Tag Archives: characters

Halfway to Being Sort of Halfway Done

As of today, I am halfway done with what I am calling the “phase one” revision of Fugitives from Earth. Woo! The fun thing about writing is that no matter how much you get done on your novel or short story or essay or whatever, there is always at least a little bit more you can do. In my case, there’s more than a little bit, and phase one is the first of, I don’t know, five or six phases.

But, the end of phase one will be a significant milestone because at that point, I’ll feel comfortable sending the story out to beta readers. I have no idea who’s going to fulfill that particular goal – even my wife is probably too busy with school to volunteer. So, if you’re interested, please, let me know and we can talk.

I definitely have to say that every single scene that I’m writing now is twice as good as the ones that they’re replacing. The character moments are more interesting, the action is better, and everything fits together just a little tighter. I was pretty skeptical when I started this project out, but it looks like, against all odds, I might actually have a novel here. And if it’s not great, at least it might be okay.

For a first try, I’ll take it.

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Saaatisfaction

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.

Some Plot Thoughts (With Specifics!)

Just finished a great weekend with the family. Relaxation, food, good conversation – I am truly fortunate to be related to such excellent folks. But of course you only care about the posts, so here we go.

I’m at the point in my discovery writing where things start to get a little more difficult. I’m looking back at what I’ve already written, and although I think it’s entirely serviceable it’s naturally getting to be more and more difficult to fit the pieces together. As I mentioned in my previous post, some characters and minor plot arcs that I expected to have at most a minor impact in the story have started to surge forward and demand a spot in the limelight, and I feel the need to accommodate these urges.

This really is my favorite part of discovery writing, even though it’s hard: watching the characters take charge. Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, my America readers! I don’t know about you, but I am lately stuffed with turkey, ham, and carbohydrates of various sorts. It’s a good day for the ol’ red, white, and blue.

With the business surrounding the holiday and some relatives from out of town showing up, I haven’t exactly kept up the ol’ Wrimo pace, but I’m starting up again. Despite the holiday this weekend I’m planning on writing around 15K words from today until then. I’m about 4K in so far and going strong.

Let’s do some more talking about discovery writing for a few moments, shall we?

Continue reading

Life and Death in Space

There’s not always a lot of interesting things to write about while I’m slogging my way through the drafting process, so I’ve decided create a feature that I will call Scenes from the Future, wherein I detail scenes that I wrote in the past but take place in the future. Make sense?

Pretty much, I just want to chat about something cool that I wrote, even if I’m not experiencing quantum shifts in my writing style as I was during planning and I presumably will again during revision. Scenes from the Future will also involve bits of worldbuilding and character description that will hopefully be interesting. If it’s not, well, I’ll notice the plummeting readership and decide to do something different.*

Approximately the first quarter of my novel takes place on or above the Moon, specifically in the colony of Brighton (thank you, Martin Schweiger). The main

So I have this scene where the main characters have just escaped a moon colony, but in the process of doing so have wrecked their cargo crawler. They’re just outside the base by a few meters, but they’ve completely fragged the airlock and they’re losing air. As hypoxia begins to set in, headaches and decreased awareness begin to plague our heroes.

Meanwhile, assistance is on the way. They had a ship in orbit the whole time, but due to a personality conflict between a main character and the rest of their crew, they weren’t really communicating. However, when the ship gets information that the MCs have been arrested, they decide to help. So a lander is on its way.

The lander reaches the crawler just as its air is running out. Seeing a ship landing (but not knowing who it is), the MCs use the crawler’s radio, a simple transponder, to step on the traffic control frequency and act as an emergency beacon. This guides the lander right to them.

There’s one final problem, though: the lander can’t mate its airlock with the crawler: there’s far too much debris about. So, what follows is a sequence reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, wherein the MCs have to take a short walk through vacuum over the lunar surface and jump into the lander’s open airlock.

I did a bit of research on this. I think that most people know that humans won’t explode when exposed to vacuum, nor will their blood spontaneously boil. The real danger is decompression, wherein the lungs might be damaged by the sudden expansion of the air in them. In this case the MCs were in such low pressure to begin with that it wasn’t a real worry. Neither did they have to worry about freezing to death: vacuum is an excellent insulator.

The two biggest worries are severe edema of the skin, radiation exposure, and asphyxia. A human exposed to vacuum will have about 9-12 seconds of functional consciousness, which in this case is all that’s necessary. Radiation exposure isn’t the biggest deal in the future; a number of factors ameliorate its impact. And lastly, edema due to vacuum exposure is transient (though thoroughly painful). As long as total exposure lasts less than 60-90 seconds, a full recovery is likely.

I tremendously enjoyed writing this scene. It developed pretty organically and I felt that the resolution wasn’t too contrived. And as always, I enjoy showing off my research.

*I’m pretty sure my readership is low enough that it cannot ever, technically, plummet. I choose to view this in the most positive possible way.

There Are Many Others Like Them But They Are Mine

Day 3 of NaNoWriMo. I just hit 10,000 words, averaging 3,336 words per day, which is pretty awesome. My plot is still moving along, my characters are going a little bit crazy, and I’m having a rocking good time.

I went to a write-in yesterday at SE Woodstock, at a coffee shop called Papaccino’s. Pretty cool place, nice time, fun experience. There were about a dozen folks there typing away on their laptops, drinking coffee, daring each other to write faster – it was a great atmosphere. Even though there will probably just be a couple of people there next week due to inevitable attrition, I’m definitely enjoying the social NaNo experience. In fact I’m “hosting” a write-in at McMenamin’s Market Street Pub on Friday – if you’re a Portland wrimo reading this, show up! Continue reading

We Enter the Home Straight

So I’m shifting into high gear. From today, we have only 121.5 hours until NaNoWriMo 2010 begins. After my nice, restful vacation, I’m reading to bust out a novel!

I didn’t get much done on vacation, which makes sense – it was a vacation. I definitely feel like it recharged my batteries, and I did manage to work past a particularly thorny plot problem, so I’m feeling pretty good about the next week. Much remains to be done, though, so let’s quickly run through it, shall we?