Archive for category Lost America

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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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: June 2013

It’s a new month, and it’s a new plan.

It’s always dangerous to think of the baby as being on a schedule, but for now she’s going to bed at a reliable time, and reliably falling asleep. Just writing that sentence has probably doomed us, but my wife-slash-coauthor and I have finally figured out a way forward on Nickajack that starts this week. That’ll get the ball rolling after a few months of scrambling to find a little time here or a little time there. Now it’s one hour twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, after the baby has gone to bed. Laptop gets plugged into the television, eliminating a source of distraction in the process, and we work. First on Nickajack then eventually on Mogollon.

I also hope to work out some schedule for the Sarah Constant books once the Nickajack books have a comfortable routine. I need to move from world building to outlining, one of those pesky little formalities required if I’m going to ever actually write these novels. While I hate to say I’m planning to plan to plan, that’s where I largely am right now. Planning to use this month to figure out a schedule that will work for outlining. Babies do this to your brain and your time. Seriously. Though I don’t regret it for a moment.

These State of the Author updates are getting shorter, but I’m going to keep up with them. They do me some good.

State of the Author’s Bees: Very active. We got some great bees this time around, and they’re already into their third super of frames (the super is a box, each of which holds eight frames). While I doubt we’ll get any honey this year, it’s not impossible, and they’re certainly setting themselves up for a better summer and winter than our previous hives. They’re also friendlier bees, if that’s not weird to say.

State of the Author’s Beer: Was a busy beer week last week. To the point that it’ll get its own post this week.

We’re into the third month of 2013 nominees for the Great Hugo Read, which means diving into the deep end of the Vorkosigan Saga with Captain Vorpatil’s Alliance, and continuing through the Newsflesh trilogy with Deadline. I didn’t entirely realize how long either Vorpatril or Deadline were when I paired them together, it’s nearly 1000 total pages of reading. I hope I get through both of tem, but Deadline might bleed over into August. No pun intended. Cause, see, it’s about zombies…

This week on the blog. Beer, thoughts on my first time reading Midnight at the Well of Souls, the future of Star Trek, and probably other things. Among the other things I’m trying to work into the schedule is this blog, which I posted to only ten times last month, with four of those posts being last 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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2013 Resolutions

I’ve talked my 2012 resolution to death. It was overly ambitious, especially in light of a new member of the household, but it’s one I’m still glad I set. I’d rather overreach with a resolution and let that push me through the year than underreach and be left with no motivation as the year ends. With that said, here we go with some overreaching resolutions for 2013.

Writing Resolution #1: Query Nickajack. Yup, like a zombie rising up from the grave, this goal is back for 2013, and feels much more attainable. We’ve still got some editing to do, some alpha reading to endure, some more editing to do, some beta reading to endure, and yes, even more editing to do. But I think we can pound that all out this year if we keep our eye on the prize. The fact that the alpha and beta reading stages will leave us with downtime leads to writing resolution #2…

Writing Resolution #2: Draft Mogollon. We’ve talked the plot of Mogollon at the highest levels, potentially know all our POV characters (if you’re my wife and reading this, I still love the character we created at dinner Saturday night), and should be ready to sit down and outline this beast once Nickajack is with the alpha readers. Drafting ends up a fitting term for this process, in racing you draft to move faster, and I unquestionably move the fastest when I’m sitting at a keyboard and generating fresh words. Which leads to, yes, a third writing resolution…

Writing Resolution #3: Draft Sarah Constant. I still don’t even have a good working title for this story yet, which is fine, because I don’t plan to write it until late in the year. Over the last few years, after deciding that pantsing it through Nanowrimo isn’t for me, I’ve still been interested to try the event with a fully realized outline to work from. So for the first ten months this year I’ll be outlining this novel in my spare time with the goal of sitting down and writing at least the first 50,000 words of it in November, if not the whole bloody thing. This might be where I’m officially overreaching.

Reading Resolution: 30 Novels. This I’m intentionally setting my sights low. But it will still be more than I’ve read in most recent years. 12 of these will be the primary novels for the Great Hugo Read, 6 or so will probably be secondary novels, the remaining 12 will be random other picks. And, hopefully, there will be more than those.

So there you have it, laid out in the most open forum available to me. I’m going to skip State of the Writer in January, as it would just be a repetition of this post, but those goals will kick off SotW starting in February and each month after that.

Have a happy new year. Ring it in safely.

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State of the Writer: November 2012

Picture released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Wikipedian Someone35.

What do you mean it’s the second?

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack. Last night started a new phase for Nickajack that will see my wife and I find a half hour, even if it’s in two fifteen minute chunks, to read at least one scene of Nickajack out loud a night. It’s a great way to hear the adjectives, the filtering, and the misworded dialogue. The intent is to fix these on the fly and to identify spots where props appear or disappear, character motivations aren’t as strong as they could be, and other plot weaknesses that we can then go back and fix up. This is the novel moving forward in a substantive way for the first time since the birth of our daughter, and it feels good to be back into it. If we push hard and have a good product on our hands, we hope to be ready for the first round of alpha readers by January. No later than March is my hope.

The ultimate plan is two rounds of external readers, the first likely drawn from those who have seen the novel as we’ve crafted it, and the second drawn from those who have no knowledge of the plot or the twists. Each will be followed by a round of editing based on comments. After both rounds are done, then we’ll be querying this bad boy. We likely wouldn’t have made the 2012 query goal even if we hadn’t had a kid, even if we did work straight through, but I’m still glad I set the goal so high. Occasionally you need something completely out of your grasp to keep you jumping.

If you fall into either of the camps that we’re looking to draw readers from, keep an eye out. I’m not looking for volunteers yet, but I will be soon.

In other writing news, I’ve accepted final edits of my story for Old Weird South, and the publisher is hoping that the anthology is out by December 1. I know that dates like this frequently slide, we’ll see about when it will actually come out. If it does hit that date, or up to 30 days later, that will be three short stories published in 2012. Which is awesome. I’ll need to get my ass in gear if I want to match or top that in 2013, and set my sights on some professional rate sales.

State of the author’s beer. Man…I’ve got to bottle that stuff. It’s okay to hang out in the fermenter, but yeah, I’ve got to get that bottled. Maybe that’s a this weekend thing.

State of the author’s bees. They survived the storm in one piece, and now we’re focusing on winterizing them. This means keeping them fed with sugar syrup and pollen so they have reserves to make it through the hard months ahead. That’ll probably be its own post in the next month or two.

State of the author’s baby. Eight weeks old now and super cute. She should start “hatching” over the next few weeks, but she already looks at us and smiles. This is all part of the process by which she’ll learn what is and isn’t a face, and what is and isn’t a person. So while she smiles at us, she’ll also smile at the cats, the wall, and random spots in the middle distance. Still, any smiling is smiling, and it’s awesome to see.

This month is Nanowrimo. The editing I mentioned above is my primary project, but I think I’m going to pick two other goals.

  • Redraft Vampire of Mars
  • Finish draft of Antioch, 1098

That’ll be a great start if I am going to try to top this year’s three published stories. Jen Brinn, sage leader of the Cat Vacuuming Society, always cautions to not make sales a goal since they’re beyond the writer’s control…but it would still be nice to at least match this year’s output.

If you’re doing Nanowrimo, best of luck with your projects!

Update: Earlier version of this post stated my baby was eight months not eight weeks old. They grow up fast, but not that fast.

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State of the Writer: August 2012

SPQR, Baby

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack. We’re on a similar pace as I mentioned this time last month, with a hope that we’ll be ready to step away and let alpha readers at the project by this time next month. Things are not going as quickly as they could, but that’s entirely because we’ve had other things on our mind, what with the baby now due in a little over four weeks. We’ve been working on both for roughly the same length of time, but one is going to be far more insistent on when it makes its debut to the world, so the shifting of priorities is unavoidable.

This morning I reached the end of Act Two in the novella I’ve been writing on the side, mostly during the mornings. I forgot to grab my morning writing total for the month before working on this blog post, but I know it’s lower than last month as I lost the first week of July to power outages and some vacation time. Still, July did see me push past 10,000 morning-written words, and tomorrow should see me cresting 15,000. I’ve averaged around 300 words a morning across all mornings, averaging in several zeroes, and closer to 350 on the mornings I’ve actually written. In the last few days I’ve also surmounted a block I discussed on Unleaded wherein I was only working in the morning. The evenings have seen me working on the novella, and even starting the outline of a new project of currently unknown length.

I am, if I am honest with myself, not being quite so productive a writer as I would like, nor nearly so slothful of a writer as I have at times been. The summer tends to do that to me.

State of the Author’s Beer. I should arrive home today to a shipment from Austin Homebrew featuring their oatmeal stout, which I will combine with Boysenberries to make the infamous Pi Stout. It’s irrationally good. I’m hoping to find some time this weekend to set up the small television in the kitchen and brew while watching the Olympics.

State of the Author’s Bees. After the scare at the beginning of the month, the hives look happy and healthy. They’ve nearly stocked up enough honey for the winter, though a little more certainly wouldn’t hurt. We’re going to thoroughly inspect them this weekend, make sure everything is a hunky dory as it appears. If it is, each might get a new super.

State of the Author’s Education into World History. This isn’t quite enough for its own post, but I’m quite thrilled with the amount of online material I’ve found in my quest to learn a little more about World History. I’m currently working through Richard Bulliet’s Columbia course “History of the World to 1500 CE,” watching Crash Course World History as it updates, and listening to A History of the World in 100 Objects while commuting. In the wings I’ve got Open Yale’s “Early Middle Ages,” and University of Houston’s “The Vikings.” That should keep me going for quite some time. If I still want more, I’ve been looking at another Open Yale course on the American Revolution, and UHouston’s course on the Normans. Big help was finding this page, which compiles free online classes offered by several universities. Phew, that was a lot of links.

That’s me. I hope to finish the first draft of Ghosts of Venus this month, do some good outlining and get started on a project currently called “Untitled of the Fourth Planet,” and see Nickajack through to a point that it’s ready for alpha readers. That’s an ambitious month, but I think we can do it. This week or next I owe my next Ace Double review. Spoiler: it didn’t contain my favorite individual story, but it was probably my favorite combined double.

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State of the Writer: July 2012

Right now the state of the writer is just glad to be in the air conditioning. More about that tomorrow. Ahem.

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  We’re now halfway through 2012. The current project involves revisiting the first few chapters and making them mesh with the tone and voices of the end of the book, which we like better. Then we need to go back and change one character from a nurse to an anti-technology reactionary and slip her into a few more scenes. Remove a MacGuffin we weren’t using. Little things like that. After those two fixes, we will consider the book a first draft and ready for beta readers.

Then we’ll take a month away from it. No getting around that step, it’s a vitally important one, even if it’s going to happen later than expected.

At this point, I’m not going to kick myself if I don’t have a query letter away by December 31. That’s not to say I’m giving up on the goal, I’m still pushing forward as hard as I can, but this is the first time I’ve really revised a novel. Top-down, end-to-end, major updates and changes, rewriting entire chapters sort of revising. So I didn’t know how long to give it. Plus, the whole having a baby thing is changing things. My wife/coauthor was pregnant when we set the goal, but neither of us knew it yet. I suspect if the goal does slip, it will by at most a quarter.

We’re also starting to talk about books two and three, and what things might happen in them. Working titles: Mogollon and Columbia. That’s all you’re getting for now.

In other writing, I’ve continued to work on my novella Ghosts of Venus, I’m most of the way through a short story that will be heading off to an anthology as soon as I have power back, and I wrote another of the background flash pieces for the Nickajack universe. Actually, there was a point this month that I was working on a flash piece while taking a break from the short story that I’m writing as a break from my novella that I’m writing as a break from my novel. While I find Russian nesting dolls charming, I’ve got to stop doing things like that. It’s nice to know I can multitask, especially as my wife has her changes to work on Nickajack, but multitasking only really counts if I finish things.

Morning writing has been a major boon. It’s a project I started after the Memorial Day holiday, and during the month of June I totaled 7642 words written between 7:15am and 7:30am.  That’s over 7500 words that I might not have otherwise written. If you want to know more about the project, I introduced it here, then talked about the power of doing a little bit of work everyday here.  With 21 weekdays in June, that meant an average of 364 words a day, which compounds out to nearly 95k words if I managed to do that every weekday for a year.

State of the Author’s Beer: Had intended to brew this month for the first time in a while, but then Austin Homebrew started a state-by-state sale on their website, so I’m waiting for Virginia’s sale date to buy…which is July 26th. So hopefully brewing first weekend in August. I did finally track down the boysenberries I needed. Only had to buy an 8-pack from Amazon.

State of the Author’s Bees: Got my first sting this weekend, learned that I’m not deathly allergic. Also learned that stings on the cartilage of the ear hurt like a bastard. More on that when I talk about the storm.

This week on the blog: The DC storm and my next Ace Double review.  See you then.

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State of the Author: May 2012

Hermes and Maia

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  Big progress in April: the rough draft is complete!  It came in at 90,054 words, right at the lower end of my target range for the novel.  This is just the first step, but it’s a big first step, as the entire novel exists as a full length narrative.  The next step is turning it into a first draft.  Especially for something as long as a novel, I consider the rough and first drafts as two different creatures.  The rough draft is the first version of the story that takes the plot from beginning to end with no holes in the middle.  The first draft is the first draft we’re willing to let others see as a completed project.  There are three major steps between here and there:

  1. My wife and coauthor is taking three weeks to punch up Act Three with more description, as there were points in the narrative where I was concentrating more on getting to the end than stopping to smell the roses.  Or to look at, feel, taste, or listen to the roses either.  It’s largely about dividing the labor to play into our strengths.
  2. Rewrite chapter one to fit the theme and conclusion of the novel.  We want to make sure we’ve got good bookends after all.
  3. Redefine a character.  She was: a nurse.  She will be: a Luddite-style reactionary.  As she exists now, the first half of her appearances she’s the one, the second half (after we decided to change her character, and knew the new version would have a far different plot interaction) she’s the other.  So we need to make sure to unify her purposes.

Can we get this all done in May?  Maybe.  May-be.  See what I…nevermind.  Actually, probably not, but I’ll be thrilled if we get the first two steps done, and get the third done by mid-June.  Then we’ll actually consider something that’s altogether new and scary to me: alpha readers.  I’ve never had an entire novel beta read as a single unit.

This also means I’m going to be more hands-off than hands-on for the next two or three months.  Which is fair and I knew would be part of the process of coauthoring.  It makes me twitch a little, but I’m hoping to use that nervous energy to get a few other projects done.  So with that in mind…

Looking forward to May.  Yesterday was day one of the first hands-off period.  I’ve got four projects lined up, though I’m not sure what order they’ll get done in, and which will get pushed back to the month long alpha reader hands-off period.

  1. Find the next destination for Vampire of Mars and kick it out the door.  This one languished awhile before getting an entirely tacit rejection, which was harsh.  My first choice of markets is currently closed, so this will include some research and not just polishing.
  2. Finish the series of eight Nickajack side stories.  I’ve written the first three, my wife wrote the last one, so there’s four in the middle to fill in.  500-1000 words each.
  3. Create a novella-length outline for Ghosts of Venus.  I think it can take it, and I’ve got some ideas for potentially tripling the length.
  4. Create a novella-length outline for Unnamed North Carolina Time Travel War Story.  Plus…come up with a better title.  This is the story that had its origins in my accidental world building, though I may not use quite the same time period.

Novella-length stories will be an experiment for me, which is part of why I’d like to give them a try.  I’ve seen the market for them re-open lately (though largely through self publication) and I think the two stories I have in mind can support longer narratives but not novel length adventures.  I’ve also been considering them thanks to dipping my toes into one of the stronger novella markets of the 1960s, those Ace Doubles I’ve been snatching up (11 more inbound from an eBay auction, though one’s a duplicate).  If I like them, I might bundle them together and slap on this little logo that I made in a moment of insanity when things such as self-publishing something in the style of an Ace Double sounds like a good idea.

State of the Kickstarter.  I’ll be honest, we’re in the doldrums right now.  I don’t want to get pessimistic, but I’m certainly not as optimistic as I was when I suggested throwing some stretch goals into the mix.  I’m still excited about the project.  If you haven’t read the sample, give it a shot.  If you haven’t pre-ordered, please consider doing so.  We’ve got ten days left as of this writing, and still 30% of the project left to fund.  We’re exactly on pace, but that leaves us no margin for error.  I’ll put together a full postmortem, for better or worse, in two weeks when everything is done.

UPDATE: Since writing this earlier today, the Kickstarter is having a great day.  If you’re reading this and you’ve supported us, either today or in the past, I owe you a massive thanks.  We’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m a hell of a lot more optimistic at 3pm than I was at 9am.

State of the Writer’s Bees.  The first nuc arrives this weekend.  Expect a post about them next week.

Everyone have a productive month, and we’ll meet back here in 31 days to say what we’ve all done.

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State of the Writer: March 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  February started with 57k words in the manuscript and ended with 65k words.  Yeah, 8000 words over an entire month isn’t the kind of pace I’d hoped for, but that saw the end of Act 2 and then a stop-work order until we can get the entirety of Act 3 outlined.  It’s a more holistic approach to outlining than we’ve done in past acts, because the third act is rather more important and we needed to have a strong feel on our end point.  Currently we’ve got 11 chapters outlined for the act, it’ll probably top out at 13-15, then we’ll get down into outlining scenes and I can start writing again.  I’m seriously chomping at the bit to write the denouement of the book, but that’s my dessert.  I must keep in mind the musical question: How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Another part of the slow-down was a short story I wanted to throw together for an anthology that closed its doors yesterday.  Got the concept two weeks ago, so that meant for a short turnaround.  Been awhile since I’ve sent off a short story, and I did so with less trepidation than usual.  Not sure if this is confidence in the story or confidence in myself.  It does feel better to write an introductory bio that includes actual published real-book credits.  Anthology in question promises all responses by the first of April, so by next months State of the Writer I should have news.

In my State of the Writer for February I talked about how we were heading into the shortest, coldest month of the year.  How’d that work out for everyone?  I don’t know if our February here in the DC area was the warmest on record, but it’s certainly the warmest I can remember, even when compared to Februarys spent further south.  Which, after the last two winters, was a nice change of pace.  What wasn’t so nice was all the pollen and mold the warmer weather kept floating through the air and into my nose, leaving me more useless than usual most of the month.  That was another part of the slowdown on Nickajack in the first half of February.

On my reading goals for the year, I assigned myself to read three Steampunk novels to see what others are doing with long fiction in the genre.  I finished up Boneshaker last night, which I have mixed feelings about.  This isn’t a book review blog, or I’d go in a little more depth.  To keep it short, I thought the book had one too many things going on.  Specifically the one thing too many was the zombies.  I was interested in the plot about the destruction of Seattle, a boy trying to learn about his father, a mother trying to save her son, and a shadowy figure ruling a lawless wreck of a city.  Each of those plots would have had a little more time to shine if the constant threat of zombies wasn’t lurking around like…well, like a pack of zombies.  That said, I know they’re working on a movie, and I suspect that a lot of what I wasn’t fond of in the book will actually make it a better movie.

Next book on the pile is Spring Heeled Jack, though I might take a break from my assigned reading as I still haven’t gotten to Snuff yet.

Looking ahead to March.  Outline, outline, outline.  Write, write, write.  Thus is the life of a novelist.  I’m hoping we can get our outline done by the 9th, and if we do I might still get the first draft of Act 3 finished by the end of the month.  Probably looking at 25-35k words based on how long chapters have been to date, which will bring the whole first draft in at 90-100k words, perfectly on target.

Then we’ll step away for a few weeks.

Then we’ll edit.

Oh joy.

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