Tag Archives: writing

Tuxedos don’t have belts, and other petty complaints

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reading during my extended hiatus. A LOT OF READING. I’m sort of embarrassed to admit how many books I’ve read (just shy of triple digits) in the four months since I decided to take a break not just from social media but from writing as well.

Oh. Hadn’t I mentioned that last part?

Right. Well, sometime around the beginning of August, I also gave myself permission not to write. At all. Because life has been . . . hmmm, let’s just say this hiatus was a much-needed respite from the fire hose of guilt and pressure that is “I should be writing.” While not actually getting any worthwhile writing done.

My creative well was so depleted that if you threw a stone into the maw, two and a half days later you’d hear a faint echoing “plink” as it hit bedrock.

So I quit. Temporarily.

Instead, I’ve been devouring books, mostly romances, like they’re chips — if I liked chips, which I don’t particularly, so maybe more like they’re cheese (mmm, lovely melty cheese) — and as soon as I finish one I dig into another. Immediately. Pausing only to give it a rating and quick note in my “have read” spreadsheet. And while they’ve all sort of run together, which was my intent with this approach, I can’t help but have noticed a few things. A few oh-so-very-petty, yet irritating, things.

Mind you, there are major, significant world event type things irritating me too [understatement]. But since I don’t want this to become a political blog, I am instead going to vent about trivial, insignificant, petty things. In books.

All this steam has got to go somewhere. Think of it as an Airing of Grievances a few weeks early. Festivus!

I feel the need to pause here to say I LOVE the romance genre, completely and unapologetically, in all its permutations. I love writing it and I love reading it. The romance genre has saved my sanity, or at least my emotional wellbeing, more than a few times over the years. Especially the past two years. Do not make the mistake of thinking this post is dissing the genre. I will fight you.

That said, onward to the petty complaints referenced in the post title.

Like tuxedos. Specifically in romance. You know that scene, where the woman is all eager to undress her suave and ridiculously wealthy tuxedo-wearing date and in her excitement her fingers fumble with his belt. Or maybe he deftly unbuckles his own belt.

*SCREEEECH*

That’s the sound of me getting thrown out of the story. Because tuxedo pants don’t have a belt. They just don’t. They don’t even have belt loops. If the handsome sexy competent man in your story is wearing a belt with his tuxedo, and roughly half of them are lately, I’m sitting here wondering whether he got it on clearance at Skeeter’s Suit-Mart. It sure as hell isn’t Armani or Tom Ford, and certainly not Kiton or Brioni.

Writers, please stop doing this. It’s embarrassing.

Does Idris wear a belt with his tuxedo? No. No, he does not.

Speaking of clothing and removing it, what is the deal with all the wrap dresses? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wrap dress for sale in a store, let alone actually seen anyone wearing one. This has become so inexplicably prevalent, I asked my adult daughter, since she and her friends DO all wear dresses, whether any of them actually wore that style. She said no, not that she’s noticed. She doesn’t like them, herself. And then she said, “Can she really be a heroine if she’s going about in wrap dresses?” Exactly. Who the hell wears clothes that are likely to fall off with the next deep breath?

To me, this has become shorthand for lazy writing. I get it, you want your hero to be able to give one little tug of a belt (again with the belts) and have the woman’s dress suddenly fall to the floor, so you put her in a wrap dress. Come on. Might as well put her in a bathrobe. If your guy is half the man you’ve written him to be, he can handle some buttons or a zipper. Perhaps even a cowl-neck.

Why do so many writers use the word ground when they mean floor? If someone removes an article of clothing and tosses/drops/throws it on the ground, I’m wondering when exactly they left the building. Or if someone slides their back down the wall, usually in despair, and hits the ground instead of the floor . . . wait, was that an outside wall? Are we now dealing with skin abrasions from brick or stucco?

I mean, really. Descriptive words matter.

But dialog and actions matter more. You can’t just tell the reader that a character is smart or funny or controlling . . . and then never have them say or do anything remotely smart or funny or controlling. Suspension of disbelief isn’t an absolute, no matter how much we wish it were.

For instance, if your character is super-intelligent, I don’t expect them to do stupid knee-jerk stuff that most people outgrow in middle school. I also expect your thirty-something character to have a level of emotional maturity beyond that of a teenager. Like using common sense instead of making highly unlikely assumptions. And maybe once in a while, when it really matters, asking the obvious questions and waiting for an answer.

Likewise, if your character is an alpha control freak running a multi-billion-dollar company, I expect them to spend at least some time, y’know, running that company. Having meetings, evaluating reports, taking phone calls, sending texts or emails. Managing even a small company is a ton of work. At a minimum, your alpha control freak should occasionally spend a few minutes at least thinking about it.

Side note: It’s perfectly fine to write a billionaire character who is laid back and content to have someone else run their empire while they jet off somewhere with their new love interest. Just don’t tell me that character is an alpha control freak.

Side, side note: If your billionaire does jet off to somewhere in a private plane, and it’s a plane big enough to travel vast distances without re-fueling, it probably has two pilots, not one. And if you opt to describe logistics (maybe don’t?), that big old plane can’t land just anywhere, definitely not on some tiny private island that doesn’t have a decent sized airport/runway and some way to re-fuel.

Hey, I did warn you this was going to be petty. Petty, petty, petty.

As for being funny . . . sigh. Look, humour is hard. It’s subjective, yes, but it’s also extremely difficult to pull off in writing, especially in a novel-length work. It’s painfully obvious when you try to be funny and it falls flat. The best comedic writers I know are also more intelligent than most. Not everyone can do it. I sure as hell couldn’t.

But it seems everyone is trying these days, as apparently “romantic comedy” is the hot new trend. Well, one of them. It’s not enough to write a few jokes as part of a meet cute in the first chapter and then have the rest of your RomCom be nothing but soul-destroying angst. Not that there’s anything wrong with soul-destroying angst. But it’s not comedy. Defining it as such just makes you look bad.

This trend has gotten so out of control that, after reading way too many RomComs that simply aren’t, I don’t even want to risk anything with that label. It’s cringe-worthy.

Speaking of false advertising . . . DUETS. Fucking cliffhanger duets. For those unaware, a duet is one story, split in half at a cliffhanger moment, and then sold as two books. For basically twice the price. It’s not a continuing series with the same characters. It’s not connected stories with different characters set in the same world. Both of those are fine. A duet is ONE STORY split into TWO BOOKS.

This is such a rage-inducingly-bad idea, I’m not even sure I can write about it without losing my temper. Suffice to say, there are some very talented writers doing this and I really wish they’d knock it the fuck off. Because I’d love to read their work but refuse to support this trend.

Whoops. That last complaint wasn’t quite as petty as the others, was it? Maybe I should stop before I come up with other not-so-petty writerly complaints. Or before I work my way up to world events.

In other news, I’ve slowed down the mad reading dash through my electronic TBR pile (only 12 books in November!) and am gradually, somewhat tentatively, getting back into writing my own fiction. After all, a hiatus eventually needs to come to an end or it is not, by definition, a hiatus.

I’ll be trying not to make any of the extremely petty mistakes listed in this post. I’m quite confident I’ll make others — just as petty, if not more so — and that one day someone will tell me all about them. As they should.

Anyone else have grievances they’d like to air? We’re celebrating Festivus all month over here.

 

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It’s never nothing

Let’s see, where were we . . . in our last episode, our heroine was tied to the tracks and a train was approaching, with no (capable) help in sight.

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Sorry, wrong story. Maybe it’s just me, but that sort of sums up how helpless I feel lately.

My dad used to say: “It’s never nothing.” It was his version of: “It’s always something.” November has proven that adage, several times over.

I know, some of you are waiting to hear the final results of NaNo. It wasn’t a complete bust, although Life sure did its best to get in the way.

First there was the election. And the results, which we are just not going to talk about, because . . . well, just because. But I eventually convinced myself to stay mostly offline, or at least not look too long or too hard at twitter and facebook, and I was starting to re-focus on writing.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, my mom made an unscheduled trip to the hospital’s emergency room via ambulance. I’m not going to get into medical details over here — my personal privacy policy makes HIPPA look like a freakin’ sieve — but I will say that she was there for five days (mostly due to it being a holiday weekend during which certain tests were not going to happen unless it was an emergency) (I’m very grateful she wasn’t considered an emergency), and then she was discharged to a rehab/transitional care place.

And then, not even 48 hours later, in the least fun text I’ve ever received at 4 AM, came word that she was right back in the hospital again. Where she still is, as I write this. But she’s getting better, albeit slowly, and we expect she’ll be headed back to transitional care in a day or so.

Never have I been more aware of how relative is the term “better.”

As you might imagine, trying to concentrate on writing (or anything else) with all this going on more than 1200 miles away has been damned near impossible. Honestly, I haven’t tried very hard in the past week. You know, priorities being what they are.

But I did manage to write 20,057 words in November, split between two different manuscripts. Probably that’s 20,057 words more than I would have written if I hadn’t participated in NaNo. Astonishingly, some of those words seem to do what I want them to do and might not even need to be deleted during edits.

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So, no, not 50K words. But I’m calling it a win.

Don’t judge me. I need a win right now.

My plan for December is to just continue focusing on writing. And try not to panic at the sound of the phone ringing or the notification that a new email or text message has arrived. Any celebrations in December, including my upcoming birthday, are going to be small and quiet. Understated. Practically invisible.

No, I’m not being a Scrooge. I’m simply acknowledging the truth that I’m not in the mood for celebration. I’m listening to that inner voice advocating self-care over forced displays of holly-jollity.

I can’t fix all the problems in the world. Hell, I can’t even fix all the problems in my own little corner of it. But I can write stories that, if I get it right, might provide a few moments of distraction and enjoyment for someone at a time when that’s exactly, perhaps desperately, what they need.

God knows, stories have certainly helped me get through this disaster we’re calling 2016. If my stories can do that for even one person, I’ll be calling that a win as well.

 

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NaNo update

I promised to report in a few times this month about writing progress. Not that I’m convinced anyone particularly cares to hear about anything other than a finished book, one they can read, but I said I would so . . .

I was making respectable progress, up until last Sunday. Then anticipation and anxiety set in and I couldn’t focus on fiction, waiting for the election to be over. And then the results came in and, honestly, that pretty much wrecked me.

I’ve probably written (and deleted) 10,000 words since the election, but none of them fiction. There are things I want to say, things about politics and civics and our basic humanity, but so far I haven’t figured out how to say them.

I’m a political person, it’s how I was raised. I don’t want to turn this blog into a political thing, but neither do I find it acceptable to say nothing. When I try to be all calm and optimistic, I sound like an apologist for bigotry. Then I write something fiery and motivational and . . . sound like I’m advocating rebellion and revolution.

Clearly, neither is acceptable. So I’m struggling. Along with everyone else I know.

Sigh.

Until I figure that out, here’s where I stand with the fiction writing. I’ve added 7,097 words to one novel, which is not a shabby effort for the first seven days of writing, considering it was filling in and enhancing scenes and not fast rough draft writing. But now it’s day thirteen and I’m way behind what I’d hoped to accomplish.

Perhaps worse than that, the story I’ve been working on is written with a very different and distinctive . . . attitude, for lack of a better word. A departure from my usual style. It’s wildly adventurous and imaginative and confident, which is exciting to write. Except, I’m feeling none of those things right now. The scenes I’ve tried to write since Tuesday sound horrible, like not even salvageable, they’re so out of place.

After some reflection, I’ve decided not to continue with that particular story right now. It’s the kind of thing that would take more work to fix than is worth the dubious progress. In fact, I’d just end up deleting all the words.

But I refuse to let that make me feel discouraged or insufficient. Stuff happens and you deal with it the best you can.

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My way of dealing with this is to work on something else, something I had planned to work on later in the month anyway, once I finished fleshing out the first story. It’s a story that feels more familiar, more in my usual style.

It’s a romance, the second in the McIntyre trilogy, something I intend to self-publish. The kind of story I want to read right now. The one that starts like this:

The first time she saw him he was shirtless and wearing a kilt. The second time, he was wearing a custom-tailored suit and destroying her grandfather on the witness stand. She didn’t much like him either time.

That is, unless I change it.

So, onward.

 

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Once more unto the breach

Well, it’s the end of October and time to answer the question we all ask ourselves this time of year: How many “extra” bags of chocolate Halloween candy should I buy?

No, wait. Not that question.

This one: Should I participate In NaNoWriMo this year?nano_logo-830912ef5e38104709bcc38f44d20a0d

That is, if you’re a writer, probably you ask yourself that question. I’ve been going back and forth about this for a week or so, given that I’ve had mixed results with NaNo in the past. Setting a marathon goal of writing 50,000 words in a month — and not just any month, but November — seems a bit unreasonable. Like, stupidly masochistic. Kill-me-now foolish.

But then I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll become even more of a hermit? Give up planning nutritious meals, abandon personal hygiene, ignore the menacing accumulation of dust bunnies, forego sleep, snarl vaguely at the cat’s demands for attention . . .

. . . and maybe write a bunch of words?

I’m not normally a “write every day” kind of writer. So I’m not the best fit for NaNo, where the usual reassuring advice is to write 1,667 words a day, consistently, and you’ll be just fine. I tend to do a lot of intense thinking, composing and moving words and ideas around in my head before I commit them to paper, er, the screen. Then, when I do write, words pour out in the thousands. And then I pause again to refill the well.

Except that’s not really working for me right now. And if a thing no longer works, it’s time to try something else.

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I’ve been thinking back to April and the A to Z Challenge, and how surprisingly productive I was, writing to a deadline every day like that. There wasn’t a word count requirement, but I wrote roughly 43,000 words in April. It was insane. Although, that was very different from NaNo in the respect that I also had to edit and polish and post those words every day. I won’t be doing that during NaNo, so in theory should be able to write MOAR WERDZ without the editing slowing me down. In theory.

So anyway, I bookmarked the NaNo site and made a wild guess as to what my user name was four years ago and got a new password and I’m all set to go.

STAND BACK, Y’ALL. WATCH THIS.

Ahem. Actually, there won’t be much to see. I’ll try to post a few word count updates during the month (not daily, that’s ridiculous) in an attempt to make myself accountable over here. Wish me luck?

If any of you writers out there want to . . . follow me? . . . friend me? Huh, looks like the correct term is “be my buddy,” my user name is KD James. I’ll kick your butt be all supportive, if I can figure out how to do that without breaking anything.

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What about you non-writers? Is there anything you want to accomplish in November? Some momentous task you’ve been putting off and need a little push of inspiration to get going? Let me know and I’ll cheer you on in the comments.

Oh, and the answer to that first question? Two, of course. Unless you’re doing NaNo. Then probably the answer is four. Yes, four sounds right. Four family-size bags of chocolate.

 

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Time for yet another summer hiatus

How did it get to be the end of June already? Or maybe a better question is how did so many days pass in succession, as they do, without me noticing? Good grief, the year is half over!

Yes, I have been writing. And thinking, and taking notes, which is an important part of my writing process.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading. Plowing through novels in my TBR pileup, of course, as well as reading a bit of non-fiction and catching up on bookmarked articles and blog posts in my RSS feed. There are days I feel as if I’ve read the entire internet. Which I guess helps explain how time has passed without me taking note of it.

Either that or someone has indeed invented time travel and it has all gone horribly wrong, speeding us involuntarily along past potential moments of productivity so not only does no one get anything done, none of us have clear memories of the time lost.

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What’s that? It’s just me?

Yes, well, I suspected as much. Clearly, I need to hit the reset button on my work habits and be more mindful of how I waste spend time.

I’ve been told there’s a writing thing in July — and April, apparently — called Camp NaNo. An extension of the more popular and well-known NaNoWriMo in November. Their website proclaims:

“Camp NaNoWriMo is a virtual writer’s retreat, designed for maximum flexibility and creativity.”

I’m not planning to participate officially. Mostly because I’m contrary and really bad at following along and obeying rules. But I’m a member of a small group of writers over on The Book of Faces and someone there proposed we have our own informal “retreat” in July, stating our goals in a similar fashion and cheering each other on. So I’ll be doing that.

My goal is to finish the revision of the story I drafted in April. I really hope it won’t take the entire month, since most of the heavy thinking is done and now I just need to write the rest of the words. Then again, the way time is passing, in three days it will be Thanksgiving and 15 minutes after that, Christmas. Unless my A/C breaks down, then roughly a dozen years will pass before summer is over.

Anyone else have big plans or goals for July? Deadlines? Vacation? Long stretches of indolent wave-gazing at the beach?

I’ll be over here trying not to read the entire internet every day, doing my best not to read anyone else’s words at all. Not even the one-word-at-a-time lure of WWF with my youngest sister. *sigh* In fact, other than email and semi-regular goal check-in and whip cracking with fellow writers, my plan is to be internet-free for July.

Ignoring the internet like . . . well, like a cat with a mouse on its head. Probably you can imagine how long that lasted.

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Wish me luck. And determination. I’m going to need all the help I can get.

 

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