Impending News of Awesomeness

I  have awesome news.  But I’m not going to tell you what that news is today.  No.  Because I am a terrible person.  Okay, I’m not a terrible person, but my news is so awesome that I can barely contain its awesomeness.  Which means that I cannot help but taunt you with it.

That said – be here, first thing Monday morning, to bask in the awesomeness of my news, when at last my news is fully revealed.

While you’re waiting… why don’t you share your thoughts on publicly disclosing your writing goals and reporting on your daily or weekly progress?

Tiny Oopsy

Somehow I accidentally closed comments on yesterday’s post – a post on which I was explicitly asking for comments.  It’s fixed now.  Go and check it out.

Accounting & Accountability

No, that’s not the title of my new Regency Period Literary Romance Novel… (nor a mashup updates set in an accounting firm).

You may have noticed today a couple new Writing Projects Progress Update section in my sidebar – some time ago I used one here showing the progress on “PFTETD”.  I’ve gone ahead and added these new ones for the writing projects I’ve started now that class has ended, and you can see two projects: one a short story I’ve started work on, and the other the new novel project (the one I pitched at JordanCon).

I wanted to make myself publicly accountable for my writing goals.  Just the other day, Dear Wife was threatening that she was going to start a “Dear Wife Reports” line of commentary on my blog letting you all know just exactly how much time I’ve actually spent writing.  I told her I supported her in this endeavor.  But then I thought I’d preempt her, here. 

But here’s my problem.  A writing progress bar is really only useful for one thing: accumulated wordcount on a given project.  But, at least logically, only one kind of wordcount counts toward the accumulated goal: actual words written on the story in question.  Except: I do a lot of writing on background notes, character briefs and sketches, and other related notes that will never appear in the final story.  I’ve even been doing this for short stories.  So, a basic and easy-to-read progress bar isn’t a very good tracking mechanism for publicly reporting my writing progress.

So, I’ve noticed some writers report their daily wordcount totals in daily blog posts.  But I don’t update my blog daily – I set total weekly blog content goals, but I haven’t focused on daily blog goals nor any particular schedule – and I don’t think it would be terribly helpful to start throwing up daily posts for the sole purpose of reporting wordcount totals… it would clutter up my blog with posts containing very little meaningful content.

So far, what I’ve done is include an extra line of text below my progress bar indicating actual words written.  But… I feel like that’s perhaps an inelegant approach (not the least of which because it’s harder

So, dear readers, if you publicly report your wordcount totals, how do you do it?  How have other writers you’ve followed done it?  What advice would you give to someone (i.e. me) who was contemplating different methods of reporting their writing progress?

(For the record, I wrote a total of 463 words last night on my short “Story of G” – all background notes on characters.)

A Farewell, Hieing for New Opportunities

I’ve mentioned here before that I am near the end of my MBA.  In fact, my last class was last week, and all that remains now is to collect my sheepskin.

Getting an MBA was always about how best to provide for my family, how best to take my career in a direction that would allow me to be the best father I could be.

That means a lot of things, to me.  But one thing I have known it would mean, most probably, is a change in employment.

Friday past was my last day at my previous employer.  Yesterday was the first day with a new employer, and a new post-MBA career.   It was difficult to make this decision.  On one hand I knew I needed to make a career transition in order better to provide for my family – both now and in the future.  On the other, I was working with a great team of folks – including a boss who’d lent me his own copy of The Silmarillion to read.  (I didn’t quite finish it before I had to give it back on Friday.)  It’s difficult to part ways with a team where you feel welcomed – especially when your boss is a fantasy reader and you happen to be a fantasy reader and writer yourself. 

But my family comes first.  And so I made the best decision I could.

I’m very excited for the new career prospects ahead of me.  It should allow me to take the skills I’ve developed – both those in my career and some of those in my MBA – and apply them in a new and interesting way.  I’m really looking forward to the new opportunity.  It’s really going to be a fun job.  And while I try not to disclose too much about the companies I work for, I can tell you this: there is a non-zero chance that you – yes you – will enjoy the benefits of my handiwork in the coming year, based on this new job.  That’s what’s really exciting about it: clear and direct results that I can trace directly to what I do.

Of course, that does mean there’s going to be a bit of a transition period for me.  So I won’t be able to say for sure whether I can settle on a regular blogging schedule until I have a better feel for the work-load and balance with this new direction of my career.  That’s just a potential caveat to you regular and regular-ish readers.  (No, the blog isn’t going away, that’s not what the “Farewell” in the title refers to.)

So, it’s an exciting time for me.  I’m really looking forward to where things go from here.

Whatever happens next, though, one thing is for sure: I’ll still be writing.

At the Feet of Masters: The Writing Track at JordanCon 2011 (Part 3 of 3)

Wherein I shall conclude the elucidation of the mysteries revealed unto me whilst attending the Writing Track at JordanCon 2011Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Today’s post will conclude with my thoughts on the last two panels, including the marquee “JordanCon’s Got Talent”, and I’ll wrap up with my main take-away lesson from this whole experience.

Rewriting History

This was the panel that was probably of least interest to me – primarily because I write very little alternate history.  It was still an enjoyable panel – with a fun discussion about whether or not it’s okay to write historically real people in such a way as to portray them very differently than what we understand to be the historical truth of those people.  Can you, for instance, write a story in which Abraham Lincoln is a lying bastard?  Is that any worse than writing a story in which Abraham Lincoln is a Vampire Hunter?  If so, why?

We never really answered the question definitively.  But it was an enjoyable aside.  I sort of came away from this part thinking of alternate histories as “fan fiction for real-world history”…

For my part, I did ask a question in this panel: this time in reference to my story, “PFTETD”.  When I had my first rewritten draft out to readers (all two of them) in early 2010, the feedback I got was strangely consistent: the readers were intrigued by the world I had created.  The world was, basically, real world modern-day but with a certain fantastical element inserted, which element has been with humanity for all of its history.  Sort of the basic premise of half of urban fantasy.  (Although, I don’t consider it an urban fantasy – there’s no “urban” to it, as it takes place in a rural setting – so I call it “contemporary fantasy” instead, meaning it takes place in a contemporary setting.  At least Wikipedia recognizes that as the genre in which Urban Fantasy is contained, but I rarely see reference to it out in the wild.)  What my readers wanted was to see more of this world, and learn more about how this fantastical element has changed the course of human history, making this world simultaneously familiar and different.

Except, the problem was, this was meant to be a short story that had already ballooned to novelette length. Continue reading

At the Feet of Masters: The Writing Track at JordanCon 2011 (Part 2 of 3)

Wherein I shall continue to elucidate the mysteries revealed unto me whilst attending the Writing Track at JordanCon 2011Part 1 here.  Part 3 forthcoming.

Today I’m going to continue sharing my experiences and thoughts on the various Writing Track panels I attended.  I attended all of them, though some of them I was a little late to, for various reasons.  Saturday had already been off to a great start, but then I was ambushed by Lunch Time.

Keeping a Long Series Fresh

Jana Oliver headlined the next panel, after Saturday’s lunch, to which I was late.  She advocated keeping a “story bible” to keep all the details and events straight when working on a long series – “because otherwise you will forget important details”.  This was something I was already doing, thankfully.  I have a story bible for “Project SOA”, and I’ve recently started working on one for “Book of M”.  What goes in the story bible: a bit of everything.  Descriptions of the character both physical and internal, notes about the history of the world, geography, the plot outline – you name it, I’ll put an entry for it in the project bible.  Right now the bible for “Book of M” is in its nascency, with only a handful of unfinished entries.  I’ve mentioned my project bible before, I believe, and I won’t go into too much detail about it for now.

The purpose of the bible, as she explained it, was to help keep everything straight.  But  you could also keep new notes and bits of inspiration there as you happen upon them, to help you inject some of that much-needed freshness. Continue reading

At the Feet of Masters: The Writing Track at JordanCon 2011 (Part 1 of 3)

Wherein I share and elucidate the mysteries revealed unto me whilst attending the Writing Track at JordanCon 2011.

The main panelists for the writing track were Guest of Honor David B. Coe, Eugie Foster, Jana Oliver, and Brandon Sanderson.  (The details of who taught what are in my blow-by-blow account linked above.)  Attending the writing track was definitely valuable for me, as an aspiring fantasy author.  But what was surprising, in some ways, was how little I learned about the craft of writing as compared to what else I learned by attending these panels. 

Which is not to say I didn’t learn quite a lot about writing during these panels.  I suppose I was expecting to learn more about the craft.  But what I did learn, I believe, will be enough to push me up another level – or so I hope.  But let me save the big, revelatory take-aways for the end, and let’s start with an account of what I learned along the way.  Which is a long account, so expect this to go on for several posts – this is considerably more detailed and thorough than my pictorial blow-by-blow.

Writing for Younger Readers

The first bit of craft advice I learned when I ducked into the Writing for Young Readers panel a little late.  The panelists agreed that you should write your protagonist at an age one or two years older than your target audience – specifically when targeting younger readers.  This is because younger readers are aspirational – they are interested in what people older than they are think and do.  However, the older YA readers tend to read more and more like adults, so the lines get blurred considerably.  They also pointed out that mushy stuff like romance: kids totally go in for that, whatever you may think.  Yes, even the boys.  Continue reading

Tricksy Halfling!

I’m still working through my notes from JordanCon and writing up a post on what I learned there.  There’s a lot more to write up about it than I anticipated.  In the mean time, since I haven’t talked about B.T. lately, I thought I’d share this little tidbit.

So, B.T. is walking these days.  Sort of, at least.  He’s been doing it for a little while already.  He can take a few steps on his own – sometimes this happens when he’s not thinking about it but lately he’s actually been putting thought into the decision to go it alone.  But usually, he likes to hold mommy or daddy’s finger (especially daddy’s, it seems like – as Dear Wife says, he knows who the sucker is) while he goes on his little walking romps. 

He also eats these little puffs.  They’re his favorite food.  And we’ve been teaching him some simple signs to ask for what he wants.  One of those is the “food” sign, which is basically just pointing to the mouth – easy, right?  So he’s been picking up on these. 

This morning, as Dear Wife and I were getting ready for the day, we thought we’d keep him mollified by asking him if he wanted some puffs.  It’s easier to feed him puffs than to have him hang on our fingers and walk around the house (which is what he’d usually really like to do first thing in the morning; and also pretty much all of the rest of the time, too).  He responded to Dear Wife’s signs by signing that he wanted food then pointing to the puff, so she let him have the puff.  Success!

Then Dear Wife had to go do something else to get ready.  Daddy’s turn.  I ask him if he wants a puff, and sign “food”.  He signs food and points to the puff, so I lean down to let him take the puff and eat it.  But he had other plans!

Within seconds he’s grabbed my finger and pulled himself to standing, and in no time at all we’re walking around the kitchen.  I’d been fooled, pulled in my his ruse of wanting something to eat when what he really wanted was to walk.  And once B.T. gets walking, there’s no slowing him down.   Resigned to my fate, I walk around with him for a while, the task of packing my lunch abandoned, temporarily.

One would think that maybe it’s a little early to be worried about a tricky little toddler – that surely at this age he can’t be that devious.  I am here to tell you: do not be lulled into a false sense of security. They’re watching you.  They know where you live.  And when you least expect it, they will strike!

JordanCon 2011 – A Pictorial Blow-by-blow

Well, JordanCon was certainly a fun time.  I definitely recommend attending a con to other budding speculative fiction writers – if for no other reason than the fact that you will enjoy yourself!

The jungle in the hotel lobby where JordanCon III was held

The jungle in the hotel lobby where JordanCon III was held

Before I go into detail about what I learned about writing during this convention, I wanted to do a short recap of what I did – complete with pictures!  (Alas, I am in none of the pictures, as I always faced my camera away from myself, not thinking that it would be good to be in them.)

The hotel where JordanCon was held this year was pretty swanky.  As evidence of my assertion I offer a picture of the hotel lobby.  I’ve been in a few very nice hotels before.  None of them have had a jungle in their lobbies.  This is my new measure of what it means to be a swanky hotel.  Obviously, it impressed me enough to warrant taking a picture, and I offer this in lieu of a “view from the hotel room”.

Signing with Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal at JordanCon 2011

Signing with Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal at JordanCon 2011

My first stop on Friday was a signing with author Brandon Sanderson and editor Harriet McDougal.  Brandon Sanderson, as most by now know, is the author chosen to finish highly popular “The Wheel of Time” series that was begun by Robert Jordan but left unfinished by his untimely passing.  Harriet was his editor at Tor Books, and his wife.  Brandon has done a fantastic job with the final volumes in Jordan’s books.  And of course, in part thanks to this assignment and in part thanks to his own talents and skills, Brandon has become one of the Big Names in the field of fantasy fiction – especially Epic Fantasy, of course. Continue reading

Time is Not Kind

Well… I had a look at my printed copy of “PFTETD”.  It’s pretty eye-opening to give the story a bit of a read after some four months or more of separation.

I still believe this is probably the best story I’ve written yet.  Still, it is flawed.  Right from the get-go, I can see it now.  The opening drags just a little slowly.  The language is occasionally awkward even after several drafts.  There are still some characterization issues.

I’m not sure how I would fix these problems.  I haven’t actually read it all the way through, just the first few pages, so I’m sure there would be more problems revealed with a more complete read-through.

It’s a good story.  But it’s not a good story.  You know, like, really good.  I knew it wasn’t great, but I thought it was really good.  Instead, just as Westley wasn’t all dead, he was just mostly dead (sorry for the spoiler, folks, but there’s a bit of a statute of limitations on classics like these), the story isn’t all good, it’s just mostly good.

So, you know… I might actually learn a thing or two at JordanCon by workshopping this.