Archive for August, 2003

8/26/03: Jes’ makin’ shit up

Word count: 25672 Half an hour writing while getting the car’s oil changed, another hour or two waiting for clothes to finish washing and drying, and pretty soon it’s 1400 words. That’s nice, but I’m still behind for this three-week period. I hope to catch up on the plane to and from Torcon. I’ve been working on scenes with Jason and Chris and Jason hacking on the biocomputer. I decided to introduce new character Flea here (I’d originally planned to introduce him a few chapters ago but it didn’t work), and at this moment he is literally standing on the threshhold about to open the door. Not a lot of major plot elements, though character arcs are moving and information is being conveyed; it’s just part of the vast Middle that so many novelists have told me is the hardest part. I really do feel like I’m just making shit up. But with any luck someone will want to read it. Four days from now I will be at the Hugo ceremony in Toronto, where I will find out if I’ve won the Campbell Award. I’ve already received an invitation to the Hugo Losers’ Party. Do they know something I don’t? :-)

8/6/03: Squish!

Word count: 23693 No new work on the novel itself, but tonight I wrote a synopsis of What Has Gone Before, squishing 17,000 words of novel down to just over 1000 words. This synopsis is not the same as the synopsis I wrote a while ago, because it’s more focused on what you need to know to understand the current chapter and less on the overall plot arc. I hope that when it is done it will be the kind of detailed synopsis I need to sell the novel (or at least a draft of it). This synopsis is a requirement for our crit group, and it was a useful exercise. It shows that some chapters, particularly the ones with the human viewpoint character, have a lot less going on than others, notably the ones with the alien viewpoint character. On the other hand, later in the outline the human chapters are a lot meatier than the alien chapters. I wonder if this will be considered to balance out, or if I’m going to have to rejigger the chapter breaks? I’d hate to have to do that, because I like the way each chapter ends on an emotional high note.

8/3/03: Good news, bad news

Word count: 23693 1500 words today, and I finished up chapter 3. When I came to the climactic moment at the end of the chapter, I realized that what I had in the outline made no sense… it wasn’t something the character had the knowledge to suggest, the possibility had not been raised in earlier chapters, and knowing what they knew at this point (as written) the other characters would not go along with it. But there was another thing the character could suggest, that was very much in keeping with her personal history, that would piss off everyone else royally, and that would plug a plot hole later on. So I wrote it that way instead. The chapter also ends a week and a couple thousand alien deaths earlier than the outline says. David triumphs over the outline! Well, wins a battle anyway. And I’ve met my goal of 3000 words before the next critique meeting, which is next Saturday. That leaves me the rest of this week to do my crits and prepare a synopsis of What Has Gone Before. (I also need to work up a list of characters and a glossary of alien gestures and noises… it’s getting too hard to keep track of all the details in my head.) But there’s a fly in the ointment. It turns out I messed up somewhere when I figured 1000 words a week would be enough to finish this draft by the end of the year. The correct figure is 3000 words a week. (I mixed up words-per-week and words-per-critique, with a crit every 3 weeks.) At 1000 words a week I won’t finish the first draft until the end of 2004. That’s not acceptable. I can’t tie myself up for another year and a half without anything more than a first draft to show for it. On the other hand, 3000 words a week is probably more than I can reasonably expect to produce consistently. Writing a 7000-word short story in 3 weeks was a real push, cost me a lot of sleep and made me worried for my wrists. Argh! Some kind of compromise will be required. I don’t think I can expect to finish this draft by the end of the year any more, but I do think I can produce more than 1000 words a week. And there’s no time like the present to start. But for tonight, I’m going to bed with 1500 words for the day. And that’s not too shabby.

7/31/03: Plugging away

Word count: 22191 I’ve been writing 300-600 words a night, most nights, for the past week. It feels like so little, but I look up and, hey, 2000 words. Cool. With luck I’ll crack 3000 words before next Saturday, which will let me do my copying at work and give me time to do my crits and write a synopsis of the chapters so far. The attention I’ve been paying to the word count makes it seem that I’m just grinding out sausage. I really am paying attention to the content, honest; I’ve rewritten the opening of one scene three times. A lot of what I’ve written this week feels flat, I’m afraid, but I don’t think it’s either possible or beneficial to maintain a short-story level of prose craft for an entire novel, and I can tighten it some in rewrite. There’s just so much to it! A hundred thousand words is a typical novel these days. In my entire writing career so far, about four years, I’ve written about 150,000 words (I just added it up and was surprised it’s so many!). I’m trying to write two-thirds of that in less than one year. So I have to keep my focus on producing draft in order to reach the end. Went to Seattle for the Clarion West end-of-week-5 party last Friday, at Jerry and Suzle’s with instructor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and was just overwhelmed at the number of keen people there. To my surprise about half of the Tor editorial staff and several out-of-town writers also happened to be there, so I spent a lot of time schmoozing as well as chatting with old friends and new. Fun. Today is the Hugo voting deadline, so my Campbell Award fate will shortly be sealed, though I won’t learn the results until Labor Day. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for a win (I’m dead last in Sci-Fi Weekly’s straw poll), but It’s An Honor Just To Be Nominated. And I’m still eligible next year!