Archive for February, 2009

2/6/09: Never blow retreat

Word count: 6642 | Since last entry: 2390

Still in Chattanooga, at Mary Robinette Kowal’s writing retreat. In addition to Mary, Kate, and myself we are Steve Gould, Beth Wodzinski (editor of Shimmer), Sean Markey, Alethea Kontis, Laurel Amberdine, Chris Boros (Laurel’s husband), and Mary’s parents. A few more people may yet appear before Monday.

I talked with Mary and some others about the issues I raised in my last post and now feel somewhat better about the situation. Also, several people have popped up with suggestions for markets, though I still don’t know where I’m going to send that story next. Thanks to everyone who’s tried to help.

It’s been a good several days’ writing. I wrote 1700 words yesterday on what I’m calling for now “the pupa story”, and 600 words today. I’m not sure how good it is — I tried a bit of stunt writing which may or may not have worked — but it’s in the home stretch and should be a finished first draft, probably around 7500 words, before we go home. I thought I was getting better at making them shorter, and I guess I need to concentrate on that again.

We’ve been eating very well here. We went to Couch’s for barbecue last night, and otherwise have been dining well at Mary’s home: trout, curry, strata, various soups, and fabulous homemade baked goods including baklava, dark chocolate cookies, and two pecan pies. I got a Twitter account so that I would not miss out on the announcements of what new goodies had been laid out for our delectation. (We are divided among several rooms in two houses here, and Twitter is the method of choice for communication among the group. I am now daviddlevine (note the extra “d” in the middle) on Twitter. Can anyone suggest a good Twitter client for a PalmOS Treo?)

Today, many of us took in a matinee of Coraline, in 3-D (see photo below of the polarized-shades Mafia). The consensus of the group seems to be that it is visually very impressive (though a couple of us got sick from the 3-D), but the changes that were made to the original book’s plot were not improvements.

More writing tomorrow, and perhaps a little Chattanooga-area touristing.

2/5/09: Hear that lonesome whistle blow

Word count: 4252 | Since last entry: 2949

We’re in Chattanooga, at the home of Mary Robinette Kowal’s parents, for Mary’s birthday writing retreat. The countryside is beautiful, the house is elegant and hospitable, and I’m surrounded by delightful and talented writers who are selling all over the place. Mary herself just got namechecked in the Guardian (the Guardian!) as one of the glittering stars in the SF firmament.

Me? I managed to force out 750 words yesterday and they were crap.

I also just received a rejection on a 7200-word fantasy that I’m really proud of. It has bounced off of F&SF, Asimov’s, and Strange Horizons and I’m having a hard time finding anywhere else to send it. Realms of Fantasy just died; it’s too long for Clarkesworld; it’s not SF enough for Interzone or horrific enough for Apex; Black Gate and Aberrant Dreams are “temporarily closed”… I’ve got a query out at a market that it’s a bit too long for, hoping they’ll make an exception, but the state of the market is depressing.

I’ll get over this. But for right now, color my mood black.

1/31/09: Thirty-one random days make a month

Word count: 1303 | Since last entry: 1303

Wow, it’s been a while since my last progress report. Sorry about that. Here’s what’s happened since January 15…

I wrote at least 500 words every single day since January 1 (this is not a new year’s resolution for me, but it is a goal). However, I’ve been a terrible procrastinator, putting off the writing until the end of the day every day, and often don’t finish until well after midnight. This habit is costing me sleep and I want to change it. However, that’s not going to happen today. Maybe tomorrow.

I completed the story I was working on in my last post. The first draft was8588 words, which I immediately whacked back to 7199 words. I sent it to my critique group and the reactions were quite positive, though I do have some changes to make before I submit it. To be honest, though, between changes in my writing and changes in the critique group, I wonder how much they can do to help my stories any more. They’re great at spotting big problems, but I’m not sure they can make the difference between “publishable” and “no editor worth her salt would possibly pass this one up,” which is what I’m shooting for these days.

I started another story immediately after completing that one (that’s the 1303 words above). Because I was unsatisfied about the lack of brainstorming and outlining I’d done on the previous story, I decided that notes and outline count toward my 500 words per day goal. This may have been a mistake, as I spent 11 days writing 6000 words of notes and outline, which feels like too much. I need to find some kind of middle ground. (This particular story may have suffered from some other things going on that made me reluctant to commit to the story and begin drafting. I think I have overcome that now.)

We spent MLK Day Weekend in Seattle, doing a belated Christmas present exchange with Kate’s family. We also had a delightful brunch with Janna Silverstein and visited the exhibit about Lucy at the Science Center. The compressed history of Ethiopia that made up the first part of the exhibit felt tacked on (“okay, we’ll let you take this unique artifact on the road, but you have to tell something about our country”), the hands-on section in the middle on the practice of paleoanthropology and the structure of Lucy’s skeleton was fascinating, and the final room, where Lucy’s actual skeleton was accompanied by a standing reconstruction of the same bones and a full-size sculpture of what she might have looked like, was excellent. I think the sculpture was the best part… somehow the artist managed to give Lucy chimp-like features but put a human soul in the eyes.

I spent Inauguration Day in the hospital. Don’t worry, it was just a minor medical procedure for Kate. She came home the same day and has had no problems since.

We saw three plays, Apollo (a kind of collage of a performance piece, combining multimedia, dance, and words in a story of Nazi scientists, African-American civil rights, and the race to the moon), The Seafarer (a bunch of messed-up drunk Irishmen beat the Devil at his own game), and Vitriol and Violets (a “play with music” about the Algonquin Round Table, with a superb local cast). We also attended a performance by musician Jonathan Coulton, who was great fun as always (though the opening act, Paul and Storm, were good, they did an awful lot of the same material we’ve seen before).

And our neighborhood book group met to discuss Podkayne of Mars. Oh my god, the sexism! And the plot, practically nonexistent! And the supposed lesson of the book comes out of nowhere! What an awful, awful book. How far we’ve come since it was written.

I’ll try not to let so much time pass before my next update.