Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Almost done…

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

A few days ago, for the first time, I printed out a copy of The Last Good Man. It’s 499 manuscript pages.

I used to always keep an up-to-date printed copy of a novel as I worked on it, but that habit faded away and these days I don’t print anything out until the end. Then, as the last step in the process**, I read straight through the printed copy from beginning to end, ALOUD. I listen for clumsy bits and look for errors, fixing them (by hand) along the way.

It’s amazing how many little problem spots I still find. But simply viewing the novel in a different context — in this case printed, instead of on-screen — causes the brain to see/hear issues that were invisible before. Reading aloud means it’s going to be slow, but for me it’s an essential step. And the end is in sight!

Today I reached page 422 of 499. I should finish tomorrow. Then I get to enter all the handwritten fixes into the master file. After that the manuscript will be ready to go off to reviewers.

If you’re a book reviewer and you’d like a copy please send me an email at linda at mythicisland dot com, letting me know who you are, where you review, and whether you prefer an epub or mobi (Kindle) ebook file.

I’m planning to publish The Last Good Man in June.

I HOPE YOU LIKE IT!

** more accurately, the last step before sending the manuscript out to reviewers and to the copyeditor. Once I get it back from the copyeditor, I’ll have one more round of edits.

On Self-Rejection

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Two or three years ago I wrote a short story called “The Martian Obelisk.” I finished it, but I didn’t feel happy with the result. It was grim, and I didn’t want to write grim. I was further discouraged by well-meant critique comments. Nevertheless, I worked on the story for a few more days. But my doubts persisted, and in the end I self-rejected the story. I stopped working on it, and never sent it to any market.

This past December I decided to take another look at “The Martian Obelisk” and much to my surprise, the story was far better than I remembered. It still had issues, but enough time had passed that I could see them with fresh eyes. So I devoted more hours to revising it. Then I emailed Ellen Datlow, who acquires stories for Tor.com, to ask if she would like to see it. I explained its history and mentioned that it felt more appropriate now, in the context of our grim present times, than when I had first drafted it.

Much to my surprise and delight, Ellen accepted the story. “The Martian Obelisk” is scheduled for publication on July 19.

I’ve often lectured others on not self-rejecting. It’s good advice. 😉

Writing Goals For 2017

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s do the best we can, okay? Given the president we here in America are about to be encumbered with, I suspect 2017 will prove to be a bitter, divisive year. I hope I am wrong and that we are, by some grace, better off at the end of it.

In the meantime, there is the work.

Here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2017:

1. Write a NEW NOVEL. It may or may not be the one I’ve already started, but I want to have a new novel, either in my agent’s hands or ready to publish myself, by the end of the year.

2. Write a SHORT STORY. I’m only going to require one. Science fiction or fantasy, but unrelated to any existing work. If any additional short fiction happens, that will be a bonus.

3. Write a NOVELLA set in an existing story world. This is an unmet goal carried over into a third year. I still want to write it. There is a chance it will turn into a novel. So it goes.

4. PUBLISH the novel I finished writing in 2016. (More on that in the next post.) It’s going to be a complex process, but I’m looking forward to it.

That’s it! This list gets shorter every year, either because I’m getting older, or I’m becoming more realistic about what I can do.

What are YOUR writing goals for 2017? What are your reading goals? Share them here!

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Here we are at the end of the year. It’s a good time to take stock of writerly things. This isn’t meant to be a whiny post. More of a looking-reality-straight-in-the-eye post — and looking ahead at what’s to come

~~~~~

Some writers have nicely ascending career paths. There may be a few setbacks, but overall the trend is up. For many of us – dare I say most of us? – that’s not how it goes. Oh sure, we enjoy the occasional triumph, but our careers are mostly a long, lonely slog through tough, soggy, mosquito-filled terrain, with only an occasional glimpse of snow-capped peaks rising in the distance—the Olympian heights! (This being a metaphor for bestseller lists, in case you missed that.)

For a while, it looked like The Red trilogy was going to be my path out of the fens — if not to the magic mountains, then at least to more solid ground. I mean, the critical response was pretty damn encouraging. Check out some of the crazy quotes here.

If you’re new to this blog and you’ve never heard of these books, here’s a brief history:

Back in 2013, I decided to self-publish the first of the trilogy, The Red: First Light, rather than trying to sell it to a traditional publisher. This was my first science fiction novel in ten years, and it went on to become a finalist for the Nebula award and second runner-up for the John W. Campbell Memorial award. It was picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press, given a gorgeous new cover, and in that incarnation was named as a Publishers Weekly best book of 2015. Saga Press published the second and third books in the trilogy in quick succession. Book 3, Going Dark, tied for first runner up for the Campbell Memorial award.

So I had reasons to get my hopes up, right?

These books had the most commercial potential of anything I’ve written. They are action oriented, and they extrapolate on real-world technology and politics. They are also heroic stories in which the actions of individuals do matter. Yes, they are written in a cynical tone (an amusingly snarky tone, I hope), but this was cynicism wrapped around a core of idealism. In other words, they’re culturally appropriate for a large swath of American readership. As evidence of that, they’ve had multiple inquiries regarding film and TV rights, and in fact were optioned for TV (an agreement now expired).

This was all far more than I’d expected … but the path peters out if potential readers miss those reviews, or if they decide for reasons of their own to skip the books, or if they never hear of the books at all because they don’t read reviews and rely instead on chance, name recognition, or word of mouth to choose their next read.

The trilogy garnered enthusiastic readers — and I’m grateful for every one of you! — but despite all the good omens, it failed to capture the attention of enough readers to make it a success. Sales languished. The books sank out of sight.

Hell, yes, this was disappointing. And I could write a long, disgruntled post speculating on the reasons why it happened — in fact I did — but I’ll spare you that. We’re here at the turn of the year and it’s time to move on, because…

I’VE GOT ANOTHER NOVEL ON THE WAY!

::cheers::

::confetti::

Hey, I’m excited about it. I hope you are too. I really, really hope you’re excited, because I’m going to need you’re support on this.

So what’s it called? What’s it about? That post will go up at the New Year. But here’s a hint:

In these crazy, frightening, rapidly changing times my focus has been captured by the near future. Where are we going? What are some of the implications of our rapidly developing technologies? What impact might they have on the way we see ourselves, and on what we value in ourselves, given that we are still operating under the templates of our ancient tribal minds? These are some of the themes behind a thriller that’s written on a very human scale.

So check back soon. And in the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, sign up for my occasional newsletter (see the form in the upper right column). It’s one more way to keep in touch.

Writing Goals for 2016:
The Assessment

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Since 2011, I’ve been publishing a list of my writing goals for the year, and at the end of the year I take a look at that list and assess how I did at meeting those goals. So it’s time to assess 2016. What follows is a list of the goals I posted on January 1 2016, and how I did on each one:

1. FINISH the current novel-in-progress, where “finish” means it’s been revised and polished and is in my agent’s hands.

DONE. Done. Totally done.

2. START the next novel, where “start” means figure out the general idea behind it, and develop a rough outline with a list of characters. Bonus points for actually writing the opening.

This is actually DONE too. I’ve outlined a new novel and written the first 5,000 words. Circumstances being what they are, though, I will likely dump this novel… er, I mean, put it aside… and try to come up with something more traditional and possibly more marketable.

3. PUBLISH a second short story collection. This is going to be a round up of all my short fiction published since 2012.

DONE, with the caveat that it doesn’t include all my short fiction — I’ve held back the two Zeke Choy stories. Still, eight short stories! For more details on the new collection, click here.

4. Write a short story in THE RED story world.

DONE. This story was requested for an anthology that I really wanted to participate in, so that gave me the motivation to get it done.

5. Write at least one hard-SF short story unrelated to anything else I’ve done.

NOT done. Other than the story mentioned above, I didn’t even start any new short fiction this year. However, I did rediscover a story I wrote two years ago, but never sent out. It was better than I remembered, so I revised it and am now in the process of marketing it.

6. Write at least one novella set in an existing story world.

NOT done. This was an unmet goal from both 2015 and 2016, and it will now roll over into a 2017 goal.

Overall, 2016 was not a good year for my writing career. I’ll admit that my confidence has faded, along with the enthusiasm of a few years ago, and without that confidence and enthusiasm it’s been a lot harder for me to write. Still, I managed to do most of what I’d hoped to do. So I’ll give myself a pat on the back, and try to do better in 2017.

Did you have writing goals for 2016? How did you do?

Persistent Technologies

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

I’ve been catching up on my reading, and chanced to find — almost simultaneously — two articles looking at the potential advantages of old, seemingly outdated technologies.

The first, “What An NFL Coach, The Pentagon And Election Systems Have In Common” starts off with a discussion of Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, angrily rejecting the use of tablets during football games, calling the technology “undependable.” It goes on to talk about the inherent security of the paper trail generated by America’s old-fashioned and decentralized voting system, and the potential security in the antiquated software behind some weapons systems. As someone who is still using an ancient version of Windows on my writing computer, I am in total sympathy with the latter. 🙂

The second article, Why the US Military Still Flies Cold-War Era Planes looks at old, “persistent” technology from a different angle. The U2 was first built in 1955. It’s still flying today. Why? Because it still does the job:

“With its interchangeable nose cones and sophisticated surveillance equipment, there’s no reason not to think of the U-2S as a cutting-edge, contemporary technology

Like all technologies, planes are flexible. They change both through use and through the actions of their users. They undergo maintenance and updates…

I like this term, “persistent technology.” It’s a good concept to keep in mind when writing near-future fiction. Not everything has to be shiny and new.

Is it Better to Write a Series or…?

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

court_of_fives_kate_elliottThis is a short post for writers…although I’m sure readers have opinions too.

Recently on Twitter (where I spend far too much time) Kate Elliott, author of many excellent fantasy series, was asked an interesting question. Paraphrasing here: For a first novel is it better to write a stand-alone, a duology, or a trilogy?

Kate’s answer begins here and continues through a series of thoughtful tweets. I urge you to go read it:

I just wanted to add that there is one more alternative to consider: writing “related” novels…or, in a dark-humor vein, a “fake series.” This is how I started my novel writing career.

In a real trilogy — the Red Trilogy, for example — each successive book relies on the one that came before. In each book the writer ought to make an attempt to refresh the reader’s memory about past events, but it’s assumed the reader will be familiar with what went before, and that the story will build directly on that. There will also be an overall narrative arc that runs from book 1 to book 3 (or however many books are in the series).

But when it comes to traditional publishing, there are a couple of potential problems with writing a trilogy. First, if books one and two don’t do well in the market, book three may never be published. Consider that there are readers who won’t begin a trilogy until all the books are out. What happens if a large number of readers follow this strategy? Then very few copies of the first and/or second book will sell during those crucial early weeks after publication, and if that happens, there’s a good chance the publisher will simply cancel the series before it’s done.

The second problem was more crucial in the days before ebooks, but it can still affect a writer’s career today. This is when the publisher is willing to go ahead and publish all three books in a trilogy, but allows the first book in the trilogy to go out of print. Yes, really. It’s happened many, many times, and of course this means that the series is unlikely to win new readers, because the first book is unavailable to read. This is less of an issue in this age of ebooks, because ebooks are forever. But (so I’m told) a lot of readers still prefer print.

My response to this, in the days before ebooks, was to write “related novels.” In those days, books would go out of print fast — under a year in many cases. Knowing this, I made a decision to write my early novels as “stand alones.” So if we look at the Nanotech novels, all four share the same story world and some share characters, but each presents a complete story and can be read by itself. In fact, in their Bantam Spectra editions, the Nanotech books were never sold as a series. Over the years I’ve had readers tell me they picked up Vast first, read it, enjoyed it, and never suspected that there were three earlier novels they “should have” read first. That’s how a stand alone is supposed to work!

Anyway, writing “related” novels is one more strategy in the writer’s toolkit.

“Done”

Monday, October 10th, 2016

I just sent my agent the final-for-now version of the new novel. Naturally, as soon as I decided it was done, my writing mojo went on vacation…which is making it difficult to write a short story that I need to get done. :-/

Home Again + Progress Report

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Road to Lassen NPHome again and happy to be here!

Oddly enough, the football season determined our travel schedule this year — the University of Hawaii’s football season, to be precise. Ron is an avid fan, so when he heard the UH team would be opening the 2016 season in Sydney, we decided that would be a fine time to revisit Australia. But we also wanted to visit family in the Pacific Northwest. The only time we could do that — without Ron missing any home games — was last week.

So we had two-and-a-half weeks between trips, with a friend visiting us in between — and that didn’t leave me much time to write!

What am I working on? Well, the same new novel that I’ve mentioned in recent progress reports, including that last, “final” report. (In this business, “final” is a relative term.)

At last report, I mentioned that I’d sent the manuscript to my agent. He read it while we were down under and gave it a very enthusiastic thumbs-up. But he also had a few suggestions that he thought would enhance the closing sequence. His ideas made sense to me, so I agreed to undertake one more round of revision — and I’m really pleased with the results so far.

I’ve got just a couple more items to address before I send the manuscript back. I’d best get on that.

More soon…

Flying out of Oakland

Final Work-In-Progress Report + Various

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Work-In-Progress Report
I haven’t been posting much lately, have I? That’s because I’ve mostly been writing, with time off for workouts — but even the workouts stopped a few days ago as other chores intruded.

Anyway, as noted in the title, this is my last work-in-progress report for the new novel, because that novel is officially “done.”

Of course, in this business there are many phases of “done,” and there will certainly be more revisions to come, but it’s now with my agent, so that’s a draft!

John W. Campbell Memorial Award
The Hugo Awards, given out at Worldcon this past weekend, were casting shade, but the winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award was also announced during the convention — and no, it wasn’t me. The award went to Eleanor Lerman for her novel Radiomen. Congratulations to Eleanor! As it turns out, Going Dark was tied for second place alongside Adam Roberts’ The Thing Itself.

Follow this link for details.

Recommended Audiobook
Malka Older’s Infomocracy is a near-future look at politics and the way a global system of “micro-democracies” might work — and of course how people, being people, will attempt to game the system. The story takes place during a world-wide election, held every ten years, in which “centinels” — geographic divisions of a hundred-thousand people — are each choosing new leadership, and there is a lot of competition among the various political groups to pick up these new centinels.

The world building behind Infomocracy is absolutely brilliant and at times some of the observations made in the story are quite funny — but be aware that there is a lot of detail as the characters discuss statistics, voting, and political platforms. Think of Infomocracy as a bureaucrat’s thriller. I won’t be at all surprised to see it on next year’s Campbell Memorial list.

The audio narration is by Christine Marshal and I thought it was very well done.