Archive for February, 2004

2/21/04: Finished chapter E… finally!

Word count: 57047 | Since last entry: 1202 | This month: 6780 Okay, so I haven’t written in almost a week. Some nights there was a movie or a lecture or something, and though I always intended to do at least a little writing when I got home it just got too late. Other nights I worked late or worked on the OryCon web page or some other form of cat vacuuming. Yesterday some friends took me out for a birthday dinner. But today (my actual birthday) I decided I would spend the day writing. And I did. So how the heck did it take the entire day to write one lousy scene? Well, for one thing it turned out to be a substantial scene, more than twice as long as I thought it would be. The chapter as a whole came out to be the second-longest in the book so far. I’m not quite sure how this happened, given that the chapter has only one point in the original outline. Perhaps that’s exactly how it happened — it’s easy to write lots of words when there’s nothing to say. I suspect some of it will come out in revision. But that still doesn’t explain why it took me all day to write 1200 words. Let’s see… I started late and took a lot of breaks, but I finished the chapter by 2:00. Then, since I wasn’t rushing out the door for crit group, I took the time to read over the chapter and polish it a bit. Then I updated the “What Has Gone Before” to include the previous chapter. I had to go back and add a little to an earlier chapter too, as long as I was in there, because I’d missed a major plot point before. Then when I went to print the chapter I found I needed a new print cartridge. I had the cartridge already, but I still had to re-align the print heads. So when I took the printed chapter to the local cheap copy shop… it had already closed for the day. Damn. I came home and made up envelopes for my critique group, put on the stamps, got appalled at the amount of postage I had just used, and decided to drive to work and make the copies there rather than pay Kinko’s prices for the copying. That took half an hour each way. Finally I took the envelopes to the main post office (it now being too late for pick-up before Monday afternoon at most other locations), and on the way home I bought a new print cartridge. And that’s how it takes a whole day to write 1200 words. All the more reason to finish the next chapter before the next crit group meeting, to avoid all that postage and envelopes and post office and stuff. I hope to get started writing tomorrow, because I now have only two weeks until the next meeting. But the way things have been going so far this week, I’m not betting on it. Happy birthday to me, anyway. Hah!

2/16/04: Not quite done yet

Word count: 55845 | Since last entry: 704 | This month: 5578 Wrote most of the drive from New Jersey into New York City today, with Jason’s Seattlite perspective on the city and a few hints of how it has changed under the influence of the Taurans (but not more than hints yet, because he’s in a moving car). Didn’t quite finish the chapter yet — there’s still one more twist to go — but since I blew my Saturday deadline another day or two won’t make that much difference. Rather depressed about Saturday’s critique. Despite the nice things people have said, I know that a main character who is insufficiently engaging can kill a book. Yes, it’s a learning experience, and I’ll do better next time. But I don’t want to have spent over a year of my spare time on an unsold novel. I just have to hope I can fix it in revision. Unfortunately, I know that I tried to address the Wiscon critiques of Jason and his world (“the world is not nasty enough to justify his actions”) before sending those chapters to my local critique group, and they had the exact same comments. These problems may be structural, to the novel and to me. What to do? In the meantime, I will just continue writing. Finish the damn first draft and see what we’ve got then.

2/14/04: Didn’t quite make it

Word count: 55141 | Since last entry: 1910 | This month: 4874 I tried, writing all morning, and came very close, but didn’t quite finish the chapter. I found myself still in my chair, typing furiously away, at 1:50 for a 2:00 group meeting, and with one scene still to go: the entrance to New York (which is under alien control). This is a big scene and deserved more than ten minutes’ work (it’s 10-15 minutes just to get to the place we meet, anyway) so I decided to give in and buy them a beer. But I arrived late, after everyone had already bought their own drinks, so I didn’t even do that. I should be able to finish the chapter tomorrow, and put it in the mail to the gang on Tuesday. Not Monday, that’s a holiday. I got chapter D critiqued today. Jason’s still a wimp and the aliens still aren’t alien enough. I honestly don’t know what I can do about the latter problem; how alien can I make them and still have them be sympathetic? For the former problem, I have some ideas but I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome the forces (plot factors and aspects of my own personality) that made Jason who he is now. Changing his name and giving him a different backstory might help. A weaker strain of the same problem affects Clarity. Sigh. But despite these critiques, people still insist they are enjoying the book. Some of the folks in the group are speculating about what is happening behind the scenes, who is responsible, and where the plot is going to go from here. Some of the guesses are scarily accurate; some are completely off base (and I need to determine if this is due to bad writing or just a bad guess); some are not what I had thought, but they fit the evidence presented so far and are more interesting than what I had in mind. The scariest of all is one where the reader has guessed exactly what is happening, then rejected it because it seemed too obvious. That worries me. Now I have to decide whether I want to change my mind about what happens next. Some of the most interesting suggestions would, unfortunately, result in a substantial rewrite (e.g. the suggestion to add a third viewpoint character to show the interaction between humans and aliens, which Jason’s human-only environment and Clarity’s alien-only environment fail to) or would change the story into something completely different (e.g. the suggestion that the plague spread to the alien homeworld, which would require a faster-than-light drive, which would completely change the human/alien dynamic and require a different ending to boot), neither of which I am willing to do. But some of them are entirely plausible and better than what I had planned, so I’m likely to do them. I always feel strange about incorporating another writer’s suggestions, but a) that’s why we have critique groups, and b) what I do with the idea is almost always going to be different than what the suggester had in mind.

2/13/04: Just keeping my hand in

Word count: 53231 | Since last entry: 265 | This month: 2964 Opening night of the Portland International Film Festival, but I decided to write just a little after the movie (Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things) to keep my hand in. A few hundred words a day is better than a thousand-word binge once a week. But now it’s definitely bedtime.

2/12/04: In which I keep plugging away

Word count: 52966 | Since last entry: 673 | This month: 2699 I hoped to get at least a thousand words tonight while Kate was at the opera. It didn’t happen. I also hoped to make it onto the final Nebula ballot. That also didn’t happen. (Rats. But it’s an honor to be… well, nearly nominated.) I’m probably not going to finish this chapter by Saturday. Feh. But at least I did sit down and write something. Something is better than nothing. And 673 words is enough for a gold star. I also went back and tightened some of what I wrote on Tuesday. Introduced new character Commander Smith (no relation to Doctor Smith, Cordwainer Smith, or E. E. “Doc” Smith), while bringing Jason into the belly of the FFL. He’s realizing that these people he has already gotten thoroughly into bed with are Not Like Him, and it’s only going to get worse as the chapter progresses. I’m not yet sure how he and they are going to react to each other, but he’s definitely gotten off on the wrong foot with the Commander. Considering that everyone around Jason is willing to kill or die at the Commander’s word, this might be a bad situation.

2/10/04: Lurching forward, and a sale

Word count: 52293 | Since last entry: 623 | This month: 2026 I’ve been pretty busy the last couple of days, but I decided to turn off the radio for my commute (45 minutes to an hour each way) and spend the time thinking about the novel. It’s a lot like meditation, in that the intention to think about a given thing (or not think about anything) can very easily — almost unnoticeably — slip away into thinking about something else. Anything else. Monkey mind at work. But as soon as I notice myself thinking about work, or chores, or the dentist, I pull my mind back on track. I’m concentrating on what is one of the novel’s major problems: Jason, the main human character, is a wimp. He is more reactive than active. So I’m trying to come up with situations in this chapter in which he can make decisions and take actions for reasons of his own. I also hope to use these decisions and actions to set up some later things he has to do. So even though not much happens in this chapter in terms of advancing the plot, I hope it will still be a dramatic and valuable one. After all that thinking I found the actual writing went pretty quickly, though I only had an hour tonight so I only wrote about 600 words. Now I am frustrated that I can’t write faster, rather than frustrated by not having anything to write about. Even so, the chapter is nearly half done. I might even finish it by Saturday, but it’s going to be a close thing. In other news… the Hell story sold! I was getting a little worried about it, since I’d heard back from Gateways so quickly. So that’s two sales so far this year… a very good start. Also, after a good discussion on the Speculations message board about when to trunk stories vs. sending them to “lesser” markets, I mean to put some of my older stories that haven’t gone out in a while back in the mail soon.

2/8/04: Stalled

Word count: 51670 | Since last entry: 842 | This month: 1403 Despite the best of intentions, I did very little writing this week. There was always something else that seemed more pressing or interesting. I think it’s due to the lack of definition of this chapter. This implies I should take some time to flesh out the outlines of other chapters that have as little as this one. In the meantime, I’m just going to have to keep struggling through. Many writers of my acquaintance get to talking about “that damn novel” after a while, and I can really see where that comes from. I do hope to get back into the swing eventually…

2/4/04: Back in the saddle again

Word count: 50828 | Since last entry: 561 | This month: 561 I am such a slug. Far from getting right back to work on the novel after putting the Gateways and zeppelin stories in the mail, I slacked off for over a week. But I finally did put my butt in the chair tonight, and wrote 500 words for a gold star. It’s a start. One reason I had so much trouble getting going is that this is a transitional chapter — only one point in the outline, which is basically “move this set of characters from here to there.” And yet somehow I need to keep the reader’s attention for 4000+ words. I’ve been mulling it over in the back of my head for the last week, and I think I have a set of incidents to occur on the trip that will reveal needed information, develop the characters’ relationships to each other, build the world, and increase dramatic tension. I hope. I am encouraged by my success with the zeppelin story, which was written in one shot without an outline. We’ll see how it goes. I have ten days. Despite not writing very much on the novel in January, I think it was a very good writing month. I wrote almost 14,000 words (the most in one month since I’ve started tracking, including both the PseuDoNaNoWriMo and the NoReNaNoWriMo), including revising one story, writing two stories from scratch, and putting all three of the new stories in the mail. And the Gateways story has already sold! Just to keep my head from getting too big, I also got five rejections. February is not going to be as productive, I suspect, with Potlatch and the International Film Festival and several Fahrenheit 451 events (it’s the county library’s annual “Everybody Reads” program, with discussion groups and plays and movies and readings all focused on one selected book). Not to mention I can’t expect an ice storm to keep me home and writing for three solid days. But Kate’s going to be out of town for most of one week, which could be an opportunity to get a lot of writing done. Or maybe to melt down into complete slugdom. Again, we’ll see.