Posts Tagged Primogeniture

Planning March

Without really thinking about what I’ve been doing, I suddenly find myself with either two or three short stories, each written for a specific anthology, and each with a deadline fast approaching.  I always like writing the best when it comes effortlessly, and so getting my head above water and finding out just how far I’ve swum is undeniably exhilarating.  But now comes the inescapable reality, the rip tide ready to pull me out to sea of an overextended metaphor that I shall now stop.

It’s getting damn close to editing time.

And editing time is going to be called “March”.

Right now my top priority is, and has to be, Vampires of Mars.  I can’t overlook the chance for my first pro-rate sale, especially a story that I’ve gotten very excited about now that I finally have a plot.  Of course, my first draft I lost that plot and ended up with 1600 words of ending that I’m going to have to do the old crumple-crumple-toss with, but I’ve got a full week before editing month begins to work out the last bits of the first draft.

Next on the docket is The Luchador, which got some very positive reactions from my favorite group of beta readers over at the Cat Vacuuming Society.  And they all wanted two things: a better title and more.  So in a way I’m glad this has the farthest deadline, since I probably need to increase its lenghth by 50-100%.  Fortunately I have a lot of headroom between myself and the anthology length limit.  It also has a new working title: The Face of the Serpent.  That’s not final.  I should probably get the word fire in there somewhere.  The Face of the Fire Serpent?  The title is a work in progress.

Then there’s a wild card called Back Half.  I stepped away from the story for two reasons, some exasperation with the anthology and some exasperation with the story.  It was hard for me to write, I was never as certain of the plot as I wanted to be, and I didn’t really like the way I brought it all to a close.  However, a rather gracious reply by the editors of the anthology to my less than glowing post about walking away has me potentially considering a revisit.  However, I’m considering it the lowest of the three priorities, even though it has the second nearest deadline.  If I can get the other two stories to a point that I like them and still have time to clean up Back Half before April 7, I’ll give it a go.  Otherwise it’s going to stay where it is, in my own private production hell.

All in all, it’s a great place to be.  Especially given my New Years Resolution of writing six anthology-specific stories.  Three are in rough draft, and it’s only February.  Writing is awesome.

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Abandoning Ship

This image is overdramatic for the content of this post.

I was originally going to call this post something along the lines of “how not to run an anthology,” but that feels like something I throw around a bit too much without having any actual standing.  In the end it’s more about how not to approach an anthology, and how a story can die.

For a few weeks I’ve mentioned the Primogeniture anthology.  It was an interesting concept for an anthology, looking at life for the average resident on board a generation ship that was just far enough out from earth that people are starting to realize that this shit is real.  It couldn’t have aliens.  Your character couldn’t be the captain.  Or even someone that talks to the captain.  It was entirely the day to day life in such a circumstance (yes, this ties nicely with my mundane in the alien post).  When it was posted originally, there were very few additional details.  The ship was named the Primogeniture.  It had a captain and first officer.  It launched in 2111 and the stories were supposed to take place in the first few years of a 400 year trip.  The ship had 5000 people with an expectation of 10,000 upon arrival.

So I came up with a story about stowaways on the ship, and the implications when they’re discovered by a member of the maintenance crew.  It was, I felt, right on the edge of what they might consider for the anthology, but with so few rules to play with I went for a wide berth.  It is perhaps my own mistake that I didn’t contact the editors of the anthology before forging ahead with the idea.

What happened instead was I went ahead with the story.  Then when I realized I needed to name drop the captain, I went back to the anthology call for submissions to discover the rules had changed.  There was now a wider band of story lengths allowed, the stories could now be at any point in the 400 year trip, and there were more data points about how the ship operated, including dimensions and dispute resolution rules.  None of these was in direct contradiction to my story, so I shrugged my shoulders and pressed on.  Should I have written?  Yes.

Well, this week I went to the site again, and found there were now more rules about ship life.  Including, apparently, rather strict rules about birth control that include mandatory vasectomies, birth licenses, and strict birth limits.  I now no longer feel like my story can work within the rules as presented.  And…well, the rules have also now gotten self contradictory, as there is now a two-children-per-couple rule that doesn’t mesh with the anticipation of doubling population in 400 years.

So I do have my frustrations with the process, especially with the way the rules kept changing as the anthology went along.  I was worried from the beginning that submitters were expected to read the minds of the editors, less they break a ship rule that they didn’t know about.  Or, at least, write in and verify stuff.  And that is a lesson learned for me in all of this.  But it also just rubs me the wrong way how the goalposts for the anthology kept changing, and in some fairly major ways as the word count range and allowed settings both changed quite drastically after the original story call.

So could the editors have approached this anthology better?  Yes.  Could I have approached writing my story better?  Yes.  These are the kinds of lessons that must be learned by an aspiring writer, I suppose.

In the end, I’m forced to walk away from the story as a submission for the anthology, and may in the future rework it to remove the Primogeniture name from the ship and submit it somewhere that I can define the rules of the ship.  Might even work it into a novel length plot or a screenplay.  But for now I need to let it be.  It is a completed rough draft, and thus it will probably stay for awhile as I shift my attention towards Bad-Ass Faeries and the Mammoth Book of Steampunk.

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State of the Writer: February 2011

People tend to like to really look at themselves at the beginning of every year, making resolutions and the like.  As part of pushing myself to be in more direct touch with my writing, I’m going to start these state of the writer posts every month.  I make them public largely just to make myself do them.  You hear me, five people that Google Analytics says visited my site yesterday, I need to be kept honest.

Novels in Progress:

  • Capsule.
  • End of the Line.

Short Stories in Progress:

  • Back Half.  For the Primogeniture anthology.  Rough draft completed.  Due date April 7th.
  • The Luchador.  For Bad-Ass Faeries 4.  Proposal accepted, and rough draft in progress.  Due date June 2011.

Short Stories Sold:

  • The Rustler.  Woot.

Short Stories Out:

  • Sleep

Short Stories Doing Nothing.  Bad Writer.

  • !Div0
  • Queen of Belmeth

I’ve been falling down on my goal of keeping a certain number of stories circulating at any one time.  In part this is because I lucked out and sold one of my main circulators, but also in part because I’ve been falling down on Duotroping.  On the other hand, my goal of 6 stories written for specific anthologies is doing well, as I’ve got two in progress, even if I’m starting to back off on the notion of sending one to its intended destination.  I’ve been frustrated about the way Primogeniture keeps adding details to the ship, which is really reinforcing my initial fear that submitters had to somehow correctly guess how the editors always planned the ship to operate.  However, it’s still a fun generation ship story that I might clean up and send to anthologies that don’t have nearly so many rules about how a generation ship should work.  I’ll probably give one more try, but if the goalposts move again and make it even harder to tell my story on their ship, then I’ll have to go on my own.

I haven’t forgotten Capsule.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of mental outlining that needs to turn into physical outlining to get me from where I am to where I know this act ends.  There’s a few key scenes, I just need to make sure there’s no more.

People who’ve known my writing for awhile will notice an old favorite on my Novels In Progress list: End of the Line.  I feel like something needs to happen fast with it, since the whole conceit of the story is based around the five lines of what will soon be a six-line DC Metro system.  I’ve had multiple suggestions made, from ignoring the sixth line to inventing a sixth horseman of the apocalypse (I feel like adding a fifth is about the most I can do to stretch that particular concept), to setting the novel in a given pre-Silver Line year.  None of them strikes me as all that fulfilling of an option, with the third the most appealing of an unappealing lot.  So I think instead I’m going to push to get something done with it, even if it ends up on Smashwords (my emergency fallback point to be sure).

I’ve been happy with the first two installments of the Fortnightcap project.  It’s going to keep going for now.

In all, I’m satisfied but not thrilled.  I’m certainly ramping back up from my lost 2010.  I’d probably be doing better if Altair and Ezio didn’t need nearly so much help assassinating people.

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Noodling feels good.

I’ve been doing something I haven’t done in too long: noodling on a new plot concept.  Thanks to bouncing some ideas off of my wife and favorite noodling partner last night I’m about halfway to what I think is a plot I’d really enjoy writing for the Primogeniture contest I highlighted over in Unleaded.  It may mean that Capsule gets put on a back burner for a little while, but I also find that a rising tide lifts all ships when it comes to me getting my brain into the writing mode.  The working title for the new story is The Back Half (and when I saw working title, I can’t recall the last time I changed a working title to a “final” one).  Hopefully I’ll start putting words in documents before the new year.

In general, it’s a process that I enjoy.  She’s good at asking the right kind of questions to get me over such speed bumps as “well, I have a tone and characters, but what are they actually doing?”  Which turns out to be one of those really important questions when it comes to writing.  I’ve done some research on the subject, and apparently more competent writers than I call this a “plot”.  One day hopefully that’s the kind of thing I’d be able to come up with on my own.  Or maybe not.  It’s not like collaboration is such a dirty word.

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