Tag: first novel

Novel trouble

I’ve been having trouble with the novel and that has made me rethink what I am trying to do.  The fact is that I appear to be (at this stage of my skill level) unable to write a great length.  Moreover, I am such an ardent fan of the art of the short story, that it seems to hinder me in subtle ways when I attempt to write at greater length.  The novel itself is well plotted, and has a good collection of characters, but I find myself writing a lot of "filler" that is completely unnecessary if it were in the short story form.  Nevertheless, I think I have a solution.

The outline of the novel lends itself well to a series of short stories.  I can identify at least 9 short stories from what I have outlined.  There are numerous advantages to this, which I list below (more to convince myself than anything else):

  1. I am more comfortable with the short form
  2. This gives me at least 9 stories to write this year (whereas I typically write two or three stories in a eyar)
  3. This allows me to focus on improving myself as a short fiction writer
  4. I can avoid the filler
  5. I can write the stories from different view points without confusing the reader as to which viewpoint the story is being told
  6. There are other stories to tell that can ultimately fit in here.
  7. This allows me to break a very big project down into numerous smaller projects.  For a novel, it would take months, if not a year for me to complete, at the end of which it would take months or years while going from publisher to publisher.  As 9 or 10 short stories, the first could be completed relatively quickly (as compared to a novel) and hit the magazine circuit while I was working on the second; then two stories would be "out" while I work on the third, etc.
  8. I have The Martian Chronicles or Foundation Trilogy in mind, when I think of series of interconnected stories.

I had thought of all of this last night, long before I read the announcement that F&SF was going bimonthly.  But this is yet another reason for focus on short stories.  Although Gordon Van Gelder assures that this puts the magazine in a better position, as a writer, this can be as frightening as a potential job loss.  Who knows if ANALOG and ASIMOV’S will follow suit.  I need to write stories and get them out while the major markets for the stories still exist.
I have the first two projects in mind:

  1. "Cat’s in the Cradle" (working title), is unrelated to the novel, but might fit within thesame universe and framework set up in the stories.  This will be what I hope is a 3,000 word story that allows me to attempt a touching mixture of hard science and human need.
  2. "Rescue" (working title) would be the first story in the series of interconnected stories that I would take from the novel outline.  It would set the framework as well as be (hopefully) an exciting story in it’s own right.

"If By Reason Of Strength…" has been as ANALOG now for 35 days.  I suppose it could come back any day now, but my very short term goal is to have a draft of "Cat’s in the Cradle" finished before it comes back.  I’ve already got the structure of the story worked out in my head and I really can’t see it being a long story.  To me, it is a kind of response to Ray Bradbury’s "The Rocket Man", which is one of my favorite stories, and also serves as my Platonic image for the "perfect" short story.  Stay tuned…

Friday writing

Just completed about 250 words of the novel. Not much, but better than nothing. I didn’t feel quiet as into the story as I did last week, but I think it was just the difficulty of this scene. It can use work, but I’ll clean it up in a later draft. For now, I just want to get as much as I can down on paper. Overall, what I’ve got reads pretty good to me.

Total words: 2,899 | This session: 249 | Net change: 249

Writing today

I did 700 words of the first chapter of the new novel (at some point, I realize I’ll have to stop calling it the "new" novel). I did it in under 45 minutes which is a very good pace for me. Still all first draft, but I was happy with what I got done. I was hoping to get a little more done tonight, but I’m tired and I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Total words: 2,092 | This session: 703 | Net change: +703

The prologue is done!

Another writing session tonight. I ended up breaking the prologue into two scenes. I felt that there was too much exposition in the first cut. In short stories, that is generally bad, and I avoid it, but this is not a short story, and so I’m in somewhat unfamiliar territory. Certainly, in the novels that I’ve read, I’ve seen my fair share of exposition, but I’m trying to avoid it if I can. In this case, I took a disaster that had merely been described in exposition, and added scene where the disaster actually takes place. Then the scene that I wrote at lunch becomes a little less exposition and more about the after-effects. I’m pleased so far.

The numbers for this session:

Total words: 1,389 | This session: 527 | Net Change: +527

I must say that I’m very happy with 1,400 words for one day.  I’d love to be able to keep this pace, at least through the first draft, but I’m not sure it’s sustainable.

It has begun!

At lunch today, I began writing the Prologue of my novel. The novel itself is still untitled (but I’m working on it). Todd took a picture of me just as I was getting started, for posterity sake (humble as I am).

With a few interruptions, I managed to write just shy of 800 words between noon and 1 PM (I had to force myself to stop at 1 PM, even though I felt like I was on a roll because I had a meeting I had to attend). I’m happy with what I’ve written so far, although it’s all first draft (fellow writers will understand what I mean). I’m focusing on the story right now. My guess is that I’ve got another 300-400 words or so to complete the prologue.

Incidentally, the prologue deals exclusively with Chinese characters, including an AI that is Chinese. I had the names picked out already, except for the AI, but thankfully, I ran into Jesseca at work, who has been majoring in Chinese, and asked her for a translation of "mind" or "knowledge" or ‘brain". She came up with Xué, and that became the name of the Chinese AI. (It’s useful to work around people with such diverse talents.)

I’m tracking my progress carefully because I am always interested in that kind of thing, but also because I tend to focus better on the task when I know that I am tracking my progress. Can I say that the "annotations" feature, combined with the "Ghost Notes" feature in Scrivener is great for this! Annotations allow you to mark text in the manuscript as a note or annotation. It puts a red circle around it and when you compile a manuscript draft, you can choose to exclude the annotations. "Ghost Notes" fade this text so that it doesn’t stand out as distinctly as the manuscript text itself. Thus, annotations for the first session of the novel looked like:

[[In: December 19, 2008 12:02 PM]]
[[Out: December 19, 2008 1:01 PM]]

Of course, these are positioned inline with the text so that I know exactly what I wrote during that session.

My document "target" is set to 95,000 words, but who knows how long or short this will really end up. Session targets are currently set to 1,000 words, and Scrivener provides a nice display of this as a hover window (if you so choose), in realtime. At the end of my session, things looked like this:

I will of course, continue to report my progress, although not in such detail. Mostly, I’ll summarize how I felt about the session, and then give the stats, which will usually look something like this:

Total words: 862 | This session: 778 | Net change: +778*

(*Note that "Net Change" can sometimes be negative if I end up deleting more text than I wrote in a given session.)

More research and outlining

I’ve spent hours this evening doing more research and outlining for the story–which still does not have a name.  I’ve got my timeline down pretty good, and now I’m filling in details that will help the plot move along.  I think I’ll be ready to actually start writing the prologue of the story tomorrow.

Stressful day at work, in the sense that I spent a lot of time trying to understand how a fairly complicated asset system integrates with CMDB and only toward the end of the day did I see where the main integration points were.  At least it was some progress.

I returned the library books after work and Kelly and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few items.  Got the January 2009 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN in the mail today.  Also got a holiday picture card from strausmouse  and rmstraus .  Ironic because I sent out their card today.  (I also got three other holiday cards squeezed in today.)

I picked up a small Moleskine notebook for keeping notes on the story when I think of them and I’m not near the computer.  Haven’t used it yet, but I imagine it will come in handy.  (Yes, I could use my iPhone for this, but the technology doesn’t work fast enough for me.  It’s much faster for me to pull out the pad and jot down my thoughts.)

Spoke with Dad this evening.

Cleaned all of the bathrooms this evening.  I’ve got to vacuum upstairs tomorrow night.

Today’s reading: NEW SCIENTIST (December 13), and some more of The Hard SF Renaissance.  I’m turning to the latter again now before I go to bed.