truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: glass cat)
[Storytellers Unplugged, September 29, 2008; found via the Wayback Machine by an awesome reader]
click! )


Jan. 28th, 2012 05:13 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (mfu: ik-stet)
I have a complete revised draft of The Goblin Emperor . . . 20,000 words over budget.

This is what one might call a mixed blessing.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: fennec)
Today I have revised "To Die for Moonlight," adding 1,400 words and a plot complication. 7,700 words total now and back it goes to [ profile] mirrorthaw to see if the improvements have improved things.

(My Samsung printer totally just made a noise like a jet engine powering down. Dude. I knew it was mighty, but not that mighty.)

I have also paid bills and dealt with some house stuff, plus feeding the cats, medicating the Elder Saucepan, and putting food and water out for the feralistas. (If you run the water hot and put it out in a plastic bowl instead of metal, they have a fighting chance of getting a drink before it freezes solid.) Oh, and feeding and medicating me.

I know I'm finally coming out of the ankle-related slump, because my to do lists for the word mines are getting too complicated to keep in my head again. The current one looks more or less like this:

1. Query Apex re: "Learning to See Dragons."
2. Revise "To Die for Moonlight."

2a. Read-aloud pass through "TDfM."
3. One more pass through "Hollywood and Vine," mostly for clean up.
3a. Read-aloud pass through "H&V."
4. Editing pass through "The Devil in Gaylord's Creek."

4a. Read-aloud pass through "TDiGC."
5. Submit "TDfM," "H&V," and "TDiGC."
6. Implement fix for the broken bit of "The Witch of Arvien" and inflict on [ profile] mirrorthaw and [ profile] matociquala to see if the story runs now.
7. Revise the nameless story about the knight, the wizard, and the giant mutant telepathic bear. (Also, find a title!)
8. Finish "Hope is Stronger than Love" for Shadow Unit.
9. Finish Thirdhop Scarp, kicking and screaming all the way.
10. Write the missing scenes for The Goblin Emperor and hope for edit letter soon.
11. Essay for Projekt that I think is still Sekrit.
12. Next EQ essay for tor-dot-com.
13. Read and review Brave New Worlds ditto.
14. New werewolf story? (First line: The werewolf had hooked his iPod up to the stereo and put it on shuffle.)

And from there, the To Do list merges indistinguishably into the first lines meme.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: fennec-working)
So, it's NaNoWriMo again.

(For those of you who do not know, that's National Novel Writing Month.)

In her post about the recent NaNoWriMo kerfuffle, Mary Robinette Kowal, explaining the benefits NaNoWriMo provided to her, said, "When you are getting your legs, writing long form is really intimidating."

Now, I don't doubt for a moment that this is true for Mary. It's her post and she has no reason to lie. But I read that and I thought, Wait, what? Long form is EASY. It's short form that's scary like whoa.

And then it occurred to me that perhaps this was worth unpacking.

When I started writing (at the ripe old age of eleven), I started writing novels. Or, well, "novels," since I doubt any of my first efforts was any longer than what I'd think of as a short story or maybe a novelette today. But for me, at eleven, they were novels, and they were what I instantly and automatically gravitated to when I started trying to write. I knew the old chestnut about "if you want to break into publishing, you have to write short stories," so I tried, on and off through high school and college. (And then there was the most poisonous form rejection letter known to humankind, and I stopped like a lab rat hit with an electric shock.) But I never got the hang of it. Short stories were scary and hard and I didn't understand them. Novels, I just flung myself at; I started dozens, and every time one broke down, I just started another. I finished maybe three or four (using the word "novel" loosely, remember) before I started writing Mélusine, and got more than 50k into at least two others, but I never stopped trying, and I never had any fundamental doubt that I could do it. (Doing it well was a different question, but that's also a different post.)

I didn't go back to short stories until 2000, when I got handed the old chestnut about "breaking into publishing" again, this time by my then-agent. And, serendipitously, I met [ profile] elisem and her jewelry. (I sometimes think my ability to write short stories is really all Elise's fault.) The first successful short story I wrote, in 2000, was "Letter from a Teddy Bear on Veterans' Day", from one of her necklaces. The second was "Bringing Helena Back," which is the first Booth story. And, of course, obviously, I've gone on from there, but I've always felt like my grip on the form was tenuous; I'm never sure why one short story works and the next one doesn't. They're still scary and hard, and I still don't understand them very well, even though I've published nearly forty of them.

NaNoWriMo doesn't work for me because I'm a competitive, literal-minded over-achiever, and if I focus on word count, then word count is all I will get, and the novel will be drivel. (See also, Why Corambis Was Six Months Late.) This does not mean that I think NaNoWriMo is a bad thing in and of itself--and honestly, I don't have any right or ability to judge whether it's good or bad for other people. It's just bad for me.

All I wanted to say, really, was that if you're a beginning writer and NaNoWriMo doesn't work for you, that doesn't mean you can't write a novel.

Learning how to write is a never-ending process of trial and error. You have to try things to find out if they work for you. If they do, that's great. If they don't, it's not a disaster. It just means you try something else. There is no "right" way to do it; it's all down to what works for you and what doesn't. And nobody but you can make that call.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
The RLS is giving me hell. Ironically and illogically, it seems to be getting worse as I become more mobile. We've just upped the dose of Requip, and hopefully that will improve things SOON, but in the meantime, I'm taking more narcotics than my GP is happy with, and it's actually not knocking the RLS out very effectively anyway.


I am also still in the Hell of the Unreceived Edit Letter, and while I am trying to make constructive use of my time (going through The Goblin Emperor again on my own recognizance to fix the things I know are wrong, getting [ profile] mirrorthaw to poke more holes in my worldbuilding, etc.), it's hard to stay focused, especially when part of my brain is SCREAMING, "Publish or perish! Publish or perish!" and I can't seem to finish a short story to save my goddamn life.

So, it's the first line meme again, this time arranged by estimated closeness to completion, in hopes that it will help me organize this embarrassing plethora of unfinished stories into a list of manageable tasks.

Well, it's worth a try, anyway.

cut for length )

And now I'm going to walk to the pharmacy for the first time since I broke my ankle. Viva l'independence!
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (tr: mole)

The Goblin Emperor is safely Someone Else's Problem for a while, and I have no idea of what novel I'm going to write next (except, of course, for A Reckoning of Men with [ profile] matociquala, but we're not doing that until she's cleared at least some of the carnage off her decks*). Partly this is because The Goblin Emperor is a standalone. Partly this is because Cormorant Child, the novel which would be next up if writing was a purely rational, efficiency-oriented profession, has a lot of the same thematic issues and concerns as The Goblin Emperor, and I want a break from the problem of kingship. (Honestly, who do I think I am? W. Shakespeare?) Also, Cormorant Child still won't tell me what its shiny sfnal set-piece in Chapter Two is, and I think that means that there's something back there that isn't quite done yet. Collaboration between two authors is much easier than collaboration between an author's conscious and subconscious. Unlike my subconscious, Bear uses her words.)

I'm okay with everything on the novel board being TBA. Because it means I've got something for which I have been yearning for at least a year and a half: time to write short stories.

I wrote three and a half short stories last year (using the term "year" pretty loosely, as I can't actually recall whether Bear and I wrote "Mongoose in 2009 or technically 2008). "White Charles," "After the Dragon," "On Faith" (Shadow Unit 3.00), and "Mongoose." Now, my finished-to-published ratio there is looking pretty awesome, but, however gratifying to my ego, that's not actually my point. My point is that I wrote three and a half short stories last year, and that's a woefully sparse output.

I have two finished short stories which won't sell, "Coyote Gets His Own Back" (my beloved zombie coyote story) and "Imposters" (a Ghoul Hunters story), and two which sold in 2006 (to two different markets) and have yet to see the light of day. But essentially, along with having barely any new output in the past couple years, I have no backlog, either. In one sense, this is good, as it means all those stories from the (halcyon) days (of yore) when I had fifteen circulating at once have either sold or been trunked, but it makes me feel like I'm not doing my job right.

ERGO, my goal for this next chunk of 2010 is to write some damn short stories. And to aid me in this endeavor, well, I think we need a list:

behind the cut, first lines and commentaries )

And now, having laid this all out, I'm off to take the Elder Saucepan to the ophthalmologist. Perhaps all the driving (45 minutes each way) will help this roiled muddle clarify.

Hey. A girl can hope.

*A writing career is like a pirate ship. Discuss.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (muppets: kermit-sgreer)
108,600 words, and the draft is done except for that troublesome scene in the middle.

Now, this is a first draft, which means it still needs a lot of work. The worldbuilding is patchy in places and drafty in others, I suspect the pacing of one of the subplots is completely fubar, and the language is not as consistent as I would like it to be.

But these are all problems which can be fixed; in point of fact, they're what a second draft is for. And doubtless, my editor and my valiant beta readers, [ profile] matociquala and [ profile] mirrorthaw, will identify other problems that I myself cannot see. But that's also okay. That's how it's supposed to work.

Writing, thanks be to all the powers, is not a performance art.

And I will meet my deadline with something that isn't a complete travesty.

This does, in fact, call for frog.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: hippopotamus)
I have made it to 100,000 words.

Also, something interesting and difficult and really quite unexpected just happened. I like this, as a writer, because it means the story is alive and kicking. It is also an incredibly mean thing to do to my protagonist, about which I should perhaps feel guilty but don't.

My infinite loop playlist has been slowly expanding. It's now:

1. "Jesus Etc." (Norah Jones)
2. "Long Black Veil" (Roseanne Cash)
3. "Song for Sonny Liston" (Mark Knopfler)
4. "Belated Promise Ring" (Iron & Wine)
5. "Folsom Prison Blues" (Keb' Mo' -- and, OMG, the awesomeness of Keb' Mo' is beyond the ability of mere words to describe)
6. "Cold Missouri Waters" (Cry Cry Cry)
7. "Choctaw Bingo" (James McMurtry)

I still don't know what this playlist is all about (20th c./contemporary American fantasy of some sort? if I wrote by assembling soundtracks, which I never have before), but putting it on repeat for a couple hours makes my brain happy.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: david bowie-jump)
1. Apparently, the soundtrack for the end of this book is Norah Jones' cover of Wilco's "Jesus Etc." (YouTube clip here, for those who are curious.) No, I have no idea why. Of course, I didn't know why Cry Cry Cry's cover of "Cold Missouri Waters" was the soundtrack for the end of Corambis, either, until well after the fact. So maybe this will make sense in six months or so.

2. Cut 2,000 words of wrongness from the draft today. Which hurt, since it puts me back at 95k again, but those words were going to have to come out sooner or later, and it might as well be sooner.

3. This towel-kneading thing must be working, because my feet hate it.

4. Bullock's biography of Hitler is, in fact, excellent, although there are bits where I know more than he does because he was writing in 1962. This is not his fault.

5. Egyptian archaeologists working in Alexandria have found a temple to Bastet, built by Queen Berenike II (fl. 246-221 B.C.). [link found via [ profile] panjianlien]
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: hippopotamus)
95,000 words and it's all dénouement from here.

Meanwhile, on the internet, [ profile] cmpriest talks about what authors do and don't control, and [ profile] jaylake describes the Larval Stages of the Common American Speculative Fiction Writer. Go read them because I got nothin'.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
90,000 words! 20,000 to go! That February 1st deadline is practically looking, you know, doable.

Also, since I observe it's that time of year again, for the benefit of anyone who might be thinking about the Hugos or the Nebulas or suchlike--my publications in 2009, let me show you them:

  • Corambis, Ace Books.

  • "White Charles," Clarkesworld Magazine.
  • with Elizabeth Bear ([ profile] matociquala), "Mongoose," Lovecraft Unbound (ed. Ellen Datlow).

... and that's it. One of the things I am most hoping for, once I've finished The Goblin Emperor (and now that the Doctrine of Labyrinths is no longer kicking my ass to the curb), is that I'll be able to start writing and finishing short stories again. Because I really miss the little blighters.

Oh, and Friday the Thirteenth comes on a Wednesday this month.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Got unstuck (by the expedient of skipping the scene I was stuck on, which I almost never do, but the deadline loometh), and am feeling weirdly cheerful and optimistic. Possibly because I got to describe a goblin traveling coach, and it's completely awesome. I want one.

But since that's not likely, I'm going to bed. First day of 2010: not too bad.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: hippopotamus)
80,053 words. 29,947 to go.

Sometimes, when I don't know how a scene goes or what it's doing, and I keep writing, I end up getting stuck because the words wander into a dead-end, or onto a path that the book doesn't want to follow. That happened to me last week, and it took me several days to regroup.

Sometimes, when I don't know how a scene goes or what it's doing, and I keep writing, after some blundering through the underbrush, I come out onto the path, and it's the right path, the place where the book wants to go. That happened to me tonight.

Trouble is, you can never tell which one it's going to be until afterwards.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (writing: hippopotamus)
77,400 words, the end of Chapter Twenty-Four, and no ?s except as punctuation.

A little work on the start of Chapter Twenty-Five, and a number too felicitous to resist: 77,777 words.

Chapter Twenty-Four was hell on toast to write and it's probably going to need considerable shaping once the draft is done. But this is why first draft != final draft, and that's okay.

Not a very good day health-wise, so I'm pleased that I've accomplished as much as I have, even if most of it was just typing in what I wrote yesterday. We take our victories where we find them.

In other news, Elise struck like lightning from a clear blue sky, and these will soon be mine. And demanding a new dragon story as they come.

I have no idea what this story will even be like. Thus far it has offered two potential first lines:

1. Like geology, dragons happen.

2. The dragons of earth and sky are sleeping.

I don't know that either of these is right, nor do I know that either of them is wrong. They can mutter around my back brain while I write this damn novel, and maybe come springtime, the dragons and I will know each other well enough to say.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (tr: mole)
71,000 words! Only 39,000 to go, and we're starting to reach the tipping point where instead of thinking, oh my god it's like building the Great Wall of China with a spoon, I start thinking uneasily, There sure is a lot of STUFF left to cram into this book. This is a good sign.

Lost a big chunk of the day to the ophthalmologist--they always dilate my eyes, so that's an hour and a half actually in the doctor's office* and then another three or four hours afterwards where I'm as useful as a screen door on a submarine--so those approximately 2,000 words of progress are particularly gratifying.

Heard a thing on NPR this afternoon about the first Jamaican dog musher, Newton Marshall; he's already completed the Yukon Quest and is training for the Iditarod. This is a completely awesome kind of craziness, and I salute him for it.

And I am taking my tired and much abusèd eyes to bed.

*My favorite comment from today: "Your nerves look great."
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (tr: mole)
(I really need an icon for this book. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything suitable.)

69,029 words. I will make it to 70,000 tomorrow. I kinda wanted it tonight, but the novel explained to me that this next bit needs more thinking, and I have become leery of the whole words-for-the-sake-of-words thing. (Why I will never do NaNoWriMo, short version.) Sometimes, you know, that's what you need, is just to push the damn hippopotamus another two inches up the hill, but it's too easy for me to get my perspective out of whack and get all invested in chasing the word count and let the important things kind of slide out of the story. Which is bad.

I am not, by the way, saying that measuring progress by word count is a bad thing or that people who use that as their metric are Doing It Wrong. I'm saying I found out the hard way that, FOR ME, it's a double-edged sword.

Also, today, I got my share of the money for "Boojum" being translated into Russian. I'm much more geeked about the translated-into-Russian part than the money, and would be even if the money were rather more substantial than it is. (Translated into Russian! A story I co-wrote! This is the glamor, baby. Right here. -- I get this way every time something of mine gets translated into a language I can't read, which thus far has been all of them.)

And for some reason, the sf espionage novella has woken up in my head again. This is why I never throw anything away. You never know when the wheel is going to turn round again.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
It amuses me that one of my most immediately recognizable dream-genres is the Escape from Dystopia Dream. Sometimes they're nightmarish. Sometimes they aren't. Generally, I find them more interesting than the vast unwashed masses of my dreams (I love enjoy am fascinated by dystopias, so it's really very generous of my subconscious to generate them for me), and sometimes, as a bonus, they give me story ideas.

This one was clearly YA lesbian SF noir.

Behind the cut is, not so much the dream itself, but some maundering about how I'd make that dream into a story.

click if you're interested )

And there. It needs more Cool Shit, worldbuildling, and general SFnality, but that's the bones of a story.

Not, of course, that I have time to write the flesh.

*Notice that while my subconscious--on the basis of a dream earlier this month--cannot tell the difference between Minnesota and Switzerland, it's quite clear on the geography of Detroit, particularly wrt Canada.

5 things

Nov. 27th, 2009 04:38 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
1. Thank you, everyone, for the birthday wishes on Wednesday. So far, thirty-five is going pretty well.

2. One of my birthday presents was a ring made by Sara Jayne Cole. I think I've linked to her work before, but I gotta say, it's worth linking to again. (Disclaimer: she is a friend of my mother's.)

3. My birthday present to myself--and [ profile] mirrorthaw--was buying a new bed with the advance from the goblin book. Since the bed we were sleeping on was the one I bought when I moved to Madison in 1996, you may rightfully say that this birthday present is neither self-indulgent nor, indeed, a moment too soon. Also, for the first time in our adult lives, we have an honest-to-god bed frame.

4. The bed frame has taught me that I do actually have a (rather dim and rudimentary) sense of spatial relations. I walked into it in the dark yesterday because I knew exactly where the bed was. Or, you know, used to be. I'm developing a lovely bruise on my thigh.

5. I have reached 65,000 words in the goblin book. 45,000 to go. Which will be easier once I figure out what the captain of the palace guard wants to talk to the emperor about.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
which is, thank you all very much for the good wishes and congratulations and commiserations about this complicated moment in my publishing career. It helps a lot to be reminded that actual readers do want my next book.

Got to 60,000 words yesterday; already at 60,500 today. Excelsior!

5 Things

Nov. 18th, 2009 09:10 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
1. I reached 60,000 words on the goblin book today, and most of the rest of it is spinning its armature in my head, like weird cyborg nano-spiders and maybe I'd better just abandon that metaphor right there.

2. It is finally November here, cold and dark and rainy. Secretly, I like this kind of weather.

3. So last year, the entirely cromulent Pat Rothfuss did a huge auction-type thing to benefit Heifer International. This year, he's going to do it again, which I mention because (a.) hey, heads up, especially though by no means exclusively to Rothfuss fans, since I understand there is to be lots of non-Rothfussian Cool Shit as well, and (b.) I have donated two item-sets for the auctioneering thereof:

i.) A complete signed set of the hardbacks of the Doctrine of Labyrinths (Mélusine, The Virtu, The Mirador, Corambis).

ii.) A signed copy of The Bone Key, plus signed manuscripts (for which read: print-outs) of the four uncollected Booth stories: "The Yellow Dressing Gown," "The World Without Sleep," "White Charles," and "The Replacement."

Watch Pat's blog for more news on the auction. Right now he's raffling a Tuckerization in The Wise Man's Fear.

4. Speaking of the Doctrine of Labyrinths, I got the cover flats for the mass market paperback of Corambis last week, and my editor's assistant is making page-proof noises. So, yes, there will be a mmpb edition--although I don't know for sure, it'll probably come out in April--and if you have noticed any typos, you may win my eternal gratitude by posting a comment with the specifics here.

5. And speaking of the Doctrine of Labyrinths, I had a dream Sunday night that, while it claimed to be a new subplot for the goblin book, was actually an AU about Methony, including Mildmay as a toddler.


truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)

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