Away Message: L & D Is Not for Sissies

Hi all,

Last week, I pushed something the size of a small watermelon out of something the size of a shooter marble. This was great fun and involved the breaking of my tailbone. Labor & delivery is not for sissies, and I have an increased respect for all the bajillions of women who have ever done this. Ladies, you rock and YOU ARE MAGIC.

The pretty awesome part is that I now have a cute pink baby to cuddle at home while I recover. So that’s what I’ll be doing for a while. Let me know you miss me. ; )

P.S. Birth story to follow when time, energy, and pain level allow.

Your Novel Is Missing Something

Greetings, my lovely inklings! I hope your day is fantabulous thus far.

Since I’ve been posting on so much various and sundry of late, I thought it well to pen for you a few whats concerning writing today. This is also by way of an update on my own Writing Life, i.e. my work-in-progress, i.e. Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #2).

Background Particulars

If you recall, I recently mentioned in passing that I’d submitted the final draft of Rethana’s Trial to my indie publisher. I did not, however, make note that while I considered the draft complete, I did have a few minor bits and pieces to clean up. I figured that I could just work ahead of Aaron and have all of my fantastical ducks in a row before he laid eyes on whatever section of story I’d just finished polishing.

Said polishing, by the way, was to consist of fact-checking Book 2 against Book 1; fixing some linguistic errors in Lirren Eamnaya, the language I invented for this series; and making sure that the redhead in Chapter 2 wasn’t a brunette in Chapter 17. Things like that.

I write my stories in Google Docs, so I’d left myself comments all over the place. And as I went through the document, checking and fixing and comment-resolving and congratulating myself on how well I was keeping ahead of Aaron, I came across the following:

Note to self

Do please click to embiggen and feast your eyes on the note I left myself on the right-hand side of the screen capture.

Yes. I had managed to “complete the final draft” and had left out an entire chapter in the process.

*le sigh*

I sent Aaron an email with the subject line “oh crap,” detailing the lack of finishedness. The good news is that in the Google Doc comment, I’d left myself an outline of the missing chapter. It’s a very rough outline, but at least I’m not racking my brains trying to remember what it was I intended said chapter to contain and accomplish.

The bad news is that I could go into labor at any moment, and if I don’t get that chapter written before this happens, I likely won’t get it written for at least another month. (I am trying to be optimistic.)

How to Add Necessary Wordage to Your Novel

So. Now the goal is to add 4,000-6,000 words to the story. How to accomplish said feat? I know I can’t be the only writer out there to be facing such a task, so I thought I’d delineate a few steps for all of you writerly people. This is by no means an exhaustive how-to; this is just how I’m approaching the problem. If it works for you, too, then I’ve done A Good Thing. : )

How to Add Necessary Wordage to Your Novel

1. Have an idea of what those words need to be.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already got a rough outline of what needs to go into this chapter. Now, by “outline” I do not mean a point-by-point bulleted list, although that might be helpful. I mean I have three or so run-on sentences that say “first this happens and then this and then someone says that and the MC responds and then they argue and blah.” Yes, the “blah” is a direct quote. When I wrote the comment, I needed to remind my future self of the thoughts that had inspired the idea that the story needed this chapter. The Run-On Blah serves as my “oh yeah, that.”

2. Know what the extra words need to accomplish.

In my case — and without providing spoilers — my entire extra chapter serves a dual purpose:
(a) It fleshes out a side character as one of the main antagonists of the story.
(b) It provides my main character with extra motivation for her decisions over the course of the next 2-3 chapters.

Unless you’re in the throes of NaNoWriMo and are trying to pad your word count, you’re never just adding words for the sheer heckuvit. This is not a thesis paper to which you’re adding fluff in order to get your letter grade. This is a novel, in which every word must be absolutely necessary. (Really, you should approach thesis papers the same way, but who does that?) In novel-writing, if a word doesn’t need to be there, you have to cut it. Conversely, you shouldn’t add a word unless you need it, either.

So, before you go adding a couple thou of wordage to your story, be sure of what function you want those words to perform. Fleshing out character? Adding motive? Clarifying action? Tying up subplot? Giving main character another delicious obstacle to overcome?
Decide. And then move on to the last step.

3. Engage butt-to-chair and write the darn thing.

I discovered my lack-of-a-chapter on Thursday. I didn’t get around to sitting down to the story again until Monday. Granted, in the meantime I had baby-related necessaries to accomplish and away-from-keyboard activities in which to engage. But still…I’m a big enough girl to admit to the possibility that I might have been procrastinating a little.

Do as I say, not as I do. In every step of novel-writing, plunking your butt in your chair and just doing the work will ultimately be the only thing that gets your story written. It’s the only thing that will get your story finished — and I mean really finished, not just ready for someone to start reading while you frantically work ahead of said beta reader and hope they don’t catch up to you before you’re done.

———

So, there ya have it. My three steps on how to add necessary words to your novel. Comments, questions, and even disagreements are welcome. What would you add to the list?

How to Burn a Pitiful Omelette

Burnt Omelette in 10 Easy Steps

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 tbsp canola oil
1 skillet
1 stove burner, heated

Directions

1. Place skillet on heated burner.

2. Crack both eggs into skillet. Add canola oil.

3. Scramble eggs (because scrambled eggs are what you intended to cook in the first place).

4. Walk away.

5. Sit down at computer and look at Twitter.

6. Smell something funny.

7. “Run” to kitchen (except that you can’t run because you’re 39 weeks pregnant and everything hurts).

8. Observe “pitiful omelette” smoking in skillet in place of scrambled eggs.

9. Scrape pitiful omelette into trash can.

10. Repeat from Step 1, omitting Steps 4-10.

Iñigo Montoya: You Keep Using That Word

If you enjoy the movie “The Princess Bride,” you’ll recognize the following quote:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

~ Iñigo Montoya

Even if you’re not a “Princess Bride” fan or haven’t seen the movie, it’s likely you’ve been around the intarwebz long enough to have seen the quote bandied about in forums (fori?), in memes, on Twitter, on Facebook, and anywhere else web users tend to bandy such things about.

Today, I’m gonna bandy it some more.

Reality

We each perceive life, the universe, and everything differently. We make judgments, form opinions, and choose courses based on these observations. Lots of times, we don’t understand each other’s judgments, opinions, or courses simply because our perceptions of the same event/person/situation are so vastly different. We’re operating from different realities; therefore, if m/any of our interactions are to be beneficial, we have to step back and try to learn each other’s language before we can even talk to one another.

Please To Be Noticing

I am not saying, “Absolute truth does not exist.” I happen to believe that absolute truth does exist. For one thing, the statement “absolute truth does not exist” is, in itself, an absolute truth if one believes that it is true. Therefore, to make the statement is to contradict oneself.

I try to avoid contradicting myself. As one does.

You Keep Using That Word

So. As I look around at our world, our cultures, our occupations, our communications, our notions, ideas, brain-farts, and conundrums, I keep coming back to the quote from Mr. Montoya:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And I ponder that it applies to all of the things I just mentioned (and more):

I do not think that argument supports what you think it supports.

I do not think that conversation meant what you think it meant.

I do not think that person said what you think s/he said.

I do not think that person feels what you think s/he feels.

I do not think that job functions the way you think it functions.

I do not think that party espouses what you think it espouses.

I do not think that candidate stands for what you think s/he stands for.

I do not think that religion embraces what you think it embraces.

I do not think that country represents what you think it represents.

I do not think that culture embodies what you think it embodies.

And so on.

And, of course, it would be perfectly valid for you to direct those statements back at me.

That’s how interesting conversations start. : )

OPINIONS WANTED! Win free books!

Hile, inklings!

If you were paying attention last fall and winter (and I know that you were, because that’s just the attentive sort of darlings you are), you might recall that my novel for NaNoWriMo 2011 was a low sci-fi story workingly entitled Elevator People.

Should you require a reminder, do please click here for relevant blog posts.

Unfinished Business

By my calculations, when pregnancy-related woes brought my post-NaNo work on Elevator People to a screeching halt back in January, I had about 20,000 words left before finishing the story.

Since then, I’ve published two more novels:

Stains of Grace, the third book in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch

and

Rethana’s Surrender, the first book in my epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers.

In spite of the work and focus that went into producing those two books, and in spite of the work and focus that has gone and is going into producing a baby, the somewhat-abandoned Elevator People has never been far from my thoughts.

Finishing the Business

I am under no illusions that I will have time or energy for writing during the first few months of my child’s life. I anticipate having the attention span of a hamster.

But.

It would be really cramazingly cool — it would flip my bangerang switch — it would really swing my verge if I could write the final 20,000 words of Elevator People‘s first draft before the end of 2012.

Seriously. All I’ve got left is the final approach to the climax, the climax itself, and the denouement.

That’s not a lot, y’all.

Delegating the Business

So.

Here’s where you and your opinions come in.

Ready?

As a title, Elevator People is not sufficient. Several fellow writers have told me it sparks nothing in them. Other fellow writers have said it makes them think I’m writing about elevator technicians. Or maybe office workers.

This will not do. After all, this story is sci-fi. And the title should invoke something to that effect.

Therefore.

I want your opinions, people. I want you to re-title my novel. And I shall reward you for doing so.

Why do I ask this of you? Well, mostly because I can’t think of anything myself. ; ) But also, if I know others are already invested in this project, then I am more likely to complete it. It’s like working out: I can rarely stick to an exercise regimen if I’m just working out at home by myself. But give me a yoga class or an aerobics class in which I can see others invested in the “project,” and I’ll step up my game.

Aerobics. Step up. Get it? GET IT???

I crack me up.

Anyway. I hereby formally request that you, my dear inklings, ponder title possibilities for my novel and share them with me in the comments below. Here are a few things about the book that you should consider whilst pondering:

Genre: low sci-fi with steampunk undertones
There’s not a huge amount of science in this story. It’s set in the main character’s present (but our future?). It’s set on multiple worlds, possibly in multiple dimensions. The main character is not tech-savvy but is familiar with Industrial-Revolution-style trappings.

Main character: Wentworth “Went” Banning, male, mid-20s, not from Earth, traveling the galaxy via elevator

MC’s goal: use elevator find his real father, whom he knows only as “Mr. Banjoman”

Elevator: runs on magic in the sense that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from “magic”; one myth about elevator says it was created from music

Supporting characters: 2 Earthling urchins, Jop and Skee; 1 tech-savvy non-Earthling woman, Risk

Main antagonist: galaxy-traveling sociopathic pedophile slave-owner

Other antagonists: 1 wanna-be female slave owner, 1 vampire

ROUGH STORY QUESTION: Will Went Banning find his real father while protecting Jop, Skee, and Risk from their enemies?

If you need more information than that as you ponder your titular ponderings, let me know. I’ll endeavor to answer without spoilers. ; )

Rewarding Business

Okay! Now for the really fun part:

You ponder a title.

You share it with me in the comments below by end-of-day, September 30, 2012. (No more than one title each, please.) Don’t forget to leave a valid email address.*

As my future hamster-like attention span allows, I will pick my favorite and one runner-up.

Whether or not my indie publisher chooses to adopt your title, I will reward you as follows:

If I pick your title as my favorite, I will give you a free e-copy and a free paperback copy of the novel once it comes out.

If I pick your title as runner-up, I will give you a free e-copy of the novel once it comes out.

GO.

_______

*I promise to use your email address for contest-contacting purposes only.

I’ve never been suicidal. Not really. But.

The title of this post might serve as adequate warning. But. In case it isn’t, please note that this post concerns suicide. If reading about suicide is a trigger for you for suicidal thoughts, please don’t read this. Instead, call someone you consider a friend. Or call 800-273-TALK. Or click here for resources.

On the blog of Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, I read this morning that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The goal is to raise awareness of suicide, reach out to those who are suicidal (which we all should be doing anyway!), and possibly help prevent more suicides from taking place.

In honor of this, Take 5 To Save Lives is asking everyone to light a candle near a window at 8:00pm, Monday, September 10th (today). The site also encourages us to read their warning signs of suicidal behavior — and to have the courage not to ignore it.

I can’t claim to know or understand what it’s like to feel suicidal. Certainly, when I was a teenager and miserable and felt as though the entire universe were aligned against me, I had moments of thinking, “I wish I were dead!” But those moments resulted only in bathroom crying jags and passive-aggressive behavior toward my parents.

For me, the I-wish-I-were-deads never led to thoughts of how I could go about killing myself. I never even used poetry, my avenue of most intense emotional expression (still), to delineate my frustrated misery.

Because that’s all it was: frustration and misery. Through it all, somewhere in the back of my mind and in the depths of my heart, I continued in faith and in hope. I knew — whether I felt it or not, I knew — that life would change (it did), things would get better (they did), and these feelings wouldn’t last forever (they didn’t).

As an adult, I haven’t had the I-wish-I-were-deads per se…but there have been times during which I looked around and saw the pain other were going through, and I thought, “God, I can’t bear to see this anymore. Help them…and if their pain doesn’t stop, then please, just take me so I don’t have to see this anymore.” And yes, I do recognize the hypocrisy and selfishness inherent in that prayer.

This, too, passed.

Depression lies. Through faith, in spite of the cloud of doubt and fear and sadness, I’ve always had that assurance and held on to it.

Suicidal people don’t have that assurance.

I can’t know how it feels not to have that.

I can’t know how it feels not to have hold of that faith. I can’t ever say to a suicidal person, “I know how you feel.” I can’t even say, “I understand,” because how can I understand an emotion I don’t have? It would insult you and invalidate your emotions if I claimed to know something about your feelings that I can’t possibly know.

All I can say is that, even though I don’t understand how you feel, I do understand that you feel this way.

I’ll never be the saving light at the end of someone’s tunnel; I’m not created to be that. (No human is.) But I can be a way station, a guidepost, a mirror that reflects the true Light. We can all be that for someone else at some point, I believe. We can all brighten the world by lighting our tiny corner of it.

Sometimes, that little tiny light, reflection of the true Light, is all a suicidal person needs to hold on for one more moment. And then one more. And then one more. Until they can see the Light that guides them out of the darkness.

Shine a little light into the darkness today.

Insomnia + Twitter = Random

This post is really for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and, therefore, don’t get the pleasure of perusing the oddities that spew from my thumbs when I can’t sleep (which is happening more and more often of late). But those of you who do follow me might appreciate having the recent randomness collected in one place, so here it is. Enjoy. ; )

Two Whats of Twitter

1. RT = retweet

When someone tweets something I want to share with my followers, I “retweet” that person’s tweet. This means that my followers will then see the tweet with “RT” and the original Twitterer’s handle attached to it.

2. Hashtags

A “hashtag” marks keywords in a tweet and is preceded by a #. So if I tweet about writing and tag the tweet with #amwriting, my tweet will appear listed with other #amwriting tweets if someone clicks on #amwriting. Hashtags help categorize tweets and make it easier to find information on a certain subject.

Just for fun, some of us like to make up hashtags that no one is going to be searching for. A popular, “legit” hashtag is #firstworldproblems ( = frustrations with luxuries available only in First World countries). In one of my recent tweets, I made up the hashtag #literaturenerdproblems, which no one will be searching for, but it made me giggle as a play on #firstworldproblems.

So. There, dear inklings, is your brief “Twitter 101” for the day. Now you’re ready for the #tweetsomniac weirdness!

@courtcan’s Insomniac Tweets

Oh. Hi, insomnia. Fancy meeting you here. #donotfancyatall #goaway

Hi, I’m Courtney, and I’m a tweetsomniac. #Twitter #insomnia

That sad moment when you have a new interaction on Twitter and realize that you tweeted at yourself. #firstworldproblems

.@JoshuaUnruh “Holy cats” is “heilige Katzen” in German. In case you wanted to start using that.

When you’ve gestated 37.5 weeks, random contractions that just peter out into nothing (instead of turning into true labor) are #notfair.

Tweeting isn’t helping the insomnia. #amwriting wouldn’t help either, but I am sorely tempted to get out of bed and do some.
(For the record, I didn’t.)

Yesterday on Facebook, my dumb phone autocorrected “rood” to “roof.” #literaturenerdproblems

I think The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me” is one of the most beautiful songs ever. #music

Aw, now that’s just sad. RT @val_q: Things He Says to Hurt Me #2: “Claire Danes and Jared Leto? What show was that?”

I used to want to be an archaeologist too! RT @YMinisterswife Today I shall embark on an adventure I call “toy box excavation”.

Someday, I really want to throw a surprise birthday party for the next #random person to enter the public restroom.

Also of a good story. RT @CHRISVOSS One very important ingredient of success is a good, wide-awake, persistent, tireless enemy. -F Shutts

RE previous RT: Your story is only as strong as your antagonist. Discuss. #amwriting

I have gephyrophobia. #abouttheauthor #random

#insomnia has taught me that my usual suspects on Twitter are not awake at 5:30am CST. #firstworldproblems

With reservations as delineated by @barryeisler in comments, I added my name to NoSockPuppets. http://nosockpuppets.wordpress.com #NSPHP #amwriting

Look, Ma — no sleeps. #insomnia *sigh again*

‏Are u one of my family members who posts awkwardly personal updates about ur romantic life on Facebook? Please don’t tell anyone.
–@ApiarySociety, retweeted by @courtcan

#insomnia #frustrations #feelingpitiful #readytohavealegitreasonforsleeplessness #legitreasonequalsbaby *sigh*

I cannot describe the depth of my disappointment the day I discovered that #fantasyfootball has naught to do w/ elves, trolls, and dragons.

I grew up as an American in Germany. We weren’t military. Pretty sure our phones were tapped during the ’80s. #TCK #adventures

If you didn’t know: #TCK = #ThirdCultureKid = originates in one culture, grows up in another, assimilates them into 1 unique culture.

#TCK advantages: extreme cultural adaptability, flexible personality, independence, broadened horizons, heightened empathy.

#TCK disadvantages: adjustment difficulties, commitment issues, rootlessness, frustration w country of origin, never fitting in anywhere.

For me, #TCK advantages far outweigh disadvantages. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

I should blog about this. #TCK

Being pregnant is like having eaten the biggest meal of your life & feeling crazy stretched & bloated, but w empty tummy. Also, epic boobs.

#insomnia = #lackoffilters #tweetinginappropriatethingsatsixam

I’ve been reading “Night of the Iguana” by T. Williams. So far: Nymphos = 1, nubiles = 2, lechers = 1, natives = 2, iguanas = 0.

So many blogs with headlines like “This Is Why Your _________ Is a Failure.” <-- Define failure?! Maybe the struggle is just part of growth. Also a spiffy scarf. RT @LukeRomyn: Don't buy roses or chocolate, get her a tank of gas. My phone is dying. Probably a sign I should try sleeping again. Later, y'all. #insomnia

In Which I Play with Sharp Objects

Me: I really shouldn’t be allowed to use knives at all.

Ed: Why do you say that?

Me: Well, if I’d been using the Cutco or a Pampered Chef knife, I would’ve sliced my finger wide open just now.

Ed: You really shouldn’t do things like that.

Me: I know. It’s like my life isn’t already interesting enough or something.