After finishing up the Pathfinder book, my plan for this summer was to crank out a few short stories, then launch into the next book. How’d that work out?
Well, the short stories got done. And a couple of them even sold. But the book… I kept bouncing off of. It seemed to start nicely, with the world building going so well, but when I started to try to figure out plot–you know, what actually happens in the story–I never got very far. By the end of summer, I was mostly just sick of the whole thing.
Well, the one joy of not being under contract is that if something isn’t working, you can always bounce. I decided to try something new, a SF book, a space opera thing with its own special weirdness. But even weirder, for me, is I have a co-author.
I talked to one of my writer friends, someone I’ve known since college, and we agreed to try writing this together. How? We have no clue. Neither one of us has co-authored anything before. Which means that this should be interesting, no matter what. Hopefully in a hey-this-is-neat-let’s-figure-this-out sort of way, and not in a never-talk-to-me-again sort of way.
We’re going to start with brainstorming up an idea, and go from there, with the object of having a book like thing by the end of the year. Which may be wildly optimistic, but wild optimism is a useful trait for a writer. It bookends nicely with the neurotic despair.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Unless she kills me. In which case, you’ll pretty much know how it went.
I submitting a short story today, which in an of itself isn’t a big deal, but for me felt like sort of a big deal. It’s for an open anthology for middle grade fiction. I will probably be rejected. The big thing is I wrote a story, I finished it, and I submitted it. Back to basics.
I’ve taken a little sabbatical from writing this summer. I’ve written blog posts and book reviews and the occasional short story, but I haven’t written anything major since … well, for a few months. Partly this is due to depression. I had been working on the sequel to my latest novel, and since I hadn’t gotten any bites on that novel, and since I didn’t really want to work on anything else … well. Like I said, I worked on a few things, but my oomph was gone.
Now, things are looking up. I have potential work lined up. I’m working on a novel proposal that has me excited. If everything works out I could be busy for the next several months. But for today, I wrote a story and I finished it and I submitted it.
It feels good to be back in the saddle.
The other week, I filled out some character bios for a short story I wanted to write. It was a weird experience, because it was easy. And better yet, it was actually helpful.
I used to find character bios completely useless. I’d keep notes on characters as I wrote, so that if I decided someone had a little brother in chapter three the brother wouldn’t have vanished into the ether in chapter eight.
But filing out lists of questions before I wrote didn’t work for me. If you asked me what my character’s bedroom was like, or what they had for breakfast, I’d find the question completely irrelevant, or come up with a zany answer that didn’t help me with the story at all. (“What did they have for breakfast? Ostrich eggs! Why? Because they felt like it!”)
So what made this time different? It wasn’t the specific bio I was filling out (which happened to be from Nancy Kress’s Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint). I think it’s mostly that I’ve written enough that I’ve started to internalize what makes a good story. Eating ostrich eggs for breakfast for no reason? No. Eating one slice of dry toast and slipping his younger brother an extra slice of cheese because he cares about his family and doesn’t want to be a burden? Yes. (In the right story, ostrich eggs could be an important element. But not this one.)
The more I write, the more I find that going back and re-reading advice and trying things I’ve tried before helps more than it used to. (Like, say, outlining, to use a less recent discovery.) The real answer is simply practice.
This has been the week of Jaleigh recovering from Gen Con, watching celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge videos and procrastinating on the WIP.
Okay, that’s not the whole story.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a friend who died of ALS back in December. The celebrity videos are fun to watch, and awareness is through the roof, which is wonderful, but…this is a truly horrifying disease, and I still can’t believe how it took someone so young and vibrant and slowly stole the life from him. I considered doing a video for my friend, but there are a lot of mixed-up emotions and grief wrapped up in all of this for me, and besides that I realized I can’t compete with the awesomeness of videos like the one Benedict Cumberbatch did, or Tom Hiddleston, or Neil Gaiman, so I’m not going to make the attempt or challenge anyone else, but I will donate in memory of my friend. I think he would have enjoyed the Cumberbatch video best.
And I know there are so many wonderful and worthy charities and causes out there that need help and attention–this one just happens to be very personal to me.
I had a lovely Gen Con. I hung out with old friends, met new friends, talked about writing and publishing, played games, bought games… Pretty much exactly what I’d hoped for.
I did no writing while I was there, but I did read nearly all of The Fault in Our Stars. I also didn’t take any photos.
This was my first time staying outside of downtown. Although we had a very short shuttle ride and a great room (really a 2-br apartment with full kitchen), I’d much rather have been within walking distance. While it was nice to have a fridge, a great place to stay isn’t that useful if you’re only there to sleep.
I spent nearly two days wondering why I had a headache before I started using the ultra-stylish waist belt on my backpack. Next year, if I’m outside downtown again, I need to find some backpack-carrying-muscle strengthening exercises. Or not lug around any books. Still, it was a minor annoyance out of a great convention.
And now I can get back to writing.
I made it back from four days of GenCon yesterday. Those days were filled with friends, chatting, games, talking shop, meeting new people, and eating too much. Which was awesome, but today’s going to be all about recovery. I generally don’t get con crud, but I do suffer a bit from PCIS (post-con introvert syndrome, in which I recover from all that interaction by curling up under a rock like a pill bug for a day or so).
Some sleep and some downtime will make that pass. And then– Well, this Wednesday the kids are back in school, and I have some revising to do.
Time to fetch my stumpy boots and wade into the writing. There’s some grammar gators that need wrasslin’.
So, reading is sometimes strange. I like what I like and you like what you like and those two circles might overlap and sometimes they won’t even be on the same Venn Diagram. (I suppose all art is this way). Tastes are as diverse as readers themselves, and it’s usually hard to pin down exactly why you like a particular author or story. Sure, there’s the nuts-and-bolts craft of it, but how a particular author manages to consistently strike a chord … well, that’s the magic of reading. And writing.
Enter my pal Eden Robins. She’s an up-and-coming writer who writes some really cool shit. Her work is subversively accessible, imaginative, and thematic without being heavy or too serious. She makes it all look easy. You can read her latest story online for free. Check it out if you’re so inclined.