Category Archives: Metawriting

The Road (from) Reno, Part II

Now, I believe I promised you a look at some of the WorldCon panels, yes? Well, here you go.

The panels that I attended fell roughly into three groups: science fact, writing advice, and extreme miscellany. But, that’s not to say that my experience was anything representative of the average Renovation experience. For instance, there were costuming panels pretty much every hour and I didn’t go to a single one. Neither did I attend any of the art panels, and I only went to one publisher’s panel. What you got out of WorldCon (or any con, really) depends on what you want to get out of it. You define your own experience.

Science-wise, WorldCon was attended by a surprising number of science professionals. Some of these, like Geoffrey A. Landis, were also science fiction writers, but others like the Vatican astronomer (!) Guy Consolmagno were just there as fans and professionals. And professional they were; a lot of their panels were like taking extremely brief college classes. There was “The Ethical Treatment of Mars,” in which the panelists discussed whether potential native bacteria had any right not to be terraformed away. On the flip side, “The Future of AI” panelists tried to figure out how to keep us from getting wiped out by our future creations. There were also panels on the psychology of spaceflight, simulated Mars missions, and benign chemistry. I think my wife got into these even more than I did.

WorldCon is for science fiction fans, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that all the fans want to be authors too. In fact, you might remember when I mentioned that many of the convention’s attendees were older folks? Well, most of them steered clear of the writing discussions. It was just younger folks like me, raring to enter the field, who attended them. Really, these panels were a little less special than the science fact ones, just because you could attend similar panels anywhere; just the all-star panelists distinctly WorldCon-ish. Attending the Writing Excuses podcast was really the highlight of my experience there, and I registered my one and only fannish squee moment when I got my Seasons 1-5 DVD signed by all three original hosts (Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells). I try to keep it pro, but I have limits.

In the miscellaneous category, we have (unsurprisingly) everything else. The highlight here was probably the wildly popular puppet show put on by Mary Robinette Kowal’s troupe. It was a semi-improv vignette-based thing called Whatnot, wherein audience members were called to choose anything at all to put into a tray, whereupon it would become a prop or star of a short sketch. I laughed until I cried.

Then there were the publisher catalogs. If I would’ve had a manuscript ready to submit, I would’ve attended every single one of these, found every potentially interested editor, and followed them until they agreed to read my piece. As it was, I only attended the ones for Baen and Tor, and only the second half of the latter. I made a conscious decision not to run myself ragged with the networking–I was on vacation, after all–so I don’t feel too bad about this, but next time will be different.

That’s pretty much it for Renovation. Strange how it’s been less than a week since I was there, but it feels so remote now. Real life is intruding on my vacation space again, as it always must. I have about four weeks to finish Fugitives from Earth if I’m going to get it proofed and submitted in time for OryCon, so no fussing about. I’m refreshed, ready to write, and above all, entirely out of excuses.

If you have any WorldCon-ish questions, just ask!

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The Road to Reno

No regular post tonight. Wife and I have dropped the dog off at the parents’ place, dropped the keys off at our friends’, and we’re finishing our packing. Next post, this Friday at latest, comes from Reno, Nevada, and the World Science Fiction Convention.

Godspeed!

The Tenth Word is a Century Old!

I’m not sure how I missed this, but I made my 100th post last week! Yes, that’s right, a century of posts in 10 months. Not too bad, really. While this blog’s never exactly been a paragon of timeliness and popularity, I’m glad I’ve kept it. I suspect I’ll be even more glad when I start working on the next novel, have the same problems all over again, and get to check how I solved them the first time.

And if I’m really, really lucky, I can look back here someday when I’m wildly famous and wealthy, and see the little man I once was. And then set this entire site on fire, lest anyone know I was not born a god.

I’ve actually been noticing that I’ve posted much more often on Google+, and gotten a lot more responses there than I have here. There seems to be some concensus on this point, even. Could it be that Google+ offers the perfect storm of features that will move us into a post-blog internet? Certainly, if my main goal was to connect to people, I’d be doing it there, not here. On the other hand, a lot of what I post here is pretty self-involved by its very nature, and I don’t think that most of it would get a very good response on any social network.

Well, we’re not in a post-blog state now, and I think that my two-posts-a-week status is pretty sustainable. “The Tenth Word” isn’t going away anytime soon.

Now, only your regularly scheduled status report. Good writing this weekend, although a little disappointing compared to the last. There was no way that I was going to have another 6,000 word weekend, but I’d rather hoped to be above 3,000. The final count was something like 2,750, which isn’t too shabby considering that I’ve typically considered weekends a break. At this rate, finishing a short story per month while working on the novel seems like a realistic option, and that’s really all I can hope for.

Still, I wouldn’t mind kicking it up a notch. Next weekend, let’s try 4,000. I’m not going anywhere, so I have no excuse for failure. At the very least, I should be able to sustain a NaNoWriMo-like degree of productivity. I am trying to be professional, after all.

Hmm. I may have just developed a September challenge for myself! We shall see.

In other news, I’m going on vacation next week, and will be entirely gone until the 26th of August at the earliest. The wife and I are making a road trip down south for WorldCon in Reno, followed by some relaxation (and sleep-catching-up-on) at Disneyland. Ah, summer and the great American road trip! I don’t expect this blog to be entirely silent while I’m gone; in fact, I may very well post more frequently, depending on how the convention goes. I’m a little anxious about not being plugged-in enough to really get the full experience, but we’ll see.

This week, though, your regular post should be up on Friday. Until then, have a good week.

Achievements Unlocked

So, your Monday post is a day late, but I have an excellent excuse! Several excellent excuses, as a matter of fact.

First, the big news: Yesterday, I submitted my very first piece to my very first paying market EVER. For such a simple thing, it’s a huge accomplishment for me, an event almost as momentous as it was surreal. Even if it gets rejected–and judging by the stats for the market I chose, it probably will–it’s filled me with motivation. I’m not just blindly stumbling around, wistfully hoping for a writing career. No, now I’m actually making one happen.

The second bit of news, which might be a bit of a letdown after the first: I spent more time writing yesterday than I ever have in a single day, by FAR. I wrote steadily from 9:00 to 2:30, and then from 5:30 to 7:30. Seven and a half hours. For a professional, that might be an average day. For me, it was a marathon. A good one, too, because I accomplished all of my goals.

I think I’m going to make these weekend short story sprints a routine thing. Not necessarily the six-hour days, of course, but I want to take regular breaks from my novelling project, and write some stories to sell. Nothing will help me get a few writing credits under my belt than sending a shotgun blast of stories out into the market, and nothing will help my skills more than continually stretching them.

One small step for a man, one giant leap for my career. My accomplishments yesterday were tremendously satisfying for me, but only insofar as they don’t stay singular. I need to build on them, make them routine. So, back to the grind. My motivation is through the roof, and I want (need) to milk that for all it’s worth!

Compulsions

Yesterday I was browsing Netflix Instant and I stumbled across an A&E documentary series that demanded to be watched. It’s called Hoarders; perhaps you’ve heard of it? Each episode documents the cleanup/intervention of one or two compulsive hoarders, showing their incredibly hostile reactions to people trying to throw away the garbage that has utterly consumed their homes. It doesn’t go for cheap, exploitative finger-pointing, but tries to get into the head of someone who’s life is run by their obsessions.

It’s kind of cathartic to watch. “At least I’m not like those people,” you say, watching a woman break down in tears because she needs to throw away the rotted pumpkins on her floor. Yet, the longer I watched, the more I identified with those people. In one of the episodes I watched, a young man with clinical OCD had become convinced that if he threw away any of the dog hair clogging his carpet, he was directly shortening the lifespan of his dog. He loved his dog, of course, and so even while he was telling the show’s host, “This is stupid, this is so stupid,” throwing away that dog hair took a physical effort.

There are times–more times than I like to admit–where writing is the same way for me. I consider myself a good writer, and I think that I could make a career out of it. But when I actually sit down to write, the idea of not writing well paralyzes me with fear. I don’t mean failing at writing, I just mean writing poor paragraphs and scenes. That’s stupid, right? Obviously your writing is never perfect, and the earlier the draft, the less perfect the writing. The only way you fail at writing is not to write, and yet…it’s damned hard to start typing. And then I feel guilty that I haven’t started yet, and that starts a this downward spiral.

I don’t like to complain too much on the blog here; I feel like nobody wants to listen to me whine. Yet, I think this is literally by biggest obstacle to getting published and getting a career, and if there’s any chance that airing it to the world can help be overcome it, then I’m willing to tolerate some uninterested people.

You can’t tell a depressed person, “Just cheer up.” Likewise, telling myself, “Aw, just write,” doesn’t seem likely to help. I’m not sure what the solution is, here. I’m going to try to write a thousand words a day over the next week, just to get back into gear. It’s always hardest to start writing when I stop for awhile. Then, we’ll see. And hopefully, next post, I’ll have some better news.

Oh, and I don’t want to sound like, “wah wah, my life is hard,” because it really isn’t. So, don’t expect these types of posts to suddenly become the norm.

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Also, within the next two weeks, you’re going to see some changes around here. I’m finally going to be adding such novelties as a blogroll and list of links, and more than likely some pretty major formatting changes. I’m not sure what’s going to happen exactly, but I do know this: you won’t want to miss it.

NaShoStoMo, Part I

As promised, now that my novel is with the beta readers, I’ve jumped right into a little thing I like to call National Short Story Month. National might be putting it a little strong, because I’m the only one who’s actually, you know, doing it. But my long-held strategy is to pretend that I am the man until I actually become the man. You dig?

Anyway, week one, short story one will be completed this evening. For those of you keeping track, that’s two days behind schedule. On the other hand, I did spend two days planning out a short story that I didn’t actually end up writing, so there’s that. This was my submission for the Machine of Death anthology that I mentioned last time, so yeah. I’ll probably still end up writing it, or at least a version of it, but the way I had it plotted out involved a lot of talking and not a lot of doing. Bureaucracy is a hard thing to make interesting.

The story I did actually end up writing is tentatively called “The Desert Beyond the Water,” and basically re-invents “humanity’s first spaceflight” as “renaissance-era cephalopods take a trip above the surface.” I’ve always wanted to write a story about aquatic sentients, and now, thanks to NaShoStoMo, that dream has come true. The worldbuilding was just as intense as I expected it to be, but I don’t think it came out too bad for all of that. As scary as it is to say this, I think I’m going to shop the story around some after I fix it up a bit.

That’s right: my very first submission. Little Brad is growing up.

I’m not counting my submission to the NIWA anthology, of course. I was on the submission committee, so there’s no way it wasn’t getting accepted. We ended up accepting 13 stories for the anthology, which I’m pretty proud of. Half of those people had never heard of NIWA when we first announced the anthology, and it means that over 20 people are either NIWA members, in the anthology, or both. Not bad for a five-month-old organization that started with two people. I’m really looking forward to getting this one in print.

It LOOMS

As of right now, I have 6.5 hours to meet my deadline for Fugitives from Earth. As you may recall, the goal was to get it done today so I could format it and send it to the beta readers this weekend. Well, I’m not sure if I’m going to make it; I still have about 7,000 words left to write. I’ll try as hard as I can, but I’m certainly glad that I’m not under contract.

Also, here’s a major lesson from the last few weeks: don’t take daylong breaks when you’re on a deadline. I didn’t write much on Tuesday, and that came off of a slow Monday, so by Wednesday, I was fighting serious inertia. That meant that I didn’t get much done that day, either, leaving yesterday. But yesterday wasn’t quite enough to make up for the early-week slacking.

I did make a bit of a discovery here, though. It turns out that if I’m not doing very much, it takes much, much more effort to write regularly. Despite having more times in the morning than I did a few months ago, I’m writing less. Likewise, I write less on my days off than on the weekdays. I suspect that this is just because, when  you’re doing nothing but sitting around, even getting up seems like a major undertaking, whereas when you’re already busy, one more task is just a drop in the bucket. This warrants consideration.

Fun news: on Tuesday, I attended the SFWA Northwest Reading Series at Portland’s Kennedy School pub. Some great readings by Ted Chiang, Nancy Kress, and Ursual Le Guin, and I had an even better talk afterwards with the lovely Mary Robinette Kowal. Ironically, thanks to the op-ed piece that Le Guin read, the Q&A focused largely on ebooks and internet publishing, and I was able to hand out a few NIWA flyers to interested parties.

Speaking of Mary Robinette, she created a fairly unique marketing tool for her novel Shades of Milk and Honey: a card game. I haven’t played it or even read the rules in their entirety, but it looks like a trick-taking game using characters from the novel, each of whom have various abilities and skills. Six characters are included in the PDF, but there are two special ones only available at her various appearances. She was going through them like crazy, even though she wasn’t even one of the listed speakers. I absolutely love board games, so I’m wondering if I can do something like this for one of my novels, if not Fugitives from Earth.

Anyway, I’ve written a lot, and it’s going to be a long night. Regardless, though: beta readers get the novel next week, and I can put it down for a while.