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Posts by Margaret Ball

Back up your files!

The computer wouldn’t speak to me on Monday. I spent much of Tuesday chatting with the nice tech support people, and the rest of it making sure my last week’s notes for a new Regency fantasy were saved in several different places – computer, cloud, flash drive. Wednesday was taken up with other fun stuff, family and financial issues… lawyers and accountants and money managers, whee!

And today the computer is being weird again; it’s taken me an hour to persuade the computer and WordPress to let me post anything.

I am tempted to retire to a nice quiet room with a notebook and a fountain pen, where I can pretend the last 50 years haven’t happened. More likely, I’ll spend the afternoon talking to the tech support people again.

Anybody else feeling guilty about letting Real Life interfere with the really important stuff, i.e., writing? I’m telling myself that it can’t be helped, some weeks just are like that. But I do find it hard to accept.

Book Review: Conflict

In the too-many weeks since I’ve been well enough to write (if you’re interested, continual nausea shuts off my creative mind, just as constant pain does to other people) I’ve tried to keep a tiny bit of the Muse interested by looking at books on writing technique. OK, most of them get walled before I’m more than 20% in, usually because they are based on blanket prescriptions that I don’t agree with. But in the most recent survey I did come across one book that interested me all the way through and that inspired me to make copious notes. Read more

Good Critic, Bad Critic

Last time I talked about dealing with the destructive inner critic, so I thought that today it might be worth mentioning that it’s not really a good idea to silence or ignore all the criticisms that float through your head. Some of them come from the useful critic, the one you definitely want to listen to. It’s not hard to distinguish them. The Bad Critic makes statements that are usually personal attacks, and are always designed to silence you. The Good Critic asks questions that spark ideas and help you improve the story.

There are lots of checklists of questions to ask yourself, but I don’t find these terribly useful. I prefer to take a step back from the story and see what floats into my head when I try to read it as a stranger might; when I sense a weakness in what I’ve written or recognize an old stumbling-block. A lot of them are things you might expect to hear from beta readers, but I don’t believe in counting on beta readers to fix problems I can catch for myself. Here, then, are some things I might hear from the Good Critic during the journey from initial idea to finished draft. Read more

Starving the critic

Catching up on some of the blogs I haven’t read since the knee surgery, I’ve just come across Kris Rusch’s April 17 post on silencing the critical voice.  That’s a topic of perennial interest to me, because I’ve spent a lot of energy wrestling with the critical voice in my own head – as, I suspect, have most of us. Oops, I don’t mean you guys are wrestling with my personal critical voice, I mean most of us have that embedded critic and have to deal with our own voices. Sorry. I’m still taking occasional pain medications, to the detriment of clarity in thought and writing.

Kris talks about envisioning the Critic as that annoying person at a party, the one you walk away from as soon as you recognize that you’ve bumped up against one of those unhappy souls whose mission in life is to suck the joy and passion out of everything and everyone. I’d never thought of imagining my Critic as a real person; it’s an interesting idea. I may try that some time.

However, I’ve never been very good at simply silencing the Critic. I’ve found that a slightly different approach works better for me. Read more

Life gets in the way

I’m getting ready for knee surgery next week, which involves more hospital visits, lab tests, and doctors’ appointments than I ever imagined. And on my part of the preparation, well, I’m hustling to get my writing life ready for a necessary break. That has meant (a) releasing that Regency fantasy romance, and (b) extracting my head from 18th century Philadelphia in time to write the final chapters of A Child of Magic; the theory being that I may be able to lounge in bed and edit the thing while getting used to my brand-new synthetic right knee, but I probably won’t be sharp enough to do any original writing that week.

So what with this, that and the other, I have no thoughts about the writing life this week except that it’s desirable to get as much as possible done before the surgery. If you want something to read, go check out Salt Magic. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited.

And if all goes well, in a month or so I get to do it all over again with the left knee. Whee.

Plotting around what you know

I’ve reached a point in the current book (#7 in the Applied Topology series, for those who care) where I have to stop, take a deep breath, sit back and… read all day. Or maybe all week.

No, really. I have to. I’m not just making excuses to take off, I swear! (Oy… please, people, don’t let Thalia beat me up! She doesn’t like it when I ask her to quit talking for a few days.)

Thing is that A Child of Magic has a subplot which requires my characters to visit Philadelphia for a day and a half. Um, during the Constitutional Convention. Summer of 1787, that would be. The bits that got them into this fix have already been written, and I’ve already worked out how this assignment leads right into the final confrontation of the main plot. But now it’s time for them (and me) to take a deep breath and plunge into the noise, smells, and mud of the big city. Read more

Who puts the books in the book book book-a shop?

(With apologies to Barry Mann)

Sarah Hoyt’s recent post on  The Day the Bookstores Died (no, not the actual title; I seem to be in a pop music mode this morning) got me thinking about my own issues with bookstores; specifically, used bookstores. I think (can’t prove) that one of the factors diminishing my enjoyment of used bookstores is, ironically, something that’s probably good for their bottom line: the ease of Internet research. Read more