10/17/08: Not dead, really

Word count: 120730 | Since last entry: -281

Usually if I’m not blogging I’m not writing, and if I’m not writing I’m not blogging. In this case I have been writing, an hour a day or so, but the bathroom remodel and the election have been taking up too much of my mental energy to leave room for blogging. It’s gotten so stressful around here, with strangers banging about and making strange smells and all, that listening to the public radio pledge break was actually relaxing by comparison.

The above word count change represents a week’s worth of editing, incorporating comments from my agent and other first readers. Where possible I have been trying to address comments by taking words out rather than adding new ones, but I did substantially beef up a couple of scenes.

I hate editing, because it’s like trying to make a change in an assembled jigsaw puzzle. Even if all you want to do is change the color of one piece, you might also have to change several of the pieces nearby, and even other pieces halfway across the puzzle that might be related. Changing the shape or position of a piece is even worse. Everything is connected, on a word and sentence and paragraph and chapter level.

The big editing comments yet to do have to do with clarifying, deepening, and strengthening Rachel’s backstory and motivations, and the Anvilites’ theology, and I don’t really know what I can do about them. The problem is that I don’t know Rachel’s backstory and I don’t really understand the Anvilites’ theology. What the heck was I doing having my main character be a member of a contemplative religious community? I know nothing about that mindset. (I know how I got in this mess, actually. In my original concept of the story the religious people were the villains. But then one of them turned into a protagonist…) I will try reading Brother Astronomer this weekend to see if I can glean any ideas from it.

Despite frustration with the bathroom remodeling process, progress continues and it is supposed to be all done in less than two weeks. The tile work took almost a week longer than originally estimated, but it is almost complete now and looks phenomenal (see below). The lavatory is also very nice, a serene expanse of cool white that nicely offsets the busy detail of the tile. We had a lot of trouble finding a wall color that we liked; after buying three different sample quarts and being unsatisfied with all of them we decided that the green color of the sheetrock, of all things, was what we wanted. Hey, we knew it looked good.

I had a pretty good mail day on Tuesday: a countersigned contract for one short story, a check for another, and a check for audio rights (so look for “Sun Magic, Earth Magic” in audio format from Beneath Ceaseless Skies at some point in the future). Also a 41-day rejection from F&SF, alas.

Speaking of BCS, they have a message board where people can discuss my story. One of the readers ranted (his word) that it “relied too heavily on symbolism,” which I find baffling, but I’m sitting on my hands, not wanting to get into an argument. Now that the story has been published, it belongs to the readers.

Finally, as you may know, the website SF Signal has a regular feature called “Mind Meld” where they ask several SF writers to contribute brief essays on a single topic. I was honored to be asked to participate in the latest Mind Meld: “Which authors and books have most influenced your writing?”. Other participants include Joe Haldeman, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Dean Wesley Smith. Check it out!

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