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Free Stuff!!!

More on that exciting topic shortly…

I had an experience with what one might call ‘writer’s block’ with regard to ‘Dragon of St. Johns.’ I was stuck; I didn’t know where to go with the story. What kind of arc could I take such a young protagonist on? How do I make a story both engaging and safe? Fun but not dull? What the heck happens to these people anyway?

Part of the problem was that what with work being busy and weekends being full, I went about 3 weeks without writing anything at all. Now, I consider writing a hobby, a thing I do for fun, and not a thing to stress out over, so I didn’t beat myself up over those three weeks. However, I noticed as time went on that I was thinking more and more about writing, and missing it. NOT writing was stressing me out. And then when I had time again, I had no ideas. I stared at ‘Dragon’ blankly, bored with it and annoyed. I played around with some old ideas. I wrote a thousand words of something entirely new. I got nowhere.

I read somewhere that after taking a break, it’s advisable not to try picking up where you left off. If you’re out of practice, your material will not feel good, and it will not match what you did before. It’s similar to sports that way: if you miss a few practices, you can expect to perform poorly and feel sore afterwards. You have to work back up to where you were.

So that’s what I did. I wrote with no expectations on myself, no pressure to work on this thing or that or to get anything right. I did my best not to worry about it. I went back to my writers’ group with nothing to read, knowing that being around the group has helped me get going before. And eventually it worked. Preparing for this week’s group, I felt motivated to write something, anything, just to not show up empty-handed again. I’d gotten them engaged with ‘Dragon’ and I knew they wanted more. At long last, new ideas stirred in my mind. On the bus ride over, I wrote whole new scenes, and rearranged others, and finally put together some idea of where the story will go and and what will happen.

I didn’t read it, as it was still an incoherent mess, but there were enough readers that I felt no pressure. And now I’ve got something to work with. I’ll have something to read for next week’s group.

On a similar note, this weekend I finished reading a collection of stories by Leigh Brackett, co-scribe of The Empire Strikes Back. I had mixed feelings about the stories – review here – but something she said in the afterword stuck with me. She’s a pantser; she gets an idea and writes, and figures things out as she goes. That’s how I write too. But, she observed, that technique often gets her into “box canyon[s] with no way up the walls.” This is also my experience. The story hits a dead end and there’s nowhere to go. Her solution was to learn, by collaborating with her husband, something about plotting. She didn’t elaborate on what she learned, but it’s something for me to think about. Having an outline is like having an escape route planned in advance.

The down side is, you need to know the end before you start, which I never ever do. But still, it’s something to think about.

Now, on to the Free Stuff!!!

‘Ghosts’ is now on Smashwords! Download it here – and through the end of summer, get it free with coupon code GR72Q.

I also made ‘The Edge’ free for Martha Jones fans – see my other blog – and that coupon is good through June 30. Find it here and use code ZX74D.

Happy reading! And happy writing too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Sunset haiku

Showoff sunset taunts

dormant volcano sulking

silent in the east.

Busy busy

The first quarter is almost over, and finally something has been accomplished. (More or less.) First things first:

‘Counter Clockwise’ is finished. It’s been added to my latest book, and submitted to Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine. It will probably be at least 90 days before I hear back, and chances are I’ll try Analog if it’s rejected. So book and e-book are still pending for a while.

‘No Such Place as Home’ was submitted to Analog in January and is still pending. Historically Analog has taken much longer to reply than SF&F; I’m hoping for the two replies to coincide sufficiently that failing acceptance I can quickly switch them around and resubmit.

‘The Dragon of the St. Johns Bridge’ second draft is finished, with one or two more sections to be presented to my writers’ group. Once that feedback is applied, it’s off to the other half of this collaboration, my sister and illustrator Rebecca.

Finally, ‘Ghosts’ is finished (again). It was one of my very first stories, the first thing I wrote that wasn’t Doctor Who fanfiction (though it still kind of is). Like ‘Dreamscapes,’ it’s a wonderful story, but the present tense (a fanfiction hangover) had become increasingly unbearable. Now, reset comfortably in the past, it’s a much more pleasant read for a regular non-fic audience. ‘Ghosts’ is back up on Lulu and will be on Smashwords soon.

Up next: ‘Dragon of Paris!

Slacking off

Or so it appears. I seem to have been quite busy on my other blog.

‘Counter Clockwise’ is finished. I have assembled a new print book for family purposes. I still plan to submit the story – and ‘No Such Place as Home’ is still pending with Analog – so the book – paper or electronic – won’t be available to normal people for a while yet. Until I get around to the submission, however, interested parties can read the story here.

‘The Dragon of the St. Johns Bridge’ is underway. Plenty of work remains.

Thank you for listening. We now return you to your regularly scheduled reading.

2015!

Okay, when did that happen?? It’s a new quarter AND a new year, and therefore time for an update. What did I set out to accomplish in the last three months? and what did I actually do?

Broadchurch fic: I had intended to write one more piece as a kind of wrap-up to the collection on AO3 before the new series began this past Monday. It didn’t happen. I took a few stabs at it, wrote a few thousand words or so, but never managed anything I was happy with. Then, deadline passed, I took some time this week to read through the collection. You know what? It’s finished. It doesn’t need another piece.

Now I can forget about it and focus on the new series instead.

‘Counter Clockwise': I really thought it was finished. Then I read the many-times-rewritten final scene to my writers’ group, and everyone – myself included – was underwhelmed. I realized then that my lead character had gone through the entire piece without experiencing a single emotional reaction to anything. If even the lead character is not engaged, how’s anyone else supposed to manage? Needless to say, heavy rewriting is in progress.

‘No Such Place as Home': I finished this thing ages ago and have been putting off submitting it. That’s over now: today I sent it to Analog Science Fiction and Fact (ref #244953 for my own info). Last time they took four months to reply. Thus begins the waiting game.

I’m not going to wait to hear back from Analog (and F&SF, where ‘Counter Clockwise’ will go when it’s finished) before making a new book. Relatives are impatient. I will, however, not make the book publicly available, or put the stories on Smashwords, until I know for sure both stories are rejected. And if they are somehow not rejected, everyone will get to buy the magazine instead. :)

Last quarter of course contained Nanowrimo. I set out to write three stories, revising my word count expectation from 50 to 25,000 as the month waned. I finished just short of 24,000, with two complete rough drafts and one half done.

So now what?

My primary focus for Q1 of 2015 is to finish ‘Counter Clockwise’ and get that book made. Preferably in time for a significant birthday in early March. When that’s done, other goals for the year include:

  • Begin collaboration on a picture-book version of ‘The Dragon of St. Johns’
  • Finish the third Dragon story
  • Revise all three Dragon stories, and take them to my writers’ group
  • Finish revising ‘Ghosts’
  • Write something new!

I observe that my word count is low when I’m mid-revision; my attention is on polishing the older work, and nothing new is begun. It’s not that I stop writing: my DW blog is busy, and a dozen tiny things have come and gone without becoming anything. I’d rather not wait for Nano to come around to create something again. But if I don’t make it happen, it doesn’t happen.

I’m going to make it happen.

1/5 and other deadlines…

Broadchurch S2 will premiere in the UK on 1/5/15, and on BBC America on 2/4.

I would like to wrap up my fic before then. The second series (apparently) picks up right where the first left off; everything my readers and I on AO3 have envisioned will be rendered null and void. I would like to give it an ending before that happens, so that it may exist as a complete microcosm, a mini-AU-might-have-been imagined while impatiently waiting for the real thing. I would like to be done with it and leave it alone, but I would also like some kind of resolution.

We’ll see what happens.

The only other self-imposed semi-deadline is Christmas, and the rough-draft books that I wanted to send are sent. Done.

‘Counter Clockwise’ is nearly there. One more reading, a final polish, and it’s done. Since it’s the shorter of the two outstanding stories, I’ll print that one for F&SF submission. The other one I’ll e-submit to Analog. No really I will…

In other news, just because coupon codes have expired doesn’t mean you can’t buy e-books. ‘Dreamscapes,’ ‘His Brother’s Keeper,’ and ‘The Edge‘ are all available AND inexpensive. You can even preview for free. Go! Look! See!

 

November no more

Coupon codes expire, and Nano rides off into the sunset: it is December.

It occurs to me that I don’t know whether Smashwords records a free download as a sale. Lots of people have downloaded at least a sample of each of my books, but there were no new sales this month. So much for self-promotion.

NaNoWriMo finished at 23,880 words, or a little under halfway. I had hoped for 25k, even thought I might make it as late as yesterday afternoon, but after a weekend of freezing temperatures and an evening of wine and pizza, I didn’t have it in me. I did finish first drafts of two out of three Urban Dragons stories, with at least a sense of the third. I also wrote nearly 7000 words on my Doctor Who blog, and made good progress on ‘Counter Clockwise’ in my writers’ group.

I have only three scenes left to read in ‘Counter Clockwise.’ It could potentially be done by year’s end. I might even submit it before, or concurrently with, ‘No Such Place as Home.’ It’s a much shorter, tighter story and I think it has a better chance; still, I’d like to give the other the opportunity too. Then there’s the long wait for replies before making a book of my own: a perfect opportunity to finish and revise the Dragon stories, and put together a book of those.

With a month left to go in the quarter, here’s a short to-do list:

  • Finish ‘Counter Clockwise’
  • Run a special book printing for Christmas so certain relatives don’t have to wait too long

And for Q1 of 2015:

  • Submit two stories above
  • Finish third Dragon story
  • Begin revising Dragon stories – including reading with writers group
  • Continue revising ‘Ghosts’ for Smashwords

That should keep me busy for a while.

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