manuscript and notebook She Who Comes Forth work in progress

Snips and Scraps

I had no planned post this week. Not enough thoughts on any topic for several hundred words. No splendid photograph to feature for “Silent Sunday.” These assorted thoughts will have to do.

In the garden, old familiars are showing their faces, after a fall and winter of extremes (way too much rain and a brief period of intense cold right after Christmas). But there’s trouble in paradise: hellebores formed buds early in the warm, wet fall. They made it through the cold snap, but now they are blooming on ridiculously short stems. I don’t know if the plants will produce normal bloom stalks this spring. Worse, something has been eating the little stems between flowers and stalks, leaving buds and flowers lying on the ground. I don’t know if the culprits are birds, bugs, or rodents. I’ve never caught them in the act.

Hellebore "Ruby Wine"
Hellebores don’t look this good so far this year. (Photo from spring 2021.)

At the writing desk, the WIP is approaching completion. I’ve absorbed the suggestions of beta readers and incorporated some of them. I’m nearly finished what was intended to be a final read-through, but since I’ve made a few significant tweaks, maybe it’s a “pre-final” one. Something I’ve been doing this time around is making use of Word’s text-to-speech feature. After combing through a chapter, I highlight half a page at a time and listen to Word’s robot voice read it back to me. This is a great way to pick up on overused words and sentences that don’t sound right. After adding, deleting, or moving text while editing, I listen to the sentence or paragraph as a final check.

I’ve noticed some things about that robot voice. Odd pronunciations, for example. The abbreviation “Dr.” sometimes becomes “Drive,” even when it’s attached to a medical person or a professor. “Bow” is always pronounced like the act of bending from the waist, even when it’s a weapon. Commas produce a pregnant pause, but em-dashes have a speeding-up effect. Single-word sentences of two- or three-syllable words or names invariably generate a slight suggestive emphasis on the final syllable. In some contexts, that sounds spot-on, but most of the time it’s just weird. On the whole, though, the robot voice is a helpful tool. And no, I haven’t given her a name.

Finally, I’m doing an accidental re-read. In relation to the WIP, I wanted to check a scene I remembered from a novel read long ago, in which a character has a disturbing experience in the New York Public Library. After a bit of thinking, I remembered the book’s author was Peter Straub, and a bit more thinking retrieved the title: Koko.

I found the scene I wanted, but then I got sucked into reading the book again. It’s been years decades since I first read it, so it’s almost like I never have. It’s a long book–more than 500 pages. I read a few pages at the end of the day, so it will take a while. In the meantime, the TBR pile languishes…

One of the reasons Koko is so long is because Straub makes sure the reader gets to know the main characters really well. It’s almost like a real life experience hanging out with them, hearing the way they talk, and getting into their heads (which isn’t always pleasant). Point of view shifts between scenes, and is always excruciatingly close third person.

I first read this book before I started writing fiction. Reading it now, as a writer, I appreciate Straub’s techniques, which adds to the reading experience.

All right, that’s it for now! Back to the WIP and the springtime garden!

Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed these days? Or running out of blog ideas?

71 comments

  1. Hi, Audrey. I’m not as good a gardener as you – indeed, I’m not a gardener at all, so I cannot always read the signs of impending doom ahead of time. I have several robust species that don’t seem to mind the seasonal drifts and appalling wet. Forsythea and Daffodil in spring, Hazel catkins too, seem regular, though several weeks away yet. But early summer last year was a bad one for my Laburnum tree, which didn’t put out any blossom at all, possiby on account of what’s becoming a seasonal drought, and I missed it. It was a gift from my mother, and usually flowers around the time of my son’s birthday, and it just didn’t seem right that it didn’t.

    I seem to be blogging a couple of times a week. A mixed piece, and then another that comes out of ruminations accompanying a walk. But I was walking last week, and so far nothing comes to mind. There’s a growing sense of instability and threat in world affairs, both man made and natural, that has me feeling overwhelmed at times. I’m trying to work out if it’s always been that way, and I’m just less able to accommodate it, now, or if things really that much worse. It’s certainly having an effect on my fiction, which lately tries to bounce off world affairs, but things are coming too thick and fast to make sense of.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, that sense of instability and threat, as you say, is growing. I find myself looking back at the recent past as a lost golden age, and at the future as a place where anything can happen, most of it bad. That makes me question long-established routines, like blogging.
      I do enjoy reading your posts. They present a perspective different from mine that makes me think about things differently. I don’t always comment, but I do think!

      Like

  2. Running out of blog ideas? No. Feeling overwhelmed? Yes, but this time will pass, and things will smooth out again. (A little baby-busy here, but it’s temporary. In fact, I hear the wee one stirring now!)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Interesting timing for your “overwhelm” question. I had been feeling overwhelmed about taking on an ambitious new novel. (Read: I don’t know what I’m doing.) What got me out of it and on track was adopting the “page-a-day” method you described in one of your posts. It has saved me! I’ve been meaning to thank you. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey, Liz, I’m totally chuffed that the page a day method has worked for you! It moves the work ahead, however slightly; but most important, it lets the writer feel they’ve done their bit that day and can do other things without guilt.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I have plenty of blog ideas, but they seem to come at the expense of ideas for writing fiction. Also, most of them are on topics that would probably bore my readers. πŸ˜€

    I’ve used the robot voice to help me with editing too. I agree, it does some weird things sometimes, but on balance it’s useful.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Interesting snips, Audrey. I have heard that hearing something read aloud can change the experience. Our new read and critique director is implementing a trial of that. Hope your helebores get back on track. Your pictures helped me identify them in our church yard last Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pat. I hope the hellebores will recover. They are tough plants, but our recent weather extremes may have stressed them.
      Reading one’s writing aloud does call attention to things that are missed when reading silently. I belonged to a critique group once where we read our stuff aloud, but we decided that took too long. Also, someone pointed out, editors and agents always read silently, and some people read aloud better than others (as in performance), so it wasn’t fair.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just a couple of observations …
    I should try that robot voice thing. I’d love to hear what it does with my conlangs.
    And Peter Straub sounds like my kindred spirit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The robot voice would probably throw up its hands at your conlangs! It even spells out the individual letters of “shh.”
      Straub’s writing covers territory from literary to horror, but the horror originates in humans, for the most part. I like some of his books better than others. Koko wasn’t among my favourites, but when I took a look at it recently, I was struck by the writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes run out of ideas but my greatest challenge is that i am a bad reader. Think its cause i have had to read bucket loads over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I suspect the reality of blogging is that it waxes and wanes like everything else. For my own part, of late I’ve had little time either to blog, or to particularly engage the blogging community – other things intrude, including the endless demands of writing-for-a-living, which is hard. Your post’s got me thinking, though – I’ve never used Word’s robot voice as a tool. I might look into that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Writing for a living is certainly different from writing as an avocation and blogging as a spinoff.
      That Word feature is useful, despite its quirks.
      Thanks for your comment, Matthew!

      Like

    1. I just listened to the demo and it’s not bad, but the price could get rather expensive if you have a long book or get the computer to re-read passages more than once. Bookmarked it though. Thanks for the tip. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I tried pasting in a few paragraphs. The voice was less robotic than Word’s, but I was disappointed that the program rendered “Bzzzz” (as in a bug buzzing) as “B” followed by “zee, zee, zee, zee,” i.e., spelling it out. And of course it used the American pronunciation for the letter “z.” πŸ˜ƒ In Canada we say “zed.” How do you pronounce it in Oz?

        Liked by 2 people

            1. -giggles- yes, that would have been awful. Pronunciation is an odd thing. I’m old-school so ‘h’ is ‘aitch’ and ‘haytch’ makes my skin crawl.
              You can change the ‘accent’ of the voice so I tried Australian. It’s ok but still not real.

              Liked by 1 person

            1. I’m sure he’ll show up someday. Really, if computer-generated voices get realistic enough, ebooks could come with a read aloud feature. No need for a separate operation to create an audiobook. We’re not there yet, though.

              Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve seen the prompt, but admit my reaction was “Really?” At least one blogger I follow uses this, so I’ll take a listen and maybe try it with one of my posts. Once I have something worth saying, that is.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I like your odds and ends Audrey. I laughed thinking of you catching the “perps” in the act (of destroying the plants). I hope they recover,

    Always overwhelmed these days. Plus I tore my hamstring last week so I’m extra crippled. I’m not out of ideas, just out of time and patience.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, running out of blog ideas this week, so probably won’t post anything. Like you, I’m making changes based on beta reader suggestions to my next mystery, so there’s plenty to do on that score. And I’m also behind on my reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read aloud too, Robbie. Doing so catches the gaffs between how I intended a passage to sound and how it actually does sound. I know most people do silent reading, but I believe reading out loud is the second best way of checking my work. The best would be a real live person, but that’s unlikely to happen. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I can usually hear when something’s wrong straight away. I either stumble over the words, or I unconsciously change them, creating a dissonance between the written word and the spoken word. I also try to make the prose ‘flow’ so sometimes I’ll change ‘begin’ to ‘start’ or vice versa to better reflect the rhythm of the narrative.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. I’ve become used to the robot voice, even its occasional quirks. Using it lets me concentrate on how the prose sounds.
      I hope this is a one time problem with the hellebores. A few years ago, something dug up and ate many crocus bulbs, but that hasn’t happened again.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post, Audrey, even if you didn’t feel ‘inspired’. πŸ˜€ When I started blogging I promised myself I’d follow my passions whatever they were, so I have never had a set schedule. I do try to write at least one post a week, but usually it’s two. I’ve been more active lately because I’ve been angry over Covid again. I’m sick to death of people announcing that this or that is going to end the pandemic and getting all our hopes up only to dash them again. Unfortunately, it’s hard to feel creative when you’re angry, or scared. I seem to need a certain amount of emotional stability. Ah well, maybe next week. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been surprisingly disturbed by the so-called “Freedom” protests here in Canada. Our capital city is still occupied in a big way.
      I can ignore stuff like that, but when there are too many things on my To Do list, especially ones with firm deadlines (like some garden tasks, and my self-imposed blogging schedule), I can get stressed out and have to regroup. But I remind myself that self-imposed deadlines can be changed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mel pointed me to an article that puts a lot of that trucker stuff into context. We had something similar her with construction workers protesting the vaccine mandates. The stupid thing about it was that most Tradies had already been vaccinated and half the people in the protests weren’t even Tradies.
        It feels as if there’s a war going on and it is very unsettling. I’ve found it next to impossible to do anything constructive the last few days. This is not life as normal, even Covid normal. This is life playing in the funny farm.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Invasion of the so-called Friendlies. The thing that makes my blood boil is that I read stats saying that about 90% of real Truckers are already vaccinated. Over here, well over 90% of 12 year olds and up are vaccinated so how dare these malicious bastards hold over 90% of the total population hostage to their ego trips? This is not democracy.
            The worse part is that even if some of them are prosecuted, the masterminds will likely never even be named much less face jail time. It’s so unfair.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. My hellebores are always the first up, and I’m still waiting, Audrey. But soon! I use Word’s text to speech exactly the same way as you do. Exactly. Despite its flaws, I find it essential. It picks up on typos, weird sentences, and repeats, as well as a lack of variation in sentence length. I live by it. Have fun reading, enjoying the signs of spring, and Happy Editing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does sound a bit weird, but using it avoids the problem of your brain filling in missing stuff or correcting errors as you read. I generally listen to half a page at a time with my eyes closed. That way anything that doesn’t sound right really jumps out.
      Thanks for your comment, Nancvy!

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