Notebook of Doom

So, Saturday night, we went to a baseball game, as one does.

(Before that, we went to dinner, as one does.  To Medium Rare, which serves bread, salad, steak frites, and that’s it.  And we had a fantastic dinner — better than I’d expected, with perfect, salty, crisp frites that complemented the steak perfectly!)

Anyway, we went to a baseball game.  And the Nationals knocked around the Brewers pitcher pretty badly in the first inning, so the game had a pretty relaxed, easy-going feel.  And about halfway through the fifth inning, I all of a sudden realized that I didn’t need to write the next scene in CENTER STAGE, because it was boring and talk-y and didn’t tell the reader anything the reader didn’t already know.

But I *did* need to add a scene with a direct confrontation between two major characters, one where one guy says, “Do this and there’ll be Consequence X” and the other guy says, “I’m doing this, so get your consequences ready.”

Being an author, even an author at a baseball game, I had a notebook with me.  So I took out my pen and I scribbled away at a full page of dialog, using the extensive abbreviation scheme that I created in law school, so that I could transcribe hours of notes on Commercial Paper and other classes that left me clueless.

Today, I’ll be writing up that scene.  And I have the cheerful feeling that it’s already half done.  It’s almost like I get to spend the day editing instead of writing!  Yay, yay, yay.

And the Nats won.

And I spent yesterday at the Washington Romance Writers summer barbecue, chatting with friends, eating a killer chocolate cake I had no business enjoying as much as I did, and having a grand time away from the computer.

So, today is pretty much perfect :-)

How about you?  Did you have a good weekend?

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Reclaiming the Trope

Look up the word trope in your dictionary.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

The first definition is probably something along the lines of “a metaphor”.  The second definition is probably something along the lines of “a cliche”.  The second definition likely isn’t tagged “pejorative”, but it should be.  People sneer at tropes, whether they’re talking about movies, books, or any other form of art.

And yet.

And yet romance novels, especially category romance novels, are built on tropes.  The entire idea of the genre is that we take a relatively few elements — a lover, another lover, (maybe more lovers), a trope or two or ten, emotion, conflict, and a satisfying ending — and we tell a story that is different, interesting, engaging, unique.

That’s the challenge of the genre.  That’s the joy — both in writing and in reading.

Tropes fade in and out of popularity.  It’s a pretty hard sell to set a romance in contemporary times and have a credible ward/guardian love story without setting off every possible creepster alarm — but it *can* be done.  It’s easier to use the trope of the secret baby now that lots of women are enjoying lots of sex.  Royalty — especially sheikhs — are a bit sparse on the ground, but there are an awful lot of athletes and military men.   Some tropes have become inflated — millionaires have become billionaires (I guess that’s the value of shrewd investing, early in one’s financial career.)

So?  What’s your favorite trope?  You know you have one.  Or maybe more than one.

I’ve put together a list of romance tropes:  http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/for-writers/romance-tropes/

Check it out, and let me know if I’ve missed your favorite!

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The Twilight Zone

I do my best thinking (at least as far as my novels are concerned) in the shower — I cannot count the number of times I’ve solved plot problems while shampooing my hair.  I do my second best thinking while walking — the three-block trip to the subway is usually long enough.

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But lately, I’ve been solving story problems in the twilight zone, just before I fall asleep or just as I’m waking up.  Science has a word for this:  hypnagogia.  I’ve actually always done a lot of plot-solving as I fall asleep, but those solutions have almost always been forgotten, washed away by actual sleep and dreaming.  Or, upon waking, I remember the solution but conclude that it’s worthless.

That’s what’s changed.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve figured out fixes that stay in my brain, through sleep, through dreams, through awakening.  Also, I’ve figured out different fixes in the morning, before I’m fully awake.

The Post-It notes by my bed are a workout — I don’t trust myself to remember most of my solutions through the mind-scrubbing routines of brushing teeth, washing my face, etc.  But so far, so good.

And now I’m off to write Chapter 7 of FROM LEFT FIELD.  Because, you know.  I figured out that there’s an actual *villain* in this romance!

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On the Right Track

I spent this past Saturday at a writing seminar taught by Candace Havens and Liz Pelletier. Candace presented her Fast Track writing workshop (write a novel in a month), and Liz presented her three-part Edit Like a Professional workshop.  Both women were friendly and engaging, and they handled lots of questions from the very engaged group.

Candace’s Fast Track program turns out to be a version of what I’ve been doing to complete the Diamond Brides.  Candace measures her progress in pages, rather than words, and she relies heavily on group accountability — announcing that you’re working, announcing that you’ve worked.  But aside from those two differences, we both believe in writing every day, writing till you’ve met your goal for the day, turning off your internal editor to just get words down, and reveling in the way our subconscious minds know the story and track the story and relate the story — often better than our conscious minds could do.

(Candace also advocates a positive attitude — there is no whining in Fast Track — an approach that I *try* to emulate on a daily basis!)

Liz’s editing sessions emphasized a somewhat different system than my own — she advocates three editing passes.  The first is an overall read-through without any commenting on the actual manuscript (focusing on the global aspects of the story), the second is a firm editing pass of the story, and the third is a copy-edit-ish pass of the actual text.  (She has different terms; I’m summarizing.)

I found that greatest value in Liz’s admonishments to edit the story — both what is (duh!) and *isn’t* there.  She advises writers to look for missing scenes, to realize when they’ve forgotten to include vital information, etc. — vital reminders, especially to those of us writing fast.

(With regard to actual text, Liz and I are in almost complete agreement about grammar and usage — she values the Oxford comma as much as I do! — but we’ll have to agree to disagree about exclamation points, which she says should never be in a novel.)

So, useful sessions, as reminders of what I should be doing, if nothing else :-)

Alas, I ended up missing the Sunday sessions, due to my pinching a nerve in my neck while I was engaging in the extraordinary task of *getting dressed*.  Yes, ladies and gents, I have skilz!

So, Sunday was a quiet day around here — I finished reading BRING UP THE BODIES (which I loved, loved, loved), and I finished knitting my Wingspan shawl in summer blues and greens (which I love, love, love), and similar high-value activities :-)

And now, it’s time to get back to writing.  Without whining.  Because there’s no whining in Fast Track or in Klasky Rapid Release :-)

What did *you* do this weekend?

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Retreating from Retreat

I’m back!  And I’m sitting at my computer!  At my desk!  With wifi at the ready!

And I’m guessing my productivity is going to plummet…

Here’s where I spent most of last week writing:

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I was at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Pennsylvania, where I started my writing retreat speaking to a great group of writers with interests as varied as memoir, short stories, journalistic articles, and novels.  We had some great talks, great meals, an amazing campfire and, oh, a little writing time.

They left on Sunday, alas, but that only meant that it was time to dig in for the serious work — a writing retreat with Maria V. Snyder.  Maria and I spent five days in a cabin (yes on electricity and water, no on wifi, TV, radio, etc.)  I wrote 35,000 words and edited 3/4 of STOPPING SHORT (Book 6 in the Diamond Brides Series) — and I talked with Maria about writing and family and life, and I ate way more food than I should have, and I talked with Maria, and I took a couple of easy hikes, and I talked with Maria…  Well, you get the idea.

Here’s the writer, in situ.  (And no, you can’t see the dive-bombing carpenter bees that became my constant companions):

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I drove up on Friday, discovered that I’d locked myself out of the house by forgetting to bring my house keys on retreat, wrote at the local library until Mark came home to spring me, and spent one night in my own bed.

Then, on Saturday, I spent the entire day with the Washington Romance Writers, doing two presentations and a reading with Lady Jane’s Salon.  By the time I got home Saturday night, I felt a little drunk (although I hadn’t touched alcohol) and a little hoarse!

Sunday was a day of rest, with time to chat with my mother :-)

And now, I’m back in the saddle, with a ton of writing on today’s to-do list.  And so…  I’m off!

How about you?  Did I miss anything major last week!  I won’t be able to catch up on everything so shout out if there’s something I should know!

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When It Rains…

Obviously, the weather gods thought that I had baseball tickets for the past three days.

Why else would it have been raining, nearly constantly, since Monday night?  Of course, it could be worse.  We could be locked in a Polar Vortex, and all this rain could be snow!

Morton Salt Girl

Fortunately, I have enough “inside the house” work to keep me busy for the foreseeable future.  Take yesterday for example.  I had a neat to-do list, full of exciting and interesting projects.

And half-way through the first one, I remembered that I’d volunteered to write a document for Book View Cafe — a document that took me several hours to pull together.  And half-way through *that*, I remembered that I’d received a freelance legal writing project that was due on Thursday but would really profit from having a couple of days to modify, in case my first pass wasn’t what my client wanted.  And half-way through *that*, I remembered that I needed to wrestle with Apple iBooks to get my three-in-one boxed set of the first three Diamond Brides available for its release on May 6.

So.  Um.  Yeah.

The day ended up being a bit busier than I expected. But I got everything done — except for the iBooks wrangline.  Apple is insisting that I can only price my boxed set at the price of a single volume in the series.  While I want to give my readers a discount, I can’t give you *that* much of a discount.  So, I’ll be on the phone to Cupertino sometime this afternoon.

Or maybe tomorrow.  Because today is a writing day.  (You can tell, because I’m procrastinating with this blog post.)  I have Chapter 3 of STOPPING SHORT to finish today.  Because Drew Marshall, the Rockets’ shortstop, isn’t going to get out of trouble on his own.  Or maybe he’s just getting into deeper trouble…

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