Writing Progress: Week Ending July 28, 2012

On the upside… at least I didn’t write nothing:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 271 words

Grand Total: 271 words

There’s a lot of work left to do on the Home Project Phase III, to be sure.  But last week Dear Wife and I were feeling stretched pretty thin, I think.  So I did end up spending some time writing – writing may be work, but these days it’s my primary leisure activity.  That exhaustion continued, but potential writing time was eaten up by working on Home Project stuff through the exhaustion, or collapsing in front of the Olympics, and such.

With the little time I did spend writing, I probably could have written more, if I had been writing new material.  Instead, the weeks of non-writing allowed Editor-Head to kick into gear, and I started thinking about some of the plot holes and problems I’d left in the current draft.  So I was patching holes (and incrementing some of what I’ve written up from First Draft to Second Draft).   That involves more re-reading, finding the best spots to patch holes, adding new material to form the patch and sometimes deleting material that’s incompatible with the patch.

I know I shouldn’t be editing at this stage.  But I feel better about continuing knowing that I’ve fixed some obvious problems with the first draft.

Incidental to this, I’ve been thinking about drafting in a more general sense.   I don’t have a ton of history of completed material to consider in how my drafting process works, or if I have a process in the first place.  But I’m imagining this novel going this way:

  1. Start with the first draft – getting the raw words of the story on the page.
  2. Next comes the author-driven plot-hole clean-up.
  3. The third draft would ostensibly come after an Alpha read, and involve consideration of Alpha reader comments focused especially on the further clean-up of plot holes, story flow, pacing, characterization and other grand-scale details.
  4. The fourth draft, in my mind, would be focused on my use of language; which I believe is in need of some serious polish. This is where I intend to focus on my authorial style, waxing hopefully more poetic and lyrical where possible and where desireable.

After that, who knows?  If I were a lucky writer, I’d have a group of willing Beta readers ready to take a crack at it, who can comment further on my language, story, pacing, etc. to help me gauge how successful my fixes in drafts 3 and 4 were.  But I’m not anticipating that being the case.  As a relatively poor contributor of critiques for my fellow writers (whether of the Alpha or Beta variety), I don’t really feel as though it’s fair for me to keep going back to the well for this.   Not if I’m not able to give as good as I can get.  And right now… I don’t think that I can.  (In fact, in terms of pure fairness, I don’t think I can honestly ask for Alpha readers, so the proposed Third Draft above is a bit of a reach.)  On the plus side?  It’s certainly a feasible idea, however remote, that by the time I’m actually done with my first and second drafts that I’ll be in a better position to supply critiques as well as consume them.

But that’s where my thoughts are as I tinker around second-drafting some parts of “Book of M”.

So how was your week in writing?


John Scalzi’s thoughts on Geekdom are wise and true. There’s really nothing I can say or add to it, but I wanted to share it.


(Adding this note in late 2019: It should be noted that the subject of this piece, Joe Peacock, has over the years changed his position from what I’m responding to here to one more encompassing and welcoming. I don’t think it’s especially fair of me to occasionally point to this piece without noting that. Take the piece as a snapshot of a moment of time, and be aware that people can change their minds and attitudes over time — JS)


The other day CNN let some dude named Joe Peacockvomit up an embarrassing piece on its Web site, about how how awful it is that geekdom is in the process of being overrun by attractive women dressing up in costumes (“cosplaying,” for the uninitiated) when they haven’t displayed their geek cred to Mr. Peacock’s personal satisfaction. They weren’t real geeks, Mr. Peacock maintains — he makes…

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Links to Chew On: Invisible People, Fairy Tales, Kings & Queens

  • Tobias Buckell revels in “All the Possibilities“: in which he links to a post that looks forward to a future in which not just one or another of the various publishing options has survived (and the others perished), but in which many options continue to thrive, affording authors with more choices, to the betterment of all writers.  This is the kind of positive message I keep hoping for.
  • Style is the Rocket” is a well-written essay that deconstructs the opposing views regarding the style and substance of a story.  The essay is a response in part to an article by Steve Wasserman in the Nation about the various evils of Amazon (which itself is a contentious topic) in which he takes time out to rip genre readers:

…In certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.

A number of other authors have disagreed with Wasserman’s poorly-executed schoolyard bully taunt on various merits, but the Superversive essay comes at it from a different angle.  Simon’s essay simultaneously pillories the modern American “literary” tradition of extolling the virtues of substance-less novels written in a  high style and those genre-writers who focus solely on the story and for whom prose style is a dead-weight.   Leaving aside Simon’s rather bizarre and non sequitur-like political attack on strawman “academic liberals” that really doesn’t add to the content of the essay in any substantive way… if you can get past that little quibble then this essay is a pretty strong argument in favor of both advanced literary style and the substance and story and plotting of the best genre fiction.

  • The Invisible People” is a nice post about worldbuilding the perspective of people who are outside the prime narrative – that is to say, including details in your story that attest to the reality not only of your protagonists, but of the people who make the world work.  I’ve tried taking a somewhat similar, or at least parallel, course in some aspects of the worldbuilding for my current WIP, “Book of M”, in that some characters are, in fact, those typically “invisible” people.  In point of fact, contemplating the questions posed in this post has forced me to rethink, again, the opening chapters and the life-and-times of my primary protagonist.
  • The Significance of Plot Without Conflict” contrasts different cultural concepts of “Plot”: on one-hand Plots with Conflict (which are de rigeur in our culture) versus a form of Plot without Conflict.  This essay focuses on a form of plot without conflict from a Japanese literary tradition called Kishotenketsu, and illustrates it beautifully by constrasting two different, simple four-panel comics.
  •  Mary Robinette Kowal talks about outlines; she advises that they (allegedly) do not have to be perfect.
  • And here’s Mary Robinette Kowal again, talking about something I don’t have to waste many brain cells on any time soon: whether or not to have a Book Launch Party, and if so what to think about to make it run smoothly.  Being firmly on the “aspiring” side of the great author divide, I can only pretend to understand how challenging this must be for an author launching a book for the first time.
  • Once Upon a Time: The Lure of the Fairy Tale” is an interesting article looking at the history of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, worth reading if such things interest you.
  • A recent SF Signal “Mind Meld” was on “Monarchies in Fantasy“.  As I’ve recently been discussing the tropes and archetypes of Epic Fantasy, I found this link very interesting.  It goes very in-depth on a specific trope of Epic Fantasy: namely the prevalence of Monarchical governing systems – Kings and Queens – in fantasy stories.  What emerges from this discussion, I think, is a reflection of my own thinking in “Epic Fantasy: Archetypes and Window Dressing“, in which I find that some tropes and archetypes can be used both well and poorly.  There are real and good reasons to want to utilize the Monarchy trope in your fantasy fiction – Yves Menard strikes closest to mirroring my own thinking that there are emotional resonances in the idea of a Monarchy that map very well to the headspace of most people regarding to our relationships with our parents and with authority more generally.  But it is often a choice made without any thinking at all: the use of a Monarchy simply because it’s a familiar trope of fantasy.  That’s my “window dressing”: a trope that evokes certain aesthetics of fantasy without expressing any deeper meaning or emotional resonance.  This one’s well worth the read for more depth and detail on this particular, classic fantasy trope.
  • More news on the evolving ebook market, for those that read everything on the subject, as I sometimes do
  • Scrivener’s Error comments on further developments in the DOJ Antitrust action against those publishers accused of colluding: 
  • Writers Beware comments on Penguin’s acquisition of notorious aspiring-author-leech “Author Solutions”, a company which has a reputation for screwing over authors with its questionable vanity press style “services”
  • Did the Bard Speak American” is a fascinating story about how British English pronounciation has changed over time, and about how Shakespearian English as pronounced in his day (i.e. “Original Pronounciation”) sounds more like American English than it does modern British English (called “Received Pronounciation”).  One fascinating tidbit: Shakespeare’s Original Pronounciation has shades and sounds reminiscent not only of American English, but also of typical Irish English pronounciations and Australian English pronounciations.  In other words, Shakespeare’s English is truly the mother-tongue of all variations of modern English.

Writing Progress: Week Ending July 21, 2012

Hard work and exhaustion has kept me away, of late:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

As expected, last week’s wordcount was not spectacular.  By which I mean there was no wordcount.  Yes, it was Home Project Phase III again.
The Home Project was less physically intense last week, but still demanding of time.  As a comparison… the week prior Dear Wife and I both had to take a day off from work due to the Home Project.  Last week we didn’t take a day off, but our free time in the evenings (when we weren’t just too exhausted to keep working) was largely absorbed by Home Project Phase III.

And at the end of the week, to the surprise of none, I hadn’t done any writing.  We’ll see about this week.  There’s still so much left to do that I’m not really hopeful.  But we’ve already accomplished a lot on the Home Project, so maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

How was your week?

Epic Fantasy: Archetypes & Window Dressing

A couple months ago I posted a short essay in which I began examining the ideas and archetypes that are particular to the Epic Fantasy genre.  This is important to me, because while Epic Fantasy is my first and primary literary love, I don’t want to write in it simply out of habit: I want to make the choice of writing Epic Fantasy an informed and intentional choice.

In the essay, titled “Post-Tolkien Fantasy“, I questioned the decision by many latter-day “Post-Tolkienists” to eschew the common tropes, archetypes, and aesthetic trappings of Tolkienesque-flavored Epic Fantasy, and I questioned my own relationship with those same tropes and archetypes.

My purpose was to point out that neither Tolkienesque Epic Fantasy nor Post-Tolkien Epic Fantasy is inherently a superior mode, and that both have potentially valuable aspects as well as potential pitfalls and challenges.

I’d been thinking about the subject, in general, because my current WIP is an Epic Fantasy of the predominantly Post-Tolkien variety: inasmuch as it lacks things like a pseudo-medieval setting, magic swords, dark lords, hidden heirs, and other such archetypes and tropes.  But it was my contention that my WIP is still, despite these things, an Epic Fantasy.

In writing that essay, I referred to some of the common tropes and aesthetic trappings of Tolkienesque Epic Fantasy as “window dressing”.  My contention was that some tropes and trappings add to the aesthetic “flavor” of a given literary work, but don’t fundamentally interact with the core foundational archetypes that constitute the being of Epic Fantasy.  In other words: elves, dwarves, and dragons, knights, kings, and castles – these aren’t foundationally important elements of Epic Fantasy.  Their presence or absence doesn’t make or break an Epic Fantasy.

In referring to these things as “window dressing”, I entered into an exchange of ideas with a pleasantly articulate fellow named Jeff (Confidentially: I found your last name from your LinkedIn profile… but since “Jeff” looks a little like an alias I figured I’d respect that and refer to you just as Jeff) who responded to my article with his essay “My Plea for Philological Fantasy“.  Jeff approaches the topic from an angle decidedly more in favor of Tolkienesque Fantasy – a choice that I can’t disagree with.  At the same time, it’s clear that he doesn’t advocate for this choice based solely on an appreciation for the aesthetics of a Tolkien-like fantasy.  Continue reading

Writing Progress: Week Ending July 14, 2012

Hard work and exhaustion has kept me away, of late:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Idea Journal:

  • New Story Idea Notes: 0

Grand Total: 0 words

Yeah.  Home Project Phase III kicked into high gear this past week, and especially over the weekend.  The  hardest part of Phase III sort of came to an end on Monday, but Phase III itself isn’t over.  Dear Wife and I will continue putting in a lot of time on Phase III at least over the next few weeks.  So I expect my wordcount to stay depressed over that time.  I’m not sure exactly how long we’re looking at before Phase III is totally done.  I guess that depends on how things go as we continue to work at it.


So that’s me.  How was your writing?

Here But Busy

I’m alive, I’m around, but I’m busy.  Between the Home Project Phase III, which has hit hard this week, and some busy days with an interesting project on the Day Job (which has eaten up most of my usual “lunch breaks”)… I just  haven’t had time to write up an interesting blog post.

I’ve got a couple short essays in the works, at least one of which should hopefully debut next week.  Depending.  Home Project Phase III will continue in relentless busyness into at least early next week… after which it should slow down.