Archive for category Post Apocalypse

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I’m going to actually link to my resolutions post from 366 days ago, just to keep myself honest.  And I’m going to be honest with some responses to it.

Resolution 1: Finish the first draft of Capsule.  This did not happen.  Largely because I hit a point where I realized the book I was writing was not the right book to write.  It needed to be divided into two books, because I was telling two completely different and unrelated stories.  I’ll come back to both of these books one day, but probably not until 2013 in all honesty, certainly no earlier than October 2012.  But I learned a lot from walking away, such as recognizing when something isn’t working and why it isn’t working.  I also stepped away to work on a novel that has a lot of promise, so again I can only beat myself up so much.

Resolution 2: Three short stories out at all times.  This was a lofty goal for someone who went into the year with a limited number of stories ready to go out.  And then came the fantastic problem of having two taken off the market by sales!  Yay!  I tried to keep the stories that were ready for publication circulating, but probably could have done more.  Some of them, like Sleep, are just hard to find markets for.  I do have two out with long-response publications right now (Vampires of Mars and Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 3: Write from-scratch stories for six anthologies.  I did five.  One sold (Home Again), one wasn’t sent due to quality problems (Back Half), two were rejected (Vampire of Mars and Beyond Light), one is still out for consideration (Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 4: Fortnightcaps.  This was a fun project for a few months, and I had intended to keep it going through the year.  What stopped me?  Discovering other flash fiction contests, and realizing that I was burning story rights without anything to show in return in terms of readership.  So anyone who was paying attention might have noticed they stopped in September, but since I never had a single person ask me “hey, what happened to those Fortnightcaps,” I suspect no one was really paying attention.  This showed in the readership dips on those days.  I’m not blogging solely for readership numbers, but it is nice to not send stories out into the void where no one is reading them when I could make something more out of them.

So it was a mixed bag, but even in my failures I feel like I learned a lot about writing in general, and specifically how I write, in this past year.  I wouldn’t trade a single bit of the experience.

Last night at CVS we sat down and talked about resolutions going forward.  I wrote down five at Day‘s insistence, but it was secretly just three.  We followed the SMART acronym used by most corporations in determining yearly objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  For example, writing 10 novels is specific and measurable, but isn’t attainable or realistic.  So from that perspective, my resolutions break down to the following categories:

Completion.  Complete Nickajack to a condition where it can be queried, then query it.  There are a lot of steps involved in this (such as, ya know, finishing it), and “Query Nickajack” really is my overarching resolution for 2012.  Each month’s State of the Writer for 2012 will start with those words and my progress towards that goal so I don’t lose sight of it.

Research.  I’ve made a specific goal of reading three non-fiction books about pre-to-post Civil War era, and two fiction books with as similar a setting as possible.  Which is tough.  Southeastern US Steampunk is not a common market segment.  One of the fiction books will likely be How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.  It’s not Steampunk, but it is Alternate History, and I’ve always preferred Steampunk that falls under Alternate History more than Fantasy.  Recommendations are welcome!

Man Up.  I need to get over my crippling con introversion, the one that border lines on social anxiety.  To make this goal measurable, I’ve taken it upon myself to find 6 people to provide prompts for the 2012 Flashathon.  With the event being expanded to 18 hours, that means I’m on the hook for a third of them.  This is, by far, the hardest of the resolutions I’ve set.  Which says a lot about me that I consider talking to six people, just six, at a convention as more of a challenge than finishing a fucking novel.

And with that, this blog will likely be dark until the New Year.  Everyone enjoy the festivities.  I’d caution to not do anything I wouldn’t, but that would make for a boring weekend, so go out there and do at least one thing I wouldn’t but is still legal.  It’ll be more fun that way.

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State of the Writer: November 2011

After an interminable summer, October absolutely sped past.  Anticipation of Capclave and Flashathon likely spurred much of that.  Looking back, both feel like they were more than a few weeks ago.  Someone needs to harness time’s ability to speed past while being experienced but dilate when being remembered and turn that into a viable method of time travel.

October turned into a great month of micro-production.  The week of the 22-28th alone I wrote 15 bits of flash fiction, something I wasn’t entirely sure was possible.  At least four of those are stories that I can get longer, or at least better polished, pieces out of.  I call this an absolute victory.  I’ll probably take some time in November to sort them out, and give them a more prominent place within my flash fiction Scrivener database.

The month opened with me working on one novel project, ripping apart the tangled novels Capsule and Post Apocalypse, and ended with me ramping up another.  I talked about that yesterday in my Nanowrimo Eve post, so I’m not going to rehash that here.  I hadn’t thought about it while writing it, but that really ended up scooping a lot of my typical State of the Writer post.  Half an hour a day working with my wife on the project, probably another half hour translating that into Scrivener, and poking around the flash pieces I want to turn into short stories.  Sounds like pretty good goals for the month.

October also delivered to my email a proof version of one short story and an edited version of another.  So anthologies are moving full steam ahead.

I want to get meta for a moment and say I like these State of the Writer posts.  The same writers’ group discussion that gave rise to Friday’s post about mission statements as writers drove home the need to keep abreast of what you are doing, and what you want to do.  That’s what this series is about, a monthly chance to really look at what I did the month before, what I’m hoping to do next month, and what direction I’m moving with my writing.  They’re a way of keeping me focused, and they’re a way of keeping me honest, since I’m putting them out there for all to see.  Or all who care to see, at least.

So the state of the writer?  Anticipatory.  I’m getting back into novel production.  I’m starting a project I’ve been churning for several months.  And I’m seeing if I can work a novel and short stories at the same time.  Should be an interesting month.

State of the Writer’s Blog: Anyone who has been following these State of the Writer posts knows I’m trying to collect views from all 50 states.  The numbers are dwindling.  At the end of September, I only had North Dakota, Arkansas, and Delaware left to collect.  This month saw the first visit from Arkansas, leaving just two.  I’m hoping to wrap up all 50 by the end of the year.  That’s just one a month.  That’s not so hard, right?  October was also the 4th straight month of blog viewership growth, fueled largely by Flashathon.

State of the Writer’s Beer: Still working through a backlog of suds before I get the next batch going.  Might brew at some point this month.  Pulled out bottles of both batches for the Flashathon crowd.  Mustache Cat got generally positive reviews, Lazarus Ale was more of a specific taste.  Responses ranged from hatred to asking for seconds.

So join me as we move into another month.  Tomorrow, it’ll be another trip to A Writer Reviews focusing on, of all things, apples.  Bonus points to anyone who can guess which two television shows that’ll cover.

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The Limitations of Reverse Outlining

The process of carving Capsule apart is slow.  Slow and mentally exhausting.  I’m averaging about three chapters per night before my brain and eyes stage a coup and leave me insensate.  Something about staring at my own writing and trying to reverse engineer it into an outline dries my eyeballs.  Or maybe that’s just all the dust being kicked up by the kitchen renovations taking place on the first floor while I write in the basement.

Something about using the phrase “while I write in the basement” as part of a blog post.  Nevermind.

The process is slow, but I’m pushing on, largely for the sake of the novel that will still be called Capsule.  The toughest part about transitioning from the conjoined story to the split novels is pulling out the murder motivations, which entirely belong to the frustrated cultists who’ll land in Post Apocalypse.  So I need everything about the murder plot that I can salvage, so I know where to start weaving in entirely different characters and motivations.  It’s that age-old question: Why would someone commit murder in the 2070s if not for the influence of Tezcatlipoca?  I’d like to think Shakespeare and Hemingway dealt with this same question when working on King Lear and Old Man and the Sea, respectively.

My companion and friend on this road was and is Scrivener for Windows, and thank Lit & Latte for that.  I’m not drilling as much as I could with the tool, but the constant presence of a little note card beside the chapter I’m currently dissecting is keeping me sane.  No hand written notes, no flipping between programs, just a friendly little note card.  Pulling this novel apart is teaching me a lot of the features I’ll be using to stitch Frankenstein back together at the far end.  I’ve got the file broken into chapters, but not into scenes, just because I’m not going to do the kind of rearranging in this file.

At some point I’m going to reach the end of how useful the reverse outlining is, well before I reach the end of the conjoined draft.  The farther I get away from Chapter One the more I drift afield from the eventual plot of Capsule.  After that I’ll probably carve out all the dream sequences that will get adapted into Post Apocalypse, and then get to outlining the two new novels.  That’s probably my November project, as I doubt I’m doing Nanowrimo this year.  Maybe next year with the next of the three outlines in the queue.  After the post on Writers Block and Nano, I’m serious about not tackling the challenge again without a full outline ready to go.

For now, I need some eye drops.

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Outlining Outlines

I have a very real feeling this blog is going to turn from a focus on writing to a focus on outlining over the next few months.  Especially after crafting my last post about Writers’ Block #5 and using outlines to counter it I can’t help but think about the three novels churning in my brain.  The longer they stay up there, the more essential it feels to get them into some solid form, to get them outlined.

But do you want to know my dirty secret?

I’ve never done a full novel outline before.

I’ve done partial outlines, section outlines, but never felt moved to outline a novel from opening to closing scene, touching on everything in between.  So I’m also going to be doing a lot of learning about the process, reading up on it, studying it, finding the tools and the methods that work best for me.  In terms of tools, Scrivener for Windows looks like the clear early winner in terms of software, especially with the full release finally coming out on Halloween.  I’ve been doing some poking around with it the last two weeks, going through a process akin to reverse outlining as I pick apart the manuscript that was Capsule to turn it into two new outlines.  Outline one will still be called Capsule and will include all my near-futurism and the murder plotline.  Outline two now has a working title of Post Apocalypse and will include all the Lovecraftian dream elements, kidnapping, and frustrated doom cultists.

Outline three will be the joint project I’m working on with my wife, a steampunk adventure novel we’re calling Nickajack, a name that I’m seriously intending to keep.

Being that I’m new to this whole outlining thing, I’m not sure how long to expect it to take.  I’m hoping to get a rough outline of each of the three done by the end of the calendar year, so that I know which needs the most focus.  Post Apocalypse is the most time sensitive of the stories, so might get priority for that.

I’d love to know anything you have.  Articles.  Books.  Recommendations.  Suggestions.  Tools.  Methods.  I’m going to do my own research, but I’m stepping into a world that scares me, ground I’ve never really walked on before, and any and all guidance that can come from my blog readers is one step closer to making these novels actually work, and not just wither and die in my grey matter.  Help me tell these stories!

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