Category Archives: Drafting


The Story of the System

Gah, another missed post, and this time I don’t even have an excuse! Whoops.

It’s been a good week writing-wise, though. As I mentioned in my last post, I submitted my story “The Mind Killer,” and even though I haven’t heard back yet, I’m kind of addicted to submissions right now. All I want to do is write stories and send them out. It’s done wonders for my motivation, that’s for sure, although not necessarily in an optimal way. I mean, I want to write–yay!–but I don’t really want to work on my novel. I want the immediate gratification.

Really, though, compared to the problems that I’ve had in the past, this is nothing. I’ll take this problem over most others.

And I did get a fair amount of work done on Fugitives from Earth. I’m very nearly finished with the first part, just one more scene to write on this revision. Definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here, and if I can maintain motivation, I think I can easily finish by my deadline.

So I’ve got a plan: on weekdays, I work on Fugitives from Earth. I’ll sometimes casually think about short story plots, but when I actually sit down to do the heavy-duty writing, I work on the novel. The weekends, on the other hand, that’s short story time. I’m hopeful that I can finish shorts at the rate of one a month for the foreseeable future, increasing in pace once FfE is on its way out the door.

I’ve had great success in getting involved with other local writers, thanks largely to writing get-togethers arranged by Mary Robinette Kowal and Shanna Germain. Excellent writers and excellent company, they really encourage me to get my best game on. When I’m writing with published authors, I’m able to utterly focus on my work. It works very much in the same way that a hangout does, but meeting in person is always better than meeting online, even if the online part works well.

Also, I didn’t mention it last week, but my Hugo votes are in! I voted for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms  for best novel; it definitely was new enough and different enough to grip me. For short stories, “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the entrants in this category, and two of the stories disqualified themselves for either excessive mundanity or excessive weirdness. For the Campbell award, Dan Wells’ I Am Not a Serial Killer. This book did a better job of getting in the head of a smart but “different” kid that I could really identify with.


The Continuing Adventures

After a bit of a downer post on Monday, I first want to say that I’m feeling a lot better. I have actually gotten some writing done over the last few days, and even though it’s not exactly a thousand words a day it feels good. Real good.

I had two realizations this week that I think helped. The first one seems really obvious, but it’s surprising how easy it is for the newer writer to forget: write stuff you like to read. They say that you should write what you want to write, rather than writing for a market, which is obvious. “Ha!” I’d say. “Only losers try to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight.” And then… I go out and try to write something that I think could get published in Analog. I mean, I love Analog, but that’s still putting the cart before horse. Or in my case, leaving the horse out entirely, because I psych myself out of actually writing.

Realization two also sounds obvious, but I think it’s something I need to write down and staple to my forehead: just because writing isn’t my most favoritist thing to do evar, just because I like to do other things as well, doesn’t mean I can’t still be professional about my writing. It’s almost embarrassing to say, but that’s the mindset I was in, and it was seriously putting me in this spiral of despair. I’ll feel bad about not writing ten hours a day when (if) I’m writing full-time. For now, I have other things on my plate, and they need to be there.

Don’t worry, this is going to be the last post on this subject for a while; I don’t want to exhaust all of your goodwill.

I’ve made a few site changes, particularly in the sidebar area. As you can see, I now have a blogroll, and it’s looking a little meager right now. If you want your blog or website on it, go ahead and let me know. You can also subscribe to have new posts sent directly to your mailbox, and really, can you bear the thought of missing one of my posts for even a few minutes? Go ahead and admit it to yourself.

I didn’t get much writing done at all this weekend; I spent Saturday and Sunday hiking in the beautiful Tillamook State Forest. It was a nice chance of scenery, and provided a bit of inspiration for my next novel.

Scenes from the Future Flies Again

I’ve been neck-deep in the last quarter of my novel for a couple of weeks now. There’s not a lot to report as far as progress goes – I’m just chugging along as usual. This is definitely the least glamorous part of writing: going over ones outline over and over again, making sure that the characters are staying active, that the plot progresses naturally, that the viewpoints are spread out. It’s not thrilling, and it doesn’t make for thrilling blogging.

So, instead, I hereby present another instance of Scenes from the Future! Herein, I talk at some length about a specific element of Fugitives from Earth that I find interesting or curious or otherwise noteworthy. Featured in this episode: orbital bombardment! Oh, and, “spoiler alert.”

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Today, I finished the first draft of my untitled uplift story. It’s not that remarkable of a story, really. I didn’t pursue any grand ideas and it doesn’t (yet) have any real moments of genius. But, it’s the first story where I’ve finished the rough draft, sat back, and thought, “Yeah, there’s some good stuff here.”

Before I started on Fugitives from Earth, I had spent much of my writing time in the previous months on short stories. Every time, same deal: I’d get really excited, get about three thousand words in, and then the going would get really, really tough. I’d have to remind myself that I didn’t have to write perfectly on the first draft, fix it in the rewrite, blah blah blah.

Not so this time. It’s not outstanding or anything, but this is the first first draft I’ve ever finished, of anything, where I didn’t feel like the story needed major work. It still needs better foreshadowing, better motivations for the characters, and a lot of tuning, but the basics are all firmly in place. And that’s a damned good feeling, especially considering how down I tend to get on myself.

So why is this time different? I can think of a couple of reasons.

  1. I outlined. Before FfE, I never would’ve considered writing an outline for more than the first couple of scenes at once. I was a discovery writer, so damn the endings, full speed ahead! Turns out, that’s not the best way to write. Knowing what the ending was makes the beginning much smoother, especially for a short story. And having all of the scenes down already meant that I could skip around if I was having trouble. I did that a lot.
  2. I’m more familiar with what I like to write. I specifically aimed for a low-concept story this time. Nothing ostentatious or groundbreaking, but fun to write and (hopefully) fun to read. May or may not be publishable, but at this point that’s secondary at best.
  3. I’m much, much more familiar with what makes good conflict. This time, I was conscious from the very beginning that I needed to create characters that clashed. There’s no antagonist in the story (a theme of my works, I’m noticing) but the two main characters spend most of the story in opposition to each other. That’s good times.

So I am learning. They say that you need to write a million unpublishable words before you write your first publishable one. I don’t know if that’s true, but this experience makes me think that I’m at least 10% of the way there. And, frankly, I’m going to enjoy this feeling of self-satisfaction while it lasts.

First Draft: THE END

As of this morning, the first draft of Fugitives from Earth is officially complete! I typed “THE END” about ten minutes before I had to leave for work. In some ways, this is a huge accomplishment for me: it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written by far, the longest I’ve ever continuously worked on something, and the first draft of a novel I’ve finished that I could really call complete. In other ways, this isn’t such a big deal. After all, the novel itself isn’t done. It isn’t even close. But I’m going to celebrate anyway.

For fun, here are some statistics:

  • 110,649 words (that’s 443 pages at the industry-standard 250 words per page)
  • 75 days (starting November 1st)
  • 1475 words per day on average, unless you don’t count my nine-day Christmas break, in which case it’s 1677.

Really, the most important thing is that I proved to myself that I could do it. In so doing I probably wrote a worse draft than I otherwise would’ve, since I didn’t trust myself to take a break for any sorts of revision or non-linear writing. Hopefully, this will make it easier the next time, but that time’s a long way off. First, a little break while I think about some different stories, while I get the creative juices flowing. Then, revision starts.

Drinks tonight to celebrate, then Steampunk 101 at the Attic Institute tomorrow.

A Major Milestone

Today, my novel reached 100,000 words (about 400 standard pages). This is a major achievement for me – it’s almost twice as long as any other writing project I’ve ever undertaken, and I’ve stuck with it longer too.The finished story will probably be in the area of 110,000 or so, I’m guessing, not  including shrinkage from editing.

Anyway, I’m celebrating tonight, and hopefully (almost certainly) by this time next week I’ll be celebrating the end of the first draft.


Actually, getting up early in the morning to write has been a godsend for me. I think that, despite many years vociferous denial, I may have to admit that I am against all odds a morning person. Even in non-writing contexts, if I can motivate myself to get out of bed at all I get way more done between 6:00 AM and noon than between noon and 6:00 PM. That’s why I always try to eat lunch as late as possible at work; I seem to work less after lunch and the day drags on.

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