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[writing] And so it begins

Well, I managed 1,500 words of first draft over the course of about an hour yesterday. It’s a steampunk fairy tale entitled “You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens”, and I’m aiming for about 10-12,000 words here.

The words came a bit slowly, but not clumsily. I worried a lot about them being crap, but recognize this as my own headnoise. This is a bit like starting the lawnmower after its long winter’s nap. Everything has to cough and ping and rumble and smoke for a bit, burn through the bad gas in fuel lines and carburetor before really kicking to life.

At least that’s what I tell myself. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. My hope is to have this done in first draft by the end of this coming weekend, but I’m not going to force the flow of words. As it happens, there will likely be no writing today due to an after-hours social function with my professional colleagues.

Meanwhile, a tiny bit of WIP: (more…)

[writing] Sunspin progress redux

2,500 more words on Sunspin last night. I finished section two (of three) of book one, Calamity of So Long a Life. That makes 71,500 words on this section and 131,200 words overall. So I’m pretty much on track for wordcount.

Starting today, I will drag back through this section, do some line editing and rewriting. Some time next week it will go off to first readers. At that point, I’ll do some revising and updating on the outline. Then a week or so away from Sunspin while I bat cleanup on some short fiction invitations and generally ratkill writing/career stuff that’s been awaiting my attention.

After that, I’ll probably move into revising Kalimpura, because it’s due to Tor in June, and I don’t really have time to write the next tranche of Calamity beforehand.

So Sunspin will be in the drawer a bit before going on. Ah, life. I’m fairly pleased with the project thus far.

To celebrate, here’s a bit more WIP:

[writing] Sunspin carries on

After two days’ break, I was back on Sunspin today. Knocked out 2,600 words yesterday afternoon, then got on with the rest of my day. Today I have another full day of day jobbery, then I’m visiting a friend with a cancer very similar to mine in the afternoon. More Sunspin this evening.

A bit of WIP for you from Calamity of So Long a Life. (more…)

[writing] Sunspin continues

I’m starting to find my pace in the middle section Calamity of So Long a Life, book one of Sunspin. Given the break I took after section one to review the copy edits of Endurance and deal with a couple of short fiction projects, it’s bit like starting a new book. Interesting effect on my process.

I like the direction and momentum of the book. Even yesterday afternoon, with a headache and feeling a bit woozy, I managed to lay down 3,000 new words.

A longer bit of WIP than usual: (more…)

[writing] More comments on Sunspin, as of January month-end

7,800 words on Calamity of So Long a Life this weekend. This draft is running slower than usual, as I’ve observed before. I spend time touching back between the manuscript and the outline, updating both documents. My normal forward momentum on novel writing is not in play here. Rather, this is a more iterative process for me involving continuous re-reading, editing, and forward outlining of scenes/sections.

Quite a learning experience, too. I’m enjoying this, but the process challenges me. I have no real sense of how this is going, as I don’t have a first reader anymore, but I’ll sort it out.

Some WIP… (more…)

[writing] SUNSPIN takes shape, more, plus some novella WIP

Today I finished the first draft of the Sunspin novella I mentioned recently. It now has a title, “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future”. Draft came in at 23,100 words, just shy of the 24,000 I’d set as a target.

As I mentioned previously, this is in effect a prolog or chapter zero to the novels. I still don’t expect to actually include this in the manuscript of Calamity of So Long A Life, the first of the Sunspin trilogy, but it sure helped me set some direction. Among other things, I uncovered several more key worldbuilding issues and a couple of important aspects of the trilogy’s MacGuffins.

Interestingly, all my other Sunspin shorts seem to have tied into “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future”. Which is something I had not anticipated when I wrote them. Proving once again that Fred is much smarter than I am.

All of which leads me to reflect that my increasingly common practice of writing discovery fiction set in my novelistic universes is really paying off for me. Plus it’s fun!

Upcoming projects (as in, starting tomorrow, most likely) include revisions to “The Stars Do Not Lie”, the steampunk lost colony religious novella I wrote last spring; followed by revisions to “A Long Walk Home”, the Sunspin novelette I recently wrote; followed by revisions to “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future”; then a solid shot at finalizing the Sunspin outline so I can get started on Calamity of So Long A Life sometime in January.

And yes, because I care, just for y’all, here’s a bit of a WIP:

Her strategy was utterly obvious. Her tactics, far less so.

Still, her fingers hovered over the fire control interface. Indecision was like agony. The small noises of her starship echoed like cannon in her mind. She remembered cannon fire, on 9-Rossiter during their post-Mistake isolation. She’d even commanded artillery for a short while. The morning mist off the Polomoski River had blended with the acrid smokes of their still too-crude powder, that caused the occasional shell to cook off in the barrel. Horses tied on the picket line screamed their terror at the first of those explosions, and she’d had to send that kid, what was his name–


It was Shinka. No, the kid wasn’t named Shinka. He’d died, more horribly than usual, following her orders.


Cannon blinked. She was aboard Sword and Arm. Not at the Battle of Bodny Bridge.

“Where were you?” the Lieutenant asked.

“Eight and a half centuries out of time,” Cannon muttered. “We’d better–”

Her words were snatched from her mouth by an air shock that pressed through Sword and Arm‘s interior cubage like a fist down a throat. Cannon felt her ears bleeding.

She whirled to see the damage control boards lighting up. Third Rectification had scored a hit on the Alcubierre drive, apparently with a ballistic package. The delivery method was obvious enough. Low albedo, tight-beamed comms control, so running dark and fast. Maybe even boosted by a quick snap of the mining lasers covered over by the bigger starship’s lurch into motion.

“Returning fire, ma’am?” Shinka asked urgently, though her voice was like someone talking at the bottom of a pan.

“No!” Cannon shouted, trying to hear herself. “That’s our only ride home, now.”

[process] Writing is hard, let’s go shopping

So I’ve been working on an as-yet-untitled novella in the Sunspin continuity. As a practical matter, in terms of story action it’s the prequel to the opening of the novel cycle. Though I don’t anticipate including this wordage in the novel manuscript, I reserve the right to change my mind later on. Necessary off-stage action, as well as plot character development, comprising a story in its own right.

But the is science fiction. With, you know, actual science in the story. Or at least as much sciency-stuff as a middle aged liberal arts fart like me can swing. For example, I’ve had to read up on neutrino effects (and the lack thereof) on ordinary baryonic matter. As I write, I keep needing to stop and spot-check issues which are too important to just [handwave inside a bracket for a fix on revision]. Not to mention referencing back to dozens of pages of continuity notes from the existing short fiction in this setting, as well as the unfinished novel outline.

It’s not that the writing on this project is harder than so much else of what I do. It’s just I need to work more to get some things right. By contrast, I recently drafted Kalimpura, where as a third book in series I know the cosmology, the local area of the world, the physical and societal settings and the characters very well. As a result, the prose tended to flow very quickly. I didn’t have to think those elements through as I went along. And the demands of verisimilitude are different in fantasy than they are in science fiction.

This prose, she is not flowing so quickly. calendula_witch assures me it is reading well. But, yeah, not just a gear shift here. More like a transmission swap.

God, I love this stuff.

And, what, you want a WIP?

[writing] I love it when a story comes together

Just finished the first draft of a Sunspin story entitled “Permanent Fatal Errors”, at 5,600 words. This one was a little harder than usual for me, though I wouldn’t describe myself as blocked, exactly. Started it last week, got hung up on the 500-word stub I’d begun with, so I went and did other writerly things, then life got in the way for a couple of days. But now it’s done, with about 2,100 new words today to wrap the draft.

A fun thing happened in “Permanent Fatal Errors”, one of those nuggets of craft candy which makes writers so very happy. Early on, I’d put in a nearly throwaway bit of characterization regarding my protagonist. About 2/3 of the way through the story, the throwaway bit came back as important in a plot point. Then it turned out to be critical to the ending.

That sense of, “Oh, hey, I knew what I was doing all along, how about that?” is real spiffy writer cookie. I don’t get it in every story, but when I do, it’s fun. Kind of a buzz. And it renews my generally strong faith in Fred, my subconscious writing mind that makes most of the decisions and does almost all of the heavy lifting.

Since we’re talking about a new draft, some WIP:

“That’s it,” said Paimei. Her fingers closed on his shoulder. “You’re out the airlock, buddy.”

“No,” said Chillicothe. “Leave him alone.”

Another rumble from Patrice, of agreement. Maduabuchi, in sudden, sweaty fear for his life, couldn’t tell who the man was agreeing with.

The flechette pistol was back against his ear. “Why?”

“Because we like him. Because he’s one of ours.” Her voice grew very soft. “Because I said so.”

Reluctantly, Paimei let him go. Maduabuchi got to his feet, shaking. He wanted to know, damn it, his curiosity burning with a fire he couldn’t ever recall feeling in his nearly two centuries of life.

[writing] Sekrit projekt progress

For reasons already discussed, very busy today, so I only put an hour into the sekrit projekt. Still, here’s some wip…

After Pai-mei had departed, Forbes belted on an old brocade robe and went in search of a highball. The woman was positively dangerous in her allure. The place smelled like her for hours after.

He was content with that.

The tiny kitchen contained no food to speak of, only bar supplies such as lemons and cherries. Forbes would have to find something to eat on the way home — oh, goodness was he tired of Chinese food. Why this country couldn’t manage a decent steakhouse was beyond him. Americans around every corner for the past thirty years, and still it was eggplant pizza and dubious fried foods.

Though he tried not to dwell on such things, Forbes had to admit that he felt guilty for having made love with his informant. Not guilty enough to quit, admittedly, but guilty enough to wish he could be a little smarter about it. She was so damned hard to turn down. A man had to be made of sterner flesh than his to resist that sparkling smile, those pneumatic breasts and that taut belly.

[writing] The Sekrit Projekt progresses

An hour and three quarters (roughly) on the Sekrit Projeckt today. Progressing apace.


He could hardly contain his excitement as he waited for Pai-mei in his small compound on an alley off Jen Ai Road. The place appeared nondescript from the outside, surrounded by a gray brick wall topped with shards of shattered glass to discourage acrobatic thieves. The roof was kept in a careful state of disrepair as well, to reduce the attention he might draw from criminals or taxmen.

Within was another matter entirely. The place was most pleasantly luxurious, a combination of the best of American technology and Chinese ingenuity. He’d even managed some Persian rugs, and the humidor in the parlor was almost always stocked with Cuban cigars brought over from Hong Kong. Real Cuban, not “Cuban” fakes from Guangzhou.

The contrast between appearance and reality was fine with him. Precisely according to plan, in fact. It kept curious neighbors away and gave him a safe, comfortable place to work.

[writing] Progress on the sekrit projekt

One and a half hours on the Sekrit Projekt today, plus time spent on other writing related program activities. Tomorrow is Fireside Writers’, which means I’ll get some more time plugged in. Wednesday, arrives, and Thursday, arrives, so after tomorrow my writing time will become less stable for a while. But for all the best reasons!

Meanwhile, a bit more wip…

Decision makers who’d never worked in the field had a way of assuming you were just lazy or cutting corners if you couldn’t lay it out neat, tidy and tight. If anything, the opposite was true. Any analyst or political officer who could tie off a diplomatic situation with square corners and no missing pieces was either lying or skimming.

“Neither a liar nor a skimmer be,” he muttered under his breath.

How did a man make sense of this mess here? There wasn’t even a war on, and it was still confusing. E.E.’s experience of wartime Biafra had done nothing to reassure him about the value of recognizing your enemy by his uniform. The most such things told you was who was trying to kill you in that moment, not why. Or what they might be doing an hour later. Besides no one was getting killed here. Just good old-fashioned mumblety-peg with machetes – politics, Southeast Asian style.

The questions marched down his tablet in stark rows, like Napoleonic armies arrayed on Flanders fields.