Writing Progress: Week Ending July 30, 2011

A very decent week of writing; I definitely can’t complain about these stats:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 0 words  (First draft was finished last week!)
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 4,382 words

Grand Total: 4,382 words

The story this week was all “Book of M”.  And not a bad week.  I’m still in the background notes phase of the project.  As I’ve described before, this step, for me, is a pretty lengthy stage of the process, and there’s a lot that goes into it.  The vast majority of what I wrote makes up part of a narrative history of the world this story takes place in – all the wars and Empire and Kingdoms and great deeds and so on that make up everything that comes before.  You know, the part that makes it “epic”. 

What’s great is that the work I’ve done this week has really amped up the enthusiasm quotient a couple notches.  Not that I wasn’t enthusiastic about this story before.  But mostly, until now, I’ve had a basic framework of the plot in my head, and a handful of major characters with whom I was vaguely familiar.  But now, as I fill out its history, the world is coming alive for me.  It makes me excited to get through the history so I can start in on the story proper.

Of course, there are a couple other things I’ll need to do after finishing that history before starting the main part of the story – including finishing the character bios for all the major characters as well as setting down my outline for the book.  But working on the history gives me a feeling of momentum.  And that’s a good feeling.

Combine that with a much better-than-average week, wordcount-wise, and I’m feeling pretty good about this week past – and I’m looking forward to the week ahead.

So, how was your writing week?

Worldbuilding & Relevance

I’ve been doing a good amount of writing this week so far (we’ll see how things go in my weekly writing recap).  Since finishing the first draft of the short story I’m working on, all of my wordcount has been on worldbuilding for “The Book of M”.  And so I got to thinking about the subject of worldbuilding this week.

As I’ve reported previously, the topic of worldbuilding came up during author Brandon Sanderson’s Fantasy Writing Crash Course Q&A at JordanCon 2011.  The relevant question related to avoiding “Worldbuilder’s Disease”.  If you lean toward the “Planner” end of the Planning-Pantsing spectrum (or we can call it the “Architect” end of the “Architect-Gardener spectrum”), you likely know what that means: endlessly tooling around with the background world details – the history, the magic system, the cosmologies and religions, the languages, and so on – without ever reaching an end-point and saying “I have enough now to write the actual book”.  It’s really quite common, and I’ve felt that urge.  Brandon’s advice was to focus on the key elements of the conflict of your story, and worldbuild out from there.  As your worldbuilding gets less and less relevant to the conflict and the plot, you stop worldbuilding and focus on writing the story.

What, then, is relevant?  How do you find that line where the worldbuilding you’re doing becomes irrelevant? Continue reading

More “Boys vs. Girls”, Fewer Books from Borders…

Apropos of my Friday post about audience gender in Speculative Fiction, I came across this today: an article about Joanne Rowling’s mega-successful “Hermione Granger” series

Now, I’m a fan of the Harry Potter series, and I’m also a believer in egalitarian ideals.  So I get where this article is going.  Essentially, it is critiquing not Harry Potter but the society that makes it such that in order to meet the goal of “appealing to both genders” the series necessarily had to be about a boy.  I’ll agree, Hermione was easily the most capable character in the book, and I seriously identified more with Hermione and, say, Neville Longbottom than I really did with Harry. I didn’t have a terrible upbringing like Harry.  But I was seriously good in school, and I studied and worked hard throughout.  And it would’ve been cool, I thought, if the hero could’ve been someone who was like me – who was good in school and liked studying and liked knowing things.  Instead, that role went to a supporting cast member.

(Now, Hermione lost me when she went ga-ga-eyed for some dumb jock, i.e. Viktor Krum.)

I disagree with the criticism leveled directly at Harry’s character in that piece, but the general criticism of society is sadly valid. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending July 23, 2011

It wasn’t my best writing week ever, not by far.  But all things considered, I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished.  Here’s how I did:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 368 words
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,548 words

Idea Journal:

  • New Story Idea Notes: 433 words

Grand Total: 2,349 words

Of course, my big accomplishment was finishing the first draft of “Story of G”.  I’m positive I’ll have this story ready to submit to the WotF contest by the close of the current quarter (at the end of September).  My goal from here on out is to continue submitting at least twice a year to that contest until such a day as either I have won it outright or am no longer eligible to enter.  Yeah, I’m aiming for the whole enchilada.  I don’t know that I actually expect to get the whole enchilada, but, well… I like enchiladas. 

In the mean time, I’ve entered my “personal quiet time” for “Story of G”.  I’ve already gotten some feedback, which I’ll look at soon.  But I need a little distance to gain objectivity, so I can edit it with the appropriate level of ruthlessness.  Thanks, everyone, who’s volunteered so far to give it a read!

Finishing the short story, however, was a given this week.  I was just so close that I barely needed any time at all to do it.  Considering everything else, though, I’m surprised I got as much other writing done. Continue reading

Boys vs. Girls: The Audience of Speculative Fiction

So, earlier this week, I wrapped the first draft of “Story of G”, and I put out a call hoping for some beta readers to provide some feedback.

I was extremely gratified by the response.  Besides my Dear Wife, I’ve got three others currently reading, and anticipate another one or two readers after that.  That’s a much better feedback response than I got with “PFTETD” last year.  Then, besides my Wife, I had a grand total of 2 readers before I went to final edits before submitting the piece.  But I noticed something curious this time around: all my latest beta readers are ladies.

That observation reminded me of this post by author Blake Charlton from last year.  In it, he asks whether the market for speculative fiction books has shifted to cater overwhelmingly, perhaps exclusively, to girls over boys.  I had wanted to blog about that, when I read it, but I guess I never quite felt up to the challenge.  It is a charged and sensitive topic.  In noticing now, however, a shift in my beta readers from all-boys to all-girls a year later, I feel compelled to consider the issue a little more.  I’m delving into some politically choppy waters here, and I know going in that I won’t arrive at any firm conclusions, but I’m very interested to explore issues like this. 

As a writer, I write first out of my own interest and love of speculative fiction – that is to say, I write to entertain myself.  But secondly, I write to be read by others.  Whether those others who read my work will be predominately female, male, or some more equitable mix of the genders will potentially matter to me, especially if the demands and tastes of the one gender group turn out to be very different from those of the other, in which case the question of how best to meet those different demands and tastes in my work becomes quite pertinent.

To dispense with the obvious: I am a boy.  Well, a boy of the somewhat grown-upish variety, but a boy nonetheless.  And I read (and write) speculative fiction – particularly of the Fantasy variety (though “Story of G” is not strictly Fantasy). Continue reading

“The Story of G” First Draft: Complete

Yesterday evening I finished a rough draft of my new short story, “The Story of G”.  As I’ve mentioned here before, “The Story of G” is my follow-up to last year’s Writers of the Future Honorable Mention “PFTETD”.  (I mean follow-up as in it’s my next short story and next potential entry into the WotF contest.)

“The Story of G” is not the actual title.  I’m not indicating what the real title is, yet, because I still haven’t decided on it.  That’s one of the bits of feedback I’ll be looking for from first readers (I have a few options I am mulling).

Dear Wife has already read it.  She says she likes it better than “PFTETD”.  That’s encouraging news.  There are some caveats, of course, but I won’t publicly share the specifics of her feedback – in part because the specifics of feedback are a private matter, and in part because I don’t want to taint future beta readers.

So… if you’re got a little free time and don’t mind lending a helping hand, I’m looking for beta readers to provide a little feedback.  It’s a fairly short story – a little under 8,000 words, which is quite a bit longer than my target of 6,000 words, but it’s still not terribly long.  Let me know if you’d be willing to help.  I’ll try to make myself available for beta reads and feedback in return.

Thanks everyone!

Where the Writing Things Are

Early this week I was supposed to finish writing “Story of G”.  Instead, our latest Netflix DVD came in the mail, and Dear Wife and I decided to sit down and watch “Where the Wild Things Are” together.  Doubtless you will see this decision reflected in my weekly writing progress recap.

I have to say, “Where the Wild Things Are” touched me deeply, at an emotional level.  And it made me think – about myself, my history, and my writing.

Let me clarify this: I am not writing a review of “Where the Wild Things Are”.  Although, if I had to, I’d give the film an “A” (but not an “A+”).  But I am going to reference the film, and so this may be a little spoilery if you haven’t seen it (it came out in late 2009 so there the statute of limitations has passed). 

“Where the Wild Things Are” is not a movie for children – certainly children can watch it, as there is nothing offensive or truly terrifying or too mature in the movie, but they may be unlikely fully to grasp, and especially to appreciate, the movie for what it is, even if it is based on a famous children’s picture book.  The director, Spike Jonze, is quoted as saying it is a movie “about childhood”.  That’s true – it is about childhood, as seen through the refractive glass of adult introspection – but it is about something more than that.  It’s about our relationships to one-another, our emotions, and how we sometimes let the strongest of those emotions harm the relationships we have with those we love most.  It’s about loneliness and the pain of separation and loss.  It’s about existential angst, primal fear.  And it’s about the stories we tell ourselves, the inner lives we invent, to cope with it all.

In that latter way, it’s about being a writer. Continue reading

The Writing Life & The Writer’s Living

Recently, author John Scalzi blogged a link to an article about a fantasy writer, Steph Swainston, who was putting her successful writing career on an apparently indefinite hiatus in order to pursue a career as a chemistry teacher.

I was fascinated by the Independent article that features Swainston and her decision to put writing behind her and change careers.  In it she lists a few of the troubles she faced as a writer – turning her story of success into a cautionary tale.  Some of her complaints: the inwardness of writing that leads to a lack of outside, external, non-writing experience (one funny quote: “Look at Stephen King. All his characters seem to be writers.”); the loneliness of the solitary writer’s life, the trouble interacting with fans, the book-a-year publishing machine (where authors are expected to churn out a new book every year), and the outsourcing of publicity and promotion to the writer.

Any of those might be fair complaints.  And they wouldn’t be the only ones.  One entirely not-unfair complaint I’ve oft heard: the miserly compensation.  An author cannot simply be an author in this day-and-age.  Unless you live someplace with no cost of living and are as healthy as an Undying God, the average income attainable solely from writing novels and short stories is nothing to base a household’s finances on – unless you are somewhat more successful than average.  Of course, if you’re average or lower, you’ll eventually be dropped by your publisher, more than likely – which is why Ms. Swainston had the opportunity instead to withdraw from the industry of her own volition and choosing, as she was apparently somewhat more successful than average.

What’s fascinating, of course, is the contrary version of the typical writer’s story.  It goes: yeah, there’s some stuff about being a writer that sucks.  But you do it anyway because it’s worth it.  Or: Crappy pay doesn’t bother me because I’d write even if I didn’t get paid (in the case of yours truly, presently, this is very much true, seeing as I don’t get paid). And so on.  But here is a writer who has decided, after having lived the dream, that no, it is not worth it. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending July 16, 2011

Another almost-average week…  Here are my stats:

Story of G:

  • New Draft Wordcount: 1,476
  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 284 words

Grand Total: 1,760 words

I basically didn’t work on “The Bookof M” at all this week – at least not in a way that can be tracked by wordcount.  I did a few sketches to help me get an idea of how an important part of the setting look.  I had been considering using Google’s SketchUp to attempt to do something of a floor plan of one important environment – but I think if I go down that path I’ll very quickly get lost in playing with a new toy, having fun, and not making much writing progress.  It’s very tempting to try it anyway.  But, for now, I will resist. Continue reading

Ready for Google+?

I haven’t been invited yet.  So I’m not yet on the hot-new-thing in Social Networking.

But this NYT review of Google+ makes it sound very interesting – in that it corrects for many of the problems and things that are wrong with Facebook.

That makes me more curious, and interested… I can see this as being a very good thing.  I hope WordPress integration comes shortly after it goes wide – if I start using Google+ at some point, I’m sure I’ll want to integrate my blog readership with this new service.

Anyone already been invited who can share their perspective?