What I’ve been up to this last week, the glamorless edition

This last week – well, what can I say? Last week I finished the first draft of a novel, and then the tide turned and life came back to normal.

As happy (and proud) as I am for finishing that first draft, a draft in and of itself is nothing. So far, I’ve accomplished putting words down. Good words, bad words, reams of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – at this point, it’s all the same. What needs to happen next is a clean edit and redraft. I need to take my collected notes and go through the novel again and write the fixed version.

Now, however,  is not the time for that. The last week reminded me of that more than ever. In the last seven days we’ve been to a funeral for my Gran, our youngest has broken her foot, and at one point three of us – two of us being the adults – have been down and out with a plague that just kept on giving. On top of all of that, we’re still working through arrangements and item weeding for the move in June. Because no matter what else is going on, the move in June is an immutable, unmoving point in our timestream.  Now is not the time for full immersion diving into a novel again.

My fingers – and brain – disagree. It may take me a few days to a week to get into a writing rhythm, but once I’m there it’s like a perpetual motion machine, demanding to be run and churned all the time. Breaking that rhythm means having to restart the whole chug from 0 again. I hate doing that extra work (hint: lazy), especially since it means I go from days of close to 2k output to days of 200 words. It’s not all about the word count, mind you, but the word count is a good indicator of progress and enthusiasm.

So for the time being, at least until the end of the summer, my writing plan is as follows:

  1. Use my new package of Field Notes to track novel ideas, edits, plot changes, etc. (along with everything else in life that I note). Probably better as a topic for another post, but I recently took the plunge and traded in my moleskeine addiction (often incompletely filled, mixed paper quality, but such nice binding) for Field Notes (consistently great paper, stapled, but durable).
  2. Work on cleaning up my short stories. Before I started working on the latest novel project, I wrote a bunch of short stories and stuffed them in a drawer to incubate. Time to clean these up, hatch them, and send them out to bite some editors.
  3. Keep writing every day if possible. I’ve been all over the map on this topic, I know. I recognize that even with the best intentions, I can’t maintain a writing habit every day (I might should mention that part of being sick? 2 day coma. Seriously. Surprised the kids didn’t call an ambulance.) But ideals aren’t about achieving, they’re about striving for something, improving yourself in the process. I know I can’t make the goal, but I’d like to try. It’s taken me a while, but I think I’m finally coming around to Jamie Rubin’s way of thinking on this, and I appreciate the work he’s done in automating progress tracking even more. If the system is automated and seamless, then it imposes no extra burden to monitor you’re writing and just becomes a background metric you can look to for inspiration.

This week, before the coma, I did manage to kickstart this. I took a story, dusted it off, wrapped it up, and sent it to Asimov’s. The rejection came in this morning, a form rejection (I know because I have copies of the same letter from past submissions), with one difference – no form tag line, but Sheila Williams‘ signature block instead. Probably just a sign of Asimov’s poor slush readers were trying to be nice, but I’d like to take it as a secret code that maybe the form letter was sincere. Of course, as soon as I sent the story out I realized I’d failed to sew together something in the plot like I’d intended, so I’m rewriting it before I send it elsewhere. But, it’s a start!

So now what do you do?

At my office holiday party this past winter, I had the opportunity to try Bundaberg Root Beer. I didn’t realize it was an import root beer (from Australia), all I knew was that I was in love.

Fast forward a month or two, and I am working on the latest novel. I mentioned before that I had foolheartily targeted my birthday as a great date for trying to finish the novel by (I missed it, in case you were wondering). Having a little money in the bank, I decided to order myself a birthday present/reward for finishing the novel. I’d get myself some root beer.

The first thing to note is that it only comes in packs of four. Second is that among my children, those that like root beer love this stuff. I had to ration it out quickly (at, as it turns out, almost $4 a bottle). This isn’t a throwback root beer, its a celebrate a milestone beer.

Today, I finally got to open that last bottle. If you don’t follow me on twitter or facebook (and why should you? 🙂 ), I finished the first draft this morning. I originally targeted my birthday, with a conservative estimate of 60-70k, which is my usual draft length.

Instead, I finished this morning, two weeks late and at 90k. I’d like to think that extra 20-30k makes up for being a little late, no? And yes, if you look closely in the original picture (click the image to follow), you can almost make out the words of the last page of the novel. Hoozah!

For those not bored with the process already, the next steps involve rereading, revising, editing, sharing with beta readers, then slapping it around a little and coming up with a synopsis as I try to shop it around. Failing that, I’ll probably throw it up on Amazon. While not my usual type of fiction (horror-ish?), it was a lot of fun to write.


With math, I can justify anything!

Brigantine Amazon entering Marseilles in Novem...
Brigantine Amazon entering Marseilles in November 1861. She was later renamed Mary Celeste, as which she became the well-known ghost ship. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As background, my current writing project tackles the question of mysterious disappearances – sort of. Mostly, its a SyFy Channel treatment of the subject, so future readers shouldn’t get their hopes up for deep discussions (it’s a creature feature story, and I must admit I’m having a lot of fun writing it). But out of curiosity, I did some simple math today, and found this…intriguing pattern.

If you take the difference of these two dates (the 1586 is a bit of a fudge – the colony was out of contact for three years, so it could have happened any time in that time frame), you get 286 years apart. Now these were just the two that popped into mind, and being curious if I could force a pattern out of this, I divided that number in two and got 143 years (under the assumption it happened more often, and because this first answer didn’t quite help me)(I’m writing fiction, I get to make the facts fit!). And 1872 + 143 = 2015!

So, assuming a cycle as long as 143 years (but maybe only 70 something!), we can expect another small population to just vanish this year. You’re welcome.