Sunday, June 30, 2013


     I haz one.  In fact, I had one for quite awhile -- in a box in the living room.

     One of our little problems here at Roseholme Cottage is that Tam and I have the contents of a large apartment and a slightly larger house, all in one fairly small cottage.  As neither of us is much of a housekeeper, the result is...chaotic.

     And "chaotic" is being very generous.

     Result, I had to build a shelf to hold the new printer, which was slow going.  Got it done awhile ago, then it took two weeks to find time to put the printer on it and get my computer to recognize the printer.

     With that done, I grabbed every chapter of the current novel-arc ("Frothup: Dropping In") at I Work On A Starship,* stuck them (and one more chapter you haven't seen yet) into a single file and printed it out, to proofread and summarize and -- with any luck -- to build a timeline.

     When it comes to writing, I have a number of problems.  The most basic is proofreading; I repeat words when writing instead of using modifiers, I type the wrong words ("for" and "from" get swapped, etc.) and make plain typos, which I often fail to see on rereading -- I'm reading what I intended to type!  Worse, I lose plots; I had (some) notes for "...Dropping In," but lost 'em.

     Worst of all, I write very slowly; this is mostly due to a lack of time.  At one point, I was doing all my fiction writing at the lunch counter across from work.  They ran steam tables and getting food was fast and effortless.  Alas, the place closed about a year ago, and when it reopened this May--  There's no question the food is (generally) healthier, even the nice lean burgers they fry up on demand, but the place only has one speed and that's dead slow.  I can eat there, but it takes so long to get food (even if you grab something already made from the cooler, it takes for-darn-it-ever to pay for the stuff), there's no nice, leisurely 25 minutes of writing -- and if I brown-bag it and eat at work, I'm never (ever) not interrupted.  Evenings?  Maybe.  Tam's been all alone with the cats most of the day, though, and has much to say, a lot of it more interesting than whatever it was I was gonna write.

     But maybe, with a wide-margin print-out in front of me and a pencil in hand, I can start to get somewhere.

     (Readers, I am always open to *proofreading* suggestions for IWOAS.  Editorial suggestions, on the other hand, are received with great skepticism unless accompanied by bona fides. Or offers of money.  Cash is always nice, certified checks are just almost as good.  And there's always PayPal.)
* And about IWOAS: While I have set several stories in and around the War, you'll note that they do not fit very well with the general storylines found in mil-SF.  While I can read that stuff and some of it -- Marko Kloos, Heinlein, Scalzi more often than not -- is quite enjoyable, I really get quite irked at the plucky hero who starts from nothin' and comes out on top.  Real people in real wars are not all that much that way; Horatio Hornblower was a wonderful character, especially in the original, but he's been done to death and cyborged back way too many times. Ed Rasimus's two books on his tours in Vietnam offer a look at the reality, or as much as that prone-to-understatement gentleman cared to share.  If I do even half as well in my made-up universe, I'll be happy -- and if nobody reads it 'cos it fails to fit their expectations, I don't care.  I don't write for a living; too many good people, all of them better writers than me, have died trying that.)


Jim said...

As to uncaught typos, dropped words, and other solecisms, my problem is as yours. I've been told they happen because of a certain form of mild dyslexia. Dunno, but it sounds neater than being a careless slob.

There's a certain weirdness there. Before computers, I had a rep as a pretty good copy editor/proof reader. If so, the knack absolutely died when I faced a computer screen.

JOe in Reno said...

I think Jeff Soyer has been doing proof reading for people.

Frank W. James said...

It's strange. I can't proof-read my own material until I see it printed out. (Yeah, after 25 years of writing articles for gun magazines I've Killed a lot of trees.) I know I sure as heck can't proof-read off a monitor or screen and I don't have a clue why.

I'm in the middle of my rewrite on my novel after hiring a professional editor and what I'm seeing is I got about 98% to 99% of it right the first time, but that 1% to 2% that's wrong really makes it all wrong.

Most of the time I've got stuff in the wrong place, not the wrong stuff, I just put it in the wrong place. Pacing?

My biggest problem probably has more to do with impatience and I gave away too many details at various points in plot-line. The editor has put a stop to that.

How does all that help you? It's just this. You are already a good writer or so many of us wouldn't come here everyday, but in my opinion fiction writing is harder even than tight newspaper writing and our experience level is low....comparitively speaking at this stuff.

Due to my location (and isolation) finding a writer's club was out of the question, that's why I hired a pro, but you live in a relatively 'Artsy' location, I'm sure you can find a group who would be willing at their meetings to work you through some rough spots...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Anonymous said...

Somone I know has, faced with the problem of not actually producing anything, adopted a system of making himself do a minimum amount every day (in his case, since he's a composer, three bars of short score); it seems to be working for him. He does have the advantage of commuting to his regular job (meaning the one that pays the bills) on the mass transit, so he does most of his work on the thirty minutes to or from while he's riding the MBTA. Obviously, that part won't work for you.
But is there a place where you can eat your brown bag lunch in peace--outdoors at this time of year, of course, has possibilities, and by the time fall arrives you'll have found an indoor place.

As to the minimum amount you want to write--that would be up to you, as long as it's doable. And better to use something that's too little, and simply write more, than something too large, and fail. And you can always adjust it later if you realize you can write two paragraphs in that half hour and not just one.

And one final suggestion: don't read it like a proofreader; read it like an editor, looking for changes you can make that will improve the final draft. (And the only final draft is the one the publisher actually gives to the public.) It won't eliminate typos, but should cut down on them and the other things you're concerned about.


Angus McThag said...

So, what you're saying between the lines is that you're all that's preventing Tam from taking the final steps into Crazy Cat Lady?

Thank you for your interventions!

Roberta X said...

More like she's the only thing preventing me...

Roberta X said...

Frank, sound advice, and I can hope to be as good a writer as you imply; but I have to get past my reluctance to meet people to find a writing group.

Mark Alger said...


I might recommend the Online Writer's Workshop. Permits being a wallflower while simultaneously "meeting" fellow writers and learning how to view fiction with a critical eye. It does require considerable time, but appears worth it, when you judge by the list of distinguished "graduates" (including, to name but two, Elizabeth Bear and Jim Butcher).

And, once you feel you've "graduated", seek out a professional editor. Kim du Toit recommends Jeff Hill, of Quilldrivers and I'm going to be working with him (Jeff). I should have reports later this summer.


Mark Alger said...

And, BTW, I ratify what Frank said. You ARE a good writer. Learning where the buttons are should come easily to you.


Old NFO said...

My 'trick' for what it's worth is to print out the document and work it backward, e.g. from the ending to the beginning, that helps me catch 'most' of the problem words and some of the grammatical/punctuation mistakes. Otherwise, I go beg friends to read the stuff and promise them beer later! :-) And agree with Frank, this stuff is NOT easy!!!