Tuesday, October 1, 2013

WIP Name And Shame

A writer's blog is nothing if not a way to hold myself accountable. Here's the progress I've made on my main writing projects, as of October 1st, 2013.

Starter Guide for Professional Writers--I'm just past halfway through the second draft, which is already 20,000 words longer than the first. In hindsight the first draft was just a very detailed outline. I've fleshed it out with more examples, explanation, and a few new ideas or good old ideas that I'd forgotten to add the first time around. My brain's been jogged by doing further rounds of manuscript editing, including what I'm doing as Kickstarter perks, and a writing class I took this September at The Writer's Center in Bethesda. I had the chance to compare notes and chat with a lot of authors, as well as receiving advice--some of which I'd heard before, some of which I agreed with, and some of which I disagreed with. Any talk about promotion your book nowadays will include some truism about." In the old days the publisher would promote for you; now it's all on the writer."

To some extent, that's probably true, but insofar as it gives the impression the success of the book's marketing rests on the writer's shoulders, bollocks. The writer must write a book that is worth purchasing. And that's it. It is certainly helpful for the writer to do all they can to make people aware of this book they have written, but if marketing were really entirely on the author, we'd be seeing similar sales figures for hard-promoting self-published writers as we do for writers signed on with Penguin. And we don't. Large publishers have distributive capacities--catalogs, bookstore distribution, better access to review outlets--that authors on their own certainly don't have. And even some small presses help their authors promote by finding reviewers, booking outlets for blog tours, etc. Plus cover art. Never underestimate that.

All the same, I am dedicated an entire chapter to ideas on marketing your book, in part because some of them are really fun. A lot of the writing of the Starter Guide has been really fun. What concerns me isn't completing this second draft, or even the third (a readthrough for typos and fact-checking mostly) so much as...shudder...formatting. CreateSpace I understand well enough, and through them I can get into the Kindle store. But the rest of my ebook distribution will be done through Smashwords, and their formatting guide has some frightening directions for nonfiction books including chapter and chapter subsection headings, as well as lists and images, all of which the Starter Guide has. I shall persevere, but allow me a moment of trepidation.

One Hundred Days--Goodness, I finished the first draft of this almost four years ago (as a freshman, and I've now graduated!). Since then, I've typed up the original paper manuscript, sent it to 2 beta readers and received comments, and made my own red-pen edits. But only with this past summer do I really feel like I'm making progress. It turns out I have a number of scenes missing from the original, as well as several superfluous scenes, scenes which haven't done the job they were hired to do, and scenes which should actually be doing a different job in the first place. I may be--gasp!--adding a prologue, because one particular character deserves to be introduced earlier as his perspective could be invaluable.

On a line-by-line level, I've reached a breakthrough in part thanks to the class I took at the Writer's Center. The problem is, I write long sentences. I've always known this. I haven't always known quite how much of a problem it is. And even when I acknowledged that sometimes my sentences get long and unwieldy, I wasn't sure how to fix them. The secret is apparently catching my use of "and". Deleting "and" and making my conjunction into two separate, shorter sentences has already worked wonders. Also the omnipresant semicolon.

Lastly, I've been adding a lot of what I call "texture" edits--adding more concrete details, especially those which imply more than they say outright, my preferred technique for worldbuilding. Touring the museums and collections in DC has really helped me in this regard as I've fleshed out the art history of Xeocib.

By the way, if you're interested in One Hundred Days or The Starter Guide for Professional Writers, you can arrange to get email updates on their publication status by asking to hear "When Your Next Book Comes Out" through my Newsletter.

Across the Curse-Strewn World--I've now completed three out of the planned six stories in this series (as well as four out of five of the stories sharing background on the setting). Better still, I have solid plans for the last 3 stories. Partially this came about through outlining, and partially from brainstorming sessions to generate insights. There's something to be said from stepping into the shower with a resolution to surprise yourself. And you might give me that look, but I've heard Woodrow Wilson had the idea for the League of Nations in the shower. Or maybe it was Roosevelt and the UN. Google isn't helping me.

Well, at least I don't sing.

Also helpful, and infinitely less awkward to describe, are the weekly "writing dates" I've been setting up with my friend at the library every Tuesday night. Sitting down with a notebook and no distractions whatsoever--or at least a guaranteed feeling of being judged if I do pick a beckoning distraction off the shelves--has done wonders for my productivity. The latest story I've finished is a direct sequel to what is so far the only published story of this series, The Storms in Arisbat

It's called "For Lost Time" and includes a journey to the Kingdom of the Dead, a nation in exile, and an entertaining digression on who people do and do not dance with.

A Dark and Wonderful History--I thought I had only a couple stories left to write in this series (of which around half the finished stories are published). But as I looked over the loose ends and lacuna in my fictional history, I realized I need at least four more to cover specific topics, as well as introduce some more diversity to my cast of women. While I'm happy with the outlines I've prepared and have even made a few paragraphs' progress in the stories themselves, I feel like I'm encountering what a friend calls "Xeno's Paragraph": I'm halfway done, and then halfway done again, without ever being completely done. Telling myself it's like a novel with just four chapters left to finish doesn't help, either. A short story is more complex than any chapter in a book. I have casts of characters to introduce, personal and worldwide history to interweave, and alongside it all, myth arcs to unify and bring to a satisfying conclusion.

Some stories in this series:
"The Gallows Wife," originally printed in Semaphore magazine but currently available as part of the Shadows Within Shadows anthology.
"The Loving and Keeping of Wolves" in WolfSongs 2
"The Godslayer's Wife" at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
"Silver Chests and Plain Sight," recently reprinted at Voluted Tales.
"Invitation of the Queen," at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.


Heart's Kindred--This is a pet project of mine that gives me no trouble. And in return, I give it very little attention (I'm not ready to keep actual pets or children for a good while yet). I have one short story to complete, but more importantly 2 novellas featuring the characters to frame the climax. I have some idea what will happen in each, but haven't yet reached the outlining stage so much as the This'd be a cool thing to fit in stage. Characters are still introducing themselves, and weapons are still being designed. As I said, it's a pet project, meant to be fun. I do have another three short stories in the series completed and currently being shopped around.

So far the stories that are published are sort of odd ones out, being told from the POV of characters besides the series protagonists. They are:
"Every Mother's Child," in Fantastique Unfettered Issue #2
"An Honorable Aunt" in Silver Blade Issue #18

Other short stories:
September was an excellent month for me. I'm especially happy with A Marriage, Pure and Good's debut with Scigentasy, which was just the perfect fit. That story journeyed far to find a home, and I think I've changed as a writer since I first drafted it, but the reader reaction has been wonderful.  Equations in the Mirror has also appeared at Perihelion, making this a month for science fiction stories. All my novels and series are fantasy, but as I think on it my "unaffiliated stories" are largely science fiction. I have one story about a man who owns a planet, which has reached the "surprising myself" stage of outlining. Also a sequel to the story I wrote in a fit of madness at Mole National Park, a science fantasy piece involving art collectors, interuniversal war, and perhaps a stealth reference or two to The King in Yellow.  Speaking of wars, I also have a story about time travelling soldiers which deserves my attention but also a lot more focus than I can give any one thing at this point.

Lastly, as I look over my publications list I've found a few more dead links as stories go out of print. I'll be looking up reprint markets over the autumn so that the poor dears can see the light of day again. If you'd like to point out a dead link and/or request that I move faster on a particular reprint, your messages are more than welcome.

Other novels:
Although I'm not quite mad enough to write multiple novels at the same time (ahem), I am doing some heavy outlining of a few future pieces, including writing "quips" or excerpts. Once I've generated enough quips, I sort them roughly in order and then write enough to piece them together. Sooner or later, a novel appears. For a time I thought I was through with this quippy method of writing and should stick with writing a piece straight through (I've done this with two novels; incidentally both had strong romantic subplots, but in any event they were "fun" novels rather than ones I had ambitions for on the scale of One Hundred Days). Yet the quips are proving rather handy; I've even started with them for some short stories.

I have two extremely ambitious sci-fi/space fantasy novels in the works right now (including one featuring the protagonists of the Mole Park story), as well as a shorter novel/novella in the setting of Heart's Kindred and a dark fantasy novel in the setting of the A Dark and Wonderful History. The novella is very close to done, but I haven't had time to sit down and really finish it for a while. I have my eyes on a few small speculative fiction presses, though, where I'd be privileged to see it, so I might sweep off the dust once I'm finished with The Starter Guide.