Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


Finished a Short Story

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Doubt and discouragement have weighed on me these past few years and sapped much of the fun of writing. The direct result is that my productivity has declined. It’s been taking me longer and longer to write, and I’m not nearly as good at sticking to a project and finishing it as I used to be. For example, right now I have at least three novels/novellas in various stages of development and a long short story well begun but far from finished.

But I’m happy to report that since attending the recent workshop, I’m feeling better about this whole writing gig. I returned home with a new sense of direction, with my optimism refreshed, and with a renewed determination to write more.

I decided to jump on the task of writing more while still at the workshop. I came up with a new idea for a story and promptly set to work on it, writing the beginning at the workshop, another long section on the flight home, and finishing it over this past week thanks to my new writing schedule.

At 7,200 words this is a long short story, but no longer than it needs to be. 🙂

I’ll read it over at least one more time, but as of this morning I’m calling it done — which is an incredible relief. This is the first short story I’ve finished this year.

Next on the agenda: Back to work on the story I was laboring over before heading to the mainland. My goal is to have that done by the end of the week. Fingers crossed!

Writer Process: Making a Story Shorter

Monday, July 8th, 2013

I find that each new writing project is a challenge, as I try to figure out again the process of creating a story.

Back at the end of April I set out to write a short story in one of my preexisting story worlds. I had no characters, no plot, no theme. So I did brainstorming sessions, and I tried writing bits of story just to see what might be there. Eventually I had a complete draft. I’m never quite sure how this happens, and it doesn’t always happen, but it did this time. 9900 words. Much longer than I’d hoped, but it was the first story I’d managed to finish this year, so that was something.

I sent it off for critique, got comments back that were mostly minor and full of encouragement — and then I didn’t look at the thing for a month because… I don’t know why.

When I finally started working on it again, things went in an unexpected direction. My tendency is to underwrite first drafts, so second drafts are always longer, but this story was the opposite. One comment from the beta reader was that the opening pages could be shortened, so that’s where I started and, painlessly, just by striking out excess wordage — an excess that had become suddenly obvious — the story was 500 words shorter. So I went through the entire manuscript and did a similar prune, striking out phrases and sentences. This took it down to around 9200 words.

Next I started looking for scenes to cut. Right away I found one that was clearly unnecessary. It involved a subplot/problem that contributed to a character’s difficulties without contributing in a meaningful way to the climax of the story. So I reduced it to a sentence and got rid of a few hundred words.

I found two or three places with repeated information and consolidated those.

I found a short scene that existed just so I could convey one piece of information. That information could be easily communicated in one sentence of dialog in a different scene, so that’s what I did.

I trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, one or two words at a time, and the story didn’t suffer for it. It got better. And of course not everything involved cutting words. I added them as needed to clarify character and motives, but the net word count kept dropping.

The last one hundred words were really hard, but I finally found a two-sentence paragraph that had been made irrelevant by my revisions. When that was gone, I only needed to get rid of a few more words, and then I was done. I’d brought the story down to my goal of 8000 words.

This is the first time I can remember cutting a story this hard, which just goes to show that every story is different. I’ve got at least three more that I want to write this year, along with finishing the novel. I have no idea how I’ll manage any of it, but that’s always the case.

I guess I’ll know when I get there.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Seven

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

At SF Signal, the table of contents has been posted for ‘The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Seven’ Edited by Jonathan Strahan, with my own “Nahiku West” at #22 in the list of stories! This is the first time my short fiction has made it into a best-of-year anthology, so I’m pretty happy about it.

The anthology will be published by Night Shade Books on March 5, 2013.

A Second Zeke Choy Story

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012
Nahiku West by Linda Nagata “Nahiku West” — a 9,000 word novelette, originally published in Analog and now available as an ebook at Book View Cafe.

Long ago — actually last spring — I wrote a companion story to last summer’s novelette “Nahiku West.” It’s called “Out In The Dark” and it’s the second story featuring the reluctant Commonwealth police officer, Zeke Choy**.

Since “Nahiku West” was published in Analog, I sent the second story there as well and waited the summer to hear back on it. Three months passed, and I was just about to inquire on its status when Stan Schmidt, long-time Analog editor, announced his immediate retirement — and I knew the waiting wasn’t over yet.

I did eventually receive good news. Analog’s new editor, Trevor Quachri, will be publishing “Out In The Dark” in a future edition, date to be determined.

And now, I must get busy writing more short stories! I want to do at least one or two more featuring Zeke Choy, as well as striking out in some new directions.

If you haven’t done so yet, please sign up for my Very Occasional Newsletter so I can let you know when new stories and novels come out.

**Zeke was a minor character in my novel The Bohr Maker, and his stories take place in The Nanotech Succession story world.

New Story Online At Lightspeed Magazine

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Detail from digital painting by Sarah Adams, for the book cover of The Dread Hammer by Linda NagataDetail from the cover of The Dread Hammer; digital painting by Sarah Adams.

This is the first time I’ve had two stories debut in the same month. Story #1 was “Nahiku West,” a police procedural in a nanotech-saturated story world. Story #2 is part of the August edition of Lightspeed Magazine. The story has been available as part of Lightspeed’s ebook edition, but starting today it’s available to read free online — or you can listen to the audio book version!

“A Moment Before It Struck” is a prequel story to my novel The Dread Hammer. It’s less than 5,000 words so it won’t take you long to read. Why not take a look?

And do consider buying the ebook edition of Lightspeed Magazine, for an easy-to-read version of all this month’s stories.

Reports of a Story Sighting

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

I’ve heard reports that my story “Nahiku West” is now out and in the hands of subscribers to Analog Science Fiction & Fact. It’s the October issue, and I think it’s not generally available just yet — not surprising, given that it’s still July.

I’ll post more here as I learn more, but if you’ve seen the issue, please let me know.

Writing Short

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

After I started selling novels, I stopped writing short fiction, for two main reasons. First, I was better at novels. And second, the short stuff took me way too long to write. It didn’t seem like it was worth the investment of time.

But in this year of “trying new stuff” and “writing faster” I wanted to try writing short again, so I plotted a story. To make it easy on myself I set it in The Nanotech Succession story world and used a minor character from my novel The Bohr Maker as the protagonist–but the story is independent of the book and takes place some years before.

Psyching myself up, I figured “4,000 words–how hard could that be?” I knew the story would likely be much longer than that, but 4,000 words sounded so un-intimidating.

(Do other writers play these head games? I have no idea.)

And then I applied the “Write the first draft fast” approach. Four days later I had a 7,500 word story which I dumped raw onto my local writing group the day before we were due to meet. They were very good natured about it. Several more days went into revision, the story turned into a short novelette of 8,900 words, and now it’s ready to go to market.

Naturally I hope it sells, but after all these years of no short stories, simply having written it feels like a win.

Hawaii Bans Shark Fins

Monday, July 4th, 2011

…and in a fortuitous coincidence, I’ve just republished my short story Hooks, Nets, and Time, a near-feature thriller involving sharks, both traditional and human, and the practice of shark finning.

Shark fins are the key ingredient in the luxury dish shark-fin soup. Fins are harvested by hooking or netting sharks, cutting off their fins, and tossing the carcasses back into the ocean. Why isn’t the whole shark used? No idea. Here’s the article in the Honolulu Staradvertiser.

In Hooks, Nets, and Time the shark fin harvest is self-sustaining, but the hazards are real. Here’s the quick description:

Zayder works alone, tending the shark pen on an isolated ocean platform. A good job is hard to come by, so when his boss, Mr. Ryan, comes to visit he asks no questions, just drinks the cordial he’s offered and turns in early. But when Mr. Ryan’s plans go awry, it’s much too late for Zayder to close his eyes.

Hooks, Nets, and Time was originally published in August 1997 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It’s now a 99¢ short story. Here are the links:

Amazon USA
Amazon UK (£0.71)
Barnes & Noble

A Good Reason to Write Short Stories

Monday, June 13th, 2011

I’m a novelist by nature. I’ve only ever written a handful of short stories–and most of those are on the long end of a short story–plus a few novelettes and novellas.

Word count is the deciding factor on which category a piece of fiction falls into. According to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:
Short story: under 7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500 to 17,500 words
Novella: 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel: over 40,000 words

I’ve just published in ebook form a 7,000 word short. In the Tide was an Analog cover story back in the day, which was quite a coup for me at that stage of my career.

Here’s a tip for new writers: In the Tide was actually a “study” in much the same way that a painter will do sketches before tackling the big oil painting. I used this story to develop a feeling for the nanotech-drenched story world that later led to The Nanotech Succession books. I also used it to develop the type of evolved-human character that ultimately led to Nikko in The Bohr Maker. It’s a scheme I heartily recommend! Get paid developing the ideas for your novels. Where’s the downside of that?

In the Tide is a 99¢ short story. Here are the links:

Amazon USA
Amazon UK (£0.69)
Barnes & Noble

UPDATE: “In The Tide” is now available for free on my website, MythicIsland.com. Look for the box labeled “FREE FICTION”