Archive for October, 2008

10/4/08: Whacking away

Word count: 123055 | Since last entry: -3233

So there I was, reading through chapter 8, unable to cut more than a sentence or two every dozen pages. It all seemed necessary.

And then I realized… it was all equally necessary.

Did I really need this chapter at all?

I’d gotten some feedback that this chapter was on the slow side. There were also some technical issues with the main conflict in the chapter (some readers found it implausible that anyone on the ship would seriously consider not letting the alien stay on board, given the kind of people they are). The conflict itself was also, perhaps, a false one… a problem dropped in to raise tension which didn’t exist before this chapter and didn’t have any effect afterwards.

So I cut the whole conflict — about half the chapter — which also allowed me to cut a page or two in the previous chapter that led up to it, for a total cut of 3200 words. It’s kind of late for me to tell whether I’ve plastered over the seams well enough (hmm, where did that metaphor come from?), and I feel bad about losing some of the little character moments in there, but I feel good about this. If I need any of those paragraphs back, they’re available… I always keep earlier drafts around.

Still probably won’t make it all the way down to 100,000 words, but the shorter the better, eh?

10/3/08: It’s all shot

Word count: 126288 | Since last entry: -772

The bathroom remodel has been more than usually stressful today.

The plumbers came to unclog the basement drain. We knew it was bad, but it proved to be even worse than they’d thought. The drain pipe in the floor had completely disintegrated, which means that for the last no-one-knows-how-many years, every time we used the kitchen sink or dishwasher at least some of the wastewater went into the soil beneath the house rather than into the sewer as it was supposed to.

They had to jackhammer out six feet of rotten pipe from the basement floor, leaving an open a trench in our basement floor and dirt everywhere. They decided to leave it open until Monday so that the sodden dirt under the floor can dry out a little. Next week they’ll jackhammer out the remaining eighteen feet or so, then fill in the trench with concrete.

At least we can use our kitchen sink and dishwasher, though not the clothes washer, this weekend.

The few of you who have read the magic lesbian plumber story (which has now been at F&SF for over 40 days, which indicates they are at least giving it serious consideration… either that, or the rejection got lost in the mail) will be amused to know that the problematic basement drain is the same one that, right at the beginning of the story, has a nixie living in it.

One thing about remodeling a bathroom is that you get a real feeling for the bones, sinew, and nerves of your house. Also a real feeling that whoever did the plumbing for this place back in 1913 was an IDIOT! He had no sense of the fact that water is supposed to run DOWN and air UP, and a real tendency to cut through important structural elements of the house’s frame to make his plumbing life easier.

The other bathroom-related thing that happened today was that the plasterers came by to put on a second coat. But it’s been cold and rainy, and the first coat wasn’t nearly dry enough for them to do anything. So they’ll be back tomorrow (Saturday), and until then there’s been a constant roar of fans and space heaters in addition to the intermittent jackhammering.

I couldn’t concentrate too well today, for some reason, and wound up cutting less than 800 words. But more than the small number of words removed today, I’m concerned about the fact that I’m on page 245 of a 572-page manuscript and I’ve cut less than 3000 words in total. No way I’m going to cut 30,000 words at this pace… I might get 10,000 if I’m really ruthless. I’m either going to have to do a second and probably a third pass, cutting stuff I’d really rather keep, or go ahead and submit it at about 120,000 words. Currently I’m leaning toward the latter plan. We’ll see how far I get in this pass… maybe I’ll find a whole chapter that can be excised (though even that would only buy me 5000 or 6000 words.)

10/2/08: Veeps on the marquees

Word count: 127060 | Since last entry: -1129

If you’d told me two years ago that the Vice Presidential debate would be shown live at half the movie theatres in town, and that the Bagdad (our local) would be completely sold out, with crowds out the doors at every bar down the street, I’d have said you were crazed.

We watched some of the debate and heard most of the rest on the radio. I didn’t get the amusing Palin meltdown I’d been hoping for, though her insane policies and rigid adherence to preprogrammed talking points frightened and appalled me. Biden seemed confident, intelligent, and well-qualified. I was worried that a lot of people would find that Palin’s heavily-coached-beauty-queen-at-a-job-interview performance made her “someone I’d like to have a beer with” but the post-debate polls are encouraging.

If she’d said “9-11” (maybe she did and I didn’t catch it) I would have gotten a bingo. I was playing card 4 from the linked site, though not paying really close attention.

After the debate we went to square dancing, then I got to the heavy cutting of the one scene I mentioned yesterday. 1129 words cut in less than an hour’s work. Yay.

10/1/08: What a difference a year makes

Word count: 128189 | Since last entry: -600

One year ago today was my last day at McAfee.

In the last year I’ve traveled to Ashland OR, Seattle WA, Saratoga NY, Vancouver BC, Kennewick WA, Washington DC, Pasco WA, Seattle WA, Victoria BC, Seattle WA, Lincoln City OR, Palm Springs CA, Austin TX, Milwaukee WI, Madison WI, Taos NM (while Kate went to Guanajuato MX), Cleveland OH, Seattle WA, Laramie WY, Denver CO, Montreal QC, San Francisco CA, and Redmond WA. We’ve also seen a lot of live theatre and music and attended many cool events right here in Portland, such as Wordstock and Orycon, and planned and began executing a bathroom remodel. Whew!

Today, as it happens, we attended a talk by our financial adviser to a bunch of his clients, explaining the current economic mess and how we got into it. The situation is worrisome but there’s no need for panic. I don’t expect I’ll have to return to work, but the timing of this meltdown is annoying. We’ll be meeting with him individually next week.

Cut 600 words from the novel today, below quota but still respectable. I also got about halfway through a scene that needs major cuts, but decided not to begin deleting words from the file until I figure out what the scene as a whole really needs. (I’m marking up a paper copy, then performing the cuts in the file at the end of each day to determine the actual word count.) Tomorrow’s negative word count should be much better than today’s.

And Space Magic has received its first review, a comprehensive and generally positive review in The Fix. Money shot: “I hope that the volume does more to make this very worthwhile writer better known to the reading public.”

9/30/08: Down, down, down I go

Word count: 128789 | Since last entry: -390

My goal for the month of October is to get this novel down to 100,000 words or less. As I’m starting at 130,000 words, that means I have to average 1000 anti-words a day. I thought I’d done that today — surely the cuts I made added up to at least four manuscript pages — but the word counter does not lie; I made less than half of my goal for this first day. But these early chapters have been pretty heavily edited already, and I hope that some future days will involve whacking out large chunks and entire scenes.

In other news… I’ve been asked to join the faculty of the Iron Springs Writers’ Retreat (next June on the Olympic Peninsula); an interview with me has been posted on the Nebula Awards website; my bio has been posted on the website for Wordstock, so I guess my participation there is official; and Danny O’Brien, blogging about my SF in SF reading, referred to me as “The Ted Chiang of Toontown,” which is a mighty fine epithet if you ask me.