Deadline!

Well, today (the 10th) has passed me by.  And no, the novel is not done.  It’s close, but not quite there.  Oops.

However, I think I know what factors have gone into my total fail to finish on time (mind you, I have some leeway, I set my deadline a little ahead of the actual doomsday because I always try to factor in life things).

First and foremost, a lack of focus.  I’ve actually written quite a few words in the last month (need to update my progress meters, I’ll get around to it), but on multiple projects instead of just focusing down one project at a time.  I switched which novel I wanted to do and lost about a week of productivity before I realized that I didn’t have the time I needed to write that novel.  I could really use that week back (if I’d stayed with the current novel, I’d be done!).  So I’ve learned my lesson there about multiple projects.

Second, writing in a wholly new genre involves a learning curve and the work definitely goes more slowly.  I’ve been working very hard on getting a thriller pace and character milieu and all the other things that come with writing a book like this.  It’s been slower going and a lot of second-guessing and pep talks to myself these last few months.  Didn’t plan on that. But hey, now I know.

Third, I’m sick.  First was migraines, then they left a nasty cold in their wake.  It sucks. Writing while my head is a fog from drugs or stuffiness or fever is lame.  I’m pushing through because I have to, but it ain’t fun and I’m making mistakes in the manuscript.  Caught one today where I’d changed a character’s name mid-book.  Yay for find/replace.

So yeah, /end whine.  I will finish this novel sometime this week.  And then my Q4 entry for WotF which I haven’t even really thought much about.  Then… well, I’ll tackle that once I hit Sept 30th.  Until then, the novel and my Q4 entry are my focus.  That’s what is up with me.  Getting toward the wire, time to work.

(In happy news, I got the proof for my Contrary Magazine story, and that was pretty cool. It’ll be up soon!)

Getting Over Lazy

I’ve been writing a fair amount in the last month, but when I looked at the results in terms of finishing projects, it doesn’t look so good.  I’ve finished two things in the last month. Two.  Not exactly on target with where I want to be by the end of the year.  It’s time to quit being lazy and work on the second of Heinlein’s Rules: finish what you write.

It’s easy for me to finish short stories generally.  Once I’m writing one, I tend to just get it done (usually within one or two sittings).  Novels are tougher to finish, though the endings so far of them are a lot easier than the beginnings and middles.  I’ve been tinkering between two novels lately, getting some done on each but not really making huge progress with either.  Part of this is fear.  Once I’m done, I have to send it out.  I’ve worked out a way to overcome that fear by putting together the package for each novel before I finish, so at least that part of the work will be done so I can just focus on getting the book done.

The other part of this is just sheer laziness.  I like to work in bursts, when stuff “comes” to me because I’m lazy and making my brain focus and compose is annoying if I’m not in the mood.  Yep, just lazy.  I know it is laziness because if I have deadlines (real or imagined), I have no problem dumping the “must be in the mood” and getting the work done.  I think I can combat my current lazy with some good old habit-forming.  I like to take days off writing, but for the next while, I’m not going to.  I think I need to build up a nice streak, get in the habit of not letting myself take days off (usually I justify days off because I know I *can* write 10k words in a day to catch up if I have to).  So starting today, I’m going to get in at least 3,900 words of fiction a day at least 6 days a week, with the seventh day goal being 1,250 words.  At that pace I should be able to finish everything I want to finish by the end of the year.  It really doesn’t help that I keep adding things I’d like to finish to my project list.

When I started out this year, I was thinking I’d write four novels and get to 30 or so short stories out to markets.  Then I kept having novel ideas, so it turned into five novels.  Then because of a conversation at one of the workshops, I decided I was going to aim for 80 short stories on top of that.  I’ve since revised that down to 40 or so shorts, not because I don’t think I could write 80, but because at 27 I’m already a little sick of the admin work of keeping track of them so I don’t accidentally sim-sub or something that I think 40-50 will be the max I want to track at a time (and it’ll be a level that, god forbid, if I start selling some, I can replace them).  And on top of that, the novel ideas just keep pouring in.  I’ve shunted four over to next year already.  I’m aiming at seven this year (two of which are shorter, one 50k, one 65-75k).  Frankly, I’d love to slow down, but my brain won’t let me.  See why I can’t afford to continue being fearful and lazy?  I don’t have time!  At the least I’ll be getting a lot of practice in and hopefully improving.

Current projects and current word count:

MG novel- ~12k

Suspense/Crime novel- ~8k

Sci/fi novel- ~7k

Sekrit Experiment project- ~1k

Paranormal Mystery, Horror Western, Irish Historical, and Regency Romance- no words yet

Also have one novella that stands at ~1300 words and another that had nearly 5k on it (which I haven’t touched in a year since I really need to redraft the whole beginning, grr).

So… plenty to finish.  I should get on that.

Reflections and Going Forward

I’ve now been writing full-time for over a year, technically. I say technically because this time last year, I’d just started graduate school, and it was eating my life while I sat confused and miserable wondering how something that had seemed like such a good idea at the time could go so wrong.  In the end, I determined the program I was in wasn’t a good fit for me.  I gave it a year, and thought about pushing through the final year.  However, I wanted to know if I could actually get a decent amount of writing done without grad school, since my production while in it was pretty poor (about as bad as when I was working 70 hours a week, really).

So I quit.  This summer was full of moving, vacations, family obligations, and Worldcon.  Even so, in the last four months I’ve managed to write two short stories, get all 10 short stories currently on submission polished as best I’m able, and finish a novel.  It’s not been the smoothest going, nor the easiest thing ever.  There are days when the rejections stream in (today there were two more…) and everything I do feels like it’ll never amount to anything at all.  I even start scanning the job listings wondering if anyone will hire someone who has been out of work a year and has two pretty useless degrees (unless you need some Anglo Saxon translated?).

Then something happens to remind me, to nudge me back onto the path.  Some days it’s schadenfreude, I’ll be honest.  I read a forum post, or a workshop story post, or I’m talking to someone, or occasionally see something in a magazine and think “god, that’s stupid/terrible/sad, I’m totally not that clueless/bad/pathetic.”  Some days it’s seeing how far I’ve come, the days when I read over a line or a paragraph and think “hey, that kinda works, what I did there.  I think I understand foreshadowing now!”   Some days it’s other people like my first readers who read my stuff and tell me they like this or that, or that they can really see improvement.  And some days, the best days, it’s the writing itself, when it grabs me by the brains and I race along the story with every piece falling into place like a master level Go game on fast forward.

And looking ahead, I think I can keep going.  I’ve got a novel done, and three people have already finished reading it for me, with two more due to finish in the next week or two.  They’re compiling lots of information and commentary for me to sift through so I can make it the best it can be.  And reading about the market right now, I’m sort of happy I decided to work on this novel, which is a fantasy with pretty strong romantic elements, instead of trying to finish Casimir Hypogean.  Debut science fiction seems like it’s a tough sell right now, so breaking in with a fantasy novel might be easier.  Of course, there’s no way to know if Chwedl will even sell.  But I’m glad I’m making this the first effort the world might see and saving the more complex stuff for later.

Novel project 2 will have to start in a couple months, as soon as Chwedl’s query is out the door to agents.  I’m not sure what to do.  Part of me really wants to finish Casimir Hypogean to polished draft and then do roughs of the other two novels in the series just so I have them done enough that if by some chance the first sells, I won’t be coming back years later and tackling that world cold.  However, while I think the novels have great potential, I think in some ways the steampunk mysteries I want to write might be an easier pitch.  Local alternate history, alchemy, airships, murder, clockwork cats, and quirky characters?  I mean, how can I lose?  The Casimir story is in my head right now, however.  It’s been coalescing for a few years now, ever since I wrote that terrible rough draft.  I’m not sure how the third book ends, but I know how the second one goes, and how the third begins.  I figure by the time I get there, it’ll be clear how it has to go.  The steampunk book will take a lot of research, the Casimir books almost none (and what research there is I can keep doing as I go).

So I have some thinking to do.  Meanwhile, I’ve been researching and doing rough quasi-outlines/notes for stories for my crazy short story month plans.  It’s definitely time to start thinking about the workshop applications too.  I want to apply early this year to all of them, get it out of the way.  In some ways, I’m stressing about it more this year than I was last.  Last year I really wanted to go, but it was mostly because I wanted to work with the people at CW.  This year, I want to go for me.  I think that either the Clarions or Odyssey could help push my writing to the next level.  I’m clearly on the threshold, if my “nice” rejection stack means anything.  I want to get past the personal rejections and make a sale, to write the kinds of stories that editors can’t put down.  I think the workshops could help with this, could help me find out what I need to learn or practice to get closer to where I want to be as a writer.

I’ll likely be posting very boring somewhat daily updates during November about my short story mission.  Stay tuned for the crazy!

Thoughts on Rewriting

I’m one chapter into the rewrite of my first novel.  I’m glad I decided to start anew rather than continue trying to fix what came before.  I doubt I’ll use much of the old material beyond the plot, characters, and some ideas.  There are particular challenges, however.  In rewriting I’m essentially constructing another novel from scratch.  This means I have to do most of the work over again.  It would be very easy to overwhelm myself with the concept of “Too Much Work.”

To combat this, I’ve decided on the major large changes and then have narrowed my focus.  I outlined with the major changes.  For this rewrite, however, I’m mainly working on getting the characters motivated.  Looking at the first draft I don’t really feel connected to anyone in the novel.  I feel like I could, maybe, like a couple of the characters, but they aren’t quite there yet for me.  They feel flat.   This is not acceptable.  I read novels 70-80% for the people in them.  I want to write novels that have the same draw.

To do this, I’m plunging in and going (perhaps) a bit overboard.  I’ve done a lot of hand written background brainstorming for everyone.  I’ve made RPG character profiles for a couple of them.  I’ve given them disorders, quirks, interests.  Essentially, I’ve thrown the kitchen sink of character building at my people.  I was in the bath when I realized that I needed to do this.  Before a day or two ago, they weren’t talking to me.  I couldn’t really see the characters as more than wooden dolls in a nice set I’d created.  I don’t want to play with dolls (dolls are creepy. Seriously creepy).

With this focus, now I can continue the rewrite.  Plot and setting can be tweaked.  If I can manage a few compelling, interesting, dare I say memorable characters, the rest can follow.  The rest will follow.

Here’s a list of the changes between drafts one and two.  (In no particular order).

The Dude is now named Ryg.  He’s also agoraphobic and OCD.

Sif talks less.  In fact, she pretty much only talks to Hex.  She’s also far more psychotic and less moral than before.

Sif and Hex are already in a relationship.

Hex is not the jealous type anymore.  He’s now the type to hide his insecurities with sarcasm.  He’s also more accepting of Sif and her issues.

Kadin is a more major character who contributes to a twist.

The setting is quite a bit different.  There are no cars now, just small electric vehicles  and personal transportation.  Stuff is transported on the electric rail system under the city or via carts hooked to the personal vehicles.  I’ve refined and altered the food system as well as government.  The city only has one main street now, the whole thing is a spiral.  The districts are more defined (and in fact can be closed off from each other if necessary).  The setting is much more complex, but also I hope more unique and interesting.  Since I’m focusing on character, not setting as much, I will definitely have to flesh some things out later I think.  That’s what the next bit of editing is for.

The plot is essentially the same, but with some more challenges and complexities tossed in.  I’ve removed the secret society and am working on making everyone motivated due to character desires rather than using the GM Stick.

On another note: sometimes I think I definitely bit off more than I really should have for this first novel.  I’m writing what boils down to a Political Cyberpunk Adventure/Thriller with medical and fantastical elements.  Couldn’t I have just started out with a nice straightforward quest fantasy or something?  It feels like learning to walk by running a marathon.

Into the Dark

All right.  The (final, maybe? hopefully?) outline of Dangerous is done.  I’ve tweaked it as much as I can without actually starting to write the damn thing.  Writing begins tomorrow.  I’m terrified.  However, I can already see the shape of things to come.  Even the outline has more tension and peril than the rough draft.  I’ve removed extraneous plot bits and jammed it full of character conflict.  Will it be enough to make a story I like out of this mess?  No way to tell except to write and see what happens.

By my calculations I need to write about 6 pages a day to have the novel done by the time classes start.  I’d like to have a draft I can hand to people by then.  I’m not sure how feasible having a manuscript worthy of trying to sell by December is at this point, but I’ve got nothing to lose in trying to get it done.  Hopefully if my readers can get me comments within a month (and if the novel isn’t totally broken again), I can power through some mad editing and get a semblance of a decent book ready for queries.  It’s bad that I still don’t have any idea how I’d sum up the plot in a couple sentences, isn’t it?  Oh well, maybe by end of this draft I’ll have that nailed.  And a decent title.  Because “Dangerous” is a stupid title.  I suppose I could call it “Casimir” (the name of the city it takes place in) or some variation on that.  “Casimir Conflict”?  “Casimir Hypogean”?  I don’t know.  Any ideas?

I’m aiming for 18 pages this week, then 30 each week after.  And I’m taking weekends off, damnit. I will not burn out.  This is do or die time now.  It’s unlikely I’m ever going to have as much free time ever again as I do now.  Plus it will give me a decent feel for how well this whole writing for a living thing might work someday if I’m fortunate (and persistent) enough to be able to do it full time.

Too Many Ideas?

I’m in the middle of a discussion with a friend about being trapped with too many ideas. I have four or five (or six if you count the sequel to one of those) good ideas all outlined and ready to go. I want to write all of them. Right Now. Of course, I don’t have the time or even the multitasking ability to pull that off. I might be able to work on two, maybe. I think the writing might suffer, however.

So what should I do? How do I pick which to work on? I’m inclined towards the Dangerous novel since some interest was garnered from that novel by a major publishing houses’ editor. However, the others are speaking to me as well. I find myself daydreaming entire scenes and character exchanges for the Werewolves in Space novel, or literally dreaming about the quest part of the Welsh fairy tale novel. I watch Handscio and Brynna train together and fight in my head, watch her change from a sickly, overweight selfpitying teen into a resourceful and powerful young fey. I dream of dragons and flying and know that I am Jax from Werewolves in Space, dreaming of the same things. And I see Radiant from Bladebearer raising his new sister and new tribe as they form new songs and evade hunters while his other sister seeks both him and the sword. (Stupid short story that wants to be a novel, sigh). I see also a slave, a holy man, escaping and being rescued during the American Civil War by twin witches in Appalachia. I can feel the mists that they call to confuse the soldiers and lead them away from their lands, I can hear the axe as it goes into the threshold cutting the pain of a childbirth.

They are all there, my stories. Waiting, wanting out, begging exploration.

How to choose? What to write? I have an embarrassment of riches. Where do I begin?

Writing Projects Update

I think I’m going to do quasi-monthly updates on what I’m doing so I can later see what my progress looks like.

Right now I’m working on/time to completion:

Dangerous novel rewrite/2-3 months.  Word count: 0

Poetry chapbook for school funding/next week.

Monsters short story revision /next two weeks.

Delilah short story revision for S&S maybe/next week.

Aefryr short story revision (for S&S maybe?)/next two weeks.

Some Like it Hot short story revision (for S&S maybe?)/next two weeks.

Projects that will be started and/or finished in 2008:

Bad Day graphic novel (the written part at least, we’ll see how Law School treats my artist).

Past Dark graphic novels (started hopefully, definitely not finished since that could take a long time).

Werewolves in Space novel (started at least.)

Chwedl novel (started).

Two more as yet unnamed and undecided short stories (my goal is to write at least 4 a year along with a novel every year).

(Why yes, I do love me the multi-tasking, why do you ask?)