I Can Has Allergies

I really, really, really need to move. Since mid-March I’ve had a stomach bug, allergies, and a sinus infection. After battling the sinus thing for three weeks and coughing so hard that I pulled a muscle, I realized that I needed more than vitamin C. So, I went up to a local walk-in clinic for antibiotics and some nasal spray. Well, that helped a lot, but I still have allergy headaches, and now I’m having eye strain headaches. I need a vacation, and I need a paradise to escape to. It sure looks pretty outside, but … achoo!

In March and early April I’ve so busy that I’ve had to let the blog “rest” for awhile. I had an encyclopedia article on howdahs to complete by the end of March, and then I had to prepare a paper for presentation on Victorian detectives, detective fiction, and journalism for the 2017 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of British Studies. And this week I just wrapped up an entry on the cultural and historical impact of Ray Bradbury for another encyclopedia. And all this stuff is in addition to my full-time job.

Yes, I do sit at the computer for a very long time every day! And this is a problem, so I’ve joined a local gym and signed up for four training sessions. My second one is today, and I’ve actually worked out twice so far this week.

I’m slowly catching up on my writing goal of 240,000 words for this year, despite a couple of very unproductive weeks. With this blog post, I’m just about 700 words behind where I want to be, but I still have two days left in my writing work week. On the fiction writing front, I’m starting the revisions to my Steampunk story for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology, to be published in late spring or early summer. Seacombe Island is next up; it’s getting a final revision and should also be published this year. I have several nonfiction projects in the queue as well, including a proposal for a chapter in a book on World War I, a book of writer’s prompts, and extending my research and writing about Victorian detectives. Oh, and there might be a cocktail book in the works, too. But that’s for after hours!

A Busy Spring

I’m behind in my ambitious writing goal for the year, which is no huge surprise given that I set the bar very high at 240,000 words. I’m counting editing and revision at 750 words an hour, which is three-quarters of what the NaNoWriMo site recommends, but it jives with the amount of work I usually get done in an hour when I edit/revise my work.

It’s a busy spring for me so far. I have nine writing-related projects on my desk this quarter, including encyclopedia articles on the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Indian Howdah for ABC-Clio’s The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia; a biography and a cultural and historical context article on Ray Bradbury for Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury encyclopedia; my first draft for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology.

I’m also going to present a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies annual meeting, which is coming up the beginning of April, so I need to delve back into my research for that. Which brings me to another project, which is turning my master’s thesis (about 100 pages) into a full-length book. But for that, I need a lot more research, so it’s a time-intensive project.

And the last two items on my list (so far this year) are my novel, Seacombe Island, and a book on writer’s prompts. I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing my calendar and to-do list so I’m not having all the deadlines at once, but it means working ahead and I find that soft deadlines (ones I impose on myself) are easier to let slide by than hard deadlines (drop-dead dates, or dates imposed by the publisher). I pride myself on not missing hard deadlines, although I’ve had to ask for two- or three-day extensions in the past when an article has proven to be troublesome, or when holidays muck up my scheduling.

And so I’m avoiding working on articles right now by, well, writing about my writing. I guess that counts as words toward my yearly goal, so I’ll gloat on that for a moment and then clear my desk and get cracking on today’s list of things to work on.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 115

Refrigerator_impression_DSC_4413
This week’s Thursday Writing Prompt is about dialogue. During a recent writer’s group meeting one of my reviewers noted that my draft had a lot of dialogue tags. Those are things like “Sam said,” “she said,” etc. It’s good to have some of them to make sure that a reader can follow your character’s exchanges and know which of them is speaking, but too many tags draw attention to themselves and not the speech.

So that gave me a thought: why not write some dialogue that purposely uses too many tags, and then rewrite the entire piece with none at all? The point is to become aware of using tags by planting one on every line of speech and then seeing how many you can get rid of before it’s too difficult to follow the dialogue.

You can avoid dialogue tags by adding descriptors to the sentence that show action. For instance, in my novel Seacombe Island (I’m still looking for an agent — hey, is anyone reading this?) I have these two short paragraphs. On the first one there is clearly a dialogue tag to indicate that Jasper is speaking, but on the second one I’ve avoided having a tag by instead providing a descriptive bit about Tom:

      “You wouldn’t have jumped,” said Jasper, spreading his hands wide and stepping down off the stairs. “We had no time for niceties and such.”
      “I could have drowned!” Tom’s voice seemed strained to his own ears, as though he had been shouting for hours. “Did you even think of that?”

So there’s your inspiration. Write at least ten lines of dialogue between two or more speakers (of course, I’m assuming your character doesn’t spend much time talking to himself or herself). Copy and paste the text so you have two sets of speech. Now, on the first set, make sure you have a dialogue tag for every character every time they speak. For the second set strip out all the tags and rewrite as necessary to make sure the dialogue is clear.

Zeno’s Paradox of Writing

I’m trudging along in the process of finishing my first draft of Seacombe Island (my working title). At this point I’m up to 25 chapters and 96,608 words. That works out to about 270 pages in an average paperback novel. I’m not sure how I’m going to tie up all the lose ends yet, so I just keep on writing. Little by little, the details are starting to get sorted out. There is something to be said for the “butt in chair” method of writing, after all.

It occurred to me that my process is a little bit like Zeno’s Paradox. Zeno of Elea was a Greek mathematician. One of his puzzles was that motion does not really exist. In order to reach a goal, you must first get halfway there. But then when you’re halfway, you can divide the distance between where you are and your final goal in half again. By continually dividing this distance in half, you never, ever reach your final destination. Well, that would be pretty depressing if it were true. But since I get home from work every day Zeno can’t be right. I keep writing and the ending seems ever farther away, yet I know that I’m getting closer to it. It must be some trick of the imagination, or perhaps it’s just because so many things are coming together at the end.

My goal is to wrap up the first draft by next Wednesday so I can type those two final words: The End. We’re off to the Steampunk World’s Fair next week, and I want to be able to say that I actually have the novel done by then — although I know that editing and rewriting are going to be next on the to-do list.