Word count: 17141 Since the last entry I attended my 20th(!) college reunion, spent a relaxing week driving through picturesque countryside from St. Louis to Madison (including a visit to the amazing House on the Rock, as seen in American Gods), and attended Wiscon, one of the best SF conventions for writers. To give you some idea of the flavor of the convention, one night I wound up going to dinner with some folks I had just met that day; of the 8 people at the table, at least 5 were published writers. The quality and intensity of the hall conversations, as well as the formal program, were outstanding. Spent a lot of time with old friends (some of whom I hadn’t seen in years) and made some excellent new ones. At Wiscon I also had the first 3 chapters and synopsis critiqued. The reaction was… interesting. The critiques were generally quite positive, though not outstandingly so, but the thing that makes me scratch my head is that there was absolutely no consensus about where the problem areas were. For every person who said they thought Sienna was the best character and Jason was flat, there was another who loved Clarity but found Sienna unoriginal. There were a few small details that several people mentioned (for example, why do the aliens consider Earth’s moon to be God’s Eye? This is something to which I knew the answer, but it wasn’t in this draft of these chapters), but those are easily fixed. I think this lack of consensus is, on the whole, a positive sign. It indicates that no single area or character stands out as desperately in need of help. (Now, just because critiquers disagree about which is the weakest character is not the same as saying they are all strong. But this is a first draft.) So I’ve decided to leave the characters fundamentally as they are (though I’m still waffling over Clarity’s attitude towards power — one of the people who critiqued me had some good suggestions about changing her) until I finish the first draft. When I reach the end of the story I hope to have a better understanding of the characters, including where they should have started, and I can go back to the beginning and rework them based on that understanding. With all this travel, plus a heavy dose of work and other Real Life upon returning, I didn’t write a lick in weeks. Bad writer. But in the last two days, in part thanks to nudging from Kate, I’ve gotten back to work. So far I’ve been incorporating the simpler review comments, which explains the slight decrease in word count, but I do plan to get back to generating new text this week. To keep myself on track I have decided to begin sending the novel through my critique group on a meeting-by-meeting basis. I had originally intended to finish the first draft and revise it once before showing any of it to them (so they can comment on it as a whole, which is how the readers will see it). But I seem to need regular deadlines to keep producing. So I have made myself a deal: if I don’t have at least 3000 new words at each tri-weekly meeting, I will buy everyone a drink or equivalent. This is derived from the “external pressure biscuit technique” related by Delia Sherman at Wiscon. Yoickth, and away!
David D. Levine is the author of Andre Norton Nebula Award winning novel Arabella of Mars, sequels Arabella and the Battle of Venus and Arabella the Traitor of Mars, and over fifty SF and fantasy stories. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. Stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, F&SF, Tor.com, numerous Year’s Best anthologies, and his award-winning collection Space Magic.