Come to My New Blog!

If you followed a link here from a comment I made on somebody's google blog, I would love to have you visit my blog, but this is no longer it. While I may occasionally post things here again once in a long while, virtually all my content will be at from here on out. If you were curious enough to come this far, why not give me one more click?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I cheated on my novel this week.

I had all sorts of out-of-town company last week--including the in-laws, who are still here--and I'm still struggling to meet my writing goals for last week, so, in order to still get to feel some sense of accomplishment, I worked on my short stories over the weekend. I revised "War Crimes" and resubmitted it, and pulled out an old short I'd never submitted and found a market to submit it to.

I think the changes I made to "War Crimes" make it stronger. They help avoid one source of confusion and they make the ending stronger. I'm pleased with the commentary I got from Baen's Bar. That said, I don't think it's going to find a home there. It doesn't seem to be generating any interest. I think a problem with the model over there is it discourages interest in longer stories. People will read a 9,000 word story that has already been vetted for quality, but not so much an unpublished one by a stranger. So almost nobody reads it, and if almost nobody reads it, how can it possibly generate the buzz necessary to get published? They seem to be looking for short little action stories, not long morality studies with literary pretensions.

Of course, it would help if their site could stay up for 24 hours straight.

The other story I submitted was "Unintended Consequences." Yeah, that's a terribly trite title; I wish I could think of a better one. And it's the dreaded time-travel story, which makes it doubly cliché. But it's not a bad little story, I think. It's not really a trunk story, because it's not like it has made the rounds and been rejected; I literally have never submitted this story anywhere before. So typical of what I'm trying to move past . . . I've written so much stuff that I've either never submitted or only submitted once or twice. It's hard to motivate myself for that side of the art. Anyway, UC is a less ambitious/pretentious story. It's just a good old-fashioned (or, at least, old fashioned) sci-fi story about scientists and the uses/misuses to which they put their discoveries. It's got what I think is a nice twist in it, and a pleasantly frisson-ish ending. And unlike almost everything else I write, it's short. I hear OSC's IGMS is looking for short science fiction--apparently they're just inundated with fantasy--how's that for a turning of the tables?--so hopefully this will be right up their alley.

Not to wax too lyrical about the process of writing--but then again, that's the whole reason I have this blog: so that I can hide these raves where nobody who isn't interested can see them--but I've really been struck by how much better my life has been since I rededicated myself to actively pursuing my dream. Better in ways totally unrelated to writing. I've noticed I'm less stressed at work. I'm not investing myself in it twelve to sixteen hours a day anymore: eight is all you get, sorry. Whatever doesn't get done today will get done tomorrow. Or at the last minute. And that's okay. But the biggest thing I've noticed is that I've lost weight. I haven't made any effort to lose it; I haven't dieted or exercised, at least not consciously. It took me until later to piece this together, but here's what I realized: I tend to snack when I'm stressed or bored. When I write, I am neither of these things, and thus, I haven't been feeding my face as much. The weight loss hasn't gotten drastic yet, but it has gotten to the point where stuff that just barely wasn't fitting now just fits, and stuff that was just fitting before now fits better. How cool would it be if this kept up?!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Done . . . ?

I think I've finished chapter thirteen. I had one more scene I'd planned to write, but it seems anticlimactic after what happens at the end of the last scene. The last scene seems like the perfect hook into another chapter, so it feels like the right place to cut off. I haven't set that decision in stone, but right now it seems like the last one.

I don't do those cute little "how are you feeling today" blog smilies, but if I did, it's be an exhausted-looking one. I really need to get more sleep.

I wrote most of thirteen on a tablet PC. I could definitely get used to that. I type faster than I handwrite, but I stop so much to think, I don't know that it really makes a difference. And the tablet can be used places where an ordinary laptop would be awkward. Like in the car.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh, and . . .

Something else I forgot. You know, I read that you need to give your critiques a week or more to sink in, so that you become thick-skinned enough to get the value out of them. I went back and had a good look at the critiques of "War Crimes," and, you know, I really did get some good indications of how to improve the story. When people talk about what's going on in the story, or how to improve it, they may not be spot on, but what they are spot on about is what's not working for them. What I mostly saw when I went back and looked again were places where what I was trying to accomplish was not clear. So someone might say, "This seems pointless, get rid of it." Well it's not pointless, but what it does mean is that I haven't made clear why it's there. So getting rid of it may not be the answer, but improving it is. At this moment, I'm much more positive about the whole Baen's Universe slush pile experience than I was when I first got my feedback. I can see where I got something of value. Previous readers have enjoyed the story, and improved it in minor ways, but they haven't given me as many ways to substantially improve it as I now feel I got from the three people who read my story over there.

And work rears its ugly head

This week my day job reasserted itself, and reminded me that writing is cool, but I still need to please The Man if I want to keep food on the table. Well, big surprise: there are only seven weeks left in the school year. Things were bound to get stressful. I had hoped to get ahead of schedule on my writing one of these weeks; at this point I'll be lucky not to fall behind. I'm behind on everything else, including sleep. ≥_≤

But hey! I'm caught up on lesson plans!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Chapter Twelve went long on me. I figured I'd have it done by midweek, but then this scene I thought would only take six pages ballooned to thirteen as the characters did stuff I hadn't expected and as I realized certain things had to happen.

Not to sound too mystical, but I really am feeling that my characters have input into the process. I had a scene last chapter I just could not write, until I figured out it was because one of the characters simply would not behave the way I intended to have him behave. I fixed that, and the scene poured out. It's like they're in my brain and they have the power to lock up my fingers. Also I'll be going along, writing, kind of stream-of-consciousness (except with, you know, punctuation ;) ) and a character will say or do something because it flows out of me, because it just feels right, you know? But I hadn't planned on it beforehand, and whatever they say or do ends up having ramifications.

Plotters aren't any less creative or mystical than pantsers. They just have a lot of those moments before actually writing all the nitty-gritty stuff down.

After one negative and one lukewarm critique of "War Crimes," I finally got one reader who totally got it and dug it! Now, I know, these are supposed to be critiques, not reviews. So I shouldn't be valuing the positive ones above the critical ones. I don't learn anything if I only listen to the people who praise me. But this guy was the only guy who seemed to get what I was trying to do! Who seemed to get that there was a lot of deliberate ambiguity, and seemed to understand that the real story wasn't about the war or the aliens or whatever, but about Jorge Vega's moral cowardice, and so the things that didn't seem to relate to the war or to the aliens were in fact not irrelevant, they were about the real story. Again I'll remind myself that it's foolish to only listen to the people who praise me, but damnit, it was nice to have someone read something I thought was special and seem to agree. Anyway, I haven't replied to any of the critiques yet. I should get on that.

But right now I need a break.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Progress again

I finished chapter eleven this afternoon. 225 manuscript pages, which doesn't mean much, but it makes me feel good. Page-counts are more tangible to me than word-counts.

Eleven was tough because it had a lot of little scenes, which feels like a lot of start and stop to me. I know lots of writers set a quota for themselves of so many pages or so many words or so many hours in a given period of time, but for me the basic unit is the scene. I prefer not to stop writing in the middle of a scene, and when I finish one, I usually need some recharging time before I'm ready to write the next one. If I were ever setting daily quotas for myself instead of weekly quotas (which seem to work better with the work schedule) I think it would be along the lines of a scene a day. Days with short scenes would just be easy days. Big deal. Vanishing Act has about 78 scenes, so that would be about two and a half months, which seems to be about par for the course as far as time from plot to manuscript (for those of us that plot in advance, anyway).

Monday I go back to work. I am so not looking forward to it. Having this week to just write (and think about writing) has been wonderful. What a luxury it would be to be able to live like this all the time. (Since I'm forcing myself to write whether I go to a day job or not, I mean.)

I think I've started to put my finger on what's making this novel fly by so much better than the last one. I feel like somewhere about a month or so after I started serious work on VA, a switch got turned. I should be so lucky as to have this switch stay on for the rest of my life. Writing, all of a sudden, has become a lot easier for me than it was before. I think some lessons I'd heard over and over again finally started sinking in, and I no longer have so much of that lost, what the hell do I do now? angst at the beginning of scenes. When a scene is hard to write at first, I have some tricks now that help me play with it until I find the handle I need on it.

I'm not saying that my quality is that much better. I mean, I hope to hell that it is and I'd like to think so. But I don't know how qualified I am to judge that, in the moment. But what I do believe is that the swings in my quality are narrower. My best now may not be any better than my best a year or five ago. But my worst now is light years better than my worst was, even one year ago.

That being said, I'm not looking forward to the plot twists that are coming in VA. I'm about to put Chris through some unpleasant times. This mostly-pleasant interlude in his life ends "tomorrow" (in narrative time).

Thank God I don't have to start writing that stuff tonight.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Nothing like having the first reviewer have not a single positive thing to say about the story you think is the best writing you've ever done in your life to throw cold water on the notion that you might really be a writer.

I should do some work on Vanishing Act, since I have time, but, you know what? I don't much feel like writing now, for some reason. I reckon I'll take the girls out and see a movie. Spiderwick looks fairly good.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Submitted "War Crimes"

I submitted "War Crimes," the story of mine I'm proudest of, to Baen's Universe's online slush pile. Now I feel like a presidential candidate awaiting early returns. While I waited, I read through some of the other submissions and thought, I'm not totally out of my league here. Ew, wait, that's not humble and people like humble. I don't mean I thought I was better than people. A decade and a half of no publications attests that I'm not. Just that I didn't feel unworthy to even approach the slush pile.

I really like that you get to submit and get critiqued at the same time. Nobody comes away completely empty-handed, it seems. Even if they don't end up buying your story, you get a crit out of it.

I intend to crit some of the other stories there while I'm killing time, but I'll wait until I start to get some responses of my own, just to know if I have any business whatsoever telling anybody else how to write. See? The old insecurity always raises its head, no matter how cocky I get.

But at the risk of sounding cocky again--and it's not, it's just the opposite, you'll see--I reread "War Crimes" today and was blown away. Not that I think I'm so good, but that I don't know where the hell that story came from. Even if nobody ever publishes it, if I could write like that every day, I would be beyond ecstatic. There's all these neat places where something early in the story resonates beautifully with something later, and I think, how the hell did I do that? If I could write like that every day, I'd feel legit. I'd feel like I'm not a pretentious knob calling myself a writer, regardless of whether I ever sell a work. Because that was a story I'd like to read.

But I can't write like that. I seem to have one flash of brilliance every two or three years, at best. I'm sure the conventional advice is to keep trying, and of course I will do so. But damn.

I've got a handful of other stories sitting around in my hard drive, but I'm going to wait on them a bit. I'm so impressed with the way Baen seems to work, with the fact that I can get a crit, if nothing else, that I'm inclined to give them first dibs on my stories.