Archive for May, 2004

5/25/04: Still plugging away

Word count: 73908 | Since last entry: 894 | This month: 7286 I’ve been snatching a half-hour here and an hour there in the last few days, between work (8am meetings every day this week, sigh) and various chores and errands. I managed to kill almost all of last Sunday trying to install a Wi-Fi access point on my home PC, and much of Monday evening undoing Sunday’s work just to get the system working again. Damn Windows anyway. I have ordered a new DSL modem/router with built-in wireless support, which should make it easier to complete the task. I’m less than half done with chapter 7, though I’m pleased with the chapter so far; I just dropped a pretty big rock on Clarity’s head. That’s not as much as I had hoped to accomplish by now, but I might finish the chapter before Wiscon anyway — if I actually write on the flight and don’t get distracted by the in-flight magazine or involved in a conversation with my neighbor. Wish me luck.

5/19/04: Fits and starts

Word count: 72877 | Since last entry: 937 | This month: 6255 I haven’t been as much of a slug as my lack of posting here would indicate. I have written a time or two since the last entry, I just didn’t write enough each individual time to justify saying anything about it. I’ve got the first scene and a half of Chapter 7 done, in which Clarity and the other Taurans realize just what the epixenic is and how it can be prevented… but some of them are having trouble dealing with the consequences. I’m afraid I may be getting a little heavy-handed on the AIDS parallel; I might tone that down a bit later. Apart from the novel writing, I have been terribly busy — a major deadline at work this week, shopping for tile and granite for the kitchen, line edits on the zeppelin story. I did not make it into the finals for the Lupton contest; I got my package back with a generic encouraging note. But… I now have a complete novel package ready to go! In fact, on the same day I got the bad news from the Lupton contest I put the first 4 chapters and outline in the mail to one of the agents I talked with at the Nebulas. If it hadn’t been for the Lupton contest I probably wouldn’t have had the outline yet. Onward.

5/11/04: Slowly but surely

Word count: 71940 | Since last entry: 718 | This month: 5318 The rewritten chapters A and B were critiqued on Saturday, and the new Jason is definitely on the right track. But though the group liked the new chapters, there were still some good suggestions about how they could be improved — as well as a few difficult questions. For now, I hope I can get away with some of those problem areas with readers who haven’t read the rest of the book yet. As usual, I got somewhat derailed by success, which is why I haven’t posted here for several days after finishing the previous chapter. I also spent a good chunk of this weekend doing various things related to the kitchen remodel — looking at tile and granite, thinking about sinks, etc. — instead of writing. I did write a couple hundred words while sitting in the lobby before Sunday’s symphony concert, but didn’t post about it here at the time. Yesterday I was just fried when I came home from work, and though I did sit down to write, my eyes kept closing as I was reading over the last chapter and I didn’t put down one new word. But tonight, though I should really have gone to bed at 10:00, I instead sat down to write at that time — just a hundred words and I’ll be happy, I thought. But, again as usual, once I got started I didn’t stop until I had over 500 new words. (If only I could do that starting at 9:00 instead!) Looking to the future: If I keep up the pace of a chapter every 3 weeks — including those crit group meetings when I’m out of town, which I haven’t managed so far — I will be finished in late October. I would really rather finish the first draft before Worldcon (September 1). This means writing more than one chapter for each crit group meeting. Will I be able to do it? Well, I certainly won’t if I don’t try. So I have a new yellow stickie posted above my writing calendar: “I don’t care if you ‘don’t feel like writing.’ WRITE ANYWAY!”

5/6/04: Kismet

Word count: 71222 | Since last entry: 933 | This month: 4600 Took the train to work today, and wrote the whole way both ways. On the way home, I arrived at 5599 words in the chapter, 1006 words for the day, the moment after the Big Revelation when Jason sits down hard and says “Jesus”, and my stop, all at the same time. Kismet. I resisted Fate at first, thinking that I still had to write at least a few paragraphs of anticlimax to get Jason out of the building. But it seemed such a good place to stop. And not only that, but when I checked my outline for the next chapter it starts with him still in the building. So what the hell — there it stands. Chapter done with two days to spare. Of course, once I deleted a paragraph of notes from the end of the chapter the word count went down to just under 1000. But I’m still giving myself a red star for the day, and a green star for finishing the chapter. We have theatre tickets tomorrow, so I might not write again until Saturday. But I really want to write every day this month, to make up for my appalling performance in April. Maybe just a little, to keep up the streak.

5/5/04: Day of the Jackal

Word count: 70289 | Since last entry: 621 | This month: 3667 Jason finally fulfilled his self-imposed mission, and I passed 70,000 words. Jason’s happy now, but in just a few hundred words comes the moment that brings everything he thought he knew about what he was doing crashing down around his ears — and ties the two plot threads together for even the most inattentive reader. I’m not yet sure how much more of this chapter there is after that point. I’m prepared to play it by ear. I also went back and added a couple of sentences to address an issue my crit grop has had with one of the characters in past chapters. I never anticipated the reading they have of the character, but since at least two of them had the same idea I have to assume that some of the readers will as well. So I put that idea in one character’s mouth so another character could pooh-pooh it. It probably needs to be dealt with more thoroughly in rewrite, but for now I’ve at least acknowledged the problem. It strikes me that writing is a lot like software user interface design (my day job) — you have to anticipate the user’s reactions and direct them to do or think the next appropriate thing from where they are. Sometimes you get it wrong, which is why we have usability tests and critique, to spot those cases and give you a chance to correct the problem before the product/novel ships. On the other hand, in user interface design the eventual goal is not just to create an idea in the user’s mind, but to have them take action and accomplish tasks based on that idea. That’s both easier (a novel is an exercise in pure imagination, with no need to build any real-world functionality) and harder (there’s no interaction — the novel doesn’t know, and can’t take appropriate action, if the reader is off on the wrong track). Imagine a dialog box: “Are you absolutely sure you want to keep thinking it would be a good idea for Genevieve to go out with Leon? [OK] [Cancel]” I might take the train again tomorrow. It worked so well on Tuesday.

5/4/04: On the train

Word count: 69668 | Since last entry: 858 | This month: 3046 Took the train to work today, to be a good planetary citizen and to write during time that would otherwise be spent driving. (I can’t do it most days — usually I have errands to run, or tight schedules, that require the car.) Got Jason out of the box and moved him into position for the climactic moment. Lots of description of his situation — not as much tension as the previous scene, but necessary set-up.

5/3/04: Locked in a box

Word count: 68810 | Since last entry: 581 | This month: 2188 Jason’s still locked in an airtight box, which is being smuggled into the UN for the big climactic thingie. He can’t see anything, can’t hear much, and is relying on only motion cues and a few muffled sounds to determine whether or not the lid is about to fly open, leaving him staring into the rifles of a whole platoon of UN guards. In between moments of sheer terror he gets to wonder how the hell he got himself into this situation. Hey, it could be worse. I let him remember to go to the bathroom beforehand. Although it lacks any actual action or dialogue, I think this is one of the scenes of greatest tension in the book so far. I might have to trim it a bit — the chapter is already over 3000 words long and they aren’t really inside the UN yet — but I’m happy with the way it’s going. By the way, I don’t buy into the whole Hero’s Journey thing — too easy to get formulaic — but I am alluding here to the myth of the hero who dies and is reborn. In this case Jason is, figuratively, shut into a coffin and buried alive. And by the time this chapter is over, his world is going to be turned completely upside-down. I feel deliciously evil.

5/2/04: This time for sure

Word count: 68229 | Since last entry: 1607 | This month: 1607 Okay, I might as well admit it: April was pathetic. But I’m making a new commitment to write every day in May. I got off to a good start by working on the novel on the plane both ways for my recent trip to Palm Springs. The bad news is that I have locked Jason in a tiny, dark box with nothing to do but think for two hours. This might not be the best strategy for a chapter that is supposed to be the action-filled climactic moment of his story arc…