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State of the Writer: November 2013

Mmm, turducken. Available at your local Harris Teeter.

Mmm, turducken. Available at your local Harris Teeter.

October is gone, and November is here. First, I like to start the month by wishing best luck to anyone intended to do Nanowrimo. It was originally my goal as well, but chose instead to start The Chain instead. Still, I’ve done Nanowrimo several times in the past and know it isn’t easy. It isn’t a sprint. It isn’t even a marathon. It’s a marathon of sprints. Hopefully everyone is making good use of the month starting right at the weekend. My best year on Nano was a year that November 1st was a Saturday. That turned into a 5000+ word day that created a barreling momentum.

Speaking of not breaking the chain, my chain is going strong. I just wrapped up day forty-nine, a nice seven by seven block of x’s on my calendar, each representing 500+ words writing or 30+ minutes of outlining or editing. With one exception, a night that I counted writing a reference letter I’d put off long enough. Thus far, better than six days out of every seven have been writing, and due to that the manuscript is up over 28,500 words with 30,000 getting ready to fall early this week. The deep parts of the outline are even starting to come together, and I figured out where each of the three plot lines intersects with the other two.

Yay writing!

Not sure what’s going to happen during the holidays, but it’s not like I’m putting a lot of time into each day. That’s part of the power. A little bit of work every day adds up to a lot of work. It’s the same lesson I learned back when I could do fifteen minute hunks of morning writing.

The Great Hugo Read plows on, and this month we get to…I’m not going to say it’s the book I’ve looked forward to the most. Perhaps it’s better to say it’s the book I’ve anticipated the most. If that makes sense as a distinction. I have watched Starship Troopers a half-dozen times. It’s probably one of my ten favorite movies. But I’ve been warned, I understand that the book is a Very Different Thing from the movie, that Paul Verhoeven was in equal parts adapting and satirizing the novel. I’ve paired it up with a recent novel that owes a lot to Starship Troopers: John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

Standard details:

Primary: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (1960)

  • Print: In print.
  • Electronic: Available for Nook and Kindle.
  • Audio: Available from Audible, narrated by Lloyd James.
  • Film: Oh lord. I love this movie. I understand it takes a LOT of liberties with the book, and can be seen as a satire of the book rather than an adaptation of it. I’ve seen it several times, which should make reading the book…interesting?

Secondary: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (Military science fiction inspired, in part, by Starship Troopers)

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The Writer, Back To Work

A Post In Two Parts

Part One

I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog that I’ve gone through a layoff recently. If you’ve missed my updates on Twitter, I’ve accepted an offer letter and will be back to work on Monday. I don’t like to actually talk about who I’m working for and what work I’m doing here on the blog, however it’s work similar to what I was doing before my layoff at a company I’m extremely excited to work at. Like, geeked out a little when I arrived for my interview excited. It may or may not have ultimately helped, but I got the job.

I realize I was in a very good position. My former company treated me very well, even through the layoff. I wasn’t an isolated employee thrown to the wind, I was in the third wave of a massive set of layoffs. That meant plenty of notice, roughly six months, and a severance package that I didn’t burn completely through. In some ways, this layoff might end up being one of the better things that has happened in my career.

I know there are folks out there who are having, or have had, a much tougher time on the job market. I could afford a rather leisurely layoff period, applying for every job I could find, attending every interview that would have me, but I got nowhere close to the point where we had to worry about the house, or our food bill. I even had a pretty good backup plan in place. My thoughts go out to every single person who hasn’t been as fortunate as I.

Part Two

I’m not just heading back to work in my day job career, I’ve also gotten back to work on my writing in a good and substantial way. I’ve had a few fits and starts since the baby came along, but I think I’ve found something that’s working for me.

It all started a few years ago on Lifehacker, a post passing along Jerry Seinfeld’s method for improved productivity:

[Seinfeld] said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

I’ve seen this alternatively called the Seinfeld Method and Don’t Break The Chain online. Folks have used it to learn foreign languages, get better about exercising, stop procrastinating nearly so much, and, of course, writing. I started my chain on September 15th. It was the day after my birthday, and that seemed as good a time as any to start something like this. Think of it as a New Years resolution of sorts.

My daily goals are modest. 500 words of writing, 30 minutes of outlining, or 30 minutes of editing. These are very easy goals to hit, but they are also numbers that add up over time. They’re also minimums. On the days I’ve written, I’ve gone well over every time. I’ve yet to break the chain, and I’ve done writing all but one day. Thanks to this, I’m just over 9000 words into the generation ship story that’s been running through my mind for a few months.

The momentum factor is very important. I’ve been keeping a page where I’ve checked off the days. And as the chain gets longer, the temptation to break it diminishes. Hopefully this will carry me through the rough draft, and through edits on both this book and Nickajack.

So that’s me. Back to work in two different ways. Hopefully both are for the long-term.

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Possessive Ships

Short post today, longer post tomorrow.

I’ve started the new generation ship novel, which inevitably means referring to the ship by name. Style manuals for this are very clear, the names of ships are italicized. So it’s the Sarah Constant. Though many style guides would yell at me for saying “the”. And I get that point. The name of the ship is just that. A name. You wouldn’t say “that novel is written by the DL Thurston,” you’d say “that novel is written by DL Thurston.” (Though you can choose to use the first form with italics: “that novel is written by the DL Thurston.”)

Likewise, proper style is to say “I am traveling on Sarah Constant,” not “…the Sarah Constant.” But that just feels wrong, ya know? Especially because most of us science fiction fans grew up with Star Trek, not the Navy style manual. In Star Trek it’s always “the Enterprise.” “Captain Picard is in command of the Enterprise,” instead of the proper “Captain Picard is in command of Enterprise.” Maybe Starfleet just never adopted the Navy style manual, though it certainly adopted everything else.

However, I had a deeper question. How do you use a ship’s name in the possessive? Are the apostrophe and s italicized or not? Being that I was operating on a Sudafed last night, this struck me as a Very Important Question that Needed Answering Now.

So I found two style manuals that talk about ships in the possessive. And they disagreed. According to the National Geographic style manual, the answer is Constant’s. According to the Wikipedia style manual the answer is Constant‘s.

Can you see the difference?

Let me make it bigger.

Constant’s vs Constant‘s

There. Maybe you can see it. Probably you can’t. I know the difference, and I have a hard time seeing it. The official National Geographic style is to italicize the apostrophe. The Wikipedia style is to not italicize the apostrophe. Both say not to italicize the s.

In the light of day, it really doesn’t much matter right now. I just need to be consistent, and when it’s published one day (hopefully) it’ll be up to the style manual of the publisher.

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State of the Writer: September 2013

I’m a few days late, I know. I mentioned a month ago that I didn’t know what would happen to my posting schedule during my unemployment. The answer appears to be that it’s going to go down a little. Since we’re starting on a personal note, the job hunt is going well, but has not yet wrapped up. I’ve had some good interviews, hoping one results in an offer. Be a nice birthday present. Oddly, last time I was unemployed (coming out of college) I also landed a job right around my birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, today is my daughter’s first. It’s an oddly surreal feeling. It feels like it can’t have been that long, also feels like it’s been much longer. My daughter is a time p̴ar̷ad̸òx, apparently. But I still love her. Tonight’s plans involve putting a cupcake in front of her, and seeing what happens.

Alright, writing. I’ve tucked into my new generation ship novel project a little earlier than planned. I’m working my way through a few drafts of the first chapter, looking to get a tone I’m happy with and get some characterization going. After that I’m going to back out again and get some outlining done. Probably going to work similarly to Nickajack with outlining and writing happening at the same time, with the one only a few chapters ahead of the other. Right now the book is just over 1800 words long, but that represents several evenings of toiling on that first chapter to get it as good as I can. It’s not something I’d normally obsess over so much at the start of the book, but I do want to get it at least a little right.

In general I’m trying to find a little time each night to write. And there is a little more time in the evening with a one year old than there was with a six month or nine month old. Some nights will be Nickajack s͙͇͉̅ome nights will be Back Half.

Great Hugo Read: We’re back to the past read, picking up again in 1958 with Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time. It’s the last novel awarded a Hugo without a nomination stage. I’ve paired it up with Brian Aldiss’s novel Non-Stop, which beat The Big Time when, in 2007, the British Science Fiction Association selected their Best Novel of 1958. So it’s one novel that was thought better at the time, and one novel that was thought better with a half century’s hindsight. This is something I’ll end up talking about more in October when the Hugo Read looks at its first Retro Hugo winner.

Buying options for both books:

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

I got a 1972 copy published by Ace, but that was before I realized The Big Time was originally published as Ace Double D-491. I bring this up not because of my love of Ace Doubles, but because it is paired with a collection of Leiber short stories from the same universe as The Big Time.

Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss

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State of the Writer: July 2013

Fourth_of_July_fireworks_behind_the_Washington_Monument,_1986June saw something odd happen: writing. There are some growing pains in our new plan to get back to work on Nickajack, but we’re back into word crafting and things are going well. We’re focusing heavily on the front of the book, reworking the first chapter to improve character motivations, bringing in a new point of view character that neither of us expected going in. It’s fun to get back into the project, and we hope to improve our methods of writing-with-baby through the next month.

I, especially, hope to improve these methods, as I’m getting closer and closer to the starting point for the first Sarah Constant book. I’ve not gone any farther into the outline than I had at this point last month. Which means, really, I haven’t gone into it at all. I know my major plot lines, but I’m not sure the major beats or the intersection points. Now I’m getting pressure from my own brain, which has been churning out ideas for books two and three in what I hope to make a trilogy.

There’s a problem in thinking in trilogies. First, there’s no reason to presume that books two and three will ever exist. Largely because there’s no certainty book one will exist. To actually bring a trilogy to print, especially for a new author, book one has to sell as a standalone title and perform well enough in the market to create a demand for books two and three. These might then get green lit together or one at a time. Movies often work in the same way. It’s why so many cinematic trilogies have standalone initial movies followed by a massive 4-5 hour movie split in the middle and released as two parts. That first movie pays for the second two by way of its profits. So while it’s fine to think of a book as a trilogy, focusing too much on the latter chapters of that trilogy is…dangerous to say the least. It’s focusing on books that might never exist and distracting from the book that has the best chance of existing and only chance of selling the other two.

That was rather more of a side trip into the economics of trilogies than I expected.

Needless to say, all my notions for books two and three really need to wait while I get book one outlined and written. And the notions of a space immram really can just go to hell, because I don’t need another concept running through my head when I’m having trouble just figuring out when/where/how to write.

State of the Author’s Beer: Hopefully bottling my currently unnamed apple beer this weekend. Which means it needs a name. Fall Ale is still the best I’ve come up with.

State of the Author’s Bees: Worrisome. One hive lost its queen through an apparent swarming, and we’ve not yet been able to gauge the health (or existence) of a new queen. Our other hive, by far the healthier of the two, may also have swarmed. Or maybe was just really busy this weekend. We’re hoping for a chance to go into both hives all the way down to the base this weekend. Look for a longer apiary post this week or next.

2312Going forward in the Great Hugo Read, we’re tucking into Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, already the winner of this year’s Nebula Award. I’ve never read any Robinson before. He’s best known for his Mars trilogy, featured between 2018 and 2019 in the read. 2312 is Robinson’s fifth Hugo nomination for Best Novel, and he previous won for Green Mars and Blue Mars. On the Nebula side, 2312 was his fourth nomination and second win. Needless to say, he and Bujold are the big guns in this year’s race, having between them 15 nominations and six wins. We’ll wrap up the nominees next month with Mira Grant’s Blackout, then we’re back to classic winners in September with Fritz Lieber’s The Big Time.

It’s getting hot outside, what better reason to stay inside and write? If you’re north of the 49th Parallel, have a happy Canada Day, south have a happy Independence Day. Or, hell, let’s just combine the two and celebrate North America Week.

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State of the Writer: February 2013

2013 Goals:

Query Nickajack. Um…so…about this. Yeah. Thing is, after much discussion with my wife/coauthor we decided to fire one of our point of view characters. It’s been a long time coming. We accidentally created a character far more compelling and with more agency. This is great, this is what editing a novel it all about. Not just fixing little grammatical errors, but making those big changes. Of course, this means cutting out 7-8 chapters and replacing them with chapters written from scratch. I’m hoping to get those new chapters outlined and drafted this month, but it does push the schedule back a little. Hopefully not a lot, but at least a little. Which means it also pushes back the schedule to…

Draft Mogollon. …by the same amount. Since we’re hoping to do a lot of outlining and drafting while Nickajack is with alpha readers, and since it’ll take longer to be alpha reader ready…yeah.

Draft GS Book One. This isn’t pushing back. I’m fleshing out characters and working out just how much of the plot for the series should end up in the first book. Or first novella. I’ll admit it’d be an interesting experiment to write this as one big volume containing three novellas, linking short stories, and a 1000-ish word coda that’s already written. It all depends on how much plot there is, and how much ends up in that first book.

Woof. Takes longer to find excuses for being behind on three goals than it ever took for being behind on one.

It’s otherwise a quiet month with little to report. That is to say…

State of the writer’s bees: Sadly, dead.

State of the writer’s beer: Happily aging.

Theyd_rather_be_rightWe’re also going into the second month of the Great Hugo Read with our primary book They’d Rather Be Right aka The Forever Machine and a secondary book I Am Legend. The Goodreads group is still going, and is seeing some activity, so if you’re reading the books and are a member pop on in. If you’re not a member, I do plan to talk about the books both over there and over here. It’s another month where the book is hard to find. Starting next month we get into books with audio and digital formats. Here are your options:

Primary: They’d Rather Be Right aka The Forever Machine by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley (1955)

Secondary: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

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