Revolution

April 9, 2012 at 7:22 am (Stories in print)

The crits have come and gone, and now I’m at the beginning stages of a revision — exactly where I was eleven months ago, just on a different book.  (I guess I am being productive after all.)  Overall, they’re positive, and the usual mix of insightful, funny, and unflinching critique that I’ve come to expect from BRAWL.  I even have a few ideas on how to fix this.  (And maybe I’ll blog about it this time, too.)  Most of them have to do with patches: the pieces of story that didn’t quite hold up, the rationale that does not stand under scrutiny, the pacing change from beginning to end.  In terms of plot, there’s at least one major change I want to make and one major addition to ease the ending.  The final result won’t be visible for a while, though.

In the meantime, there’s a much more immediate victory to celebrate: My short story “Salvage” will be included in Steampunk Revolution, the third anthology from Tachyon Publications, out later this year.  I’m thrilled to be part of it and, again, humbled by the company in which I find myself.  Many thanks to the editor, Ann VanderMeer, and to Beneath Ceaseless Skies for printing the story in the first place!

[edited to fix attribution — sorry!]

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when blog back bring pie

March 20, 2012 at 8:00 am (Writing work)

After a lovely weekend in which we celebrated Piemas (the holiday when everyone sits around and eats pie), I’ve decided to try to update a little more in the coming weeks.  Unfortunately, there are two stumbling blocks: I’m currently composing a first draft — and we’ve seen how well I do with blogging first drafts — and BRAWL will be giving me comments on a novel manuscript at the end of the week.  Or, more accurately, they’ll be handing me a heap of shredded pages and some very kind but adamant critiques.  Funny, but the closer I get to the crit session, the more I’m convinced that this draft really wasn’t up to snuff, and I’m going to get my butt kicked for it.

Of course the next step is to remove butt from floor, dust off, and revise — but waiting for that kick is a little annoying.

In the meantime, though, I’m planning to post a bit this week, probably on research and structure.  Between that and this first-draft work, I might be able to keep my mind off the crit.

And I should make more pie.  Because pie is always good.  Sometimes strange (the margarita pie?  the “liquid pie”  cocktail from a few years back?  the rabbit-and-crayfish pie with crayfish sticking out of the top?), but always good.  Even if I’m just regarding it from a distance (those crayfish were looking at me funny, I swear).

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“Sunlight Society” up!

March 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm (Stories online)

As usual, I mean to put a con report up, then completely fail to do so.  Boskone was wonderful, full of delightful conversation and connection and, on Saturday night at least, some really dreadful puns on my part.  I regret nothing.

What I do regret is being remiss in not announcing this earlier today: I have a new short story up at Clarkesworld Magazine!  “Sunlight Society” is a little outside my usual scope.  It’s a superhero story…sort of.

When the Fourth Street biolab went up, I didn’t think of Casey right away. I was working in the far side of the complex, which meant I was one of about four hundred people who got to see the entire dome rise up off its foundations, rotate counterclockwise ninety degrees, and shoot up into the sky.

For those of you who use ebooks, Clarkesworld offers ebook subscriptions.  They’re well worth it.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Boskone schedule

February 15, 2012 at 10:01 am (Cons)

Friday, 9pm: How Much Steam Is There in Steampunk?
Is steampunk destined to remain a distinct subgenre, or will its edges blur into the rest of alternate history? Why does it appeal to us? Are its appeals enduring aspects of the genre? Rosemary Kirstein (M), Margaret Ronald, Stephen Segal, Genevieve Valentine

I have a couple of quibbles with the assumption in the panel description that steampunk belongs with “the rest of alternate history.” I write steampunky stuff that is decidedly not alternate history, and I think the aesthetic as a whole is stronger than just one niche of a niche. However, I’ve also readily admitted that I lack much of the steampunk aesthetic, so it’s possible I’m just rationalizing my use of the relevant tropes. I’ll be interested to see what comes out of this panel.

Saturday, 2pm: The Heroine’s Path
Maureen Murdock’s 1990 study The Heroine’s Journey served as a complement (and sometimes corrective) to Joseph Campbell’s work on the Hero’s Journey. Both put deep store in stories drawn from world myth. But what do working genre writers actually do with these theories or materials? Are they present at the creation, or useful for analysis afterward? Do they affect your characters or their origins, relationships, arcs, or resolutions? Which mythic or theoretic elements have you actually incorporated? What path do — must — your own heroines tread? B.A. Chepaitis, Greer Gilman, Theodora Goss (M), Margaret Ronald, Phoebe Wray

It’s hard to say whether I consciously use these tropes in creation, but I certainly use them in revision, either as touchstone or warning. And while I do enjoy incorporating mythic elements into the story, whether they make it as deep as the story structure itself is another matter entirely.

Saturday, 5pm: Creating Worlds for Online Gaming
How do you start to create a world for online gaming? Is it harder to start a game from scratch, from a book, or from a movie? What’s different about worldbuilding for a narrative that’s meant to be played instead of read? Walter H. Hunt, Margaret Ronald, Melinda Snodgrass (M), Timothy P. Szczesuil, Brianna Spacekat Wu

I actually assigned myself homework for this panel, since I’m coming at it from the perspective of an end user rather than someone experienced in worldbuilding for games. So I played Bastion all weekend (wow), started watching a playthrough of Dark Souls (eek), and have been trying to figure out some of my thoughts on implicit versus explicit storytelling.

Saturday, 8pm: Artifactual: The Warehouse 13 Game
Inspired by Syfy TV’s popular Warehouse 13, this brand-new game show is an SFnal cross between “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Fictionary.” For each round, the MC comes up with a strange new happenstance, such as, “Reports say people have begun turning green.” From the TV show, we know that behind every odd occurrence is some strangely powerful object. So our panel of out-of-the-box thinkers compete to guess that artifact, such as, “It’s the Wicked Witch’s hat from The Wizard of Oz” or “It’s Larry Bird’s Celtics jersey.” Competitors are encouraged to embellish their guesses to the max; audience members clap hardest to get their favorite guess the win! Daniel Kimmel, Bob Kuhn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Margaret Ronald, Steven Sawicki

Oh boy. I’m much more familiar with Warehouse 23 than Warehouse 13, but for this game I suspect the distinction will be moot. This could go horribly wrong or horribly right. Either way, it’ll be fun to watch.

Sunday, 10:30am-10:55am: Reading: Margaret Ronald

I’m planning to read the lobster story, since it’ll be coming out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies sometime soon. And because it’s a really fun story to read aloud. This does, however, mean I have to rehearse it so that the best part of the story will fit within 20 minutes.

Sunday, 1pm: The Twilight of Twilight: Staking the Heart of Paranormal Romance?
Let’s look ahead to the November 2012 release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, the concluding flick to be made from Stephenie Meyer’s planet-bustingly successful series. How good are these books and movies? Does Twilight fandom serve as gateway fanaticism for similar stories? Or will the end of this crepuscular phenomenon take paranormal romance down with it? Debra Doyle (M), Margaret Ronald, Leah Wilson

Confession time: I have not read Twilight. But I think the mood it captures is not exclusive to paranormal romance, nor to certain strains of YA fiction. I think the id button that Twilight pushes is independent of the paranormal or vampy aspects of the story, and so I’m not sure that the end of Twilight will signal an end to paranormal romance as a whole.

That’s a lot of panels. I think come Sunday evening, I’m going to want to put my feet up and ignore everything for a while.

In the meantime, mmm, half-price candy.

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Love and auctions. Also, a sandwich.

February 14, 2012 at 10:19 am (The Internet Is Full of Things)

I have my Boskone schedule — I think the programming folks must have a defunct email address for me, because I didn’t realize I was on a whopping six items (four panels, a reading, and a game) until the preliminary program went up. Whoops. I’ll have it up tomorrow, because today is a holiday.

That’s right — it’s Half-Price Candy Day Eve! Tomorrow, all sorts of tasty chocolate in foil wrappers of varying shades of pink will be on sale. Even if you’re like me and end up ogling the Cadbury Creme Eggs instead (with their insides so goopy and sweet and possibly not actually meant as foodstuffs), Half-Price Candy Day is an important yearly event.

In honor of said candy, here are a few links:
Keep the…uh…lupercal in Lupercalia?
BUT WHAT IF I USE THE WRONG KIND OF STAPLER THIS IS IMPORTANT TO OUR RELATIONSHIP
The sandwich that means I love you. (Seriously, read this. It is relevant to your interests. I promise you.)

And speaking of sharing the love, the Con or Bust auctions have opened! So if you want some beautiful signed first editions, unique jewelry, tasty foodstuffs, or a chance to make Genevieve Valentine watch and report on your favorite bizarre movie, go and bid!

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More revisions, day eleven

January 30, 2012 at 8:33 am (Writing work)

This was unexpected.

I finished the revisions today. Yes, the chapters at this end of the story are short, and yes, the very last few weren’t too bad to begin with . . . but I really didn’t expect to be done this soon. I think this may be the difference between a major reconfiguration draft (such as one that follows a critique) and a polishing draft.

Overall, it’s a good novel. It has flaws, but that’s why I’m asking BRAWL to take a look at it. In the words of another BRAWL member, they will fall upon the manuscript like a pack of erudite hyenas. And when they’re done, I’ll have an idea which flaws can be patched and which are dealbreakers.

And now? Now I set it aside, fix those short stories that have been awaiting edits and send them out, and then get back to work on research for the tangled next project. I have a couple of scenes in mind already; maybe I’ll write those and then see where they fit later on.

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More revisions, day ten

January 27, 2012 at 10:00 am (Writing work)

Two more chapters, one of which had been giving me some trouble before. I may have reached fatigue point with this manuscript; I think there are flaws, but I can’t yet see them, and knowing they must be there is driving me nuts. Or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.

And I get a few more pages into Chapter Twenty-three while I’m at it. I should get more of it done, but I’m trying a new morning schedule and if I’m going to get moving, I need to finish up quick. Maybe I’ll take care of it when I get home from work.

Actually, that sounds like a good idea. (Later note: yes, but I didn’t do it. Oh well.)

Comments from manuscript:
No longer true
He knows in prev. chapter — change there so he finds out here
Change names to some consistent form
Condense and put earlier
This sounds pompous (well, more so than usual)
Need physical details
Where are they?
Is this necessary?
No time for a long discussion here

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More revisions, day nine

January 26, 2012 at 11:52 am (Writing work)

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty, both of which need lots of work. Nineteen is too long by far, partly because a lot happens and partly because the fight scene is far too padded. There’s also a good deal that needs to be glossed over, unless I want to write a tedious travel scene.

Chapter Twenty has a scene that I wrote back when I was still working on the first draft of the prior book, and while it’s a great scene, it also shows its age. Names and circumstances have changed, one so substantially that I stop work to go back through the manuscript to make sure one character is no longer referred to by a certain title. I find two instances in chapters I’ve already revised. That’s embarrassing.

Three-fourths done. This might work.

Comments from MS:

Condense into 1-2 grafs at most
Cut entire page (usually indicated by one big slash of the pen)
They’d have no need for this
He knows this already — no need to tell
Make sure reader knows where [thing] is
What does this mean?
Reconcile with several-day journey
She’s heard this language before, would know its name

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More revisions, day eight

January 25, 2012 at 9:50 am (Writing work)

For a number of reasons, I get time to revise, but not with my marked-up manuscript. So I spend the time revising a short story instead, one that BRAWL took a look at some time ago. Strangely, it takes longer to revise twenty-five pages of short story than twenty-five pages of novel, probably because short stories have much less room for error. Or maybe it’s just that I know this novel will be going to BRAWL, while the story’s closer to sending out. It still needs a readthrough, but it’s almost ready to go.

It’s also an example of a weird-inspiration story: I dreamed one of the major scenes in this story almost ten years ago, then tried to write a story around that scene. It failed, miserably, but the story remained on my computer. Then last fall, I started poking with some of the ideas, switched around a few characters, and took another crack at it. And this time, it worked — and that particular scene is still very close to the dream. It doesn’t happen often that I get handed gifts from my subconscious (or gifts that don’t need tailoring, anyway), and it feels a little strange to have the context for it now.

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More revisions, day seven

January 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm (Writing work)

I was right; two chapters take up all of my allotted writing time, plus an extra half hour. It’s worth it, though; I pare down a lot of redundant conversation, add a scene that not only provides a way of showing what I’d been telling the reader in the first draft, but sets up the next scene fairly well.

I ended up removing a totally gratuitous shirtless scene in this chapter in the first round of revisions, and I thought I’d miss it more.  Nope, made the right decision.

Even with today’s slowdown, I’m still about two-thirds done with this draft.  I did not expect to be here so soon.  It’s making me impatient to get the whole thing done, which is not a good thing.

Comments from the manuscript:
(Weird situation here: I had several pages with no changes, but on rereading I decided they were entirely irrelevant and collapsed them down to a paragraph.  Go me?)
Need a beat or something before the attack
Really? (This happens when my first draft has only the barest idea of how something works.  Second draft gets cranky.)
Let him state what the problem is instead of what isn’t
These are excuses, not reasons
Need an actual plan here, not handwavy (from either me or the character)
He’s never seen [X], no comparison (Curse you, limited point of view!)
Gloss — a day passes
20th century slang in wrong era

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More revisions, day six

January 23, 2012 at 9:56 am (Writing work)

Three more chapters down, but the next two are going to take some work. This was a lull in the action, and from about Chapter Seventeen on there are going to be very few pauses for breath.

Two of today’s chapters were new from scratch last draft, which is again mildly reassuring. They have their own flaws — I have a bad tendency to repeat revelations if I’m not sure where they should go — but they don’t have the longer-established flaws of the other chapters. Which, unfortunately, is what I’m up against with tomorrow’s work. I suspect I won’t be able to maintain this three-chapter-a-day pace.

On the bright side, I’m liking some of my characters more than I did before.

Comments from MS:

Reconcile with end of prev. chapter (this is a problem when writing chapters that have cliffhangers; change one and the other needs to be adjusted)
Be careful when name changes (a problem with a character who goes by more than one name)
Where is [character]? What’s he doing?
Tone too harsh for this conversation
No longer necessary
Put flashback here but quick and less gross-out
Show surroundings — onlookers?

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More revisions, days four and five

January 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm (Writing work)

Day Four:  Is it only day four?  What is going on?  How can this be going so quickly?  HOW DID THIS GET HERE I AM NOT GOOD WITH NOVEL anyway.

Chapter Eight takes a while, but most of that is cutting irrelevant matter.  Character development is fine, but redundant development at the expense of plot less so.  Chapter Nine is one I mostly wrote from scratch in the last draft, after realizing I’d revised everything All Wrong.  That it still holds up is, I think, a good sign.

I even manage to get Chapter Ten revised, and that was one that gave me so much trouble in the last draft.  Exposition chapters are always iffy; in early drafts, my characters kept sitting down for tea and plot-related revelations.  Nice and cozy for them, less so for the plot.

Comments from the MS:
Irrelevant
Use this to intro chapter
Need dialogue beat here (the pace of action and dialogue is something that needles me a lot at this draft)
Cut (repeat x15)
Reconcile with earlier cut (i.e., something happens “again” here, but if the first instance has been cut, there’s no point in “again.”)
No
Clarify where everything is
Cut — remnant of earlier draft (a character remembers something that now never happened)
Build up to revelation — check language vs. previous use
Remove filter (Lots of “he felt X” or “she saw Y” dilutes the immediacy of an action.  Showing the action rather than perception of action usually is better)
Too little time to make that judgment

Day Five: I’m almost half done.

Three more chapters down.  I think I know why I’m moving so quickly, and I know it can’t last; the last few chapters have some serious blocking issues.  Not writer’s block, but theater blocking: who is doing what when and where.  Most important for combat scenes, but I’ll need it for description as well.  These chapters, though, were in pretty good shape the first time around, and so they’re not in need of much change.

I’ve also reached the stage where, if a sentence I’ve marked in need of revision isn’t doing anything, I’m more likely to cut it than fix it.  This is a ruthless approach, but it does streamline quite a bit.

Comments from the MS:
Find and replace [name].  (I choose one that I may still have to change, but it’s better.)
Syntax is wrong
Show what he’s doing and to what
Reconcile with earlier attitude
No nostalgia
Match rhythm of second clause
This should creep her out
Cut entire page; need better sting at end of chapter

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More revisions, day three

January 20, 2012 at 8:05 am (Writing work)

Chapters Six and Seven today, and they move more slowly than the others.  Six has a number of pieces that add nothing, so need to be cut, but still needs a better sense of the passage of time. Seven needs an ending that has more of a punch, and I think I get it almost right.

Comments from the MS:
Cut, split, clarify (over and over again)
Add implication of later problem
Add motive for later
You just said this above!
Connection is iffy
Too detailed — he wouldn’t notice this straight off
Tense is off and too much of a digression (shame, because it was a cute little anecdote, but really had no point or connection to what’s going on)
Put bit from p. 67 here
This whole ending is off — give no time to do anything yet, no preparation

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More revisions: day two

January 19, 2012 at 11:17 am (Writing work)

Blocking out a full hour and a half of solid writing time works.  Three points of view today, one of which is not in very good shape (character-wise, not narrative-wise — I do awful things to my narrators), and I make it through Chapter Five.  This revision is going more quickly than I’d expected.  Wonder when it’s going to fall apart.

Comments from the MS:

Need a physical description of this character
Describe effect of [thing] ONLY here
Add from p. 92
Make sure not redundant w/ch. 1
Awkward phrasing (all over the damn manuscript)
Check earlier form of address
Remove name of house through MS
Add notes on novel vs reality
Cut, condense (lather, rinse, repeat…)

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Revision: Day One

January 18, 2012 at 8:36 am (Writing work)

Twenty-seven chapters. Roughly 101,000 words. It’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

First step is really kind of silly: change the font. This really belongs more on a list of Stupid Revision Tricks than anything else, but it’s an effective trick for me. If what’s on the screen doesn’t quite look like what’s on the page, then to get from one change to the next I have to read, rather than scan, meaning that in theory I catch more problems. It’s not foolproof by any means, but it’s one of the little things that help me at this stage.

I’m working from a full draft with changes marked in pen.  The comments on the paper manuscript are anything from a careful line edit to large swathes struck out and new scenes outlined in the margins to “NO” written several times over dialogue that hasn’t held up well.

Chapter One goes down quickly, but that’s because it’s more of an introduction than anything else. Three pages is hardly a challenge. I’m a little unsure of how well it draws into the story, but since this book follows hard on the heels of the other, that may be less of an issue. Chapter Two is a little easier, oddly enough. I even get a couple of pages into chapter three before it’s time for work.

Twenty-four and a half chapters to go.

Sample comments from the manuscript:

[Character] should be mentioned here
Split off mention of nightmares; add more of relationship to [character]
Only mention [past event] here — rehashed several times in previous chapter; cut those
Not your phrase*
Unlikely detail for something this small
No literature department in this school
Where is everyone in room?

* I run into this a lot. I’ll come across an awesome phrase or metaphor, file it away, and then use it without remembering where I got it from. This is the stage where I catch it, usually with a groan of “I quoted that?”

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