Archive for January, 2010


Bringing it

Hello there, allow me to introduce myself. I’m M.K. Hobson and I’m one of these new Magic District bloggers you’ve been hearing all about. I was supposed to start blogging all the way back in December 2009 but I was in the midst of being attacked by book edits. This can be likened to death by a thousand paper cuts with copious quantities of Rockstar and other stimulants poured over them. But luckily, once the battle is over (assuming you’ve won) the wounds heal quickly and, even though your ears are ringing from lack of sleep and overcaffienation, there’s a delicious feeling of victory.

The book edits in question are for my forthcoming duology with Bantam Spectra. The first book, THE NATIVE STAR, is coming out later this year. It’s set in a magical America circa 1876, and features stones of power expelled by the consciousness of the earth, biomechanical flying machines, the transcontinental railroad, blood-sorcery, huge slavering slimy beasts called aberrancies, and, of course, young love.

When I’m not writing about biomechanical flying machines, slavering beasts, and young love, I enjoy walking my dog, debating anarchocapitalist political theory with my pinko pal Doug Lain, doing intros and readings for Podcastle (of which I am, apparently, a co-host), and participating in pie-eating contests. (I only added that last one so I could tick the “pie” ticky-box under “Categories.”)

Anyway, I’m excited about blogging here at The Magic District, and am looking forward to, as the kids say, “bringing it.”


I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees . . .

For the last two days I have been absorbed in reading the galleys (aka author alterations) for TWICE DEAD, my February release. This is the very last time I will read over these words and be able to make changes before the book goes to print. The changes I can make at this stage are small, mostly just errors in spelling and punctuation, and this is the point in the publishing game where it always seems to finally sink in that my words are going to be in print. Mostly this realization strikes because at this point, the words are starting to look like a book.

Two nights ago my publisher sent me a PDF file to proof. The title page, dedication, and all extra materials are in the file at this point, and the text is formatted like a book. The only thing that can make it more real will be holding a bound copy with my name on the cover in my hands (which will happen in a little over a month!)

I decided to print a hard copy of the galley. In my experience it is easier to read over mistakes on the computer screen, especially since I have been staring at these word intermittently for nearly a year, and I want to eliminate as many mistakes in the manuscript as my sore eyes can catch. As I was scrounging around my office for enough paper to print the manuscript, I realized that this would be the very first time I saw these words on paper. When I was younger (particularly when I was in school) I used to write everything long hand before entering it in the computer. Then I always printed my drafts to edit long hand, entering my changes in the file after the fact.

The reason for all this printing was that I hated (who am I kidding, I still hate) to read off my computer screen. But as I grew older, and as I started actually finishing novels, printing out 100k words of text became quite an ordeal. Printing was not only costly, but I started feeling rather guilty about all the trees I was killing so I could scribble changes on paper that I had to then put in the computer anyway. So I forced myself to start editing on the screen.

The end result of this effort is that I am now holding in my hands the only printed copy of my story that I’ll see before it is an actual book. Wow. That’s kind of . . . cool. And woot for saving trees!

(Post title is a quote from THE LORAX by Dr. Suess. Am I the only one who tears up when the Lorax is finally forced to leave?)


Why I absolutely, positively must have a plot synopsis

For me, a plot synopsis for every book I write is an absolute necessity.

It’s also an absolute pain in the ass.

Then why do I do it? Writing the little buggers is work. Hard work. No writing project I’ve ever tackled takes me nearly two months to write and polish only 10 to 15 pages. Though it’s not the writing that takes me so long, it’s the brain-cell-killing thinking/plotting. But yet I do it, for each and every book, for two really good reasons.

One reason helps me get book contracts. The other helps me keep my sanity.

My publisher wants a synopsis for my books. They want to know what happens, how it happens, why it happens, and who it happens to before they ask me to sign on the dotted line. They want to know what they’ll be getting for their money. Can’t blame ’em for that.

I need to know those things, too. (This is the sanity-preserving part.) I need to write out, plot out, and figure out my books from the beginning to the end. Those of you who have read any of my books know that I lean toward the complex side of plotting. Nope, I’ve never made anything simple for myself. My books are fantasy adventure, with a sprinkling of intrigue & suspense, a smattering of mystery & thriller, with a dollop of romance. They’re the kind of books that require hints along the way, and I couldn’t drop hints unless I knew where I was going with it. I have to know where the story is going and where it’s going to end up.

The more books I write, the more necessary a plot synopsis is. I’m in the middle of writing my fifth Raine Benares book, and each book builds on the events of the ones before. In fact, the next one essentially picks up where the previous one ended. I’ve got to know exactly where I’m going. That doesn’t mean that I can’t take detours along the way (and I most definitely do), but the framework of the story is always what I write in my synops.

And going through this process doesn’t just save my sanity once I actually start writing — it saves my time. I’ve been writing one book a year — actually one book every 9 months that are published every 12 months. (I’ll save the wacky math involved in that for another post.) I’m writing my fifth and sixth books now. I want to write each of them in 6 months rather than 9. Why? I want to start another series. But my fans want to get their Raine/Mychael/Tam fix once a year.  For me to stand a snowball’s chance in a hot place of being able to do that, I’ll have to speed up my writing process to do two books a year. Combine that with a full-time day job and some simblance of a personal life. 

You see what I’m getting at — I don’t have time to wade through a book and hope my plot hits me over the head. I’ve got to have that worked our before I start writing. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

The shortest length of time between starting a book and finishing it is a plot synopsis. Know where you’re going and you’ll get there quicker.


The Velveteen Writer

Oh, it’s my turn.  Hello, Magic District!  Thank you so much, Founders, for inviting me to join such an amazing, brilliant group of writers. 

I figure for my first turn here I’d start off by introducing myself.  Er, let’s see – my name is Michele Lang, I write a lot of stuff, I have a bunch of kids and husband and stuff.   LADY LAZARUS, a historical urban fantasy, is coming out this fall, the first of a series, and I’m beyond thrilled about it.  And, well. . .blah de blah blah blah. . .

Okay, none of that stuff really matters in the District.  I was well and truly chuffed when the Founders asked me to join, and I will tell you why.  First, the obvious – look at the company I keep here.  Whoa.

But it’s more than the names, the outward lists of accomplishments and books and demographic data.  It’s the fact that I get to join them, and you, in the District.  The name of this place dazzles me, dares me to think of the possibilities.

The Magic District isn’t just the realm where our characters wield their power.  It’s the place where writers go to find their characters, the good stuff, the stories – the basement, the dark place, the Nevernever.  Whatever you call it when, trembling, you sneak off to the blank page, the blinking computer cursor, and you somehow, out of nowhere, find your soul’s true home.

To introduce myself in the District, I have to say something like this:  I have disturbing dreams.  Books I love change something inside of me, like a spiritual alchemy.  When I start revisions of a first draft, the first thing I watch out for is the dreaded “brain on a stick” syndrome – where my characters act and react, but I don’t internalize their feelings enough to give the reader an emotional handle.

These are the passions that infuse my writing, that make me Real – like the Velveteen rabbit, I forget myself and my many limitations (thanks, Kalayna, for getting me thinking and inspiring the title of this intro!).  I am so excited to explore the District, the well-lighted, temperate parts, and the bad neighborhoods, the scary, rat-scuttling, stomach stabbing parts as well.  Writing is not all sweetness and light, as well you know.  That’s part of what makes it so profoundly awesome.

Wild screed over for now.  Have a wonderful week!


Seeing stars…

Hi All,

Tis my first post here. Thanks to The Originals for the invite! 

So, um, yeah, totally seeing stars today. Just completed revisions for the second book of my urban fantasy series and am having a bit of a meltdown. My eyes hurt. My ass hurts. My wrist hurts. And my brain hurts. And it’s kind of funny how the day I scheduled myself to post here is the same day I actually finished the revisions. (The *funny* part of that sentence was total sarcasm). Things seem to clump together like that all the time, even when I take the time to schedule stuff beforehand.

I thought it’d be interesting to list some stats, so here goes:

#of drafts written: four
#of times my heroine’s heart beat: 68  (yeah, totally had to fix that)
#of total words to begin with: 75,000
#of words in final revision: 89,000
#of chapters deleted: 1
#of chapters added: 3
#of hershey kisses eaten just today: 6

I also ate tator tots, but way more than six…  And, yes, this isn’t exactly a typical intro post, but did you read the part about ‘brain hurt’? It’s still spinning with All Things Revisions, so there ya go. You get stats. Stats are fun. 

Really glad to be a part of the Magic District, and among a group of totally awesome writers. Now I’m off to sit on the front porch, mutter and cackle at the neighbors in true demented-writer style, or maybe I should go have a drink… Decisions, decisions… 😀


On resolutions and new errors

Over New Year’s, I got to talking about resolutions with a few of my friends. I’m not in the habit of making resolutions, because I inevitably fail at them. But one person pointed out that it’s better not to make the same resolutions every year, especially if you’ve gotten stuck in a cycle of falling short every time. Instead, let each year be a chance to make new mistakes, rather than rehashing the old ones.

One thing I’m really good at, though, is rehashing old mistakes. I suspect some of you know the feeling: you go over the same errors over and over, not letting them go, to the point that you’ve convinced yourself that they’re the natural result of your endeavors. It’s a common spiral, and not one that helps anything. With stories it’s even easier: I know there are certain flaws that I’m susceptible to, and even though I’m alert to them, that doesn’t keep them from showing up.  So it’s very easy to run into something when I’m revising and say “oh, hell, it’s that again, I always screw that up” and then get stuck on that point.

So here’s a simple resolution for the new year, as a writer and as a reader: I want to screw up in different ways this time around. I’m going to screw up somehow — no story is perfect, no approach will solve everything — but I’d much rather do so in a different manner each time. I’m fully confident that the errors in Wild Hunt are much different from the errors in Spiral Hunt, and I can already tell that the current draft has different flaws. Of course, this means that I’m on unfamiliar ground every time I confront these flaws, but I think I’d rather deal with new problems than the same damn lost cause.

Judging by my experiences on New Year’s Eve, I’m well on my way to making new mistakes already. (Although I think I can do without the “raving about plot points in between periods of barfing” part of it.) And given that I’m writing this in my PJs while home sick with a nasty head cold, I’ve already avoided one of my usual mistakes, which is denying that I’m sick until I have to be bundled up and carried out the door.

Happy Epiphany, all. Here’s to new errors, better mistakes, and a whole new year of making our way through stories.


Fine, I’ll be professional, but do I still have to be mature?

by Diana

I’ve been slogging away on a short story for the past couple of weeks, and finally reached the point where I knew it was as good as I could make it and that it was time to pass it on to one of my critique partners. It should be noted that “As good as I could make it” does NOT equal “ready to send to an editor.” I knew that the story was far from perfect, but I’d reached the point where I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it… and I KNEW it had stuff wrong with it. So, I sent it to my critique partner, and a short while later she responded with the kind of critique that every writer loves and hates. The love part was that she absolutely nailed what was wrong with the story. The hate part was that she basically told me that I needed to start over.

Okay, so she didn’t come right out and say that I needed to start over. What she said was that she loved the plot and that the premise was great… but that I was telling it from the wrong point of view. And, no, I’m not talking about something as simple as “This should be in third person point of view instead of first person.” No, she was saying that I was telling the story from the wrong character’s point of view.

The seriously sucky part is that I know she’s absolutely right. Oh, sure, I could go ahead and leave it with the current narrator and get it cleaned up enough that the editor would probably go ahead and publish it, but I’d always know that the story wasn’t anywhere near as good as I knew it could be. I’d always be a little ashamed of it.

So, I emailed my critique partner and thanked her for her insightful critique. (Okay, it’s possible that I actually wrote: “You horrible evil fucking bitch whore from hell…  I hate it when you’re completely right.” ) And I’ll be a good little writer and get up early tomorrow and rewrite the story from the other character’s POV.

But I’m definitely going to pout, whine, and moan about it. I figure there are times when I’m totally allowed to act immature.

So there.  Pfffttthhhhhh.