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[links] Link salad gets checked for fleas and barricades of embassies

Rick Kleffle, with a podcast including me reading a bit from the beginning of Calamity of So Long a Life

Why I hate the myth of the suffering artistIt is absurd and insulting to assume artists are assisted by despair or hunger in a way that, say, plumbers are not. (Via @ce_murphy.)

Copying Is Not Theft — Hmmm…

The Bacon Coffin — For when John Scalzi becomes a vampire. (Via my Dad.)

Boston University scientists discover evidence humans used fire 1 million years ago

We Can Survive Killer Asteroids — But It Won’t Be Easy — Duck! And cover!

Programmable ‘smart sand’ can assume any shape — If you don’t think this is cool, you are dead to me.

Future telescope array drives development of exabyte processing

Flying car completes its first test flight, could be on sale by end of the year — 1970 called, they want their future back. Now, where’s my jetpack?

Oil Scare Turns FedEx On To Energy Efficiency — Electric vehicles? Come on. Any Republican can tell you that’s total Kenyan Muslim socialism. Even when one of American’s leading companies is doing the investing.

Gay pride flag raised at a US base in Afghanistan — Go, go, go!

Charlie debunks 2012 nonsense — Why does this even need debunking? As profoundly counterfactual and willfully ignorant as evolution denial and climate change denial are, at least I can see where they’re coming from in a cultural and political sense. But 2012 paranoia?

Wisconsin Planned Parenthood attacked with ‘explosive device’ — Remember kids, according to the Republican party, it’s not terrorism if good conservative white people are doing the bombing and the killing.

Six dead in shooting at Oakland university; suspect arrested in Alameda — Thank god for the NRA and the GOP standing up for everyone’s right to their defense of essential liberties.

A Return to… You Call This Sanity?Scrivener’s Error is interesting on ebooks and the politics of education. To start with, if you call anything that does not meet your preconceived notion from the hard Right “liberal” — including centrist positions a liberal might well call “conservative” — you’re going to get a rather distorted picture. Then, too, exactly how does one judge the political orientation of introductory calculus-based physics? Is it a “liberal-oriented” course if it includes “modern physics”? How about if you offer a non-calculus-based alternative that mentions energy production as an example for study? Is a linguistics course that includes consideration of non-Western languages inherently “liberal”, especially if it is not based on Latin and ancient Greek?

Permitted handguns will be allowed in RNC’s ‘clean zone’oping to head off violent protesters during the Republican National Convention, Mayor Bob Buckhorn has proposed a litany of items that will be considered security threats during the week-long event. The list runs from air pistols to water pistols and also includes items such as masks, plastic or metal pipe and string more than six inches long. Conspicuously absent from the list of potential weapons: Firearms. Nice to see that conservative America still has its priorities straight. (Via [info]danjite.)

Social issues are not the Republican Party’s problem – the gender gap is about healthcare, not sex — A British perspective, with a strong conservative bias.

Republicans are causing a moral crisis in AmericaIt’s hard to point to a single priority of the Republican Party these days that isn’t steeped in moral failing while being dressed up in moral righteousness. […] It is a very strange thing that the people who lecture most fervently about morality are those who are most willing to fight for policies that are so immoral. This is an emperor-has-no-clothes argument, one I’ve been making for years in vain given the conservative dominance of the “liberal” media and our political discourse.

Pink Slime Economics[A] lasting budget deal can only work if both parties can be counted on to be both responsible and honest — and House Republicans have just demonstrated, as clearly as anyone could wish, that they are neither. This is news how?

Pressure grows for Rick Santorum to drop out as Obama surges in pollsMitt Romney expected to win Tuesday primaries as GOP eager to end contest and shift campaign against the president. Amazingly enough, bugfuck conservative lunacy doesn’t poll well with people who haven’t already drunk the Kool-Aid. I know this will come as a shock to many Republican voters, but their worldview as expressed by Santorum is neither rational nor popular.

Obama Cautions Against ‘Judicial Activism’ On Health Care“Ultimately I’m confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected congress,” Obama said at a Rose Garden press conference. “And I just remind conservative commentators that for years, what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. An unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident this court will recognize that and not take that step.” Silly president, assuming the remotest intellectual consistency or good faith from Republicans. It’s only judicial activism when conservatives disagree with the outcome. Legislation from the bench is fine when it supports the conservative worldview.

?otd: Do you ever ever ever wanna be young again?


4/3/2012
Writing time yesterday: 4.25 hours (2.75 hours of reviewing existing draft of Their Currents Turn Awry, added 1,300 words; 1.5 hours of WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.75 (solid)
Weight: 238.6
Currently reading: The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling

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[process] Analyzing the writing of Calamity of So Long a Life

As I mentioned over the weekend, Calamity of So Long a Life is finally off my desk and out into the world. More about that when there’s more to report.

Now that I’m embarking on Their Currents Turn Awry, this seems like a good time to review what I’ve done with Calamity. Checking my production information, I find the following:

150.0 hours of writing (includes the synopsis, and about 65,000 words of Currents)
90.25 hours of revision
240.25 hours total

If I fudge out 32.5 hours for the work that has turned into the first part of Their Currents Turn Awry, using an assumed base production rate of 2,000 words per hour, that still leaves me with the following:

117.5 hours of writing time (includes the synopsis)
90.25 hours of revision
207.75 hours total

I can further fudge out 75.5 hours for the work on drafting Calamity of So Long a Life, in order to break out the outlining process from the drafting process, I get the following:

42.0 hours of writing time (outline)
75.5 hours of writing time (first draft)
90.25 hours of revision
207.75 hours total

In effect, I wrote the first draft of Calamity of So Long a Life at roughly the same clip I’ve been drafting for a long while, since I deliberately applied the brakes to slow myself down. As I have discussed a number of occasions, that’s 1,800 words an hour, with bursts up to 2,500 words an hour. I average about 2,000 words an hour over a large scale project.

One thing that is different about this book is that I expended a very large amount of time on the outline, both in up front effort and in ongoing tweaks once the project was underway. As it currently stands, the outline is about 120 pages long, totaling 28,400 words in its own right. I haven’t even accounted for all the time on the outline prior to 2011, as I’d been prethinking and making notes on Sunspin for several years prior to that.

Another thing that is different about this book is that I’ve greatly expanded the amount of time spent on revisions. For productivity planning purposes, I used to estimate 100 hours to write a 200,000 word first draft, and another 50 hours for revisions. In other words, revisions consumed 50% of the time that a first draft consumed. What has happened on Calamity is that revisions now consume 120% of the time that the first draft consumed.

Even in just drafting this blog post, I am surprised by these numbers. I hadn’t realized how much time I’d sunk into revisions. It’s not surprising in retrospect, as I added two major steps to my process as compared to prior books. But still… As for the outline, I’ve known all along that Sunspin has been requiring a radically different investment in that part of the process. And it has really paid off.

Both of these trends are almost certainly very good things. Is it taking me longer to write a book with the expanded prep time and the expanded revision time? Obviously. Considerably longer. But writing isn’t a horse race, and nobody gives out medals for being fast. Because I believe that by taking all this extra time both before and after executing the first draft, I’m writing a much, much better book.

Or at any rate, I really hope so. If I’m not improving, I’m doing it wrong.

First drafts have always been the most joyous part of the process for me. They still are. Discovering the story, seeing it unroll onto the page, is where I get my greatest writer yayas. All this time spent on the synopsis and the revision? That’s me maturing and developing as a writer. Giving you more reader yayas, ideally.

I’m already applying these expanded processes to both Little Dog: Son of a Bitch (co-authored under [info]bravado111‘s guidance) and to Their Currents Turn Awry. I haven’t yet seen validation from the market, the critics or the readers, but I really believe in these changes, and trust that others will, too. And as always, I’m looking forward to whatever happens next.

This is a fun, fun career.


Note: I know some people take considerable exception when I make these very metrics-driven process posts. Please understand that I use this kind of thinking in two places.

One, when I’m budgeting my writing time a year or two ahead, so I know what I can produce in what time frames.

Two, after the fact, when I’m looking to derive lessons learned from a project. As in this post right here.

When I’m actually doing the writing, in the flow, I barely think about this stuff at all. Story comes first, always. But in order to be a competent, deadline oriented professional, it’s important to me and my process to understand the underpinnings. Hence the quantitative analysis.

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[writing] Settling (back) into Their Currents Turn Awry

Due to the vagaries of drafting Calamity of So Long a Life, I already have 66,600 words of Their Currents Turn Awry in the can. So yesterday I started re-reading them in order to gear up for the drafting process. Wound up writing a few more words, too, adding about 1,600. It’s nice to see the story on the page. And as usual for me in the midst of a large project, Sunspin is very real inside my head.

I really only need about another 70,000 words here, and I’ve budgeted two months to do it. That’s a remarkably generous time allotment. If I wind up needing liver surgery after the April 18th oncology appointments, well, I’ll keep that budget. If I’m clear for a while longer, I’ll accelerate my schedule for the year, either by also writing the first part of The Whips and Scorns of Time in May, or by shifting my planned June efforts forward a month. No matter how it works out, the extra time will pay off.

Yesterday I did some proofreading as well. I also spent a bunch of time yesterday reading critique for an upcoming conference. This was the first pass. That always makes me think a lot about my own craft. I’ll give those stories one or two more passes (depending on what each one needs) over the next few weeks, and have my crit in the can. My only other top-of-the-to-do-list project of note right now is to assemble the eighth grade anthology, as an outcome of my recent guest teaching gig there. Everything else is out of my hands at the moment.

The words march on.

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[personal|writing] A change of direction

Well, Calamity of So Long a Life is out the door, and I’ve found myself doing a lot of soul searching about my writing career, the kind of work I’m doing, and where I’m likely to go over the next few years, especially in the face of my ongoing cancer struggles.

This really has been an incredibly rewarding journey I’ve been on since 1990. Science fiction and fantasy have always been the home of my heart, and they always will be. Too much of who I am was built on the experience of being a reader, a fan, a writer, for all these years.

But it’s time for a change. I’m redirecting my efforts toward something that better reflects the current circumstances of my life, and offers me a greater shot at economic success. From now on, I’m going to be writing nurse romances.

I’ve already proposed a five part series to my agent, The White Shoe Shuffle. The working titles are:

  • Candy Striper For Life
  • Love in a Paper Hat
  • Doctor-Nurse Relations
  • Bedside Manner Blues
  • The Ward Heeler

I know this change will challenge my readers and fans, but I’m really hoping you’ll be able to follow me in this new direction of mine. I’ll be combining my experiences as a cancer patient with my love of fiction and my writing talents to create something new, vibrant and hopefully a hell of a lot of fun.

Thank you.

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[writing] A bit more on the state of play

Updatery of various sorts herein.

In March, I had two acceptances, both nonfiction. One was a piece for the SFWA Bulletin, the other was a contribution to a book of writing exercises. That makes five first rights acceptances for the first quarter of 2012, two of which I haven’t been able to announce yet, plus one reprint acceptance for audio rights. Not counting a couple of very stale submissions that I should probably withdraw or write off, I only have one other piece out the door right now for consideration. As I’m constantly telling other writers, if you don’t submit, you can’t be accepted. (In truth this mostly has to do with a combination of low short fiction output the last few years and the fact that much of what I have written has been for requesting markets, and most of that sells on first submittal.)

As of yesterday I am done with Calamity of So Long a Life (Sunspin, volume one), at least until there’s an editorial letter on it. The book goes out to market next week along with synopses for the other three volumes. My profound thanks to all my first readers and commentors who’ve provided substantial aid on the project. I promise, I’ll redshirt you all in future volumes of the series arc. Tomorrow or Monday I’ll be diving into Their Currents Turn Awry (volume two), but as I’ve already got about 65,000 words of first draft, that book is well on its way.

Today, [info]the_child and I are off to Silverton with [info]lizzyshannon for a book signing and panel discussion Lizzy is having there. I’ve offered to be a drop-in on the panel, but only if they want me.

Next week, of course, is Norwescon. I’ll be at the hotel in Seatac from early Thursday afternoon through early Sunday afternoon. If you want to see me, my schedule is here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Or look for me in the bar. I’m always open to being taken to lunch or dinner, too, at least til my dance card fills.

On Sunday, April 15th, The Oregonian is scheduled to run a feature length profile on me in both the print and online editions. Except for my Locus interviews, this will be my most in-depth media exposure to date. I’ll be quite curious to see how they present me.

Finally, there’s some very neat stuff happening around the whole Going to Extremes project. Watch this space for details, but trust me, it’s deeply cool.

I think that’s about it for right now. No writing today, taking a brain break. (Or maybe not, but I haven’t planned any writing time.)

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[travel|writing] Fly away, little bird

I am in the Omaha airport, getting ready to head home to Portland. Much distracted by putting a wrap on Calamity of So Long a Life today, including the edits oh so helpfully provided by the lovely and talented [info]lizzyshannon. Also a little tight for time, so this here is all the bloggery you’re getting today.

This weekend: busy with some Time Off, as well as Doing Taxes. Sunday or Monday I’ll start in on Their Currents Turn Awry, Sunspin volume two, of which I already have about 60,000 words written.

Meanwhile, the airways beckon. Y’all play nice.

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[writing] So, I have this book, see…

Calamity of So Long a Life is teetering on the edge of being done. I’m reading it one last time for another line edit pass, and to get the story firmly in my head so I can start in on Sunspin volume two, Their Currents Turn Awry, sometime in the next few days.

Yesterday I got up early and walked an hour, leaving myself enough time to blog, perform my morning ablutions, eat, and work on the book for an hour before Day Jobbery.

Then at lunch I scampered back to my hotel room and worked on the book for an hour.

Then after work I scampered back to my hotel room and worked on the book for three and a half hours more.

Obsessive? Moi?

Plus the lovely and talented [info]lizzyshannon is doing an independent line read to catch all the stuff my eyes keep passing over.

So, arm, not so much with the blogging today because there was so much book yesterday. Not much book today, either, as I have a lunch meeting, the Omaha Beach Party tonight, and a need to go to bed early in order to get up for my 6 am flight home tomorrow. Still, I am almost done. Whee!

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[personal|travel] In Omaha

I’m in Omaha for Day Jobbery. A nice dinner last night with [info]garyomaha and [info]elusivem. We talked about current writing projects and whatnot.

Speaking of current writing projects, I batted a lot of cleanup the past couple of days. A bunch of things went out the door, including short fiction submissions, materials for three book proposals, and some new Sekrit Projekt stuff. Kind of rocketing along here. I have a modest nonfiction request to deal with, then I’m back on Sunspin, probably tonight, starting with a re-read of Calamity of So Long a Life then hitting the draft of book two, Their Currents Turn Awry.

Also of note today is that I’ll be guest teaching a literature class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on my lunch hour. I’m looking forward to that, should be a lot of fun.

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[writing] The state of play, updated once more

After correspondence with my agent yesterday, I can update the state of play on various projects.

Sunspin (four volume space opera): She really likes the revisions to volume one, Calamity of So Long a Life. I need to produce a short marketing-focused synopsis, about ten pages covering all four books, and she has suggested one more line editing pass for dropped words, et cetera. I’m feeling a little glassy-eyed about doing another line edit on the manuscript, but I probably ought to re-read it anyway in preparation for drafting the balance of Their Currents Turn Awry, which is my project for April and May. I only need another 100,000 or so words on that project to call it done in first draft, so it will fit nicely into that schedule. I expect to produce the synopsis over the next few days, and will come to grips with the line editing issue shortly thereafter.

Going to Extremes (nonfiction book about cancer, parenting and Antarctica): She is still reviewing the proposal, but likes it so far. We’re having a somewhat technical conversation now about cross-licensing and subrights and other nonfiction issues which are new territory to me. I won’t be doing any more new writing on this until she has given me full feedback on the proposal and we agree on what more we need to do for the submission package. I do feel some time pressure on this one, simply because of the timing of being able to make an Antarctic trip.

Little Dog (urban fantasy about a werewolf with achondroplastic dwarfism): Once [info]bravado111 and I wrap up the synopsis, which ought to be fairly soon, she will review it, as will his agent. At that point we’ll decide whether it makes more sense to go to market as a proposal, a partial or a full. Collaborator [info]bravado111 and I will be discussing the writing schedule today, actually, and working out between the two of us how to approach that question from our end.

Our Lady of the Islands (independent novel set in the Green universe): She wants to review this one more time, possibly have another revision round, then go to market, but not in the same immediate time as Sunspin. Since Calamity of So Long a Life will probably be going out in the next few weeks if not sooner, this means Our Lady can go out later this spring. Collaborator [info]calendula_witch and I are in agreement on this plan.

Short Fiction: I have now completed all requested short fiction due before the end of the summer. I need to send “The Cancer Catechism” into the requesting market, and later on in the year I have to write a Fathomless Abyss novella and a Cthulhu short. I have tentatively agreed to take on a couple of anthology invitations in June, when I have another month of Doing Miscellaneous Stuff on my writing calendar, but I don’t have guidelines for those yet. If you’re an editor and you’re expecting something from me that you suspect I’ve missed, please let me know.

Cancer: Of course, all of this is subject to change should next month’s re-tests show that my recently detected liver lesion is in fact a fourth round of cancer. I expect Sunspin to go forward mostly unaffected. Likewise Our Lady of the Islands. [info]bravado111 and I need to discuss a fallback plan for Little Dog if I get seriously sidelined, so status unknown there. Ironically, it’s Going to Extremes, the big, ambitious cancer book, that will likely be the most disrupted from a return of the cancer, simply because of timing. If I spend the second half of this year going through another round of chemo, there’s no way on God’s green Earth I’ll be fit to go to Antarctica during the southern summer of 2012/2013. Also, my short fiction and miscellaneous project work will fall off the table complete if cancer returns, as will most or all of my already limited convention and conference schedule.

A lot going on, and I like being this kind of busy. I just hate the uncertainty.

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[process] Listening to the book

As recently discussed [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], I have added a step to my novel manuscript revision process. I know from experience that reading a manuscript aloud always helps me find copy editing errors, infelicitous wording, word echoes and so forth. But I also dislike reading aloud at length, and especially all by myself.

The tension between knowing what was right and being pretty strongly avoidant about it was troubling. Something had to change. After much dithering, I finally had the MacBook Air read me the entire book aloud, using the GhostReader application, as recommend by commentor rip.

The voice in GhostReader is functional but primitive. It took me a little while to get used to the flattened, mechanical tones. Then I experimented with the reading speed to see how fast I could set the playback and still be able to make notes without having to pause the application.

What I did then was open GhostReader in one window and the Word document of the manuscript of Calamity of So Long a Life in another window. I simply listened, and whenever something struck me as wrong or off, inserted [brackets] in the text. Occasionally, if the fix was very easy, like a missing simple word, I would just make the correction on the fly. I didn’t try to sort out the larger issues, just marked them for later read through.

While I suspect that reading the whole manuscript aloud would have been more effective, I think I got 80% of the value of the readaloud by listening to GhostReader without wearing out either my voice or my patience. Also, this meant I could work on the book in public spaces and on airplanes without looking like a crazy person. Even coffee shops, despite what [info]scalzi says about that.

One of the minor problems of the process was when I went back through the manuscript, sometimes I’d have trouble figuring out why I marked a section. The answer to that, of course, was just to read it aloud to myself. Another minor problem was sometimes I’d go on a word hunt when I’d realized I’d used a crutch word, and then hit that point of neural fatigue where the word became a meaningless string of letters and stopped making sense in situ.

I’m extremely pleased with this outcome. GhostReader (or some equivalent) will be an important part of my writing from now on. It adds a layer of time and attention to my revision process, but that layer is worth a great deal more than it costs me. If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend trying it out.

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