This is a blog about my obsessions, whatever they may be.

March 31, 2010


I just want this damn synopsis to be done.

I can’t remember if I tried this before or not, with TLOL, but I’m pretty sure I have.

I am nearly at the end.

That’s what’s making it so frustrating.


Thinking about how I’ll start over. Probably not with WriteWayPro which has been crashing lately and irritating me and breaking my flow when I have one.

And you know how it is with Murphy. It only crashes when I’m in the flow.

I may have to start calling WriteWayPro Murphy, at this rate.


March 29, 2010



My process involves a lot more thinking and waiting for things to piece themselves together in my little head than I would like.

So I spend a lot of time moaning about how if my writing process was more like how I work out the rest of my life, the world would be a better place for me.


Elizabeth Bear:

I've been meaning to blog for a while on writing-related topics, but you know, the funny thing is, as I get better at this writing gig, it gets harder to find things to talk about. One is that historically I've always blogged about what I was learning, and these days, while I am still learning about writing (and I imagine I always will be) the writing curve is a lot flatter, and a lot more of the skills have moved into the realm of unconscious competence. I can still tap into that knowledge when teaching, editing, or critting, but I'm no longer having to work it out for my own self on a daily basis.
And the stuff I am having to work out is much more arcane and of more limited application.

I’ve tried several times to rephrase this analogy in a more compact way with less back-story, but I’m afraid we’re stuck with this rather clunky one.

My undergraduate education has been in economics, with a focus on econometrics; for those of you who are not so well-acquainted with the dismal science, you may substitute statistics for econometrics.

There are lots of formulas. There are lots of proofs you have to go through to understand why those formulas work (kind of). There are lots and lots of criteria as to when and where you can use those formulas. Lots of little bits you must weigh in the pros/cons columns and then decide what your final method will be.

So finally, you can have a long, erudite and technically complex argument as to why you have done it one way rather than another in your study, but really, it boils down intuition as much as anything else.

It’s the same thing with writing, I bet.

There’s only so much you can learn by reading what other people have written on the subject – or taught etc.

There’s so much more to learn by doing. And so much of learning by doing you cannot learn by having it taught to you.


Recently, I taught a friend to cross-stitch. I bought everything, the chart, fabric, thread, needle and frame.

I sat her down, and gave her the basics. I barely managed to restrain myself to the basics. I itched to discuss railroading, linen vs Aida, cotton vs silk, stretch frame vs scroll frame vs Q-snaps vs hoop vs in-hand.

At its very basic, cross-stitch is simply the physical act of making little crosses with needle and thread on a ground (fabric).

Similarly, writing is stringing words together. A monkey could do it. But it doesn’t mean a monkey could do it well.


There are lessons to be learnt each day in doing, and each day in doing, one internalises both those lessons and the lessons one has learnt from classes, critiques etc.

That internalising is what makes for effortless excellence.

March 26, 2010


I have achieved a new title for TLOL.

*hugs it to herself*

It’s probably not as cool as I think it is, but I’ll let myself believe it for a little longer.


Writing the synopsis has helped me think a bit more about everything that I want inside it.

More importantly, how it all coalesces – writerly moment about pretty word here! – together.

That’s more important than the pieces, IMHO.


And that’s it for today because I’m already well on my way to RSI.

March 25, 2010


Watched 2012 flying into Dubai.

I never really understand why people consider ruthlessness to be such a bad thing.

I’m very tired of movies with simplistic plots. ‘nuff said.


I am writing a synopsis for TLOL.

Which still needs a new title.

March 22, 2010



I think that a writer complaining about having to promote oneself despite being an introvert is a cop out.


I’m not surprised that most writers are introverted. It is a job where one spends a great deal of time alone. In the long-run, it’s probably a benefit.


But I see being a people-person as being more of a facet of one’s personality. It’s almost like a  muscle. It must be stretched and worked and then you’ll end up with something more.


My greatest achievement in my three years of university isn’t learning to live on my own, much less my degree – such as things stand at the moment.

It’s strengthening my people-person muscle to the point where most of the people I know think I’m pretty extroverted.

After all, I’m always out and about, and the first to accept an invitation to head out with people.

Sometimes, I over-extend myself. In which case, I grit my teeth and get on with it if I have to, and cancel if I can. 


I wasn’t going to post this today. I had something else in mind.

Then I came across this post on Jay Lake’s blog, which sent me to this post by Jessica Reisman.

I think Reisman has a point. I think on average, it’s better to be an extrovert than an introvert if you want to achieve something that requires a great deal of public (defined as other than friends & family) approval.

At least, it just might be easier.

March 17, 2010



I know of 2 people who’ve actually read what I’ve posted on this blog.

One is @GirrlitsBooks – who’s commented a couple of times and the other is Alison Kent, who kindly linked to my post yesterday.

So to commemorate that event, I’m going to run a contest.


I’ll buy a lucky winner a copy of any Alison Kent novel, provided that I can get them through Fictionwise or the Book Depository, and provided the geographic restrictions (DRM or postage) in both cases are met.

I can choose for you – I think I’ve read upwards of three-quarters of what she’s published solo (as in not in anthology) – or you can have your pick.


Ways to enter:

  1. Comment here on this post.
  2. Follow me on Blogger.
  3. Follow @emilycardinal on Twitter.
  4. Retweet my contest
  5. Email me – I won’t keep your email address for mailing lists or anything like that – with Contest in the subject line.

You can do any and all of them.

But here’s a bonus: if you do all 5, you get double the entries. And as there are very few people who read this blog, if you get double the entries, you’ll probably win.


The contest ends this Sunday. If you win and you entered by 1, 2 or 5, I’ll email you, otherwise, Twitter it is.

Good luck! 

March 15, 2010



I’m a write-every-day kind of writer.

It took me three years to earn that kind of discipline, and I’ll be damned if I let it disintegrate now.


But I think it’s not really about writing-every-day.

It’s about Thinking About The Work every day, because it’s what keeps you ‘plugged into your work’. Sort of, if your novel’s a ‘flow,’ then it’s just easier to tap into it if you do it every day.

Pretty sure some people can do it without writing every day, but I’m also pretty sure it’s easier just to write every day – barring time constraints, of course.


I started one of my old blogs to keep my hand in, so to speak. Just to make sure that I wrote something every day.

It kind of worked. I wrote every day, though I didn’t post usually post what I wrote the same day – it got to a point where I was writing my posts up to a week or more in advance because I just blogged, blogged, blogged.

On the other hand, it was the perfect procrastination-from-fiction tool*, because I could tell myself ‘I’m still writing.’

But I wasn’t.


If there’s anything similar to blogging, it might be writing vignettes and other types of short-form fiction. They are like doing the hundred meter dash every day, just on different athletic tracks – somebody will probably want to smack me for this analogy, but I don’t write short-form at all so forgive me.

Novels are marathons. Plod plod plod.


Actually, strike that.

Novels are more like obstacle courses. Sometimes you run into a wall, a mud pit, something you have to climb over, or crawl under…

You need to deal with them, and you need to deal with each of them intelligently. You don’t want to expend more effort than necessary, but sometimes, you gotta bring out the bulldozers.

But here’s the thing. Books are organic objects, whether you’re a plotter or not.

If you dig up something to dump it and you dig it up by the roots? It’ll jostle the foundations of the rest of your constructions.

I think only if you’re truly immersed in your book can you see the rough edges, sand them off, and put the pieces back together to form a new pattern.


So breathe your work. Dream of it. Wallow in it. Hold it deep within your heart.

Immerse yourself.

March 14, 2010


I tend to blog a lot on Sundays. Hmm…


I’m unwriting again. Bah.

But I did read over what I have today, and I see that I’ve begun the slow process of jargonizing TLOL.

Jargonizing probably isn’t a good term for it. More along the lines of my worldbuilding is beginning to actually appear inside what I’ve already written.

Kinda, I think it is beginning to be recognizable as the world that exists in my head.


I am working on Nadia’s wedding sampler again.

I did finish The Charleston. I’ll put up a picture of that at some point. Probably means when I get back to Singapore later this month.

I need to contemplate what I’ll be starting in May, June and July. The Year of Starts! Whoot!


I should probably post about my trip to the Macclesfield Silk Museum yesterday, but somehow, I just can’t be bothered.

March 09, 2010


It is quiet in my head today. But then, I’ve had 2 1k days in 3 days so I guess that’s to be expected. Hopefully it means I’ll get a lot of other work done today.


I reduced my word count from 100k to 90k.

My original projection for Act I was 20k, but I’ve actually only written about 7.5k.

I managed to cut through all the backstory, which exists in my head and which I sincerely pray that I do not forget, with a nifty trick, if I do say so myself.


Joely and Nadia say that I should just continue. But the temptation to fix Act I first? Is nearly strong enough to overwhelm my Willpower.


Still, I’ve managed to actually start Act II.

This is when Sooperwoman and Sooperman settle down into some kind of relationship. It’s either going to be the easiest Act to write, or the hardest. I’m betting on the latter because Act I was okay except for the part where I cut half of it – a number that was not near enough to 5 digits to make me cry.


March 08, 2010

I’ll try to post something more substantial than my metrics at least once a week.

Tentatively, I’m going to schedule something for every Monday, and then we’ll see.



Starting a book is a commitment.

It’s a commitment to telling a story.


And it’s like getting married.

You work at it, you cry over it, and you scream at it. You fight with it, you love it, and you want to kill it.

You don’t give up, unless the alternative is a billion times worse.


If you do quit, if you do decide that it’s not worth it any more, you may feel guilty.

But you also feel incredibly relieved. Which possibly makes you feel even more guilty.


Whether you quit or not, your self-worth takes a hit, because you must have done so many/everything wrong otherwise it would have been much easier…right?

*Inspired by Nadia’s recent marriage to Evil Hero Material, henceforth known as her better half. *g*

March 07, 2010


I have partially solved my twenty-years in 80k words problem.

At least, I’ve solved the first part. I haven’t gotten to the second part yet.


Not sure what this means. Maybe I should just leave the first section as it is, and proceed to the second.

Or print out the first, clean it up, and move on.

My epiphany came late, so the earlier words I already wrote need to be drastically re-written anyway.


Fuck. Now I’m up at 0115 when I was supposed to be asleep hours ago.

March 06, 2010


I want to write a book with wizards in it.

I am not, however, going through a Harry Potter phase.

But wizards! Funny hats! Beautifully embroidered robes!


My sooperwoman’s mind is like a fortress. I can’t see into it at all.

There are scenes when you just know that they are meant to be written in her POV, but you can’t. So you either you skip it – which I generally try to avoid – or you write it in some other POV, which just feels wrong – which I also generally try to avoid.

So it’s making it difficult for me to write.


I need to think about patterns. It’s something that should have come to mind earlier, given that I sew, but it didn’t and I feel like a million times an idiot for it.


I’m not really making my daily minimum goals. It’s more like not writing, not writing, not writing, and bang! make up for several days at once.

March 01, 2010



My current novels are set somewhat in the future.

I’m not sure that I know how to deal with that.


After an urban war, I can’t imagine that any city would look the same again.

I thought that would make it easier for me, to set it in London.

It hasn’t, really. Especially when one of my brighter ideas was to have Imperial College, London ‘reused’ as some other kind of building – Imperial being only an example, but I had/have plans for other university buildings in London and other cities.

Maybe not after all.


There’s the technology. It’s not something I really thought about at the time, when I decided to pick up the story wholesale and set it down fifty years later.

I was writing a scene today and I wrote about the books that filled the shelves of my sooperwoman.

Then it occurs to me that maybe she doesn’t have books. Real books, that is. And it’s ironic that I wrote that because I love ebooks more than I do print.


The structure of the sexual relationships is surprisingly archaic.

At some point, said sooperwoman becomes sooperman’s mistress. The stereotypical Other Woman.

In sooperman’s circles, pretty much all marriages are contracted for politico-economic reasons. In regular people circles in the same part of the world, it’s usually because the couple is genetically compatible.

Sooperman’s marriage, in particular, was contracted because of the first, though the latter also held true.

Then in the next section, which begins a minimum of 20-30 years after this one, the pendulum swings the other way. All the other way.


I think when you’re writing something like that, at some point, your past/present will collide with the future you are creating.

In my construct – a term I prefer to world – reincarnation is a continuous process, and given certain conditions, each person (character? damn. this gets confusing sometimes) remembers all of their past(s).  So that collision happens almost constantly.

I don’t know how to handle that either.