Archive for February, 2005

2/21/05: Shoes

Word count: 120661 | Since last entry: -256 | This month: 2708 Where did the weekend go? Didn’t do anything special, even though it was my birthday today… just the usual weekend round of chores and errands, but three days instead of two. All gone now. Voom. I spent my writing time this weekend working on the first Clarity chapter. In order to put Vigor’s death on stage I first had to remove the frenzied phone call from the end of the scene in the potato field. But once I’d done that, the remainder of the scene didn’t have a lot going for it… it had almost no emotional impact, didn’t establish Clarity’s story problem, and basically existed only for expository purposes. Obviously this scene didn’t have much going for it before, but removing the sting from the tail pointed that out clearly. So I thought “can I get rid of this scene completely, and open with Clarity in New York?” But though that idea had a lot of appeal, the existing scene sets up a lot of stuff that will be needed later: it establishes Garrett, and shows Clarity’s love of flight (in a scene that at least one of my first-readers really loved), and shows Clarity interacting with ordinary humans and establishing her sympathy for them. In New York she’s completely surrounded by her own people and that would be harder to convey. This scene also introduces a lot of details about the Cetans that would have to be redone in a different way in New York — basically making this a complete new chapter. So I rewrote the scene to have a lot more interior dialogue, in which we establish how long it has been since Cedar Point, and how Remembrance Day is a forgiveness holiday for the Cetans, and how much tension there is between Clarity and her father (which will never be resolved, bwah hah hah). To do all this I focused on her shoes. Yes, her shoes. There was a throwaway line in the very first draft about Clarity wearing Nikes, and I decided to use that as a symbol of all the ways in which she fails to conform to Cetan norms. I think it works. But. I’m still not convinced it’s the best way to introduce Clarity. I may break down and eliminate the entire scene (after spending the whole weekend rewriting it, argh) and create a new scene in New York that carries only the key information from the old scene, with more emotional punch. I know I can do it; I’ve learned a lot in the nearly two years since I wrote this chapter for the first time. But it’d be a lot of work, so I’m resisting. I think I can reuse a lot of the existing sentences and paragraphs, but it might be quicker to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. Either way I think it’s likely to be several days of work. The one thing I absolutely can’t introduce in New York is Garrett. But maybe I should put him on the phone and Clarity’s father dying on stage, instead of the other way around. Must ponder some more. I think I need a day or two to convince myself it’s worthwhile.

2/18/05: Cue the spy music

Word count: 120917 | Since last entry: 588 | This month: 2964 Finished up the revisions to the first Jason chapter, in which Jason creeps about to steal the biocomputer. Raised the tension in the creeping-about scene by adding a couple near-misses of being discovered. Also went back and re-edited the scene with Honor and Jason some more. It’s amazing how much cascading effect can occur from dropping one sentence — since Clarity’s sept name was revealed for the first time in that sentence, and I couldn’t find anyplace else in the chapter to slip that information in naturally, later sentences referring to that name had to be rewritten as well. It’s improving. It’s coming along, slowly. I persevere. Thanks to Kate for going off square-dancing and encouraging me to stay home and write. 588 net words doesn’t seem like much but I know the change is significant.

2/16/05: We’ve got lumps of it ’round back

Word count: 120329 | Since last entry: -538 | This month: 2376 I spent much of this evening massaging one little fragment of a scene, in which Jason encounters Clarity’s old friend Honesty at the Platform. This is the first appearance of a Cetan (formerly Tauran) on stage and it has to carry a lot of weight. I’m trying to slip in a few sentences of exposition, so the conversation doesn’t have to do all the work, but I keep taking expository sentences out and putting them back in because I keep waffling over whether or not the scene is clear enough without them. It doesn’t help that I’m trying to establish details that didn’t even exist before this revision, so I’m not 100% sure of them myself. At the last minute I cut an entire small scene (which explains my -500 words for the day) because I determined it was, indeed, no longer necessary. But I’m not quite finished with the scene before the cut yet. Needs more massage. And, as always, the cat needs vacuuming. First must obtain cat…

2/15/05: Revisions

Word count: 120867 | Since last entry: 199 | This month: 2914 Spent the evening on revisions, alternating between the novel and the unicorn story while emailing the story back and forth with Sara. Once she approves this final version, it’s off to critique. On the novel, I’ve nearly reached the end of a scene, and I think I can now cut most of the following scene. Next I’ll have to amp up the danger and difficulty of Jason’s break-in at the Platform, which may take some doing… I want it to be plausible, and as he’s not a professional spy it can’t be that hard. To bed now. I was at work from 7am to 6pm today, with an 8am dentist appointment tomorrow. Bleah. But Kate’s breathing machine has arrived, with dramatically effective results. Finally she gets a good night’s sleep! The mask is rather isolating — I don’t get to kiss her good-night — but she’s breathing so easily now that it’s worth it.

2/13/05: Progress on several fronts

Word count: 120818 | Since last entry: 2715 | This month: 2715 Well, it appears to be about two weeks since I last posted. Sorry. I have been writing, honest (as you can see by the wordcount above), but on those days when I was writing I was too busy to post and on those days when I was not writing I was… er, also too busy to post. The main thing that has been consuming my energy of late has been the day job, where I still am nearly full-time on each of two projects (a situation unlikely to change any time soon). I have been too brain-dead on most weekday evenings to do much more than watch television, a rare activity for me. Mind you, the new Battlestar Galactica is actually very good. Lost, on the other hand, after a strong start, is beginning to annoy me with its increasingly elaborate tricks to keep the characters from learning anything at all about the mysteries of the island. The 2700 words above represents about 800 additional words on the novel and 1900 words on the unicorn story — which is now complete, yay. I need to crit it soon and send my suggested changes to Sara. I feel pretty good about it; it’s definitely a story that neither of us could have written by ourselves. I think the main character could be emotionally strengthened, the antagonist made more sympathetic, and more sensory detail added, but one thing’s for sure: this is a unicorn story unlike any other unicorn story you have ever read. The 800 words on the novel represents a complete redraft of the first bit of the first Jason chapter, which used to be the Prologue and is now Chapter A. This draft focuses on Jason’s grief and anger over his parents and replaces exposition with emotional description. (One of my themes for this rewrite is: Add Emotion Through Description. I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone, and so far I think it is working.) At this rate it will take me at least several more writing days to complete the new Chapter A, and then I have a heavy new scene to write in Chapter 1 in which Clarity goes to New York and sees with her own eyes when Vigor falls ill. This is the third time I’ve written the beginning of this novel, but it really is getting better each time. After that will come a thorough revision pass on the whole thing. Probably won’t get it in the mail by my birthday as promised, but soon, I tell you, soon. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate revisions? I got some late comments from a couple of my first-readers, which indicated that they would have been lost without the time map at the top of each chapter. I’m also finding it really hard to nail down the chapters in time with sufficient precision to prevent confusion. Despite Dean’s feedback, I might put the time maps back in. I also might compromise and put a single time map at the beginning. I wonder what the procedure is to include a map in the manuscript? Is it a numbered page? Apart from the novel, this has been a week full of good writing news. I got an email from David Hartwell looking to buy “Charlie the Purple Giraffe” (from the June 2004 Realms of Fantasy) for his Year’s Best Fantasy anthology; the same story was also mentioned in the Locus Recommended Reading List and has picked up two Nebula recommendations. And “Tk’Tk’Tk” (from the March 2005 Asimov’s) garnered me two fan emails today, plus several very positive comments on the Asimov’s message board (“a very memorable story”… “one of the more powerful SF stories in recent memory”… “an intensely visceral read”). Plus Gardner Dozois mentioned me twice in his Year in Review column for Locus. So I am a very happy writing puppy. Apart from the revisions, that is. Japanese class tomorrow night. 7 AM teleconference with India, followed by offsite customer visit, on Tuesday… bleah. More writing Wednesday, maybe.