Archive for January, 2006

1/30/06: Outlining

Word count: 3274 | Since last entry: 414

Tonight’s wordcount is a complete but rather sketchy outline of the current story, trying to work in all the key points from this weekend’s plot and character notes. Many missing pieces still. What is the main character’s job on board ship? Need to find an org chart for the Pioneer or Voyager mission to get names of scientific specialties… would also probably be good to find and re-read the daily logs from the International Space Station, which I saw posted on the web some years ago.

Outlining at this point feels rather like… cheating? Wasting time? I feel I should be writing, i.e. producing salable words, in my limited writing time. But I know that this story’s bigger than my usual and needs some planning and special attention if it’s going to work.

I am envious of people who produce 1000-2000 words per day on a regular basis (though I know that many of them don’t have day jobs).

1/25/06: Thinking too much

Word count: 2567 | Since last entry: 48

Met with our financial adviser tonight, and Kate’s mildly under the weather. Not much actual writing, but did add another few hundred words of notes. I’m questioning the initial premise, alas, or at least some key aspects of it.

What kinds of unauthorized cloning would be a crime? Why would Chaz object to being vived with this set of memories, given that he had consented to having the record made, knowing that it might have to be used? Wouldn’t he be glad just to be alive? And wouldn’t the other team members want him alive, if the alternative is simply to pitch his warm and breathing body, fully capable of consciousness even if its memories are a bit out of date, out the airlock? Surely they need all hands, even half-trained ones. But what if there’s some other reason they all voted not to vive him?

So I might re-do some aspects of the first scene.

Apart from those notes, what I have is mostly infodumpy scene setting and character descriptions. Haven’t gotten at all into the meaty relationship issues that were my original reason for wanting to write this story. Yet. But now, it’s time for bed.

1/24/06: Happy now

Word count: 2519 | Since last entry: 540

Dinner at Nuestra Cocina.

500+ words written at the airport, waiting for Kate’s plane.

My sweetie is back home.

Happy now.

1/23/06: Infodumps, endings, and babies’ bottoms

Word count: 1979 | Since last entry: 234

In addition to the 234 words of mostly infodump I wrote tonight in the actual draft, I also wrote over 350 words of additional infodump in a separate file of notes, working out the characters, their physical descriptions, and their relationships to each other. And as I was doing that, it became clear to me whodunit, and why, and what event would precipitate the crisis, and what they would all do after that point. The end.

No idea how many words there are between here and there. But my brain tends to leap to conclusions, and no amount of “let’s just write it and see where it takes us” has ever derailed it before, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised it’s done it again.

(My brain is a guy. Focused on the orgasm destination rather than the journey. Stupid brain! Down, brain!)

On the other hand, I know that I am capable of changing the ending if the story seems to lead in another direction. So I’m going to keep going, and hope for the best.

A snippet: “Kyra got on the intercom and called everyone together in the Gamma work bay. Alpha should have been the command and control module, but it hadn’t made the rendezvous — lost somewhere in the vacant light-years between here and there. Also lost was Delta, which had made it all the way to Tau Ceti only to burn up in the first aerobraking maneuver. So instead of the planned pentagonal ring, Cassie was a shallow V, with Gamma module in the middle and Beta and Epsilon on the ends. Fortunately, three modules provided sufficient resources and space for our purposes; the mission had been designed to succeed with as little as one module, but it would have been tight quarters.”

(I told you it was an infodump…)

One thing that stopped me from making forward progress for half an hour was when I needed to describe a character’s… knees. See, he’s curled in a fetal position, and he notices that his skin is as clear and unmarked as a newborn’s, which is his first hint that he is actually a clone of the person he remembers himself as being. And I’m having a devil of a time describing it. I need a word, or short phrase, that describes skin that’s smooth and clear and unmarked and translucent and beautiful… and brown. Food, wood, and leather metaphors all seem inappropriate. Right now I’ve got “smooth and unmarked as a baby’s brown bottom” but I’m not 100% happy with it.

The hardest part to capture is the translucence, which is going to be immediately noticeable because this skin has never been exposed to light. Very few things in life are translucent in the way that human skin is. Porcelain is the traditional metaphor, but that only works with pale skin.

Ponder ponder ponder. But now, sleep!

1/22/06: Bizzy buzz buzz

Word count: 1745 | Since last entry: 280

It’s a good thing I managed 1500 words on Friday night, because I’ve barely gotten my minimum in yesterday and today. A hundred words isn’t much — only one paragraph in this case — but I feel it’s important to keep my hand in every single day.

So if I wasn’t writing, what was I doing? Shopping, mostly. Saturday I spent most of the morning at Fry’s, the cathedral of consumer electronics, which is so far out of town and such an anathema to Kate that I usually don’t get to go there except when she’s out of town. In this case I also had a $150 gift certificate, which I got at work a few months ago as a reward for my work on a key project. After much shopping and dithering I decided on a DVD burner, because backing up the documents directory on the PC has grown to require 3 CDs and burning 3 separate CDs is a pain. By complete coincidence the DVD burner and one spindle of DVDs came to $149.98.

Next I visited Bridgeport Village, the newest shopping center in town, which reminds me a lot of University Square in Seattle where we once met Janna Silverstein for fancy chocolates. I had a decent lunch, found a travel box for my collapsible top hat, and picked up a new kitchen scale to replace the one whose plastic window has become opaqued by years of kitchen grime.

Home by way of Music Millennium, where I took the time to consult with the friendly and knowledgeable staff in hopes of finding a compilation album of music similar to what they play on local station KINK. I came away with a couple of recommended discs, plus a few more finds from the used CD racks.

I arrived home to find that somewhere along the way the stylus from my trusty Palm V had vanished. Damn! I looked online and confirmed my fears: styli for this ancient device are no longer available anywhere except dodgy vendors on Amazon Marketplace. But then I thought: didn’t this critter come with two styli? After a bit of digging, I found the original stylus taped to the warranty card, tucked in the back of the owner’s manual. Yay for being a packrat.

Leftovers for dinner, followed by a nap. Despite the bracelet, I’ve been staying up way too late, but still rising around 6am. Then I met my friends Anthony and Rhia for dessert at Pix Patisserie (omigod the Concorde was marvelous — crunchy light chocolate meringue twigs surrounding a core of chocolate mousse, it looked like a firestarter and tasted divine), followed by…

The live theatrical production of Manos: The Hands of Fate! (Which I would never have known about if Mark Bourne hadn’t mentioned it in his LJ. Thanks!) It was a total hoot. They took the original script and played it reasonably straight, except that the small child was played by a grown woman, half of the Master’s wives were played by men, and the two dogs were played by stuffed animals. The wife catfight scenes were particularly hilarous — they looked like highly choreographed dances from the Hullabaloo era.

The production was amateurish, but that only added to its charm. These actors were deliberately overplaying, where in the original the actors were doing the best they could. But their Torgo was spot on, and really stole the show. He was definitely the tragic hero of this production.

The weird thing is that in this production the plot actually made sense. It helped that they moved it briskly along, taking a little more than an hour.

That was Saturday. Today I had a haircut, went to the gym, caught up on my email, did the dishes, did a little more shopping… I had a serious case of getting distracted all day. I found myself walking away from putting away dishes, leaving the cupboard door open, to send an email before I forgot, then abandoning the email half-finished to attend to some webpage maintenance, but leaving that half-done when I realized I needed to take out the garbage… I think I achieved closure on everything I started today, but there are a half-dozen projects I meant to do today and never even started.

So much for the weekend. I did get a lot done, but not as much as I’d hoped. Tomorrow night I can try to finish up some of those loose ends, and then Kate returns on Tuesday night. Yay!

1/20/06: And we’re off again

Word count: 1465 | Since last entry: 1465

Yesterday evening I did a bunch of iPod-related stuff, noticing at nearly midnight that I had not yet done any writing for the day. So I looked over the Carpet story, made a few edits suggested by Sara from my crit group, and put it in the mail. I gave myself a blue star for submitting a story. (The other star colors are: silver for 100-500 words or any amount of revision, gold for 500-1000 words, red for 1000+ words, and green for sending a story to critique. So far I have at least one star on every day of 2006.)

Tonight I was good and spent the whole evening writing. After looking over the ideas in my Writing Ideas file, and rejecting all those that were too big, required too much research, or just didn’t appeal right now, I was left with about twenty — all science fiction but one (and that one a weird one), and about half of those space-based. My last two stories were also space-based SF, so I wanted to do something different… but one of those ideas, one that dates back to Clarion, grabbed me. So I started in on it. It even has a title: “Second Chance” (which describes both the main character’s situation and the larger situation of which he is a part).

Only one small problem: I think this might be shaping up to be a novel. Or at least a novella. Well, for once I’m just going to dive in, with the plot in my teeth, and see where I find myself when I emerge on the other side.

A snippet: “Uncurling, I grasped for an attach point, but misjudged my reach and scraped my hand on the rough plastic panel joint next to it. My body was all wrong — too thin, too long, the skin as delicate as a baby’s. Nothing was where I expected it to be. My heart started to pound again and I took slow, deep breaths to calm myself.”

1/18/06: They called me “sir”

No writing per se today. But I did put the story that was rejected by Cricket back in the mail, prepared the Carpet story for submission (but didn’t send it, I want to take one more look at it before I seal the envelope), and got all the manuscripts for the Potlatch writers’ workshop copied and mailed — that last was a pretty serious chunk of paperwork. I also got money from the money machine, groceries from the automatic cash register, and postage from the automatic postal scale and postage dispenser… didn’t interact with a single human being all evening. Going over those manuscripts was kind of a weird experience, each one with its earnest cover letter: “Dear Mr. Levine, please find enclosed my application for the Potlatch writers’ workshop…” Jeez. I’m just a fan who got lucky, you know? By the way, we could still use one more pro for the workshop. If you are a pro writer or editor (and I have an exceedingly loose definition of “pro”), and if you’re coming to Potlatch, and if you’d be willing to crit 5 manuscripts (the workshop is 4-7pm on Friday), drop me a note.

1/17/06: Grr and feh

Word count: 897 | Since last entry: -3

Spent all day in a meeting (as I will be doing every day this week) and then, when I got back to my desk, locked myself out of the payroll system. I must have forgotten my password — not too surprisingly, given that we are forced to change them frequently and use passwords complex enough that they can’t easily be remembered — and then the backup authentication system decided my answers for favorite color, favorite movie, and mother’s maiden name weren’t close enough. Probably case-sensitive or some such garbage. Then I found out the people who can unlock the account are all at an offsite today. So no paycheck for me today. (Mind you, I did get paid, by direct deposit — I just can’t print my paystub.)

Got home late, to find a nice rejection from Cricket in the mail. This on top of a critique I received by email on Monday, which said my main character was “Nazi-esque” and the science fiction premise “disregards commonly known facts, basic physics, etc,” and some other news which I won’t go into other than to note that I found it far more annoying than it deserved.

I rewrote the carpet story again tonight, for a net wordcount change of -3, but at this point I have zero confidence it’s any good.

1/16/06: Happy MLK Day

Word count: 900 | Since last entry: 197

And so we come to the end of a three-day weekend. Took it easy, didn’t get a lot done. Tonight we had a book group meeting (discussing Sabriel by Garth Nix, which I found lacking in depth… but when I found out it was intended as YA, I became much more favorably disposed toward it) and then I took Kate to the airport, to catch a red-eye to New York. She’ll be there for a week, helping our friend Lise clean up her late mother’s apartment.

It’s been a lightweight weekend for writing, as I said, but I did get some stuff done. Saturday I finished up the edits on the Jupiter story and sent it off for critique. Sunday I wrote about 200 words of notes on “Moonlight on the Carpet” (the story itself is only 900 words long) in response to critiques I received last week. Today I revised the story according to those notes… and the story died on the table.

The main problem with this story is that people get to the end and aren’t sure what has happened. But when I added the information they need to understand the situation, the twist ending became obvious. I think I’m going to go back to the previous draft and revise again, this time trying to sneak in the necessary information closer to the end, so it’s part of the ending rather than part of the set-up.

“In the dark outside the living room window, seagulls cawed and the surf rumbled, while the babysitter snored in the armchair with a book open on her lap. Mommy and Daddy never took Liam along when they went to the island on a full-moon night. They said that Ritual was not for little boys — like the other deck of cards, the one with the pretty colored pictures that moved.”

(That snippet is not going to be in the next revision… it gives too much away.)

Anyway, even though I only got in a net word count change of 15 today, and I’m going to undo that change tomorrow, I’m giving myself a silver star for an hour of editing.

Neither Kate nor I is very good at going to sleep at a reasonable hour when we’re apart. So I braided some yarn and made us a couple of bracelets: blue to remind us to go to sleep, green to remind us to eat right, and red to remind us we love each other. We tied them on our wrists and will cut them off when she returns. Mine is telling me right now to stop blogging and go to bed, so I will do so.

1/13/06: Done!

Word count: 6487 | Since last entry: 654

Finished up this draft of the Jupiter story tonight. The ending didn’t make me cry like the Eagle story did, but I did feel it pretty intensely. It’s a hard ending for the protagonist, but I think it’s a good one.

I’ll look it over tomorrow and then send it for critique.

A snippet: “I had come home. Truly home, in a deeper, realer way than even my own personal module, which I built with my own hands, can ever be. Perhaps it was the solid press of real gravity, perhaps it was the constant presence of the horizon behind every building, perhaps it was the magnetic field or the tug of the moon or something even more subtle than that. Whatever the cause, something in my bones knew where it needed to be, and that was here.”

Also: I was worried that there weren’t going to be enough participants for the Potlatch 15 Writers’ Workshops, which I am coordinating. But three manuscripts came in today, which makes four, so it looks like it’s going to be okay. (The deadline is January 15, by the way.)