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Posts from the ‘KATE PAULK’ Category

Return of the Extreme Pantser’s Guide: What Happens Next

I’m in the last couple of weeks before my first time as a professional presenter in a testing conference (TestBash Philadelphia for those who are wondering) so what passes for my ability to focus is split between that and – as ever – the day job. Which is suitably Lovecraftian, or at least the code is.

So, without further ado, another instalment of the Extreme Pantser’s Guide and yes, I’ll probably be on mostly-hiatus until after the conference. I may not fully surface until Thanksgiving, just because it usually takes me a bit to let go after I’ve been wound tight for a while.

The Extreme Pantser’s Guide: What Happens Next

As an extreme pantser, I work in fits and starts. There’ll be a lot of words going down fast, followed by dry spells while I try to figure out what’s supposed to happen next, then another splat. Often, I’ll take notes that end up at the bottom of the story file, as reminders of things that need to happen at some stage. Depending on the story, I’ll have a lot of these, or next to nothing.

Impaler had very few notes, mostly on things like the date of Easter that year, the date of Passover, and various other major dates and festivals that would impact the plot. Easter also presented a challenge – Vlad had to conquer Constantinople before Easter because otherwise the pivotal scene that I knew happened in the Hagia Sophia couldn’t happen. Mostly, though, Impaler’s outline was “what is in Vlad’s campaign”. The actual events around that happened as I wrote them, quite literally in more than a few cases.

In that book, my dry spells happened because I needed to do more research – I’d know what needed to happen next, but not have enough information to describe it properly. So there’d be a flurry of web searches, reading assorted odd snippets, looking at reproductions of very old maps, and so forth, until the next set of scenes had its ‘clothes’.

ConVent went slightly differently because it started as pure piss-take and acquired a loose mystery plot as I went on. For it, I had a murderer, and a list of corpses that had to happen. Some people volunteered to be corpses, for which I’m grateful, and the ones who gave me bizarrely detailed death scene wish-lists really made life interesting (Hello, Basset, anyone?). ConVent also acquired a list of characters, mostly pastiche of observed behavior from several sources with a healthy dose of warped imagination, a few special request tuckerizations (Hello the Hoyts), and of course the main characters. The list was written more as a way of keeping the requests in check, including who to cast as corpses and how they wanted to die, but got added to so I didn’t lose track of the details.

The piece I’m working on at the moment, which may or may not finish, has no notes, no planning, and I’ve only recently worked out how it ends. What it’s got is a character with a strong voice and a determination to be heard. This is extreme pantsing at the pointy end. There are already (at a smidge over 10k words), several subplots making their presence known, and I’ve got a fair idea where the main stages of the plot fall. Beyond that? Nada. This character operates on a “need to know” basis, and I don’t need to know. Like everything I write, it’s advancing in intermittent spurts as I work out what the next bit needs to be.

Essentially, the extreme pantser is on a journey. The next part of the path might be clear, and maybe the distant goal, but the rest of the journey is still something of a mystery and only the subconscious has the map.

Return to the Extreme Pantser’s Guide: Pacing

Kate got caught up by real life and asked me to post this for her. This is the second in her “Return to the Extreme Pantser’s Guide” posts. You can find the first one here. — Amanda

This chapter is the first of several covering various aspects of plotting and characterization technique from the extreme pantser’s perspective. The thing to remember here, is that this is stuff that matters, and if you as an extreme pantser don’t ‘get’ it free, you’re going to have to work a lot harder than a plotter would to get there – but not necessarily work in the same way.

One of the more interesting things I’ve found as I’ve developed as a writer is that I typically have a vague, not terribly clear feel for the techniques, but I’m not applying them with any sense or consistency because I don’t understand what the heck it is I’m trying to do, much less what my subconscious is throwing at me. Those unfortunate enough to have read some of my early stuff know what I mean here. You can see the shape I’m after but it’s kind of like a small child trying to color inside the lines.

I still color like that, but at least I’ve got better at writing.

So, pacing. This is what makes a story feel fast or slow. Unless you’re planning on writing literary fiction, you’re going to want a variety in your pacing – enough fast sections to drag your readers along with you, and enough slower ones that they have time to breathe. SF and Fantasy, particularly recently, tends to want to start fast, then have something of a slowdown before a series of increasingly sharper accelerations until the climax of the piece. Most – but not all – authors will give a chapter or three of wrapup after that at a nice, gentle pace. Sarah refers to this as the post-climax cigarette.

Pace is partly influenced by vocabulary: short, sharp verbs with minimal assistance from adverbs, action verbs in the sense that someone (preferably your protagonist) is acting… these tend to signal ‘fast’ to readers. Polysyllabic with lots of descriptive usually signals ‘slow’. We as readers are remarkably sensitive to these – to the extent that a particularly fast-paced scene in someone else’s book is quite capable of having me breathing heavily and feeling as though I just outran a bear.

So… read what you can about pacing, but also read fiction with known pace. L.K. Hamilton’s first three books are close to perfect examples of fast-paced. Terry Pratchett’s pacing is generally more leisurely, but again, pitch-perfect.

What tends to happen is that after immersing yourself in well-paced books, the extreme pantser builds a feel for pacing that manifests as “Something needs to happen soon” or “My character needs a break” – also, “Slowing things down here will increase tension” has been known to occur. In my case, rarely quite that explicit, but I do still operate at this level.

I know this sounds very vague and almost – horrors! – frou-frou, but it does seem to work this way at least for me. I’ve had to learn to trust in the pants, not least because the bloody things know more about how this works than I do (As a side note, this is one of the reasons why I’m bloody dangerous when I’m over-tired. It’s not just the narcolepsy, although that doesn’t help. It’s that all the ‘this is not socially acceptable’ filters stop working – which leads to unacceptable truths being aired out, often loudly).


Offer? What Offer?

Reblogged from Sad Puppies 4

Written by Kate Paulk 

I’ve heard through the Internet (all right, Facebook) that someone who fancies himself a big shot in the field has “offered” to stop claiming Sad Puppies 4 is all things evil in return for a few “reasonable concessions” on our part.

Since the person in question hasn’t bothered to make this offer to me, Sarah Hoyt, or Amanda Green, Sad Puppy supporters can reasonably assume that the so-called offer is not actually genuine.

Just to remind folks:

Sarah Hoyt, Amanda Green, and I are the management of Sad Puppies 4. The direction I announced back in September has not changed: anyone who wishes to recommend any work they have read/seen/heard/etc. that is eligible for a Hugo award may add the work to the lists at this site. We made this decision before WorldCon in 2015, and we made it without reference to any other party.

We do not care what the creators’ politics are. We do not care what the posters’ politics are. We care that people who love science fiction and fantasy have a place to build an awesome list of recommended reading/viewing/listening/artwork for 2015. We care that lots of people become involved in the Hugo Award process. Nobody is excluded from Sad Puppies 4. Anybody can participate or not as they choose. The recommendations will not vanish. Every recommendation will be in the final list. There’s no “gatekeeping” going on here, and no litmus test for participation…unlike the ultimatums being “offered” to the Sad Puppies.

When the final list is announced, we’ll post the top 10 for each category, whatever those might be, and link to the full list. Nothing will be hidden or secret. Anyone who wants to will be able to reconstruct the list from the recommendations posted here (I don’t suggest anyone actually doesthis. It’s tedious and time-consuming and I really should have written an application to do the grunt work for me. Hindsight is ever perfect).

Finally, we will not be publicly dissociating or associating Sad Puppies 4 from/with anyone. Anyone can make recommendations and everyone’s recommendations will have exactly the same weight as everyone else’s. Nobody will be asked to nominate or vote in line with the list. That’s been the policy from the start, and it’s been what I’ve said from the start.

If the person claiming to have made an offer had actually contacted me, this is exactly what I would have told him with or without his so-called “Puppy moratorium”.


Kate the Impaler and the Convention of Liberty

Part the Sixth and final

Upon the final day of the Convention of Liberty, Kate the Impaler did lament with equal sorrow the Dread Con Crud, and that she had not known to awaken early enough that she might join a Hun raiding party in search of breakfast – although the warrior maid did consider that in her current state her raiding activities must perforce be limited to breathing upon her enemies that they too might partake of the Dread Con Crud.

Such thoughts meandering through her mind, she did prepare herself for the final blast of inept programming, though at least this day’s horror for the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess did be limited in scope by comparison with the Friday and Saturday horrors, for it did read thusly:


10 AM Author’s Alley

11 AM Family Feud, in which the Hoyt family (and assorted others) did compete against (and honorably defeat) the Williamson family (and assorted others).

1 PM How to Serve Mythical Creatures, in which the Elder Hoyt Spawn did aid the Redhead of Doom

2 PM Cover Design

3 PM Closing Ceremony

It must be said that all by the closing of the Family Feud – Kate the Impaler did compete as an honorary Williamson for the occasion, lest the Hoyts outnumber his family overmuch – were sufficiently wearied that dialog did not sparkle as it had done earlier in the convention, and the warrior maiden herself did croak like unto an asthmatic frog much of the time.

And yet, all seemed to take much enjoyment from the experience, and many were the happy faces as the visitors shuffled zombie-like from the magical realm of Choo Choo and its rather less than well maintained palace. Heartfelt farewells were bid unto friends who would not be seen for many a day – though frequent messages via the Book of Faces were assured – and, like the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and the Dread Mathematician and their Spawn, Kate the Impaler did spend some small span of time with others resting ere they made their preparations for their journeys home.

In truth, Kate the Impaler did take much pleasure from the Convention of Liberty, but to travel thence in the belly of the dragons and face the long journey to her home afterwards did leave her thinking that unless some great enticement was offered – such as actually being on the program, albeit not as ubiquitous as the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess – or the opportunity to personally inform the Master of Programming – by means of an appropriately prepared stake – that such scheduling is Not Done, and allow other attendees to witness his leisurely demise over the course of the convention – she would not be returning.

Such were her thoughts as she collected her luggage at the Labyrinth of Doom (aka the Philadelphia Airport), located her Trusty Steed, and made her escape.

And on the following day, she rested.

If I’d realized this was going to be this long, I wouldn’t have started it. Next week we will be back to your regularly scheduled ranting. Probably. If nothing else happens.

Kate the Impaler and the Convention of Liberty

Part the Fifth

Kate the Impaler has survived the first day of LibertyCon. But the con isn’t over…

It came to pass that as the night did give way unto the day, the warrior maiden Kate the Impaler did awaken and roundly curse the miscreant who had – so she swore – crept in to her room while she slept and implanted a razor blade in her throat. Said miscreant must remain unpunished, alas, for there was much to do ere the first session of the day.

The parlous programming of the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and her beloved Dread Mathematician ensured that Kate the Impaler would be busy the entire day, assisting her dear friends through this torture – for torture indeed it was, and the Lady Sarah was not the only one desiring the head (or other suitable appendage) of the Master of Programming in payment for his sins.

The programming did fall thusly:


10 AM Alien Minds: Portrayal in Science Fiction

11 AM The Hoyt Collective Reading (Sarah, Dan, and Robert)

12 PM How to Write Workshop (a two hour session)

2 PM The Baen Travelling Slideshow and Prize Patrol (another 2 hour session)

4 PM Indie: Is your book ready for prime time

5 PM Autograph Session

Lest it be thought they might rest after this, be it known the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess was required by Empress of Baen to attend an intimate dinner of some seventy close friends upon the finish of her autographing session, and as such, she would be working without break from ten of the morning until late that night – though at least the Empress of Baen would indeed ensure that her dear friend the Lady Sarah would not go without sustenance.

Thus did Kate the Impaler sip of hot water and lemon to ease her throat while breaking her fast, upon completion of which necessity she did locate the nearest merchant of medicinal goods and purchase a quantity of throat lozenges to ward herself against further soreness of throat (though in truth, the pain did not desist, merely reduced to a level at which the warrior maiden might endure it without complaint).

And so, she did assist by guiding the Lady Sarah from place to place, that the Mathematician might worry only about ensuring that all materials needed be present and not concern himself with his lady’s… unique grasp of navigation.

The workshop, Kate the Impaler had wished to attend that she might observe the workings of the Redheads of Doom, but alas! Matters beyond the control of mere mortals had prevented the Lady Amanda, the Redhead of Doom (or the Other Redhead of Doom) from journeying to the land of Choo Choo. And so it came to pass that Kate the Impaler did get dragged unto the presenting table wherein the most un-workshoppy workshop did take place – for one cannot work, much less shop, in a room bereft of tables upon which to work (and shop), with no places where posters or other such helpful items might be displayed, and too many attendees to suggest the more limber be seated upon the floor and use their chairs as impromptu tables.

Thus, the workshop became a discussion with all offering suggestions and comments and much enjoyment had by all.

It must be said that by the autographing session, Kate the Impaler did be in worse state than the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess, and with far less reason, so though she had greatly enjoyed all the panels she had attended and wished she were able to continue the evening, she was thankful the Empress of Baen did not require her presence. Such a mighty personage was far beyond a mere warrior maiden’s notice, and the warrior did make her weary way first to the Convention Place of Repast, wherein she did satisfy her hunger, and thence to her suite, where she was soon once more asleep, with hopes that the Dread Con Crud would be less severe come the morning.

To be continued (almost there…)

Kate the Impaler Goes To Libertycon – Part the Fourth

Kate the Impaler, having finally arrived at the magical realm of Choo Choo has learned that the reputation of the land makes promises the place itself is unable to meet. Still, she has a wedding to attend on pain of unspecified horrible consequences, and after that a convention to enjoy. She thinks…

And it came to pass that upon the appointed hour of eight, when the sun was due to set and the wedding party did hope that the setting of the sun would begin to reduce the heat of Choo Choo – which, it must be said, was not unseasonal, but many guests, including Kate the Impaler, had traveled from less heated climes for the occasion and were finding the heat… difficult – the warrior maiden Kate the Impaler did venture forth from the stale – if cool – air of the palace to the formal gardens, wherein the nuptuals were to be held.

Great was her relief when the Redhead of Doom did plight her troth unto the Evil Muse without evil omen, and greater still her joy when the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess did renew her vows to her beloved Mathematician with nary a sign of displeasure from the gathered crowds.

That the celebrations following upon the happy even were somewhat muted was, in the eyes of the weary warrior, to be expected, for the gage of heat did read near dragonfire levels though the sun’s fiery gaze had fallen beneath the horizon. Thus, wearied from her long day and longing for rest, did Kate the Impaler excuse herself from the celebratory dinner and take herself to the stale – but blissfully cool – air of her suite within the palace of Choo Choo.

And there did she sleep, waking upon the morn in a less fragile temper.

Ere long, the warrior maiden did array herself for recreation and make her way unto the palace refectory, wherein she joined with the Redhead of Doom and her family and others of her friends (Sorry, I can’t remember all of you, much less what kind of titles you all want) to break their fasts. And lo! Though the buffet tables of the refectory were of limited range and quality, they did provide sufficient for Kate the Impaler to vanquish her hunger – yet did she have to conceal dismay for what eating establishment of quality does charge its guests for a refill of orange juice?

Upon departure, Kate the Impaler did speak with the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and the Mathematician, apprising them of recent events in her homeland while enjoying their company. It was a respite all too short, for – as befits a Beautiful But Evil Space Princess – there were many desiring the Lady Sarah’s presence and limited time in which all might enjoy said presence, for alas! The programming director in a fit of insanity (or possibly evil) had scheduled the Lady Sarah for all but a handful of time slots.

Let it be known at this point that even should a guest take leave of all senses and request to be involved in events in all time slots, no director of programming worthy of the title will actually schedule said guest in such a fashion. That all shall know the pusillanimous cruelty of the programming it shall be listed herein (and one must remember that the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess and the Mathematician do make of themselves a unit: if one is programmed, so to is the other, no matter what the Book of Schedule doth decree).

Thusly did the Lady Sarah and her noble Husband be scheduled on this day:


4 PM What’s new in Space Opera

5 PM Opening Ceremony

6 PM Keeping Track of your Money

7 PM Short Stories or Novels, Indie?

10 PM Social Justice for the Undead

Lest the noble reader believe they did have a break between the hours of eight and ten, during this time frame the Lady Cedar, the Redhead of Doom, did host a party with the Evil Muse and the Lady Sarah and her Lord Husband were among the guests of honor.

Thus, though they did present with admirable skill, they did express their displeasure, and great was Kate the Impaler’s sympathy – until the hour grew late and she sought to remain awake that she could enjoy the thoughts of the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess upon that most important of topics, Social Justice for the Undead.

And so, when the appointed hour did arrive, the warrior maiden did seat herself quietly within the chosen venue, wherein she had little time to rest, for upon the arrival of the Lady Sarah, she did be dragged (metaphorically) unto the stage and did join the proceedings – though assuredly she was too wearied to fully participate, most especially with Mad Mike waxing eloquent upon the needs of Assembled Americans and which bathrooms they might prefer to employ.

With much goodwill did the panel proceed, though it must be said that perhaps it might be advisable that the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess’s Elder Spawn not be permitted to practice medicine with the Evil Penguin, for the question of whether one should bring cadavers home to meet one’s parents prior to dissection is perhaps one best not contemplated on an empty stomach. Or, for that matter, a full one.

And so it was that with the ending of the panel, Kate the Impaler did stumble towards the refuge of her suite, wherein she might rest ere the truly epic scheduling of the Lady Sarah’s panels upon the morrow.

To be continued

Kate the Impaler Goes to LibertyCon – Part the Third

Part the Third

Despite her hatred of flying, Kate the Impaler is on her way to Atlanta, GA in the dragon’s belly… literally.

Great was the relief of Kate the Impaler when at last she was able to exit the belly of the dragon. Greater still was her joy at being reunited with her baggage. Alas, her pleasure lasted but little: once she had departed the southern lair of the great dragons, she did find air of such heat and moistness she could ill distinguish between drinking it and breathing it (give me some slack: my part of PA rarely gets that hot and humid, and I’ve acclimated enough that Atlanta was kind of a shock).

There she did bid a small messenger bird to return unto her beloved husband with the news that that the great journey did proceed safely, ere seeking a shaded location to rest while awaiting the carriage.

Great was her dismay upon realizing that while the carriage did make use of the arcane magic of air conditioning, such magic powers did not extend unto the vehicle’s suspension. And so did the time pass, with the warrior maiden’s behind feeling every last unevenness of the road (and lo! The roads were peopled aplenty with workers, thus ensuring that there were many unevennesses for Kate the Impaler to perceive).

At long last, the carriage did make rest at the gates of the realm of Choo Choo, wherein the Evil Muse did await to convey her and her baggage unto the finest palace in the realm… Or so did the advertising claim.

The warrior maiden did beg to differ with such claims, for though the Evil Muse and the Redhead of Doom did greet her with joy and welcome, and did take her to the lair of the Gay White Mormon Men With Great Racks (wherein did the Mistress of Costume agree that Kate the Impaler was indeed a worthy member of that exclusive brethren… or sorority).

There did she wait. For lo! Though the palace advertising did state that guests might make themselves comfortable from the hour of four, the suite prepared for her was not prepared for such a distinguished guest. That it was not prepared for any guest, be they ever so lowly, did not appease the warrior maiden, who may have permitted language not appropriate for one of her station to pass her lips.

At last, the Redhead of Doom did form a one-woman raiding party (or possibly a one-Gay-White-Mormon-Man-With-Great-Rack raiding party) and storm the palace demanding the guest suites for which she, her husband-to-be, and Kate the Impaler were required to part with substantial gold (By this stage I was feeling quite ill, something that got explained earlier this week by – yay – a diabetes diagnosis. Fear not (or fear, your choice) medication has been procured and the finger stick doover will be happening in 8 days).

The heart of the warrior maiden did sink unto the nether regions of her shoes when she did enter her suite at last, for alas! It did smell of mold, albeit faintly, and the air-conditioning spell did rattle and groan – though to her great relief it did blow exceedingly cold. Worse was to come, for when Kate the Impaler did open her baggage, there lay the dread glyph of the minions of the dragons. They had violated the sanctity of her possessions: what vile curse had they left?

With trepidation did she extract clean clothing of sufficient niceness as to be appropriate to a wedding, and take herself unto the bathroom, wherein did Kate the Impaler do battle with the imp possessing the shower, for should she elect to have cold water, she did receive a stream of heated water like unto scalding. Choosing hot water did make no difference. Only when the warrior maiden did place the dial exactly half way between hot and cold did she receive water of a temperature she could endure (it was tepid. Yes, I had tepid showers all con).

Then, as she rested ere the wedding, she did note the dark stain forming an elegant fan from the vent of the air-conditioning spell. Small wonder the suite did give off an odor of staleness, for if it was cleaned as well and as often as the air vent, it would indeed be stale and unpleasant.

Then did the palace maid arrive to finish making the bed, and Kate the Impaler did get treated to a lengthy monologue from said maid as the bedding was wrestled into compliance. And the warrior maid did muse darkly that only the impending nuptials did save the palace owners from a terrible – if richly deserved – fate for their failure to employ sufficient servants to attend their guests.

Little did she know that worse was to come…

To be continued.