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New Year: Writing Resolutions

It is technically the start of year 2 in the 10 year 10 novel plan.

I won’t say I’ve failed so far. While 2008 didn’t entirely go as planned, I did manage to get more writing done than ever before in my life. On various projects I’ve written over 150k words this year counting editing and rewrites. I hope to double that this year.

2009 will hopefully look like this:

I’ve submitted the first three chapters of Casimir Hypogean and Bladebearer to the writing workshop at Norwescon. This will be my first non college work-shopping experience.

I’ve edited and polished my two submissions for Clarion West and have only to format and send them in. If I get in, awesome. If not, at least I tried.

I’m going to finish the rough draft of Chwedl, edit it, and prepare a synopsis and query for it. This will officially be my first of the 10. Actually selling the novel or getting an agent is out of my hands, but my goal is to begin the process and not give up until I get there (which might take years, I accept that).

I’m going to finish Casimir Hypogean this year, at least the rough draft.

I’m going to write 5 more short stories.

I’m going to find homes for the 6 short stories I already have that I think are marketable.

I’m going to finish and polish A Prince Called Courage and set the novella aside until I can find a market for it.

These are my goals for 2009. Perhaps ambitious, but I don’t feel they are unreasonable.

Happy New Year!

First Term and Future Plans

Heh, wordpress looks strange again. Grr.

Anyway, I survived first term of graduate school.  It was underwhelming.  Hopefully next term will go better.

I’ve decided to attend a couple of cons (specifically geared towards spec fic/writing/etc…).  The deadline for the workshops for the first con I’m going to is the 14th of this month, so I’d better get my ass in gear.  I think I’ll send them Bladebearer because it’s a complex little story and has some weird problems I could use perspective on.  You can send two pieces, so I’m tempted to send in the first 3 chapters of Casimir Hypogean.  I still hate that novel, but maybe feedback on it would somehow make the path clearer.  Or at least give me a few better ideas of what is going so wrong with the whole thing.  I’d have to write up a synopsis, however, which could prove problematic since I’ve never written one.  It’d be a learning experience.  Well, we’ll see how far I get this week.  Otherwise I’ll send Monsters as my second piece.

The second con is World Con, which is in Montreal this year.  I’ve always wanted to go to Montreal, and I think Chwedl will be in at least polished draft form by then and (cross fingers?) ready for agent hunting, so it’ll give me something to really peddle around at the con.  Plus the panels should be informative and I’ll get to vote for the Hugo winners.  Which means my summer will be full of reading the nominated books, never a bad thing.

I’m also, this month, polishing Space Bones and Delilah for my application to Clarion West.  I’m terrified I won’t get in and I’m terrified I will.  It’s like a perfect lose lose situation.  But really, I want to go.  I think it would be fantastic and horrifying and awesome all at once.  Besides, then I could stalk EBear in person (note, this is a joke, unless you consider reading someone’s lj stalking…).  I’m just jealous that she has a cat. Seriously.  Stupid renting with no pets rule.    Moving on…  I think that the two aforementioned stories have the best shot of showing how I write.  They’re  also now the most polished of my spec lit pieces and Delilah is still one of my favorite things I’ve written ever.  It might be a risk considering the very Christian overtones and the linear inevitability of the plot, but I hope that the characters and stylistic tones will override that and punish the reader with its awesomeness.  Seriously, I like that story.  And Space Bones has grown on me.  I wrote it mostly for the title at first, but after about four drafts I finally feel a connection to what is going on in the story and to the characters.  Hopefully this will all translate into the Clarion peeps thinking I’m whatever they’re looking for.

By the end of December I hope to have the draft of Chwedl complete.  Then comes the editing and pain, but I already see things I can do to help it along.  This novel, to repeat myself, is nothing like Casimir Hypogean.  It’s such a breeze to write and the language flows nicely instead of feeling forced and choppy as all hell.  I wonder if I haven’t written the world of Casimir Hypogean too bleak, its characters too unsympathetic.  After all, why should a reader care about chars who hardly care about themselves?  It’s a strange dilemna.  More reason probably for why I should edit up those first 3 chapters of the rewrite and send them off for critique.  Maybe the novel is dead and I’m still pining for a ghost of a thing that shouldn’t be.  It’s hard to tell such from my close perspective.

NaNo Update Week 1

I’ve written just over 19,000 words and have six chapters done.

This novel, for whatever reason, is proving hella easy to write.  The characters are talking to me, the setting is coming together, the plot is all there.

I think this is due in part because compared to the setting and many-layered plot of Casimir Hypogean, Chwedl is a simple creature when it comes down to it.  Instead of having to bring together a city-wide conspiracy and a hodgepodge group of misfits and criminals in a quasi-scientific setting that also has some magic with very subtle rules, I only have three main protagonists and bringing them together and figuring out the motivations is blissfully simple.  There is no villain to build up and motivate, no betrayals to figure out how to realistically manufacture, no complex setting built from whole cloth.

Chwedl starts at point A and goes to point B.  The villain, such as she is, isn’t really evil or much of a villain.  She’s selfish, sure, and just kind of cruel in a way that is Other.  The struggles are mostly between personalities.  No gunfights, no highrise escapes, no twisted sex or weird drug addiction.  Just good old Welsh-esque fairytale fun.  (Okay, it is one of my stories, so there is of course blood, death, and some very implied sex).  I don’t think anyone gets murdered in this story, however.  That’s probably a first for me.

I’ve already added to and moved away from my original outline.  I see outlines as being much like the Pirate Code.  They’re more like guidelines really, not set in stone “this is how the story will unfold no matter what damnit” sort of things.  I add and destroy and fix as needed, though I try to keep some version of an outline current so that if I have the rare brilliant idea about where the later story bits are going I can refer to it later.

Stay tuned for week 2 in which I’ll probably ramble about the challenges of the great swampy middle and writing a plausible romantic thread into a story.

On National Novel Writing Month

I’m taking a 1credit course that involves just doing NaNo.  Yes, I’m getting a graduate credit towards my MA degree for this.  Ah, motivation.

There are many conflicting opinions about Nanowrimo.  Some feel it is the only way they will ever get a novel done.  Some think that it encourages bad writing and misleads people into thinking they’ve got something publishable at the end of the 30 days.  Some feel even more strongly negative than that.  Most, however, that I’ve run into feel it is a fun challenge.  A way to turn off the inner editor and get to work.

I’m not sure what camp I’m in exactly.  Would I do NaNo if it wasn’t on a dare (how I ended up doing it the first time) or for course credit?  Maybe, but probably not.  From my last experience, you get the first part of a very very rough draft, at best, out of the whole thing.  This NaNo I’m trying to make it at least a full first draft by doubling the word requirements from 50k to 100k.  50k is just a really long novella to me.

I’ve got the first chapter.  About 2200 words and counting now.  I want 5k by the end of the weekend and then hopefully I can make Mon/Wed/Fri 8-10k word days because T/Th I have class.

Will I have a novel at the end? Sort of.  I hope to have something I can work with as a rough draft.  Will it be a pleasant read? Likely not, though I don’t engage in any of the random filler dares that people play with during NaNo a great deal it seems.  I hope to have a few interesting characters and a somewhat coherent plot.

Anyway, I’ll update here as progress happens.  And good luck to anyone else engaging in the insanity.  Remember, it is supposed to be silly and fun.

Graduate School First Day

I’m accidentally taking a poetry class.  This is both good and bad.  Good because I like my poetry.  Poetry is fairly easy to write (for me, maybe not for others) and I think I’m decent at it.  The bad is because I haven’t written any poetry in over a year and because I’d sort of looked forward to writing prose.  I think I might get around this by making one of the required poems an Epic Poem.  Complete with alliteration and such.  Oh yes.

I’m also taking a class where the sole purpose is to get a graduate writing credit by doing National Novel Writing Month.  I’m aiming for 100k words, a proper novel instead of a novella.

I don’t know yet how much Grad school will eat my time and my brains, so I can’t promise much posting.  I feel badly that I haven’t been posting here more, but somehow when I’m writing on other things the urge to blog dies away.  I’ll try of think of some relevant topics to write about since I enjoy this blog and even get a few random readers from time to do (about 12 of you a day, far as I can tell.)

Ego Boost

While not specifically related to writing (at least not my novel project anyway), this last weekend I attended the Penny Arcade Expo. Which is nerd-fest central. Mostly I go to nerd out with friends and learn all about the shit that is going to take all my money and consume all my writing time in the next year. (Fallout 3 being one star example).

This year, as usual, I went to the “Pitch Your Game” panel. Last year I went and laughed along with everyone else at the people brave enough to try to pitch a game to a panel of experts. In 45 seconds. Good luck.

This year was different. About 30 seconds before they started the thing, I decided to take a shot at it. I had a simple but cool game idea kicking around in my head. So I found myself standing in a long line (over 100 people pitched in the first round), my heart trying to kick its way out of my chest, thinking of how to explain my game idea in only a few seconds. This is where everything I’d been reading over the years about how to pitch a novel to an agent or editor in only a couple sentences finally paid off.

I thought to myself that if this was a novel or story instead of a game, what would I do? One sentence. It’s all I needed. A good hook that explained everything. For a novel, I’d want genre, subject, basic concept. Why would a game pitch be that different, right? So I did. Instead of genre, I’d need what platform I was going to use. Instead of subject, I’d need the idea of the game, and for concept I’d want a rough idea of game play.

“My game idea is a text-based hard-boiled noir adventure game for the Nintendo DS.”

It worked. I was through to the second round in which 30 or so of us got to answer questions about our concept. I spent the time I had in that line drafting up answers to all kinds of potential questions. They quizzed me on font (typewriter, of course), on the potential market (me?), and other things. I brought up my experience with running games of that type (I helped write/run a cyberpunk MUSH years ago that was pretty well populated). All in all, it felt somewhat like what pitching a novel to an agent in person might feel like.

And guess what? I placed third. Which is cool, hell, I’d want to play the games that beat me. (You have just one tank and you have to conquer medieval Europe, for example). I got some cool prizes (giant Cthulhu statue for example) but mostly what I got was a feeling of “holy shit, I did it.”

Not that this means all my ideas are gold and I’ll turn around tomorrow and sell a novel on spec, but hey, I survived a pitch session and stood out among the masses. I managed to take my concept and put it into a good one liner that won me some swag. I’ll cling to this tiny triumph, thank you. And come January when I have to type up that terrifying query letter and start shopping for a home for Casimir Hypogean, I can take out my shiney little nugget of ‘been there, done that’ and use what I’ve learned.

Oh, and I got to meet Wil Wheaton, again. He was exhausted and had broken ribs. I’m really impressed that he was so tolerant, all things considered. I must admit I bought his little chapbook out of support for his awesomeness more than excitement about what might be in it. However, having now read it, damn. I’m really glad he’s writing. His blog is great, but his work is even better. I can’t wait for the compilation of Star Trek TNG stuff to come out in book form.

Whew. Enough fan-girling. (He said my hair was awesome… *grin*). Back to writing.

I’ve got a month until my pseudo-deadline is up. And I’ve got 3 chapters. That only leaves about 25 chapters left to write. So, a chapter a day? Really? I have a feeling this novel isn’t getting rewritten in the next month. I’ll get as far as I can, however. Come January 1st, I’m done with it. It will be sent out. I will start the next one.

Thank You Fruit Tree

Six false starts and as many days later and I’ve finally moved into chapter 2.  Apparently it takes techno, sharp cheese (Razors of flavor…sounds like a bad punk band), and giant glorious bing cherries.  As William Carlos Williams put it,

“Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold”

So today I have 3.5 pages of decent progression.  I’ve decided to tell foreshadowing to take a hike, it’ll work itself in or it won’t, but the plot bus is leaving.  Foreshadowing is something I can write in later if needs be.  I’m still annoyed with myself for getting stuck in the first place.  And for it taking a mental pumping session akin to psyching myself up for athletic performance to get me working again.  Not that I believe brilliant gems should fall onto my screen without any effort, but it is always frustrating when you can see the story in the periphery of the mind but not quite make the leap to reach it.

Onward! Tomorrow, I finish the chapter and perhaps start the next one.

I have failed short story Monday, however. I might write one this week, but frankly, I’m thrilled enough to be writing novel again that I might just go with the momentum of that. We’ll see.

Shameless Pimping

I started a cafe press shop based on my travels and photography. There will also be a poetry chapbook up there soon. There are magnets, greeting cards, mugs, notebooks, and other neat gift or decorative ideas. Each features a photograph from one of my travels, everywhere from Venice to Bruges to Ireland.

Please check it out. All proceeds will go towards defraying the costs of graduate school.

http://www.cafepress.com/nobuart

Into the Scary

My other job is over now.  Starting this week, I’m a full time writer.   Hopefully I’ll even get paid for it someday.  It is a little terrifying to be launching into trying to write for a living without having anything ready to sell, but the timing worked out this way what with graduate school, my (ex)job having some serious issues.

First up is tackling the rewrite of Dangerous (I really need a better title for this novel).  I’m aiming for writing or writing related things being worked on for about 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week.  I’d like to have the second rough draft done by the time school starts at the end of September.

Why Speculative Fiction: Attempt #1

Recently, as I was explaining to a friend the plot of one of my novels, the question of why I write speculative works came up.  It is one I’ve been tossing around for a while as I face the scary unknown of Graduate school, a place  not generally known for its tolerance of the pulpier lit.  I think my desire to write science fiction and fantasy stems from a few different reasons.  And I’m not sure I’ve figured all of them out as yet, thus this is only the first attempt to answer the question of why I like to tell the stories I tell.

First, and most obviously, I tend to read science fiction and fantasy by preference.  I like exploring vast worlds and finding out about things I will never encounter outside of vague dreams and dusty mindscapes.  I also look for strong, character driven work and have found that good speculative fiction delves deeply into what it means to be human or alive in ways that ‘reality’ tries to prevent in lit fic.  I like to read it, therefore why shouldn’t I want to write what I enjoy reading?

On another level, I write speculative fiction because I am not a subtle person.  The very best of literary fiction, in my opinion, either has speculative elements to it or else has very subtle explorations of character and place.  My writing is, like its creator, not a subtle thing.  I paint with a wide brush and have learned to let the details present themselves to the readers as needed.  Perhaps this is a weakness, I’m not sure.  I like to make broad strokes of character and to leap into the vastly strange landscapes of my mind without having to worry overly much about whether or not something is real as opposed to just plausible.  Fantasy, especially, gives me that freedom.  I don’t have to over think the details, instead I’m free to wander and dream.

And finally, well, I’m a bit nuts.  I have a very visual/sensory brain.  Everything in my head is either conceptual or else runs like a  constant incoherent movie completely with smells, touch, tastes, sight, and sound.  This constantly bleeds out into the real world around me in the form of hallucinations.  My existence is a constant filtering of real vs not real.  So my writing becomes an outlet, a way to slow down and stop having to run at doublespeed.  This is why I need so much time and space physically and mentally to write.  I have to be able to cut off from the constant and instant decisions of real/not real and turn the senses loose to channel my inner/outer world into something others can share.  Speculative fiction lets me be free to delve into the sometimes alien landscapes of my brain so I can express the oddness of my second senses.  I have no stats for this, so it is a random guess based on author’s blogs I’ve read, but I think that probably highly visual people would be more attracted to science fiction and fantasy (and horror too) than to straight lit fic or something more literal like crime/mystery.   If I had an ounce of artistic talent/ability in me, I’d probably mostly give up writing novels and just write/draw graphic novels.  Or if I were rich, I’d make movies.  But I’m not rich, and I can’t draw well at all. So I write.  And I write the fantastic in all its familiar and imperfect forms as they come to me out of the writhing, crying dark.