Sherlock Holmes: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (3-4)

Summary: The new lord of the Baskerville manor, Henry, arrives and hears of the danger he could possibly be in. He doesn’t believe it and won’t let any threats stop him from claiming his inheritance. He also has received a note telling him to stay away from the moor in traditional ransom note/cut-from-a-newspaper style, and one of his new boots went missing. Sherlock follows the doctor and Henry to see who is following them, but when he spots the cab and runs for it the guy gets away.

Sherlock Rating: I’ll give this one 3 1/2 pawprints. The chase amped things up nicely, and I loved seeing Sherlock make another mistake (chasing the bad guy instead of pretending not to notice him) but the beginning part was so blah that I only wrote one note on it: “Henry–heir (last) on way.” I don’t think that deserves any higher, do you?

Mystery Story Convention: The ransom-type note–I wonder if this is one of the first times this device was used? Probably not, but it’s a great way to hide an identity in a pre-computer, pre-cell phone world. Like the early version of a voice scrambler. And of course Sherlock was able to read about 20 clues from it.


How Not to Name Your Main Character

Don’t do this:

When I started working on my main character, as usual, I didn’t have a name in mind, but as I was developing her, I was doing my preschool teacher internship, and I was getting to know the kindergarteners. There was this girl with a very harsh personality, and at first neither of us seemed to click. As the year went on, I figured out her personality a bit and grew to love her for her uniqueness. She was smart, funny, and, yes, could be harsh, but now it was in a way I generally felt was entertaining (there were a lot worse ways she could act, as her peers demonstrated almost every day).

And then I realized that was how I wanted my main character to be–guarded, hard to get close to, but endearing and pure-hearted. So I imagined this child as a teenager, and the problems I’d had developing the character disappeared.

That would have been fine. She’s still a character I’ve made up; the girl was really just inspiration, but then I had to go and name my character after the girl. I usually try not to base any of my characters on real life, so this was new territory. I suppose I didn’t think much about it. I do sometimes give characters children’s names I liked, but they have nothing to do with said child’s personality.

But I did it and wrote the book, and from the start I was in love with this name. And now I’ve reached the point where I can’t ethically continue with this name. I’ve been trying out different names, and nothing is the same. I want to get the new name in now so I can be used to it as I edit and start thinking of her in the right terms. I think it will work out eventually. A name will come.

The lesson, though, is don’t do this to yourself. (Though I’m sure you’re all smart enough to not get in this mess in the first place…)

And if you’re the girl in question and you’re reading this in the future or something, hopefully you appreciate having a character based on you and don’t sue me or anything! The character’s fiction! I promise!

Reds vs. Marlins 4/20/13

This was a long game. Luckily, I didn’t have anywhere to be until later that evening, so I could stay for the whole thing. Even though we didn’t get free pizza (we needed 11 strikeouts and we only got 10), we still won!


Sherlock Holmes: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1-2)

So maybe the title shouldn’t be in quotes, since it’s sort of a novel instead of a short story? I think I will stick with the quotes.

Summary: In the first two chapters we are set up with the problem. First, a guy has come by the house and left his walking stick behind. Sherlock has Watson make his own assumptions about the man based on the stick, which results in Sherlock complementing him on his work followed by “but, you’re wrong.” That made me laugh out loud a little. Then the man showed up and they questioned him to see what they got right–and even Sherlock had not gotten everything right.

Anyway, this guy had come in from the country and he shared a legend about a crazy guy, Baskerville, who wanted to rape some chick, but she got away, and he chased her down, but this giant black dog chased him, and they all died, and from then on all the Baskervilles were cursed and died at early ages under mysterious circumstances.

And though Sherlock doesn’t believe in the “fairy tale,” as he puts it, he is intrigued by the latest Baskerville death, and agrees to go investigate.

Sherlock Rating: Since in writing, each scene/chapter/section has to have its own mini-plot with rise and fall, I will rate each chapter. But I will give them paw-prints instead and reserve magnifying glasses for the complete story. (So five paw-prints is not held to the same standard as five magnifying glasses).

I give chapter 1 “Mr. Sherlock Holmes” 4.5 paw-prints, for its humor and classic Sherlock-ness. It was almost 5, but I want to reserve the highest rating for something with more action/drama.

Chapter 2: “The Curse of the Baskervilles” gets 3 paw-prints. The story was interesting, but not much else happened, so not bad–just average.

Mystery Story Convention: The client who comes to the detective’s doorstep asking for help and giving an unbelievable story to get the detective’s attention. It would have been even better had the man been a damsel in distress.

The Things I Screw Up (Writing)

I have faults. Many, I’m sure. Sometimes I dwell on my own perceived faults for too long. This post isn’t about how I’d rather eat four or five cupcakes instead of do anything like exercise, though. (I do like running, once I’ve started, just not enough to do it as often or as long or in all kinds of weather as I suppose I should). This is going to be about mistakes I make in my writing, since I am in the process of editing, and that’s something I’ve been thinking about more often lately.

I’ve written posts before: I’m a lazy researcher. I think a lot of writers have this problem. I am not one who willingly goes off to other countries for research. I don’t even like calling people up. I look things up on the internet as I go and make notes, much of which I never look at again. (For my current space/alien book I’ve tried to fix this by reading a lot of science/physics/space/technology books. Hope it’s helped). I know I could still do better.

Another problem I have is with description. I am not a writer who goes crazy with description. I get tired of describing rooms and people. I just want to tell what happened. So I have to make conscious notes to go back and add description. Like I literally have notes that say: “Describe so-and-so here.” I will probably never be a literary novelist. It’s probably a good thing that I write YA, but I still need to do as good a job as I can.

And the usual things one has to look out for, repeated phrases, lazy language and cliches. I also get distracted easily, so may forget things (which is why I have running notes to reference). I am actually pretty scattered and distracted right now, so this post will end here. Hope you all can conquer your writing troubles! Good luck!

Sherlock Holmes: “The Final Problem”

I feel this is a little premature, considering this is the death tale, but I am not even halfway through my collected stories. From the little bit of background I know about Sherlock and Sir Arthur, he began to hate writing about Sherlock and so killed him off so he could write about real science, like alchemy and magic. But the public was so outraged he had to bring him back from the dead–hence both the latest Sherlock movie and mini-series ending with Sherlock revealing himself to Watson. (Plus Watson tells his tales out of order, so besides The Hound of the Baskervilles novel that’s next, who knows what stories are coming up.)

Summary: Watson hasn’t heard from Sherlock in a while, but one night he turns up at his house with a strange tale and offer for adventure. He is just about to set a trap for the most ingenious crime lord who ever existed, Professor Moriarty. He is apparently behind almost all the crime in the city but has never been connected to any wrongdoing until Sherlock made it his mission. Sherlock set a trap and decided to get out of town before the trap could fall and Moriarty could try to get his revenge. Moriarty knew about the trap, though, and despite all their secretive maneuverings and disguises, and even Mycroft’s help, he finally tracks Sherlock and Watson down in somewhere near a waterfall in Austria/Germany or somewhere like that. Sherlock knows he’s coming and lets Watson be drawn away. When Watson realizes what’s going on he runs back, but he’s too late. Both have apparently gone over the falls in a struggle. Sherlock left Watson a note about it, though, that is very formal, mentions supposed “friends” who will grieve him, and neatly ties up all his affairs. Toodles, Watson!

Sherlock Rating: A very resounding 5 magnifying glasses! Finally Moriarty! Sherlock’s nemesis! And all the things I like in a good climax–a chase, suspense, past characters coming together to help (Mycroft), and a big confrontation between our hero and the bad guy. Very exciting and enjoyable (and the tragic ending is helped by the fact that there is still lots more to read and that I’m pretty sure Sherlock has a miraculous survival)

Mystery Convention: Literal cliffhanger–or, I suppose, cliff faller. Disguises, a chase. Everything you could want!

Writing Milestone! (And My Editing Process)

This post is a little late in coming, since my last couple weekends–when I tend to pre-write posts–have been extremely busy (fun though). But back on March 29 I finally finished my new book’s rough (extremely rough) draft! Even though I still have a ton of work to do, it still feels incredible to get to this point. Probably from this point on I know exactly what I’m working on. I know exactly how it ends and everything that got them there. Even if all of that changes in revisions, I still have that very clear road map to work with.

I don’t mind doing the revisions, but I also always like to work with a plan. I can definitely see how people who love to write blindly ahead, letting just their writing of the moment take them wherever, can get to the end of their rough draft and falter. Revisions are still writing, but if you hate having everything planned out for you, they aren’t very fun because basically everything is planned out for you.

The writing part of it, for me, is very special because I am essentially creating from nothing, and I love doing that. Editing still is fun for me, in another way, because I get to play with the words and shape what I’ve roughly made, honing it into something that is more beautiful and satisfying than its rough beginnings.

I’m guessing the editing will probably take me at least through the summer, depending on how much of a break I’ll need from it to get some distance and a better eye. (Hopefully that won’t need to be too long, because I’d really like to get this submitted closer to the front of the upcoming alien/sci-fi trend rather than the end).

This is what I’ll be doing (my editing process):

  • Right now I’m typing it up because when I write I do it in notebooks rather than the computer
  • Then I’ll print it all out and mark it all up with a pencil, making lots of pages of notes of things I want to go back (or forward) and change
  • I’ll go through it at least 2 or 3 times until I feel satisfied and all of my notes have been dealt with
  • Then I type the changes into the computer
  • Read it through on the computer several times for typos and other things (hopefully by now these are smaller issues)
  • Read it aloud and perfect it
  • Send it to others to look at for feedback
  • While it’s out I’ll start a new project and work on the submission stuff (query letter, elevator pitch, synopsis(es), etc)
  • Make any changes from my feedback
  • Read through one more time and start submitting

So yes, I still have a lot of work to do.