Friday, 20 December 2013

Always to be Working. Never For Stop.

In Soviet Russia, yadda yadda ya…

So, it’s been a little while since I last posted, and with the holiday approaching I wanted to stop in to let you guys know that I’m making progress here and not just ignoring you.

The big news is that my classes are done for the semester. I’ve submitted all of my paperwork and sent my students on their way with their grades, for good or ill. And with school out for, well, Winter, I can afford to devote a lot more time to this project for the next month or so.

Which brings me to my next point: What I’ve been working on here. In addition to the chapter that I posted last time, I’ve been doing a few more test chunks. I still really like where this draft is going, and I’m really looking forward to getting going on it. To that end, I’ve been working on a new outline for the novel. One that’s a little more complete and balanced than anything that I’ve done so far in my various drafts. It’s a little moodier, a little darker, and it piles on more action and suspense and double-crossing without (I think) compromising the plot or characters.

I’m very excited about it, which is more than I’ve been able to say about this story in months. I should also, hopefully, have that outline completed by the end of the night.

So, look for some more information on that, and some more regular posting for the immediate future. I’m also going to try and start posting some more and different types of content. Some things to get me back to this site’s original mandate of being more about the writing process and the writer’s life than it is about the book being written.

Ha. Yeah. Promises, promises.

Until next time, Internet.

 

-Sean

Monday, 9 December 2013

New Words: Excerpt From Draft 0.4.5

Hey, Internet. As promised, I’ve got an excerpt from the new draft. Below the cut, you’ll find the whole text of the new Chapter One. Just over seven pages of raw, rough-draft content that you might enjoy. This represents, in part, the new tone and direction of the novel. What’s present here is much more in keeping with the novel that I want to write, and—while it’s very rough in spots—I’m quite happy with it. It also has the benefit of covering in the same basic ground in eight pages what took the previous Chapter Three twelve pages, setting more material up, and establishing the characters and world more fully.

So, this is where I am. Happy, but sadly stalled out until the end of the week when the Fall semester is up and my students have stopped piling papers onto my desk. I’ll be back then with more!

 

-Sean

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Old Chapter

Below the cut, you’ll find the entire text of Chapter Three from the previous draft. It’s thirteen pages, and it’s crazy bloated with all sorts of unnecessary shit. Too much exposition. Too much unneeded detail. Too much characterization that’s inconsistent with the rest of the novel. There’s some stuff here that I like—some jokes and details, and I’m fond of a lot of Sydney’s introspection on the first couple of pages—and some of it might end up showing up later in the current draft.

The point is that this is a great example of why I didn’t like what I was doing with the previous draft. Even from a pacing perspective…This is thirteen pages of tirelessly delivered exposition, plopped down thirty pages into a manuscript that goes equally frakking nowhere. And that’s another great indicator that this draft had gone wrong. This is Chapter Three. As in, following two chapters and a prologue. And my detective is just now getting to the city where the murder took place.

So…Take it how you will. As always with these posted bits of manuscript, it should be remembered that this is in an unedited state and should not be considered a final product. I’ll be back with the new Chapter One—which covers roughly the same ground—tomorrow.

 

-Sean

Friday, 22 November 2013

Patch Notes – Manuscript Version # 0.4.0

As promised, here is the list of proposed changes to the manuscript that will hopefully fix some/most of my problems. Some of these are easy enough to implement, and will be in the sample chapter that I'm working on. Others will require some more time and work. I'll keep you updated as much as I can, though some things must—of course—remain secret for plot reasons. As with last time, these are transcripts of my handwritten notes and they may be a little fractured and repetitive.

 

  • Move Dow up to the Dawes colony and remove Marisol from the picture, but try to keep him as a little bit of a social outsider. Remove external support structure and establish an internal one. He needs a sense of history with the colony and its status quo—a kind of possessiveness that allows him to have a personal stake in the plot. Put together a list of which characters he already know and how.
  • Up the hardboiled nature of the narration. Dow in 1st person = stronger voice. You partially cut the first person narration in Draft 0.1 because the British military voice was unnatural. He's neither of those things anymore. Keep his basic, standing background, but is he still with the UN? This is detective fiction, so try him as a kind of stealth PI...operating at the colony under a different pretense. "It says Conflict Mediation & Catch-All Services on my door, not Murder Investigations. That's a UNPol thing, Bessette. That's your thing." "You're right, Dow, but I also know that nobody ever comes to you for your mediation skills. You can do this and let me keep looking the other way on your snooping, or I can pull your license and ship you back to Earth."
  • Cut Seb & Sydney chapters. KEEP IT TIGHT. Syd still exists, and Seb might in some form, but I need to avoid all of the padding, overlap, and other problems that come with using them as viewpoint characters. There has to be more focus.
  • If you want to keep any of the stuff that happens on Earth, you had better find a way to move it to Dawes. Want Kinneman there as a foil? Better put him on a shuttle. Luna is the Los Angeles County to Dow's Philip Marlowe. It's a character. Don't leave until you absolutely HAVE TO.
  • Consider pairing Dow with Mobese Sero. Dow and Sydney work well together, but Syd has too much other stuff to do; she can't be out running around on a murder investigation all of the time. Sero is Syd's best detective, but he's an inexperienced, Puritanical ass. She can't well pull him from "his" case, but she can pair him with an outsider who knows what he's doing. Put the Puritan with the Devil and set them loose together.
  • Do what you can to keep dialogue snappy and scenes short. No more twenty page interview scenes, please. Working to adhere more fully to the hardboiled tradition should help with this.
  • Re-read The Simple Art of Murder.
  • A new outline should be your next focus Don't try to be a smart-ass and experiment with form and structure. It never works out well, and you sound pretentions when you talk about it. You're writing an adventure story, not a piece of literary masturbation.
  • Get back to work and STOP SCREWING THIS UP ALREADY, DUMMY!

 

There you have it. A sure-fire formula for starting this book over again. It probably isn't perfect, but it's what I have right now. Despite myself, I'm pretty excited to dig into this. It feels more like a book that I would write and less like one that I'm making myself write, you know what I mean?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Manuscript, Version # 0.3.159: Bug Report

I have been…reviewing the manuscript. It’s not pretty, but, in the interest of disclosure, I’ve compiled some of my notes on what exactly needs fixing so far. These are mostly coming from the technical side rather than addressing specific plot details, but there are some of those as well.

  • There are too many voices here. Jumping between narrators is leading to endlessly inconsistent voices, tones, knowledge bases, and timelines. It’s playing hell on the continuity.
  • Inconsistent setting. This is to be expected. I overhauled the world more than a hundred pages in. It’s a standing problem, and one I expected to have to fix, but still bears a place on this list.
  • Too many time zones. Locations. Overlap. Jumping from Dow to Seb to Sydney feels mad. Information and whole scenes repeat. Probably best to relocate as much of the plot as possible to the Lunar colony.
  • Too much sprawl. Too much bloat. Everything about this plot and world is too bug and complicated for a baseline story that’s so simple. It kills the mood. Everything either needs to be liberally cut back or the main thread expanded to match the world.
  • Dow is too foreign. He needs a presence at the Lunar colony. A familiarity with it. I spend way too much time introducing setting concepts and characters, and not enough dealing with the plot…He needs a history with the place, and the personal stakes that come with that.
  • Dow’s position seems too formal for his behavior and general nature. His background is solid, I think, but he’s in too much of a position of immediate authority. I need to get him a way to be working the case, but also be as low-down and dirty as he wants to be.
  • Cut this thing down already! One-hundred & fifty pages in, and the only major point relevant to the case is a red herring? Come on, son!
  • Do I even know who killed Warren Cole anymore? Or why? I’ve been adding layers to this thing for so long, I don’t even know where the endpoint is. Figure this out and re-chart the plot for good this time! Jesus Christ.

So, that’s about the long and short of my problems with the novel as it stands. I’m working on some potential fixes now. Some of them are obvious, some of them are surprising me a little, but I’ll be sharing most of them with you tomorrow.

I’m also planning on taking those fixes to do a rewrite of an existing chapter. The plan is to make both of those available to you (in a very rough form, of course) for comparison, so keep an eye out for that later in the week.

 

-Sean


Also, for those of you who are kind of confused by the title of this post: An explanation. There are a lot of different versions of this manuscript floating around on my hard-drive, and there will be many more before the end. To keep them organized, I’ve taken to referring to them in a MacGyvered (how does spell check not know that word?) form of the version numbers that in-development pieces of software get. Let’s break this one down…

0. – The base version number, used to identify when a piece of software is an Alpha, Beta, or Release version. The “0.” usually refers to an Alpha build, meaning that the manuscript is not a complete draft and not fit for anyone’s eyes but mine. When I have a complete draft, this will change to “1.” representing that it is in Beta and ready for outside readership (testing).

3. – The first part of the build number. This tells me how many times I’ve restarted the manuscript from scratch. It will change to a “4.” when I start rewriting the existing chapter that I mentioned, though I’ll probably keep my standing word-count because I’ll be scavenging parts of build 3.

159 – The second part of the build number. Signifying how many days it has been since I started build 3. I previously restarted the novel on June 13th, and that was 159 days ago…So, that one’s pretty simple. This number will also restart when I begin rewriting that chapter.

That’s it. Anything that I do tomorrow will be saved as Version # 0.3.160, but come Thursday of Friday we’ll be switching to Version # 0.4.0. Because I’m a nerd.

Monday, 18 November 2013

On Doubt

Fun fact: The Pulitzer Prize winning play Doubt—upon which the film of the same name was based—was written by John Patrick Shanley, who was also responsible for the screenplay behind the dreadful Michael Crichton adaptation, Congo. He was also the writer on the children's’…film…We’re Back! A Dinosaurs Story. As a result, I’ve never known whether or not to respect the man or view him as an object lesson in not knowing when to get up and walk away from a project.

Today, I’ve reached the point where I would normally get up and walk away from this book. Despite any optimism that I’ve been expressing here…Despite any insistence that I’ve had that I’ll fix the book’s problems in the edit…I’ve got some serious goddamned reservations about this thing.

It doesn’t feel right. Somewhere along the line, I’ve added all of these different plot threads and narrators on different planets and across disparate time-zones, and I’ve ended up with this overcomplicated mess of a plot that’s so full of holes that nearly a third of my writing this month has been personal notations on what to fix or add later. And, upon review, I can’t help but notice that there are very few ideas there about how to fix the problems.

This happens sometimes. A book just gets bloated and overcomplicated. I sometimes wonder if I’m more familiar with it than some other writers because I started doing this young, and had a general philosophy of throwing every idea at the page and seeing what stuck. I thought I had outgrown that, or at least dodged it on account of all of the planning that I had done…But here I am again, sitting at a computer and looking at a manuscript that seems fit for little more than salvage. Doing mental calculations like a butcher: “What characters can I take to use later? What set-pieces can I chop off and slide into that other story that still needs something? Can I grind the plot for backstory sausage on some other book?”

The little voice at the back of my head that hates work and loves videogames keeps telling me to go for it. “Kill your darlings and all that,” it says. “Oh, are you going to cry over this book? Give up and replay The Last of Us instead. Cry over something that’s actually well written and has characters worth caring about, you bitch.”

And, for what it’s worth, I keep telling that voice that he’s a dick and that I’ll replay The Last of Us when I’m good and ready and not so emotionally compromised from last time.

Because—bottom line—I don’t want to give up on this book. I want to finish it and publish it, because I know that there’s a good book here somewhere. I just…Lost sight of it somewhere in the last few months. And I made a promise to all of you, and to myself, that I would put out the best book I could at the end of this thing. Also, if I’m not mistaken, I also promised you that I would get sloppy at some point and turn into a train wreck of self-loathing.

Welcome to that, by the way. Again.

So. Yeah. I’m going to keep going here. And I’m going to run a few experiments over the next couple of days to see if I can’t find something that works better for me. Something that will turn this mess back into the trim, cynical piece of hardboiled sci-fi that I wanted it to be. I’ll keep posting as I work, of course, and keep you up to date on any changes. And I’ll hopefully be able to pull of a massive train dodge and be able to strip the existing manuscript for parts rather than start from scratch.

Fun stuff, right?

 

-Sean

Saturday, 16 November 2013

November 16th

41,125 words. 142 pages. I start Chapter 16, which will be a very short Seb chapter, in the morning.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Out of the Past…

It’s been a few days, so let me update my word count real fast before I jump into what I want to talk about today: 40,059 words. 138 pages. I haven’t been able to keep up with my NaNoWriMo word count as much as I’d like, but I’m still moving along at a decent clip and I feel good about the work I’m doing.

So, moving on…An announcement!


You ever see the 1981 movie Outland? Sean Connery goes to a mining colony on Io and exposes a drug ring before kicking the shit out of everyone? No? That's too bad, but not so surprising. How about the first two Alien films, or 2001 and 2010? Blade Runner? Please tell me that you've at least seen Blade Runner...

Not that I'm going to judge you for not having seen any of these films. I'm not. Really! But having a little familiarity with the technology and visual language of these films—the very particular vision of the future that came from science-fiction films of this period—will make what I'm talking about here a little easier to understand.

So, this book that I'm writing here—this crazy, mixed up kid of a book—it takes place in 2046, right? It takes place in 2046, and it takes place on the moon, and it's full of crazy, impressive future-tech in the way that science-fiction often is, and it all looks and feels very slick and modern in the way that most post-Star Wars Prequel and Abrams-Trek science-fiction tends to be. And, you know, that's fine. It's fine that it's like that.

But, hey, guys? What if it wasn't like that?

What if this novel took place in a world where we kept moving forward in terms of social, political, and scientific advancements...But the tech level stagnated somewhere around 1990? A world where there are people living and working on the lunar surface, but nobody got around to inventing cell phones. A world full of primitive and bulky, but fully functional, versions of things that we take for granted in the modern world, but where the internet never went beyond functioning as a limited-access network for governments, military organizations, and major corporations. A world of computers that make clattering noises when their screens refresh, and can only display four or five colors. A world where things actually print on paper, and books aren't moribund. A world where nobody tweets, and my characters have to do actual detective work rather than spend all of their time reading reports and doing web searches on their frigging cell-phones (some of what I've been writing has been very frustrating and restrictive, guys).

That's the kind of world that I want to set this novel in. Someplace full of grit and noise and utility, that's a little more exciting than the slicked-back, all-in-one future that the tech companies try to sell us these days.

So that's where I'm going to set this. Kind of an alternate reality, retro-future thing. And that means going back during the edit and changing a lot of tech details, but I'm really okay with that. I welcome it. Because I've had a few days with this decision and I've played with it some, and I'm really having fun with it.

Which is mostly the why of my doing this. For all of the care that I put into developing this setting and story, there was nothing to it that really made it fun or unique. It didn't have a THING, if that doesn't sound to cynical and calculating. So, this is the novel's thing, I guess. The unusual thing that will hopefully set it apart from the other science-fiction procedurals out there, and, hopefully, make readers (that's you) make a purchase.

With that, you know where I'm coming from. This is something that I'm excited about. Something that I'm having fun with. Something that's letting me write this book the way that I want to while still having my characters rely on deduction, and interview, and good, old-fashioned detective footwork.

I feel better about this now than I have in a while. It's going to be great.

 

-Sean

Monday, 4 November 2013

NaNoWriMo–Day 4

Missed yesterday’s post, which I regret but also kind of don’t. I didn’t write at all yesterday, so what exactly would I have reported? It put me a little behind, which is annoying, but not so much that I can’t catch up.

Didn’t get too much done today, either. Between work and errands, I managed 1,049 words. Four pages. Brings us to 36,456 total. I also made a pretty major decision about some changes that I want to make to the manuscript as a whole…But that’s a post for a time when I’m not quite feeling so exhausted.

See you all tomorrow.

 

-Sean

Sunday, 3 November 2013

NaNoWriMo–Day 2

This is coming very late, which sucks but I had a prior social thing this evening and then we all traveled back in time a little bit. I’m here now, though.

Day Two netted me 2,092 new words, bringing out new total to 35,407 on 122 pages. About a page and a half of that is notes on integrating a new plot development into earlier scenes during editing—just a minor early twist that keeps things a little more interesting in the first half and gives Seb a little more focus for his early investigation—and then I finished up Chapter Fourteen.

Tomorrow: Chapter Fifteen begins. I hope. I have a lot of stuff to do tomorrow/today and not a whole lot of sleep hours between now and then.

 

-Sean

Friday, 1 November 2013

NaNoWriMo, Day One–Friday, November 1st

1,809 words on this, the first day of NaNo. This brings us to 33,315 words and 115 pages—about seven pages, and most of the way though, Chapter 14.

It’s not the best day, but it’s also not bad for one where I got up at six to go teach classes.

 

-Sean

Thursday, 31 October 2013

On Returning

It’s been a little while since my last post, but I have been writing in the interim. I dusted off the old manuscript, reviewed my progress a little, found the thread of the plot again, and finished off the chapter that I had previously stopped in the middle of. It was…Well, it wasn’t exactly exciting, but it felt good. It felt good to come back.

I was actually a little surprised at how easy it was. Finding that thread isn’t always the simplest thing. You come back to the work and you try to find where you left off—that momentum and sense of flow that you had—and sometimes you can get it and sometimes you can’t. You were away too long and you let it get away from you.

I’m glad that I could find it. I’m tired of starting this book over.

So, anyway. As of right now we’re sitting at 31,425 words and 109 pages. Fair enough boost over last time, and I expect that number to keep going up. I’m ready to finish this thing. I’m ready to knuckle down. And there’s a time for that. A time to return to daily writing and daily updates and hard, set objectives. A month, to be specific.

That’s right, readers…

NaNo is coming

National Novel Writing Month is here again. I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

-Sean

Friday, 4 October 2013

Not Dead. Not Ignoring You. Just Busy.

So, hi there. How’s it going, internet?

It’s been a while since we talked. Almost two months. Which is unfortunate, and I’m sorry for that. According to my computer, I haven’t touched the manuscript since August 8th. Which I feel awful about, and pretty much completely hate.

I’m not really going to apologize for going AWOL like this, because I’m also not going to ask for any kind of forgiveness. There are reasons for it of course—I was ill and in a not-inconsiderable amount of pain for several weeks, and launched into a new teaching position as soon as I was well—and the last couple of months have been pretty nuts. It’s something that happens. An unfortunate side effect of having to work and be around people for a living, rather than living in the (so it seems to most of us on the outside) mythical Peter Pan world of whiskey and video games and book signings that comes with being a Full Time Writer.

I miss writing though, when I’m away. I can distract myself with other things when I have spare minutes rather than spare hours, but nothing quells the raging void inside of me like making a bunch of shit up and putting it down on paper. Nothing is nearly so fun or cool.

Thankfully, I'm finding that my schedule is starting to even out a little more this month. I’m starting to see a little time peek in around the edges that could be gathered up into Writing Time. And, some time soon, I rather suspect that the “Last Modified” date on the manuscript will change. Which will feel pretty great.

I never suspected that this novel would take so long to write. When I was planning this project out, I gave myself two to three months on the outside for a first draft. That hasn’t happened, obviously. The Universe seems content to keep bellowing “NO!” and punching me in the junk every time I get up a head of steam, but I’m not about to let that get in my way.

I’ll be back shortly. With fresh pages.

Because we doin’ this.

 

-Sean

Monday, 12 August 2013

Status Report

Haven’t really been around lately, which sucks. I wish I had something for you guys tonight, but I’m afraid that I don’t. In addition to still being a bit sick, I’ve been monumentally uninspired…So I’m going to keep on a short break until I’m feeling back up to snuff. Hopefully it shouldn’t be more than a couple of days longer, and then we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled buffoonery.

Stay healthy, people. Illness sucks.

-Sean

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wednesday Again

Very little progress since Monday’s milestone. Been pretty sick. Keeping a low profile. Sleeping a lot. Hard to write.

We’re sitting at 30,255 words and 105 pages. Hopefully Friday will be better.

 

-Sean

Monday, 5 August 2013

30k

Typing up the handwritten pages from over this weekend, and I’ve just hit 30,000 words!

 

-Sean

Friday, 2 August 2013

Triple Digits

If you were around earlier, you may have seen where I passed the hundred page mark earlier today…finally stopping myself tonight at 102 pages and 29,225 words and just a hair short of finishing up the current Seb chapter.

This is exciting stuff, finally breaking the triple-digits in page count…Especially after having lingered through a couple of failed drafts that never made it this far. It takes a certain weight off of my mind when I think about actually finishing the book. It’s good to be making progress and enjoying myself with the writing, too, after having such a slow week.

So, yeah. Going to bed very happy with myself tonight. Would be better if I could have broken 30,000 words and also finished that chapter in the same day, but this scene is kind of exhausting and I want to be working on it fresher than I currently am.

Right. So. Cool stuff.

See you folks on Monday!

 

-Sean

100 Pages

Just hit one-hundred pages, at just a little under 29,000 words. Be back later with a little more info later tonight!

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

No Progress Wednesday Adventures!

No time for writing so far this week. Just a few paragraphs, bringing is to 98 pages an 28,007 words. Wish I had more for you, but I just don’t tonight.

See you on Friday.

 

-Sean

Monday, 29 July 2013

Monday Progress Report

We’re up to 97 pages now, and 27,812 words.

I’m working on a new Seb chapter today, and getting to use the Trash City location that I had originally created for some of the early chapters of the first attempt. It’s a lot of fun to go back to. Makes me glad I found a way to use it again.

Seb is actually a lot of fun to write. He’s a little less cynical than Dow, and much more physical. Plus, he’s got a whole slew of personal issues waiting for him at home. It keeps the character a lot more interested in staying on the road and having an adventure. There’s some cool globe-trotting stuff coming up for him, so I’m really looking forward to that.

This week is going to be busy for me, so I may not get around to doing a longer post on Wednesday or Friday. I’ll just have to owe you guys one. Or maybe not. I guess it depends on how you feel about my longer, more writery posts.

 

-Sean

Friday, 26 July 2013

Friday Quickie

Thanks for the positive feedback and shared stories from Wednesday, guys! I won’t keep you long tonight, just a quick word-count update. I haven’t been able to write as much lately as I would like—and when I do it’s like pulling teeth—but there’s been a bit of progress and hopefully this little block will clear up next week.

We’re currently sitting at 26,651 words, spanning 93 pages.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

On Self-Loathing

I once, in a fit of "wisdom*," said that a story wasn't done until you had hated it so long that you came out the other side and liked it again. That's kind of a silly thing to say because, if you really hate what you're writing, you should probably reconsider writing it. But it happens to touch on something that I—like many authors, or so I have been made to understand—deal with a lot: Getting in your own damn way.

I can't speak for anyone else (It would be cool if I could, but I've always tried to maintain that this site is about an individual's process rather than those of all writers), but I get in my own way a lot. I get lazy. I get busy. I get preoccupied. I dislike my work—be it a word choice, a sentence, a chapter, or a character or plot-point—and even if that's only for a moment it's enough to get me thinking and excited about another project. And I think a lot of writers are like this, too. Or, god, at least I hope they are.

Otherwise, I'm just all screwed up.

Self-loathing is just part of my process at this point. I get to a certain part and I start to dislike what I'm doing, so I strive to make it better. The circumstances under which I start to hate the work—and the ways in which I might respond to that—change with the project, so it's hard to really talk about getting through this stage of writing (I suppose that you might just want to go back and look at the last couple months of posts for the most recent example) but it's something that does happen and almost always gets resolved favorably.

I wonder about the "why" sometimes, though. I mean, I don't like hating my work or torturing myself. I'm just not into that. But this is something that seems to plague a lot of writers—especially when they're just starting out—and it's the kind of thing that does make you wonder. We're the sort of people who are so confident in our ability to create and present stories, characters, the whole lot...That we will gladly spend time and money trying to sell our work for public consumption.

That takes a lot of faith. Maybe a fair stretch of ego. Those ain't exactly doubtin' tendencies. So why?

I think that some of it does have to do with the fact that we're all such strivers. We're looking to get out there and be noticed, and on some level we are terrified that we aren't good enough. Deep down we know that there are thousands of people out there just like us and they're going to be those chosen for publication, so why bother?

And that's just how it starts. Before too long, it becomes, "Oh, well why should I write today when I can just read this book by this author I like and will never be as good as?" Then it's, "Ah, man, why should I write or read when there are video games/TV/movies?"

And then finally it's, "Crap, dude. I ain't even gonna get out of bed."

And that's the moment when you DIE. ALONE AND UNLOVED AND UNPUBLISHED.

I...I might be projecting here. Also: Exaggerating. But, yeah, that's basically what I'm up against every time I try to assemble some work. And I've got to relearn how to cope with it every time. It's more than a little crazy, guys. Or at least it feels that way.

But, like I said, it's part of the process at this point. Just another obstacle that I put in my own way every once in a while so I can knock it the hell over. I'm not looking for sympathy or commiseration (but if you're a creative and you deal with similar issues, why not share it in the comments, eh?), just trying to get the rambling craziness of this part of things out on paper.

After all, isn't that part of what this blog is about?

 

-Sean

* "Wisdom" is only maybe code for "drunkenness." I don't have any recollection of how or why I said this—just that I did. And I know that I said it because I wrote it down and then made up a twitter account based on it. I was in college, though, so I was probably trying to sound clever and artistic and impress a girl. I don't know. So, you know what? Come up with your own scenario to amuse yourself.

Monday, 22 July 2013

No Post Tonight

I’ve been trying to finish it, but I just feel really ill and can’t much stand to look at a screen any longer. I’m going to bed. Sorry.

 

-Sean

Huh. Oops…

So, I’ve been experimenting with timed auto-posting since Monday, and it has just come to my attention that my Wednesday and Friday posts didn’t fire off. Some sort of permissions error. Probably should have been checking. It should be resolved now, and today’s post should be live as soon as I’m done writing it.

I’ll spare you trying to recreate the last two posts because they were really just word-count fluff. Sorry guys.

 

-Sean

Monday, 15 July 2013

Placing Breaks

Not much progress since Saturday. Just enough to end a chapter and bring us to 25,402 words and 89 pages.

It was a bit rough ending that scene and chapter today, which is what I want to talk about a little tonight. Writing this book is kind of weird for me. Not because it’s super difficult or unusually structured or anything, but because the structure in unusual for me as a writer personally. I usually write first person stories and keep third person in reserve for my short fiction, and in that context there’s usually little room for multiple view-point characters and swapping between them. Sometimes it happens, but this novel just isn’t written in a way that I write very often, you know?

So, it’s all a little weird to write, but—most of all—it’s screwing with my ability to place scene and chapter breaks. There are places where it makes sense, obviously. A character goes to sleep or gets into a car for a long drive or is left sitting alone, and you break the scene. You hit a momentary cliffhanger or some other spot where you’re comfortable with the reader stopping for the night, and you break the chapter. It’s easy. Here, though, it’s…Let me give you an example:

My current chapter is this long runner of Sorkin-esque walk and talk. Sydney Bessette comes by Dow’s apartment and they walk together to the Lunar Historical Commission offices for a meeting, and then they have their meeting. Along the way, they swap updates on what they’ve learned since they last spoke. Now, all of this is shown from Sydney’s point of view for a couple of reasons. She’s more familiar with the temperament and routine of the colony, so she can more accurately make observations about how the lockdown is causing social decay—which is the whole point of the first half of the sequence. She’s also an outside observer when it comes to Dow, so it plays a little more naturally when she makes internal physical observations about him and how he’s adapting to lunar life. Everything up to going in to the meeting just plays better from her point of view and, because the whole thing is continuous, there’s not really a good place in there to break the scene and swap viewpoints.

Now, this is all well and good. The problem is that mid-meeting there’s going to be a crisis that causes Sydney to take a phone call and leave to deal with a UNPol matter, and—with her gone—the meeting is going to degrade because Dow is an ass with poor personal skills. I can’t cut away from the meeting and follow Sydney out to what she has to deal with, and everything is continuous going in…So where do I put the break? There’s not really a good spot. Putting the break where she takes the phone call seems okay on the surface, but breaking a conversation into two chapters like that plays very unnaturally on paper. In the end, all you’re doing is dropping the reader into the viewpoint of another character who has a wildly different opinion of the conversation underway, without any context for how that opinion was formed.

And if I did put the break in there, how far do I take it? Do I have the phone ring, break chapter, and then start the next from Dow’s perspective in the same moment? Do I have Sydney leave the office to take the call, show her conversation and her making the decision to leave, and then cap it off like a normal chapter? If I do that, do I start the next chapter from the moment that she takes the call? From the moment that she leaves the room? From the moment that it becomes clear that she’s not coming back? None of it feels quite right.

It’s all very frustrating.

I wrestled with that most of the day before just kind of giving up. Took a cue from film and theater and treated a set change as a scene break. The chapter ends as they enter the LHC offices, the next begins in the lobby, and everything from the lobby on is from Dow’s perspective. It was easy, even if it did mean rewriting a couple of short scenes.

It still doesn’t really feel right, though. It feels a little like settling and taking the easy route because it kind of is. There’s a certain art to placing a good chapter break—and maybe I’ll find the key to this one during editing—but today I just didn’t have the magic in me.

Oh well. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

 

-Sean

Context-Free Writer Revelations:

He's an alcoholic! Of course!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Playing Catch-Up

So, obviously, I've been quiet since I last posted on Tuesday. I wish that I could say that it was by choice. Next week should be easier on getting posts written and up at a reasonable hour, and wouldn't that be exciting!

I did get a little writing done this week at least, bringing us to 25,129 words and 88 pages. It wasn't a whole lot of forward progress, so much as it was me going through the old material and adding a couple of little scenes that I had accidentally skipped over earlier. Just stuff that I could pull off in spare moments, really.

That's all I've got for you tonight, guys. I'm spent. I'll be back on Monday, and I'll hopefully bring something more substantial with me.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Back to Speed

This is getting to be old hat at this point, but here I am again: Writing a Monday evening post with no internet to upload it with. If you ever get to read this—hopefully on Tuesday the 9th—well, I hope you dig it. Also: Happy Tuesday.

Now, let’s get to it.

I spent last week doing a light edit of what I’ve written so far; mostly checking for consistency and doing a few line-edits here and there, but with a few more significant changes here and there. This proved beneficial for several reasons, not the least of which being that last week crawled straight out the pits of Hell and would have kept me from getting any writing done, and those are what I’m hoping to talk about today.

This isn’t the kind of thing that I do often, going back and soft-editing the first act of a novel. I was taught to finish first and edit later, and that rule has always done fine by me. Given how troubled this project has been in the writing, though, I thought that it might be prudent this time. A novel is a big project, after all, and this one is proving to be a bit bigger and more complex than anything that I’ve written before. Going back has let me highlight a couple of trouble areas before they got too out of control, it’s let me change a couple of character and organization names before I needed to spend a whole day just doing find/replaces, and it’s let me get my formatting and chapters in proper, consistent order.

Mostly, though, it has let me refresh my memory on the novel and where it is and what I want to do with it. I went ahead while I was reading through it and updated the character list and started up a style-sheet, committing myself to specific technical terms and spellings and colonial departments, and whether or not I’m spelling it ‘all right’ or ‘alright.’ Consistency sorts of things, really.

Plus, reading what I have down already lets me pass terrible, authorial judgment on it. It’s shit, by the way. But it’s shit that I can work with and polish up, rather than shit that I should just discard like last time. Shit with potential.

That may seem like an absurd and arbitrary distinction to make on my part, but please believe me when I tell you that it’s an important one with reasoning behind it. A writer’s determined self-loathing, and how he determines the difference between good and bad shit, is a whole post in itself, though, so I’m going to keep it in reserve for the time being.

The point is that I’m ready to get back to writing now, and that I still feel good about what I’m doing. Which is why I won’t hold myself up here any more tonight.

See you folks next time.

 

-Sean

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sunday Bulletin

Just a little housekeeping tonight. Wanted to let you guys know that I’ll be taking next week off from posting due to the holiday. I’ll probably write some during that time, but I’m planning on mostly using the time to review the work so far and make sure that it’s all consistent, free of holes, and caught up with my current vision for the project.

So, I’ll be back on Monday the 8th with some thoughts on all of that. Until then, I wish my American readers a safe and happy Fourth of July. Everyone else, please consider yourselves free to enjoy Thursday to the best of your abilities.

 

-Sean

Friday, 28 June 2013

New Pages. Fresh and Healthsome.

I’ve finally reached new content (and missed another Wednesday post, but, you know, thunder storms, tornados, and internet outages…the usual), and it’s gone well enough. A four page introductory Seb chapter. Nothing too major, but progress nonetheless. I’m going to have to do some catch-up research before I do any more, because—in the rush to outline and implement the new Seb story—I forgot to do any sort of checking on the different time zones that the character visits over the course of the story, or how they might line up with a lunar colony that has it’s clocks synced to UN headquarters in Geneva.

Writer problems, people. Writer problems!

So, you might have guessed from the way that this post is written that it’s late and I’m tired (I honestly don’t know how this will read when I’m fully awake, but at least it makes sense now…which probably doesn’t count for anything) so I’ll keep this short and refrain from further parenthetical passages. Or from using any more phrases like “parenthetical passages.” Word count has risen to 23,330 since Monday night, and the page count is now 81. I’m sure I had something that I wanted to talk about earlier today, but I got caught up with the writing and now it’s gone.

Oh well.

Good night.

 

-Sean

Monday, 24 June 2013

Creeping Up Slowly on New Content

It was a busy week at work, and I’m still wrapping up this short, so this weekend brought us on as far as sixty-five pages and 18,576 words. That’s okay, though. This gets us to the end of the chapter in the morgue where things start to get real…So I’m fine with taking my time on it.

I’ve still got a little ways to go before I get to the first Seb chapter and new content, but not too far. I’m thinking that at this rate I’ll get there by Wednesday night or Thursday morning. That’s kind of an exciting thought, but—given what I talked about a few posts ago with the synchronization between new and old attempts—I am expecting a bit of a decline in daily output, maybe. Hopefully nothing major. I just wouldn’t be surprised is all.

Feel a little better after Friday’s post. Sometimes, when you’ve got something weighing down on you and you know there’s no real reason for it, it just helps to talk it out with yourself on paper rather than in your head. Sometimes it’s the only way to get yourself to listen.

 

-Sean

Friday, 21 June 2013

On How Much is Too Much

You guys remember escalation, right? The raising of narrative or personal stakes in a story for the sake of dramatic intensity and reader investment? Also makes for a killer speech when you hand it over to Gary Oldman in your Batman movie? Great device. Incredibly important, especially in a longer work. Vital.

Yeah. You guys remember.

So, I've been thinking about it lately. I'm about sixty-one pages into this novel so far—17,378 words—and I've been raising the stakes a lot so far. The introduction of the death. The fact that it took place on the moon. The fact that it's the very first murder in space. Sydney's anxieties over the fact that it happened under her watch. The station lockdown. The possibility of a cover-up. It's a lot of goddamned plot, and I'm just hitting the end of the first act.

It begs the question of how much is too much.

Technically speaking, you only need three instances of escalation in a traditional three-act story: The initial instance comes at the beginning and disrupts the status quo of the characters' world. The second comes at the end of the first act, offering an event or revelation which signifies that there is no turning back. The third comes at the end of the second act (leading into the climax and resolution of the third), and represents that things have become so untenable that the heroes must bring about some form of resolution.

That's pretty basic storytelling stuff. Especially if you've got even a passing familiarity with screenwriting. It's the bare minimum, and most stories will move well beyond it without any real measure of difficulty. What I've got going so far is the strategic raising of stakes occurring at least once per chapter. Right now it seems fine, but what about ten chapters from now? At what point does it cease to be dramatic, and become merely silly? When does it get exhausting? When does reader fatigue begin to set in?

I comfort myself at this early date by acknowledging that I'm still effectively in the first act. That I'm still laying groundwork, as it were. Jeez—I still haven't gotten around to introducing one of my viewpoint characters, and wont yet for another thousand words or more. I can afford to lay out a bunch of stuff right now, because it will determine how my characters interpret what is to come, and then proceed. As I move further in, though, I know that I'll have to be careful.

Some books can thrive on constant escalation, barreling along from beginning to end like the final act of a Mel Brooks film. These books are hugely calculated. Carefully controlled chaos. They thrive on it, but are often somewhat farcical in nature. I'm not sure that this book has it in itself to be like that. I'm not sure that I have it in myself to make it that way.

These are the kinds of things that you're always working to balance in writing. These equilibriums between order and chaos, exposition and pacing, clarity and abstraction...They need to be kept in check as you guide the book from nothingness to completion. They are among the many, many things that can mean the difference between failure and success. They deserve to be considered and respected.

A lot of my current flailing over this is unfounded, I suspect. I'm still early in the writing process. The path is still laid out in front of me—long and winding and rife with pitfalls and opportunity. I understand that I have a lot of stuff in the works that I'll need to be concerned about at a later date, and that there is no real point in stressing about this now. I think, though, that it is because I have a long way to go that I should be a little wary. The path can be hard to see at any point in it's course, but never more so than in the beginning when you do not truly know where it leads.

So, for now, I go careful. I go slow. And I stay alive.

There are wolves out there.

 

-Sean

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Working Through Some Stuff

Sorry guys. All of these storm fronts rolling through the area are wreaking havoc on my internet connection. It’s got things going out late like crazy.


Let’s get right to it, shall we? We’re up to 46 pages as of today, with 13,223 words. We’re up through the crime scene investigation now. I’ve also made good progress on the sort story I started on Monday. Good times. Moving on…

Doing double-duty on the fiction as I have I don’t really have anything specific to the day’s writing that I want to talk about, but I’ve been thinking about escalation lately and I’m working on a bit about stakes and escalation. I’ve talked about that a little in the past, but some things bear repeating. And extrapolation. And repeating. (Har. Har. I’m hilarious.)

See you folks on Friday.

 

-Sean

Monday, 17 June 2013

Points of Comparison

We’re up through Chapter Three now, and it will probably become Chapter Four or Chapter Five at a later point because I’ve decided that I can’t really do the long chapters at this point. It got to a point where I felt like it was really messing with my pacing. Just didn’t like it. The earlier sections will get broken down, probably tomorrow, to keep the whole book more in form.

This brings us to 10,422 words and 36 pages so far (That’s as of Sunday, anyway. I took today off because a short story crept into my head this morning, and I wanted to nail it down before it got the chance to run away.). So far, this attempt at finishing the book is moving along a hell of a lot more quickly than either of the previous two. It’s pretty cool. I like it.

Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about today. I’m writing a book that I’ve started twice previously. The story is still the same, but I’ve started fresh each time. So far, I haven’t gotten around to writing anything yet that’s actually new. It’s all ground that I’ve covered at least once in the past six months.

I’ve never really been here before. In the past, when I’ve restarted a project, it’s because I lost a file or a notebook, or because I was returning to an idea that I had abandoned years before. I’ve never just looked at the work, decided that I didn’t like it, and then immediately whitewash over it and try again. I still have those earlier partial drafts, too. So today I got curious and went back and looked at what’s there versus what I’ve written recently.

It was kind of surprising—and probably only partially because I’ve never done it before. You hear about writers having a certain style. They write A kind of story in B kind of way, with C,D, & E kinds of characters. A Stephen King book, for example, reads like a Stephen King book. It’s pretty basic stuff. Most everyone develops a house style of writing after they’ve worked at it long enough. It’s not something that you think about, it just kind of happens.

I’m not a hundred percent sure that it’s what has happened with me on this book. It could also be the sheer chronological proximity of the drafts. But…Guys…Considering that this is the first time I’ve looked at the other drafts since I redeveloped the novel last month, there are a lot, lot, lot of correlating passages. Certain details and phrases and descriptive passages that play out the same way at the same points in the text ever time. Shit. There’s a full page in Chapter Two that—with the exception of a couple of choice words and punctuation choices—could have just been Copy/Pasted from the old document.

It freaks me out a little bit.

It’s also sort of fascinating. I’d love to experiment with it some when I’ve got the time. Re-write last year’s NaNoWriMo novel from scratch. Or the short story that got me into grad school. See how they come out. I don’t often think about the things that I’m writing as I’m writing them, at least not in a fully conscious kind of way. It’s rare for me to have forgotten where I left off when I start the day’s writing, but I’ll be damned if I remember the specific words five minutes after I wrote them. What I’m seeing here speaks of a more subconscious sort of retention though.

Maybe I’ll do a little research in my free time…

 

-Sean

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Back Again, But Not For Long.

Sorry for the unexplained posting gap, folks. Things have been more than a little crazy, and I haven’t had a chance to write in a couple of days. I’m very sad to say that I simply have nothing to report.

See you guys on Monday.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Day’s End

8,205 words. 29 pages. Chapter Two is coming along nicely, and Sydney is still quite a lot of fun to write. It’s been a very, very long day, though. And I’m rather tired now. So I think I’ll try to read for a little while (The new James S.A. Corey novel: Abaddon’s Gate. It’s pretty great so far.) and call it a day.

Sorry, folks. That’s all I’ve got for you. Hopefully I’ll be able to put together something more substantive for Friday.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Power Struggle

So, you may notice that this post is late. Like, a full twenty-four hours late. I’m not enthusiastic about it—the lateness—but there’s not a whole lot that you can do when a storm front kills your internet connection, and then your power, and then your patience, and then your internet connection again. This is the first chance I’ve had to get a post written and live since early yesterday morning.

In short: Wacky fun!

Enough with the excuses, though. Let’s talk writing. At least for a little while. Chapter One is complete, bringing the manuscript to 24 pages and 6,731 words. Which is a nice, seriously sexy bump since Friday. Now I get to turn around and start the first Sydney chapter tomorrow, which I’m rather excited about because I always thought that she was fun to write. All the same: Probably won’t get a whole lot done tomorrow, so don’t expect a lengthy or impressive post.

It feels kind of weird, writing a chapter that’s so long. I usually prefer short, snappy chapters that cap out at eight pages and end on a cliffhanger or heavy emotional note. Single scenes that advance the narrative in a strong way. Doing something longer seems really strange, even with periodic scene breaks (Chapter One has four), and I’ve been toying with the idea of treating each chapter like a short story as I proceed. That might make things a little more familiar for me, but I’ll need to consider the logistics of that much more thoroughly before I go ahead with it. It would probably require a little bit of rejiggering with the outline.

Or I could just, you know, write shorter chapters. But whatever, right?

 

-Sean

Friday, 7 June 2013

Forgot About This…

So, I got so wound up in writing my post earlier that I forgot to include the Friday statistics. As of right now, the master document sits at:

2,456 words. 9 pages.

Technically speaking, I’m done with what I was referring to on Wednesday as Chapter One. Since I’m breaking the book up into multiple story-lines with their own POV characters, though, I think I’m going to be combining any plotted chapters that occur consecutively within each story into one chapter with multiple section breaks. That way, there’s less strain in figuring out which plot-line you’re reading at any given time.

Which is not to say that I don’t think you guys could handle figuring out who your POV character is on a moment-to-moment basis. I’m sure you’re all smart enough for that.

Man, I don’t know. We’ll see what I decide to do with it down the line…

 

-Sean

On Starting Over

This is a hard thing to do. It's hard to discard hours and days and weeks of work and start at the same story fresh—even when you know that what came before isn't any good.

It's hard to turn your back on a hundred pages of material and then dedicate yourself to turning right around and starting fresh with the same story. The draw to dig through that old document and cherry-pick passages is incredible, and—sometimes—extremely hard to say no to. You've written all of that other stuff, and surely some of it has to be worthwhile. Maybe it even is. You're familiar with the old manuscript, after all. You know where the good bits are hidden. Maybe you can just go back and...

...Yeah. Not the healthiest way of looking at things, I know. Before you know it, you haven't started over at all.

There's a saying that you have to write a million words of shit before you're ready to start producing real, publishable work. That you have to be willing to dispose of the old, crappy things, and learn from them in preparation of the better work to come. I don't know if that's true for everyone. A million words seems awfully arbitrary, if you ask me. It stinks of the same, terrible hyperbole that plague most of the sayings about writing. I believe in the sentiment, though.

And I don't believe in turning back.

So, when I tell you that I've written X-number of words and Y-number of pages on any given day, I want you to understand that they are fresh words and fresh pages. The plot points may be the same, but the day-to-day work is all new. That old manuscript has been scoured for details relevant to the Outline and the Character Key, and now it's pretty much dead to me.

You might wonder why I would do something like that. Surely, I'm limiting myself in some way. Surely I'm costing myself valuable time by rewriting scenes that I have perfectly serviceable versions of already. Why wouldn't I just go ahead and keep a new document full of bits and pieces on hand so that they can be plugged in at a later date?

Well, yeah. That seems to make sense. One of the first things that I ever learned as a writer, though, was that you often can't write towards a specific passage or line. Especially if it's something that sits in the back half of the book.

This can be torturous at times. Oh god, trust me: It can be torturous. You're writing the first chapter, and suddenly you come up with the perfect piece of sniping banter for the hero and the villain to throw at one-another during the novel's climax. You want to write it down, because you're certain that if you can just get there and slot those words into place, the entire book will click and everyone will love it. And, yeah, sometimes you get there and you write the scene and the banter and it's just fine. Hooray, you.

Most of the time though, if you let it, getting to that piece of banter becomes your ultimate objective—more-so than finishing the book. You start to write for that exchange rather than for the story. You write an entire novel or short story, not because you had a plot and characters and execution that were worthwhile...But because you came up with a final sentence that was clever.

Hell. It probably wasn't even that clever. You were writing and it was day one. It was probably late. You were probably tired. You were probably wearing a bathrobe. You were probably drunk; on whiskey or creative power or both, take your pick.

Congratulations. Now you've probably ruined your book. Again: Hooray, you.

Okay, okay. I'm sorry. That's an extreme example. I've seen good stories ruined this way, though. I've seen other writers do it, and—more than once—I've done it myself. And that's why I'm not going to be cherry-picking passages from the old manuscript. I wanted a fresh start on this, and—god help me—I'm going to get one. I'm going to get as many as I need until I get this thing right.

Ain't like it's costing me a thing.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Where We Stand

I don’t have a whole lot to say tonight. Partly I’ve spent today dealing with some truly dreadful weather, and it hasn’t been conducive to writing. Mostly, though, I want to spend a little bit more time on a more substantial post for Friday…So I guess I’ll keep this short.

Writing has begun again, in case you hadn’t heard. (It’s okay if you hadn’t. Really.) I’m currently five pages into the new manuscript, and 1,246 words. I’ve finished a brand new prologue and have jumped straight into Chapter One with all good expectations to wrap it up tomorrow. It’s good. It’s exciting. The opening to Chapter One drags a little bit, but so far I like it.

So far, this is mostly ground that I’ve covered in the past. I’ll talk more about it on Friday, but I’m really trying to come at this fresh and avoid copy/pasting parts of the old manuscript into this one. So far, I’ve kept myself to that and I’m happy with it.

Exhausted now. Back with more later.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Writing Begins! (Again!)

(Note: This post was intended to be up earlier, but local weather caused unexpected internet outages.)

I’ve started writing the novel again, which is exciting. I probably won’t get much done on it this evening, but—for the time being—it’s ticking along nicely.

I’ll be back to talk about it tomorrow, but I wanted to take this chance to describe what I’m going to be doing with the upcoming writing posts:

  • I’m not going to be holding myself to any specific daily word-counts this time, because that way lies madness and not getting anything properly done. I will, though, be providing a current word and page-count with every post.
  • There will be little excerpts every once in a while. Nothing major. Just tastes whenever it occurs to me.
  • The writing. Mostly I’ll be talking about the writing. This is, after all, a writing blog. I know that I can sometimes forget to talk about the more technical aspects in these posts, but I’d like to focus on that a little more in the future.
  • Other things?

Okay. You're informed now. Back to work!

 

-Sean

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Little Extra Work

So, today ended up being a fairly long catch-up day with errands and personal stuff after a long working weekend. As such, I didn’t have enough minutes all piled up next to one another that I could sit down and really start to write. It’s frustrating, but I think it’s for the best.

What I did instead (and why I think that it’s for the best) is use those spare minutes to do some thinking about the novel. I spent my time at the grocery store considering the motivations of my various villains, and came up with some ways to add a little more nuance to everyone’s actions and motivations. This led to a bit of a restructuring of my outline, which required an edit on that…Though I had also intended to transcribe the whole thing into a properly chronological series of events (the previous, hand-written version was divided into the individual story-arcs and had notes as to where the three intersected and occurred congruently) that I could print out and hang up.

I also compiled an early list of characters. The twenty named, pre-established characters who I know will appear in the impending first draft in some capacity. Some of these characters come from the initial character posts that I made back in January, but some are figures who were later written into the first attempt at the book. Others still are new creations just for this draft. Having the list—and it really is just a list of names and relevant/noteworthy physical features—will be of tremendous help in keeping the characters straight; especially now that the scope of the novel has changed.

I’ll be printing those, the character key and the outline, tomorrow morning as I get ready to really go to town on this thing.

I do still have one decision to make, though, and it’s an odd one. I abandoned the genre-hallmark first-person narration early in the first attempt at the novel; partly because I was adding Sydney Bessette as a view-point character, but mostly because Dow’s voice had become so inconsistent so early on. I’m considering bringing it back for this version and just heading each chapter with the view-point character’s name, George R.R. Martin style. I’m concerned that this might be jarring in the first-person, though, and am not sure if I want to experiment with it.

Guess I’ll have to sleep on it, and see what comes out of my head when I sit down to work in the morning…

Oh. Also: I think I may have come up with a new, better title for the novel. But I want to spend a few days with it and see if it still seems right before I trot it out.

That’s all for today.

 

-Sean

Friday, 31 May 2013

Ready to Rock. I Think.

I’m gonna keep this real short tonight, because I’ve got places to go and be and all of that stuff.

Basically, I’ve finished my outline for the new version of the novel. Some of it feels a little dodgy right now, but the bits that do are the kind of thing that mostly clean themselves up with the detail and extra development that a full scene—rather than a synopsis—can provide.

I am, both willingly and with some trepidation, ready to start writing again on Monday.

From the beginning. And hopefully with a minimum of nicking bits off of the previous incarnations.

Yeah. This is happening.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The New Dow

The new Emory Dow is a lot like the old Emory Dow (you can read about the old Dow here), only not really. This guy has gotten a pretty major overhaul. Hopefully, one that will make him a lot easier for me to write consistently and with a clear voice.

Physically, he's pretty much the same. Kind of an average-looking little guy with dark, receding hair, cold grey eyes, and a nose that's been broken one time too often. He's built like a brawler—thick fingered and broad shouldered—but isn't much of one. He smokes when he's agitated and he probably drinks a little too much, but he also tires to take pretty good care of himself. Works (slowly and not very well) with his hands. Runs in the morning. That kind of thing.

But, whereas the old Dow was an Essex Boy and a veteran of the Royal Army's actions in South Africa and Uruguay, new Dow is an American. A Los Angeles cop who made the homicide desk for a few years before being head-hunted by the UN Police Services. He only lasted a couple of years with UNPol, though, before the stresses of policing Montevideo in the aftermath of the Uruguayan civil war caused the behavioral problems that got him booted from the service.* But, by then, Dow had accrued enough friends—and shown enough of a knack for security assignments—that Sebastian Spence was able to land him a gig as a UN Specialist Contractor.

Dow lives outside of Santa Fe, now, not in the Peruvian mountains, but the house and living conditions are about the same in a "low-profile" kind of way. Marisol is still his second wife (the first left him as he was getting ready to go into UNPol), and she still does the same job that she used to...But they met differently and their relationship is a lot better now.

Psychologically, Dow is a lot cleaner now. The encroaching PTSD issues are gone, though he still has unresolved issues with what he saw in Uruguay. He's a little weirder and snarkier this time, too. A life-long lover of obscure facts and knowing a little bit about everything. He can get awfully dogged about things, too. Obsessive when there isn't someone around to reign him in the right way. That determination is going to cause some friction later on when the situation at the lunar colony gets more and more dire.

In essence, he's a character who I can get behind a little easier. In a way, I think it's sad that I've abandoned a version of him who was more of a reach for me—more of an excuse to stretch my creative muscles—but, for the sake of writing a book that makes sense and has a protagonist who feels cohesive, this really needs to be done.

I think that I can live with that.

Oh, and I think that I can also live with writing an American named Emory Dow. At least until a name that seems better comes along and I have to spend a couple of hours doing a Find/Replace.

See you folks on Friday.

 

-Sean

* This detail hasn't made it to the blog before, so I'll explain: The UN Police Services is based on the very real UN Police Division, which basically goes into areas in need and augments/expands the standing civilian police force. In the novel, one of UNPol's primary functions is to provide an internationally sourced police force that can be dropped wholesale into an developing or recovering nation that requests their presence—either because there is a lack of a standing police force in the region, or because widespread police corruption has been deemed too detrimental to the civilian population's wellbeing. UNPol then maintains a fixed presence in the area until they are able to help the local government develop and institute a suitable, replacement police force.

UNPol also provides police services for large UN installations that have persistent civilian populations. Such as the lunar colony. The character of Sydney Bessette, as well as all of her people, are standing UNPol representatives on the lunar surface, and—before landing the Lunar Station Chief posting—Sydney's story is much the same as Dow's.

Little Things

If you look around the site, you might notice that I did a little bit of maintenance to it last night. Just a few little updates to the FAQ and the wording of the other header tabs. A brand new tab that gives kind of an early cover blurb for the book. That sort of thing.

I’ve also gone ahead and started updating the twitter feed again. And there’s a new, active facebook page for this project (and for myself as an author).

Back later with actual content.

 

-Sean

Monday, 27 May 2013

Plotlines

Okay, so, I'm going to need a few more days on this outline as I shuffle all of the parts together...But here's what I can share for now:

I'm basically breaking the novel into three, intercut segments. The first will be the story that you know. The old A-story with Dow investigating Cole's death at the lunar surface and coming up with all sorts of the usual detective story set-backs at every turn. That one's kind of a given at this point, and I'm expecting it to take up about half of the length of the book.

The B-story (we'll call these other bits the B and C-stories for the sake of clarity, even if I think they're equally important) will be about Dow's UN buddy Sebastian Spence doing some international leg-work on Earth at Dow's behalf. He'll come into contact with Kinneman a few times, butting up against the impending cover-up and some other dirty stuff going down at the fringes of the UN. It's a lot of stuff that I would have Dow dealing with himself if distance and accessibility weren't an issue, so—rather than cut it outright—I'll give it to another character who I can potentially chop down the line without too much altering the A-story.

The C-Story will cover Sydney Bessette—the chief of UN-Pol forces at the lunar colony—and her people clashing with corporate influences (here represented by a string of lawyers influencing the colony's administrators) that want the lockdown and comms blackout lifted. At the same time, they'll be dealing with rising civilian tensions as fights begin to break out in the close quarters of the colony, and helping Dow with certain aspects of his investigation. Busy bees, to the last man and woman.

These other two story-lines will make up the other half of the book—hopefully sharing a similar amount of page space. As I have things plotted out now, I'm favoring the Sydney story with more detail and beats. But that's also the story that has been with me the longest. They may even out.

Okay. That's all I've got for today. I'll keep going with outlining the book and will hopefully have it ready to go back to writing by the end of the week. On Wednesday, you can probably expect a more detailed look at the updated Dow.

 

-Sean

Friday, 24 May 2013

Upon Consideration

I've been giving some more thought to fixing this novel—taking into consideration some of my characters and the things that I talked about on Wednesday—and I feel like I've come up with a couple of solutions that I want to try out.

I'm going to start by slimming down the A-story (Dow's investigation of Cole's death) by taking some of those outlying influences and breaking them off into their own things with their own primary characters. Basically, the issue of the potential UN cover-up and the communications blackout will be handed off to a friend of Dow's in the UN who had a scene in the novel's very first incarnation and was immediately cut. This should give me sufficient maneuvering room on Earth without requiring anything from Dow other than a couple of check-ins. Plus, I like the idea of getting some more mileage out of Seb and James Kinneman.

Up-well, the rising lunar tensions will be handled by Sydney and her people in a series of scenes where they've split off from Dow. This is going to be the biggest change for me, because it limits the partnership between Dow and Sydney to a large extent. Ultimately, that's going to mean a little less spotlight competition between those characters—which is fine by me, since I think Sydney works better in the scenes where she's in control—but it also means that I'm going to have to rebuild Dow so that he has the necessary skills to carry out a murder investigation on his own.

Changing Dow will be a challenge, if only on account of how much work it means discarding. I think it needs to happen, though. His voice has always been deeply inconsistent for me, veering wildly from straight-laced military man territory into a sort of manic, sarcastic pettiness. It's hard to get a grip on, though I blame myself for getting attached to a character and trying to force him into a setting and story that he was incompatible with. I think that I'll be re-writing him into more of a traditional detective—maybe as someone who spent time with UN-Pol and can integrate more easily with Sydney's people. Marisol might end up on the chopping block as well—or at least her story—and Dow might end up as an American. That ought to be enough to get me working with him again...Though I suppose "Emory Dow" isn't the most American name in the world...

I'll figure it out.

Beyond that, I'm going to work on opening up the lunar colony and making it a little more colorful. A little less stuffy. A little more frontier, but not so much so that it seems unreasonable for there to have never been a murder before. There's going to be more of a corporate presence as I slacken up the UN control over the colony, which should make it easier for Dow to get at some of the suspects that I have lined up. And, finally, some of the earlier, more personal suspects will probably end up trimmed away. There's no real way for some of the guys I had gunning for Cole to have access to the lunar surface, so it seems best to just cut them for simplicity's sake.

That's all for tonight. I'm going to start working on a new outline now, I think. Figure out if these fixes are good enough get me to where I can take another stab at writing. I'm also going to be working on a couple of much-needed site updates.

See you folks on Monday.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Basics

I want to talk about basics today. Really pare back things to their core and see if I can't remind myself what this book about. This might be helpful, I think, because this thing really started to get away from me when I began piling elements on to the work in progress.

This book, you might remember, is currently called A Body Up the Well, and I say "currently" because, while I like the title (it is long, and awkward, and overly-but-poorly poetic and, thus, exactly the kind of title that I love to give things), I'm pretty sure that it's actually no good, and...

And I'm getting away from myself.

At it's very heart, ABUW can be broken down into three elements that, together, form the A-story:

  1. A murder has been committed and covered up on the lunar surface.
  2. A UN Security Consultant is ferried up-well to investigate the crime.
  3. The crime is solved, despite adversity and possible repercussions.

There. That's it. I just told you—without effort or misgiving—the plot of this novel. I'm done. There are no misspellings or significant grammatical errors. I can publish this bitch and go to bed.

But, alas! No! Because, much as in all things, details matter. Details are where the story stops being a three-sentence summary and start being an actual story. Obviously, I've got the summary down, so maybe my problem with this book is coming from some of those details. Some of the padding that keeps getting piled on as I continually consider new avenues that remove me from my story. Let's take a look at some of them:

  1. Global Politics: There's a lot going on with the death of Warren Cole. He's the first man murdered outside of Earth's atmosphere, so obviously there's going to be a lot, lot, lot of scrutiny and publicity levered at the lunar colony and the UN. Enough so that the UN might just want the whole thing to go away without anyone knowing about it, or paying for it. The communications blackout between Earth and Luna at the beginning of the book, and the quarantine of the colony, is ostensibly there to keep people from finding out about Cole's death before it is deemed a homicide—but it could just as easily be the first step in bottling the whole thing up.
  2. Local Politics: I've had a lot of concern about this one since the beginning. The comms blackout and quarantine makes too much sense to let it slide, but it's also highly problematic because of the pressure that it puts on the lunar population. I've considered growing tensions coming to a head with a riot in the main dome, but that seems overdone. There's also Security Chief Bessette and her people on-site, and the conflict between the investigation/secrecy and their closeness with the local population.
  3. The Corporations: I haven't played much with corporate influence in the parts of the novel that I've written. At least not beyond the potential link between one or more corporate entity and Cole's death. I'm a sucker corporate-heavy settings, though, and for monolithic, morally suspect sci-fi mega-corps, so I might reconsider their level of involvement and the degree to which they are present at the colony.
  4. Dow's Past: Dow is fairly archetypal, but also somewhat complicated. His existing personal relationships, military background, possible PTSD, and general misanthropy are all very compelling for me. I've had a tremendous amount of trouble finding a consistent voice for him, and I'm wondering if maybe he shouldn't just be simplified some.
  5. The Setting: I pride myself on my research, and my ability to know when to let good research go by the wayside when it serves the story. That said, I'm not sure that I'm doing a very good job with that second part here. This is a much nearer future than I'm used to writing, and that unnerves me a bit because I feel a greater obligation to get it right. So as much as I love some of what I've done so far, I think I might want to let drop in the interest of simple clarity and fun. I'm not talking about throwing away physics, but maybe I shouldn't be so concerned with the scatter patterns of loose paper in sudden atmospheric decompression.
  6. The Suspect Pool: This is the general list of people who might have killed Cole and need to be investigated in some capacity. It keeps growing as the writing continues, because I keep coming up with more people who would have a reason to kill the unlikable bastard. It really needs to be trimmed back.

So, I think that's a good enough list to start with. These are the primary things that are going to be informing the story of the novel, growing on their own and then bouncing into the plot at various times to keep it going in proper and interesting directions.

It may seem curious that I've thrown a list like this together, but I've been giving it some thought for the last couple of days and—if I'm going to fix and finish this novel—this seems like a good place. Each of these presents its own set of complications to the writing process that I hadn't considered at the start of writing, so I'm going to spend the next little while trying to come up with ways to get them all lined up and working in concert.

Until then, I'm open to suggestions.

 

-Sean

Monday, 20 May 2013

On Returning

You get attached to this thing—this wonderful thing—that you're trying to create, and you chug along with it. You work on it. You work at it. At making it good and right and presentable and, better than presentable, just as good as you see it in your head at the day of conception.

And sometimes it's easy. Yeah. Easy. Writing sounds like it should be hard—feels like it should be hard—but then there are the days where it isn't and the words just flow out of you like a fucking hurricane. It's better than easy. It's effortless. You're done before you even knew that you had really begun.

I thought that this book would be like that. I thought about this thing and I felt a hitch in my heart and knew, just knew, that it was love. The book wouldn't let me down, and I definitely wouldn't let the book down.

Stupid old me.

I fell in love and I dug into this thing's guts (because all great love stories involve one half of the couple playing joyfully in the other's viscera) and, guys, it was bewildering. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I knew nothing about what I was writing. My protagonist—who had seemed so clear and archetypal in my head—refused to behave or even present a consistent voice. A simple murder mystery became increasingly labyrinthine and politically charged. My world seemed kind of bland and half-baked. And on top of it all, everything about the work started interfering with the rest of my life in unhappy ways.

So I kind of freaked out. I just...I just got scared, guys. I had let the story down, and then I let myself down, and then I ran roughshod on all of you and started letting you down. And before I even knew that I was looking for an out, I had this job opening come along (which I absolutely didn't get, by the way) and, well, when you start letting someone down you tend to keep letting them down. So instead of coming back and rethinking my novel, I went on the run and wrote a short story, invented a board game, and replayed the Mass Effect series from beginning to end.

Anything to keep away from this. Anything to keep on letting us all down (even if I am proud of the short story and the board game thing).

So, this probably seems like goodbye. Maybe, for some of you, it will be. I didn't come here today to say that I'm done, though. I came to say that I'm just getting started. This isn’t an ending, it’s a climax. It’s the moment in an Ennio Morricone score where someone whistles and plays a diddley-bow for a few seconds before the horn section kicks into mad, desperate overdrive. This is the first post of a new Hey, Internet! One where I figure out this stupid book and write it, and make it as good as the image of it that I still clutch to in my head.

There will be some changes, of course. Posting seven days a week was exciting for a while, but ultimately too much when combined with the actual novel writing and my everyday personal/professional life. We'll be on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule for the foreseeable future, with an option for additional post at my (admittedly ridiculous) whim. There's also going to be some site maintenance coming along, and, oh...I haven't quite figured out how to fix the book yet, so we might well be back in Planning mode for a week or two.

I'll keep you updated. On Wednesday.

Because we do that now.

 

-Sean

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Day Ninety-Seven: 27,482 Words

1,049 words. Five pages. This is more like it. Too bad I’m going away next week.

I decided to break things up significantly today, ending Chapter Eight at a much earlier point than planned (the content will still be there, it just will cover another chapter as well) and jumping in to Chapter Nine. Dow and Bessette are starting to run into some interference as they attempt to interview Charlie Adlard—Cole’s boss at the Dennison-Holt Lunar Preservation Commission—in his office, and they’re starting to butt heads over it a little, too. Some things are starting to come to the surface in terms of their ability to trust one-another.

It feels pretty good, though I feel like I’m writing Dow a little too weird again. He keeps leaning that way in my mind, and I’m not sure why. I don’t dislike it, either, it just requires a significant revamp of his character to make it really work, you know? It’s frustrating because I don’t quite know what to do with it right now.

That’s all for me today. As a reminder, I’ll be gone next week while I work on a writing sample to accompany a job application. The usual Monday “Week in Review” post will go up as planned, but I won’t really be around again until the 15th. Might pop in to show you guys a little of what I’m working on, though, if I get to a point where I think it’s okay. It’s pretty cool. I’m excited.

See you guys later.

 

-Sean

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Day Ninety-Six: Again With the Thing

No words. No pages. No progress. These days where I’m going to work and trying to write are getting harder and harder. Or maybe I just suck at this. I don’t know.

 

-Sean

Day Ninety-Five: 26,430 Words

So, I knew that I was going out last night and made sure that I had a post set aside and set to go live promptly at nine. Except it didn’t. Because, I don’t know, I don’t know how to use computers? Sorry guys, this one is on me.

Oh, and many thank you’s to the reader who emailed me today to ask what was up.


321 words. One page. It isn’t much, but it’s better than the last couple of days…

Work continue on Chapter Eight. I’d still really like to finish it by the end of the week, and—in a perfect world—I’ll be able to break 30k by Sunday. I have decided that I want to take next week off from Hey, Internet! so that I can dedicate myself to the writing sample I’ve been also trying to work on this week. I just need to get it done and really focus on it, so I’m going to try to power through the pages these next couple of days so I can feel good about the leave of absence.

 

-Sean

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Day Ninety-Four: Again

Still no progress today, as I go to work and spend my spare minutes writing something else. I’m still sorry about it, but I don’t really regret it…You know what I mean? I’d still like to at least get to the end of Chapter Eight this week, but with this other stuff going on I think that I might take the whole of next week off from the site. Just wanted to give a little advance notice.

 

-Sean

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Day Ninety-Three: Still 26,109 Words

Zero words, today. Zero pages. Some stuff came up…And some of it was just regular stuff, and then some more of it was potentially good stuff that I can’t really talk about. And, now that I can actually write, I’m all tired and bleary-eyed and want to just go to bed so I can start early tomorrow.

So I’m going to do that.

 

-Sean

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Day Ninety-Two: 26,109 Words

1,237 words. 5 pages.

Dow woke up a little sarcastic today. Which is better than the hangover I had been planning, and also works a little more in the character’s favor. There are a lot of little things in these beginning pages of Chapter Eight: Dow trying to call his wife, a basic rundown of the way that his quarters are laid out, some patter with Bessette, and a little bit of shock at waking up looking a few years younger.

That’s one of my favorite side effects of spending time in low or zero gravity. Get away from gravity for a day or so and your gut diminishes because your organs are no longer heaped on top of one another and sagging every which way. Your blood pools less in your lower body, decreasing wrinkles and sag in the usual places and returning a certain youthful suppleness to the skin. Your spine decompresses, and you get an inch or so taller. In short; the less gravity you live in the younger you look.

There are downsides, of course. Everyone pretty much develops scrawny chicken legs to some extent, and—ahem—sexual performance can become a little difficult, apparently. There’s also the constant bone density and muscle mass degradation, which is just a huge bummer. It’s a fun thing to submit a character to, though…Especially a perpetually weird and grumpy character like Dow.

 

-Sean

25K

Just hit 25,000 words on page 87 of the Master Document.

Word 25K is “like,” by the way. Sorry it wasn’t anything more exciting.

 

-Sean

Monday, 1 April 2013

Day Ninety-One: 24,872 Words

1,266 words. Five pages. Chapter Seven is done for now.

Today was a lot of fun, actually. I had originally intended for this chapter to be a bit longer—introducing a new character as well as reintroducing the sort of emotional struggle going on between Dow and Marisol—but I decided that, after I went ahead and dragged Sydney into the more espionage-ey side of things in Chapter Six that I needed to show off that there’s an as-yet unidentified level of danger there. So, basically, this is a chapter where Dow spends the whole time playing with his phone and figures out that Kinneman has a tap set up to record and encrypt all of Dow’s calls before sending them back to Earth with relevant data attached.

This also gives me a chance to integrate some of Dow’s cleverer, more tech-savvy side, which is a ton of fun because I love to write that kind of stuff. It also gives the character his first chance to really be alone with his thoughts, and do a little bit of critical evaluating of the situation on McMurdo. It’s very much a partner chapter to what I did with Sydney in the previous Chapter Six, but they’re going about things in very different ways.

Not entirely sure where I’m going to go from here. I’m considering a little bit of restructuring of the events of Day Two. We’ll see.

 

-Sean

Week Thirteen in Review

Still working on today’s writing, but I thought I should take the moment to actually get this thing posted.

Week Thirteen was a little tenuous. I had some really good days, and a couple that weren’t so much. I pulled off two new chapters (Five & Six), one of which was quite lengthy, got over the 20,000 word hump, had some internet trouble, and took Sunday off on account of not having to go to my everyday job, either.

I feel like I’m in a good place, both right now and moving forward. And look forward to doing so.

Some stats:

Master Document Pages: 82

Total Words: 23,603

Fresh Pages: 18

Fresh Words: 5,155

Web Posts: 8

Let’s just keep on going, shall we? I’m hoping to do a little updating of the website later this week, and also have a straight six days of uninterrupted progress.

Fingers crossed.

 

-Sean

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Day Eighty-Nine: Still 23,603 Words

Been missing for a couple of days. Nothing major, just my internet connection flaking out for a while and preventing posting. Saturday’s virtual non-post is here, and Friday’s is below.. No Sunday post this week on account of me having Easter off of work and not wanting to do anything at all.


No words today. No pages. It was a heavy day at work with errands before and what will be—hopefully—a lot, lot, lot of sleep very shortly.

Sorry guys. Good night.

 

-Sean

Day Eighty-Eight: 23,603 Words

Been missing for a couple of days. Nothing major, just my internet connection flaking out for a while and preventing posting. Friday’s post is below, and Saturday’s will be up in a moment. No Sunday post this week on account of me having Easter off of work and not wanting to do anything at all.


749 words. Three pages.

This was Chapter Six. Just the whole thing running straight through as Sydney works in her office and evaluates and begins to get drawn into the larger thing with our ex-CIA buddy, Kinneman. Very simple. Just some reflection and the introduction of some potential interpersonal conflict. It also lets me show a little bit of the security setup on McMurdo.

That’s all.

 

-Sean

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Day Eighty-Seven: 22,854 Words

1,120 words. Five pages. The streak continues!

So, I finished Chapter Five today. What did you guys do?

I think I’m going to end up repositioning a lot of the material that I wrote today. I’m happy with it, but it feels like too much, too fast. Maybe bump it back to the end of Dow’s second day at McMurdo. Something to do a little more of the stakes raising that we talked about yesterday. We’ll see what ends up happening.

There’s not a whole lot else to say right now. Tomorrow, I’m going to start working on a couple of short chapters that introduce McMurdo and Dow’s new digs a little bit more.

 

-Sean