Archive for the ‘The Business of Writing’ Category

The Lives Our Stories Lead

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I’ve been following a fascinating discussion of my story “Night Bird Soaring” over at the Escape Pod forums, which has gotten me thinking a lot about some of the editorial choices I made with this story and about how stories take on a life of their own after publication.

The ending is a point of argument among the commenters who think it brings the story around into the realm of fantasy, and early in this discussion, I was really kind of kicking myself for a decision I made during the final edit with my editor at GUD; it had been suggested that I cut two lines at the end because she thought what I meant was clear enough without it (I’m not going to say what these two lines were, for reasons I’ll go into a little later.). I hedged on it a bit before finally deciding “Well, if she thinks it’s clear, then it must be,” and so chopped the lines and didn’t think about it anymore.

Until Rich Horton’s review came out in Locus a couple months later, and I realized he’d read the ending in a way I completely didn’t intend it to read. I was kind of grinding my teeth about it, but not many others mentioned the same issue with the ending, and then the award nominations/recommendations started rolling in. Obviously the ending as it was reading wasn’t killing the story, so why worry?

Fast forward to earlier this week and immediately commenters started expressing dissatisfaction with the “fantasy-feel” of the ending. Not at all surprising to me when I saw it, but still I was a bit angry at myself for that editorial decision I made 4 years ago. I had considered reinserting the original cut lines when I submitted to Escape Pod, so the ending would read the way I’d intended, but I couldn’t get past the whole idea that I would be altering it significantly. I’ve never been fond of alternate endings on movies or reissues of books with all the material that was cut in the original edition put back in. It’s kind of like insisting on determining your kid’s life path after they’ve reached adulthood. I thought about posting to the thread to tell everyone “well, this is what I’d originally intended, but such and such got cut, blah, blah.”

But then the conversation started getting really interesting as folks started picking apart what the whole fantasy angle at the end might mean in the largest context of the story’s universe, and I suddenly realized: Who gives a shit what I’d intended? I was told long ago when I first started writing that no one cares what I intended, only what the story tells them, and I’m not going to be there to hold the reader’s hand while they read and explain everything to them. This was in context to clear writing and plotline, but I think it applies in a broader sense too. Once you publish a story, it aught to stand on its own, and whatever you intended doesn’t matter anymore; all that matters is the story as the reader will understand it. It’s no longer your baby to mold and direct and it now has it’s own life and will make its own way.

And quite honestly, I don’t feel so angry at myself anymore about that choice I made 4 years ago (and yes, it was my choice to cut the lines. There was no pressure from my editor). My story is living a fascinating life thanks to that choice, undoubtedly more fascinating than the one I’d intended for it, and I think it’s rather cool. Whatever I’d intended, it just doesn’t matter anymore.

The Dragon Roars

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Got my first full day of dictated writing done, and I think it went pretty well. I worked on cleaning up the house while I did it, though I didn’t start getting on a tear until the end of the day, when I actually had to stop to pick up the kids from school. Would figure. I didn’t think I’d gotten all that much done, but this morning when I did the word count, I actually got over 2k done. If I’d gotten on the tear much earlier in the day, I probably could have doubled that. On the positive side, I’m eager to write the part I’m at now, so things aught to go pretty well today.

I also took the sketch book to baseball practice again, and this time dragged along my copy of The Codex Borgia. I did two sketches, though only one of them is worth sharing:

Aztec Water Glyph

Aztec Water Glyph

Yesterday I thought it was some kind of funky bird, but after consulting The Aztec Book of Destiny, turns out that it’s a glyph for the day Water, which is the 9th of the 20 Aztec Name Days. I like how the artist of the Codex Borgia personified the water glyph. There’s a lot of really cool stuff to draw in that book.

Doing What’s Necessary

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I’ve still been struggling with actually putting words down on the page, so it was time for drastic measures: time to pull out the Dragon again. Though this presented certain issues of its own; apparently, my new PC configuration doesn’t like the wireless headphone connection and sends my wireless internet adapter into a tizzy whenever I plug in the dongle. Strange because it didn’t used to do that before the disk crash and rebuild. So I couldn’t install dragon on my desktop computer, which is probably just as well anyway because using it there only allows for pacing around my office and up and down the hall about 5 steps.

That left the Mini, though before I could install Dragon on it, I needed to free up some disk space–a lot of disk space. I ended up stripping the Mini down to bare basics: a word processor (I took off MSOffice and installed just the WP for OpenOffice), deleted all the Window’s games and numerous accessories, and dumped my antivirus. This, of course, means no more internet surfing, so I got rid of Firefox as well. I don’t mind the lack of internet on it though; it always loaded so very slow, and the computer is running much faster now that Norton is gone. I also got rid of all those extras HP added when they installed Windows, so start up is way faster than before. As for internet, my Iphone has pretty much taken the place of the Mini for traveling, so the only reason to have internet on the mini is for Dropbox and Windows Updates, though I’m considering going back to transferring files via a thumb drive just so I don’t clutter the place up with files (and I can free up more space by uninstalling Dropbox.). I’ve looked into the possibility of upgrading the Mini’s harddrive, but it doesn’t look like an easy task, so that’s not any serious option at this point.

The good news is that the Dragon is working like a champ on my newly bare-bonesed Mini, and the though the wireless headset does seem to play tricks with the wireless internet connection, it doesn’t really matter. This computer is now only for writing. And OpenOffice seems to work fine for dictation (though converting to doc from docx produces some funny results when looked at on my PC. I’ll have to copy and paste into my docx file at the day because the doc file is totally screwed up now (has weird characters in the header and it took about half of my comment and pasted them as plain text at the bottom of the document.)

The installation and cleanup of the Mini took most of the day, so by the time I was ready to start working, it was already time to start making dinner. No issue though: I decided to dictate and do dishes and cook at the same time. And it worked out remarkably well. I managed just under 1.2k during that hour (a very sloppy 1.2k), so I’m keen to see how much I can get done with a full day to work on it. I did notice I became very mentally exhausted after that hour of work, so I think frequent breaks for naps and recharging my brain will be necessary, but I’m eager to get to work today.

I shall report the results tomorrow.

When Someone New Comes Along

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So, I’ve taken a little break from writing to read a dissertation that I think will help clarify some historical aspects of my current project, since my limited knowledge of Apaches was failing me, and so far the work I’m reading has been really interesting and I’m absorbing a lot of good information. Where the last third of this novel is going, I’m still not sure, but my normal method is to just wait it out and eventually the block will clear itself. So long as I’m doing research, that’s perfectly okay. When I start wandering off to video games, then it’s not okay.

But yesterday I was reading again and a passing thought about what I was reading developed into a smidgen of an idea, and suddenly it was blossoming into something even larger, large enough that I felt it necessary to go write it down. I did a little research, to make sure I got something right in my note, and doing that opened up even more ideas, and next thing you know, I’m contemplating what the speculative element could be in this new interesting world that was developing in my head. Soon I had two characters and the circumstances that would bring them together. The story itself is still a mystery, but this idea keeps crawling back into my head over and over since yesterday; I even started thinking about it as soon as I woke up this morning. I haven’t given any thought at all to the current project in a least a week now. This new one is exciting, and it’s both alternate history and fantasy, even better since my enthusiasm for science fiction has waned with the years. I think this most likely is epic fantasy; I’ll just have to wait and see what the story’s really about.

And now I see my interest in the current project waving goodbye while the current project wails and gnashes its teeth, begging me not to let it go so soon. I’m not going to; I need to finish it so I don’t forget what I was trying to do at the end, but I just might take some time to get to know this new project a bit better, in preparation for taking a stab at it once I’m done with this novel.

Back to Work, Ye Scurvy Dog!

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So the last month or so hasn’t been particularly productive for me, but now that the kids are back in school and I have no more vacations and conventions ahead of me until next summer, I’m determined to get back to work and finish this novel. I’ve finished the first two parts out of three and have spent the last week trying to find the motivation to outline the last third, without much success. It’s obvious that I can’t wait around for inspiration to strike, so to hell with the muse. He’s being lazy, so the hard-knuckled editor is now here to beat him with a stick. I will write 3k today even if it means having to stay up late to get it done. No excuses, no laziness. Ass in chair, fingers on the keyboard, and no internet until at least 1k is gone. The editor is pissed and he doesn’t take kindly to whining. The work day will not end until I reach 70k, at minimum.

Tally-ho!