Man, I am lucky.
That’s the only way I can figure out how I got to spend last week the way I did. If I hadn’t gone to last year’s World Fantasy Convention, if I hadn’t wound up sharing a room with Daryl Gregory, if I hadn’t gone room-hopping with everyone, I would have been at home, watching the kid practice her back-to-front rolls and not get enough sleep.
Instead, all those things happened, so I got to kick around Flagstaff, Arizona with ten talented, funny people, watching Charlie The Unicorn and not getting enough sleep.
I met Sarah K. Castle at WFC, and we got to talking about writing and what we were working on (me, Windswept; her, a science fiction thriller about a world-spanning EPA with teeth, which I said she should market as SCIENCE NINJAS. She demurred). I made a friend, which is always a nice thing to do at conventions, and I also wound up getting invited to Starry Heaven, a novel-writing workshop based on the Blue Heaven workshop that Charles Coleman Finlay created.
The format works like this: every participant submits the first fifty pages of the novel they want to workshop. Everyone reads every first fifty, then chooses two full novels to read. Then everyone goes to Flagstaff (Sarah’s stomping grounds), where you eat, drink, and critique. The first three days are group sessions where we deliver critiques of the first fifties, four a day. The rest of the workshop, we split into groups of three to deliver the full critiques. It was a lot of work, but when you’ve got good material and good people, it doesn’t feel like it.
Sarah’s invite came at a real low point in my writing career (though that doesn’t feel like the right word. Writing apprenticeship? Writing gestation? Writing sitting-on-my-can-trying-to-fill-the-page-with-text time?), and the workshop was just the kick in the ass I needed. I got to read YA, horror (both urban and smaller urban), fantasy, SF, all of it great. There will be some excellent books coming out of this workshop, and I hope that mine will be one of them (or, at least, it’ll be better than it has been before). Fortunately, I got a lot of excellent input from everyone, especially my two full readers,
So, time to get back to work. But first, I have to go change a diaper. Ah, the glorious writer’s life…
Two years ago, I was sitting in the bar of a hotel in Waikiki, just noodling away on the keyboard while I drank overpriced pineapple juice. What started as a “Hey, this could be a fun little idea for a story” turned into a full-blown, come-hell-or-high-water goal: I was going to turn this thing into a novel. I worked at it off and on for a while, getting in a hundred words here, a hundred there. I worked on other stories when my brain ran dry. I made grandiose goals and promises (“100K by Christmas! A fourth draft by Worldcon!”) that went by the wayside.
When I joined the Glorious Leisure Class in April, I promised myself I would spend every day at my desk in our home office until I wrote one thousand words of fiction. Some days I outdid myself, and others were a struggle. I had some interruptions for travel and family business (including a blazing hot week repainting my grandparents’ house. Tip for you homeowners: if someone tries to talk you into sandblasting the paint off the wood siding on the eastern-facing part of your house and not doing anything to protect that wood afterwards, politely laugh in his face and walk away. Your grandchildren will thank you later), but, more often than not, I sat and wrote.
Yesterday, I finished my first draft.
It’s ugly, and it’s a mess, and, no, you can’t read it. I don’t even want to read it, not until I’ve given my brain time to forget about the world of Santee Anchorage and its politics, weather and delicious rum-and-favor-based economy. I’m going to let this thing sit until Labor Day, the day of the Giro di San Francisco, when I will start my edits and revisions on the drive home (and if the Giro di SF is canceled, then I’ll just pound the hell out of myself on Latigo that morning, then edit). I’d hoped to have something to hand around to friends at Montreal, but it’s way to early for that. The novel I started at that bar is nothing like the one I wrapped up in a blazing hot hotel room in Arkansas, and it would probably be a good idea to make sure the thing swings from beginning to end.
How do I feel? Relieved, honestly. First drafts hurt, especially when they’re for something this big. My promise to myself on the bike course at Taupo to spend more time writing was certainly helped by spending a year focusing on that race. I know I can go the distance; now I just have to get there faster.
So. The first draft of Windswept, started July 27, 2007 at whatever that bar was where we had dinner for Yuki and Ken’s wedding that first night, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii; completed July 6, 2009, Gaston’s White River Resort, Lakeview, Arkansas. 84,037 words. Thanks to everyone who had encouraging words along the way. Now it’s time to get better.
42Blips is a new site, a Digg for nerdity. And my new story, “The Right People,” is up there, waiting for your votes. If you’re a member, please vote it up. If you’re not a member, please join and vote it up. And if you’re a pony, then you just run around and do your thing.
Tags: 42blips, futurismic, the right people
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Four years ago, as John Kerry and George W. Bush were arguing about which direction in which they were going to take our country (Kerry: let’s take this offramp onto smoother road; Bush: hey, let’s head toward that giant cliff up ahead! It’ll be neat!), I had this idea for a story. It was set in the near future where everyone was surveilled and standardized tested within an inch of their lives, where social networks really meant something. Also, there were programmable dildoes.
I wrote it during my long bus commute to Nissan, and when I was finished I had cranked out thirty-three thousand words about high school politics, reputational economics and intelligent sex toys. The Fictionados loved it, but everyone thought it could use some trimming. So, down and down went the word count, first down to twenty-three thousand, then down to twenty, then to sixteen for one mag (with assists from Andrew Tisbert and Daryl Gregory, who are cruel and excellent editors), then to fifteen for Writers of the Future (who gave me a straight form rejection, big surprise). I was about to trunk the thing when Futurismic, purveyors of fine text, opened up for fiction submissions. Off it went, and then I got the second-best kind of reply from their editors: would I be willing to rewrite it a bit?
I did, and today I got the best kind of reply, the kind where they said they wanted to buy “The Right People,” and that it’ll be up this Wednesday. Granted, this is also the day when the US economic Armageddon began, but what the hell. I’ll take it as an appropriate omen, seeing how it’s about business and takes place at Ronald Reagan High School in deepest, darkest Irvine.
And now, back to work.
UPDATE: And here it is, live!
UPDATE II: Holy pants, I done got BoingBoinged!
Tags: futurismic, the right people
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The first part of periodized weight lifting is called anatomical adaptation, which means, “Oy, muscles! These little bits of weight that you’re going to be picking up and putting down for the next four weeks? Yeah, this is just the warm up. It gets tougher from here.”
The thing about AA is that the exercises are embarrassing, things like getting on all fours, then holding a 2-lb. dumbell in front of you while you straighten the opposite leg. The weights are tiny, the poses lack dignity, and you’re the only one in the gym doing this. Even if you’re in a place where Serious Athletes are working out, it’s tough not to feel like a ninny.
Oh, and the weights are pink.
I bring all this up because the more I work on Windswept, the more I can feel things stretching out inside my skull. The past year of short stories and Tweets and blog posts was all adaptation, and now the hard work begins. This shit isn’t easy, and I wonder how people like Jay Lake can crank out an incredible amount of words and while working a steady job and raising a kid (hint: he doesn’t watch TV). I’m also letting myself wander into blind corners and write stuff that is sheer crap, because I know that I can redo it in editing. I’m lazy and would rather get it right the first time, but I now know that editing is just a different kind of writing, not repeating previous work.
Still, I wonder if I’ve bitten off a lot more than I can chew. One hundred thousand words by Christmas Eve? That’s going to be quite a haul. But better to say a whole bunch of stuff at first and pare it down later, right?
Thinking: the problem with space elevators and human passengers is one of safety. It takes a long time to get something high in orbit, and it’s a hell of a high gravity tax to seat all of those people comfortably and safely. So, you knock ‘em out, stack ‘em like cordwood, and stick ‘em in a lead-lined box for the long ride up.
So, would a civilization that’s capable of that have any technical limitations? If you can kick ten thousand fishsticks into space at one go, why can’t you shrink ‘em? Upload ‘em? Crack time-space on the ground and let ‘em slip through to Dimensions Beyond?
Is it a moral issue? Do the Luddites keep you from monkeying with genes and quarks? Or are there technical limitations that we just can’t crack? If you had an army of hungry mouths who were willing to do any crap job, would you bother with AIs and the like? Why create new problems when human nature is relatively unchanged?
Tags: notes, Windswept, writing
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No Clarion this summer. This, of course, is a bummer and a half, but it does mean I can focus on two things: 1) the novel and 2) kicking Jon Cryer’s ass at Malibu. You hear me, Ducky? You and Mulder both, you’re going to eat my dust!
Also, this means I’m going to the UCSD library this summer just to find out what the hell does pass muster. Research your markets, right?