State of the Things, February 2014

The first Thing, I suppose, is whoa, holy crap, we are now in the same 30-day period in which Night Owls gets published!

My mind still reels at that. Someday soon, finished copies will arrive, and then… and then… /wibbles

If you’re attending Boskone this month, I’ll be participating in The Book Launch Party on Saturday the 15th from 7:30-9:00 in the Galleria Con Suite. Come say hello! I plan to have a few copies of Night Owls to give away.

Also, Publishers Weekly gave it a pretty solid review. Huzzah!

On the new writing front:

  • Hill and I have started something horror-flavored. I’ll get a wordcount link over on the sidebar when it has a name. Which it currently doesn’t. Titles are hard, kids.
  • I’m writing some shiny freelance stuff for games I really dig. Stay tuned!
  • Getting back to work on Adrift, including reading the two books that were recommended to me several times, by several instructors, at Viable Paradise: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, and Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. Totally disparate works, but each with elements I can learn from for my own.

Short stories! It feels strange to have some time to really think about these, since they’ve been showing up in my updates for uh, a long time now, but the ideas are still with me, and now and then I’ve looked longingly at them in my ideas folder and whispered not yet. Thinking it’s time to dedicate one night of writing a week to them, see how they shake out.

  • “Wolves”
  • “The Desert in Fimbulwinter”
  • “The Reunion Tour of Billy James and the Flamethrowers, or How Billy Got the Band Back Together”

You might notice Ghost Town, the sequel to Night Owls, is complete over there on the sidebar. First draft is done, done, done, and my editor did not send it back to me on fire fueled by a gallon of red ink. So, edits for that are also on the docket.

/googles “Is pen ink flammable”
/wastes five minutes in research spiral
/answer is: “probably not, but some dudes lit a pen on fire and posted it to youtube.”

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Shut Up and Take My Money

Because this blog has been a lot of me me me lately, here’s some stuff that’s not!

Kickstarter has introduced me to so many new and shiny creative projects. These are a few that tickle my fancy, and I hope might tickle yours. If you dig the sound of any but can’t contribute, how about a signal boost?

Gaming

First off, we have Will Hindmarch’s Project DarkAre you a fan of Thief? Do you play a rogue in any game that offers it as a class? Do you secretly wish you were one of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards? Then this game is for you.

Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bonean inclusive Norse fantasy RPG using the Fate Core setting? Yes please!

Anthologies

Women Destroy Science Fictionif they reach their stretch goals, we’ll get to destroy horror and fantasy, too! Huzzah!

Dark Trails: An Anthology of Weird Western StoriesJust look at that table of contents. /makes grabby hands

Streets of Shadows: A Noir Urban Fantasy Fiction Anthology – Again with the TOC.

Unidentified Funny Objects 3Editor Alex Shvartsman is one of my Viable Paradise classmates, and he’s bringing us a third collection of humorous SF stories. Have I mentioned the contributors? Because /glee

Are there any projects on your radar that I’ve missed? Drop a link in the comments! (No need to limit it to Kickstarter, by the by. Projects hosted on Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Patreon, etc are all welcome.)

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“Ex Astris” in Fireside Magazine

My flash story “Ex Astris” is up in the January issue of Fireside Magazine today!

This is my first professional short story sale, and I am geeked for it to be in the company of Lilith Saintcrow and Chuck Wendig.

You can purchase the individual issue, but full-year subscriptions are also available, which nets you scads of excellent fiction and art, and lets you get caught up on Chuck’s serial story “The Forever Endeavor.”

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On Eligibility Reminders

There’s been debate (as there seems to be every year at this time) over whether writers should post lists of the work they’ve published in the previous year to jog readers’ memories as they mull over their nominations for 2014 awards.

Starter reading: Amal El-Mohtar and John Scalzi pretty much say the things I’m thinking as a writer. (Especially as one who will be preparing her own eligibility post this time next year.)

I would like to toss out my two cents as a reader, with the understanding and acknowledgement that I am both things at once: pro and fan, writer and reader, the two are not mutually exclusive.

However.

/dons reader hat, sits atop pile of books

Let’s talk about some of the concern I’ve seen expressed about eligibility posts’ affects on readers:

“If you really loved a story, you’d remember it without prompting.”

I read a whole lot of stories in a year. Mostly books, but short stories and novellas as well.

My day job, as a sales rep for a publisher, means a good chunk of what I’m reading is six to nine months ahead of what’s in stores. I recognize that this isn’t going to be the case for the majority of people, but I want you to have a sense of how unstuck in time I can occasionally feel, seeing a book out in hardcover in meatspace and thinking “Yes, but hasn’t that been out for years?” when in fact it only pubbed the month before.

With that out of the way, like many other fans, I read a whole lot of stories in a year.

Twelve months is a long damned time. While I’m sure there are people out there organized enough to keep lists of what they read and when they read it, I am not one of those people. So when the following January rolls around, it is entirely possible — even likely! — that the books I read in November/December will be fresher in my mind than what I read the previous February. Even if I loved that February book. Even if I pressed it into all my friends’ hands and said you must read this.

Can I give an example? I’m going to give you an example. A big one.

I did not remember that the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was published in January 2013 until I saw this post by Leigh Butler on Tor.com.

Shall I repeat that? Put it in bold?

I did not remember that one of the most-anticipated books in one of the best-selling fantasy series of all time was published last year, and is therefore eligible for a Hugo in 2014, until someone reminded me.

Even if my favorites do spring immediately to mind, Hugo voters are able to nominate up to five titles per category. I might know my top three books of 2013, but seeing those eligibility posts can jog an oh hey, I really liked that, too. It might not be my #1 book of the year, but I’m allowed to put multiple books on my ballot. My runners-up might be someone else’s favorite, and I’ll be happy to see that title get the recognition.

I do not read new fiction exclusively. Let’s say I wander into a bookstore and head straight for their sf/f section, bypassing the wall o’ new fiction. The books will be a mix of frontlist (new titles) and backlist (older titles). If a store has enough copies, a new book will be shelved both with new releases and in its eventual home category. So it’s entirely possible the book I’m scooping up is hot off the presses, and I have no idea.

It’s a rare occasion for me to check the copyright date — when a book came out is never a factor in whether or not it comes home with me from the store. I read the back cover. I read the employee shelf-talkers. I read the first page or two. If it’s part of a series, I might return the next week and buy the rest. Maybe the last book in there is only two months old. I do not know unless I look, and chances are, it’s not at the front of my brain to do so.

One more before we move on:

Sometimes I missed it when it was first published. This happens all the damned time. My to-read pile is taller than I am, by a lot. Your book might be sitting in it, waiting for me to finish work reading, or held for when I am free of deadlines, or when I have a weekend to myself to really savor it. Or I intended to buy it when it came out, and I forgot.

Saying “these are my eligible works” lets me bump anything I missed to the top of that stack, so I know to get it read by the time nominations close on March 31st. It doesn’t guarantee I’ll vote for it, but it’d be awfully sad if April 1st rolled around and I fell in love with your book too late to get it on my ballot.

“Posting your eligibility results in legions of fans stuffing the ballot boxes.”

Oh come the hell on, with this one.

That’s an insult to me as a reader, suggesting that because an author I like says “this work of mine is eligible,” I will rush to vote for them. To what end? To curry favor? A pat on the head?

Forgive me for breaking into anecdata again, but: let’s look at last year’s Best Novel nominees, shall we:

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed
Blackout, Mira Grant

Out of those five, I am a big fan of Saladin Ahmed, John Scalzi, and Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire. I dig their writing, I pay attention their tweets and their blog posts, and have immense respect for them all.

If Kim Stanley Robinson has a social media presence I’m not aware of it. My #1 spot on my Hugo ballot for Best Novel went to 2312. Because I loved that book. Loved, loved, loved it.

In 2012, my #1 vote for Best Related Work went to Seanan McGuire for Wicked Girls. Not because I wanted to earn her adoration, but because I played that CD over and over and over. Because I loved it, and felt it deserved recognition.

Fans are capable of making decisions about what they liked, and to suggest we vote only out of sycophantic loyalty is insulting.

Also, shall we talk about how you get to vote in the Hugos in the first place?

Participating in the Hugo nominating and voting costs money.

The 2014 guidelines are here.

To nominate for the Hugos, you have to be at minimum a supporting member of one of three Worldcons, 2013, 2014, or 2015. To vote for the final ballot, you must be a member of this year’s Worldcon. That requires at least a $40 commitment.

I dunno, I admit I haven’t taken a poll of past years’ voters, but this is me casting a dubious glance at the suggestion fans will buy supporting memberships so their favorites will win an award.

“Categories like Best Editor are too much work for readers to research / Readers don’t care about “industry” awards.”

I’ve seen it kicked out that readers don’t know who edited the books they like, and it’s too much hard work for them to find out.

Bullshit.

You know how to find out who edited your favorite eligible work, if you think they deserve recognition for their job?

Open a book you liked.

Find the acknowledgements page. It’s a pretty safe bet the writer thanked their editor.

Or, if the author’s up on twitter/tumblr/blogspace, ask them.

If you read a lot of short stories, is there a particular venue you get them from? As in, do you have a subscription to Lightspeed because you enjoy the quality of the work there? Hint: you can find the list of editors on that publication’s website.

This stuff isn’t tough, in the age of Google.

So yes, please, tell me what you’ve put out this past year. I want to know. I want to hear, and be reminded.

Not so I can rig an election, but so I can make an informed choice when I vote.

 

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Roll Up to the Door of the Waiting New Year

Same source as the last post, nerd points still up for grabs.

My theme, if you will, for 2013, was dare mighty things.

I did all right with that, I think. I put myself out there for more freelancing work and got it. I submitted a flash story to Fireside Magazine and it comes out next week.

When I wrote my look-ahead, Night Owls and Gid were still out on sub. Night Owls found a home and oh my god it comes out in less than two months what.

I finished writing The Fire Children at the end of August, and it is now out on submission. The nail-biting never ends around here.

New Year’s Day is supposed to be about new things, new projects, but honestly I liked daring mighty things a lot. I’m going to keep doing them, keep daring them. I figure this year’s going to be filled with enough new shiny that maybe a bit of familiarity’s not such a bad idea.

So, onward to 2014.

This is the year my words get out there.

This month — next Wednesday! — the January issue of Fireside Magazine goes live. “Ex Astris,” my story which will appear in there, is my first pro short story sale.

Next month (next. month. what) Night Owls is officially released into the wild on February 25th. I am still parsing this, because whoa. It’s still surreal, and I feel like maybe it always will be.

One thing I have to learn how to do this year is self-promote. I have this stigma against tooting my own horn, and uh. I kind of need to get over that. So this is probably a good time to say that Night Owls is available for pre-order through your favorite book emporium. Convenient linkery, if you’re so inclined: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

My fingers are crossed that some of the writing I’ve done for RPGs will see print this year. I’ve worked on some amazingly cool projects, cats ‘n’ kittens, and I’m geeked to think people might play the adventures I’ve written. Links when I have ‘em.

I’ve heard that what you do on New Year’s Day sets the tone for the coming year. Today I’m writing. I’m pretty happy with that.

Some loose threads from past years to pick up include:

Practicing my guitar more consistently. Got a copy of Rocksmith for Christmas, and the poor ol’ Fender’s gathering dust, so once my wrists stop aching from finishing Ghost Town, I’ll be giving that a whirl. I hear there’s music at some of these cons, and I know there’s music at VP.

Get moving again. I am a wimp about the cold, so sucking it up and walking/running in the winter is just plain unlikely. We bought a treadmill, though, so it will get more use. I’ve completed the couch-to-5K program before, then let it slide. I’m not good with public workouts or group exercise classes, either. It’s a self-consciousness thing. My local YMCA is fine when it’s not crowded, but the hours I’m able to go seem to coincide with social hour for my old high school’s basketball team. (My old private, Catholic high school a town over that has its own state-of-the-art super-modern gym, by the way, wtf you kids get off my lawn and if you’re not using the abdominal machine move the fuck on and flirt somewhere else aaaaugh).

Cook at home more. I love to cook. I am terrible at getting out of my own way because there’s so much other shit that needs to get done.

My garden! My garden! This year I will grow food.

Social media a-go-go. I’ll be poking at the theme and layout here soon, so strap in! Twitter’s where I spend most of my time, but those links to tumblr and Goodreads over on the side need more love, too.

Some of my plans for 2014 depend on things that are still up in the air. I don’t like jinxing their, so I won’t name them here just yet. Big stuff to ponder (for anyone reading this going omgbaby! uh, NO. Writing stuff. Travel stuff.)

2014 projects remain the same as they were two weeks ago. Adrift comes next, though I miiiight take a break to poke at those short stories I’ve been listing for several years while I’m outlining and researching.

Aside from that, 2014, here I come. Let’s rock this.

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Roll Along Ring

I used to watch the hell out of the movie the post title is from. Nerd nostalgia points if you recognize it.

As you can probably guess by my lack of updatery after the middle of the month, though I had my nose to the grindstone I “lost” NaNoWriMo. Which is, y’know, okay since I dig what I accomplished, and not breaknecking through the month means Ghost Town will be a better book for it. Sometimes you need to stop writing and thinky-face, and that’s a perfectly acceptable part of the process.

Provided your butt returns to your chair.

I’ll be cleaning house around here some in the coming weeks. I need to look all shiny and professional now, since the galleys of Night Owls have this site’s address on them.

GALLEYS. OF MY BOOK. TANGIBLE. OMG.

Related to that, if you are what NetGalley considers a Professional Reader (bookseller, librarian, reviewer, book blogger), you can request a digital review copy of Night Owls here. If you’re a bookseller or other industry type who uses Edelweiss, you can request one here.

If you’d like to pre-order a copy for your very own to love and cherish forever, have some links!

/coughcough

Since people might end up here through the magic of the internet and ARCs and stuff, I’ll be cleaning up links, organizing things better, and finding us a shiny new theme, since this one (Brunelleschi, uh, 2011?) does some of the things I dig but not all — I like a three-column view, but everything gets a bit squished toward the middle because it’s a fixed-width thing. If you have a favorite three-column, adjustable-width wordpress theme you’d like to recommend, drop it in the comments, pretty please?

Housekeeping listy type stuff:

Active projects:

  • Ghost Town — progress bar is currently to your right on the sidebar.  Due by the end of the year, pub in early 2015. A preview of a darling I hope won’t have to be murdered:

    Chaz eyed them. Dirt caked their shoes, streaked their knees and elbows. Val had leaves in her hair. “You guys are filthy. What were you doing?”

    They exchanged a glance. “Hiding a body,” said Val.

    “Hiding two bodies,” said Cavale.

    “Right. Two bodies.”

  • Adrift — as of right now, it’s still slated for me to return to in January. This was my Viable Paradise submission, and the story is still sticking with me. I might even outline the plot.

Upcoming projects:

  • Once Ghost Town is finished, I’ll get to thinking about the next book in the series. I think Sunny and Lia have some stories to tell. Book three might be theirs.
  • “Wolves”
  • “The Desert in Fimbulwinter”
  • ““The Reunion Tour of Billy James and the Flamethrowers, or How Billy Got the Band Back Together”
  • Possibly post-Adrift, unless Miriam wants it sooner, a changeling story I’ve been noodling. Not quite sure if it’d be urban fantasy or not, or whether it’d be adult or YA. We’ll see!
  • Some form of collaboration with Hill. Be afraid (no be afraid. It might be a scary horror book.)

I’ll be attending Arisia and Boskone in January/February. If you’re going to be there, say hello!

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The Pantser Plots

Alternate post title: I wrote an outline and didn’t die.

I am, by nature, a hybrid of pantser and plotter* when it comes to writing. I have an idea where I want the story to end up, and some important moments between beginning and end in mind. I might plan two or three chapters ahead, but rarely do I lay out what goes on in the middle.  In general, it’s worked for me, let me discover the crunchy bits of plot and character as I go.

Long and long ago, before I realized that do what works for you is one of the few actual rules of writing, I glommed onto this quote by Stephen King, and took it to heart:

Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.

My idol was saying that, and sweet zombie Jesus I didn’t want to disappoint they person who has been a major inspiration to me, you know? Like somewhere in Maine, he was going to look up from his work and sneer southward, knowing teenage-me was sketching out the shape of a book.

I also drank the Kool-Aid of if I outline, it will destroy the joy of writing. And I go where my muse takes me. And writing is a beautiful, magical experience I will not sully with mundane tasks.**

Look, I was 17, okay?

So I didn’t outline. I turned my back on the idea, hissing at the concept whenever it came up.

Which meant for a long time I didn’t finish much of what I started, either, because my muse is not interested in carrying me all over the damned place, and when I got to that inevitable part of the story where my wordcount caught up to my initial idea and sputtered out, I waited for inspiration to strike rather than, say, thinking my way through it.

I got over that, eventually, probably helped by (in addition to getting the hell over myself) running a few tabletop campaigns. I might be a pantser in my fiction, but having to run a game for 4-6 people, keeping in mind their characters’ interests, where everyone was in the plot, what they knew, what they didn’t, and what their adversaries were up to required a lot more planning than You’re in the bar and a Hit Mark strolls in. Roll for initiative.

The trick, for me, was learning to leave enough room in the story that the players’ ideas could affect the plot without sending it off the rails, but keeping an eye on where I needed them to get to at the same time.

When I applied that kind of planning to my fiction, things fell into place. Looking ahead in short jumps left me the wiggle room to figure stuff out as I went and tweak what needed tweaking, all with an eye on endgame and how to get there.

For Ghost Town, I did a lot of thinky-facing about the plot, about where the characters were at the end of Night Owls and where I wanted them to end up. I have notebook pages and emails and scribbles on the backs of receipts reminding me of hooks left dangling at the end of book one, of tentpole moments, of characters’ epiphanies. But scattered about as they were, they didn’t quite do what I needed them to.

Then my editor asked for an outline. A start-to-finish, tell-me-what-happens outline.

I’ve written synopses for books that are completed. I’ve gotten to a point in others where I know what happens from there to the end, and scrawl out the important points so I don’t forget them. Hell, at that point, I had the end of the book fairly clear in my mind.

Still. Eep.

What if it sucked? What if I got partway through and realized my plot went nowhere? What if none of my characters were doing anything interesting? What if Rebecca takes one look at it and realizes I’m a fluke, a hack, and have no idea what I’m doing?***

But, well. Better to know it’s terrible now than when the draft is done, right? And I had the aforementioned notes and scribbles and emails oh my. So I did it. It took a couple days longer than I’d anticipated, because usually the middle part of my proto-outlines are variations on Cool shit goes here, and I worry about it when I get there. Except, this time I needed to fill in blanks and answer those questions.

I gave myself time to peer at it, to chew on a couple of gristly bits I wasn’t sure were working how I wanted them to. Laying it out let me excise a clunky subplot that would have been torn out later. It showed me whose book this is, character-wise, which made me pretty happy to see once it was staring me in the face. I left room for the characters to surprise me and notes where I need to work on the logistics of a plot point.

Then I read it over. Slept on it. Reread it in the morning and it still made sense. Shoved it off my desk like it was an unruly cat and sent it away to Rebecca.

And lo, a few hours later, she got back to me. And she didn’t hate it! And she agreed with the choices I’d made! And now, when I put my butt in chair to write, I know where I’m going!

I don’t know if I’ll do it for every project going forward. I might return to my terrible hybrid ways for other things, but it was pretty damned helpful for this book.

The reason I’m telling you this is because here it is November 13th, just shy of the halfway point of NaNoWriMo. Some of you are probably hitting that sticky point right about now, where you’re getting past those scenes that were so very vivid in your head as October waned. If your attempts at NaNo are anything like my own past attempts, you are quite possibly staring over the Great Abyss of Oh God What Happens Next, and the abyss is staring back at you and shrugging.

Chuck Wendig talked about the dreaded middle of the book yesterday, and I suggest you go take a peek for some words of wisdom.

My suggestion for you, if you’re stuck or think you’re heading toward stuck, is this: take one of your writing sessions, or part of it, take an hour or a day, and do some looking forward. Think it over while you’re heating up some soup, or walking the dog, or doing whatever keeps you from the keyboard and has your brain idling for a few minutes. Check in with the characters – where are they now? Where do you want them to end up? What are some plausible things that might happen between those two points? Do you have disparate elements of your plot a-dangling? Is there something that might connect them? Is one maybe a clue that points at the other? What needs to happen between now and your ending? If you haven’t thought about your ending, think about it now.

Write that shit down.

That’s wordcount, for NaNo. It might not be pretty wordcount. You’ll delete those half-sentence placeholders when you write out the full scenes. But it can help get you closer to that goal.

And just because you wrote it down doesn’t mean you’re now obliged for the plot to follow that path. Something cooler might come along as you write. You might discover a huge plot hole and need to rethink. That’s okay! Outlines aren’t contracts.

Good luck, NaNo-ers!

*For those just tuning in, pantser is as in “Writing by the seat of your pants” not “Yanking down the pants of the unsuspecting.” Plotters tend to outline the whole book to varying degrees.

**That’s what they say about going through puberty, too, especially the whole bleeding for seven days part. They’re liars.

***Hello, Imposter Syndrome, nice to see you’ve joined the party.

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NaNo 2013 – Set Your Own Pace

Welcome to Day 4, NaNoers.

By now you are probably some chunk of the way into your novel, whether that’s at the 5,000 word mark, the 10,000 word mark, or the “oh god I’m so far behind” mark.

The hardest part about these first few days, for me, is watching people blow past me with their word counts: 500-word sprints, 2,000-word sessions, a blissful weekend of writing getting them 20% toward the finish line. All while my cursor blinks away somewhere near 1,000 words for the day, sometimes, and my brain is going NOPE. It adds to that looming wordcount anxiety I mentioned in the last post, and I feel like I must be doing something wrong, that the words aren’t flowing from brain to fingertips like they ought to.

It’s easy — at any time of the year, but especially during NaNo — to feel extremely discouraged by those gleeful announcements. I know my fellow writers aren’t gloating. They’re not neener-neenering at slower writers like me. It’s perfectly okay to be proud of yourself for getting those words on the page and sharing your excitement, and I applaud anyone who’s kicking their wordcount meter’s ass.

And I know that if I were to wail to Twitter oh god I can’t, those writers would be the first ones to set me back on my feet, offer virtual hugs and cookies and very real encouragement, and tell me yes you can.

So it’s a matter, in these first few days especially, of remembering that NaNoWriMo isn’t a race. You’ve got a month to get to that 50,000. If other people get there first, it has absolutely no bearing on your ability to finish your own novel. And if you don’t get to 50,000 in November — because life happens, because the muse makes you wrestle for every sentence, because you wrote yourself into a corner and it took a week to find your way back out of it — the rules don’t say you put your pen down and stop writing until November 1st of next year. (And if they did, they’d be stupid rules and you should break them.)

I can finish this. I can. You can, too.

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Happy NaNo Day!

I think the real reason NaNoWriMo starts on November 1st is, you can get a hell of a jumpstart on a novel when you’re fueled by the leftover Halloween candy the trick-or-treaters didn’t snag (or, if you are in charge of said trick-or-treating kids, you are eligible for the “I’m the one that feeds you, now hand over that Snickers” tithe.)

I am not among the sugar-fueled this morning. I didn’t watch the clock tick over to midnight and start typing. In past years, I watched the NaNo forums the last couple weeks of October and dreamed of the book I’d get halfway through in November (never did I think that 50,000 words a finished novel made).

Thing is, I’ve never won a NaNo. I’m generally a pantser, so the freedom to sit at the keyboard and let whatever I want spill forth for thirty days ought to be the best thing in the world. Problem is, it can be too free for my style. There are NaNo fragments of mine from years past where I went in with vague notions about the characters and plot, got a chapter or two in, then sat back and went, “Well, fuck. I’m out of ideas.”

And kept writing anyway, rather than sit back and think.

I can open any of those proto-books up and point at the place where the plot train sprouted wings and flew off the track. Those are the projects that got abandoned ten, fifteen, twenty thousand words in. Turns out, I need some kind of structure going in, or else I’ll flail about and bad things happen to an otherwise good idea. The problem with NaNo, for me, is this: you’re free, but you’re also under pressure.

That magical 1667 loomed over me every time I sat down at the keyboard, and it sucked. I was writing for wordcount, not word quality, striving to hit that daily goal. And if I didn’t, well. The next day was an exercise in trying to make up for lost words plus another 1667. It might not be that way for everyone, but for me, it sapped some of the joy out of writing.

Funny thing, though.

Night Owls started out as a NaNo novel, back in 2004.

I got about half a chapter in before it went off the rails, then meandered into useless, bland backstory for another couple thousand words. Long before November ended, I shoved it in a folder and didn’t think about it for a long time.

When I dusted it off again, sometime in 2009? 2010? I realized that first half chapter wasn’t so bad. And being removed from the words meant I was able to lance that terrible boil of a backstory without agonizing over its loss. From there, on the far side of the calendar from November, I wrote the rest of the novel.

It’s fitting, then, that I’m writing a good chunk of its sequel, Ghost Town in November. I won’t say that I’m spefically participating in NaNo I’ve already started writing Ghost Town, and that’s a NaNo nono but for purposes of cheering on my friends who are, I’ve activated my NaNo account for this year. Come find me if you’re writing, and I’ll offer you virtual tea and sympathy, share my candy stash, and give pep talks and commiseration if you need it.

I don’t know if I’ll get to 50,000 words. The difference between Ghost Town and ten-ish years of failed NaNos for me is, this time around I have an outline. Well, my weird version of an outline, anyway, which consists of scattered notes across several notebooks and emails to myself. I know these characters, too, and in theory, if I find myself going off on a tangent, it’s one that will relate to threads left dangling in Night Owls.

I also have a better feel for plot and structure than I did the last time I NaNo’d (2010, maybe?) I’ve got my notes from Viable Paradise to fall back on when I slip and get a case of the dreadfuls. I’ve written three other books in addition to Night Owls, which have given me a good feel for where I am in a book. I’ve learned to look at a scene, really look at it, and ask myself what it accomplishes. If it’s not moving along the plot or developing the characters, it’s outta there. I’ve also learned to let go, give that 1667 the finger, and write words I intend to keep, not ones that have no purpose beyond filling up a progress bar.

I think… I think maybe I’ve got this.

So, onward into November, my ducklings. And, because I’m super-amazing at cat-vacuuming, I’ll be postifying here throughout the month with NaNo musings.

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State of the Things, October 2013

Whoa. I haven’t done a State of the Things since February. Stuff has happened since then, which you’ve probably figured out.

So, where am I at?

The Fire Children is done, done, done. I’ve had amazing, helpful feedback, and am now in the nail-biting phase with it.

Since the last State of the Things, I’ve done some freelance RPG writing. If you like Trail of Cthulhu, my adventure for the forthcoming Mythos Expeditions anthology is up for playtesting now.

Keep your fingers crossed that a couple of other games I’ve written for will be coming out soon. Linkery when I have it!

YA Scream Queens just launched, and I’m on the roster with a bunch of other neat writerly types. Go check it out!

On to the active projects list, then!

  • Ghost Town: This wasn’t on the list last time because Night Owls was still out on submission. Here it is, making its debut on the list of stuff I’m writing, woooo! It’s book two in the series, and well, I don’t want to say much more about it because spoilers.
  • Adrift: On the list post-Ghost Town. Looking like I’ll get started on it after the first of the year. When not playing video games until my eyes bleed the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ll finally be reading Nine Princes in Amber and Master and Commander as prep.

I’d like to set aside more time for some short fiction as well. This list hasn’t changed much since the last time:

  • “Wolves”
  • “The Reunion Tour of Billy James and the Flamethrowers, or How Billy Got the Band Back Together”
  • “The Desert in Fimbulwinter”

I wouldn’t be surprised if any of those three decide they’d like to be something longer. Seems to happen with me a lot — both Gid and The Fire Children were only supposed to run 5,000 words or so. I’ll worry about it when I get there.

Stuff! Things! And now back to writing. Because I’m totally not cat-vacuuming by blogging. Nope.

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