Thursday, 28 February 2013
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Monday, 25 February 2013
599 words on Saturday, across three pages.
It’s mostly conversation between Dow and Trash City PR man Saul Morris as they get him ready for launch. A much friendlier dynamic than Dow and Kinneman, which is nice because it’s letting my drop some bits about Dow’s past and larger personality. We’ve mostly seen him in argument mode thus far, so it’s a good change of pace.
I also did a little more describing of the Trash City set-up, specifically their launch site, and have been trying to inject a little more of a sense of wonder into things. This is kind of important to me because, while I understand and acknowledge that Dow is kind of broken and jaded (I made him that way, after all), I do need him to be able to get around the fact that he hates space so much, and that it makes him so sick, and let a little bit of the inherent wonder of science fiction shine through for the reader.
The second week of writing has come and gone with very little to report. I’m still somewhere near the end of Chapter Two, which is a dishearteningly low number but I’m very comfortable with most of what I’ve been writing and know that I’m laying down important groundwork. I also changed the point of view this week, moving from Third to First (That’s now, “I did this,” and no longer, “Dow did this.”), and gave some consideration to the way I portray and develop technology in the novel.
Total Word Count: 7298
Writing continues next week, where I’ll hopefully get out of these doldrums and have a few days that feel satisfyingly productive.
Sunday, 24 February 2013
On Wednesday I mentioned something that’s a little dear to me: the idea of technology balance in Science-Fiction.
This is something that I think every sci-fi author has to confront and make a decision on eventually. The far future is relatively easy to write about because you’re ultimately just deciding about the details. In a story that takes place a thousand or more years into the future, and spans multiple worlds, it seems reasonable to say that humanity has worked out faster than light travel or artificial intelligence or quantum computing. You might have to work a little harder and be a little more theoretical if you want to try and push the actual science of those things, but, ultimately, you’re just picking out technological elements that go well together and are free to be as advanced or as anachronistic as you want.
For something like A Body Up the Well, though, you’ve got to be a little more careful. A reader might be able to accept one major, out-of-left-field technological advancement, but for the most part you’re extrapolating from modern technology and trying to figure out how to implement research articles. In all likelihood, someone who reads the novel you set thirty years into the future is going to be alive to actually see that date, and—while it would be foolish to worry about them holding you accountable for the future you presented not arriving—they are likely to be able to look at the previous thirty years of tech development and say whether or not you’re over-stating your world and its capabilities.
So, you try to balance it out. You try to make it all line up and be cool and futuristic but not too futuristic.
An example: In the post linked above, I mentioned trying to work out the features of a futuristic tablet PC. Now, for the sake of safety, I didn’t change too much. The device is linked into the UN plane’s cabin systems and Kinneman can use it to easily change the level of lighting, the tint on the windows, and the climate. That’s not anything outlandish, of course—you can do that sort of thing to your house or car with the right phone app—but it is kind of new enough that I can reasonably have Kinneman do it with a vehicle that is many orders of magnitude more complex than a car and nobody will bat an eye. It fits, and it seems reasonable, because the tablet is still new enough to us in the present that we’ve yet to see any truly major developments or direction changes for it. We don’t really know where it’s going as a technology, so it’s easier for the reader to accept something that is close to what they know…Even with added little bonuses like a built-in, maneuverable HD projector eye.
That one’s easy. But on the other end of the spectrum? Phones.
I hate trying to figure out new phone designs. I intentionally made Dow’s work phone a piece of decommissioned military tech with a basic and (in the fictional world’s case) old-school reinforced smart-phone design and functionality, because the alternative is having to confront the fact that cellular phones have changed so dramatically in the past thirty years that I can barely even imagine what they could look like after thirty more. I’ve tried to make them smaller and smaller, but after a while you lose the ability to interact with them properly, necessitating something like holographic projection and haptic touch interfacing. Do they get thinner? Do the materials change? Do people wear them? What?
I made extensive notes at one point for a phone that gets worn like a glove, made of this breathable rubber material that you can touch and interact with on all sides with your free hand because the whole surface is a full color soft-screen. You just hold your hand up to your head when you want to use the phone function, and people design elaborate moving screensavers for them that wrap and dance endlessly around their hands at all times. It seems like some ridiculous thing that’s way, way too much, bit is it really? I have no idea. I decided to shelve the idea until I actually had to confront it in the text, and even then I think I’m likely to give the McMurdo inhabitants these very low-tech, old fashioned, and utilitarian things to accommodate the colony’s mentality of function.
So, yeah. This is what I spend my time thinking about. The kind of problems you want to have, right?
Saturday, 23 February 2013
697 words across three pages. It seems like a weird thing to be proud of because it’s ultimately still failure, but I’m getting closer and closer to my target wordcount every day.
The First Person POV continues to work nicely. It just flows better, and I haven’t had a problem so far with keeping the voice from being sarcastic. We’re on Trash City now, and it has been described nice and concisely, Kinneman has departed with many of Dow’s things, and Dow is finally ready to be shot into space. Well, he’s ready for narrative purposes, anyway.
Not much else to say beyond that. This was a pretty straight-forward writing day.
Friday, 22 February 2013
579 words today, across the better part of three pages. It felt like more than it was because there was a lot of dialogue filling page space. That’s kind of disappointing at the end of a day’s work, but what are you gonna do?
We’ve arrived at Trash City, finally, and Dow has been disarmed and fully committed to his mission. It feels good to be at this point, especially since I spent some of that space building up the tremendously dysfunctional relationship between him and Kinneman and it was a ton of fun. I also did this (and rewrote yesterday’s) stretch in the first person, giving me about 1,200 words in that format, and it works so much better for me. I’ll give it another couple of days to see if my opinion stays the same, but, yeah…I think this is a first person novel now.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
Got a decent amount done yesterday, despite a long day at work. Clocked in at 684 words. Slowly but surely, I’m edging back towards my target daily word count.
Having a lot of fun with Chapter Two so far. Dow’s conversation with Kinneman is just proving more and more how in over his head he is, but he’s reticent to ditch on investigating Cole’s death because he already took the job. I’m also starting to figure out how he’s going to approach the work and begin to analyze the suspect list—playing into his experience doing threat evaluation and personal security for the UN as a dodge for the fact that he’s never investigated a murder before. I think it could work nicely; making him efficient and professional but not unable to badly screw things up.
I’m also feeling more and more drawn to the idea of switching the narrative into the first person. I’ve been coming to a lot of little moments where I want to drop an observation or piece of backstory in, and they just don’t feel natural in the third person format. First person is just better for those little tangents, so I think I’ll try it on for a few days and see if it fits the project any better. I had some concerns about using it earlier, but…eh. We’ll see how it plays.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
That’s 467 words today, adding a page and a half to the final document. Work days are, as always, kind of iffy for me writing-wise. We can expect tomorrow’s look at Wednesday’s words to be similar. I’m looking at a couple of good days off, though, so I’m hoping to catch up some on Thursday and Friday.
More exposition going out so far in Chapter Two. The plane is en-route to Trash City, and Kinneman and Dow are starting to see that possible murder victim Warren Cole as the kind of guy who makes for one long-ass suspect list.
I’m also trying to tread a relatively fine line where it comes to some of the technology when I talk about Kinneman’s tablet computer. You have to give a certain amount of thought to how much technology may or may not advance over the next thirty years, and the tablet’s feature list can be a good indicator of that or it can be something that totally trashes how believable the world is. I’ll talk more about that on Sunday, though.
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Week two of writing kicked off nicely with 963 fresh words, virtually all of which advance the plot or lay solid groundwork in some way. It also brings us to the end of Chapter One.
As has been the case throughout the ten pages this chapter occupies, there’s a nut-unreasonable amount that can be cut if I wanted to. Also, at this early date, some of the expository dialogue feels fairly pat. Dow remains a little too paranoid and confrontational for this early stage in the novel, and I’m beginning to wonder how I locked myself so firmly into this portrayal of the character this early on.
I’m having fun with Kinneman, our CIA analyst turned UN overseer. He doesn’t have much page-time in this current outline, he’s the kind of smug, authoritative creep who can be tons of fun to write dialogue for. I was also, looking back, very pleased with my descriptions of the form and operation of the VTOL. I’ve portrayed it primarily as a set of physical sensations that Dow is observing, and it works well. I think it’s a pretty good standard to set myself to when it comes to giving the reader his interpretation of the world.
Not much else to say. Today was a fairly busy day at work, with some other stuff the needed tending at home, so the current word-count for the evening is not what I would like. I need to start working on time management a little more.
Monday, 18 February 2013
So, I swung 569 words on Saturday, which—after this week—doesn’t seem too bad for a day that I had to work.
Content-wise, there’s not too much interesting going on in those five-hundred words. I little tech, a little background, and the basic introduction of UN-man James Kinneman. I’m still playing with the mix a lot at this stage; trying to figure out the right cadence for this narration, and the right balance between narrative advancement and description and background.
It’s harder than you might think for a science-fictional world, that balance, especially one that’s very near future. You have to try and anticipate which concepts and phrases will already be familiar to the reader, and try to keep things interesting and high-tech…but not so much so that you’ll bury the plot. At this point, I’m still throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, and it’s going to make for a very bloated first act. I’m predicting that this will very much be the part of the novel that I cut the most from when editing starts.
That’s Saturday, though. We’ve arrived at Monday now, and there are new things to be worked on. Today is the day that the plot should really begin in earnest.
Writing began this week, and it utterly failed to go according to plan. Social obligations, work, and other—more immediately pressing—writing all got well in the way of things, and I finished my first six days more than two thousand words behind my set goal. It is not, perhaps, the most auspicious start.
For all that, though, I’m proud of what I got done this week. It’s a little busy, and there are some rough patches, but I got together three and a half thousand words that are pretty damn good for a first draft. It’s a foundation laid out in an experimental stage of the writing period, and I think that it’s a good one.
Moments I wasn’t writing but wished that I was: Almost all of them.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Music. What do you do with it when you’re writing? Where does it fit? There are a ton of potential ways to go with your listening when you’re on the job, and they’re all a matter of personal preference.
I know several writers who don’t listen to anything when they work, preferring something as close to silence as they can get. Others like sitting in a coffee shop or public place, absorbing crowd noise and using the energy of other peoples’ movement to fuel their work. More might just put their iPods or phones or music libraries on random and listen to whatever comes up, trusting their own tastes, and others still will create meticulously selected and organized playlists.
Me, personally? I like to play things by ear a little more. I like to do whatever feels right for the project. Last year, for example, when I was writing a period story that took place over one full listening of a vinyl copy of The Clash’s London Calling, I put that album on the turntable and played it non-stop until the first draft was done.
Mostly, though, I like playlists. I try not to be super picky about them—even if that’s not always an option—and I try to not lock myself too deeply into one thing over another. More often than not, I’ll make an effort to put together something that’s two or three hours long (three hours is kind of the outside on how long I’ll work on a novel in one sitting), isn’t too obtrusive, and maintains a similar tone or type of instrumentation that I think is a good fit for the tone of the novel or story.
For A Body Up the Well, I haven’t quite finalized a playlist yet. Mostly it’s instrumental, with an emphasis on the electronic or small orchestras, and fairly solitary and claustrophobic in tone. The score to Duncan Jones’s Moon by Clint Mansell made the list, for one, and Michael McCann’s work on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Things that have good themes and through-lines, musically, but are amorphous and open to interpretation thematically. Things that I can take as portraying wonder or dread depending upon my mood. With those elements, the whole playlist can suit my needs regardless of what kind of scene I’m working on.
Saturday, 16 February 2013
I don’t really have anything to say beyond the title, guys. Social obligations existed. There was a lot of cooking and writing for something unrelated. I listened to the album Cinder by Dirty Three, like, fifteen times. It was a busy Friday.
Friday, 15 February 2013
Managed to pull off 530 words yesterday, which is 530 more than I had time to do today. They’re mostly inconsequential stuff…A fair amount of technical description as Dow gets onto the plane, some set dressing, and a few hints at the scope of intelligence-group spookery behind the case to put Dow ill at ease.
Some of it can really afford to get pared down if it has to be, though that decision won’t be made until I see what the finished chapter reads like. Right now, getting this kind of thing on the page is helpful because it lets me figure out how (and how much) I want to talk about the technology and cool future toys in the book. I’ve given myself some wiggle room there by going with a third-person narrator, but there are still levels to play within. I want this to be more of a pulpy detective story than a hard science-fiction story, after all.
Getting a little frustrated by my progress, even though I know that I have excuses for this week. It’s just tiresome to be thinking about this like I am—just thinking about it all of the time—and not have a moment to work on it. It’ll get better, though, I suppose. Just have to wait for it.
Thursday, 14 February 2013
Work and things prevented me from getting any writing done yesterday. And, while I did manage to get in a little work on the novel today, I think it’s safe to say that with some upcoming social obligations there isn’t going to be a whole lot more progress for the rest of the week.
It’s okay, I guess. I’m kind of bummed about it because I want to write right now, and I don’t want to lose momentum…But sometimes this kind of thing just happens.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Day Two of writing: 1,086 words across four pages.
I’ve moved whole-heartedly into Chapter One, and deposited Dow at the airport. There’s a little bit of procedure that we see him go through at the house and prepare to leave and it puts a little more of Dow’s mindset into play, as well as showing off one of those good-sense concessions that people tend to make to one another in a relationship:
Dow showered and shaved and pulled himself into most of an old black suit that seemed to have grown a couple of sizes since he had last worn it. He skipped the tie; pocketing it as he went to the little wall safe in the closet and pulled his sidearm. The safe wasn’t strictly necessary—there had never been children, and the gun was just as firmly bio-locked as the work phone—but Marisol had always insisted.
That goes on for a while and gets followed up with a stretch of the car ride between the house and the airfield, which is pretty firmly dedicated to a slow boil of an argument between Marisol and Dow that leads to her snubbing him some when he finally gets out of the car. There’s a good level of contention on display, I think, and—since their relationship’s collapse is firmly on both of them—I’ve tried to make sure that they both end up playing the bad guy some before Dow leaves the vehicle; each of them taking on hostility or disinterest, prying into one another’s work either to goad the other into aggression or just to change the subject.
I think it works a lot better at illustrating the state of their relationship than the bit I complained about in the Prologue does. It felt like something that needed a little more time dedicated to it, so I don’t have an issue giving it a couple of pages here so long as it pays off later.
Now to dig more thoroughly into the case and some cool future-tech!
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Last night, I posted the complete first draft of the prologue to A Body Up the Well, otherwise known as The Novel At the End of This Blog. The posted text represents the sum output of my first day of writing, and keeps me neatly on track so far for my target of one thousand good words a day. Let’s look at it, though, for the sake of having something to talk about while I work on today’s output:
I did 1,221 words yesterday, spread across (barely) five pages. In them, I introduce our protagonist, Dow, and his wife, Marisol, while trying to give a taste of their home life and the type of man that Dow is as I also wrap Dow into the first strings of the plot. Having reviewed it now, there are a lot of things that I like about these pages, and some that I don’t.
For instance, I think that it’s paced pretty well, and I think that the broad strokes of the characters are mostly in place. In future drafts, I’d like to change Dow’s approach to the house a little—presenting his movements and observations with more of the flavor of tactical decisions—to give some more insight into his background and mindset. I’m also a bit worried that by having Dow and Marisol’s first interaction be that he assumes she’s leaving him, I’m overplaying my hand too early on that subplot. I think that it plays okay, and I like that it immediately shows off that Dow is a “Worst Case Scenario” kind of guy, but it might be too much for the second page. The bit later where he bites back a retort at her shouting therapy nuggets from another room is probably a better example of where I should be right now.
There’s also this paragraph, which is just complete crap:
Not that the black phone would have cared about gender equality. Bio-keyed military hardware was particular about its users. Dow almost explained, but Seb ought to know about it just as well as he did. Besides, he was just glad that the man wasn’t so keyed up that he couldn’t give him shit.
Seriously. I don’t even know what I was thinking. The second half barely makes sense as sentences, and the first…Well, I like that Dow’s thick enough that he would rely on his phone as proof to Seb that he’s not a misogynist, but I’m not sure how it plays. The whole paragraph will be up for restructuring later on.
Also; I’m kind of in love with the idea that there’s a news network in the future that uses a fake Walter Cronkite as it’s anchor. It’s kind of a riff on the current holographic performer fad, and the idea of people bringing back Tupac as a machine-ghost to do shows. It’s something that will probably come up again later.
All told, I still think that yesterday was a pretty successful first outing. We’ll just see how things go today, with trying to catch up the word count after being at work all day…
Monday, 11 February 2013
A pretty good day, readers. Below is the output from the first day of writing: the complete text of the prologue, presented without editing or comment. Enjoy!
It was just past seven when Emory Dow came in from his run; still early enough so that when he closed with the hillside and the little stilt house that came out of it, he approached it by the front—with its flight of stairs and kitchen access—rather than jogging up the hill path to enter through the door off of the bedroom patio. It meant not checking the power levels on the collection tower that loomed up from behind the house, but there was also less chance of him waking Marisol.
He loped the dusty road that ran through the hills and passed under the misshapen lower-case “t” of the tower’s shadow, panting and stretching as he cooled down. At the base of the house there was a little garden dug down in the softer earth around the big well pump—the rows weaving between the stilts so that the plants’ delicate leaves could be sheltered from the pre-noon sun by the bulk of the house. Dow stopped for a moment there, leaning up against one of the stilts as he glanced around for the bucket that his wife kept down in the shadows. When he found it, he filled the bucket to heavy with ripe melon and squash, and a pair of gene-hardened Mandarin Oranges, and hoisted it up onto one shoulder.
Laden, he hopped up the stairs two at a time, feeling the extra strain in his legs and thinking that—at his meager height—it was a fair enough replacement for the longer trek up the hill.
Dow slid the door open, backed into the cool dampness of the kitchen, and turned. Marisol was there: showered and dressed and holding a small bowl of fruit salad and thin yogurt. On the island between them was a silvery, carbon-fiber suitcase from the set that they had bought when they were first married and talking about leaving England. When he saw it, he had a clenched up feeling in his guts like all of his bad dreams and all of his good ones were coming true in the same instant.
They looked at one another. She had unnaturally pale brown eyes, the color of well-creamed coffee, and he thought that there was surprise in them.
Dow eased the bucket down onto the island. “You’re leaving,” he said, flatly.
Her lips turned up at the corners. A fraction of a smile. Dow’s insides seemed to uncoil by the same amount. “Work. I’ve been called out,” she said. She put a spoonful of berries and yogurt into her mouth before waving the spoon in the direction of the television.
Dow followed her movement. The television was muted, and he’d not noticed that it was on. It was one of the twenty-four hour news networks: a simulact of Walter Cronkite superimposed over shaky, poorly lit images of shattered, shoddily made buildings. In the background of each was a dark, stack-capped hulk that seemed to have been split open with a gigantic hammer. The hulk spewed flame and black smoke, and amidst the slow crawl of the chyrons the headline blared, 3.8 Earthquake Destroys Venezuelan Coastal Town, Causes Fuel Refinery Explosion.
Dow blinked, suddenly ashamed and not sure why. “Jesus Christ.”
“It’s a mess,” Marisol agreed. “Thousands of people effected, and the aid groups want onsite counseling. We’re all being called in.” She put her bowl in the sink and ran some water. “My flight leaves from Huánuco in two hours, and this has been ringing for you all morning.”
Dow looked back at her. She was holding a good sized and very old-fashioned looking tablet phone with a black, rubberized hard-shell. His work phone. He took it, let the device read his biometrics, and scrolled through the call history. Four missed since six twenty-three, all from the same number.
“It’s Seb,” he said. “There must be a job up for me.”
“Good.” Marisol ran her fingers along the black waves of her hair, and made a disgusted face at something inscrutable that she found there. She turned to leave the room—probably to find a brush—continuing to talk as she went. “I’ll be gone for several days, probably, and you know that you always do better if you have a task when I’m not around. A busy mind keeps itself from dark places, Emory.”
Dow wanted to respond, to tell her that their morning didn’t have to have a therapy session built into it, but he swallowed the urge down. He dialed the phone and pressed it to his ear.
Seb picked up on the first ring. “Em. Thank Christ.”
Sebastian Shaw had the kind of big, burly voice that you’d expect to get off of an Australian his size and disposition, but there was a note of strain in it that morning that Dow didn’t like. He owed Seb a lot. The man had gotten him his current post in the UN’s Specialist Contractor branch to start with, and had been serving as his handler for years.
“Sorry, mate. I was out on a run.”
Seb huffed. “And you don’t let your wife answer phones? I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure women are allowed to do that these days.”
Not that the black phone would have cared about gender equality. Bio-keyed military hardware was particular about its users. Dow almost explained, but Seb ought to know about it just as well as he did. Besides, he was just glad that the man wasn’t so keyed up that he couldn’t give him shit.
“There’s an A-Grade up and please tell me that you’ll bite.” Some of that strain was back in Seb’s voice. A little bit of nervousness. “I need a body on this, and you’re the closest unoccupied that I’ve got.”
A-Grade. Dow paused over that. UNSC’s terminology escaped him if he didn’t use it regularly, and with only working two or three gigs a year for them it often did. An A-Grade was a first class investigation or emergency, requiring an immediate Specialist presence in the field. He looked at the television again and wondered if it might not be related to the accident.
“Am I cleared for this?”
“Yeah,” Seb said. “Your record’s good enough for me to call you. Job’s yours if you want it, but it’s a traveler and the bird’s in the air already so I need to know now.”
Dow grimaced. He didn’t like the idea of leaving the house unoccupied on short notice, but he didn’t like the idea of being alone in it for several days, either. “All right,” he said, eventually, “you’ve got your body.”
The tension melted out of Seb’s voice again. “Great, Em, that’s great. I’m sending the plane your way now. Pick up is a private airfield on the road between you and Huánuco in forty-five minutes. Coordinates will be on your phone in a tic.”
“I’ll be there. Give me the details?”
Seb hesitated. Just for a moment. “It’s fuzzy on my end. Briefing in the air. There’ll be a man onboard.”
That didn’t sound right. It made Dow want to twitch. “Come on, now. You can’t give me anything?”
There was another pause. “Just the key-phrase that came across my desk with the request for a call-up: ‘Body up the well’.”
Sunday, 10 February 2013
So, as you might expect…I’m going to start doing an awful lot of writing tomorrow. Naturally, I’ll be keeping up with the daily posts to the best of my ability, but I have been wondering about how to handle this exactly.
See, I do most of my better writing at night, and my work schedule means that there are times where I’ll sit down really wanting to write in the evening and end up working until the small hours of the morning. It’s a little bit of a burden to try and write a recap after doing that—and some of my daily posts arrive late enough as it is—so what I think I’m going to do is start posting each day’s word count and thoughts on the following day (example: I’ll post something tomorrow, but I won’t post about what I wrote until Tuesday). This way, I can start off the work day with a review of what I accomplished the day before and treat the writing of the daily post like something of a warm-up exercise.
It’s something that I’ll try out for the first week, anyway. After that, I might change the format some…but if it seems to be working, I’ll stick with it.
I’m actually really excited to be moving forward with this novel, readers. I feel really good about what I have planned, and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to share it with you all. I’m also pretty jazzed (for completely nerdy reasons) that writing starts on Day Forty-Two.
Saturday, 9 February 2013
I was thinking today that it might be good of me to tell you some about what I’m going to be doing for the next little while. At least in the most broad sense.
Starting on Monday, I’m going to be shooting for about one-thousand typed, solid words per day. That comes out to about three to four double spaced pages of Word document, and, while that might not seem like a whole lot, I do want to put special emphasis on the word solid. I like to edit as I go. Not necessarily in the sense that I pause and reconsider scenes and then delete them and start over—that’s counterproductive—but in the sense that I like to be able to look at my output at day’s end and say, “Yes. This is something that I did, and all of the sentences make sense and are written in good, old-fashioned Human English. This definitely does not sound like the squealing of drunken pigs when read aloud.”
Why? Well, primarily because it cuts down on editing time. It means that at when the first draft is done, I’m left with a document that I can send out to early readers and not be instantly overcome with shame. It also means that if I screw up and have to go back to review something, I’m almost assured to be reading sentences that don’t leave me even more confused. Really, it just cuts down on a lot of hassle, all around.
Now, a lot of people will just tell you to power through your story and let God and a red pen sort it out later (and “a lot of people” will sometimes include me, depending on who I’m giving advice to and for what). Hell, it’s practically a founding tenant of National Novel Writing Month. But, while that’s all well and good, I find that when I’m working on something where I have the time and creativity to spend, the whole thing is a miniscule amount of effort and concentration now for a big payoff down the line. Ultimately, it means less editing time for me at the end of writing, and cleaner prose for you when I post excerpts along the way.
So, yeah. One-thousand clean, solid words a day. Will I stick to that? God no. Some days there will be fewer words. Some day there will be many, many more. It’s a good idea to have these daily goals in the back of your mind as you go along, but it’s also important to remember that daily output is one big creative crapshoot. Create expectations for yourself, but don’t cling to them so fiercely that reality has to get violent with you when it decides to stand in the way.
That’s the plan, anyway. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
Friday, 8 February 2013
Felt a lot better today and it was nice out, so I leashed the dog and went out for pub food and sea air. It was good all around.
Now, that may not seem like it has a lot to do with writing or being a writer, but here’s the thing: Sometimes you just have to step away. People in this profession, we spend a lot of time living in our own heads and that can be oppressive at times. It can make us unwell.
In many ways, we can say that’s what this whole week is about for me…But sometimes you just really need—and I can’t emphasize this enough—to step away and take some time where you don’t think about the work and the problems that it presents. At all. I’ve spoken in the past about the madness of creation and about writing as exorcism, and I think that mentality can be healthy from a creative standpoint. It has to be tempered, though, with the basic knowledge that sometimes you’ve just got to go out for twenty-four hours and live as devoid of stress as humanly possible.
It’s just healthy to get away for a while.
Thursday, 7 February 2013
I’ve been giving some thought lately as to what point of view I want to use in this novel. For those of you who don’t much recall high-school English, POV refers to the perspective from which the novel is written and the type of voice that it uses. I won’t get into the specifics of all of the different types and variants here—because this isn’t a high-school English lecture and I’ve no inclination that it become one—but the consideration and choice of one or the other is something that a writer has to work through on every project.
In this case, I’ve got a choice between First Person and Third Person Limited:
First Person refers to the type of story that’s written expressly from the point of view of the protagonist. It makes use of the noun “I” in the place of “he/she” or the character’s name, and it is usually marked by an extreme closeness to the character’s knowledge base and understanding of the situation. There are some cases where the novel is written specifically from the perspective of a character reminiscing about the events of the plot, and they will inject pieces of information at key points that they, themselves, did not have when the event was actually occurring…But most of the time the reader won’t know anything that the character doesn’t know from moment to moment.
This is all well and good. I love First Person narration. It’s something that I use frequently in my own work, and—perhaps more importantly—almost all of the detective novels that I intend for A Body Up the Well to be in the tradition of use this POV. On the surface, it seems like kind of a lock. There’s an element to the First Person narrative, though…A kind of cynical self-awareness that I’m not sure that I really like for this novel. The character, by virtue of a lack of access to the other characters’ thoughts and feelings, has to constantly be observing and critically examining the faces and body language of everyone around them, and a sarcastic or ironic tone can so effectively alleviate the monotony of that examination for reader and writer that the device may very easily become a crutch. This seems somewhat fatal to me, especially given that Dow isn’t the kind of character who is given to dry witticism. Ultimately, it’s probably manageable…But do I really want to add another layer to constantly remind myself of?
The alternative is to use Third Person Limited, which is defined by a sort of spectral narrator who hovers over the scene and observes without impacting or commenting upon the action. It’s very much the “he said/she did/they walked” style, and the voice can go anywhere with any number of the characters…Only limited by its inability to read anyone’s mind. It’s me telling you a story about other people, rather than one about myself.
And really, I like this one, too. It isn’t a form that I use as often, but it’s no less effective and it certainly isn’t unheard of in this genre (The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett, for example, or the previously referenced Motherless Brooklyn). And while it may not feel entirely genuine, it does lend more of an ensemble air to the work. If I needed to inject a little bit of action while Dow is doing some research, I can cut away to Sydney getting into trouble and finding a vital clue. It could be a nice change of pace, and the more deliberate style might encourage me to look at scenes from more angles than I might otherwise.
I don’t know. This is the kind of thing that you can deliberate for days, only to decide in an instant when you’re on the spot. Or it can hold up book indefinitely, if you let it. Me? I’ll probably write two version of the prologue come Monday and then decide which feels the more right.
Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Feeling a bit better today, actually, and will probably be able to return to work tomorrow. Spent a lot of the day sleeping or reading Warren Ellis’s very excellent Gun Machine. Some of the remainder went towards cheating on my novel by prepping for a tabletop role-playing session that I’ve got coming up.
And it’s been good fun, all of it. I mean, the part where my sinuses are swollen, flaming sponges isn’t great, and I’m going to smell like mentholated ointment for weeks…But, yeah, for a sick day it felt surprisingly full. This kind of thing, though—all of the meds that I’m on, and the general fuzziness and warmth of the world—it doesn’t make for great introspection. Been sitting here for an hour and a half looking at a blank screen trying to come up with anything interesting to say about writing, and the best that I did was a half a paragraph about pen selection before getting distracted by the fact that Community (!) is back on the air tomorrow.
So. Yeah. Maybe not in the best state to do any heavy lifting tonight. Come back tomorrow, okay? I might just finish that pen thing.
Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Monday, 4 February 2013
Well, I told you that it was coming, readers. After a month of hard work and preparation, I’m finally ready to write. I’m not going to, though, because I’m taking the week off from A Body Up the Well.
The reason for this is pretty simple: I don’t want to burn myself out. I’ve been living pretty closely with this for a good while now, and I want to make sure that when I sit down and type out the word “Prologue” next Monday, that I’m going to be coming to it fresh and happy to return to work. So this week is going to be about decompression and getting my house all in order so that there’s nothing to surprise me as I write. Making sure that I can be the best that I can and not run out of energy right at the start.
None of this means that there won’t be content this week, though. In addition to working out some advertising to drum up a wider readership, I’ll be putting up short essays on writing and the writer’s life for the remainder of the week. I’d also very much like to do a sort of mailbag article where I answer your questions about writing and this project. If you’d like to contribute to that, please leave your question in the comments, or send it to the project email address.
Thanks for reading, folks. Just bear with me a little longer, and we’ll reach the main event.
Week Five was a little slim on content, which is pretty much entirely on me and the fact that my notecards took a lot longer to make than usual. I got that done, though, and have assembled a plot string that I think is emotionally balanced, well paced, and covers all of the bases that I need/want covered in this novel.
I also announced the name and role of the Walk-On Role contest winner, who was very excited to be informed. We should have another contest coming up fairly soon.
Just a few more days and we’re ready to start writing, folks. And that’s when this thing will either really come together or turn into a screaming fiasco. Interesting either way, but I’m pulling for the former.
Sunday, 3 February 2013
The Third Configuration of the cards was good. I made a couple of minor changes, but, otherwise, I think I’m ready to write. Of course, things may change along the way. They always do. And that’s okay, really. The cards are just a layout and a way to make sure that I’ve got all of my plot elements considered and in order before I start.
Also, it’s Sunday, and I promised you guys a name for the winner of the Walk-On Role Contest. Well, congratulations to fellow writer, Megan Cushing of New Jersey! You’ll be appearing in an early scene as the permanent McMurdo-Lunar staffer for the Associated Press. That probably sounds like a pretty important job, but it mostly boils down to taking the press releases the local UN Admin offices produce and making them palatable for readers. So, hooray you(!), and also, I’m sorry?
That’s all for this week, guys. Sorry it kind of sucked!
Saturday, 2 February 2013
The second configuration works better than expected. It flows nicely, there’s build to all of the major reveals and the resolutions of the minor clue/suspect lines, and the whole thing feels more like an investigation rather than a laundry list of elements.
I’ve made several minor changes, bringing us up to the Third Configuration, which mostly relate to the way that conversations and character arcs lay out. I’ve also paid some more attention to the way that Dow’s B-story with Marisol plays, and—while it intentionally lacks concrete resolution as a side effect of their personalities and the nature of the flaws in their relationship—it feels much less passive this way.
Because I spent longer than expected laying the cards out, I’m going to take tomorrow as another work day and review this configuration before deciding if I’m ready to proceed. I like what I’ve got right now a lot, though, and I don’t expect to change much—if anything.
Also, the Walk-On Role contest is completely closed now. I’ve been reviewing entries and will hopefully come to a decision by tomorrow evening.
Friday, 1 February 2013
I reviewed the cards today, and I still think I’ve got everything that I need in terms of plot content and character beats. This initial configuration of cards runs straight through the story in the order that it occurred to me and has a tendency to lump the introduction, investigation, and resolution of clues and suspects together, which makes the whole thing, well…interesting.
It’s very stream of consciousness in this setup. Doesn’t work at all as a story that acknowledges the passage of time. Kind of lumpy and malformed. If it were a book, I wouldn’t read it. I think you get the picture.
So, I reshuffled bits and pieces. Tried to make the whole thing flow more logically, and develop the case and character relationships with something like a hint of dramatic tension. Some of the cards just got moved forward or back by a single number to make up for the fact that the conversation or observation would only work if a character who I hadn’t introduced (or had just had leave) was there to participate. Whatever the reason, it’s miles better at this point, which is great, and I didn’t feel particularly inclined to cut anything.
This is the second configuration, and I’ll review it tomorrow and then reshuffle again.
Hey readers, it’s the last day to win a walk-on role in A Body Up the Well. I’ve copied the original post, with all of the details, below:
So, remember how I was talking about putting my friend Coley into the book somewhere as a kind of wedding gift? Well, I was working on her character yesterday and I got to thinking that writing someone into this novel might work well as a contest prize.
Here’s the idea: You send me the answers to the following series of questions, and I’ll pick one entrant to receive a walk-on role in the novel, as well as one free copy of the finished work in the format of the winner’s choosing (printed or e-book). All entries must be received by 12:00AM Eastern Standard Time, on February the 1st, 2013, and they must be sent to email@example.com.
I’m also—and it pains me a little to say this—going to limit any potential international winner to a free e-book copy of the novel. Sadly, I’m just not made of money. Any prize granted will be delivered in a reasonable amount of time following the completion and release of the novel, and winning does not make you eligible for early access to the text in any way.
Okay, with that out of the way…Here are the questions you’ll need to answer. Please be as thorough as you feel comfortable with in your answers:
What is your name, and what do you prefer to be called?
What is your age, and do you mind being aged up to what your age would be in 2047?
Describe yourself to me. Height, weight, and build are good starting points, but do you have any prominent or defining facial features? How do you like to wear your hair?
Where are you from, and do you have an accent?
Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Nothing too personal. Just baseline descriptions of what you do, what you went to school for, whether you’d have a spouse or any other family members who are likely to be on the lunar surface somewhere.
Who do you want to be in 2047? What might you be on the moon to do? Would you prefer to be working for the UN, as a researcher for a nation or university, or maybe for one of the corporations? Basically: What do you bring to McMurdo-Lunar? (Alternately: What do you bring to Trash City?)
Why do you want to go to, or live on, the moon? (Alternately: Why do you want to live and work at the Trash City site?)
You walk into a bar and sit down. What are you likely to order?
Eight questions. It’s as simple as that. Just go ahead and think about those, send your answers to the provided email address by midnight EST on February 1st, and you could get yourself featured in this thing in some small way. Cool? Cool.