #5: The setting must be perfect. Because setting is not the focus of the scene, but the reader has to know exactly where the scene is happening.

Caveat #6: The scene must be static. Nothing else can be allowed to penetrate the occasion. At most, the character hearing the story can interject a careful question to keep the story moving. The whole focus of the scene has to be on the story being told.

Caveat #7: This is not the place to develop characters. The reader must know them very well by this point, which leads to,

Caveat #8: The point of the story is to make a revelation. Don’t waste technique on something unimportant. And,

Caveat #9: It can’t be at the climax of the story. There are far more important things to do at the climax. And you don’t want to tie character’s hands with all these restrictions at a climax.

Caveat #10: There must be no better way to write the scene. You don’t blow all the rules for no reason.

Caveat #11: There will be only two characters present. Because you don’t want to dilute your reader’s attention. And the reader will be strongly identified with one of these characters, possibly wanting this character and the other to make a breakthrough. Just to round out the set,

Caveat #12: Select the wrong point-of-view character. Or, rather, don’t select the obvious character, the one that makes the most sense, the character most affected by the scene. This one I had to think about quite a lot, because it was definitely counter-intuitive.

Complicating matters – who tells the story?

Because, ultimately, by the time you get to this kind of a scene, both characters are going to be well-known to the reader, and the reader needs to be shooken up – climax and story end will follow, and the reader DOESN’T know everything. Readers only THINK they know everything. They would actually rather be surprised.

I remember listening to the audiobook of Our Lady of the Forest, by David Guterson (author of Snow Falling on Cedars), getting closer and closer to the end of the story, leaving himself absolutely no way out of the looming disaster, and me wondering how the heck he was going to give me an end which FIT the story – and was SATISFYING. It seemed to me only one of those goals could be fulfilled, and I was not looking forward to hearing the hand-waving that would be necessary to ‘splain things to the reader.

And then being absolutely flabbergasted by how he DID.

That’s my goal, getting to the end of Book 1, that its end must both FIT and be SATISFYING.

So I chose, for this scene I’m talking about, 19.3 (watch for it), to tell the little tale from the pov of the wrong character – and find other ways for the character most affected to express that effect.

SOLUTION: Trust the READER

It occurred to me, that, because this is so far into the story, that the Reader STANDS IN for the character most affected – because by this point the Reader KNOWS that character so well that when the non-pov character has no interior monologues, and is allowed minimal dialogue, the effect is going to happen in the READER.

At least I hope so, and have planned it so. MY readers will tell me if I achieve it.

Make sense?

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 18, Scene 4

This week’s post continues Chapter 18, with Scene 4 (1.18.4).

I’m sitting here shaking my head, wondering if I’m going to outrun my supply lines.

I won’t post work for readers until it is close to as good as I can make it, and the only improvements will come from considering Book 1 as a whole (rather than the scene by scene you have been reading); Life has made it well nigh impossible to stick to any schedule, and illness for the past two weeks helped nothing.

Some of these later scenes are long (not all), but I refuse to break them up – they are as the Muse intends.

I’m not panicking QUITE yet, but I’d rather make you wait (if necessary) than post things not up to snuff, so pray I get more done than usual the next two weeks, less paperwork from outside the pale, and a lot more courage.

It takes time to explore the things I set up, mine them for the REAL story – and I can’t skimp on that time. There are underground (to me) caves, and I’m spelunking.

That’s all I’ll say for now, but those of you who are praying types may pray, and the rest of you could cross your fingers, please.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 18, Scene 4  [Kary]

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2015.

Writers: some readers hate your characters

You know those extra-scenery notes I keep talking about writing every time I write a scene?

The ones where I write about writing, and end up with 10-20 words written per word of finished fiction?

Well, I thought I’d mine some of them for blog posts about the writing process itself.

The snippet from Journal 18:

And, since I’m posting Chapter 18, here’s a piece from the Journal 18 file I kept while writing that chapter:

“Just a minute, though: I had an interesting conversation with MM on Wattpad: she doesn’t like Andrew.

Phew.

Rachel LOVES Andrew.

That is an important difference.

To capture more of the market, I need to at least THINK of all the people who DON’T like Andrew – and what he stands for.

They need to be able to like Andrew because Kary does, even if they don’t see it themselves.

Which is a biggie: a lot of people don’t like Mr. Rochester, either, or the husband in Rebecca, because they are flawed human males. Very flawed. TOO flawed for some people.”

You don’t control readers’ reaction to your characters

When you create characters, you HAVE to let the readers form their own conclusions about those characters. Once you write things as well as you can, make your case as compelling as you can, it is OUT OF YOUR HANDS.

The author doesn’t get to sit on the reader’s shoulder, pointing out what the reader should feel, and how the reader is missing the author’s point, or how this character will be revealed later as better (or worse) than he/she appears at this point in the story – or any other little thing the author DIDN’T put in the story. Or merely any little thing that the reader and the writer will DISAGREE on.

Hating Mr. Rochester

Lots of people wonder what the heck Jane Eyre saw in Mr. Rochester – they don’t get it. He is rich, mean to poor Jane, willing to be a bigamist, entitled, rude, whatever.

And some of us – lots of us, apparently, or it wouldn’t still be read – get that the attraction is Jane, and how she loves, and that SHE is what makes HIM attractive, because she is attracted to HIM and we love HER. Her gentle way with words, her ruthless self-examination, her faith: he can’t be that bad if SHE loves HIM.

And ultimately redeems him by holding HIM to HER standards.

What do you do when readers don’t see it your way?

But back to how this applies to whether all your readers will like all your characters, or react to them the way you want your readers to react.

It doesn’t matter.

If there are two groups of people in the world, those who like your character and those who don’t, it means you have to solve only HALF of the world’s problems. (Ignore, for the purpose of this exercise, those who never read your story, those who read and don’t like any of it, and those who don’t like this kind of story and wouldn’t read it even if they knew it exists.)

Just because some readers don’t like Andrew doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of readers who do.

The conversation with MM reminds me that some people don’t like Andrew – they find him arrogant and entitled and self-centered.

I find him way too healthy.

But I love him – and half my readers may not.

Which just means that KARY will have to carry the weight of PC for them. IF they read, it will be because they identify with HER, and SHE loves Andrew with a passion she can almost not explain.

It is similar to Scarlett O’Hara’s misguided love for Ashley Wilkes – and didn’t keep millions of people who thought he was a wimp from finishing the story. (Including me.)

Phew – stop worrying!

ONE strong character can carry a story.

Some people will even identify with Bianca, and think I’m being horribly mean to her.

That’s fine.

I can’t be all things to all people, but with 7 BILLION people on the planet, I still ought to be able to find a few readers.

Maybe the people who don’t like Andrew WILL like my writing enough to read.

No writer can understand all readers

Whereas maybe people who read badly-written genre work somehow like the protagonists enough to forgive the bad writing. Must be the case in some readers – how else do you explain it?

Real world, Alicia. Real world.

MY TASTES ARE PARAMOUNT. For MY writing only, of course.

Which is exactly the same thing the literary writers/readers say – and I think they’re plotless hacks. Well, there’s little chance I will try to join them – I can’t write either literary or genre. Duh. You write what you are, what you have made yourself out of all the writing you’ve read, plus the teaching you’ve had (heavily biased by whether you like the TEACHER enough to listen), plus everything that has happened to you and how you interpret it.

Goes right back to: you write what you are, even when you think you’re being clever and hiding yourself as an author.

Back to work!

Which wildly popular characters do YOU find completely unlikeable?

Writing can’t compensate for no sleep

If your only problem is procrastination – or having to work a real job or take care of children, and that’s why you can’t write – some notes I took a couple of days ago will show you why I can’t write today – and why I’m so d*#&^d slow. Maybe it will make you feel better!

Note carefully: this is NOT a whine. It is an attempt to manage myself better. I try. Honest, I try.

January 5, 2015 at 10:48 AM

My REAL problem is and has always been that I want the appearance of making a free choice at all times – knowing perfectly well that my mind is subject to all kinds of constraints AGAINST free choice most of the time.

For example: right now. I resisted blocking the internet for over two hours, because I was unwilling to admit that I’m operating on autopilot, an autopilot set by a lifetime of bad habits.

How did this particular morning qualify as NOT free will?

Well, I finally forced myself to go to bed at 3AM. Not good.

I woke up at 8:30 (do the math), got out of bed (to keep me getting up as early as possible: one of my goals), took my pills, and told myself I would get right back to sleep asap, because that was the logical thing to do.

I didn’t turn on Freedom, and block the internet so I could start writing – because that requires willpower, and there’s no willpower possible in my mind when I’m this tired.

So, of my own free will (operating on what?), I decided to just check my email (not much there new since 3AM), catch up on anything new on the blogs I follow (thus stuffing my head with my debris I don’t have the capacity to process right now), and run a few Sudokus (KNOWING they would show horrible times which merely confirms what I already know: I’m too tired to write).

I think my mind does this because it knows perfectly well that I can’t write when I’m too tired.

But I hate having to rest, thus taking my mind out of the state of being in control for more time (the mind likes to be in control).

So, instead, the mind decides to use its control time ‘as well as possible.’ Which means… this is getting circular.

The root cause

For me, with the CFS and the brain fog, it is a constant battle between ‘taking care of myself’ like a baby, and ‘feeling human.’ Adult human.

My limitations don’t necessarily impose NEW constraints, but they definitely push me into the realm of overwhelmed much sooner and harder than if I were in my right mind.

Getting real control of my mind and myself involves doublethink: give up control and get some rest, and MAYBE you will get some time ‘feeling human.’

I hate resting – because even though it usually works, it feels like going backward.

And it comes down to the most basic part of being ill: I shouldn’t have to be. I’m still battling the basic facts of my life: I am not who I used to be, and will probably never be that person again, and I resent the heck out of that.

I don’t WANT to be noble and inspiring and writing IN SPITE OF CFS. I want to NOT HAVE CFS.

The consequences: I only hurt myself.

Da rules

Sigh. Again.

Okay. I’ve been up over two hours, so that means, according to the rules of my existence, that I need a nap.

I’ve managed to drink the protein shake BEFORE the nap – another rule – so that I’m not starving when I wake up, and then lose more time because the shake is cold and that makes me sleepy.

I turned the heated mattress pad on – another rule – so I’m not too cold to sleep if that’s what my body needs.

I’ve written SOMETHING – this – another rule: get started with the writing SOMEHOW.

I’m starting a new scene, which means – another rule – that I finished one yesterday, YAY/I’m awesome/fist pump required, and I’m slowly moving in the direction I insist I want.

I’m focusing on my mental condition and writing something down about it – another rule: get data whenever possible, to mine for long-term information about the self, to be used to refine that self.

I’m turning off the lights, sleeping the computer (so it doesn’t beep at me), putting the cellphone near me (so I don’t have to get up to answer it if it rings), getting the eyemask (so the light doesn’t keep me from sleeping/resting), making sure the industrial-strength noise-and-light-blocking headgear is next to my bed (in case some other human decides to make noise, like my neighbor with the leaf blower, or the garbage collection folks, or the tree-cutters-and-grinders – or the wind): rules. Rules. RULES.

Aargh! Please excuse me while I put myself to bed for my next nap. I’m getting grumpy again, and it might help.

When I get up, I’ll run through the ‘at least’ list – to revive my sense of gratitude because things could be so much worse – and get to work.

Scene 19.3 isn’t going to write itself, you know.

January 5, 2015 at 12:43 PM

Two hours! Two hours! That’s how long it took (not really surprising after that short a night’s sleep, but…Two hours!).
I’m more coherent, peeved at myself, woken up from a violent dream where I was trying to integrate all those pieces, and behind.

And since my housekeeper/assistant/whip-cracker comes at 3, I can’t just extend the writing time to compensate.

At least – 19.2 is finished – YAY!

At least – I don’t have to go to work.

At least – I don’t have a crying baby, or a sick kid, or a current crisis in the family (not an urgent one, anyway).

At least – I live in a heated house (the wind was a front which blew all night, bringing New Jersey’s temperatures down from 60 to 30 overnight).

At least – my lovely and capable spouse has us well supplied with food.

At least… the list is ENDLESS for the things I am thankful for and appreciate and don’t take for granted.

And one more piece of data – this post – registers the change before and after sleep (pay attention, Alicia!), showing how useful those darned naps are when your brain is brain-fogged and iffy and refuses to accept that we – it and I – are not the same as we were 25 years ago.

Not bad.

Maybe some day I’ll actually win this battle.

How about you – what do you keep having the same argument about in your life?

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 18, Scene 3

This week’s post continues Chapter 18, with Scene 3 (1.18.3).

End of the year paperwork is done! (Kinda had to be, didn’t it?)

New Year’s was great – spent it singing with friends in the Folk Society – and DH and daughter – perfect (except I DID have cheesecake – and paid for it with sluggishness for a couple of days).

Wishing everyone a great 2015 (and me to continue toward publication and preferably either some mastery of Pixelmator, or the sense to hire someone to make an improved cover). Time flies – and there are so many things to do.

I seem to have recovered the will to blog about the things that interest me – with less energy at the end of last year, I was having trouble doing the extra thinking that, believe it or not, goes into the posting.

Hope you like the next scene.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 18, Scene 3  [Andrew]

Thanks to Quozio for the quote software.


Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013-2015.

Best writing part: BEING the character

My favorite part of the writing  process

After all is gathered, BECOMING the character, again, if the alternation between scenes leads me to the head of a different character, is the fun part of writing.

There is a reason for the point of view switch: something important is going to happen, and this is the character who will be most affected (which is why I chose her/him to tell this part of the story). And by the time I’ve gathered all the parts of WHAT will happen in this scene (that’s the ‘extreme plotter’ part of my writing process), I now get to write the scene, the HOW and the WHY of it, from this character’s viewpoint.

I am perfectly capable of writing long parts from a single pov in both first and third person – I’ve done both. But I’ve chosen to switch between Andrew, Kary, and Bianca in Pride’s Children because, well, it fits the story, and it works for me.

The particular joy of writing third person multiple pov

But I often forget, and discover with surprise, that getting back into a different character’s pov is fun for me, the writer. You’d think I would have figured it out by now, but there are so many other parts to writing that I have to pay attention to that  I seem to forget, while intensely involved in one scene and one character’s head, that I can and will switch.

While Andrew has one pair of scenes in a row at the beginning of Pride’s Children because it is necessary (and the way a TV interview flows), Kary is the character who gets all the rest of the scenes in Book 1 where the pov doesn’t change when going to a new scene. This is necessary because, in the story, though Andrew has farther to go, Kary is much harder to change.

Motivating change in a character

And you wouldn’t believe the change if I didn’t show you the pieces, so I have no choice: I have no patience with books where a character makes a major personality change for the convenience of the author and the plot, and you’re just supposed to take it (UNwilling suspension of disbelief) so the writer can get on with the story. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, a switch gets set to ‘disbelief’ and the rest of the story is now fake. I may enjoy the story – and finish reading it – but I will never read it again to savor the character or the storytelling the way I do with books which dissect the change path.

I learned this from the good ones. I was rereading Dune last night and Busman’s Honeymoon (Dorothy L. Sayers) the night before, and it seems that it doesn’t matter how many times I go back to them, I get sucked in to enjoying the character-development steps all over again. Maybe because that’s how the authors made me care about the characters in the first place – and I DO care about Paul-Muad’dib and Peter Wimsey, long dead and never real in the first place.

Becoming the character

Because getting into the skull and under the skin of a character, so I can look out through the eyes, hook into all the senses, and listen to the dialogue and thoughts, is basically the same effect I hope to elicit in a reader, an indispensable part of the process is to go back and read the last couple of scenes from the pov of this scene’s character, SKIPPING any intermediary scenes from other characters viewpoint.

It is an odd exercise, seeing the story ONLY from one character’s pov, but an oddly satisfying one as well, because by the time I get to the actual writing phase, dialogue, thought, and movement are coming back to me in the way it must be for an actor returning to an old familiar role: this is how the head moves, this the habitual tone of voice, and the words another character might use do not fit.

I told one of my readers that I’m a frustrated actor. I have neither the ability nor the stamina for theater, especially in real time.

But it’s amazing how the other characters in this story fade, once I boldly seize the controls in this one’s head – and scary how my real self becomes subsumed in the virtual one.

Reader or writer – do you feel when this happens?

Unexpected writing gifts: blocked internet time

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Are people blogging less?

I am aware that over the past month or so my blog posting has gone down in frequency, to the point where I’ve basically been putting up a post every Tuesday with a bit of a chat and the next scene in Pride’s Children, and nothing more.

Part of it is simply end-of-the-year-itis: there were a lot of things to do, many more than usual, including a trip to California to welcome a wonderful young lady into the family and celebrate with her and eldest son and lots of family. Add Christmas and New Year’s to that, and I defy you to continue exactly as usual.

But it’s been more than that. I notice far fewer posts on the blogs I follow, and far fewer comments, and wonder if the day of blogging is somehow taking its natural turn in the evolution of online communication: all things come to an end and are replaced by other things. Which begs the question: What will the new thing be?

What’s next?

There are podcasts and video blogs – I doubt I will be joining that revolution. For better or worse, I am of the print generation.

And as a raging aggressive introvert: ain’t gonna happen.

I do plan to try my hand at audiobooks – and give the weary world the ‘read by the author’ version of Pride’s Children. Why? Because I’m a ham.

But I’ve missed posting my thoughts and the things I figure out about my writing and my own observations of the world we live in. Heck, I’ve missed gathering the herd of wild sheep that IS my thoughts, and making it go into the corral one thought-sheep at a time in a line.

So I intend to do better, and spew forth more of whatever it is shiny that attracts my attention.

The unexpected gift of the day: blocked internet time

This morning’s gift was a 15-min. chunk of time in which my internet was not available, my morning B1 and caffeine haven’t kicked in yet, and in which, rather than get started on today’s writing (Pride’s Children, Book 1, isn’t going to finish revising itself), my brain decided to write about writing – and throw the results up for the world to see (‘marveling at’ is optional) JUST because I can. You don’t have to read – that’s the marvelous part – and I don’t have to do it, but we can if we want to, and I find that entrancing.

I can’t say what length will be natural for this Year of Our Lord 2015 – I suspect the pieces may be shorter – but I’m raring to go, looking forward to the end of the revising, and the work of finishing up and posting the first book of the trilogy, and exercising and eating right (okay, better) and reading and blogging and… whatever 2015 holds in store.

And that was how I chose to use my present this morning.

How about you?

*Thanks to Quozio.com for the quote software.