Getting There

Had a rough patch or three in the last couple weeks with my crazy novel project, but I’m in the home stretch on one novel at least.  I had set it aside to work on the one I really wanted to workshop, but realized after a few thousand words that TVMoSS is going to be a lot more complex as a novel than I originally thought.  While I think I could probably still write it (at least a passable for workshop draft of it) in a couple weeks, I’m not sure I want to.

So I switched back to my thriller.  And hit the great swampy middle.  The last novel I wrote (my second ever) I took an eight month break in that swampy middle.  And I swore never again.  No more breaks.  But the middle is still not fun.  There comes a time when I’m writing and I can’t tell if what is falling out onto the page makes any sense at all.  I was so worried about this novel never making it to 80k words, then I solved a problem and added a POV.  Which is great for adding words, but suddenly I had a character with a whole storyline show up a third of the way into the book.  Is this done?I wondered, and can this work? Am I screwing it all up?

I don’t know. I still don’t know.  So I guess in the end I am glad I’m taking this book to the workshop.  DWS will tell me if he thinks it is broken.  And the others will all let me know if they’d even want to read past the first 50 pages.  So we’ll see. But it’ll be done at least. And I’ll have written my first thriller ever.  I keep wanting to have a character fireball something or whip out a sword or teleport.  I miss you, speculative fiction! I also miss short stories. So very much. I haven’t written a short story in like two months.  I will soon. After Sept. 10th.  I’ve still got WotF to win, right? *grin*

These are the days, however, when I’m glad I have a super supportive spouse.  He went on a long walk with me this afternoon and I told him all about my detective (the POV I’m working into the story).  My husband is psyched to read this novel now, when he was lukewarm about it in the beginning.  His excitement helps me.  He thinks the story sounds better, more complex than it originally did.  He loves  the idea of the character and the motivations behind him.

As writers, we are so often alone.  No one can write for us.  It just can’t be done. If someone is writing for you, then they are the writer.  Bouncing ideas off people is good, but at the end (or beginning) of the day, we just have to sit down and do the work.  All on our own.  And what we do is subjective.  We can’t ever know if it’s really any good, because “good” varies with the subject offering the opinion.  But when I say “hey, listen to this idea” or “hey, does this work, do you think?” to a responsive, interested ear (like my husband), it helps with the isolation and quell that feeling of insanely typing away into the dark nothing.

So even though I have to wade into the swamp each day by myself and try to kill a middle, I’m not truly alone.  I’m fortified by all the people that support me, and by the brave souls who have gone before and those who are wading into their own swamps alongside me.  We’ll slog through.  And we’ll get there.

Back to the swamp now.  I’ve got a novel to slay.

Overdrive! Progress Meter!

Hey, I solved a problem with my novel (the first one in the doom writing drive of doom).  But that problem that I solved? It means more words (which is good, the novel was going to be too short to market).

So here we go. I’ll update this post instead of spamming my blog with meters.  So check back to see how screwed I am *grin*

Goal is 155,000 words by September 10th.

Progress:

74459 / 155000

Novel Writing Overdrive!

I’ve just been reminded that I need to have my novel for the Novel Workshop in October done by September 10th.  Glancing at the calendar, that’s really not very far away at all. Meep.

This wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue as it seems like if I’d finished the novel I am currently working on (which is very nearly done, I’m over the middle hump but desperately trying to figure out how to make it long enough).  See, I don’t want to workshop *this* novel in October.  I want to workshop the one I intend to write after the current novel.

You know, that novel that I haven’t even started yet.  Oh, I have characters outlined, and a rough idea of what happens. And sort of the setting.  And I did some research, if you can call reading a few westerns and watching Deadwood and Silverado again “research”.  But hey! Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So it is time to go into novel writing OVERDRIVE!  You know, that magical “extra” gear that really tough people are supposed to have. Or race cars, or something.  Counting prior social obligations and leaving Saturdays free for “hi, still married” time, I have exactly twenty one writing days until September 10th.  21. Days. That’s like three weeks. Awesome.

Not a problem. Right?  So my goal will be five thousand 6250 words a day on each of those twenty one days.  This pace should give me two finished novels.  At least if I totally fail it I have the first finished novel as my back-up for the workshop.  But I’m not going to fail.  Even with a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I can probably find 4-5 6-7 hours a day for twenty one days to you know, do my job.  (I was almost at this pace before Starcraft 2 pwned my life).

And the plus side is that will leave me with the 10th through the 30th to actually write something for WotF fourth quarter.

Well, time to put the writing into overdrive.  Just think of it as my writer-fu leveling up. A lot.

WotF 2nd Quarter Results

Well, I didn’t get a phone call.

But I’m a semi-finalist. Wee! Step in the right direction.  (Too bad I’m 90% sure my Q3 entry will be disqualified based on inclusion of a song lyric. Oh well. )

So yeah, that was sorta a shock, considering I’d heard nothing at all from Joni or anything.  But hey, getting a critique from KD is pretty awesome and way way better than the straight reject I thought I was getting.

Now, to go write something more awesome than anything ever for Q4!

Clarifying Myself, Again

Wow, I didn’t realize that my musings on whether or not to apply to Clarion/Clarion West would stir up the pot so much. Heh.  I guess it’s like writing anything, you never know when something will strike a chord or a nerve.  (Some of this post is also in response to some private conversations, so don’t think I’m necessarily replying here to any one person, I’m not).

So, to clarify, because clearly some misunderstandings about what/why I’m debating applying/going.

First, for the people who’ve just found this blog and haven’t read any of my older posts where I try to explain my process/speed/goals etc… I recommend this post.  And again the caveat, everything I say here applies only to me.  It might resonate with others, but I’m just talking about my experiences, my thoughts, and my writing life as it applies to myself.

My last post was just me wondering about Clarion and if it is what I need right now in my writing life.  That was it.  I asked for experiences/thoughts from those who had gone (or even just applied, I’m always happy to hear other people’s reasons for things) so that I could figure out for myself what I want to do.  I would never apply to Clarion without planning what might happen if I got in, that’s just silly to me.  One, it would be a waste of the application fee if I decided not to go and got in, and two, it would be poor planning in general (it’s six weeks! Even self-employed as I am, taking six weeks off/away from home isn’t simple).  So if I do apply, you’d better believe I’ll have sorted out how to afford it and if I want to go or not.  Hence my wondering aloud about whether it is what I need right now (or really, almost a year from now).

And, frankly, I don’t think that Clarion is for everyone.  It isn’t just a matter of being able to do the work (one story a week? Read the goals/speed post. I’m really not worried about the work load).  I’ve talked to a double handful of people who’ve been through one of the Clarions now and while some rave about it, some don’t.   And I don’t know if it is right for me. That’s all I’m debating.  No value judgments here, just personal musings.

My reservations about applying/going: one, the round-robin critique style.  I’ve done it, lots.  I don’t really enjoy it anymore.  I think, personally, that it is too easy to get hung up on minor things because you are “critiquing” and therefore have to find something wrong, and I think it is easy for a writer (especially a beginning writer) to try to take everyone’s suggestions and possibly re-write their story into mush.  This has been my experience with round-robin style.  Feedback is good (I have a couple groups of first readers, whom I treasure and love (when I don’t want to kill them) and should probably bake cookies for more often).  Too much feedback just for the sake of having to say something, not so good.  I’ve also got my editing cycle down to a science that works for me.  It’s a quick cycle, and while I learn from feedback, I don’t re-write in the traditional sense anymore. Ever.  If a story is so broken that I’d have to do a major edit, I start over.  I’m a learn by doing sort, and doing for me is writing, not rewriting.

Second, six weeks is a huge time commitment.  It’s also something I’d have to plan my writing goals around.  I don’t write nearly as consistently when I’m not in my home space, so I’d have to try to adjust for that.  I’m also an introvert, and social situations drain me, so that is also something for me to consider. While I’d be getting a story a week done at the least, as I said in my last post, I’d be experimenting a lot (after all, isn’t that what workshops are about? Stretching yourself?) and don’t know how much of that writing would be in the “do over” category.  Next year my plan is to write four novels for e-books and four for traditional submission.  Losing six weeks means a bit of a time crunch.  It’s doable, but I’m lazy, remember? So I’d definitely need to plan (and being an introvert, honestly I’d probably lose more like eight weeks- the one before Clarion and the one after on recovery).  Clarion/CW’s focus is on short fiction, and while I’m still writing some short fiction (goal is to keep 40-50 shorts out at a time, writing to replace the ones that sell), I’ve transitioned to novels because my goal is to make a living and novels are good for that (and I like writing them).

So yeah, those are my current thoughts.  I know that I’d learn a lot and meet many interesting people if I applied/went.  I don’t doubt that for many people, Clarion/CW is a great stepping stone in their writer journey and that the experience is amazing.  These are things I’m considering and weighing against my other thoughts.  Basically, it boils down to this:

Do I want to go to Clarion or Clarion West? Yes.  Can I afford to go money-wise? Maybe (I could figure it out).  Can I afford to go time-wise? Maybe (again, I could figure it out).  Do I need to go in order to have a career as a writer? No.  Is Clarion/CW the best use of my time and resources for my writing/career goals right now in my life? I don’t know.  And that final question is all I’m trying to answer here.

Hopefully that clarifies things.

Now, to put down the blog (and Starcraft 2), and go finish this novel.

O Munde, hodie aliquid vincam!

Clarion Musings

So, first… my sale. I have sold “No Spaceships Go” to Daily SF, a brand new magazine that will apparently start publishing later this summer/fall. So go subscribe now, because besides my story, it looks like they have lined up some top authors (including fellow PDX writer and Hugo winner David D. Levine).  I’m pretty excited.  More details whenever I get them.

Also, in other internet news, both Clarion and Clarion West have posted instructor lists for 2011.  And wow, they are impressive (okay, when aren’t they? seriously. Sigh).  Clarion list is here.  Clarion West list is here.

As always, I kinda want to go to Clarion (either Clarion) because writing with both my potential classmates and under the tutelage of professionals such as those listed above would be freaking awesome.  I’ve only applied once to Clarion West, and was form rejected.  Which doesn’t shock me, it was my first submission to anywhere, ever. (Feb 4th 2009, for those of us ie me keeping track).  And frankly, I mostly applied because I really wanted to meet Elizabeth Bear whose work and work ethic I super admire.  Probably good I didn’t get in, since I don’t know how I would have survived.

I almost applied to Clarion last year, but decided I couldn’t afford it and took a couple of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops instead (which, for the sake of honesty, I almost didn’t get in to.  While there’s no formal audition like for the Clarions, Dean isn’t a guy who pulls his punches and if he thinks someone isn’t ready, he’ll say so.  I’m not sure I was ready, but I am grateful. *grin*).  And between discovering those workshops, reading Dean’s motivation posts (and Kristine Rusch’s posts on freelancing), and deciding to truly follow Heinlein’s Rules for Writers, I pretty much completely revolutionized how I was going about getting to my goal of making a living at writing fiction.

So… Clarions.  Should I apply? On the one hand, I imagine I’d have a blast and learn a ton.  On the other, can I get in? Or afford to go if I did? And, strangely enough, can I afford to take 6 weeks out of my writing schedule to focus on workshop stuffs?  I know they write a story a week at the workshops, but frankly, for me, that’s really not an issue, even with additional work like reading on top of it I’m pretty sure I could keep that pace without blinking.  But could I keep up my novel/novella/shorts schedule during Clarion/CW if I got in?

I don’t know. I don’t actually write nearly as well, especially on longer works, when I don’t have the comfort and stability of my home schedule and daily routines.  I can make myself get some work done, but not with the focus I have at home.  And I’m sure that between hanging out with fellow writers, doing the workshop stuffs, and the various functions and parties etc… I’d be pretty socially drained and low energy, which is not a productive state for me.

So if a) I did get in and b) could afford to go, then the question I’d have to consider would be is it worth losing potentially an entire novel’s worth of writing production?  I realize I’d come out of the workshop with six short stories, though as to publishable state I can’t say.  I hope that if I went I’d be really pushing myself in terms of how I’m writing and what I’m writing about, which might render whatever I write as a do-over, but workshops should be about risk in my opinion.  No point going to learn something and not really pushing yourself to stretch out of comfort zones.

So yeah, that’s basically what’s going on in my head now.  The line-ups for teachers looks very awesome, but between money and time lost, I just don’t know if the workshop would be worth it at this point.

Things to think about.  Fortunately, I have time.  I probably won’t make final decision until Feb 2011.  By then, if I’m remotely on target, I’ll have five novels being shopped to trad. publishers, book one of my e-book series out, and at least 40 shorts circulating (unless editors buy more/all of them..nudge nudge universe).  So I’ll see where I’m at.

Anyone else thinking about applying? Anyone who reads this been to one of the Clarions? What were your experiences?

(And, of course, there is always Odyssey as well, which I’ve heard lovely things about from both the woman who runs it and writers who have attended.  So much to consider. Meep.)

Sale Sale Sale Sale

I sold another story.  To a pro-paying magazine.  Details to follow once contracts are all worked out etc…  But man, it’s nice to have a sale.

Follow Heinlein’s Rules for Writers. It pays off.  Seriously.  I almost trunked this story due to thinking that the content might make it too hard to sell.  Ha! I was so wrong.  Good thing I ignored that stupid inner demon voice, eh?

So yeah, I have to go dance on a couple more rooftops. Then, I really should finish this novel.

Feet, Meet… Wet

So after a lot of thinking about it and some very good discussions with people at the workshop this last weekend, I’ve decided to get my feet wet with the whole electronic publishing thing. I already had plans for an experiment with longer fiction, which I’m going to talk about closer to the things happening date (not for months… stay tuned!). But I hadn’t really thought about putting up short fiction yet.

However, I do have a few literary stories that have made some submission rounds (you think spec fic mags are slow to respond? Try the lit fic world, whew). A couple even got nice rejections from what I think are prestigious literary magazines (and certainly ones that pay fairly well). Two of my stories got me into graduate school (MFA program which I then dropped out of…). So I know the stories aren’t horrible, they are just hard to place.

And now they are available online. I bundled two surreal shorts together, and then put up the longer ones separately. Will I sell any copies? Who knows? But I haven’t resubmitted them in a bit (even though it would have increased my race score I guess) and so they weren’t doing me much good sitting on the computer. If you want to read them, they are cheap (inexpensive?) and found here for Kindle and here for other formats (the sidebar there has the other two stories).

So I’ve decided to change my submission habits a little.  I still intend to submit every story I write to every pro-paying magazine and to the handful of good semi-pro zines that I love.  If a story then doesn’t sell to those magazines, I’ll put it up online.  It’ll take a while for each story to make those rounds (looks like about a year to two years so far), but at least there will be no trunk.  I’ll also probably (depending on if/how well anything sells online) put up stories of mine that I have sold and then gotten the rights back from.  This ebook stuff is a brave new world and interesting changes are coming for everyone, and damn but I want to be a part of that.  I think it’s good to stay on top of the changes and for me to get my feet wet learning how to put things online.  There are readers out there and they’ll vote with their dollars on the quality of things.  Plus it is good practice for writing blurbs, right? *grin*

Anyway, as other stories finish the submission rounds, I’ll be slowly putting them online.  I have a great friend doing my covers and I spent quite a few painful hours learning to format for Kindle.  It’s a fun new thing to try at the very least.  And as I said, I have a crazy/awesome idea for an experiment starting up in a few months, so eventually I’ll post a nice long thing about that.

Meanwhile, I am running into my own writing deadlines full speed.  I signed up for another novel workshop in October and haven’t even started the book I want to workshop.  So I guess I’d better stop blogging and go (have my characters) kill a few people and wrap up the current novel.  Lots of work ahead, but I feel good about.  I’m so busy between writing and Starcraft 2 that I’m (mostly) not even stressing about WotF results.  Crazy :)