Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tricking Oneself into Writing

I envy authors who enjoy the process of writing. I love outlining (just call me weird). I don't mind minor revisions and proofing galleys. It's the work in between that I find laborious and slow. Maybe it has something to do with performance anxiety evoked by an empty screen.

In Peg Bracken's I HATE TO HOUSEKEEP BOOK, she discusses ways to trick oneself into cleaning. One way is to start several jobs at once. After you've got the laundry halfway to the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner out, oven cleaner sprayed in the oven, and the bed stripped, you have little choice but to finish the tasks.

Similarly, I've spent years looking for new and improved ways to trick myself into writing. Discovering FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, by Karen Wiesner, came as a terrific help to me. The "draft" created by this method is actually a very detailed, scene-by-scene outline that ends up about one-fourth the length of the finished book. The more detail I build into the scene-by-scene "formatted outline," the more wordage I can produce while continuing to fool myself that I'm not really writing, just outlining -- the part of the process I enjoy. The next step is to expand each summarized scene into a fully fleshed-out passage of narrative. Since I have a rough idea of how long it takes to expand a scene, I can plan out a writing schedule with more accuracy than I ever could before.

Another plus of this method is that I'm working with a template of the entire novel on the screen in front of me. So if I get a stray idea for a scrap of information, description, or dialogue to incorporate into a future scene, I have a place to insert it. No more jotting notes in my workbook or on loose sheets of paper and then forgetting where I put them. (Even though, as suggested in FDin30D, I now maintain a "story file" for each novel, I find it's still possible to lose track of miscellaneous notes in the folder.) This method makes it, if not quite painless, at least measurably easier to produce what I think of as draft 1.5.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Isn't housecleaning romantic when an alien does it?

(Substantially, this is the same content as posted on my other blogs, Rowena Remarks, and Alien Romances)

Would I want to see a Mr Spock type vacuuming up my dustbunnies?
No. I don't think the spectacle would be either romantic or funny. Not for me, anyway.

I imagine that a highly logical alien, if confronted with the need to use alien household appliances, would locate the appropriate user manual, study the instructions, and carry out the domestic operation with great efficiency and a deadpan expression.

Maybe he'd raise a quizzical, flying eyebrow. Actually, that might be romantic in a traditional Regency romance sort of way.

Of course, in my home, a highly intelligent and efficient alien might have trouble finding instruction manuals. If I were to write a blow-by-blow account of the exercise, I think an alien would comment. His remarks would probably be very funny to everyone except myself, the butt of his cool wit.

I am sure many authors have written scenes where their aliens have issues with human housecleaning appliances....Dara Joy's splendid early novel, Knight Of A Trillion Stars, comes to mind. What was it her alien hunk attacked with his broadsword, thinking it was a rival? A TV? An answering machine?

That scene was so funny, and so "right" in its context. I really love Dara Joy's work. I adored Rejar, too. It was the cat that got me!

Is chopping up the furniture the closest that any alien hero has come to housework? If not, I'd love recommendations. Generally, I think alien heroes tend to be extremely macho. They are world rulers, starship commanders, space pirates, intergalactic diplomats or trading tycoons.... they have servants, or orderlies, or androids to do the domestic dirty work.

Maybe I just haven't read the right books. No one seems to wash their clothes, or scrub toilets in an alien romance. Susan Kearney said that her aliens' clothing was self cleaning (smart!!! and with nano-technology, this is becoming a reality). Intelligent spaceships have aircleaning devices that work a lot better than the monsters we keep in our human furnace rooms. I once thought of modeling an alien toilet on a whole-house vacuum.

Then I read a joke about a sexually adventurous man who did himself a mischief.

In FORCED MATE my alien prince does have a little bit of trouble drawing a bath, mostly because he takes a macho stand (sitting on its edge, waiting for the heroine to take her clothes off and get in) without realizing that human baths don't automatically stop filling once the water reaches a sensible level.

He also has trouble with a shopping list.

And... he has trouble with the heroine when she discovers that his spacecraft toilets perform automatic urinalysis and a few other functions and announce the results. Romantic? Maybe not, but it appealed to my low sense of humor.

And then, there's recycling. We all do it, I suppose. Like Susan Sizemore who blogged recently on www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com , I like military books. I find them a treasure trove for research, for instance for battlefield uses for urine (to make communications equipment work).

My heroine of FORCED MATE is grossed out when she learns how spacefarers obtain yeast to make deep space bread. But that's getting into cuisine, and housekeeping, rather than house cleaning.

My "thing" is to gaze at the underbelly of an alien character's lovelife and poke fun at it. And, you might not have guessed it, but of all the sciences in science fiction, Biology is my favorite.

I'll be gone for the next four weeks. Do you know the ins and outs of a crab's sex life? I do. :-)


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