Tuesday’s words on THE RAIN GARDEN came to 1,454, bringing me to a total of 38K and change, and to the last scene. One or two more writing sessions should do it, and then what I’ll have is this skeletal draft in need of a new title, some research, and much overall fleshing. In the meantime, I’m very pleased with the bones.
I’ve been madly chasing a number of projects and events this week. TOR.COM is hosting a series of Quantum Leap rewatch posts, by me–the first of them is on the pilot, Genesis, and can be found here. Meanwhile, the Tor/Forge newsletter is crowing about Indigo Springs winning the Sunburst Award. All of the books on the short list were TOR books, so they have extra cause to be proud.
And here’s a sign of fall, for you all:
A few announcements: First, I have tried to thank each and every person who wrote, commented, or DMed me to say congratulations on the Sunburst Award. If I missed you somehow, sorry, and thank you! Word is continuing to ripple out… I especially liked Megabest characterizing it as a “suburban thriller“. The Quill and Quire chose to note the presence of Robert Charles Wilson, Cory Doctorow and several other ‘name authors’ on the ballot. I get what they mean, but Hey, QQDudes! Not only do I have a name, it’s so long it doesn’t fit in the Revenue Canada computers. (Seriously. The full moniker is Alyxandra Margaret and it’s one character too long for their name fields. I have been filed as Dellamonic for years.)
Speaking of names, I also have been remiss in congratulating the brilliant Hiromi Goto, who got the Sunburst in the Young Adult category for Half World, as well as those other amazing folks on the short list: Cory, Robert, Charles de Lint, and Karl Schroeder, all, curiously enough, for books published by TOR. And, finally, the Sunburst jury itself: thank you, so much!
Moving on, I have one slot left in my next UCLA class, “Creating Universes, Building Worlds,” which focuses on short fiction in any of the fantastic genres. The syllabus is online, and previous students are, as always, welcome to join us again.
Work on The Rain Garden proceeds apace, pace being somewhere between 900-1200 words a day. I write longhand and transcribe as it’s convenient, and it hasn’t been for a couple days; when it is, I’ll catch you up. In the meantime, posting word counts in this fashion keeps me chugging along… so once again, I thank you.
And a warning: I posted a spider shot a couple days ago and there will be more. Kelly and I have taken up our autumn practice of noting all the orb weaver webs along our morning route–we don’t formally count them all that often, just admire. But we call it the Spidercount, we began really looking this morning, and they are huge, well fed and ambitious. By Halloween the 2010 spidery biomass bids fair to be immense. So, if you are in East Van and can deal with spiders at all, I recommend a stroll down the Central Valley Greenway. They are wonders of nature and the webs are amazing to behold.
But today I give you a pigeon who’s really got somewhere to be:
Speaking of Sue, this is my sister’s adorable new puppy, Sophy, who is very very active and cannot sit still even if you feed her part of your own body.
Speaking, sort of, of movement–I’m up to 17,110 words now on THE RAIN GARDEN. I won’t give you the day-by-day, blow-by-blow but essentially I’m trudging through the middle act now, still at 800-1200 words a day. It’s that click click click up the rollercoaster, pause… phase. I’m thinking to hit the plunge to the end soonish.
A long time ago (1994, I think) in an apartment just a few blocks away, I took it into my head to participate in the Three Day Novel contest. It was a great experience: over a long weekend, I wrote something like 65,000 words of dystopian, after-the-eco-apocalypse SF, and duly mailed it in to Arsenal Pulp Press. I didn’t win–nobody won that year–but I was a better writer at the end of the weekend, and I had a finished novel in hand and ready to revise.
The one flaw in my otherwise cunning plan was that I had chosen to write something based on one of my oft-started, utterly frustrating, would-not-gel-for-friggin-love-or-money novella starts. Over multiple failed attempts to make it come together, I’d come to heartily dislike the whole project. But, somehow, I decided the solution was to bust the thing out to novel length. Good plan, right?
As it turns out, no. At the end of three days, I had gone from having an unworkable thirty-page story to revise to having an unworkable 220 page book to fight with.
Oops. It’s trunked now, and good riddance.
In 2004 or thereabouts, I formed a pact to do National Novel Writing Month with a few of my beloveds. The goal this time around was to draft up a literary novel I’d proposed to the Canadian Grant Deities a few months earlier; I’d written that proposal while fully aware that I was hoping to have a contract for Blue Magic by then and I was a little scared of ending up on the hook for two books at once. I know, we should all have such problems, right? But I figured that if I had a draft of the grant novel in hand, I could revise one while drafting the other. (This worst-case-scenario, timingwise, never came about, as it happened.)
This time I picked a novel I was in love with, something I was excited about writing. Much better plan. The biggest concern I had with the whole scheme was that, for several years running, my writerbrain had stopped dead in its tracks each November. This was, actually, another reason for doing it. Losing a whole month out of one’s working year… it’s a lot. I could have usefully allocated the time to research, but I simply didn’t wanna.
For me, Nanowrimo worked out pretty well. I tried to write 2,000 words a day–that put me ahead of the game whenever I needed a day off. I took those days, and still finished a bit early. The month was exhausting, and the book pushed many other commitments to the wayside, but I got the book written as planned. That first draft of The Wintergirls was certainly messy, but my drafts are all messy; that didn’t scare me. The cameraderie and public accountability also worked for me. I posted word counts, was encouraged by blog readers as well as my nearest and dearest, encouraged other… Nanites? Nanners? Nannies? … in their turn, and came out of it with a draft that’s now very polished indeed. This is now my go-to strategy when I’m potentially double-booking myself: get one of the books well underway in November, and hope the rest falls together. I did it again in 2009, and am very pleased with the current state of the resulting book, which I’ve now revised about three times.
Unless other contracts start falling around here like hail, I’m planning to write The Rain Garden this coming November.
What about all of you? Yes? No? Why or why not? Your Nano tales would be very welcome.
I’ve been bouncing from project to project a bit lately. Like many other writers, I have a Sekrit Project on the go, but as of Thursday it has been sent off to someone for a Look. In the meantime, I’m here:
Dill opens the back door of the overlarge truck, throwing his backpack inside. In the process he knocks loose an obstruction, a cinderblock-sized cardboard lump encased in box tape, emblazoned with the logo of an overnight courier company.
“Careful,” Fanny snarls as it bounces out of reach.
“Sorry.” He has to all but bellyflop into the back to retrieve it from behind the driver’s seat. Something shifts within the box as he sets it back on the seat. The sensation has a distant, disturbing familiarity; he examines the box, but it is too dim to see the printed return label.
“Hurry, will you? You’re letting out all the warm air.”
“Nag, nag, nag.” Squaring away both box and luggage, he scrambles back to a standing position, nose wrinkling as white puffs of truck exhaust billow around his ankles. Warm diesel fumes exhale clammy, petrochemical warmth onto his jeans. He climbs into the front.
The truck cab smells of dog and scrambled egg. Fanny hands over breakfast. Her make-up is minimal this morning . . . a whitish foundation, pink lips. For some reason, Dill is reminded of The Mikado.
Three little girls from school . . . Dill yawns. “You must’ve got up at the crack of dawn to do this.”
“Didn’t sleep.” Fanny’s knuckles whiten on the wheel. “Got the package and . . . ”
“And didn’t tear it open? Not like you.” Inside the bag is a medium coffee, double double, the breakfast sandwich and a trio of donut holes with chocolate chips–clustered in the bottom like that, they look like fish eggs. “Does that mean you already know what’s inside?”
“It’s my sister.”
“Sister. Sarah, right?” There’s something he’s not getting here. He bites into the lukewarm biscuit, dredging gossip: sister and Fanny are fraternal twins, she made it through a Master’s degree in . . . music theory? And then had a mental breakdown.
She ended up a heroin addict and a boozer in Vancouver . . . but she’d cleaned up, hadn’t she? Now she’s shipped something across the country and suddenly Fanny needs a favor.
This is going to be bad, Dill thinks.
Fanny pulls out. The truck waffles on the snowpack, then finds traction into the groove made by the vehicles that preceded it. Beyond the window, the whole world is grey–the gradually lightening sky, the dirt-tinged drifts, the hulking structure of the Saint Lawrence market.
“So. It’s from Sarah?” Dill repeats.
Fanny shoots him a look of white-hot suffering and grinds the truck into a left turn. The box moves again and Dill reaches back to steady it. Something shifts inside, like sand.
“Sarah, yeah. I mean no, that box isn’t from her, it is her. Her–”
Oh. It’s ashes. “Jesus, Fanny, I’m sorry. What happened?”