Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


Archive for the 'Writing' Category

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.

Work-In-Progress Report

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

In my last Work-In-Progress Report I said that I’d sent the new novel off to beta readers. I’ve heard back from two so far, and the reports are hearteningly positive, while also including some very useful suggestions.

I’ve already incorporated most of the suggestions from my first beta reader. I’m holding off on the rest to see if the noted issues are a concern with anyone else. That will give me a better idea of how to address them. Later today I’ll start going through the second reader’s suggestions.

I’ve also had a friend read a section of the manuscript for authenticity of place. He made a couple of suggestions, but overall gave it a thumbs-up.

I’m waiting on one more beta reader, as well as that most intimidating personage, my freelance editor, Judith Tarr. I’m sure the feedback won’t be quite so positive from Judy! She’s strict.

It’s all to make the final work the best it can be. For now, I’ll enjoy the praise.

100 Words

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

A post for writers:

“100 Words” is a game I play when I’m having a hard time getting a new short story started. (In other words, just about every time I’m trying to get a new short story started.) The game is exactly what it sounds like: I make a deal with myself that I only have to be concerned with writing another 100 words.

My story development process begins with an idea, often just a setting, sometimes a situation. Never a character, unless I’m writing about a character I’ve already developed in some other work. No doubt your process is different.

Once I have this starting kernal, I do a lot of brainstorming at the keyboard — nonstop writing in which I ask myself questions about the story and try to answer them. I look for the setting, the situation, the spine of the external plot, the character, the internal plot.

Long ago I read the advice that a short story should be about the most important incident in a character’s life. Clearly this requirement is flexible — a single character can appear in many stories after all — but I think the general concept is good to keep in mind. The incident that takes place in the story needs to profoundly affect your main character. That’s what will make your story emotionally interesting, and provide you with an internal plot, meaning that your character learns, and changes. For better? For worse? Hey, it could go either way.

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“On Proposal” vs “On Spec”

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

If you’re aiming for the traditional publishing market, there are two basic approaches. You can try to sell your novel “on proposal” or you can try to write it “on spec.”

“On Proposal” is an option that generally is only available to writers with a track record. Either you’ve sold novels before, or you’re an admired short story writer, or your nonfiction credentials carry weight, or maybe you’re a celebrity. What constitutes a proposal can vary widely. I think it’s safe to say that the bigger a writer’s name value, the briefer the proposal. But typically, a proposal involves writing a synopsis of the novel, as well as the first two or three chapters. It’s a running joke among writers that the story told in this initial synopsis will have only a minor resemblance to the story told in the finished novel.

Many, perhaps most, novelists look at selling on proposal as the way it’s done — get your contract first, get an advance on your work, and then write the book. That way, you know you’re not wasting your time writing something that no one will buy. Writing on proposal is smart.

I like writing on spec.

Just one more of my bull-headed quirks. 🙂

Writing “on spec” means you’re embarked on a speculative venture, that you’re investing time and money in writing and completing a novel that is not under contract, so all the risk is yours. Maybe no one will buy it. May it will turn out far better than anyone expected and it will sell quickly and well. Who knows?

For me, the great thing about writing on spec is that all the choices are mine. I can take the novel in whatever direction I want, explore whatever genre I want, and I can set my own deadlines. It’s a risk|freedom equation. And I know that if I don’t get an offer, or if I don’t get one I like, I still own the story and I can publish it myself.

It’s true this means I’ll get no advance on my work, but most advances don’t offer enough money to actually live on, so this doesn’t weigh too heavily. It does, however, make the monthly sales of my backlist books — those older titles that I’ve republished under my own imprint — more important, since that’s what generates my income between the rare checks from publishers.

As always, every writer’s circumstance and path through this industry is different, and there’s no best way.

Work-In-Progress Report

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

The new novel has taken far, far longer to write than I ever expected — and that’s the reason I started writing these progress reports. They are a means to keep myself accountable, and a means of encouragement.

I completed a really solid draft of the novel in early July, and in my last report I said that I was going through lists of issues that I knew I needed to address. I’ve taken care of most of those, but there are still a few points that need attention. Most of the remaining items are cultural questions — I want to make sure I’m using names and terms correctly. There are also a few concepts I’d like to expand on.

Last weekend, though, I realized I was running out of time. My goal is to get this manuscript to my agent just after Labor Day, which suddenly felt ominously close, given that the manuscript still needed to go to beta readers and my freelance editor. So I decided it was “done enough.”

This was a radical decision, because I have not done a beginning-to-end read-through of the manuscript yet.

My standard procedure is to read through the entire manuscript on-screen, and then read it again in printed version, before I consider it ready to be seen by others. So maybe I’m starting to lighten up after all these years?

Anyway, on Thursday night I sent the manuscript off to three beta readers, and next week it will go back to my freelance editor, who saw the partial last spring. It’ll probably be two to three weeks before I hear back, so it’s much too soon to get nervous. 😉

My original plan was to keep working on the novel in the interim, but I’ve promised a couple of short stories, so I may tackle at least one of those instead. A break from the novel might be the best thing, before the mad rush to address the critiques I’ll be receiving.

In the meantime, we’re expecting Tropical Storm Darby to blow through Maui today and tonight. The rain started before 7AM this morning, which surprised me. I hope we don’t lose electricity!

Work-In-Progress Report

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

After finally finishing a solid draft of the novel-in-progress last Saturday, I took two days off from writing, and then commenced revisions (fixes is how I think of it) on Tuesday.

It feels like I’ve been fixing things for a lot longer than six days! That said, I really, really like the way this book continues to come together. To be honest**, I didn’t have a clear idea of where this novel would lead when I started working on it, so it’s a relief to find that I like where I am.

Right now I have two ancillary files in which I’ve listed points I need to address, and I also have Word comments in the main manuscript that I need to take care of, so there’s a lot left to do before I begin a start-to-finish read-through. That said, I feel the manuscript is now completely comprehensible to an outside reader, and that means it’s time for me to start the quest for beta readers and expert consultants. This is always an awkward point for me because I don’t have a writing group to turn to. It makes me realize how much I still miss my early writing group. But I think I’ve had one or two offers from people to read the next one. I’ll have to dig into my email to figure that out.

Onward!

** there is a meme on Twitter that goes “If you use the phrase ‘to be honest’ it means you’re lying the rest of the time. I say that’s bullshit. ‘To be honest’ is a colloquialism that means ‘While I suspect you would rather not hear this truth, I’m going to tell it to you anyway.’ Or, ‘While I’m uncomfortable telling you this, I will anyway…’

English is complicated. 🙂

Work-In-Progress Report:
Draft Done!

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

I am finally DONE with the first really solid draft of the new novel. Fixes start next week, but I’m so happy to have reached this point. This has been a tough one.

I reported in my prior post that I was about to begin writing “the last five to ten-thousand words.” Not too surprisingly, that turned out to be over 11,000 words. Right now, the total word count is about 130,500, which is not long by the standards of epic fantasy, but it’s long for me. By comparison, my longest novel, Memory, was 132,000 words, and I won’t be at all surprised if the new one surpasses that in its final form.

The goal of course is to have just enough words and not too many. The real reason I get hung up on word count is that I find shorter novels so much more pleasant to work with in the revision stage. (Meaning EASIER.)

Oh, and I just checked the date of my last post and realized I’ve written 11K words in slightly over a week, which is a feat for a slow writer like me. This involved mostly twelve hour work days, with no exercise.

But the rush is over. I’m taking two days off, and then on Tuesday it’s back to a reasonable schedule with regular work outs.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND!

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Work-In-Progress Report & Reminders

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

It's been a steep climb to the finish on this novel.To review: In mid-March I finished a “partial draft” of the novel-in-progress, meaning that most of the structure was there, but a lot was left to do. That draft was 72,000 words long — a short novel.

In my last work-in-progress report, I explained that I’d been revising that partial draft, but I was about to begin writing new material, specifically, the end of the novel, which I hadn’t tackled before. So how did that go? Well… I HAVEN’T WRITTEN THE END OF THIS NOVEL YET, OKAY?

I think what happened (I haven’t reviewed my detailed notes and it all tends to run together in my memory) is that I first wrote a synopsis for a new ending. Then I went back in the manuscript and built up the necessary plot lines that would lead to that ending while making other revisions and adding additional chapters from the points of view of neglected characters. I have now — once again — gotten to the end of the partial draft that I had in mid-March … only I’ve added about 48,000 words to the manuscript. So that first partial draft is, by far, the most underwritten first draft I’ve ever done.

And once again, I’m ready to move forward and write the last five to ten-thousand words.

Wish me luck.

REMINDERS:

* Sign up for my newsletter before the end of June for a chance to win the audiobook edition of The Red trilogy on CD.

* Kobo’s 50%-off ebook sale is ongoing through June 27 (available in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand).

Work-In-Progress Report & a Link

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Hosmer_Grove_treesMy schedule got a bit turned around today. Usually I do a writing stint in the morning, but today I needed to be in town in the morning, so I went to the gym while I was there … and I’ve been trying to get back into the writing mood ever since. Maybe posting a progress report will give me the incentive I need!

So here’s where things stand:
In mid-March I finished a “partial draft” of the novel-in-progress, meaning that most of the structure was there, but a lot was left to do. That draft was 72,000 words long — a short novel. I’ve been revising and expanding since then, and have added 30,000 words, which is a decent length for a novel, but still shorter than, for example, The Red. I suspect I’ll be adding another 20,000 words or so, which would make this novel roughly the length of The Trials.

Why this discussion of word count? Well, it’s one way to measure progress, and I need the encouragement. No excuse for being so slow about this sort of thing, but that’s the way it is. The next section that I have to tackle in this revision is going to be especially challenging, because I never actually wrote it, in the original draft. I just typed some notes into the manuscript, IN BIG CAPITAL LETTERS DESCRIBING WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AND WHY BECAUSE WHEN I REACHED THIS POINT IN THE FIRST DRAFT I JUST REALLY REALLY WANTED TO MOVE ON TO THE FINAL SECTION. This isn’t the first time I’ve skipped forward to the end, but when I’ve done it before, I’ve been much closer to end. Oh well. Whatever works. This book will be done eventually. I’m looking forward to handing a solid draft off to beta readers, because after that, I get to work on short fiction!

In the meantime, here’s an interesting article on near-future science fiction (sadly, no mention of the Red Trilogy): The Future is Almost Now. I have more thoughts related to this topic, but will save that for another post.