Quick update about my ROW80 goals – why quick? Because I am busy with new projects and actually keeping to my goals so far and don’t want to lose momentum. This weekend I did pick up a new project which I think everyone will like. I started on a series of book reviews, and I finished – sort of – my short that is headed for submission later this week. I’m not entirely happy with the ending, and I think I dragged out a particular point too much, so this afternoon and tomorrow are going to be used for editing the story. I think I am still on schedule and averaging roughly 2k a day, which is actually above my goal of 1.5k. How is everyone else doing?
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So far my first few days of ROW80 is a success. I spent a bit of time seriously considering what reasonable goals are to me, and having a talk with M about what is reasonable for our lifestyle overall. I am particularly blessed in that M is extremely supportive of my writing dreams, and he agreed on the proposed shifts in things. That done, I actually did do what I had scheduled for myself. I outlined both the plot and the MC for the short I have going this week. I did a LOT of research on what I needed to know for this as well, and actually started writing the initial scenes – about a third of the way done. The deadline for this is July 15, so I am not on schedule for my terms. The focus for the rest of the week will be about word count. Normally when I start writing, the first thing I do is to go back and edit what I did yesterday – checking that I am still following the same outline, or making adjustments as needed then add new. Since I am writing a short and already have the outline, this time I intend to plow through to the goal (5k) in the next couple of days and then edit. It feels a little like having one hand tied behind my back to try to do it this way, but I think since it is so short, it will be better overall.
OK, I am taking a plunge here and joining in on ROW80 an informal writing contest organized by Kait Nolan. It is a self-paced, self-moderated writing goal, and for me is a big step to take on another writing contest. I’m setting what I think are realistic goals for myself – finishing up a “fast” project for a submission I was invited to do by July 15, and polishing up on my larger MS that needs to be turned in by Sept 1.
This is a big thing for me because – while I adore the people in my writing group, and I have been fortunate enough to cultivate many encouraging, talented, and supportive friends – I hate, hate writing for word count goals alone. I really have come to hate writing contests that insist that you need to meet a specific word goal, or you have failed. Even if you do “win,” it is guaranteed that someone else did three times more than you did, so you still are inadequate. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a little less than 50k and would have lost the most famous of the word goal contests, NaNoWriMo. Dan Brown took 5 years to generate his most recent best seller Lost Symbol. Word count alone does not equate with quality.
Don’t get me wrong, word goals are important. Goals keep you focused and on schedule. Word counts are a fact of life for a writer. Word count is your time clock. Daily and overall goals tell you if you are keeping up enough to go ahead and go out to dinner with the girls, or if you need to glue your backside to the chair and let your fingers dance instead.
That being said, word counts alone do not make you a writer. What the word count contests ignore is that word count is only part of the writing process. Whether or not you are a plotter like me, at some point you do need to figure out what is happening and who your characters actually are. For me, these contests encourage sloppy writing habits. The last contest I “won” produced 80k of utter trash. I ended up editing it down to just under 29k just to get it to make sense and I’m still not done slashing at it. Nothing is more frustrating to me than knowing that I spent a month working on something that I knew was rubbish when I was writing it, feeling that I would have to just keep going and fix it later. It has been 2 months of editing to try to fix the mess. (Worse, I spent that time imposing on the good will and support of my husband who was neglected without complaint so I could spit up the trash I am now deleting.)
The other thing that these contests forget is that you do not live in a writing bubble awaiting the arrival of a Muse who hands you a fully formed story ready for print. (If this has actually happened to you, send me an email because my Muse is definitely not offering that kind of service and I’d like to know where you hired yours.) They play to the romantic notion that writing is something best done in isolation, preferably by feverish starving artists who scratch out their masterpieces in some drafty garret and pen in “the end” as they finally succumb to the death throes of whatever tragically incurable disease they have. The truth is that the most successful writers have real lives. They have day jobs, families, friends, and laundry that all need to be taken care of. If you are going to be a writer on a professional level, you need to find a way to work with your real life on a long term, permanent basis or there will be nothing to write about and no way of sustaining your writing habit. One of my favorite quotes at the moment comes from James McAvoy (speaking about acting but the same principle applies to writing): “Where it gets difficult is when you get two or three jobs back to back where you’re playing leads and doing 13, 14 hours a day, six days a week, and you suddenly think, hang on a minute, how can you have a life like this? Do I work to live or live to work? How can I work properly with no life to inform the work?”
With the above rant in mind, I am setting what I hope are reasonable and sustainable goals for me, with enough push to stretch my limits without losing focus. I’ll be checking in on Sunday and Wednesday for this to both update and encourage. If you are interested in playing along visit Kait Nolan’s page: http://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com/ and follow her instructions. If you meet your goals, we will all cheer for you, and if you need to reassess what you are aiming for, that is OK too. The point is to keep pressing onward while actually living your life. (Because, with respect to Verdi et al, that is what real writers do.)
Normally when I write a review, I tell you what I liked about the book, the characters and anything else that stood out for me. I Jot down a few notes when I finish the book, and I will pick it up again and flip through my favorite passages as I write the review. I didn’t do that this time because the truth is, I didn’t like this book. I know how much effort and stress goes into writing a book, so I wasn’t going to post a review at all, but someone pointed out that I currently have no negative reviews up and I need to be fair about what I liked or didn’t about my reviews. With apologies in advance, here goes.
Kop is set on a planet that is roughly 10-year’s space travel away from Earth. The entire population of the planet lives in one of two cities, and the majority of them are refugees living in homeless tent camps because the original economy has collapsed. In this setting, a group of dirty cops is collaborating with the local mafia to have control of pretty much everything. The new mayor however has other ideas.
There are a few problems with world consistency here. While I can accept that travel from earth to this planet would take 10 years, the author has also set the same 10-year communication delay. Ok, except that the bad guys (or perhaps, worse guys in this case since there are no clearly defined “good” guys) don’t seem to have the same delay issues. They seem to come, go, and communicate as they please. there are also inconsistencies in the level of technology available – for example, there is a character who has electric implants in her skin (very advanced) and yet we are also told that even basic computers aren’t available.
Enter our main character, Juno, a crooked cop who is indistinguishable from a street thug, or any other mob enforcer. The problem is that, while he is retiring from being a thug, it isn’t because of his hidden heart of gold, or anything else even vaguely noble. He has no tortured inner soul that longs to be free of this life of evil and thus redeem himself, and give us a something to sympathize with. He’s just getting old and worried he can’t keep up with the young guys who are beating him up now and spends a lot of time bemoaning the fact. When he isn’t extorting local barkeeps, he proves his manliness by pushing around and causing the death of, a disabled teen. Even in the flashbacks to his younger years, there isn’t anything likable about him. When his best friend decides to take over the city by being worse than the bad guys are, Juno hardly even stops to think before agreeing to go along with the plot. While character flaws make for interesting characters, Juno is so flawed he is indistinguishable from the villain, who in this case is the new mayor who wants to clean up the corrupt police department. It probably would have helped if we had seen something of the new mayor and the other supposed “bad guys”, but sadly we are only given a small glimpse that doesn’t really tell us why we are supposed to side with Juno. The only character growth is when Juno decides to not cheat on his wife with his partner, Maggie who clearly isn’t even interested in him, and he realizes he is old enough to be her father. Yay, I think.
There is a lot of action in the story, but not all of it actually serves to further the plot. Some scenes feel like they are there more for the sake of adding words than anything else. At first, I attributed this to my own dislike of overly violent and gory scenes, but as a few more of them piled in, it seemed to me that the gore did little to further the plot and many of the scenes left me confused and disgusted rather than intrigued or informed. In the end, I cared so little about Juno and his crew that I didn’t finish the last two chapters of the book and forgot that I didn’t finish. My husband recapped for me a couple of weeks later. My husband did like the book, and the next one. He can tell you about Juno’s revenge for being knocked out of his position of power but honestly, I needed something more than a corrupt cop angry at being caught to keep my interest in this book and really wasn’t concerned enough to pick up the next one.
A woman’s work is never done – especially when that woman is a grim reaper – the Grim Reaper in fact. Turns out, the job is exhausting, but it does have its advantages, like solving crimes. When you can simply ask the dead who it was who killed them, it’s all fairly routine at this point for Charlotte “Charley” Davidson. So what happens when Charley runs into a someone who isn’t dead, but apparently isn’t really alive either? Who also happens to be really really hot? Well, even a Grim Reaper has problems.
I have to say, I love this book. When it was first recommended to me, I was hesitant to go for yet another entry into the somewhat overpopulated hard-as-nails-private-detective-chick grouping, as much as I admire strong female characters, there seem to be a lot of female private detectives in the Urban Fantasy genre The first chapter lured me in however. Darynda Jones has created a character that has just the right amount of sarcastic attitude, enough internal conflict to propel an entire series, and of course, has managed to build a solid mystery. She even solved the end leaving room for the soon to be released Second Grave on the Left without leaving you on a cliffhanger.
The pacing is very tight here with two separate and unrelated plots woven around one another skillfully. While they aren’t really related – neither one is relegated to subplot – those are present too and resolved neatly as well. Jones has a clear vision of who her characters are, and shares just enough of their back-stories that we want to know more about them, but again, we are spared a long, boring info dump. Our characters are very busy, no sitting around in introspection, and even when that is exactly what they are doing – the introspection is just as busy as the main storylines and ultimately very much a part of the plot. Information is given as needed. My only observation is that if anything, there are characters introduced who are parts of various storylines that we probably would have liked to know a little more about. Jones is writing with the premise that you will be intrigued enough that you will want to read the next book to find out what she left out this time. In this case at least, she is right.
My Review this time -4 out of 5 stars