Archive for November, 2006

11/26/06: Me and the horse

Word count: 3754 | Since last entry: 0

We are lying side-by-side in the grass, the horse and I, staring up at the fleecy clouds scudding by across a luminescent blue sky. Each of us is chewing on a stalk of grass — me contemplatively, the horse as more of a snack.

“You’re going to have to get back on me sooner or later,” says the horse.

“Tomorrow,” I say. “I’ve been sick.”

“No, really. I mean, you call yourself a writer, and here it is nearly the end of NaNoWriMo and you haven’t written a word since you finished Chapter One over two weeks ago. That’s pathetic.”

I chomp my stalk for a moment before replying. “I finished the outline. 1700 words. Now at least I know where I’m going.”

The horse snorts. The sound vibrates through the damp earth between us. “Doesn’t count.”

I raise myself on one elbow and look the horse in the eye. “Give me a freakin’ break. First there was OryCon, and we had Lise in town before and after.”

“And she kept up her daily NaNoWriMo word count that whole time…”

“Shut up when I’m talking. I was so heavily programmed I didn’t even attend one program item I wasn’t on, nor did I see the art show. Good con, though. And then, on the day Lise leaves, I come down with a cold.”

“Poor baby.”

“No really, I was miserable. Achy, feverish, sneezing… I wasn’t good for much more than watching TV and sleeping for almost three days.”

“And you went to Thanksgiving dinner with your friends like that.”

“I washed my hands a lot.” I sigh. “At least I didn’t spread it to all the square dancers in Vancouver.”

The horse finishes his stalk and begins chewing on another. “Okay, I’ll admit it was a bummer that you had to miss the square dance. But look on the bright side — you got to see the BNL concert instead, and you aren’t fighting your way back home from Canada through a snowstorm right now.”

“Yeah, thank heaven for small favors.”

We look at each other for a while. “You’re still going to have to get back on me sooner or later.”

“Tomorrow,” I say. “Tomorrow.”

11/15/06: Somewhat sidetracked

Word count: 3754 | Since last entry: 803

No new words on the novel per se in the last three days. I reached the end of chapter 1 (at least, an end) and found that I couldn’t get started on chapter 2. So I dropped back and started outlining — trying to figure out where this thing is really headed. I wrote about 1000 words of outline yesterday — a brief paragraph each on the first 12 chapters (out of about 20). Today I had dinner with a psychologist neighbor and talked about where my main character’s head is at, given her traumatized early life. I’m going to have to scale back the malnutrition (if she wasn’t properly nourished as a child she’ll have some cognitive problems, and I need her brain in one piece if she’s going to be an effective protagonist). Wrote up a couple hundred words of notes on that. None of those words are counted above.

So, though I have been doing novel-related work, I’m about 1200 words behind my pseudo-NaNoWriMo target, and OryCon starts tomorrow so I’m unlikely to catch up. I remind myself that I’m in this (novel writing thing) for the long haul — NaNoWriMo should be just a goad, not a requirement.

In other news, Analog rejected the novella — a long, thoughtful rejection hand-typed by Stan Schmidt that 1) points up a plausibility problem my critique group also had problems with, which I tried to address but apparently did not succeed, and 2) shows that Stan believes his readers don’t want too much of that pesky angst getting in the way of the rivets. I may try Analog again, if the right story should happen, but at this point I think the only way I’m going to sell there is if I consciously decide to shoot for the Analog market and scale the characterization way back. And I’m not sure I want to do that. I’m going to sit on the novella until I hear back from Asimov’s on the story I currently have there, then send it there. I may add a couple-sentence tweak that someone suggested as a way to help address the plausibility problem.

And at my neighborhood Starbucks, Christmas has come down as hard and sudden as a foot of snow overnight. Straight from Halloween to Christmas without even slowing down at Thanksgiving. Bah, humbug. But I don’t want to dig in my heels this year, because in previous years I’ve done that and it’s prevented me from enjoying the holiday (and there are enjoyable aspects to it — I really dig the lights) when its actual time rolled around.

11/10/06: Plugging

Word count: 2951 | Since last entry: 829

I keep plugging away. Ten thousand words in a month seems doable for me but I’m giving up an awful lot of sleep to maintain this pace. I wonder how some people can write thousands of words a day, even with a day job. I think that perhaps I am editing too much as I go. On the other hand, this technique seems to work for me.

I talked with my agent today. He’s gotten several requests to see the novel so it’s going out to two different publishers at once (agents can do this, if they let everyone know it’s happening). I hope that this will encourage one or both of the publishers to feel they have to act before the other snaps it up.

I also got a nice email from the slushmaster at Realms of Fantasy saying that he’s passing the unicorn story (remember the unicorn story?) up to Shawna. He also said that the days of waiting 6-12 months for a response are long gone. We’ll see.

One more tidbit of writing news before I fall over: I talked with Gordon Van Gelder at World Fantasy about when “Titanium Mike” is likely to be published. He’d said a while ago that it might be in the January issue, but then he’d had to retract that, and I asked him what had happened. He explained that my story is 15 pages long, and he’d planned to run it in the January issue, but then he sold one more page of ads, so he ran another story that was 14 pages long instead. (Or perhaps it was the other way around.) It’s very informative to see how much influence these random commercial factors have on the makeup of an issue, even when you have a magazine that’s owned by its editor, who can theoretically do whatever he wants. So if you’re wondering why there were two alien kitten stories in one issue, or why one issue is heavy on the SF and another on the F, the answer might be as simple as that.

11/8/06: Bleah

Word count: 2122 | Since last entry: 774

The day job’s been really intense so far this week. I haven’t been to the gym but once in the last week. And, ever since Halloween, traffic has been absolutely abysmal. I’ve been spending as much as three hours a day driving to and from work. This is getting really tiresome. Can I retire yet?

Also, my novel was rejected by Ace. “I’m sorry to say it’s not the kind of science fiction we’re doing well with right now.” Oh well, at least it was quick, and as rejections go it’s very straightforward and professional — nothing to make me question the book’s quality, it was just the wrong novel for this market at this time. We have several good candidates for the next place to submit it; I’ll be talking with my agent soon.

But the news on the political front has been refreshing, of course. We spent Election Eve at a Capitol Steps concert, with friends. Interesting that the audience refused to applaud even for a comedian pretending to be Bush. It was great to laugh about politics for a change, and even nicer to read the results after the show. I find I’m even more pleased about seeing the back of Santorum than Rumsfeld.

It’s been very hard to make time for writing lately, with all the political news to keep track of, and I’ve fallen 600 words behind my target for the month so far. I hope to be able to catch up tomorrow. I also hope to write out an outline (one one- or two-sentence bullet point per chapter) when I get a chance; I have a general sense of the book’s structure but it feels weird to be writing without a concrete plan.

11/6/06: I was there when Ellen Klages broke the Bear

Word count: 1348 | Since last entry: 1011

Back from World Fantasy Con. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to attempt to take notes, so all I can say is that I had a great if rather formless time, and I met many people in person whom I had known only as authors, names in Locus, or LiveJournal users, plus many new and cool people I hadn’t known at all.

I kept saying that if I was lucky I would come out of the convention with at least one new person for whom I could remember name, LJ username, and face all at once. I don’t think I was that lucky. So I’m not going to attempt to name the many fine people I had meals with or hung out with in the bar, for fear of omitting someone. You know who you are.

We ate (too) much great BBQ, fine Mexican food, and pie. We heard some amazing readings, especially Howard Waldrop in a Jolly Roger mask reading a crossover between Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and Peter Pan. I appeared on one panel, about blogging, and quite a few people came up to me afterwards and said they’d liked it. I spent most evenings in the bar as one element of Elizabeth Bear’s slut-hat-wearing electron cloud. We saw the Texas State Capitol and a UT tailgate party (hook ’em, Dano Horns) and the original sniper’s bell tower from afar, and some other Austin sights (Toy Joy and a little bit of the Story of Texas museum) closer up.

We were delayed coming home by storms in Dallas, but as compensation we saw a spectacular aerial display of lightning as we flew home.

I worked on my novel for three days out of the five. I won’t let this lapse stop me from continuing. NaNoWriMo ho!

11/2/06: NaNoWriMo ho!

Word count: 337 | Since last entry: 337

Well, I have been foolish enough to stay up past midnight doing it, but I have embarked on NaNoWriMo — well, really a Pseudo-NaNoWriMo, because I have no intention of writing an entire novel, or even a miniature NaNoWriMo “novel” of 50,000 words, in one month. My goal for the month is 10,000 words, which requires an average of 333 words per day. This is going to be hard, what with WFC, OryCon, and Thanksgiving in there, but — as this entry demonstrates — I’m crazy/determined enough to do it. Wish me luck.

The first 337 words… well, they suck. But there they are. Gotta start somethere.

Leaving for Austin bright and early tomorrow (um, later today). See some of you there.