Tag Archives: phase 1.5

Beta Readers, Away!

Yesterday afternoon, I finally released Fugitives from Earth into the wild lands of the beta readers. Five gentlemen (and one lady) of discretion and class  now hold in their hands my labor of the last two thirds of a year. It’s pretty fulfilling to finally get to this point; I was starting to think I had Zeno’s Curse. On the other hand: terrifying. The novel isn’t good, at least not yet. I know that. I told them that in the email. But still…holy crap. It’s hard to escape the fact that I’ve made myself very, very vulnerable.

Still, I need the criticism badly if the novel is going to succeed. I can only hope that the two to three months between getting the critique back and reaching my deadline are enough to fix whatever it is they find. Crossing my fingers.

So, now that I don’t have to work on FfE for four weeks, it’s short story time! First up is a little piece I’m calling Finagle’s Law, that is being written with an eye for submitting to Machine of Death Vol. 2. I’m intrigued by the concept of the anthology; basically, there’s a machine of some sort that can, with 100% accuracy, determine one’s cause of death from a blood test. It’s not realistic, sure, but it’s a good jumping-off point for stories, and the first volume did pretty well for itself. Here’s hoping!

I want to get the first draft of that story done in a week or less. Hopefully, I can get three full (that is, possibly publishable) stories done over the next month. Certainly, I’m very much looking forward to writing something a little different. Fugitives from Earth is fun, but man cannot live on bread alone, you get what I’m saying?

In future plans, the wife and I are going to Mary Robinette Kowal’s book signing on Wednesday, at the Cedar Mill Powell’s, feature the Oregon Regency Society and a puppet show. I’m really liking all these book signings I’ve been going to; they make me feel more connected to the community.

Finally, the submission deadline for the NIWA anthology is Wednesday! If you want to submit something but haven’t, now’s the time! Better something than nothing, certainly. Tomorrow evening the submission committee is having a short meeting to hash out the review process. I’ve only read about half of the submissions, but don’t tell anyone.

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.

Various Things Here

As of tonight, I plan to be 3/4 done with my current draft of Fugitives from Earth, with a firm deadline for finishing the rest of the thing by Friday, if possible. That way, I can get the thing out to the beta readers over the weekend. It’s tough sending it out when I know that there are still problems, but I don’t want to fall into the same trap I did with short stories. This way, when people have suggestions–and there are plenty of things to suggest, I daresay–I don’t feel bad changing everything around, because it’s not done yet anyway.

I had a great meeting with the rest of the Northwest Independent Writers Association yesterday. All of the meetings are great, really; it’s amazing how functional the group is after a mere four months of meetings. A couple of them had some great things to say about my story, and for that I was profoundly happy. Sometimes, I need to positive feedback, since my own inner editor frequently just gives me the negative stuff. I don’t know what that guy’s problem is.

On a somewhat different note, I’ve been thinking about the various ways I can actually start my career as an freelance writer, and I’ve been having a really hard go of it. I’m kind of a timid person naturally, but worse than that, I’m often very resistant to change. Unfortunately, what I’m talking about is a damned serious kind of change. As a guy who’s been working at the same job for a decade (this month, actually!), changing not just jobs, but fields, is tough. And this would be a tough place to break in even if I was the most outgoing radical guy around. Oh, how I wish for the days where just a bit of talent would get a friendly editor to take you under his wing and support you while you learned the craft. It’s all dog-eat-dog today, and I don’t even know where to find the dogs, if that makes any sense.

My plan for the time being: write more. I figure that, at the very least, that’s one endeavor that won’t go to waste.

A Very Productive Day

As of just a few minutes ago, I’m halfway through my Fugitives from Earth revision, and probably only a week or two from sending it to the beta readers. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of the deadline.

Also, I’m starting to actually feel good about this novel again. I spent a lot of time cringing during my re-read, as you probably remember. Fortunately, the draft’s looking a lot better for a spot of revision, and I daresay I won’t be humiliated for sending it out to the beta readers.

Not that it’s going to be perfect, or anything. That’s going to take a little more time.

Progress, and Other News

So, I’m writing. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, unlike Orson Scott Card, I can’t write endlessly about writing, so this is going to be a pretty short post.

Having a deadline has helped. With my re-read finished, I’ve been able to start into my phase 1.5 revision, and it’s been going decent. I don’t know if I was sick or what, but for the first part of this week not only did I not feel like writing, I barely felt like moving my limbs. I lived on Cheetos and YouTube for pretty much 48 hours…at least when I wasn’t sleeping. Fortunately, it passed, and now I’m back on track.

My goal is to get half of my revision done by this weekend. That’s half page-wise, by the way. The last half of the book is going to take more than half the time, I’m sure of it. Even so, I’m kind of hurrying here; I don’t want to tarry over words that’ll get sliced up in the beta reading phase anyway. Just keep it consistent, I have to tell myself, keep the characters in one piece and the plot moving along and don’t worry about the prose. It’s kind of liking doing NaNo all over again.

Anyway, I’m anxious to get things out to the readers so I can get their feedback and really pour myself into the revisions. November is going to come soon!

Speaking of which, it looks like I’m going to be at another con this fall! Woo! It’s actually not really a con, per se, it’s the Pacific Northwest Booksalers Association fall trade show, where all the indie booksellers hang out. Regardless, NIWA will have a table there, and one of the badges that comes with it has my name on it. It’s October 13-15th, and I’d love to have Fugitives from Earth done by that point, but we’ll see.

I’m definitely not going to have it done by late August, for Worldcon, but I’d love to have a cover, blurb, and sample chapters by that point. Not that I plan on foisting them off on anyone, mind, but there’s always the chance that someone will ask. Hmm. Should probably get some business cards as well.

Reread: Complete

Six days, 445 pages. About 70 pages per day, plus a few more today, and I’m finished with my reread of the Fugitives from Earth manuscript. It was a revolutionary experience, I daresay.

Okay, I’ve been caught in this trap before. I’ll try a new method of working, go gaga over it, and then end up trapped by my own expectations. That’s what happened with my new “extreme outlining” strategy; I’d spend all this time working on a plan, only to end up having my creativity stifled because of it.

This time, though, I think that I’ve made a more basic discovery. There’s nothing crazy or radical about it, except that it goes against my own habits. It turns out that by reading my manuscript as I’m writing, it becomes a lot easier to tie the various plotlines together and create a more complete novel.

Not for the first time, I find myself going against the NaNoWriMo model. You’re not supposed to read your own work when doing NaNo, because the temptation to go back and edit is, for new writers at least, often fatal. However, the “charge forward no matter what” idea assumes that you’re going to lack either the discipline or the time to write ahead and go back. As an aspiring professional, however, I’m trying very hard to develop that discipline, and with my work situation right now, I most definitely have the time.

Of course, all this applies mostly to early drafts, and it’s going to be awhile before I start working on one of those again. Right now, I’m just thrilled that my story isn’t as broken as I thought it was. Between my in-line notes and my 500-word daily summaries, I’ve got the materials to make it a downright good story. I don’t think that it’d knock any editor’s socks off, but it should at least be good enough, or fun enough, for someone to enjoy reading.

The next step, of course, is to start on the actual revision. I would really love to get it all done in just a couple of weeks. I’m not sure how realistic that is, but with my upcoming deadline, if I get the beta copy out to the readers any later than mid-June or so, I’m going to be in a serious time crunch. So, time to burn the midnight oil, I suppose. That’s what the life of a professional writer is all about.

The Reread

Today marks the second day of my Fugitives from Earth re-read.

It’s going…okay. It’s actually going fine, really. Just great.

First of all, a shout-out to my lovely and talented wife, who took that massive pile of paper and perfectly bound it using top-secret techniques I wouldn’t dream of posting on the internet. Some things, man was not meant to know.

On topic: I’m over a quarter of the way through the book, and I’m not yet done today. This is a pretty cursory re-read, as I’ve mentioned; I need to move fast to keep the over-editing friction from dragging me to a complete stop. “Only mark consistency problems,” I keep saying. “Only mark spelling or punctuation errors where meaning is unclear.” Gah. Ugh.

First thing this morning, I wrote up some thoughts on the previous day’s reading, and I think I’m starting to get a handle on some changes I want to make. The flow of the story overall isn’t too bad, at least in the parts I’ve read, but there are a lot of wasted character moments, minor inconsistencies, and a few outright unbelievable situations. I’m feeling confident that all of these things can be changed, but how long it’s going to take, I have no idea.

Speaking of which, NIWA has just reserved its table at OryCon 33, and I fully intend to be there, in the booth, with a book to sell. That makes the release date of Fugitives from Earth November 11th, giving me just under 6 months (specifically, 178 days) to get the final copies in my hand. Ah, deadlines. A wonderful thing.