Ants in the Pants Syndrome

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Title: Street Tap

Are any of you what I call kinetic writers? I find that I have trouble sitting still for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a stretch, then as soon as I finish a particular passage I have to get up and walk around.  I’ll go down the hall and use the bathroom or look out the window for a minute or just get up and walk around the room for a minute before I sit back down and jump back into the writing. I haven’t figured out yet whether this is slowing me down or helping the neurons to fire. Obviously, there is time lost in all this moving about, but it’s like sitting and writing builds up a static charge and I have to get up and release it. I don’t have a choice.  The charge builds faster if I am doing a more intense part of the story, like somehow the prose are loaded with their own electrical potential and it courses back through the keyboard and into my body as the words flow out…conservation of energy or something.  It causes me to have to get up more frequently when the story is really hopping or getting more spirited.

The Ants-in-the-Pants syndrome.  It’s a good sign for me though, that I am doing impassioned work. Something is clicking in the story and I am on a roll, so I really don’t mind, and the interruption is brief, just a quick burst of energy blown off, like letting your gun barrel cool off after firing several magazine loads. I don’t know any other way, if I am in a place where I can’t get up frequently the charge builds up and creates a buffer of sorts that slows down the words coming out. I have to stop and do something else for a few minutes until the buffer clears.

I’m envious of you people than can sit and churn out a thousand words an hour. Maybe someday I’ll get where I can do that regularly. But I don’t type that well to start with and I have the attention span of a gnat. I’ve hit that baseline a few times, but it’s probably more common to do half that amount.

I’ve also gotten in the practice of writing down ideas and even leaving verbal notes to myself on my iPhone, because I know I’ll forget otherwise and my colander-like brain will drop that nugget of info right out and no matter how hard I try I won’t be able to dredge it up from the recesses of the trash compactor in my head.

In the meantime, I’ll just get a little extra exercise every quarter hour I reckon, and keep churning out words like a turtle after a caterpillar.

Clear Ether!


Got Conflict?

Photo Credit: Shiny Things, Creative Commons

The thing to keep in mind when we are writing is that the core of a story is conflict.  I know I have caught myself going easy on my protagonist.  Sometimes I just miss opportunities to heap a little extra conflict on because I start thinking  how I might react in a situation and then write my way out of it instead of letting it unfold in a way that will actually increase the drama, and the stakes for the character, making the story a little richer in the process.  Without conflict there is no story.  And even though we have sympathy for our creations, maybe even love, we still have to punish them for the sake of the story.  Conflict is the engine of our story and if we keep finding an easy path out of trouble it just makes for a lot of prose without a whole lot actually going on. The fiction becomes lifeless.

One of my instructors shared a story about getting a manuscript from an elderly neighbor who told him it was a memoir of their life.  It was thousands of pages long and in the form of journal entries that covered decades, but even though there were so many volumes there was no actual story.  She had led a very easy life with almost no conflict.  How do you tell someone that their life story doesn’t really have a story? It was tough I’m certain, but the bottom line is without struggle or strife there is nothing to hang the story’s hat on.


Every scene should have a purpose to move the story along and little conflicts drive scenes. Not every scene has to have something epic, but there needs to be some point of contention.  I read recently that you should never have two people in a scene that agree with each other.  The person that agrees is simply redundant.  It’s fine to have them in the background, but the core conflict for that scene should be between opposing stances.


Pay attention to the little opportunities that pop up to add some tension.


Now go write.


Clear Ether!


Reflections on Residency One


Last week I was at Seton Hill University for my first week of Residency for my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction.  Thanks to my classmate Jenni Spoon for letting my use this picture she took last week. Check out her blog!


I spent the weeks prior getting ready by reading a book that was assigned and doing critiques of ten other writer’s work. I also prepared and sent in a ten-page piece to be critiqued.  I thought I was going to do my thesis on the work I had already done for Revelation Void, and that was what I edited for submission, but I’d been working on a new piece and during the course of the first few days I realized that piece was going to work out a lot better for me.


I have Clear Ether out to be critiqued, but I realize now that it is far from being ready for submission.  It’s going to require a major overhaul to be in any kind of shape that I would be satisfied with.  So Clear Ether is going on the shelf for a bit, along with Revelation Void.  I’m cool with it. I have some good ideas to explore for both of these books, but I am switching my focus to my new story.  I have just over 15k words so far, but they need to be polished.  I am going about this novel in a completely new way for me.  I’m actually outlining it first.  I actually know how it ends already.  I’m also trying something new with the type of story. It is firmly grounded in SF, but this one will be a mystery. The working title is Requiem for Memory, but I’m not completely sold on it and it may change at some point.


The residency itself was incredible.  I met almost a hundred writers and they were all warm and welcoming.  It was like finding a family that you didn’t know you had.  Everyone there wants to help you on your journey to become a better writer, from the faculty, the mentors, to the other students. I’ve never been in an environment like that and let me tell you, it was inspiring. We talked about writing, examined writing, critiqued writing, and actually did some writing.  When we weren’t in class the talk was still centered around writing and what we were working on or what obstacles we’d encountered in the process.  We also had some fun, although I would classify talking about writing as fun, we had several dinners and social gatherings, just to get to know each other better.  This was deeper than networking, at least it felt like it to me. We were getting to know our cousins and uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews.  It honestly felt like that.  The week culminated with a graduation for the seniorist class, the “Sixes”, as each class is referred to by it’s residency number.  The graduation was surprisingly emotional.  One of the graduating students gave a wonderful recap of their time together and the things that made each of them special. It was heartwarming.


The facility is on the grounds of an old Nunnery.  Everyone refers to the place as Hogwarts, because of its old wood and brick design and the fact that it just looks like the inside of Hogwarts.  People get lost that have been attending there for years and claim the hallway moved. (again) There is a graveyard onsight and in the summer residency there is a late night ghost walk every year. Many people claim the place is haunted.


I am so motivated to do all things involved with the writing process.  I actually know I am going to finish this book and it’s going to be good.  The SHUWPF (Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction) program has inspired me with that kind of confidence. I’m plotting out some nuances now and adding layers. I will fine tune the first 30 pages and send them out soon to my new writing partners, one is an English instructor at the collegiate level and the other a retired Marine Corps Colonel.  I am thrilled to be working with these wonderful people.  My mentor is David Bischoff, whose written more than 90 novels, most with a SF bent.  I feel very blessed.


The upperclassmen have been absolutely wonderful about taking us under their wing and showing us the ropes and making us feel welcome.  I love my fellow “Ones”, who will be “Twos” in June. We now have our own private place online to help each other.  The first steps on this journey were better than I expected and I am ridiculously excited about our time yet to come.


Clear Ether!


Sprechen Sie Writer?


I’ve been at this writing thing for several years in earnest, but every now and then it becomes painfully obvious to me that I should’ve paid more attention to my college English class or read more about certain genres or pop culture references.  I’m actively compiling this list to benefit writers of varying levels of emersion in the waters of authordom, to help us look less stupid or simply to help you navigate the world of writing a little more confidently.
I am taking suggestions to add to this list, it’s not complete by any stretch.  I am particularly interested in ‘writer-culture’ words. Or, perhaps you disagree with my definition. I’d like to hear about that as well.
I’ve broken it down by categories.
General Terms
Active Voice                           Writing where the subject of the sentence is carrying out action
ARC                                       Advanced Reader Copy, printed before the actual print run on a new book
Auxiliary or Helping verb         A verb that goes with another verb (have or do)
Back Matter                            Back pages of a book that have appendixes, indexes and endnotes
Bastard Title                            Optional first page of a book containing only the title and nothing else
Blank Verse                            Unrhymed poetry
Block Quote                            A quotation set off from the main text (usually indented) and NOT surrounded by quotes
Bluelines                                  Final proofs that offer a last chance to make changes
Boilerplate                               Standard text used in multiple documents with little or no change, usually referring to contract language
Bubble                                     The circle that surrounds editors comments
Chicago Style                          The preferred method used by The Chicago Manual of Style – style guide for writing
Cliché                                      An expression or idea that is so overused that the meaning is weakened, more commonly used today to mean stereotypical or predictable
Clip                                         A sample of work
Conventions                            mechanical correctness, spelling, grammar, usage, indenting, capitals, and punctuation
Dead Copy                              Final edited Manuscript that is used to proof typesetting (less commonly used with software)
Draft                                       Preliminary version of a piece that will likely require revision and editing
Editing                                    Proof reading for mechanical features of writing, spelling, punctuation, etc
Ellipses                                    …
Fair Use                                   Allowing copying of short portions of copyrighted material for educational or review purposes
Forward                                  Introductory statement in the front matter written by someone other than the author
Front Matter                            Printed material at the start of a book including title page, table of contents and dedications
Front Piece                              A page in the front matter facing the title page, usually containing an illustration and often on different card stock
Galley                                      The first printed version (proof) of a document
GLB                                        Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual
H/H                                         Hero and Heroine (A couple in a romance novel)
HEA                                        Happily ever after (used in the romance genre)
het                                           Heterosexual
HFN                                        Happy for Now (used in the romance genre)
Hook                                       The important part of a work at the beginning that captures a reader’s interest
House Style                             Preferred editorial style of a publisher
Imprint                                     A branding name used by a publisher for books they release, one publisher may have several
ISBN                                       Unique number assigned to each book by a publisher, now a 13 digit number, not necessarily required by self-publication
Lead or Lede                          The first couple of lines of a story
Ligature                                   Special characters formed by combining two or more letters, such as æ  
Logline                                     A brief description of a piece, usually a teaser
MC                                          Main Character
Meme                                      Pronounced ‘meem’ – an idea, belief or system of beliefs that spreads among a culture
NaNoWriMo                           Pronounced ‘Nah No Rye Moe’, National Novel Writing Month, a 50k word challenge for the month of November
Neologism                               A new word or expression
On Acceptance                       Payment received only when the editor accepts the final manuscript
On Publication                        Payment received only when the MS is published
On Spec                                  A submission accepted without obligation to publish it
Orphan or Widow                   First line of a paragraph that appears at the bottom of a page by itself
Parenthetical                           Using these (), still acceptable but falling out of use in fiction
Passive Voice                          A sentence where the subject is being acted upon instead of doing the action
Pitch                                        A short description of a piece
POD                                        Print on Demand
POV                                        Point of view – the perspective of the story, 1st person
Preface                                    Introductory statement in the front matter written by the AUTHOR
Prewriting                               Invention, Brainstorming, Researching, Plotting, Outlining before starting on the first draft
Proof                                       A trial sheet printed to be checked and corrected; a galley is the first proof
Query                                      A sales letter showcasing writing style, usually limited in length to 1 or 2 pages
Red Shirt                                 Expendable, refers to the crewmen of the TV Series Star Trek who were often killed during a mission
Reproduction Proof                A high quality proof for final review before printing
Revising                                  Making structural or content changes to a draft
Royalty                                   The Percentage of book sales paid to the author by the publisher
Run-on Sentence                     A sentence containing two or more independent clauses improperly joined or simply too long
Serial Comma                          Comma preceding ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list of items
Show Don’t Tell                      Writing in a manner that allows the reader to experience the story through the description of actions, thought, senses and feelings rather than through exposition or summary
Stet                                          Proofreading mark indicating that the editing marks should be ignored and the text displayed as the original (let it stand)
Synopsis                                  A longer description of a piece, usually including all the secrets and how the story ends
Tautology                                Needless repeating of a word or idea, such as ‘final result’
Trim or Boil                             To reduce the length of a story
Vanity Press or Publisher        Where the author pays to have their work published and covers all out of pocket expenses themselves
Voice                                       The personality of the writer coming through the words
WIP                                         Work in progress, usually the current project being written
YA                                          Young Adult genre


Editing terms or abbreviations
ASGCM                                  American Suburban Gated-Community McCastles – Castle or palace settings where royals don’t actually act like royals and answer the door themselves, dress themselves, etc
awk                                         Awkward sentence or phrase
cap                                           Capitalization
DTG                                        Delete the grimace
FBP                                         Floating Body Parts, using description in a way that gives action to the character/person, not his/her independent body parts, like ‘Her eyes roamed the room’
frag                                          Sentence Fragment
gr                                             Grammar error
ital                                           Italicize
lc                                             lower case
MS                                          Manuscript
mss                                          manuscript formatting
nc or ?                                     Not clear or confusing
p                                              Punctuation
P E                                          Printer’s Error
R O                                         Run-on sentence
ref                                            Pronoun antecedent is unclear
RUE                                        Resist the urge to explain

SDT                                        Show, Don’t tell

sp                                            Spelling Error

ss                                             Sentence structure error
t                                               Incorrect Verb tense
Tr                                             Transposition error
TSTL                                       Character acting Too Stupid To Live
UC                                          Upper Case
wc                                           Word Choice
Grammar Terms (Just a little refresher)
Alliteration                              A series of words all beginning with the same letter or sound
Anagram                                 A word or phrase formed by transposing the letters of another word or phrase
Antecedent                             A word or phrase that is referred to by a pronoun
Clause                                     A complete phrase containing a noun and verb that is part of a compound sentence
Complex Sentence                  A sentence containing an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses
Compound Sentence               A sentence containing two or more clauses separated by ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘or’
Gerund                                    A form of verb acting as a noun and ending in ‘ing’, like ‘acting’ (present participle)
Homograph                             Words spelled the same but pronounced differently and having different meaning
Homonym                               Word spelled and pronounced the same way but with different meaning
Hyperbole                               Extravagant and deliberate exaggeration
Idiom                                      A phrase peculiar to one geographic area or group of people
Imperative                               A word used as a command; Go
Independent Clause                 A group of words containing a subject, verb, and if necessary, an object, that can stand alone as a sentence
Indirect Object                        The object preceding the direct object that tells to whom or for whom the verb is acting, such as ‘me’ in ‘He sold me’
Interrogative Pronoun              A pronoun used to ask a question, What, Which, Where, Whom, Whose, etc
Intransitive Verb                      A verb that doesn’t need a direct object, such as ‘she fainted’
Metaphor                                A phrase comparing two unalike things WITHOUT using ‘like’ or ‘as’
Onomatopoeia                         Use of Words whose pronunciation sounds like their meaning, like Buzz or Hiss
Oxymoron                               Phrase consisting of words with contradictory meaning, military intelligence
Palindrome                              A phrase or word that reads the same forward or backward
Participle                                 A verb form ending in ‘ing’ or ‘ed’ that can be used as an adjective
Personification                         Giving human traits to non-human objects
Predicate                                 Part of a sentence, excluding the subject, that tells about the subject
Restrictive Clause                    A subordinate clause essential to the meaning of the sentence and which does not require a coma preceding it
Simile                                      Comparing two similar things using ‘like’ or ‘as’
Split Infinitive                          A verb form where an adverb or phrase comes between the ‘to’ and the verb
Subordinating Conjunction      A conjunction such as ‘although, because, since, while’ that precedes a subordinate clause
Transitive Verb                       A verb that requires a direct object, ‘he threw the ball’
Page Set-up or Style words
Curly Quotes                           Special Quotation marks slanted toward the quote (smart quotes)
Deck                                        The sentence or two under the title of a book
Folio                                        The page number on a page; blind folio has no page number but counts in the page count
Kerning                                   Adjusting the space between characters
Leading                                   Adjusting space between lines of text
N                                            Short for number
Nut Graf                                 The paragraph right after the hook which explains an article
Plate                                        A full page illustration, often on higher grade paper or different color
Running Head                         A title that is repeated at the top of every page
Sink                                         Distance from the top of a printed page to the first element on that page
Slug Line                                 ALL CAPS – location and time of day
I look forward to hearing from you with more suggestions.
Clear Ether!