Category Archives: Works in Progress

Anything about whatever I’m writing now.

Joining the Write-A-Thon

Posted on June 14, 2011 by

I have just signed up for the Clarion West Write-A-Thon… they’re trying to get 100 writers joined up for the summer, so I thought I’d play along. If you might like to sponsor me, there’s a link here. Clarion’s a terrific workshop and a good cause. I got to meet some of last year’s class and their excitement about writing and general enthusiasm for SF and fantasy writing was infectious and delightful. You could be paying to teach your next favorite writer evar.

I’ve never done this before, but it’s pretty straightforward. The site says:

Sign up by June 18 to participate as a Clarion West Write-a-thon writer. Pick a writing goal: something that’s a little stretch; something that motivates you. Shadow the workshop from June 19 through July 29. Then write, write, write! Write 15 minutes or 4 hours a day, 250 words a day, or maybe 8000 words a week (we call that a “Swanwick”); revise a story or a chapter of your novel every week; complete a story, novella, or trilogy; submit three short stories to professional markets; or do something else completely different.

My goal is to write 20K of fiction between June 19th and July 29th. Ideally this will wrap up two half-written stories in progress and get me a little further into the current novel.

Characterization: getting versus wanting

Posted on May 2, 2011 by

There is a catchy phrase that comes up in various types of motivational speaking:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

I’ve known this one for awhile, and as far as fortune-cookie delivered Life Lessons go, I agree with the underlying philosophy. But K and I were walking in the West End last weekend, and we came upon a commercial sandwich board with this taped on it:

“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

Also catchy, and in some ways the exact same message, but I’m fascinated by the difference in nuance that comes with the altered wording. The first has such a freight of passivity: the ‘you’ is getting something–presumably something they no longer want, or maybe never did. My imagination is offering up a steaming bucket of something from a stable-mucking, delivered weekly to your door.

The second, meanwhile is about wanting something new. It’s about running to, rather than running away.

Both get the general idea across quite succinctly–but the latter phrasing is more positive, more of a call to action. In comparison, the first is a bit of a finger wag, a lecture from a judgmental imaginary parent figure. “If you’re just gonna insist on playing your electric guitar in the hot tub, young fella, don’t come crying to me when you do the electric boogaloo.”

It is easy to imagine the one phrase as a draft and the other as revision, the one as good enough wording and the second as a perfected version, as final copy. It’s especially easy because, as writers, we frown on certain types of linguistic passiveness. In reality, they are two different takes on the same idea, gleaned from different sources.

Still. It may be useful to think of them that way, perhaps especially when we talk about making our characters more active. Are they getting what they always got when they’re meant to be pulling a novel forward? Do they want something they never had? Do they want anything at all?

Finally, how do you shift them to chasing their desires, if what they’ve really been doing is just opening up the door every morning to see what life has handed them?

On another topic, word metrics on the current wip: Saturday, 450 words. Sunday, 822.

Medici Money

Posted on April 29, 2011 by

Before I read Deathless, I read Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence

The raw info in this book was excellent. The intricacies of how bankers managed to profit from the exchange of money without charging interest (Christians were forbidden to practice usury at the time, on pain of excommunication) and the description of the backstabbing Florentine politics was great. I do love a little backstabbing political intrigue.

Something about Tim Parks’s style didn’t quite do it for me, though. He would slip into a dreamy narrative tone, meant to evoke the time and place, the mindset of the players. Usually I love that kind of thing, but somehow with this particular book I found it jarring and ineffective. I’m reading Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter’s, by R.A. Scotti, and in terms of writing style I’m enjoying that a lot more.

My complaint about Parks is a matter of taste, though, not so much failure of execution. And it seems almost ungrateful to say so, because reading this book definitely enriched the story I was working on at the time.

On another note: the word count for Wednesday-Thursday’s writing session is: 2603, bringing the total to 23,328.

Creative Catch-22…

Posted on April 28, 2011 by

I have been corresponding these past couple of days with an aspiring writer who followed the Harry Turtledove interview to my teaching page, and saw that I sometimes take students for one on one mentoring. He’s newly out of university and hasn’t written seriously before; he’s been researching how one goes about developing a novel, but is afraid of diving in, writing 50K, and ending up with something that can’t be turned into publishable work. That’s the part that’s really stopping him, the What if I spend six or twelve months of my life writing this thing, and it turns out it can’t be polished to a professional level?

These are the economics of art: especially when you’re new, you do it on spec, for love. You put in the time and you don’t know if it will ever pay. You have to hope the process is in some way gratifying, that the artistic growth feels good, that there are discoveries that pay for the lost time, sleep, and social opportunities.

So I’ve told him that some first-timers write salable books, some write fixable drafts, and some write books that may have been really good learning experiences, but otherwise oughtn’t to see the light of day. And I’ve asked him if he’s afraid he won’t enjoy the process of writing something he may well have to trunk. It seems like a good place to start. What do you all think?

A few days ago I drafted up a post about how I thought I’d start posting word counts for the current project: at that point, I was up to 20725, which meant I’d written 1200ish words over the long weekend. I have about another chapter in hand but not all of it has been typed; I’ll report again soon.