Great new term– ramble-and-chop

Stumbled across a link to a Jennifer R. Hubbard’s blog the other day. Although I’ve been trimming my subscription lists to keep my blog reading times down, I couldn’t resist adding her.

The tipping point was her use of the term ramble-and-chop. It’s a great way to describe my primary writing method at the moment. At other times I’ve been more fastidious about my drafts, but for this book that’s changing.

The main reason is that I don’t have tons of time to devote (new baby and all), but I also don’t want to stagnate and not write for months. The only way to get forward motion is to not fret so much about the quality of the rough draft I’m putting down. I know I can edit, I know I have the guts to drop huge sections and start over if necessary, painful though it is.

Ramble-and-chop… that’s the plan. Ramble now, chop later.

Just what I needed to hear

Jonathan Carroll, one of my all-time favorite authors, doesn’t blog a ton about writing process, but when he calls something out it’s always worth reading.

His recent post was exactly what I needed to hear:

If you believe you have it in you, write whatever it is you want and stop thinking about approaches or limitations or or or… Just *write* it. Clear your mind of hesitation and everything other than the sentence you are trying to write and do it. Then write the next one. The more you think about it, the less well you do it.

Writing the new novel, I’ve been noting an internal paranoia growing. I’m spending more and more time wondering whether it’s “working”, whether the pacing’s right, whether I’m falling into old habits. It’s distracting, but now I’m reminded of what I need to do.

Just *write* it.

Back to critiquing

So today my first couple chapters from the new book are going to critique group. It’s the first time since last summer that I’ve had anything substantial up on the block. To be honest I’m a little nervous.

But my wife gave me a good reminder last night–critique isn’t a pat-on-the-back club. It’s about strengthening and honing your writing. Sometimes that means enduring the pain of seeing how you missed the mark (again), where your writing was lax, your ideas didn’t pan out, and your spelling is atroshus (ha). But it also means that your work will be better, cleaner and stronger which makes it worth the effort.

Anyway, donning my thickest skin. Wish me luck.

PS — For the record, my critique group is awesome. Never mean-spirited, always thoughtful, but also deeply honest. Just because someone cares about you and your writing doesn’t always make it easy to hear what’s broken.

Outages and server moves

Apologies to anyone who missed out on my lack-of-blogging for a bit. My good friend Michael who hosts my site was switching servers, and the wires got crossed on a few things for a bit.

The main site is still down until I make a few changes, but the blog and the brew blog should be back in working order.

Ah, now I can relax and carry on not blogging much 🙂

Update: Main site should be back up–peeled it back to .Net 1.1 since I don’t know if/when we’ll get an upgrade. Don’t love it, but there you go.

The Art and Science of Organizing Bookshelves

With our recent home improvements, I’ve gotten a chance to take on one my favorite organizational task–reorganizing my bookshelves. Although I dearly love my books, I only change how they’re ordered in a big way when we’re moving the shelves so they end up unloaded.

I believe a person’s bookshelves tell a lot about them. Are the books jumbled, or carefully placed? Ordered by author or category? Stacked by size or publication date? What authors show up in the prominent locations, and which are relegated to the bottom left corner behind the end table?

Although the programmer in me longs for a complete, perfectly alpha-then-date-sorted library, that doesn’t feed the reader in me. My books make a statement about me, so I want to put the right foot forward.

Most of our shelves are about six feet high or taller (just got a Billy bookcase from IKEA with extension… not only is it beautiful, but it almost goes to the ceiling. Loving that extra space!) That means that the top two shelves are close to eye-height for most people–prime real-estate!

First thing that goes on those prime shelves is my current to-read pile. This is more of a mixed bag than how the rest of the sorting goes, but it lets me know at a glance what’s up next.

Next–place the favorite author in plain view. For this go-around, it meant Gaiman, McKillip, Martin, Vonnegut, Richard K. Morgan, Wolfe and my graphic novels (Sandman, Cerebus, Watchmen, various other standbys). This is a carefully chosen list that changes over time. They’re the books that if someone said, “What should I read?” I’d reach straight for without hesitation. They’re the books I want other readers to see when they examine my shelves–and any reader knows, your eyes go to the shelves when you enter a room.

After that, there are two criteria–cool looking books and categories. I’ll generally block off areas for rough groups like sci-fi, fantasy, historical, mystery, non-fiction, etc. And we all know some books are just more attractive than others, so those get a promotion.

Normally there’re some left-overs that don’t quite fit the categories or the allocated space. These get relegated to the bottom with the magazines, cookbooks and other media.

So that’s my process. How do you organize your books? What’s at the top of your shelf at the moment?

Baby posting

As you may have guessed, life has gotten a little busier around the Clark household. However, not all is doom and gloom for something approaching normal life–I have gotten a bit of writing in here and there, and I’m posting over on the family blog these days since I’ve got more to write about there than anything fiction/software related.

Anyway, all that to say that if you want to keep up on what’s happening with me, the family blog’s place to go. There might be new pictures of Coraline up… shouldn’t you be over there basking in the cuteness?

It’s time!

I’m home for a quick couple minutes to get a few things together, and then it’s back to the hospital.

We went in for Amber’s routine appointment this morning without much expectation. Although she’s been more nauseous through the past week, a low-grade headache, and some “fake” contractions for a while longer than that, it didn’t seem like things were imminent.

Then they took her blood-pressure, which was a bit elevated. They decided to get a blood test, and while that was out her blood-pressure continued to rise. The doctors recommended moving towards inducing, and since we were already fine with that possibility, we agreed.

Things are moving slow–inducing a baby isn’t like a 15-minutes movie birth or anything–but the chances are good that tomorrow’s the day. It also happens to be Amber’s birthday… double the birthdays, double the fun!

Anyway, I’ve got to post this on Amber’s blog, get a few more things together and run!


3am. For most of us, it’s a time for sleep and rest, an hour we don’t often see. Occasional parties or trips might bring us out during that hour, but mostly it slips by unnoticed. It’s also the worst time to be woken up by your partner in distress.

There’s a certain panic and fear that closes over you. Roused from a dead sleep, confronted with pain and confusion, you’re slammed into gear. You’ve got to be ready to go, ready to react, ready to comfort or aid however you’re asked.

In the dark it’s easy to fear the worst. Driving empty streets to the ER, you wonder whether this is the end of everything you know, the night the world takes a nosedive for the worse. And now, with my wife carrying our first child, that fear takes on an extra dimension of pain–is our daughter all right too? What would it look like to carry on without her mother? Without either of them? The darkness has teeth that bite and wrench.

Neither of the two occasions when Amber’s woken me at that awful hour has ended in a truly life-threatening situation. First time around was an bad reaction to a yellow-fever vaccine, the second a gall bladder attack that subsided half-hour after reaching the hospital. (On the plus side, when an 8+ month pregnant woman shows up in the ER, they ship her straight to maternity–no waiting.)

But in those first minutes I didn’t know that–only that she was in pain, telling me she needed help, we needed to go. I hope it’s a long time before I set off into the night like that again.