Words, Words, and Word Software

My traditional lament for the demise of Word*Star and spot of loathing for MS Word: o waily woe (lament) and grrrr (spot of loathing.)   Word*Star did not lose files or parts of files unless you made a really stupid mistake with a dot command.  Which I did, once.  (Once was enough!  That whole unversal action thing, ending a command with .* “apply to entire file.”)   Word…has a lenient attitude about text disappearing, especially as a file gets longer.   But sometimes it’s not really disappeared, though you can’t find it, and Word will (when it thinks you’ve suffered enough or hit the wrong/right key by accident) restore it and pretend that never happened.  Reminds me of small-child/dog/horse thinking.   (“That moment I spooked and you came off?   Oh, that never happened.”   “That time I chewed your socks?  Nope, didn’t happen.”   “Broken dish?  What broken dish?  I don’t see any broken dish.”)  I spent most of two weeks on that kind of problem recently.  When it reappeared, Word batted its eyelashes and said “It’s been right there all along…” but I know it hadn’t.  In the meantime, thinking it lost and gone forever, I’d written a replacement set of scenes.  They didn’t sparkle with wit and delight (!) but they were workmanlike and could be polished in revision.  I moved on and at that session the “lost” part reappeared. So a comparison has been made.

A tertiary or minor character who seemed OK when I first wrote him now doesn’t please me in *either* version.   One of him is better than the other of him, but neither name works.   Finding the right name for him has meant a lot of research into names from the relevant parts of this planet and their meanings and then thinking through what his genealogy would have to be like, and future history would have to be like, for him to end up as [whatever his name turns out to be.]   His boss, a tertiary or possibly secondary character,  is a difficult woman, a very difficult woman, who reminds me of my Civics teacher in HS in some ways (touchy, defensive)  but is much, much smarter.  Touchy defensive professor type, bristles easily, short-tempered; fact-based thinking and with that honest.  She would like to take over every scene in which she appears and have her name in larger print but she hasn’t shown herself a great plot-generator.   She grabs attention, but then she doesn’t DO anything to advance the story.  (“Not your talent, sweetie; you’re not right for the part.)   I’m presently working on a section in which she and the Vatta lawyer from INTO THE FIRE, an older woman,  start out at odds and will end up not at odds, but both of them are being difficult for the writer at the moment.  Perhaps because I’m out of “zingers” for them right now.   But somebody has to start looking behind the curtain for the various plot elements stored there, and since both are in professions (different professions) in which digging stuff up is a common trait, at least one of them should look in the right place soon.  If they’ll stop sniping at each other.

It’s a little over 94,000 words, with some words  that probably need discarding down the line, just not until I’m sure which.   Definitely a book.  A book in need of a title and 20-30K more words.  I have what I think are the last paragraphs, but between “here” and “there” is a lot of plot-stuff.    Ky is adamant she is NOT going back to Miksland.  Ever.   I explained to her about editor and audience expectations and she said rude things about expectations.  “But wouldn’t you like to know…?”  “NO.”  “But you could at least consider….” “NO.”   “But maybe later?  Another book?”  “NO.  And if you send my corpse or my ashes to Miksland I will rise up and haunt the book and ruin it. NO means NO.”   “You may change your mind.”   “Don’t [string of rude words] count on it.”  “Maybe a touch of therapy…?”  “Do you want me to walk out of this book right this minute?”  “No, but…”   “NO.”  (That was a discussion a few months ago when it became clear that the book wasn’t headed  that direction.)

As a Useful Distraction this Saturday as it’s getting hot, I’m going to try a scene with someone who’s been talked about but not onstage so far.  He keeps wanting first names I don’t like, so  he may have to have his scene as a pronoun, while I hope that the right name falls out of my head and onto his.   Aaron?  Antony?  Barton? Bolivar?   Cranwood?  (What kind of name is that??)  Clarence?  Daniel?  Dunter?  Etc.  Back and forth through the alphabet, back and forth through lists of names.

14 thoughts on “Words, Words, and Word Software

  1. Hi – it seems as though you are enjoying the writing even if it presents problems. And I am sure it will pay off in the end. Say hi to the horses and may you and yours be safe and sane.

    Jonathan up here in New Hampshire.

  2. No return to Miksland, or the mysterious long-ago terraformers? I really like Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama”. Space-archaeology like that is one kind of story, however, while survival problem- solving and fighting back against bad guys, Ky’s thing, is another.

  3. My suggestion for using any word processor is to split chapters, or groups of chapters into separate documents, and keep revisions as -A, -B documents. A simple macro can be used to open all of them into a single document for word count, or other purposes. The recent word processors have so many options and features that increase the complexity of the code, making it easier for large documents to implode.
    I’ll be waiting for a new Vatta novel – – –

    1. I used to make separate chapter files, but started working in whole texts when we got high speed internet (late to arrive in this corner of the world) and I could email my publisher the whole ms. at once. I don’t code anymore, either, so “simple macro” is like “uh….not for me, it’s not”. I get your point about complex code crashing more often (back when I did that stuff, it was already obvious that the more goodies you stuffed into something, the more it wanted to get itself in a tangle. Yarn has the same behavior traits. I’ll consider going back to chapter or “section” files, but the process of NewBook is so different, thanks to the most recent concussion, that I think it’s going to take writing past obvious chapter breaks to hold the continuity of the story. I guess I can just lop things off into 10K word lumps (about 2 chapters) after I’ve gone past. Does make it harder to FIND things…can’t just scroll around.

  4. Been a fan of yours for years. Stumbled on the blog by accident. Is there an email mailing list?Speed of Dark opened a new world to me.
    Thanks for all the happy hours spent in your worlds.
    Barbara

  5. I hope you and yours are well.

    So, what does Miksland offer Ky that could entice her? Maybe she’s got some ideas you would like.

    I love Wordstar as well! I still use it on my laptop, but I moved on to Lotus Wordpro in the main. I hate MS Word. It’s clunky and useless.

    Names. Names. A while ago, The Guardian (here in the UK) listed all the first liners who’d died, brief bios and photos. I decided I needed to honour all these folks as best I could. I saved the article and read about all of them. Lots of tissues. It is heartbreaking to see so many wonderful people, lives cut short by a ruthless, mindless enemy. I saved a lot of their names and began using them for (good) characters in my book.

    1. That’s a nifty idea for names. I sometimes comb through our science journals to find names and then mix first/last to make interesting combinations. I do have several characters named for horses, Ky being one of them. (Ky-original was an Arabian/Saddlebred cross, my first horse, an old guy when I got him. A character.)

  6. Speaking of Miksland – I have reread the Vatta saga from the beginning and have just landed with Ky et al on the shores of Miksland. I can appreciate both the macro stories and the micro detail. Very good writing.

    Jonathan up here in sweltering New Hampshire where we have a little rain this morning.

    1. Thanks. I was fortunate that the very research sources I needed showed up unexpectedly and helped enrich the story–including things I hadn’t thought of.

  7. I’m eagerly waiting for your next instalments of Vatta’s Peace. Will this be a series of at least 5? I’ve read, and reread, all your excellent Serrano Legacy and Vatta’s War series ever since they first came out, all those years ago. Recently, I enjoyed listening to their audio versions on both Audible and Graphic Audio. Will Graphic Audio be dramatising Vatta’s Peace too? If they do, then I hope they will have the same actors!

    Stay happy, safe and well, so that your fans may continue to enjoy your new and exciting books for a long, long, time!

  8. Personally, I can’t blame Ky for not wanting to go back to Miksland. For me, it was a fabulous adventure story, but if I’d been in her shoes instead of enjoying your story about her, I wouldn’t be willing to go there either.

    Happy writing to you. I’m looking forward to the publication of your new book, and will pre-order it as soon as that becomes an option!

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