Have a Very Scary Halloween

Scary Crow (c) 2008 by ladybugbkt on flickr

Scary Crow (c) 2008 by ladybugbkt on flickr

 Because everyone needs a good scary Halloween

Take the day off.

You deserve it.

Writing Progress: Week Ending October 29, 2011

This was a better week than I’d originally planned or expected, writing-wise:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,259 words

Grand Total: 1,259 words

As I mentioned during the week, Dear Wife and I were working on a house-cleaning and redecorating project, which I’d expected to consume most or all of this week.  But a little before midweek we decided we’d done enough for now, and that we’d postpone some of the clean-up for a later date.  I’m not saying we’ve left the house a total mess (although we appreciate a heads-up before visitors arrive, just so we can tidy-up), but I’m talking about bigger, less-frequent sorts of deep-cleaning type projects.

Anyway, with that no longer taking the majority of my time, I actually had a good opportunity to write later in the week, so there was measurable progress.

I’m still working my way through the background stuff… but I’m feeling really close.  I’ve completed between 75-80% of the “background history”, and this week I passed the 30,000 word mark.  That’s 30,000 words of background notes and history.  Not all of that is the history, but the majority of it is.  So if we call 30,000 words the equivalent of three-quarters mark on this history… that suggests I’ve another 10,000 words or less to go to finish this history.  After that, I’ll next be focusing on character bios, including a few short vignettes in first-person for the major characters.  (The novel itself will be in a third-person-limited.)  And finally I’ll focus on the plot outline.  And then, it’s on to the first draft.

I’ll continue to work on other related background notes as I write the first draft.  The history covers a lot by itself – making reference to nations, religions, political organizations, and other related things.  But there are things that aren’t fully covered in the history, like details about languages (which will influence some of the naming of things in the story) and mythology.  And I’m still working through the magic system and trying to iron it out.  But I don’t need all of that figured out perfectly before I start writing.  The other parts, however, I really feel will help give the story the direction and velocity it needs.

So, I’m feeling pretty good about it all.  How was your writing week?

Tidbits of Inspiration: Pictures of the Post-Apocalyptic… Abandoned Places

Dystopia.  Post-apocalyptica.  Themes from the-end-of-the-world have been a part of genre fiction for a long time.  I’m sure it says something about us, our fascination with our own demise. 

If you’ve been spending any time thinking about the inevitable zombie apocalypse – or maybe the inevitable saurian uprising, or perhaps that’s the inevitable robot rebellion, or the inevitable alien invasion, or what-have-you for inevitable eschatologies – maybe you’ll find some inspiration in this collection of images.

First, there’s these ten abandoned resorts.  I certainly found them evocative and inspirational.  It helps that the book I’m working on has shades of the post-apocalyptic in it.

Equally evocative is this collection of images of modern ruins.  There’s some overlap with the previous list, but a lot of new and eerie sights as well. 


Another Perspective on Amazon as Publisher & Bookseller, Plus a Contrarian View on Disruption in Publishing

I can’t seem to stay away from articles about disruption and disintermediation in the publishing industry, and especially those about Amazon’s role in it.  So here are a few articles of potential interest, and some comments on them.

In “The Trouble With Amazon“, author/publisher/consultant/etc Thad McIlroy opines about Amazon’s recent foray into vertical integration and publishing.  In this article, Thad suggests that the real danger Amazon presents to the publishing industry is not their mucking about in the publisher’s playground, but their bread-and-butter core business of bookselling.  The problem, he suggests, is that Amazon is systematically devaluing books.  His article includes this painfully true zinger:

Writing has become badly debased when a $4.99 e-book is thought overpriced, but people will line up at six in the morning in front of an Apple store to pay $499 for the skinny tablet to read it on.

Thad outlines a number of other problematic practices of Amazon – censorship, remote deletion of books, contrarian e-book format support (and opposition to industry-accepted standards), and so on.  All of these problems boil down to one over-arching concern: market power.

Thad concedes that “Amazon does not have a monopoly on selling e-books”, though it has much of the power of one, and then suggests perhaps Amazon is an “oligopoly”.

This is where I part ways, somewhat, with the article. Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending October 22, 2011

I expected this, but last week was a very poor week, wordcount-wise:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 462 words

Grand Total: 462 words

As I mentioned in a bit of a throwaway line last week, I expected my productivity to take a steep dive for a little while, and this is the realization of that expectation.  I mentioned in that post that I was starting on a a non-writing-related projec that I expected to consume a lot of my time – and it has.

The project is sort of off-topic for this blog, but basically it involves some redecorating, house work, and yard clean-up at the Casa Chez Watkins.  Mundane stuff, but necessary, and time-consuming.  I expect it will consume most or all of my writing time for this week, as well, so I anticipate a similarly low-ball week, writing-wise.

Sometimes life intervenes.  You can’t help that.  You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when it happens.

Life intervenes for me a lot.  And I wonder if I ought to have a more regular or more consistent writing schedule.  Say even if I then only get to write one or two days a week, if that time is set aside, agreed-upon beforehand… would I fare better? Continue reading


There’s an interesting blog series ongoing at Salon.com that I’ve been following (clued into it thanks to a link from Jay Lake‘s link salad).  The series asks people to reconnect with their childhood bullies and to interview them and write about the experience.  It’s called, naturally, “Interview With My Bully“.

The premise is interesting.  It’s the story of the abuser from the perspective of the abused: comparing and contrasting the irrational hatreds of children with the reasonably respectable adults they’ve become.  Only a handful of the Interviews have been posted, yet – but invariably the bullies of childhood eventually evolved into upright, respectable, productive citizens.  What’s particularly interesting is how many of these bullies have forgotten the pain they once inflicted – it’s something that has receded into their memory.  I don’t doubt, though, that the experience of being a bully has deep implications for their adult psychology.

Like a lot of nerdishly-inclined people, I was bullied growing up.  But I’m not a very good candidate for this project.  I have no single, memorable bully that I can point to.  I recall none of their names.  My bullies were mostly semi-anonymous: kids I spent very little time around, except during recess or between classes, times when we were out of the direct eye of a teacher or administrator or other adult.  That was when I was vulnerable. Continue reading

On Productivity

Over the past few months on one writing blog I follow – Magical Words, where a collection of traditionally-published midlist+ fantasy authors blog together about writing and the business – there have been a series of posts admonishing writers to “write fast”.  (For example: here, here, and here.)  The publishing industry is changing, they say, and one consequence is that publishers are demanding more than the typical one-novel-per-year rate that used to be the norm.  You’ve got to write fast, they say, to produce 2 to 3 novels per year, and a handful of short-stories, and so on.

I mused, in one comment to these posts, that as considering what first-time authors typically make on writing (see, for example, Tobias Buckell’s Author Advance Survey)… giving up a day-job to write full time, which is what many of us would have to do to achieve that level of productivity, wouldn’t make economic sense.  Does that disqualify us from this career path?  I don’t know.  Certainly, there are some authors who are still making a writing career work, while holding down a day job and outputting a book every year-or-so.  So the door hasn’t closed on that… yet.

My own personal productivity last week, however, got me thinking about this again.

As I mentioned on my weekly wrap-up, I generated the vast majority of last week’s generally high wordcount on a single day.  To wit: more than 3,500 words that particular day.  I wrote for a total of about 4-and-a-half hours that day.

I noticed something as I wrote that day.  The first hour I sat down to write, I wasn’t terribly productive.  Maybe 500 words, or a little less.  But as I kept writing, my rate of writing got faster, getting up to just north of 1,000 words in an hour before I took a short break.  After the break, my rate started higher than before and went back to that roughly 1,000-words-per-hour.

As I thought about it later, I realized that around 1,000-words-per-hour is my theoretical maximum rate of writing productivity.  I wondered.  What would that mean for me if I could write full time? Continue reading

Le Mot Juste

To that writer who’s searching for just the right word, the proverbial “mot juste“, searching in vain for a word that conveys just the right sense, emotion, thought, or whatever: maybe the problem isn’t you.  Maybe the problem is the language you speak. 

This article on Mental Floss was amusing to me: it contains a short list of useful words from other languages for which there is no direct English equivalent.  My favorites:

  • “Shemomedjamo”, from the Georgian language (i.e. the former Russian satelite, not the U.S. State, which also has it’s own language, y’all*), which refers to when you’re so into whatever you’re eating that you forget to stop when you’re full.  This has happened to me.  On more than one occassion.
  • “Pelinti”, from Buli, Ghana, which is when you put some over-hot food in your mouth and juggle it around with your tongue trying to cool it by blowing through your cheeks.  This has happened to me.  On more than one occassion.  My Dear Wife teases me mercilessly for it.
  • “Tartle”, from Scots, which is what happens when you’re about to introduce someone, but have forgotten their name.  This has happened to me.  I’m a chronic name-forgetter.

And others, just as fun.

It does have one swing-and-a-miss, though.  It defines “Pålegg” from Swedish as sandwich toppings (or “anything… you might consider putting into a sandwich”)… but we do have a word for that in English, it’s called: “condiments”.  It’s not even that rare a word in English.  Traditionally it’s ketchup and mustard and pickles and whatnot.  But in theory it could be… well… anything you might consider putting into a sandwich, isn’t it?

Anyway… for lovers of language, you might want to check it out.  Have fun.



*Note: Georgia, the U.S. State, does not actually have its own language.  Depending on who you’re speaking to, it’s a regional accent, or possibly a dialect.  There are a few non-standard words, phrases, and uses though.  At least in my experience as a non-native Georgian.

Writing Progress: Week Ending October 15, 2011

So I had a really good week, this week:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 5,389 words

Grand Total: 5,389 words

This week ranks among one of my better weeks, writing-wise, and that’s a pretty good feeling.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly enough to finish all of the prep-work I need to do for this novel.  I’ve written between two-thirds to three-quarters of the relevant history of the world this tale takes place in.  I’ve switched to a format that somewhere between outline and narrative to complete the history.  But I’ve still only got a handful of character bios written (like two or three out of something around about a dozen or more), and I still don’t have an outline.

And… most important of all… I don’t have an ending.

I’d been hoping that as I work through the background and other notes, that an ending would make itself obvious to me: something that’s intuitive that ties together all the pieces and elements of the tale (and there are quite a few).  But so far, it hasn’t come to me.  I’m mulling over a couple possible options… but neither excites me.  There are aspects of each that tie different elements together, but leave others completely unconnected.  I want an ending that brings them all together.  And… I guess it’s part of how I work… but the way I’ve always written, I almost always, with rare exception, know the ending before I start. 

Part of the problem, I guess, is that this is conceptually a stand-alone novel… but also one that I want to leave things just open enough that I could write a second to go with it.

Endings are difficult to get right, of course.  So maybe it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Productivity-wise, this was an interesting week.  It was a very good week, as compared to my average.  But the large majority of that productivity was completed on just one day – Sunday last week.  I don’t get opportunities to sit and write uninterrupted for hours at a time very often – but I relish those opportunities when they come.  The crazy ups and downs of productivity this week have given me a lot to think about.  I may talk about that later this week.

Well… that’s pretty much how my week went.  Tell me about yours.

Last Call in the Great E-Book Debate

I’ve written quite a lot in recent weeks about e-b0oks and self-publishing and La Revolucion! (Links abound at the end of the article for those who are painfully interested and didn’t catch them the first time.)

It’s funny.  I don’t even own an e-reader.  The dang things are expensive.  And e-books aren’t really that cheap – unless you want to read $0.99 or $2.99 e-books by no-name self-published folks (which is what this is all about, I guess), whereas I mostly want to read books by authors whose names I know and recognize, whose books I am assured to like.  As I mentioned when I wrote about my “to-read list” (here, here, and relatedly here), I’m not so overflowing with time that I can waste it on an e-book that I may or may not enjoy.  That’s right: the limiting factor isn’t the few bucks an e-book might save.  It’s the time to read them all.

So e-books might be marginally cheaper: but to recoup the cost of an e-reader I’d have to read so many books, and from where I stand there’s simply no way I’ll ever have time to read that many books.  I foresee that I am doomed to die and pass from this mortal life with a to-read list that still piled high.  I’ve blogged about this problem before, with respect to the e-book revolution

So, in some ways, as I talk about e-books it’s a tad hypocritical, or self-serving, or whatever.  I don’t own an e-reader, and I’m not likely to in the short-term at least unless one mysteriously ends up in my lap at no cost to me.  Do I want one?  Oh yes.  I am a geek, after all.  Gadget lust runs in my veins.  But I’m a practical geek.

My interest in e-books and the related digital self-publishing revolution relates mainly to my interest in building a hypothetical career as an author.  (I say hypothetical because it remains to be seen whether I have the chops for it.)  Is self-publishing the right path for me?  That’s a question I’ve struggled to answer – even as I acknowledge that it’s not a question I need to answer for a good long while to come.  Write first.  Worry about publishing later.

Given the facts on the ground, as it were – that being that I have yet no novel to worry about publishing – it would probably behoove me to shut my yap about digital self-publishing, for the time being, wouldn’t it?

Maybe so.  I don’t plan to stop learning about it, though. Continue reading